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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● MT-Sen: The latest unflattering story about Montana Republican Tim Sheehy, the Navy SEAL veteran and aerospace company CEO whom national Republicans recruited to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, is a report from Insider's Bryan Metzger detailing Sheehy's newly uncovered racist and misogynist posts he wrote on Facebook from 2006 to 2008.
One included a photo depicting Sheehy costumed in a robe and keffiyeh next to friends who appear to be playing Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il. Another featured a photo of a woman with an exposed nipple; Sheehy, apparently referencing his now-wife, wrote, "I tagged it as carmen and she untagged it...bullshit."
More pictures uploaded by Sheehy during that period showed the candidate, who was a student at the U.S. Naval Academy at the time, and his friends partying, including a shot of another man appearing to drink from a bottle nestled between a woman's breasts. Sheehy, who tagged another of his friends in that photo, included a comment saying that "I don't think her boobs are that big…."
Sheehy's campaign responded to Metzger by dismissing the posts as "photos of teenagers goofing around." It also deployed some whataboutism by highlighting how Washington Post reporter Ben Terris recounted that, when he was visiting Tester's farm for a profile, the senator "suddenly started relieving himself in an organic pea field next to his tractor without covering himself up." Sheehy's spokesperson argued, "Neither he nor his staff have yet to explain why a grown man at 66 years old would find that behavior appropriate," adding, "So, spare us your hypocrisy and harassment of a war hero over some goofing around as a kid."
Sheehy, though, is just the latest in a long string of Republican candidates in recent years who've drawn the wrong kind of attention for sexist social media posts, including some from well before they ran for office. Democrats last year were quick to act after CNN reported that John Gibbs, who was the GOP's nominee for Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, had loudly argued as a college student in the early 2000s that women don't "posess [sic] the characteristics necessary to govern." Gibbs had also linked to and praised an anti-feminist website arguing that women's suffrage had turned America into a "totalitarian state."
Gibbs' team, like Sheehy's campaign this week, also insisted that his rants were simply the product of "a college kid being over the top." That excuse by no means stopped his Democratic foe, Hillary Scholten, from airing ads attacking him over his remarks, which helped her run up a dominant 55-42 margin and flip the seat.
Another 2022 Republican hopeful, Oregon's Alek Skarlatos, also faced scrutiny last year over his history of creepy and misogynistic behavior toward women on social media. That included "liking" Instagram photos of underage girls as young as 15 who were wearing revealing clothing and "joking" about women violently dying during sex. As with Gibbs, House Democrats didn't hesitate to run ads educating voters about Skarlatos' nature, and he went on to lose the 4th District to Val Hoyle 51-43.
Sometimes, it's gotten so egregious that national Republicans have outright abandoned their candidates thanks to their offensive online writings, including New Jersey's Seth Grossman in 2018 and California's Ted Howze in 2020. The GOP, though, has far more tolerance for candidates who still appear to be viable: While reporters continue to dig up past comments from North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson—including a 2017 Facebook post declaring, "I am so sick of seeing and hearing people STILL talk about Nazis and Hitler and how evil and manipulative they were"—prominent Republicans remain committed to their likely nominee for governor.
Sheehy himself has had to deal with plenty of unwelcome press since news first broke about his Senate dreams, though of a different nature. Last week, Bloomberg published a piece pointing out that his aerospace firm gets most of its funding from the federal government, which would create a potential conflict of interest if he were to make it to the Senate.
Stories from before Sheehy's late June campaign kickoff also documented how the self-described "cowboy" actually owns two mansions; ardently opposes abortion rights in a state where an anti-abortion measure failed at the ballot box last year; is the defendant in a lawsuit over a plane crash that badly injured a 17-year-old on the ground; only moved to Montana in 2014—he's originally from Minnesota. (It also didn't help that Sheehy was just busted for using stock photos on his website supposedly depicting agricultural scenes in the state he's seeking to represent that were in fact taken in Kentucky and Ukraine.)
Republican leaders, though, are sticking by Sheehy, whom they view as a prize recruit. Indeed, just a day after the Insider story broke, Politico reported that NRSC chair Steve Daines, who is Montana's junior senator, will host a fundraiser for Sheehy later this month. The only likely alternative to Sheehy, by contrast, is Rep. Matt Rosendale, whose losing 2018 effort against Tester left observers unimpressed. The congressman, who reportedly has been telling people he plans to try again, responded to Sheehy's launch last month by tweeting, "Now Washington has two candidates - Tim Sheehy and Jon Tester - who will protect the DC cartel."
● Delaware's Sarah McBride already made history once when she became the first openly transgender person elected to a state Senate anywhere in the country in 2020. Now she can do so again in her bid for Congress—and she's joining us on this week's episode of "The Downballot" to discuss her path-breaking campaign. McBride explains how her gender identity helped spur her to run for office in the first place; why she focused on passing paid family and medical leave once in the legislature; and the difference she thinks her presence on Capitol Hill could make in the face of the escalating right-wing assault on the trans community. Stepping aside from politics for a moment, she also offers advice to young trans people encountering an often hostile world.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard, meanwhile, discuss why we just saw an avalanche of campaign launches following the July 4 holiday and dig into several of the most important kickoffs. There are bellwether House races in tossup districts like Michigan's 7th, where both parties just landed their preferred candidates, as well as Nebraska's 2nd, where the Democrat who lost a close race last year unexpectedly announced a rematch. There's also the Senate contest in perpetually swingy Nevada, where a former GOP outsider is now the establishment favorite, as well as the open governor's race in Washington, where a former Republican congressman has come out of retirement but faces serious headwinds.
Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.
- NM-Sen: Martin Heinrich (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $2.8 million cash on hand
- WV-Sen: Jim Justice (R): $935,000 raised (in two months, no self-funding), $800,000 cash on hand
- CA-30: Laura Friedman (D): $270,000 raised
- CA-40: Young Kim (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand; Allyson Muñiz Damikolas (D): $150,000 raised (in five weeks)
- CA-47: Joanna Weiss (D): $400,000 raised
- KS-03: Sharice Davids (D-inc): $600,000 raised
- NY-04: Laura Gillen (D): $370,000 raised, $340,000 cash on hand
- TX-18: Amanda Edwards (D): $600,000 raised (in 12 days), $570,000 cash on hand
- VA-02: Jen Kiggans (R-inc): $750,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
● FL-Sen: State House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell over the weekend once again did not rule out seeking the Democratic nod to face GOP incumbent Rick Scott, and the Miami Herald writes that she's "said to be considering" the idea. Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, meanwhile, said she'd likely make her own decision "sooner than later."
● LA-Gov: Far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry has begun what the Shreveport Times says is a "statewide million-dollar plus ad" campaign talking about his humble origins, which is a departure from his previous ads blaming crime on Black Democratic elected officials. The candidate declares, "Digging ditches in a sugarcane field, serving our country, working nights as an officer, raising a family; I have walked in the very shoes of the people who struggle way more than they should is a state as blessed as this one."
● CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James filed FEC paperwork on Wednesday hours after his fellow Republican, 2022 nominee Barbara Kirkmeyer, announced that she's decided to seek reelection to the state Senate rather than try to avenge her 48.4-47.7 general election loss to now-Rep. Yadira Caraveo. Fellow Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, a far-right extremist who took third place in last year's congressional primary, also tells Colorado Politics she's decided not to run here this cycle.
● IL-12: The Republican pollster Cor Strategies finds Rep. Mike Bost fending off 2022 gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey only 43-37 in the very first poll we've seen of their GOP primary fight. Cor, which conducted the survey in the days following Bailey's announcement, tells us this survey wasn't done for a client and that they aren't affiliated with either contender.
● KS-03: Prasanth Reddy, who is an executive at the healthcare company Labcorp, declared Wednesday that he'd seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic incumbent Sharice Davids. Reddy, who immigrated from India when he was young, would be the first Indian American to represent Kansas in Congress should he defeat Davis in a suburban Kansas City seat the GOP last year unsuccessfully tried to gerrymander her out of.
Reddy, though, isn't the only Republican in the running. Karen Crnkovich, who owns a plumbing and ventilation business, quietly filed FEC paperwork last month, and her website identifies as her a candidate. Former police officer Jonathon Westbrook, who would be the state's first Black member of Congress, likewise set up a committee back in May, but he still doesn't appear to have publicly said if he's running; Westbrook previously served as a Trump White House fellow and as then-Gov. Sam Brownback's appointee to two state commissions.
Davids flipped a previous version of this seat in 2018 by unseating GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder, a win that made her both Kansas' first LGBTQ+ representative and, along with New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland, the first native American woman to ever serve in Congress. Davids won reelection two years later 54-44 against Republican Amanda Adkins as Joe Biden was carrying her constituency by an identical margin, but legislative Republicans soon used their veto-proof majority to make the 3rd considerably tougher by splitting up the Kansas City area.
Biden only carried the new version of the seat 51-47, and Republicans hoped that new boundaries, as well as their expected red wave, would allow Adkins to win this time. Davids, though, emphasized the Republican's opposition to abortion rights, as well as her ties to Brownback's toxic legacy. The congresswoman also got some help at the top of the ticket as Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly performed well in this area in her own successful reelection campaign. Davids, to the surprise of most observers, increased her margin of victory to 55-43, but Republicans are hoping their gerrymander will take her down in 2024.
● NY-22: State Sen. John Mannion tells syracuse.com that he's running in the Democratic primary to take on freshman GOP Rep. Brandon Williams in what will likely be one of the most competitive House races in the country. Mannion joins Utica University professor Clemmie Harris and DeWitt Town Board member Sarah Klee Hood in the nomination fight for a Syracuse-based seat that Joe Biden took 53-45 but where Williams prevailed 50-49 last year.
Mannion himself was elected to his current post on his second try in 2020, a win that made him the first Democrat to represent this area in the state Senate in 50 years. He faced another tough task during the difficult 2022 cycle but ultimately won reelection by just 10 votes, and he now represents about 30% of this congressional district in the legislature. Mannion, writes City & State, has cultivated a moderate image by voting against several bills backed by criminal justice reformers and environmental groups, but he's also enjoyed the backing of the state teachers union.
● OH Ballot: "Yes, it's about abortion," Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose says in a clip that's at the centerpiece of a new ad by the campaign to defeat Issue 1, the Republican-backed constitutional amendment to require 60% voter approval to pass future amendments. "Corrupt politicians and special interests have called a special election this August to rewrite Ohio's constitution to end majority rule," declares the narrator for One Person One Vote. "They're trying to rig the rules to lock in Ohio's extreme abortion ban and stop efforts to restore our rights."
Another spot from One Person One Vote depicts an empty polling place as a different narrator warns that Issue 1's backers called the Aug. 8 special election "[b]ecause they're trying to sneak something through, hoping you won't vote." The group began airing ads late last month ahead of the Aug. 8 special election, while conservatives have yet to launch their own TV and radio buy to promote Issue 1.