Looking at ad spending in that TX-7 Democratic primary

The Democratic primary in the Seventh District of Texas got national attention after the House Democrats' official campaign arm tried (unsuccessfully) to undercut progressive Laura Moser's candidacy. Moser came in second last night to Emily's List-endorsed Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, triggering a May runoff. 

Now, we're getting a look at how pricey this race was and how much money each candidate spent on the airwaves. 

According to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics, TV and radio spending in the race clocked in at $550,000, making it one of the most expensive House primaries in the state. 

And while top finisher Fletcher spent the most out of the candidates at $182,000, the second highest spender — attorney Alex Triantaphyllis — came in a disappointing fourth place despite shelling out close to $150,000. 

Moser, whose best publicity may have come from her own party's attempts to knock her out of the race, spent just shy of $122,000 on TV and radio ads. 

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Carrie Dann

We now know who'll take on Peter Roskam in IL-6

Earlier this morning, we still didn't know  which of the seven Democrats running in the Illinois 6th congressional district primary would take on vulnerable Republican Peter Roskam in the fall.

Now, the AP has called the primary contest for environmental entrepreneur and scientist Sean Casten. 

Casten narrowly defeated local elected official and breast cancer survivor Kelly Mazeski by about 850 votes after counting was completed in DuPage County, where a technical problem delayed vote tabulation last night.

Mazeski had benefitted from the backing of Emily's List and had gotten national headlines when she declared her run on the day that House Republicans, including Roskam, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

The race is sure to be hotly contested in the general election. Hillary Clinton won the district in 2016 by seven percentage points, and the Cook Political Report rates it as a tossup. 

Here's a look at one of Casten's TV ads during the primary. 

Carrie Dann

A closer look at the drop in the NRA's positive rating

In this morning's First Read, we wrote that the NRA's positive rating has dropped significantly since last year. According to our NBC/WSJ poll, more Americans now have a negative view of the pro-gun organization than a positive one for the first time since before 2000. 

The NRA has notably lost ground among key groups, including white married women and urban dwellers. But it's also seen a dip in popularity among seniors, more moderate Republicans and Americans who live in the western United States.

Here's a closer look at how the NRA's positive rating has fallen since last year. 

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Koch-backed group launches ad attacking Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Americans for Prosperity, the political group backed by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, has launched its an ad attacking North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp for her vote against tax reform.

The $450,000 ad buy is the latest in a multi-million dollar effort against Democrats running for re-election in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016. 

The narrator in the ad says, "When Heidi had the chance to help us with real tax cuts, she turned her back - voted 'no."

The ad comes on the heels of $8 million worth of advertisements in Indiana and Missouri and is part of the $400 million the Koch network announced they'd spend on politics and policy tin 2018. 

A spokeswoman for Heitkamp's campaign, Julia Krieger, fired back on the ad, saying, "it's unfortunate when campaigns are reduced to flat-out lies from out-of-state billionaires. But North Dakotans know the truth about Heidi: She would never vote for a bill that could jeopardize Social Security and Medicare, or sacrifice the permanent tax cuts working North Dakotans deserve." 

Bipartisan Senate panel sends urgent warning to elections officials

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee made an urgent, bipartisan call for state and federal officials to address vulnerabilities in elections systems that were exposed during the 2016 presidential contest, warning that Russia has not given up in its goal of sowing doubt among voters about the integrity of the ballot box. 

In contrast with a bitterly divided House Intelligence Committee investigation, Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., stood with both Democrats and Republicans on the panel to announce the first phase of findings in their year-long probe, which is ongoing. 

Among the panel’s recommendations: 

  • The U.S. should send a clear message to adversaries about attacks on elections infrastructure.
  • Establishing new international cyber norms with U.S. allies as part of an effort to deter threats.
  • Improving communication between federal officials and the state and local governments that run elections, and establishing a common set “of precise and well-defined election security terms” to help address potential problems.
  • Calling for states to “rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems” — stressing the need for an auditable ballot trail with an emphasis on use of paper ballots. 

Related: Russians penetrated U.S. voter systems, top U.S. official says

Each of the lawmakers who spoke at a Senate news conference agreed with the conclusion that Russia sought to take advantage of vulnerabilities in U.S. voting systems in 2016. Burr said that 21 states were targeted, with one state election database successfully accessed, but that there was no evidence a single vote was changed. 

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the panel, said members of both parties were disappointed that state and federal officials were “not more on their game” in advance of the 2016 elections, reflecting disappointment even among Democrats in the response of the Obama administration to the Russian threat.  “In the ensuing months, DHS has picked up game, but there's more to do,” he said.

Carrie Dann

Christine Quinn criticizes 'unqualified lesbian' Cynthia Nixon

We’re just about 24 hours into Cynthia Nixon’s New York gubernatorial primary run, and the headlines are already getting, well, pretty contentious.

Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay, said this of Nixon in an interview with the New York Post: “Cynthia Nixon was opposed to having a qualified lesbian become mayor of New York City. Now she wants to be an unqualified lesbian to be the governor of New York. You have to be qualified and have experience. She isn’t qualified to be the governor.”

Nixon endorsed Bill de Blasio over Quinn in the 2013 NYC mayoral Democratic primary.

Nixon responded that “her being a lesbian and my being a lesbian” is not the issue, according to the Post.

Here’s the full story.

*** UPDATE: Quinn has apologized for the remarks on Twitter, saying "I would never, EVER, criticize someone because of their identity." She reiterated that she was making a comparison between her own experience and qualification and Nixon's. 


Looks like we know who'll be appointed to Thad Cochran's Senate seat

The Courier-Journal reports that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to pick Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to replace outgoing Sen. Thad Cochran.

Hyde-Smith would be the first female senator in Mississippi history. If she decides to seek the seat permanently in November, she'd likely face a challenge from the right from conservative Chris McDaniel, who has said he will seek the seat as well. 

Here's more from the Courier-Journal's report: 

Some state GOP sources are questioning whether Hyde-Smith, who in served in the state Senate for years as a Democrat, would be vulnerable to a far-right challenge from McDaniel. Others say that as a Democrat she had a conservative record and she has been a leader in the state and national GOP as agriculture commissioner. She has a strong base among rural conservatives.

And more: 

McDaniel, who's already running a conservative and tea-party fueled campaign, is likely to try to make hay of Hyde-Smith being a Democrat until 2010. The race, which will be a free-for-all with no primaries, already also has a serious Democratic contender, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Espy, raising concerns of splitting the Republican vote.

Mark Murray

A few of the TV ads in Illinois

As we wrote in First Read this morning, it’s Primary Day in Illinois, and here are some of the eye-catching TV ads that have been on the airwaves in the state. 

Jeanne Ives is challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner from the right in the GOP gubernatorial primary, and she aired this HIGHLY CONTROVERSIAL TV ad, with a male actor dressed like a woman thanking Rauner for “signing legislation that lets me use the girl’s bathroom.” 

A whopping $65 million has been spent on TV and radio ads in the IL GOV primaries, including $33.5 million by Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Here's Pritzker hitting Kennedy and Biss. And here's Biss hitting Rauner/Pritzker/Kennedy for their wealth.

And the Democratic Governors Association is airing an TV ad calling Ives “too conservative” for Illinois – reminiscent of how Democrats played in the 2012 Missouri GOP primary that produced Todd Akin.


Kasie Hunt

Costello says he'll file to run again in new PA-6

After the GOP lost court challenges to the new Pennsylvania congressional district map, Republican Rep. Ryan Costello tells NBC News plans to file to run for re-election in the new version of his PA-6 district.

He represents an already-swing district in the Philadelphia suburbs that’s becoming distinctly more Democratic under the new map. He’s facing a top challenger in veteran Chrissy Houlahan.

Still, Costello isn’t yet firm in his plans to campaign for re-election, so stay tuned.

Andrew Rafferty

Tim Pawlenty moves closer to (another) gubernatorial bid

Tim Pawlenty continues to move closer to another gubernatorial run in Minnesota, announcing Monday he will file a campaign committee.

The former two-term governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate stirred speculation about a possible return to public office earlier this year when he announced he would abandon his post as the head of the Financial Services Roundtable. He ruled out a Senate run in January and has been reportedly raising cash this month for a potential return to St. Paul. 

Pawlenty will still need to officially file to enter the race to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. The announcement is expected “soon,” according to a statement.


Carrie Dann

'Sex and the City' star announces primary challenge to NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, best known as one of the stars of HBO's hit series "Sex and the City," is  launching a progressive primary bid against incumbent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

"I love New York. I’ve never lived anywhere else. But something has to change.," she says in her announcement video. "We want our government to work again, on healthcare, ending mass incarceration, fixing our broken subway. We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us."

A Siena College poll out Monday showed Nixon as a heavy underdog in the primary matchup, with Cuomo getting 66 percent support among registered Democrats, compared to just 19 percent for Nixon. 

Here's her announcement video: