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.
• GA-Gov: Former President Jimmy Carter, Georgia’s native son, recently weighed in on next year’s Democratic primary contest for governor by informally throwing his backing to former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Although Carter didn’t exactly use the phrase “endorse,” he introduced Abrams at a charitable fundraiser by saying “she’s going to be—possibly, and hopefully for me—our next governor of Georgia.” As we’ve said before, if you say you hope someone wins an election, that’s an endorsement even if you don’t use the E-word. Abrams faces fellow state Rep. Stacey Evans in the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, the GOP primary apparently wasn’t crowded enough already. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Clay Tippins, a retired Navy SEAL and an executive at the global consulting firm Capgemini, is considering jumping in. Tippins has not said anything publicly, but a source close to him tells the paper that he’s expected to decide in the next few weeks. The AJC’s Greg Bluestein notes that it’s unclear if Tippins is able or willing to do significant self-funding. Tippins does have at least one political connection, though: His uncle is state Sen. Lindsey Tippins.
• AL-Sen: On behalf of local Fox affiliate Fox 10, Strategy Research has another poll of both parties’ primaries ahead of next Tuesday’s Senate special election. On the Republican side, this survey has Roy Moore leading with 35 percent, Luther Strange at 29 percent, and Mo Brooks way back at 19 percent, which would lead to Moore and Strange facing each other in a September runoff.
Last week, Strategy Research released a survey that showed Strange edging Moore 35-33, while Brooks was at 16 percent. These numbers fit a general trend whereby Brooks has been struggling in third place and trying to avoid elimination, while Moore’s steadfast base of religious conservatives helps him attain a plurality but not enough support to win outright without a runoff.
With little time to spare until the GOP primary, Strange is out with a new ad where the senator speaks straight to camera to highlight Trump’s recent endorsement of his campaign. Strange features the Trump endorsement tweet itself and also once again emphasizes his support from key Republican-oriented groups like the NRA.
Alabama is an extremely tough state for Democrats at the federal level, but Team Blue does have at least one serious contender in the event that the stars align. However, Strategic Research finds former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones losing by 40-30 against Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a completely unheralded candidate who just happens to share a name with the late Sen. Bobby Kennedy despite no relation to the Kennedy dynasty. Fortunately for Jones, several other candidates combined for roughly 29 percent of the vote in this poll, which would mean Kennedy wouldn’t win the nomination without a September runoff. Strategy Research’s last poll gave Kennedy a wider 49-28 lead, but if this new poll is right and this goes to a runoff, Jones will need to work to introduce himself to enough voters to prevent the primary electorate from simply nominating the familiar name.
• IN-Sen: Back in June, state Attorney General Curtis Hill refused to rule out joining the Republican primary for next year’s Senate race despite having only won his first term in 2016. Hill reaffirmed that stance at a news conference on Wednesday, telling the attendees to “stay tuned” for his next move. Since we last heard from Hill, Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer have both jumped into the GOP primary, so it’s notable that the attorney general is still looking at the race to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
However, state Sen. Mike Delph, a conservative hardliner, endorsed Rokitarather than run himself. Delph had previously considered running for Senate in 2012 and 2016 but deferred to other candidates in both of those contests, ostensibly to avoid splitting the vote on the hard right.
• AL-Gov: Alabama’s powerful state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican, had previously not ruled out a run for governor next year, but those plans grew complicated after newly elevated GOP Gov. Kay Ivey succeeded disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley following the latter’s resignation earlier this year. Consequently, Marsh announced on Wednesday that he would instead seek re-election to the state Senate. Several other prominent Republicans are already challenging Ivey in the primary, however, and the incumbent still has yet to decide whether to seek a full term.
• CO-Gov: Wealthy former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham confirmed on Wednesday that he is giving serious consideration to seeking the GOP nod, with a decision coming by September. Graham ran for Senate last year and came in second place in the primary with 25 percent to 37 percent for conservative firebrand Darryl Glenn, who went on to lose to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last fall.
In a recent interview, Graham described himself thusly:
“I’m a socially progressive person. I do believe in a women’s right to choose, I do believe in marriage equality and gay rights, and I do believe in rational gun control, which kind of sets you aside inside the Republican party as being something very, very different.”
While those positions could help him appeal to swing voters in this relatively socially progressive state, those views are likely anathema to a Republican primary electorate that is much more socially and culturally conservative. If Graham does run statewide again next year, he may find it difficult to gain traction in a field that includes much bigger names than Glenn’s, particularly if GOP primary voters opt for a candidate with more orthodox conservative positions like they have in the last several gubernatorial and Senate contests.
• MD-Gov: Krish Vignarajah, a former policy director for Michelle Obama, recently joined the Democratic primary for governor in Maryland, but she might end up being ineligible to run. Vignarajah says she’s a lifelong Maryland resident and first registered to vote there in 2006, but she didn’t cast a ballot there until 2016. However, she did register and vote in D.C. from 2010 through 2014 while she was working in Washington and maintained a second residence there.
There’s nothing necessarily malicious about being registered to vote in more than one place so long one doesn’t actually vote in both places, since states often don’t immediately update their records if someone moves away. However, Maryland’s state constitution says a gubernatorial candidate must have lived in the state and been a registered voter for five years before the election. Vignarajah doesn’t face a formal legal challenge yet, but it could just be a matter of time since opponents could point to her 2014 vote in D.C. as evidence that she was not an active Maryland voter five years prior to 2018.
• ME-Gov: Ex-state Rep. Diane Russell is the latest Democrat to join the primary for Maine’s open gubernatorial contest. Russell, who was a prominent Bernie Sanders backer in last year’s caucus, called herself a “hardcore progressive” and supports single-payer. The former Portland-area legislator also played a major role in advocating for two ballot initiatives that Maine voters approved in 2016 that legalized recreational marijuana usage and established instant-runoff voting for federal and state elections, although that latter reform faces legal challenges.
Russell came in third place in a state Senate primary last year, but could nonetheless make inroads if she can gain traction with the party base, particularly if she can once again capitalize on an out-of-state donor base. Several other Democrats are already running in the gubernatorial primary, including state Attorney General Janet Mills, former state House Speaker Mark Eves, and former state Sen. James Boyle.
• VA-Gov: On Thursday, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam debuted his first ad of the general election, putting down $100,000 to air the spot in most of the state outside of the Northern Virginia region. The positive biographical segment introduces Northam as a born-and-bred Virginian and focuses intently on the issue of health care. The ad emphasizes Northam’s work as an Army doctor during the Gulf War, volunteering for 18 years at children’s hospice, and his career as a pediatrician. Northam himself closes by calling “to provide access to affordable health care for all Virginians, not take it away,” alluding to the congressional GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare.
• IN-04: Republican Diego Morales, who served as a senior advisor to then-Gov. Mike Pence, became the first candidate to join the primary for this safely red Lafayette-area seat. State Sen. Brandt Hershman reportedly had been mulling a bid here, but he announced that he would not run.
• MA-03: Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas announced on Wednesday that she would not seek re-election in what is usually a reliably blue seat, and there are plenty of Democrats who could run to succeed her. We rounded out some of the names recently, and several other Democrats have since stepped forward and expressed interest.
Ellen Murphy Meehan, a consultant for smaller urban hospitals, told the Boston Globe that she was considering. Murphy Meehan used to be married to Marty Meehan, who represented the Lowell and Lawrence areas from 1993 until he resigned to become chancellor of UMass Lowell. Meehan, who now leads the entire University of Massachusetts system, spoke warmly of Murphy Meehan and told the Globe that he hopes she runs.
Several other Democrats are eyeing this seat. State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, who was one of the few state elected officials to back Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential primary, told the Lowell Sun that he is interested. Back in the 2007 special election to succeed Meehan, Eldridge took third place with 14 percent of the vote, losing to Tsongas. State Rep. Jennifer Benson also said she was considering.
Lowell City Councilor Rodney Elliott, who is running for re-election this year, also told the paper that he wouldn’t rule out a bid because “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini, who is also running for re-election, also didn’t say no when asked.
Prominent Lowell attorney Michael Gallagher has expressed interest before, but said he would defer to state Sen. Eileen Donoghue. Donoghue, who lost the 2007 primary to Tsongas 36-31, has left the door open to a bid, but she sounded reluctant to leave the Senate. The Sun also mentioned Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale as a possible candidate. But while Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera was also name-dropped as a possible candidate by local Democrats, he quickly said he wouldn’t run.
Clinton carried this seat 58-35, and Team Blue is favored to keep it. However, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey both narrowly lost the 3rdduring their 2012 and 2013 campaigns, and GOP Gov. Charlie Baker took it 52-42 in 2014, so it may not be completely out of reach for the GOP. Both state Rep. Jim Lyons and businessman Sal Lupoli, who sits on Baker’s Economic Development Planning Council, have been mentioned as a possible contender, but neither has said anything publicly yet. However, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke quickly took his own name out of contention.
• TN-06: This week, businessman John Rose joined the GOP primary for this safely red Middle Tennessee seat. Rose, who among other things has helped operate the Tennessee State Fair over the last few years, served as the appointed agriculture commissioner in 2002, and he can reportedly self-fund.
• Netroots Nation: On Thursday morning, the editors of Daily Kos Elections held a Q&A session at Netroots Nation in Atlanta, answering questions on everything from the 2017 special elections to the Senate landscape to redistricting reform and, most especially, on the Democrats’ chances to win back the House in 2018. If you missed it, you can watch the event here and find out if anyone stumped the panel!
• Statehouse Action: This Week in Statehouse Action: How I Learned to Stop Legislating and Love the Bomb edition is the perfect way to spend your time not fretting about Trump starting a nuclear conflict with North Korea. Wouldn’t you much rather read about Democratic special election successes, the amazing slate of women candidates running in Virginia, and cool data? Thought so!
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