The Colorado Democratic Senate primary is growing heated with just days left to go

The Colorado Democratic Senate primary is growing heated with just days left to go
John Hickenlooper image via Screengrab, YouTube

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.


 CO-Sen: Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is out with a poll from Myers Research & Strategic Services that shows him trailing ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper 51-39 in the June 30 Democratic primary. The memo says that this is a huge shift from October, when an unreleased poll had Hickenlooper ahead 68-19. We haven't seen any other surveys this year of the contest to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.

Romanoff is also out with a TV ad that uses footage from Hickenlooper's famous 2010 "Shower" commercial, as well as a string of recent negative headlines about the former governor, to make its case against the frontrunner.

The original spot featured a fully-clothed Hickenlooper repeatedly taking a shower to express his distaste for negative ads, but Romanoff's narrator argues that Hickenlooper "will never wash out the stain of oil and gas money." The narrator continues by speculating that Hickenlooper showers so much because of the "convictions for taking illegal gifts, or being held in contempt," a topic that Republicans have also been hampering him on in recent days.

Hickenlooper was held in contempt earlier this month by the state Independent Ethics Commission, which was investigating allegations that he'd violated the state's gift ban, after he initially refused to comply with a subpoena to appear before it. Hickenlooper soon acceded, and the body ended up ruling that he'd improperly allowed corporations to pay for his out-of-state trips; the former governor was fined $2,750.

Romanoff's commercial goes on to feature a headline from the Denver Post declaring, "Hickenlooper apologizes for 'an ancient slave ship' comment," which is greeted by a "whoa" from the narrator. On Monday, Hickenlooper did indeed apologize after footage from his 2014 re-election campaign surfaced where he described political schedulers by saying, "[I]magine an ancient slave ship, with the guy with the whip, and you're rowing, we elected officials are the ones rowing, and they have nothing but hard, often thankless work to do."

Romanoff's spot concludes by calling Hickenlooper too much of a risk to beat Gardner and pitches the former speaker as "a fresh progressive voice in the Senate. No cleanup required."

Gov. Jared Polis, though, was not happy with Romanoff's ad, and he tweeted, "I'm disappointed that Andrew Romanoff has chosen to throw mud and attack John Hickenlooper instead of focusing on his own vision and record." Polis has not made an endorsement in this primary.

Hickenlooper is also out with a positive commercial that praises his record as governor. The narrators declare that he "got two coal plants shut down, replaced with wind and solar. New health coverage for 500,000 more Coloradans." They continue, "Free long-term contraception for women. Body cameras and strict transparency for police. And John Hickenlooper committed Colorado to the Paris Climate Accord when Donald Trump dropped out."


Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

 Arizona: The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA and Voto Latino, a civic engagement organization, have reached a settlement with Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in a lawsuit filed before the coronavirus pandemic that had challenged Arizona's practice of rejecting absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day. The settlement does not change the ballot receipt deadline but instead requires Hobbs' office to study the feasibility of the state implementing a deadline by which ballots must be postmarked rather than received.

Under the agreement, the secretary of state will also expand its voter education outreach regarding the current receipt deadline, including in Spanish, Navajo, and Apache. In addition, the state will expand voting access in Latino, Native, and rural communities by adding early voting locations and ballot drop boxes, and setting up mobile early voting units.

 Delaware: Delaware's Democratic-run state House has passed a bill that would allow all voters to request absentee ballots without an excuse for any election this year, including the state's Sept. 15 downballot primary and the November general election. In March, Democratic Gov. John Carney issued an order waiving the excuse requirement for all of the state's primaries and special elections in 2020, including the July 7 presidential primary.

 Kentucky: A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit seeking to increase the number of in-person voting sites in Kentucky's largest counties for Tuesday's primary, meaning that many counties will only open a single polling location. Plaintiffs had argued that the plan would disenfranchise voters, particularly the many African Americans who live in Jefferson County, the state's most populous. That means the 617,000 voters in Jefferson County (which is home to Louisville) will share the same number of voting sites as the 1,747 in tiny Robertson County.

 Michigan: A Michigan state court has rejected a trio of lawsuits seeking to stop Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson from mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters for the state's Aug. 4 primary and the November general election.

 New Mexico: A committee in New Mexico's Democratic-run state Senate has killed a proposal to mail ballots to all voters for the November general election after two conservative Democrats sided with Republicans to strip the provision from a larger elections bill. Both senators, Mary Kay Papen and Clemente Sanchez, were among five Democrats who lost primaries earlier this month after blocking or weakening progressive priorities for years.

 Pennsylvania: The NAACP has filed a lawsuit asking a state court to require that Pennsylvania officials send absentee ballot applications to all voters. The plaintiffs also want the state to offer in-person early voting; to allow voters whose ballots are flagged for an alleged signature match a chance to fix the problem; and to limit cuts to the number of in-person voting sites.


 MI-Sen: AFSCME has launched a $1.2 million ad campaign against Republican John James, and its opening commercial goes after him over pre-existing conditions.


 UT-Gov: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is out with a poll from Y2 Analytics that gives him a 34-28 lead over former Gov. Jon Huntsman ahead of the June 30 Republican primary. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes is in third with 20%, while former state party chair Thomas Wright is at 9%. Several other recent polls have also shown a close race between Cox and Huntsman.


 FL-03: A new survey conducted by Republican pollster WPA Intelligence on behalf of Kat Cammack, a former aide to retiring Rep. Ted Yoho, finds a muddled GOP primary picture in this 56-40 Trump seat. 2018 House candidate Judson Sapp leads Cammack 12-10, while former Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase is third with 5%. Each of the other four candidates are at 4% or less and 60% remain undecided ahead of the Aug. 18 primary.

 ME-02: The conservative pollster We Ask America is out with the first survey we've seen of the July 14 GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden. The poll gives real estate agent Adrienne Bennett a 28-22 edge over 2018 Senate nominee Eric Brakey, while former state Rep. Dale Crafts is just behind with 20%. WAA did not say if it had a client for this poll.

 MN-01A new poll from Garin-Hart-Yang for Democrat Dan Feehan finds him with a 43-42 edge on Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who beat Feehan two years ago by less than half a percentage point. Feehan's challenge will be convincing undecided voters to head his way despite the district's pro-Trump history, but the 2018 results at least show that's he's capable of doing so. GHY's survey also argues Feehan has more room to grow since only 46% of respondents say they're familiar with him, versus 80% who have an opinion of the incumbent.

And though Minnesota's 1st District did swing sharply to Trump in 2016, shifting from 50-48 Obama all the way to 53-38 Trump, it snapped back in a number of midterm races, not just Feehan's own. Democrat Tim Walz, who left this seat open to mount a successful bid for governor, carried his old constituency 50-47, while Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar romped 54-42. And even in that year's special election for the Senate, which was the closest of the marquee statewide races, Democratic Sen. Tina Smith only lost the 1st District by a 49-46 margin.

 MN-08, OH-10: EMILY's List has endorsed Quinn Nystrom and Desiree Tims, who are respectively challenging Republican incumbents in difficult seats in Minnesota and Ohio.

 NC-11: Protect Freedom PAC has launched a commercial ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary runoff that accuses Trump-endorsed businesswoman Lynda Bennett of being a 2016 #NeverTrumper. The ad features audio of Bennett saying, "I am a never Trump person. I don't want Trump. I am not for him, I am against him. Never Trump." The rest of the spot promotes businessman Madison Cawthorn as a Trump ally.

This is not the first time that a recording of Bennett appearing to trash Trump has been an issue in this contest. Back in February, Politico reported that a mysterious text message went out to Republican voters featuring audio of Bennett speaking out against her party's leader. Bennett in turn argued that the clip had been selectively edited, and that she was actually roleplaying a Republican opposed to Trump at a Haywood County GOP meeting when this was recorded in the fall of 2016.

The story didn't seem to do much, if any, damage to Bennett, who outpaced Cawthorn 23-20 in early March in the first round of the very crowded primary. Trump himself also endorsed Bennett earlier this month.

There has been quite a bit of outside spending in this reliably red Appalachian North Carolina seat. Roll Call's Chris Cioffi reports that Protect Freedom PAC has spent a total of $530,000 to aid Cawthorn, while the nihilist House Freedom Caucus has deployed $657,000 to support Bennett.

 NY-16: Tuesday's Democratic primary between veteran incumbent Eliot Engel and middle school principal Jamaal Bowman has turned into a very expensive affair, and outside groups are continuing to spend heavily for each candidate.

Democratic Majority for Israel has spent a total of $1.1 million to back Engel, while a new super PAC called Stand With Us Committee has deployed $142,000 on a new anti-Bowman ad campaign. That spot declares that Bowman is "not a real Democrat" and accuses him of having "belonged to a party that opposed electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden." The narrator also argues that Bowman only joined the Democrats in time to run for Congress.

Bowman was a member of the Independence Party, which supported John McCain over Obama in 2008, until 2018. Engel has already attacked Bowman over his old party affiliation, and Bowman responded, "For Eliot Engel to suggest that I, as a Black man in America, would be for McCain and Palin over Barack Obama is just absurd. I have always supported Democratic candidates, and I was proud to vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and for Hillary Clinton in 2016."

On the other side, the Justice Democrats recently spent an additional $300,000 on commercials for Bowman, which takes the group's total investment to $920,000. The group's newest commercial stars New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who tells a group of young African Americans in a Bronx park, "These streets are filled with Black bodies abused by a plague of systemic racism." Williams then describes the federal government by saying, "But these streets don't care. Filled with the same old politicians pushing the same old ideas."

The public advocate then argues, "We need a voice from our streets. Jamaal Bowman." After describing Bowman's long service as a local educator, Williams concludes, "Jamaal Bowman is our voice. And we will have justice."

 NY-27: WIVB reported Thursday that Erie County District Attorney John Flynn had received a complaint accusing GOP state Sen. Chris Jacobs of committing voter fraud last year, but Flynn announced the following day that he would not file charges because "[t]here is not enough evidence to go with the allegations to be made." Before Flynn's statement, though, attorney Beth Parlato quickly threw up a commercial accusing Jacobs of being "under criminal investigation for voter fraud." Parlato faces Jacobs in Tuesday's GOP primary to succeed disgraced former Rep. Chris Collins.

P.S. While Parlato's ad declared that the district has "lost one congressman to prison," Collins, who pleaded guilty last year to charges related to insider trading, has not yet begun his 26-month sentence. The former congressman was originally told to surrender to the authorities in mid-March, but he's repeatedly been granted an extension because of the pandemic. In early June, a judge pushed the date to Aug. 18.

 TX-24: Local school board member Candace Valenzuela is out with a commercial contrasting herself against Air Force veteran Kim Olson ahead of the July 14 Democratic primary runoff for this competitive open seat.

Valenzuela first tells the audience how her teachers helped her overcome childhood homelessness. A retired Dallas educator named Andrea Granados then declares, "Kim Olson doesn't get that. I remember when she fired hundreds of teachers after she mismanaged the budget." Granados concludes, "She even said we don't understand leadership." The commercial goes back to Valenzuela, who talks about her work aiding teachers on her school board.

Olson's campaign responded by saying that the budget that led to teachers being laid off was drafted before she started working as human resources director for the Dallas Independent School District in 2007. Her camp also argued that "at no point did Olson have authority over spending or budget reconciliation. She simply managed the compensation budget approved by the Board."

 UT-04: Republicans longing to defeat Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams have consistently fretted about their field's weak fundraising, but one contender in the June 30 primary has at least shown some improvement over the last few months.

Former NFL safety Burgess Owens hauled in $295,000 from April 1 to June 10 (the time the FEC designates as the pre-primary period), which is comparable to the amount he'd brought in from early November to the end of March. State Rep. Kim Coleman, who is backed by former Rep. Mia Love, brought in just $178,000 during this time, though Owens only outspent her by a modest $277,000 to $209,000 during the pre-primary period. Owens held a small $111,000 to $84,000 cash-on-hand edge for the homestretch.

The other two candidates competing to take on McAdams continued to struggle with money during this time. Former radio host Jay Mcfarland raised just $30,000, spent $51,000, and had just over $5,000 on-hand. But that was still better than venture capitalist Trent Christensen who both raised and spent about $10,000 and had less than $2,500 left over. Christensen, who says that he raised $90 million as a regional fundraiser for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, joked in March, "I don't anticipate quite that much for a House seat." He was not wrong.



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