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.
• GA-Gov: Yowza. In a secret recording just published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle admitted to a rival Republican candidate for governor that he helped pass an education bill through the legislature earlier this year that he considered “bad public policy” in “a thousand different ways”—solely to dissuade a super PAC from spending millions of dollars to help a third candidate.
The conversation was secretly recorded by businessman Clay Tippins, who spoke with Cagle two days after the May 22 GOP primary, which sent Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp to a July 24 runoff with 39 and 26 percent of the vote, respectively. Tippins ended up fourth, taking 12 percent, and Cagle has sought his endorsement, which is presumably why the two spoke.
During their discussion, Cagle told Tippins that he ushered through legislation to increase a tax credit for private school scholarships because he feared the pro-voucher school Walton Family Foundation (as in the Walmart Waltons) was “getting ready to put $3 million behind Hunter Hill,” a former state senator who finished third in the primary with 18 percent and whom Cagle most feared facing in a runoff.
Tippins says he was “furious” to hear Cagle’s explanations and says he provided audio of their talk to the media because he hopes voters react the same way. There’s a personal angle as well: Tippins’ uncle, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, was chair of the Senate Education Committee at the time and had long opposed broadening the tax credit program, which opponents have argued takes money away from public schools. Cagle told the younger Tippins that he’d said to the senator, “It ain’t about public policy. It’s about [expletive] politics.” [Expletive] politics indeed.
• MN-Sen-B: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Minnesota’s Aug. 14primary, and the state has a list of contenders here.
While there was plenty of last-minute action in the race for governor, there weren’t any new developments in special election for the Senate. Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, who was serving as lieutenant governor until Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her to replace Al Franken, is seeking the final two years of this term. Smith recently launched her first TV ad, which features her talking and listening to constituents and declaring she’ll “work with anyone, even if we disagree, to help.”
Smith, who was endorsed by the state Democratic Party at the beginning of the month, faces a primary challenge from Richard Painter, a longtime Republican who served as chief ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush White House. Painter flirted with running as a Republican or as an independent before he decided to run for the Democratic nod; while Painter has been a prominent Trump critic on social media and cable news, he has a lot to prove if he wants to win over his new party.
GOP state Sen. Karin Housley entered the race in December, and she doesn’t face any serious primary opposition. Housley’s husband is Buffalo Sabres head coach and NHL Hall of Fame member Phil Housley, and their prominent last name among hockey fans probably can’t hurt her chances in a big hockey state like Minnesota. However, it’s not clear if she’ll have the resources and outside support to wage a top-tier campaign in a state that Clinton narrowly won. At the end of March, Smith held a $1.54 million to $501,000 cash-on-hand edge over Housley. The winner will be up again for a full term in 2020.
• MO-Sen: Senate Majority PAC has added $1 million to their ad buy opposing Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley. Their latest spot links him to disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, claiming Hawley took $50,000 from Greitens and then slow-walked an investigation into him. SMP also accuses Hawley of refusing to investigate a “pay-to-play scheme” involving a donor who gave him $3 million.
• MT-Sen: Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has launched his first TV ad that attacks state Auditor Matt Rosendale after the latter won the Republican primary earlier this month. Tester’s spot introduces “Maryland Matt” as a developer who made millions in Maryland by turning farmland into housing developments, which the narrator claims Rosendale wants to do with Montana’s public lands after moving to the state.
• FL-Gov: Whatever the opposite of “hitting the ground running” is, that’s what Jeff Greene seems to be doing. The billionaire developer filed papersfor a gubernatorial bid on Monday, but since then, observes Politico, he’s “held no official campaign roll out, has not spoken publicly since filing paperwork, and he’s skipping Saturday’s Democratic debate.”
Seems like a great strategy, because in a new poll from the Democratic firm SEA Polling, Greene is dead last, with just 4 percent of the vote. That puts him behind Philip Levine (32), Gwen Graham (16), Andrew Gillum (11), and even Chris King (6). The wealthy Levine is in front thanks to his ability to spend vast sums of his own money, so perhaps Greene thinks he can replicate that feat. But even though Florida’s Aug. 28 primary is one of the latest, time is running out to actually, you know, campaign.
Graham, meanwhile, just got a big boost to her campaign, earning the endorsement of the 140,000-strong Florida Education Association. The union is a big player in Democratic politics in the Sunshine State and called Graham, a former official for the Leon County school district, “the public education dream candidate.”
• HI-Gov: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary (a rare Saturday primary), and the state has a list of candidates here.
We recently ran down the state of affairs in the open 1st District after former Rep. Ed Case unexpectedly jumped in at the last moment. However, the only late development in this race was when former state Sen. Clayton Hee dropped out of the Democratic primary. This contest is one again a duel between Gov. David Ige and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, with a few minor Democrats also on the ballot.
The limited polling we have shows Hanabusa ahead of Ige, though Hawaii is a notoriously tough state to survey. As we’ve written before, Ige has struggled to find allies during his tenure, while Hanabusa is close to the political establishment. Ige also generated intense criticism when the state sent out a false ballistic warning in January and the governor failed to explain why it took so long to inform the public that Hawaii wasn’t actually under attack.
However, while an Ige win would be an upset, it’s not something we’re ruling out. Ige does have the support of the influential Hawaii State Teachers Association, and despite Hanabusa’s connections, Ige did end 2017 with more money in the bank. The ongoing Kilauea volcano eruption also introduces some more unpredictability into the contest, and it could give Ige the chance to redeem himself after the false missile warning if voters decide he’s handling the crisis well. Daily Kos Elections rates the general election in this very blue state as Safe Democratic.
• MD-Gov: Former NAACP president Ben Jealous’ latest Democratic primary ad features him relaying the story of how he began having seizures as a young child but his parents “had no health care” and couldn’t afford prescriptions. He calls for Medicare for all as a way to provide every family with access to quality health care.
• ME-Gov, ME-02: On Tuesday, Maine is holding its first statewide primary to use instant-runoff voting, but we likely won’t know the results for at least a few more days in each party’s race for governor and the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District. The secretary of state’s office said they won’t begin counting the instant-runoff votes until June 15, while they may not even release results until June 18.
• MN-Gov: Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is retiring after two terms, and both parties have primaries to succeed him. Clinton narrowly carried Minnesota, and with plenty of uncertainty on both sides, Daily Kos Elections rates the general as a Tossup.
On the GOP side, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who left office in 2011 to prepare for his unsuccessful presidential bid, is the favored candidate of national Republicans, and he’s had no trouble raising money. But Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who lost to Dayton 50-44, decisively won the state party endorsement in early June (Pawlenty did not compete for it), which gives him access to party money and data.
Pawlenty is very much the favorite in August, but Johnson is hoping that Pawlenty’s time as a top Washington lobbyist for the financial service industry will hurt him with voters; Democrats are also planning to attack Pawlenty over this in the general. A third candidate, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, dropped out after losing the state party endorsement.
The Democratic race is a three-way contest between state Rep. Erin Murphy, Rep. Tim Walz, and Attorney General Lori Swanson. Walz looked like the primary frontrunner through most of the race, but Murphy’s prospects have improved quite a bit in the last few weeks. Murphy won several important union endorsements in the weeks leading up to the state party convention, where she won the party endorsement. Murphy soon won the support of Dayton and EMILY’s List.
Swanson entered the race just one day before filing closed, and she also unexpectedly picked Rep. Rick Nolan, who was already retiring from the House, as her candidate for lieutenant governor. Running mates usually don’t have a big effect on elections, but Nolan is considerably more high profile than most candidates for lieutenant governor, and he does have a base of support in the rural Iron Range. The primary has certainly taken an unpredictable turn, and it may be a little while before we get a sense for who is the favorite.
• RI-Gov: SocialSphere has conducted a poll of Rhode Island’s gubernatorial race on behalf of news website GoLocalProv, and much depends on whom each party nominates in September’s primaries. If Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo wins renomination over former Secretary of State Matt Brown, she ties Republican Allan Fung 33-33, while former state Rep. Joe Trillo peels off 16 percent as a conservative independent. However, Fung leads Brown by 35-25, with Trillo at 14 percent.
Meanwhile, things don’t look so good for state House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan if she wins the Republican nomination. She trails Raimondo by a huge 39-20, with Trillo at 19 percent, while she loses to Brown by 30-20, even as Trillo earns 18 percent.
• California: With election officials in the Golden State continuing to count ballots (they’re valid as long as they arrived by Friday), a few House races remain in overtime. Here’s the latest:
CA-08: While Republican Rep. Paul Cook easily advanced to November (he currently has 41.4 percent of the vote), former GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly still has a 22.8 to 21.5 lead over Democrat Marge Doyle as of Saturday. That’s actually a touch wider than where things stood on Wednesday, when Donnelly was ahead 22.6 to 21.5. Late-counted votes typically favor Democrats in California, so there’s still a chance for Doyle, but this district is very conservative and may buck that tendency.
CA-10: There’s been no call for the second spot yet, but Democrat Josh Harder’s 16.7 to 14.4 edge over Republican Ted Howze has slightly expanded since the primary, and Howze has acknowledged that his chances of overtaking Harder are “unlikely, let’s be honest.” Interestingly, even though Howze argued during his campaign that he was a better Trump supporter than GOP Rep. Jeff Denham (who’s sitting on a feeble 37.8 percent), he’s refusing to endorse the incumbent and holding open the possibility that he might back Harder. By contrast, Democrat Michael Eggman, who’s in fourth place, unambiguously backed the frontrunner, saying, “Now it is time we all unite behind Josh Harder.”
CA-48: This is the tightest race of them all. GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher will limp into the general election (he currently has just 30.5 percent of the vote), but we don’t know which Democrat will join him. After Tuesday, Harley Rouda led Hans Keirstead by 73 votes, but they swapped positions after a Wednesday update, and Saturday’s batch of votes moved Keirstead out to a 87-vote lead (17.3 to 17.2). The two could definitely trade places again, however.
CA-49: It’s a wrap: Late on Thursday night, the AP called the second slotfor Mike Levin, who currently has a 17.5 to 15.6 lead over fellow Democrat Sara Jacobs for the number-two spot. He moves on to face Republican Diane Harkey, who leads the way with 25.6 percent.
• ME-02: With just days to go ahead of Tuesday’s primary, the League of Conservation Voters says it’s spending $100,000 to run a TV ad on behalf of Democrat Lucas St. Clair. The spot praises St. Clair as someone who will “stand up to Donald Trump’s dangerous policies, like drilling off our coast” and will protect the state’s environment.
• MN-01: Democratic Rep. Tim Walz is leaving a southern Minnesota seat that moved from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump, but that Democrats are hoping will swing back in a strong year. Former Defense Department official Dan Feehan cleared the field after he won the party endorsement in April, and he only faces minor primary opposition. The DCCC has also added him to their Red to Blue list for top candidates.
The GOP primary pits former U.S. Treasury official Jim Hagedorn, whose father represented this area for four terms until he lost re-election in 1982, against state Sen. Carla Nelson. Hagedorn lost to Walz 54-46 in a race that national Republicans had given up on months before the 2014 election, but he only was defeated 50.3-49.6 in 2016 in another contest that both parties ignored.
National Republicans reportedly urged Nelson to run, but the party establishment hasn’t come out in favor of her, partly because she’d trigger a special election for her swingy seat, which could cost the GOP their one-seat majority in the state Senate. However, they may want to, because Hagedorn has a history of misogynist comments, birther ramblings, and comments about “ungrateful” and “dead Indians” that an opponent could readily exploit.
Hagedorn won the state party endorsement in April, but Nelson said well before the party convention that she’d continue to the August primary no matter what. At the end of March, Hagedorn held a $330,000 to $216,000 cash-on-hand edge, while Feehan had $348,000 in the bank.
• MN-02: GOP Rep. Jason Lewis narrowly defeated healthcare executive Angie Craig 47-45 as this suburban Twin Cities seat moved from 49.1-49.0 Obama to 46.5-45.3 Trump, and Craig is back for a rematch. Neither candidate faces any primary opposition, and both parties are preparing for another expensive bout. At the end of March, Lewis held an $885,000 to $750,000 cash-on-hand edge.
• MN-03: GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen beat a well-funded Democratic opponent 57-43 even as his suburban Twin Cities seat was moving from 50-49 Obama to 51-41 Clinton, but Democrats hope Trump will drag him down. The party has consolidated behind businessman Dean Phillips, who only faces one little-known primary foe.
Phillips, who is heavily involved with local philanthropic efforts (and is also a grandson of famous advice columnist Dear Abby), has brought in a credible amount of money, but Paulsen is a very strong fundraiser. At the end of March, the incumbent held a $2 million to $700,000 cash-on-hand edge. This is another seat that’s likely to attract plenty of outside spending.
• MN-05: Eight Democrats initially filed to run to succeed Rep. Keith Ellison on Tuesday, the day he announced he was forgoing re-election to run for attorney general, but two of them dropped out during the 48-hour window the state allowed candidates to take their names off the ballot. Minneapolis School Board member Kim Ellison, who is the congressman’s former wife, withdrew on Thursday, while former state Sen. Julie Sabo also ended her campaign at the literally the last minute.
The five noteworthy candidates who will be on the August ballot now are engineer Jamal Abdulahi, the founder of the state party’s Somali-American Caucus; state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion; former Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher; state Rep. Ilhan Omar; and state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray. The final candidate is Frank Drake, who lost to Ellison 69-22 as the GOP nominee in 2016, and has apparently switched parties. The 5th District party has scheduled a convention for June 17, where candidates will be able to compete for the party endorsement.
The Minnesota Post’s Sam Brodey writes that party insiders believe that Anderson Kelliher, who lost a close 2010 primary for governor to Mark Dayton in 2010, is one of the frontrunners. After her defeat, Anderson Kelliher went on to lead the trade group the Minnesota High Tech Association, which Brodey writes “represents a variety of tech, manufacturing, and science companies.”
However, Brodey also notes that Omar created a big splash when she got in, and she already earned Dayton’s endorsement. Omar, who came to the U.S. as a Somali refugee, made international headlines in 2016 when she was elected as the first Somali-American legislature in the nation, and she has plenty of local progressive leaders behind her. Along with Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, Omar’s also seeking to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress from any state.
Abdulahi, who also hails from the Somali community, began raising money last year when Ellison was running to lead the Democratic National Committee, and he took in $66,000 overall. Abdulahi refunded all the money after Ellison lost that contest, but he may be able to raise some cash quickly again. Abdulahi is also emphasizing that he’s just one of two candidates who hasn’t served in the legislature to argue he’s not a career politician.
Champion, who represents much of north Minneapolis in the state Senate, would be the second African-American to represent Minnesota in the House (Ellison was the first), though Omar would also hold that distinction if she won. Torres Ray, who holds a Senate seat in the southern part of the city, would be the state’s first Hispanic member of Congress, and Brodey writes she’s been a prominent voice for the state Latino community.
• MN-07: While national Republicans tried to recruit businessman Scott Van Binsbergen over the winter to challenge Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, he did not file. The only two Republican candidates are 2016 nominee Dave Hughes and trucking company owner Matt Prosch.
Peterson defeated Hughes by an unexpectedly close 52.5-47.5 margin as this rural northwestern seat was moving from 54-44 Romney to 62-31 Trump, but donors haven’t flocked to either Republican. At the end of March, Hughes had just $20,000 in the bank, while Prosch hasn’t reported raising anything since July.
• MN-08: Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan announced in February that he was retiring from this seat in the Iron Range in the rural northeastern corner of the state, though he announced on Monday that he’ll be on the August primary ballot after all as Lori Swanson’s candidate for lieutenant governor. This ancestrally Democratic seat swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump, and this is another district both national parties are preparing to fight for.
The GOP has consolidated behind St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, who was challenging Nolan before he decided to retire. Stauber, who is a former Duluth police officer and high school and college hockey player, ended March with $274,000 in the bank. That’s not a lot for a top-tier candidate, but it’s a lot more than what his would-be Democratic rivals had at that time, and they’ll need to spend it on the primary.
Four noteworthy Democrats ended up filing, though some look stronger than the others. State Rep. Jason Metsa, who has the support of Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, had $117,000 on-hand, more than any of his rivals. Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, who was Nolan’s campaign manager during his tight 2016 win, had $95,000 available. Former local TV news anchor Michelle Lee likely has some name recognition from her years on Duluth TV (about half this seat is in the Duluth media market, while the balance watches Minneapolis TV), but she had just $16,000 to spend. Finally, North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy had only $3,000 in the bank.
• NC-02: Republican Rep. George Holding is already airing a TV adattacking his Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Linda Coleman, in a somewhat disjointed spot that mostly revolves around his support for term limits, which Coleman opposes. The ad’s narrator also randomly mentions (with no elaboration) that Holding favors “workfare,” a bygone term generally associated with the 1996 welfare reform bill that Bill Clinton signed into law.
• OH-12: Politico is now saying that the Congressional Leadership Fund is spending $250,000 on its initial flight of ads for the Aug. 7 special election for Ohio’s 12th Congressional district (up from $160,000 in an earlier report), and we’ve also got copies of the ads. In the first, a woman rather stiffly says, “As a mom of three, I really appreciate the middle class tax cut,” which of course is how normal people talk. Claiming she’s received a cut of over $2,500, she slams Nancy Pelosi for calling the benefits of the tax bill “crumbs” and attacks Democrat Danny O’Connor for “standing with her” and allegedly wanting to raise taxes. These are the same kind of attacks, of course, that fell far short during the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th earlier this year.
The second spot features a different woman who says her son was incarcerated after struggling with opioid addiction. She goes on to thank Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson for his work to fight the opioid epidemic and calls him a “compassionate and caring leader.” This is not, needless to say, the sort of red meat Republicans usually toss to the crowd in conservative districts like this one. Indeed, has any Republican embraced the label “compassionate” since George W. Bush?
• SC-01: The GOP firm Momentum National is out with the first, and probably only, poll of Tuesday’s GOP primary, and they find Rep. Mark Sanford with just a 40-39 lead over state Rep. Katie Arrington. This poll gives Trump just a 56-38 lead with GOP primary voters, which seems incredibly low.
• WA-05: In her first ad of the race, Democrat Lisa Brown recounts an amazing story from her time in the legislature. Back in 1993, Brown, a single mother with a one-year-old son, was summoned to a late-night session of the House. Faced with the choice of skipping work or caring for her child, she brought her son to the floor of the legislature and perched him quietly on her lap—and was then told by the clerk she had to take him off the floor after a colleague complained.
The moment was immortalized in a photo that’s featured in Brown’s ad, which she says inspired lawmakers to start focusing on “expanding childcare options.” Brown’s campaign says the ad is airing on both broadcast and cable TV and is backed by a “six-figure” buy.