WI-Gov, WI-03: On Friday, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Ron Kind announced that he will not run for governor next year and will instead seek re-election to the House. Kind frequently flirts with seeking statewide office but, like Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, never actually goes for it.
Kind’s decision will likely be greeted with relief by House Democrats, since his 3rd District swung from 55-44 Obama to 49-45 Trump and could have been tough to defend without him. However, Democrats looking to take down GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who is likely to run for re-election in 2018, probably won’t be so happy. Democrats consistently do well in Madison and Milwaukee, but having a candidate who can also carry areas like Kind’s southwest Wisconsin seat could make all the difference between a statewide win and a statewide loss.
While Democrats would absolutely love to defeat Walker, it’s far from clear who they’ll run. Ex-state Sen. Tim Cullen recently said that he’s likely to get in, but Cullen is a weak fundraiser who has pissed off plenty of Democrats over the years. (Walker once called him “pretty reasonable” in what he thought was a private conversation, which may be the kiss of death in a primary.) State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is considering, and like Kind, she hails from a rural area that swung from Obama to Trump. But Vinehout won just 4 percent of the vote in the 2012 primary to face Walker in the recall election, so she may not have what it takes to run a tough race.
Joe Parisi, the executive of Madison’s Dane County, didn’t rule out a run for governor all the way back in May, but he doesn’t appear to have said anything since then. Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, who lost the 2014 attorney general race 52-45, has set up social media accounts ahead of an unnamed statewide bid. The Associated Press also says that Assemblyman Dana Wachs, who like Kind and Vinehout represents Eau Claire, is considering, but he doesn’t seem to have said so publicly yet. It’s possible that, now that Kind has made his plans clear, some of these people will make their own plans clear, and other names may come onto the radar as well.
Whoever steps up to challenge Walker, assuming he goes ahead and seeks a third term, won’t have an easy time beating him. Despite his failed 2016 presidential bid, Walker is a tough campaigner, and he will have all the money he could possibly need. But polls last year showed Walker with a weak approval rating, and if the GOP suffers the midterm backlash the president’s party usually suffers, the governor will probably feel it. It’s very likely that national Democrats will target Walker, but it may be a while before the Democratic field takes form.
• CA-Sen: On Thursday night, Politico reported that there was “increasing buzz in state Republican circles” that ex-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was interested in challenging California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year. Schwarzenegger’s spokesman did nothing to dispel the chatter, saying that, “Right now Gov. Schwarzenegger’s focus is on using his platform to bring some sensibility and coherency to Washington by fighting for redistricting reform, like we did in California. We are keeping all of our options open as far as how we can accomplish that.”
Schwarzenegger waited until Sunday to put out a statement saying that, while he was “deeply flattered” he was being asked to run, he was instead focused on redistricting reform, though he didn’t actually outright say he would not run for the Senate. Democrats will certainly be happy if this is the last thing they ever hear about a Schwarzenegger for Senate campaign. While he would have a very tough time winning, Team Blue would be horrified if they had to spend any money in this extremely expensive state.
• NV-Sen, NV-Gov, NV-04: Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen only took office two months ago, but he had quickly been talked up for higher office, including a potential Senate race against Republican Sen. Dean Heller. Now, the congressman isn’t ruling anything out when asked if he might run for another position in 2018 like governor. Kihuen told the Nevada Independent that he doesn’t “have any other political posts in sight,” but left the door open by qualifying his response with “right now.” If Kihuen does seek a promotion, he would leave behind a light-blue seat north of Las Vegas that voted just 49-45 for Hillary Clinton, which Democrats could have an easier time holding if the incumbent stays put.
Kihuen wouldn’t be the first newly elected House member to turn around and seek higher office during his first term though, and he might simply not want to appear overly ambitious by announcing so early in the cycle. However, waiting until closer to 2018 to jump in could let other Democratic candidates running for Senate or the open governor’s seat get a head start. No major Democrats have entered either race yet, but fellow Rep. Dina Titus is considering a Senate run, while Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak is mulling a gubernatorial bid.
• CO-Gov: Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper faces term limits in 2018, and quite a few names have surfaced as potential GOP candidates to succeed him. Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton had not said anything before about launching a bid, but when asked at a recent event if he were planning on running for governor, Stapleton replied “not anytime soon,” which of course isn’t a no. Stapleton has been in office since 2011 and will face term limits himself in 2018, so he might be looking at the governor’s office for his next gig. Stapleton also recently headlined a rally calling for congressional term-limits and appeared at an event for the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group, so he seems to be trying to get his name out and make connections.
The only announced Republican candidates so far are Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter and wealthy businessman Victor Mitchell, who served a single term in the state House nearly a decade ago. However, neither candidate has the statewide profile of Stapleton, who is George W. Bush’s second cousin. State Sen. Ray Scott and District Attorney George Brauchler, whose district includes four counties in Denver’s southeastern suburbs that are home to over one-sixth of the state, both previously said that they were considering running.
• FL-Gov: This is not the story that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum wanted during the second week in his quest for the Democratic nomination. Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, a Democrat, announced on Thursdaythat he was investigating whether Gillum’s office broke the law when they used a taxpayer funded email system to send political messages.
Around the time that Gillum was announcing his gubernatorial bid, he apologized and reimbursed the city the almost $5,000 in taxpayer money he used to buy email software from a Democratic campaign firm, and for sending some messages that he acknowledged weren’t official government business, including an event with Joe Biden. This whole matter may be pretty minor, but as Democrats everywhere learned the hard way last year, what could be a mundane story about emails could become politically toxic when the word “investigation” is thrown in.
• PA-Gov: This is Rep. Mike Kelly, one of the many Republicans considering challenging Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf next year, on Barack Obama’s decision to live in D.C. until his daughter finishes at a local high school:
I think we ought to pitch in to let him go someplace else, because he is there for one purpose and for one purpose only. And that is to run a shadow government that is going to totally upset the new agenda. It just doesn’t make sense. And people sit back and say, my gosh, why can’t you guys get this done?
• GA-06: The Congressional Leadership Fund is out with another ad attacking Democrat Jon Ossoff that once again uses decade-old footage of him clowning around as Han Solo in college. This time, the CLF starts with a clip from Ossoff’s own new ad in which he says, “Imagine you had 30 seconds to make a life or death decision….” The narrator then sneers, “Would you really want THIS GUY making those decisions for your family?” as Jon Solo takes the stage.
It’s obviously a ploy to make Ossoff look like a callow youth, and presumably, the CLF’s focus groups suggest it might be at least somewhat effective, otherwise they wouldn’t be spending a million bucks on this campaign. But this time, they’ve also ramped up the charges to claim that “lied about his résumé.” That’s a potentially risky move, because the spot offers no proof for that incendiary accusation, and if the CLF can’t back it up, Ossoff could demand that the spot be taken down.
• OK-01: During his successful 2012 primary campaign against GOP incumbent John Sullivan, Jim Bridenstine pledged to leave the House after just three terms. While fellow Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin seemed to back away from that identical promise last year, Bridenstine reiterated it as recently as last spring. Bridenstine doesn’t seem to have said anything about his 2018 plans since he was re-elected in November and he’d be far from the first person to disregard self-imposed term-limits, but Tulsa Republicans are starting to line up for what they seem convinced will be an open seat.
Back in January, ex-Army intelligence officer Andy Coleman announced that he would run; it’s unclear if Coleman has the connections he’d need to raise a serious amount of money. On Thursday, businessman Kevin Hern, who owns and operates 10 local McDonald’s locations, also joined the race. Assuming that Bridenstine keeps his pledge and departs, it’s a good bet that other Republicans will consider a bid for this 61-33 Trump seat.
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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