Most notably, Uihlein gave $2.5 million to support Illinois state Rep. Jeanne Ives’ longshot primary bid against Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018. That contribution, which accounted for the vast majority of Ives’ budget, allowed her to air ads against the wealthy incumbent, including an infamous racist and transphobic spot. Ives ended up losing, but only by a shockingly slim 3-point margin.
Rauner went down to brutal defeat that fall, so the GOP almost certainly would have lost control of Illinois’ governorship even if Uihlein hadn’t intervened, but the stakes in Missouri could be far higher. While the Show Me State has become solidly Republican turf in recent years, allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fear that Greitens could jeopardize Team Red’s hold over this Senate seat if he’s their nominee.
It would still be difficult for even a Republican as toxic as Greitens to lose a general election in Missouri, but power-brokers who remember the 2012 Todd Akin debacle aren’t eager to find out. Longtime party strategist Karl Rove, who remains an influential figure in GOP politics, predicted in April that “Democrats, fair or unfair, are going to take him apart.”
McConnell and his allies have shown time and again that they’re willing to spend in order to stop anyone they perceive as unelectable from winning a primary, though they’ve had many high-profile setbacks—and Uihlein’s early investment means that the stakes in Missouri just got higher.
● OK-Sen: Pastor Jackson Lahmeyer’s Republican primary campaign against Sen. James Lankford was a pretty low-key affair before late June, but that started to change when party chair John Bennett announced that he was supporting the challenger. While Bennett said he wasn’t making his endorsement in his official capacity, he didn’t hold back when he told reporters that Lankford deserved to lose because he refused to object to certifying Joe Biden’s electoral college majority in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack.
Lankford has otherwise been a devoted Trump ally, and he’d originally echoed Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. Lankford had even planned to object to Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, but he ended up reversing himself after the terrorist riot.
The senator soon wrote a letter to African American constituents where he said his earlier comments about the election had “caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state.” He continued by acknowledging the country’s ugly history of anti-Black voter suppression and added, “I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you. I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry.”
All of this, though, went over poorly with Lahmeyer, a first-time candidate who will turn 30 before Election Day. “I watched James from November the 3rd to January the 6th just flip-flop like a fish out of water,” Lahmeyer argued, adding, “And then, on January the 6th, he caved like an absolute coward.” The challenger also said that the senator’s message to Black constituents was the final push he needed to get him to run.
Lahmeyer’s campaign didn’t attract much outside attention, though, until Bennett threw his endorsement behind him. Lankford himself acknowledged this week it was “highly unusual for a state party chair in any state in America to come out and say, ‘I’m not going to at least be neutral.”
It remains to be seen how much Lahmeyer or Bennett, who won the state party chair post in April, represents the thinking of their party, much less the primary electorate, but Lankford may get a clue soon: The state party is set to consider a censure resolution against the senator on July 17.
● CO-Gov: The Democratic firm Global Strategy Group has released a survey for ProgressNow Colorado that finds Democratic incumbent Jared Polis leading University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl 54-34 in a hypothetical general election. Ganahl, who is the only Republican left in statewide office, has not yet entered the race.
● KS-Gov: Attorney General Derek Schmidt has publicized endorsements from two of Kansas’ former Republican senators: Bob Dole, who was the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, and Pat Roberts, who retired at the start of this year. Dole had previously supported Schmidt’s intra-party rival, former Gov. Jeff Colyer, in the 2018 primary.
● ME-Gov: Former state Sen. Tom Saviello, a Democrat-turned-independent-turned-Republican who backed Democrat Janet Mills in 2018, has acknowledged that he’s considering challenging the incumbent as an independent, but he says he won’t make up his mind until November. That’s because Saviello is currently focused on passing a fall ballot measure that would complicate Central Maine Power’s plan to construct a $1 billion power corridor, a project backed by both Mills and her likely Republican foe, ex-Gov. Paul LePage.
● MN-Gov: In an interview with Forum News Service published Wednesday, state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he would take 40 days to decide whether he’d seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Tim Walz.
● NM-Gov: State Rep. Rebecca Dow announced Wednesday that she would campaign for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Dow is a third-term representative from a seat in the southern part of the state that includes her hometown, Truth and Consequences. (The town famously changed its name from Hot Springs in 1950 in honor of the eponymous radio game show after it won a nationwide contest.)
Dow joins a primary that includes Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Brock and retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, but any of them would start out as the underdog in what’s become a blue state over the last several years. A recent SurveyUSA poll for KOB-TV Albuquerque also gave Lujan Grisham a 50-32 approval rating.
● OR-Gov: Willamette Week reports that Melissa Unger, the executive director of SEIU Local 503, is considering seeking the Democratic nomination for next year’s open seat race. A spokesperson for the union named responded, “Melissa is focused on her current job,” which is far from a no. They added, “At the same time, our union is closely watching the candidate field in the governor’s race. We believe there must be a candidate who is a champion for Oregon’s working families.”
● KY-03: State Rep. Attica Scott, a vocal advocate for police accountability and one of the most progressive members of the state legislature, launched a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth on Wednesday. Scott declined to offer any criticism of the incumbent, who has amassed a very progressive record of his own in Congress, saying, “This campaign is about the people of Louisville, and the people who are demanding and asking for different representation.”
After last year’s police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black resident of Louisville, Scott, who is also Black, became a prominent leader in the protests that soon followed. She’s also pushed for a measure called “Breonna’s Law” that would ban the use of “no-knock” warrants, which has passed in other jurisdictions (including Louisville) but not yet in Kentucky. (A partial ban did become law earlier this year.) Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, responded to Scott’s announcement by endorsing Yarmuth.
Scott has experience taking on long-time incumbents: She began her political career by knocking off conservative Democrat Tom Riner 54-31 in the 2016 primary for the state House seat she now represents. Yarmuth, however, is nothing like Riner, a religious extremist who championed a law requiring Kentucky’s Homeland Security department to post a plaque saying the state’s safety “cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”
Republican state lawmakers could also “crack” the 3rd District and divide its parts between the deep red surrounding areas to create a new safe GOP seat for 2022, though Kentucky’s congressional Republicans claim they don’t want to see this happen.
● MN-01: Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn announced Wednesday that his kidney cancer had returned, saying, “The new diagnosis was surprising considering that just 14 weeks ago no cancer was detected.” The congressman added that he and his doctors were “very encouraged by a new FDA-approved cure that is available to attack this type of cancer.”
● MO-04: Two more Republicans, state Rep. Sara Walsh and former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks, have announced that they would seek this very red open seat in west-central Missouri. Walsh’s husband is the longtime press secretary for Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is leaving the House to run for the Senate, though the incumbent has yet to take sides in the race to succeed her. Burks, meanwhile, was appointed county clerk in 2017 only to lose his general election the following year, but he quickly landed a job in state government in the labor department.
The race may get another new candidate before long, as Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said Wednesday that he would make his decision “shortly.”
● MT-02: Attorney Monica Tranel, who was the Democratic nominee last year for a seat on the Public Service Commission, announced this week that she would run for Montana’s new, but as of yet undrawn, congressional district. Tranel, who rowed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, lost her 2020 contest by a close 52-48 margin for a district in the western part of the state that voted for Donald Trump 51-46 and Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte by 49-47.
● NE-02: Alisha Shelton, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate last year, announced this week that she would challenge GOP Rep. Don Bacon. Shelton would be Nebraska’s first Black member of Congress.
Shelton came in third with 23% in the 2020 primary for the upper chamber, but Nebraska Democrats disavowed the winner, businessman Chris Janicek, after he sent sexually explicit messages about a campaign staffer to a group text that included the aide. Team Blue’s leaders tried to convince Janicek to drop out so they could nominate Shelton in his place but he refused to budge, and he ultimately won just 24% of the vote against Republican Sen. Ben Sasse in November.
● NJ-10: Progressive activist Imani Oakley, who previously worked as a staffer in the legislature, announced this week that she would take on Rep. Donald Payne in the Democratic primary for New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District, a safely blue seat in the Newark area. Politico notes that, while Payne has long been an underwhelming fundraiser, his name recognition and institutional support will make him very tough to beat.
Payne was elected in 2012 to succeed his late father, 12-term Rep. Donald Payne Sr. The younger Payne won the regular primary for this seat with 60% of the vote that year (he did even better in the special election primary that same day), and he hasn’t faced any serious opposition since then. Payne is also an ally of the local county parties, so he should have no trouble once again claiming their influential organization lines.
● OH-11: Democratic Majority for Israel is out with an ad that goes after Democrat Nina Turner for her past criticism of the Democratic Party. The spot, part of a $278,000 buy, features a voiceover that runs through critical statements Turner has made about Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and the DNC.
Also on Wednesday the Congressional Black Caucus rolled out an endorsement of Turner’s main opponent in the Aug. 3 primary, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown. South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest ranking Black Democrat in the House, backed Brown last week.
● VA-07: 2020 candidate Tina Ramirez announced last week that she would once again seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. Ramirez struggled to raise money for her last campaign and ended up taking third place in the party’s nominating convention. It remains to be seen how the GOP will choose their nominee next year, much less what this district will look like after the state’s independent redistricting commission completes its work.
Secretaries of State
● AZ-SoS: Former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes confirmed this week that he would run to succeed Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a fellow Democrat who is running for governor. Fontes joins House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding in the primary.
Fontes won the 2016 race to administer elections in Maricopa County, which is home to more than 60% of the state’s population and whose 4.5 million residents make it the fourth-largest county nationally. However, Republican members of the county Board of Supervisors took control of key powers from Fontes’ office following his victory, and Team Red targeted him four years later. Fontes ultimately lost re-election by a very close 50.1-49.9 margin to Republican Stephen Richer as Joe Biden was carrying Maricopa County 50-48.
● Buffalo, NY Mayor: Incumbent Byron Brown announced last week that he would wage a write-in campaign this November against India Walton, a self-described socialist who defeated him in a huge Democratic primary upset last month, but the four-term mayor hasn’t attracted much big name support so far.
While Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner supported Brown in the primary, he reaffirmed that his organization would back Walton now that she’s the nominee. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also said he was for Walton, and he also took the time to bash Brown’s primary campaign. “You’re responsible for your campaign. You’re responsible for the efforts associated with running for office,” said Poloncarz, adding, “The mayor acted as if he had already been elected, and the people of Buffalo spoke in the Democratic primary.”
Other prominent Democrats have so far remained neutral including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who previously chose Brown to lead the state party. The governor has so far refrained from saying anything about the general, though current party chair Jay Jacobs told the Buffalo News, “I cannot imagine any circumstances in which the governor will interfere in an election like that under these conditions.” Jacobs also threw some shade at the mayor, saying, “But there is no question she [Walton] won the primary against someone who is a very good mayor and a very good friend who, unfortunately, did not wage a campaign required by the times.”
Brown does have the backing of three of the nine members of the local city council, the Buffalo Common Council, though they seem to be the only local elected officials in his corner.
● New York City, NY Mayor: Former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia conceded the Democratic primary for mayor to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Wednesday morning, following an AP call of the race for Adams on Tuesday night. Adams will be the overwhelming favorite in November against the Republican nominee, talk radio host Curtis Sliwa. If he’s successful, he’ll be the city’s second Black mayor, after David Dinkins.
Adams’ narrow victory came in the eighth and final round of ranked-choice tabulations, in which he defeated Garcia 50.5% to 49.5%. Garcia’s hopes had rested on absentee votes, which were not tallied until Tuesday, but they only narrowed the gap slightly from the 51.1-48.9 lead Adams enjoyed a week earlier, when the first ranked-choice results were released (sans absentees). Mail-in votes had a bigger impact in the seventh round, when Garcia eliminated attorney Maya Wiley by more than 12,000 votes; the initial ranked-choice tabulations had Garcia ahead just 347 votes in the penultimate round.
It was heavy support from Wiley voters that almost allowed Garcia to make up the gap with Adams, which stood at 41-30 in the seventh round, with Wiley at 29: 51% of Wiley’s votes went to Garcia in the last round while just 20% went to Adams. (The rest were “exhausted,” meaning that those voters either didn’t make a choice after Wiley, only chose candidates that had already been eliminated, or picked Wiley as their fifth and final choice.) But as Inside Elections’ Ryan Matsumoto noted, absentees “skewed more towards” fourth-place finisher Andrew Yang, whose voters split more evenly in their alternate preferences, with 32% for Garcia and 28% for Adams (as well as 11% for Wiley and 29% that were exhausted).
Ranked-choice nerds will additionally want to take note that the absentees also reduced the total number of rounds required to resolve the election, from nine to eight. Under a process called “batch elimination,” which requires the Board of Elections to eliminate multiple candidates in a given round if it’s mathematically impossible for any to advance, four minor candidates were eliminated in the fourth round. Previously, those eliminations were split two and two over the fourth and fifth rounds.
● Syracuse, NY Mayor: Democrats last week learned the identity of their general election nominee after Michael Greene conceded to Khalid Bey, a fellow member of the Syracuse Common Council. With almost all votes counted, Bey prevailed 50.3-49.7—a margin of 36 votes—in the primary to take on independent Mayor Ben Walsh this November.
Bey would be the city’s first Black mayor, but he’ll be in for a challenging race. While Joe Biden carried Syracuse 77-21, Walsh won his 2017 race by defeating Democrat Juanita Perez Williams, who would go on to unsuccessfully compete in the primary for the 24th Congressional District the next year, by a wide 54-38 margin. Walsh also begins the general with almost $400,000 on-hand compared to less than $3,000 for Bey. The race also includes Republican Janet Burman, though she may not make much of an impact in a city where the last GOP mayoral nominee secured just 3% of the vote.
● Queens, NY Borough President: “We beat your racist ass.” That’s what Queens Borough President Donovan Richards tweeted on Monday night at his chief rival in the Democratic primary, former New York City Councilwoman Liz Crowley, after new results showed him with a narrow 50.3 to 49.7 lead in the third round of ranked-choice tabulations.
It’s not clear what prompted Richards’ outburst, beyond a tweet in the same thread in which he claimed Crowley “told me she would win, because BLM would die.” Crowley called the provocation “slanderous and untruthful” and also said her campaign “is evaluating the numbers from the Board of Elections and will make a determination about our next steps once every vote gets counted.”
However, Crowley currently trails by 1,044 votes, and it appears that very few ballots remain untallied. She also did not benefit from the second-choice votes of City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the third-place finisher, whose supporters split roughly equally between Crowley and Richards after Van Bramer was eliminated.
● New York City, NY Comptroller: City Councilman Brad Lander has defeated City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller, winning 52-48 in the 10th round of ranked-choice tabulations. (The post was open because incumbent Scott Stringer, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor, was term-limited.) As is the case for all Democrats in citywide races, Lander should have little trouble in the general election when he faces the Republican nominee, money manager Daby Carreras.
● Staten Island, NY Borough President: Former Rep. Vito Fossella has narrowly won the Republican nomination for Staten Island’s open borough presidency, defeating New York City Councilman Steven Matteo 51-49 in the third round of ranked-choice tabulations. Fossella, who earned Donald Trump’s endorsement, will face off against Democratic businessman Mark Murphy, who won his party’s nomination 65-35 over activist Lori Honor in the sixth round.
Democrats haven’t won an election for borough president in the city’s smallest and most conservative borough—Trump carried it 57-42—since 1985, when appointed incumbent Ralph Lamberti won a full term. However, he was defeated four years later by Republican Rep. Guy Molinari, who would go on to serve three terms.