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.
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● OR-Gov: DHM Research is out with the first poll we've seen of this expensive three-way race in some time, and it shows Republican Christine Drazan edging out Democrat Tina Kotek 32-31 as independent Betsy Johnson grabs 18%.
This survey, which was conducted on behalf of The Oregonian and OregonLive, was conducted over a month after the GOP firm Clout Research showed Drazan leading Kotek by that same tiny 33-32 spread, with Johnson similarly situated at 21%. A win for Drazan would give Oregon Republicans their first governor here since the late Victor Atiyeh left office in 1987.
DHM also indicates that Johnson, who spent two decades in the legislature as a conservative Democrat before dropping her party affiliation last year, is taking more votes from Kotek than from Drazan: The poll shows that Johnson is winning over 19% of Democrats, compared to only 13% of Republican respondents. DHM finds that just 60% of Democrats currently are backing Kotek while Drazan is scooping up 71% of her base, though pollster John Horvick notes this could give Team Blue some room for growth in this blue state.
Another impediment for Kotek is the ugly 31-63 score that respondents give termed-out Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. Willamette Week took a look at the incumbent's travails last December, writing, "Politicos often referred to Ronald Reagan as the 'Teflon president' because nothing bad stuck to him. For Brown it's the opposite: She's a blank canvas on which Oregonians sling all their frustrations." Barbara Roberts, who is the only other woman to hold this post, also argued, "I have never seen a governor who accomplished so much, right from the beginning of her tenure, and who seems to receive so little credit for it."
The story went on to speculate that Brown was being hurt by anger at the Oregon Employment Department's performance during the early days of the pandemic, a backlash at Brown's public health orders, the GOP's successful obstruction tactics in the legislature, and sexism as well. However, WW added that "many people interviewed for this story say Brown's poll numbers reflect widespread alarm" at crime and homelessness in Portland.
Drazan and Johnson both have run commercials arguing that Kotek, who stepped down as speaker of the state House early this year, has also done a poor job on public safety and homelessness. The Democrat responded a few weeks ago with her own spot where a health care and housing leader praised her as the candidate "with a plan to help get people off the streets so everyone is safe."
Kotek's two opponents, though, have also spent plenty of time trashing one another as well as the former speaker. Drazan has aired ads arguing that both Kotek and Johnson supported Brown's agenda, while only the Republican can bring about change. Johnson, meanwhile, recently went up with her own spot that, after once again faulting Kotek's approach to homelessness, declared, "Christine Drazan would be Oregon's first anti-choice governor."
Kotek, for her part, debuted a new commercial this week that also went after both her foes. "If you want a right-wing Oregon, you've got two options for governor," the narrator intones as footage plays of the Jan. 6 riot. "There's Republican Christine Drazan, who wants to ban abortion, taking fundamental rights away from Oregon women," she continues, "Or machine gun-owning Betsy Johnson. She thinks convicted domestic abusers and other stalkers should be able to buy guns, and even after mass shootings defends military assault weapons."
● Yes, the polls still matter! This week on The Downballot, The Economist's G. Elliott Morris joins us to discuss his new book on polling, Strength in Numbers, including the early history of polling in the form of 19th century straw polls; how we can be smart consumers of polls by placing their uncertainty in context; and the surprises that have stood out in his new model forecasting the 2022 midterms.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also check in on Pennsylvania, where Republican Doug Mastriano has called for "40 days of fasting and prayer" to save his ailing campaign for governor; dig into ad spending numbers that show Democrats airing far more spots because they aren't relying on super PACs; circle back to the J.R. Majewski stolen valor scandal, which prompted the NRCC to cut him loose; and recap the dispiriting results of Italy's general election, which saw the far-right win for the first time since Mussolini.
Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.
● AZ-Sen: Republican Blake Masters is getting $1 million in badly needed outside support from Women Speak Out PAC, which is affiliated with the ardently anti-choice Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and funded by conservative mega donor Richard Uihlein's PAC. The commercial tries to argue that Masters "supports compromise" on abortion because he wants to "reasonably regulate late-term abortion with an exception to protect the mother," while Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly supports the procedure "right up to the due date for any reason."
As we've written before, these sorts of ads deliberately misled and fearmongered about a vote Kelly cast in favor of the Women's Health Protection Act, legislation that would only allow abortions later in pregnancy "when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient's life or health." This spot goes a step further by falsely claiming that the WHPA would allow abortions "right up to the due date for any reason," putting it at risk of getting taken down by TV stations.
AZ-Sen: Marist College: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 51, Blake Masters (R): 41
CT-Sen: Western New England University for CT Insider and WFSB: Richard Blumenthal (D-inc): 53, Leora Levy (R): 40
WA-Sen: Public Policy Polling (D): Patty Murray (D-inc): 52, Tiffany Smiley (R): 40 (early Sept.: 48-39 Murray)
WI-Sen: Public Policy Polling (D): Mandela Barnes (D): 47, Ron Johnson (R-inc): 47
● KS-Gov: Former Republican Gov. Mike Hayden, who left office in 1991, has endorsed Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly four years after supporting her first bid. Another former GOP governor, Bill Graves, also is pulling for Kelly again.
● LA-Gov: The Lake Charles American-Press reported earlier this month that personal injury attorney Hunter Lundy has announced that he'll compete as an independent in next year's all-party primary. Lundy is the first notable candidate to announce that he's in, though two Republicans, Attorney General Jeff Landry and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, have made it clear they plan to run.
Lundy ran as a Democrat in 1996 for the now-defunct 7th Congressional District in the southwestern corner of the state, but he lost an intra-party runoff 53-47 against Chris John. Lundy at the kickoff for his new campaign extolled his opposition to abortion and gun safety, though it sounds like his main focus will be appealing to voters in the Lake Charles area. "I think I would be a good governor for the entire state, but I believe that southwest Louisiana is due," he said.
The last governor to hail from the region was conservative Democrat Sam Jones, who was elected to his only term in 1940 by beating incumbent Earl Long (the brother of the more famous Huey Long) at a time when Louisiana politics was defined by battles between Longites and anti-Longites. Lundy, writes the paper, went on to work for Jones' law firm before opening his own practice.
● ME-Gov: Newly released campaign finance reports show that Democratic incumbent Janet Mills outraised Republican Paul LePage $990,000 to $440,000 from July 20 to Sept. 20, though she finished with a small $1.4 million to $1.3 million cash-on-hand lead.
Outside groups on both sides are also involved here, though the Bangor Daily News says that the DGA's affiliate has so far outspent its GOP counterpart $3.1 million to $1.9 million. An early September survey from the progressive Maine People's Resource Center showed Mills ahead 49-38, while more recent numbers from the University of New Hampshire put her edge at 53-39.
● MN-Gov: Republican Scott Jensen narrowly outraised Democratic Gov. Tim Walz $1.8 million to $1.7 million from July 19 to Sept. 20 after badly trailing him throughout the campaign, though there's a catch. MPR's Brian Bakst notes that Jensen got a $580,000 subsidy from the state "that was boosted when Walz declined to agree to a spending cap." The governor had good reason not to restrict his spending, as he goes into the final weeks with a $3.2 million to $860,000 cash-on-hand lead.
● PA-Gov: Every day seems to bring a new story about how Republicans are astounded by how terrible their nominee is, but the most serious vote of no confidence in Doug Mastriano might come from Commonwealth Partners head Matt Brouillette, whose super PAC is responsible for the only non-Democratic TV ads of the entire campaign. "I can't even assess things because I don't see a campaign," Brouillette told the New York Times, adding, "I've not seen anything that is even a semblance of a campaign."
Brouillette also mused to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "In this environment, in this election year, it is likely the only time a candidate like Doug Mastriano could possibly win … But I don't see a path without the resources to connect with those key swing voters." The nominee seems to be intent on proving Brouillette correct as polls show him badly trailing Democrat Josh Shapiro: The paper writes, "One of Mastriano's main attack strategies these days is emphasizing that he is taller than Shapiro." Presumably, that means he plans to vote for Democrat John Fetterman for Senate over the eight-inches shorter Mehmet Oz.
Mastriano, though, has a plan to turn things around just days after his "big rally" at the state Capitol building attracted just a few dozen attendees. The Republican announced Monday that, starting Thursday, he'd begin "40 days of fasting & prayer," writing, "Interceding for our elections, our state, and our nation." If you're planning to fast for Doug Mastriano, let us know.
AZ-Gov: Marist College: Kari Lake (R): 46, Katie Hobbs (D): 45
NY-Gov: Siena College: Kathy Hochul (D-inc): 54, Lee Zeldin (R): 37 (July: 53-39 Hochul)
TX-Gov: Quinnipiac University: Greg Abbott (R-inc): 53, Beto O'Rourke (D): 46 (June: 48-43 Abbott)
WI-Gov: Public Policy Polling (D): Tony Evers (D-inc): 48, Tim Michels (R): 46
● ME-02: The University of New Hampshire finds Democratic incumbent Jared Golden leading Republican Bruce Poliquin 44-33 in their rematch from four years ago, with another 8% going to independent Tiffany Bond, who herself took 6% in the initial round in 2018. This poll, which is the first we've seen here in months, did not attempt to simulate the instant-runoff process.
However, neither party is behaving like Golden is far ahead in this 52-45 Trump seat. As the most recent edition of our Independent Expenditure Tracker shows, the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund has dumped $2.5 million here, while its opponents at House Majority PAC have deployed another $1.5 million.
The only House race in the country where the GOP has spent more is Michigan's 7th, where the CLF and NRCC have expended a combined $4.8 million to unseat Elissa Slotkin. HMP and the DCCC, by contrast, have so far deployed more money in six other contests, with Michigan's 7th also taking the number one spot.
● PA-17: The Congressional Leadership Fund is airing yet another commercial attacking Democrat Chris Deluzio in this 52-46 Biden constituency, but it spends considerably more time going after Summer Lee, who would be the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress should she prevail in the neighboring and far bluer 12th.
The narrator argues that Deluzio "bankrolled socialist Summer Lee, who wants to defund the police," though the only thing the spot cites to link the two are contributions to her 2020 legislative campaign and a tweet that was also sent out before she ran for Congress. The spot makes the most of that, though, by playing a clip of Lee saying, "Policing as we know it is no longer necessary" and calling herself a "prison abolitionist." Deluzio responded by calling the commercial "a lie" and saying he doesn't back defunding the police.
● Independent Expenditures: The latest update to our independent expenditure tracker for the four largest outside groups active in House races now shows $92 million in total spending, with six new districts coming online in the last week-plus, for 57 in total. The most notable new forays include more than $1 million apiece from the DCCC to defend Rep. Sanford Bishop in Georgia's 2nd and to hold New York's open 19th District. The House Majority PAC also put almost half a million into Oregon's brand-new 6th District, a battle between Democrat Andrea Salinas and Republican Mike Erickson.
● KS-AG: The Kansas Farm Bureau announced this week that it wouldn't make an endorsement in the race for attorney general, a move that very much looks like another snub of Republican Kris Kobach. Four years ago, the group also decided to remain neutral during Kobach's unsuccessful bid for governor after he defeated their man, incumbent Jeff Colyer, in the primary.
Democrat Chris Mann, meanwhile, is airing what appear to be his first two general election ads (here and here) extolling his background as a police officer and a prosecutor as well as his support from Republicans.
Secretaries of State
● MI-SoS, MN-SoS, NV-SoS: The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State is spending a total of $11 million on TV commercials along with End Citizens United to help Team Blue's nominees in three key swing states fend off a trio of election deniers in what Politico describes as its largest-ever ad campaign. HuffPost also relays that DASS will send between $10 million to $14 million to state party committees supporting Adrian Fontes in Arizona and Bee Nguyen in Georgia.
The news comes days after another progressive group, iVote, dropped $2 million each in Michigan and Minnesota to aid incumbents Jocelyn Benson and Steve Simon, respectively. This is the first major outside spending we've seen, though, in Nevada, where Democrat Cisco Aguilar is going up against QAnon ally Jim Marchant.
DASS makes use of audio of Michigan Republican Kristina Karamo saying, "We're wrestling against demonic powers," and "The Democratic Party, their party has totally been taken over by a Satanic agenda." The commercial continues with more of her declaring, "Child sacrifice is a very Satanic practice, and that's precisely what abortion is," "Ultimately, the culture war is really the most important war to fight," and, "That's the reason I got involved in politics was to fight against abortion."
The Minnesota ad, meanwhile, begins by extolling Simon for making "it his job to defend democracy," before it focuses on Republican Kim Crockett. The spot features footage of her declaring she's the "election denier-in-chief" and asking, "Why in the world would you put your ballot in the mail?"
Finally in Nevada, DASS also accuses Marchant of wanting to "end early voting and vote by mail to control elections for himself and for his allies," as well as trying to ban abortion and allow insurance companies to charge women more than men. The narrator then extols Aguilar as someone dedicated to making sure "everyone's vote is counted, regardless of political party."
We also learned this week that both Benson and Simon maintain giant financial leads going into the final weeks of the campaign. Benson ended Sept. 16 with $3.3 million to spend, while Karamo had $180,000 on hand on Sept. 10. (The Detroit News explains that Karamo's report covers a slightly later time period "because the deadlines were based on the dates of the parties' nominating conventions" and the GOP event took place about a week after the Democratic gathering.)
In Minnesota, meanwhile, Simon enjoyed a $970,000 to $120,000 advantage over Crockett on Sept. 20. The most recent data we have from Nevada, though, came from the end of June: Aguilar back then posted an $860,000 to $20,000 cash-on-hand lead over Marchant, who won his primary only two weeks before.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Billionaire Rick Caruso has fired off a new ad as part of his $20 million buy that attacks Rep. Karen Bass for giving a 2010 speech to the Church of Scientology, a story that surfaced two years ago when she was on Joe Biden's vice presidential shortlist. The audience sees Bass declare, "This day and this new Church of Scientology is an exciting moment because I know your goal and your commitment is truly to make a difference," before the ad shows text from a Time article saying, "Ruined lives…Federal crimes. Scientology poses as a religion but really is a ruthless global scam."
Bass tweeted in 2020 that in the years since she gave that address, "[P]ublished first-hand accounts in books, interviews and documentaries have exposed this group." She said again this week that she's "never ever been affiliated with Scientology and absolutely condemn their practices."