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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● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: New campaign finance reports reveal that Republican megadonor Jeff Yass, a charter schools advocate who is the wealthiest man in Pennsylvania, is the principal funder behind the attack ads being leveled at former Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym ahead of the May 16 Democratic primary for mayor―a race that’s now the most expensive in city history.
Yass is responsible for $750,000 of the $1 million raised by a PAC called Coalition for Safety and Equitable Growth, which has run negative ads against Gym while ignoring her intra-party rivals. And this isn’t the only Democratic primary that Yass, a registered Libertarian who lives outside city limits, is interested in, as he’s also aiding an effort to help business-aligned candidates for City Council.
Gym’s team previously insinuated that Yass was financing the offensive against their candidate, who has the backing of the American Federation of Teachers and prominent national progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though it's only now that we have confirmation.
There’s no word if the billionaire, who has donated over $55 million to support Republicans in federal elections, has a favorite candidate in the contest to succeed termed-out incumbent Jim Kenney, though supporters of two other contenders have made contributions to the same PAC. The Laborers District Council, which is pulling for former City Councilmember Cherelle Parker, chipped in $25,000, while former Mayor Michael Nutter, who is backing former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, contributed $3,100.
Kenney himself said Monday that he had voted for Parker while still insisting, “I’m not endorsing anyone publicly. I don’t think it’s right for any old mayor to be endorsing anybody, in truth.” Kenney said of Parker, who would be the first Black woman to hold the post, “I think she has the ability to lead the city forward, and honestly I think it’s time for a woman of color.” (Gym, who is Asian American, would also achieve this distinction in a city that has yet to elect a woman mayor.) But Parker’s campaign seems to be just fine to treat Kenney's vote as anything other than an endorsement, as a spokesperson didn’t even comment when asked about the news.
The only recent poll we’ve seen testing Kenney’s standing with primary voters was a mid-April internal for former City Council member Allan Domb, who has aired ads highlighting his conflicts with the mayor, and it showed the incumbent with a poor image. GBAO’s memo said that just only 41% of respondents approved of Kenney’s performance in office, though it didn’t reveal how many disapproved. And none of Kenney’s potential successors seem to view him as an electoral asset: The candidates were asked to grade his time in office at a debate earlier last month, and the C from Parker was the most positive score anyone would offer.
All of this comes as polls show a tight race next week to secure the plurality needed to win the Democratic nomination, which is almost always tantamount to election in the City of Brotherly Love. Gym’s team on Friday unveiled a survey from Data for Progress that found her deadlocked 21-21 with Rhynhart, with Parker just behind with 19%; Domb was further back with 13%, with grocer Jeff Brown at 9%. The survey was finished April 29, which was just as the Yass-financed ads against Gym began airing.
An independent poll from SurveyUSA for several non-aligned groups also found a cliffhanger late last month, with Rhynhart edging out Parker 19-17 as Gym, Domb, and Brown respectively took 16%, 15%, and 12%. Domb’s internal, by contrast, had the former city controller ahead of Gym 21-19 with himself at 17%; those numbers placed Parker and Brown at 16% and 13%. This tight primary comes at the tail end of what the Philadelphia Inquirer says is “easily the most expensive election in Philadelphia history.” The candidates and super PACs combined have brought in a total of $31.4 million, with Domb alone self-funding just under a third of that.
Unless one of the five major candidates shocks everyone next week, this would be the first Democratic mayoral primary of the 21st century with a margin of victory in the single digits. The last time Philadelphia saw such a close race was in 1999, when John Street beat Martin Weinberg 36-31 ahead of a tight general election win over Republican Sam Katz. There’s little question, though, that whoever takes the Democratic nod this year is in for an easier time in November against former Councilmember David Oh, who has the GOP primary to himself but faces long odds in a city that Joe Biden carried 81-18.
● MD-Sen: Time Magazine reports that Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will announce Tuesday that she’s seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Cardin.
● KY-Gov: State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles' new ad for next week's GOP primary tries to position himself as an alternative to Attorney General Daniel Cameron and former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft without mentioning either by name. "Negative ads, not showing up to debates, and not even traveling across the Commonwealth to ask for your vote―that's not me," the candidate declares as the camera shows a tire spinning in mud. Quarles, who has yet to be on the receiving end of any negative ads himself, adds, "I've spent the last year traveling across Kentucky, talking about the future and working hard to earn your vote."
Nick Storm of Kentucky Fried Politics reminds us that Matt Bevin employed this same strategy eight years ago ahead of his 83-vote primary win as his two main rivals, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Louisville Metro Councilor Hal Heiner, attacked each other while ignoring him. Bevin was even less subtle with his imagery than Quarles, though, as his spot featured actors depicting his two main rivals slamming food into each others' faces.
● LA-Gov: Attorney General Jeff Landry on Monday publicized an endorsement from Donald Trump ahead of the October all-party primary for governor, a development that comes more than two years after the candidate signed on to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's failed lawsuit to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
If Trump's allies had their way, though, Landry would have played an even bigger part in advancing the Big Lie. The New York Times said in 2021 that Landry declined when Trump's backers "made a particularly intense appeal" for him to be the face of those efforts instead of the indicted Paxton. A former Department of Justice official also testified before the Jan. 6 committee last year that the Trump administration wanted to make Landry their "special counsel" to advance fictitious voter fraud allegations, but this also never happened.
● AZ-03: Héctor Jaramillo, who is a member of the Glendale Elementary School Board, announced Monday he would compete in the Democratic primary for this safely blue Phoenix seat. He joins Phoenix City Councilmember Yassamin Ansari and former state Sen. Raquel Terán in the contest to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego.
Jaramillo in 2022 competed in the primary for the state House but took fourth with just 9% of the vote in a contest where the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general. But he still won his current post without opposition that year with the backing of a group opposed to school vouchers after he was one of just two contenders to file for one of the two board seats.
● CA-47: Former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh last week earned the backing of the state party for next year's top-two primary. Also in Baugh's corner is 45th District Rep. Michelle Steel, who represented almost 60% of this constituency under the old map.
● IL-07: Democratic Rep. Danny Davis' team told the Chicago Sun-Times this week that the incumbent will seek a 15th term this cycle, and it remains to be seen if he'll face intra-party opposition from another prominent Chicago politician. City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who formed an exploratory committee weeks ago, responded, "Last month, I announced I was exploring a run for Congress, and that process continues. In the coming months, I will determine how I can best serve the people of the Seventh Congressional District." Davis himself won renomination only 52-46 last year in a safely blue seat that includes Chicago's West Side and downtown.
● IN-05: State Rep. Chuck Goodrich declared Monday that he would seek the GOP nod for this gerrymandered constituency, though he already self-funded $1 million in March to support his campaign-in-waiting. Goodrich joins Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings in the primary to replace retiring Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz.
● MD-06: Del. Joe Vogel on Monday became the first major candidate to announce a campaign to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate contender David Trone, in this 54-44 Biden constituency based in western Maryland and the northwestern D.C. exurbs. Vogel, a 26-year-old who was born less than two weeks after the youngest member of Congress, Florida Democrat Maxwell Alejandro Frost, declared, "When it comes to lived experience, there is an entire generational perspective that is missing." The candidate, who immigrated from Uruguay at age 3, identifies as Jewish, Latino, and gay.
Vogel may have intra-party opposition before too long, as Del. Lesley Lopez tells Inside Elections she'll "likely make a decision soon." Montgomery County Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe, though, told Jacob Rubashkin, "I can safely say I won't be running for Congress."
On the GOP side, Bethesda Magazine suggests that former state Del. Neil Parrott could try again after losing the last two campaigns to Trone, though there's no word from Parrott if he's considering.
● NC-??: Republican state Rep. Erin Paré has set up an exploratory committee and tells Axios she will "at least keep my options open." Her Wake County constituency is entirely located in Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel's existing 13th Congressional District, though Paré and her Republican colleagues will be able to implement a new gerrymandered congressional map this year.
Secretaries of State
● KY-SoS: Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican who has denounced election conspiracy theorists as people who "just want to watch the world burn," faces two intra-party foes next week who see the world quite differently. His opponents are Steve Knipper, who took a distant third in the 2019 primary for this post, and Allen Maricle, who served in the state House in the 1990s.
Both challengers, writes the Lexington Herald-Leader's John Cheves, have criticized Adams for refusing to withdraw Kentucky from the bipartisan Electronic Registration Information Center, a multi-state group to maintain voter lists that has recently been at the center of numerous far-right conspiracy theories. Knipper has eagerly embraced the Big Lie and suggested there was "fraud" in Democrat Andy Beshear's 2019 victory over GOP Gov. Matt Bevin. Maricle wasn't willing to go that far, though, saying of Knipper, "I do think we have some problems, but I think he's gone off on some wild tangents."
Adams, who says he's experienced "a number of violent threats" during his tenure, has decisively outraised both his foes, but he doesn't seem at all convinced he's secure. "Yeah, I could lose," he told Cheves last week, "No question about it." The winner will take on former state Rep. Buddy Wheatley, who has no Democratic primary opposition.
● MS-LG: An organization called Conservatives Mississippi PAC is airing a TV ad targeting state Sen. Chris McDaniel ahead of his August GOP primary against incumbent Delbert Hosemann, though there's no word how much it's spending. The spot argues that, while McDaniel says how much he loves to "fight," the only thing his fighting has achieved is getting three insignificant bills passed since 2014. "Lots of speeches," says the narrator, "lots of big talk. But no substance, no real accomplishments."