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| Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 11/26 |
Welcome to the Daily Kos Elections Live Digest, your liveblog of all of today's campaign news.
Please note: The Live Digest is a 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primary-free space. It’s also a place to discuss elections, not policy.
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Jeff Singer ·
AK-Sen: Former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is hosting a fundraiser next month for orthopedic surgeon Al Gross, an independent who is seeking the Democratic nomination. Gross already had the support of the state Democratic Party in his bid to take on Sen. Dan Sullivan, the Republican who narrowly ousted Begich in 2014, and he currently faces no serious primary opposition.
Alaska backed Donald Trump 51-37, and neither party is acting like they expect this to be a major Senate battleground next year. Gross, though, may have the resources to make things interesting. The challenger, who entered the race in early July, raised $800,000 from donors and self-funded an additional $210,000 during the third quarter, and he ended September with $682,000 in the bank. Sullivan hauled in a smaller $667,000 during this time, but he finished the quarter with a $3.34 million war chest.
Jeff Singer ·
AL-Sen: The anti-tax Club for Growth has long detested the establishment-aligned Rep. Bradley Byrne, and they’re out with a TV spot hitting him well ahead of the March GOP Senate primary. The commercial takes aim at Byrne for supporting the Export-Import Bank, which is another favorite Club target.
The narrator accuses Byrne of voting “to fund a government giveaway program that hands out billions of dollars to help big companies make more profits overseas.” The narrator continues by saying that this group, which goes unnamed in the spot, sends “U.S. tax dollars to countries like China, Russia, and even Sudan, a state sponsor of terrorism.”
There is no word on the size of the buy, but Politico says it will run in the Mobile market, which includes all of Byrne’s 1st Congressional District, on Saturday during the Iron Bowl between in-state football rivals Auburn University and the University of Alabama. Politico also says that the commercial will run later on Fox News.
Jeff Singer ·
WV-Gov: GOP Gov. Jim Justice is going up with his first TV spot on Tuesday, a move that comes about five months after his main primary rival, former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, first began airing ads. Advertising Analytics reports that Justice’s inaugural ad campaign will run for $56,000 through Dec. 8, which is a fraction of the $879,000 that they say Thrasher has already spent on advertising.
Justice’s commercial opens with two well-known former West Virginia college football coaches, West Virginia University’s Don Nehlen and Marshall University’s Bob Pruett, declaring that most politicians are “full of empty promises,” but that Justice is different. The ad then shows people praising Justice for building roads, fighting for programs to combat opioid addiction, and being “a lot like Trump.” The spot concludes with Justice’s wife, state First Lady Cathy Justice, telling the audience that the governor “serves for all the right reasons. He loves West Virginia.”
Jeff Singer ·
AL-01: The anti-tax Club for Growth is out with another poll from WPA Intelligence that finds their endorsed candidate, former state Sen. Bill Hightower, taking first place in the March GOP primary for this open seat with 35% of the vote.
That’s still well short of the majority Hightower would need to win outright, though, and the survey finds state Rep. Chris Pringle edging Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl 16-13 for the second spot in a hypothetical runoff. Two other candidates, businessman Wes Lambert and Army veteran John Castorani, take just 2% and 1%, respectively.
All of these numbers are all almost identical to WPA’s late July poll, which showed Hightower at 34% as Pringle led Carl 16-12. Lambert also took 2% then, while Castorani had not yet joined the race and so wasn’t tested.
Jeff Singer ·
MO-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association is out with a survey from Public Policy Polling that gives GOP Gov. Mike Parson a 45-36 lead over Democratic state Auditor Nichole Galloway. The DGA argues in their memo that, while Parson holds a clear lead right now, the fight over the eight-week abortion ban that he signed into law over the summer could “drastically alter” the contest. A federal judge halted the law in August one day before it was to go into effect, and the state is currently appealing the ruling.
Jeff Singer ·
Jeff Singer ·
NY-01: Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming announced Tuesday that she would seek the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin. Fleming was elected to represent the Southampton are on the county legislature in 2015, three years after she unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate, and she won her third term earlier this month by a 60-40 margin.
Fleming joins 2018 nominee Perry Gershon and Stony Brook University professor Nancy Goroff in the primary in what is already shaping up to be an expensive contest for this eastern Long Island seat. Goroff entered the contest in July and raised a hefty $518,000 during her opening fundraising quarter, and she ended September with $418,000 in the bank.
Gershon, who lost to Zeldin 51-47 last year, hauled in just shy of $200,000 during the third quarter of 2019, and he had $475,000 to spend. Zeldin has always been a strong fundraiser, and he took in $601,000 and had $1.17 million in the bank.
This seat swung from 50-49 Obama to 55-42 Trump, but it shifted back to the left last year. However, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo still only carried the district by just a 49.1 to 48.6 spread while he was winning a 23-point blowout statewide, so this is still challenging turf for Team Blue even in a good year.
Jeff Singer ·
NY-17: This week, two new candidates joined the crowded Democratic primary for this open and reliably blue seat. One of the new arrivals is Army veteran and combat veteran Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, who served as engagement officer in Iraq and Kuwait in 2014 and 2015 and later worked on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign as a Middle East foreign policy advisor.
Castleberry-Hernandez, who is the first black woman in the race, stressed her support for gun safety by saying, “I was almost a victim of gun violence in White Plains when I was almost shot at walking through a line of fire with my sister … where a young man has a small arm shooting at one of his opponents.”
The other new Democratic candidate is former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer. Schleifer was involved in the Operation Varsity Blues investigations of several wealthy parents in the college admissions scandal, and he represented the government when actress Felicity Huffman appeared in court in March after being charged with bribery.
Jeff Singer ·
TX-13: Asusena Reséndiz, who finished a stint last year as head of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announced Tuesday that she would seek the GOP nod for this seat in the Texas Panhandle. Reséndiz also was appointed in 2017 to serve on the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott.
David Nir ·
GA-Sen-B: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has the ordinarily enviable opportunity to make someone's political career by appointing them to the Senate when Sen. Johnny Isakson resigns at the end of the year, but like so much else in Republican politics, Donald Trump has managed to make the once-pleasurable suddenly miserable.
Kemp recently squired his preferred pick, wealthy financial services executive Kelly Loeffler, to a secret White House meeting last weekend to secure Trump's blessing, but by all accounts, it went very poorly. According to the Wall Street Journal, the gathering "turned tense and ended quickly" because Trump strongly prefers Rep. Doug Collins, a loudmouth who has aggressively defended Trump throughout the impeachment process and will soon have an even more visible perch to do so as the top-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
Trump reportedly even asked Kemp what the purpose of their meeting was if the governor had already made up his mind, though it's not clear that he has. Choosing Loeffler would make a certain amount of sense, though: As a first-time candidate, she doesn't have the same sort of baggage the arch-conservative Collins would bring in next year's special election, and she hails from the fast-growing Atlanta area while Collins represents a rural district in the state's northeast corner.
Loeffler is also fantastically rich: She's a part-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team, and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, purchased the New York Stock Exchange (yes, he bought the stock exchange itself) for $8.2 billion in 2012. With the Peach State playing host to two competitive Senate elections in 2020, a self-funder could take some pressure off Republican Sen. David Purdue. Given Georgia's left-ward political trends, all of this suggests Loeffler would make for a more appealing nominee than Collins (though the fact that she's a woman likely won't help the GOP as much as Republicans would like to believe).
But these considerations, of course, mean little to Trump—though what Trump cares about means a lot to Kemp. Trump's unexpected intervention in last year's GOP primary for governor was a major factor in Kemp's dominant come-from-behind win in the runoff over the establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who’d led the voting in the first round. Trump also campaigned for Kemp in central Georgia just before Election Day; whether or not that rally was actually a boon is an open question, but Kemp's indebtedness to Trump is not.
That debt might explain the statement a Kemp spokesperson provided after the WSJ published its article, saying the governor "plans to appoint a strong supporter of the President who will end the impeachment circus and advance conservative policies that Keep America Great." But while that might sound like a nod toward Collins, Loeffler similarly pledged to "stand with President Trump … to Keep America Great" in her application for the soon-to-be-vacant Senate post.
As for when all this drama might finally conclude, no one's sure. Isakson has said he'll step down on Dec. 31, though there's nothing stopping Kemp from acting before then. The WSJ says that Kemp's team "has discussed announcing the decision after Thanksgiving," but the upshot of that discussion we aren't privy to.
David Nir ·
Programming note: In celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no Live Digest for the rest of the week. The Morning Digest will resume publication on Tuesday. Happy Turkey Day!
Jeff Singer ·
MO-02: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that both parties expect Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp to challenge GOP Rep. Ann Wagner next year in this suburban St. Louis seat, though Schupp has not yet said anything publicly. Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District backed Donald Trump 53-42, but Wagner only won re-election last year 51-47.
Schupp flipped an open GOP-held seat during the 2014 red wave by defeating Republican Jay Ashcroft 50-47 in a district that had backed Barack Obama by the same spread two years before. Senate District 24 went on to support Hillary Clinton 53-42 in 2016 (Ashcroft was elected secretary of state that same year), and Schupp won re-election in 2018 61-37 after raising what the paper describes as a “menacing $1 million.”
Jeff Singer ·
Jeff Singer ·
FL-15 : The Justice Department is currently investigating whether freshman Rep. Ross Spano violated campaign finance laws during his 2018 GOP primary, and he could face a rematch with the person he beat in that contest. The Ledger recently asked former state Rep. Neil Combee, who lost 44-34 last year, if he was considering running in next year’s GOP primary, and while he responded, “I have not,” Combee didn’t stop there.
After speaking at length about Spano's predicament, Combee concluded, "I would not do anything until this is settled." That could just be some free consulting advice to anyone who might be listening, or could mean that Combee is waiting to see how everything wraps up before deciding whether to run for this seat a second time.
Combee did say that he’d heard that other Republicans are considering challenging Spano, but he refused to name anyone. However, Sean Harper, who took third place in the primary with 10%, told the paper he didn’t plan to run, though there’s no quote from him in the story.
David Nir ·
PA-16: Republican Rep. Mike Kelly was busted hard by a local news station earlier this year for selling used cars that were subject to safety recalls, including some with deadly airbags, so what has he done since then? Continued to sell used cars that are still subject to safety recalls—including some with deadly airbags.
Kelly, who represents the 16th Congressional District in Pennsylvania’s northwest corner, had refused to comment when dogged WTAE report Paul Van Osdol first broke this story in May, but Van Osdol was finally able to track down Kelly in person. Kelly was non-responsive, though, when Van Osdol directly asked him, "Why were you selling vehicles with open safety recalls?" But when asked if he was still selling such cars, Kelly made an offer that he now wishes he could take back: "Why don't you come up and check it like you did last time?" the congressman proposed. "You can do that, come up and check them and maybe we'll have someone show you through our lot. You can take a look and see."
Of course, Van Osdol did just that. He found 15 vehicles still under active recalls at just one Kelly dealership, with one sedan still carrying a type of airbag, made by a company called Takata, that's been responsible for at least 24 deaths. Those killed include 26-year-old Jewel Brangman, who died in 2014 when a Takata airbag went off after a minor crash, firing a burst of metal fragments into her neck that severed her carotid artery.
Van Osdol also discovered that Kelly's website was advertising five affected cars as "GM-certified," even though General Motors only allows vehicles to be designated as such if all outstanding recalls have been addressed. A GM spokesperson insisted that the vehicles had been removed from the "certified" list but couldn't explain why the dealership was still describing them that way. Meanwhile, Kelly's son Brendan, who runs the lot in question, declined to speak with Van Osdol.
You may be wondering at this point how it's even possible Kelly could sell such cars in the first place. It turns out that in his home state, it's perfectly legal: After an organized push by used car dealers in at least 11 states, both Pennsylvania and Tennessee changed their laws to allow dealers to sell vehicles that have been recalled—as long as they note the recall "somewhere in a stack of sales documents," as one in-depth investigative report put it.
As Van Osdol noted in his original exposé, when a similar bill came before Congress in 2015, one key supporter insisted, "There is not a single person in our business that would ever put one of our owners in a defective car or a car with a recall." That congressman's name? Mike Kelly.
Jeff Singer ·
NJ-02: Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew infuriated progressives across the country after he was one of just two Democrats to vote against formalizing the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, but he may have more immediate problems with Democratic power brokers at home in this competitive South Jersey seat.
Six unnamed Democratic leaders tell the New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein that Van Drew “could lose contests for organization lines at county conventions early next year,” which would be a very big setback for him in the June primary. In New Jersey primaries, a candidate endorsed by the local party appears in a separate column on the ballot along with other party endorsees, a designation known colloquially as the “organization line.” Party machines are still quite powerful in the Garden State, so Van Drew could struggle if a rival can win over enough organization lines next year.
Van Drew doesn’t currently face a serious intra-party foe, but Montclair University political science professor Brigid Callahan Harrison says she’s considering taking him on. Harrison declared that the congressman's opposition to impeachment has “made himself persona non grata within his party and the House leadership, which impacts every resident of New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District.”
Harrison also argued that Van Drew’s stance has already hurt his party at home. Harrison pointed to the results of the Nov. 5 legislative election in Van Drew’s old 1st Legislative District where a trio of Democratic incumbents, who ran as the “Van Drew team,” all lost. Harrison said that the result in LD-01, where the GOP scored their only pickup of the night, demonstrated that local Democratic voters “rejected the Van Drew team because of his impeachment vote and crossed party lines” to support the Republicans.
Harrison has only run for office once. Back in 1993, she ran what Wildstein describes as a “strong race for Atlantic County Freeholder” where she narrowly lost to a GOP incumbent.
Other Democrats may also be interested in challenging Van Drew. One local leader mentions Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and Adam Taliaferro as possibilities, though Mazzeo quickly said it was unlikely he’d take on the incumbent.
If Van Drew does win renomination, he’ll need to quickly prepare for an expensive general election in a seat that Trump carried 51-46. Wealthy businessman David Richter, who is the only notable Republican in the race right now, only raised $113,000 from donors during his opening quarter, but he self-funded another $300,000 and had $390,000 to spend at the end of September. Van Drew took in $529,000 during this time and had $932,000 in the bank.