Voices from PA-18

Voters in this southwest Pennsylvania congressional district sound off ahead of Tuesday's special election between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone.

latest posts from The Rundown

Mark Murray

Firm: Illinois race was the most expensive non-presidential primary in history

The whopping $66 million spent on ads in the Democratic and Republican primaries for Illinois governor made it the most expensive non-presidential primary of all time, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. 

And because of the winners last night — incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner (who spent more than $16 million over the airwaves) and Democrat J.B. Pritzker (who spent more than $33 million on ads) — the general election is likely destined to be the most expensive gubernatorial contest in history.

Advertising Analytics projects total spending could exceed $150 million. 

The previous most expensive non-presidential primary of all time was the 2016 New Hampshire Senate primary, Advertising Analytics says.

Andrew Rafferty

Mississippi Senate appointment threatens to complicate already messy campaign

Mississippi agriculture commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith's appointment Wednesday to fill the state's soon-to-be vacant Senate seat threatens to complicate an already messy political environment in the Magnolia State.

Gov. Phil Bryant's choice, who will be the first female to represent Mississippi in Washington, to fill outgoing Sen. Thad Cochran's seat reportedly has members of the GOP-establishment worried.

Hyde-Smith was a Democrat in deep-red Mississippi until 2010, and is expected to run for a special election in November to fill the remainder of Cochran’s term. She already has one prominent GOP primary opponent in conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel, who originally announced he would mount a primary challenge to the state’s other Republican senator, Roger Wicker, before switching to run for the vacated seat.

Republicans in Washington, including adviser's to President Trump, still reeling from from Democrat Doug Jones' win in next-door Alabama, privately warned Bryant about the potential headaches Hyde-Smith could cause in the primary. Bryant remained clear that those in Washington would have no say in his appointment. 

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.