• CO-Sen: It’s official: former state Rep. Jon Keyser’s campaign for Senate is officially in meltdown mode. Just two days after Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger discovered that Keyser submitted multiple forged signatures to get on the June primary ballot, Keyser participated in a Republican debate, where a moderator repeatedly pressed him on the matter. Keyser refused to directly answer any questions, just saying, over and over again, “I’m on the ballot” and accusing liberal billionaire George Soros of trying to “derail my campaign.”
Following the debate, Zelinger attempted to interview Keyser on camera and asked the same questions the moderator had. Keyser again tried to evade, but then things took a turn for the bizarre—deeply bizarre:
Keyser: Were you the guy who was creepin’ around my house yesterday?
Zelinger: I knocked on your door.
K: You woke up my kids—my baby cried for an hour after that.
Z: I apologize.
K: Did you get to meet my dog?
Z: I met your dog and your nanny—she was very kind. Your dog was kind.
K: My dog is—he’s a great dog. He’s bigger than you are. He’s huge. He’s a big, big guy, very protective.
Z: I don’t know what that meant, but okay.
K: Oh, he’s a great, he’s a great, he’s a great dog.
Z: His size—what did you mean by his size?
K: Oh, have you seen him? He’s a Great Dane—he’s 165 pounds. He’s a good dog.
Was Keyser quasi-threatening Zelinger with his “big, big” “very protective” “huge” dog who’s “bigger than you are”? How the hell else to interpret those remarks? Zelinger finally managed to re-rail the interview, but Keyser simply wouldn’t say anything about the forgeries—because what is there to say? And wait, sorry, we’re still not over the dog. What on earth was that?
Anyhow, if Keyser survives this nightmare, he’d be like Gandalf returning from the dead. Somehow, though, we don’t think he has any wizardly powers. ProgressNow Colorado, the group that first discovered a forged signature among Keyser’s petitions, has asked the Denver and Jefferson County district attorneys to investigate. Even if a criminal inquiry never takes root, you’ve gotta believe that at least one of Keyser’s Republican opponents will take him to court to try to knock him off the ballot—if, that is, Keyser doesn’t drop out first … to spend more time with his ginormous dog, of course.
• FL-Sen: Hardee har har. On Thursday, TPM reporter Lauren Fox caught up with Florida “Senator” Marco Rubio on Capitol Hill and asked if he was thinking about seeking re-election. Rubio’s response was decidedly wishy-washy: “I’m not focused on that. I’ve already said what my intentions are and at this point you know [we] have people out there running already.” Fox then noted that Rubio had until the end of June to change his mind. Walking away, Rubio turned to smile and cited the precise filing date: “June 24.”
So was this some kind of ZOMG moment? Was Rubio really thinking about upending Florida politics and running for another term in the Senate despite burning bridges with plenty of Republicans in his home state, performing miserably in Florida’s presidential primary, and just generally showing zero interest in remaining a legislator? Turns out, no. A spokesman subsequently told Fox, “It was a joke. He’s going to serve out the rest of his Senate term and become a private citizen in January 2017.” A joke, indeed—just like Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
• GA-Sen: Wealthy Democratic businessman Jim Barksdale has released his first TV ad of the race, and it’s, well, a bit awkward. Narrating the spot himself, Barskdale says, “I’m not a politician, and I can prove it: I wear this hat”—as he tugs a newsboy cap over his bald head. What exactly is the message here? That real politicians would never be caught dead in such a hat? Or that only authentic reg’lar folks wear cloth caps like this?
Barksdale then proceeds with what is mostly a standard-issue outsider’s message, saying he’s an “investment manager” who “stood against the Wall Street crowd to protect my clients’ retirement.” He continues by promising he’ll “stand against the Washington crowd and their bad trade deals, wasteful spending, and mass incarceration.” The “bad trade deals” sounds a lot like Bernie Sanders, but it’s that last bit that’s the most interesting, since you don’t typically expect a white guy running in Georgia to run against mass incarceration, even in a Democratic primary.
The size of the buy isn’t known, but Barksdale’s put $1 million into his own campaign and has apparently bought TV time “in every significant Georgia market.” Barksdale faces two Some Dude opponents for the Democratic nomination, which will be decided later this month. Assuming he’s successful, he’ll get to take on GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson in November. We currently rate this contest Safe Republican, but if Georgia comes into play in the presidential race, funky things could happen downballot, too.
• IA-Sen: The pro-Democratic Constitutional Responsibility Project is out with a TV spot against Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley and as you can probably guess from their name, they’re hitting him on the GOP’s Supreme Court blockade. The commercial starts with a 2006 clip of Grassley declaring that a “Supreme Court nomination isn’t a forum to fight any election,” before voters accuse him of now being a part of the problem in DC. There’s no word on the size of the buy, though the CRP has spent a total of $150,000 on similar ads in Ohio and Pennsylvania so far.
• IL-Sen: For years, Republicans have been convinced that a long-running legal battle would one day tank Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s political career. Two former employees of Duckworth’s at the Illinois Department of Veterans affairs filed a suit all the way back in 2008 alleging that Duckworth had engaged in improper retaliation against them after they filed complaints against the acting director of the facility at which they worked.
The case was dismissed by a federal judge, who called it a “garden-variety workplace case,” then was refiled in state court, only to get dismissed once more. It was then refiled a third time on narrower grounds; the judge hearing the matter declined to dismiss the case a third time, and this week, he tentatively scheduled a trial date for August.
Republicans still think the case will damage Duckworth, while her campaign has dismissed it as “politically motivated.” The state attorney general’s office, which is defending Duckworth, has said the plaintiffs claims are merely “petty complaints by two malcontents.” Duckworth is the Democratic nominee against Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, and the GOP knows that Kirk faces tough odds in this blue state. Team Red has been attacking Duckworth over this matter for many years, but they’ve never drawn much blood. Maybe this time will be different, but so far, this affair just has not been the political kryptonite Republicans wish it were.
• OH-Sen: Republican Sen. Rob Portman has a huge financial edge over Democratic ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, and he’s going to make the most of it. On Thursday, Portman announced that he’s reserved $14 million in TV time from June to Election Day, plus he’s setting aside another $1 million for YouTube. Portman held a $13.4-million-to-$2.7-million cash-on-hand advantage over Strickland at the end of March, so we’ve always known Portman would swamp his opponent on the airwaves.
Democrats won’t abandon Strickland, of course. The DSCC has reserved $10 million in Ohio (to the NRSC’s $6 million), and other organizations on both sides will get involved here. But unfortunately for Strickland, party committees and super PACs need to spend far more money than campaigns to purchase ad time because FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio. So while allies can help Strickland make up some of the gap, Portman’s dollars will stretch much further.
• NC-Gov: The Republican Governors Association is out with their second 15-second TV spotattacking Democrat Roy Cooper. Once again, they go after him on taxes, accusing him of wanting to tax everything in sight. The RGA recently launched an opening $510,000 buy here.
• WA-Gov: The GOP wants to unseat Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee this year, but Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant hasn’t exactly emerged as a fundraising dynamo yet. Thanks in part to a $300,000 transfer from the state Democratic Party, Inslee widened his already large financial in April. Inslee currently holds a $2.5 million to $626,000 cash-on-hand edge; a month before, Inslee led $1.9 million to $700,000.
• FL-10: Ex-Orlando Police Chief Val Demings has consolidated support from national Democrats and she recently earned a prominent local endorsement from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. However, the Central Florida Police Benevolent Association announced this week that they would back Bob Poe, a wealthy former state party chair and Demings’ most prominent foe in the August primary. It’s a pretty against-type endorsement, especially since Demings’ husband is the sheriff of Orange County.
• NC-02: Rather unusually, GOP Rep. George Holding’s own pollster, Carter Wrenn, just told Roll Call that his boss is in a “statistical dead heat” with fellow Rep. Renee Ellmers in their redistricting-induced primary, a topic Wrenn discussed at much greater length in a blog post earlier this month. While Wrenn, a longtime aide to the late Sen. Jesse Helms, didn’t divulge the actual toplines of his polling, he says that in early March, Holding, who represents a plurality of the redrawn 2nd, had a 10-point lead on Ellmers, with 25 percent of voters undecided.
But after tea partying physician Greg Brannon, who’d run a couple of unsuccessful campaigns for Senate, decided to run for the House later that month, his entry scrambled the race. Wrenn says that Brannon cut into Holding’s support with conservative voters, resulting in Holding and Ellmers winding up “neck-and-neck” at about 25 percent apiece, with Brannon “running below 20.” But Wrenn also notes the difficulty of polling this race, since the state had to push its House primaries to June 7 thanks to the same court-ordered redistricting that pitted Ellmers and Holding against one another in the first place. Simply put, no one knows how many voters will turn out for what is an unusually timed election for North Carolina.
All external signs, however, point to success for Holding. The Club for Growth has hated Ellmers for a while due to her votes to raise the debt ceiling and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, and they’ve pledged to “actively oppose her”in the June primary. The Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity is planning a “six-figure” media blitz, hitting Ellmers for her supposed conservative apostasies, though it appears the campaign is confined to mail and digital platforms—no TV.
To make matters worse for Ellmers, the Susan B. Anthony List, a bizarro-world version of EMILY’s List that supports “pro-life” Republican women, has broken its own rules to endorse Holding over Ellmers. (Last year, Ellmers dissuaded House leaders from moving forward with a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy because it contained an incendiary provision that would have only permitted an exception in the case of rape if the victim reported her assault to the authorities first.) SBA List is a pretty small-time operation and nothing compared to AFP, but with both economic and social conservatives ganging up against her, it’s quite evident that Ellmers simply has no friends left.
Holding is also airing a new ad on his own behalf, a truly feeble spot with languid editing and cheap production values that tries to push back against an Ellmers mailer that supposedly claimed Holding “opposed the United States Army.” You’d think he could afford better.
• NC-13: The Club for Growth recently endorsed gun range owner Ted Budd in the 17-way June 7 GOP primary, and they’re out with their first spot for him. The whole commercial is painfully generic, with the narrator stressing that Budd’s a conservative who hasn’t run for office before. There is no word on the size of the buy, but the Club usually spends big to help their friends. No influential outside groups have sided with any of Budd’s foes yet; if the Club ends up running most of the ads here (boring as they may be), it could make all the difference next month in this red Greensboro-area seat.
• NH-02: The June 10 filing deadline is coming up, and the GOP is still struggling to find a viable candidate to face Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. State Rep. Eric Estevez says he’s considering and plans to decide in June. Estevez doesn’t exactly come across as a very intimidating contender. Estevez was dogged by several questions about his resume and campaign endorsements during his failed 2010 run for the Massachusetts state legislature. (Estevez had unsuccessfully campaigned for the New Hampshire state House in 2006.) Last year, Estevez also got into a heated argument with Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau (a fellow Republican) after he showed up to a Lozeau event he was not invited to, and reportedly called her a “bitch”. So yeah, Estevez’s not an ideal nominee for this 54-45 Obama seat.
Kuster hasn’t emerged as a GOP target this cycle, and the quality of her opponents shows it. Ex-state Rep. Jim Lawrence recently formed an exploratory committee, but his 2014 campaign was far from impressive. Lawrence raised a total of $42,000 during his 2014 campaign andtook only 19 percent in the primary. Ex-state House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, who actually has declared he’s in, raised just north of $5,000 over the first three months of 2016.
• NV-03: With a month to go before the GOP primary for this swing seat, state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson is airing out wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian’s dirty laundry in a new spot. The narrator notes that “[a] federal judge ordered Danny Tarkanian to pay $17 million for a fraudulent development scheme,” and goes on to accuse him of defrauding creditors and lying under oath.
The commercial refers to the $17 million judgment Tarkanian and his family was hit with in 2012 from a lawsuit over bad loans that Tarkanian had personally guaranteed. As the narrator later mentions, Tarkanian declared bankruptcy because he didn’t have $17 million, and he finally settled the matter for just $525,000. (Tarkanian emerged from bankruptcy protection last year, just in time to launch another campaign.) The ad doesn’t mention that these loans were for the family’s planned “equestrian destination resort,” which if anything makes Tark look a lot worse.
• Where Are They Now?: About to be in jail. On Thursday, Dean Skelos, the former Republican leader of the New York state Senate, was sentenced to five years in prison for corruption; his son Adam was given a longer six-and-a-half year sentence. Just last week, ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was sentenced to 12 years for a different corruption scandal. Who knows, maybe they’ll be cellmates—and believe it or not, that kind of thing has happened before.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and Stephen Wolf.