The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
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● NV-Sen, MI-Sen, TX-Sen: Monday saw three prominent Senate candidates launch their bids in a trio of closely-watched contests. Army veteran Sam Brown gave the NRSC some welcome news when the Republican declared he'd challenge Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in Nevada, while actor Hill Harper, who is best known for his role on "The Good Doctor," announced that he'd seek the Democratic nomination for Michigan's open seat. Finally, Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez joined the Democratic primary to go up against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in a state that Gutierrez's party is hoping to put in play.
We'll start in Nevada where Brown's declaration was greeted with an enthusiastic statement from NRSC chair Steve Daines, who said he was "very pleased that Sam is stepping up to run for the U.S. Senate." Brown made his declaration about two months after Jim Marchant, the Big Lie spreader who narrowly lost last year's race for Nevada secretary of state, kicked off his own bid. Dermatologist Jeffrey Ross Gunter, who had a turbulent tenure as Trump's ambassador to Iceland from 2019 to 2021, is also reportedly interested in running.
While the NRSC has reportedly spent months trying to recruit Brown for this campaign, he very much wasn't the choice of powerful Republicans when he ran last cycle for the Silver State's other Senate seat. Donald Trump and the hardline anti-tax Club for Growth backed former Attorney General Adam Laxalt as their choice to take on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and the Army veteran initially didn't appear to pose much of a threat to the frontrunner.
But Brown, whose face was badly burned by an explosion in Afghanistan, raised a credible amount of money (his great uncle is Cincinnati Bengals' owner Mike Brown), and he soon drew more attention. He also tried to out-Big Lie Laxalt by accusing him of waiting too long to file litigation trying to overturn Joe Biden's win in 2020.
Still, all this was far from enough to keep Laxalt from decisively prevailing in the nomination fight. Both the former attorney general and the Club highlighted how Brown had unsuccessfully competed in a 2014 primary for a state House seat in Texas: The Club even ran a TV ad playing audio of Brown saying, "It will literally take an act of God to get me out of Texas … I want Texas to continue to be the greatest place in this country … I'm not going anywhere." Laxalt won 56-34, but he went on to narrowly lose to Cortez Masto.
Rosen, for her part, has been preparing for a tough race. She announced Monday she'd hauled in $2.7 million for the second quarter of 2023 and finished it with $7.5 million in the bank.
Over in Michigan, it's Harper, a first-time candidate who would be the Wolverine State's first Black senator, who is competing against a primary foe backed by much of the party establishment. Rep. Elissa Slotkin has spent months as the frontrunner to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow; the field also includes Michigan State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, and former state Rep. Leslie Love, who would each be the first Black woman to represent the state in the upper chamber. Republicans have yet to draw a prominent candidate for this longtime swing state, though Time's Mini Racker recently reported that John Tuttle, an executive with the New York Stock Exchange, "is likely" to announce this month.
Harper, in an interview with Racker, sought to portray himself as an alternative to "career politicians," arguing, "Michiganders don't want their next U.S. Senator chosen by the Washington, D.C. establishment." The new candidate also told the Detroit News, "There's a high degree of frustration by a lot of Democrats―not just African American Democrats in Michigan―that for the first time in 57 years Michigan does not have a Black Democratic representative in Congress. And that is going backwards." Harper also sought to contrast himself ideologically with Slotkin, who won three terms in a swing district by campaigning as a moderate, telling the New York Times he would seek to be "the most progressive candidate."
Harper, an Iowa native who bought his home in Detroit in 2017 and purchased a coffee shop there that same year, also tried to frame his decision to move to the state as a positive, declaring, "We need to have more people choose Michigan, like I chose Michigan." But that may not deter attempts to portray him as an outsider, with Love alleging to the Toledo Blade in April that her now-rival "has never lived in Michigan and has no experience at all in politics or government." Racker, though, writes that the actor has been an active voice in Detroit progressive circles, and he also drew attention early in the pandemic by delivering water in Flint.
Harper drew plenty of attention when he launched his campaign Monday, but it remains to be seen if he'll have access to enough money to overcome Slotkin's considerable head start in fundraising. The congresswoman on Monday also revealed she'd raised $2.8 million during the second quarter of the year and finished June with $3.6 million; the other Democrats have not disclosed their numbers ahead of Saturday's deadline. It's also not clear if Harper will even be stepping aside from his role on "The Good Doctor," which films in British Columbia, as he instead told Racker he couldn't answer given the ongoing TV writers' strike and other potential labor actions.
Gutierrez, finally, launched his campaign about two months after Rep. Colin Allred entered the race to become Texas' first Democratic U.S. senator since 1993. Allred recently disclosed he'd brought in $6.2 million for his opening quarter, though he hasn't said yet how much money he has available; Cruz himself has also yet to reveal his most recent fundraising numbers.
Gutierrez, who would be the first Latino Democrat to represent the Lone Star State in the upper chamber, was elected to the state House in 2008 and won a promotion in 2020 by unseating GOP state Sen. Pete Flores 50-47. The Democrat, who represents a San Antonio-based seat that includes Uvalde, became a prominent gun safety advocate after last year's Robb Elementary massacre, saying in May, "There is a special place in hell for people who have this kind of problem staring them square in the face and have done nothing about it."
Gutierrez echoed those themes in his kickoff, saying, "I'm a proud gun owner and believer in the Second Amendment, but after 19 children and two teachers died, the Republicans wouldn't even allow us an opportunity to talk about ways to protect our kids." He also used his video to knock Cruz' infamous vacation to Cancun during the 2021 Texas freeze, something Allred highlighted as well in his May launch.
The state senator argued that his time in the legislature makes him a better option than Allred, a former NFL player and civil rights attorney who won office for the first time in 2018. "The fact is, I've done a heck of a lot more than he has in public service," Gutierrez told WFAA, predicting, "I'll outwork Colin Allred and I'll work harder than Ted Cruz. I'm sure Colin's a nice guy, but I'm gonna outwork him because that's the way I was raised."
- OH-Sen: Sherrod Brown (D-inc): $5 million raised, $8.7 million cash on hand; Bernie Moreno (R): $2.2 million raised (no self-funding)
- NC-Gov: Josh Stein (D): $6 million raised (in six months), $8.2 million cash on hand
- AZ-01: Andrei Cherny (D): $625,000 raised
- CA-41: Ken Calvert (R-inc): $900,000 raised; Will Rollins (D): $875,000 raised
- NC-13: Wiley Nickel (D-inc): $500,000 raised
- NE-02: Don Bacon (R-inc): $710,000 raised
- NY-03: Zak Malamed (D): $417,000 raised (in seven weeks)
- TX-23: Tony Gonzales (R-inc): $600,000 raised, $1.5 million cash on hand
● FL-Sen: Former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell over the weekend reiterated her interest in taking on Republican incumbent Rick Scott, though the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes she didn't say when she'd be deciding.
● MO-Sen: State Sen. Karla May said over the weekend that she would seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who appears secure in what's become a dark red state. May, who would be the first Black woman to represent Missouri in the upper chamber, joins a primary that includes St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who unsuccessfully sought the nod for the Show Me State's other seat last year.
● IN-Gov: Former Attorney General Curtis Hill, a onetime Republican rising star who lost renomination in 2020 after multiple women accused him of sexual assault, announced Monday that he was entering the primary to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb. Hill joins a nomination contest where Sen. Mike Braun is the frontrunner against Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and self-funder Eric Doden, who is the former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Hill made history in 2016 when he became the first African American Republican to be elected Indiana attorney general (Democrat Pamela Carter's win back in 1992 made her the first Black woman to be elected attorney general in any state), and he was quickly mentioned as a potential candidate for higher office. Everything changed in July of 2018, though, when four women accused Hill of groping them at a party that had taken place a few months earlier.
Holcomb called for the attorney general to resign, but he refused to go anywhere and even announced his reelection campaign the following year. Hill avoided criminal charges, but he still faced disciplinary proceedings in front of the state Supreme Court. In May of 2020, the justices finally ruled that Hill had "committed the criminal act of battery," and that they would suspend his law license for a month with an automatic reinstatement afterwards.
Indiana is one of a few states where nominees for attorneys general are chosen through a convention rather than a primary, and Hill returned to office just before ballots were sent out to delegates. Ultimately, though, former Rep. Todd Rokita dispatched the incumbent 52-48, and he went on to prevail in the fall. Hill sought a comeback in 2022 after Rep. Jackie Walorski died during her term in office, but he fell well short. The party precinct committeemen tasked with choosing the new nominee favored businessman Rudolph Yakym, who had an endorsement from the congresswoman's husband, 57-24.
● KY-Gov: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's newest ad stars a Republican businessman touting the governor's ability to attract high-quality jobs, telling the audience, "I'm a Republican. I did not support Andy Beshear the first time. He's got my vote this time around."
● MO-Gov, MO-AG: State House Minority Leader Crystal Quade on Sunday became the first notable Democrat to announce a bid to lead Missouri, a state that's lurched hard to the right over the last decade-and-a-half. Quade, who would be the first woman to serve as governor of the Show Me State, used her announcement video to highlight her family's financial struggles growing up and to declare she's "leading the fight to restore our abortion rights."
Quade's opening message mentioned just one Republican candidate, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, and a new poll finds he's still the frontrunner with over a year to go before his party's primary. The GOP firm Remington Research's survey for the political tip-sheet Missouri Scout finds Ashcroft beating Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe 34-14, with state Sen. Bill Eigel at 4% and 48% undecided. Remington's April numbers gave Ashcroft a similar 29-13 advantage over Kehoe.
The firm also takes a look at what's shaping up to be an expensive GOP primary for attorney general and has appointed incumbent Andrew Bailey leading former federal prosecutor Will Scharf 25-14, though with a hefty 61% undecided.
● WV-Gov: Second quarter campaign finance reports were due Friday, and MetroNews has rounded up the numbers for all the major Republican candidates running to succeed GOP Gov. Jim Justice:
- Attorney General Patrick Morrisey: $1.3 million raised, additional $60,000 self-funded, $1.1 million cash on hand
- Businessman Chris Miller: $320,000 raised, $3.5 million cash on hand
- Del. Moore Capito: $290,000 raised, $950,000 cash on hand
- Auditor J.B. McCuskey: $120,000 raised, $410,000 cash on hand
- Secretary of State Mac Warner: $100,000 raised, $190,000 cash on hand
● IL-07: Gun safety activist Kina Collins, who came close to beating veteran Rep. Danny Davis in last cycle's Democratic primary two years after falling well short, tells Politico she's decided to wage a third campaign. Her declaration comes about two months after the 81-year-old incumbent confirmed he'd seek a 15th term in this safely blue seat based in Chicago's West Side and downtown.
Collins lost the 2020 primary to Davis 60-14 in a race where the presence of two other challengers made it difficult for anyone to emerge as his main opponent, but their one-on-one rematch was a far more competitive affair. Collins, who became the first Davis foe to ever advertise on television, blasted the incumbent for missing votes and argued he didn't do enough to fight for progressive causes. Collins benefited from outside help from the Justice Democrats, though a pro-Davis super PAC also arrived to help him. Biden endorsed Davis two days before he prevailed just 52-46.
Collins launched her newest effort by arguing, "My candidacy presents Danny Davis with the most significant primary challenge of his 25-year career in Congress," but unlike in 2022, she's not the only Democrat trying to beat him. Teacher Nikhil Bhatia, who holds an elected post as a member of the Local School Council for the Galileo Scholastic Academy, entered the race in May, though it remains to be seen if he'll have the resources needed to wage a strong effort. Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin also formed an exploratory committee before Davis announced his plans, and she still hasn't said if she'll take on the incumbent or wait for him to retire.
● MI-07: Both major parties this week saw their leading contenders, Republican Tom Barrett and Democrat Curtis Hertel, launch campaigns to succeed Democratic Senate candidate Elissa Slotkin in this swingy district in the Lansing area.
Barrett, who like Hertel is a former state senator, is seeking to avenge his loss to Slotkin last cycle, when he campaigned as a far-right hardliner who appealed to vaccine conspiracy theorists and used transphobic scaremongering tactics in an attempt to boost his lackluster fundraising. Barrett also ardently opposed abortion rights in a year where Michigan voters decisively approved an amendment to enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution. That issue may have played a key role in his surprisingly decisive 52-46 loss in a contest that saw the second-highest amount of spending by the major party committees of any House race nationwide last year and was widely expected to be very close.
On the Democratic side, Hertel joined the race after recently stepping down as legislative director for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. He comes from a prominent family of Democratic elected officials that includes his brother, current state Sen. Kevin Hertel; his father, the late state House Speaker Curtis Hertel Sr.; an uncle, former Detroit-area Rep. Dennis Hertel; and another uncle, former state Sen. John Hertel.
Hertel had already secured Slotkin's endorsement and was joined at his kickoff announcement by several prominent local Democrats who had been potential candidates for this seat, including two who hadn't previously ruled out running, state Reps. Angela Witwer and Kara Hope. Additionally, while state Rep. Julie Brixie had said back in February right after Slotkin announced for Senate that she was also considering joining the Democratic primary, she doesn't appear to have said much about her interest since then.
● MT-01: Attorney Monica Tranel announced Monday that she would seek a rematch as the Democratic nominee against Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, whom she held to a surprisingly close 50-46 win last year for an open seat that had favored Trump by a wider 52-45 in 2020. Tranel gained traction by highlighting Zinke's many corruption-related scandals during his time as Trump's secretary of the interior, which ultimately led to his resignation from that position in 2019, but the district's conservative lean proved too much for her to overcome. Zinke himself recently ruled out running for Senate next year.
● OR-05: 2022 Democratic nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner on Monday announced her campaign for a rematch against Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer as expected.
Last cycle, McLeod-Skinner successfully primaried centrist Rep. Kurt Schrader by arguing that he was too unreliable of a Democrat in a district that had favored Biden by 53-44, but she lost the general election 51-49 in what was overall a tough year for Oregon Democrats. According to calculations from Daily Kos Elections Republican Christine Drazan carried this district even as she was losing last year's hotly contested race for governor to Democrat Tina Kotek: Drazan outpaced the now-governor 47-43, with another 9% going to conservative Democrat-turned-independent Betsy Johnson.
However, McLeod-Skinner will first have to get through a Democratic primary that includes state Rep. Janelle Bynum and Oregon Metro Council President Lynn Peterson, who both recently joined the race. One candidate who won't be running against her, though, is longtime political operative Kevin Easton, who dropped out and backed McLeod-Skinner shortly after her announcement.
● PA-07: Technology consulting company owner Kevin Dellicker, who came unexpectedly close to winning last year's GOP primary, on Monday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid to take on Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. Dellicker likely won't have the field to himself, though, as María Montero, who is the director of public affairs for the Pennsylvania Convention Center last week filed paperwork for this 50-49 Biden constituency in the Lehigh Valley.
Dellicker, as we recently wrote, sought to challenge Wild last year, but he was completely overshadowed in the primary by 2020 nominee Lisa Scheller. It was consequently a major surprise when Scheller, who enjoyed the backing of Kevin McCarthy, only outpaced Dellicker 51-49; Wild went on win a tough general election, also by a 51-49 margin.
● WI-03: Businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, who unsuccessfully competed in last year's Democratic primary, on Monday became the first notable candidate to launch a bid to take on freshman Republican Rep. Derrick Van Orden. Cooke, though, may face a pair of familiar intra-party foes, as well as a potentially new opponent, as she campaigns for a southwestern Wisconsin seat that Trump took 51-47.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Lawrence Andrea reports that state Sen. Brad Pfaff, who beat Cooke 39-31 before losing the general to Van Orden 52-48, is still considering whether to run again, though there's no quote from the 2022 nominee. Unnamed sources tell Andrea that one of the things that will influence Praff's decision is whether the incoming progressive majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down the current GOP-crafted legislative map, which Justice-elect Janet Protasiewicz blasted as "rigged" during her campaign; the article did not mention the possibility that the court could also invalidate the gerrymandered congressional map.
Former CIA officer Deb McGrath, meanwhile, tells the paper she's "started to strongly consider" whether to run again. McGrath ran an attention-grabbing ad last cycle that featured her skydiving, with the candidate telling the viewer that, when she was the one woman in her Army jump school, "The guys thought I'd chicken out. I was the first out the door." Despite that piece, though, she ended up taking a distant third in the primary with 19%.
Andrea also reports that state cabinet member Missy Hughes, who did not run here in 2022, is considering seeking the Democratic nod as well. Hughes, who serves as CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., has not said anything publicly about her interest.