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.
● WI-Sen: Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes announced Tuesday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Ron Johnson ahead of what will be one of the top 2022 contests in the nation. Barnes, who would be the Badger State’s first Black senator, will also need to get through what’s shaping up to be an expensive primary to take on Johnson, who insists he’s undecided about running for reelection.
Barnes at 34 is almost half Johnson’s age, but the Democrat has been active in politics for nearly as long as the two-term senator. Barnes arrived in the state assembly after the 2012 elections by decisively unseating an incumbent in a Milwaukee district, but his attempt to reach the state Senate the same way four years later ended badly. Barnes, though, bounced back quickly by winning the 2018 primary for lieutenant governor 68-32, which set him up to be the first Black person elected statewide in decades. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are nominated separately in Wisconsin but run together in the general election, and the ticket of Tony Evers and Barnes went on to narrowly prevail that November.
Barnes joins a crowded primary where one candidate currently enjoys a big fundraising advantage over the rest of the field. Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry outpaced state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski $990,000 to $470,000 during the second quarter of 2021 (Godlewski loaned her campaign an additional $45,000, while Lasry did not do any self-funding this time), and he ended June with a $1 million to $245,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, meanwhile, raised $240,000 and had $405,000 to spend while state Sen. Chris Larson hauled in $50,000 during his first month in the race and had $20,000 in the bank. Nonprofit head Steven Olikara, who set up a campaign account in late May but has not yet entered the race, also took in $60,000 and had $55,000 on-hand.
The biggest question surrounding this race right now, though, is what Johnson will do. The far-right incumbent has been incredibly vocal when it comes to spreading lies about COVID-19 vaccines, global warming, and the Jan. 6 terrorist riot, but he’s keeping everyone guessing about whether or not he’ll be on the ballot next year; Johnson once again said over the weekend that he didn’t even have a timeline to decide.
The senator, though, ramped up his fundraising efforts recently: Johnson hauled in $1.2 million during the second quarter, a big increase from the $520,000 he took in during the previous three months, and he ended last month with $1.7 million on-hand.
● AZ-Sen: Even though termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey ruled out a Senate bid in January and has spent the ensuing months on the receiving end of numerous attacks from Donald Trump, NRSC chair Rick Scott said this week that Republicans still “have a shot” at recruiting him. Ducey himself has not given any obvious indication that he’s even open to reversing his plan not to challenge Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly.
● GA-Sen: Read into this what you will: Former Sen. David Perdue met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday and ignored questions from CNN reporter Manu Raju asking if he would run again. Perdue had considered challenging Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock earlier this year, but he took his name out of contention in February.
● MD-Sen: NRSC chair Rick Scott said this week that “there’s a chance” termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan runs against Democratic incumbent Chris Van Hollen, which may come as news to Hogan. The governor told Washingtonian last month that, while he believed he’d decisively beat Van Hollen if he got in, “I just don’t have a desire to be in the Senate.”
● PA-Sen: The Keystone State is arguably Team Red’s most vulnerable Senate seat next year, so it came as a surprise that the Republican who raised the most money from donors during the second quarter was someone who looks like a pretty minor figure in GOP politics. Nonetheless, author Kathy Barnette, whom we hadn’t previously mentioned, outpaced Army veteran Sean Parnell $590,000 to $525,000, though Parnell ended June with a $595,000 to $475,000 cash-on-hand lead.
Both Parnell and Barnette unsuccessfully ran for the House last year, but only Parnell attracted much attention. Parnell raised a serious amount for his campaign against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb in the suburban Pittsburgh-area 17th District and ended up holding the incumbent to a surprisingly close 51-49 win. Barnette, by contrast, took on Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean in the safely blue 4th District, which is based in Montgomery County at the other side of the commonwealth, and predictably lost 60-40.
Barnette, like her idol Donald Trump, refused to accept her defeat, and she declared on election night, “All plans of the enemy will be thwarted.” She later attended the Trump rally that took place just before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, though her team says she didn’t take part in the riots. Barnette launched her new Senate campaign in April, saying, “We’re told Black lives matter, except of course my Black life, because I’m a Black conservative.”
The GOP contender with by far the most money at the end of last month, though, wasn’t either Parnell or Barnette. That honor instead goes to 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos, who took in $560,000 from donors but self-funded an additional $445,000 and had $1.9 million in the bank. Two other Republicans we’d previously mentioned, attorney Sean Gale and businessman Everett Stern, reinforced their Some Dude statuses by each having less than $10,000 on-hand. Another GOP contender, former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, announced her bid earlier this month after the new quarter began.
On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman outraised Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh $2.5 million to $1 million during her opening quarter, and he enjoyed a huge $3.1 million to $630,000 cash-on-hand lead. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was further behind with $500,000 raised and $280,000 in the bank, while Pennsylvania Hospital Chief of Emergency Services Kevin Baumlin brought in $380,000 and had $125,000 to spend. State Sen. Sharif Street, who is still in exploratory mode, took in just $245,000 and had $190,000 on-hand.
Finally there’s Lamb, whom many Democrats are convinced will run for the Senate but has not yet revealed his 2022 plans. Lamb hauled in $980,000 for his House campaign and had $1.8 million in the bank that he can use to campaign for either chamber.
● IL-Gov: On Monday, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis responded to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement that he’d seek reelection by publicly expressing interest in taking him on. Davis made the dubious prediction that any Republican would beat the incumbent and added that “if I choose to make a race, I don’t get in it to lose.”
Democrats will once again be in charge of redistricting in Illinois, which will lose a House seat under the new map, and Davis may prefer to take his chances statewide rather than run in a transformed district.
Crane, whose idea for making bottle openers out of .50-caliber shells was well-received on a 2014 episode of the “Shark Tank,” joins state Rep. Walt Blackman in the primary, but Crane’s fellow military veteran won’t start out with much of a financial edge. Blackman raised just over $105,000 during the second quarter of 2021, and he ended June with $80,000 in the bank. O’Halleran, for his part, took in $365,000 and had $615,000 on-hand.
● FL-13: Former lobbyist Amanda Makki confirmed Tuesday that she would once again campaign for the Republican nomination for this St. Petersburg-based seat, which Democratic incumbent Charlie Crist is giving up to run for governor again. Makki will face a primary rematch against Anna Paulina Luna, who defeated her 36-28 last year before losing to Crist, and their second bout has already gotten incredibly ugly.
Last month, Luna obtained a restraining order against another opponent named William Braddock, claiming that Braddock and two other potential rivals, Matt Tito and Makki, were conspiring to murder her to prevent her from winning next year’s election. Politico obtained a recording a short time later of Braddock threatening to kill Luna, and he exited the race soon after. Both Makki and Tito, though, have angrily denied any involvement, and no publicly available evidence has linked either of them to Braddock.
● GA-10: Retired Air Force Col. Alan Sims announced this week that he was joining the crowded Republican primary for this safely red open seat in the east-central part of the state. Meanwhile another contender, businessman Mike Collins, received an endorsement from former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich and Collins’ late father, former Rep. Mac Collins, served together in the state’s congressional delegation until the speaker’s 1998 resignation, and Gingrich supported the younger Collins’ failed 2014 run.
● NH-01: Former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt announced Monday that she would seek the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas. Leavitt, who is 23 but will turn 25 in time for Election Day, is a former employee at WMUR, so she naturally kicked off her bid by attacking what she called the “biased fake news media.” The current version of this seat backed Joe Biden 52-46, but the GOP-dominated state government has the power to make it far more hostile for Pappas.
● OH-11: The National Journal reports that Democratic Action PAC, a group that was formed last year to aid former state Sen. Nina Turner, is spending at least $200,000 on a commercial defending Turner and attacking Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown ahead of the Aug. 3 Democratic primary.
The narrator, without repeating the attacks against Turner, declares that she’s being smeared by “Brown and her special interest groups.” The ad continues by saying Turner’s foes “are straight up attacking a Black woman who has only ever help working people,” (Brown is also Black) and reminds the audience that the ex-state senator has the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s endorsement. The narrator concludes, “Shontel Brown: Girrrlll, you need to stop. And we need to vote for Nina Turner.”
The Huffington Post also reports that another pro-Turner group, the Working Families Party, is spending $150,000 on get-out-the-vote efforts.
● TX-24: Texas state Rep. Michelle Beckley, who is in Washington, D.C. with most of her fellow Democratic members in order to stop the GOP legislature from passing a new voter suppression bill, announced Tuesday that she’d challenge Republican Rep. Beth Van Duyne next year.
Beckley won her seat in 2018 by narrowly unseating a GOP incumbent in a rapidly changing district that began the decade as safely red turf, and she held it last year after another close contest. Republicans, though, still kept their majority in the lower chamber despite a serious Democratic attempt to take control, and they’ve attempted to use their power to pass new voting restriction legislation.
Democratic members managed to thwart Team Red’s plan in June by leaving the session and denying the state House the two-thirds quorum it needed to conduct business. Republicans soon announced they’d hold a special legislative session, which Beckley and most other Democratic members decided to boycott. This time, though, they fled the state in order to avoid being arrested and forcibly returned to the state capitol by Texas law enforcement.
Beckley filmed her congressional announcement video from her hotel room in D.C., where the caucus has been meeting with their national counterparts and raising further awareness of their plight. The state representative went after Van Duyne for objecting to Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania, saying, “Beth Van Duyne can walk away from her duty to defend democracy, but not me.” She concluded by referencing the most famous Texas Democrat in modern times, declaring, “LBJ said, ‘we do not choose to be the guardians of the gate, but there is no one else but us. Join me.”
The current version of Van Duyne’s 24th Congressional District, which is located in the northern Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, swung from 51-44 Trump to 52-46 Biden, but GOP mapmakers will have the chance to pass a new gerrymander to protect her for 2022. The only other notable Democratic candidate so far is Marine veteran Derrik Gay, who launched his campaign earlier this month.
● Albuquerque, NM Mayor: A Monday administration hearing upheld the city clerk’s decision to deny Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales about $660,000 in public funds, and Gonzales quickly announced that he’d challenge his rejection in state court. The sheriff is running against Mayor Tim Keller, a fellow Democrat, from the right in the November nonpartisan contest.
Clerk Ethan Watson said earlier this month that he was denying Gonzales public money because of two ethics investigations concerning his campaign submitted by Keller’s camp. One included testimony from a voter who claimed that the sheriff’s team told him that he didn’t need to actually provide the $5 donation that would help Gonzales qualify for the program, and that the campaign would instead pay it. The other complaint alleged that about 150 voter signatures for contributions to Gonzales’ did not actually match those people’s signatures, an effort Keller’s camp said involved two senior Gonzales staffers.
Gonzales’ team, as the Albuquerque Journal‘s Jessica Dyer writes, has “confirmed that it turned in forged documentation,” but insisted Monday that “forgeries are typical in campaigns and that the sheriff was not responsible for them.” Administrative officer Ripley Harwood, though, was unswayed by the challenger’s arguments, saying, “I reject the corollary notion that some level of fraud and falsification is tolerable or OK.” Harwood added, “In my view, the Clerk has the right and the duty to deny participating candidate certification whenever fraud or falsification is discovered, without the need to first quantify it.”
● Nassau County, NY District Attorney: On Monday, the Nassau County GOP chose prosecutor Anne Donnelly as the party’s nominee in this November’s special election. Donnelly will go up against state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (a nephew of none other than the legendary comedian Mel Brooks), who is campaigning to hold this post for Team Blue.