Morning Digest: Iowa Democrat launches bid vs. GOP senator by using her 2014 'squeal' ad against her

Senate

TN-Sen: On Monday, orthopedic trauma surgeon Manny Sethi became the first notable Republican to announce a bid for Tennessee’s open U.S. Senate seat.

While Sethi, who founded a nonprofit that puts on health fairs in the state, has not run for office before, he does have some prominent political connections. Sethi co-edited a book on healthcare policy with former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who represented Tennessee from 1995 to 2007 and is also a surgeon, and the two are reportedly close. Sethi also met with Donald Trump at the White House in 2017 and spoke at Trump rally later that year in Nashville. Sethi’s parents both immigrated from India, and he would be the first person of color to represent the state in the Senate.

The Tennessee Journal writes that Sethi’s announcement surprised many politicos since most would-be candidates have been waiting to see whether or not former Gov. Bill Haslam runs before they make up their own minds. There has also been plenty of speculation that Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty is also eyeing this race, though Hagerty hasn’t said anything publicly yet. Sethi seems prepared to run against either, though, framing this primary as a battle between “[a]n outsider who grew up in rural Tennessee who has a track record of caring for those people versus someone who has been entrenched in government.” Whomever wins the GOP nod next year will be the heavy favorite in the general election.

House

MN-01: 2018 Democratic nominee Dan Feehan told the Star Tribune over the weekend that he was “strongly considering” seeking a rematch with freshman GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn. Feehan, who lost by a narrow 50.1-49.7 spread, has been strongly hinting at his interest for a while, but this is the first time he’s explicitly said that he’s looking at it. In December, DCCC chair Cheri Bustos said that she wanted him to run again.

This southern Minnesota seat has been competitive turf for decades, but it lurched from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump. Team Blue did better here in 2018’s statewide races, but this district still voted well to the right of the state as a whole. Democrat Tim Walz, who gave up this seat after 12 years to successfully run for governor, won statewide 54-42 but carried his own constituency by a small 50-47 spread. Democratic Sen. Tina Smith also won her special election by a similar 53-42 margin but lost the 1st District 49-46.

MN-08: Joe Radinovich, who was Team Blue’s 2018 nominee, recently told the Star Tribune he was unlikely to seek a rematch against freshman GOP Rep. Pete Stauber in a northeastern Minnesota seat that has become inhospitable turf for Democrats in recent years. Radinovich lost last year’s race 51-45, and he attracted unfavorable news coverage in April after the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation hired him for a $100,000-a-year post after the job was listed as open for just 24 hours; Radinovich ended up resigning shortly after the story broke.

NC-03: Winning for Women, a group devoted to electing Republican women to Congress, has launched what Politico calls a “six-figure” TV and radio buy in support of pediatrician Joan Perry in the July 9 GOP primary runoff. Their TV spot attacks Perry’s opponent, state Rep. Greg Murphy, declaring that he “praised Obamacare, saying it had ‘a lot of good programs.'” The narrator goes on to accuse Murphy of voting for “higher taxes and billions in new debt,” and argues that he “said President Trump was quote ‘the worst top of the ticket in our history.'” The commercial does not mention Perry.

NC-09: The GOP firm Atlantic Media & Research, polling on behalf of unnamed “conservative super PACs and major donors,” is out with the second poll we’ve seen of the Sept. 10 contest for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, and they give Democrat Dan McCready a narrow 41-39 lead over Republican Dan Bishop. Last week the GOP pollster JMC Analytics, which said they did not have a client, released a survey that gave Bishop a 46-42 edge.

On Monday, McCready also released his first TV spot. The commercial highlights his background as a Marine and a businessman, and he pledges to “always put country over party.”

PA-10: An unnamed source recently told The Patriot-News that Democratic state Auditor Eugene DePasquale “is seriously leaning towards a run for Congress” against GOP Rep. Scott Perry, and that he “will likely make a decision by the end of June.”

DePasquale, who can’t seek a third term next year because of term limits, didn’t rule out running back in late March, and one of his political consultants told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that the auditor had not yet made any decisions. However, that news site also reports that DePasquale has spent $24,000 since April from his state-level campaign on Facebook ads touting his record in office, and that some of those posts “specifically targeted the Harrisburg area,” which is located in the 10th District. This was the first time DePasquale spent anything on Facebook since his successful 2016 re-election campaign.

If DePasquale runs, he may have to go through a primary against 2018 nominee George Scott, who recently told The Patriot-News that he was considering another bid. Scott, who lost to Perry by a small 51-49 margin in a district that had backed Trump 52-43, added that he expected to make up his mind by the end of the summer.

Scott, an Army veteran and a Lutheran pastor, won last year’s Democratic primary despite raising very little cash, and national Democrats were initially unsure if he could put this Harrisburg-based seat into play. However, Scott ended up outraising Perry $2.2 million to $1.5 million, and national Democrats ultimately spent close to $600,000 here.

Perry never had trouble winning re-election until last year’s court-ordered round of redistricting gifted him with a considerably more competitive district, and despite his close call, Perry still seems to be acting like he’s in a safely red seat. Weeks after Election Day, Perry launched an unsuccessful bid to lead the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Perry also only raised just $165,000 for the first quarter of 2019.

Trump’s wide win here in 2016 may be giving Perry some comfort, but the congressman’s tight re-election bid two years later wasn’t the only sign that Democrats have an opening in this seat. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf won re-election last year 58-41, and according to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, he carried the 10th District 54-44. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey won a third term 56-43 and also turned in a tight performance here, taking the seat 50-48.

UT-04: Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie made national news last month when he announced he is gay, and there’s been plenty of speculation about the Republican’s future since then. The Salt Lake Tribune recently asked Ivie about his interest in challenging Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams or in seeking a number of local offices in Utah County and he responded, “We’re looking at all of those.” Ivie didn’t indicate what he was leaning towards, and he only said, “I’m going to serve my community where I feel I can serve the best.”

WA-06: Bainbridge Island City Councilman Matthew Tirman announced last week that he was forming an exploratory committee for a possible bid against Rep. Derek Kilmer, a fellow Democrat, and that he would decide by August. Tirman declared, “We need to define what it means to be a Democrat and what it means to be an establishment, corporate Democrat” and said he’d decide whether to run based in part on whether he could raise enough money to compete.

If Tirman gets in, he won’t have an easy time against Kilmer. To begin with, Washington employs the top-two primary system, where all the candidates compete on one primary ballot and the two contenders with the most votes advance to the general. Washington’s 6th District, which includes most of Tacoma as well as much of the state’s Olympic Peninsula, backed Clinton 52-39, so a Republican candidate likely can secure enough support to advance to the general unless too many other Republicans are also on the ballot. It’s unlikely that Kilmer would be in any danger of taking third place or worse, so the challenge for Tirman would be to pass the GOP candidates and take second place.

As Tirman alludes, money will also be an obstacle. Kilmer, who was first elected in 2012, hasn’t faced a serious challenge during his congressional career, which has allowed him to stockpile nearly $3 million through the end of March. Bainbridge Island also only has a population of about 25,000 so if Tirman gets in, he won’t start with a large geographic base.

Legislative

Special Elections: There are two special elections in California on tap for Tuesday.

CA-SD-01: This is a Republican district that covers a wide swath from the far reaches of northern California down to Placerville. The seat became vacant after former state Sen. Ted Gaines was elected to the California State Board of Equalization last year. This is a strongly Republican district, having backed Donald Trump 54-39 and Mitt Romney 58-39. As such, California’s jungle primary system has allowed two Republicans to reach the general election ballot.

The candidates are Brian Dahle and Kevin Kiley, both of whom are members of the state Assembly. In the first round of voting, Dahle led Kiley by a razor-thin 28.5-28.3 spread. Democrats were narrowly locked out of voting as third-place finisher Silke Pflueger took 25%.  

CA-SD-33: This is a Democratic district located south of Los Angeles, anchored by Long Beach. This vacancy was created by former state Sen. Ricardo Lara’s election as state insurance commissioner last year. Democrat Lena Gonzalez and Republican Jack Guerrero were the top two finishers in a primary that featured 12 candidates. Gonzalez, a Long Beach councilwoman, took 32% while Guerrero, a councilman from Cudahy, received 14%.

In all, Democratic candidates outpaced Republicans 78-20 in the first round of voting. This lines up with the strong Democratic lean of this district, which supported Hillary Clinton 79-15 and Barack Obama 79-19. This and the 1st District are the only vacant seats in the California Senate, where Democrats own a 28-10 supermajority.

Mayoral

Dallas, TX Mayor: The June 8 general election is coming up soon and state Rep. Eric Johnson, who has the backing of much of the Dallas political establishment, holds a big financial edge over City Councilor Scott Griggs. Johnson outraised Griggs, a fellow Democrat, $847,000 to $311,000 from April 25 through May 26.

San Antonio, TX Mayor: Mayor Ron Nirenberg enters the final days leading up to the June 8 general election with a financial lead over conservative City Councilor Greg Brockhouse. Nirenberg outraised his opponent $330,000 to $115,000 from April 25 to May 29, and he has a $96,000 to $29,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Democratic Rep. Donald Fraser, who died on Sunday at age 95, was a long-time U.S. Representative and then mayor of Minneapolis, but he’s probably best known for his key role in a series of rule changes that gave rise to the modern presidential primary system and nomination process. Fraser is the second name in the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which was a response to the tumultuous Democratic National Convention of 1968. The convention, much to the chagrin of anti-war activists, saw the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey despite his not having run in any primaries (instead relying on the pledged delegates that he inherited from Lyndon Johnson, as well as delegates from states that only used state conventions to assign delegates).

Prior to the Commission, the Democratic nomination process was a barely-comprehensible patchwork, with only a small number of states holding primaries. Many candidates picked and chose which few states they’d compete in, knowing that ultimately it didn’t matter, under the assumption that the nominee would be picked in the proverbial “smoke-filled room” anyway.

The Commission, instead, created uniform provisions for each state for delegate selection and limited the percentage of delegates who could be picked by state committee (meaning that most delegates would be ultimately picked by voters). It also prohibited various states’ onerous requirements on who could participate in the process (previously enforced through means such as literacy requirements or long residency requirements), opening the door to more meaningful participation by people of color and young people. The end result was that most states switched over to primary elections as the main way to pick delegates, which endures today.

Fraser served in the U.S. House from 1963 to 1979; he gave up his seat to run for the Senate in 1978 but narrowly lost in the Democratic primary. He pivoted right away to running for mayor of Minneapolis, and wound up as that city’s longest-serving mayor, running the city from 1980 until 1994 while enacting a number of clean-government reforms.

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