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Morning Digest: Take a look at our roundup of 1Q 2021 fundraising experiences for the Home and Senate

It’s not uncommon for candidates to win primaries or general elections despite being dramatically outspent. But what is uncommon is for them to win without having the money to run ads, hire a skilled staff, build a field operation, and pay for all the other things it takes to run a credible race. And of course, it costs much more to air ads in some markets than others, so what might look like a decent fundraising haul in North Dakota can be underwhelming in New Jersey.

Campaign Action

While these opening totals are important, by no means do they tell us everything. Many hopefuls in past cycles have posted underwhelming early numbers only to haul in stronger totals as Election Day draws closer. That’s been especially true in the last two election cycles, when we’ve regularly seen grassroots donors, especially on the Democratic side, flock to newly-minted nominees in competitive races and help them raise sums that not long ago would have been unimaginable.

The 2022 cycle is also particularly unpredictable because of the upcoming round of redistricting. Most House candidates do not yet know exactly where they’ll be running, and some will wind up facing off against different opponents once new maps are finally in place. Many other would-be contenders are taking a wait-and-see approach, so it’s likely we’ll see a flurry of new campaigns launched later this year.

There’s a lot to see, so check out our House and Senate charts.

Senate

AZ-Sen, AZ-Gov: While Grand Canyon State politicos have long expected Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich to run for governor in 2022, David Drucker of the conservative Washington Examiner writes that he’s now leaning towards challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly instead. Brnovich himself has yet to say anything publicly about this contest.

Brnovich’s reported interest in the Senate race comes months after Gov. Doug Ducey, whom the attorney general has clashed with in the past, announced that he would not run. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has tried to get Ducey to reconsider, but Drucker relays that the governor “continues to wave off the encouragement from fellow Republicans.”

There are a number of other Republicans who could challenge Kelly, and Drucker name-drops former Ambassador to Mexico Chris Landau as a possibility. There is no word on Landau’s interest in this contest.

CA-Sen: This week, appointed Sen. Alex Padilla unveiled endorsements from 40 of California’s 42 Democratic House members in his bid for a full term. The only two who aren’t currently supporting the incumbent are Rep. Ro Khanna, who has not ruled out an intra-party challenge, and Rep. Maxine Waters, whom Politico says “could endorse Padilla shortly.”

MO-Sen: Republican Rep. Jason Smith responded to Sen. Roy Blunt’s retirement a month ago by saying he’d be considering in “the coming days” whether to run to succeed him, but like so many politicians before him, Smith has disregarded that timeline. When CNN asked the congressman Monday when he’d be making up his mind, Smith responded, “Not for a while.”

OH-Sen: We’ll get right to it: Josh Mandel announced he’d raised $1.3 million for the quarter when he actually brought in just $33,000 for his campaign. Indeed Mandel, a Republican who ostensibly spent eight years as treasurer of Ohio, actually lost money during this time, though thanks to leftover cash from his aborted 2018 Senate bid, he still had $4.2 million on-hand.

So, where did that $1.3 million number come from? Seth Richardson of Cleveland.com writes that Mandel raised that much through a joint fundraising committee that consisted of his campaign, his PAC, and the Delaware County Republican Party. Richardson, though, notes that Mandel can’t take in all that money for his campaign: Even his spokesperson says that they’ll only get about $700,000, or a little more than half. Adds Richardson, “He did not say why Mandel opted to fundraise using the committee instead of his campaign.”

Another Republican, former state party chair Jane Timken, took in $1.1 million from donors and loaned her campaign an additional $1 million. Timken, like many wealthy contenders, did not distinguish between the money she’d raised and the amount she self-funded when she announced her $2.1 million haul earlier this month, but unlike Mandel, she at least can spend all that cash.

Governors

CA-Gov: Former reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner used Twitter on Sunday to publicly express interest for the first time in competing as a Republican in this year’s likely recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Jenner added that she would “decide soon.”

MD-Gov: Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King announced Tuesday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat. King, who would be the state’s first Black governor, joins a primary that currently consists of state Comptroller Peter Franchot and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, though plenty of others are considering getting in.

King, who is running for office for the first time, became the Obama administration’s second and final secretary of education in 2016 after a previous stint as New York’s education commissioner. King went on to lead The Education Trust, a nonprofit focused on closing education gaps among students of color.

ME-Gov: While former Gov. Paul LePage appeared to unequivocally announce last November that he was challenging his successor, Democratic incumbent Janet Mills, the Bangor Daily News writes that many of his fellow Republicans still aren’t certain if he’ll run. It’s not hard to see where the confusion comes from: Last year, LePage’s political strategist, Brent Littlefield, said he had no “impending or planned announcement,” and Littlefield added Monday that the former governor, “has no announcement to make.”

Still, everyone in Maine politics seems to agree that the GOP nomination is LePage’s if he wants it. No other notable Republicans have expressed interest, and this week, his allies in the state party leadership waived a rule that would have prevented the Maine GOP from helping candidates before the primary is over.

NE-Gov: Republican state Sen. John Stinner said this week that running for governor is “not a serious consideration right now,” and while that’s not quite a no, he still sounds very unlikely to get in. The western Nebraska legislator said he was “just getting too old to play the game” and added that he doubted that a candidate from his section of the state could raise enough money or win enough votes to prevail.

NY-Gov: Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a new criminal investigation by state Attorney General Tish James into allegations that he used state resources to help write and publicize his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” last year. The matter was referred by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to James, who by law can only investigate criminal matters when asked to do so by other state or local officials.

Cuomo, who reportedly earned a $4 million advance from Crown Publishing Group, did not dispute that state employees had worked on his book, including editing drafts and printing manuscripts, but claims they did so voluntarily. A Cuomo spokesperson attacked the investigation itself, saying, “Both the comptroller and the attorney general have spoken to people about running for governor, and it is unethical to wield criminal referral authority to further political self-interest‎.” Cuomo, James, and DiNapoli are all Democrats.

Meanwhile, several actual and potential GOP candidates for governor recently addressed a meeting of county-level party leaders from across the state, including Rep. Lee Zeldin, the most prominent declared Republican to enter the race so far. Also on the list of speakers, though, was a name we hadn’t seen mentioned before, former state housing commissioner Joe Holland, who served under Gov. George Pataki. Holland briefly ran for governor in 2018 before dropping out, then sought the Republican nomination for attorney general but declined to run in the primary after losing to attorney Keith Wofford at the GOP convention.

TX-Gov: The Dallas Morning News generated plenty of attention over the weekend when it released a UT Tyler poll showing actor Matthew McConaughey leading Republican Gov. Greg Abbott 45-33 in a hypothetical general election, but there’s a big reason to be skeptical that the Oscar winner would start out with anything like that advantage if he ran.

The survey did not include the party affiliation for either man, instead simply asking, “Matthew McConaughey has been talked about as a potential candidate for Governor of Texas. If he ran, would you be likely to support him more than Governor Abbott?” That omission makes it tough to draw any conclusions from this survey, especially since the self-described “aggressively centrist” McConaughey has refused to say what party banner, if any, he’d run under.

If McConaughey campaigns as a Democrat, it’s likely that many of the respondents who opt for him now (including the 30% of the Republicans in the sample) simply would no longer consider him as a viable option. And should McConaughey instead campaign as an independent, he’d almost certainly face a Democratic opponent who would take many anti-Abbott votes from him. The dynamics of the race would also be dramatically different if McConaughey decided to run in a Republican primary against Abbott.

McConaughey himself has talked about running for governor but hasn’t taken any obvious steps towards running, so we may never find out how he’d do under any of these scenarios. However, there’s still an important lesson to be drawn here about the importance of including party affiliation (or noting the lack of it) in horserace surveys, even ones looking at very hypothetical races like this one. As we’ve written before, if a pollster doesn’t include this, then they’re leaving out important information and failing to accurately mimic the way voters will make their choices when they actually cast their ballots.

House

CA-21: While former Rep. TJ Cox announced in December that he’d seek a rematch against Republican incumbent David Valadao, the Democrat said Monday that he wouldn’t decide on any 2022 plans until he sees the new congressional map.

FL-20: Democratic state Rep. Bobby DuBose announced Tuesday that he would run in the still-unscheduled special election to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings. DuBose, who serves as his party’s co-leader in the lower chamber, is a veteran elected official in the Fort Lauderdale area. The Florida Sun-Sentinel notes that another declared primary candidate, state Sen. Perry Thurston, also represents much of the same area as DuBose, so they could end up competing for the same base of geographic support.

Another Democrat, former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, also recently filed with the FEC, though she doesn’t appear to have publicly announced yet. Taylor was last on the ballot in 2019 when she took last place with 20% in the three-way race for mayor of West Palm Beach.

MN-02: Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who was the 2020 Republican nominee, announced Tuesday that he would seek a rematch against Democratic Rep. Angie Craig. Kistner is the first major Republican to announce a campaign against Craig in a state where neither party has control over redistricting.

Kistner spent much of last cycle looking like the underdog in a suburban Twin Cities seat that had backed Donald Trump 47-45 in 2016 but had moved to the left two years later. Kistner raised a serious amount of money in the final months, though, and the race took an unexpected turn in October when it was briefly postponed following the death of Legal Marijuana Party Now candidate Adam Weeks. Biden ultimately took the 2nd District 52-46, but Craig won by a smaller 48-46 margin, with Weeks posthumously taking 6%.

OH-15: Rep. Steve Stivers’ Monday resignation announcement took the Buckeye State political world by surprise, but the field to succeed him has already started to take shape. Trump carried Ohio’s 15th District, which includes the southern Columbus area and the college town of Athens, by a 56-42 margin.

On the GOP side, state Rep. Brian Stewart and state Sen. Bob Peterson each announced Monday that they were running in the upcoming special election. Stewart, who like Stivers is an Iraq War veteran, is a first-term state representative, while Peterson was first elected to the legislature during the 2010 GOP wave.

Both men may have company in the primary before long. State Rep. Jeff LaRe said Monday he was “extremely interested and very serious,” while Mehek Cooke, who served as an attorney for the administration of now-former Gov. John Kasich, also said she was thinking about it. The Columbus Dispatch’s Laura Bischoff reports that state Sen. Stephanie Kunze and Tim Schaffer are also considering.

For the Democrats, state Sen. Tina Maharath; state Reps. Allison Russo and Adam Miller; Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano; and Upper Arlington City Councilmember John Kulewicz each told Bischoff they were thinking about getting in; Stinziano added that he’d decide as soon as he could. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein also has not ruled out a bid. Cleveland.com additionally mentions former state Sen. Lou Gentile and ex-Rep. Zack Space as possibilities.

It will be some time before the dates for the special can be set, though. Stivers announced Monday that his resignation would be effective May 16, and GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s office says the contest to succeed him can’t be scheduled until the seat is officially vacant.

TX-06: Campaign finance reports are in ahead of the May 1 all-party primary for the period covering Jan. 1 to April 11, and we’ve collected the numbers for all the candidates in our quarterly House fundraising chart. The seven Democrats who filed a report reported bringing in a total of $915,000, while the six Republicans hauled in a combined $1.6 million.

The top fundraiser on either side was GOP state Rep. Jake Ellzey, who took in $504,000 from donors. Next was former Department of Health and Human Services official Brian Harrison, a fellow Republican who raised $356,000 from donors and self-funded an additional $285,000.

Harrison, who deployed $258,000 during this time, was also the top spender of the race; two Democrats, 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez and education advocate Shawn Lassiter, each outpaced the rest of the field by spending just over $200,000. The candidate who had the most money left on April 11 was Ellzey, who led Harrison $400,000 to $383,000 in cash-on-hand.

GOP activist Susan Wright, who is the wife of the late Rep. Ron Wright, has taken one of the top two spots in the few polls we’ve seen, but she doesn’t have access to as much money as many of her rivals. Wright raised $286,000 and spent $158,000, and she had $128,000 for the final weeks.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: The United Federation of Teachers, which was the last major union in city politics to make an endorsement in the June Democratic primary, backed City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Monday. Attorney Maya Wiley previously earned the endorsement of the health care union 1199 SEIU, while Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has the Hotel Trades Council, 32BJ, and DC37 (which represent hotel workers, building and airport employees, and municipal workers, respectively) in his corner.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gregory Meeks, a longtime congressman from Queens, has thrown his support behind former financial executive Raymond McGuire.

Obituaries

Deaths: Walter Mondale, a Democrat who represented Minnesota in the Senate from 1964 until just after he was elected vice president in 1976, died Monday at the age of 93. Mondale is most remembered for being the first truly influential vice president in modern American history and for his 1984 loss to Ronald Reagan, but, as is our wont at Daily Kos Elections, we’ll devote ourselves to taking stock of his downballot political career.

Mondale got his start in politics in 1948 when Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey was campaigning to unseat Republican Sen. Joseph Ball. Mondale served as Humphrey’s organizer in the southern part of the state, and he became close to both the candidate and his campaign manager, Orville Freeman. Humphrey decisively won, and the connections Mondale made during that race would serve him well at a time when Democrats were making gains in what had been a Republican dominated state.

Freeman became governor in the 1950s, and he appointed the 32-year-old Mondale in 1960 to fill the vacant post of state attorney general. Mondale defended the post 58-42 that year, and he was re-elected in 1962 by an even larger margin. During his tenure, Mondale led an amicus brief in support of Clarence Gideon, who had been forced to represent himself when he couldn’t afford a lawyer; in 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright decision that established that all defendants had the right to legal counsel.

Mondale was appointed to the Senate in 1964 by Gov. Karl Rolvaag to succeed Humphrey, who had just been elected vice president on Lyndon Johnson’s ticket, and he was up for a full term two years later. This was a tough cycle for Democrats nationwide in large part because of the increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam War, but Mondale prevailed 54-45 even as Rolvaag was losing re-election.

Mondale’s colleague, George McGovern, asked him to be his running mate in 1972 after Ted Kennedy declined, but he also turned the South Dakota senator down. Mondale instead sought re-election and prevailed 57-43 even as Richard Nixon was carrying Minnesota 52-46, which marked the last time the state’s electoral votes wound up in the GOP column.

Mondale considered a presidential run in 1973 only to decide not to. Mondale later wrote, “I had pulled about even with ‘None of the Above’ in national opinion surveys, and I dropped that bid — to widespread applause.” Mondale, though, would be on the national ticket in 1976 as Jimmy Carter’s running mate.

Mondale’s time in state politics seemed to be over following his ascension to the vice presidency and subsequent 1980 re-election loss, as well as his landslide defeat to Reagan in 1984. In 1990, some Democratic leaders tried to recruit him to challenge Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz but he declined, arguing the party needed new voices; Boschwitz would go on to lose to Democrat Paul Wellstone, while Mondale would later serve as Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Japan.

Mondale, though, would compete in one more election. Wellstone died in a plane crash 11 days before the 2002 election, and party leaders chose the former vice president as their replacement candidate. Democrats were in for another tough cycle thanks to George W. Bush’s popularity following the Sept. 11 attacks and the leadup to the invasion of Iraq, and this time, Mondale wasn’t able to run ahead of the tides during his six days as a candidate.

Allies of Republican Norm Coleman, who had been locked in a close race with Wellstone, loudly argued that Team Blue had turned the senator’s funeral into a partisan event, a tactic that likely harmed the new nominee’s prospects. Coleman triumphed 50-47 in what was Mondale’s only defeat in his home state, a defeat that when combined with his 1984 presidential loss also gave Mondale the unwelcome distinction of being the only person in American history to lose an election in all 50 states as a nominee of one of the two major parties, a feat that looks very unlikely to be repeated by anyone for the foreseeable future.

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