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, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
• TN-Sen: On Thursday, termed-out Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam confirmed that he’s considering a bid to replace Sen. Bob Corker, a fellow Republican. Haslam said he would spend “the next several days” thinking and praying about it, and said he would not draw things out for a month.
If Haslam ran, he’d be tough to stop. In addition to being known statewide, Haslam is also a billionaire, so money would not be a problem for him. However, Haslam isn’t universally beloved in the GOP. He has clashed with conservatives at times over his successful attempt to pass the state’s first gas tax increase since 1989 and his unsuccessful attempt to expand Medicaid. As head of the Koch brothers’ state Americans for Prosperity chapter, Andy Ogles, who announced he would run before Corker decided to retire, was a prominent Haslam opponent during those fights.
However, unlike most other Southern states, Tennessee has no runoff, so a very well-known candidate like Haslam could benefit from a crowded primary where a simple plurality is enough to win the nod. A number of other Republicans are considering, with Rep. Marsha Blackburn reportedly planning to jump in soon.
On the Democratic side, two state legislators are expressing interest in running. State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, who represents part of Nashville, says that he’ll decide “[o]ver the next few weeks.” The Tennessean’s Joey Garrison writes that Yarbro “is considered a top star among a depleted bench for Tennessee Democrats.” State Rep. John Ray Clemmons, another Nashville legislator, also tells the Nashville Post that he’s considering. So far, attorney and Army veteran James Mackler, who served in Iraq, still has the Democratic primary to himself, though a few others are considering running.
• FL-Gov: GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis has been considering jumping into the primary for a while, but we’ll be waiting a bit longer for his decision. DeSantis’s spokesperson Brad Herold Tells the Tampa Bay Times that the congressman will likely decide what to do in “late October or early November.”
• ME-Gov: On Thursday, state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason announced that he would run for the GOP nod to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Paul LePage. As we noted earlier this month, Mason is close to the state’s conservative Evangelical political network, and he was a prominent supporter of Ted Cruz during the GOP primary caucus, which Cruz decisively won, and of Donald Trump during the general election. Mason also echoed Trump in his kickoff when he called for a “Maine first” agenda.
Mason will face two LePage allies, ex-Department of Health and Human Services head Mary Mayhew and state House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, in the primary, while Sen. Susan Collins says she’ll decide by Oct. 9 if she’ll run. It’s very possible that next year’s primaries could be conducted under an instant runoff voting system, which could introduce a lot of unpredictability to both parties’ contests.
• NH-Gov: The Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Chris Sununu is only slowly taking shape. So far, the only declared candidate is ex-Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, who took second in the 2016 primary. The Concord Monitor’s Paul Steinhauser takes a look at some of the potential candidates, but no one seems in a huge hurry to get in. However, he writes that Gary Hirshberg, the former chairman of the organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farms and a longtime Democratic donor, does appear interested, and Hirshberg has been making the rounds at local Democratic events. Hirshberg does not appear to have said anything publicly.
Steinhauser also spoke to ex-Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, who lost to Sununu 49-47 last year. Van Ostern says he’s been encouraged to run again but says he’s focusing on candidates running in 2017, adding that, “Whenever anyone asks me about 2018 or 2020, I tell them that we have a lot of work to do in 2017 before we get there.” That’s certainly not a no. Van Ostern used to be an executive at Stonyfield Farms, and it’s possible that Hirshberg’s decision will impact his own, or vice versa.
Ex-Rep. Paul Hodes didn’t rule out a bid back in April, and he still isn’t saying no. Hodes told Steinhauser that he’s “focused in other areas” and has “not engaged in any formal process about running.” Hodes then talked about how important it is for Democrats to retake power in New Hampshire but added that “the race for governor of New Hampshire this cycle is going to be a very challenging race. You’ve got a one-term governor who according to the polls appears popular. Anybody considering a run for governor has to think long and hard and have the resources available.” Hodes represented half of New Hampshire for two terms, but lost the 2010 Senate race to Republican Kelly Ayotte 60-39.
Executive Councilor Chris Pappas has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for Congress or governor for a while, but it doesn’t sound like 2018 will be his year. Unnamed sources close to Pappas tell Steinhauser that a bid isn’t on his radar, which still isn’t quite a no. Steinhauser also writes that, while state Sen. Dan Feltes is getting mentioned, he doesn’t seem to have made a decision about his plans.
• OH-Gov: GOP Rep. Jim Renacci is out with his first TV spot, which his campaign tells Buzzfeed’s Henry J. Gomez is focused on cable and digital and will cost $300,000 total. The ad features actors portraying his three primary foes (Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and Attorney General Mike DeWine) lounging around in cat costumes, as the narrator decries them as the “Columbus fat cats.” As you could imagine, the whole thing is weird.
The narrator accuses the trio of backing termed-out GOP Gov. John Kasich, one of Trump’s most prominent intra-party foes, when the governor “backed Obamacare. Common Core too.” As a mouse comes down from the ceiling and scares “Taylor,” the narrator calls them “the scaredy cats who refuse to support right-to-work. Career fat cats who’ve lived off taxpayers for decades.” Renacci then shows up not wearing a cat costume and calls for change. Renacci, who has served in the House since 2011, calls himself “a businessman, not a career politician.”
• TN-Gov: Apparently, we’re going to do this again. GOP Sen. Bob Corker spent a few months earlier this year refusing to rule out a run for governor in 2018, but he finally took his name out of contention in June. But after Corker announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election to the Senate, he once again did not close the door on a possible bid to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Bill Haslam.
Corker said on Wednesday that if a campaign was “something that I was going to attempt to pursue, it would have been good to think about that a year ago,” and said that there were a lot of people already running. But Corker added that “over the course of the next 15 months, who knows what might happen.” Of course, as the Associated Press’ Erik Schelzig notes, Corker doesn’t have 15 months, he has until the April filing deadline.
The next day, Corker was again asked if he was interested and responded that he “can’t imagine it,” adding, “We’ve got a field of folks who have been out there working hard, and people are in line behind them. It just doesn’t seem to me that that’s something that is realistic to be thinking about.” When The Tennessean reporter Michael Collins pointed that this didn’t sound like a definitive no, Corker said, “You’re probably reading a little too much into it.” Nope, we’re with Collins here: If Corker wants to make it clear he won’t run for governor next year, literally all he needs to say is “I’m not running for governor.”
And indeed, it’s possible Corker is much more likely to run than he’s letting on. Unnamed “close associates” told the Nashville Post’s Cari Wade Gervin that the senator was interested in the race, though there’s no other information about how interested. Five notable Republicans are running for governor, and they probably would not appreciate Corker parachuting in.
• WI-Gov: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has been talking about seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Scott Walker for a while, and he said over the summer that he would likely decide “sometime around Labor Day.” But Soglin now tells the National Journal that, due to city budget negotiations, it “is a possibility” he won’t decide until early next year. Several notable candidates have jumped into the primary over the last few months, but Soglin argues that, due to his long time in office (Soglin has served off-and-on as mayor since 1973), he can afford to wait.
• CA-24: A few weeks ago, 2016 Republican nominee Justin Fareed filed with the FEC for another bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal. Fareed still hasn’t announced he’ll run, but he told KSBY News this week that he “recently reopened my campaign committee in order to better explore the possibility of running against Salud Carbajal and the response has overwhelming.” After bemoaning both parties, Fareed added that he’s “begun exploring whether I should run again to be an independent voice in Washington.”
Last cycle, Fareed lost the open seat race for this Santa Barbara-area district 53-47, running well ahead of Trump’s 57-36 deficit here. If Fareed gets in, he’ll likely have a tough time ousting an incumbent in a blue seat, especially if Trump remains anywhere near as unpopular as he is now. Still, after Fareed’s relatively good showing last time, Carbajal will want to at least take him seriously.
• IL-14: This week, Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky endorsed Matt Brolley, the president of the village of Montgomery and a member of the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Brolley, who also has Rep. Bill Foster in his corner, is competing with two other Democrats in the primary to face GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in an exurban Chicago seat that shifted from 54-44 Romney to 49-45 Trump.
• NH-02: Republican Steve Negron, who first won his seat in the 400-person state House last year, has formed an exploratory committee for a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster, and his strategist says he’ll decide “in the coming weeks” if he’ll run. This district shifted from 54-45 Obama to 49-46 Clinton.
• Where Are They Now?: Under arrest. This week, a judge issued an arrest warrant against ex-GOP Rep. Vance McAllister, who served half a term representing a northern Louisiana seat, for repeatedly failing to appear in court. Several banks sued McAllister earlier this year over debts they say he owes them. After a default judgment was entered against the former congressman in one case, the bank filed a motion to make him produce his financial records. McAllister skipped a hearing, and missed a following court appearance where he was supposed to say why he should not be found in contempt of court. McAllister says he “missed a court date upon advice of counsel,” and insists this is just “a misunderstanding of that advice.”
Four years ago, a much more cash-flush McAllister, who owned an oil company and several restaurant franchises, used his money to make it to the special election runoff with state Sen. Neil Riser, a fellow Republican. McAllister ran to the left of Riser, who had the support of the state GOP establishment, and called for expanding Medicaid. McAllister also had the support of the stars of the reality show Duck Dynasty, who hail from the Monroe area. In a huge upset, McAllister won 60-40, and he quickly attracted the attention of the national press, which gushed over the political neophyte and his first-ever trip to D.C.
McAllister’s meteoric rise was accompanied by a meteoric fall. In April of 2014, months into his term, footage from a security camera leaked that featured McAllister passionately making out with a staffer who was not his wife. Under pressure from then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, McAllister announced he would not run for re-election. After Cantor lost renomination, however, McAllister changed his mind.
But while McAllister ran an ad where his wife attested to his character, he took a distant fourth place in the jungle primary with just 11 percent of the vote. (Republican Ralph Abraham went on to win the seat.) McAllister did not take the hint and decided to challenge GOP state Sen. Mike Walsworth the next year, only to lose 62-38.