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.
• Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections’ project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation reaches Florida, a swing state where the GOP enjoys huge majorities in both the state House and state Senate. You can find our master list of states here, which we’ll be updating as we add new data sets; you can also find all of our calculations from 2016 and past cycles here.
The GOP flipped the Florida state House in 1996 for the first time since Reconstruction, and they’ve held the chamber ever since. Last year, as Donald Trump was defeating Hillary Clinton by a narrow 49-48 margin statewide, Team Red won a 79-41 majority in the lower chamber. Trump carried 66 seats to Clinton’s 54, with Trump trading six Romney districts for seven Obama seats. The entire state House is up every two years, and state representatives are termed-out after four consecutive terms.
On paper, the 120-member House doesn’t look like it should be out of reach for Democrats. While Republicans drew the lines for both chambers of the legislature, they were somewhat constrained by the voter-approved Fair Districts Amendment, which prohibits map-makers from drawing seats to “favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.” In 2015, state courts ruled that the state Senate and congressional maps did violate this criteria, and judges drew up new boundaries (more on this in a bit) but left the state House alone.
The GOP-drawn state House map does still give the GOP an edge, but not a massive one. One way to illustrate this is to sort each seat in the House by Clinton’s margin of victory over Trump to see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because the House has an even number of seats, we average the two middle seats to come up with the median point in the chamber. Trump carried the median state House seat 50-46, 3 points to right of his statewide win. That means that, if Democrats want to take a majority, they’ll need to win some seats that Trump narrowly carried by about 4 points, a feasible task in a favorable electoral environment.
However, Republicans aren’t acting remotely concerned that they’ll lose the House after 22 years of control. In fact, one month ago, Team Red chose their speaker for the 2022-2024 term! One big reason why Republicans are so bullish is that crossover voting very much favors them in the Sunshine State, particularly enhancing their gerrymander in South Florida. Fourteen Republicans sit in Clinton House seats, while just one Democrat holds a Trump district. This includes the six Romney/Clinton seats.
One big obstacle for House Democrats is that, while Team Blue is getting stronger at the top of the ticket in the Miami area, voters still often favor Republicans down-ballot: Nine of the 14 Republicans in Clinton seats are from South Florida. The most ticket-splitting occurred in HD-103, which went from 55-45 Obama to 59-39 Clinton. However, Republican incumbent Manny Diaz, Jr. won his third term 53-47. Outside of South Florida, the bluest GOP-held seat is HD-47 in the Orlando area. This district went from a narrow 50-49 Obama win to 54-41 Clinton, but Republican Mike Miller won his second term 53-47; Miller is giving up his seat next year to challenge Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.
Four other Republicans represent seats that backed Clinton by at least a 10-point margin, while another four hold seats she won by at least five points. (One of these seats is vacant; Daily Kos Elections assigns open seats to the party that last won them.) The one Democrat in a Trump district is Larry Lee, Jr., who holds HD-84 in St. Lucie County. This seat went from 53-46 Obama to 50-48 Trump, but Lee won his third term without opposition. Just one Democrat holds a seat where Clinton’s margin of victory was less than 5 points. Patrick Henry won his first term 53-47, even as his Volusia County HD-26 went from 58-41 Obama to just 49-47 Clinton.
Democrats are hoping that disgust with Trump will give them an opening with voters who backed Clinton for president but supported Republicans down-ballot, and they’ll get a few chances to test this out in special elections later this year. Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz is running for an open state Senate seat (more on that below), and he’s announced that he will resign on Sept. 26. The special election for his HD-116 in Miami-Dade County will be that day, and this is a seat that dramatically swung from 55-45 Romney to 51-46 Clinton; Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon will face off with Republican Daniel Anthony Perez.
In October, there will be a special for HD-44 in the Orlando area to replace a Republican who resigned to take a judgeship. This seat went from 53-46 Romney to 51-45 Clinton, and the primaries will be held Aug. 15. In December, there will be a special to replace a departing Republican in the Tampa-area HD-58. This seat swung the other way, going from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Trump, and it’s much more of a reach.
We’ll turn now to the state Senate, where the court drew new boundaries for 2016 after the legislature failed to agree on a new map. Thanks to redistricting, the entire Senate was up in 2016: Half the members will be up again in 2018, while the other half won’t face voters again until 2020. Trump’s narrow statewide win gave him 21 of the 40 Senate seats; the median point in the Senate backed him 49-47, very close to his 49-48 statewide performance. Last year, the GOP won a 25-15 majority.
Just like in the House, ticket-splitting very much works in the GOP’s favor. Four Republicans hold Clinton seats, while no Democrats represent Trump turf. The bluest GOP seat is SD-40 in the Miami area, where Republican Frank Artiles unseated Democrat Dwight Bullard 51-41 even as Clinton was winning 58-40. However, Artiles resigned in April after a racist tirade, and there will be a Sept. 26 special election to succeed him. The Republican nominee is the aforementioned state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, while the Democrats are fielding Annette Taddeo.
Finally, we have a small housekeeping note. In calculating these results for Florida’s legislative districts, we were also able to make some small refinements to our presidential results for a few of the state’s congressional seats as well, all in the Miami area. The changes were all minor, though: The largest shift was in FL-24, which went from 82.99-15.29 Clinton to 82.88-15.39 Clinton.
• AL-Sen: Until now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allied Senate Leadership Fund had devoted all their ads to attacking Rep. Mo Brooks while ignoring ex-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. But with two weeks to go before the first round of the GOP primary, the SLF is up with their first spot aimed at Moore, who is the other major challenger to appointed Sen. Luther Strange. According to the Washington Examiner’s David M. Drucker, the buy is $435,000 and is avoiding the Huntsville media market, which is home to Brooks’ congressional district.
The spot starts out with a stupid pun, with the narrator insisting that there’s “so much more” to Roy Moore. It argues that Moore and his wife got rich from his job, and that they paid themselves over $1 million from a private charity they ran “and spending even more on travel, including a private jet.” There are several Moore puns: You’ve been warned.
Moore himself is up with another cheap ad that plays to his social conservative base. Moore claims that “the same Washington insiders who don’t like President Trump are trying to stop our campaign.” Moore goes on to say that they “call us ‘warmongers’, for wanting to rebuild the military, ‘racists’, for securing our borders, ‘bigots’, for recognizing the sanctity of marriage. And they call us ‘foolish,’ for believing in God.” (We’re very sure that Mitch McConnell has never thought any of those things.) Moore concludes, “They’re afraid I’m going to take our Alabama values to Washington. I can’t wait.”
• IN-Sen: State Rep. Mike Braun has been flirting with joining the GOP primary to face Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly for a while, and he’s told WIBC that he’s putting a campaign together and will announce next week or so. Braun had a long business career before he won office in 2014, including a decades-long stint as owner of the distribution company Meyer Distributing, which has locations in 34 states. If Braun has some money to burn or useful connections, it will go a long way towards helping him get his name out during what will likely be an expensive primary fight between Rep. Luke Messer, who entered the race last week, and likely candidate and fellow Rep. Todd Rokita.
• MO-Sen: State and national Republicans, including Mike Pence, have been encouraging Attorney General Josh Hawley to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and they got some good news on Wednesday. While Hawley has not announced he’s in, his team has confirmed that he’s forming an exploratory committee.
• OK-Gov: Campaign finance reports covering the first six months of 2017 are now in, and there’s one very clear money leader. On the GOP side, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb raised $1 million since he entered the race in April, and he transferred another $1 million from his lieutenant governor account. At the end of June, Lamb had $1.9 million in the bank. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who jumped in one month before the reporting deadline, raised $181,000, and had $178,000 in the bank.
Wealthy attorney Gary Richardson, who got 14 percent as an independent in 2002, brought in just $186,000, and that was almost all from his wallet; Richardson had less than $6,000 on-hand last month. State Auditor Gary Jones only brought in $23,000 and had about that amount in the bank. Jones insisted that he’s been “been working on my job,” though he did find the time to indulge in some Loser Speak. Jones declared that his goal was to “not travel around the state and spend all my time gathering up campaign contributions,” arguing, “As we’ve seen, money doesn’t always win it.” It’s certainly true that the candidate who brings in the most money doesn’t always win, but the candidate who refuses to raise cash does almost always lose. Since late June, ex-state Rep. Dan Fisher and mortgage banker Kevin Stitt have filed.
On the Democratic side, ex-state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who narrowly lost the 2010 primary, entered the race in early May, and he raised $300,000 in that time. State House Minority Leader Scott Inman, who had a few weeks head start over Edmondson, brought in $100,000, though that includes money transferred from his legislative campaign account. At the end of June, Edmondson held a $257,000 to $67,000 cash-on-hand edge.
• TN-Gov: On Wednesday, GOP Rep. Diane Black kicked off her long-expected bid to succeed termed-out Republican Bill Haslam as governor of Tennessee. While Black is entering the primary relatively late, she shouldn’t have much trouble playing catch-up. Black, who rose to become chair of the powerful House Budget Committee, is very well-connected, and she should have little trouble raising money. Black is also one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and she can self-fund as needed. Black, who represents a seat that stretches west from rural Middle Tennessee to Nashville’s eastern suburbs, should also start with more name-recognition than her opponents.
However, Black is far from a shoe-in. Two wealthy businessmen, former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and ex-Higher Education Commission member Bill Lee, are both competing here, and they’ve each done some self-funding already. State House Speaker Beth Harwell recently jumped in, and she already had $1 million stockpiled at the beginning of the year. State Sen. Mae Beavers is also in, but her fundraising has been weak so far.
It’s also worth noting that Beavers, Black, Harwell, and Lee all hail from Middle Tennessee, while Boyd has the East Tennessee corner to himself. There’s no primary runoff, so if this race breaks along geographic lines, Boyd could have a huge edge. Black was the last major potential GOP candidate who had expressed interest in running this year, so the primary field may be set.
• MD-06: The Democratic primary for Maryland’s open 6th District doubled on Wednesday, when wealthy businessman David Trone and state Sen. Roger Manno each announced that they would run. State Del. Aruna Miller and state House Majority Leader Bill Frick had been raising money for months while incumbent John Delaney flirted with leaving the House to run for another office, and they both jumped in days after Delaney announced he was retiring to run for president. Clinton carried this seat, which includes a large portion of suburban D.C.’s Montgomery County, 55-40.
Last year, Trone ran for the neighboring 8th District and lost the primary 34-27 to then-state Sen. Jamie Raskin, who won in November. However, Trone’s campaign was anything but uneventful. Trone, who co-founded the liquor store chain Total Wine & More, spent more than $13 million of his own money, making him the top-self funder in a House race even adjusting for inflation. Trone’s bid for the 8th began with him defending the $150,000 he has donated to Republican candidates over the years, with Trone declaring that, while he disagrees with those Republicans “on everything social and economic,” “I sign my checks to buy access.”
Trone ran ad after ad during his four months in the race, and while most of his commercials were pretty typical candidate-stuff, we’ll always remember one truly bizarre spot that just featured him talking about his dogs. The 6th District and the 8th are both mostly located in the D.C. media market, so primary voters here got to see the full onslaught of Trone’s ads last year even though they couldn’t vote for him at the time.
• NM-02: Hellooo, Newman. We can toss another name on the pile for New Mexico’s open 2nd District: According to local reporter Joe Monahan, former state GOP chair Monty Newman is “poised to join the race.” Newman is a former mayor of the city of Hobbs (population 34,000), and he also ran here once before, finishing second in the Republican primary the last time this seat was open back in 2008. Monahan notes that Newman, who’s in the real estate business, had big support from the deep-pocketed National Association of Realtors for that bid. If the Realtors show up again, they could be a big help for Newman, though they weren’t enough to put him over the top last time.
• NV-03: A few weeks ago, Roll Call reported that Lynda Tache, the president and founder of Grant a Gift Autism Foundation, was interested in seeking the GOP nomination for this open swing seat. Tache recently sent paperwork to the FEC to allow her to raise money, though she has yet to publicly express interest in a bid.
• NY-11: This Staten Island-based seat swung hard from 52-47 Obama to 54-44 Trump, and GOP Rep. Dan Donovan doesn’t look like he’ll be a major target next year. However, Democrats got an interesting candidate this week, when Army veteran Max Rose, who earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in Afghanistan, jumped in. Rose currently serves as the chief of staff to a local healthcare non-profit. Over the past few years, Democrats have had a tough time landing a candidate who hails from the Staten Island portion of the district rather than the Brooklyn part. Rose himself is originally from Brooklyn, though he’s lived in Staten Island for the past few years.
A few other Democrats, including retired professional boxer Boyd Melson, are seeking this seat, but none of them have raised much money. Donovan himself had $300,000 in the bank at the end of June, not a massive amount for a seat in the ultra-expensive New York City media market. However, Democrats are going to need a lot to go right next year if they want to run a serious campaign against Donovan, a former Staten Island district attorney.
It doesn’t help things that New York’s 11th District may be exactly the type of place where Trump may remain popular no matter what. As we’ve noted before, Staten Islanders are notorious for embracing the exact kind of resentment-fueled politics that’s Trump’s stock-in-trade. In 2014, Republican Rep. Michael Grimm defeated his Brooklyn-based Democratic opponent 55-42 despite being under indictment on tax-evasion charges.
Plenty of Staten Islanders believed Grimm when he said that the government was out to get him, and Grimm built a distinct cult of personality by stoking this resentment. Grimm went to jail a few months later, but Donovan won the ensuing special election without much trouble. If Democrats are targeting seats like this next year, that will be a great sign for Team Blue’s chances, but that’s a huge if.
• PA-01: Last week, we learned that federal prosecutors had reached a plea agreement on fraud charges with a woman named Carolyn Cavaness, a staffer for a one-time primary opponent of Democratic Rep. Bob Brady. Cavaness admitted to helping illegally funnel $90,000 from Brady’s campaign to her boss, retired local judge Jimmie Moore, in order to get Moore to drop his 2012 challenge to Brady. It’s only reasonable to conclude that prosecutors will now set their sights higher up the food chain.
And the shark at the top of that ecosystem is, of course, Brady himself, who has dominated Philadelphia politics for decades but suddenly looks very vulnerable. While we don’t know what legal issues Brady might or might not face, the time is now ripe for someone to give him a real challenge—one that can’t and won’t be bought off—and one person has already stepped forward as a possible contender: nonprofit director Omar Woodard.
Woodard says he’s “considering” running against Brady in next year’s Democratic primary, which is the only race that matters in this dark blue district. (Hillary Clinton won it 80-18). And while Brady successfully made his own seat whiter during the last round of redistricting, it’s still majority-minority: Whites are a 40 percent plurality, but African-Americans constitute 35 percent of the district’s population while Hispanics make up 16 percent.
Those demographics, combined with Brady’s legal woes, could create an opening for someone like Woodard, who is black and was the subject of a glowing profile in Philly Voice last year that bore the headline, “The guy many wish would run for public office in Philadelphia.” Part of Woodard’s appeal is that he’s well-connected, despite being just 33, having worked for the Obama campaign, a prominent local state senator, and now a nonprofit venture capital firm that aims to reduce poverty. He also has quite the personal story, as both of his parents were in prison for many years during his childhood.
Last cycle, Woodard contemplated a bid for an open state Senate seat but ultimately declined, as the son of a former Philadelphia mayor wound up locking up support from what Woodard termed the “Democratic machine.” If he were to take on Brady, though, he’d be going up against that same machine. There’s not much left of it, though, and if he manages to run for another term, Brady’s grip would be as weak as it’s ever been.
• TN-06: GOP Rep. Diane Black’s decision to run for governor of Tennessee opens up her 6th District, which backed Trump by a brutal 73-24 margin. This seat includes Nashville’s eastern suburbs and takes up several rural communities in Middle Tennessee. Black’s departure has been expected for months, so prospective Republican candidates have had a while to consider this race.
Last month, state Rep. Judd Matheny announced that he would seek the GOP nomination regardless of what Black did. Matheny became speaker pro tempore in 2011, but lost the post after he mulled challenging Speaker Beth Harwell. Two years later, Matheny drove his car into a flower shop, though he luckily injured no one; Matheny said that his dog had jumped into the front seat, and Matheny tried to brake but mistakenly instead hit the gas.
There are plenty of other Republicans who could run here. In mid-June, state Rep. William Lamberth said he was considering, while fellow state Rep. Ryan Williams didn’t rule anything out. Scottie Nell Hughes, who has made a name for herself as a pro-Trump CNN pundit, also expressed interest in June. Just after Black made her announcement, businessman John Rose said he would decide soon. Rose served as the appointed agriculture commissioner in 2002, and Roll Call says he could self-fund. Roll Call also name-dropped Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who also holds an appointed position, though it’s not clear if he’s interested.
The Tennessean also mentioned state Sen. Mark Green as a potential candidate, though he hasn’t said if he’s interested either. All of Green’s Senate seat is in the 7th District, where GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn is running for re-election. However, Green may have the connections to make up for his weaker ties to the 6th. Green dropped out of the governor’s race this year after Trump picked him as secretary of the Army. Green’s long history of disparaging remarks about Muslims and LGBT people derailed his nomination, but that’s unlikely to be much of a liability in a Tennessee GOP primary.
Some wealthy state Republicans reportedly want Green to challenge Republican Sen. Bob Corker in the primary, something Green seems to be leaning against doing. However, after Green decided not to return to the governor’s race in June, he put out a statement declaring that “[s]everal options exist in the near future to do this and I will continue discussions with people around the state and Washington as I find the best path of service,” so he could be interested in federal office.
• TX-23: On Wednesday, former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones became the first notable Democrat to join the race against GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who represents the only bona fide swing seat in all of Texas. Jones, an Iraq veteran, most recently worked in the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, D.C. until deciding to return home to San Antonio to run for office. The Texas Tribune describes her as a “major challenger,” though we don’t know whether she has the sort of connections necessary to run a strong race.
• WA State Senate: Rarely has a state Senate race ever seen as much attention and money as the special election in Washington’s 45th Senate district, but the circumstances are unusual: it determines control of the Senate chamber, and with it, control of the governing trifecta in Washington, where there is already a Democratic governor and state House. The Senate currently has 24 Republicans plus one Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, to 24 Democrats (with one of those Republicans being an appointee in the 45th, appointed after GOP state Sen. Andy Hill’s death, who will step down in November).
With only one Democrat and one Republican running, Tuesday night’s primary election was only a dry run for the main event in November. However, in one-on-one races, the primary has traditionally been pretty predictive of where things end up in November, and the primary result was good news for Team Blue.Democrat Manka Dhingra, an attorney with the King County prosecutor’s office, finished ahead of Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund, a former staffer to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, by a 51-42 margin. The remaining 7 percent went to centrist-sounding independent candidate Parker Harris. It’s a promising result in this well-educated wealthy suburban district, which voted 65-28 Clinton and 58-40 Obama but is still prone to supporting moderate Republicans for the legislature.
• Cleveland, OH Mayor: Mayor Frank Jackson is seeking an unprecedented fourth term this year, and several fellow Democrats are challenging him in this non-partisan race. However, fundraising isn’t proving to be much of a problem for the incumbent. Jackson took in $559,000 for the first six months of 2017, well ahead of Councilor Zack Reed’s $57,000 haul. Councilor Jeff Johnson was just behind at $55,000, while state Rep. Bill Patmon did not file a report. Jackson also earned an endorsement from Rep. Marcia Fudge, who represents much of Cleveland in Congress. All the candidates will face off in the non-partisan primary in September, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
• Seattle, WA Mayor: Washington’s leisurely counting of its vote-by-mail ballots and a pile-up of 21 candidates in Seattle’s mayoral race (after an open seat materialized at the last minute with incumbent mayor Ed Murray’s dropout) always made it likely that we wouldn’t know right away who was advancing from the top-two primary to the November general election. One thing we can say for sure, though, is that Seattle is on track to have its first female mayor since Bertha Knight Landes, who served from 1926 to 1928; the first, second, third, and fourth finishers in the primary are all women.
Easily advancing to the next round is ex-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, with 32 percent of the vote. More surprising is the second place finisher, Cary Moon at 16 percent, a progressive urban planner who has never run for office before, but is a familiar face in the local news for her advocacy for various public infrastructure projects. Moon didn’t seem to have one particular “lane” in the race, but she did raise the second most money of any candidate after Durkan (though that sum was partly self-funded), and she got a lot of last-minute momentum from a strong debate performance and an endorsement from alt-weekly The Stranger.
Moon advancing isn’t a sure thing, though, because another first-time candidate, lefty attorney Nikkita Oliver, is close behind at 14 percent (currently about 1,500 votes behind Moon, with only one-fifth of the ballots counted). Oliver’s base is with young voters, and Seattle poll watchers know from previous races that younger voters tend to wait until the last minute to turn in their ballots, meaning the left-most candidate typically makes a late surge as the ballots are gradually counted day-by-day. Regardless of whether her opponent ends up being Moon or Oliver, though, the more conventionally center-left Durkan looks to start in the stronger position heading into November.
Following behind Oliver are ex-state Rep. Jessyn Farrell at 12 percent and state Sen. Bob Hasegawa at 9 percent (both of whom were hampered by not being able to raise funds while the legislature was in special session). Finally, ex-Mayor Mike McGinn’s comeback bid was a total dud, with Oliver and Hasegawa vacuuming up most of his former base, leaving him finishing in sixth place at 7 percent.
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