New York Times: “Every election year in recent cycles, celebrity Democratic candidates have emerged — either on the strength of their personalities, the notoriety of their Republican opponents or both — to rake in campaign cash, then lose impossible elections.”
“Some Democrats say such races are draining money from more winnable campaigns, but the candidates insist that even in losing, they are helping the party by pulling voters in for statewide races, bolstering the Democratic brand and broadening the party’s appeal.”
President Biden is about to start raising money on the road for the first time in his presidency, headlining fundraisers on Thursday in Portland, Ore., and Seattle for the Democratic National Committee, Axios reports. Biden has told former President Barack Obama that he is planning to run for re-election in 2024, two sources tell The Hill.
PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. Former Rep. Lou Barletta has put $750,000 behind his first TV ad for the May 17 Republican primary, which promotes how he was among the first in Congress to endorse Trump, led the way on anti-immigrant policies, and “fought the liberals” on energy policy.
NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) won’t debate Pat McCrory (R) in the North Carolina Republican U.S. Senate race, WRAL reports.
NEW YORK GOVERNOR and LT. GOVERNOR. Gov. Kathy Hochul has gone up with her first TV ad in advance of the June Democratic primary as part of what her campaign called an “eight figure media buy,” though Politico reports via AdImpact that the governor has only spent a relatively modest $931,000 on TV ads so far through April 25. The spot portrays Hochul as hardworking and touts her passage of over 400 bills covering topics such as promoting gun safety, improving public schools, and cutting taxes on the middle class.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who has spent roughly $3 million on ads so far, has launched his first joint spot with former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who is running in the separate primary for lieutenant governor as Suozzi’s ally. Their 15-second segment shows the duo arguing that Hochul represents “the same old Albany corruption” by highlighting the recent indictment (and resignation soon thereafter) of former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, whom Hochul had appointed to replace herself after she ascended to the governor’s office last year.
The House Ethics Committee announced on Thursday that it’s launching an investigation of Suozzi. While the committee did not say what the probe concerns, Suozzi’s staff said it concerns allegations that he failed to file legally required disclosures of his stock trades. Last year, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics charging that Suozzi had made some 300 stock trades worth as much as $11 million without filing any disclosure forms, known as “periodic transaction reports.” Suozzi’s office didn’t seem to dispute the accusations, saying that “all periodic transaction reports will be filed on a going-forward basis.” The Ethics Committee said it would provide an update by July 29, well after New York’s June 28 primary.
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) argues in the New York Daily News that the recent indictment of the state’s lieutenant governor’s “raises troubling questions.” But then he argues his own lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul (D) — who is now governor because Cuomo himself resigned amid scandal — suffers from “no vision, planning, performance or accountability.” He then adds: “It’s no secret that the Albany establishment wanted me out of office.”
NEVADA GOVERNOR. The nonpartisan Nevada Independent has publicized the gubernatorial portion of its poll conducted by the GOP firm OH Predictive Insights earlier this month, and the survey finds Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak with sizable leads of 9-14 points over several of his potential GOP foes, though with a large share of voters still undecided in each matchup:
- 44-35 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo
- 46-33 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller
- 46-33 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee
- 45-31 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert
Just as they did with the Senate portion of the poll earlier this week, OH Predictive Insights noted how these results were considerably more favorable to Sisolak than a recent Suffolk University poll that found the governor variously ahead or behind by a small margin in large part because it surveyed registered voters while Suffolk queried likely voters.
Meanwhile, venture capitalist Guy Nohra has debuted a TV spot ahead of the June Republican primary blaming Democrats for inflation as part of what his campaign announced was a $2 million buy for TV and digital ads.
PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s newest ad in the May 17 Democratic primary features testimony from a supporter who praises him as a “salt of the earth” guy. The supporter takes aim at the “billionaires and Washington insiders” who he says are lying about Fetterman, a reference to how a super PAC supporting rival Rep. Conor Lamb recently saw its first ad removed from TV for falsely calling Fetterman a “self-described socialist” on the basis of an erroneous news article that was later corrected.
“A turbulent few weeks and hard-hitting attacks have done little to change one of the persistent realities of Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate: John Fetterman has a crucial money lead,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “The lieutenant governor has more than three times as much money as U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb for the final month of the primary.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz (R) “has little-known, but close ties to the heirs of the DuPont chemical fortune who are financially backing Oz’s Senate run,” CNBC reports.
Dave McCormick’s latest Republican primary ad features shots of the candidate riding in a long convoy of motorcycles while he promises via a voiceover to take on the left and “keep America great.”
MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR. On behalf of UMass Lowell, YouGov has surveyed the September Democratic primary for governor and finds state Attorney General Maura Healey cruising to a 62-17 lead over state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz. The only other publicly available poll of the race so far was a MassInc poll taken in January that found Healey with a slightly smaller but still dominant 48-12 advantage.
IOWA U.S. SENATOR. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2020, has unveiled his first ad for the June Democratic primary, and it’s a minute-long spot that highlights his rural Iowa roots and his military experience. Franken argues that GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s 47-year tenure in Congress is too long.
The Iowa Supreme Court overturned a recent lower court ruling that had booted former Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer from the June 7 primary ballot on Friday, allowing her to continue her campaign for the right to take on Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
In response to a challenge brought by Republicans, the lower court had rejected three signatures that had issues with their dates on petitions Finkenauer submitted, which put her below a requirement that she collect at least 100 signatures in 19 different counties. The Supreme Court, however, held that the signatures in question were valid because Iowa law doesn’t include missing or incorrect dates as a reason to strike a petition.
Finkenauer faces two other candidates for the Democratic nomination, though she recently released a poll giving her a dominant 64-15 lead over her nearest opponent,Mike Franken. However, multiple surveys have shown her losing to Grassley by double-digit margins.
OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR B. Shortly before Friday’s deadline to run passed, former Trump administration Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt, who previously served as state attorney general from 2011 until he joined Trump’s cabinet in 2017, filed and indicated he would run in the upcoming special election to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe. Pruitt gained national notoriety for leading the EPA on a crusade to undermine its very mission by aggressively rolling back regulations against pollution in favor of the fossil fuel industry and denying human-made climate change, but it was his cartoonish level of corruption scandals that led to him resigning just over a year into his tenure.
Indeed, by the time Pruitt stepped down in July 2018, he was the subject of at least 15 federal investigations into his conduct as a Trump official. Among Pruitt’s many dubious activities were his penchant for living high on the taxpayers’ dime, including first-class airfare, luxury hotels, and other exorbitant travel spending; a pattern of financially benefiting from lobbyists such as renting a Capitol Hill condo from one for only $50 a night; $4.6 million in security spending that included a $42,000 soundproof phone booth in his office, his own 24-hour security detail, and $3,000 on “tactical pants;” and also using his office and aides to run personal errands and help advance his wife’s business interests.
While Pruitt won plaudits from conservatives for rolling back Obama administration environmental protections, it remains to be seen just how willing voters will be to overlook his laundry list of corruption scandals. He joins a crowded June GOP primary that includes Rep. Markwayne Mullin, former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, former Inhofe chief of staff Luke Holland, and former White House staffer Alex Gray.
Meanwhile, Shannon has gone up with his first TV ad, backed by a $200,000 buy. The spot rolls off a list of right-wing buzzwords and shows Shannon speaking to the camera to call himself an alliterative “conservative, christian, capitalist” and vowing to antagonize the “Democrat Party” [sic] and “woke left” if elected.
GEORGIA GOVERNOR. Polling on behalf of local CBS affiliate WGCL, Landmark Communications surveyed the May 24 Republican primary for governor and finds incumbent Brian Kemp holding a dominant 52-28 lead over former Sen. David Perdue, with 10% going to educator Kandiss Taylor. Kemp has led in every publicly available poll this year, though Landmark is one of the few to show the governor taking the outright majority needed to avoid a July runoff.
Kemp has also debuted a new ad attacking Perdue over the latter’s business record, arguing he “made millions as a corporate raider” who outsourced jobs to China. The spot plays a clip of the former senator saying, “We outsourced every single product sold in our stores,” before highlighting his opposition to lowering gas and income taxes this year.
Looking ahead to the general election, the Republican Governors Association is running a new commercial as part of a $5 million ad reservation that claims Democrat Stacey Abrams’ support for mask mandates and restrictions on businesses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic back in April 2020 would have “devastated” the state’s economy. They praise Kemp for reopening schools and businesses.
OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Late on Friday afternoon, Donald Trump endorsed venture capitalist J.D. Vance with just weeks to go until the May 3 Republican primary, frustrating many Republicans in Ohio who had scrambled to dissuade him after it was first reported that Trump could throw his backing to Vance and raising eyebrows among many observers questioning the logic of Trump’s pick.
Before reinventing himself as the most sycophantic of Trump supporters and as someone who delights in trolling liberals on Twitter by making outrageous statements in order to generate a backlash that he can ride to greater media attention and visibility among conservatives, Vance was unambiguous about his disgust for Trump in the 2016 election cycle. He once labeled himself a “never Trump guy,” and in a number of since-deleted tweets, Vance among other things called Trump “reprehensible” and stated he was voting for conservative independent Evan McMullin that year.
Vance’s total about-face on Trump may have won him the race to the bottom for Trump’s endorsement between himself and primary rivals such as former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who similarly stokes liberal backlash on Twitter, but it remains to be seen whether it will successfully win him the nomination. Indeed, most polls have found Vance lagging behind in third or fourth place in a crowded field where Mandel and businessman Mike Gibbons have frequently led. However, those same polls have also found a significant share of voters still undecided, and Vance may be counting on Trump’s endorsement to persuade those GOP voters still up for grabs.
To that effect, Vance has already put half a million behind a TV ad that showcases Trump’s endorsement and vows that Vance will “continue Trump’s fight” on immigration, abortion, and opposing Joe Biden.
Vance “is cashing in on his endorsement from former President Donald Trump with a major new super PAC donation from billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel,” Politico reports.
“Thiel has donated $3.5 million to Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC backing Vance — part of a broader tranche of money that has come in to support the Senate candidate after last week’s Trump endorsement, which shook up a crowded and competitive race for the GOP nomination.”
Puck: “Vance suddenly received a jolt of momentum thanks to a somewhat surprising Good Friday endorsement from Trump… Thiel lobbied Trump directly for the nod of approval… The two have spoken several times in recent weeks, including at an in-person meeting a month or two ago.”
Vance (R) said in 2016 that Donald Trump was either a “cynical asshole” or “America’s Hitler” in a private message to an old law school classmate, Vice News reports. Said Vance: “I think most people are not very ideological, and Trump, while I find him loathsome, touches a legitimate nerve… But I’m not surprised by Trump’s rise, and I think the entire party has only itself to blame.”
He added: “We are, whether we like it or not, the party of lower-income, lower-education white people, and I have been saying for a long time that we need to offer those people SOMETHING (and hell, maybe even expand our appeal to working class black people in the process) or a demagogue would. We are now at that point. Trump is the fruit of the party’s collective neglect.”
Despite widespread condemnation of his first TV ad that blamed America’s ills on China, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is back to the same theme in his newest spot, telling viewers, “We’ve gotta take on China” and “be Americans first.”
One person who took objection to Ryan’s rhetoric was his House colleague, New York Rep. Grace Meng, who tweeted that the ad was “essentially shifting blame away from American corporations’ anti-worker policies and putting a target on the backs of #AAPIs” and demanded he stop airing it. Asian American advocacy groups were likewise incensed, and even Sen. Sherrod Brown, who previously endorsed Ryan, questioned the choice. “I would’ve suggested that Tim introduce himself to voters with a more biographical ad,” said Brown, who declined to back Ryan’s decision to run the spot, adding, “I don’t have an opinion on whether it should stay up.”
After sustaining criticism for his first ad, Ryan was unmoved, saying in a statement, “I will never apologize for doing everything in my power to take on China and fight for all Ohioans.” A number of Democratic strategists likewise defended the advertisement, arguing that Rust Belt Democrats have long pushed a similar message, including the last Democrat to run for the Senate seat Ryan is now seeking, former Gov. Ted Strickland.
But these operatives may want to reconsider whether Strickland’s 2016 campaign is one to emulate: He lost to Republican Sen. Rob Portman by a 58-37 margin and ran 13 points on margin behind the top of the ticket.
ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. Former Business Council of Alabama leader Katie Britt has launched a new ad ahead of the May 24 Republican primary where she appears to shop in a supermarket and blames Joe Biden for inflation while asserting that “Washington politicians” shouldn’t get paid if they don’t balance the budget.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) pulled out of his planned May fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago for his Alabama U.S. Senate bid after Donald Trump pulled his endorsement, the New York Times reports.
CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. Businessman Dan O’Dowd is running for Senate in California, but he’s apparently not looking to unseat incumbent Alex Padilla. Instead, Politico reports, he wants to put the hurt on Elon Musk … who, you may have noticed, is not on this year’s ballot, in the Golden State or any other.
O’Dowd, who filed to run as a Democrat, has reportedly booked $650,000 worth of TV time to air ads attacking Musk, whose software for “self-driving” Tesla vehicles O’Dowd has blasted as dangerously unsafe. It also so happens O’Dowd runs a company called Green Hills Software, which he says has made him a billionaire, that competes in this space.
As Cadelago notes, O’Dowd is entitled to much cheaper ad rates as a Senate hopeful than he would be as a private individual, under an FCC rule that guarantees candidates what’s known as the “lowest unit rate.” The ins and outs of that rule are complex, but it can yield huge savings, which is why super PACs, for instance, can pay twice as much or more than campaigns.
But if O’Dowd really is a billionaire, this penny-pinching seems like a rather minor consideration. However, as Cadelago suggests, there may be another advantage at play: The Federal Trade Commission’s “truth-in-advertising” rules don’t apply to political ads, which might allow O’Dowd to level charges against Musk that might otherwise run afoul of the FTC. In addition, as we point out whenever third-party advertisements get yanked for inaccuracies, stations are obligated to air candidate ads no matter their content. As long as O’Dowd is willing to stomach a Musk lawsuit, then, he can blanket the airwaves with whatever accusations he likes.
Of course, some unnamed Democrats are fretting that O’Dowd could in fact secure the second slot in June’ top-two primary and join Padilla on the general election ballot in an all-Democratic matchup—something that happened in California in both 2016 and 2018. O’Dowd has tried something like this before, though, and was quite unsuccessful: In 1994, back when California still used traditional primaries, he tried to prevent Sen. Dianne Feinstein from winning renomination but finished third with just 12% of the vote.
Here is O’Dowd’s first TV ad, a minute-long spot featuring a series of clips that show troubling failures on the part of Tesla’s “self-driving” software. Politico reports that O’Dowd’s initial buy is for $2 million, but as befits his bizarre un-campaign, he’s airing the spot in 36 states. Divided among so many media markets, what would be a sizable outlay in a normal race is in fact a pittance.
MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. First quarter fundraising reports are available for all candidates in Minnesota’s election for governor, and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz led the pack with $1 million raised and $4.1 million cash-on-hand. Walz’s numbers were far ahead of his potential GOP rivals below, though the governor doesn’t have any notable primary challengers:
- Former state Sen. Scott Jensen: $256,000 raised, $774,000 cash-on-hand
- Former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka: $99,000 raised, $406,000 cash-on-hand
- Healthcare executive Kendall Qualls: $467,000 raised, $168,000 cash-on-hand
- Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek: $149,000 raised, $40,000 cash-on-hand
- State Sen. Michelle Benson: $53,000 raised, $38,000 cash-on-hand
- Dermatologist Neil Shah: $75,000 raised, $22,000 cash-on-hand
WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, who was elected to four terms between 1987 and 2001, says he has decided not to run for his old job again. The 80-year-old was last on the ballot in 2012 when he was the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Businessman Eric Hovde, who narrowly lost the GOP primary for Senate back in 2012, says he won’t run for governor this year and is instead waiting out this cycle to consider running for Senate again in 2024.
ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire’s first ad ahead of the August Republican primary plays up his military record and likens the candidate to former GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater.
NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Reporting from the Hill indicates that Senate Majority PAC, the main outside group on the Democratic side, has upped its TV ad fall reservation in Nevada to $21 million from a previously reported $14 million.
Republican firm OH Predictive Insights has conducted a poll on behalf of the nonpartisan Nevada Independent that finds Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto holding modest leads against both of her prospective Republican opponents. Cortez Masto bests former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who has the support of Donald Trump and national Republicans, by 42-34, and she edges out Army veteran Sam Brown by 43-35. OH Predictive Insights’ previous poll from late January had Cortez Masto defeating Laxalt by a similar 44-35; their prior release didn’t include Brown.
These latest results are notably better for the incumbent than a recent Suffolk University poll that showed her trailing Laxalt by 43-40 and beating Brown by only 40-39, but OH Predictive Insights indicated that one key reason for the difference was that their survey sampled all registered voters. By contrast, Suffolk had polled those whom they viewed as likely voters, implying that they thought turnout would favor Republicans this fall.