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Morning Digest: Progressive candidate has huge monetary edge in race for Wisconsin faculty chief

Underly narrowly led Kerr 27-26 in a five-way primary in February marked by sharp differences in the two candidates’ support bases. Underly is backed by Wisconsin’s entire Democratic congressional delegation, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and a slew of Democrats in the state legislature. She also has the support of several teachers’ unions in the state. (Evers, however, has stayed out of the race.) Kerr, meanwhile, identifies as a Democrat and claims to have supported President Biden in 2020 but has been endorsed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and pro-charter school groups.

Campaign Action

Underly has enjoyed a wide $1.2 million to $170,000 fundraising advantage over Kerr, an edge that extends to outside spending as well. Underly allies have injected $766,000 into the race, while the most notable pro-Kerr group, the American Federation for Children, has spent a far smaller $57,000.

Both candidates have had to navigate varying degrees of controversy during the race. The day after she clinched a spot in the runoff, Kerr, who is white, posted a bizarre tweet claiming she’d been the victim of a racial slur used to target Blacks. Shortly afterward, Kerr’s campaign manager and legal counsel both quit. Kerr had benefited from some Republican support during the primary, but as the AP’s Scott Bauer notes, this abrupt change in staff may have presaged the rightward lurch her campaign took in the second round of voting.

Kerr has also come under fire for allowing the business manager in her school district to stay on for nearly a year and a half after he overdrew bank accounts by nearly $500,000 in 2009. Underly went after Kerr over this incident during a debate between the candidates and in a television ad. Kerr, for her part, claims she investigated this incident as soon as she was alerted to it.

Underly has faced some backlash for sending her children to a private school for a two-year period when her family lived in Madison. Underly defended the decision by saying the school better suited her childcare needs.

The race has featured the classic public school vs. charter school battles that often mark races focused on education, but the COVID-era issue of schools reopening for in-person instruction has also been an issue. Though the state superintendent does not have the power to make these decisions, Kerr has aggressively pushed for all school districts statewide to reopen. Underly’s stance has been more muted, though she has advocated for reopenings to be based on the discretion of individual school districts.

Senate

MO-Sen: On behalf of the local tipsheet Missouri Scout, Republican pollster Remington Research has tested a variety of potential configurations for next year’s GOP Senate primary and finds disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens leading in each of them, though the headline matchup is very close.

The one non-hypothetical pairing features Greitens versus the only other notable declared candidate, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt; in that head-to-head, Greitens comes out ahead just 40-39. Adding a third candidate to the mix, however, widens that gap, largely at Schmitt’s expense:

  • 36-29 Greitens, Rep. Jason Smith: 16
  • 36-30 Greitens, Rep. Billy Long: 14
  • 38-26 Greitens, Rep. Ann Wagner: 18
  • 38-30 Greitens, businessman John Brunner: 10

Toss everyone in the mix (plus yet another member of the House, Vicky Hartzler) and the picture remains similar: Greitens 31, Schmitt 18, Wagner 12, Smith 9, Hartzler 8, Long 6, and Brunner 2. That contrasts with a recent Greitens internal that had him beating Schmitt 48-11, with Wagner at 9 and Smith at 7.

Needless to say, it’s exceedingly unlikely that this entire brigade, including four sitting U.S. representatives, would all pile in, though everyone included in this poll has in fact said they’re considering the race.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance acknowledged that he’s “thinking very seriously” about a bid for the GOP nomination for Senate a few days after a band of far-right billionaires dumped tens of millions of dollars into a super PAC to support a hypothetical Vance candidacy last month.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Warren Davidson, who’d been eyeing both a Senate campaign and a primary challenge to Gov. Mike DeWine, now sounds like he’s leaning toward the latter. “I don’t really plan to run for Senate in 2022,” said Davidson in mid-March. “What I am looking at in 2022 is A) Congress, of course, and B) I’m encouraged by the feedback I’ve received on the governor’s race and I am taking a hard look at the governor’s race.” That’s a little confusing because the Senate is part of Congress, but presumably Davidson was referring to the House.

PA-Sen: Democrat Rep. Brendan Boyle, who’d reportedly been considering a Senate campaign, said on Friday that he’ll take a pass on the race. Two notable Democrats, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, are already running for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, though many more are still weighing the race.

Governors

AL-Gov: Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth says he “will not run against” Gov. Kay Ivey, a fellow Republican, if she decides to seek a third term next year. He did not, however, say what he plans to do if the governor calls it a career. Ivey has been coy about her intentions, saying on Friday, “My plate’s pretty full right now. It’s just not time to make that decision known.”

House

FL-01: As the Matt Gaetz scandal metastasizes in ever more revolting ways, CNN also reports that prosecutors are investigating whether the congressman spent donor funds on “travel and expenses” for the young women and teenage girls he’s allegedly been involved with. While the gravity of the sex trafficking charges Gaetz may face is immense, using campaign money for personal reasons—which is also illegal—has brought down several of Gaetz’s peers in recent years, including former California Rep. Duncan Hunter.

TX-06: The Texas AFL-CIO, which has 235,000 members across the state, has endorsed Democratic businesswoman Lydia Bean in the May 1 special election for the 6th Congressional District. Meanwhile, former Trump official Brian Harrison is running yet another ad, this time attacking Joe Biden over immigration. According to the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek, only Harrison and fellow Republican Susan Wright have advertised on TV so far.

Mayors

Seattle, WA Mayor: City Council President Lorena González earned an endorsement on Thursday from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a prominent progressive who represents about 80% of Seattle, ahead of the August top-two primary.

St. Louis, MO Mayor: The Democratic firm Show Me Victories has released a survey of Tuesday’s general election that shows City Treasurer Tishaura Jones leading Alderman Cara Spencer 42-37. Show Me Victories says it isn’t affiliated with either candidate “or any independent expenditure in the Mayor’s race.”

Jones outpaced Spencer, a fellow Democrat, 57-46 in last month’s “approval voting” primary, which allowed voters to cast as many votes as there were candidates; voters on April 6, though, will be limited to just one choice.

Jones and Spencer have each been campaigning as progressives. As The Appeal’s Meg O’Connor wrote last month, “No matter who wins in April, the next mayor of St. Louis will be a single mother who supports reimagining public safety, changing the way the city uses tax incentives to spur development, and providing rent relief to St. Louisans who are struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.” Jones would also make history as the first woman of color to lead St. Louis, and she would additionally be its first Black mayor since 2001.

The two contenders, though, have spent the last month arguing that the other has not demonstrated enough transparency in office. Spencer declared at a recent debate that Jones “has a track record of issuing no-bid contracts,” while Jones has faulted Spencer for being late to disclose $13,000 in donations from the primary.

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