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.
● CO-Gov: Somehow, Coloradans will need to make do without having a cosplaying rich guy as their governor. DaVita CEO Kent Thiry, whose company is the world’s second-largest kidney dialysis firm, announced on Monday that he would not seek the GOP nomination for this open seat. Thiry is known for some rather eccentric behavior: He makes his employees sing DaVita’s corporate song “hundreds” of times a year (it’s “terrible,” in the words of CBS MoneyWatch), and he regularly wears a “Three Musketeers” costume around the office. Apparently, he’s not the only one who likes to suit up: In a skit performed at an employee meeting some years ago, according to the New York Times, “a DaVita musketeer killed a federal bureaucrat.” Oh, the race we could have had!
It’s possible that Thiry’s absence will nevertheless have an impact on this race. The Denver Post‘s Mark Matthews writes that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman would likely have been chasing after the same moderate primary voters as Thiry, and that she may be more encouraged to run now. A number of Republicans are already running, and local political observers expect that state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a cousin of George and Jeb Bush, will join them. Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham, who lost the 2016 Senate primary 38-25, reportedly is also interested. As far as we know, neither Coffman, Stapleton, nor Graham have ever dressed up as Porthos during work hours, but American politics is nothing if not unpredictable.
● CA-Sen: A few months ago, ex-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sounded decidedly uninterested in a run for the Senate, but he didn’t quite say no. Schwarzenegger now seems to be shutting the door a bit more firmly. He recently told Politico that despite persistent rumors, he’s not interested. Schwarzenegger rhetorically asked, “Why would I run for Senate? To be one of 100 here? That’s not my style.” Styles can of course change, but yeah, Schwarzenegger’s doesn’t seem likely to.
● DE-Sen: Democratic Sen. Tom Carper hadn’t definitively made up his mind about whether he’d run for a fourth term, but he unambiguously told MSNBC on Monday, “I’m running for re-election.” (The relevant portion of the interview is at the 7:07 mark.) Carper, a former congressman and governor, is unlikely to face any credible primary or general election opposition.
So far, no senator from either party has announced retirement plans for 2018, and if no one voluntarily chooses to call it quits, we’ll have an historic election year on our hands. According to the University of Minnesota’s Eric Ostermeier, at least two senators have retired each cycle since senators began to be directly elected by voters following the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913.
● IN-Sen: Rep. Luke Messer has sounded likely to seek the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly for a while, and he’s even gotten into a nasty pre-primary battle with fellow Rep. Todd Rokita, another probable candidate. Messer has been pushing back his timetablefor a while, but he just told a local GOP gathering that on Aug. 12, at the site of his annual family barbecue, there will be “big announcements.”Messer maintains that he’s “genuinely undecided,” so who knows: Maybe he’s really announcing that he’s composed a new verse to “Sweet Home, Cedar Rapids.”
● MO-Sen: While influential state and national Republicans are pushing Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, Rep. Ann Wagner does not seem to be on board at all. Wagner had been fundraising for a likely Senate bid, but she instead announced earlier this month that she would seek re-election. However, state Rep. Marsha Haefner says that Wagner has encouraged her to run, and Haefner says she is considering.
Haefner, who said she would have run for Wagner’s suburban St. Louis seat if the Wagner had jumped into the Senate race, says she’ll meet with national Republicans about a bid. Haefner doesn’t sound like she’s willing to defer to Hawley at all, saying she “would hope that the Republican Party would support someone who is not a white male.” For its part, Wagner’s team only said the congresswoman has encouraged multiple people to run. State Rep. Paul Curtman has also formed an exploratory campaign, and he too is acting as though he’s unintimidated by Hawley, insisting that Hawley’s decision won’t affect his own.
● OH-Sen: GOP businessman Mike Gibbons has launched what his campaign describes as a “six-figure” TV and internet advertising campaignalmost a year ahead of the primary. Gibbons’ spot features a bunch of members of Congress drinking and smiling rather than repealing Obamacare or cutting taxes, as Gibbons rails that “career politicians have gone on vacation. Do you get the month of August off?” Gibbons says that unlike them, he has to stay at his business until any problems are fixed. The ad does not mention primary foe and 2012 nominee Josh Mandel, who is ostensibly also Ohio’s state treasurer.
● WI-Sen: So far, no notable Republicans have stepped up to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, though plenty are considering. Rich guy Eric Hovde, who narrowly lost the 2012 primary to ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson, said back in November that he’d decide in six to nine months. Eight months later, Hovde says he won’t make a decision until after his daughter goes off to college next month. Hovde, a real estate developer worth at least $50 million (and perhaps much more), only recently sent a letter to the FEC saying he’s finally closing down his 2012 account, but he insists this is not a sign he won’t run in 2018.
● GA-Gov: Back in November, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley was considering seeking the GOP nomination for governor, but there’s just been silence since then. However, the paper checked back in this week, and according to unnamed sources, Whitley is still thinking about getting in late. Whitley, though, also just joined the team defending Reality Winner, who is accused of leaking an NSA report about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. That’s… not something a lot of Trump-worshiping primary voters would exactly respond well to.
● OK-Gov: Earlier this month, businessman Kevin Stitt entered the GOP primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Mary Fallin. The Tulsa World writes that the company Stitt founded and runs, Gateway Mortgage Group, expects to originate more than $6 billion in mortgage loans this year, so he may well have some money to burn. Stitt himself says he’ll use his wealth to match all donations made before Sept. 30 of this year.
● IL-13: Democratic recruitment for the House has been going so gangbusters that it’s almost surprising when a notable candidate decides to take a pass on a race, but it’s inevitable that some will. It’s a little more surprising in the case of state Rep. Carol Ammons, who had appeared likely to challenge GOP Rep. Rodney Davis and had even formed an exploratory committee. But on Monday night, Ammons unexpectedly announced that she wouldn’t run for Congress, saying that she’s “needed most in state government.” Indeed, Ammons would have had to give up a safely blue seat in the legislature in order to pursue a bid for higher office. It’s also not clear whether D.C. Democrats had an interest in her potential candidacy.
But Davis isn’t off the hook. On the very same day that Ammons bowed out, Democrats landed a new candidate in attorney Erik Jones, who used to serve as investigative counsel for committees in both the House and Senate. Most recently, he worked in private practice at the law firm Venable alongside former Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor and former Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak. That’s the sort of background that might give Jones the kind of connections he needs to raise real money and run a strong campaign against Davis, a tough opponent.
Jones will, however, have to contend with a primary. Already in the race on the Democratic side are fundraising consultant Betsy Londrigan and perennial candidate (and 2012 nominee) David Gill.
● MN-01: On Tuesday, Olmsted County Republican Party chair Aaron Miller announced that he would not seek the GOP nomination for this open southern Minnesota seat. Miller had run here in 2014 but lost the primary to Jim Hagedorn, who is running for the third time. Last week, after news broke that Hagedorn and state Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan were dating, Miller acknowledged the story made him less likely to run. Miller added on Tuesday that while Hagedorn and Carnahan’s relationship wasn’t the ultimate reason he decided to stay out, it “didn’t help our decision.” So far, Hagedorn remains the only notable GOP candidate for this seat, which went from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump.
● NM-02: On Monday, former Las Cruces fire chief Adolf Zubia announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for this conservative open seat that Donald Trump won 50-40. Zubia served from 2001 to 2009 as the head of the fire department in Las Cruces, the 2nd district’s largest city, and he went on to become fire marshal for the state of South Carolina.
However, Zubia left that post after 15 months, saying that Republican Nikki Haley, the governor at the time, had sacked him after he angered the powerful state homebuilders association by trying to require sprinklers in every home. With Haley now serving as a Trump apparatchik, that’s the kind of pedigree that could endear Zubia to primary voters, and he’s one of several Democrats who are seeking this seat.
● NV-03, NV-04: On Tuesday, ex-GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy announced that he would not run for any office next year. Hardy, who represented the 4th District for one term until his defeat last year, reportedly was considering a bid for the neighboring 3rd District, and until now, he hadn’t ruled out a comeback in for the 4th, either.
● UT-03: With less than a month left before the Aug. 15 GOP primary, Gov. Gary Herbert has endorsed Provo Mayor John Curtis. At the end of June, Curtis had far more cash-on-hand than either of his two primary foes, ex-state Rep. Chris Herrod or Tanner Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge. Curtis led Herrod $218,000 to $78,000, while Ainge lagged at $44,000. So far, outside groups haven’t spent much here, though that could change as we enter the homestretch. The general election for this dark red seat is in November.
● Where Are They Now?: Five years ago, then-Rep. Pete Hoekstra’s infamously racist “Debbie Spend-It-Now” ad was enough to turn him into a pariah and helped render his campaign against Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow a moot point. Today, his bigotry fits perfectly in Donald Trump’s Republican Party, so it only makes sense that Trump would name Hoekstra as his ambassador to the Netherlands. Hoekstra was born in the country, and his family emigrated to Michigan, which has a large Dutch community, when he was a child.
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