• FL-13: Veteran GOP Rep. Bill Young, who had just announced his retirement from Congress after a 30-year tenure less than weeks ago, died on Friday evening at the age of 82. That followed a premature report of his death earlier last week, which prompted his staff to acknowledge that he was in the hospital and gravely ill. Young began his career as a conservative (indeed, when he first joined the Florida Senate in 1960, he was the only Republican senator in the entire state), but as American politics moved to the right, he found himself a branded a "moderate" in his later years.
Thanks to that reputation and his personal popularity, Young became an institution in the Tampa area and never faced a serious re-election threat, despite representing a district that had trended blue and very narrowly went for Barack Obama in 2012. So when he said he wouldn't seek re-election, interest in his seat instantly spiked on both sides. A number of candidates had already declined bids, but now the situation has changed, since Young's death will require a special election. So far, Democrat Jessica Ehrlich, who challenged young last year and was seeking a rematch even before the seat became open, is the only declared candidate.
Florida law is vague, though, on when a special must be held. The state last saw a congressional vacancy in Jan. 2010, when Dem Rep. Robert Wexler stepped down from his seat in the 19th District. The special took place exactly 100 days later, though Wexler had announced his resignation the previous October. A decade earlier, it took a mere 41 days to hold a special to replace GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough in the 1st, though like Wexler, he announced his resignation months in advance.
So if the past is anything to go by, we're probably looking at an election sometime between February and April, with primaries to be held before then. One decent guess is March 11, as a number of local elections are on tap that day.
Candidates who'd previously said no will likely be asked about their intentions again, while many others are still considering, so expect a fluid situation for now. Democrats will be eager to try to capitalize on their momentum from the shutdown and drive a narrative that further pickups are in reach next year. Republicans, of course, will be motivated to drive a stake into that storyline, so this will be an intense race. And as always, we'll be keeping track of all developments here at Daily Kos Elections.
• AK-Sen: Another good quarter for freshman Dem Sen. Mark Begich, who raised $813,000 from July through September, taking his cash-on-hand total to $2.4 million. One of his main Republican rivals, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, reported taking in just $196,000, leaving him with $155,000 in the bank.
• KY-Sen: One day after endorsing a purist challenger to a GOP incumbent in Mississippi, the Senate Conservatives Fund is doing the same in Kentucky. The group, founded by ex-Sen. Jim DeMint, has given their backing to businessman Matt Bevin in his race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Last cycle, the SCF spent about $3.5 million on an array of candidates including Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and Ted Cruz, making them one of the chief anti-establishment meddlers in the Republican universe.
• NJ-Gov: With just a few weeks left in the race, Democrat Barbara Buono is out with her first ad of the general election. She declares that she's the "only one actually running for governor" because Chris Christie's "got his sights set on the Republican presidential primary." It's a pretty decent zinger, but Buono then tries to cram in every possible negative hit on Christie in the final two thirds of the spot. (I count at least six.) But it probably doesn't matter, seeing as yet another poll (from Rutgers, which had a heavy Dem lean in the Senate special) shows the race utterly out of reach for Buono.
• RI-Gov: Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, the most prominent Republican considering a gubernatorial bid in Rhode Island, says he has a "major announcement" planned for Nov. 4 but won't say what it's about. You know how much I hate these kinds of pre-announcements, but if Fung wants to compete with national news stories the very next day about how Terry McAuliffe is about to kick Ken Cuccinelli's ass, fine with me. Meanwhile, 2010 GOP nominee John Robitaille says he has "no plans" to run again, in the words of the AP.
• VA-Gov, -LG: Marist's new poll of the Virginia gubernatorial race finds Terry McAuliffe legging out to an 8-point lead, taking 46 percent to just 38 for Republican Ken Cuccinelli and 9 for Libertarian Robert Sarvis. Last month, McAuliffe's advantage was a tighter 43-38, and if you want to blame the shutdown, you have ample reason to do so: Among the 38 percent of voters who say the shutdown will have a "major impact" on how they cast their ballots, McAuliffe is up 55-27. (Another 21 percent say it will have a "minor impact," and McAuliffe is up 52-33 with them.)
For an even deeper dive into all these numbers, check out Steve Singiser's post at Daily Kos Elections. And for what it's worth, Cuccinelli has a new 15-second ad accusing McAuliffe of being "deeply unserious" and supporting higher taxes. Meh.
Marist also has results for the lieutenant governor's race, where Democratic state Sen. Ralph Northam is beating minister E.W. Jackson 48-42. Northam, like McAuliffe, has also improved since September, when he was ahead just 44-41. And speaking of Jackson, the Washington Post offers a lengthy new piece that questions stories he's frequently told on the stump about the stark deprivation he allegedly faced as a child in a foster home, including claims that he sometimes went without dinner and lived in a home that lacked an indoor bathroom.
But one of his foster parents' daughters, as well as a neighbor who babysat them, say they recall nothing of the sort and describe a comfortable upbringing. The rest of the article also delves into another big area where Jackson has had issues with veracity: campaign finance. The whole thing is worth a read.
• AL-01: Ex-Rep. Jo Bonner, whose resignation earlier this year triggered the special election to replace him, has endorsed ex-state Sen. Bradley Byrne to succeed him in Congress. Byrne faces tea partying businessman Dean Young in a Nov. 5 GOP runoff in this heavily Republican district. Bonner is also hosting a fundraiser for Byrne on Tuesday.
• FL-18: Funny timing: In the previous Digest, we were talking about how sucky the Republican field that's lined up to take on freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy is, based in large part on lousy GOP fundraising. Now, we have further confirmation, in the form of a new Murphy internal from FrederickPolls. Murphy sports a very healthy 57-30 job approval rating—far better than almost all of the potentially vulnerable Republican House members we've recently seen numbers for.
What's more, he also beats ex-state Rep. Carl Domino and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner by wide 52-25 margins. Murphy has to be very pleased that he's over the 50 percent mark, especially given that Mitt Romney won this seat 52-48. And the fact that the more prominent Hasner, who isn't actually running, performs no better than Domino is also a positive sign for the incumbent. Unusually for an internal, we also have the partisan breakdown, which at 43 percent Republican, 37 percent Democrat, and 20 percent independent is several points redder than the 38 R, 36D, 21 I split just ahead of last year's election.
And speaking of 2012, FrederickPolls nailed Murphy's race against then-Rep. Allen West, finding the contest deadlocked at 47 apiece just weeks before Election Day. Murphy, of course, won in a squeaker, with less than 1 percent separating him and West when all the votes were finally tallied. Yes, this latest survey was taken in the midst of the government shutdown, but if it's anywhere near as accurate as Murphy's internals were last cycle, he's in very good shape for re-election.
• IL-13: One disappointing fundraising result this quarter came in Illinois' 13th Congressional District, where attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold is challenging Rep. Rodney Davis in the GOP primary. Harold, who looked like she could emerge as a tea partying bomb-thrower, has instead been very quiet and raised a tepid $73,000. (Davis took in $302,000.) Now a new poll from conservative pollster We Ask America offers even worse news for the challenger, since Davis leads 63-16, up from 54-17 in June.
• LA-05: Saturday's all-party special election to replace ex-Rep. Rodney Alexander will, as anticipated, require a runoff to decide the victory, seeing as no candidate in the crowded field cleared 50 percent. And it'll be an all-GOP affair, as a pair of Republicans, state Sen. Neil Riser and businessman Vance McAllister took the top two slots, with 32 percent and 18 percent respectively. (Democrat Jamie Mayo, the mayor of Monroe, was third with 15.) Riser, the strong establishment favorite, led in fundraising and notable endorsements, so his first-place finish was expected.
But McAllister moving on is something of a surprise. He managed not to file a single FEC report detailing his fundraising, but he's been described as "wealthy," and media reports say he spent a bunch of his own money on his campaign. That failure to disclose his financial activity would appear to be a serious breach of the law, and it's hard to imagine any kind of valid excuse for it. It's also very much the kind of thing Riser could and should make a big deal out of during the runoff, which is scheduled for Nov. 16.
• SD-AL: Retired Army Major and Iraq vet Corinna Robinson says she plans to run against GOP Rep. Kristi Noem next year and will make a formal announcement "in the next few weeks." South Dakota presents very tough turf for any Democrat, though: Last year, Dems recruited former congressional staffer Matt Varilek, who ran a cut-above campaign but still lost to Noem 57-43.
• Boston Mayor: A new poll gives City Councilor John Connolly his narrowest lead yet over rival state Rep. Marty Walsh. Sage Systems' survey, commissioned by the Environmental League of Massachusetts (which is currently neutral in the race), shows Connolly up 40 to 36 among likely voters. Other recent public polling has seen Connolly with a 7 to 8 point edge, but as the November 5 election approaches, other firms should soon weigh in and give us an idea of whether or not Walsh is indeed closing the gap. (Darth Jeff)
• NJ State Senate : Oy. Maybe shooting your opponent is something a candidate shouldn't joke about, especially when you're a member of law enforcement? Yet that didn't stop Frank Balles, the sheriff of Atlantic County and the GOP nominee for state Senate, from doing so at a campaign event earlier this month. A video of the event, obtained by TPM, shows Balles agreeing with a guest's violent rhetoric at a pro-gun gathering where Balles was speaking:
"When someone's been elected for 30 years and he comes knocking on your door and tells you, 'Listen, this is what I want to do to help you,' quickly close your door, go inside," Balles said.Balles is the GOP's standard bearer in one of the few Senate seats thought to be competitive next month. The southern-tier 2nd District is home to two Republican state assembly members, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan was held to a modest 6-point victory in 2011. However, a recent poll had him leading Balles by 12 points, and Barack Obama comfortably carried this seat 60-39 in 2012.
A member of the audience quickly interjected, "And get your gun!"
Balles quickly responded, "And get your gun, exactly!"
Amazingly, Balles later denied making the remarks altogether! His lame contention is that an attendee made the comment about "getting your gun," and that he can't control what his audience members say. Except video of the incident clearly shows Balles smiling and pointing at the participant in question and echoing the phrase "get your gun," as the crowd laughs and applauds. Yet another politician's pathetic denial readily contradicted by videotape. (Steve Singiser)
• DCCC, DSCC: Both of the major Democratic campaign committees released their September fundraising hauls several days early, and both, as you might imagine, did quite well. The DCCC raised a massive $8.4 million, which they say is their best-ever September haul in a non-election year. (The NRCC hasn't released its figures yet.) The DSCC, meanwhile, took in $4.6 million, well ahead of the NRSC's $3.4 million. And note that the books closed on these reports right before the shutdown; I'm guessing that October is gonna be even more crazy-nuts.
• Deaths: Democrat Tom Foley, the Democratic Speaker of the House from 1989 to 1994, died on Friday at the age of 84. Foley served Washington's 5th Congressional District in the Spokane area for 30 years, and his speakership represented the last era when the dominant tone in the House was one of collegiality. But he became a victim of the hyper-partisan Gingrich revolution, and when Republican George Nethercutt beat him in 1994, he became the first sitting speaker to lose re-election since Republican Galusha Grow in 1862. Following his time in Congress, Foley served as U.S. ambassador to Japan. (David Jarman)
• Special Elections: As the biggest state in the nation, and one with legislative term limits to boot, California conducts tons of special elections. If you're interested in delving into the past, the Secretary of State's office has put together a chart of every special since 1989, including recalls. A bit of recent trivia: Did you know that GOP Rep. Jeff Denham was the subject of a failed recall in 2008, when he served in the state Senate?
• Votes: Daily Kos Elections is out with a detailed wrap-up of last Wednesday's votes in the Senate and House to end the shutdown. Wondering who the "no" votes in the bluest districts are? Wondering how strongly the "no" votes correlate with the tea party right? Wondering what the demographics of the "no" voters' districts are? It's all in there. (David Jarman)