The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● NY-22: Republican incumbent Claudia Tenney lost her bid for a second term last year 51-49 to Democrat Anthony Brindisi, and she's once again talking about seeking a rematch in New York's 22nd Congressional District. Tenney told the radio station WUTQ in late February that she was not ruling out another bid for this upstate New York seat, which includes Utica and Rome, and was "looking at all the options."
Tenney also had some choice words about her successor, accusing Brindisi of "introducing my old bills" and using "mostly plagiarism" to copy her old letters to committee chairs and to the White House, though Luke Perry of Utica College notes that she "did not provide specific examples." Tenney oddly also used that very same interview to claim that, in addition to "literally copying what I did," Brindisi also had the "single-most left-wing voting record" when he served in the state Assembly.
Perry also notes that Tenney's Twitter handle, which she started using again this month after a three-month hiatus, still identifies her as a current member of Congress, but her old GOP colleagues may not be so keen to have her running again. Last year, Tenney earned an ignominious distinction: New York's 22nd backed Donald Trump by a wide 55-39 margin, making it the Trumpiest seat that a House Republican managed to lose in 2018. According to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro also carried this seat by a wide 56-36 margin as Tenney was losing, so she managed to alienate quite a few conservative voters.
Indeed, Tenney had a knack for attracting plenty of bad headlines for herself during the campaign. In just one of many examples, she hurled hoary anti-Italian slurs at Brindisi last year by saying his father had represented "some of the worst criminals in our community" who were members of "organized crime"—in other words, mafia figures. In September she doubled down on line of attack, a very bad strategy in a seat where one in seven residents are Italian-American.
If Tenney runs again, she'd face an old opponent in the primary. Teacher George Phillips, who was appointed to the Broome County Legislature in 2013 and stepped down months later, announced on Thursday that he was running for Congress again. Phillips unsuccessfully challenged Democratic incumbent Maurice Hinchey in 2008 and 2010, and both he and Tenney sought this seat in 2016 when it was last open. Tenney beat another candidate 41-34, while Phillips took third with 25 percent.
Broome County District Attorney Stephen Cornwell also announced in January that he had opened an exploratory committee for a potential bid here, but the FEC doesn't show him having filed a fundraising committee yet.
● AL-Sen: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth is out with a poll from WPA Intelligence showing Rep. Mo Brooks demolishing 2017 nominee Roy Moore 52-32 in a hypothetical GOP primary, and it sounds like they're hoping Brooks will jump in.
David McIntosh, the Club's president, declared that their polling "clearly shows Mo Brooks is the best choice to defeat Roy Moore," who lost this deeply red seat to Democrat Doug Jones. McIntosh also insisted that their surveys show that "[o]ther candidates, including [Rep.] Bradley Byrne, would present a greater risk that Moore could win." However, the Club's release didn't reveal how anyone but Brooks performed against Moore, who lost his last race after multiple women accused him of preying on them when they were teenagers.
Last month, it sounded like the Club was hoping to land Rep. Gary Palmer for this race. Back then, they released a GOP primary poll showing Palmer tied with Byrne, a Club adversary who currently has the GOP field to himself. However, while there have been media reports saying that Palmer is considering jumping in, we haven't heard anything from the congressman himself. Notably, this new poll didn't so much as mention Palmer: It's unclear if the Club has decided he's not running and is hoping to recruit Brooks instead, or if they're just keeping their options open while looking for an alternative to Byrne or Moore.
Moore said earlier this month that he was "seriously considering" another try, but Brooks has presented some very mixed signals about his own interest. Brooks, who lost the 2017 primary to Moore, said a few weeks ago that he was "contemplating a Senate race" but that "[i]t would take some kind of seismic event" for him to actually run. However, an unnamed source close to Brooks told the Washington Examiner that the congressman is actually "very interested in the race" but would only run if he received Donald Trump's endorsement or at least a pledge that he would remain neutral in the primary.
● AZ-Sen: The Arizona Republic's Yvonne Wingett Sanchez writes that when Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego decides whether or not to run for the Senate, he doesn't want his announcement to "step on festivities surrounding the swearing-in of his ex-wife," Phoenix Mayor-elect Kate Gallego. Kate Gallego was elected mayor in a special election on Tuesday, and she'll be sworn in on March 21.
Ruben Gallego recently said he'd decide on a Senate bid by the end of March, though it might make sense for him to announce his plans in April at the start of a new fundraising quarter. The congressman has sounded eager to run for a long time, and Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman Felecia Rotellini says that he's "told me he is preparing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate."
● TX-Sen: An unnamed source "familiar with" Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro's thinking tells the Texas Monthly's Carlos Sanchez that he "is all but certain" to challenge GOP Sen. John Cornyn. This source added that Castro did not have a timeline for when he would announce a Senate bid. Matthew Jones, Castro's campaign advisor, said that the congressman will "be making an announcement in the very near future" about his 2020 plans.
● HI-02: On Thursday, former Gov. Ben Cayetano endorsed Democratic state Sen. Kai Kahele's bid to succeed Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who may or may not be running for re-election. Two other former governors, Neil Abercrombie and John Waihee, had previously backed Kahele.
● NC-03: VoteVets has endorsed Marine veteran Richard Bew in the April 3 Democratic primary.
● NC-09: Candidate filing closed Friday for the special election for North Carolina's 9th District, and the state has a list of candidates here. We'll take a look at the field in our next Digest, but we wanted to highlight the last-minute entrance of a few Republicans, one who might emerge as a major candidate for Team Red, and the other who might turn out to be a major headache for them.
Leigh Thomas Brown, a former official at the National Association of Realtors, jumped in the contest on Friday. The NAR's political arm is famous for spending plenty of money in congressional contests for candidates on both sides of the aisle, and the Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill relays that Brown is "said to be able to match" state Sen. Dan Bishop in fundraising. Brown ran for a state House seat in 2014 and lost the primary 62-38 to incumbent Larry Pittman.
Team Red also got an unwelcome additional candidate Friday when attorney Chris Anglin jumped in. Anglin was a registered Democrat until just before he entered the 2018 contest for state Supreme Court as a Republican, a move that spoiled Team Red's scheme to keep an opponent of their gerrymanders, Democrat Anita Earls, off the court.
The GOP state legislature had recently changed the rules for electing Supreme Court justices that turned these once nonpartisan races into explicitly partisan contests. Furthermore, they eliminated the primary for 2018 only: Instead, a jumble of candidates from both parties would compete on a single general election ballot where all it took to win would be a plurality. Republicans calculated that Democrats would split the vote and allow the GOP candidate to claim victory, but Anglin's campaign caused that plan to backfire. Instead, Earls was the only Democrat on the ballot while Supreme Justice Barbara Jackson and Anglin were both listed as Republicans.
The GOP passed a new law in response that would have stripped Anglin of his party affiliation on the ballot because he hadn't been a registered Republican for 90 days prior to launching his campaign. However, Anglin successfully sued to block that, and he remained on the ballot as a Republican. In November Earls defeated Jackson 49.6-34.1, while Anglin claimed 16.4 percent of the vote.
Anglin's impact on this congressional race isn't likely to be as bad for the GOP as his judicial campaign was, but he could very well make a difference. North Carolina requires a runoff in primary contests where no one takes at least 30 percent of the vote, and with 10 candidates, including Anglin, on the ballot, there's a very good chance of that happening.
Marine veteran Dan McCready, who was the Democratic nominee in the 2018 race that was tainted by GOP election fraud, has his primary to himself, so he can focus entirely on the general election. However, it's not clear when the general election would be. The primary will be May 14, and what happens next will depend on if a GOP runoff is needed. If there is a runoff, it would take place on Sept. 10, and the general election would be Nov. 5. If no such runoff is required, though, the general would be held on Sept. 10. McCready would probably benefit from the GOP contest going into overtime, and Anglin's campaign could make that outcome more likely.
North Carolina GOP officials are quite pissed to see Anglin back. State party chair Robin Hayes said Friday that "Anglin is not a Republican" and that he "will not be allowed to access any GOP data, information, or infrastructure." In response, Anglin threatened to sue if he's denied access to party data provided to other GOP candidates. GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse, who remains as tactful as ever, tweeted back, "OMG you are a complete idiot" and told Anglin, "Go to H@ll."
● Dallas, TX Mayor: EMILY's List has endorsed Regina Montoya, an attorney and former Clinton administration official, in the crowded May 4 nonpartisan primary.
● Denver, CO Mayor: Candidate filing closed Wednesday for Denver's May 7 nonpartisan primary, and Democratic Mayor Michael Hancock faces five opponents. Hancock's main foes are Jamie Giellis, who has been a key figure in redeveloping the River North Art District (RiNo); former state Sen. Penfield Tate III, a Democrat who left the legislature in 2003; and criminal justice activist Lisa Calderon. Either Giellis or Calderon would be the first woman to serve as mayor.
Denverite's David Sachs has an overview of the contest. The main issue in the campaign is likely to be how Hancock has been handling the city's rapid growth and its rising costs of living. The mayor is focusing on the city's strong budget and the creation of the affordable housing fund, as well as a $15 minimum wage for city workers and contractors. However, Hancock's foes charge that developers have too much power and that poor planning has displaced too many residents.
Hancock has raised $1.5 million so far, while Giellis has taken in $400,000. Tate has brought in $205,000, while Calderon has raised $78,000. If no one takes a majority in May, the general election between the top two candidates would take place on June 4.
● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Candidate filing closed Wednesday for Philadelphia's May 21 party primaries, and as usual, the Democratic contest is the one to watch. Mayor Jim Kenney is seeking a second term and he faces challenges from state Sen. Anthony Williams and former city Controller Alan Butkovitz. It takes just a plurality to win the Democratic nod, and the nominee should have very little to worry about in the November general election.
No mayor of Philadelphia has lost re-election since before the city adopted its current city charter in 1951, and it's not going to be easy for anyone to beat Kenney in next year's primary. It doesn't help that neither Williams, who only entered the race just before the filing deadline, or Butkovitz have fared well in recent citywide races.
Both Kenney and Williams ran here in 2015 for what was an open seat, and while polls initially showed a tight race, Kenney won the primary 56-26. Two years later, Butkovitz lost renomination 58-41 in a shocker against first-time candidate Rebecca Rhynhart. Butkovitz's defeat may have had little to do with him and everything to do with his allies in the city's traditional Democratic machine, which had been falling into disarray for years.
Still, Kenney has some potential vulnerabilities. One of the mayor's biggest accomplishments was successfully pushing a soda tax that was used to fund pre-K programs as well as investments in local parks, libraries, and recreation centers. The tax has infuriated the powerful beverage industry, though it's unclear if they plan to spend against Kenney. The City Council is also considering phasing out the soda tax, though it remains to be seen if there are enough councilors willing to vote for this legislation, much less override a Kenney veto.
An ongoing federal corruption investigation of a powerful Kenney ally could also cause the mayor some headaches. In late January, John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, the head of the International Brotherhood of Electricians Local 98 and a major power player in Pennsylvania Democratic politics, was indicted on charges of bribery and fraud, and for allegedly using union dues for his own purposes. Kenney has denied any knowledge of Dougherty's activities and noted that no one from his administration has been implicated in this matter, but the mayor's detractors are hoping to use the story against him.
● Raleigh, NC Mayor: Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, an independent who often supports Democratic candidates, announced on Wednesday that she would not seek a fifth two-year term this year.
McFarlane has always won re-election with ease, though her 58-42 win against Democrat Charles Francis in 2017 was considerably closer than her other campaigns. McFarlane also hasn't had a good relationship with the City Council in recent years, with a majority of the Council often calling for more cautious growth policies than what McFarlane wanted. The disputes have often gotten nasty, and the mayor used her retirement announcement to decry how the "mean politics of Twitter" has "exploded since I first ran for City Council in 2007," declaring, "Raleigh politics could use a reset."
Raleigh, which is North Carolina's second-largest city, will host a nonpartisan primary on Oct. 8, and if no one takes a majority, the two candidates with the most votes would advance to the Nov. 5 general election. The filing deadline is July 19.
Francis, an attorney, has already announced that he'll run again, and he's likely to have company before too long. Former City Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, former Councilor David Cox, Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, and former Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan all told The News & Observer that they were considering running here.