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.
● Primary Night: My Cleveland Heart: Tuesday brings us special election primaries in Ohio’s 11th and 15th Congressional Districts, two contests that have attracted hefty amounts of outside attention, and we’ll be liveblogging the results! Our live coverage will begin at Daily Kos Elections when polls close at 7:30 PM ET Tuesday night. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates.
The Democratic primary to succeed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge in the 11th District, a majority-Black constituency that stretches from East Cleveland south to Akron, has turned into an expensive duel between former state Sen. Nina Turner and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown; several other candidates are on the ballot, but none of them have raised much money or attracted any serious outside support.
Turner, who was a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate for both of his presidential campaigns, has largely campaigned as a conventional Democrat who supported Barack Obama. Democratic Majority for Israel, which has been the top outside spender in this race by far, and other Turner detractors, though, have hit her on her past criticisms of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Brown, who is endorsed by both Clinton and House Majority Leader Jim Clyburn, has meanwhile framed herself as someone who will aid the administration, while Turner’s side has argued that Brown is being propped up by special interests.
Brown and her supporters have released a pair of polls heading into Election Day showing her closing what was once a sizable gap, though they’ve each found Turner still ahead. Turner has outspent Brown throughout the race, but pro-Brown outside groups have deployed $2.6 million compared to $870,000 for Turner’s allies. The winner should have no trouble in the general election for a seat Biden carried 80-19.
Meanwhile, the Republican primary for the 15th District, a heavily gerrymandered constituency that includes the southern Columbus area as well as Athens, has taken on new urgency following the defeat of a Trump-backed candidate last week in Texas. Trump is supporting coal company lobbyist Mike Carey this time, and his allies are reportedly concerned that a loss, in the words of Politico, “would raise questions about the power of Trump’s endorsement — his most prized political commodity.”
Carey is far from the only candidate who has a big-named backer, though. Former Rep. Steve Stivers, who resigned from this seat to lead the state Chamber of Commerce, is not only supporting state Rep. Jeff LaRe, his old campaign committee is also airing pro-LaRe ads. Protect Freedom PAC, which is run by allies of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has also spent heavily to boost former state Rep. Ron Hood, who is most infamous for a 2019 bill that would have forced doctors who performed an abortion to either face murder charges or “reimplant” an ectopic pregnancy.
State Sen. Bob Peterson is supported by the influential anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life, while golf club owner Tom Hwang has used his personal funds to outspend his rivals. The race also includes several other candidates, including state Sen. Stephanie Kunze and former Center for Christian Virtue staffer Ruth Edmonds, and there have been no publicly released polls in over a month. The winner will be the favorite against state Rep. Allison Russo, who has only an underfunded Democratic primary rival, in this 56-42 Trump seat.
We also have two important races to the west in Washington, though they’re not on our live blog agenda Tuesday. The deadline for ballots to be deposited at a drop box for these mail-in races is 11 PM ET/8 PM local time and votes will start to be tabulated shortly afterwards, though ballots postmarked on election day may still be received afterwards.
There’s a crowded nonpartisan top-two primary for mayor of Seattle to succeed retiring incumbent Jenny Durkan; the frontrunners to advance look like City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, who has almost all the labor endorsements, and former City Council President Bruce Harrell, who is closer to business groups. Also in the hunt are former nonprofit head Colleen Echohawk, former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, ex-Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller, and architect Andrew Grant Houston.
The race for executive of King County, which includes Seattle and several of its suburbs, pits three-term incumbent Dow Constantine against his fellow Democrat, state Sen. Joe Nguyen. There’s little question that Constantine and Nguyen will both reach the November general election (in Washington, candidates cannot avert a second round of voting by winning a majority of the vote), but Tuesday’s results will give us an indication of whether or not Constantine is vulnerable in the fall.
● AK-Sen: Right Wing Watch posted video over the weekend of former reality TV star Sarah Palin publicly expressing interest in challenging her fellow Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, declaring, “If God wants me to do it I will.” Palin made her comments to New Apostolic Reformation leader Ché Ahn, a pastor who addressed a pro-Trump rally just ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and proclaimed, “I believe that this week we’re going to throw Jezebel out and Jehu’s gonna rise up, and we’re gonna rule and reign through President Trump and under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Palin, who rapped “Baby Got Back” dressed as a bear in a 2020 episode of The Masked Singer, also threw in a dig at Trump’s endorsed candidate, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. However, Palin’s claim that she’s “never heard” of Tshibaka may say far more about the would-be daytime TV judge than it does about her would-be opponent in next year’s top-four primary. Palin famously and abruptly resigned as governor of Alaska in 2009, and she’s had little involvement with state politics since then.
We’re not the only ones who seem to be in disbelief that 12 whole years has passed since Palin left office, though, as she seems to still be fixated on those bygone days when she was one of the most powerful names in Republican politics. “I would say you guys better be there for me this time, because a lot of people were not there for me last time,” Palin told her audience in reference to her 2008 vice presidential bid.
Palin continued her trip down memory lane by arguing that, after her defeat, Democrats tried to bury her with unwarranted lawsuits. She insisted, “[T]he Obama administration, man, they sent their flying monkeys, they did. You call people flying monkeys if they’re the ones doing the bidding of someone else to try and clobber you.” She went on to defend her decision to leave the governorship the next year, insisting, “There’s a difference between quitting and saying enough is enough.”
● IA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne took her name out of contention on Monday when she announced that she was endorsing former Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s campaign against Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley. Axne’s decision almost certainly ensures that Finkenauer will remain the heavy favorite to win the primary ahead of what will be a very tough general election, though it’s still possible other Democrats will run.
Axne has also been considering running against Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds for months, and she did not say anything new about that campaign on Monday.
● OH-Gov: Rep. Warren Davidson on Friday reiterated his interest in challenging Gov. Mike DeWine in next year’s Republican primary for the first time in months, and the congressman added that he hoped to decide in September.
Davidson, who won the 2016 special election to succeed ex-Speaker John Boehner in the House, has been a dependable ally of the far-right, though he hasn’t generated nearly as much attention as many of his compatriots over the ensuing five years. Still, Davidson does have at least one powerful friend: A spokesperson for Rep. Jim Jordan, who represents a neighboring Ohio seat, said, “If Mr. Davidson ran for governor, I think Mr. Jordan would definitely support him.”
If Davidson does run, he’d start out at a big financial disadvantage against DeWine, who raised $3 million in the first half of 2021 and ended June with $6.5 million on-hand. The governor does currently face an intra-party challenge from one of Davidson’s former House colleagues, 2018 Senate nominee Jim Renacci, but as we previously noted, Renacci took in just $22,000 from donors. (He also self-funded $1 million, but it’s far from guaranteed he’ll actually put it to use.) That’s even well behind the $260,000 brought in by cattle rancher Joe Blystone, whom we hadn’t previously mentioned.
On the Democratic side, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley outpaced Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley $1.6 million to $1.1 million during the first six months of 2021, and she ended with a small $1.4 million to $1.3 million cash-on-hand edge.
● AZ-06: Insurance executive Elijah Norton has announced that he will challenge Rep. David Schweikert, whom he said was only in Congress to “serve himself,” in next year’s Republican primary.
Norton kicked off his bid by attacking the ethics of the incumbent, who last year agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, accept a formal reprimand, and admit to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude its two-year-long investigation. “First and foremost, he wasted taxpayer dollars and that was part of the report,” said the challenger, adding, “I think it’s interesting that a ‘math geek’ lied on (a Federal Elections Commission) report.”
This isn’t the first time Schweikert has been attacked over this matter, but it was far from enough to sink him in 2020. Last year the congressman faced a serious Democratic challenge from Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, who worked hard to portray him as untrustworthy. However, while Schweikert’s 52-48 victory marked the closest general election of his career, he still matched Donald Trump’s 51-47 showing in this seat, which includes Scottsdale and North Phoenix.
Norton himself may also be vulnerable when it comes to ethics. The Arizona Republic‘s Ronald Hansen wrote back in May that he left as president of the company CarGuard Administration in 2020 “ahead of a class-action lawsuit filed against the company and others claiming it had made numerous calls to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.” Schweikert’s campaign already went after Norton’s departure from CarGuard that month, which brought a furious response from the company’s current leadership.
Schweikert hauled in $165,000 during the second quarter of 2021 and ended June with $245,000 on-hand, which isn’t an especially intimidating number for an incumbent. However, while Hansen describes Norton as wealthy, it remains to be seen if has the connections and personal resources to run a serious campaign.
Redistricting is particularly unpredictable in Arizona, so it’s also far from certain if the new version of this seat will be a viable target for Team Blue next year. The only notable Democrat who has announced so far is Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight race last year for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors: Hodge took in $125,000 during his opening quarter, and he had $65,000 on-hand on June 30.
● FL-15: Former Democratic state Rep. Adam Hattersley said last week that he was considering another bid for the House but wanted to see how redistricting would impact the 15th District. Hattersley campaigned for the current version of this seat, which includes Lakeland and the exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, in 2020, but he struggled to raise money and lost the primary 41-33 to former TV anchor Alan Cohn. Hattersley subsequently did not endorse Cohn in the general election, a campaign the Democrat lost 55-45 to Republican Scott Franklin.
● FL-20: Progressive pollster Data For Progress conducted an early July survey of the November Democratic primary that found Dale Holness edging out fellow Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief 17-14. The only other contender who took double digits in the crowded field for this safely blue seat was state Rep. Omari Hardy, who was in third with 10%.
● Boston, MA Mayor: Most of the major candidates competing in the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary have a super PAC on their side, but so far, only one has spent much on commercials. Better Boston, which the Boston Globe says is heavily funded by “wealthy charter school supporters,” has deployed close to $800,000 so far on commercials supporting City Councilor Andrea Campbell.
More outside spending could be coming soon, however. The Hospitality Workers Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee, which is backing Acting Mayor Kim Janey, had $480,000 on-hand in mid-July. Two other organizations, one supporting Annissa Essaibi George and one that appears to be for fellow City Councilor Michelle Wu, have not yet reported raising any cash, though that could change as the election draws closer.
● Cleveland, OH Mayor: Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich has considerably more national name recognition than any of his rivals in the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary, but the one-time mayor ended June at a big financial disadvantage. Kucinich, who opened a campaign committee in December but only announced in mid-June, raised $38,000 and had a similar $37,000 on-hand.
The candidate with the largest war chest by far is City Council President Kevin Kelley, who took in $213,000 and had $537,000 in the bank. Kucinich and Kelley are the only major white candidates in the race to lead this majority-Black city, and Cleveland.com’s Seth Richardson has suggested that the two would end up “going after each other’s base of supporters,” which could prevent either of them from advancing to the November general election.
The contender who raised the most in the first half of the year was City Councilman Basheer Jones, who hauled in $367,000 and had $329,000 available. Nonprofit executive Justin Bibb also outpaced Kelley by raising $241,000, though he had a considerably smaller $208,000 war chest. Former Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed, who lost the 2017 mayoral race, took in $136,000 for his new campaign and ended June with only $35,000 in the bank.
Finally, state Sen. Sandra Williams raised only $96,000 from donors but transferred another $116,000 from her legislative campaign account, which left her with $94,000 on-hand. Williams later made charitable donations of $24,000 for contributions she’d received from people connected to the disgraced utility giant FirstEnergy.
Williams also received unflattering press coverage last week when Cleveland.com reported she’d been referenced in “the recent agreement FirstEnergy Corp. signed with federal authorities to avoid prosecution in the House Bill 6 bribery investigation.” The documents noted that the legislator identified as Williams had sponsored an amendment to the bill favorable to FirstEnergy, though she has not been accused of any wrongdoing.