The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from Daniel Donner, David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert and David Beard.
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● 1Q Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to unveil our new charts rounding up first-quarter fundraising for the House and Senate. Our data includes the numbers for every incumbent (excluding those who've said they're not seeking re-election) and notable announced or potential candidates.
Early fundraising reports give us our first glimpse at which candidates have the ability to raise the serious sums needed to run for Congress. However, what matters isn't necessarily who's outraising whom but rather which contenders will have the resources to get their message out and which ones won't.
It's not uncommon for candidates to win primaries or general elections despite being dramatically outspent. But what is uncommon is for them to win without having the money to run ads, hire a skilled staff, build a field operation, and pay for all the other things it takes to run a credible race. And of course, it costs much more to air ads in some media markets than others, so what might look like a decent fundraising haul in North Dakota can be underwhelming in New Jersey.
While these opening totals are important, by no means do they tell us everything. Many hopefuls in past cycles have posted underwhelming early numbers only to haul in stronger totals as Election Day draws closer. That's been especially true in the last three election cycles, when we've regularly seen grassroots donors, especially on the Democratic side, flock to newly-minted nominees in competitive races and help them raise sums that not long ago would have been unimaginable.
And while the House map is considerably more defined than it was at this point two years ago, when we were still weeks away from learning exactly how many congressional districts each state would have for the next decade, a number of races will still be impacted by a further round of redistricting. Republican legislators in North Carolina and Ohio will have the chance to rework their state's boundaries, while other states like New Mexico and New York could also see redrawn maps depending on how the courts rule.
There's a lot to see, so check out our House and Senate charts.
● AZ-Sen: The Republican pollster J.L. Partners, which did not mention a client for its Arizona survey, quizzed respondents about who they want to be the GOP's Senate nominee, but there's a caveat we need to address before we get to the results. The firm surveyed "registered Republicans and undeclared voters who would request a ballot in [the] 2024 presidential primary," a contest that will attract a different electorate than the Senate primary that's set to take place about four-and-a-half months later.
Now to the numbers:
2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake: 38
2022 gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson: 10
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb: 8
2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters: 7
2022 attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh: 4
2022 Senate candidate Jim Lamon: 3
Someone Else: 2
The firm also shows Lake with a 54-22 edge in a one-on-one with Lamb, who is both the only person in this group who has actually announced as well as the only one who didn't wage a losing campaign last year.
It's very unlikely the field will look like this as both Masters and Hamadeh have signaled they'd defer to Lake, while Lamon says he's for Lamb right now. Taylor Robson, meanwhile, seems content to keep everyone in suspense, as an unnamed source tells The Dispatch she "isn't feeling a ton of urgency to make a decision anytime soon."
● PA-Sen: The Dispatch reports that former Rep. Keith Rothfus has been offering his name up as a possible "consensus conservative" candidate to GOP leaders and donors even though prominent Republicans have made it very clear they want rich guy Dave McCormick as their nominee against Democratic incumbent Bob Casey.
Rothfus last was on the ballot in 2018 when he lost his bid for a fourth term 56-44 to Democratic colleague Conor Lamb, a contest that took place after court-ordered redistricting led to an incumbent vs. incumbent general election. Rothfus in late 2021 showed some interest in a run for Pennsylvania's other Senate seat, but he never followed through.
● UT-Sen: Sen. Mitt Romney's office tells the Standard-Examiner of the incumbent's re-election plans, "No new decision or announcement to share, and as the senator has said, he will make a final decision in the coming months," adding, "In the meantime, we're ensuring he's well prepared to run if he chooses."
State House Speaker Brad Wilson recently formed an exploratory committee for a potential GOP primary bid, while other Beehive State Republicans are also eyeing this seat. Outgoing state party chair Carson Jorgensen doesn't appear to be one of them, though he added Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs to the list of "rumored names" he's heard who are. Jorgensen, for his part, also predicted Romney would call it a career based on how few state GOP events he's been going to.
● MO-Gov: The Republican firm Remington Research's latest GOP primary poll for the local political tip-sheet Missouri Scout shows Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft leading Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe 29-13 in next year's contest, with state Sen. Bill Eigel at just 4%.
This new survey, which sampled 778 likely voters from April 11-12, comes about two months after the firm gave Ashcroft a 28-9 advantage over the lieutenant governor as Eigel again clocked in with 4%. Ashcroft launched his long-awaited campaign for the post once held by his father, John Ashcroft, just before Remington returned to the field, while Kehoe kicked off his campaign over two years before; Eigel, by contrast, formed an exploratory committee last September but has not confirmed he's in.
● NH-Gov: Paul Steinhauser writes in the Concord Monitor that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has said that he hopes to decide on his 2024 plans sometime after the legislative session ends June 30. The incumbent, who is mulling a presidential bid, recently joked, "I am not saying I am not running [for governor] again, but I've got to get a real job," something that intensified speculation that he won't seek a fifth two-year term.
Former state Sen. Tom Sherman, meanwhile, tells Steinhauser he's considering a second campaign for this post, a development that comes months after Sununu defeated the Democrat 57-41. Sherman highlighted how this was a big improvement from the governor's 65-33 win from 2020, adding, "We made sure that Sununu stayed on the issues and that he didn't have much in the way of coattails." Steinhauser additionally relays that Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington is also mulling seeking the Democratic nod, though there's no word directly from her.
● MI-10: Gun safety activist Emily Busch announced Monday that she'd seek the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. John James with a kickoff video detailing how her teenage son "was forced to run for his life" during the 2021 Oxford High School shooting where four students were murdered. "I'll never forget how my son tried to keep me from worrying when he was the one in danger," Busch tells the audience, "Our kids are not supposed to protect us, we're supposed to protect them."
Busch's only prior campaign was last year when she sought the 66th State House seat, which Trump had carried 65-34, and lost to Republican Josh Schriver by a similar margin. That constituency, along with Busch's home community of Oxford, is entirely located in GOP Rep. Lisa McClain's dark red 9th Congressional District: The 10th, by contrast, backed Trump just 50-49, while James himself won his first term by an unexpectedly narrow 48.8-48.3 margin against former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga.
Busch's only declared intra-party foe so far is financial advisor Diane Young, who announced early this month, though Marlinga reportedly has been talking about waging another campaign. Whoever eventually wins the Democratic nod will be in for an expensive fight against James, who raised $752,000 during the first quarter of the year and finished March with $1.18 million stockpiled.
● NE-02: Unnamed Democrats tell the Nebraska Examiner that state Sen. Tony Vargas is considering seeking a rematch against Republican incumbent Don Bacon, who fended him off 51-49 last year following an expensive bout. Vargas does not appear to have said anything publicly about a second try in an Omaha-based seat that favored Joe Biden 52-46 in 2020.
● NY-03: Just minutes after serial liar George Santos announced he'd seek a second term representing New York's 3rd Congressional District on Monday, he drew his first big-name Democratic challenger, Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who ran for the same seat in 2022 but finished third in last year's primary.
Fittingly, Santos had reportedly told GOP leaders he wouldn't run for reelection before he was even sworn in, so it's only natural that that was a lie, too. And in a perfect twist, Santos launched his bid the same day he introduced legislation named for vaccine conspiracy theorist Nicki Minaj.
Santos' decision came just days after the world learned the scandal-plagued Republican's campaign is almost bankrupt and apparently owes the candidate $715,000. Lafazan, meanwhile, managed to haul in $345,000 during the first quarter of the year after opening a fundraising account in January when he was still exploring the race.
Just ahead of Santos' kickoff, an unnamed source told The New York Post that the congressman had "called big donors and sat down with supporters and believes he can raise $500,000 to $750,000 in the second quarter of 2023." The paper did not say whether a single one of those donors believed a word of that, especially since Santos raised less than $5,400 during the first three months of the year, which was less than the $8,400 he refunded to previous contributors. It's also not clear who these "big donors" are, especially since exactly one person donated more than $200 to Santos during the first quarter of the year.
Santos' fellow Republicans have made it very clear they want pretty much anyone else as their standard bearer in the 3rd District, a Long Island-based constituency that favored Biden 54-45 in 2020, and there's no question the incumbent will face a tough primary challenge if he's even still in office next year. Santos in fact has already drawn intra-party opposition: Business executive Kellen Curry last week became the first Republican to announce a bid, though numerous others have been mentioned. Likewise, there's a long list of Democrats who could join Lafazan in the primary.
● RI-01: Businessman Don Carlson on Sunday became the 13th Democrat to announce a campaign to succeed outgoing Rep. David Cicilline, in a primary that's tentatively set for September. The new contender, who is a renewable energy investor, previously said he'd be doing some self-funding to help his campaign reach his $1 million fundraising goal. While Carlson hasn't run for office before, he aided his friend, Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes, in his successful 2008 bid to unseat Republican Rep. Chris Shays.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Jacksonville, FL Mayor: The University of North Florida finds Democrat Donna Deegan with a tiny 48-47 edge over Republican Daniel Davis ahead of the May 17 nonpartisan contest in the school's first survey since the two advanced to the general election. UNF had Deegan ahead 48-39 in late February, though that poll was conducted at a time when Davis and his fellow Republican, City Councilmember LeAnne Gutierrez Cumber, were airing negative ads at one another. Davis has spent the second round launching spots against Deegan, who said weeks ago she planned to remain positive.
We've seen almost no other numbers for the contest to succeed termed-out Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. A Deegan internal from Frederick Polls last week gave her a larger advantage than UFL finds now but did not allow respondents to select undecided as an option, which is something we require for any poll. As we've written before, one of the most important numbers in a poll is how many voters are still undecided between candidates: If a pollster does not allow voters to say they're still making up their minds and instead forces them to choose a side, they're leaving out a critical piece of information about the state of the race—and not adhering to best practices.