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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● OH-Sen: Luxury car dealer Bernie Moreno on Tuesday declared that he'd seek the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, an announcement that came days after Donald Trump fired off a not-tweet gushing over him.
While Trump didn't quite endorse the wealthy candidate, who dropped out of last year's primary for the state's other Senate seat at Trump's behest, he praised Moreno as "the highly respected businessman from the GREAT STATE of OHIO, and the father-in-law of fantastic young Congressman, Max Miller." The son-in-law in question is a former White House aide who was so close to Trump that a source told Politico in 2021, "They had … kind of a unique 'bro' relationship."
Miller is married to Moreno's daughter, Emily Moreno Miller, who gives the candidate some coveted connections to the GOP's master, as she worked on Trump's failed 2020 reelection campaign and founded a dating app called Donald Daters. Moreno Miller and the now-congressman were married last year at Trump's Bedminster lair, and no, they did not meet on Donald Daters. (The app, which was hacked hours after its 2018 launch, no longer appears to exist.)
Moreno joins a primary field that already includes state Sen. Matt Dolan, a fellow self-funder with whom he's clashed before. The two initially were among the many Republicans who competed in last year's primary to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman, but Moreno dropped out well ahead of the primary after throwing down almost $4 million of his own money. Moreno said he'd decided to quit after he and Trump agreed that the crowded contest "could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat." There was no question that the candidate they were worried about was Dolan, who stood out as the one major candidate to condemn the Big Lie.
Dolan, who is a part-owner of the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, ultimately spent almost $11 million of his fortune only to come in third with 23%, well behind Trump's pick, J.D. Vance. Dolan quickly signaled he'd try again, but Moreno began attacking his once and future rival even before his own announcement, saying in February that the Trump-skeptical Dolan was "running in the wrong primary." (Moreno himself called Trump a "maniac" before the 2016 primary.) Dolan is once again relying on his own money for this race: He self-funded $3 million during the opening quarter of 2023 while raising just $300,000 from donors, and he had $3.3 million to spend at the end of March.
Moreno and Dolan may not have this latest primary to themselves, though. Rep. Warren Davidson, whom the deep-pocketed Club for Growth has been encouraging to run, told Politico this week, "It's safe to say I'm actually very actively looking at the race every day." That may be news to his donors, though, as the hardline congressman raised only $170,000 during the first three months of the year and finished the quarter with $450,000 in the bank. Secretary of State Frank LaRose also has been eyeing this contest and says he'll decide in the summer.
Brown, for his part, has been stockpiling money ahead of what will be a challenging race in a state that's turned sharply against Democrats in recent years. The senator hauled in $3.5 million during the opening quarter of the year, and he ended March with $5.8 million in the bank.
● MT-Sen: While GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale has played coy in public about his interest in seeking a rematch against Democratic incumbent Jon Tester, Politico writes he’s “told friends and allies that he plans to run for Senate.”
● WI-Sen: Republicans looking to beat Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin have a Wisconsin congressman who’s publicly interested, who party leadership wants to run, and who’s raising money―but they happen to be three different people.
The first congressman is Tom Tiffany, who confirmed Monday that his team had purchased “tomtiffany4senate.com” and a related domain name as he considers what to do in 2024. But Tiffany isn’t even his own first choice to take on Baldwin: The second-term representative tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he wants his House colleague—congressman number two, Mike Gallagher—to run for Senate. Tiffany’s not alone, as GOP potentates have been urging Gallagher to make the jump even as he’s said little about his own thinking.
That brings us to congressman the third. Rep. Bryan Steil hasn’t gotten much attention as a potential Senate contender, but his fundraising suggests he’s more interested than he’s publicly let on. Steil hauled in $830,000 during the first three months of 2023 and finished March with $2.2 million on hand, money he could use either to seek re-election or to take on Baldwin. Gallagher, by contrast, raised a considerably smaller $480,000 during that time period, though he had $3.3 million available. Tiffany, meanwhile, hauled in a mere $40,000 and had just $340,000 banked.
But unlike his coworkers, Steil might have to use his war chest to defend his House seat should he run for a fourth term. That’s because, while Trump easily took Tiffany and Gallagher’s constituencies in 2020, he carried Steil’s 1st Congressional District in the southeastern part of the state just 50-48. Steil, who succeeded none other than Paul Ryan in 2018, won last year without any trouble against a little-known foe, but Democrats are hoping to put up a serious challenge this cycle.
Baldwin, who, unlike all of these Republicans, has made it clear she’s running for Senate, is preparing for an expensive bid no matter who eventually steps up to take her on; the incumbent raised $2.1 million for the opening quarter of 2023, and she finished it with $3.9 million to spend.
● KY-Gov: While former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft and her allies have spent over a month attacking Attorney General Daniel Cameron ahead of their May 16 GOP primary, Cameron’s supporters are finally going up with the first anti-Craft spot of the race.
Bluegrass Freedom Action begins by reminding the audience that Donald Trump is supporting Cameron even though Craft served under him, and the narrator then goes on to hit Craft’s absenteeism as ambassador to Canada and her infamous “empty chair” opioid ad. The GOP firm Medium Buying says the PAC and Cameron have spent or reserved a total of $1.2 million so far, which is far behind the $5 million it’s tracked in support of Craft.
● LA-Gov, LA-LG: Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser's re-election campaign has publicized a WPA Intelligence survey that also includes a look at the October all-party primary for governor, and it finds just two candidates taking any serious support right now. Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry grabs 35% as former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, who is the only notable Democrat in the contest, takes 25%, while no one else breaks 4%. Nungesser himself posts a 42-9 edge over his intra-party foe, former state Sen. Elbert Guillory.
● MO-Gov: While Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe has trailed Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in the few polls we’ve seen of next year’s GOP primary, the lieutenant governor’s side finished March with a big financial edge. Kehoe, who announced his bid for governor two years ago, hauled in $290,000 for the quarter, while Ashcroft raised only a little more than $1,000 ahead of his April launch. Kehoe ended last month with a $820,000 to $460,000 cash on hand lead, while his allied super PAC also holds a $2.5 million to $1.3 million edge over Ashcroft’s backers.
State Sen. Bill Eigel, meanwhile, raised $50,000 for his exploratory committee and had $160,000 on hand; his super PAC also had just $150,000 banked.
● IL-07: Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin said Tuesday she was forming an exploratory committee, though it’s not clear if she’s willing to challenge longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat.
Conyears-Ervin’s own statement indicated she’s waiting for the 81-year-old incumbent to retire, writing, “Congressman Danny Davis has ably served the people of the Seventh District for many years. Whenever he should choose to retire, I will be running to succeed him and continue his legacy of service.” An unnamed Conyears-Ervin aide, though, said she was planning a bid even if Davis seeks a 15th term.
Davis, who is 81, raised a mere $10,000 during the first quarter of the year following his underwhelming 52-46 primary win last summer, but his team says he has three fundraisers scheduled. “When he is ready to speak up on what his plans are—announce anything he needs to announce—he knows how to do that,” declared his chief of staff, adding, “He’s not shy.” Former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who is a former Davis aide, went further, saying the congressman “is going to run. I talked to him last week. He's already filed the necessary paperwork.”
● IN-03: Former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who was a tea party favorite during his tenure from 2010 to 2017, announced Tuesday that he was running in the GOP primary to reclaim his old safely red seat around Fort Wayne. Stutzman launched his campaign to reintroduce himself to voters with a barebones website that initially had little content other than links to his social media accounts, including a Twitter profile that hasn’t been used since 2016, and the words “Need to add bio txt here.” That filler text was removed later in the day, though, in favor of just a blank space.
But luckily for Stutzman, who is campaigning to replace Senate contender Jim Banks for a seat that closely resembles Stutzman’s old constituency, we have some bio txt for him right here! The Republican emerged on the national scene in 2010 when, as a state senator, he campaigned for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Evan Bayh and lost the primary to once and future Sen. Dan Coats by a respectable 39-29. Stutzman unexpectedly got to go to Congress anyway a few months later, though, after veteran Rep. Mark Souder resigned after revealing an affair with a staffer and party leaders chose the state senator as their nominee for the dark red 3rd District.
Stutzman had no trouble taking and holding the seat even after he earned the wrong type of attention during the 2013 government shutdown by saying, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is." The congressman tried to reach the upper chamber again in 2016 when his old foe Coats retired, but things began to go wrong well before the primary when his fundraising collapsed following a major staff shakeup.
Stutzman never recovered, and even his allies at the deep pocketed Club for Growth did little to aid his ailing campaign. Fellow Rep. Todd Young, who was far closer to the party leadership, ended up taking the nomination 67-33, while Banks went on to take the 3rd District in the fall. Stutzman hasn't run for office since then, though his wife, Christy Stutzman, was elected to the state House in 2018.
The couple went on to purchase a tourist attraction previously called Amish Acres, and the state representatives announced after the 2020 elections she was resigning to focus on the business they'd renamed The Barns. (The Barns, which is home to several eateries, festivals, and "relaxing tours of Amish life," is located in the 2nd District under both the current and previous congressional maps.) Christy Stutzman last year sought the nomination after 2nd District Rep. Jackie Walorski died in a traffic collision, but party leaders opted instead for businessman Rudy Yakym.
A few Republicans have announced bids for the 3rd District over the last several weeks including former Allen County Circuit Judge Wendy Davis; state Sen. Andy Zay; and Jon Kenworthy, a former aide to Sen. Mike Braun. State Sen. Tyler Johnson also says he’ll consider running after the legislative session finishes on April 27.
● RI-01: Gabe Amo, who resigned earlier this month as a special assistant to President Joe Biden, on Tuesday became the 14th Democrat to join this special election.
Amo previously worked in the Biden White House and later as an aide for then-Gov. Gina Raimondo, and the Providence Journal writes that the first-time contender "has an extensive Rolodex and a potential campaign donor network beyond the reach of several, if not most of the other candidates." Amo, whose parents are immigrants from Ghana and Liberia, would be the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress, a distinction he'd share with several of his intra-party opponents.
● TX-34: The Texas Tribune writes that self-funding perennial candidate Mauro Garza is already airing TV ads ahead of next year's GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, though there's no word on the size of the buy.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Denver, CO Mayor: The business group A Denver for Us All has released the first survey we've seen of the June 6 nonpartisan general election, and the GOP firm Cygnal shows former state Sen. Mike Johnston with a 39-34 lead over former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough. Both contenders identify as Democrats, and Colorado Newsline's Chase Woodruff writes that they disagreed on little at a recent debate.