● CA-25: Sometimes, some Republican says something so stupid, we don’t even need to explain why it’s so profoundly idiotic. This is one of those times. Here’s freshman GOP Rep. Steve Knight, at a debate with his two Democratic opponents Thursday night:
“I think that Social Security was a bad idea. I do. I absolutely think it was a bad idea. I think that what should have happened was we should have had the government sit down with the private sector and build a system that people could take with them.”
There’s video, too—the kind of video that is ready-made for a Democratic attack ad. The question now is which Democrat will emerge to take on Knight. Attorney Bryan Caforio has caught the eye of national Democrats and has managed to bring in some (but not that much) money, though he has outraised the feeble Knight for the last two quarters. Agua Dulce Town Council member Lou Vince, meanwhile, has the endorsement of the state Democratic Party but has raised almost nothing.
Mitt Romney only carried California’s 25th District by a 50-48 margin, and Knight has proved he’s dumb enough to put this Los Angeles-area seat in play almost on his own, but it’ll still take a strong effort from Democrats to dislodge him.
● NH-Sen, NV-Sen: The Senate Majority PAC has been increasingly active of late. The pro-Democratic group just reserved $4.2 million in fall TV time in New Hampshire, which is a top-tier opportunity for Democrats to gain a seat, and they’re also running some ads right now in Nevada, the one Senate race where Republicans have a decent pickup shot of their own. SMP is going on the offensive against Rep. Joe Heck, the likely GOP nominee, with a spot that slams Heck for once calling Nevada’s mortgage crisis “a blip on the radar” on a 2008 candidate questionnaire. That’s a damaging attack in a state where the collapse of the housing market struck especially hard. Jon Ralston says the buy is for $450,000.
● OH-Sen: A conservative super PAC called the Fighting for Ohio Fund (whose donors include pro-wrestling mogul and twice-failed Senate candidate Linda McMahon) is reportedly spending $1.5 million to air a new TV ad attacking Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland. The spot features footage of Strickland from an editorial board interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this year in which he said, “My record is mixed and spotty, and I can be criticized for that.” The ad then goes on to hit Strickland for the “350,000 in jobs lost” while he was governor, as well as “$800 million in tax increases” he’s allegedly responsible for, before repeating that same interview clip.
But the use of this particular bit of video is quite mendacious. Strickland was speaking of his views on gun control, which have moved to the left, particularly as a result of pressure from his unsuccessful Democratic primary opponent, Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld. While undoubtedly Strickland wishes he could un-say those remarks, to rip them out of context like this is crap. Strickland’s campaign should have already fired off a lawyer letter demanding this ad be pulled.
● NC-Gov: Roy Cooper ain’t messin’ around. Cooper, the state attorney general and Democratic nominee for governor,just reserved $7 million in TV time for the final nine weeks of his campaign against GOP Gov. Pat McCrory. Recent polls have shown a slight uptick for Cooper in the wake of the debacle over HB2, the state’s new anti-LGBT law, but the race is far from in the bag for Team Blue.
Republican Rep. Scott Tipton looked completely safe in this 52-46 Romney western Colorado seat until ex-state Sen. Gail Schwartz entered the race last month. Tipton decisively turned back a credible Democratic foe in 2012, but Schwartz at least puts this contest on the map. At the end of March, Tipton had $605,000 in the bank, while Schwartz will start from scratch. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Republican.
● CO-05: Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn came surprisingly close to losing his seat last month to state legislative aide Calandra Vargas. Lamborn needed to win at least 30 percent of the delegates’ votes at the GOP convention to make the primary ballot (Lamborn chose not to collect signatures) and while Vargas outpaced him 58-35, Lamborn had just enough support to join her in June.
Vargas is an unproven candidate, but Lamborn isn’t particularly strong. Lamborn only beat an underfunded foe 53-47 last cycle, and he ended March with a underwhelming $297,000 in the bank. This Colorado Springs seat is safely red.
● CO-06: This 52-47 Obama suburban Denver seat is a top Democratic target, and an expensive contest is already taking shape. Republican Rep. Mike Coffman is a well-regarded candidate, though he has a habit of letting his mouth do his thinking for him at times. Coffman’s opponent is Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll, who like Coffman has no primary foe. At the end of March, Coffman held a $1.3 million to $641,000 cash-on-hand edge, but both the DCCCand NRCC, as well as the Democratic group House Majority PAC, have made major reservations here for the fall. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Republican.
● FL-04: On Thursday, attorney Hans Tanzler III launched his campaign for this safely red open seat. While Tanzler, who served as executive director of the St. Johns Water Management District, has never held office, he has a well-known name. His father, whom the candidate is named for, served as Jacksonville’s mayor when the city government consolidated with the rest of Duval County in the late 1960s. Tanzler will face ex-Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, state Rep. Lake Ray, and St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure in the late August GOP primary.
● KS-01: On Thursday, 2014 candidate Alan LaPolice announced that he would ditch the GOP primary and run for this seat as an independent. LaPolice’s move comes as good news for physician Roger Marshall, who is challenging Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a tea party iconoclast, in the August primary. While LaPolice has raised very little money, he could have taken enough anti-Huelskamp voters from Marshall to secure the congressman renomination in this safely red western Kansas seat. The candidate filing deadline isn’t until June 1 but right now, it looks like Marshall will be Huelskamp’s only opponent.
Huelskamp has a horrible relationship with local agriculture groups, and the Kansas Livestock Association and Dairy Farmers of America have both endorsed Marshall. Last time, agriculture groups spent against Huelskamp and held him to a 55-45 win against LaPolice, and it’s unclear if they’ll invest in this race again. However, while Huelskamp isn’t a very good fundraiser, he still held an $837,000 to $484,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of March.
● KY-01: Former congressional aide Mike Pape attracted national attention last month when he ran an incredibly racist ad featuring three “Mexican” men, complete with bogus mustaches and accents, sneaking across the U.S. border at night to stop Trump, Cruz, and their number one ally, Mike Pape. The spot is unlikely to be a liability in the May 17 primary for this safely red western Kentucky seat, which pits Pape against ex-state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. However, Comer is out with a new poll that argues that he remains the clear frontrunner and that the spot did little for Pape.
The Voter Consumer Research poll gives Comer a 57-10 lead over Pape, with Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts taking just 6. The memo refers to a month-old VCR poll that showed Comer up 46-9. The Pape spot aired between these two polls and, at least according to VCR’s results, it did not help Pape in any tangible way (the memo does not refer to the ad).
Pape and Comer have actually been spending similar amounts of money in the lead-up to the primary. From April 1 to April 27, Comer outspent Pape just $273,000 to $239,000. However, Comer, who narrowly lost the 2015 gubernatorial primary, started this contest with far more name-recognition than Pape. There have been no other polls here so it’s very possible that Comer doesn’t have anything like the gaudy leads his survey shows. Still, it makes sense that the better-known Comer would have the advantage on May 17 if he’s not getting outspent on TV. Batts’ Hickman County only makes up about 1 percent of the 1st, so he needed plenty of cash to get his name out, but that hasn’t happened. Batts spent just $77,000 during most of April, and he has only $39,000 left.
Comer has a strong $373,000 to $96,000 cash-on-hand edge over Pape, so he should be able to drown him out on TV from now until Election Day. And sure enough, Comer is out withanother spot. Comer tells the audience that “Obama and the Washington liberals” are tearing America apart. He pledges to eliminate ISIS “and build the darned wall.” He also touts his endorsement from the NRA as some footage of him training his kids how to aim guns plays.
● NC-02: On Friday, the well-funded anti-tax group the Club for Growth renewed their war on GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers when they announced that they would “actively oppose” herin the June 7 primary for North Carolina’s safely red 2nd Congressional District. The Club was already pissed at herfor things like her votes to raise the debt ceiling and reauthorize the dreaded Export-Import Bank, and that was before she endorsed their hated enemy Donald Trump over Ted Cruz.
The Club initially endorsed Jim Duncan back in November and spent $400,000 bashing her on his behalf, but that was before North Carolina was forced to redraw its congressional map. Duncan was drawn out of the new 2nd and decided not to run here, but Ellmers now faces a tough primary with fellow Rep. George Holding, with tea partying physician Greg Brannon also in. The Club didn’t endorse either Holding or Brannon in this Raleigh-area seat, but any damage they do to Ellmers will almost certainly benefit Holding instead of the underfunded Brannon.
The Club’s decision wasn’t a surprise, but it’s still very unwelcome news for Ellmers. Holding represents about 57 percent of the new 2nd, while only 18 percent of the new district is Ellmers’ turf. Both candidates have about the same amount of cash, but the wealthy Holding can easily outspend Ellmers if he chooses to. Ellmers had to know the Club would also return to target her in her new district, but that foresight may not do her much good once the Club’s attack ads resume.
● NC-13: On Friday, the Club for Growth endorsed Ted Budd, the owner of a gun range. Budd is one of 17 Republicans running in the June 7 primary for this newly-drawn seat, and until now, he looked like just Some Dude. But if the Club spends big here, it will undoubtedly help Budd stand out in this insanely crowded field. There will not be a runoff, so it may not take many votes to secure the GOP nod. Romney carried this Greensboro-area seat by 7 points, and we’ll need to wait and see if any of the Democrats are raising enough cash to put this district into play.
● PA-09: Heheheh. Tea partier Art Halvorson very nearly knocked off Rep. Bill Shuster in last month’s GOP primary,losing by an extremely narrow 50.5 to 49.5 margin, but Halvorson is not done yet. Now he’s trying to run against Shuster in the general election as a Democrat, arguing that since no Democrat filed to run here and some 1,060 votes were cast for him as a write-in in the Democratic primary, he should earn the Democratic nomination.
Who knows if this can even succeed as a legal matter, but if it does, Shuster could find himself in jeopardy once again come November. Pennsylvania’s 9th District is extremely conservative—it voted for Mitt Romney by a 63-36 margin—but if Halvorson were to appear on the Democratic line, he’d probably earn the votes of Democratic voters simply by default. And if he could convince the same sort of conservatives who backed him in the primary to swallow hard and pull the “D” lever for him (Halvorson says he’d caucus with the Republicans), a bizarre coalition like this could actually power him to victory. It would be crazy and amazing all at once.
● VA-02: GOP Rep. Randy Forbes decided to seek this open Hampton Roads seat after redistricting turned his old constituency safely blue, but Forbes doesn’t represent any of the new 2nd. State Del. Scott Taylor, who is challenging Forbes in the June 14 primary, has been portraying the congressman as an outsider, but Taylor’s own poll says that he has a lot of work to do in the next month. Via Roll Call, Tel Opinion Research survey gives Forbes a 39-35 lead; back in February, Tel Opinion showed the two deadlocked 33-33.
Needless to say, it’s not a good sign for Taylor that the best poll he could release shows him going from tied to losing. The Tel Opinion poll says that, when respondents are told that Forbes decided to run here for political reasons, 60 percent said that they were less likely to support him. However, even if that message could damage Forbes, Taylor just doesn’t seem to have the resources he needs to blast it out. At the end of March, Forbes had a huge $875,000 to $53,000 cash-on-hand lead, and no major outside groups have come to Taylor’s aid. While Romney only narrowly won this seat, Team Blue is only fielding a perennial candidate.
● WA-07: The third of three House candidates for whom Bernie Sanders sent out fundraising emails has finally released her April haul, and while state Sen. Pramila Jayapal says she raised quite a bit—$320,000—that was quite a bit less than the numbers reported by Nevada’s Lucy Flores ($481,000) and New York’s Zephyr Teachout ($418,000). There could be many reasons for this, such as the fact that Jayapal is running against several other Democrats to hold a safely blue district while Flores and Teachout are, ultimately, both trying to unseat Republicans (though they have to win primaries first).
The vagaries of Sanders’ fundraising list might also be at play, though you’d expect him to have an active Washington segment (he dominated in the state’s caucuses). Regardless, Jayapal did very well for a single month, which just shows that as the Sanders presidential campaign winds down, he could do a lot of good for the progressive movement by endorsing more candidates further down the ballot.
● Election Data: The Upshot’s Quoctrung Bui has a great new piece on a little-known but seminal site of great importance to election junkies: The Green Papers. Bui’s hook is the site’s rigorous devotion to providing the most accurate delegate counts possible, all done for no money by the site’s two very private founders, Richard Berg-Andersson and Tony Roza. But Green Papers also collects tons of other political information that we rely on regularly, like poll closing times and primary dates.
There are a number of terrific details in Bui’s story, such as the origin of the site’s name: Berg-Andersson and Roza starting tracking delegates at college back in the 1970s, and they’d print their counts on “continuous computer paper with the sprocket edges” and post them on their dorm room door. There’s also a hilarious feature that allows you to view the article in “Green Papers mode,” which alone is worth the click.
● Where Are They Now?: Time flies! Disgraced former GOP Rep. Mike Grimm, who resigned from office in January of last year after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion, was released from prison a week ago and has given his first interview to the press. Grimm won re-election while under indictment in 2014 by portraying himself as the victim of an unjust, politically motivated persecution, a move that played perfectly to the insecurities of the chip-on-the-shoulder voters in his Staten Island-based district. Shortly thereafter, though, he was out of office—but maybe not forever! Grimm says he’s working on a book, and, according to NY1, he “hasn’t ruled out a return to politics.”
● Where Are They Now?: A long-running legal saga reached a dramatic climax Thursday when a federal jury convicted three former Ron Paul aides, including his presidential campaign chair, Jesse Benton, on charges that they secretly paid former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorensen $73,000 to switch his endorsement from Michelle Bachmann to Paul on the eve of the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Benton and his colleagues had concealed the payments by routing them through a video production company, in order to avoid disclosing their skullduggery on Paul’s FEC reports. The trio potentially faces up to 20 years in prison for causing the campaign to file false payment records, as well as lesser sentences on the other related charges.
● Where Are They Now?: Hah! Wealthy Republican businessman Carl Paladino, who unsuccessfully ran for governor as a proto-Trump back in 2010 and is now one of The Donald’s most prominent supporters in New York,nearly lost re-election to his seat on Buffalo’s school board this past week. Paladino only won by 3.6 percent against an 18-year-old high school student, Austin Harig, who had said the board could use an injection of “some adult behavior.” While Harig didn’t prevail, the board did change hands, as voters elected a majority supported by the local teachers union, replacing one that had been hostile to the teachers (the faction Paladino was part of).
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Stephen Wolf.