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• CO Recall: In a devastating result for Democrats, two legislators who supported new gun safety laws, state Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron, both lost in recall elections spurred by the NRA and gun activists on Tuesday night, Morse by less than 2 percent, Giron by 12. Morse will be replaced by Republican Bernie Herpin; Giron's seat, meanwhile, will be taken over by another Republican, George Rivera. Both Herpin and Rivera have to go before voters next year, and both seats gave Barack Obama about 58 to 59 percent of the vote in 2012, so they won't be easy holds for the GOP. But last night's results show just how badly Democratic turnout dropped in these unusually timed, off-off-year elections.
For now, Democrats' 20-15 edge in the Senate has been whittled down to a precarious 18-17—and the NRA and their allies will crow about what this means for proponents of gun regulations. Conservatives have talked about ushering in a "wave of fear" among Democratic lawmakers nationwide, but more immediately, they might attempt another recall to try to take control of the chamber, since Republicans clearly benefit when holding elections in non-presidential years. This falloff in enthusiasm in years not divisible by four is probably the biggest electoral challenge Democrats face nationwide right now, and these recalls, if any good is to come of them, should spur the party to seriously address this major problem.
• NYC Mayor, Comptroller: As we put the Digest to bed late on Tuesday night, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio had just edged past the 40 percent mark he needed in order to avoid a runoff in the Democratic primary for mayor, with former city Comptroller Bill Thompson in second place at 26. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the one-time frontrunner, was a distant third with 15, while ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner fell all the way to fifth, with less than 5 percent, behind Comptroller John Liu, who took just 7.
De Blasio, who successfully portrayed himself as the most progressive option in the race, was just a micron over 40 with a handful of precincts still left to report, so the outcome may have changed by the time you read this. In addition, paper ballots (such as absentees and provisional ballots) still need to be counted, and the Board of Elections was reportedly preparing for a recount. If a second round is necessary, de Blasio and Thompson will face off on Oct. 1. Whoever the nominee is will go up against former MTA chief Joe Lhota, the winner of the Republican primary, in November.
Meanwhile, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's comeback bid fell short (though less abysmally than Weiner's). He lost the Democratic primary for comptroller to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer by a 52-48 margin. Republicans haven't held the comptroller's office since 1945, and Stringer will be the heavy favorite in the fall.
• MT-Sen: State Rep. Franke Wilmer, who took 18 percent en route to a second-place finish in last year's primary for Montana's lone House seat, is the latest Democrat to say no to a Senate bid in Montana. However, she did not rule out a repeat bid for MT-AL, which would once again become open if freshman GOP Rep. Steve Daines seeks a promotion to the Senate.
• NC-Sen: Is it a good month or a meh month for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in PPP's polling? It's a good month—in fact, judging by the toplines alone, it's her best month ever:
At this point it doesn't matter who the Republicans put forward though—Kay Hagan has a wide lead over all of them. She's up 12 on Heather Grant at 48/36, 13 on Jim Cain and Lynn Wheeler at 50/37 and 48/35 respectively, 14 on Mark Harris at 50/36, 15 on Thom Tillis at 51/36, 16 on Greg Brannon at 52/36, and 17 on Phil Berger at 53/36. Hagan is up by at least 16 points with independents in every match up.
In fact, it's the highest Hagan's ever scored
against Tillis, her only notable declared opponent so far, and only the second time she's hit or exceeded 50. But her job approvals remain middling (43 approving, 39 disapproving), and as Tom Jensen notes, every potential Republican candidate still has low name recognition. So I'd ascribe this to the usual gyrations (Hagan's been as low as 45), and like Tom, I still think this will be a very close race.
• SC-Sen-A: A one-day poll (taken on a Sunday, apparently for in-house purposes) from Republican firms Landmark Communications and Rosetta Stone Communications shows Sen. Lindsey Graham in less-than-great shape in the GOP primary. Graham takes just 42 percent against a split field, but his three opponents are all far behind: state Sen. Lee Bright is at 13, businesswoman Nancy Mace is at 10, and businessman Richard Cash is at 7.
As we've been saying all along, a weak Graham could very well get saved by the clown car effect, where the anti-incumbent vote gets split among various challengers, and this poll shows that could happen. However, South Carolina requires runoffs if no candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote, so Graham could be vulnerable in a second round. But if he's to face a serious threat, someone will have to really catch fire.
• SD-Sen: Republican pollster Harper Polling has a new poll of South Dakota's open-seat Senate race, pitting GOP ex-Gov. Mike Rounds against former Tom Daschle staffer Rick Weiland. Rounds leads Weiland, the only declared Democrat, 52-38. Rounds sports a 47-31 favorability rating, while Weiland sits at an even 24-24, which seems like a surprisingly high level of name recognition for someone who hasn't held office before.
Rounds also faces several opponents in the Republican primary, and while Harper didn't test that contest, they did pit those other hopefuls (PDF) against Weiland. All of these contenders are little-known (and aren't likely to win their party's nomination), and Weiland's vote share stays pretty stable against all of them. He edges physician Annette Bosworth 38-36 but trails state Rep. Stace Nelson and state Sen. Larry Rhoden 40-38 and 41-35 respectively.
• CT-Gov: Businessman Tom Foley started indicating his interest in a rematch almost immediately after his narrow loss to Democrat Dan Malloy in 2010's gubernatorial race. Now, finally, on Tuesday, Foley announced that he would... create an exploratory committee? Sigh. Everyone always loves to drag things out as long as possible, and I'd be quite surprised if Foley, who would be the likely frontrunner for the GOP nomination, didn't actually wind up running. But I guess we all need a little kabuki in our lives.
Anyhow, Foley might have an edge in the primary, thanks to his near-miss last time and his huge personal fortune (he spent $11 million of his own money), but he doesn't have the Republican field to himself. Several other candidates are running or exploring, including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, and state Sen. Toni Boucher. Malloy, incidentally, has not yet said whether he'll seek re-election.
• PA-Gov: There's a big cultural gap between the rural parts of southwestern Pennsylvania (which used to be the core for Democratic votes in the state) and the suburbs of Philadelphia (which have become the new Democratic keystone in the Keystone State, as the SWPA collar counties have turned red). But here's an endorsement that comes as a bit of a surprise, bridging that gulf: The United Mine Workers just gave their backing to Rep. Allyson Schwartz in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, to go up against incumbent GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.
I'd have expected them to hold out for someone who's a better cultural fit for them, though, like former state Auditor Jack Wagner, who may or may not be getting in to the race. But in any event, the UMW's money may be more of a difference maker than the votes it can deliver, though. There's just not much mining left in Pennsylvania, and it looks like there are only around 12,000 UMW members left in the state. (David Jarman)
• RI-Gov: The best chance for Rhode Island Republicans to take back this office probably depended on the unpopular Lincoln Chafee somehow being the Democratic nominee. However, despite the incumbent's decision to retire, one Republican seems to be pressing ahead anyway. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, one of the big fishes in the very small pond that is the Rhode Island Republican Party, has announced that he will indeed… create an exploratory committee. Seriously, what is with New England Republicans and exploratory committees today?
A January PPP poll (PDF) pegged Fung's statewide favorable rating at a quite good 55 percent, with only 14 percent seeing him unfavorably. However, he almost certainly needs an unpopular Democratic foe to prevail in this deep blue state, and neither Treasurer Gina Raimondo nor Providence Mayor Angel Taveras look like pushovers. (Darth Jeff)
• VA-Gov: Hoping to bring the never-ending story of Star Scientific to an end, Republican Gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli has announced that he'll donate $18,000 to the charity Cross Over Ministry—the value of the gifts he received from Star and its CEO. Of course, with Gov. Bob McDonnell still under federal investigation over his ties to the company, it doesn't look like Cuccinelli will be able to put this story to bed anytime soon. (Darth Jeff)
• ID-02: Maybe Republican Rep. Mike Simpson's people think they have something here with labeling his primary opponent, the Club for Growth-fueled Bryan Smith, a "personal injury lawyer?" They used it twice when putting out a statement last week in response to Smith's first ad, and now they bring it up three more times in their own first ad, a radio spot with a "significant district-wide buy" behind it. It's part of a broader theme that Smith is being dishonest about Simpson's record, as the ad also reminds listeners that Simpson has an A+ NRA rating and voted to repeal Obamacare 39 times. (David Jarman)
• NH-01, NH-Sen: With most of the highest-profile New Hampshire Republicans declining to pursue a bid for any of the state's major offices next year, James Pindell runs through an extensive junior varsity roster for all four races: governor, senator, and both seats in the House. In a separate piece, John DiStaso drills down on a couple of these. Ex-Rep. Frank Guinta was just in DC meeting with the NRCC about a comeback bid in NH-01 and had previously said he'd declare his plans this month, while ex-state Sen. Jim Rubens is expected to announce a run for Senate a week from Wednesday.
• FL-AG: Given news stories like this one, it is unthinkable... unthinkable... that any liberal would be so churlish to think that conservatives don't take life or death issues seriously:
There is no graver responsibility and act of state government than an execution.
In Florida this week, a campaign fundraiser takes precedence.
Attorney General Pam Bondi persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to postpone an execution scheduled for tonight because it conflicted with her re-election kick-off reception.
Words fail. Whatever your position may be on the death penalty, there is something truly awful about someone who treats it as a mere item on their daily schedule, and a low-priority item, at that. Bondi, 47, won election in 2010 by a 55-41 margin over Democrat Dan Gelber. There's no word yet on potential challengers this cycle, but she definitely just made herself a more appealing target. (Steve Singiser)