Where Are They Now?: Texas Republican Steve Stockman, who served two short but memorable stints in the U.S. House, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly soliciting money for his bogus charity. If Stockman is convicted, he faces the possibility of jail time. According to prosecutors, Stockman set up a non-profit called Life Without Limits in 2011, a year before he successfully ran to return to the House. An unknown contributor gave the “charity” $350,000, and prosecutors argue that Stockman used donations through his employees to get the money to his bank account and to his campaigns.
Even before this, Stockman was… quite the character. Stockman was elected to the House on his third try in 1994, defeating 21-term Democratic Rep. Jack Brooks, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Stockman quickly made his mark when he published an article accusing the Clinton administration of staging the Waco raid on the Branch Davidians as a way to justify a ban on assault weapons. Stockman also sent a letter to his colleagues attacking homosexuality and premarital sex. Stockman also said of the Violence Against Women Act, “It’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that—how is that a woman?” Stockman lost his seat the next year to Democrat Nick Lampson 53-47, and his comeback attempts failed in 1998 and 2006.
But in 2012, Stockman won the GOP nomination for a new safely red east Texas seat. During the campaign, Stockman hit his primary opponent with fake tabloids blazing headlines like, “Stephen Takach drove family friend into bankruptcy” and “Takach smears Stockman for taking care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father.” Stockman also put up signs calling for voters to “Re-elect Stockman,” even though he had been out of office for well over a decade.
When Stockman got back to the House, he quickly picked up where he left off and threatened to impeach Barack Obama, and also printed bumper stickers declaring, “If babies had guns they wouldn’t be aborted.” Stockman faced no credible primary opposition and could have easily secured a second consecutive term in 2014, but instead, at almost the last possible second, Stockman filed to challenge Sen. John Cornyn for renomination instead.
Stockman’s race began with news that local Texas authorities had recently condemned his campaign headquarters, which housed workers and volunteers in utterly disgusting conditions, and things didn’t get any better for him after that. Stockman apparently laid zero groundwork for his campaign against Cornyn, and he raised little money and earned no influential endorsements. Stockman made almost no campaign appearances, stopped showing up to votes, and disappeared from public view for weeks. Stockman’s old mug shot from his 1977 arrest for felony possession of Valium surfaced, which led Stockman to deny he’d ever been arrested, even though he’d spoken at length about the incident in the 1990s. Stockman predictably got crushed 59-19 and was out of a job the next year. We thought that was the end of the story of Steve Stockman, but this long and crazy tale clearly isn’t over.
• IL-Gov: Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers recently told Politico that he might run for governor in 2018, but he hasn’t made a decision yet. However, Summers appears serious enough to have shared an internal poll of a possible Democratic primary matchup with wealthy businessman Chris Kennedy, who is already running, and billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker, who formed an exploratory committee earlier this week. The GQR Research survey finds Kennedy in first with 44 percent, Pritzker at 11 percent, and Summers at 7 percent. The poll did not appear to test Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, who is also running.
The polling memo argues that Summers’ standing improves on the so-called “informed ballot” test, which was taken after respondents were read short positive statements about each candidate. However, whether voters actually get to hear Summers’ message is another matter, since both Kennedy and Pritzker could self-fund millions to air their preferred narratives in TV ads in this expensive state. As the only black candidate, Summers could have a significant advantage among Illinois’ large population of black primary voters, but with so many undecided voters and the candidates’ low name recognition, this primary is still wide open.
• MN-Gov: In a surprise, Democratic Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announced on Friday that she would not run for governor next year. Smith, who used to be retiring Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief of staff, had been delivering several high-profile announcements and playing a visible role in Dayton administration priorities, and it looked like she was working to get her name out ahead of a likely bid. But on Friday, Smith said that her reasons for not running were personal.
The race to succeed Dayton has been underway for a while. On the Democratic side, state Auditor Rebecca Otto, state Rep. Erin Murphy, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman are already in. Additionally, Reps. Rick Nolan and Tim Walz; former state House Minority Leader Paul Thissen; state Rep. Tina Liebling; and state Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk have all expressed interest, while Attorney General Lori Swanson has ruled nothing out. No one has declared on the GOP side, but a number of potential candidates are eyeing the race: State Sen. David Osmek; 2014 nominee Jeff Johnson; state House Speaker Kurt Daudt; state Rep. Michelle Benson; 2014 Senate nominee Mike McFadden; and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek have all made noises about jumping in.
• CA-25, TX-21: Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania’s 8th District in 2014 and 2016, has founded an organization called 314 Action that is devoted to recruiting more scientists to run for public office. The group has set their sights on ousting some of the most notoriously anti-science Republican members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and they reportedly have candidates lined up against two of them.
Geologist Jess Phoenix says she is “90-plus percent sure” that she’ll challenge Republican Rep. Steve Knight in California’s 25th District, which covers northern Los Angeles County and swung to voting for Hillary Clinton by 50-44 after having favored Mitt Romney in 2012 by 50-48. Knight only prevailed 53-47 in a heavily contested race against Democratic attorney Bryan Caforio in 2016, and Democrats will undoubtedly want to target him again in 2018. Caforio is reportedly mulling a second bid, while non-profit executive director Katie Hill recently jumped into the race.
On the other hand, Texas’ 21st District is decidedly not a seat that’s typically high on the Democratic target list. Trump’s 52-42 edge in this well-educated San Antonio and Austin-area district was much smaller than Romney’s 60-38 margin in 2012, but Science Committee Chair Rep. Lamar Smith is a 30-year GOP incumbent who has never had a close general election—in fact, his 57-36 victory over an unheralded Democrat in 2016 was his narrowest margin ever. Nonetheless, aerospace engineer Joseph Kopser tells BuzzFeed that he’s thinking about running as a Democrat.
314 Action also wants to recruit a challenger against California’s 48th District Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, but have they have yet to find a candidate. It remains to be seen whether potential first-time candidates Phoenix and Kopser have the chops to run a strong race.
• MT-AL: Republican Greg Gianforte launched his first ad in the May 25special election to succeed former GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who recently became interior secretary. The spot shows Gianforte outdoors in hunting gear where he promises to protect the 2nd Amendment, Montanans’ right to hunt and fish, coal and timber jobs, and to oppose trade deals that ship jobs to China. There was no word on the size of the ad buy, but the Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund recently put $700,000 behind a segment attacking Democratic nominee Rob Quist.
• NH-01: Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who represents an eastern New Hampshire district that backed Donald Trump by 48-47, is likely one of the most vulnerable House Democratic incumbents, but Republicans have yet to land a challenger. Former state Commissioner of Health and Human Services John Stephen had earlier been mentioned as a potential candidate, and he has now confirmed that he’s considering running. Stephen previously ran for this seat in 2002 and 2008, but narrowly lost the GOP primary both times. He was also Team Red’s gubernatorial nominee in 2010, but came up short despite that year’s Republican wave.
State Rep. John Burt and former state Liquor Commission Enforcement and Licensing Director Eddie Edwards have both stated that they’re interested in possible bids. State Sen. Andy Sanborn has reportedly met with NRCC officials about challenging Shea-Porter, but he has not made his intentions public.
• NY-01: Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin easily dispatched a well-funded Democratic opponent in 2016, and his eastern Long Island-based 1st District swung hard to Trump, favoring him by 54-42 after having supported Obama by 50-49 in 2012. However, Democrats still appear to be interested in challenging the two-term incumbent. Local party leaders are reportedly keen on longtime state Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who tells Newsday that he is considering it, but still gives the prospect less than 50-50 odds. Thiele says he expects to decide late in the year.
Thiele is actually a member of New York’s minor Independence Party after switching from the GOP in 2009, but he caucuses with Democrats. The state is one of eight that allows candidates to combine their votes from multiple party nominations on the ballot under a system called “fusion voting.” Zeldin got the Independence ballot line in 2016 in addition to the Republican one, and if Thiele could snag it from him, the Independence line could swing several thousand votes, which could be critical in a close race.
However, there’s no guarantee that the notoriously transactional Independence Party would stand by Thiele against an incumbent, since they backed Zeldin in 2016 even though his Democratic opponent was a former party member. Thiele’s record of bipartisanship could be an asset in a general election, but it also might be a detriment in a Democratic primary.
• Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso gives us the rundown on a truly messed up Tuesday special election in Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania HD-197: This is an open Democratic seat in Philadelphia that has turned into a big mess for the Democrats. Only one candidate will be on the ballot: Republican Lucinda Little, a clinical research director. The Democrats initially nominated Freddie Ramirez, who was struck from the ballot when it was determined that he didn’t live in the district. They then tried to nominate a replacement, Emilio Vasquez, but were denied because it was past the filing deadline.
This leaves the Democrats without a candidate on the ballot in a district that is 85 percent Democratic by registration and which gave Barack Obama 97 percent of the vote in 2012. They will attempt a write-in campaign for Vasquez.
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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