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.
● PA-18: Last month, longtime Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican who represents a conservative Western Pennsylvania seat, admitted to having an affair with a woman named Shannon Edwards. The story did not make Murphy look good, but given how many Republicans have stepped out on their wives and lived to tell the tale, it also didn’t look like a potential career-ending scandal. That is, until Tuesday.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Paula Reed Ward now reports that in January of this year, Edwards took Murphy to task for posting an anti-abortion message on Facebook, texting him, “[Y]ou have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.”
Edwards’ pregnancy scare turned out to be a false alarm, but Murphy has a long history of being an anti-abortion zealot. As Shareblue’s Kaili Joy Gray writes, Murphy has co-sponsored unsuccessful bills to try to extend 14th Amendment protections to embryos, and he’s also a co-sponsor of a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks that he literally voted in favor of the day this story broke.
So how did Murphy react to Edwards telling him to stop posting anti-abortion statements on social media? Murphy replied, “I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”
If Murphy runs again (and that feels like a big if right now), his biggest problem likely would be in the GOP primary in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, a seat Donald Trump won by a wide 58-39 margin. However, if it seems like Murphy couldn’t possibly survive this scandal, Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais would beg to differ. In 2012, weeks away from the general election, voters learned that as a practicing physician, DesJarlais carried on affairs with several of his patients—and tried to convince one to get an abortion. DesJarlais, a Republican, was lucky enough to be running for re-election in a very red seat, and he decisively won.
Still, DesJarlais looked doomed in the 2014 primary against state Sen. Jim Tracy; the GOP establishment gave DesJarlais little help, and Tracy easily outraised him. However, Tracy was inexplicably reluctant to use the congressman’s scandal against him, and DesJarlais ended up pulling off a miraculous 38-vote win. In 2016, attorney Grant Starrett, a former aide to Mitt Romney, stepped up to challenge DesJarlais and lost by a much wider 52-43 margin. This cycle, DesJarlais currently has no strong primary foes on the horizon.
If Murphy follow DesJarlais’ brazen-it-out approach and does seek re-election, he could still win renomination with just a plurality if too manyopponents sense weakness and pile in. Still, that’s a big if right now. And while DesJarlais benefited from having a primary opponent too timid to aim at his Achilles’ heel when the congressman was at his weakest, Murphy may not be so lucky. If Donald Trump proves anything, however, it’s that GOP voters are remarkably willing to overlook sinful behavior—as long as one of their own is the sinner.
3Q 2017 Fundraising
● SC-Gov: Kevin Bryant (R): $352,000 raised (includes roughly 70 percent self-funded), $290,000 cash-on-hand
● KY-06: Amy McGrath (D): $768,000 raised (in two months), $550,000 cash-on-hand
● VA-07: Abigail Spanberger (D): $240,000 raised
● AL-Sen: JMC Analytics is out with their first survey of the Dec. 12general election since last month’s primary runoff in Alabama’s Senate special election. They find that Republican Roy Moore beats Democrat Doug Jones by 48-40, which is a relatively similar margin to a recent Opinion Savvy survey where Moore led by 50-45. An 8-point deficit would be an incredible overperformance for Jones in a state that favored Donald Trump by 62-34, but closing that last gap will likely prove very difficult. Indeed, even as his approval rating is deeply underwater nationally, this JMC survey finds that 51 percent of Alabama voters approve of Trump and only 41 percent disapprove.
Moore is just coming off of a bruising primary with appointed Sen. Luther Strange, and Republicans have yet to hammer Jones with ads. Nevertheless, this is the second poll in recent days to show that we may have a real race on our hands, thanks in large part to Moore’s deep flaws.
● TN-Sen: Term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam has been considering whether to join the GOP primary to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Bob Corker. Haslam told reporters on Monday that he will “make a decision probably by the end of the week.” Although he’d easily have the biggest name recognition of potential Republican candidates, Haslam would almost certainly face a vigorous primary challenge from the right thanks to hostility from the anti-tax hardliners at the Club for Growth.
The Washington Examiner recently reported that the Club had spoken favorably about the potential candidacy of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who looks likely to join the Republican primary. Meanwhile, the Koch Brothers’ political network is vigorously opposed to a possible campaign by former Rep. Stephen Fincher, who is considering the race. A Koch organization executive revealed that their hostility to Fincher stems from his support for farm subsidies and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank during his tenure in the House.
Andy Ogles, who leads the state chapter of the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity group, is so far the only notable Republican who has already joined the race officially. However, it’s noteworthy that the Kochs and their fundraising network are not already behind his candidacy now that Corker has surprisingly called it quits.
● WI-Sen: Last week, GOP Rep. Sean Duffy’s spokesperson didn’t deny rumors that he was reconsidering his plan not to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. However, Duffy’s chief of staff now tells the Associated Press’ Scott Bauer that the congressman has not changed his mind. That statement may be vague enough to give the congressman some wiggle room, but in a more telling sign, Bauer points out that a close Duffy political ally, businessman and former state GOP finance chair Bill Johnson Jr., has thrown his support behind state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who isrunning.
● CT-Gov: This week, businessman Steve Obsitnik joined the GOP primary for this open seat. Obsitnik badly lost his 2012 House campaign to Democratic Rep. Jim Himes 60-40, but he raised $90,000 during the second quarter of 2017 while he was officially exploring a bid, a number comparable to other candidates.
● IL-Gov, IL-15: Republican state Sen. Kyle McCarter isn’t running for re-election next year and is angling to become the next U.S. ambassador to Kenya. McCarter previously attempted a primary challenge against GOP Rep. John Shimkus in southern Illinois’ 15th District last year, but he lost by 60-40. However, if he doesn’t get the ambassador gig, McCarter isn’t ruling out another primary challenge in 2018 against either Shimkus for the House or Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner for governor.
McCarter is one of several prominent Republicans who has has urged Rauner not to run for re-election after the governor recently signed a Democratic-backed bill allowing Medicaid to pay for abortions, which angered the GOP’s right flank of social conservatives.
● NJ-Gov: According to Monmouth’s new poll, Republican Kim Guadagno has cut her deficit against Democrat Phil Murphy in half since July. The problem for Guadagno is that she trails 51-37 instead of 53-26; Monmouth notes that this poll samples likely voters while their July one was for registered voters, which could explain some of the shift.
● TN-Gov: Heath Shuler… now that’s a name we didn’t expect to pop up in this contest! Former sate cabinet official Randy Boyd, one of several Republicans who are running for this open seat, recently tweeted an endorsement from several former University of Tennessee football players, and one of them was Shuler, who served as a Democratic congressman in nearby western North Carolina from 2007 to 2013. Back in the early 1990s, Shuler was a successful quarterback with the Tennessee Volunteers, and he went on to have a far-less successful career in the NFL. Shuler was always one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus, so it’s not a massive shock to see him crossing party lines, but it’s still more than a bit unusual.
● VA-Gov: Democrat Ralph Northam’s newest ad tries to appeal both to voters who hate Donald Trump and swing voters who haven’t utterly soured on him. Northam tells the audience that “as a doctor, nobody ever asked if I’m a Democrat or Republican. They just want my help.” Northam then says that “if Donald Trump is helping Virginia, I’ll work with him.” Northam then transitions and says that Trump wanted to cut the state’s school funding, rolling back clean air and water protections, and “taking away healthcare from thousands of Virginians.” Northam says that, while Republican foe Ed Gillespie refuses to stand up to Trump, he’s stood up to Trump on all these.
● FL-18: While Palm Beach County State’s Attorney Dave Aronberg refused to rule out a bid for the Democratic nod in June, he unsurprisingly announced that he’d pass this week. Former State Department official Lauren Baer recently entered the race against GOP Rep. Brian Mast in this 53-44 Trump Treasure Coast seat.
● MA-03: On Sunday, Cambridge Councilor Nadeem Mazen announced that he was joining the Democratic primary for this open Merrimack Valley seat. Mazen’s constituents live quite a ways away from this seat, but Mazen is originally from Andover in the 3rd District.
A few months ago, Mazen began making raising money for a possible primary challenge against Rep. Mike Capuano in the 7th District, though Mazen now says he never really wanted to run against Capuano and had a friendly meeting with him two weeks before Rep. Niki Tsongas announced her retirement. As we noted back in June, Mazen made history in 2013 when he became the first Muslim to be elected to a governing body in Massachusetts, and he’s called for fellow Muslims to run for office. Mazen founded and ran two startups, and he may have the connections to raise a serious amount of money. Still, Mazen will need a lot to go right if he’s going to win in a district where he has almost no name recognition or base.
Mazen’s primary foes may try to portray him as a carpetbagger, but many of them also didn’t live in the 3rd, at least until recently. Abhijit Das, who runs a hotel company, is the only other notable Democratic candidate who has announced, but he grew up and lived just outside the seat. Daniel Koh, who recently stepped down as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of staff, has formed a fundraising committee: Like Mazen, he’s also an Andover native who has been living and working outside the district. State Sen. Barbara L’Italien has also formed an exploratory committee; L’Italien already lives in Andover, but she resides in the part of the town that’s in the 6th District. A number of other Democrats are eyeing this 58-35 Clinton seat.
● NM-01: The crowded Democratic primary for this open Albuquerque seat got a little smaller this week when Annie Chavez, who served as a government relations officer for Sandia National Labs, dropped out. Chavez said her “recent health issues are not allowing me to put forth the effort that I believe is needed to serve New Mexicans in a way they deserve.” Clinton won 52-36 here.
● NM-02: In a surprise, state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn dropped his bid for the GOP nomination on Monday, and he did not give a reason for his departure. The primary for this open southern New Mexico seat, which backed Trump 50-40, is still taking shape, but Dunn had looked like the early frontrunner. Local political observer Joe Monahan notes that Dunn had a poor relationship with members of the powerful oil and gas industry, which could have harmed his fundraising and appeal, though. NMPolitics.net’s Heath Haussamen also writes that Dunn has been publicly fighting with GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.
● NY-01: Assemblyman Fred Thiele, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, announced this week that he would not challenge GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin on this eastern Long Island seat. Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, who is termed-out this year, has said that she would defer to Thiele if he got in the Democratic primary, and she tells 27east that she plans to announce whether she’ll run next week. A few other Democrats are challenging Zeldin in this district, which swung from a very narrow Obama win all the way to 55-42 Trump.
● PA-15: This week, Allentown solicitor Susan Ellis Wild announced that she would seek the Democratic nod for this open Lehigh Valley seat. Wild, who was appointed in 2015, has only run for office once before: In 2013, she lost the general election for a seat on the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners 57-43 to a GOP incumbent. Both parties’ primaries are still taking shape in this district, which went from 51-48 Romney to 52-44 Trump.
● NH-01: Former state Commissioner of Health and Human Services John Stephen, a Republican, had been considering earlier this year whether to run for eastern New Hampshire’s 1st District. Stephen was the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in 2010 and and came in second in the GOP primary for the 1st in both 2002 and 2008. However, he recently announced that he would not challenge Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter next year.
So far, the field of notable Republican challengers includes state Sen. Andy Sanborn and former state Liquor Commission Enforcement and Licensing Director Eddie Edwards. This district backed Trump 48-47.
● NJ-11: Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark had formed an exploratory committee in August for a possible Democratic primary campaign in New Jersey’s 11th, which centers on suburban Morris County in North Jersey. However, Kazmark announced on Tuesday that he wouldn’t launch a campaign and will instead back Navy veteran Mikie Sherrill, who is also a former federal prosecutor.
As we like to emphasize, this is why we don’t consider a candidate to be officially running until they say so, since candidates who simply file for office don’t always end up running. Sherrill still faces a primary against Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett, with the victor hoping to oust longtime GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen in this 49-48 Trump district.
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections’ project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation comes to Kentucky, a red state where the GOP took full control of the state government last year for the first time ever. You can find our master list of states here, which we’ll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
While Bill Clinton narrowly won Kentucky in 1992 and 1996, it’s been dependably Republican in every presidential election since then. In 1997, several rogue Democrats joined with the GOP minority to put Democrat Walter Blevins in control of the chamber, and Republicans took their first-ever outright majority a few years later. (Interestingly, Blevins remained in the Senate until 2015, when he resigned to become Rowan County judge-executive.)
Then-Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear tried to flip the Senate in 2009 when he appointed several Republicans to state positions and opened up their seats to Democrats in the following special elections. Team Blue came fairly close to retaking control but still fell short, and today, Team Red holds a 27-11 edge.
The state House stayed blue much longer, even through the 2010 GOP wave, Mitt Romney’s 61-38 win, and another GOP wave in 2014. But Trump’s 63-33 victory was just too much, and the state House went from a 53-47 Democratic edge to a 64-36 GOP majority. Republican Matt Bevin won the governorship in 2015 (oddly, the legislature and the governor are elected in different years), giving the GOP full control of the state government.
We’ll start with a look at the state House, which is up every two years. Trump won 82 of the 100 House seats, swapping two Romney districts for two Obama seats. The one Republican in a Clinton seat is Phil Moffett, whose Louisville district swung from 55-43 Romney to 47.4-46.7 Clinton, but won his second term without opposition. Nineteen Democrats, which represents just a little more than half the caucus, hold Trump seats.
The Democrat in the reddest district is Chris Harris, who holds Trump’s fifth-best seat in the state. Harris’ HD-93, which is located in Eastern Kentucky, went from 76-23 Romney to 83-15 Trump, but Harris won his second term 51-49. Many of Harris’ colleagues weren’t so lucky. Speaker Greg Stumbo, who represented a nearby seat, lost to Republican Larry Brown 53-47 as HD-95 shifted from 67-31 Romney to 73-23 Trump.
Including Harris, seven House Democrats remain in districts where Trump took at least 70 percent of the vote. Harris’ seat isn’t quite the reddest Democratic-held seat we’ve found anywhere in the nation, though it’s pretty close. The distinction belongs to Louisiana’s HD-54, where Trump won 86-11.
We’ll turn to the Senate, where half the chamber is up in presidential cycles and the other half is up in midterm years. Trump carried 34 of the 38 seats, flipping one Obama seat. That district is SD-37 in Louisville: Obama won 50-48 but Trump prevailed 50-45; Democrat Perry Clark won last year with no opposition.
Including Clark, seven Democrats sit in Trump seats, which again is more than half the caucus. The reddest-Democratic held seat is SD-31, another Eastern Kentucky seat. This district went from 72-26 Romney to 80-18 Trump, but Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones also won last year without a GOP foe.
During the 2012 round of redistricting, Democrats held the House and the GOP controlled the Senate. After the legislature’s original maps were struck down, both chambers agreed to a plan in 2013 where Democrats drew a favorable House map for their party while the GOP did the same for themselves in the Senate.
To get a sense for how much these maps favor either party, we’ve sorted every district in a legislative chamber from Hillary Clinton’s greatest margin of victory to Trump’s biggest edge, and taken a look at the seat in the middle; because both chambers have an even number of seats, we average the two middle seats’ presidential results.
The median point in the Senate backed Trump 67-29, about 9 points to the right of his 63-33 statewide win. The House was almost the same, with the median point backing Trump 68-28. We’ve published a spreadsheet to keep track of each chamber’s median seat, and we’ll be updating it as we roll out new states.