Politics

Morning Digest: Georgia incumbents fend off Trump’s Big Lie slate in Tuesday Republican primaries

Trump rallying for Rep. Jody Hice’s failed bid to topple Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

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Leading Off

 Primary Night: We had another packed primary night on Tuesday, and below is a summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in the big contests. You can also find our cheat-sheet here.

  • AL-Sen (R): Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt took first place with 45% in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, who is ardently supporting his one-time chief of staff, though it was still a few points below the majority she needed to win outright. Rep. Mo Brooks, whom Donald Trump dramatically unendorsed back in March, earned the second spot in the June 21 runoff by turning back Army veteran Mike Durant 29-23.

  • GA-Sen (R): Former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, in what proved to be one of Tuesday’s rare statewide victories for a Donald Trump-endorsed candidate in Georgia, defeated Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black 68-13. Walker will now go up against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock in what will be one of the most competitive Senate contests in the nation.

  • GA-Gov (R): Gov. Brian Kemp turned in a landslide 74-22 win against former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump recruited last year after the governor refused to help steal Georgia’s electoral votes following the 2020 election. Perdue played up his support from the MAGA master but offered little else beyond Big Lie conspiracy theories, and one party strategist memorably summed up the challenger’s effort as “a boring Trump video over and over again.” Kemp will now face a rematch against 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who had no intra-party opposition in her second campaign.

  • GA-07 (D): Rep. Lucy McBath defeated her fellow incumbent, the more moderate Carolyn Bourdeaux, 63-31 in what is now a safely blue seat in Atlanta’s northeastern suburbs. Bourdeaux is at least the third House member to lose renomination this cycle following West Virginia Republican David McKinley and North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn, though Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader badly trails in a May 17 Democratic primary that has not yet been called.

  • TX-28 (D): With just over 45,200 ballots tallied, conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar holds a 50.2-49.8 edge over Jessica Cisneros―a margin of 177 votes. Cuellar has declared victory, but Cisneros has not conceded in a contest that the Associated Press has also not called.

  • TX-28 (R): Cassy Garcia, who is a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, defeated 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten 57-43. Republicans are hoping for an opening in a Laredo-area seat that Biden would have carried 53-46.

  • GA-AG (R): Incumbent Chris Carr decisively fended off Trump-supported foe John Gordon, a previously little-known attorney who renewed his law license last year so that he could help Trump undo his Georgia defeat, 74-26. Carr will go up against state Sen. Jen Jordan, who claimed the Democratic nod 78-22.

  • GA-SoS (R): Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused to go along with Trump’s 2020 demand to “find 11,780 votes,” won renomination outright by beating Trump-endorsed Rep. Jody Hice 52-33.

  • GA-SoS (D): State Rep. Bee Nguyen took first with 44%, which was below the majority she needed to avert a June 21 runoff. The Associated Press has not yet called the second runoff spot: With 681,000 votes in, former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler holds a 19-16 edge over former Cobb County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Owens.

There were more big contests on the ballot Tuesday, and we’ll be summarizing the outcomes in our next Digest. For now, you can find real-time results at the following links for Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and the special election primary for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

Redistricting

AK Redistricting: The Alaska Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that found the state’s Republican-dominated redistricting board had illegally gerrymandered its map for the state Senate a second time and also affirmed the court’s decision to order an alternate map for this year’s elections. As a result, Democrats will have a better shot at gaining a seat in the 20-member Senate, which is the smallest legislative chamber in the nation. Republicans currently hold a 13-7 majority, but one Democrat caucuses with the GOP.

Senate

OK-Sen-B: Physician Randy Grellner, a Republican who so far hasn’t attracted much attention in the crowded June 28 GOP primary, has launched a $786,000 ad buy for a cheaply produced spot with choppy editing that features the candidate speaking directly to the camera. Grellner rattles off various right-wing themes and boasts that he refuses to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

WA-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Washington’s Aug. 2 top-two primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here. Just like in California, the state requires all candidates running for Congress and for state office to compete on a single ballot rather than in separate party primaries. The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, will then advance to the Nov. 8 general election—a rule that sometimes results in two candidates from the same party facing off against one another. Note that candidates cannot win outright in August by taking a majority of the vote.

Unlike in the Golden State, though, contenders don’t need to restrict themselves to running as Democrats, Republicans, third-party candidates, or without a party affiliation at all. Instead, as the state explains, anyone on the ballot gets “up to 18 characters to describe the party” they prefer. For example, the U.S. Senate race features one candidate running as a “JFK Republican” while a secretary of state hopeful is identified with an “America First (R)” even though neither is actually a political party in Washington.

While Democratic Sen. Patty Murray faces 17 opponents in her bid for a sixth term, her only serious foe is motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley, who is designated on the ballot as a standard-issue “Republican.” The Evergreen State supported Joe Biden 58-39 and it would take a lot for Murray to lose even in a GOP wave year, though Republicans remember their near-miss in 2010. Murray ended March with a $7.9 million to $2.5 million cash-on-hand lead.

Governors

MI-Gov: In a stunning development, the Michigan Bureau of Elections announced Monday evening that five of the 10 Republicans running for governor have failed to qualify for the August primary ballot because thousands of the signatures they submitted were invalid. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has led in the polls, and self-funding businessman Perry Johnson are among those disqualified, along with state police Capt. Mike Brown, financial adviser Michael Markey, and businesswoman Donna Brandenburg. Brown has already dropped out, while Craig said he wasn’t ready to do so and urged the state attorney general to open a criminal investigation.

Following the bureau’s recommendations, the Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to consider them, and the board could reject the bureau’s findings to allow a candidate with insufficient signatures to appear on the ballot. However, such action would require three of the four board members’ approval, and the body is equally divided between two Democrats and two Republicans.

While it’s common for at least some modest percentage of signatures to be found invalid for various reasons every cycle, something that well-run campaigns plan for by submitting more than the minimum, the issue here goes well beyond that. The bureau indicated that at least 68,000 signatures were invalid across all 10 campaigns, many of which included obvious forgeries, duplicates, and signatures from dead people among other issues aside from mere voter error.

Among the 21,000 signatures that Craig submitted, just shy of 11,000 were deemed invalid, leaving him with roughly 10,000 of the 15,000 needed to qualify. Similarly, more than 9,000 of Johnson’s 23,000 signatures were invalidated, giving him just under 14,000 valid signatures. There’s no indication yet that any of the campaigns themselves were behind the apparent signature fraud rather than the paid circulators they had hired to gather signatures, and multiple campaigns such as Johnson’s said they were considering whether to go to court and contest their disqualification if need be.

Should these disqualifications hold up, though, it would completely shake up the GOP’s primary for governor in a key swing state. Craig had appeared to be the frontrunner since he announced last summer, while Johnson had vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to win the primary and already deployed millions of his wealth to do so.

If Craig and Perry are ultimately kept off the ballot, some of the currently lesser-known candidates could gain an opening, including right-wing radio host Tudor Dixon, chiropractor and anti-lockdown activist Garrett Soldano, and wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, who had previously said he would self-fund at least $10 million.

MN-Gov: Rep. Pete Stauber has endorsed former state Sen. Scott Jensen after the latter won the state GOP convention earlier this month. Meanwhile, former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek’s campaign says he’s still considering whether to continue on to the August primary, with the filing deadline quickly approaching on May 31. Stanek had beforehand vowed to abide by the state GOP’s convention process and withdraw should he not win the endorsement, but he ended up not placing his name before delegates, saying injuries from a car accident in April prevented him from attending.

House

CA-37: The cryptocurrency-aligned Web3 Forward is spending $317,000 on a media buy to aid Democratic state Sen. Sydney Kamlager ahead of the top-two primary on June 7. Kamlager has previously gotten support from Protect Our Future PAC, which is funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

CA-40: Rep. Young Kim is running a commercial attacking her fellow Republican, Mission Viejo Councilman ​Greg Raths, a move that comes as Democrat Asif Mahmood is running his own ads designed to help Raths beat the incumbent in the June 7 top-two primary. According to Democratic operative Nathan Click, Kim is spending at least $500,000 in the ultra-expensive Los Angeles media market to air this spot on broadcast television.

Kim’s narrator compares Raths to Joe Biden and other Democrats by arguing that the candidate has hiked up taxes and fees “[e]ight times in a row” and wanted to increase his own salary. The second half of the piece praises the congresswoman as a loyal conservative who is “fighting Raths and the liberals.”

FL-10: The crypto-aligned Protect Our Future PAC says it will spend $1 million for progressive activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost ahead of the Democratic primary in August. Frost has led the field in fundraising here in both the last two quarters, bringing in $350,000 during the first three months of 2022 while none of his rivals cracked six figures in either quarter.

IL-03: VoteVets has launched a $360,000 buy to promote Chicago Alderman Gil Villegas, which makes this the first outside spending on his side ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary. The commercial touts Villegas’ time in the Marines and work on the Chicago City Council. Villegas’ main intra-party rival is state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has so far benefited from $200,000 in support from the Working Families Party and another $70,000 from EMILY’s List.

NC-11, TX-13, WV-02: The nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics announced it had referred two cases to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation on Monday, recommending the committee look into possible violations by two Republicans, Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson and West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney. The committee said it would do so and also separately announced that it had opened an investigation into Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who lost in last week’s Republican primary but still has seven months of lame-duck service left.

Cawthorn faces scrutiny over two separate matters: whether he “improperly promoted a cryptocurrency in which he may have had an undisclosed financial interest,” per the committee, and whether he had an “improper relationship” with an aide. The relationship in question may involve a staffer named Stephen L. Smith, to whom Cawthorn allegedly provided undisclosed loans, gifts, travel, and housing.

Cawthorn also hyped a “Let’s Go Brandon” cryptocurrency late last year while possibly being privy to inside information about the coin’s future prospects. It surged the following day when NASCAR driver Brandon Brown announced the coin would sponsor his upcoming season, but it’s now worthless.

Mooney, meanwhile, is accused of accepting a free family vacation to Aruba from a direct-mail firm his campaign has paid tens of thousands of dollars to in recent years and also having congressional staffers walk his dog and take his laundry to the cleaners. Mooney is already under investigation for allegedly using campaign funds on personal expenses and possibly for obstructing that initial investigation as well.

Finally, the OCE said that Jackson may have spent campaign money for membership at a private social club in Amarillo, Texas, which is prohibited by federal law. Both Jackson and Mooney have refused to cooperate with their respective investigations, according to the committee.

NY-03: The progressive Working Families Party has endorsed healthcare advocate Melanie D’Arrigo, who previously waged an unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge from the left against departing Rep. Tom Suozzi in 2020. D’Arrigo may have a better shot this time without an incumbent in the August primary, which includes DNC member Robert Zimmerman, deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman, and Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan. State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s departure on Monday to instead run in the redrawn 17th District could also help D’Arrigo consolidate progressive voters here.

NY-12: A spokesperson for nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid says she’s considering whether to continue in the Democratic primary after court-ordered redistricting significantly scrambled the lines here. Abdelhamid is based in Queens, but the portions of that borough that were previously in the 12th were removed under the court’s reconfiguration of the district, which is now contained solely in Manhattan.

NY-18: State Sen. James Skoufis has announced that he won’t run for Congress after previously considering a bid, leaving Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan as the only notable Democrat in the race so far.

NY-22: Businessman Steve Wells announced over the weekend that he would seek the Republican nomination for the open 22nd District, a constituency in the Syracuse and Utica areas that Biden would have won 53-45. Wells ran in 2016 for the old 22nd District, which makes up just under 40% of this new seat, when moderate Rep. Richard Hanna retired; however, while Wells enjoyed a financial advantage and an endorsement from the departing incumbent, he lost the primary 41-34 to eventual winner Claudia Tenney.

Wells will again have intra-party opposition in August as Navy veteran Brandon Williams says he’ll continue for his campaign to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. John Katko. Williams, though, had less than $100,000 in the bank at the end of March, while Wells proved in 2016 he was capable of self-funding. Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, meanwhile, has dropped out and endorsed Wells, a decision he made after the new court-drawn map relocated his community to the 19th District. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente also has made it clear he won’t be running for Congress.

On the Democratic side, nonprofit executive Vanessa Fajans-Turner has ended her campaign. Both Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok and Navy veteran Francis Conole, who lost the 2020 primary to take on Katko, have announced that they remain in the race for the newest incarnation of the seat, however.

WA-03: Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler earned herself a prominent place on Donald Trump’s shitlist after she voted for impeachment, and she now faces four fellow Republicans, two Democrats, and two unaffiliated candidates. Trump himself is supporting Joe Kent, an Army veteran who has defended Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and who has outraised the other challengers. The GOP side also includes evangelical author Heidi St. John, who has brought in a notable amount of money, and state Rep. Vicki Kraft, who hasn’t.

The Democratic field, meanwhile, consists of 2020 candidate Davy Ray and auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Neither has brought in much cash, but it’s possible one will advance to the general election in this 51-46 Trump seat in southwestern Washington.

WA-04: Six Republicans have lined up to challenge GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also voted to impeach Donald Trump, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat campaigning for this 57-40 Trump constituency in eastern Washington. Trump is all-in for 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, though the far-right ex-cop has struggled to bring in money for his new bid. The GOP field also includes businessman Jerrod Sessler, who has self-financed most of his campaign, and underfunded state Rep. Brad Klippert.

WA-08: Three notable Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbent Kim Schrier in a suburban Seattle seat that, just like her current constituency, would have supported Joe Biden 52-45. Schrier’s most familiar foe is 2020 nominee Jesse Jensen, who unexpectedly held her to a 52-48 win last time despite bringing in little money and is proving to be a considerably stronger fundraiser this time.

Another well-established Republican is King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who lost the 2012 open seat race for attorney general 53-47 to Democrat Bob Ferguson; Dunn is the son of the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who represented previous versions of this constituency from 1993 to 2005. Team Red’s field also includes 2020 attorney general nominee Matt Larkin, who lost to Ferguson 56-43 and has been self-funding much of his newest bid. The field includes an additional two Republicans, a pair of Democrats, and a trio of third-party candidates.

Attorneys General

MI-AG, MI-SoS: EPIC-MRA, surveying for WOOD-TV, shows Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel leading Big Lie booster Matthew DePerno just 43-41 in the first general election poll we’ve seen here. Nessel’s fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, holds a larger 47-38 edge in her re-election bid against another conspiracy theorist, Kristina Karamo.

Secretaries of State

WA-SoS: Steve Hobbs became the first Democrat to hold this post since 1965 when Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him last year to succeed Kim Wyman, a Republican who resigned to join the Biden administration, and he faces seven opponents in the special election for the final two years of Wyman’s term.

The GOP side includes two election conspiracy theorists, including former state Sen. Mark Miloscia, a one-time Democratic state representative who recently resigned as head of a social conservative organization. Another notable Republican is state Sen. Keith Wagoner, who has not called Biden’s win into question. Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party, is also in, as are three little-known candidates.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Rep. Karen Bass and her allies at Communities United for Bass have each released a survey showing her and billionaire Rick Caruso advancing to a November general election, though they disagree which candidate is ahead in the June 7 nonpartisan primary.

David Binder Research’s internal for Bass has the congresswoman at 34%, which is well below the majority needed to win outright, while Caruso beats out City Councilman Kevin de León 32-7 for second. FM3’s poll for a pro-Bass committee, meanwhile, has Caruso in the lead with 37% with the congresswoman at 35%; in a distant third with 6% each are de León and City Attorney Mike Feuer, who recently dropped out and endorsed Bass. FM3, though, has Bass beating Caruso 48-39 in a head-to-head matchup.

Communities United for Bass, which is funded in large part by labor groups and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, is also spending at least $1 million on an ad campaign that quotes the Los Angeles Times in calling Caruso “the Donald Trump of Los Angeles.” The narrator goes on to fault the former Republican for his donations to GOP candidates like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before arguing that “Caruso himself has opposed abortion.” Caruso, who has dominated the airwaves for weeks, quickly hit back with an ad defending his pro-choice credentials while portraying Bass as an ally of “special interests.”

Prosecutors

King County, WA Prosecutor: Incumbent Dan Satterberg, a former Republican who joined the Democratic Party in 2018, is not running for re-election as the top prosecutor of Washington’s most-populous county, and two candidates are competing to succeed him in an officially nonpartisan race. In one corner is Leesa Manion, who is Satterberg’s chief of staff and would be both the first woman and person of color to serve here. Her opponent is Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, who is a former prosecutor.

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.




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