The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● VA-Gov: Monmouth is out with their first poll of this fall’s Virginia governor’s race, and they have Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam tied 44-44; 3 percent back Libertarian Cliff Hyra, while 9 percent are undecided. One optimistic sign for Northam is that Trump posts an awful 22-60 disapproval rating among voters who aren’t supporting either major party candidate. By contrast, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is termed out, has a 42-34 approval rating with this group.
We’ve only seen one other independent poll since last month’s primary, and it showed a very different result. A month ago, Quinnipiac showed Northam up 47-39. Just after the primary, Gillespie’s team released a Public Opinion Strategies poll giving him a 46-45 lead over Northam. Days later, Harper Polling, a GOP group that doesn’t seem to have been polling for a client, showed a 46-46 tie. In any case, both parties are going to fight very hard to score a win here this fall.
● AL-Sen: Last month, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks was on deck at the batting practice being held by the congressional Republicans’ baseball team when Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and three others were shot by an Illinois man. The attack left Scalise in critical condition, but now Brooks is out with an ahead of Alabama’s Aug. 15 GOP Senate primary that uses actual audio from the shooting— and two senior members of Scalise’s staff are not happy with their boss’ colleague.
Brooks’ spot begins with the sound of gunfire as on-screen text flashes by saying, “June 14: A Bernie Sanders supporter fires on Republican Congressmen.” As police are heard shouting “Stay down!”, the text reads, “Mo Brooks gives his belt as a tourniquet to help the wounded,” followed by, “What’s the liberal media immediately ask?” A video then plays where a reporter asks Brooks if the attack “change[s] your views on the gun situation in America?” Brooks responds, “The Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, is to help ensure we always have a republic. So, no, I’m not changing my position on any of the rights we enjoy as Americans.”
Scalise has since been upgraded to fair condition but remains in the hospital, and his team is speaking out against the ad. Brett Horton, Scalise’s chief of staff, tweeted that the spot “makes my stomach turn,” while Scalise spokesman Chris Bond told The Washington Post, “I guess some people have their own ideas about what’s appropriate, don’t they?”
● PA-Sen: GOP Rep. Lou Barletta said two weeks ago that he’d have a decision “[h]opefully, in the next couple of weeks.” Well, a couple of weeks has gone by, and Barletta now says he hopes to decide if he’ll challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey before Labor Day.
Barletta raised $297,000 during the second quarter of 2017, which The Times-Tribune says is Barletta’s largest quarter as an incumbent. This is still a small haul for a potential Pennsylvania statewide candidate, though it does indicate Barletta is giving a Senate bid some serious consideration. Rep. Mike Kelly has also been flirting with a campaign, and the two congressmen are unlikely to run against each other.
● WI-Sen: After jerking everyone around for months, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke finally stated in unambiguous terms that he won’t run against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year. Interestingly, despite his Trumpian relationship with the truth, Clarke also denounced a group that had been trying to draft him (with the self-explanatory name of “Draft Sheriff Clarke for U.S. Senate”) as a “scam PAC.” Guess that gravy train just got derailed.
Meanwhile, there’s still the question of Clarke’s future in elective office. In May, Clarke claimed to have landed a position with the Department of Homeland Security, only to see the department publicly deny any such thing; a month later, Clarke declared he’d “rescinded his acceptance” of the alleged offer. Clarke certainly hasn’t been acting like a man eager to seek another term in his current role, and all he’s saying now is, “I’m interested in being the sheriff of Milwaukee County, period”—present tense, not future.
If Clarke does run again, he’ll face a very stiff challenge in the Democratic primary (yes, Clarke is the living embodiment of a DINO: a Democrat In Name Only) from former Milwaukee Police Captain Earnell Lucas. Whatever he chooses, Clarke only faces bad options. We’ll be delighted to see him gone.
● GA-Gov: Rep. John Lewis, who may be the most prominent voice in Georgia Democratic politics, endorsed ex-state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams over fellow state Rep. Stacey Evans on Monday. Lewis joins fellow Atlanta-area Rep. Hank Johnson in Abrams’ corner, though ex-Gov. Roy Barnes is backing Evans.
● MD-Gov: Yet another Democrat is mulling a campaign against GOP Gov. Larry Hogan. Krishanti Vignarajah, who served as policy director to Michelle Obama, said on Saturday that she was considering, and would announce her plans sometime in September. Vignarajah is new to elected politics, though her Obama connections could help her fundraise.
Last week, another potential candidate made noises about challenging Hogan, but in the GOP primary. Anne Arundel County Council Chairman John Grasso says he is considering, but also is looking at running for the state Senate or for county executive. Democrats would love it if a primary foe forced Hogan to tack to the right in this very blue state, but Grasso’s beef with the governor isn’t exactly about ideology.
Instead, Grasso says he’s angry that Hogan reappointed the head of the Anne Arundel County liquor board. Grasso is a longtime critic of the board, which he argues is a wretched hive of corruption and incompetence. Back in May, Grasso even banned the board from meeting in the county council’s chambers and conference room.
● MN-Gov: On Monday, ex-Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey announced that he would run for governor. Before becoming chair, Downey served two terms in the state House representing part of the Twin Cities suburbs; Downey gave up his seat in 2012 to narrowly lose an expensive 2012 state Senate race.
In Minnesota, both major parties hold nominating conventions of activists prior to the primary, and many candidates will, in local parlance, “abide” by the party endorsement process and drop out instead of proceeding to the primary if they aren’t chosen. Downey says he will abide by the endorsement, but it’s unclear if his tenure heading the state GOP will be an asset or a liability here.
Downey argues that he helped cut the massive financial deficit he inherited, and he’s likely to take credit for the GOP flipping the state House and Senate under his watch. However, Downey has plenty of enemies within the party. State Rep. Kelly Fenton, who was Downey’s first deputy, bashed him on Twitter on Monday, declaring, “The only electoral wins Downey has been a part of are the ones where other people did his job for him.” Downey fired off a Trump-like response, arguing, “Bitter @kellyfentonmn: MNGOP Deputy Chair ’12, lost House & Senate. Horrible GOP brand. I won Chair, cut her pay, built MNGOP, won ’14 ’16.”
Downey also pissed off some party regulars during this spring’s race to succeed him as GOP chair. Downey sent out a letter arguing that Chris Fields, who was his most recent deputy chair, was utterly unqualified. Fields lost that race, but one congressional district chair publicly took Downey to task for his move. Downey joins state Rep. Matt Dean, Hennepin County Commissioner and 2014 nominee Jeff Johnson, and Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman in the race for the GOP nomination. A few other Republicans are considering, including state House Speaker Kurt Daudt.
● OK-Gov: Earlier this month, ex-state Rep. Dan Fisher set up a campaign committee for a possible run for the GOP nomination for this open seat race. Fisher has not yet committed to anything, but he has a rally planned for late August. Fisher served two terms in the state House and retired last year, arguing that the leadership wasn’t conservative enough. Fisher wasted little time arguing that his potential primary rivals weren’t true believers either.
● OR-Gov: GOP state Rep. Knute Buehler has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Democratic Gov. Kate Brown for a while, and on Friday, he said he’d decide in a few weeks. Buehler and Brown faced off back in 2012, when Brown was running for re-election as secretary of state. Buehler lost 51-43, running a bit ahead of Romney’s 54-42 deficit. Back in February, Buehler drew attention when he raised $100,000 in a week.
Brown became governor in early 2015 when incumbent John Kitzhaber resigned in the midst of an ethics scandal. Last fall, Brown won a special election for the final two years of Kitzhaber’s term 51-43, a little behind Clinton’s 50-39 victory in Oregon. The GOP doesn’t have a huge bench here, and the local media began characterizing Buehler as a likely candidate almost immediately after Election Day.
The only other notable Republican who has shown any interest in running is Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, though back in February he sounded far more likely to back Buehler. Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since Vic Atiyeh won a second term back in 1982, though Team Red came very close as recently as 2010.
● RI-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo recently vetoed a bill that would have extended municipal worker and teacher contracts indefinitely, and one state labor leader is quite pissed. Robert Walsh, the executive of the state branch of the National Education Association, told the Providence Journal that he’s trying to recruit a primary challenger. The paper said that Walsh named several prospects, though they didn’t publish any identifying details.
A few Democrats have made noises about launching a primary challenge over the last year. Back in February, termed-out Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said he was least a year away from starting “the thought process” on what to run for in 2018, if anything. In late December, ex-state police chief Brendan Doherty, who currently serves as director of special investigations for Blue Cross & Blue Shield, didn’t rule out a bid either. Neither Kilmartin nor Doherty, who lost a bid for RI-01 as a Republican in 2012, appear to have said anything about their plans in months.
Ex-Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican senator who was elected governor as an independent in 2010, joined Team Blue midway through his term, and retired in the face of horrible approval ratings, has been a lot more vocal about a possible bid against Raimondo. However, the unpredictable Chafee, who launched a hopeless presidential bid in 2015, may not exactly be the type of person Walsh has in mind.
● AZ-02, FL-27: Here at Daily Kos Elections, we’re serious sticklers when it comes to candidate announcements. So often you’ll read reports that, for instance, cite a “source close to” a particular candidate, but all too often, those sources don’t pan out. That’s why, whenever possible, we prefer to rely on the proverbial horse’s mouth: We want on-the-record quotes from candidates explicitly saying they’ll run. That’s the only way you can truly be sure who’s in and who’s out.
But even then, not always! Back in May, former Democratic state Rep. Bruce Wheeler declared that he’d run against GOP Rep. Martha McSally in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, and subsequent articles have described him as an active candidate. But if you search the FEC’s site, you won’t find him anywhere, and his Twitter bio still describes him (awkwardly) as “soon candidate.” Wheeler could have and should have spent the last two months fundraising, because in the meantime, the Democratic field has only grown.
Also in May, over in Florida’s 27th District, former Miami-Dade County school board member Raquel Regalado was just as emphatic in saying she’d enter the Republican primary for this competitive open seat. Indeed, Regalado went so far as to declare that she was “all in,” yet she, too, apparently has yet to file paperwork with the FEC. Her campaign websitecontains only a splash page that reads, “This is just the beginning.” That sure is right. Like Wheeler, Regalado is facing a crowded and expensive nomination battle.
Potential candidates often drag their feet for reasons that range from sensible to opaque to stupid, but it’s rare to see someone actually announce a bid then seemingly fail to take the most obvious and necessary steps to advance their cause. It happens, though, so these races serve as a good reminder that sometimes, even the horse’s mouth cannot be trusted.
● IL-06: Democrat Carole Cheney recently resigned as chief of staff to neighboring Rep. Bill Foster to challenge GOP incumbent Peter Roskam, and she unveiled an endorsement from her old boss on Monday. This affluent suburban Chicago seat flipped from 53-45 Romney all the way to 50-41 Clinton, but no one is under the illusion that Roskam will be easy to beat.
The latest quarterly fundraising reports also underscored how tough this contest will be for Team Blue. Roskam raised $833,000 from April to June, and he has $1.15 million on hand. Democrat Kelly Mazeski, a Barrington Hills Planning Commission member, took in $116,000 during this time, and self-funded another $93,000. Neither former Naperville school board member Suzyn Price nor attorney Amanda Howland, who was Team Blue’s 2016 nominee, raised much more than $50,000, even with self-funding factored in. Cheney did not enter the race until the quarter was over, and we’ll see if her connections to Foster help her stand out from the rest of the Democratic field in a district located in the expensive Chicago media market.
● IL-13: On Sunday, attorney Erik Jones joined the Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in this downstate Illinois seat. This is the first time Jones has run for office, but he was chief investigative counsel for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee from 2009 to 2013 and he spent the next two years as a policy director for state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, so he may have connections. This seat, which contains Champaign and Bloomington, went from a very narrow Romney win to 50-44 Trump.
● ME-02: Last week, Roll Call reported that the DCCC was speaking to three Maine Democrats about possible bids against GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague has since told the Bangor Daily News that he won’t run, but state Rep. Jared Golden says he’ll decide by the end of the summer. Golden, a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and the chamber’s assistant majority leader, served as a Senate Homeland Security Committee staffer under Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins before winning his Lewiston seat in 2014.
State Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, who badly lost the 2014 primary for this seat, didn’t quite say no to another try, but he came close. Jackson said he felt like his DCCC meeting was a “meat market,” and said that “state issues are closer to my heart.” Construction company owner Jonathan Fulford, a Democrat who lost two tight races to GOP state Senate President Mike Thibodeau in 2014 and 2016, is already running for this rural seat, which flipped from 53-44 Obama to 51-41 Trump.
● MO-02: Even though GOP Rep. Ann Wagner’s surprise decision not to run for the Senate means her House seat won’t be open next year, it appears that more than one noteworthy Democrat is nevertheless forging ahead with a challenge to the congresswoman. The latest is Afghanistan veteran Mark Osmack, who previously said he was considering a bid and has now filed paperwork to create a campaign committee with the FEC.
Osmack hasn’t made a formal announcement yet, but based on his recent tweeting, it sounds like he’s headed that way. Already in the Democratic primary is law professor Cort VanOstran. Wagner’s suburban St. Louis district went 53-42 for Trump, though, so Democrats would need as much luck as skill to pull off an upset here.
● NY-01: Democrat Elaine DiMasi, a physicist at the prestigious Brookhaven National Laboratory, had said back in April that she’d decide whether to challenge GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin by summer, and it sounds like she’s all but made up her mind. In a new piece in Politico, DeMasi reveals she’s taken a leave of absence from Brookhaven and says she intends to “burn through savings to support herself while campaigning for the rest of the year.” Usually you don’t do that kind of thing unless you’re serious.
Assuming she does follow through, DiMasi will have company in the Democratic primary, as former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher recently entered the race, and a couple of other candidates are considering as well. New York’s 1st District, which is based on the eastern end of Long Island, swung hard last year from 50-49 Obama to 54-42 Trump.
● TX-23: Former Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego, who was narrowly unseated by Republican Will Hurd in 2014, then lost a close comeback bid last year, said just a week ago that he had no timetable for announcing whether he’ll try again. Now, though, he says he’ll decide by Labor Day.
● 2Q Fundraising: Our coast-to-coast roundup of second-quarter House fundraising numbers is here! We have data for 280 candidates in 187 different districts, including top takeover targets, dark horse opportunities, and open seats. We also have a companion chart with figures for the Senate, too.
● Special Elections: We got a big one Tuesday. Johnny Longtorso fills us in:
New Hampshire SD-16: This is an open Democratic seat encompassing three wards of Manchester and four towns north of Manchester: Bow, Candia, Dunbarton, and Hooksett. The Democratic nominee is Manchester Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh, while the Republicans have nominated former State Sen. David Boutin, who represented this seat from 2010 until his retirement in 2016. Also on the ballot is Libertarian Party candidate Jason Dubrow, an engineer.
This is one of the most marginal seats you’ll find in the country: in 2016, it voted for Hillary Clinton by 100 votes, or a 0.3 percent margin, In 2014, Jeanne Shaheen topped Scott Brown by 22 votes, or a 0.1 percent margin. Mitt Romney’s 50-49 win here in 2012 seems like an absolute landslide in comparison.
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