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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● 2Q Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to unveil our new charts rounding up second-quarter fundraising numbers for the House and Senate. Our data includes figures for every incumbent (excluding those who've said they're not seeking reelection) and notable announced or potential candidates.
These reports, among many other things, offer us some clues about which incumbents are raising the kinds of money that signal that they plan to run for reelection and which ones aren't. Four sitting senators in particular are still keeping everyone guessing about their plans.
A particularly bright spotlight has long shone on West Virginia's Joe Manchin, who said Monday he’ll decide “next year” what he's doing as he refused to rule out a third-party bid for president. However, his fundraising at least gives Senate Democrats some reason to be optimistic that he'll try to stick around.
Manchin raised $1.2 million during the quarter, which is a big increase from his $240,000 take in the prior three months, and he finished June with $10.8 million in the bank. That quarterly take is similar to his $1.4 million haul during the comparable quarter six years ago, though he ended June of 2017 with a much smaller $3.5 million available.
Manchin also outpaced both of the Republicans running to unseat him: Gov. Jim Justice, who raised $940,000, and Rep. Alex Mooney, who brought in $410,000. Mooney, however, enjoys a $1.5 million to $810,000 cash on hand edge, though the wealthy Justice, who has yet to do any self-funding, could write himself a massive check at any time.
In Arizona, meanwhile, Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema likewise doesn't seem to be in a hurry to reveal whether she'll seek a second term. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who had planned to challenge her in the Democratic primary before she left the party, outraised her $3.1 million to $1.6 million during the quarter. The chief sources of their funds differed notably: 56% of Gallego's individual donors gave less than $200 while just 1% of Sinema's did so. But despite Gallego raising more for the second straight quarter, Sinema still maintained a wide $10.8 million to $3.8 million advantage in cash on hand.
The only notable Republican in the race, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, was well behind with $600,000 raised and $340,000 available. Republicans and Democrats alike are all waiting to one 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, whose deliberations have largely frozen the GOP field.
Next door in Utah, Mitt Romney took in only $350,000 from donors and banked $1.6 million ahead of what would likely be a competitive primary for Donald Trump's least-favorite Republican. A confusing tea-leaf in Romney's report indicates he rented his fundraising list to a consulting firm run by a former aide called Targeted Victory, which paid more than $710,000 for access. If the firm paid cash for the list, that would offer Romney's campaign a sizable infusion. On the other hand, if you were about to start making use of your own fundraising list, would you actually want to rent it to someone else and risk burn-out?
Either way, at least one notable Republican does in fact look to be preparing for a bid: State House Speaker Brad Wilson, who formed what he described as an exploratory campaign in April, raised $1 million for his effort over the last three months. Wilson, who says he'll decide whether to run sometime after Sept. 9, self-funded another $1.2 million, and he ended June with $2.1 million on hand. But Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who has announced he'll try to wrest the nomination from Romney, wasn't so flush: The mayor raised just $170,000 and self-funded another $50,000, leaving him with $210,000 available to spend.
Finally, there's Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who told the New York Times in February that people asking whether he'll seek a fourth term next year should "keep wondering." That's where we still are five months later. The Democratic-aligned independent's fundraising doesn't give us any solid clues about which way he's leaning: Sanders raised only $640,000 this quarter, compared to $1.3 million at this point in his 2018 reelection bid, but his $9.7 million war chest is about twice as large as it was six years ago. And unlike each of his aforementioned colleagues, Sanders would be safe for reelection no matter how much money he raises.
● FL-Sen: Navy veteran Phil Ehr on Monday became the first notable Democrat to launch a bid against Republican Sen. Rick Scott, whom Ehr declared was "part of the Axis of Lies that is threatening to tear America apart at the seams." Ehr previously raised $2 million for his 2020 bid against the nationally infamous Rep. Matt Gaetz in the safely red 1st District, a campaign he lost 65-34 as Donald Trump was taking the old 1st by a similar 66-32 margin.
Ehr began his new race by releasing an internal poll from Change Research showing him trailing Scott only 45-41 even though almost three-quarters of respondents acknowledge they've never heard of the challenger and another 14% list their impression as neutral. Ehr's survey did not ask about any of the other Democrats who are thinking about going up against Scott: Politico reported last week that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC are trying to recruit former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, though she has yet to commit to anything.
Scott himself faces a primary challenge from attorney Keith Gross, but the self-described "very wealthy businessman" has yet to demonstrate that he'll throw down the massive amount of money he'd need in order to put up a serious fight. Gross, who ran for the Georgia legislature as a Democrat in 2008 and 2010, self-funded $660,000 during the second quarter of 2023 while raising just $10,000, but he already spent most of this already. Scott finished June with a yawning $2.9 million to $160,000 cash on hand advantage over his intra-party foe.
● OH-Sen: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Monday launched his long-anticipated campaign to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, but the new contender first needs to get past two wealthy foes in the Republican primary. "We need a candidate who has strong statewide name ID," LaRose told Politico as he tried to contrast himself with those intra-party rivals, businessman Bernie Moreno and state Sen. Matt Dolan, "I’m the only one that has that." LaRose, who won reelection to his current post 59-40 last year, is indeed the only member of this trio who has prevailed statewide, though not all of his name recognition may be the type he wants.
The secretary of state has of late enthusiastically promoted Issue 1, a Republican-backed constitutional amendment to require 60% voter approval to pass future amendments instead of the currently required simple majority. Despite earlier denials about the measure's intent, LaRose told a gathering of conservatives earlier this year that the Aug. 8 special election for the amendment is "100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution." (Pro-choice advocates have turned in signatures to place a separate amendment on this November's ballot to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.)
Issue 1's opponents have been all too happy to use his words in their ads to make the case that "[c]orrupt politicians and special interests" are "trying to rig the rules to lock in Ohio's extreme abortion ban and stop efforts to restore our rights." LaRose also attracted attention earlier this month when he allowed anti-abortion groups to use incorrect forms to request absentee ballots after Jewish groups, whose supporters are more likely to back abortion rights, used similar forms and were rejected. While GOP primary voters may appreciate his crusade to keep abortion largely illegal in Ohio, a failure at the ballot box next month could be a black eye.
Two months ago, LaRose was also in the news after Politico obtained what it characterized as a "secret recording" in which he played down the potential impact of a Donald Trump endorsement. The secretary of state, while acknowledging Trump's support "matters," argued only 20% of the primary electorate would "vote for whoever" the GOP's master might prefer. LaRose added that, while he thought he'd get Trump's backing, he didn't think "begging for it" would work.
The new candidate seems to be sticking with that approach, as he didn't mention Trump at all in an announcement video that highlighted his service as a Green Beret. Moreno, by contrast, has made it clear he very much wants to be MAGA world's guy, and he may be in luck: Trump, while still not formally taking sides, said over the weekend, "We love Ohio, and we love Bernie Moreno." Dolan, for his part, said during his failed 2022 campaign for the state's other Senate seat that the GOP needed to move on from the Big Lie and Trump, though he hasn't actually ruled out backing him next year.
LaRose joins the race months after both Dolan and Moreno kicked off their own campaigns to take on Brown, and they've used their head-starts to build up their respective war chests. Dolan, a Cleveland Guardians part-owner who took third place last year, raised only $300,000 from donors during the second quarter of the year but self-funded $1 million, and he finished June with $3.9 million on hand.
Moreno, whose April launch came three months after Dolan's, took in $2.3 million during his inaugural quarter and had $1.5 million in the bank. Like Dolan, Moreno is wealthy, but even though he threw down almost $4 million of his own money during his aborted 2022 campaign for the Senate, he hasn't self-funded anything so far this time. LaRose, for his part, will need to build up his own campaign's finances from scratch, though he tells NBC he helped an allied super PAC raise $1 million before he entered the race.
Brown, meanwhile, has been preparing for what will be one of the most heavily contested Senate races in America as he seeks a fourth term in what's become a difficult state for his party. The senator raised $4.9 million during the second quarter, and he ended last month with $8.7 million in the bank.
● IN-Gov: Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers announced Monday that he would resign his post effective Aug. 6, and his spokesperson would not address the Indianapolis Business Journal's questions about his interest in seeking the GOP nod for governor. Chambers was a prominent real estate developer before joining termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb's cabinet, and Howey Politics wrote last week that he'd likely self-fund if he ran.
● CA-09: Multiple media outlets report both Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln will challenge Democratic Rep. Josh Harder and that Speaker Kevin McCarthy will headline a fundraiser for his fellow Republican. Joe Biden won this seat 55-43 in 2020 while Harder prevailed 55-45 last year, but Republicans are hoping that Lincoln's name recognition will give them an opening.
● House: Every cycle there are a few self-funding House candidates who don't generate much attention when they initially enter their race but attract more notice after they file their quarterly fundraising reports, and 2024 is no exception.
Tech entrepreneur Joe Salerno, notes the New Jersey Globe, threw down $400,000 of his own money as he seeks the Democratic nod to face GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew in the 2nd District. Salerno, who did not raise anything from donors, ended June with a $390,000 to $20,000 cash on hand lead over 2022 nominee Tim Alexander, who is running again following his 59-40 loss to Van Drew. The incumbent, who infamously left the Democratic Party in 2019, finished the quarter with $540,000 available in a South Jersey Shore seat that Donald Trump won 52-47.
Over in Virginia's 7th, investor Bill Moher self-funded $350,000 for his campaign against Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, which accounts for almost all of the money he took in for the quarter. Moher is currently the only notable Republican running for this 53-46 Biden seat in the southern D.C. exurbs, and he trails the incumbent $1.2 million to $300,000 in cash on hand.
Meanwhile in the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz in Indiana's safely red 5th District, trucking company owner Sid Mahant has unexpectedly thrown down $1 million of his own money months after state Rep. Chuck Goodrich provided the same amount to his own campaign. Goodrich, though, raised $280,000 from donors during the second quarter without doing any additional self-funding, and he ended June with a $1.2 million to $1 million cash on hand edge. A third Republican, Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings, had a mere $10,000 to spend.
Finally in Texas' 32nd District, Alex Cornwallis is among the candidates seeking the Democratic nod for this dark blue Dallas seat a year after he badly lost the general election for a gerrymandered seat on the state Board of Education. Cornwallis has $100,000 in the bank after self-funding about that amount, though he still has considerably less available than two other candidates competing in the primary to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred. State Rep. Julie Johnson holds a $390,000 to $320,000 advantage over trauma surgeon Brian Williams, though civil rights attorney Justin Moore has only $70,000 on hand.
Mayors and County Leaders
● San Diego County, CA Board of Supervisors: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who was once one of the few rising stars in the California Republican Party, announced Tuesday that he'd be seeking a comeback next year by running to flip a crucial seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
- A once-promising career. Faulconer became one of the most prominent politicians in the Golden State when he won the 2014 special election to lead its second-largest city, and Republicans spent years eagerly waiting for him to run statewide.
- The "circus" comes to town. Faulconer finally went for it when he competed in the 2021 campaign to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, but all he had to show for it was a meaningless third-place finish and a tattered reputation.
- An uphill race. Faulconer is trying to revive his fortunes by unseating Democratic incumbent Terra Lawson-Remer in a seat that supported Joe Biden 63-34 next year. Republicans don't have any better options to retake control of the Board, though, unless they score an upset this year in a special election for an even more Democratic constituency.
Read more about the battle for control of the San Diego Board of Supervisors, where Lawson-Remer's 2020 win ended decades of GOP control, in our story.