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Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 8 (March 4, 2020)

This week: Tuberville and Sessions advance to AL-Sen. runoff, more top Super Tuesday results, and the NRSC runs ads against Collins in GA.

Election results

Here are some key primary results from Super Tuesday.

U.S. Senate, Alabama: Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions advanced to a March 31 primary runoff. With 91% of precincts reporting, Tuberville received 33.4% of the vote to Sessions’ 31.6%. Bradley Byrne received 25.2%. A candidate needed more than 50% of the vote to win the primary outright.

Sessions held the seat for 20 years before President Donald Trump appointed him U.S. attorney general in 2017. Tuberville, a former college football coach, has called himself the outsider in the race who can stand with Trump.

Alabama’s 1st Congressional District: Bill Hightower and Jerry Carl advanced to a March 31 runoff. Hightower received 37.8% of the vote and Carl received 37.3%. A candidate needed more than 50% of the vote to win the primary outright. Incumbent Bradley Byrne (R) ran for U.S. Senate and did not seek re-election.

Hightower was a state senator for Alabama’s 35th district from 2013 to 2018. Carl said he had experience running small businesses and that he was a problem solver.

Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District: Jeff Coleman advanced to a March 31 runoff with 38.3% of the vote, but the race for second place is too close to call. With 99% of precincts reporting, Barry Moore has 20.6% of the vote and Jessica Taylor has 19.8%. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and FarmPAC—the Alabama Farmers Federation’s PAC—endorsed Coleman. The Conservative Christians of Alabama endorsed Moore, while Taylor’s endorsers included former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and Susan B. Anthony List. Incumbent Martha Roby (R) is retiring.

California’s 10th Congressional District: As of 6:15 a.m. Pacific Time on March 4, the race remained too close to call. Incumbent Josh Harder (D) led with 39.8% of the vote. Two Republicans followed: Ted Howze with 37.5% and Bob Elliott with 14.2%. U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R), Former U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R), and 2018 California Republican gubernatorial nominee John Cox endorsed Howze. Combat Veterans for Congress and SEALPAC endorsed Elliott.

California’s 25th Congressional District: Two elections were held for California’s 25th Congressional District: a special election to fill the vacancy left by Katie Hill (D) and a regular election for a full, two-year term starting Jan. 3, 2021. As of 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 4, both races were too close to call. Christy Smith (D) led the special election field with 34.4% of the vote, followed by Mike Garcia (R) with 28.3% and Steve Knight (R) with 18.9%. In the regular election, Smith led with 30.3%, followed by Garcia’s 26.8% and Knight’s 20.1%. 

California’s 45th Congressional District: As of 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time on March 4, the race remained too close to call. Greg Raths led the Republicans in the field with 18.9% of the vote, followed by Don Sedgwick’s 13.9% and Peggy Huang’s 11.3%. Incumbent Rep. Katie Porter (D) led with 48.1% of the vote. 

California’s 50th Congressional District: As of 6:05 a.m. Pacific Time on March 4, this race was too close to call. Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar led with 34.4% of the vote. Among Republicans, Darrell Issa was on top with 24.9%, followed by Carl DeMaio with 21.0%. Issa represented the 49th Congressional District between 2001 and 2019.

North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District: Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn advanced to a May 12 runoff. Bennett received 22.7% of the vote to Cawthorn’s 20.4%. Jim Davis received 19.3%. A candidate needed more than 30% of the vote to win the primary outright. Retiring incumbent Rep. Mark Meadows (R) endorsed Bennet, a real estate broker who has served as vice-chair of the Haywood County Republican Party. Cawthorn owns a real estate investment company and is a motivational speaker.

Texas’ 7th Congressional District: Wesley Hunt defeated five other candidates with 61% percent of the vote and 99% of precincts reporting. Cindy Siegel was in second with 27.1%. Hunt will face Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D) in the general election. Fletcher was first elected in 2018, defeating John Culberson 52.5% to 47.5%. Republicans had held the seat since 1967 before that.

Texas’ 11th Congressional District: August Pfluger defeated nine other candidates. Pfluger led with 52.1% of the vote with 99% of precincts reporting, followed by Brandon Batch with 15.1%. Trump endorsed Pfluger. Incumbent Rep. Mike Conaway (R), who won re-election in 2018 80.1% to 18.4%, is retiring. 

Texas’ 12th Congressional District: Rep. Kay Granger defeated Chris Putnam. WIth 96% of precincts reporting, Granger led with 58.2% of the vote to Putnam’s 41.8%. Granger emphasized Trump’s endorsement of her campaign, while Putnam called Granger a career politician, and said Granger was not supportive of the president. In the 2018 general election, Granger defeated Vanessa Adia (D) 64% to 34%.

Texas’ 13th Congressional District: Josh Winegarner and Ronny Jackson advanced to a May 26 primary runoff from a field of 15 candidates. Winegarner led with 38.9% of the vote, followed by Jackson with 19.8% and Chris Ekstrom with 15.3%. Trump and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) endorsed Jackson, a former White House physician and Trump nominee to serve as secretary of veterans affairs. Incumbent Mac Thornberry and Rep. Mike Conaway (R) endorsed Winegarner.

Texas’ 17th Congressional District: Pete Sessions and, it appears, Renee Swann advanced to a May 26 runoff. As of writing, all precincts had reported but major outlets had not called the second runoff spot. Retiring Rep. Bill Flores (R) endorsed Swann. The winner of the runoff will face the Democratic nominee (also going to a runoff) and Ted Brown (L) in the general election. Flores (R) won re-election 56.8% to 41.3% in 2018.

Texas’ 22nd Congressional District: Troy Nehls (R) and Kathaleen Wall (R) advanced from the 15-candidate primary to a May 26 runoff. With 99% of precincts reporting. Nehls led with 40.6% of the vote, followed by Wall with 19.5%, Pierce Bush with 15.5%, and Greg Hill with 14.1%. Retiring Rep. Pete Olson (R) endorsed Bush. The winner of the runoff will face Sri Preston Kulkarni (D) and Joseph LeBlanc (L) in the general election. Olson won re-election in 2018 51.4% to 46.5%.

Texas’ 32nd Congressional District: Genevieve Collins won the primary outright with 52.6% of the vote. Floyd McLendon Jr. received 34.2%. Collins, an executive at an education technology firm, focused her campaign on business and education. McLendon, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, emphasized border security and immigration. The winner will face incumbent Collin Allred (D), who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Allred defeated Pete Sessions (R) 52.3% to 45.8% in 2018.

North Carolina lieutenant governor: Mark Robinson won with 32.6% of the vote, avoiding the primary runoff that would have occurred if no candidate topped 30%. Andy Wells finished in second place with 14.6%. Term-limited incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) is running for governor. North Carolina is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is elected independently of the governor. It is one of three states where the governor and the lieutenant governor do not share the same party affiliation.

Texas House of Representatives: None of the 11 incumbents facing a primary challenger were defeated. In our 10 battleground races, 8 incumbents faced primary challenges. All but one (Dan Flynn in District 2) advanced to the general election. Flynn (44.5%) will face Bryan Slaton (35.2%) in a May 26 runoff election. In the open race for District 60, Jon Francis (45.9%) and Glenn Rogers (43.8%) advanced to the runoff. Jeff Cason (54.1%) won the District 92 open race outright over Jim Griffin (36.6%) and Taylor Gillig (9.3%).

On the news

Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“On Election Day, President Trump will face either one of two Democratic challengers, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. Conservatives ought to pray it’s the latter, and if they planning on voting in the Democratic primary, it had better be for Biden.

The moral case for backing Biden is obvious enough. We live in a two-party republic, and at the absolute lowest of estimates, the Democratic nominee will attract at least 60 million votes and set the party agenda for at least the rest of the year if not longer. Every conservative ought to understand how socially corrosive it would be for an entire political party to coalesce around socialism, even if that candidate lost in the end.

Biden is bumbling and his competence is crumbling with age, but at least he is fundamentally a capitalist, a liberal, and a man who respects faith. At his absolute most effective — and that’s assuming Republicans lose the Senate and fail to reclaim the House — his presidency would look like that of Barack Obama’s but with a botched public option. We would survive.”

Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner, March 3, 2020

“What’s the best way to ease tensions in a divided republic? Address them squarely in a national election.

Donald Trump, longtime businessman, versus Bernie Sanders, lifelong socialist, would give us that once-in-a-lifetime political contest. Both are larger-than-life personalities whose virtues and drawbacks are well known. The other Democrats running for president may differ from Mr. Sanders only marginally on many issues, but he alone genuinely personifies leftist orthodoxy. That’s why he’s still standing while so many of his competitors have fallen. …

So let’s have a six-month-long, impassioned debate over the future of our country. At the end of it all, our differences may remain, but they’ll be tempered by the will of the people.

The candidate at the top of the ticket can determine down-ballot races too. If Mr. Trump fires up GOP voters and independents, it could mean more Republican governors, representatives, senators and state legislators. If Mr. Sanders is right and his bold agenda inspires voters out of their apathy, down-ballot Democrats could benefit from his new majority. Let’s find out.”

John Carlson, WSJ Opinion, March 3, 2020

U.S. Congress

Colyer endorses Marshall in Kansas Senate race

Former Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer endorsed Roger Marshall in the Republican primary for Senate in Kansas. The seat is open as Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is not seeking re-election.

Marshall has represented Kansas’ 1st District in the U.S. House since 2017. 

Colyer was lieutenant governor under Gov. Sam Brownback (R). Colyer served as governor for one year after President Donald Trump appointed Brownback ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.  

The current seven-candidate Senate primary field includes Kris Kobach, who defeated Colyer in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary 40.6% to 40.5%. 

The filing deadline is June 1. The primary is Aug. 4.

NRSC and other groups release opposition ads against Senate candidate Collins in GA

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Club for Growth, and One Nation have released opposition ads against Rep. Doug Collins in the special Senate election in Georgia. 

The NRSC ad calls Collins a convenient conservative, questioning his support of the president and featuring clips of him saying he’s friends with Democrats Stacey Abrams and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

The Club for Growth ad said Collins supported a hospital bed tax and raising the state sales tax. It asks viewers to tell Collins to vote against the Medicare for All Act in the House.

One Nation said Collins proposed legislation allowing early release for some sex traffickers, and the ad asks viewers to tell Collins to oppose the Second Look Act.

As we reported earlier, NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin criticized Collins’ entrance to the race, saying he was putting the Senate seat and other races in play. 

The NRSC is backing incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler to the seat after Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned in December. Several media outlets reported that the president wanted Kemp to appoint Collins.

Four Republicans, five Democrats, and one independent are currently running in the Nov. 3 all-party general election. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two will be Jan. 5, 2021.

Abraham not seeking re-election, LA-05 open

Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) announced Feb. 26 he won’t seek re-election. There are now 37 open House districts up for election this year, 28 of which are currently in GOP hands. Abraham said he committed to serving no more than three terms.

Abraham was first elected in 2014. He ran for governor last year and did not advance from the all-party primary.

Three ratings outlets rate the general election Safe or Solid Republican. Currently, two Democrats and one Republican have filed for the Nov. 3 all-party primary. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two, regardless of party, will advance to a Dec. 5 general election. The filing deadline is July 17.

State executives

Greg Gianforte selects running mate

Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) announced his selection of attorney and adjunct law professor Kristen Juras (R) as his gubernatorial running mate Sunday.

A native of Conrad, Montana, Juras practiced law for 18 years and taught at the University of Montana school of law for another 13 years. In 2016, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Gianforte’s two declared Republican rivals have each selected their running mates. State Sen. Al Olszewski is running alongside state Sen. Kenneth Bogner, while state Attorney General Tim Fox is running alongside former state Rep. Jon Knokey.

Additional candidates have until March 9 to file. The June 2 primary is open to all registered voters. Incumbent Steve Bullock (D) is term-limited, leaving the office open. The last Republican to win a gubernatorial election in Montana was Judy Martz in 2000.

Uniting Missouri ad supports Gov. Mike Parson

Uniting Missouri PAC, a political group supporting Gov. Mike Parson, is running an additional $750,000 of TV and radio ads in support of Parson’s campaign. This buy is separate from a $1 million buy it launched Feb. 11.

The recent run of ads follows speculation that former Gov. Eric Greitens (R) may be considering a gubernatorial bid. Greitens resigned in June 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of campaign information. 

The Missouri Ethics Commission released a report last month which concluded Greitens’ campaign had violated state campaign finance law. There was no evidence that Greitens himself had committed any wrongdoing. Following the release of the report, Greitens made a series of media appearances and declined to rule out a run for the governorship.

Parson’s declared rivals for the Republican nomination are state Rep. Jim Neely and businessman Raleigh Ritter, although other candidates have until March 31 to file. The August 4 primary is open to all registered voters.


AK Rep. draws challenge after caucusing with Democrats

David Nelson filed to run against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux in the House District 15 primary. LeDoux was one of several Republicans who formed a coalition with House Democrats following the 2016 elections. The Republicans in LeDoux’s district passed a resolution withdrawing their support at an annual meeting and forwarded the resolution to the state party for consideration. The primary is scheduled for August 18.

LeDoux also faced a primary challenger on similar grounds in 2018. She defeated Aaron Weaver 57-43 before defeating Lynn Franks (D) in the general election 42-34. In the 2018 general election, 24 percent of the vote went to write-in candidates.

FL House candidate gets on ballot after petition drive

Okaloosa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hinkle became the fourth candidate on the Florida House District 4 ballot after he collected enough petition signatures to qualify. Also running in the Republican primary are Jonathan Tallman, Patt Maney, and Sandra Atkinson. Rep. Mel Ponder (R) announced in September 2019 that he was retiring to seek a local office. The primary election is scheduled for August 18.

So far in 2020, no Democratic candidate has filed to run. Since 2012, a Democratic candidate has only run in one of four elections in the district. In 2018, Ponder defeated Rebecca Koelzer (D) 72-28. District 4 is located in the panhandle and includes Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Eglin Air Force Base.

Power players

“The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) ‘action tank’ that will create, encourage and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security.  The American Action Network’s primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.” – American Action Network website

The American Action Network (AAN) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that describes itself as an “action tank to renew America’s promise; an aggregator of center-right policies, thoughts and activism; a forum where our center-right ideas will become relevant for every American.” The organization is affiliated with the American Action Forum, a 501(c)(3) organization, and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC. The AAN is chaired by former Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). 

The AAN website lists the following areas of focus: tax reform, the opioid epidemic, healthcare, defense, and energy. The group’s recent political activity includes ads targeting members of Congress that voted for impeachment and ads supporting H.R.19, a bill on prescription drugs.

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 7 (February 26, 2020)

This week: Senate candidates in Alabama release opposition ads, Democratic groups spend against Garcia, Knight in CA-25, and the battleground primaries to watch on March 3.

On the news

Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“The fearmongering over Russian election ‘interference’ might be the most destructive moral panic in American political life since the Red Scare. Then again, to be fair, those who prosecuted the post-war hunt for Communists had the decency to uncover a handful of infiltrators. We’ve yet to meet a single American who’s been brainwashed or had their vote snatched away by an SVR Twitterbot. Probably because no such person exists. …

There are few people who detest the candidacy and philosophy of Sanders more than I, yet I’m positive that the KGB can’t give him the Democratic Party nomination any more than they can install Donald Trump in the White House. Only voters can.

It’s likely that Russia, as it did in 2016, will engage in amateurish efforts to foment divisions among some American — as if we needed any help. If they actually “hack” an election — a word incessantly, and erroneously, used by journalists at the height of the Russia scare in 2017 — we’ll know.”

David Harsanyi, National Review, Feb. 24, 2020

“Russian efforts to influence American social media didn’t stop in November 2016. In the words of former special counsel Robert Mueller, Russia is attempting to influence the 2020 elections ‘as we sit here.’ … 

Russian efforts to manipulate American social media have grown more sophisticated since the summer of 2016, when they were often easy to spot. … It’s much harder now. The Russian social media manipulation machine has been refining its techniques and building up a social media presence in preparation for 2020. Perhaps worse, the Russians’ success — and the lack of consequences — has encouraged others to try their hand at this sort of asymmetric warfare. Iran, North Korea and even China could decide to field their own troll armies in 2020.

If you think it was bad in 2016, it’s going to be much worse this year. The goal of these trolls isn’t just to manipulate our elections, it’s to fundamentally damage our democracy and undermine our trust in American institutions.”

Chris Truax, USA Today, Feb. 20, 2020

U.S. Congress

Five states will hold statewide primaries on March 3, 2020 (15 jurisdictions will hold presidential nominating events). Here’s a list of the Republican Congressional battleground primaries to watch.

Senate candidates in Alabama release opposition ads

The three Senate primary candidates topping polls in Alabama are using the closing days of the primary to run ads criticizing each other for past comments about or conflicts with President Donald Trump.

Bradley Byrne and Tommy Tuberville criticized Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election during his time as attorney general. Sessions has defended his recusal and emphasized that he was the first senator to endorse Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

Sessions and Tuberville criticized Byrne for saying Trump was not fit to be president in 2016 following the release of the Access Hollywood recording. Byrne has said the comment was a mistake and that he has a 97% pro-Trump voting record in the House.

Byrne’s and Sessions’ ads said Tuberville supported amnesty for people in the country illegally. Sessions’ ads also featured audio of Tuberville criticizing Trump on veterans’ health care. Tuberville has said he does not support amnesty and that Trump has not been able to do everything he’d like due to resistance from others.

Most ads released earlier in the primary focused on candidates’ conservative credentials, experience, and criticisms of Democrats. 

Two independent polls from early February showed Sessions and Tuberville about tied for the lead and Byrne in third. Both Sessions and Tuberville received around 30% support. To win the March 3 primary outright, a candidate needs a majority of the vote. If no one wins a majority, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff on March 31.

Trump won Alabama in the 2016 presidential race, defeating Hillary Clinton 62% to 34%.

The Republican primary winner will face incumbent Doug Jones (D) in November. Jones won the 2017 special election, defeating Roy Moore 50% to 48%. The 2020 primary features seven candidates, including Moore.

TX-11 candidates criticize With Honor Fund support of Pfluger

Six Republican candidates for Texas’ 11th Congressional District held a press conference in response to With Honor Fund‘s endorsement of and satellite spending for August Pfluger. Overall, eight candidates signed a pledge stating:

“We pledge not to knowingly take money nor receive support from individuals or groups that do not hold to the conservative, Constitutional and Judeo-Christian values of our District – specifically groups supported by radical liberal activists such as Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg or George Soros.”

Candidates Gene Barber, Brandon Batch, Jamie Berryhill, J. D. Faircloth, Casey Gray, Ned Luscombe, Robert Tucker, and Wesley Virdell signed the pledge.

With Honor describes itself as “a cross-partisan movement dedicated to promoting and advancing principled veteran leadership in elected public service.” The group spent $214,000 on an ad campaign supporting Pfluger. The ad discusses Pfluger’s Air Force experience and calls him “an outsider like President Trump, not a politician.”

Trump endorsed Pfluger Feb. 12. Virdell questioned the endorsement: “There’s questions about ‘is he actually the one who’s actually sending tweets out?’”

Pfluger said following the press conference:

“I think we can all agree that nobody cares more about draining the swamp and defeating democrats than President Trump, which is why I’m honored to have his complete and total endorsement. To suggest that Donald Trump is either too weak or too stupid to make his own endorsements is insulting and offensive. The fact is, I’m proud of the conservative, and completely positive, grassroots campaign we’ve run focused on the issues that the voters of this district care about.”

If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the March 3 primary election, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held May 26. The seat is open — incumbent Mike Conaway (R) is retiring.

Democratic groups spend against Garcia, Knight in CA-25

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and House Majority PAC released ads opposing Mike Garcia (R) and Steve Knight (R), respectively, in California’s 25th Congressional District top-two primary.

The DCCC ad said Garcia supported a middle class tax increase and accused his business of not paying taxes. The House Majority PAC ad called Knight a Trump Republican. Politico reported that the DCCC spent $318,000 and House Majority PAC, $293,000 on their buys.

The DCCC also placed a coordinated ad buy with Democratic candidate Christy Smith.

The district will have both a special election primary and a regularly scheduled primary on March 3. In the special primary, a candidate can win outright by getting more than 50% of the vote. Otherwise, a special general election for the top two candidates will be held on May 12. 

Eleven candidates—including Garcia, Knight, and Smith—are running in both elections, with additional candidates running in one or the other race. 

Former Rep. Katie Hill resigned in November 2019 following her acknowledgment of having had a relationship with a campaign staffer. Knight represented the district from 2015 to 2019. Hill beat Knight in 2018 54% to 46%.

Since the state began using top-two congressional primaries in 2012, a Republican and a Democrat advanced to the general election in three out of four cycles. In 2014, two Republicans advanced.

State executives

Jan Garbett announces run for governor of Utah, Aimee Winder Newton halts signature collection efforts

Businesswoman Jan Garbett kicked off her campaign for governor of Utah Thursday, becoming the eighth Republican to join the race. 

Garbett, whose husband Bryson served two terms as a Republican member of the state House in the 1980s, has run for political office twice before. She challenged Rep. Chris Stewart (R) in the 2018 election as a member of the United Utah Party but dropped out before November. In 2016, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vaughn Cook selected Garbett as his running mate. Their ticket was defeated at the state Democratic convention. 

Garbett said she had planned to run for Congress again this year but switched to the gubernatorial election after hearing all six candidates participating in the Jan. 31 debate say that they supported President Trump.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton announced Wednesday that her campaign was suspending its effort to collect signatures to petition onto the primary ballot. Candidates for governor of Utah may qualify for the primary ballot in one of two ways. Up to two candidates can receive a place on the ballot by winning support from delegates at the state party convention, while any number of candidates can qualify by submitting 28,000 signatures from registered voters. Winder Newton joins Jason Christensen and Gregory Hughes, who are also seeking the nomination via the convention alone.

So far two candidates—Spencer Cox and Thomas Wright—have submitted nominating petitions. Each submitted over 30,000 signatures. As of noon Mountain Time on Feb. 25, 21,675 of Cox’s signatures had been verified—77% of the qualifying requirement. None of Wright’s signatures had yet been verified.

The candidate filing deadline is March 19. The June 30 primary will be open to registered Republicans only. The winner of the primary is likely to also win the general election—no Democrat has won election as governor of Utah since 1980. Incumbent Gary Herbert (R) is not seeking re-election.

Montana Secretary of State candidates meet for forum

The four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Montana secretary of state met for a candidate forum in Kalispell Thursday. All four said that they were best-suited to keep the office in Republican hands in November. Each stated their support for ending the state’s same-day voter registration program and for cutting the size of the secretary’s staff.

Montana Supreme Court Clerk Bowen Greenfield (R) said he was the only candidate who has won a statewide election and that it was critical that Democrats not win the secretary of state’s office. 

Deputy Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen (R) said incumbent Corey Stapleton (R), who is running for U.S. House, has endorsed her and that she had the most experience in the secretary’s office. 

State Rep. Forrest Mandeville (R) said he had experience defeating election laws supported by Democrats, including automatic and online voter registration, as chairman of the State Administration Committee. 

State Senate President Scott Sales (R) said that he had the most private sector experience of any candidate and was the only person in Montana history to serve as both speaker of the state House and as state Senate president.

Montana’s secretary of state is the chief elections officer and has a variety of other duties including maintaining and updating the state’s regulatory codes, registering businesses and trademarks, licensing notaries public, and maintaining official government records.

The candidate filing deadline is March 9. The June 2 primary will be open to all registered voters. Since 1980, most Montana secretary of state elections have been won by the same party that won that year’s presidential election. The only exception was in 1988, when Mike Cooney (D) was elected Secretary of State and George H.W. Bush (R) was elected president.


Lyft targets Diep over AB5 vote

Ridesharing company Lyft is using direct mail to target California Assemblyman Tyler Diep (District 72) for his support of Assembly Bill 5. Diep was the sole Republican to vote in favor of the bill. AB5 requires gig economy companies (such as Lyft) to hire employees rather than use independent contractors. 

Lyft has spent $250,000 so far this cycle opposing Diep’s re-election. As reported previously in Heart of the Primaries, the Orange County Republican Party withdrew its endorsement of Diep in January. Diep faces former state Sen. Janet Nguyen (R), Bijan Mohseni (D), and Diedre Nguyen (D) in the March 3 top-two primary. The top two vote-getters will run in the Nov. 3 general election.

Open MI House primary becomes competitive

Yvonne Black filed to run for District 47 in the Michigan House of Representatives, making the Republican primary for the open seat competitive. Livingstone County Commissioner Bob Bezotte, who announced he would run in early 2019, is the other candidate in the primary. Rep. Henry Vaupel (R) is ineligible to run because of term limits. He has represented the district since 2015.

The filing deadline for the race is April 21, and the primary will take place Aug. 4. District 47 is located in central Michigan and includes the city of Howell and portions of Livingstone County.

SD Senate primary becomes competitive

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Bishop David Zellmer filed to run in the South Dakota Senate District 14 primary. State Rep. Larry Zikmund (R) has also filed to run for the seat. The current incumbent, Sen. Deb Soholt (R), is ineligible to run because of term limits.

The filing deadline for the race is March 31, and the primary will take place on June 2. District 14 includes portions of Sioux Falls.

Update: Mike Prax appointed to AK House District 3

The Alaska House Republican Caucus confirmed Mike Prax (R) to the seat left vacant when former Rep. Tammie Wilson (R) resigned in January to take a job with the Office of Children’s Services in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Wilson was one of eight Republicans who caucused with Democrats to create a coalition majority in the House. Republicans hold a 23-15 numerical majority in the chamber, with two independents also holding seats.

Power players

“The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. We support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.” – Official Facebook page of the House Freedom Caucus 

The House Freedom Caucus is a congressional caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Nine Republican representatives established the caucus in 2015. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was its first chair. An October 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that the majority of caucus members were generally considered to be more conservative than most Republicans.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) was elected chairman of the House Freedom Caucus in September 2019. The House Freedom Caucus does not disclose its membership list. As of June 2019, the caucus was estimated to have 31 members.

The House Freedom Fund, a PAC associated with the Caucus, endorses candidates which it says are “dedicated to open, accountable, and limited government – candidates who will fight to defend the Constitution and advance policies that promote liberty, safety, and prosperity for all Americans.” According to Jordan, the fund “helps grassroots candidates get the financial support they need to compete with establishment candidates.” To view a list of candidates endorsed by the House Freedom Fund, click here.

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 7 (February 26, 2020)

This week: GOP Senate super PAC funded ads for Democratic candidate in NC, Tzintzún Ramirez picks up endorsements in Senate race in TX, and the battleground primaries to watch on March 3.

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“[The TX-28 Democratic] primary showdown proves that conservative forces are more than willing and more than able to fight for power under the auspices of the Democratic ticket. In TX-28, they’ve dug in their heels in a simple primary that is not likely to meaningfully alter the composition of the Democrats’ House majority.

Still, the question remains why Nancy Pelosi and the DCCC would continue to support a Koch-backed candidate who has been openly antagonistic towards the Democratic agenda, regularly opposing even signature legislation from the House Dems … 

That Democratic party leadership is so eager to prop up a candidate who has thwarted their own legislative ambitions paints a troubling portrait of the party’s priorities under Pelosi’s leadership. At times, she has seemed less interested in expanding the Democrats House majority than ensuring that anti-progressive forces are safely entrenched in the chamber. Especially as the progressive agenda polls very favorably amongst the Democratic base, and Bernie Sanders surges into the lead for the presidential nomination, that sets the stage for a further confrontation about where the party is headed, and what a winning ticket, up and down the ballot, will look like come November.”

Alexander Sammon, The American Prospect, Feb. 19, 2020

“The vote March 3 is the first significant challenge to a House incumbent in the 2020 cycle and highlights the broader challenges the Democratic Party is facing, as progressive groups have sought to evict lawmakers deemed too out of step with the Democratic base. The race in some ways mirrors the split in the presidential primary, with some candidates demanding aggressive liberal policies and others taking a centrist approach. … 

The push by liberal groups to oust some incumbent Democrats has grown since House Democrats took the majority in 2018. Last year, Rep. Cheri Bustos, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, canceled a planned fundraiser with fellow Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, an antiabortion incumbent, after criticism from her colleagues and activists.

Still, the number of competitive Democratic primaries is far from what some moderate House Democrats feared after 2018, and there hasn’t been a tea party-like wave. Leaders argue the party won the House majority in part by appealing to more conservative voters in areas President Trump won in 2016.”

Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 24, 2020

U.S. Congress

Five states will hold statewide primaries on March 3, 2020 (15 jurisdictions will hold presidential nominating events). Here’s a list of the Democratic Congressional battleground primaries to watch.

GOP Senate super PAC funded ads for Democratic candidate in NC

We recently reported that Faith and Power PAC had spent $2.4 million on ads and activities supporting Erica Smith as “the only proven progressive” in the Senate race in North Carolina, and that media outlets alleged the group had Republican ties. The PAC’s pro-Smith spending has reached $2.9 million, and the source of the funds was disclosed as the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF).

SLF, a super PAC, was founded to support a Republican majority in the Senate. The group’s president, Steven Law, said they were trying to drive up spending in the Democratic primary more than trying to influence the outcome. Law also said Democrats had a history of involvement in Republican primaries. In a statement Feb. 21, the day after Faith and Power PAC disclosed its funding source to the Federal Election Commission, Law said the following:

“We stole a page out of Chuck Schumer’s playbook, and it’s been more successful than we could have imagined. Democrats are burning cash in a $13 million rescue mission for Cal Cunningham, who has proven to be a lackluster candidate with less money in the bank today than the beginning of the year. If you add in the fact that Cunningham felt pressured to say he would support Bernie Sanders, I’d call this an unqualified success. We got a lot more for our money than when Democrats spent millions in Thom Tillis’ primary six years ago.”

In a Feb. 21 Facebook post, Smith wrote, “We have the support of the people, and I am here to serve the people not the SuperPACs – CorporatePACs who meddle, interfere and attempt to influence elections with special interest $$$s.”

The same day, Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham wrote in a Facebook post, “Mitch McConnell meddled in our election to try to mislead voters, and it’s clear why—he knows Thom Tillis has failed NC and he’s terrified to face me. I’ve got a message for McConnell and his allies—your scheme won’t work and I’ll see you in November.”

There are five candidates running in the March 3 primary. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed Cunningham, who has led in polls and fundraising. VoteVets has spent more than $7 million and the group Carolina Blue has spent more than $3 million backing Cunningham. 

A candidate needs more than 30% of the vote to win the primary outright. Otherwise, a runoff for the top two will be held May 12 if the second-place finisher requests one.

Three race raters call the general election a Toss-up or Lean Republican.

Tzintzún Ramirez picks up endorsements in Senate race in TX

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez picked up endorsements from Reps. Joaquín Castro and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the 12-candidate Democratic primary field for Senate in Texas. Tzintzún Ramirez headed the Workers Defense Project and founded an advocacy group aimed at young Latinos.

Last week, the group Lone Star Forward spent $58,000 on a TV ad supporting Ramirez. The ad says she would be the state’s first Latina senator and that she would fight for healthcare for all, universal childcare, jobs with living wages, and more.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed MJ Hegar in the race. Hegar ran against John Carter (R) in Texas’ 31st District in 2018, losing 48% to 51%. 

The Houston Chronicle endorsed Royce West, a state senator, in the race last week.

If none of the 12 candidates receives 50% or more of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a May 26 runoff. 

Incumbent John Cornyn (R) was first elected in 2002. Democrats last won a statewide election in Texas in 1994. In the 2018 U.S. Senate election in Texas, incumbent Ted Cruz (R) defeated then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) 51% to 48%.

Pelosi campaigns for Cuellar, Ocasio-Cortez’s PAC backs Cisneros in TX-28 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Laredo Saturday for a series of events, including a stop at Rep. Henry Cuellar’s campaign headquarters. 

Pelosi said, “We want this to be not only a victory, but a resounding victory for Henry Cuellar. … Every step you take, every door you knock, every call you make, will make that resounding victory possible — and it includes getting out a big Democratic vote prepared to vote again in the general election so that we turn Texas blue.”

At an annual event in town, Pelosi further praised Cuellar for his contributions to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Last year, Pelosi said, “I’m very, very proud of Henry’s work in the Congress and I’m proud to support him — even if I didn’t have a policy of endorsing incumbents.”

Cuellar, in office since 2005, faces a progressive primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros on March 3. Cuellar says the district is more moderate and has criticized Cisneros’ positions on abortion and energy policy.

Cisneros is an immigration attorney. She says her progressive platform is more in touch with the district. She says Cuellar has voted with President Donald Trump 70% of the time and highlights Cuellar’s A rating from the National Rifle Association.

This past week, Courage to Change PAC—founded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D)—endorsed Cisneros. Her other endorsers include Justice Democrats and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I) and Elizabeth Warren (D).  

As we reported earlier, Cuellar has endorsements from groups that don’t typically back Democrats, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and LIBRE Initiative Action.

Wachspress withdraws from PA-01 primary

Pennsylvania’s 1st District Democratic primary is down to two candidates after Pennsbury School Board member Debbie Wachspress ended her campaign last week. The announcement followed a lawsuit alleging Wachspress used offensive language during a school board executive session. Wachspress said, “It is clear to me that these lies and distortions will be too big a distraction to overcome.”

Christina Finello and Skylar Hurwitz remain in the primary. Wachspress endorsed Finello. The Bucks County and Montgomery County Democratic committees endorsed Finello—all of Bucks and part of Montgomery counties are in the 1st District.

Wachspress had raised the most money among Democratic candidates. She reported $452,000 in receipts at the end of 2019, including a $50,000 loan. Finello had raised $81,000. 

Incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick (R) reported raising $1.9 million through the end of 2019. That included $532,000 from individual contributions and the rest from political committees and transfers from other candidates’ committees.  

Pennsylvania’s 1st is one of three congressional districts in the country that both Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election and a Republican won in the 2018 congressional election. 

Patch writer Doug Gross wrote, “Fitzpatrick’s seat is one that has been closely eyed by Democrats in recent election cycles. Bucks County has seen a rising tide of success for Democratic candidates, who took control of the county Board of Commissioners in last year’s election as well as winning in races for several county row offices and for control in multiple municipalities.”

State executives

Ben Salango receives labor endorsements

Kanawha County commissioner and West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango (D) has won endorsements from two in-state labor unions.

The Parkersburg-Marietta Building Trades endorsed Salango Feb. 17, while the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 53 issued its endorsement Feb. 25. Other unions endorsing Salango include the West Virginia and Appalachian Laborers’ District Council and Teamsters Local 175.

Salango faces four opponents, including activist Stephen Smith and state Sen. Ron Stollings, in the May 12 primary

Smith says his campaign is part of a broader political movement called West Virginia Can’t Wait and says he is running to change the tone of West Virginia’s politics. 

Stollings, who has represented a portion of southwestern West Virginia in the state Senate since 2006, has focused his campaign on education, health care, and jobs.

The winner will face the Republican nominee in the November general election. Democrats have won each of the past six West Virginia gubernatorial elections. Incumbent Jim Justice was elected as a Democrat before joining the Republican Party in 2017.

Leader of state House progressives endorses Dan Feltes for governor of New Hampshire

State Rep. Kristina Schultz (D), the leader of the New Hampshire House Progressive Caucus, endorsed state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes (D) for governor Thursday. 

Schultz said her endorsement was personal and was not an endorsement from the Progressive Caucus, which currently has 72 members. Feltes’ other legislative endorsements include nine of his 13 Democratic colleagues in the state Senate and around 80 of the 232 Democratic members of the state House.

The only other declared candidate in the Democratic primary is Executive Councillor Andru Volinsky (D). Volinsky’s endorsers include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.).

The filing deadline is June 12. The Sept. 8 Democratic primary is open to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Incumbent Chris Sununu (R) is running for re-election.

Update: Montana Democrats hold second gubernatorial debate

Last week, we reported that Montana gubernatorial candidates Mike Cooney (D) and Whitney Williams (D) had participated in their first debate. The two met for a second debate in Bozeman on Feb. 21. The candidate filing deadline is March 9. The June 2 primary will be open to all registered voters.


Local party endorsement draws criticism in PA House race

The Allegheny County Democratic Party endorsed Heather Kass in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania House District 36. The endorsement drew criticism from a local labor union and local state Sen. Lindsey Williams (D) because of comments Kass had made on social media. Kass has publicly expressed her opposition to the Affordable Care Act and criticized individuals who receive welfare.

Kass later said she regretted the social media posts and said that if elected, she would support the Democratic Party. There are five total candidates running in the April 28 primary. The Democratic nominee will face A.J. Doyle (R) in the Nov. 3 general election. District 36 contains portions of Pittsburgh.

Working Families Party backs progressive challenger in NY House primary

The Working Families Party endorsed Samuel Fein in his primary challenge of Assemblyman John McDonald (D-108). It’s the party’s first endorsement of a challenger to an Assembly Democrat this election cycle. This is McDonald’s first contested primary since his election in 2012, when he beat a WFP-endorsed candidate in the Democratic primary.

The WFP said it endorsed Fein because of McDonald’s criticism of tenant reform legislation and his stance on a $15 minimum wage in upstate New York. Fein is running to McDonald’s left, citing higher taxes on billionaires and racial and economic inequality as his key campaign issues.

The filing deadline for the race is April 2 and the primary will take place on June 23. The Democratic nominee will run in the Nov. 3 general election. District 108 contains portions of Albany.

Candidates for CT Senate hold fundraisers

Two candidates seeking progressive votes in the Democratic primary for Connecticut’s 17th Senate District each held fundraisers this weekend. Justin Farmer and Jorge Cabrera are each running for the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent George Logan (R) in the general election. Logan defeated Cabrera in the 2018 election 50.1% to 49.9%.

According to the New Haven Independent, the two candidates are gaining support among different groups. Farmer’s fundraiser consisted of younger voters focused on environmental issues, public transportation, and tax equity. Cabrera’s supporters include local Democratic assembly members and his campaign has focused on labor issues, municipal aid, and a progressive tax.

Power players

“The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. completely changed the landscape of American elections. … It’s time to fight back. Established March 1, 2015, End Citizens United is a Political Action Committee funded by grassroots donors. We are dedicated to countering the disastrous effects of Citizens United and reforming our campaign finance system.”

End Citizens United website 

End Citizens United is a political action committee that aims to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited because doing so would violate the First Amendment. 

End Citizens United’s mission statement is to “end Big Money in politics and fix our rigged political system by electing campaign finance reform champions, passing state ballot measures, and elevating this issue in the national conversation. We will work in partnership with these champions to overturn Citizens United and end the unlimited and undisclosed money in politics.” 

The PAC was founded in 2015 by three former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising strategists and has supported and made contributions to Democratic candidates.

Click here to view a list of candidates endorsed by End Citizens United. 

On Feb. 20, 2020, End Citizens United announced a partnership with Off the Sidelines, a PAC founded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The goals of the partnership according to the announcement are to “advocate for campaign finance reforms aimed at curbing the influence of money in politics and to raise money for and advise female candidates who align themselves with the groups on those issues.”

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 6 (February 19, 2020)

This week: Trump endorses House challengers, DeMaio, Issa ramp up criticisms ahead of CA-50 primary, and MN state senator in swing district announces retirement.

On the news

Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“One of the most common misconceptions I hear about Donald Trump is that he is not a fiscal conservative. …

And yet, every year, when the president has presented his budget proposals to Congress, they have contained more spending cuts than any president in history. They sought to achieve balance within 10-15 years. They outline streamlining reforms to bloated and dysfunctional programs. …

It’s an election year now, and Democrats would love nothing more than to trigger another government shutdown in the cynical confidence the media will blame the president. And Washington Republicans love trying to buy goodwill from voters with money borrowed from our grandkids. So this year’s spending totals may end up no better than the last three years.

But it’s not Donald Trump’s fault. And when – not if – he wins re-election in the fall, the second Trump Administration will be ready to fight, and win, on this issue too.”

Jim DeMint, Daily Caller, Feb. 18, 2020

“Deficits have ballooned under President Trump. The popular narrative has been that the culprit is 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Alas, facts are stubborn things, and the available data so far shows that current deficits are primarily being driven by spending. There is room for reasonable debate over the long-term impact of non-offset tax cuts, but what is inescapably clear is that the other side of the federal ledger – spending – has increased dramatically under Trump’s watch. …

Under this budget, spending will increase to more than $4.8 trillion in 2021, though as Cato’s Chris Edwards points out, the true number is closer to $5.4 trillion when accounting for hidden fees and other budgetary gimmicks. …

Meanwhile, President Trump campaigned on and continues to support not touching entitlements, the single largest driver of deficits and debt. As [the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget] also highlights, the Administration has proposed reforms that would reduce Medicare costs by hundreds of billions of dollars, as it has in past budgets. But color me a pessimist for thinking that the most likely outcome is for those responsible elements never to materialize and all the existing spending (and a whole lot of new spending) to continue on autopilot.”

Jonathan Bydlak, Daily Caller, Feb. 18, 2020

U.S. Congress

Trump endorses 7 House challengers


President Donald Trump tweeted endorsements for seven House challengers Feb. 12. The endorsements are for battleground races with Democratic incumbents and open seats with retiring Republican incumbents. Four of the endorsed candidates are running in March 3 primaries (three in Texas and one in California). 


The following table shows each endorsed candidate’s race, including the district’s incumbent, whether the seat is open, race ratings from three outlets, and noteworthy district election history.

For more of the president’s 2020 endorsements, as well as endorsements from previous election cycles, click here.

DeMaio, Issa ramp up criticisms ahead of CA-50 primary

Former Rep. Darrell Issa and former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio are criticizing one another over their immigration stances and Trump-supporting credentials ahead of California’s 50th District top-two primary

On Friday, DeMaio released an ad comparing Issa to Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator who voted to convict the president on the abuse of power article of impeachment. The ad’s narrator said Issa was “the only Republican to support the witch hunt against Trump” and that Issa supports amnesty for people in the country illegally. 

An Issa campaign ad released Feb. 12 says DeMaio supports amnesty, open borders, and sanctuary cities. A Feb. 13 ad said DeMaio “opposes Trump’s pro-life agenda.”  

Daily Kos wrote, “DeMaio and Issa each raised more money during the final three months of 2019 than any non-incumbent Republican candidate in any of the nation’s other House races.”

Nine candidates are running in the March 3 primary: four Republicans, one Democrat, three independents, and one member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.

California first used its top-two congressional primary system in 2012. In each 50th District election since then, a Democrat and Republican have advanced to the general election. Duncan Hunter (R), who resigned in January after pleading guilty to a count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, won each of those general elections.

State executives

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson preparing for a possible primary challenge from ex-Gov. Eric Greitens

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s campaign is preparing for the possibility of former Gov. Eric Greitens seeking a return to office. Greitens was elected governor in 2016 and resigned in June 2018.

In an interview Friday, Greitens said the truth surrounding the allegations against him was beginning to come to light. He declined to say whether he would run again in 2020. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, an unnamed Parson advisor said of Greitens, “Will he run? I doubt it…Are we going to be haunted by his ghost until he declares or filing for the primary closes? Absolutely.”

Greitens resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of campaign information. A Missouri Ethics Commission investigation concluded Thursday that Greitens’ campaign had violated state campaign finance law but did not find that Greitens himself had committed any wrongdoing. 

The pro-Parson PAC Uniting Missouri launched a $1 million statewide ad campaign Feb. 11 describing him as “a former sheriff, a conservative tough-on-crime governor.” Last month, the PAC released a poll it had sponsored which included a question asking voters who they would support in a hypothetical Parson-Greitens matchup.

Candidates for governor of Missouri have until March 31 to file. Parson’s only currently declared Republican challenger is state Rep. Jim Neely (R). The Aug. 4 primary is open to all registered voters.

Tim Eyman to run for governor of Washington as a Republican

Washington gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman announced Feb. 12 that he would run for governor as a Republican. Eyman entered the race in November as an independent.

Although this is Eyman’s first run for elected office, he has previously been active in state politics as a ballot measure sponsor. Since 1998, 17 Eyman-sponsored measures have made the state ballot. Voters have approved 11 of them.

Under Washington’s top-two primary system, all candidates for governor will appear on the Aug. 4 primary ballot. The top two finishers, regardless of partisan affiliation, will advance to the general election. Each of the three gubernatorial elections Washington has held since switching to top-two primaries resulted in a Democrat and a Republican advancing.

Thirteen candidates are currently running for governor, including incumbent Jay Inslee (D), two other Democrats, seven Republicans, and three third party or independent candidates. The filing deadline is May 15.


MN senator in swing district announces retirement

Minnesota Sen. Paul Anderson (R) announced he would not seek re-election in 2020. Anderson represents District 44, which Hillary Clinton (D) carried with 60 percent of the vote in 2016. Anderson said he was retiring to focus on his personal and professional goals. 

Anderson’s district is one of two in the state represented by Republicans but won by Clinton in 2016. There are six districts in which the opposite is true—Trump won a district currently represented by a Democrat. According to the StarTribune, Democrats flipped a state House seat that overlaps with District 44 in 2018.

All 67 Senate seats are up for election in 2020. Republicans currently have a 35-32 majority. Minnesota has a divided government, with Democrats controlling the state House and the governorship. The candidate filing period runs through June 2.

Three challengers file in Alaska over dividend fund issue

In Alaska, three Republicans filed challenges to incumbent legislators over the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). As we reported earlier, the PFD issue has divided Alaska Republicans and led to the removal of three senators from committee assignments. 

The PFD is a payment to all residents of Alaska who lived there for the last full calendar year, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s (R) proposal to pay a larger divided has divided Republicans. Dunleavy has called for a payment of a full PFD according to a 1982 law and cutting spending elsewhere to balance the state’s budget, while lawmakers have proposed lowering the PFD instead.

Jesse Sumner filed to run against Rep. David Eastman in District 10. Sumner supports paying the full dividend and placing a constitutional cap on spending. John Cox filed to run against Sen. Gary Stevens in District P, and Michael Sheldon filed to run against Sen. Bert Stedman in District R. Both challengers say they support a full PFD payment.

Republicans currently hold a 13-7 majority in the Senate. While Republicans have a 22-15 numerical majority in the House, a coalition government of Democrats and Republicans control the chamber. The governor of Alaska is a Republican, so the state has divided government.

TX gov announces tour to campaign for incumbents

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced a pre-primary tour of the state to campaign on behalf of 10 incumbents with primary challengers and candidates for open seats or in Democratic districts. 

Abbott will campaign for Reps. Geanie Morrison (District 30), J.D. Sheffield (District 59), Jared Patterson (District 106), and Briscoe Cain (District 128), each of whom faces at least one primary challenger on March 3.

Ballotpedia has rated 10 of the 27 GOP primaries for Texas state house as battleground primaries. This is the second primary cycle to take place following the retirement of the House Speaker. Dennis Bonnen (R) announced his retirement in October 2019.

Special update: North Dakota presidential nominating process

We are passionate about politics. We’re dedicated to making it easier for you to understand the political process. 

The mechanics at the heart of the primary and caucus system can be particularly complex. We work to simplify the complexity—without compromising accuracy. Sometimes, we get it wrong. We sincerely regret those errors. But we also strive to correct them as soon as possible, giving you the right information in a timely manner.

In previous reporting on the North Dakota GOP’s presidential nominating process on Ballotpedia, we missed some key developments that distinguish the 2016 and 2020 cycles. Here’s what we’ve learned…

In 2016 (and in previous presidential election cycles), the North Dakota GOP did not hold primaries or caucuses. Instead, the party conducted a straw poll in the spring. At its state-level convention, the party then selected delegates to the national nominating convention. The results of the straw poll were non-binding, meaning the delegates to the national nominating convention were not required to vote in accordance with the poll’s results. This made the state convention the deciding event in the state party’s presidential nominating process.

This year, North Dakota’s Republican Party will conduct caucuses as part of its presidential nominating process. These caucuses are scheduled for March 10. 

Rule No. 21 of the State Endorsing Convention Rules states that delegates will be allocated proportionally to any candidate receiving at least 20 percent of votes cast in the caucuses. If a candidate receives at least 60 percent of votes cast, that candidate will be awarded all of the state’s delegates. According to The Bismarck Tribune, President Donald Trump will be the only candidate on the caucus ballot in North Dakota. 

Individual delegates will be elected at the state party convention, scheduled for March 27 through March 28. Delegate election, and all other party business, will take place on March 28. Twenty-six of the state’s total 29 delegates will be elected by secret ballot (the remaining three delegates are the party chairman, the national committeeman, and the national committeewoman). 

We are working to learn more about the terms of caucus participation, the location of caucus sites, and the form of voting. We will update this article with additional information as it becomes available.  

For more on the North Dakota GOP’s presidential nominating process, click here

Power players

“With Honor Action is a cross-partisan movement dedicated to promoting and advancing principled veteran leadership in elected public service. … As a part of our overall effort to highlight the importance of veterans and veteran issues, we support principled military veterans in Congress and help amplify their cross-partisan agenda that finds solutions for the American people. We also work with veteran candidates on the nuts and bolts of running for Congress, helping them organize their own campaigns and build a winning strategy.” – With Honor Action website

Founded in 2017, With Honor Action is a D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization associated with the With Honor PAC and the With Honor Fund super PAC. The group’s mission is to “promote and advance principled, veteran leadership in public service through education/advocacy programs, grants, and charitable contributions.” The With Honor Action website describes the group’s work as follows: 


  • Support organizations that promote cross-partisanship
  • Support organizations that help veterans
  • Enact substantial cross-partisan policies
  • Work with veteran candidates





So far, the group’s largest donation has come from Jeff Bezos, who gave $10 million to the With Honor Fund in 2018. In the 2018 cycle, the group spent around $4 million supporting Democratic candidates and around $5 million supporting Republican candidates. 

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 6 (February 19, 2020)

This week: Working Families Party breaks with Engel, endorses Bowman in NY-16; LIBRE Initiative backs Cuellar, groups spend for Cisneros in TX-28; and former IDC member gets primary challenger.

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“Abortion rights are in theory one of the party’s basic principles, a standard it will not compromise. Except that it does, with disastrous results. Consider Dan Lipinski and Henry Cuellar, two conservative Democrats who oppose abortion: The party didn’t just welcome them into the fold, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is defending them against challenges from pro-choice women to their left. Abortion matters, until suddenly it doesn’t. Women have a sacrosanct right to the control of their own bodies, until a conservative Democrat faces a primary challenge.”

Sarah Jones, Intelligencer, Feb. 8, 2020

“Until recently, I spent much of my time working hard to elect Democrats to public office — but the early presidential campaigning pushed me away from the party, as well prompting my resignation from the board of Democrats for Life, where I had served since 2014.

For someone who is progressive on most issues, this decision doesn’t come easy. … 

But the party gave me no choice. Yes, ours was a small group, but as many as a third of Democrats identify as pro-life. Even when party leadership finally met with us, they didn’t take us seriously.

When we showed them that pro-life Democrats would beat Republicans in certain districts, it didn’t matter. …

Anything even hinting that abortion is less than good now violates party orthodoxy.”

Charles Camosy, New York Post, Feb. 6, 2020

U.S. Congress

McGrath airs first TV ad since November, picks up DSCC endorsement in KY

Amy McGrath released her first TV ad since November in the Democratic primary for Senate in Kentucky. She says: 

“We need a senator who fights for things like affordable healthcare, college, and technical school, not tax cuts for wealthy donors. That doesn’t mean free college or Medicare for All. I’m against that. Instead, we can improve the Affordable Care Act with no one getting kicked off their health plan. And I believe in national service as a way to pay for college.”

Also last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) endorsed McGrath.

Candidate and state Rep. Charles Booker said the DSCC is wrong in thinking that “running to the soft center” is the way to beat incumbent Mitch McConnell (R). Booker supports Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Ten candidates are running in the May 19 primary.

McConnell was first elected in 1984 and has served as Senate majority leader since 2015. He faces seven challengers in the Republican primary

Three ratings outlets call the general election either Likely or Solid Republican.

Working Families Party breaks with Engel, endorses Bowman in NY-16

The Working Families Party endorsed middle school principal Jamaal Bowman’s primary challenge to Rep. Eliot Engel in New York’s 16th Congressional District. The party supported Engel in past elections.

New York Working Families Party State Director Sochie Nnaemeka praised Bowman’s work with children and said, “New Yorkers need elected leaders who aren’t afraid to take on big money and who will fight for strong public schools, Medicare for All and a transformational criminal justice system.”

Engel was first elected to the House in 1988. He chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee and in 2018 was a founding member of the Congressional Medicare for All Caucus.

Bowman is running to Engel’s left, criticizing his votes for the Iraq War and the 1994 crime bill and saying he has taken money from corporate PACs. Bowman’s campaign website reads, “It’s time for a Democrat who will fight for schools and education, not bombs and incarceration.” 

Engel’s campaign said he has a progressive record and that special interests are “trying to divide the Democratic Party and distract us from the real mission, ousting Trump, flipping the U.S. Senate and holding the House.” His campaign website emphasizes his efforts to curb President Donald Trump’s war powers.

Bowman was also endorsed by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who said, “Unlike too many Democrats in Congress, Jamaal won’t just say he supports the right solutions – he’ll be a leader in fighting to get them passed.” 

Six candidates are currently running in the June 23 primary. The filing deadline is April 2. 

LIBRE Initiative backs Cuellar, groups spend for Cisneros in TX-28

LIBRE Initiative Action endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’ 28th Congressional District race. According to The Texas Tribune, it’s the first time the group has endorsed a Democrat in a federal race.

A memo from LIBRE’s senior advisor Daniel Garza read, “On issues ranging from immigration to trade to jobs and the economy, our congressman has been a consensus builder. He has sought out and found allies on both sides of the aisle to push real solutions to real problems.” 

LIBRE’s website says it “advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community.” 

The Tribune wrote, “The LIBRE Initiative is one of several groups that engages in politics within the network built by conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch.” 

Cuellar, in office since 2005, faces a primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros on March 3. 

Cisneros is an immigration attorney. She says her progressive platform is more in touch with the district. She says Cuellar has voted with the president 70% of the time and highlights Cuellar’s A rating from the National Rifle Association.  

Cuellar says the district is more moderate and has criticized Cisneros’ positions on abortion and energy policy, along with saying she moved to the area six months ago.

The Working Families Party, the Communication Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union, and the Texas Organizing Project announced Monday they’d team up to spend at least $350,000 supporting Cisneros ahead of the election.

As we reported last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $200,000 on an ad supporting Cuellar, marking its highest spending for a Democrat since 2014.

State executives

Williamson ends campaign for Oregon Secretary of State

Former Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson dropped out of the race for secretary of state Feb. 10.

Williamson resigned her House seat late last year in order to focus on her secretary of state campaign. 

In her announcement, Williamson said that she was withdrawing due to a soon-to-be-published story about her campaign finance practices. Local media sources reported that the story in question is a Willamette Week investigation into her campaign’s spending. The story did not accuse Williamson of breaking campaign finance laws.

Williamson’s withdrawal leaves three Democrats still in the running: Mark Hass, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and Cameron Smith.

Unlike in most states, Oregon’s secretary of state is first in line to the governorship. There is no lieutenant governor of Oregon. Four governors, including incumbent Kate Brown (D), were originally secretaries of state who succeeded to the office after a governor left office early.

The current secretary of state is Republican Bev Clarno, meaning that if Brown were to leave office, Republicans would gain Oregon’s governorship and break the state’s Democratic trifecta. Clarno, who was appointed to the office following the death of Dennis Richardson (R) in February 2019, will not seek a full term in 2020. 

The May 19 primary is open to registered Democrats only. Additional candidates have until March 10 to file.

Williams, Cooney meet for first debate

The Democratic candidates for governor of Montana met for their first debate Feb. 12 in Billings. Mike Cooney and Whitney Williams discussed healthcare, education, and the economy.

Cooney, the current lieutenant governor, and Williams, a consultant, are the only candidates currently in the running for the Democratic nomination. As of the end of 2019, Cooney had raised $450,000 and Williams had raised $440,000. Cooney’s endorsers include incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who is term-limited, and Sen. Jon Tester (D). Williams’ include EMILY’s List and Missoula Mayor John Engen.

The filing deadline for the Democratic primary is March 9. The June 2 primary is open to all registered voters. The winner will face the Republican nominee in the November general election. No Republican candidate has won election as governor of Montana since Judy Martz (R) in 2000.


Pritzker endorses challenger in IL House race

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) endorsed Margaret Croke in the Democratic primary for Illinois House District 12. This puts him at odds with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who last week endorsed Rep. Jonathan Pizer in the same race. Pizer was appointed on Feb. 9, 2020, to replace former Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D).

Kimberly Walz announced her withdrawal from the race following the endorsements. In a statement, Walz said, “This race is unfortunately no longer about issues or experiences. It’s about powerful allies and their money. It’s not a reality that I’m happy about. However, it’s a reality.”

The primary is March 3. Pizer, Croke, James Garfield, Marty Malone, and Ryan Podges are competing for the nomination. No Republican candidate filed to run, so the winner of the primary election will be unopposed in the November general election.

Libre Initiative also endorses in Texas Senate primary

LIBRE Initiative Action (the same group that endorsed Cuellar in TX-28) and an affiliated group, Americans for Prosperity Action, also endorsed Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-27) in his primary campaign against Ruben Cortez Jr. and Sara Stapleton-Barrera. The Dallas Morning News said that Lucio is often the chamber’s lone Democrat to vote with Republicans on social issues.

Several progressive groups responded to the endorsement. Progress Texas, Planned Parenthood, and the Texas Freedom Network each issued calls for district residents to vote against Lucio in the March 3 primary election. Lucio faced one primary challenger last cycle and won that race 84% to 16%.

Former IDC member gets primary challenger

Brandon Stradford (D) announced he would challenge New York Sen. Diane Savino (D-23) in the Democratic primary on June 23. Stradford told the New York Post he would make Savino’s membership in the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) a key issue in the campaign. The IDC was a group of eight Democrats that caucused with Republicans to give them a majority in the New York State Senate. The IDC dissolved in 2018 and Savino rejoined the Democratic caucus.

Savino faced a primary in 2018 over her membership in the IDC. In that race, she received 67.5% of the vote, defeating Jasmine Robinson (20.4%) and Stradford (12.0%). Stradford said he feels he has a better chance of defeating Savino in a one-on-one primary.

Power players

“We’re building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.” – Sunrise Movement website

Founded in 2017, Sunrise Movement is a D.C.-based nonprofit organization that describes itself as “a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” 

The group promotes the Green New Deal and has scorecard evaluating 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on the following categories related to the Green New Deal: “How they talk about it,” “How much they talk about it,” “Plan to win,” and “Green New Deal vision.” 

Sunrise Movement has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. 

HuffPost reported on Feb. 13 that the group was transitioning its focus from the presidential election to on three March 3 Texas primaries, supporting Heidi Sloan (TX-25), Jessica Cisneros (TX-28), and Mike Siegel (TX-10).  

To view a full list of the group’s endorsements, click here.

We are highlighting the cross-partisan With Honor Fund in the Republican version of today’s newsletter. Click here to read and here to subscribe.

Arizona governor issues nation’s first 3-for-1 regulatory policy

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed an executive order on January 13, 2020, that requires state agencies to eliminate three existing regulations in order to issue a new regulation.

“If the government ever deems a new regulation absolutely necessary, it must first identify three others to eliminate,” said Ducey in his 2020 State of the State Address. “The result: New regulations will naturally mean less regulations.”

President Donald Trump (R) issued Executive Order 13771 in January 2017 that included a requirement for federal agencies to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation issued.

Ducey’s executive order is the first state-level action to expand Trump’s 2-for-1 regulatory policy to a 3-for-1 regulatory policy. Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) issued an executive order that included the 2-for-1 regulatory mandate in January 2019 and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) issued a similar executive order on February 3, 2020. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed a budget deal in July 2019 that included a comparable 2-for-1 regulatory requirement.

Ducey’s executive order also renewed a statewide moratorium on new agency rulemakings for the sixth year in a row. Exceptions to the moratorium must be approved by the governor and include rules aimed at “protecting public health or safety, advancing job creation or economic development, or reducing or eliminating burdens or government waste,” according to a press release from the governor.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:

Pennsylvania statewide filing deadline passes on February 18

The filing deadline to run for elected office in Pennsylvania is on February 18, 2020. In Pennsylvania, prospective candidates may file for the following federal and state offices:

• 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
• State auditor general, attorney general, and treasurer
• 25 seats in the Pennsylvania State Senate and 203 seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

The primary is scheduled for April 28, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Pennsylvania’s filing deadline is the 13th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on March 2 in Nebraska.

Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:

Signatures due in California governor recall effort

Supporters of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had until February 13 to submit 1,495,709 signatures to force a recall election. The recall, which was submitted by Erin Cruz (R), was approved for circulation by Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) on September 6, 2019. As of January 29, 2020, there were 197,150 signatures submitted, and 134,357 had been deemed valid by the secretary of state.

The recall petition alleges that Newsom mismanaged the state and caused poor schools, deteriorating infrastructure, high costs for gas and utilities, and increased homelessness and debt. The recall petition also criticized Newsom’s support of policies such as Medicare for All and laws that aid immigrants living in the country illegally.

A second recall petition was submitted by James Veltmeyer and approved for circulation against Gov. Newsom on September 27, 2019. Veltmeyer ended the recall on January 6, 2020. He said on his recall website that he was ending the effort because it was not going to be successful and because the effort did not have the money to collect signatures.

In response to the recall efforts, Newsom filed a statement with the secretary of state in August 2019. In his statement, Newsom said that the “…recall effort will cost California taxpayers $81 million dollars! It is being pushed by political extremists supporting President Trump’s hateful attacks on California.”

California became a Democratic trifecta in 2011. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the California state House by a 61-18 margin with one vacancy and the state Senate by a 29-10 margin with one vacancy. Newsom succeeded Jerry Brown (D) as governor in 2019. He won the 2018 election with 61.9% of the vote.

Three gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 22 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 5 (February 12, 2020)

This week: Susan B. Anthony List endorses Loeffler after opposing her, Empower Texans donors make donations in three-way HD92 primary, and Jon Huntsman picks gubernatorial running mate.

On the news

Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“The only reasonable step at this point is to strip Romney of his committee assignments and expel him from the Senate Republican caucus. While there is truth to Romney’s claim that he votes for the bulk of the administration’s policy proposals, if he is truly as principled as he claims to be, he will continue to do so as an independent senator.

In his speech Wednesday, Romney declared that the impeachment verdict ‘will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgment of the American people.’

He is correct. The American people should have a vote on both the Trump presidency and on a previously Trump-endorsed senator who went on to betray the will of his constituents. With the backing of national party leadership, the Utah state legislature should immediately pass H.B. 217 in order to allow for the recall of Sen. Romney. This would force him to stand for reelection this year, sharing a ballot with the Democratic presidential nominee he has already done so much to assist.”

Mark Ivanyo, Washington Examiner, Feb. 8, 2020

“If you honestly would prefer your children grow up to be more like Donald Trump than Mitt Romney, I don’t know that there’s anything left to talk about. Watch his actual speech on the floor. I have no problem with people who disagree with his reasoning. But to come away thinking he’s anything other than a man molded by charactering-building [sic] institutions (his family, his church, the Senate itself) who is trying to do right by them strikes me as a kind of Trump-personality-cult derangement. … 

The hysterics insisting that Romney must be kicked out of the GOP—an effort Mitch McConnell sees for the idiocy it is—are in effect arguing that you can vote for all of Trump’s judges and the vast bulk of his legislative initiatives and it counts for nothing if you don’t accept full baptism into his cult of personality. 

I’ve been saying for 20 years that the cult of unity is a poison and that the hero in the American political tradition is not the mob, but the man who stands up to it. This week there was one hero and it wasn’t Donald Trump.”

Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch, Feb. 7, 2020

U.S. Congress

WI-07 special primary election Feb. 18

Jason Church and Tom Tiffany are running in the Republican primary election for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District on Feb. 18. The district’s special general election is May 12. 

Church and Tiffany agree on most policy positions but have highlighted their different backgrounds. Church describes himself as an outsider and a “combat veteran looking to continue my service on behalf of the people of Wisconsin’s 7th district.” Tiffany, a state senator, describes himself as a proven conservative who would “provide the leadership to get things done.”

With Honor Fund and Americans 4 Security PAC have spent on advertising supporting Church. Club for Growth Action, Americans for Prosperity Action, House Freedom Action, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have spent in support of Tiffany. 

The special election was called to fill the vacancy left by Sean Duffy’s (R) Sept. 2019 resignation. Duffy cited the impending birth of his child as his reason for resigning. He was first elected in 2010 and won re-election in 2018, defeating Margaret Engebretson (D) 60% to 39%.

Incumbent, party chairs back Garbarino in NY-02

State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino picked up endorsements from retiring Rep. Peter King (R) and chairs of the state, Nassau County, and Suffolk County Republican parties in the Republican primary for New York’s 2nd Congressional District. 

Garbarino is one of six candidates running in the June 23 primary. The filing deadline is April 2.

The field currently includes Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger, real estate developer Robert Kudler, Suffolk County Board of Elections member Nick LaLota, and state Assemblyman Michael LiPetri. Garbarino has been in the state Assembly since 2013.  

The general election is rated Lean Republican. Barack Obama won the presidential election in the district in 2008 and 2012, and Donald Trump won it in 2016. King, first elected in 1992, won re-election in 2018 with 53% of the vote. 

New York’s 2nd is one of 36 House districts with an open seat in the 2020 elections due to congressional retirements. Twenty-seven Republican representatives and nine Democrats are not seeking re-election.

Susan B. Anthony List endorses Loeffler after opposing her 

Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s special Senate election after opposing her appointment to the seat last fall.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) resigned Dec. 31 for health reasons. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler, a financial executive and co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team, to fill the vacancy. She took office Jan. 6.

Monday, SBA List Candidate Fund said in its endorsement, “During her first week in office, she co-sponsored three major pro-life bills that would stop late-term abortions, protect babies who survive abortions, and end the funneling of taxpayer dollars to the abortion industry.”

In November, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called a hospital whose board Loeffler sat on a “training ground for abortionists” and said her connection to the hospital should “disqualify her from representing the state in the U.S. Senate.”

Susan B. Anthony List says its “mission is to end abortion by electing national leaders and advocating for laws that save lives, with a special calling to promote pro-life women leaders.” 

Four Republicans, five Democrats, and one independent are currently running in the Nov. 3 all-party general election. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two will be Jan. 5, 2021.

As we reported earlier, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins—President Donald Trump’s preferred pick for the Senate appointment—entered the special election Jan. 29.

State executives

Jon Huntsman picks gubernatorial running mate

Utah gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) announced Friday he had selected Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi (R) as his running mate. Huntsman is the second Utah gubernatorial candidate to select a running mate — Thomas Wright (R) formed a ticket with Rep. Rob Bishop (R) last month. Five other Republican candidates have yet to pick a running mate.

Kaufusi was elected mayor of Provo in 2017, becoming the first woman to hold the job. She earlier served six years on the Provo School Board. 

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) became the first of the seven Republican candidates to formally turn in his nominating signatures Monday. Candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Utah may qualify for the primary ballot by either submitting petitions or winning the party’s nomination at the annual convention. 

Candidates may choose to focus on one track or pursue both. Every candidate other than Jason Christensen and Greg Hughes is seeking to qualify via petition. If Cox files the required 28,000 valid signatures, he will appear on the June 30 primary ballot regardless of his performance at the nominating convention.

The candidate filing deadline is March 19. The June 30 primary will be open to registered Republicans only.

Dan Forest the fundraising leader in North Carolina GOP gubernatorial race

Dan Forest (R) leads Holly Grange (R) in fundraising with less than one month remaining before North Carolina’s gubernatorial primary, according to reports filed Jan. 31. Forest, the incumbent lieutenant governor, and Grange, a state representative, are the two candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

The reports cover all fundraising and spending between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2019. During that time, Forest raised $1.4 million to Grange’s $100,000. Since the beginning of the election cycle in Jan. 2017, Forest has raised $4.1 million, and Grange has raised $160,000.

The March 3 primary is open to registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters only. The last Republican to win election as governor of North Carolina was Pat McCrory (R) in 2012.


Abortion amendment vote sets off intraparty fight in Kansas

Last week, Kansas House Republicans fell four votes short of the threshold needed to send an abortion-related constitutional amendment to the August ballot. All House Democrats and four RepublicansDon Hineman, Jan Kessinger, Bill Pannbacker, and Tom Phillips—opposed the amendment. The four Republicans each expressed concerns about placing the issue on the August primary ballot instead of the November general election ballot when turnout would be higher. As soon as the amendment failed, Senate President Susan Wagle pulled several bills related to Medicaid expansion from consideration in the Senate and said none would be considered until the amendment passed the House.

In recent Kansas history, division within the Republican Party has led to primary battles between conservative and moderate factions of the party. In 2016, 14 conservative incumbents lost primary elections to opponents running against the tax cuts signed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback (R). The 2018 primary season saw a continuation of that fight, with 23 of the 31 contested primaries featuring at least one tax cut supporter and opponent.

Of the four Republicans that voted against the amendment in the House, only two (Hineman and Kessinger) have filed to run for re-election so far, and neither has a primary challenger. The filing deadline for those races is June 1.

Empower Texans donors make donations in three-way HD92 primary

Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, the main supporters of the group Empower Texans, each donated $75,000 to the campaign of Jeff Cason, who faces Taylor Gillig and Jim Griffin in the three-way Republican primary for the District 92 seat held by Jonathan Stickland (R). Stickland announced in June 2019 that he would not seek re-election and endorsed Cason.

Empower Texans was the group that published the recording leading to the retirement of Texas Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Bonnen was recorded offering the group House media credentials in exchange for working to defeat 11 Republican members of the House. Bonnen initially denied that the meeting with Empower Texans occurred, before later apologizing to the Republican caucus in a letter and announcing his retirement.

Three tapped to fill Alaska House vacancy

As we reported last week in Heart of the Primaries, Alaska Rep. Tammie Wilson’s (R) retirement created an opportunity for the chamber’s Republican minority to pick up a seat. Wilson was one of eight Republicans who created a coalition majority with 15 Democrats and two independents in Feb. 2019. This meant that although Republicans had a numerical majority in the House, a Democrat was selected as Speaker.

The Alaska Republican Party submitted three names to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) to consider for the open District 3 seat. 

  • Michael Prax is a former member of the Fairbanks borough assembly and has worked on several campaigns, including Dunleavy’s, in the past.
  • Thomas Studler is the chief of staff for District 6 Rep. Dave Talerico. 
  • Frederick Villa retired last year from his position as Associate Vice President of Workforce Programs for the University of Alaska System.

Dunleavy said he would meet with all three nominees to discuss their policy positions before making an appointment. In a statement, Dunleavy said he wants to discuss “creating a sustainable and affordable state budget, making Alaska safer, and developing Alaska’s vast reserves of natural resources.” Dunleavy has until Feb. 23 to make an appointment.

Power players

“Empower Texans is a non-profit service organization. Through multiple media formats, we educate and inspire Texans to exercise effective citizenship. Using research, reporting, and advocacy, we empower taxpayers to advocate for good governance and hold their elected officials accountable.” – Empower Texans website

Founded in 2006, Empower Texans is a nonprofit organization that describes its work as “[e]nsuring the Lone Star State shines brightly with empowered citizen-leaders holding elected officials accountable.” The group is affiliated with the Empower Texans PAC, which says it “exists to support conservative, reform-minded candidates for the Texas House and Senate.” 

Empower Texans’ projects include Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texans for Courageous Courts, and the publication Texas Scorecard. To view 2020 primary endorsements made by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and Texans for Courageous Courts, click here

Empower Texans also produces a Fiscal Responsibility Index, which scores state legislators on what it calls their performance on “size and role of government issues.” 

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 5 (February 12, 2020)

This week: U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs Cuellar in TX-28, Chicago mayor endorses Newman in IL-03, and Working Families Party releases endorsements in NY legislative races.

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“Even as the Iowa Democratic Party was trying to sort out the chaos in its reporting system, a party official announced that turnout was ‘on pace’ with what they had seen in 2016.

In other words, it was mediocre. About 170,000 people participated in the 2016 Iowa Democratic caucuses, far short of the unprecedented 240,000 voters who turned out in 2008 and launched Barack Obama on his way to the White House. What was so exciting a dozen years ago was not only how many Iowans showed up, but who they were: young people, first-time caucus-goers, an ethnically diverse mix of voters in an overwhelmingly white state.

Until recent days, there had been plenty of buzz among Democrats that this year would set a new record. There was even some loose talk that turnout could reach 300,000, which would be incontrovertible evidence of the passion that their party is feeling about the prospect of defeating President Trump in November. …

So-so turnout blows a hole in the rationale of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in particular. His electability argument is that he can inspire the passion it takes to bring out young people and disaffected Americans who normally don’t vote.”

Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2020

“[S]ome Democrats who spoke with local voters didn’t think [low voter turnout in Iowa] was necessarily a bad sign for one somewhat odd reason: Democrats, by and large, were happy with their choices and didn’t feel the need to pick.

Megan Suhr, the former chair of the Marion County Democrats, wasn’t surprised when her caucus site saw lower turnout than 2016. She expected the result.

She knocked doors before the caucuses and said she mostly encountered people who said they would vote for whoever the nominee is in November.

‘There were a lot of different reasons and explanations,’ Suhr said. ‘There were also a lot of people who said they’d been watching all the hearings and they were watching the trial, and to them, whoever the caucus-goers decided, whoever came out of the primaries, was who they were going to support in the fall.’”

Nikoel Hytrek, Iowa Starting Line, Feb. 7, 2020

U.S. Congress

U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs Cuellar in TX-28

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $200,000 on a Spanish-language ad supporting Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’ 28th Congressional District primary. The ad says Cuellar helped pass the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and protected the auto industry from tariffs.

The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek wrote: “It is a somewhat unusual move by the powerful Republican-leaning business group, which has previously supported centrist Democrats but has not spent seriously on behalf of one since 2014.”

Cuellar, in office since 2005, is running against immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros in the March 3 primary. Cisneros’ platform includes Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a $15-per-hour minimum wage. Cuellar has said the district is more moderate. He says he opposes a Green New Deal and supports expanding health care access and protecting local jobs, among other priorities.

Other satellite spending in the race includes $1.2 million on ads supporting Cisneros and opposing Cuellar from Texas Forward—a PAC affiliated with EMILY’s List—and American Workers for Progress’ $700,000 on pro-Cuellar ads.

PAC backs Smith’s Senate bid in NC, Smith disavows PAC

Faith and Power PAC has spent $2.4 million supporting state Sen. Erica Smith in the Democratic primary for Senate in North Carolina. It’s the first noteworthy satellite spending for Smith in the race. Smith distanced herself from the group.

After the group released a T.V. ad and reported $1.6 million in initial expenditures last week, media outlets wrote that the group had Republican ties. CNN reported, “The media buyer, Neylan and Partners, has worked on behalf of Republican campaigns before, including a super PAC supporting Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential campaign as well as Americans for Tax Reform.”

The group’s ad says Smith is “the only proven progressive” and that she supports Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.

Smith’s campaign said in a statement, “The Erica for U.S. campaign disavows and disassociates ourselves from the interference of Republicans in the Democratic Senate Primary. … This entity is not authorized to represent our views and positions.”

Candidate Cal Cunningham said, “Washington Republicans know Senator Tillis is weak, and apparently they don’t like his chances against me in November. Now they’re resorting to shady tactics to meddle in our election — and it’s disrespectful to North Carolina voters.”

VoteVets Action Fund has spent almost $6 million on ads supporting Cunningham. Cunningham has also released his own ads. 

Cunningham’s ads focus on his support for expanding Medicaid, lowering drug costs, and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. Smith’s campaign website says she supports a Green New Deal, the “expansion of affordable healthcare for all,” drug price controls, and Medicaid expansion.

Cunningham ended 2019 having raised $3.3 million and with $1.7 million on hand. Smith raised $213,000 and had $95,000 on hand.

Smith and Cunningham are among the five primary candidates running for the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in November. The primary is March 3. Three ratings outlets view the race as a Toss-up or Lean Republican.

Chicago mayor endorses Newman in IL-03

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot endorsed Marie Newman in her rematch against incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski. Chicago makes up about one-third of Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District.

Lightfoot said Saturday that Newman would stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. She said Lipinski “voted against Obamacare, mocks efforts to combat climate change, and is actually still opposed to marriage equality.”

As we reported in our first issue of Heart of the Primaries, Lipinski announced in January that 27 mayors and village presidents had endorsed his re-election bid. Three days before Lipinski’s announcement, Lightfoot tweeted, “I support a big tent but there’s no room under the flaps for anyone who is actively seeking to deny women control over our bodies. Time to leave @danlipinski.”

Newman lost to Lipinksi 51% to 49% in the 2018 Democratic primary

WI-07 special primary election Feb. 18

Lawrence Dale and Tricia Zunker are running in the Democratic primary election for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District on Feb. 18. The district’s special general election is May 12. The special election was called to fill the vacancy left when Sean Duffy (R) resigned in Sept. 2019. Duffy cited the impending birth of his child as his reason for resigning. He was first elected in 2010 and won re-election in 2018, defeating Margaret Engebretson (D) 60% to 39%.

Dale, an insurance salesperson, previously ran as a Green Party candidate for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District in 2014 and as a Democratic candidate for District 34 of the Wisconsin state Assembly in 2016. His priorities include transitioning the area’s timber pulp industry to hemp pulp, growing the local farming industry, and passing Medicare for All. 

Zunker, a member of the Wausau School Board and an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court, said she would be an advocate for local farmers and work to improve public education. Zunker said she favors “Medicare for All for those who want it.” Zunker received endorsements from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the 7th Congressional District Democratic Party.

State executives

Josh Owens drops out of Indiana gubernatorial primary, leaving Woody Myers uncontested for the nomination

Josh Owens (D) suspended his campaign for Indiana’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination Wednesday, leaving Woody Myers (D) as the only Democrat in the race ahead of the Feb. 7 filing deadline.

Owens, the chief executive officer of tech firm SupplyKick, offered Myers his endorsement and said the desire for a strong Democratic ticket in the general motivated his decision.

Indiana Democrats have not had a contested gubernatorial primary since 2008. That year, former Rep. Jill Long Thompson (D) defeated businessman Jim Schellinger (D) by 50.6% to 49.4%. Incumbent Mitch Daniels (R) defeated Thompson 58% to 40% in the general election.

Myers will face the winner of the Republican primary, contested between incumbent Eric Holcomb (R) and challenger Brian Roth (R), in the November general election. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Indiana since Frank O’Bannon (D) in 2000.

Pennsylvania Democrats nominate attorney general and treasurer candidates, auditor nomination to be contested in primary

The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania held its annual winter meeting Feb. 1 in Harrisburg, where the party endorsed Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) and Treasurer Joe Torsella (D) but did not settle on a nomination for state auditor ahead of the contested primary.

Incumbent auditor Eugene DePasquale (D) is running for the U.S. House rather than seeking re-election, leaving the office open. Six Democrats, including former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad (D), state Rep. Scott Conklin (D), and Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb (D), have so far declared they will run in the April 28 primary. 

The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 18. The last Republican to serve as state auditor was Barbara Hafer (R), who left office in 1997.

North Carolina lieutenant gubernatorial candidates meet for forum

All six Democrats running for the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor of North Carolina met for a candidate forum in Kannapolis Sunday, where they discussed their plans for the office.

North Carolina is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor. Incumbent Dan Forest (R) is running for governor this year, leaving the office open. The lieutenant governor of North Carolina presides over the state senate and casts tie-breaking votes in addition to serving as acting governor while the governor is out of state. The governor may choose to delegate additional powers to the lieutenant governor.

The March 3 primary is open only to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Should no candidate win a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff. No Democrat has won election as lieutenant governor of North Carolina since Walter Dalton (D) in 2008.


Working Families Party releases endorsements in NY legislative races

The Working Families Party (WFP) endorsed 21 incumbent lawmakers representing portions of New York City. In a statement, State Director Sochie Nnaemeka praised each endorsed lawmaker as a “progressive champion” and said that each played a part in the party’s most successful legislative session in decades.

One of the group’s nine endorsements in the Assembly brings it into direct conflict with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). In District 57, the WFP endorsed Walter Mosley (D), who faces a primary challenge from the DSA-backed Phara Souffrant Forrest. The DSA has endorsed five legislative candidates this cycle, and the WFP did not endorse a candidate in any of the other four races with a DSA candidate.

Chicago mayor endorses pair of legislative candidates

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) also endorsed Reps. Eva Dina Delgado (D-3) and Jonathan Pizer (D-12) in their re-election campaigns. Politico noted the endorsements came at a time the mayor is trying to convince lawmakers to amend a casino bill to the city’s benefit. Delgado faces two opponents in her Democratic primary, while Pizer faces five opponents. Neither district has a Republican candidate.

Both Delgado and Pizer were appointed in the last three months. Delgado was appointed in November 2019 to replace Luis Arroyo, who was charged with bribery as part of a corruption probe. Pizer was appointed on Feb. 10 to replace Sara Feigenholtz (D), who was appointed to the Illinois State Senate

Delgado faces a challenge outside of her primary as well. Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R) and Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D) filed a qualifications challenge against Delgado. They alleged that the process to appoint Delgado was flawed, pointing specifically to the counting of Arroyo’s proxy votes in the selection process. House rules dictate that a special committee must review the appointment.

Fundraising reports show distinct differences in Philly Senate race

In Pennsylvania state Senate District 1, which covers portions of Philadelphia, Sen. Larry Farnese (D) faces challenger Nikil Saval in the April 28 Democratic primary. Recent fundraising reports analyzed by the Philadelphia Public Record show distinct differences between the two. Farnese received $5,625 from individuals giving up to $250, while Saval received $27,948. Saval received $0 from PACs, while Farnese received $196,900. Farnese ended the January 31, 2020, report with a $296,000 cash balance to Saval’s $104,000.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called the primary “the latest battle between old and new Philadelphia politics,” describing Farnese as representative of the area’s older machine politics and Saval as a self-described democratic socialist. The primary challenge is Farnese’s first since winning the seat in 2008.

Saval cofounded the group Reclaim Philadelphia in May 2016 with former staff and volunteers from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. The group has been behind several other successful campaigns in the city in recent years, including District Attorney Larry Krasner’s 2017 campaign and 2018 primary victories for Elizabeth Fiedler and Joe Hohenstein.

Farnese initially won the seat with the backing of 30-year incumbent Vince Fumo. Fumo told the Inquirer that he specifically drew the district to split it between two ideological camps of liberal and conservative Democrats. That balance has eroded in recent years, with more progressive Democrats gaining control of several other wards in the district.

Power players

“Formed by Members of the New Democrat Coalition, the NewDem Action Fund helps re-elect House NewDems and elect new, like-minded leaders who can help develop a positive policy agenda and message. In 2018, NewDems delivered the Democratic Majority in the House by flipping 31 of 40 net seats blue and contributing about $18 million to electing House Democrats.” – NewDem Action Fund website

The NewDem Action Fund, which is affiliated with the New Democrat Coalition, says it “helps elect and re-elect forward-thinking leaders who will help ensure everyone in America has the opportunity to earn a good life.” 

The group has endorsed nine Frontier candidates for 2020, in addition to their 31 Vanguard members

The NewDem Action Fund website highlights innovation, growth, solutions, and the middle class as areas of focus and says its members have “built a reputation as effective leaders on the critical issues of technology policy, economic growth, security and personal responsibility.”

The New Democrat Coalition was founded in 1997. According to its website, “The New Democrat Coalition is made up of 103 forward-thinking Democrats who are committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies.”