Despite a huge financial crisis, Alaska’s independent governor eyes a second term


AK-Gov: Independent Gov. Bill Walker, who won office in 2014 with the support of Democrats, has spent his entire tenure warring with legislative Republicans who refuse to face up to Alaska’s extraordinary budget crisis, brought on by falling oil prices. Walker’s taken the adult approach in trying to fix this multi-billion dollar problem, but that means many of his proposals—such as reinstating an income tax—are bound to be unpopular, perhaps so much so that he wouldn’t (or realistically couldn’t) run for a second term.

But now, reports the AP, Walker has said he’ll “probably seek re-election,” though that’s not a direct quote, and he didn’t offer a specific timetable for making a decision. But the same piece says Walker views his efforts to “fix Alaska” as something “he doesn’t expect to finish by 2018,” so he certainly sounds ready for more. However, if Walker remains an independent and does run again, Democrats would once again need to ensure they don’t have anyone on the ballot, lest they split the vote. And even the smallest diversion could upend the race, since Walker only won by 2 percent two years ago.

SENATE

PA-Sen: Lots of Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Gov. Tom Wolf in 2018, but fewer have talked about running against Sen. Bob Casey, who’s also up for re-election next year. Here’s one new GOP name, though: State Rep. Rick Saccone, who represents a district near Pittsburgh, says he’s “seriously considering” a Senate bid. The only other potential candidates who are looking (or at least, reportedly looking) at Senate runs are wealthy businessman Paul Addis and Rep. Pat Meehan, but both are also in the mix for the gubernatorial race. Given the focus on Wolf, it’s easy to conclude Republicans think he’s more vulnerable than Casey.

GUBERNATORIAL

CO-Gov: Businessman Victor Mitchell, who served a single term in the state House ten years ago, is reportedly considering a bid for governor, and he declined to either confirm or deny his interest when asked about it. Mitchell apparently thinks of himself as an outsider businessman (gee, never heard that one before), and it seems like he really takes that to heart: He abandoned his career in the legislature after just two years in order to take a job as CEO of a real estate company.

According to an unnamed “source close to” Mitchell, he’d be able to self-fund a “substantial” sum. No major Republicans are running yet, but plenty have expressed interest in this open seat, so in all likelihood, Mitchell would need to spend substantially indeed in order to have an impact.

FL-Gov: On Tuesday, when asked if he was looking at a bid for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum coyly deflected the question, saying only, “I’ve heard that bandied about.” He sure has: Back in November, an online petition encouraging Gillum to run got the attention of the local press—and of Gillum’s own consultant, who took the opportunity to sing his client’s praises.

Gillum is one of around 10 Democrats hovering around the edges of this race, several of whom would bring heftier profiles into the contest than he would. Gillum’s only 37 and has been in office just a couple of years, so if he wants to take his name statewide, he’ll want to get an early start on the competition.

NY-Gov: This is amusing, on a couple of levels: State Senate Majority Leader Michael Flanagan is reportedly considering a bid for governor next year, and, through a spokesman, he didn’t deny his interest after the story first broke on Wednesday.

But does Flanagan think he’d really have a shot at beating Gov. Andrew Cuomo? Cuomo may be the worst Democrat in America, but it’s almost impossible to see him losing statewide to a Republican, especially one who, as an unnamed Democratic operative observes to the Daily News, “takes the whole Albany dysfunctional thing off the table.” At the same time, Cuomo’s spent his entire six years in office doing everything he can to cozy up to and appease Senate Republicans (thus making him the worst Democrat in America, because he had no need to do any of this), so it’s more than a little delightful that this once-tight relationship has broken down into acrimony like this.

This is all very hypothetical, though. Cuomo hasn’t formally said whether he’ll seek a third term (though he has $20 million in the bank and certainly looks like he’ll run again), and who knows if Flanagan could even win a GOP primary. As the News‘ Ken Lovett notes, Flanagan has a reputation as a “moderate” and has voted for major Cuomo agenda items, including his 2013 gun safety bill, which generated huge backlash from conservatives. Even the state’s Republican Party chair, Ed Cox, says he doesn’t think it would be a good idea for Flanagan to run.

There are some other possibilities for the GOP, though, including Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the 2014 nominee; Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro; 2010 comptroller candidate Harry Wilson (who only lost that race by 5 points); ex-Rep. Richard Hanna; and all-around asshole Carl Paladino. They’d all have a difficult time, though, regardless of what Cuomo decides.

OR-Gov: Republican state Rep. Knute Buehler has been mentioned as a possible candidate to run against Democratic Gov. Kate Brown next year, though he hasn’t said anything publicly yet. However, Willamette Week notes that Buehler just reported raising $100,000 in the last week, which is a far higher clip than would be necessary for a legislative re-election bid and has the paper calling him a “likely” contender. The one other GOP name to surface so far belongs to Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who lost a closer-than-expected race for governor in 2014.

VA-Gov: A group called Conservatives for Clean Energy (yeah, we’re trying to figure that one out, too) commissioned a survey on their pet issue from Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies last month, and for good measure, they tossed in some ballot tests of this year’s gubernatorial race. Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam leads the three most prominent GOP contenders; two newer entrants (Democrat Tom Perriello and Republican Denver Riggleman) hadn’t yet joined the contest when this poll was in the field. Here’s how Northam fares:

• 43-38 vs. former RNC chair Ed Gillespie• 42-35 vs. Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart

• 43-37 vs. state Sen. Frank Wagner

Those numbers are fairly similar to a December poll from Quinnipiac, which also showed Northam beating this same trio. But it’s still very early, and Northam now faces primary opposition in the form of Perriello, so he might not wind up being the Democratic nominee.

HOUSE

CA-34: Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez has picked up yet another endorsement from a notable Democratic politician. State Treasurer John Chiang, who is running for governor next year, backed Gomez this week in the upcoming special election for this safely blue downtown Los Angeles seat.

Gomez already had the support of Sen. Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, several local House members, and the leaders of both chambers of the state legislature. But despite Gomez’s long list of backers, 10 other Democrats are running to succeed state Attorney General-designate Xavier Becerra. Then again, it wasn’t so long ago that Gomez was one of those people running against the establishment favorite. Gomez launched his campaign last year even though ex-Assembly Speaker John Perez was lapping up endorsements right and left; Perez ended up dropping out citing a health issue, and many of his supporters switched over to Gomez.

KS-04: This week, attorney George Bruce announced that he would run in the likely special election to succeed Rep. Mike Pompeo, who is Donald Trump’s pick to head the CIA. We believe that Bruce is the first Republican to make it clear he’ll run, but many others have expressed interest. The GOP nomination for this safely red Wichita seat will be decided by 126 party activists at a district convention rather than through a primary.

LEGISLATIVE

Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso recaps Tuesday night’s two contested races in Virginia:

Virginia SD-22: Republicans held on to this seat, with Mark Peake defeating Democrat Ryant Washington by a 53-40 margin. Independent Joe Hines took the remaining 7 percent.

Virginia HD-85: Republicans also held this one. Rocky Holcomb defeated Democrat Cheryl Turpin by a 53-47 margin.

The 85th District result wasn’t unexpected but nevertheless disappointing for progressives, since Trump only carried the seat by 1 point (he won the 22nd by 15). Still, Democrats managed to halve the margin from the last time they contested the seat back in 2013, when Republicans won 56-44 during that year’s regularly scheduled election.

MAYORAL

St. Louis, MO Mayor: Candidate filing closed last week for St. Louis’ March 7 Democratic primary. It only takes a plurality to win the nod, and the Democratic nominee should have absolutely no trouble in the April general election. Seven Democrats are running to succeed Mayor Francis Slay, who surprised observers when he announced last year that he wouldn’t seek a fifth four-year term. Elections in St. Louis tend to be racially polarizing, so Alderman Lyda Krewson could benefit from being the only serious white contender.

By contrast, four African American local elected officials are running: Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, who lost to Slay lost 54-44 in 2013; City Treasurer Tishaura Jones; Alderman Jeffrey Boyd; and Alderman Antonio French, who rose to prominence in 2014 by documenting the protests in nearby Ferguson on Twitter. St. Louis School Board member Bill Haas and ex-Alderman Jimmie Matthews are also in, but the two have earned very little support during their many recent campaigns for various offices.

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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