The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● NY-Gov: What to make of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fundraising haul for the first half of the year? On the one hand, the fact that donors—led by wealthy businessmen—gave him $2.5 million over the last six months shows he’s not the complete pariah that you might expect a sitting governor beset by multiple scandals to be.
On the other hand, as Politico notes, that $2.5 million take is “one of the smallest totals” Cuomo’s ever reported—and he’s always been extremely good at raking in the big bucks from moneyed interests. By contrast, for instance, Cuomo pulled in double during the same time period four years ago ($5.1 million) and even more than that in 2013 ($6.2 million).
But on the third hand (things are always complicated when it comes to Cuomo), he still has a formidable $18.5 million war chest. Again, that’s about $8 million to $10 million less than what he had on-hand at comparable points during his last two re-election campaigns, but it’s also far more than anyone else has stockpiled: Cuomo’s best-funded Republican opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, reported raising $4 million and has $3 million in the bank, for instance.
And the governor’s best-funded Democratic challenger has, well, nothin’. Despite a lot of speculation months ago, and even a few not-ruling-it-out comments, no notable Democrats have sought to take on Cuomo (who, it sure seems, still plans on seeking a fourth term). It’s possible that could change once the biggest would-be name, state Attorney General Tish James, wraps up her investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Cuomo—and with Cuomo himself being questioned on Saturday, it’s possible such a day isn’t far off.
But there’s no telling whether James—or anyone else—is actually interested. Cuomo may just survive by pulling a Northam and running out the clock. Of course, a bombshell report from James’ investigators could change the calculus for everyone, but Cuomo might just shrug it off like he has everything else.
● WI-Sen: Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who has been talking about running for the Senate for months, has a “big announcement” set for Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press wrote days ago that Barnes is “preparing to enter” the primary to take on Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, who is still keeping everyone guessing about his 2022 plans.
● AR-Gov: State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge kicked off her bid a year ago likely hoping that her early launch would put her in a strong place heading into the 2022 Republican primary, but former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has instead been utterly dominating the fundraising race. Sanders, who picked up Donald Trump’s endorsement soon after she launched her campaign in January, raised $3.7 million during the second quarter for the primary, and she ended June with $4.8 million on-hand.
Rutledge, by contrast, hauled in just $155,000 for the primary during this time and, despite her months-long head start, had a far smaller $765,000 war chest. (Sanders additionally leads Rutledge $1.42 million to $383,000 in cash that could be used in the general election.) Either Sanders, who is the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, or Rutledge would be the first woman to serve as governor.
Arkansas Democrats were the dominant party in Arkansas until about a decade ago, but the state’s massive down ballot swing to the right means that the GOP nominee will be incredibly difficult to beat. Still, physicist Chris Jones raised a notable $583,000 for the primary in the two weeks since he entered the Democratic primary with an announcement video that quickly went viral, and he ended June with $535,000 on-hand. Jones, who would be Arkansas’ first Black chief executive, faces three intra-party foes, but none of them had more than $15,000 to spend.
P.S. Another Republican, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, had announced a bid for governor during the summer of 2019 only to switch to the attorney general race soon after Sanders got in. That decision seems to be working out well for him, as Griffin currently only has an under-funded primary opponent in his new contest.
● MA-Gov: While Republican incumbent Charlie Baker’s underwhelming fundraising led plenty of Bay State politicos to speculate that he was leaning against running for re-election, the governor has a major fundraiser planned for later this summer. (The gathering was originally set for Aug. 20 but canceled Friday after University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan, a former Democratic congressman, was mistakenly listed as part of the host committee; a new event will be scheduled later.) Baker has not yet said if he’ll seek a third term, though one unnamed “inside source” mused to the Boston Herald, “He wouldn’t be going if he wasn’t running.”
● ME-Gov: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills reported raising $575,000 in the first six months of the year. Mills also reported $377,000 in the bank ahead of her re-election effort next year. Her expected GOP opponent, former Gov. Paul LePage, just kicked off his bid in July, so he hasn’t released any fundraising figures yet.
● VA-Gov: Campaign accounts are in from May 28 to June 30 (the Democratic primary was June 8) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe outraised Republican Glenn Youngkin, who did not do any self-funding during this time, $7.5 million to $3.6 million. McAuliffe ended last month with a wide $9 million to $2.6 million cash-on-hand edge, though it would be a surprise if the wealthy Youngkin doesn’t refill his coffers before long.
● CA-21: Angel Lara, who is a former aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, announced Thursday that he’d campaign as a Democrat against Republican Rep. David Valadao. The incumbent, who infuriated his fellow Republicans when he voted to impeach Donald Trump in January, already faced several opponents from both parties ahead of the top-two primary, but none of them so far have brought in much money from donors.
Chad Myers, a former Fresno city councilman who recently returned to the Central Valley after a pair of failed bids for office in New Mexico, had $200,000 on-hand at the end of June thanks almost entirely to self-funding. On the Democratic side, former Assemblywoman Nicole Parra and Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio had $54,000 and $33,000 to spend, respectively. Valadao, for his part, has an $820,000 war chest.
The current version of this seat backed Joe Biden 54-44, but Valadao regained his old spot in Congress last year by narrowly winning his rematch against Democratic incumbent TJ Cox. Cox said in April that, while he was considering another bout with Valadao, he wouldn’t make a decision until the state’s independent redistricting commission finishes its task, which it currently doesn’t have to do until the end of the year.
● FL-20: We have our first fundraising reports from all the notable candidates running in the November Democratic primary to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, and one self-funder enjoys a huge cash lead over the rest of the field in this safely blue South Florida seat. We hadn’t before mentioned Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who lost the 2018 and 2020 primaries to Hastings by margins of 74-26 and 69-31, respectively, but she surprised us by loaning her new campaign $2.3 million.
Cherfilus-McCormick, who is the CEO of a home health care company, had self-funded a considerably smaller $50,000 during her latter campaign, and there was little indication before now that she was willing and able to pour this much into her open seat bid. The candidate also raised just under $100,000 from donors this year, which was still far more than she brought in during her last two runs, and she ended June with $2.1 million on-hand.
The candidate who brought in the most money without self-funding was Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, who took in $305,000 and had $270,000 in the bank. Next up with $225,000 raised was state Rep. Bobby DuBose, who had $205,000 available to spend.
Further back was state Sen. Perry Thurston, who raised $180,000 and loaned himself another $100,000, which allowed him to end June with $250,000 on-hand. State Rep. Omari Hardy, meanwhile, took in $95,000 and had $70,000 in the bank.
Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, who launched a bid against Hastings before he died in April, raised only $55,000 from donors but loaned herself another $130,000, which left her with $155,000 on-hand. Finally, former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who announced in June, brought in about $25,000 and had $20,000 to spend.
The filing deadline is Aug. 10, so it’s possible that the field will still expand. The winner of the November primary should have no trouble in the January general election.
● IA-03, IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne recently told KCCI that she was still considering a run for statewide office, though she sounded like she’d prefer to remain in the House. “This is one of the five majority maker seats, one of the most important seats in the entire country to your point,” said Axne, adding, “I hope to continue to hold it.” Republicans, though, have the power to make this very competitive Des Moines-area seat considerably more conservative, however, so a statewide campaign may very well look more enticing after redistricting is finished.
Stewart, who is 27, was elected to the state House in 2016 by beating a Democratic incumbent, and he won a promotion to the upper chamber last year after he defeated another sitting Democrat. The state senator, unlike most prominent Republicans, expressed his support for an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, though he still took issue with Golden’s vote to impeach Trump afterwards.
● OH-11: Former state Rep. Nina Turner is up with her first negative commercial weeks ahead of the Aug. 3 Democratic primary. The narrator declares that Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown “voted to give more than $32 million in taxpayer contracts to a company connected to her boyfriend and family,” and he also says that Brown voted in favor of granting herself a $7,000 pay raise.
Turner is also airing a positive piece where she says, “It’s time to make the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share and reduce income inequality.”
● PA-06: While businessman Steve Fanelli only announced his campaign for the Republican nomination on Wednesday, he self-funded $645,000 in June for his bid against Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan. The current version of this suburban Philadelphia seat, which is based in Chester County, backed Joe Biden by a wide 57-42 margin.
● PA-07: Businessman Kevin Dellicker, who is a veteran of Army and Air national guards, said Thursday that he would seek the GOP nod to face Democratic Rep. Susan Wild in this competitive Lehigh Valley seat. Dellicker, unlike most Republicans, avoided mentioning Donald Trump in his kickoff, and he also sounded some very unTrumpy notes when he declared, “The best leaders didn’t come in and rile us up and get us upset. They calmed us down, they gave us the proper perspective and they helped us to focus and do our job.” Dellicker joins 2020 nominee Lisa Scheller in the primary.
● TX-06: State Rep. Jake Ellzey very much looks like the underdog against party activist Susan Wright ahead of the all-GOP July 27 general election, but he at least enjoys a huge fundraising edge over his Trump-endorsed opponent.
Ellzey outraised Wright $1.2 million to $450,000 from April 12 to July 7 and outspent her $1.1 million to $335,000, and the state representative went into the final weeks with a $485,000 to $165,000 cash-on-hand lead. Wright, though, has benefited from $835,000 in outside spending for the second round of voting, with the vast majority coming from the radical anti-tax Club for Growth, while Elect Principled Veterans Fund has accounted for most of the $155,000 deployed for Ellzey.
● TX-30: Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson indicated two years ago that her 2020 campaign would be her last, and while she has yet to confirm if she’ll stick to that plan, the $0.00 she raised over the last three months strongly hints that the 85-year-old incumbent won’t be seeking a 16th term. This seat will almost certainly remain a safely blue Dallas-based district following redistricting, and there are many fellow Democrats who could run if Johnson retires.
● VA-05: Lewis Combs stepped down this month as a prosecutor in Charlottesville to announce a bid for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Bob Good. The present incarnation of this seat, which stretches from the Charlottesville area to the far more conservative south-central part of Virginia, supported Trump 54-45, though no one knows what will happen after the commonwealth’s new bipartisan redistricting commission completes its task.
● VA-07: Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves recently told the Daily Progress that he was thinking about challenging Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.
Reeves won his seat by unseating a Democratic incumbent by 226 votes right after the 2011 round of redistricting, a tight win that flipped control of the chamber to the GOP. He then sought a promotion in 2017 when he ran for lieutenant governor, but he lost a truly ugly primary to fellow state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel 43-40.
Another state senator, 2021 gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase, also isn’t ruling out a congressional campaign, but the self-described “Trump in heels” doesn’t sound excited about the idea. Chase, who lost the May party convention for the state’s top job, told the paper, “I’m not even really thinking about it right now.”
● Jerry Lewis, Republican former congressman from California: Lewis, who represented turf in Riverside and San Bernardino counties from 1979 through 2013, died Thursday at the age of 86. Lewis rose to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee but he could have been more influential still, as he was briefly a leading contender in the 1989 race for minority whip that ended up propelling Newt Gingrich to the speakership.
Lewis, who got his start on the San Bernardino School Board and in the state Assembly, sought an open House seat, the 37th District, in 1978 and won the primary 55-15. Lewis won the general 61-35 and never had to worry about re-election, and he would develop a reputation as a strong fundraiser and formidable TV presence during his first decade in Congress.
Lewis was the chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-highest post in the GOP leadership, when Minority Whip Dick Cheney left to become George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense in 1989. A number of congressmen, including Gingrich, were eyeing the race to succeed Cheney, and as historian Julian Zelizer wrote in his 2020 book “Burning Down the House,” the well-connected Lewis originally appeared to be the frontrunner. Lewis, who was skilled at working with Democrats, was also regarded as a moderate on issues like abortion, which wasn’t yet a liability in a caucus long led by the genial Illinois Rep. Robert Michel.
Michel, though, privately supported his home state colleague, Edward Madigan, over Lewis. The far more partisan Gingrich got in as well, but he appeared to suffer a huge setback when Lewis announced he was ending his campaign. It looked like Lewis’ departure would allow Madigan to consolidate the vote of leadership-friendly members but Gingrich pressed on: Lewis ultimately presided over the caucus meeting where Gingrich beat Madigan 87-85.
Lewis never ascended to the top of the House leadership but was still an influential figure, and he proved to be extremely adept at securing federal money for his Inland Empire constituency. The Justice Department investigated allegations that the congressman, who chaired the appropriations committee from 2005 to 2007, had directed federal projects towards friends, but the probe ended in 2010 without any charges. Lewis, though, got some bad news afterwards when his colleagues voted against granting him the term limits waiver he needed to become chairman again for what would prove to be his final two years in Congress.
● Where Are They Now?: President Joe Biden announced Friday that he was nominating former New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat who retired in January after two terms, to serve as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. The last appointee to this post was former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, a Republican who left late last year and now heads a band called “Scott Brown and the Diplomats.”