The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast
● PA-Gov: Republican Doug Mastriano still has not so much as reserved any ad time for the general election, and he's made it painfully clear just how abandoned he feels by his party. The QAnon ally recently recorded a Facebook live video where, as the Philadelphia Inquirer puts it, "he looked more dejected than we've ever seen him." Mastriano sounded even worse, musing, "Really not finding a lot of support from the national-level Republican organizations."
That's an understatement if anything because, according to AdImpact, the only outside support he's received at all has been the $7.8 million that Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a group funded by local conservative billionaire Jeff Yass, began spending against Democrat Josh Shapiro back in late July. Shapiro, by contrast, has dropped $32 million in the general election, while his allies at the DGA affiliate Put Pennsylvania First spent another $3.5 million earlier in the year.
Mastriano would very much like it if the Republican Governors Association backed him up, but while RGA chair Doug Ducey said earlier this month that he still sees this race as a "pickup opportunity," the Arizona governor sounded wary about getting involved. "So we're in a relationship with our candidate, but we're saying to the candidates, you have to show us something," Ducey said, adding, "You have to demonstrate that you can move numbers. That you can raise resources."
Mastriano tried to raise resources just before he made that mournful Facebook video by appearing on a podcast hosted by his fellow far-right extremist Steve Bannon. The nominee implored listeners to open their wallets because if he won, "I get to appoint the secretary of state." He added, "Americans, wherever you live in the world, if you're an American citizen, you can donate to my campaign."
One of Mastriano's allies, though, is trying a different approach to try to get the RGA involved. Jenna Ellis, the notorious 2020 election denier who now serves as Mastriano's legal advisor, on Tuesday posted the RGA's email address and the number for its general counsel on Twitter and wrote, "The Republican Governors Association would rather see an insane extremist Democrat win in Pennsylvania than have a Republican they can't control. Doug Mastriano's race is MORE CRITICAL THAN EVER for freedom from BOTH SIDES!!"
Ellis also used that tweet to implore her followers to "tell them DOUG FOR GOV!!" but we don't know how many of them did before she deleted it.
● Voting: Four states became the first to kick off in-person early voting for the 2022 midterms on Friday—Minnesota, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming—though what NPR's Hansi Lo Wang dubs "voting season" in fact began earlier this month when North Carolina and Pennsylvania both began sending out mail ballots to voters.
It's critical to note the advent of this season because, with the soaring popularity of advance voting, large proportions of the total vote will in fact get locked in long before Election Day. Indeed, in 2020, 69% of all voters cast ballots early or by mail, according to the Census Bureau—an enormous jump, thanks to the pandemic, compared to the 40% who did so in 2016. With pandemic disruptions lessening and Donald Trump's war on mail voting continuing, it's difficult to predict where exactly these trends will head in November, but it's safe to say the convenience of voting early or at home will still appeal to tens of millions of voters.
This means that late-breaking developments in key races will have less and less of an ability to affect their outcomes: A major scandal in the final week simply can't have the same impact on the electorate if a large portion of voters have already cast their votes. This is particularly important when examining polls as well. All astute pollsters should, at the appropriate date in each state, be asking respondents whether they've voted yet, and break down their results accordingly. (Of course, since advance voting is now preferred by many Democrats and disdained by Trumpists, any such crosstabs must be analyzed in that light.)
Ballotpedia offers a handy calendar showing when early voting begins in each state, though hours and availability vary widely, and some states offer no early in-person voting at all. Some, likewise, only permit mail balloting with an excuse. To find out your options, check Vote.org.
● NV-Sen: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is airing her first ad focusing on Republican Adam Laxalt's role in promoting the Big Lie, a topic that not many Democrats have put front and center in their general election spots.
"They stormed the Capitol because they were told the election was stolen," says the narrator, before he describes Laxalt as "[t]he proud face of the Big Lie in Nevada." The commercial continues by charging the Republican with "[r]epeatedly pushing conspiracy theories without any real evidence" before the narrator finishes, "Now, Laxalt says he'll try to overturn this year's election if he doesn't like the results."
Laxalt unsuccessfully sued to overturn Biden's victory in the state after claiming that "illegal votes" were cast, and he spent the next year trying to delegitimize Biden's presidency. The Nevada Independent last month wrote that in September of 2021, the month after he kicked off his Senate campaign, Laxalt called for rural Douglas County to audit its results. County Clerk-Treasurer Amy Burgans said she'd told Laxalt that this wasn't allowed under state law, and that he'd refused her offer to see the relevant statute.
"More than anything, I am just letting you know due to the amount of misinformation that is out there," Burgans emailed an official at the secretary of state's office, continuing, "I am sure you are aware of it, but I was baffled as to why he wouldn't want me to educate him on election laws, especially since he was the former Attorney General!!!" Burgans predicted, "I believe next year ALL candidates will be running on 'election integrity' as a platform without a basic understanding of what the law requires." Laxalt's spokesperson told the site in response, "This is absurd. Adam has never had a concern with the integrity of elections in Douglas County."
Finally, the Republican firm Insider Advantage has polled the race, but there's a major warning sign. The right-wing site that hired them, American Greatness, denies the results of the 2020 elections, calling them "rigged" in the very same post in which they publicized these new results.
● OH-Sen, OH-Gov: The progressive group Red Wine and Blue has released an internal from the Democratic firm Change Research conducted in the first week of September that gives Democrat Tim Ryan a 47-42 edge over Republican J.D. Vance for Senate. The poll also shows Republican Gov. Mike DeWine turning back Democrat Nan Whaley 45-39, which is closer than what most other firms have found.
● WI-Sen: Everytown for Gun Safety is spending $1 million on an ad campaign arguing that Republican incumbent Ron Johnson's opposition to gun safety laws has endangered public safety, a message the super PAC has urged Democrats to adopt to counter the GOP's crime-themed commercials.
Everytown's spot opens with footage of the aftermath of mass shootings, as well as the very same clip of a group of people scattering in panic during a shooting that a conservative group recently used to attack Democrat Mandela Barnes. (That ad drew a red circle around one of the gunmen next to on-screen text reading "Mandela Barnes," something his supporters highlighted as one of the racist messages being deployed against the man who would be the state's first Black senator.)
But while the GOP has used clips of violent scenes to argue that Barnes' support for criminal justice reform is putting Wisconsinites at risk, Everytown's narrator declares that it's Johnson who is "making things worse." She continues, "He abandoned law enforcement, voting against funding the police, preventing local departments from hiring more officers, but supported flooding our streets with guns and making it easier for violent criminals and domestic abusers to get them."
● Super PACs: Republicans have spent months complaining that Donald Trump is soaking up the small donors they badly need for downballot campaigns, but they got some potentially good news Friday when Politico's Alex Isenstadt reported that his "top lieutenants" have founded a new super PAC called MAGA, Inc. that is "designed to funnel large sums into key races." However, as with anything to do with Trump, it remains to be seen just how much money he'll actually allow to go toward this new effort, much less which races it plans to get involved in.
● AK-Gov: Former independent Gov. Bill Walker and former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara each used a recent debate to make it clear they'd be ranking the other as their second choice in the Nov. 8 instant-runoff contest against Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy. These sorts of informal alliances occur sometimes in ranked choice races, and it could make it easier for Walker or Gara to convince the other's supporters to also rank them second as well.
● GA-Gov: Patinkin Research Strategies (D) for Progress for Georgia (pro-Stacey Abrams): Brian Kemp (R-inc): 50, Stacey Abrams (D): 47
● FL-22 (old): Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch tells Jewish Insider that his resignation from Congress will take effect at the end of this month. Deutch announced back in February that he both wouldn't seek re-election and would leave office at some point before the end of the 117th Congress in order to take over as CEO of the advocacy group the American Jewish Committee, though at the time he didn't say when exactly he'd be departing.
● NY-01, ME-02: Democrat Bridget Fleming has earned the backing of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association in the contest to succeed Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin even though the group is supporting Zeldin's bid for governor as well as Long Island's other three GOP House candidates.
Police unions across the country have largely lined up behind Republicans in this year's competitive general elections, though the Maine Lodge Fraternal Order of Police is backing Rep. Jared Golden in the state's 2nd District. Golden is now running a commercial touting the endorsement, which features members praising him as "a different type of Democrat."
● OH-09: A day after the NRCC pitched him into the sea, J.R. Majewski's campaign continues to sink beneath the waves. The QAnon candidate in Ohio's 9th District, who was busted by the AP on Wednesday for falsely claiming he'd served in combat in Afghanistan, held a seven-minute press conference on Friday morning during which he insisted he couldn't provide further details on his deployments because they were "classified." That, of course, must be why he breezily chatted about them on far-right podcasts such as "Red Pill News."
According to the Toledo Blade's Luke Ramseth, Majewski also said he was "considering suing AP" and would "push for a law that would make it a crime to 'besmirch veterans'"—plus that he "might share" photos of himself in Afghanistan. We'll be waiting for a while: The AP's Brian Slodysko, who broke the original story, tweeted out a list of Majewski's supposed Air Force postings provided by his campaign, none of which mention the word "Afghanistan."
There's also one other unresolved detail worth mentioning. While multiple outlets confirmed on Thursday that the NRCC had canceled its entire $960,000 ad reservation in the Toledo media market (which covers almost the entire district) for the final six weeks of the election, we haven't yet heard about the fate of a similar booking made by the committee's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund. That giant super PAC said in April that it had reserved $705,000 in Toledo, but is that money still there, or has CLF also cut Majewski loose? We'd love to know.
● RI-02: The Democratic group House Majority PAC has begun what WPRI says is a $280,000 ad campaign against Republican Allan Fung, a move that comes a week after their adversaries at the Congressional Leadership Fund launched a $1 million effort against Democrat Seth Magaziner in this 56-42 Biden seat.
HMP's commercial uses audio of Fung declaring, "I'm going to support that Republican leadership … they're focused on these same issues that I've been trying to talk about from day one." The narrator then declares, "Fung opposed Rhode Island's protections for abortion rights. He said it went 'too far.'" The spot also shows the same photo of the nominee wearing a Trump wool cap at Trump's inauguration that Democrats used in their successful ad campaign to sink Fung's 2018 bid for governor.
Attorneys General and Secretaries of State
● MI-SoS, MI-AG: EPIC-MRA’s newest poll for the Detroit Free Press shows Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson outpacing Republican Kristina Karamo 51-37 as Attorney General Dana Nessel fends off Republican Matt DePerno 48-39. The survey was conducted days after an EPIC-MRA poll for a different client showed both Democratic incumbents with identical 48-40 leads.
The progressive group iVote is taking no chances in the secretary of state race, though, as Politico reports it’s launched a $2 million ad campaign highlighting how Karamo called abortion “satanic” and “child sacrifice.” The narrator continues, “She’s warned of ‘demonic possession’ from sex, spoke at a Qanon conspiracy event. And court documents allege that Karamo tried to intentionally crash a car with her whole family inside.” Politico says iVote will also spend $2 million in Minnesota to help Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon fend off another election denier, Kim Crockett.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.