The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
• OH-Gov: On Wednesday, the campaign of Ohio Republican Mike DeWine called for “locking up” Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, his rival in the May 8GOP primary for governor. A Twitter account set up by the DeWine team tweeted, “Hey @MaryTaylorOH! When you abuse your power and fly around on a state plane for personal use, it’s not conservative—it’s criminal,” with the hashtags “#MaryUnfitUnqualified #OHGov #LockHerUp#RINO.” The tweet was still up on Thursday evening, more than 24 hours after it was posted and well after the Columbus Dispatch asked the campaign about it.
And what exactly did Taylor do that has DeWine’s camp convinced that she should be sent to prison without trial? As the Dispatch’s Randy Ludlow writes, Taylor paid the state a little more than $1,000 in 2011 after it was revealed that a state airplane “went out of its way to drop her off and pick her up at an airport six miles from her home in Green,” a town just south of Akron. Taylor denied any wrongdoing, but Gov. John Kasich insisted she repay the state. The whole incident certainly didn’t make Taylor look good, but the state attorney general at the time didn’t press any charges, so it’s not as though law enforcement officials thought the matter was “criminal.”
And oh yeah, that attorney general was Mike DeWine.
GOP primary voters may not care about all this: After all, they love Donald Trump, who popularized the “lock her up” chant against Hillary Clinton. But it’s really scary that the state’s top lawman, and perhaps its future governor, has no problem dumping on the very notion of the rule of law in order to further his own political ambitions.
DeWine’s descent into the gutter may be borne out of fear. The GOP primary had looked like a very one-sided affair for a while, with DeWine seeming to hold all the cards against Taylor. However, the contest has gotten quite nasty in the last week. Taylor’s political action committee launched a $670,000 buy against DeWine that portrayed the former U.S. senator as a liberal. DeWine fired back with a spot that called Taylor unqualified and a slacker and hit her over the plane story, but it didn’t imply she should be in the slammer. But the fact that he’s attacking his opponent at all suggests that a once-sleepy contest might suddenly be competitive.
• CA-Sen: Public Policy Institute of California: Dianne Feinstein (D-inc): 42, state Senate Leader Kevin de Leon (D): 16, undecided 39. (Jan.: 46-17 Feinstein)
• MS-Sen-B: Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced on Wednesday that he was appointing state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to the Senate, but so far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is holding off on backing her. The Washington Post writes that McConnell and his allies don’t really know what to make of Hyde-Smith, and while they’re giving Bryant the benefit of the doubt, they’re not ready to throw their support behind her. NRSC chair Cory Gardner also left his options open on Hyde-Smith, and he refused to say if he thought she’d be a good candidate or not.
The White House reportedly was outright opposed to the pick and tried to deter Bryant by saying that Trump didn’t plan to endorse her if she were chosen. Politico writes that the administration told the governor that they feared Hyde-Smith would be weak against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a tea partier whom leadership loathes. They specifically flagged that Hyde-Smith only joined the GOP in 2010 after a decade in the legislature as a Democrat, something McDaniel has wasted no time attacking her for. It doesn’t help that Hyde-Smith voted in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, a contest where the two candidates were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Both Politico and the Post also say that before Hyde-Smith was selected, the White House and other senior Republicans saw polls showing McDaniel and a Democrat likely advancing through the November nonpartisan primary to a runoff three weeks later, with Hyde-Smith in third place. However, while national GOP elites are lukewarm at best to the soon-to-be senator, she does have her allies: Sen. Roger Wicker and the state’s three GOP House members have all announced that they’re behind her.
And though McConnell and Trump may not be happy with Hyde-Smith, they may not have any choice but to back her if they want to stop McDaniel. If they get behind another Republican (no other major candidates are running right now), they could end up splitting the more establishment-y vote, all but ensuring McDaniel would make it to the runoff. And if they stay neutral, they could make it much easier for McDaniel to get the jump on her. There’s also the absolute nightmare scenario where the GOP electorate is so divided that two Democrats take the most votes in the first round and flip the seat by default.
• WY-Sen: Zillionaire GOP megadonor Foster Friess is still considering a primary bid against Sen. John Barrasso, despite previously describing himas “one of my heroes.” Friess said he’d launch a listening tour to find out if “issues important to our nation will be relevant to Wyoming voters,” which is just a weird thing to say. The filing deadline is June 1.
• CA-Gov: Public Policy Institute of California is out with another poll of the June top-two primary, and they find a crowded race to join frontrunner Gavin Newsom in the general election. The results are below, with PPIC’s January numbers in parenthesis:
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D): 28 (23)
Businessman John Cox (R): 14 (7)
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D): 12 (21)
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R): 10 (8)
Treasurer John Chiang (D): 6 (9)
Former state schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin (D): 5 (4)
Democrat Amanda Renteria was not tested. Last month, PPIC made waves when they showed Villaraigosa just behind Newsom, something no other pollster had shown before or has since.
• TN-Gov: The August GOP primary is still a ways away, but Rep. Diane Black’s campaign tells the National Journal that their ongoing ad buy has hit $1.6 million. Black’s newest ad praises her for fighting Planned Parenthood and standing up to the media, and it features a clip of Trump at the White House telling her, “I called Diane Black and you came through, Diane” (regarding the tax bill), as he reaches over and shakes her hand.
• WY-Gov: While state Department of Health Director Tom Forslund expressed interest last month in seeking the GOP nod, his staff tells the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that he won’t run.
• CA-07: GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents a neighboring seat, has endorsed surgeon Yona Barash’s bid to take on Rep. Ami Bera. Barash’s opponent, businessman Andrew Grant, is reportedly the NRCC’s preferred candidate.
• CA-48: One more California Democrat has selflessly joined the “Taking One for the Team” club: architect Laura Oatman, who abandoned her bidfor the 48th Congressional District on Wednesday and endorsed a former rival, real estate company owner Harley Rouda. While Oatman had been at the back of the pack in fundraising, a poll earlier this month from a new Democratic super PAC called Fight Back CA showed her tied with Rouda at 10 percent for second slot in June’s top-two primary. (GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was in front with 35.)
But despite Oatman’s move, there are still five notable Democrats running, most of whom have serious resources (thanks in many cases to generous self-funding). That still means there’s a real chance of Democrats getting locked out of the November general election, particularly with the unexpected late entry of former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh, who is likewise well-funded.
• NV-03: Gov. Brian Sandoval has chosen sides in the June primary for this swing seat: He’ll host a fundraiser for state Sen. Scott Hammond. We’ll see how much help the governor is, though. Last cycle, Sandoval backed state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson over wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, and the governor appeared in ads promoting Roberson. Nevertheless, Tarkanian handily beat Roberson 32-24, and he recently jumped into the primary once again—this time with Donald Trump’s support.
The primary also got a little smaller on Thursday when former Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman dropped out. Seaman cited Tarkanian’s last-minute decision to run, saying that the two of them attacking each other would only “hurt each other’s families, and lead to a blue win in November.” Former local TV news reporter Michelle Mortensen and former Clark County party chairman Dave McKeon both reiterated to the Nevada Independent that they’re staying in the contest.
• NY-22: It seems fair to say that Claudia Tenney is the spiritual successor of Michele Bachmann. For her latest trick, Tenney has declared that the “deep state” is responsible for the scandal over Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s $31,000 dining room set. But hey, maybe she’s on to something! Carson himself declared that his old furniture was “dangerous.” The derp state is definitely lurking everywhere.
• NY-25: On Tuesday, GOP state Sen. Joseph Robach told the Democrat & Chronicle that unnamed people had asked him to run to succeed Democrat Louise Slaughter, who died last week. Robach said one thing he’d need to take into account was how his congressional campaign could impact control of the state Senate. Robach won re-election 63-37 as Clinton was carrying his seat 54-41, so while he could have some crossover appeal in the 25th Congressional District, which Clinton carried 56-39, the GOP would have a much tougher time holding his Senate seat without him. The filing deadline is April 12, so he can’t delay his decision for long.
It’s also not clear if local party elites would welcome him running for Congress. James Maxwell, the chief of neurosurgery at Rochester General Hospital, entered the race earlier this year, and the chair of the Republican Party in Monroe County (the only county in this seat) said after Slaughter’s death that the GOP remained behind Maxwell. The filing deadline for New York’s state offices is July 12, a few weeks after the June 26 federal primary, so Robach could run for Congress and turn around and seek re-election to the state Senate if he lost the primary, something we’ve seen other state legislators do before.
• OH-12: GOP state Sen. Troy Balderson has launched his first ad ahead of the May 8 primary, which his campaign says is backed by a ” significant buy” covering all seven counties in the district. As the candidate is shownswimming, biking, running, and … sitting with people in a boring conference room, the narrator praises his “conservative grit” and commitment to building “Trump’s wall and defending Christian values.”
• PA Redistricting: Candidate filing for House races has now closed in Pennsylvania, which last month saw its congressional map get dramatically altered when the state Supreme Court imposed new district lines to replace the GOP-drawn gerrymander that the court had ruled violated the state constitution.
To help keep things sorted, we’ve put together a new “cheat-sheet” for all 18 congressional districts that shows you which candidates are running where, plus a whole lot more: which “old” district best corresponds to each new one; the presidential vote for 2016, 2012, and 2008 for each seat; a short geographic description of the location of each district; and a rundown of the proportion of each old district in each new one. Separately, we’ve also calculated what proportion of each county is in each district and vice-versa. We recently ran down where each congressional race stood now that filing has closed, and you can find our analysis of each race here.
• UT-04: On behalf of Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, the Mellman Group is out with a survey giving GOP Rep. Mia Love a small 43-40 edge. The local pollster Dan Jones & Associates has surveyed this race three times and has consistently given Love a 5- or 6-point edge, which isn’t dramatically different than what Mellman finds.
• WA-03: Political science professor Carolyn Long has released a new pollaimed at showing that Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who’s never faced a tough re-election fight after redistricting made her seat redder in 2012, could be in for exactly that this fall. The survey, from Lake Research, gives Herrera Beutler a 49-29 lead, but, the memo explains, that narrows to 45-41 after “positive profiles of both candidates and two short messages” were read to respondents. (Those messages were likely negative ones about the incumbent, especially since the campaign “declined to provide the polling language” to The Daily News, a newspaper based in southwestern Washington.)
Usually we look askance at informed ballot questions, since they reflect a Platonic ideal that can never be achieved in the world of actual campaigns, but here, the numbers might be instructive. That’s because Herrera Beutler’s large margin on the initial test is unquestionably due to her far greater name recognition. While we would have preferred to see a follow-up question after only bios (and nothing else) were read, the results do at least suggest that Long can close the gap if she can get her name out there.
First, though, she’d need to get past fellow Democrat David McDevitt in the August top-two primary. McDevitt ran for this seat last cycle but raised just $33,000 and failed to make it out of the primary, taking just 10 percent of the vote. His fundraising is very weak once again, but this time he’s loaned himself $300,000. Long, by contrast, took in $40,000 in December, her first month in the race.
Herrera Beutler, meanwhile, may not be taking her re-election prospects as seriously as perhaps she ought to. She raised only $167,000 in the fourth quarter of last year and had $515,000 in the bank, both relatively soft figures for an incumbent. Normally, that might be fine, but 2018 is shaping up to be anything but a normal year, and lots of Republicans who aren’t used to competitive challenges will get them this year.
On the presidential level, Washington’s 3rd District moved toward the Republicans in the last election, voting for Donald Trump 50-43 after giving Mitt Romney a much narrower 50-48 win. That’s unsurprising: The district comprises the northern exurbs of Portland, Oregon and rural white working-class areas that were once home to a good deal of logging and fishing. However, we’ve seen many districts like this one bounce back toward Democrats in special elections, and indeed, Barack Obama actually carried this seat in 2008, 51-47 (and yes, that’s under the lines that were redrawn in redistricting). Either Long or McDevitt still have a lot to prove, but this race could definitely come into play.
• DCCC: On Thursday, the DCCC added another nine candidates to its Red to Blue program. Red to Blue is meant to highlight the candidates the committee thinks are the strongest in key House races in large part to encourage donors and other liberal organizations to support them. Below are the candidates, each seat’s 2012 and 2016 presidential numbers included.
CA-21: TJ Cox (55-40 Clinton, 55-44 Obama)
FL-06: Nancy Soderberg (57-40 Trump, 52-47 Romney)
IL-13: Betsy Londrigan (50-44 Trump, 48.9-48.6 Romney)
IL-14: Lauren Underwood (49-45 Trump, 54-44 Romney)
MI-07: Gretchen Driskell (56-39 Trump, 51-48 Romney)
OH-01: Aftab Pureval (51-45 Trump, 52-46 Romney)
TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones (50-46 Clinton, 51-48 Romney)
TX-32: Colin Allred (49-47 Clinton, 57-42 Romney)
WI-01: Randy Bryce (53-42 Trump, 52-47 Romney)
Most of these candidates face little or no primary opposition, and Londrigan and Underwood both won their primaries in Illinois on Tuesday. (Sean Casten also won a seriously contested primary in IL-06 to take on Rep. Peter Roskam, though since his victory was a bit of an upset, his omission from Red to Blue may not be meaningful right now.) National Democrats have never seriously targeted Rep. Randy Hultgren in the 14th, and until recently, this contest hadn’t attracted much attention. However, that seems to be changing, and Hultgren doesn’t look prepared for an expensive race.
Interestingly, the DCCC did take sides in two Texas primaries ahead of the May 22 runoff. Over in the 23rd, Jones faces teacher Rick Trevino, whom she outpaced 42-18, before she can take on GOP Rep. Will Hurd. Trevino has raised very little money and has made it very clear he doesn’t want national Democrats anywhere near him, so it’s not a surprise that they’re not waiting to back Jones. But the 32nd, which GOP Rep. Pete Sessions is defending, is a bit more interesting. Allred did outpace former Department of Agriculture official Lillian Salerno 39-18 in round one, but she does have the support of EMILY’s List.
It’s also noteworthy that the DCCC has added Bryce’s bid against Speaker Paul Ryan to the list. Bryce has been a strong fundraiser, though his burn rate has been high; for his part, Ryan will have all the money he could possibly want to defend what’s been a red district. Democrats would love nothing more than to unseat the speaker while taking away his majority the way the GOP did in 1994, and this is a sign that the D-Trip thinks that dream is achievable. Bryce faces a primary in August with Janesville School Board member Cathy Myers, but her campaign hasn’t attracted anywhere near as much national attention as his has. Bryce held a $1.3 million to $107,000 cash-on-hand lead over Myers at the end of 2017.
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