• MT-Sen: Over the weekend, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer announced that he would not run for Senate, making Democratic chances at holding Montana's open seat much tougher. Polling had shown Schweitzer as indisputably the strongest possible Democrat; now recruiters will turn their attention to folks like state Auditor Monica Lindeen or state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, both of whom have reiterated that they are still looking at the race. Other possible names include state Rep. Franke Wilmer, EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock, Lt. Gov. John Walsh, state Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat, and former state Sen. Mike Halligan.
Republicans were also waiting on Schweitzer's decision, and now their preferred candidate, freshman Rep. Steve Daines, has an easier path to the Senate if he wants to give it a shot. A recent PPP poll showed him with double-digit leads over both Juneau and Lindeen, and just a hair under 50 percent, so Daines will undoubtedly come under a lot of pressure to get in.
If he does, that could open a free-for-all for his House seat, and stronger Democrats might be more tempted to make a go of that race rather than face Daines for Senate. Republicans might also clear the Senate field for him, as state Rep. Champ Edmunds (one of two Republicans already running, along with ex-state Sen. Corey Stapleton) has said he'll drop down to the House contest if Daines seeks a promotion.
So once again, political observers resume waiting, this time for Daines. In the meantime, we're changing our rating on this race from Tossup to Lean R. Our prior rating was predicated on a Schweitzer candidacy, since he would have made the contest a close one thanks to his singular profile. With him out of the picture, even without knowing the candidates, our belief is that an open seat race in a state as red as Montana favors the GOP by default. (A good comparison at the other end of the spectrum might be Michigan, which has a decent Republican bench but favors the Democrats simply because of its blue tilt.) Of course, this could all change, especially if Daines declines, but for now, we believe Republicans have the edge.
• GA-Sen: Rep. Jack Kingston (R): $800K raised
• NY-Gov: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D): $6.2 mil raised (in last six months), $28 mil cash-on-hand
• SD-Sen: Rick Weiland (D): $105K raised (plus $100K loan), $195K cash-on-hand
• DGA: $15 mil raised (in last six months)
• ME-Sen: Speculation about possible replacements for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who just announced that she'd soon step down from her post to run the University of California system, instantly flew into high gear. But here's one especially intriguing tea leaf. Republican Sen. Susan Collins immediate issued a statement praising Napolitano, and noting that she had "served as either Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee for several years." Considering the outright hostility with which other Republican senators (such as Alabama's Jeff Sessions) greeted this news, Collins' kind words for Napolitano almost make you wonder if she might be angling for the post herself.
Collins, though, wasn't mentioned in a lengthy Washington Post roundup of possible successors, which mostly includes fairly anonymous government officials. The only current elected official on the list is California AG Kamala Harris, though it's not clear why she might be considered for the job (or even interested in it). Also cited are a couple of undelightful former members of Congress: Joe Lieberman and Jane Harman.
• MI-Sen: Aaron Blake reports that the NRSC met with a local judge, Kim Small, last week—to talk about Michigan's open seat Senate race, of course. Sitting on the bench of the Oakland County District Court is not exactly the highest-profile of positions, but Small apparently is close to Gov. Rick Snyder and wealthy GOP donors. But what's most interesting about this is that that national Republicans must not think that their current candidate, former SoS Terri Lynn Land, has the chops to defeat Dem Rep. Gary Peters next year, or else why would they be looking for alternatives?
• VA-Gov: The Virginia Democratic Party is reportedly spending $275,000 on a new TV ad attacking Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli for refusing to sign a letter in support of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, even though 47 other state attorneys general (Democrats and Republicans) did so. The funding for the buy comes from the campaign of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who just transferred $300,000 to the state party, his second big cash infusion this year. (Back in April, he donated $500,000.) It's not exactly clear why McAuliffe isn't just running the ads himself, though.
• AZ-02: The NRCC is touting a mid-June poll from OnMessage showing Democratic Rep. Ron Barber ahead of their prized recruit, 2012 nominee Martha McSally, by just a 46-45 margin. While numbers like those might seem a little scary for the incumbent, I actually think a tie game in your opponent's internal heading into a non-presidential year is actually optimistic news. Barber, of course, beat McSally by less than 1 percent last year, but apparently she hasn't yet gained ground on him in spite of expected midterm drop off for Democrats.
One thing I'm not willing to say, though, is that this is "just a Republican poll" and that reality is likely several points bluer. Last year, OnMessage's final poll pegged the race at an exact 47-47 tie, while a DCCC survey taken at the same time by Grove Insight utterly blew it, claiming Barber had a 54-40 edge. That Grove poll seemed believable at the time, but McSally made the race unexpectedly close, and I expect Barber to be in for the fight of his political life once again.
• IN-02: Iraq vet Brendan Mullen, who last year came one point away from beating Republican Jackie Walorski when Indiana's 2nd Congressional District was open, has decided against a rematch. Mullen's performance last year in this 56-42 Romney district was surprising, but he also probably concluded he was unlikely to exceed it an off year, especially now that Walorski's the incumbent. Democrats have a bit of a bench here, but there probably isn't anyone who can really make this race competitive as Mullen would have.
• MA-06: In the previous Digest, we talked about the possibility of the Democratic primary clown car in Massachusetts' 6th Congressional District filling up with a few more floppy shoes and red noses, but could it soon get even more crowded? In a column for the Salem News, Nelson Benton suggests that Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, and state Reps. John Keenan and Steve Walsh could conceivably get in as well. They'd be looking at a field that already includes incumbent Rep. John Tierney and Iraq vet Seth Moulton, and possibly attorney Marisa DeFranco as well.
• OH-06: Blech. Former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, whom we last saw in May when she was meeting with DCCC recruiters, has indeed decided to run against GOP Rep. Bob Johnson. Ordinarily, I might say that a conservative Democrat like Garrison could be a good fit for a district like this, which went for Mitt Romney 55-43. But Garrison is so right-wing, and her anti-gay views are so intolerant, that I'd worry she'd depress Democratic enthusiasm.
We also have what looks like a better option, too: state Sen. Lou Gentile, who says he is still considering the race. Garrison's been out of office since 2010, while Gentile, who is tight with ex-Gov. Ted Strickland (he came up in politics as Strickland's body guy), represents more turf in the 6th than Garrison did. Whether Gentile wants to face a contested primary is another question, though. Garrison has already secured a key endorsement, from Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, who was reportedly looking at the race himself. If local and national power brokers are coalescing around Garrison, Gentile might prefer to defer.
• NYC Comptroller: Eliot Spitzer entered the race for New York City comptroller at the last possible second and without, it seemed, a whole lot of infrastructure in place, leading many people to wonder whether he'd be able to secure the 3,750 signatures he needed from registered Democrats in order to appear on the ballot. Well, it looks like he has, and then some: Just ahead of Thursday night's deadline, Spitzer filed 27,000 petitions with the Board of Elections. (As Azi Paybarah points out, that amounts to an extraordinary 281 per hour over four days, day and night.)
Of course, there's still the issue of quality. If a motivated party wanted to challenge Spitzer's signatures, they'd obviously he'd need to invalidate a hell of a lot to knock him below the legal minimum. However, a voter can't sign petitions for two candidates running for the same office, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer submitted 100,000 petitions of his own, the most of any candidate for any office in NYC this year. That means someone could try to attack duplicates as well as simply invalid signatures. However, that someone won't be Stringer, who says he won't challenge Spitzer's petitions. But it's possible some other person or entity could try.
• OH Ballot: As you may know, Ohio Republicans recently passed a new budget that included a whole host of new restrictions on abortion rights (because those, of course, are very germane to the budgeting process). However, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the likely Democratic nominee for governor next year, has started talking about an effort to place a measure on the 2014 ballot that would repeal a number of these restrictions. FitzGerald also indicated that groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL might join in (they should!), and they're considering legal challenges to the new laws as well.
• Georgia: A federal judge just ordered the state of Georgia to move its primary next year from mid-July to June 3, so that overseas voters have sufficient time to get ballots in case there are any runoffs, as required by federal law. (Runoffs would still take place on Aug. 6.) The ruling, though, applies only to federal elections, so unless the Georgia legislature takes action, the state could wind up with the mess we had here in New York last year, when the state held separate primaries for federal races and state and local races. Throw in the presidential primary and we wound up with an absurd three primaries last year.
There's another wrinkle here as well. Georgia is the only state in the nation which requires runoffs in the event no candidate receives 50 percent in the general election. Traditionally, these have been held in December. (We saw one for GA-Sen in 2008.) But under the judge's new schedule, these runoffs would have to be held in January of 2015, because of course the normal November election date can't be moved. Craziness!
• House: Quinnipiac's national polling has kinda been all over the place on the generic congressional ballot this year. Their newest survey puts Democrats up 5 points, 39-34, but at the end of May, the parties were tied at 38 apiece. And the two polls before that had Dems ahead +4 and +8, so it's hard to explain these gyrations.
• Maps: Holy smokes! Working with the estimable Ken Martis, a team of researchers at UCLA led by Jeffrey Lewis has released digital boundary definitions for every congressional district from 1789 to 2012—in other words, every district ever! The data is stored in what's known as the ESRI shapefile format, which means you'll need a so-called GIS software program to read and manipulate them. (There are tons out there, but one free package available for both Mac and Windows is QGIS.) This is simply an amazing resource that will make all kinds of new analyses possible—total nerdvana.
• WATN?: Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who resigned in 2004 after acknowledging he was gay and had appointed his lover to a government post he was unqualified for, has accepted a new post heading Jersey City's job creation and training commission. McGreevey, who currently volunteers with drug-addicted inmates, will also work to reintegrate convicts when they are released from prison. Just the other day, in light of all the Weiner/Spitzer brouhaha, McGreevey said he'd "never" make an electoral comeback; given his humble path back to public life, including this latest announcement, I'm inclined to believe him.