Huge sums are fast making Illinois governor’s race the most expensive in history


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

Leading Off

● IL-Gov: With the second quarter recently ending, we now have fundraising totals for next year’s gubernatorial contest in Illinois—and man are they insane. First off, the Democrats:

J.B. Pritzker (D): $14 million self-funded, $4.9 million cash-on-hand

Daniel Biss (D): $1 million raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand

Chris Kennedy (D): $704,000 raised, $959,000 cash-on-hand

Ameya Pawar (D): $139,000 raised, $229,000 cash-on-hand

Scott Drury (D): $66,000 raised, $347,000 cash-on-hand (in one month)

Bob Daiber (D): $4,000 raised, $10,000 self-loaned, $10,000 cash-on-hand

Billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker dominated the money race by self-funding $14 million even as he accepted no donations. Kennedy-family scion Chris Kennedy is also quite wealthy by any objective standard, but he simply doesn’t have the means to match Pritzker’s self-funding. While he seeded his campaign with an initial $250,000 at the start of the year, he didn’t do any substantial self-funding this quarter and somewhat surprisingly ended up raising less money than Chicago-area state Sen. Daniel Biss despite starting off with much higher name recognition. Three other candidates, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, state Rep. Scott Drury, and Madison County schools official Bob Daiber all raised relatively insignificant sums for such an expensive state.

While the Democrats first have to get past a crowded primary, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Death Star will be quite operational when the general election arrives. He raked in $20.6 million during the second quarter and finished June with $67.6 million cash-on-hand, almost certainly the most of any candidate for any office in the country. A whopping $20 million of Rauner’s haul, or all but $600,000, came from just a single source: hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who is a mega-donor to GOP campaigns. That comes on top of an earlier $50 million Rauner, another billionaire, gave himself last December, which he intimated was just an opening salvo.

Illinois’ 2018 election is quickly shaping up to be the costliest gubernatorial race in history thanks to the willingness of Pritzker and Rauner (and Rauner’s friends) to write their campaigns eight-figure checks. Pritzker spent a monster $9.3 million in the second quarter, while Rauner also spent a sizable $3.4 million even though he faces no major GOP primary opponent. Politico recently reported that some unnamed party officials think a contest between the two men could top a record-shattering $300 million, and at $90 million, they’re already almost one-third of the way there, even though there are still another 16 months until Election Day.

2Q Fundraising

Be sure to check out our second quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we’ll be updating as new numbers come in. We’re also including the totals for House members who are publicly or reportedly considering Senate bids.

● AL-SenLuther Strange (R-inc): $1.85 million raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand

● CA-SenDianne Feinstein (D-inc): $630,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand

● CO-GovCary Kennedy (D): $343,000 raised; Mike Johnston (D): $300,000 raised

● ME-GovAdam Cote (D): $250,000 raised; Mary Matthew (R): $78,000 raised (in one month)

● NY-GovAndrew Cuomo (D-inc): $5.1 million raised (in the first half of 2017), $25.7 million cash-on-hand

● TN-GovMae Beavers (R): $36,000 raised (in one month), $55,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

● MI-Sen: Businessman John James is the latest Michigan Republican to express interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow next year: James recently announced that he’s “exploring” a campaign and says he’ll file paperwork with the FEC soon. James served as an Army captain during the Iraq War and does not appear to have run for office before, but he comes from a prominent business family in Detroit. Stabenow is a strong favorite to win a fourth term next year, but two notable Republicans are already running: former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young and businesswoman Lena Epstein, who co-chaired Trump’s state campaign.

Gubernatorial

● AK-GovOn Monday, Republican state Sen. Mike Dunleavy became the first noteworthy candidate to take formal steps to challenge independent Gov. Bill Walker next year when he filed paperwork with election officialsthat allows him to start raising and spending money. Although Dunleavy did not officially declare he’s running yet, he’s looked like a probable candidate for a while. Dunleavy left the state Senate GOP caucus earlier this year after opposing his party’s budget proposal because he didn’t think it contained enough spending cuts, and he unsurprisingly has a reputation as an ardent conservative.

Walker, who was elected with the support of Democrats in 2014, still hasn’t formally launched his re-election bid, and there’s a chance he could decline to seek a second term. A retirement would throw this race wide open, but both Republicans and Democrats seem to be proceeding as though they expect Walker to run again. At least two other Republicans have also previously expressed interest in bids of their own, former state House Speaker Mike Chenault and businessman Scott Hawkins.

● MD-Gov: Maya Rockeymoore, who runs a policy consulting firm, is the latest Democrat whose name has surfaced as a possible challenger to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan next year. Rockeymoore confirmed her interest in a brief statement on Tuesday, and Maryland Matters reports that she’s been in contact with party insiders and say she’s expected to announce a decision soon. Rockeymoore doesn’t appear to have for office herself before, but her husband is longtime Baltimore Rep. Elijah Cummings, and she has past experience working as a Capitol Hill staffer. If she does enter the race, she might also win major support from groups like EMILY’s List as the only prominent woman in the contest.

● MI-Gov: Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who is the ostensible frontrunner in next year’s Democratic primary, received a major boost on Tuesday after University of Michigan Regent Mark Bernstein announced he won’t run for governor and instead endorsed her campaign. Bernstein hails from a wealthy and prominent family of lawyers that includes a current state Supreme Court justice. His relatively high profile and fundraising potential likely would have made him a serious contender for the nomination had he chosen to run.

However, Whitmer still does not have a clear path to the Democratic nomination for next year’s contest to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Businessman Shri Thanedar jumped into the contest last month, while former Detroit Health Commissioner Abdul El-Sayed is also running, though both Democrats are relatively lesser-known. Nevertheless, a few big names are still potential candidates, since Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and well-known (for all the wrong reasons) attorney Geoffrey Fieger have previously said they’re thinking about running.

House

● CA-48: Nestlé executive Michael Kotick is the newest Democratic candidate to kick off a campaign against Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th Congressional District, which stretches along the coast of Orange County. Kotick does not appear to have run for office before, and it’s unclear if he’s willing or wealthy enough to engage in any self-funding.

This affluent suburban seat had long been solidly Republican, but the highly educated 48th flipped from 55-43 Romney in 2012 to 48-46 Clintonin 2016. Sensing an opportunity, several other Democrats have already kicked off campaigns against the longtime Republican incumbent, including real estate broker Boyd Roberts, real estate company owner Harley Rouda, and prominent stem-cell scientist Hans Keirstead.

● MI-06: Physician Matt Longjohn, who is the former national health director for the YMCA, joined the Democratic field against Republican Rep. Fred Upton when he announced his campaign on Tuesday. Longjohn is a first-time candidate, but his medical background and record of working for one of the country’s biggest nonprofit organizations could help him draw a strong contrast with Upton, who played a critical role in helping to revive and ultimately secure passage of Trumpcare in the House.

This southwestern Michigan district favored Trump 51-43, and Upton has never faced a close re-election battle since his initial victory in 1986. However, the 6th did vote for Romney by a closer 50-49 in 2012, and if Trumpcare proves to be a major liability for House Republicans next year, Upton could bear the brunt of the backlash thanks to his key involvement. However, Longjohn will first have to get through the Democratic primary, which includes Western Michigan University political science professor Paul Clements, who was Team Blue’s nominee in both 2014 and 2016.

● MN-01: Recently disclosed news that Republican candidate Jim Hagedorn and state Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan are in a romantic relationship is more than just mere gossip: It’s already causing two potential Republican candidates to reassess whether they’ll join the race for Minnesota’s open 1st Congressional District in the southern part of the state. State Rep. Nels Pierson says he’s delaying his timeline for when he’ll make a decision, while Olmsted County party chair Aaron Miller called the involvement a conflict of interest, given the role that party organizations usually play in picking candidates in Minnesota.

Both major parties hold nominating conventions of activists prior to the primary, and many candidates will, in local parlance, “abide” by the party endorsement process and drop out instead of proceeding to the primary if they aren’t chosen. For their part, Hagedorn and Carnahan both maintain that the state party is distinct from the 1st District party apparatus, but whether that’s true in more than just name is an open question. Hagedorn, who was Team Red’s nominee here in 2016 and 2014, is so far the only noteworthy GOP candidate to formally enter the race to succeed Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, but this district’s 53-38 Trump edge could help entice other Republicans to run.

● NJ-05: First-term Rep. Josh Gottheimer should be one of the most vulnerable House Democrats next year since the affluent suburban 5th District along New Jersey’s northern border backed Trump 49-48 and Romney 51-48. However, no noteworthy Republicans have formally kicked off a campaign against him yet; the furthest along is Warren County Freeholder Jason Sarnoski, but he’s only formed an exploratory committee.

Recently, Insider NJ said unnamed Republicans have brought up the nameof Steve Lonegan, but there’s no indication of whether or not he’s interested. Lonegan most recently ran for the 3rd District in South Jersey in 2014, despite having served 12 years as mayor in the small suburb of Bogota in Bergen County, which is in New Jersey’s northeasternmost corner. Lonegan ultimately lost the primary for that open seat to GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur, just the latest in a two-decade-long slew of failures.

However, as conservative hardliner, Lonegan has his fans among the party base, which could give him a chance of winning the nomination if he runs in the 5th next year. If that happens, you can bet Gottheimer and Democrats will be eager to hammer Lonegan over his long history of derogatory and extremely callous comments.

● UT-03: With four weeks to go until the Aug. 15 Republican primary, two candidates will shortly begin airing their first TV ads of the race. Provo Mayor John Curtis’ spot features him doing macho things like riding a motorcycle and firing a handgun—though, fortunately, not at the same time. Curtis further tries to check off a list of conservative talking points by boasting of creating jobs as mayor, helping to shrink the size of government, and raising a family of six kids with his wife.

State Rep. Chris Herrod also debuted his first ad, which starts off with footage of a chameleon while Herrod lambasts politicians who (you saw this one coming) change their colors. Herrod then states, “Here in Utah, we know actions speak louder than words,” a phrase that Curtis’ ad also emphasized, before Herrod highlights his record of cutting taxes in the legislature. He also promises to repeal Obamacare and build Trump’s border wall if elected.

● VA-05: The Democratic field to take on freshman GOP Rep. Tom Garrett grew a little larger over the weekend after Leslie Cockburn announced her candidacy. While Cockburn isn’t nearly as famous as her movie-star daughter, Olivia Wilde, she is nonetheless an accomplished filmmaker and journalist. During her career, she’s produced and directed documentarieson a range of subjects, including for PBS’ “Frontline” and CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Cockburn doesn’t appear to have run for office before, but her connections in the world of filmmaking might come in handy for fundraising.

Garrett won’t be an easy target next year after he easily dispatched a well-funded Democratic opponent by 58-42 to outrun Trump’s 53-42 margin in 2016 in this central Virginia seat, which includes Danville and Charlottesville. However, Cockburn isn’t the only noteworthy Democrat running here, as Marine veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler is also in the race.

Grab Bag

● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections’ project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation comes to Tennessee, where the GOP holds massive majorities in both chambers. You can find our master list of states here, which we’ll be updating as we add new data sets; you can also find all of our calculations from 2016 and past cycles here.

Democrats ran both the Tennessee state House and state Senate from Reconstruction until the early part of the 21st century. The GOP took a tiny Senate majority in 2004, but two Republicans voted to keep Democrat John S. Wilder, who had led the chamber since 1971, as speaker of the Senate. However, Team Red kept their majorities in 2006, and a Democrat wound up delivering the pivotal vote that finally gave the GOP control.

A similar thing happened two years later in the state House, where the GOP seized a one-vote majority. Every Democrat backed Republican backbencher Kent Williams in the speaker race, keeping control out of the hands of the GOP leadership for another term. But the 2010 GOP landslide gave Republicans a hefty 64-34 majority (Williams himself won another two terms as an independent before retiring), and they got to draw the maps for both chambers. Today, just 10 years after Wilder finally lost the Senate gavel and six years after the Republican leadership’s choice finally took the speakership, the GOP holds a 28-to-five Senate majority and a 74-25 edge in the House. Half of the Senate is up every two years, while the entire House is up each cycle.

Donald Trump carried Tennessee 61-35, a swing to the right from Mitt Romney’s already-strong 59-39 win four years before. Trump took 27 of the Senate’s 33 seats, though he narrowly lost one Romney seat. SD-20, which is located in the Nashville area, went from 56-42 Romney to 47.3-47.1 Clinton, but Republican incumbent Steven Dickerson won re-election last year 56-44. All five Senate Democrats are confined to the Obama/Clinton seats, while the GOP controls all the Romney/Trump districts.

There’s more crossover voting in the House, but still not very much. Trump carried 77 of 99 seats, losing two Romney districts. However, we estimate that he won one district, HD-13, by just three votes four years after Romney took it 51-46; because there are a few precincts split between HD-13 and other seats, it’s impossible to know which presidential candidate actually won this district.

One of those Romney/Clinton seats is held by none other than GOP Speaker Beth Harwell, who recently announced that she would run for governor. HD-56, which is located in the Nashville area, went from 61-37 Romney to 47.2-46.8 Clinton, but Harwell won her final term 58-42. The other Romney/Clinton seat is HD-96, located in the Memphis area. This district went from 55-44 Romney to 51-46 Clinton, and Democrat Dwayne Thompson unseated a GOP incumbent 50.7-49.3.

Harwell is the one Republican in a Clinton seat, though the ultra-tight HD-13 is held by GOP state Rep. Eddie Smith, while four Democrats represent Trump seats. The reddest is HD-41, which straddles the line between East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee. This district went from 66-33 Romney to 77-20 Trump, but Democratic incumbent John Windle won a 12th term 55-45. Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, a possible candidate for governor, also represents a conservative seat. HD-82, located in rural West Tennessee, swung hard from 52-47 Romney to 59-40 Trump, but Fitzhugh also won his 12th term last year, 56-44. The New Jersey Senate is the only other chamber we’ve found where the Democratic leader holds a Trump seat while the GOP leader holds a Clinton district.

Tennessee has become a very red state, but these GOP-drawn maps still give Republicans a huge edge in state legislative races. One way to illustrate this is to sort each seat in each chamber by Clinton’s margin of victory over Trump and see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. The median Senate seat backed Trump 68-28, about 14 points to the right of his 61-35 statewide win. The median state House district backed him by an almost-identical 68-29 margin. Those are numbers that rival the North Carolina GOP’s infamous legislative gerrymanders.

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