Kris Kobach isn’t getting out of the way for Sam Brownback’s successor

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.

Leading Off

• KS-Gov: As far back as March, there’ve been reports that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback would bail on his home state of Kansas before his term expires in early 2019 for a Trump administration position. On Wednesday, those reports came to fruition when the State Department announced that Trump had nominated Brownback to serve as his “ambassador for religious freedom.” It’s not the most prestigious job, shall we say, but the incredibly unpopular governor is probably just happy to get out of Dodge. The Senate will need to confirm Brownback, however, so Kansas is stuck with him for at least a while longer.

Assuming the Senate (where Brownback served before his disastrous governorship) signs off, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer would take over as governor. Colyer, a close Brownback ally, has not announced if he’ll run for governor next year, but he seems to be leaning in that direction. Colyer, who made a fortune as a plastic surgeon, was Brownback’s running mate during both his campaigns. But while his personal wealth could boost his future prospects, it’s also caused him some trouble. In early 2015, for reasons that were never clear, a grand jury began looking into three loans made to the Brownback-Colyer campaign that added up to $1.5 million. Prosecutors announced that there would be no charges a few months later, but it’s possible this matter could come up again.

A number of other Republicans had already entered the race to succeed Brownback before the ambassadorship news, even though they’ve known for months that they could wind up facing a Gov. Colyer. The most prominent declared candidate is Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is spearheading Trump’s infamous “Election Integrity Commission,” and he doesn’t seem at all inclined to defer to Colyer. Just after Brownback’s nomination was announced, Kobach told the New York Times that while Colyer is “a good guy,” he doesn’t think his likely promotion “fundamentally changes the dynamic of the 2018 race regardless.”

And while Kansas is a very conservative state, Democrats may nevertheless have an opening here. Brownback’s reactionary tax cuts—which the Republican-led legislature just repealed over his veto—have done lasting damage to the state budget and have left Brownback as one of the most unpopular governors in the nation. If Colyer takes over the reins and makes it to the general election, his biggest challenge will be to establish an identity independent of the man he’s about to succeed. And if Kansans are still disgusted with the status quo, Colyer may have a very tough time convincing voters that he’s not just a continuation of Brownback’s tenure.


• MI-Sen: Singer-songwriter Robert Ritchie (aka Kid Rock) insists he’s serious about a possible bid against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and says he’ll hold a press conference “in the next 6 weeks or so” to “address this issue amongst others.” In the meantime, the vocal Trump supporter says he plans to launch a non-profit to register voters, including at his concerts.

• WV-Sen: In case there was any doubt, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin confirmed that he would seek re-election this week.


• GA-Gov: While state House Speaker David Ralston made some noise about entering the GOP primary back in March, he’s since then sounded very unlikely to run. Unsurprisingly, Ralston confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that he would stay out of the race.

• IA-Gov, IL-Gov: It’s generic ballot day for Midwestern gubernatorial races! We seldom spend a lot of time delving into generic ballot polling (for reasons we’ve detailed in the past), but data’s been scant, so we’ll take what we can get for now. A good piece of news for Democrats comes in Illinois, where zillionaire Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner just got his butt handed to him in an epic budget showdown with the legislature. There, a Normington Petts survey for the DGA finds Rauner trailing an unnamed Democratic opponent 49-37, with a brutal 34-63 job approval rating.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, newly elevated Gov. Kim Reynolds, who became the state’s chief executive after fellow Republican Terry Branstad was confirmed as Trump’s ambassador to China, has a 44-39 edge versus a generic Democrat in a month-old survey—neither great nor awful. This poll, conducted by 20-20 Insight, wasn’t commissioned with the governor’s race in mind, though. Rather, it was taken for Democrat Jim Mowrer, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in both 2014 and 2016 and is considering a bid for secretary of state. In that contest, he leads GOP incumbent Paul Pate 38-33, but it’s still very early.

In both states, the Democratic field of candidates remains very unsettled, and it’s even possible Reynolds won’t be her party’s nominee next year as she faces a challenge, too. So that’s a good reminder that the kinds of numbers you see in these polls will likely change once we substitute an actual Democrat for a hypothetical one.


• CA-48, CO-06: In a paywalled piece at Politico, Scott Bland observes that the DCCC has steered clear of directly endorsing in House primaries so far this year, seemingly content to let the huge influx of Democratic candidates sort itself out on its own. However, notes Bland, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who chairs the committee, has made donations to half a dozen challengers via his personal PAC, and in a couple of cases, these recipients’ races feature contested primaries. Of course, we can’t know if Lujan’s support actually foretells future D-Trip involvement—it may just be that both of these races will play without with any D.C.-directed effort to pick winners—but for now, here’s what we know.

One beneficiary of Lujan’s largesse is biologist Hans Keirstead, who is running against GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th District—as are at least three other notable Democrats. The roster includes businessman Harley Rouda, architect Laura Oatman, and Nestlé executive Michael Kotick. Keirstead, Rouda, and Oatman all raised between $103,000 and $133,000 in the second quarter of the year, while Kotick only entered the race recently, so there’s no obvious frontrunner. This is a district where Democrats will want to consolidate behind one standard-bearer, though, lest they risk getting locked out of the general electionthanks to California’s top-two primary and the presence of a second, self-funding Republican candidate.

The other person facing a competitive primary who’s earned Lujan’s seal of approval is attorney and Army veteran Jason Crow in Colorado’s 6th District. Crow far outraised the only other Democrat who announced before the end of the quarter, attorney Dave Aarestad, but former Department of Energy official Levi Tillemann joined the race late last month, while state Sen. Rhonda Fields has reportedly spoken to EMILY’s List about a bid. For their part, Republicans have been treating Crow like the leading contender: GOP Rep. Mike Coffman has repeatedly tried to troll Crow and his supporters, to little avail.

• IN-06: With GOP Rep. Luke Messer finally kicking off his long-expected bid for Senate, the race for his southeastern Indiana congressional seat is now getting underway. The first candidate to announce is state Sen. Mike Crider, who joined the Republican primary on Thursday. The biggest name we’re waiting to hear from, though, belongs to Greg Pence, brother of Mike, who has not ruled out a bid. The 6th District voted for Trump by a punishing 68-27 margin, so all the action here will be on the GOP side.

• IN-09: This week, Indiana University professor Liz Watson, who served as a senior Democratic staffer on the U.S. House’s Committee on Education and the Workforce, entered the race to face GOP Rep. Trey Hollingsworth. This southern Indiana seat backed Trump 61-34, though the carpetbagging Hollingsworth won his first term by a considerably smaller, but still not close, 54-40 margin.

• NJ-11: Democrat Al Anthony, a town councilor in Livingston (population: 27,000) is the latest Democrat to express interest in challenging longtime GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. However, unnamed sources tell Insider NJ that Anthony won’t run if Assemblyman John McKeon does.

Grab Bag

• Statehouse ActionThis Week In Statehouse Action: Bills’ and Laws’ Excellent Adventures edition features a landmark Democratic win in New Hampshire, a redistricting blast from the past in Wisconsin, bathroom bill flashbacks, bad time travel jokes, and more!

Don’t want to miss a minute of the statehouse action while you’re on your adventures, temporal or otherwise? Sign up here to have This Week In Statehouse Action delivered in a timely fashion to your inbox each Thursday afternoon!


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The opening shot has been fired ~ Jamie Williams, The Wilderness Society

Donate Now

No president has ever acted to rescind a national monument. I never thought it could happen.

But the recent interim recommendation to revoke large swaths of Bears Ears National Monument shows us anything is possible. Millions of acres of public lands could be taken away from us, and from our children and grandchildren, if we don’t fight back now.

Donate Now

On August 24, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will announce the Trump Administration’s plan for 27 of our national monuments. There’s ample reason for concern.

For the first time in history, they could act to rescind a national monument. Or they could recommend the loss of millions more acres of public lands by shrinking existing monuments.

Whatever they do, WE have to be ready. I’m asking for your most generous donation so we can:

  • Continue our public mobilization in defense of public lands
  • Defend the Antiquities Act
  • Prepare for legal action if necessary

The Trump Administration has fired their opening shot. You can be sure, it won’t be their last attack on our public lands. The question is, will you help defend these national treasures for future generations, and for wildlife to thrive?

I will. And I’m hoping you will, too. Please make your most generous donation now.

The Trump-Zinke move to shrink Bears Ears National Monument must be a call to action! Don’t let them take what’s yours. It’s time to fight back. Are you with us?


Jamie Williams
President, The Wilderness Society

What’s Trending … at The Progress Report

“Generous.” That’s what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called Trump’s decision to donate his second-quarter salary—a total of $100,000—to the Department of Education. DeVos left out the fact that before donating that $100,000, Trump included a $9.2 billion cut to the department in his budget.

Stolen Guns. A gun is stolen every two minutes in the United States. And these stolen guns often enable violent crime, like the recent killing of NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia. Congress can do something about it. The question is whether or not they will.

Bipartisanship. May not be trending at the federal level, but the states are stepping up. A bipartisan group of governors released a letter slamming the Senate’s “skinny” repeal bill and echoing Sen. McCain (R-AZ)’s call for the Senate to return to regular order.
Discrimination. The Trump administration is attacking the LGBTQ communityfrom all sides. Yesterday, just hours after Trump’s tweets calling to ban transgender people from the military, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief saying that the Trump Administration doesn’t believe that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits anti-LGB employment discrimination. The DOJ doesn’t normally weigh in on private employment lawsuits like this – so Trump and Sessions are going out of their way to support workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people. Their position is way out of step with the EEOC, other federal courts, legal scholars, and Americans of all political affiliations who strongly support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.
Protect Trans Troops. Make your voice heard: send a letter to Trump telling him to protect trans troops.


They let Philando’s killer walk free. Now they’re going after his innocent cousin

The killer cop who murdered Philando Castile won’t serve any jail time and was just paid $48K severance. Yet Philando’s cousin is facing 10 years in prison simply because he attended a protest last year, will you sign the petition to have the charges dropped and read his story below?

–Arisha, and the rest of the Color Of Change team


First, they let Philando’s killer walk free. Now they’re going after his innocent cousin for attending a protest.

Louis Hunter doesn’t deserve to spend 10 years in jail. 

Tell the Ramsey County & Carver County DAs: Drop the charges.



My name is Louis Hunter, and I could be the only person to serve jail time as a result of my cousin Philando Castile’s murder–while former officer, Jeronimo Yanez, walks free with a $48K severance check in his pocket.1

I am a loving father of four, a landscaper, and an active member of United Church of God in Christ. Last year, I attended the I-94 protest to stand against police violence and demand justice for Philando. And, like many that night, I chose to leave of my own accord rather than risk arrest. I never threw anything at the riot police; I would never do that. That’s not me. But to my surprise, the next day, cops surrounded my truck and arrested me on felony riot charges, making claims about things that I never did. They impounded my truck, leaving me unable to work as a landscaper. And my family and I were evicted from our home, five days after the arrest.2

Prosecutors let my cousin’s murderer go free, but are pursuing these harsh and cruel charges against me without any evidence. All I did was attend a protest. Clearly, these charges are an attempt to silence and punish dissent in response to a profound injustice. My case goes to trial on September 25th, and we don’t have much time to get the charges dropped. I’m asking you, please, will you stand in solidarity with me?

Tell the Ramsey and Carver County Attorney offices: Drop the charges against Louis Hunter. A 10-year prison sentence for protest is not justice for Philando.

The cops’ story has changed about three times since they arrested me. First, they said I threw a molotov cocktail. But when the evidence didn’t support their lie, they switched their claim and said I wielded a board against police officers. When they weren’t able to find evidence for that, they resorted to just alleging “riotous behavior.”

The media isn’t even mentioning the hardship my family faces merely because I attended a protest. Philando is gone, without justice. And I could be gone too–on a 10-year bid–for being in the right place at the wrong time, just like my cousin.

The prosecutor recently offered me a deal: plead guilty to gross misdemeanor riot, to be sentenced as a misdemeanor, including jail time. They thought it was a “generous offer,” but I refuse to plead guilty to something I didn’t do. They made that offer because their case is weak. I can’t agree to a charge that will set back everything I’ve worked for in my life: my business, a good place to live, providing for my family.

That’s why we need to pressure the prosecutor to drop these charges before it’s too late.

I didn’t do anything but stand up for justice. I don’t deserve to go to prison, while Philando’s murderer walks free.

Sign the petition.

Thank you for your support and solidarity,

— Louis Hunter, and the Color Of Change team.


1. “Cop who killed Philando Castile to be paid $48,500 in buyout,” USAToday, 07-10-2017

2. “Support Louis Hunter,”, 07-27-2017

Trump’s wrong… again ~ Rewan Al-Haddad – Avaaz

Trump just banned transgender people from serving in the military. But he’s notorious for changing his mind, and if we create a massive outcry from Americans everywhere, we might be able to reverse this terrible decision. Avaaz will work with influential individuals and groups to make this huge. Add your name to the open letter and share this widely!


Dear friends,

Donald Trump’s latest shameful decision, announced on Twitter: transgender people won’t be allowed to serve in the military. 

Why? He cites medical costs — but he’s just completely wrong. Medical costs for trans people are just — wait for it — 0.000001% of the military’s budget! Viagra costs the military 10x more than that. Viagra! It’s almost as if he pulled any reason whatsoever out of a hat before tweeting…

But Trump is notorious for changing his mind. Sign on now, and Avaaz will pull out all the stops to get Republicans, LGBT groups, military people, celebrities, conservatives and other influential figures onboard with us — together we could still change his mind:


To President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis, 

As an American, I strongly urge you to allow transgender people to join the US military. Thousands of transgender people are eager to serve their country in this capacity, and we should proudly let them do so. We sincerely hope you will reconsider your decision. 




This administration can make us feel hopeless. But our power is in our numbers, and as long as we keep fighting together, eventually we will win. The worst thing we can do is give up.

With hope,

Rewan, Nataliya, Andrew, Sarah, Danny and the entire Avaaz team

More information:
Trump to reinstate US military ban on transgender people (CNN)

Transgender Navy SEAL hero: ‘Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy’ (Yahoo)

This is Not considered “American Values” !