Election Countdown: Ohio special election fight heats up | Takeaways from Georgia primaries | Key primaries ahead in August | Blankenship files for third-party bid in West Virginia | More Dem candidates say they won't back Pelosi

This is Election Countdown, The Hill’s weekly newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Max Greenwood (@KMaxGreenwood) that wades through the biggest stories on the campaign trail. We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to Lisa at LHagen@thehill.com and Max at MGreenwood@thehill.com with any questions, comments, criticisms or food recommendations (mostly the latter, please).


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We’re 104 days until the 2018 midterm elections and 832 days until the 2020 elections.


The money race is heating up in the final weeks before Ohio’s special election on Aug. 7, where Democrats are trying once more to flip a GOP-leaning suburban House seat.

Both parties are pouring millions of dollars into the high-stakes fight between Democrat Danny O’Connor and Republican Troy Balderson to replace ex-Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE (R-Ohio).

Here’s a spending breakdown (according to a source tracking the advertising market):

Republicans are still outspending Democrats. The Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) remains the race’s biggest GOP spender, with $1.9 million spent or reserved. CLF has been a big player in each of the key House special elections this cycle. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has also increased its spending to nearly $611,000. Balderson, a state senator, was endorsed by President Trump over the weekend.


For O’Connor’s campaign, the cavalry has arrived in the final stretch. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has upped its spending to about $323,000. The DCCC jumped in for the first time last week with an initial $240,000 buy. And other national Democratic groups are coming to O’Connor’s aid. House Majority PAC, Priorities USA Action and For Our Future are pumping $140,000 into a digital ad and ground campaign running through Election Day.

O’Connor may need the extra boost – especially as he prepares to fend off what are sure to be more GOP attacks following a somewhat-forced acknowledgement that he could end up voting for House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Pelosi: Georgia primary ‘disgrace’ could preview an election debacle in November MORE (D-Calif.) if a Democratic speakership was on the line.

O’Connor campaigned for months on a call for new leadership in both parties. During a Tuesday night interview, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews repeatedly pressed him on whether he’d support Pelosi for Speaker. O’Connor said no multiple times, but when Matthews again asked if he’d support her in a pinch, O’Connor eventually conceded: “I would support whoever the Democratic Party put forward.”

Less than 24 hours after the interview, CLF was already on the attack with a new TV ad claiming that O’Connor “would side with Nancy Pelosi, not you.” And there’s probably more ads like that on the horizon.


Primary recap

Georgia held primary runoffs on Tuesday for several statewide and federal offices and here is the main takeaway: It was a good night for Trump-backed candidates and women.


Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) sailed to the GOP nomination over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), winning by nearly 40 points. That’s a huge comeback from the state’s May primary when Cagle finished in first place. Kemp got a huge boost when Trump endorsed him.

Kemp now faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former minority leader in Georgia’s state House and the first African-American woman to be nominated by a major party to run for governor.


And in two key House races, female Democratic candidates won their respective runoffs, continuing the winning streak of women in congressional races this cycle. In the 6th District, gun-control activist Lucy McBath bested businessman Kevin Abel. And in the 7th District, professor Carolyn Bourdeaux defeated David Kim, the founder of a tutoring company.


Race for the White House

The Hill’s Reid Wilson explores when and how potential 2020 hopefuls will announce their presidential campaigns. Expect a mad dash after November. “There will be a starting gun on the race as soon as this election is over,” an adviser to a likely 2020 candidate predicted to Reid.


Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.) raked in nearly $1.1 million between April and June, according to an FEC filing – his largest quarterly haul since the beginning of 2018. The rumored 2020 presidential contender ended June with $3.5 million in the bank. And he’s continuing to help 2018 Democrats on the campaign trail, most recently endorsing Mike Espy, a former congressman and Agriculture secretary running in Mississippi’s special Senate election.


Senate showdown

Senate fundraisers: As the battle for the Senate heats up, so does the money race. Vice President Pence raised money for Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaBottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts MORE‘s (R-Pa.) Senate bid in Philadelphia. Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpTrump Jr. calls elderly supporter who was assaulted Trump Jr. hits Howard Stern for going ‘establishment,’ ‘acting like Hillary’ Trump Jr., GOP senator lash out at Facebook for taking down protest pages on stay-at-home orders MORE hosted a fundraiser on Monday for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R). And on Thursday, there will be a pair of fundraisers in D.C. to raise money for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R). Trump was in Kansas City on Tuesday, where he reportedly held a fundraiser for Hawley. At a veterans event earlier in the day, he called the attorney general up on stage and touted his work in office.



Republican Kevin Nicholson, who’s challenging Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden launches program to turn out LGBTQ vote We need a ‘9-1-1’ for mental health — we need ‘9-8-8’ Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump’s power under Insurrection Act MORE (D-Wis.), worked as a consultant for companies that laid off nearly 1,900 workers since 2015, the Associated Press reports. A spokesperson for his campaign rejected the idea that Nicholson or the firm that he worked for, ghSMART, had any role in advising companies to lay off employees.


Ex-coal CEO Don Blankenship, who lost a bid for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (D-W.Va.), filed paperwork on Tuesday to run as the Constitution Party’s Senate candidate. Blankenship could face a legal challenge to his third-party bid.


Survey says…

Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) is leading Rep. Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusLobbying world Conor Lamb gets 2020 challenger touted by Trump The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (R-Pa.), 51-39 percent in Monmouth University’s new poll. Lamb’s lead over Rothfus bodes well for the Democrat, who picked up widespread name recognition after he beat out Republican Rick Saccone in the March special election. The 17th district became more favorable for Democrats’ under the state’s new map.



The poll also found that Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano holds a 9-point lead over his primary challenger, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, a young African-American woman who has been dubbed “the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Massachusetts.” Worth noting: 33 percent of voters say they are still undecided.


Voters think Democrats running for Congress are increasingly out of step with mainstream politics, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Fifty-six percent say Democrats are “out of step” with more common beliefs, compared to 33 percent who say they’re “in the mainstream.”


Paper chase

Fundraising roundup: The Republican National Committee (RNC) posted strong fundraising figures in June, outraising the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by $6 million. The RNC raked in $14 million, compared to the DNC’s $8 million. That leaves the RNC with $50.7 million cash on hand at the end of June – far more than the cash-strapped DNC, which reported $9 million cash on hand, with $6.3 million in debt.


But it’s not all bad news for Democrats. The DCCC brought in $15.2 million in June, while the NRCC raised roughly half as much, $7.7 million, in the same period. And during the month of June, the DSCC narrowly outraised the NRSC, $5.9 million to $5.7 million.


What we’re watching for

August is approaching and it’ll be another busy month of primaries. You can check out the full list and breakdown from The Hill.


Trump will visit Dubuque, Iowa for a roundtable event on Thursday and will be hosted by Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), who faces a tough reelection race in a top-targeted seat. The president will hold a campaign rally in Tampa, Fla. on July 31. Politico Florida reports that Gov. Rick Scott (R) won’t be at the rally, but will appear with Trump at a school visit and at a Senate fundraiser.


Coming to a TV near you

Wisconsin Republican Leah Vukmir, who’s faces Kevin Nicholson in the GOP primary in three weeks, rolled out a new ad. The ad folds in cartoony graphics, as Vukmir vows to stand with Trump to “cut wasteful spending, build the wall and finally drain the swamp.” Restoration PAC, which is backing Nicholson and is largely funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein, went up with a new $750,000 TV ad buy that touts the first-time candidate as a “new kind of leader.”


Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.) is out with his first TV ad, a positive spot that highlights his work on disability benefits for veterans. He’ll face Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees ‘strong likelihood’ of another relief package; Warner says some businesses ‘may not come back’ at The Hill’s Advancing America’s Economy summit The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups MORE (D-Nev.) in a tough reelection race.


Wave watch

Democrats’ Pelosi question: More Democratic House candidates are joining the growing chorus that they won’t support Pelosi for speaker. The latest: Democrat Jason Crow, who’s running to unseat Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R-Colo.), Crow tells the Denver Post.


Speaking of the Speaker: The Democratic push to flip retiring Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) seat may have hit a stumbling block this week, with Democratic candidate Cathy Myers alleging that primary rival Randy Bryce improperly used $7,000 in campaign funds to settle a personal legal scuffle.

Meanwhile for Republicans, likely nominee Bryan Steil released his first TV ad Tuesday. “I don’t care much for Washington-style politics, but I do know they need Wisconsin Steil solutions.”


Democrat Perry Gershon, who’s running against Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have ‘reciprocal’ response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees ‘strong likelihood’ of another relief package; Warner says some businesses ‘may not come back’ at The Hill’s Advancing America’s Economy summit MORE (R-N.Y.), said he was motivated to run for Congress because of the “parallels” he saw between Trump’s political ascendance and Adolf Hitler’s rise. Zeldin, who’s been a fervent Trump supporter, is a top target for Democrats this cycle, despite Trump carrying the district by more than 12 points in 2016.


Rep. Jason LewisJason Mark LewisTwo swing-district Democrats raise impeachment calls after whistleblower reports GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have ‘dual loyalties’ to Israel The Hill’s Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (R-Minn.) has come under fire again after audio resurfaced last week of comments he made in 2012 that African Americans have an “entitlement mentality” and see themselves as victims. Lewis, who also drew ire for derogatory comments about women, dismissed the report as an “attack” on his campaign.


Election Countdown was written by Lisa Hagen, Max Greenwood and Jesus Rodriguez.

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