In this edition: A May 17 primary rundown, a big-D Democratic debacle in New York, and a campaign ad that goes after a MAGA candidate for supporting former president Donald Trump.
It's Tuesday. People are voting in primary elections. Here's what to watch.
See? They don't all need to have long introductions.
6 p.m. Polls close in the eastern half of Kentucky, including Louisville, where two Democrats are battling to replace Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) in the 3rd Congressional District. The eight-term congressman has endorsed state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, who shares his views on most party priorities, like support for Medicare-for-all. State Rep. Attica Scott differed very little with McGarvey issue-to-issue; when she did, she took a position to his left.
But Scott, whose parents named her after the 1971 prison rebellion in New York, didn't attract the same money and attention as other left-wing challengers on today's ballots. At the end of April, she'd raised less than $240,000 for her campaign, compared to more than $1.5 million for McGarvey, and the minority leader got $1 million of unexpected aid from Protect Our Future, the PAC funded by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried — a major player today in a number of races. Seven Republicans are competing for their party's nomination, but the district has been trending toward Democrats, and President Biden carried it by 21 points.
7:30 p.m. Some of the day's priciest intraparty battles will wrap up in North Carolina, where Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) is now heavily favored to win the GOP's U.S. Senate nomination to succeed Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). After a slow start, Budd has led in every recent poll against ex-governor Pat McCrory. The Club for Growth helped with that, starting its $3 million ad buy more than six months ago, and highlighting Trump's endorsement of Budd while stretching to try to portray McCrory as an anti-Trump liberal. The most dishonest ad used a clip of McCrory, as a radio talk show pundit, urging Trump to get out of Biden's way and let the Democrat make mistakes. That was truncated to make it sound like McCrory wanted Biden to defeat Trump.
Twelve other Republicans are on the ballot, including ex-Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who got no traction and briefly considered quitting the race. To avoid a runoff, the winner needs to clear 30 percent of the vote. That's a crucial factor in some competitive House primaries, like the one unfolding in the 11th Congressional District, where Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has been stumbling from scandal to scandal since he claimed with no evidence that colleagues were inviting him to lurid drug and sex parties.
Even before that controversy, Cawthorn was hurting himself. When the GOP legislature in Raleigh drew new maps last year, Cawthorn announced that he'd run in a new, more safely Republican seat near Charlotte — even though his party knew there was a chance that the state Supreme Court would draw new lines. When it went ahead and did that, Cawthorn zipped back to his Asheville-based district, now facing an array of challengers, led by state Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-N.C.). In campaign ads, Edwards portrayed Cawthorn as a fame-obsessed lightweight, and he got backup from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and other Republicans who wanted the congressman to stop embarrassing them.
Cawthorn significantly outraised the field, but he went into primary day having burned through most of his cash while even Democrats were encouraging their voters to pull a Republican ballot and vote for someone else. Trump reiterated his support for Cawthorn in a rare Truth Social post on Monday, and he's also gotten behind ex-football player Bo Hines in the primary for the new, Republican-leaning 13th Congressional District, where Johnson County attorney Kelly Daughtry has loaned her campaign nearly $3 million and ex-Rep. Renee L. Ellmers is trying to make a comeback on a shoestring budget.
In two open seats, left-wing Democrats are hoping to prevail against a surge of PAC spending — much of it from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its donors. State Sen. Don Davis got that support in the 1st Congressional District, a swing seat in the Black Belt where Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield is retiring; ex-state Sen. Erica Smith has run to his left, endorsing Medicare-for-all and getting support from abortion rights groups and liberals such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Butterfield has endorsed Davis, who's infuriated liberal groups with votes in favor of some Republican-backed abortion bills. Sandy Smith, who lost to Butterfield in 2020, is running again for the GOP nomination, but brighter GOP prospects have pulled more candidates into the race; Sandy Roberson, the mayor of Rocky Mount, has sunk $1 million of his own money into the campaign, and rattled Smith by putting opposition research into her divorce and finances online.
Republicans aren't very relevant in the new 4th Congressional District, which includes the city of Durham; all of the competition is between Democrats. Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam launched her campaign early, picking up the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, who she supported in both of his presidential bids. She narrowly outraised state Sen. Valerie Foushee, but Foushee got nearly $3.5 million in air cover from AIPAC and other groups trying to keep left-wing Democrats out of Congress.
Like we told you last week, there were signs of a backlash from local liberal groups, with one state legislator un-endorsing Foushee to protest the spending. Allam, in an interview with The Trailer, called the ad strategy “Islamophobic,” saying that calling her “radical” had prompted hate mail and threats to a hijab-wearing candidate who'd be the first Muslim elected to Congress from the South.
8 p.m. The most-watched GOP races of the day will wrap up in Pennsylvania, where Republican voters appear to have narrowed down their options for U.S. Senate and governor — candidates personally endorsed Trump, or candidates who claim to represent his MAGA movement. It could become the first state where both Republican nominees for statewide offices were in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, to take part in “Stop the Steal” rally on the day the U.S. Capitol was attacked by a pro-Trump mob.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, running for governor, fits both bills, and the effort to stop him has unfolded like a “Looney Tunes” gag. Mastriano's failed campaign to overturn the 2020 election made him a hero to Pennsylvania's Trump voters. Republican multimillionaire Jeff Yass dumped millions into the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, which spent nearly $8 million promoting Bill McSwain, the ex-U.S. attorney for Philadelphia who clashed noisily with city district attorney Larry Krasner. Despite a promising resume (a Trump appointment, service in the U.S. Marine Corps), McSwain's campaign never caught fire; by last week, Yass was personally asking if he could drop out of the race to help beat Mastriano.
McSwain didn't do it, but other Republicans did. Two quit the race to back ex-Rep. Lou Barletta, who lost the state's 2018 U.S. Senate race by 13 points. Attorney Gen. Josh Shapiro, who has no competition for the Democratic nomination, tipped his hand by putting money behind negative ads that characterized Mastriano as too conservative for Pennsylvania, designed to strengthen him with GOP primary voters.
Republicans are trying to get revenge in the race for lieutenant governor: Shapiro has endorsed western Pennsylvania state Rep. Austin Davis in that primary, but the GOP has spent some money on ads for state Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly-gay member of the state legislature, on the theory that a liberal who once flipped off Mike Pence would weaken the ticket. The GOP's own LG race is a mess, with ex-state Rep. Rick Saccone trying to rebound from his 2018 congressional defeats, veteran Teddy Daniels running almost entirely on memes, and state Rep. Russ Diamond, who once compared vaccine mandates to rape, running on his opposition to covid safety measures.
Democrats haven't meddled in the U.S. Senate primary, where — come on, you know this — losing 2020 congressional candidate Kathy Barnette surged in the final stretch. Trump, who's endorsed Mehmet Oz, recorded a robocall and did a round of last-minute interviews insisting that Barnette couldn't win in November.
“People don’t know her,” Trump said of Barnette in an interview with The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey. “She hasn’t been properly vetted.”
Barnette told Fox News on Monday, that Trump had been misled by bad advisers; polling has put her and Oz in a dead heat with Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO who's reinvented himself as a “Let's go Brandon”-chanting America Firster. Other candidates have gotten away with similar rebrands, but even though McCormick's wife Dina Powell worked in the Trump administration, the ex-president has mocked the candidate as a weakling who begged for his endorsement.
McCormick, Trump said at a rain-soaked western Pennsylvania rally last week, was “going to fold immediately to the radical left Democrats” if he won. Ex-Trump ambassador Carla Sands was never in the hunt for an endorsement, and has stayed in the race despite polling far behind Oz, McCormick, and Barnette.
Democrats expect Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to win his party's U.S. Senate nomination over Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Penn.) and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, even after a stroke kept Fetterman off the trail the final weekend. There's been no polling since the stroke, but public and private polling before it found Fetterman well ahead once he went on TV with ads — and once Lamb went dark.
11 p.m. A few more intraparty battles will be settled in the west, with the far right trying to win breakthroughs in Idaho and the Democratic Party's left battling PAC money — and a presidential endorsement — in Oregon.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little never bothered debating Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who got a Trump endorsement but no other help as she ran one of the most right-wing races anywhere in America. McGeachin spent the campaign's final full week at rallies where the Dinesh D'Souza 2020 election conspiracy theory film “2000 Mules” was screened; before that, she got national attention for signing anti-mask executive orders when the governor was traveling out of state.
The GOP's right flank is more optimistic in the 2nd Congressional District, a rematch between Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and 2014 challenger Bryan Smith. Simpson broke with Republicans challenging to the 2020 election, and voted for last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill — both choices that Smith turned into negative ads, partially funded with $330,000 of his own money.
A six-digit spend would be chump change in Oregon's 6th Congressional District, where more than $10 million from Protect Our Future utterly transformed the Democratic primary. No candidate has matched the spending that Bankman-Fried's PAC did for Carrick Flynn, a first-time candidate focused on pandemic preparedness, but liberal and Latino groups endorsed state Rep. Andrea Salinas to push her above the crowded field — which, as we reported last month, includes two other candidates with cryptocurrency backgrounds, running as outsiders.
In the 5th Congressional District, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) picked up an endorsement from President Biden, despite being one of the House Democrats most opposed to his economic agenda. He's facing Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a liberal who lost a 2018 House race in a safe GOP seat, and a three-way 2020 race for Secretary of State, but who ran strong in the Bend area, which will now cast around a third of the vote in the new seat. As we noted last month, in four of the district's five counties, local Democratic parties have rejected Schrader in favor of McLeod-Skinner.
Republicans have put both of those seats on a list of potential 2022 targets; they are also closely watching the primary for governor, an office they haven't held since Ronald Reagan was president. House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has led the GOP field in spending, betting that the state's Democratic shift won't be enough to overcome anger at rising crime.
“When I'm governor,” Drazan says in one ad, “the days of treating police like criminals and criminals like victims will end.”
Drazan is one of 19 Republicans on the all-mail ballot; the Democratic race is nearly as crowded, with state House Speaker Tina Kotek, who'd be the country's first openly gay female governor, favored over the field.
“Georgia elections board dismisses allegations of ballot harvesting,” by Matthew Brown and Amy Gardner
Two thousand mules, zero mules — what's the difference?
Why Attica Scott's campaign didn't take off.
Bribery, now 32 percent more legal.
“Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary will wrap up a chaotic campaign and chart both parties’ paths forward,” by Jonathan Tamari, Juliana Feliciano Reyes, and Sean Collins Walsh
A comprehensive look at the keystone state's election.
The scramble to stop a surging Black Republican.
“GOP blame game erupts in Pennsylvania governor's race,” by Holly Otterbein and Zach Montellaro
How Doug Mastriano happened.
“Democrats would face upheaval under redrawn New York congressional map,” by Amy B Wang and Colby Itkowitz
What Cuomo hath wrought.
“Living with the far-right insurgency in Idaho,” by Christopher Mathias
The extremist energy behind today's western primary challenges.
“Biden sees a new threat: ‘Ultra MAGA’ Republicans,” by Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer
Hark, a talking point is born.
“The entirely predictable unraveling of Madison Cawthorn,” by Michael Kruse
A politician who lies, but doesn't get away with it.
“Christian nationalism is shaping a Pa. primary — and a GOP shift,” by Michelle Bornstein
The GOP base starts to get what it wants.
New York Democrats expected the worst, and some of them got it. The state's new congressional map, drawn by a special master after the state Supreme Court tossed out the Democratic legislature's version, packs multiple incumbents in the same district, shores up two Republicans who Democrats hoped to unseat this year, and could even complicate the reelection plans of the Democrat tasked with keeping the party's House majority.
Citizens have until the end of Wednesday to offer their comments on the map, and a few details could change when the final decisions are made on Friday. But here's how things stand.
Upper West Side Story. For decades, mapmakers had split Manhattan down the middle, declining to connect both sides of the island like they were drivers planning a commute. The new map changed that by slicing Manhattan horizontally, putting Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), who arrived in the House together 30 years ago, in the same seat.
Both confirmed that they would run where they live, setting up a member-on-member race, and complicating several challengers' designs on the seat. Rana Abdelhamid, an activist who Justice Democrats recruited to challenge Maloney, told City & State NY that she would wait until after the comment period to make a decision on where to run. So did Suraj Patel, a two-time challenger to Maloney who the Abdelhamid campaign had tried to force off the ballot over alleged flaws in his petitions.
The Queen of Staten Island. The map that the court struck down put Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) into a place any Republican would struggle, with MAGA-friendly Staten Island combined with deep blue neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Biden had won that seat, overall, by double digits. But that's over, and the new map adds a less liberal part of Brooklyn to Staten Island, turning the district into one Biden won marginally, where Malliotakis starts out favored.
Iced Out on Long Island. One of the most ambitious — there's a euphemism for you — designs on the Democrats' initial map combined the 3rd Congressional District, which Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.) is vacating to run for governor, with parts of Westchester. That made the district more Democratic, and opened the door to state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a rising star on the party's left. No longer: Biaggi's home isn't in the new district, which is more contained on Long Island, and the nearby 1st Congressional District, which Democrats drew to be winnable, has been changed again into a place Trump won handily.
The Metro North Massacre. The Democrats' map had kept four adjoining districts safe for Democratic incumbents, two of whom had first won them narrowly, and three of whom were Black: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Delgado is exiting the House to become lieutenant governor, and the district he's leaving will be competitive again, after new Democratic precincts were removed from it. Jones now represents most of the 17th Congressional District — but Maloney lives there and announced on Monday that he'll be running there.
That set up one two ugly scenarios for Democrats. Jones, who told Politico that Maloney had not given him a heads up about the district move, could run against the Democrat whose job it is to keep the majority — and who, thanks in part to that job, has bottomless fundraising potential. Jones could, alternatively, challenge Bowman, who was already facing a primary challenge over his left-wing voting record, and who has far less cash on hand.
The upshot? Democrats knew that they'd have fewer safe seats after their map, which contained 22 deep blue districts, was thrown out. They'll now head into August primaries with 15 hard-to-lose seats, and six seats that are genuinely competitive between the parties, with five more that Republicans should win easily.
Doctor Oz for Senate, “David McCormick: RINO.” Mehmet Oz didn't get the same lift from Trump's endorsement that other, lesser-known candidates got. He got something else: A quotable, contemptuous riff about McCormick from Trump at his rally last week, all of which is quoted in this ad. Trump fills the screen, mocking McCormick as a “controlled” candidate who'll do the bidding of “Communist China” and the political establishment in Washington.
Dave McCormick for Senate, “Dina's American Story.” Powell spent just 10 months as Trump's deputy national security adviser for strategy, a job that stopped existing when she left. But it's the focus of this ad for her husband, as Powell — listed her as “Dina McCormick,” dropping the “Powell” — describes an immigrant journey that ended with a job working for Trump. “My husband Dave McCormick believes in that same American promise.”
Honor Pennsylvania, “Extreme Views.” The pro-McCormick PAC moved fast to attack Kathy Barnette once she surged in polls. The angle is took is revealing. This spot accuses Barnette of being soft on crime, citing her book “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain” to claim that she supported a law that “released criminals from prison.” Here's the irony: That law, according to the book, was the First Step Act signed in 2018 by Trump. What was intended as a bipartisan criminal justice reform that Trump could run on, and attack Democrats for never passing, is now a club to hit GOP candidates with.
Democratic Governors Association, “Too Far.” Republican Richard Irvin, the mayor of Aurora, is running for governor with millions of dollars of support from billionaire Ken Griffin. The Democrats' gubernatorial campaign group is combating that by promoting Darren Bailey, a conservative who does not have a billionaire funding him, and is seen as more beatable in November. Like Democrats' other reverse-psychology spots, it accuses Bailey of being “too conservative” to lead Illinois, warning that he would “ban abortion.”
Sheriff Scott Jones for Congress, “Has What It Takes.” Plenty of Republican ads have used footage from 2020 riots to warn of danger if Democrats remain in power. Jones, the sheriff of Sacramento County, Calif., cites both the riots and “open borders” in this spot, emphasizing that he “stood up to BLM” (Black Lives Matter) even after he was protested, personally.
WFP National PAC, “Summer Lee Stands for Us.” The Working Families Party scrambled as PAC money surged into Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, fighting back with this ad that says Lee, its candidate, will work for “higher wages, unions, and jobs.” It's a 50/50 spot, spending half its time attacking attorney Steve Irwin — the beneficiary of the PAC money — as “just another corporate lawyer” who “took money from oil and gas lobbyists.”
McHenry for Congress, “Now.” It's not just challengers in GOP primaries who build their campaigns around Trump. McHenry's reelection spot is all about Trump, noting that “he voted for the Trump agenda more than any other North Carolina congressman.” What's it trying to compensate for? McHenry voted against challenging electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona after Trump lost the last election.
“Please tell me which one candidate you would support to be the Republican nominee for Governor in Michigan.” (Glengariff Group, April 29-May 1, 2022, 500 likely GOP primary voters)
James Craig: 23%
Garrett Soldano: 8%
Kevin Rinke: 6%
Ryan Kelley: 5%
Perry Johnson: 5%
Michael Brown: 2%
Donna Brandenburg: 2%
Tudor Dixon 2%
Ralph Rebandt: 1%
Michigan's GOP primary electorate is devoted to Trump, and follows his cues on candidates and causes. By a 14-point margin, most Republicans say, in this poll, that the 2020 election in Michigan should be overturned. They're much less certain what to do in their race for governor – ex-Detroit Police Chief James Craig has a lead after six months of campaigning, but three-quarters of voters either go for a candidate running to his right, or say they don't know who to vote for.
… seven days until Texas runoffs, primaries in Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, and the special primary in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District
… 25 days until the special House primary in Alaska
… 42 days until the special election in Nebraska's 1st Congressional District
… 58 days until the special election in Texas's 34th Congressional District
… 169 days until the midterm elections