At the Races: That’s the ticket

Posted August 13, 2020 at 2:30pm

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Corrected, 8/14 | The Democratic ticket is now set with presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden selecting California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Republicans wasted no time tying vulnerable congressional Democrats to Harris’ more liberal policy positions. But Democrats see her providing a boost to down-ballot candidates by motivating the party’s base and helping with fundraising. 

Biden’s announcement came less than one week before Democrats gather virtually for their party’s convention. We’ll be watching to see how much the battle for Congress comes up next week, especially since Biden made helping down-ballot candidates a central part of his case to primary voters

Some emphasis on congressional races could come during Monday night’s “We the People” program. Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is slated to speak. So is Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, the most vulnerable senator running for reelection. But Jones is so far the only lawmaker or candidate in a competitive race who was announced as a prime-time speaker.

But before the conventions kick off next week, take a step back and join us at 3 p.m. today to discuss lessons from the primaries in our latest At the Races webinar. You can tune in for the live event on Roll Call’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. (And we’ll be taking your questions!) See you soon! 

Starting gate

The wait is over: Biden announced this week that Harris was his vice presidential pick. CQ Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski gave a snapshot of her career, while columnist Mary C. Curtis discussed the historic pick on the latest Political Theater podcast. Wondering what Harris’ spot on the ticket means for congressional races? We have you covered. And our newsroom team also looked at Harris’ role as a senator and presidential candidate, including how often she broke with her fellow Democrats and her stances on civil rights, climate, health care, immigration and tech.

“Prepare for the worst, hope for the best”: With less than three months until Election Day, congressional negotiations over the next coronavirus response package have stalled, leaving election officials in limbo.

Speaking of elections: President Donald Trump this morning said he opposes emergency funding for elections and for the U.S. Postal Service because it would enable more voting by mail.

Squad 3, challengers 0: Rep. Ilhan Omar won renomination easily on Tuesday in Minnesota, and voters there and in Wisconsin picked nominees for fall races expected to be competitive.

Probably coming to a Congress near you: Georgia Republican primary runoff winner and QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene told her victory party Tuesday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi was anti-American and “we’re going to kick that b---- out of Congress.” In another Georgia GOP runoff, a state legislator backed by $2 million in outside spending lost to a gun store owner.

Aloha #HI02: Hawaii Democrats chose state senator and pilot Kai Kahele to succeed Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the 2nd District. 

Upset analyzed: Sen. Lamar Alexander’s retirement in Tennessee was never expected to open a Democratic takeover opportunity. But Senate Democrats’ favorite in last week’s primary, who raised $2.1 million, lost to an environmental activist who raised less than $25,000 but might have tapped into voters’ desire to make history by nominating a Black female candidate. She now has to account for some missing paperwork from her campaign. 

ICYMI

Welcome to the campaign: North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn, the charismatic 25-year-old GOP nominee for White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ former seat, was already facing questions about his usage of white-supremacist symbols, posting pictures from Adolf Hitler’s vacation home, and whether an auto accident really prevented him from attending the U.S. Naval Academy. Now a new poll released by Democratic opponent Moe Davis shows Cawthorn at 42 percent to Davis’ 40 percent in what’s been considered a Solid Republican race.

Dem on Dem in #WA10: Final returns from Washington’s top-two Aug. 4 primary showed state Rep. Beth Doglio edging out former state Rep. Kristine Reeves for the November ballot in the 10th District. Doglio next faces fellow Democrat Marilyn Strickland, a former Tacoma mayor. Strickland was endorsed Thursday by the New Democrat Coalition Action Fund, while the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC spent $311,000 to help Doglio.

More to this story?: The Intercept got a hold of text messages that suggest accusations of sexual impropriety that threatened to derail Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse’s primary challenge to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal in Massachusetts were politically motivated. Progressive groups backing Morse said they were evaluating their support earlier this week after he was accused of using his position of power for “sexual gain” with students at colleges where he lectured. Morse, who is 31 and gay, stressed that all relationships he had were consensual.

The never-ending election: Some primary ballots that were invalidated due to postmark issues will be counted after the New York State Board of Elections decided not to appeal a court ruling, according to the New York Daily News. Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney’s primary opponent Suraj Patel filed the lawsuit, but it appears he still won’t be able to overcome Maloney’s margin of victory. 

Fallon prevails: GOP leaders in Texas’ 4th District selected state Sen. Pat Fallon to replace former Rep. John Ratcliffe on the November ballot. (Ratcliffe left Congress to become the director of national intelligence.) The Texas Tribune has more on Fallon, who is favored to win the deep-red district after he got some crucial support from Sen. Ted Cruz. 

On the airwaves: Congressional Leadership Fund, the major House GOP super PAC, announced this week that it was reserving $45 million worth of airtime for the fall across 40 media markets. On the Senate side, the Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC and an affiliate reserved an additional $10.3 million in Maine, North Carolina, Montana, Georgia and Iowa, NBC News reported.

They’re baaaack: Former Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly are putting their campaign funds to work after losing reelection in 2018, launching a new super PAC to help Senate candidates.

Partying like it’s 2019: Amanda Adkins, the GOP nominee challenging freshman Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids in the suburban 3rd District, went into quarantine after a primary night party attendee tested positive for COVID-19. And Maryland state Del. Neil Parrott, the Republican running against freshman Democrat David Trone in the safely blue 6th District, held a 300-person birthday bash and didn’t wear a mask.

Protest votes: A Democratic political firm found that significantly more people registered to vote during the first two weeks of the Black Lives Matter protests than the same period during the 2016 election cycle.

Wicked suspenseful: Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III appear to be in a dead heat in the final stretch of their Democratic Senate primary.

Fundraiser under fire: Two former Colorado Supreme Court justices asked state investigators to probe what they said was a fraudulent fundraiser held by Corky Messner’s charitable foundation. Messner is seeking the GOP Senate nomination in New Hampshire. His campaign called the complaint a “political hoax.”

What we’re reading

What we’re listening to: NPR’s Life Kit explains how to vote by mail. 

Planning ahead: The LA Times delves into who might replace Harris in the Senate if she and Biden win this fall. 

Stressed out freshmen: CNN reports that vulnerable House Democratic freshmen are concerned the recent failure to reach an agreement on another coronavirus response package could hurt them in November. New York Rep. Max Rose said, “It's a middle finger to the American people.”

On the trail: Politico looks at how Republican candidates are “stoking fear by trying to redefine the Black Lives Matter movement as a radical leftist mob looking to sabotage the white, suburban lifestyle.”

Perfect storm?: The Washington Post dives into the “confluence of events” that have boosted Democratic pastor Raphael Warnock’s bid to become Georgia’s first Black senator. 

Doctor vs. doctor: The Kansas City Star analyzes how the two doctors who recently won their parties’ nominations for the state’s open Senate seat, GOP Rep. Roger Marshall and Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier, are approaching campaigning during the pandemic. Spoiler: Only one of them routinely observes social distancing.

The count: $26 million

That’s how much the Biden campaign raised in the 24 hours since Harris was announced as Biden’s running mate. Biden disclosed the figure at a grassroots fundraiser Wednesday night, according to a pool report. For context, that’s 40 percent of Biden’s haul from the month of July, which was more than $63 million.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan L. Gonzales breaks down his latest House race ratings, and explains why Democrats appear more likely to expand their majority than lose it.

Candidate confessions

Texas Democratic Senate hopeful (and apparent “Supernatural” superfan) MJ Hegar did a virtual event with the stars of the television show, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins, plus New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker (also a superfan). The group talked about the power of small acts of kindness, and Hegar recalled being in the grocery store with one of her young sons when the pandemic first hit, getting some staples. “I was scared like a lot of people,” she said. Her son asked if he could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but there wasn’t any bread left at the store. “I got teary and said, ‘No, honey, we’ll find you something else,’” Hegar recalled. Then a woman in front of her in line who had two loaves of bread turned around and gave her one. “I was just blown away,” she said.

Reader’s race: FL-26

Florida’s 26th District is one of the few places where the GOP is feeling bullish about unseating a Democratic incumbent this cycle. That’s largely because of their confidence that their top recruit, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, can draw on a well of goodwill from South Florida voters during his decades in public service. By contrast, freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is still building her reputation. 

A recent poll commissioned by the Congressional Leadership Fund backed up the GOP optimism. It showed Gimenez leading the incumbent 47 percent to 42 percent, with better name recognition, according to the Miami Herald. The survey had a margin of error of 4.9 points.

CLF is apparently looking to build on that with its latest batch of ad reservations, which included $2.7 million in the Miami market that could be used in the 26th or the 27th District, where another freshman Democrat, Donna E. Shalala, is in a more comfortable position than Mucarsel-Powell. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic candidates, have already reserved over $5.5 million in spending for the same districts. 

Gimenez, a Cuban American who is about to be term-limited out of his current job, has been a firefighter and a county commissioner. Republican strategists say he has done a good job leveraging his experience as a first-responder as he navigates the area through the COVID-19 crisis. But Democrats think they can pin him to the region’s emergence as a national hotspot, while Mucarsel-Powell can point to the resources she has helped secure in Congress. 

The Ecuador-born Mucarsel-Powell, a former associate dean at Florida International University, won her 2018 race by less than 2 points, a slim margin considering Trump lost the district by 16 points in 2016. 

She has lapped Gimenez in fundraising, outraising him in the last three fundraising quarters to net $3.9 million with $2.8 million on hand as of July 29, compared to his $1.2 million raised and $900,000 in the bank. She is already on air with a six-figure ad buy. The ad, in English and Spanish, says she will fight for all the people who got sick because “corrupt politicians lied to them about COVID.”

While Mucarsel-Powell doesn’t have a primary challenger, Gimenez still has to face Omar Blanco on Tuesday. The Miami-Dade County firefighter has distracted Gimenez with a lawsuit over the misspelling of Gimenez’s name on the check he used to pay the filing fee for his campaign but is not considered to be much of a threat. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Tilt Democratic.

For next week, let us know if you’d like to learn more about the race for Missouri’s 2nd District or the Arizona Senate contest. Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com.

Coming up

The Democratic National Convention is happening next week (stay tuned  for our coverage here). And primaries are still happening! Voters will head to the polls in Florida, Wyoming and Alaska.

Photo finish

A week after winning her 2016 election, Sen.-elect Kamala Harris got a taste of the Capitol press corps, which was questioning California colleague Dianne Feinstein after the Senate Democratic leadership elections. More of our pics of Harris are in this online gallery. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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Chris Cioffi and Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

Democratic ad reservations in Florida's 26th District have been corrected in this report.