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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● CA-22: National Democratic groups have become increasingly involved in the effort to boost former Assemblyman Rudy Salas and ensure the party doesn't get locked out of the general election after the March 5 top-two primary. The DCCC recently began running coordinated commercials with Salas' campaign, and AdImpact relays that they've now reserved $690,000 for TV ads. Meanwhile, Politico reports that House Majority PAC has begun an $850,000 TV ad buy to support Salas.
Salas is seeking a rematch against Republican Rep. David Valadao following a 52-48 loss last cycle, but the pair is also competing against Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado and former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, a Republican. After Valadao voted to impeach Trump following Jan. 6, Mathys nearly outpaced the incumbent in last cycle's top-two primary. If those two once again split Republican voters close to evenly and Salas and Hurtado do the same with Democratic voters, there's a risk both Republicans could advance to November.
In the last three months of 2023, Valadao led the field with $436,000 raised and $1.4 million in cash on hand, while Salas brought in $276,000 and had $295,000 left over to start the year. However, both Valadao and Salas had a wide edge over their intraparty opponents: Mathys raised just $9,000 from donors, self-funded $325,000, and had $306,000 cash on hand, while Hurtado raised only $20,000 and had $5,000 in the bank.
● Disinformation is a growing problem in American politics, but combating it in Latino media poses its own special challenges. Joining us on this week's episode of "The Downballot" is Roberta Braga, founder of the Digital Democracy Institute of the Americas, a new organization devoted to tackling disinformation and building resiliency in Latino communities. Braga explains how disinformation transcends borders but also creates opportunities for people in the U.S. to import new solutions from Latin America. She also underscores the importance of fielding Latino candidates and their unique ability to address the issue.
In our Weekly Hits segment, co-hosts David Nir and David Beard hit a broad array of stories, including why a top California Democrat is seeking to pick his opponent for the general election; a truly bonkers un-retirement in Indiana; a troubling story sparked by an AI-generated image of a Democratic congressman in Illinois; and why a whole bunch of Oregon Republicans won't be allowed to seek reelection even though they very much want to.
Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time. New episodes every Thursday morning!
● MT-Sen: The New York Times' Michael Bender reports that Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, who has teased a Senate bid since forever, could announce "as soon as this weekend." But he also could announce as late as March 11, which is Montana's candidate filing deadline. So who knows?
● OH-Sen: Politico reports that two major Republican groups have reserved almost $83 million in fall TV time for Ohio's Senate race, with the Senate Leadership Fund putting in $57.5 million and American Crossroads adding $25 million. Their Democratic counterparts have yet to announce bookings to aid Sen. Sherrod Brown, but the state will be a top battleground this fall.
First, though, Republicans must make it through a three-way primary that's fast approaching on March 5. AdImpact reports that the Club for Growth just launched an $840,000 buy on behalf of businessman Bernie Moreno, touting him as Donald Trump's choice. A narrator concludes the spot in unusually personal terms, saying, "It's important to Trump: Vote Bernie Moreno."
● AZ-08: An internal poll from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for venture capitalist Blake Masters that was published by the conservative Washington Examiner finds a tight race in the Republican primary for Arizona's open 8th Congressional District.
Masters, who was the GOP's nominee for Senate in 2022, is tied at 24 apiece with attorney Abe Hamadeh, who lost a bid for state attorney general that same year. Former Rep. Trent Franks, who represented previous versions of this seat for many years before resigning in disgrace in 2017, sits at 9% while no other candidate gets more than 3% of the vote. 35% of respondents are undecided, though there's a long way until the Aug. 6 primary.
● CA-03, CA-16, CA-29: EMILYs List issued endorsements in three California House races on Wednesday, giving its support to former state environmental official Jessica Morse in the 3rd District, Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims in the 16th, and Assemblywoman Luz Rivas in the 29th. Both the 16th and 29th are safely blue open seats while the 3rd, which voted for Donald Trump by a 50-48 margin, is represented by freshman Republican Kevin Kiley.
● CA-41: Republican Rep. Ken Calvert began airing his first TV ad of the cycle on Wednesday, launching a commercial that tries to portray Democrat Will Rollins as weak on crime. Rollins is a former federal prosecutor who held Calvert to a modest 52-48 win in this 50-49 Trump district last cycle during a tough year for California Democrats. He has broad support from national and state Democrats for this rematch.
Rollins raised a hefty $1.1 million last quarter and started 2024 with $2.2 million cash on hand, while Calvert raised $779,000 and had $2.5 million in his war chest.
● CA-47: Activist and former attorney Joanna Weiss unveiled an endorsement from Democratic Rep. Josh Harder on Wednesday, making him the fourth member of California's congressional delegation to side with Weiss in the race for the state's 47th District. Weiss' chief intra-party rival, state Sen. Dave Min, previously announced the support of five California House Democrats, including Rep. Katie Porter, who left this district open to run for Senate.
● IN-06: Businessman Jamison Carrier just joined the growing GOP primary for Indiana's open 6th District with a pledge to self-fund $750,000, according to the Daily Journal's Noah Crenshaw. This conservative seat, which is based in east-central Indiana, is open because of GOP Rep. Greg Pence's retirement.
● IN-08: Here's a name that's a blast from the past: Owen County GOP chair Kristi Risk, who years ago came close to winning the Republican nomination for Indiana's 8th Congressional District, announced on Wednesday that she'd seek the seat once again.
In 2010, when the 8th was still competitive turf, Risk emerged from the nascent tea party movement to challenge Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who had flipped the seat in the 2006 midterms. But after Ellsworth made a late bid for Senate, national Republicans coalesced around heart surgeon Larry Bucshon, whom they believed gave them a better chance to win the district back than the extremist Risk.
Yet despite raising almost nothing, Risk held Bucshon to a narrow 33-29 win. Buchson went on to defeat Democrat Trent Van Haaften in a 58-37 blowout, but Risk came back the next cycle to challenge the new incumbent. This time, Bucshon prevailed by a more comfortable 58-42 margin, but only after heavily outspending Risk once more.
With Buchson's retirement, the seat is now open once again, though any other would-be contenders have only until Friday's filing deadline to make up their minds.
● MT-02: Former Rep. Denny Rehberg, who gave up his seat in the House to unsuccessfully challenge Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2012, tells Politico's Ally Mutnick that he's considering a comeback bid.
Rehberg says that supporters of his recently tested his name as part of a poll of Montana's 2nd Congressional District, which Rep. Matt Rosendale may soon leave behind for a Senate campaign of his own. That survey, in Mutnick's words, offered "encouraging" numbers for Rehberg, who joined a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm after his 49-45 loss to Tester. However, several other candidates are already running (despite the lack of clarity from Rosendale) and have been raising money.
When Rehberg represented Montana in Congress, the state had just a single, at-large district in the House. Following the most recent census, however, Montana was awarded a second seat due to population growth. Rosendale, who first won statewide in 2020, ran for reelection in the newly created 2nd District in the eastern half of the state, conservative turf that supported Donald Trump by a 62-35 margin.