MI-11: Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Trott won his second term 53-40 last year in a contest that attracted little outside attention while Trump was taking his suburban Detroit seat 50-45. Democrats would love to target Trott, who made his fortune through foreclosures, and he’s now got his first noteworthy opponent. Haley Stevens, who was chief of staff to President Obama’s Auto Task Force in 2009 when it was overseeing the financial rescue of Chrysler and General Motors, announced she was in on Thursday. Stevens is well-regarded by her old boss, businessman and ex-auto rescue czar Steven Rattner, and she may indeed have the connections to raise enough money to stand up to the very wealthy Trott.
This seat, which awkwardly loops around the Detroit area to take in Troy, Novi, and Livonia, has been in GOP hands for a long time, and the Republican legislature did all they could to draw it so it stayed that way. Trott himself won’t lack the resources to defend himself, and he’s wasted no time arguing that Stevens, who recently moved back to Michigan from Chicago, is a carpetbagger. Still, if Stevens has the resources to get her message out, she may finally be able to make Trott’s long and ugly business history stick.
And she won’t lack material. Perhaps most notoriously, Trott’s law firm foreclosed on a 101-year-old Detroit woman named Texana Hollis in 2011 after her son failed to pay her mortgage, which evicted her from her home. Hollis was able to reclaim her home of 60 years thanks to a campaign led by writer Mitch Albom, and she died a few years later.
This ugly story surfaced during Trott’s 2014 primary campaign against then-Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, but Bentivolio (a true accidental congressman if there ever was one) didn’t have the ability to run a serious race against Trott. Trott’s Democratic opponent that fall did try to make this an issue, but he also didn’t have much money available to broadcast it far and wide, and national Democrats triaged this race as the political climate got worse and worse; last year, Trott won without any real fireworks. While Trott’s foreclosure horror stories aren’t new news, there are undoubtedly plenty of local voters who have forgotten about them since 2014, or never learned about them at all. If Democrats can make a serious play for this seat and 2018 is a bad year for the GOP, Trott could very well be in for a rough ride.
• CT-Gov: This week, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo became the latest Democrat to form an exploratory committee ahead of a potential bid for governor of Connecticut. Lembo has repeatedly clashed with retiring Gov. Dan Malloy, a fellow Democrat who has posted weak approval numbers. Last year, Lembo notably voted against a $22 million incentive package for the huge financial fund Bridgewater Associates, and the two have also come into conflict over the state’s hospital budget and other issues.
Lembo has made it clear that he won’t run if Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman seeks the governorship, but his announcement may be a sign he doesn’t expect her to. However, Lembo insisted on Thursday that his move doesn’t mean that Wyman won’t run, and he reiterated that he’d still defer to her. In Connecticut, potential candidates need to raise $250,000 in small donations to qualify for public financing, which the CT Mirror calls “a key measure of viability in gubernatorial politics.” This is a pretty time-consuming task, so it does make sense for people to start early even if they’re not 100 percent committed to running rather than risk starting their fundraising too late. If he makes his campaign official, Lembo will be the state’s first openly gay candidate for governor.
Lembo is the fourth noteworthy Connecticut Democrat to form an exploratory committee. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew began raising money before Malloy made his decision, while former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei and ex-Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris (who also says he’d defer to Wyman) made their moves this month. A number of other Democrats are considering, and we can add another to the list. Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi recently acknowledged he was thinking about it; Marconi filed an exploratory committee for the open 2010 race, but didn’t end up running. Marconi describes himself as more “purple” politically than red or blue, which could be a drawback in a primary.
• HI-Gov: Almost four years ago, then-state Sen. David Ige launched what looked like a very longshot Democratic primary bid against Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. However, while Ige didn’t have much name recognition or money, Abercrombie had managed to upset pretty much every major faction in the state Democratic Party during his tenure, and Ige ended up defeating him by an astounding 67-31 margin. As Ige gets ready to seek re-election next year, it’s looking quite possible that he’ll at least need to be on guard in case another Hawaii Democrat tries to follow the Ige playbook to the governor’s office.
While Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa says he’s very likely to run for lieutenant governor, he gave a very interesting reason to Civil Beat for why he wants the job. Arakawa says that Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho “is going to run for the governor’s office, and he will be probably be the next governor,” and that Arakawa thinks he’ll work well as Carvalho’s lieutenant governor. Carvalho, who is termed-out of his current job, has yet to say anything publicly about his plans, and Arakawa doesn’t seem to have said why he thinks Carvalho will be such an electoral juggernaut.
So far, only one other notable Aloha State Democrat who has made any noises about challenging Ige. However, while state Sen. Josh Green expressed interest back in January, in recent months he’s sounded far more likely to run for lieutenant governor instead, and he came close to declaring earlier in April. Still, at the beginning of the year, Green did lay out some criticism of Ige that the governor’s eventual primary challenger may echo. Green faulted the incumbent for failing to meet his promise to install air conditioners in 1,000 public schools by the end of last year as one of his major concerns, as well as the state’s long struggles with housing costs and homelessness.
• MA-Gov: Massachusetts Democrats have a tough job next year if they want to unseat Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, and the party’s top figures aren’t exactly spoiling for a fight. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has a good relationship with Baker, and he didn’t rule out endorsing him on Tuesday.
And while other Bay State Democrats aren’t going that far, they’re not exactly sounding like a party that’s intent on beating the popular incumbent. Back in January, state Senate President Stan Rosenberg had nothing but praise for Baker’s state of state speech. A few weeks ago, Rep. Seth Moulton characterized Baker as a “good man” who is “doing a pretty good job of leading this state, while fellow Rep. Katherine Clark recently gave Baker’s tenure a “B+,” praising him as a “hard worker . . . a really nice guy.”
That’s a massive contrast to Maryland, another very blue state with a GOP governor who is up next year. A number of prominent Democrats have talked about challenging Gov. Larry Hogan, and other Democratic leaders aren’t going out of their way to gush over the governor. Hogan has posted good approval ratings, but unlike in Massachusetts, Maryland Democrats do seem interested in bringing him down to earth.
• MN-Gov: This week, state Rep. Matt Dean became the second Minnesota Republican to kick off a bid for governor. Dean served as the chamber’s majority leader after Team Red took control in 2010, but in 2014 he lost the speakership race to Kurt Daudt, another prospective gubernatorial candidate. However, Dean did get to become chair of the powerful Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
Dean joins Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman in the race for the GOP nod. Minnesota parties hold conventions months before the primary, where candidates compete for the state party endorsement. It’s common for candidates to drop out of the race if someone else gets the party endorsement, though some do decide to skip the convention entirely and just run in the primary. Dean says he’ll abide by the party endorsement, while Huffman said he would as well… unless he feels he’s been unfairly attacked, in which case, he “reserve[s] the right to run in the primary.”
The GOP contest may be getting bigger soon. Back in 2014, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson lost the general election to Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton by a respectable 50-45 margin, and the local tipsheet Morning Take says he’ll announce his plans at the end of May. Rich Stanek, the sheriff of Hennepin County, and a number of other state legislators have also been flirting with running. Democrats have their own crowded contest brewing to succeed Dayton, who is retiring. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is one of the many declared Democratic contests, and Dean got to the state House in 2004 by unseating her 52-48.
• NM-Gov: Former Univision executive Jeff Apodaca, whose father served as governor of New Mexico in the mid-1970s, has been mulling a bid of his own for a while, and we may not need to wait much longer. Local political analyst Joe Monahan writes that Apodaca is expected to kick off his Democratic primary bid in early May. If he runs, Apodaca will face Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Sen. Joe Cervantes for the Democratic nod. Monahan has said that both Apodaca and Cervantes have moderate images.
Two other New Mexico officeholders have also talked about running in the primary. State Attorney General Hector Balderas said in early March that he expected to decide by the summer, but Monahan doesn’t expect him to get in. Monahan says the same thing about Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, but adds that Gonzales is currently calling for city voters to approve a 2-cents-per-ounce tax of sugary drinks, and that if the measure passes on Tuesday, it may encourage the mayor to run for governor.
• TN-Gov: A few days ago, the communications director for Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett didn’t rule out the idea that his boss could seek the GOP nod next year. Burchett himself now says he is considering, though he says he has no timeline for deciding.
Burchett did acknowledge that fundraising could be problematic for him if he runs for governor, but told the local ABC affiliate that his grassroots platform could break through, because “I think my message is pretty clear. And I don’t need some New York advertising agency to help me talk to the regular folks, because I am the regular folks and I think that’s my appeal.” That’s… not something a lot of successful candidates say. If Burchett is popular enough in the Knoxville area, he might be able to win a primary with a plurality (unlike in much of the South, Tennessee has not primary runoff). Still, Burchett isn’t even the only possible candidate from Knox County: Rich guy Randy Boyd, who is running, has part of the local zoo named for him.
• GA-06: Politico’s Scott Bland reports that Republican Karen Handel is not up on the airwaves following her distant second-place showing in last week’s all-party primary, but the NRCC is stepping into the breach. In a characteristically histrionic new ad for the committee, a narrator quakes: “Hollywood celebrities. Democrat Party bosses. Forcing D.C. liberal Jon Ossoff on Georgia. Ossoff’s support of Obamacare means higher insurance premiums and a trillion in new taxes.”
She concludes, “Jon Ossoff will fight for them,” as photos of Nancy Pelosi, plus the top half of Bernie Sanders’ face and what we think is the bottom half of Barack Obama’s face, appear on screen. Very odd cinematography. Anyhow, the second half of the spot pivots to praise Handel, calling her a “25-year resident” of the 6th District who balanced budgets without raising taxes and “fought voter fraud.”
Independent expenditure reports filed by the NRCC show that the size of the buy is $563,000. But this is a good opportunity to point out that this money won’t go as far as it would had Handel been spending it. That’s because, by law, candidates are entitled to more favorable advertising rates than outside groups.
As a result, though Republicans collectively outspent Democrats by a 61-39 margin prior to the primary, the GOP only wound up with a 52-48 advantage in the total number of ads that were actually aired—called share of voice—because most of the Democratic spending came directly from the Ossoff campaign. That’s an important thing to bear in mind whenever you see figures on ad buys, because not all dollars are equally valuable. What really counts is how many ads you can run.
• MN-07: Despite only recently saying that he wouldn’t decide whether to seek re-election until next year, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson unambiguously told Roll Call on Thursday that he was running again. Peterson’s decision will be a relief to his party: Trump carried this rural northwest Minnesota seat 62-31, and it would be extremely hard to hold without him.
Still, the GOP is hoping they can unseat the longtime incumbent. Last cycle, Peterson only beat underfunded Republican Dave Hughes 52-47, and Hughes is running again. But Team Red may have a stronger candidate on tap, with state Rep. Tim Miller jumping in earlier this month. The GOP has only made one serious attempt to unseat Peterson in years, but the incumbent won 54-46 in 2014 even with the red wave crashing on the shores of the Red Lake Reservation (no, that metaphor doesn’t really work.) Peterson is an incredibly formidable incumbent, but Republicans know that once they finally win the 7th District, they’re likely to keep it for a long, long, long time.
• NM-01: Two Democrats are currently seeking this 52-36 Clinton seat in Albuquerque, and there may be another contender before long. Joe Monahan writes that outgoing state Democratic Party Chair Debra Haaland is expected to run after her term ends in a few days; according to her supporters, Haaland would be the first Native American woman to ever serve in the House.
• SC-05: We have what seems to be the first major outside spending ahead of the May 2 GOP primary. Politico reports that a group called Hometown Freedom Action Network has dropped $113,000 on an ad campaign for state House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope. Their commercial praises Pope‘s background as a police officer and prosecutor before telling voters how he loves Trump and the NRA and hates abortion and Obamacare. Politico also notes that we really know very little about Hometown Freedom, a group only occasionally gets involved in GOP primaries. If no one takes a majority next week, there will be a runoff in on May 16.
• VA-10: The DCCC and EMILY’s List reportedly wanted state Sen. Jennifer Wexton to challenge GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, and Wexton jumped in last week. However, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe publicly expressed interest after Wexton made her decision. On Thursday, two members of Virginia’s House delegation, Donald McEachin and Gerry Connolly, endorsed Wexton in what may be an attempt to deter McAuliffe from running. Connolly represents a neighboring Northern Virginia seat while McEachin is a DCCC vice chair whom the Washington Post reports worked to recruit Wexton. A few other Democrats were already running before Wexton entered the race.
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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