Capped by new HB2 debacle, a year of stumbles earns Charlotte mayor a challenge


Charlotte, NC Mayor: Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts’ tough first year in office didn’t get any better this week. In early 2016, Roberts and the city council passed a non-discrimination ordinance that prompted the GOP-led state legislature to respond by passing a piece of anti-LGBT legislation known as HB2, which earned the state national scorn and multiple boycotts by high-profile businesses.

Even though HB2 likely contributed to the defeat of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory last month, Roberts, a Democrat, reached an agreement with state lawmakers to help them undo the damage. Under this deal, if Charlotte repealed its non-discrimination law, the legislature would respond by repealing HB2—or so Roberts thought. The city council went ahead and voted to roll back the ordinance, and even took out text that would have made its own repeal contingent on the legislature repealing HB2. The legislature responded by doing nothing and going home. Why Roberts and the council would agree to this after Republicans in the state capitol just showed they have zero respect for either democracy or Democrats is beyond mystifying.

Roberts is up for re-election next year, and she looked vulnerable in the Democratic primary even before this new debacle. In addition to the HB2 mess, there was unrest in the city after Keith Scott, a 43-year-old black man, was killed by police in September. A few weeks ago, state Sen. Joel Ford formed an exploratory committee ahead of a possible primary bid, and Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles also formed an exploratory committee last week.

Last week, before the new HB2 blowup, the Charlotte Observer took a look at the emerging race. Like Roberts, Lyles voted for both the non-discrimination ordinance and the recent repeal. However, Lyles met with GOP legislators months ago about a possible joint repeal, and she’s shown more of a willingness to accommodate them than even Roberts had. But if anything, Ford sounds even more accommodating: While he expressed opposition to HB2, he’s argued that Charlotte never should have passed its ordinance in the first place when it was clear the legislature would act in response.

Both of Roberts’ potential primary opponents also have criticized her handling of the aftermath of Scott’s death. Lyles argued at the time that Roberts didn’t work well with the council during the crisis and went too far when she publicly criticized Police Chief Kerr Putney. Ford also says that Roberts was wrong to criticize Putney, but he’s also lashed out at Lyles, trying to portray her as part of a city establishment that isn’t working. Charlotte will hold its party primaries on Sept. 12; if no one takes more than 40 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff Oct. 10.

While Charlotte is a Democratic city, the GOP came relatively close to winning in both 2013 and 2015 (mayors serve two-year terms). No Republicans have stepped up to run in November yet, but City Councilor Kenny Smith recently confirmed that he’s “seriously considering” the race. Smith is far from a moderate, slamming the non-discrimination ordinance as “social engineering” on the part of liberals. Smith has also argued that Roberts didn’t do a good job communicating with the city during the unrest after Scott’s death. He has not, however, set a timetable for making any announcement about his plans.

SENATE

ND-Sen: Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who’d reportedly been under consideration as Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, now says she’s “likely” to remain in the Senate, which may have been her plan all along. An earlier New York Times report said that unnamed Republicans were growing worried that Heitkamp never had any intention of joining the Trump administration and was just playing the president-elect to earn positive headlines back home. If so, mission accomplished.

Heitkamp did not, however, address whether she plans to seek a second term in 2018, an incredibly daunting prospect. But she did say that she’s “very, very honored to serve the people of North Dakota” and said she hopes that doing so would “always be my first priority.”

OH-Sen: The radical anti-taxers at the Club for Growth backed state “Treasurer” Josh Mandel during his first unsuccessful bid for Senate in 2012, and now they’re supporting his second attempt to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. On Wednesday, the Club issued a formal endorsement of Mandel, a day after they released a poll from Basswood Research showing him with a big head start in a pair of hypothetical GOP primary matchups. In a one-on-one with Columbus-area Rep. Pat Tiberi, Mandel leads 60-12, and in a head-to-head with state Sen.-elect Matt Huffman, who hails from Lima in the state’s northwest, Mandel is up 62-8.

Daunting, right? Well, not exactly. The primary is a very long time off, and Mandel has already run statewide three times; Cleveland.com, Tiberi and Huffman never have. In fact, just 5 percent of respondents have no opinion of Mandel, while half don’t know Tiberi and 61 percent draw a blank on Huffman, so it’s entirely unsurprising that Mandel would begin the race with a considerable name recognition advantage.

The question now is whether either Huffman, who is the outgoing state House Speaker Pro Tempore, or Tiberi, who is close to Gov. John Kasich, will join the fray. If they do, Mandel can expect that gap to close.

PA-Sen: This is an actual quote from Republican Rep. Pat Meehan, who is considering a bid against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2018:

“Lots of rich people have asked me to enter the race.”

Keep going ….

GUBERNATORIAL

FL-Gov: Republican Will Weatherford, a former speaker of the state House who’d been considering a run for governor, now says he won’t join the race. Weatherford cited his four young children, but he was also a vocal critic of Donald Trump, something that would put him in poor standing with a lot of GOP primary voters. Weatherford had previously said he needed to decide by the end of the year, and remarkably, he actually kept his word!

On the other side, outgoing Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham had sounded very much as though she expects to run for governor, but in her final news conference as a member of the House on Monday, she said that she’s delaying a decision while her husband undergoes treatment for prostate cancer. Graham hadn’t previously offered a specific timetable, though, so it’s not clear how long of a wait she has in mind.

IL-Gov: On Tuesday, GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner contributed $50 million of his own money to his campaign committee—an unsurprising development given that Rauner is extremely wealthy and self-funded heavily in his first campaign. In fact, it’ll only be a surprise if he spends only $50 million from his personal fortune. However, Rauner may be making this huge contribution early to try and scare some potential Democratic foes out of the race. Of course, anyone who actually wants to run against Rauner should have already taken his limitless warchest into account.

Rauner and his allies have also launched some attacks on two possible Democratic foes. Last week, Rauner’s campaign sent out a robocall to voters linking rich guy J.B. Pritzker to both imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and state House Speaker Michael Madigan, the state GOP’s two favorite Democratic boogeyman. Most notably, the narrator argues that “Pritzker told Blagojevich he wanted to be appointed to the U.S. Senate, and in exchange Blagojevich wanted J.B. to personally raise tens of millions of dollars for him,” and features audio from an FBI recording where Blago is heard declaring that “I betcha J.B. can raise me money like that. If I can get J.B. to do somethin’ like that is it worth, ah, givin’ him the Senate seat? Incidentally, he, he asked me for it. Don’t repeat that.”

As the Chicago Tribune notes, the same call later featured a portion where Blagojevich asks an aide for names of people close to Pritzker. The aide admits that he doesn’t know, an indication the two weren’t actually in contact and that the governor only hoped that Pritzker was interested in helping him raise money; shockingly, that did not make it into the robocall. Pritzker is probably the only Illinois Democrat capable of outspending Rauner (Pritzker’s estimated net worth is $3.4 billion to Rauner’s $1 billion), so it makes sense for Rauner to try and deter him from running by giving him a taste of the attacks that would await him. Rauner may also be hoping that, even if he can’t scare off Pritzker, he can at least make him less appealing to Democratic leaders.

The Illinois Republican Party also fired off a web ad this week at another potential Democratic candidate, businessman Chris Kennedy. The video shows Kennedy angrily confronting reporters at the Democratic National Convention, and unfavorably compares him with his father, Robert F. Kennedy, and other famous Kennedys. As attacks go, that’s pretty weak.

ME-Gov: Michael Shepherd of the Bangor Daily News has done some heroic work in actually contacting potential candidates for governor to find out whether or not they’re interested in running, rather than just reciting another list of random names. Here’s the rundown for Democrats:

• Former Senate President Justin Alfond goes from “mentioned” to “considering”;

• Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap gets added to the list as “considering”;

• Rep. Chellie Pingree, former state House Speaker Mark Eves, former state Rep. Adam Goode and wealthy businessman Lucas St. Clair get added to the list as “not ruling it out”;

• State Senate Minority leader Troy Jackson goes from “mentioned” to “not running”; and

• former state House Speaker Hannah Pingree (daughter of Chellie) is also not running.

A few other Democrats are also weighing bids, most prominent among them state Attorney General Janet Mills, who in the past hasn’t ruled out a run (and didn’t respond to Shepherd’s request for comment). Now, on to the Republicans:

• Rep. Bruce Poliquin and state Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew go from “mentioned” to “not ruling it out”;

• state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, state Sen. Roger Katz, and former state House Minority Leader Josh Tardy get added to the list as “considering”; Tardy says he hopes to make a decision by summer; and

• state Senate President Mike Thibodeau is apparently a “no”—Shepherd only says that he has “ruled out a run in the past.”

The big name looming over the GOP field is Sen. Susan Collins, who in the past hasn’t ruled out a bid and offered a similarly non-committal statement to Shepherd this time. It sounds like she’s prepared to make everyone wait her out, though, which could drive some people nuts—and inspire some opponents to get into the race so that they can start raising money and building a campaign, regardless of what Collins decides.

Finally, there’s the question of potential independent candidates. Maine elections often feature third-party candidacies that attract a sizable share of the vote, and some have even won (in particular, Sen. Angus King, who previously served two terms as governor). The most prominent independent to emerge in recent, years, liberal-leaning Eliot Cutler, had said last year that he was taking a “vow of abstinence” from electoral politics after winning just 8 percent of the vote in his second gubernatorial bid in 2014. Cutler has now re-upped that pledge after a fashion, saying that as long as he holds his current job with the University of Maine, he won’t seek office.

But businessman Shawn Moody, who took 5 percent in an independent run for governor in 2010, isn’t ruling out another try, while former state Sen. Dick Woodbury, who won several terms in the legislature running without a party banner, says he’s not likely to enter the race but hasn’t formally closed the door.

There’s also been one huge change to Maine law that could directly impact the role that independents play in this race (and every other). Last month, Mainers voted to institute instant-runoff voting in all of the state’s elections, meaning that independents no longer need to fear playing spoiler. But how that’ll play out is hard to say.

On the one hand, it might encourage more independent bids, but on the other, it could also have the opposite effect. There will only be one Democrat and one Republican on the general election ballot, but if a ton of indies get in, they could split the vote between themselves, creating a sort of third-party clown car.

That prospect could in turn discourage independents from running if they think they’ll be competing over a thin slice of the pie. Since Maine is the first state to experiment with instant-runoff voting on this scale (and still has yet to determine how it’ll implement this new system), we have a lot yet to learn about the effects it can have.

NY-Gov: Outgoing Republican Rep. Richard Hanna, who chose to retire rather than seek re-election this year, now says he’s considering a bid for governor in 2018. While Hanna would be one of the GOP’s best bets in a general election, good luck winning a primary. During his time in Congress, Hanna was one of, if not the only, genuine moderate in the Republican caucus, and he frequently criticized his own party in harsh terms. He’s kept that criticism up, saying in a new interview that New York Republicans have embraced candidates who are “extreme members of the far, almost alt-right.” Ouch.

And one of those extremists is Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, who just won the open-seat election in Hanna’s district last month. Hanna was incredibly hostile throughout the entire campaign toward Tenney, who nearly unseated him in a 2014 primary despite getting badly outspent. Indeed, Hanna might very well have lost to Tenney this time, who kicked off a second bid before Hanna announced his retirement, and it might have contributed to his decision to retire.

So Hanna’s own history shows that in an intra-party contest, he’d have a very hard time against one of these crazies that he hates. It’s long past time for him to seriously consider switching to the Democrats.

OH-Gov, OH-Sen: GOP Rep. Jim Renacci recently said he was “looking at options” for a possible statewide run but wouldn’t confirm whether he was weighing a bid for governor or Senate. Politico seemingly clarified matters with a report on Thursday saying that Renacci had been calling donors to tell them he was interested in a gubernatorial run, according to two unnamed “people briefed on the conversations.”

But it sounds like we’re in the middle of a game of telephone, because later that same day, a spokesperson said that Renacci was “seriously considering a statewide run”—which could include a run for either Senate or governor—and would not confirm Politico’s story. This is definitely our least-favorite type of story to cover, and it’s also just so pointless. What does Renacci gain by playing these games? Absolutely nothing.

RI-Gov: The other week, attorney Clay Pell’s name came up as a possible primary challenger to Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, whose popularity is in doubt. Now Pell is refusing to rule out a bid, saying only that he’s “really focused on the 2016 election.” (Pell was a presidential elector and made these remarks before the Electoral College cast its vote on Monday.)

Pell, the grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (who was responsible for the student loan program that bears his name) made a late bid for governor two years ago and came in third with 27 percent of the vote, a race that Raimondo won with 42 percent. (Former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras took 29.) Perhaps Pell might think a different outcome is possible this time, but we don’t actually know for sure how damaged Raimondo is since there’s been no reliable polling of Rhode Island.

But Raimondo’s definitely experienced some high-profile stumbles, such as the brutal reaction to the state’s botched rollout of a new tourism slogan (“Rhode Island: Cooler and Warmer”), which was mercifully given a quick death. She also owes her rise in politics to her successful effort as state treasurer to cut pensions five years ago, a move that shot her to prominence and may have saved the state’s badly underfunded retirement system but left many angry, especially within organized labor.

This pock-marked track record may explain why a sizable number of Republicans are considering gubernatorial bids in 2018, and it could also inspire an intra-party challenge to Raimondo from the likes of Pell. Still, though, it would be helpful to see some hard data before concluding Raimondo’s in trouble.

SD-Gov, SD-AL: Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether held a press conference on Monday to announce that he’s leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent. Later that day, Huether expressed interest in running for governor. Huether also said he was also looking at running for South Dakota’s only House seat, which GOP Rep. Kristi Noem is leaving behind in 2018 to run for governor, though he could instead return to private life. Huether said he doesn’t have a timeline for when he’ll decide but knows he’ll need to make up his mind soon.

TN-Gov: There are a battalion of Republicans who might run for this open seat in 2018, but Tennessee’s Democratic bench is far smaller. However, state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh recently expressed interest, saying he’s “going to check it out a little bit.” Ex-Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and wealthy real estate developer Bill Freeman, who took a close third place in the 2015 contest to succeed Dean, have also both talked about running for Team Blue.

HOUSE

CA-34: So downtown Los Angeles, you like congressional candidates, eh? Well, have all the congressional candidates in the world! Hahahahahaha!!!

Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration. But three more hopefuls have jumped in the upcoming special election to succeed California Attorney General-designate Xavier Becerra in this safely blue seat. We have Los Angeles County prosecutor Steven Mac; Alejandra Campoverdi, who was deputy director of Hispanic media in the Obama White House; and SEIU organizer Raymond Meza.

And, of course, a number of other Democrats are also already running. State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez has earned support from a number of local House members as well as Sen.-elect Kamala Harris. Gomez is joined by labor activist Wendy Carrillo; Sara Hernandez, a former city council aide who said she raised $150,000 before she even announced her entry; Arturo Carmona, a former strategist for Bernie Sanders; and former Los Angeles Board of Education member Yolie Flores, a so-called “school choice” advocate. The special election hasn’t even been called yet, so there’s plenty of time for more candidates to get in. James Coco, have you gone mad yet?

There are no party primaries in California special elections. Instead, all the candidates will run on one ballot; in the likely event that no one takes a majority and wins the seat outright, the top two candidates proceed to the general. Hillary Clinton carried this seat 84-11, so it’s probable that two Democrats will advance to round two.

MT-AL: Here’s an important detail about the expected special election for Montana’s at-large congressional seat: There won’t be primaries on either side. Instead, as we often see in other states (most notably New York), party leaders on both sides will convene at some unspecified date in the future to hand-pick their nominees.

And Republicans will have plenty of candidates to choose from. State Sen. Ed Buttrey, who’d been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, and state Sen. Scott Sales both announced on Monday that they’d run for this seat, which would become vacant if and when GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke gets confirmed as Donald Trump’s interior secretary. KTVQ’s Mike Dennison describes Buttrey as hailing from the party’s “moderate bloc,” noting that he sponsored the bill that successfully expanded Medicaid in Montana last year, while Sales used to run the local chapter of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

A third candidate, businessman Eugene Graf, also says he’s in. Graf has no political experience, but he’s become a prominent member of the homebuilders lobby and is Montana’s representative to the National Association of Home Builders. Meanwhile, state Sen. Matt Rosendale, who just won election last month to the post of state auditor, says he’s considering a bid, as are state Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, conservative newsletter author Gary Carlson, and wealthy businessman Greg Gianforte, who lost to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in November. State District Court Judge Russell Fagg says he’s thinking about it, too, but he’d have to resign from the bench in order to proceed. Finally, Paul Ryan’s press secretary, AshLee Strong, isn’t ruling out the race.

For Democrats, state Rep. Amanda Curtis is the first to take the plunge. You may remember Curtis as the candidate who stepped in to run for Senate in 2014 after then-Sen. John Walsh, who’d been appointed to fill the seat of former Sen. Max Baucus, dropped his election bid following a plagiarism scandal. She got crushed 58-40 that fall by GOP Rep. Steve Daines, but the same party leaders who tapped Curtis two years ago would once again be choosing a nominee in the special election, so she might have the inside track.

And with Curtis making a go of it, that might change the calculus for Denise Juneau, who ran against Zinke this year but lost 56-41. Juneau is a capable fundraiser, though, and she might be the Democrats’ strongest option in spite of her recent loss. However, she doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly since the news of Trump’s choice of Zinke broke. The Billings Gazette did, however, catch up with former state Sen. Larry Jent, who understandably says he’s not interested “at this time” after getting pasted 68-32 in a bid for attorney general last month. That’s not exactly a no, but it’s pretty darn close.

P.S. As far as that strange Montana law that purported to allow the governor to pick an interim replacement for members of the House who resign, everyone in the state agrees it’s unconstitutional and plans to ignore it.

House: Every cycle, a few former members of the House run for their old posts again, and 2018 probably won’t be any different. The National Journal‘s Ally Mutnick catches up with some members who lost re-election in 2016 (or in one case, unsuccessfully ran for the Senate), and while some seem much more interested in a comeback than others, no one has definitively said no. Here’s a seat-by-seat rundown:

CA-17: Rep. Mike Honda lost an all-Democratic general election rematch to Ro Khanna by a 61-39 margin in this safely blue Silicon Valley seat. Honda didn’t rule out another bid, saying he wanted to see “what kind of job Ro does” and how his constituents feel about a comeback.

FL-07: Republican Rep. John Mica lost to Democrat Stephanie Murphy 51.5-48.5, and says he won’t discuss his future until his term ends on Jan. 3. Mica ran a horrible campaign, refusing to so much as hire a campaign manager. Matthew Isbell says that Hillary Clinton won 52-44 here, but while Mica did better than Donald Trump, D.C. Republicans would almost certainly prefer someone who would actually take a campaign seriously next time.

FL-13: GOP Rep. David Jolly, who lost to Democrat Charlie Crist 52-48, said that there’s a “very good chance” he’ll run here again, though he also said he was also looking at some statewide options. Jolly has an awful relationship with the party leadership, and the NRCC didn’t run any ads to help him, so Team Red almost certainly would rather have someone else running here.

While Obama carried this St. Petersburg seat 55-44, Matthew Isbell says that Clinton won just 49-46 here. However, it’s unclear if the GOP could actually recruit someone else. Until Jolly pulled the plug on his Senate bid and decided to run for re-election just before the filing deadline, it looked like no credible Republicans would face Crist, so the GOP’s choices could again be Jolly or Some Dude. However, more Republicans may be interested now that the seat looks less hopelessly blue.

IL-10: Republican Rep. Bob Dold! doesn’t seem to be tired of our “Bob Dold!” jokes yet, saying he hasn’t “closed any doors” on a 2018 bid. If Dold runs, this would be the fourth time he’d face once-and-future Rep. Brad Schneider in as many cycles. Schneider narrowly unseated Dold in 2012, Dold then won their rematch in 2014, and Schneider defeated him 53-47 last month. Dold ran far ahead of Trump, who lost this suburban Chicago seat 62-33, but a win wouldn’t be easy without another GOP wave. However, it’s not clear if anyone else could give Schneider a tough race here. Incoming NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers doesn’t seem to want to find out, since he made it clear to the National Journal that he hopes Dold runs again. Bob Dold!

NC-02: After court-ordered redistricting chopped up GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers’ old Raleigh-area seat, she ran for the new 2nd District and lost the primary to fellow Rep. George Holding 53-24. Ellmers said she has “no idea” if she’ll run again.

NE-02: Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, who lost to Republican Don Bacon 49-48, said he “would consider” running again, adding that, “It’s something I enjoy doing too much to ever say never.” Donald Trump carried this Omaha seat by a narrow 48-46.

NH-01: GOP Rep. Frank Guinta, who lost to once-and-future Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter 44-43, responded to questions about another run by saying “Where is this coming from?” but refused to actually say he wouldn’t run again. Guinta and Shea-Porter have already faced off four times, with Guinta unseating Shea-Porter in 2010 and 2014 and Shea-Porter winning in 2012 and again last month. But the national GOP would almost certainly like to turn the page on Guinta, who earned embarrassing headlines last year when he paid an FEC fine for an illegal 2010 six-figure donation from his parents. Guinta only narrowly won re-nomination, and he lost his seat while Trump was narrowly winning 48-47 here.

NJ-05: GOP Rep. Scott Garrett lost to Democrat Josh Gottheimer 51-47 even as Trump was winning this North Jersey seat 49-48, and said he doesn’t know what he’ll do next. Garrett is another congressman with a bad relationship with the NRCC (he infamously said he wouldn’t support them because they backed openly gay candidates), and they won’t miss him if he never runs again.

NV-03: GOP Rep. Joe Heck, who left this seat behind to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, says he “sincerely” doubts he’ll run here again. Trump won this suburban Las Vegas seat 48-47, and Democratic Rep.-elect Jacky Rosen will likely be a top GOP target with or without Heck. Heck is a well-regarded candidate, and Stivers listed Heck along with Dold as one of the outgoing members he’d most like to see try again.

NV-04: GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy lost to Democrat Ruben Kihuen 49-45 while Clinton was winning his North Las Vegas seat 50-45. Hardy only said he “hadn’t thought about it at all” and added in the perennial “never say never.” Hardy isn’t a particularly strong fundraiser, but it’s unclear if the NRCC prefers someone else or is interested in having him back.

LEGISLATIVE

DE State Senate: Democrats will hold an 11 to 10 majority in the Delaware state Senate when it convenes in January… but not for long. Democratic state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long was elected lieutenant governor in November, and there will be a special election in early 2017 to replace her in the 10th Senate District, which is located just south of Newark. If the GOP flips SD-10, they’d take control of the state Senate for the first time since the 1970s—and, crucially, be able to block incoming Democratic Gov. John Carney and Democrats in the state House from enacting their agenda.

SD-10 backed Obama 59-40 in 2012, and our preliminary numbers say it supported Hillary Clinton by a smaller 54-41 margin. However, Hall-Long only beat Republican John Marino 51-49 in 2014, and special election turnout is unpredictable enough as it is. The GOP has nominated Marino for the special, which will likely be held in February. Local Democratic Party committee members have nominated former New Castle County Council President Stephanie Hansen (there is no primary for Delaware legislative special elections), who served from 1996 to 2001 and is currently an environmental attorney.

Special Elections: One last special for 2016, which is inexplicably being held Dec. 27. Here’s Johnny Longtorso:

Iowa SD-45: Democratic state Sen. Joe Seng died back in September, and this is the special to replace him in Davenport. The candidates are Democratic state Rep. Jim Lykam; police officer Michael Gonzales, a Republican; and Defense Department employee Severin Gilbert, a Libertarian. This seat went 68-31 for President Obama in 2012.

Why is this special being held two days after Christmas? Thank GOP Gov. Terry Branstad, who is also Donald Trump’s pick to serve as ambassador to China.

MAYORAL

Minneapolis, MN Mayor: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, a Democrat, is up for re-election next fall, and she’s already attracted a few notable opponents. Former Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, a prominent member of the local Black Lives Matter movement, entered the race last month. This week state Rep. Raymond Dehn, who is close to local Rep. Keith Ellison, announced he would also run. And while City Councilor Jacob Frey hasn’t declared he’s in yet, he will hold an event on Jan. 3 that sources close to him tell City Pages will be his campaign kickoff. Frey is a strong fundraiser: At the beginning of 2016, he had $100,000 in his campaign account, compared to just $11,500 for the incumbent.

Hodges hasn’t had an easy tenure since she was first elected in 2013. Most notably, a black man named Jamar Clark was fatally shot by police last year, and Hodges’ response has come in for criticism. Levy-Pounds in particular has made this a focus, arguing that someone needs to hold cops and local government responsible. Hodges’ weak warchest also isn’t exactly scaring off potential rivals.

In Minneapolis, all the candidates will compete on one November ballot, where voters will be allowed to rank their top three choices. As the city’s own website explains, if no one takes a majority of the vote, “Candidates with no mathematical possibility of winning (including the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes) are defeated, and votes for those candidates are transferred to the next ranked candidate on those ballots.” The process continues until someone takes a majority.

However, it’s possible the field will get smaller before November. The local Democratic Party will hold its endorsement convention on June 24. Many activists and politicians take this endorsement very seriously and will drop out of the race if someone else gets it. However, no one received the endorsement in the crowded 2013 mayoral race, leading to a wide-open race that featured 35 candidates. Hodges won 37 percent of first-choice votes, giving her a large lead over fellow Democrat Mark Andrew, who earned 25 percent of first-choice votes, but Hodges was not formally crowned the winner until the 33rd round of the instant runoff.

Omaha, NE Mayor: Republican Mayor Jean Stothert is seeking re-election in the spring, and Democratic state Sen. Heath Mello recently jumped in the non-partisan race to face her. It’s possible other notable candidates will run, but Mello earned an endorsement this week from outgoing Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, who ran for this post as an independent in 2013.

San Antonio, TX Mayor: Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Manuel Medina has been flirting with a 2017 bid against Mayor Ivy Taylor, a conservative Democrat, for a little while. Medina hasn’t officially entered the race yet, but he recently formed an exploratory committee and has announced he’ll fund it with $250,000 of his own money.

Local races are non-partisan, but Medina is hoping that San Antonio’s Democratic lean will carry him to victory. Medina is arguing that Taylor is really a Republican and too close to Donald Trump and that City Councilor Ron Nirenberg, who entered the race earlier this month, is a centrist. All the candidates will compete on one ballot in May, and if no one takes a majority, there will be a runoff.

GRAB BAG

Pres-by-CD: We drop in on Michigan and Mississippi for our project to calculate the presidential election results by congressional district. We have a chart of all 435 congressional districts here, which also includes results from 2012. That’s the page you’ll want to bookmark, since we’re updating it continuously. We’ll be pushing out new data on a rolling basis as the final results are officially certified and the precinct-level election results we need for our calculations become available.

Michigan was another rough Midwestern state for Team Blue in 2016. While Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by a wide 54-45, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 47.6-47.4. Despite the altered outcome, Trump carried the exact same nine congressional districts in victory that Romney won in defeat, while Clinton took the same five Obama seats—a testament to the power of the GOP’s gerrymander. All 14 Michigan seats are represented by the party that won them in the presidential race.

Two Obama seats were notably closer in 2016. While Obama carried the Flint-based 5th by a wide 61-38, Clinton won it by a modest 49.7-45.5. Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, who easily defeated a weak GOP foe, is a potential candidate for governor in 2018. While Team Blue might still be favored if he left, the GOP would likely may a play for this seat. The 9th in suburban Detroit also shifted from 57-42 Obama to 51-44 Clinton. Democratic Rep. Sander Levin is 85 and could retire soon, but this seat is probably still blue enough for Democrats to hold it without too much agony.

Democrats targeted a few GOP-held seats in 2016, but Trump decisively carried all of them. The 8th District, which is based around Lansing, went from just 51-48 Romney to 51-44 Trump, and GOP Rep. Mike Bishop won 56-39. Democrats started the cycle with high hopes that Republican Rep. Tim Walberg could lose in the 7th District, a seat located along Michigan’s southern border that also backed Romney just 51-48. But this district went for Trump by a punishing 56-39, and Walberg turned back a well-funded challenge from state Rep. Gretchen Driskell 55-40.

Democrats also made a play for the open 1st District, which includes the Upper Peninsula. Romney won the seat 54-45, but Team Blue hoped that a strong campaign from well-funded ex-state party head Lon Johnson and some ticket splitting could propel him to victory against Republican Jack Bergman. But Trump’s 58-37 win made a Democratic pickup all but impossible, and Bergman won 55-40. National Democrats also showed some interest in Paul Clements, who was challenging longtime GOP Rep. Fred Upton in a Kalamazoo seat that Romney won just 50-49. But Trump took the 6th 51-43, and Upton won 59-36.

None of the other GOP-held seats look like particularly good targets for Democrats, with one possible exception. The suburban Detroit 11th District didn’t move much, going from 52-47 Romney to 50-45 Trump. However, Democrats haven’t had much luck recruiting a viable candidate here in the past, and wealthy GOP Rep. Dave Trott is an intimidating target.

We turn next to Mississippi, but there were no surprises there. Clinton carried the 2nd District 64-35, while Trump took each of the other three seats with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Site News: That’s a wrap on 2016. The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest will return on Jan. 4. Happy holidays, and thank you for following us in this messed-up year!

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.

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