We are just one day away from one of the most jam-packed election days of 2023. Statewide and local primaries (and special elections) are on the docket in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, laying the ground for high-profile races later this year.
Here are five numbers to know heading into the big day:
— $13 million: That’s how much has been spent on television, radio and digital advertising heading into the Kentucky Republican gubernatorial primary, per ad tracking firm AdImpact. Around half of that spend comes from former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft. It helps to have a personal war chest: Craft, a wealthy GOP donor who’s married to coal magnate Joe Craft, has loaned her bid more than $9 million during the campaign.
Outside groups supporting Craft and Attorney General Daniel Cameron — one of the frontrunners in the race, along with Craft — have also poured in millions of dollars on advertisements. Bluegrass Freedom Action, the group backing Cameron, has spent more than $2 million, followed by Commonwealth PAC, which is boosting Craft, with around $1.5 million spent. Cameron’s campaign has spent around $1 million on ads, and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles’ campaign spent just under that amount.
— Two challengers: Republican Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, who’s running for his second term, is facing two primary opponents: former state Rep. Allen Maricle and Stephen Knipper, who unsuccessfully ran for the post before. Adams has been outspoken against those falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election was stolen — and he finds himself up against an opponent who touts such ideas. Knipper opposes mail-in ballots, early voting and electronic voting machines, and has said he has the backing of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has been a bullhorn for false claims of election fraud.
— Twenty-one percent: It’s a crowded field in the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia, one of the country’s largest cities. Nine hopefuls are lining up to replace term-limited Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney. With so many candidates running, that means a low vote share, potentially something as low as 20 percent, will decide the winner.
And based on polling, it’s really anybody’s game. A poll released by Emerson College Polling/PHL17 on Friday found a close race between Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, Rebecca Rhynhart and Allan Domb. Gym was, nominally, in the lead in the poll with 21 percent.
— $1 million: Democrats are spending heavily ahead of a special election that will, for the second time this year, decide control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee have poured in around $1 million over the last month in support of former local school board member Heather Boyd to succeed former Democratic state Rep. Mike Zabel, who resigned in March following sexual harassment allegations. Boyd’s Republican opponent, Katie Ford, has spent far less. It’s one of two House special elections happening on Tuesday, but the other is likely to stay in Republican hands after Republican Lynda Schlegel Culver resigned to join the state Senate.
— Half a million dollars: National Republicans have waded into their party’s primary for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative has poured in more than $500,000 in advertising in support of Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Carluccio over Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, according to data from AdImpact. McCullough unsuccessfully ran for the state Supreme Court in 2021, and in 2020, ordered the results of the presidential election to not be certified.
Days until the Kentucky primary: 1
Days until the Mississippi primary: 85
Days until the Louisiana primary: 152
Days until the 2023 election: 176
Days until the 2024 election: 540
PRIMARY COLORS — Democrats are looking for “extreme candidates” to come out of Senate GOP primaries and give them a leg up in an otherwise bleak electoral map, POLITICO’s Burgess Everett and Holly Otterbein write. DSCC Chair Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said he’s not willing to use the committee “to intervene in Republican primaries but added that when they’re ‘very contentious,’ they can help produce ‘a weak candidate’ all on their own.”
2024 WATCH — Republican Alison Esposito, who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor of New York last year, is considering running against Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan in NY-18, per the Washington Examiner’s Emily Jacobs.
ABORTION ON THE BALLOT — Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill banning abortions after the first trimester, opening the door for an override vote by the GOP supermajority legislature, POLITICO’s Megan Messerly reports. Abortion will likely take center stage in the leadup to next year’s gubernatorial race. That candidate field is still forming, but Attorney General Josh Stein, the only prominent Democrat declared thus far, has spoken out against the ban. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who’s seen as the frontrunner so far among Republicans and has compared abortion to murder recently said that he’s “not interested” in discussing abortion.
SPECIAL ELECTION SCRAMBLE — Democratic Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien is considering jumping into the crowded special election for RI-01 being held later this year. “I have not made a final decision and am working to get to one,” he wrote to WPRI’s Eli Sherman. “I’m currently focused on Pawtucket and our budget process. Plan to make a decision before the filing deadline.”
WEEKEND IN IOWA — The anticipated split screen in Iowa between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis failed to materialize on Saturday when Trump canceled his rally amid severe weather warnings. That gave DeSantis “all the attention as he traversed the state,” POLITICO’s Natalie Allison and Sally Goldenberg report from Sioux Center, Iowa. That included an unscheduled stop in Des Moines, where Trump was set to hold his rally. DeSantis has the backing of more than one-third of the Republican Iowa state legislative caucus, including the state Senate president and state House majority leader. Trump has the endorsements from around 150 county leaders and grassroots activists.
… RELATED: “5 things that went well for DeSantis in Iowa on Saturday,” by Natalie.
THE ELECTABILITY FACTOR — DeSantis is taking part in “a high-wire act: Keep Trump diehards happy enough to consider supporting him, while convincing Republicans who are desperate to move on from Trump that he will not perpetuate the ex-president’s fixation on the past,” Sally writes. “In private dinners recently, DeSantis has told fundraisers he stands a better chance than Trump of winning key states like Georgia and Arizona that Trump lost in 2020, according to one person who was briefed on the private meetings and was granted anonymity to share the details. … Yet DeSantis himself has refused to say whether he thinks the 2020 election was rigged, dodging or deflecting questions about the outcome or complaining that he’s been asked about it ‘a hundred different times.’”
TRADING SPACES — DeSantis’ “political operation is set to move into its new base of operations, which will trigger disclosure requirements with federal officials,” NBC News’ Dasha Burns, Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen report. The move, from Tallahassee to a new downtown location, will spend more than $5,000 and “will require DeSantis to file paperwork with federal election officials within 15 days, thus acknowledging publicly for the first time that he is running for president.”
DEM TRAIL MIX — “Kamala Harris visit to Georgia lays down a 2024 marker for Biden,” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein. … “Biden calls white supremacy ‘most dangerous terrorist threat’ in speech at Howard,”by POLITICO’s Giselle Ruhiyyih Ewing.
TIMELINE CHECK — Former Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) is planning to decide if he’s running for president “very soon,” he said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” He said he thinks a decision needs to be made “before Memorial Day.”
… Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said last week on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that he’ll make a presidential decision “in about a week” or “it might be two weeks.”
TRY, TRY AGAIN — Former Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry is looking to run for president again, per CNN’s Jim Acosta. He previously ran in 2012 and 2016.
RULE OF THIRDS — No Labels, a centrist group that’s laying the groundwork for a unity ticket presidential campaign in 2024, “will soon form a nominating committee to likely begin considering potential running mates for a possible bipartisan, third party ‘unity ticket’ the organization would field in next year’s presidential election,” No Labels co-chair Joe Lieberman told Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser.
… RELATED: Democratic Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows sent a cease-and-desist letter to No Labels, “expressing concerns that their efforts have confused voters who think they are merely signing a petition but are enrolling in a new party,” The Portland Press Herald’s Eric Russell writes. No Labels has qualified for the ballot in Arizona, Alaska, Oregon and Colorado.
— “With Trump expanding his lead over his GOP primary rivals, pollsters are fretting about a bloc of the electorate that has made his support nearly impossible to measure accurately,” POLITICO’s Steve Shepard writes in his dispatch from the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s annual conference in Philadelphia. “In 2020, he drew out significant numbers of people who had rarely — if ever — voted and who either weren’t included in polls or refused to participate in them. Trump trashed the polls that found him consistently trailing Biden. This created a feedback loop that made his supporters even less likely to respond, making the polls even more wrong.”
— With early voting already underway, Cameron has a lead over Craft in the final days before the Kentucky gubernatorial GOP primary, per an Emerson College/Fox 56 Lexington poll. Cameron has 33 percent of support, and Craft has 18 percent. Quarles earns 13 percent of support (500 likely Kentucky Republican voters, May 10-12, MoE +/- 4.3 percentage points).
— For someone who hasn’t launched a presidential bid yet, DeSantis is still getting hit on the airwaves. MAGA, Inc., the group boosting Trump’s presidential bid, is once again slamming DeSantis, this time over taxes. And DW PAC, a group rallying against a potential DeSantis bid, piled on with a spot that aired in Iowa over the weekend during his trip.
— If the Supreme Court doesn’t act on Moore v. Harper, a case before the high court that addresses the independent state legislature theory, which gives state courts little to no role in interpreting election laws set by state legislatures, some legal experts are warning there could be chaos heading into 2024. Our Zach Montellaro explains: The future of the case “in question because a state-level ruling could make it moot. The nation’s highest court has also signaled that it may skip out on issuing a decision. That concerns even some strident critics of ISL, who worry that the lack of a clear decision risks injecting disarray into the 2024 election and the litigation that is guaranteed to accompany it.”
CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m not kidding, the best fried chicken I’ve ever had was at Pizza Ranch.” — Florida first lady Casey DeSantis while in Iowa over the weekend (h/t The Washington Post’s Dylan Wells)