● AL-Sen: Democratic state Rep. Craig Ford had considered running in 2017’s Senate special election (including possibly as an independent), but on Monday he declared that he would not jump into the race. Ford is still considering a campaign for governor in 2018, but running for that office would require forgoing re-election next year, unlike this year’s Senate race.
Alabama is a dark-red state that hasn’t elected a Democratic governor or senator since the 1990s, but a handful of other Democrats are still considering running against appointed GOP Sen. Luther Strange in this fall’s special election. State Reps. Chris England and Elaine Beech have both said they’re thinking about it, while Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox previously didn’t rule it out.
● CT-Gov: State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano had previously been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate for governor, but until now, he had said nothing publicly. Fasano recently told Hearst that “I don’t think I’ve ruled it out,” (well dude, you’re the one guy who would actually know if you’ve ruled it out), but “I don’t want to say that I’m focused on it, either,” adding that he’s focusing on the budget. John McKinney, Fasano’s predecessor as minority leader and a close friend of his, has been flirting with a second gubernatorial bid, and he says he’ll decide in the summer. The CTPost’s Neil Vigdor says that according to conventional wisdom, Fasano’s plans are “intertwined” with McKinney’s.
● GA-Gov: On Monday, state Sen. Burt Jones announced that he would not seek the GOP nomination. A number of higher-profile Republicans are running or considering getting in: While Jones has a claim to fame as the co-captain of the University of Georgia’s football team when they won the 2003 Sugar Bowl, which came just after the Bulldogs won their first SEC championship in 20 years, he likely would have had a tough time gaining ground in a primary.
● IA-Gov: On Tuesday, wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell confirmed previous rumors that he was interested in a bid for governor in 2018 when he announced that he had formed an exploratory committee and would consider formally running over the next few months. Iowa Starting Line’s Pat Rynard reports that Hubbell is a very well-connected donor to Democratic candidates and prominent charitable causes in Iowa, while his family and business roots in the Des Moines area are extensive, which could give him a substantial boost with fundraising.
Iowa swung sharply toward Trump in 2016, but that doesn’t appear to have deterred a slew of Democrats from running for office in 2018, judging by the size of the field of announced and potential gubernatorial candidates. Former state party chair Andy McGuire, state Sen. Nate Boulton, ex-Des Moines School Board President Jonathan Neiderbach, and Polk County Conservation Board director Rich Leopold have already launched their campaigns, while several other noteworthy candidates are considering it.
● ID-Gov: On Tuesday, GOP Rep. Raúl Labrador announced that he would run to succeed retiring Idaho Gov. Butch Otter next year. Labrador, who represents half of the state in Congress, is one of D.C.’s most notorious tea party bomb throwers: Labrador was a founder and remains an influential member of the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus. Labrador made the news again a few days ago when he told a town hall that, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” Labrador tried defending himself later, conceding that, while his statement wasn’t “very elegant,” he “was responding to a false notion that the Republican Health Care plan will cause people to die in the streets, which I completely reject.”
Despite his prominent perch in D.C., Labrador seemed stymied in Congress. When Labrador ran for House majority leader in 2014 his bid against California’s Kevin McCarthy went nowhere, with Labrador lacking even the basic contact info for his colleagues. Labrador has spent years raising his profile back home, but it hasn’t always gone well. In 2014, a little while before the majority leader race, Labrador was the chair of a chaotic state party convention that broke into infighting. According to the The Spokesman-Review’s Betty Russell, Labrador “ended the convention facing jeers and walkouts from his own party members.”
The GOP nominee will be heavily favored to hold the governor’s office next year, but Labrador doesn’t have a clear path through the primary. Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who has Otter’s support, kicked off his bid last year. Developer Tommy Ahlquist is also in, and he started running commercials well over a year before the 2018 primary. Ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher, who lost the 2014 primary to Otter by a surprisingly close 51-44 margin, also wants the job, and it’s possible he’ll peel off some anti-establishment voters Labrador wants.
● MI-Gov: On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee announced that he would stay in the House rather than run for governor next year. Kildee’s decision likely leaves ex-state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who is close to labor groups, as the Democratic primary frontrunner. However, Whitmer faces a challenge from Abdul El-Sayed, the former director of Detroit’s health department. Abdul El-Sayed, who would be America’s first Muslim governor, is an untested candidate, but he does have an interesting profile and may be able to gain some traction if he can get his name out. A third notable Democrat, businessman Shri Thanedar, filed a few weeks ago, but has yet to announce he’s in.
● NJ-Gov: Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno reported raising $2.2 million since January and had more than $1.5 million on hand by the May 5 reporting deadline, a decent sum that will still go by quickly in this very expensive state. Guadagno’s main foe in the June 6 gubernatorial primary appears to be Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, whom she decisively leads according to the latest polls, but he hasn’t released his fundraising numbers yet. However, Ciattarelli did debut his first ad, which features him speaking directly to the camera to tout his business background and promise tax cuts, smaller government, and more jobs. Notably, he makes utterly no reference to the fact that he’s currently a state legislator.
● NM-Gov: Back in November, GOP Rep. Steve Pearce expressed interest in running to succeed termed-out New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, but he’s said little since then. However, Pearce recently confirmed that he is still thinking about it, and his chief of staff told The Daily Times that he expects the congressman will be “using the next couple of months to decide and let people know what he has done.”
Pearce gave up his southern New Mexico House seat in 2008 to run statewide, and the experience did not go well for him. Pearce narrowly won the Senate primary, but lost the general election to Tom Udall by a brutal 61-39. Pearce won back his old seat two years later but if anything, the already very conservative representative has gotten worse since he returned to D.C. In 2014, Pearce released a memoir that featured a passage where the congressman, citing the Bible, wrote that, “The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice,” though he insisted that submission didn’t mean inferiority. Pearce’s 2nd District backed Trump 50-40 and he can get away with a lot, but voters in the rest of New Mexico probably won’t be so accommodating.
It also doesn’t help Pearce that Martinez’s once strong numbers have taken a huge hit in recent months. In fact, the New Mexico GOP reportedly is having a tough time finding a viable candidate willing to enter what is shaping up to be a challenging race.
● TN-Gov: One month ago, GOP state Sen. Mark Green dropped his campaign for governor of Tennessee after Trump picked him to become secretary of the Army. However, Green soon attracted bad press for his anti-gay record, including a bill that would have allowed mental health practitioners to refuse treatment to LGBT patients, and for his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Green withdrew his nomination last week, and he recently told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he’s unsure if he will resume running for governor. If Green does run again, his botched nomination may have only helped him elevate his profile with GOP voters and made him a martyr for social conservatives.
● AR-02: At 52-42 Trump, this central Arkansas seat isn’t the most tempting of targets for Democrats. Still, Team Blue does retain a bench around Little Rock, and if 2018 continues to look like an appealing year, they may be able to land a viable candidate against sophomore GOP Rep. French Hill. Late last month, the Arkansas Times‘ Max Brantley wrote that there were rumors that Win Thompson, the former president of the University of Central Arkansas, is considering. Brantley also suggested that state Rep. Clarke Tucker might be interested. So far, neither has said anything publicly.
● CA-10: This week, emergency room nurse Dotty Nygard announced that she would challenge GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in this Modesto-area seat, which Clinton won 49-46. Nygard is a former city councilor in Riverbank (population 23,000), but perhaps more importantly, she’s a member of the active California Nurses Association. Investor Josh Harder is also running against Denham.
● FL-27: On Tuesday, Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez announced that he would run to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. While Clinton carried this Miami-area seat 59-39, the GOP has a large bench in the area, and plenty of voters still back Republicans for downballot contests. However, Rodríguez has experience winning tough races here. In 2012, he unseated state House Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla 54-46; then, in 2014, Rodríguez pulled off a close 51-49 win during the GOP wave. Last year, Rodríguez moved to the upper chamber by defeating state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the brother of the guy he beat in 2012, 49 to 46, a victory the Miami Herald called an “upset.”
Rodríguez is the first notable Democrat who has announced since Ros-Lehtinen decided to retire last week. However, plenty of other potential candidates on both sides are eyeing the race, and the Herald has a few new names. On the Democratic side, ex-state judge Mary Barzee Flores says she’s interested, while Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava isn’t ruling out a bid. Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County school district, also recently expressed interest, though he didn’t foreclose the possibility of running as an independent instead. However, fellow school board member Lubby Navarro claims that Carvalho told her there was “zero chance” he would run for Congress, but he hasn’t said anything like that publicly.
There are also plenty of Republicans waiting in the wings. On Monday, the Herald reported that the NRCC had spoken to Jeb Bush Jr. about a possible campaign, though there’s no word how interested he is. (Fun fact: Jeb Bush Sr. was Ros-Lehtinen’s campaign manager during her initial 1989 race.) The paper also says that ex-Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan Zapata is considering, though he has yet to say anything. However, while state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz initially expressed interest, he announced on Tuesday that he would run in a special election for the state Senate instead.
And Carvalho isn’t the only candidate who could wage a third-party campaign. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, an independent and former Miami mayor, told the Herald he was considering but likely wouldn’t decide anytime soon. Suarez doesn’t sound like he’s going to join either party, saying, “There is definitely room or someone who is independent.”
● GA-06: Half a century later and Republicans are still having nightmares about the 1960s. In a ridiculous new ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund, enervated latter-day hippie types “from” San Francisco say “thank you” to Georgia because “now you’re going to give us Jon Ossoff as our congressman,” see as “California is the leading funder of the Jon Ossoff campaign.” This parade of not-really-all-that-weird weirdos goes on to describe how Ossoff shares their love of high taxes and weakened military.
Are there scared voters out there who might actually be moved by such nonsense? Or does the CLF simply not have any better ideas? Perhaps the only remarkable thing is the lack of outright gay-baiting that we used to see in ads like this (check out this infamous 2008 ad from a Missouri House race attacking the Democrat’s “San Francisco values”), though perhaps just referencing “San Francisco” is enough of a dog whistle. But seriously, what self-respecting actor would even take this role?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, is playing it utterly safe and boring, with a new ad featuring Sen. Johnny Isakson endorsing Republican Karen Handel.
● NE-01: GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry doesn’t look very vulnerable in this Lincoln-area seat, which backed Trump 57-36, but he may face a notable challenger. Attorney Bill Hoppner, who served as chief of staff to Govs. Jim Exon and Bob Kerrey in the 1970s and 1980s, recently told the Lincoln Journal-Star that he may run due to Fortenberry’s support for Trumpcare. Hoppner ran for governor in 1990 but lost a four-way primary to eventual winner Ben Nelson by just 42 votes. Eight years later, Hoppner ran for governor again and lost the general to Republican Mike Johanns 54-46. No Democrat has won so much as 40 percent of the vote in any of the following four gubernatorial races.
● SC-05: With a week to go before the GOP runoff, this contest is splitting along the familiar business conservative/tea party fault lines. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, and they’re out with a spot for him starring neighboring Rep. Trey Gowdy. Gowdy tells the audience that Pope “will fight to defend free enterprise, lower taxes, and create good, high-paying jobs.” Gowdy doesn’t mention Benghazi, which is sort of like a Star Wars movie missing an “I have a bad feeling about this.” There is no word on the size of the buy.
Pope himself is out with a negative ad aimed at ex-state Rep. Ralph Norman, who has been gaining support from people closer to the Freedom Caucus. The narrator claims that Norman has “an F rating on jobs” and cast “strange votes against investigating Planned Parenthood, against even 2,000 new Boeing jobs.” In the legislature, Norman frequently cast the only no vote on bills, which certainly makes it easy for Pope to find bills appealing to conservatives that his rival opposed. In this case, Norman says he opposed the Planned Parenthood bill because he felt another legislator was attempting to add this investigation when the oversight committee was already overwhelmed as a “publicity stunt.” The second half of Pope’s ad is a boring positive feature.
● TX-32: When Democrat Colin Allred, who played for the Tennessee Titans before becoming a civil rights lawyer, announced that he would challenge Rep. Pete Sessions last month, we wondered if he could count on support from his old boss, ex-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. The answer is yes, since Castro endorsed Allred on Tuesday. Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, is well connected in Texas and national politics, and if he can help Allred raise money, he’ll be a huge asset against Sessions. Hillary Clinton policy advisor Ed Meier is also seeking the Democratic nod.
● 1Q Fundraising: Quarterly fundraising reports for federal candidates, covering the period from Jan. 1 to March 31, were due at the Federal Elections Commission on April 15 at midnight. Daily Kos Elections has put together a chart compiling all the fundraising numbers from every major-party House candidate who actually filed a report (incumbents, challengers and open seat candidates alike) to give you an idea of where things stand at this early stage in the 2018 election cycle.
● St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: Florida Democrats finally won control of St. Petersburg city hall for the first time in decades in 2013, when Rick Kriseman unseated GOP Mayor Bill Foster in an officially non-partisan race. Kriseman has been preparing for a tough race this year, and it looks like he’s in for one. Ex-Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican who was elected in 2001 and took 70 percent of the vote in his 2005 re-election campaign, announced on Tuesday that he would run for his old job. The primary will be Aug. 29, and if no one takes a majority, the general election will take place in November.
While Pinellas County backed Trump last year, the Tampa Bay Times‘ Adam Smith says that Clinton won nearly 60 percent of the vote in St. Petersburg. However, Baker had demonstrated plenty of crossover appeal in past races, and he’s a rare Republican who has a strong base of support among African Americans. Baker is also well connected, and he won’t have much trouble raising money: Baker’s boss is wealthy developer Bill Edwards, the owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team, and a man whom Smith says “could single-handedly bankroll Baker’s campaign.”
Kriseman’s tenure also hasn’t gone completely smoothly. One of the biggest issues in the campaign will likely be the city’s sewage system. During two recent rainy seasons, the overwhelmed system dumped over 200 million gallons of waste into neighborhoods, waterways, and the roads. Baker used his announcement to argue Kriseman badly handled the problem, while the incumbent will likely argue that as mayor, Baker didn’t do enough to fix the sewers when he had the chance.
A few days before Baker announced that he would run, Kriseman launched his first campaign ad. The spot argues that under Kriseman, the city has made huge strides, including the ongoing construction of a “new, world-class pier.” Kriseman mentions the sewer problem as an issue that needs to be fixed, as a Times headline proclaiming “St. Petersburg Progressing Well On Fixing Sewers” flashes by.
Partisan politics are likely to come into play here. In late 2015, Kriseman made national headlines when he tweeted that Trump was “barred from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.” Kriseman is likely to tie Baker to Trump and other unpopular Republicans to try to peel away Democratic-leaning voters. In 2013, both state parties worked hard to win this contest, and with a Senate and governor’s race looming in 2018, it’s likely to get even more attention.
Baker also angered the city’s large gay community when he was mayor by refusing to so much as sign proclamations for St. Pete Pride, Florida’s largest gay-pride festival. In his Tuesday announcement, Baker tried to put the issue past him by declaring he “believe[s] the LGBT community is a vital, important part of our community,” but Kriseman is unlikely to let it go. However, Smith notes that Kriseman has had a poor relationship with the city’s first openly-gay city councilor over the Tampa Bay Rays stadium.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: The 2017 mayoral race in Seattle had been expected to be a sleepy affair, with incumbent Ed Murray probably facing an easy re-election against only minor opposition from his fellow Democrats in this dark-blue city. However, Murray announced at a Tuesday press conference that he’s dropping his mayoral bid shortly before the May 19 filing deadline and will retire at term’s end.
Murray’s one term has been uncontroversial, and Seattle’s problems are more of the victim-of-its-own-success variety, like housing costs and traffic, and he had the broad support of both business, labor, and environmental groups. However, a lawsuit filed in early April alleged that Murray, who is Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, had sexually abused a person in the 1980s who was a minor at the time; several other claimants stepped forward with similar allegations though they didn’t file suit.
While the evidence offered wasn’t overwhelming, it quickly became something of a no-win situation for Murray, who was starting to face criticism from both establishment and alternative news outlets in the city for his public attacks on the claimant and his lawyers, and it was going to continue to make things rough for Murray for the rest of the campaign.
Murray was already facing several prominent anti-establishment opponents who got in after the lawsuit appeared, including ex-Mayor Mike McGinn, whom Murray defeated in 2013, and transit activist Cary Moon. Following his retirement, the floodgates are now open for a variety of establishment politicians seeking to replace Murray. Rumors were flying over the weekend that city councilor, and third-place finisher in the 2013 mayoral election, Bruce Harrell, would seek to replace Murray on the ballot; Harrell hasn’t announced yet, but two other big names have surfaced.
State Sen. Bob Hasegawa announced on Monday night that he’s joining the field; in fact, this was the first clue to most observers that Murray was tipping people off about a likely dropout. Hasegawa, who was a leader of the local Teamsters before joining the state legislature, will clearly be labor’s candidate in the race, but as a Bernie Sanders delegate to the DNC in 2016, he may also be able to corral some of Seattle’s anti-establishment youth vote. One problem for Hasegawa, though, is that most of his district is in Renton, to the south of Seattle, and only around 25,000 of his constituents can vote for him for mayor. Also, former US Attorney Jenny Durkan, who got short-listed as Attorney General replacement after Eric Holder’s retirement, sounds like she’s about to get in; she would probably consolidate Murray’s support within the LGBT community.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.