Republican Sen.-elect Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
• LA-Sen: On Saturday night, voters in Louisiana went back to the polls in races where no candidate took a majority in the November jungle primary. The Republicans were widely expected to pick up the state's U.S. Senate seat and they did, with Republican Bill Cassidy unseating Democrat Mary Landrieu 56-44. Cassidy's win gives his party its ninth and final Senate pickup for the cycle, and it means that Democrats will need to net at least four Senate seats in 2016 to regain the chamber (if the GOP wins the White House, that magic number becomes five).
While Landrieu had a history of pulling off tough wins, it's been clear since November that the odds were very much against her this time around. In the jungle primary she only took 42 percent of the vote, a dire number for a longtime incumbent in a hostile state. The DSCC quickly wrote Landrieu off, canceling their planned runoff ad reservations; the NRSC soon followed suit. Like fellow Democratic incumbents Mark Pryor, John Barrow, and Nick Rahall, Landrieu just could not escape Obama's unpopularity among an electorate that had never liked the president much to begin with.
Cassidy was never a particularly exciting candidate, especially by Louisiana standards. However, once he became the presumptive (and later the official) Republican nominee, he only needed to avoid self-destructing to prevail in this very favorable political environment. Landrieu did her best to disqualify Cassidy in the eyes of voters, and the Republican was hit by a late-breaking story alleging that he drew a part-time salary from Louisiana State University's medical school for work he didn't actually perform. However, it was just too little, too late. In the end Landrieu's loss was smaller than most polls predicted, but it still wasn't particularly close.
There's no word on what Landrieu will do next. In her concession speech she told voters that she would continue to serve the state, though she didn't elaborate. There's speculation that Landrieu will run for governor next year, or for the state's other Senate seat in 2016, but it's unclear if she's interested in either. With the exception of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (Mary's brother), there isn't much of a Democratic bench left in the state, and the senator would likely be a sought-after recruit. But as Landrieu's double-digit defeat demonstrates, the Pelican State has become a very unfriendly place for statewide Democrats, and it's going to be tough for Team Blue to win another big race anytime soon.
• CA-35: Freshman Democratic Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod raised some eyebrows when she chose to run for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors rather than seek a second term in her safe House seat. When we last checked in with Negrete McLeod just after Election Day, she was trailing Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman. In California late ballots usually break for the Democrats, but they weren't enough this time: With all the votes in, Hagman prevailed 52-48, and he was recently sworn in as supervisor.
• FL-13: Here's a positive follow-up to a small but depressing story from earlier this year. First, though, some background. One of the DCCC's biggest recruitment failures this year came in Florida's swingy 13th District, which Democrat Alex Sink narrowly lost to Republican David Jolly in a March special election. The D-Trip recruited Marine vet Ed Jany to run against Jolly in the fall, even though Jany wasn't a registered Democrat and would have had to run as an independent. To avoid splitting the vote, the party had to make sure that no actual Democrats were running on the Democratic line, and they resorted to some pretty grotesque tactics to keep African-American minister Manuel Sykes from doing so.
The prime offender was Pinellas County Democratic chair Mark Hanisee, who made over-the-top threats to Sykes about his political future, then publicly declared that he didn't want Sykes in the race because "[i]f you check the demographics, it's like a 2 percent, 3 percent African-American district." That was Hanisee's not-at-all-subtle way of saying a black candidate couldn't win in the 13th, which was not only offensive but stupid, considering that Barack Obama carried the district—twice.
What ultimately made Hanisee's obnoxious behavior all the more galling was that Jany very quickly dropped out of the race, leaving Jolly completely unopposed in his very first re-election campaign, when he theoretically would have been at his most vulnerable. Sure, it probably didn't matter in the end given how disastrous 2014 was, but no one knew that at the time, and Florida's 13th is emphatically not the kind of districts Democrats can just give up on.
But here's the good news that's finally emerged from this disheartening saga: Hanisee is now out as Pinellas chair. Susan McGrath, a former chair of the Pinellas Stonewall Democrats, just defeated Hanisee in a leadership election, and she immediately promised to do things differently, saying, "We will never go with a seat like D-13 and not have a candidate again." Damn straight.
• LA-05, 06: Saturday night also brought us two more runoffs in Louisiana, but there was never any real suspense. In northeast Louisiana's 5th District, Republican physician Ralph Abraham defeated Democratic Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo 64-36. Scandal-tarred Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, who took a distant fourth place in the November jungle primary, is vacating this conservative district.
Over in Bill Cassidy's old Baton Rouge-area 6th District, Republican Garret Graves defeated former Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards 62-38. The colorful and controversial Edwards never struggled for name recognition, but he always faced a very uphill climb in this Romney 66-32 seat. Still, as lopsided as this loss is, it's probably less embarrassing for Edwards than the recent failure of his reality TV show, "The Governor's Wife."
• WA-09: It seemed like a longshot anyway, but Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, whose name came up as a possible option to replace Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, is staying put. Barack Obama has instead nominated Pentagon official Ashton Carter.
• Charlotte Mayor: The Hornet's Nest will be one of a number of major cities to hold its mayoral election next year, and Jim Bradley of WSOC-TV brings us up to speed on where things stand. Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts announced she would run over the summer, and she's still the only notable declared candidate. Roberts was the Democratic nominee in NC-09 back in 2012 and performed surprisingly well, losing to Robert Pittenger only 52-46 even as Romney was carrying the seat 56-43.
It doesn't look like Roberts will have the field to herself though, with fellow Democrat and interim Mayor Dan Clodfelter considering a campaign. Clodfelter was appointed by the city council in April to replace Patrick Cannon, whose brief tenure ended after he was arrested (and later convinced) for taking bribes. At the time Clodfelter said he didn't plan to run for a full two-year term but he didn't quite rule it out, and he's sounded more and more like a candidate in recent months. Councilmembers Vi Lyles and David Howard are also potential Democratic candidates. The filing deadline isn't until July 17, so it may take a while for things to take shape here. The party primary is Sept. 15, with an Oct. 6 runoff if no one takes more than 40 percent in the first round.
Charlotte is a Democratic-leaning city, but it has been open to electing Republican mayors. Gov. Pat McCrory served as the city's chief executive from 1995 to 2009, and Team Red performed respectably in the 2009 and 2013 open seat races. Former Councilmember Edwin Peacock, who lost to Cannon 53-47 in 2013, says he "doesn't know" if he's interested in another bid. The GOP's bench isn't particularly deep here, but it's unlikely that they'll cede this seat to the Democrats.
• Special Elections: It's been three months since we've had any legislative special elections! But Johnny Longtorso is right back in the saddle. We had out first special on Saturday in Texas:
Texas SD-18: Texas SD-18 - This turned out to be an easy win for Republican State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst. She defeated fellow Republican Gary Gates by a 56-34 margin, with the other three candidates splitting the remaining 10 percent. This is a 67-32 Romney district so a GOP hold was no surprise.
This Tuesday also will bring us a pair of specials:
California SD-35: This is the seat vacated by convicted felon Rod Wright, located in southern LA. There are four candidates running: Democrats Louis Dominguez, Isadore Hall III, and Hector Serrano, and Republican James Spencer. Hall, a former Assemblyman whom you may recall from his brief run for CA-44 in 2011, is the only candidate of the bunch with political experience. At 80-18 Obama, there's little chance of the Democrats losing this one.
Virginia HD-04: This is the seat of now-State Sen. Ben Chafin. The candidates are Democrat Donnie Rife, a Dickenson County Supervisor, and Republican Todd Pillion, a dentist. Prior to Chafin, a Democrat held this seat, but Southwestern Virginia is hostile territory for Democrats these days. Ken Cuccinelli carried the seat 66-30 in 2013, while Mitt Romney won a similar 68-30 margin here in 2012.
• NH State House: Something very unusual happened in the Granite State on Wednesday—very unusual indeed. After a century of Republican dominance, New Hampshire's enormous, 400-member state House has become notoriously subject to the winds of change. It's now switched hands four times in the past five election cycles, including the most recent. So with the chamber now back under GOP control, it seemed a given that the party would re-appoint its former speaker, Bill O'Brien, who led the body following the 2010 wave.
O'Brien, though, is an extremist and a bully, and he earned plenty of blame from fellow Republicans when the House went back to the Democrats in 2012. Those attributes certainly haven't stopped lots of other Republicans from advancing (or re-advancing) through the ranks, but when the full chamber gathered to pick a new Speaker, O'Brien failed to capture a majority on the first vote against Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff.
The House actually uses a secret ballot, but it's clear what happened: A handful of renegade Republicans, sick of O'Brien's abuse, sided with Democrats to deny him a win. At that point, Shurtleff dropped out and state Rep. Shawn Jasper, a Republican, entered the fray. After two more ballots, enough Republicans sided with Democrats to give Jasper an outright victory, making him speaker.
While this of course is a debacle for O'Brien, it's good news for Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who'd make a very appealing candidate for Senate and at least won't have to face a state House bent on destroying her for the next two years. And needless to say, this entire episode has conservatives in New Hampshire enraged beyond measure. The wife of one loyalist Republican said that serving in the House "is like being trapped in a bad marriage" with a "traitor as Speaker." After some exciting nuptials, Democrats might actually be in for a much more relaxing honeymoon.
• 2014: A year like 2014 calls for serious introspection, so a couple of weeks ago, we posed an open question to the Daily Kos Election community: What were you wrongest about this cycle? The staff here didn't exempt ourselves, and we shared some thoughts of our own, but the comments generated some truly great discussion. If you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, now is your time.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Taniel, and Dreaminonempty.