Devin Nunes just drew his most serious Democratic challenger in years


CA-22: Eight-term Republican Rep. Devin Nunes has always won his House races with at least 62 percent of the vote, but after Nunes’ scandalous handling of his lead role in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, he has turned himself into a boogeyman for Democrats nationwide. On Tuesday, Fresno County District Attorney’s office prosecutor Andrew Janz announced his intent to challenge Nunes in 2018. Janz has never run for office before, but his ties to the legal community mean he might have the connections needed to wage a serious campaign.

The Fresno-area 22nd District has long been hostile to Democrats. Donald Trump’s won it by 52-43, but that margin was nonetheless a sizable drop from Mitt Romney’s 57-42 victory in 2012. The seat has a substantial Hispanic population, but like other Central Valley districts, that Democratic-leaning demographic typically sees an especially sharp drop in turnout between presidential elections and midterms (relatedly, despite a common misconception, Nunes isn’t Hispanic, but of Portuguese descent). While there’s no sign that Nunes is particularly vulnerable yet in 2018, if Trump sparks a backlash against downballot Republicans and Democrats can gain traction over the Russia investigation debacle, the incumbent could face his stiffest re-election battle yet.

1Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our now-complete first-quarter Senate fundraising chart, which also includes House members who are considering or reportedly considering Senate bids.

AZ-Sen: Jeff Flake (R-inc): $1.3 million raised, $1.8 million cash-on-hand; Kelli Ward (R): $166,000 raised, $104,000 cash-on-hand

CA-Sen: Dianne Feinstein (D-inc): $655,000 raised, $3.1 million cash-on-hand

DE-Sen: Tom Carper (D-inc): $174,000 raised, $300,000 cash-on-hand

HI-Sen: Mazie Hirono (D-inc): $291,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

ME-Sen: Angus King (I-inc): $806,000 raised, $755,000 cash-on-hand

MS-Sen: Roger Wicker (R-inc): $400,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand

NE-Sen: Deb Fischer (R-inc): $489,000 raised, $1.4 million cash-on-hand

NJ-Sen: Robert Menendez (D-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.75 million cash-on-hand

TN-Sen: Bob Corker (R-inc): $145,000 raised, $6 million cash-on-hand

VT-Sen: Bernie Sanders (I-inc): $212,000 raised, $3.9 million cash-on-hand

WA-Sen: Maria Cantwell (D-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand

Senate

NV-Sen: Although Sen. Dean Heller is the only Republican facing re-election in 2018 in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton, few Democrats have voiced their interest about opposing him. However, Democratic ex-state Treasurer Kate Marshall said on Monday that she is “evaluating the race,” and according to veteran Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston, she has the support of newly elected Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Marshall won two terms as state treasurer from 2006 until she faced term limits in 2014, and she only narrowly lost a race for secretary of state in 2014 as that year’s GOP wave swept Nevada particularly hard.

However, Marshall previously got trounced in a 2011 special election to succeed Heller in his conservative House seat in northern Nevada after he got appointed to the Senate. While she raised considerable money for that tough race, Marshall also made some unforced errors, and she might not be the party’s first preference. Nonetheless, few other names are even on the horizon so far. Rep. Dina Titus is the only other Democrat who is publicly considering a campaign, but her anemic first-quarter fundraising suggested her heart might not be in it.

Gubernatorial

AL-Gov: On Tuesday, ex-Auburn University football head coach Tommy Tuberville announced that he would not run for governor after all. Tuberville had previously set up a campaign committee and even loaned it $100,000 for what was supposed to be an open seat race to replace termed-out GOP Gov. Robert Bentley. However, after Republican Gov. Kay Ivey ascended to office following Bentley’s resignation due to a sex scandal, Tuberville spoke very well of her, a sign he wasn’t interested in a primary challenge. So far Ivey, who has not announced her 2018 plans, hasn’t drawn any primary opponent yet, but several other prominent Republicans are still considering running. (Perhaps coincidently, Ivey is an Auburn graduate.)

On the Democratic side, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox had previously been mentioned as a potential contender, and now he’s publicly refusing to rule things out. Maddox didn’t give any timeline for when he might decide on a statewide bid, but hinted that he would be looking at things “over the next few months.” Democrats don’t have a deep bench in this dark-red state, but a few other names are also considering, including: former state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who was the party’s 2010 nominee; party-switching ex-Rep. Parker Griffith, who was Team Blue’s 2014 nominee; state Rep. Craig Ford; and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb.

CO-Gov: The GOP primary for governor of Colorado got a bit larger on Tuesday, when former investment banker Doug Robinson jumped in the race. Robinson, a nephew of Mitt Romney, spent a few months last cycle considering a Senate bid, but we didn’t know he was even interested in running to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper until he announced he was running. Robinson said he was running with Romney’s support, and he says he’ll spend an undisclosed amount of his own money on the contest.

Robinson won’t get the GOP nod without a fight. Suburban Denver District Attorney George Brauchler and wealthy businessman Victor Mitchell are both already in, as is Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter. Several other Centennial State Republicans are also considering, including state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a second cousin of George W. Bush; state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman; and Kent Thiry, the wealthy chief executive of DaVita Healthcare Partners. Democrats have their own crowded race as well.

CT-Gov: Via a spokesperson, Democratic New Haven Mayor Toni Harp is once again refusing to rule out running for governor in 2018, but maintains that she’s focused on her re-election bid this fall. The mayor faces a challenge from a former city council member in her quest for another term, and Harp might want to avoid the appearance of neglecting her current office for a future statewide bid.

Many other Democrats also might run to succeed retiring Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, former West Hartford Mayor Jonathan Harris, and ex-federal prosecutor Chris Mattei have already set up exploratory committees, while state Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney and Comptroller Kevin Lembo are both considering the race, and even more names might be interested as well.

GA-Gov, GA State Senate: On Tuesday, state Sen. Hunter Hill became the latest Republican to jump into the open 2018 governor’s race. Hill first won election to the state Senate in 2012 after Republicans redrew his suburban northern Atlanta district to include the ultra-wealthy Buckhead neighborhood. An Army veteran, Hill currently runs a firm that coaches business executives, meaning he might have the connections needed to raise some serious money.

Georgia state legislative Democrats will undoubtedly be pleased that Hill’s 6th Senate District will be an open seat in 2018 after he won by just 52-48 in 2016 and they only need to gain one seat to break the GOP’s supermajority in the chamber. Hill’s district backed Mitt Romney by 53-46 in 2012, and although Daily Kos Elections hasn’t yet calculated the 2016 presidential numbers there, this highly educated region swung sharply toward Hillary Clinton in 2016 and she likely did well in the 6th.

Hill joins a Republican gubernatorial primary that already includes Secretary of State Brian Kemp, while Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has filed paperwork and is expected to announce his campaign soon. Several other prominent Republicans are also considering a bid to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Nathan Deal.

MD-Gov: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan frequently polls as one of the most popular governors in the country, but a horde of Democrats are nonetheless interested in taking him on in 2018 in this dark-blue state. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous revealed that he was considering it back in March, and the blog Maryland Matters reports that he is supposedly planning to enter the race within a month. They also mention state Attorney General Brian Frosh as a potential candidate, but he is reportedly disinclined toward the idea.

No Democrat has yet announced their candidacy, although well-connected attorney Jim Shea has formed an exploratory committee. Rep. John Delaney, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, and a handful of other prominent Democrats are all considering the race.

MI-Gov: Democratic Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel had previously been mentioned as a potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate, and he’s now refusing to rule out a bid at a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon. However, at the same event, Hackel highlighted his ties to Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is expected to launch his campaign for the Republican nomination on April 30. Hackel also said his record of working with former House member and current Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller gives him hesitation about running; Miller herself also hasn’t said no to a campaign.

Hackel’s base in Detroit’s major suburban Obama-Trump county and his history of working across the aisle might be key general election assets, but that probably won’t help endear him to Democratic primary voters. Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer so far appears to be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, while Detroit Health Director Abdul El-Sayed is also waging a long-shot campaign. However, Rep. Dan Kildee is considering whether to run, and prominent businessman Shri Thanedar has also filed paperwork for a bid.

NJ-Gov: Former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy, a former ambassador to Germany and the frontrunner in the June Democratic primary, is up with another spot. Murphy sits in a restaurant and tells the audience that, when he was 13 and working as a dishwasher, his boss stole his paychecks until Murphy’s father confronted him. The candidate says he felt cheated but also felt gratitude that someone had his back, and pledges to have New Jersey’s back as he fights the special interests.

OH-Gov: Two months ago, ex-Rep. Dennis Kucinich did not rule out a Democratic primary bid for governor, and unfortunately, he seems more interested than ever. While Kucinich is still deflecting questions about his 2018 plans by saying he’s “not going to get into that — politics,” he’s begun holding events around Ohio railing against for-profit charter schools and the GOP-led state legislature.

As we’ve said before, while Kucinich portrays himself as a progressive hero, he’s emerged as a Trump defender in recent months. Kucinich, who has been a Fox commentator for years, praised Trump’s inauguration speech (you know, the “American carnage” one), and argued that U.S. intelligence agencies forced Michael Flynn to resign as Trump’s national security advisor. Kucinich has also repeatedly met with and defended Syria’s murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad.

If Kucinich runs for governor, he’ll enter a crowded Democratic primary. Ex-Rep. Betty Sutton, ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, who recently stepped down as minority leader to focus on his campaign, are already in, while Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley sounds very interested and a few other potential candidates are considering.

Kucinich himself may not have much support at home if he gets in: In 2012, Kucinich and fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur were drawn into the same congressional district, and Kaptur won the primary by a convincing 56-40 margin. (Before Kucinich ended up running for re-election that year, he openly flirted with running for the House in Washington or Maine instead.) But anything can happen in a crowded race, and it’s possible for Kucinich to ride his Cleveland-area base to a plurality win.

VA-Gov: On Monday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most high-profile names in the Democratic Party, endorsed ex-Rep. Tom Perriello ahead of the June primary for governor of Virginia. Both Perriello and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam have been working hard to portray themselves as the true progressive in the race (that’s not something we would have expected to write about a primary in Virginia even a few years ago), and some have portrayed this as a sort of rematch between Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Perriello earlier this month, and Hillary Clinton.

However, as we’ve noted before, this is more a battle between national Democrats and state Democrats. While Perriello has national stars and people close to Obama in his corner, Northam is backed by termed-out Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and most of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation and legislators. Most polls show that the vast majority of primary voters are undecided, though a recent survey for Northam’s allies at the Virginia Education Association gave him a 42-28 lead.

Northam himself is spending $125,000 on the first TV ad of the primary from either candidate. The commercial begins with people praising Northam’s work as a pediatrician, with families thanking him for treating their children. The spot continues by featuring people saying how Northam stood up to the tobacco interests and the NRA, worked to stop the GOP legislature’s transvaginal ultrasound bill, and supported marriage equality “long before” it was popular. The commercial ends with Northam addressing a cheering crowd and saying they won’t let Donald Trump take them back.

House

CA-32: After experiencing a minor stroke in 2016, there had been speculation that 80-year-old Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano could call it quits in 2018, but on Tuesday, Napolitano announced that she would seek an 11th term representing the El Monte, Monterey Park, and West Covina area in eastern Los Angeles County. Former Monrovia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero had been considering running as Democrats for this dark-blue district if Napolitano had declined to run again, but they each made it clear that they wouldn’t challenge the incumbent. Napolitano defeated scandal-tarred Democratic state Assemblyman Roger Hernandez 62-38 in the 2016 top-two general election, and she should have little trouble winning another term.

CA-39: Republican Rep. Ed Royce has held down the historically Republican 39th District in northern Orange County since 1992, but after the diverse and highly educated seat swung sharply from 51-47 Romney in 2012 to 51-43 Clinton in 2016, Democrats are eager to target Royce next year. Former Cal State Fullerton chemistry professor Phil Janowicz, who currently manages an education consulting firm, announced his candidacyon Tuesday.

Janowicz is a first-time candidate whose campaign skills are unknown, but he has ties to 314 Action, a political committee devoted to encouraging scientists to run for office against Republicans. Royce is a formidable incumbent who has never won with less than the 57 percent he earned in 2016, but Democrats will likely need to flip suburban Clinton districts like the 39th if they’re to win the House in 2018.

IA-02: After southeastern Iowa’s 2nd District swung hard from 56-43 Obama in 2012 to 49-45 Trump in 2016, Republicans are hopeful that they can target Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in 2018. However, one potential challenger recently came awfully close to shutting the door on a bid. GOP state Sen. Roby Smith stated that running next year “is not something I’m planning on doing … At least not for 2018.” That isn’t quite an ironclad “no,” but it does sound like Republicans will have better luck looking elsewhere. So far, physician and 2016 nominee Christopher Peters is the only Republican publicly considering the race, but Team Red might prefer someone with a higher profile to take on Loebsack in 2018, and several other names have been mentioned.

IA-03: On Tuesday, longtime political operative and former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign staffer Pete D’Alessandro announced that he had formed a committee to “explore” a bid against Republican Rep. David Young in Iowa’s 3rd District. Containing the Des Moines area and Council Bluffs, the 3rd flipped to Trump by 49-45 and Young easily won his second term against a touted Democratic candidate in 2016. However, it’s likely the kind of light-red swing district that Democrats need to put in play if they hope to have a shot at flipping the House in 2018. If he gets in, D’Alessandro will join attorney Anna Ryon in the Democratic primary, while state Sen. Matt McCoy has previously said he was considering running too.

IL-13: Champaign-area Democratic state Rep. Carol Ammons had previously been considering whether to challenge 13th District Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, and on Tuesday she declared that she had formed an exploratory committee and would decide on a bid “following weeks of listening.” Democrats drew this central Illinois district to vote blue, but Davis has easily held on here following his initial razor-thin 2012 victory.

Trump won the 13th by 50-44 after Romney carried it by just under 1,000 votes, so Davis will likely be quite tough to dislodge. If she runs, Ammons would first have to win the primary against physician and perennial candidate David Gill, who nearly beat Davis as Team Blue’s 2012 nominee, but lost badly as an underfunded candidate in 2004, 2006, and 2010, and didn’t make the ballot when he tried running as an independent last year.

MI-01: Republican Rep. Jack Bergman easily won his first term 55-40 in 2016 against a well-funded Democratic recruit, but that isn’t deterring Democrats from gearing up to oppose him in 2018. Northern Michigan University journalism professor Dwight Brady jumped into the race on Monday, joining fellow Democratic candidate and retired Marine Lt. Col Matthew Morgan, who was already running. Brady doesn’t seem to have run for office before, but he was previously appointed by Democratic ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm to the Michigan Climate Action Council and has the endorsement of former state Rep. Gary McDowell, who came close to winning as the 2012 Democratic nominee.

Located in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, the ancestrally Democratic 1st District has become increasingly hostile toward the party, and the seat lurched from 54-45 Romney in 2012 to 58-37 Trump in 2016. While Democrats have often outrun the top of the ticket here, one of the district’s hallmark political divides is between the Upper Peninsula, which makes up just under half of its population, and the Lower Peninsula, which forms a slight majority. Unlike Democratic rival Morgan and the party’s 2012 and 2014 nominees, Brady hails from Marquette in the Upper Peninsula, which could give him a decent geographic base in both the primary and the general election.

VA-10: Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock won her second term by 53-47 in a heavily targeted 2016 race, and after her 10th District in the D.C. suburbs swung from 50-49 Romney to 52-42 Clinton, Democratic candidates are unsurprisingly eager to challenge Comstock in 2018. None other than Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe now says that she is “very seriously considering” running, but gave no timeline for when she might reach a decision. McAuliffe’s husband, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is one of the most well-connected Democrats in the country, and she would undoubtedly have little trouble raising money if she were to run.

The battle for the Democratic nomination has already grown quite crowded, and prominent state Sen. Jennifer Wexton entered the race last week after reportedly being recruited by the DCCC and EMILY’s List. In addition to Wexton, ex-Fairfax Education Association teachers union president Kimberly Adams, former Veterans Administration senior advisor Lindsey Davis Stover, and Army veteran Daniel Helmer are all already running, while several other names have been floated as potential candidates. Virginia’s 10th is tied for the second most college-educated House seat that Republicans won in 2016, meaning the suburban district is precisely the kind that Democrats will need to win if they’re to capitalize off of an anti-Trump backlash in 2018.

 

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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