SC-Gov: South Carolina just traded its first non-white governor for a new chief executive who refuses to leave his all-white country club.
On Tuesday, Gov. Nikki Haley was confirmed by the Senate and resigned to become Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations; shortly thereafter, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster was sworn in as the Palmetto State’s new governor, bringing some remarkable baggage that he adamantly refuses to shed.
During his 2014 campaign for lieutenant governor, Bakari Sellers, who was McMaster’s Democratic opponent that year, called for McMaster to resign from Forest Lake Club, a country club that Sellers said had only white members. Indeed, two Republican legislators confirmed they couldn’t say whether Forest Lake had any black members at all. The State reported at the time that unnamed sources claimed “an interracial couple” was on the club’s “waiting list for membership,” as if that meant everything was fine. But the story didn’t stop McMaster from beating Sellers 59-41.
McMaster remains a member in good standing of Forest Lake to this day, and that’s not changing. Last week, McMaster’s office told The State that he has no plans to end his three-decade association with the club, and his fellow Republicans don’t seem to be in any hurry to get McMaster to change his mind. In fact, state Sen. John Courson, another Forest Lake member, defended the incoming governor’s membership, saying he not only doesn’t “perceive it to be an issue” but adding, “It has not been perceived to be an issue in any of my nine Senate campaigns.” Unfortunately, given the way GOP politics has been going, Courson probably isn’t wrong.
McMaster will enter the 2018 election with incumbency on his side, but he may not get a smooth ride through the GOP primary. Sen. Tim Scott hasn’t ruled out running against McMaster, and he’s probably the Republican who has the best chance to beat him. Attorney General Alan Wilson and some lesser-known GOP politicians also haven’t said no to a bid.
Of course, South Carolina is a very red state, and while a few Democrats have talked about getting in, no one seems to be in a hurry to run, and McMaster’s involvement with the whites-only Forest Lake doesn’t seem likely to change any minds. For a state that made a huge deal of removing the Confederate flag from its capitol grounds less than two years ago, the lack of concern about—and lack of attention to—this story is as distressing as it is telling.
• IN-Sen: A few Indiana Republicans have been mentioned as possible candidates to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly next year, though so far, no one is openly considering a bid. The National Journal‘s Kimberly Railey now adds a couple more names to the list: Rep. Todd Rokita and state House Speaker Brian Bosma. Like everyone else, though, they haven’t said anything publicly.
• TX-Sen: Back in September, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro first floated the possibility that he might run for Senate against Ted Cruz in 2018, but we had some other elections on our mind at the time. Now Castro’s given us reason to discuss the matter in-cycle because in a recent interview, he said he’s still thinking about the race and plans to make a decision “before summer,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Interestingly, that makes Castro, who represents a seat in the San Antonio area, the second third-term Democratic congressman in the Lone Star State who’s considering seeking a promotion. Clear across the state in El Paso, Rep. Beto O’Rourke is also preparing for a potential bid, saying not long ago that he’s “very likely” to challenge Cruz. It would be quite something if two young Texas Democrats (both are in their early 40s) wound up giving up safe seats in the House to fight over a prize that would be very difficult to capitalize on, but Castro didn’t rule out the possibility of a primary clash.
O’Rourke, though, is more of an iconoclast and has pledged to serve no more than four terms, so it’s either up or out for him. Castro, meanwhile, is regularly described as a “rising star” (along with his twin brother, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro), so he seems like the sort of politician who’d be more inclined to wait for a clearer opportunity for advancement. But as one Democratic operative quoted by the Tribune aptly put it, Castro could “grow old and die waiting for Texas to turn blue,” so he may yet have incentive to jump.
• CO-Gov: On Monday, state Republican Party Chair Steve House announced that he would not run for governor or for re-election. House didn’t exactly look like a force to be reckoned with, though. House ran for governor in 2010 and failed to advance past the state convention. In 2015, he was also involved in an ugly public confrontation with state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in 2015, whom he accused of trying to oust him from his post.
• MD-Gov: Back in October, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said he’d make up his mind about challenging Republican Gov. Larry Hogan after Election Day, but now he’s putting that decision off for several more months. In a new interview with local talk radio station WBAL, Baker now says that he won’t make an announcement until after the legislature’s current session ends, which is not until April 10.
While “after the legislative session” is a common timeframe for campaign launches, it’s a little odd coming from Baker, who, after all, is not actually a member of the legislature and isn’t tied to the timetables in Annapolis. A number of other Maryland Democrats are also considering the race, including several non-legislators who might not feel the same need to wait that Baker does.
• MN-Gov: On Tuesday, a day after collapsing while giving his annual State of the State address, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton announced he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Dayton says his prognosis is positive and that he believes his fainting episode was unrelated to his illness. He also says that he intends to serve out his term, which runs until the start of 2019. Dayton had previously said many times that he would not seek re-election to a third term next year, and Minnesota Democrats have taken the governor at his word, with several already entering the race to succeed him.
• OH-Gov: Back in November, Secretary of State Jon Husted said he was “not in a hurry to make an official announcement” about a gubernatorial bid, and he seems to mean it: Earlier this month, Husted said he wouldn’t declare his plans until “late winter or early spring.” Barring unexpected developments involving groundhog shadows, that means we should expect to hear from Husted, one of Ohio’s most prominent Republicans, by around April or so. (We never expected to have to consult Poor Richard’s Almanack as part of this job.)
So far, the only Republican in the race is state Attorney General Mike DeWine, though several others are considering, and quite a few Democrats are, too.
• CA-34: On Monday, California’s state Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra as the state’s new attorney general, and he was sworn in the following day. In something of a surprise, Becerra, a longtime congressman who’d risen high in the House leadership, had been chosen by Gov. Jerry Brown to replace Kamala Harris, who won election to the Senate in November.
Now Brown has two weeks to call a special election to fill Becerra’s seat, which must then be held 18 to 20 weeks later, meaning it will take place in June or July. The field for this safely blue, majority Hispanic district in downtown Los Angeles had already grown insanely crowded even before Becerra formally left office: The Los Angeles Times says that no fewer than 15 different Democrats have announced bids, plus a couple of Republicans and one Green Party member.
The most prominent contender remains Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who has earned a fair number of endorsements from local politicians. But as we’ve noted before, in a race with this many candidates, it’s extremely hard to get a read on who has the inside track. And since it should only take soft pluralities for the top two candidates to advance to the runoff, that opens a range of possibilities.
• KS-04: GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Trump’s new CIA director on Monday and sworn in later that night, creating a vacancy in Kansas’ Wichita-based 4th Congressional District. Gov. Sam Brownback now has five days to issue a proclamation for a special election, which will then take place within 75 to 90 days after that, putting it in April.
But the election itself won’t matter much, since this dark red seat is all but certain to election another Republican. And thanks to Kansas law, there aren’t even primaries to look forward to: Instead, parties will pick their nominees by convention, and we don’t have dates for those yet. So far, only a couple of candidates have announced bids, but now that Pompeo’s actually clearing out his congressional office, we should see some more action.
• MT-AL: Denise Juneau, who unsuccessfully ran for Montana’s at-large congressional seat last year, would have been the biggest-name Democrat to run in the likely special election to succeed GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, but she just said no to a second bid. Meanwhile, another Democrat who’d been seeking his party’s nomination, state Rep. Casey Schreiner, has also dropped out. That leaves state Rep. Amanda Curtis, who ran for Senate in 2014, as the most prominent Democrat in the race, though some others are also in the mix. A number of Republicans are running as well. Both parties will pick nominees via conventions rather than through primaries.
• SD Ballot: South Dakota voters in 2016 passed Measure 22, a ballot initiative that imposed restrictions on lobbying, created an independent ethics commission, and established a public campaign finance system. Almost immediately afterward, the Republicans who dominate the state government sought to repeal the reforms. On Monday, legislators began debating a new bill that would nullify the voter-approved measure, with Gov. Dennis Daugaard claiming voters were “hoodwinked” into passing it. Infuriatingly, they even included a provision that would literally declare a state of emergency so that repeal would take effect immediately.
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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