Primary School 6/21
we are very tired of cryptocurrency super PACs
Outside $ Watch
$500K of TV ads for Jonathan Jackson from Protect Our Future PAC. Oddly, this ad buy predates any official acknowledgement from Protect Our Future that they’ve endorsed in this race. Total POF spending: $500K
$491K of unspecified ads (likely TV) for Jonathan Jackson from Web3 Forward. Total Web3 Forward spending: $491K
$161K of TV ads for Karin Norington-Reaves from Forward Progress (not yet reported to the FEC as legally required, but reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.)
$436K of TV ads supporting Gilbert Villegas and attacking Delia Ramirez from VoteVets.org Action Fund. This level of spending is highly unusual from VoteVets. They rarely spend money in primaries, and when they do, it’s not much. The most they’ve ever spent in a primary was $574K for Seth Moulton in 2014. The ad is boilerplate tough-on-crime stuff about Ramirez wanting to defund the police and end cash bail. Total Votevets spending: $959K
$200K of digital ads attacking Gilbert Villegas from the Working Families Party. The buy is for more airings of the previously used ad accusing Villegas of being too close to the Fraternal Order of Police. Total WFP spending: $438K
$93K of digital ads supporting Gilbert Villegas and attacking Delia Ramirez, as well as $32K of mailers attacking Ramirez, from DMFI PAC. The digital ads try to tie Ramirez to indicted former state house Speaker Mike Madigan. Total DMFI spending: $157K
$36K of mailers for Delia Ramirez from End Citizens United. Total ECU spending: $36K
$97K of mailers for Delia Ramirez from Women Vote (EMILY’s List). Total WV! spending: $262K
$32K of mailers supporting Gilbert Villegas from Charter Schools Action Fund. Total CSAF spending: $32K
$32K of digital ads attacking Delia Ramirez from Mainstream Democrats PAC. Total MD spending: $32K
$19K of TV ads for Delia Ramirez from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Total CPC spending: $398K
$10K of digital ads for Delia Ramirez from People’s Action Power. Total PAP spending: $13K
$170K of TV ads supporting Kina Collins from Justice Democrats PAC. Total JD spending: $290K
$154K of “media” (probably TV ads) for Eric Sorensen from 314 Action Fund. Total 314 spending: $461K
$117K of TV ads and $10K of “digital services” for Jonathan Logemann from Democrats Serve. The ad is a simple introductory spot that mentions his time in office and in the National Guard. Total Democrats Serve spending: $127K
$649K of TV ads attacking Donna Edwards from the United Democracy Project (AIPAC). The ad is mostly just quotes of the Washington Post saying she didn’t have good constituent services, an unusually weak attack ad for a group usually adept at getting in the gutter. Total UDP spending: $649K
California’s drawn-out ballot counting means we have some updates since last week. We’re going to mostly keep it to races where the order candidates finished in changed; in races we don’t mention, Democrats (particularly progressive ones) almost always saw their vote shares increase while Republicans and some moderate Democrats almost always saw their standing deteriorate, just without leads changing.
CA-46: democratic socialist Mike Ortega did manage to rise to third place with late ballots (he had been in fourth), but fell just short of the leading Republican. Blue Dog Rep. Lou Correa will coast to another term.
California Insurance Commissioner: Assemb. Marc Levine finally overtook Republican Robert Howell for the second-place spot; he doesn’t lead Howell by much, but the Democratic skew of late ballots should keep him ahead of Howell, setting up an all-Democratic contest between Levine and embattled incumbent Ricardo Lara.
SD-20: progressive Caroline Menjivar overtook the lone Republican as we expected, sending her to a general election contest with Daniel Hertzberg, the son of outgoing state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (who’s already headed for a runoff of his own with a progressive, in his case West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath.)
AD-21: we’re happy to report we were a little hasty in declaring this race over; late ballots were more Democratic than we thought, enough to push YIMBY liberal Giselle Hale past Republican Mark Gilham and set up an all-Dem general election between Hale and moderate Democrat Diane Papan. We wanted socialist South San Francisco Councilman James Coleman to advance in this race, but Hale’s better than Papan, and unlike the Republican she could conceivably win.
AD-62 special/AD-61: Tina McKinnor, who narrowly trails Robert Pullen-Miles in the first round of the regular election for the new AD-61, officially won a concurrent special election runoff against Pullen-Miles for the mostly-overlapping old AD-62 and has been sworn in, giving her the benefit of incumbency in the AD-61 general election.
Los Angeles Mayor: Rep. Karen Bass overtook self-funding Republican billionaire Rick Caruso and now has a healthy lead that’s still likely to grow a bit.
LA City Attorney: former Republican and current progressive Faisal Gill saw his lead widen considerably, but it’s still not clear which of Marina Torres and Hydee Feldstein Soto will advance to carry the pro-incarceration Democratic banner in the general election.
LA City Council: In Council District 1, we got a belated but big upset: DSA-backed abolitionist organizer Eunisses Hernandez did extremely well with late ballots, enough to put her comfortably ahead of incumbent Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Cedillo hasn’t conceded yet, but he’s lost, and Hernandez will take his seat next year whether or not he concedes. In Council District 5, sorta-progressive Katy Young Yaroslavsky didn’t improve enough to avoid a runoff with conservative Sam Yebri.
San Diego County Sheriff: Republican John Hemmerling will keep the second runoff spot, shutting out reform-minded Democrat Dave Myers and making status quo Democrat Kelly Martinez a clear favorite in November.
Most of Maine’s legislative primaries were low-stakes affairs. A few results warrant a highlight: state party chair Drew Gattine, an establishment liberal, beat moderate-sounding local town councilor Jean-Marie Caterina in HD-126 and will return to the state House after a one-term hiatus due to term limits; progressive activist Charles Skold defeated local Chamber of Commerce board member Susanne Robins in HD-119; and climate-focused local planning board member Walter “Gerry” Runte Jr. defeated local town councilor Heath Ouellette in HD-146. The result of the night in Maine was further down the ballot. Cumberland County, home to Portland and its suburbs, fired its DA, Jonathan Sahrbeck. Sahrbeck, an independent who won in 2018 because both major-party candidates dropped out, had switched to the Democratic Party to run for reelection, but his hardline stances on incarceration and criminalization (particularly around drugs) and his loud opposition to criminal justice reform made him a poor fit for his new party. Jackie Sartoris, who soundly defeated Sahrbeck, isn’t particularly progressive; she was evasive about what sort of reforms she’d support, or how far she’d go to reduce incarceration. But she at least promises to prosecute less harshly in general (for example, by seeking misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges when appropriate.) When the status quo is Sahrbeck, it’s not hard to be an improvement.
In NV-01, Amy Vilela completely flamed out, losing 80% to 20%, despite having more than enough money to run a serious campaign and facing an opponent in Rep. Dina Titus who transparently hates her district and doesn’t want to be in Congress anymore. As it turns out, that’s because she was spending pretty much all of her money on consultants, fundraising, and digital ads. Dear candidates: don’t do this. Field and TV are important and you cannot afford to neglect either one.
In state legislative races, every incumbent held on (which is a good thing, because all of the challengers were weirdos or centrists.) In open races, the war between the state’s Democratic establishment and more progressive forces, led by teachers’ unions, looked like something of a draw; teachers’ union favorites Selena La Rue Hatch and Reuben D’Silva easily dispatched their establishment-backed opponents in Reno-area AD-25 and Las Vegas-area AD-28, but conservative Democratic state Rep. Skip Daly defeated organizer Nnedi Stephens just as easily in the open Reno-area SD-13. Clark County DA Steven Wolfson, who has a ghastly proclivity for pursuing the death penalty at abnormally high rates, turned back a labor-backed challenge from former state Rep. Ozzie Fumo, 56% to 44%.
North Dakota only had two primaries to watch, both in newly-created single-member state House subdistricts on Native reservations. In HD-4A (the Fort Berthold Reservation of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation), Lisa Finley-DeVille narrowly defeated Thomasina Mandan for the Democratic nomination; both women are members of the MHA Nation. In HD-9A (the Turtle Mountain Reservation of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), incumbent state Rep. Tracy Boe, who is white, went down hard, managing just 25% of the vote against Jayme Davis, a former staffer to U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad who is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
In Greenville’s HD-25, pastor and businessman Wendell Jones and BLM activist Derrick Quarles advanced to a runoff with 31% and 30% of the vote, respectively. In HD-62, state Rep. Robert Williams thankfully defeated Hartsville City Councilor Bryson Caldwell, who as a security guard “love[d] violating people legally doing searches.” In HD-70, where normal Democratic state Rep. Wendy Brawley was paired up with fellow state Rep. Jermaine Johnson, an Andrew Yang acolyte, Johnson unfortunately emerged victorious, winning 50.1% of the vote to Brawley’s 47.8%. Progressive state Rep. Justin Bamberg once again demolished Bamberg County Councilman Evert Comer Jr., who’s challenged him twice before. And in another incumbent-on-incumbent battle, there’s going to be a second round: in HD-101, state Rep. Roger Kirby, who is about what you’d expect of a rural white Democrat in South Carolina, got 48.10%, while extremely transphobic state Rep. Cezar McKnight got 48.23%—a difference of seven votes.
Note: in the initial version of last week’s issue, we mistakenly described South Carolina state Rep. Cezar McKnight as a “pretty normal” Democrat. He is not. McKnight is a fervent supporter of discriminatory anti-trans legislation (and Roger Kirby, to his credit, is not.) We’re grateful to the readers who brought this to our attention, and we apologize for the error.
The Hawaii Government Employees Association endorsed state Sen. Jill Tokuda last week. Organized labor, a powerful force in Hawaii politics, has thus far not weighed in on this race.
As far as Bernie Sanders endorsements go, we may have a real dud on our hands here. The twin PACs of cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, Protect Our Future and Web3 Forward, have been bumbling through the House primary playing field, generally using Bankman-Fried’s vast sums of apes—er, money—to aid centrist candidates, but also making some downright bizarre endorsements of candidates who don’t seem like natural choices for a crypto billionaire looking for regulators that won’t hold companies like his accountable for the mind-numbingly cringe technodystopian vaporware scam they’ve been running. It’s not guaranteed that Bankman-Fried’s help is a disqualifying red flag; in a couple races, most notably TX-30 and FL-10, Bankman-Fried has boosted a leading progressive candidate with little or no apparent reason. But the PACs’ involvement in IL-01 isn’t like that. Protect Our Future and Web3 Forward are spending a combined total of nearly $1 million on behalf of Jonathan Jackson, the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson—and Jonathan Jackson, unfortunately, makes perfect sense for a crypto billionaire: he’s a crypto guy. Jackson was endorsed by Bernie Sanders last week, probably as a show of thanks for the elder Jackson’s endorsement of Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign. (Bernie, then mayor of Burlington, first got involved in Democratic Party politics by endorsing the Rev. Jackson’s 1988 presidential primary campaign.) Several of Jackson’s rivals pounced at the PAC spending, and additionally knocked Jackson for failing to file legally required personal financial disclosures on time, though Jackson claims that was a mistake and he’ll file at some time today. Among those rivals is state Sen. Jacqui Collins, a progressive who’s made tighter regulation of financial institutions a priority of hers during her time in the state capitol.
The nasty member-on-member primary in IL-06 is sort of on hold now, for a tragic reason. Rep. Sean Casten’s 17-year-old daughter Gwen died last Monday, leading fellow Rep. Marie Newman to move to have all of her negative ads taken off the air. Our thoughts are with the Casten family.
Filing ended last week for Florida’s elections. In most congressional districts, it was a boring event. That was not the case in the 10th. Two former Orlando-area members of Congress have jumped into this open seat at the last minute.
First was Alan Grayson. Grayson was first elected in 2008, in what had been drawn to be a Republican-leaning district. He won immediate favor with some online Democrats owing to his aggressive, confrontational approach to Republicans (or as he branded it, being “a Democrat with guts”) despite some ill-advised choices, like how he referred to a woman advising Ben Bernanke as a “K Street whore” or the fact that the venue where he did that was Alex Jones’s radio show. Grayson lost reelection in the Tea Party wave of 2010, but shortly returned to Congress in the new 9th district, which Republicans drew as a Democratic vote sink in the Orlando area. He gave that up for a Senate campaign in 2016, during which reporters from Politico uncovered four police reports alleging spousal abuse from him towards his recently divorced ex-wife. Him telling the press that she was a “gold digger” and threatening to have another Politico reporter arrested couldn’t have helped matters. Grayson lost that primary, and his new wife, who was running to succeed him in the House, lost as well, though not as badly as he did. So, Grayson ran for that district again in 2018, but despite being apparently ahead in his own internals lost 66-34 (and did worse in Orlando). Everyone wondered if they might finally be done with Grayson, but he showed up again last year intending to run for Senate. After receiving absolutely no traction, he’s back here. The appetite for Grayson’s return may be there among some Democrats, but it’s certainly not more than a small minority of Democrats; Grayson has to hope for a ridiculously split field of opponents with no one candidate breaking away from the pack at all. Oh, and did we mention that he has multiple Cayman Island hedge funds, and when he was asked about it he responded “Are you some kind of shitting robot? You go around shitting on people?" That’s a real thing that actually happened.
The other ex-member of Congress now seeking to return is Corrine Brown. Brown left Congress in 2017 with Grayson, losing a redistricting-inspired primary. It hardly mattered though: she would have only had a few months more in office if she had won, considering the felony fraud conviction she received later that year. Don't worry though, she's out of prison now, and ready to run for the new 10th district. Sure, it may be hundreds of miles from her home in Jacksonville, but her old district included the Black neighborhoods of Orlando (in fact, that's why it was found to be an illegal racial gerrymander) so she’s basically an incumbent (that's how it works, right?) Brown will not win. But, if she has any support after all that, it will mostly be coming from moderate state Sen. Randolph Bracy's base, because her old constituents overlap heavily with his current constituents.
Final pre-primary campaign finance reports are in: Wes Moore has $1.7M left to spend, followed by Jon Baron at $1.6M (thanks to a $1.7M personal loan), Doug Gansler at $1.1M (following an $800K personal loan), Tom Perez at $375K, Peter Franchot at $355K, and finally John B. King at $278K. It's hard to say if this tells us much beyond what we already knew—that Peter Franchot is tapped out and will lose if anyone other than him can scrape together 30% of the vote, and that given all the money swimming around, the rest of the field may be too fractured for that to happen.
This week, Moore was interviewed by Oprah. Oprah played a part in launching his career by promoting his biography (the one that was apparently fast and loose about the chronology of his childhood). Oprah has been willing to do events with candidates she's previously featured on her show, though she's stayed notably absent from Dr. Oz's Senate campaign despite being the reason he's famous.
Rashida Tlaib is now running a TV ad. Called Fearless, it’s a simple 15 second spot that decries corporate greed and promises Tlaib will stand up to the rich and powerful. More notable than the ad’s content is that it exists at all. Tlaib is clearly worried about the firehose of money she’s about to face from Bakari Sellers’s Urban Empowerment PAC, as well as, inevitably, AIPAC’s United Democracy Project, both aiming to boost Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey. That, combined with all the new territory she’s taking on because of redistricting, makes introducing herself early an attractive move, if a risky one. Tlaib had $1.6 million on hand as of March 31, and Detroit TV time, while not as bad as New York or Los Angeles, makes a sustained two-month ad campaign hard to do.
A couple states over from Tlaib, fellow Squad member Ilhan Omar is also making moves to show she’s in the driver’s seat as a primary from her right approaches. She released a poll showing her with a 70% positive to 24% negative approval rating with Democrats in the district, and leading opponent Don Samuels by a similar 60% to 21% margin. The poll lines up with what happened in 2020, when she scored a neatly identical 58% of the vote, though her opposition had mostly coalesced around professional blank slate Antone Melton-Meaux, who took in 39%. Omar, who has less than $500,000 on hand, would very much like to avoid another expensive contest, and is trying to signal to groups like those targeting Tlaib that her support is too solid to beat.
In case it wasn't already clear, Kathy Hochul is getting elected to a full term as governor of New York. NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams's campaign has been floundering for months now, but he still had two lifelines theoretically available to him: the New York Times, which had endorsed him over her in the 2018 LG race, and his old Brooklyn politics fellow traveler Eric Adams, who left the door open to supporting him previously. Both endorsed Hochul last week, just before early voting began.
Mondaire Jones, who already had a war chest on hand for what was supposed to be his NY-17 reelection, made it to TV first, with a spot that really, really wants to convince the viewer Jones lives in NYC. The ad begins with Jones standing in front of the Manhattan skyline before proclaiming “I’m a New Yorker”. The ad then cuts to Jones doing recognizably NYC things, like walking through downtown Manhattan and playing chess in the park.
As Jones seeks to grow his profile in his new home, the oppo knives are out for him. The New York Post (where any self-respecting NYC campaign shops its ugliest, pettiest dirt) reported that Jones used congressional proxy voting, intended for House members with medical concerns, to vote while attending a celebrity wedding in France.
Nydia Velázquez, who represented a significant portion of this district until this year, including Sunset Park, Red Hook, and parts of Lower Manhattan, has made her choice in this race: City Council Member Carlina Rivera. This endorsement was not a shock; in fact, Rivera’s team more or less outright stated she would get it the week prior.
Sean Patrick Maloney’s switch from NY-18 to NY-17 was many things: selfish, unexpected, a huge gift to Republicans, a mockery of Maloney’s duties as DCCC Chair. It’s increasingly appearing like it might also end up being harder for Maloney than it would’ve been had he stuck to his own slightly-less-blue NY-18.
Maloney’s district swap brought him much closer to New York City proper, and it earned him a primary opponent (state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi) who’s already been through a nasty election in the city (Biaggi’s successful primary challenge to Republican-caucusing Democratic state Sen. Jeff Klein in 2018, in a district mostly contained within the Bronx.) That all combines to give New York City’s aggressive local political press more reason to cover Maloney than they’ve had in the past, and it’s already producing some genuine journalistic gems. The New York Post reported Sunday night that Maloney has been lying about his own business experience for the past decade, claiming he built his own small business “from scratch”. In reality, Maloney was brought on as the top lawyer (not CEO or anything similar) for Kiodex, a tech firm, in June of 2000; the firm first registered a domain name in November 1999, first registered as a corporation with the state of New York in February 2000, and first reported receiving a commercial business loan in April 2000, all while Maloney was still working in the Clinton White House. Maloney has consistently claimed to have built Kiodex “from scratch” since his first congressional campaign in 2012; he’s finally been caught in the lie after ten years. Why lie about something so easily disproved? Well, according to one unnamed Democratic operative quoted in the Post:
Sean will basically do and say anything to make Sean Patrick Maloney look good. That’s been his number one [priority] for as long as he’s been in professional life.
For Sean, it’s always about what’s good for Sean, and all other considerations are irrelevant in his mind … so I’m not surprised at all.
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is, according to polling, the most serious threat to Gov. Dan McKee’s hopes of winning his first full term. And that’s before she’s gone up on TV, which she says she’ll be doing this week. But she’s apparently failing to report her campaign donors’ addresses in accordance with state law, which is a) shady, b) not a good headline for your campaign, and c) an especially bad look for the state’s chief elections administrator.
The Vermont State Employees Union endorsed Lt. Gov. Molly Gray this week. Labor thus far has been very split in this race. The AFL-CIO had been behind state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale before she left the race, and hasn’t officially endorsed anyone. Becca Balint has most of the other unions: teachers, steamfitters, construction workers, and IBEW, but Gray has other construction trades, including the carpenters and SMART.