WI-Sen: The GOP pollster Magellan Strategies, on behalf of a group called “Committee to Defend the President” (wonder what their political leanings are?) is out with the first poll of next year’s Wisconsin Senate race, and they give Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin a big early lead. Baldwin defeats Milwaukee County Sheriff, prominent Trump supporter, and very nominal Democrat David Clarke 49-35 in a hypothetical general election where Clarke is identified as the GOP candidate. Magellan says that while the poll was in the field, Rep. Sean Duffy announced he wouldn’t run; in any case, Duffy trails 49-36. As fellow Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold learned the hard way last cycle, early leads often don’t survive the campaign, but it’s still better to be ahead at the beginning of the race than behind.
The poll gives Clarke a 23-20 favorable rating, and the memo argues he has some room to grow once he gets his name out. However, Baldwin has a 49-35 approval rating, quite a good score for a GOP poll. Clarke himself hasn’t ruled out challenging Baldwin as a Republican, though he hasn’t shown any sign he’s seriously considering. However, a recent PPP survey gave Clarke a horrible 31-62 approval rating in Milwaukee County, and if he can’t get a job with Trump, he could decide that running statewide next year is a lot easier than trying to win re-election. A number of other Republicans are eyeing this seat.
• AK-Gov: Next year’s race has been developing very slowly. Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who was elected as an independent with a Democratic running mate, has yet to announce if he’ll seek a second term, though he says he probably will. And even if Walker runs again, it’s not clear if he’ll remain an independent, and it’s also not certain that his 2014 Democratic allies will stick with him if he does. As we’ve mentioned before, Walker has spent his whole term fighting legislative Republicans who refuse to face up to Alaska’s extraordinary budget crisis, brought on by falling oil prices. Walker has pushed for policies like reinstating the state income tax that are likely unpopular, but may be the only way to fix Alaska’s budget.
Until now, we haven’t heard about any Republicans considering challenging Walker. However, the local blog Midnight Sun writes that there’s “a lot of chatter” about ex-GOP Lt. Gov. Loren Leman assembling a campaign. Leman became the first person of Native American ancestry to win statewide office in 2002, and he chose not to run again four years later. While Leman’s name came up early in the 2014 cycle as a possible Senate candidate, he didn’t go for it.
It’s very likely that there are plenty of other Republicans eyeing this post regardless of what Walker does, but they’re evidently being quiet about their interest. It’s also unclear which Democrats, if any, are seriously considering getting in. Last year, ex-Democratic Sen. Mark Begich considered mounting a write-in campaign against GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and while he decided to stay out, he only said of a possible gubernatorial bid, “We’ll let the cards play out.” If Begich ran he’d probably have no trouble winning the primary, but that’s still a very big if.
• AL-Gov: On Tuesday, CBS Sports reported that Tommy Tuberville, who served as head coach of the Auburn University football team from 1998 to 2008, was considering seeking the GOP nomination next year. Tuberville has now confirmed the report, telling the Montgomery Advertiser that he’s “doing a poll and if I have the support, I’d really consider doing it.” The CBS report said that Tuberville would likely decide in a week or two, though Tuberville himself doesn’t appear to have said that publicly.
As we’ve noted before, Tuberville could have trouble in the GOP primary if he gets in. It’s pretty accepted that in the Yellowhammer State, University of Alabama fans far outnumber fans of Tuberville’s old Auburn Tigers. The rivalry between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers is a very serious matter, and it’s very possible that plenty of Bama supporters won’t back someone so identified with their hated foes. It also doesn’t help that Tuberville defeated Bama six years in a row and enjoyed trolling them every chance he got. And while Tuberville’s reign was mostly a success for Auburn, he resigned in 2008 after a bad season, including a 36-0 loss to Alabama, so not all Auburn fans may want him back.
There’s also the question of Tuberville’s ties to his old state. Tuberville was born and raised in Arkansas and since he left Auburn, he’s coached at Texas Tech and Cincinnati; Tuberville only resigned as head coach at Cincinnati in December of last year. Alabama law requires the governor to be a state resident for seven years. The Advertiser says that Tuberville still resides at his home near Lake Martin, so he may still legally be allowed to run.
However, while Tuberville may have remained an Alabama resident this whole time, it doesn’t seem to have been by choice. In 2015, realtor.com reported that Tuberville lowered his asking price for his Alabama home four times between 2009 and 2013, before taking it off the market. However, Tuberville tried selling it again in June of 2015. The Tuberville family still has ties to the state, with his son debuting as an Auburn player in late 2015. Still, even if potential primary rivals can’t get Tuberville knocked off the ballot, they could at least question his connections to the state he’s hoping to run, and drive another wedge between the coach and Bama fans who still hold a grudge against him. The state requires candidates to win a majority of the vote in the primary to avoid a runoff, so Tuberville couldn’t just rally Auburn fans to a plurality victory.
P.S: This is probably the first time we’ve ever cited realtor.com in a story at Daily Kos Elections. Politics is weird sometimes.
• CO-Gov, CO-07: Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace termed-out Gov. John Hickenlooper next year, and we may be hearing from him sooner rather than later. Perlmutter’s campaign manager tells the Colorado Statesman that the congressman is considering a bid, and an unnamed “Democratic close to Perlmutter” says he’ll likely announce what he’s doing by the end of the month.
The Gazette recently reported that, according to people in Perlmutter’s inner circle, the congressman’s decision will at least be partially dependent on what ex-Sen. Ken Salazar does. Salazar hasn’t ruled out a bid, though more unnamed sources say the former secretary of the interior is “hesitant to join the race” due in part to family commitments. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea where things stand soon enough.
If Perlmutter gets in, he won’t have the Democratic primary to himself regardless of what Salazar does. Ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston and businessman Noel Ginsburg are already in, while state Rep. Joe Salazar (who is apparently not related to Ken Salazar), state Sen. Michael Merrifield, and state Rep. Steve Lebsock are publicly considering; there are plenty of other Centennial State Democrats who might also be mulling a bid. Perlmutter would likely start out with more name recognition and connections than any potential primary rival except Ken Salazar, and he may be strong enough to scare off other candidates, but this wouldn’t be the first time a lesser-known contender has pulled off a primary upset. Several Republicans are also thinking about getting in.
If Perlmutter leaves the House, it will lead to a scramble for his suburban Denver seat. Clinton carried the district 51-39, and most statewide Democrats carried it even during the 2014 GOP wave. To put things in perspective, state attorney general nominee Don Quick lost statewide 51-42 but lost the 7th only 47-45, so it will take a lot to turn this area red. A few Democrats have already made noises about running for this seat if Perlmutter doesn’t seek re-election, and the GOP may see if they can put it into play.
• GA-Gov: House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for a long time. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has written that she’s “all but certain to run,” but she hasn’t said much about her plans publicly. In fact, when Atlanta Magazine directly asked her if she sees herself as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, Abrams responded by only saying, “I see myself as the House Minority Leader, and that’s what I’m focused on now.” As we’ve said many times, that’s one of those non-answers politicians love to give when they’re considering or planning to seek a promotion but don’t want to say so yet. Abrams also writes romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery, and apparently, she also enjoys keeping people in suspense in her day job.
The only other Democrat we’ve hear express interest in a bid is ex-state Sen. Jason Carter, who lost to Republican incumbent Nathan Deal 53-45 during the 2014 GOP wave, and, as far as we know, does not write romantic suspense novels. Sally Yates, who was sacked by Donald Trump as acting U.S. attorney general, has been mentioned many times as a possible candidate, but she hasn’t shown any interest publicly. A few Republicans have made noises about running to succeed the termed-out Deal, though no one has gotten in yet.
• KS-Gov, KS-02: Kansas’ infamous GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach has expressed interest in running for governor, but a House bid will not be in his future. Kobach tells the National Journal that he won’t seek the 2nd District, which is being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins. However, Kobach says he’ll decide on his 2018 plans “probably in the next few months, maybe April or May.” Kobach says he may run for governor, seek a third term as secretary of state, or take a Homeland Security job with Trump. Speaking of Kansas’ 2nd, we haven’t heard any Republicans express interest in the month since Jenkins announced her retirement, though their are plenty of GOP politicians who live in this 56-37 Trump Topeka-based seat
• MA-Gov: Ex-state Sen. Dan Wolf hasn’t ruled out a bid against GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, and he seems to be laying the groundwork to enter the Democratic primary. Wolf, the founder and chief executive of Cape Air, recently announced that he would undertake a statewide listening tour. However, Wolf insists that, of all the people talking about running, he’s “probably the least likely to run,” and says he’s still a while away from making a decision. Wolf ran for governor in 2013 but dropped out after the State Ethics Commission ruled him ineligible to run due to contracts his company had with the state. The commission eventually created an exemption for people in that sort of situation, so Wolf is free to run if he chooses to.
Right now, ex-state budget chief Jay Gonzalez is the only declared Democratic candidate. However, Newton Mayor Setti Warren is raising money for a likely bid, though Warren insists he won’t decide until the spring. However, Attorney General Maura Healey’s name has continued to circulate as a potential candidate, and she hasn’t done much to shoot it down. Last week, the Boston Globe’s Joshua Miller tried very hard to get Healey to say definitively that she won’t challenge Baker, and she eventually agreed with Miller when he asked, “if her “message to Democrats looking for a candidate is ‘find another candidate for governor, no matter what, it’s not going to be me in 2018,’ is that right?”
However, Healey has continued to respond to questions about her 2018 intentions with an “I plan to run for re-election,” even when questioners have explicitly asked her to be more clear about her gubernatorial intentions. There’s nothing stopping Healey from outright saying “I am not going to run for governor in 2018, period,” which actually is definitive, but she doesn’t seem to want to do that yet. Baker has very strong approval ratings, and it’s quite possible that Healey is still keeping her options open and waiting to see how things look later before she makes a final decision.
• MN-Gov: Are you a Minnesota politician who isn’t thinking about running for governor next year? If so, please write to us, because we’re starting to think you may not actually exist. The latest Democrat to talk about jumping in is state Rep. Tina Liebling, who says she’s “seriously considering” and will probably decide before the legislative session ends in May.
On the GOP side, the local tip sheet Morning Take says that “some in the party” want ex-First Lady and former judge Mary Pawlenty to run. Pawlenty was recruited last cycle to run for the state’s open and swingy 2nd District, but she turned it down. It’s unclear if Pawlenty is at all interested in seeking the post her husband Tim Pawlenty held from 2003 to 2011. Morning Take also name-drops ex-state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, who resigned after a 2011 sex scandal but “continues to have a high-profile among Minnesota Media.” There’s also no indication Koch is actually considering, though.
• OK-Gov: Wealthy Tulsa lawyer Gary Richardson has been flirting with a bid to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Mary Fallin for a while, and on Tuesday, he formed an exploratory committee for a possible campaign. Richardson spent $2 million on his 2002 gubernatorial run as an independent and snagged 14 percent of the vote; Democrat Brad Henry narrowly beat Republican Steve Largent by fewer than 7,000 votes, and Richardson’s stunt probably cost Team Red the governor’s mansion. This time, Richardson says he’s exploring a bid for the GOP nod.
If Richardson gets in, he’ll almost certainly have competition in the primary. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said in December that he’s “leaning” towards getting in. Last week, Lamb put some distance between himself and Fallin when he announced he was resigning from her cabinet, where he was serving as small business advocate. Lamb, who remains lieutenant governor, put out a statement saying he couldn’t support tax increases that Fallin was pushing, declaring that they’d “harm Oklahoma’s small businesses and families, especially those in our service industry.”
A few other Republicans have been mentioned, but there’s no sign anyone else is considering yet. Oklahoma is a very red state, but Democrats hope they’ll be able to retake this post after eight years. The only notable Democrat who is publicly considering is Scott Inman, the state House minority leader.
• Westchester County, NY Executive: While this large suburban county has become reliably blue in presidential elections, Westchester has been led by conservative Republican Rob Astorino for the last seven years. Astorino held off Democratic New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson 56-44 in 2013. A year later, he lost to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo 54-40 in 2014, losing Westchester 55-42. Astorino is a potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate, but Cuomo is hoping to beat him this fall first.
So far, the only declared Democratic candidate is Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins, but Cuomo and local Democrats reportedly don’t think much of him. The New York Daily News reports that Cuomo and his allies are calling other potential candidates, and he may have a few takers. Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s spokesperson originally told the Daily News that he told people close to Cuomo that he wouldn’t run. But a few days later, Spano’s team told WAMC, the local public radio affiliate, that he’s undecided.
State Sen. George Latimer says he’ll decide in April, while Assemblyman Tom Abinanti also is talking about running. (The Daily News story didn’t mention Abinanti as one of the politicians Cuomo’s camp was reaching out to.) Assemblywoman Amy Paulin confirms she’s spoken to Cuomo’s people, but says she has “no intention right now of running,” which isn’t a no. As our 2017 elections calendar (which you should bookmark) shows, the filing deadline is July 18 for the Sept. 12 party primaries. The general election is Nov. 7.
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.
To advertise in the Morning Digest, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.