A Republican worse than Boebert? Colorado Democrats think they’ve found one

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Leading Off

● CO-03: A Democratic group is now meddling in next month’s GOP primary in the hopes of helping underfunded election denier Ron Hanks secure the nomination for Colorado’s 3rd District―a maneuver that comes two years after Democrats spent more than $4 million on an unsuccessful attempt to get the very same Republican candidate through a primary for the U.S. Senate.

The Colorado Sun, which first reported the news, says that a super PAC called Rocky Mountain Values has spent at least $84,000 “and counting” to ostensibly attack Hanks, a former state representative.

“Ron Hanks and Donald Trump say they’re going to secure the border,” the ad’s narrator begins before switching to clips of the candidate speaking. “We need to start rounding up people,” says Hanks. “We have to stop the immigration.” The narrator jumps back in to label Hanks “too conservative for Colorado,” which is the very line that Democrats used in their ads in 2022. (The commercials even appear to share the same voice-over artist.)

This new spot doesn’t mention any of Hanks’ five intra-party rivals, who are all running in the June 25 primary to replace far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert, who is running for the more conservative 4th District rather than defending her western Colorado constituency.

However, the PAC has dipped into other mediums to undermine the best-financed contender, attorney Jeff Hurd, who had been waging a challenge against Boebert before she switched districts. One newspaper advertisement highlighted by the Sun questions whether Hurd voted for Trump in the last two presidential elections and featured a quote from the candidate, who told the Denver Post just last month, “I don’t talk about who I vote for.”

While both parties often form new super PACs to make it tougher to tell who’s behind attempts to influence the other side’s primary, Rocky Mountain Values has been active in state Democratic politics for years. Hanks, though, pleaded ignorance when the Sun asked him about the new Democratic effort to select him as their opponent.

“I don’t know who they are,” he said. “I don’t know what their motives are.”

The winner will take on 2022 Democratic nominee Adam Frisch, who lost to Boebert by a shockingly small 546-vote margin two years after Trump carried the 3rd District 53-45. While Boebert’s singular flaws were a major contributor to that close outcome, Hanks might be an even weaker opponent.

Hanks, who badly lost a 2010 congressional bid—in California—to Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson, quickly established himself as a vocal Big Lie proponent and fierce opponent of reproductive rights after he was elected to the Colorado legislature a decade later. He also attended the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., and marched on the Capitol following Trump’s speech, though he claims he did not enter the building. He’s further made it clear he opposes abortion under any circumstances.

But what Hanks has not established himself as, though, is an adequate fundraiser: The former lawmaker ended March with a paltry $6,000 in the bank, a far cry from Hurd’s $528,000 total and Frisch’s eye-popping $5.8 million war chest.


● MN-Sen: Banker Joe Fraser announced Thursday that he’d compete in the Aug. 13 Republican primary against Royce White, a former NBA player and far-right conspiracy theorist who unexpectedly won the state party convention almost two weeks ago. The eventual nominee will be in for an uphill battle against Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has won by at least a 20-point margin in all three of her statewide campaigns.

Minnesota candidates often pledge to, in local parlance, “abide” by the convention endorsement and end their campaigns if someone else wins, and Fraser himself made this promise before Royce’s upset win. Fraser, though, said Thursday he was switching course because of Royce’s “history of questionable conduct and serious charges leveled against him.”

This includes a litany of ugly headlines that have followed Royce since he beat Fraser, such as a recent MSNBC piece titled, “Royce White’s resurfaced remark about women being ‘too mouthy’ shows how MAGA recruits with misogyny.

● NJ-Sen: Indicted Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez reportedly has collected the necessary 800 voter signatures ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to appear on November’s ballot as an independent, according to NBC. New Jersey holds its party primaries that same day, and Rep. Andy Kim is heavily favored to win the Democratic nomination for Menendez’s Senate seat.

The incumbent’s corruption trial is ongoing, and NBC writes that it’s expected to continue into July or longer. Ostensibly continuing to run would enable the senator to keep raising donor money for his legal defense, and it’s unclear if he would wage an actual campaign to try to beat Kim and the Republican nominee this fall. Any independent who makes the ballot has until Aug. 16 to withdraw their name.

● PA-Sen: The New York Times’ Michael Bender reports that a conservative super PAC called Keystone Renewal has reserved $30 million for TV ads to support Republican Dave McCormick against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, greatly expanding upon the $3.6 million it has already spent. Financial industry billionaires have heavily funded Keystone Renewal to back McCormick, who stepped down as CEO of a major hedge fund before his unsuccessful 2022 Senate campaign.

Bender furthermore reports that Democratic groups have already spent amply, including $8.5 million from Casey and $9 million from his supporters at the DSCC. Both parties have also made large reservations here for the fall.


● ND-Gov, ND-AL: Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed Rep. Kelly Armstrong in the June 11 Republican primary for governor and Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak in the contest to replace Armstrong in North Dakota’s lone House seat.

The few polls that have been released of the former contest have shown Armstrong decisively beating Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, who is retiring Gov. Doug Burgum’s preferred choice. Trump’s decision to reject Miller comes at a time when Burgum is reportedly a top contender to become the GOP’s vice presidential nominee. However, Trump did describe the governor as “my friend” in a separate endorsement message noting their mutual support for Fedorchak.

The House race, by contrast, lacked a clear frontrunner before Thursday. A pair of polls conducted earlier this month found a competitive race between the public service commissioner and former state Rep. Rick Becker, with former State Department official Alex Balazs and former Miss America Cara Mund further behind. However, many Republicans were undecided in those surveys, and Trump’s endorsement could tip them toward Fedorchak.

● WV-Gov: Retiring Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Ty McClung on Wednesday that he would not make a late entry into the race for governor and that he’s continuing to support Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, the Democratic nominee who faces a very uphill race against Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in what has become a very red state.

Manchin’s announcement follows a May 20 report from MetroNews’ Brad McElhinny that Republicans seeking a moderate alternative to the far-right Morrisey were encouraging Manchin to join the race, something he didn’t fully rule out later that same day. Manchin likely would be the strongest candidate for Democrats thanks to his record of winning several statewide races, but Williams would have to withdraw from the race by Aug. 13 for the senator to replace him as the Democratic nominee.

While Manchin’s latest announcement appears definitive, he’s spent the last year and a half keeping everyone in suspense about what he might run for in 2024. As recently as March, he didn’t rule out seeking reelection as an independent despite announcing his retirement last fall, and that option remains open to him until Aug. 1. Consequently, we may not know for sure what he’ll do until the deadlines pass.


● LA-05: The Republican pollster Victory Insights, which tells Daily Kos Elections it has no client, shows Rep. Garret Graves leading fellow Republican incumbent Julia Letlow 38-35 in a hypothetical Nov. 5 all-party primary matchup for the safely red 5th District, with Green Party candidate Rivule Sykes at 6%. This is the first survey we’ve seen of a possible battle between Graves, whose 6th District became dark blue under the new map, and Letlow.

This potential contest is difficult to poll, though, and that’s not only because Graves is keeping everyone guessing if he’ll challenge Letlow, defend the 6th District, or do something else. No Democratic candidates appear to have announced bids yet for the 5th, but that may well change ahead of the July 19 filing deadline.

The presence of a Democratic rival could be a problem for Graves’ hopes of making a December runoff, as this survey shows him outpacing Letlow 31-21 among Democrats even as she carries Republicans 55-35. (Unaffiliated voters go for Graves 40-22.) However, it’s also possible that multiple Democrats will file and split the vote too much for any of them to deny either GOP representative a spot in a second round of voting.

● MI-13: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday backed Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Waters’ uphill campaign to deny renomination to freshman Rep. Shri Thanedar in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary. The Motor City is home to just over half of the residents of the safety blue 13th District, which also contains several nearby communities.

Duggan’s move came about a week after Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett determined that former state Sen. Adam Hollier, who was Thanedar’s leading intra-party rival, had failed to collect enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot. (Hollier’s appeal of that decision was rejected by state officials on Thursday.)

Waters used her Thursday event with Duggan to argue that majority-Black Detroit needs an African American member of Congress. (Hollier is also Black, while Thanedar is Indian American.) The last Black person to represent Detroit in the House was Brenda Lawrence, who left office at the start of last year.

Duggan, who is white, also echoed Waters’ argument that Thanedar has done a poor job serving the city. “We need somebody in Congress who fights for us, and right now, I don’t feel like we got any help from our congressperson,” declared the mayor.

Waters ended March with just $5,000 in the bank, but she predicted Thursday that Duggan’s endorsement will “supercharge” her bid. There’s little question, however, that Thanedar, who had more than $5 million at his disposal thanks largely to self-funding, will continue to hold a huge financial edge.

Waters, who previously served in the state House from 2001 to 2006, also argued that her long history in Detroit politics will help her overcome Thanedar, who only moved to the city from Ann Arbor ahead of his successful 2020 bid for a local state House district.

That history, though, contains some incidents she won’t be eager to see revisited. Waters pled guilty in 2010 to conspiring to bribe an elected official in nearby Southfield and to falsifying a tax return. However, she eventually returned to elected office when she won a citywide seat on the council in 2021.

● VA-10: Former state Education Secretary Atif Qarni has publicized a poll from SurveyMonkey showing him in a close third ahead of the June 18 primary to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton.

Del. Dan Helmer edges out state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam 17-16, with Qarni and former state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn at 12% and 9%, respectively. A 26% plurality is undecided, while the balance is split between eight other candidates.

This is the first poll we’ve seen of this contest in over two months. Qarni’s campaign tells Daily Kos Elections that this survey sampled 792 likely primary voters from May 17 through May 23.

Other Races

● Miami-Dade, FL Elections Supervisor: Attorney Megan Pearl ended her campaign to become the top elections administrator for Florida’s most populous county a month after Donald Trump endorsed her opponent, state Rep. Alina Garcia, in the Aug. 20 GOP primary.

Four Democrats are running including attorney J.C. Planas, who served in the state House as a Republican from 2002 to 2010, and political consultant Willis Howard.

Poll Pile

The Cook Political Report has released more polls jointly conducted by the GOP firm Benenson Strategy Group and the Democratic pollster GS Strategy Group that also include Senate matchups:

  • AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): 46, Kari Lake (R): 41 (45-44 Trump in two-way, 41-37 Trump with third-party candidates)
  • PA-Sen: Bob Casey (D-inc): 49, Dave McCormick (R): 41 (48-45 Trump in two-way, 43-40 Trump with third-party candidates)
  • WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): 49, Eric Hovde (R): 37 (45-45 presidential tie in two-way, 41-41 presidential tie with third-party candidates)

Cook also released polls of Michigan and Nevada, but these tested an “unnamed Republican challenger” against named Democratic foes.

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