Alaska's bipartisan state House coalition is imperiled following GOP primary results

Alaska's bipartisan state House coalition is imperiled following GOP primary results
Image via Screengrab.

LEADING OFF

 AK State House: A coalition of 15 Democrats, two independents, and five Republicans (known as the House Majority Caucus) currently run Alaska’s 40-person House of Representatives, but at least one of these renegade Republicans lost renomination on Tuesday while two others are in trouble. We won’t have complete results for a while, though, because the Alaska Division of Elections says it won’t “even start counting absentee ballots until Aug. 25.” Absentee ballots make up a large portion of the vote in Alaska, so several races could shift quite a bit when all is said and done.


One Republican member of the coalition has definitely lost after being targeted by the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is the national GOP’s legislative campaign committee, and a second incumbent is badly trailing. The Associated Press has called the primary in House District 28 in Anchorage for James Kaufman, who unseated state Rep. Jennifer Johnston 73-27. This seat backed Trump 49-43, and Democrats are fielding Adam Lees.

A second GOP Majority Caucus member, state Rep. Chuck Kopp, is trailing challenger Thomas McKay 67-33 with 1,800 votes in, though the AP has not yet made a call here. HD-24, which is also in Anchorage, went for Trump by a 52-40 margin; the Democratic nominee is Sue Levi, who lost to Kopp 59-41 in 2016 and was defeated 60-39 two years later.

A third Republican member of the bipartisan alliance, state Rep. Steve Thompson, currently has a 51-49 edge over primary challenger Dave Selle with 700 votes tallied in another contest that the AP has not called. HD-02, which is located in Fairbanks, went for Trump 60-30, and the Democrats are running Jeremiah Youmans. The final two GOP coalition members, Bart Lebon and Louise Stutes, were renominated without any opposition.

National and state Republicans in the mainstream GOP caucus (the House Minority Caucus) also appear to have scored some other wins Tuesday that will make it easier for them to control the state House next year.

A sixth Republican, Gary Knopp, was part of the coalition, but he was killed last month in a mid-air collision. Knopp, who remained on the ballot, posthumously took third place with 14%; the winner with 61% of the vote is Ron Gillham, who earned the endorsement of the local GOP back in June. (If Knopp had won, Republicans would have been able to petition to choose a replacement nominee.) HD-30, which is located in Kenai is the south-central part of the state, backed Trump 71-21.

Republicans also appear to have denied renomination to state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who isn’t part of any alliance. The AP hasn’t called this contest yet, but with 500 votes in, challenger David Nelson leads 79-21.

LeDoux was originally a member of the coalition, but she was stripped of her committee assignments in March of 2019 after she voted against the chamber’s leaders on the budget; LeDoux didn’t rejoin the regular GOP caucus afterwards, though. In March, LeDoux was charged with voter misconduct. HD-15, which is in Anchorage, backed Trump 52-38, and the Democratic primary has not yet been called.

Finally, national Republicans may have fallen just short in toppling state Rep. David Eastman, who is part of the House Minority Caucus but has been a pain for its leaders, though the contest has not yet been called. With 2,200 votes in, Eastman leads primary foe Jesse Sumner 52-48. HD-10, which is based in Sarah Palin’s old Wasilla stomping grounds, favored Trump 71-21, so it’s likely out of reach for Democrat Monica Stein-Olson no matter how this primary ends.

While Eastman never joined the coalition, his intra-party critics remember how, after the 2018 election, he said he wouldn’t back a GOP speaker without some preconditions. Eastman was supposed to be one of the 21 Republicans who was to form the new majority, and his enemies blame him for causing the deadlock that eventually led to the bipartisan alliance. Since then, Eastman has spoken against a number of his party’s priorities, and House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt announced in March that he was on “probation.”

SENATE

 GA-Sen-B: Pastor Raphael Warnock, who is supported by national Democrats, is launching his debut TV ad with a $400,000 buy ahead of the all-party first round in November. The minute-long spot starts off with Warnock speaking to the camera from the housing project where he grew up in Savannah. Warnock highlights his background coming from a large family that taught him the value of hard work, followed by a series of news clips touting his role as the lead pastor of the prominent Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a position that Martin Luther King Jr. once held. Warnock emphasizes his efforts fighting for affordable health care and the right to vote.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Doug Collins is airing a new TV ad where he focuses on how he was supposedly "Trump's preferred pick" for the appointment to this seat, using a clip of Trump praising the congressman.

 Polls:

  • AZ-SenOnMessage (R) for Heritage Action: Mark Kelly (D): 48, Martha McSally (R-inc): 48 (51-48 Trump)
  • GA-Sen-AGarin-Hart-Yang (D) for Jon Ossoff: Jon Ossoff (D): 48, David Perdue (R-inc): 46 (July: 45-44 Ossoff)

OnMessage's survey for the conservative Heritage Action group is one of the very few polls we've seen all year that hasn't shown McSally trailing.

HOUSE

 IA-01: Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer's newest commercial focuses on the derecho storm that hit Iowa earlier this month. Finkenauer, speaking from her backyard, talks about how neighbors have been helping each other in the aftermath, and she pledges not to "stop until Iowans get the resources we need."

Republican Ashley Hinson, meanwhile, is going in a more partisan direction in her newest spot. After talking about her previous career as a local TV newscaster, Hinson rattles off some of Donald Trump's favorite talking points about "socialists trying to abolish the police, radicals trying to tear down our country."

 IN-05: The far-right Club for Growth's first general election ad accuses Democrat Christina Hale of voting for higher taxes before the narrator declares, "And, like Nancy Pelosi, Hale backs the kind of public option plan that would radically expand the government's role in healthcare."

 MA-01: Democratic Majority for Israel has launched a $100,000 TV buy against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. We do not yet have a copy of the commercial.

 MA-04: Data for Progress has released an in-house survey of the crowded Sept. 1 Democratic primary, and it finds a tight contest with no obvious frontrunner.

Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss: 14

Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman: 13

Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell: 13

Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey: 9

Public health expert Natalia Linos: 9

City Year co-founder Alan Khazei: 7

Attorney Ben Sigel: 3

Businessman Chris Zannetos: 1

A 29% plurality are undecided, while 1% goes to former assistant state attorney general Dave Cavell, who dropped out last week and endorsed Mermell.

The only other recent numbers we've seen was an early August survey for Leckey from Frederick Polls. That poll showed Grossman leading Auchincloss 19-16, with Leckey and Mermell at 11% and 10%, respectively.

 NJ-07: Republican Tom Kean uses his first TV commercial to portray himself as a bipartisan legislator.

 OH-10: Longtime Rep. Mike Turner seems to be taking Democrat Desiree Tims seriously, since he just launched a commercial against her that highlights a massive scandal … involving Turner's fellow Ohio Republicans.

As the screen shows a newspaper headline about a $60 million bribery scheme, the narrator begins, "It's disgraceful. Lobbyists have bought seats in the Ohio State House." Last month, then-state House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested on federal corruption charges, and prosecutors accused the nuclear power company FirstEnergy of illegally funneling $61 million to a group controlled by Householder and his allies in order to pass and preserve a 2019 law that Leah Stokes described in Vox as "widely recognized as the worst energy policy in the country."

And what does this have to do with Tims? Nothing, but that’s not stopping Turner from attempting to connect her to the scandal anyway. After briefly talking about the scandal involving lobbyists and state Republicans, his narrator awkwardly transitions to attacking Timms by continuing, “Now Washington lobbyist Desiree Tims has moved back to Ohio and is trying to buy a seat in Congress" by accepting out-of-state contributions. Turner himself, though, does have a link to FirstEnergy: According to the Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, the congressman has taken $20,000 in campaign contributions from the company during his career.

 OK-05: The Club for Growth is running a new commercial against state Sen. Stephanie Bice ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff that begins with someone dancing while wearing a unicorn mask. The narrator responds, "Ok, that's just weird! Like when Stephanie Bice voted for the biggest tax increase in state history, but claims to care about taxpayers."

Our grooving half-unicorn friend (a reverse centaur, but a unicorn?) pops up again, and the narrator responds, "Really, a bit odd. Like how Bice denounced Trump in 2016, but now claims she'll stand with him." This process repeats one more time, with the ad volunteering the dancer is "strange," just like "Bice voting to weaken criminal penalties on looting, but claims she's a conservative." Bice faces businesswoman Terry Neese in next week's contest for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn.

 VA-02: After former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor sent a cease-and-desist letter to Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria demanding that she stop making statements claiming that he is under investigation for ballot access fraud, the Roanoke prosecutor John Beamer's office announced that an investigation is still ongoing, stating, "The entire campaign is under investigation." Taylor's staff was exposed during his unsuccessful 2018 re-election campaign for forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown (who was booted off the ballot by a judge), and Democrats ran ads slamming Taylor's campaign for its illegal scheming.

The story surfaced again in March when a former Taylor staffer pleaded guilty for her part in the scheme, and Beamer's office now says that more indictments are possible. Taylor himself has consistently denied any knowledge of the scheme, but his staff had previously claimed the congressman was indeed aware of their plans.

 WA-10: Democratic state Rep. Kristine Reeves, who finished in third place with 13% in this month's top-two primary, has endorsed former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland over state Rep. Beth Doglio in the all-Democratic November general election.

PRIMARY RESULT RECAPS

 FL-03: Kat Cammack defeated 2018 candidate Judson Sapp 25-20 in the Republican primary to succeed her old boss, retiring Rep. Ted Yoho, in this 56-40 Trump seat in north-central Florida.

Cammack served as Yoho's campaign manager during his four bids for office, including his 2012 upset win against incumbent Cliff Stearns and his 2018 contest against Sapp, but Yoho was hardly in her corner. In a weird twist, Yoho, who did not endorse anyone, confirmed in June that he'd "demoted" Cammack seven years ago "from Chief of Staff in my Washington, DC office to Deputy Chief of staff and reassigned to the district in Florida for reasons not to be disclosed."

Yoho concluded, "She continued to work for our office in a satisfactory manner until she decided to run for Congress herself. No further comments are warranted." No more comments came, and Cammack is now poised to win the seat of the man who demoted her. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.

 FL-05: Democratic Rep. Al Lawson took just 56% of the vote in the primary against two unheralded opponents in this safely blue North Florida seat, which was not a strong performance for an incumbent. Chester Albert, whose old anti-LGBTQ writings surfaced weeks before the primary, was far behind with 28%. While Lawson didn't come close to losing, though, Tuesday's results indicate that he could be in trouble in the future against a stronger intra-party foe, especially with redistricting just around the corner.

 FL-08: Republican Rep. Bill Posey won renomination 62-38 against Scott Caine, a Navy veteran who ran some anti-Posey TV ads in the final weeks of the contest for this safely red seat along Florida's Space Coast.

 FL-13: Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna defeated attorney Amanda Makki, who had the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, 36-28 in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist. While both candidates campaigned as ardent Trump allies, Luna worked especially hard to foster a far-right image. Luna, who compared Hillary Clinton to "herpes," also enjoyed the support of Rep. Matt Gaetz, a rabid Trump fan who represents the 1st District well to the northwest.

This St. Petersburg seat went from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton, but neither party has been acting like Crist is in much danger. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.

 FL-18: Navy veteran Pam Keith, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nod last cycle, defeated former state deputy solicitor general Oz Vazquez 80-20 in the primary to face Republican Rep. Brian Mast.

This seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, moved from 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump, and Mast doesn't look vulnerable. The incumbent won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and he had a hefty $1.8 million on-hand in late July. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican, though things could get interesting if Trump truly wrecks his party down the ballot.

 FL-19: State Rep. Byron Donalds appears to have claimed the GOP nomination for this safely red seat in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area after a very tight expensive battle. The Associated Press has not called the contest as of Wednesday afternoon, but second place candidate House Majority Leader Dan Eagle, who trails 23-22 with 104,000 ballots counted, has conceded to Donalds. Two self-funders, businessman Casey Askar and urologist William Figlesthaler, finished just behind with 20% and 18%, respectively.

Askar and Figlesthaler decisively outspent the rest of the field, while Eagle had the support of Sen. Marco Rubio. Donalds, though, benefited from millions in spending from the anti-tax Club for Growth and like-minded groups. Donalds would be the second Black Republican to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction; the first was Allen West, who is now the chair of the Texas Republican Party.

Donalds ran here back in 2012 and took fifth place with 14% in what turned out to be the first of four open seat contests during the decade. The winner was Trey Radel, who was elected in the fall but arrested the next year by an undercover officer in D.C. after he attempted to buy cocaine, and he resigned months later under pressure from party leaders. Radel was succeeded in a 2014 special by Curt Clawson, who retired in 2016 and was replaced by Francis Rooney, who announced last year that he would not seek a third term.

 FL State House: Two terrible Democratic state House members representing safely blue seats were ousted Tuesday by far more progressive opponents.

In Jacksonville’s HD-14, community organizer Angie Nixon defeated incumbent Kim Daniels by a 60-40 margin. Daniels, who has faced a number of serious questions about her ethics, defied her party this year by co-sponsoring a bill requiring parental consent for abortions, and an official with Equality Florida dubbed her “probably the most anti-LGBTQ Democrat in Tallahassee.”

Daniels also made a name for herself as a Trump loyalist, and in 2018, she delivered a prayer giving thanks to Donald Trump that also included attacks on witches. Daniels had the backing of charter school interests and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, while the local chamber and state AFL-CIO were for Nixon.

Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County’s HD-88, Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy beat state Rep. Al Jacquet 43-26. Jacquet has a long history of homophobia, and he used an anti-LGBTQ slur against Hardy during the campaign; Hardy responded, “While I am not gay, I was raised in a same-sex household by my two mothers, and I am offended for them and for the broader LGBTQ community here in Palm Beach County, where I serve.”

Jacquet said later, “I apologize for my words that have offended some of my colleagues.” That non-apology didn’t satisfy anyone, and Jacquet soon stepped down from his post as the top Democrat on the Rules Committee.

 Broward County, FL State Attorney: Former prosecutor Harold Pryor won the eight-way Democratic primary to succeed incumbent Mike Satz, who is retiring after an astounding 44 years in office. Pryor, who would be the first African American to hold this office, defeated defense attorney Joe Kimok 21-20.

Pryor is the heavy favorite in the fall in this 66-31 Clinton county. However, Republicans do have a notable candidate in Gregg Rossman, who has prosecuted a number of high-profile murders; another local prosecutor, Sheila Alu, is also competing as an independent.

 Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: Two county commissioners, Republican Steve Bovo and Democrat Daniella Levine Cava, will face off in November's nonpartisan general election to succeed termed-out incumbent Carlos Gimenez, who is the GOP nominee for Congress against Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Bovo took first place with 29.3%, while Levine Cava beat former Democratic Mayor Alex Penelas 28.8-24.5 for the second general election spot.

The following day, Levine Cava released an internal poll from Change Research taken in early August that showed her leading Bovo 39-28. However, while Miami-Dade County is solidly blue in presidential contests, a Bovo win is far from out of the question. Republicans often do very well in this area downballot, and it's hardly a certainty that supporters of Penelas, whom Al Gore dubbed "the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with" due to his actions during the 2000 campaign, will overwhelmingly break for Levine Cava.

 Miami-Dade County, FL State Attorney: Incumbent Katherine Fernández Rundle, who has been in office for 27 yearsdefeated progressive opponent Melba Pearson 61-39 in the Democratic primary. No other candidates filed for the general election, so Fernández Rundle's victory gives her another term by default.

 Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State Attorney : Former defense attorney Monique Worrell, who campaigned as the most progressive candidate in the four-person Democratic primary, decisively won the nomination to succeed retiring incumbent Aramis Ayala as state attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County. Worrell, who had Ayala's endorsement and benefited from heavy spending by a group close to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, beat former judge Belvin Perry 43-31.

No Republicans are running in the November election, and Worrell will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

 WY-Sen: Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, to no one's surprise, beat Converse County Commissioner Robert Short 60-13 in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Enzi. Wyoming was Donald Trump's single best state in 2016, and Lummis should have no trouble in the fall in a contest Daily Kos Elections rates as Safe Republican.

GRAB BAG

 Deaths: It may be hard for younger people to believe, but for much of the second half of the 20th century, the states of the Pacific Northwest routinely elected center-right Republicans to higher office. One of the last remaining big names from that tradition died on Wednesday at the age of 92: Washington's former Sen. Slade Gorton.

Gorton spent nearly 40 years in elective office, getting his start representing a north Seattle state House seat in the 1960s. Gorton then was elected in 1968 to his first of three terms as state attorney general, where he engaged in a long fight with the state's Native American tribes over fishing treaty rights.

Gorton went on have two separate tenures in the U.S. Senate. He was first elected in 1980 with some help from Ronald Reagan's coattails in a 54-46 upset victory against local institution Warren Magnuson, a Democrat who served in the chamber since 1944. Like a number of Senate Republicans elected in 1980, though, he found himself bounced out in the 1986 midterm, losing to former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams, who had previously been a Democratic congressman, 51-49.

Gorton, however, quickly won the state's other Senate seat in 1988, prevailing 51-49 against Democratic Rep. Mike Lowry in the contest to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Dan Evans. (Lowry would win his single term as governor four years later.) Gorton was re-elected in 1994 fairly easily against the backdrop of a good Republican year over then-King County Councilor Ron Sims, who would later become the executive of Washington's largest county.

Gorton's political career, though, didn’t survive the state's gradual move toward the Democrats in 2000. Gorton ended up being unseated by former Rep. Maria Cantwell in an extremely close race, losing by only 2,200 votes after an automatic recount.

Gorton was a largely party-line vote in the Senate though with occasional deviations, of which one of the most notable was his decision to vote against the perjury charge in Bill Clinton's impeachment (though he did vote to convict on the obstruction of justice charge). One of Gorton's notable post-Senate achievements will survive him for a few more years: He was the chief Republican member of Washington's redistricting commission in 2011, which is generally regarded as having produced mildly Republican-favorable maps.

Incidentally, thanks to the longevity of Cantwell and fellow Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (and the even greater longevity of Magnuson and Henry Jackson before them), Gorton's passing means that Washington is in the unusual position of having only one living ex-senator: Dan Evans, still going at 94.

ELECTION CHANGES

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete summary of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to elections and voting procedures as a result of the coronavirus.

 Delaware: Republicans have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to overturn a new law passed by Democratic lawmakers earlier this year that loosened Delaware's excuse requirement to enable everyone to vote by mail this November due to the pandemic. The law also directed officials to mail an application for an absentee mail ballot to all voters in the Sept. 15 downballot primary and November general election.

 Louisiana: Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he won't sign a new election plan proposed by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters under age 65 present a specific excuse to request an absentee ballot and would only expand eligibility to those who have documentation that they have tested positive for COVID-19 (note that we previously said incorrectly that Edwards did not have the power to veto this plan). The latest GOP plan is more limited than the exceptions that Ardoin backed in the state's July primary, and the Republican legislature is set to take up the plan this week.

 New Jersey: The Trump campaign and national and state GOP organizations have filed a federal lawsuit aiming to overturn Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's recent executive order adopting a full vote-by-mail system for November, where every voter will be mailed a ballot directly and in-person voting will still be available on a limited basis of at least one location in each of the state's 565 municipalities.

AD ROUNDUP

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.

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