Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently spoke to consultants about a possible Senate campaign, and billionaire Tom Steyer (who primarily funded the group NextGen Climate during the 2014 cycle) isn't ruling out a campaign of his own. Isenstadt mentions a few other potential Democratic contenders. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's name always comes up for open statewide races, though in the past he's seemed much more interested in running for governor. Rep. Jackie Speier, Secretary of State-elect Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and Treasurer-elect John Chiang are also possibilities.
Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, Carla Marinucci drops more names for future statewide races. She notes that party insiders are talking about Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Rep. Xavier Becerra, and former Rep. Jane Harman. She also names former Controller Steve Westly, who lost a 2006 primary for governor and has since emerged as a prominent Obama fundraiser (and was even the subject of an RNC attack ad during the 2012 campaign). Both Isenstadt and Marinucci also mention Facebook chief executive Sheryl Sandberg, though her camp is saying she's not interested.
While we definitely could be in for a crowded race, some of these would-be contenders (and some people who weren't mentioned here) may decide to wait things out. Feinstein will be 85 when she is next up in 2018, and it's quite possible she retires and gives us another open seat. Brown is also termed out as governor then, and he doesn't have an obvious successor. It looks like the next two cycles could bring us plenty of exciting primaries after decades of stasis at the top of the ticket.
California is a dark blue state especially in presidential years, and so far there hasn't been much talk when it comes to Republican contenders. The biggest GOP name in the state is probably San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is up for re-election in 2016 and would probably prefer to keep his powder dry for later. However, California's top-two primary system means we can't quite dismiss the possibility of a Republican pickup here. If enough Democrats run here and primary turnout is weak enough, it's possible that two Republicans could sneak through and grab both general election spots. It would take a lot of luck for the GOP to pull this off, but Team Blue definitely should be on guard for this.
• GA-Sen, Gov: While Democrat Michelle Nunn lost her Senate bid by 8 points, she definitely impressed a lot of people. It looks like Nunn's electoral career isn't over just yet, with Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad reporting that Georgia Democrats have her at the top of their wish list for any number of contests. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal will be termed out in 2018 and Team Blue will likely push for her to run. But don't expect to see her on the ballot next cycle: Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson will be incredibly tough to beat, and two losses in a row would be tough for Nunn to recover from.
• NV-Sen: National Republicans have been doing all they can to entice popular Gov. Brian Sandoval to run against Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, with NRSC chair Roger Wicker all but offering to throw a freshman House member into a live volcano to appease the governor. Sandoval himself is reportedly very reluctant to make the jump, but unfortunately he's not ruling it out. On Sunday he offered a vague proclamation that he'll decide when he decides, but he's focused on being governor. Until Sandoval makes his intentions clear, he can expect a lot more late night calls from a tearful Dean Heller begging him to run.
• UT-04: On a dire election night for Democrats Doug Owens came remarkably close to winning this conservative seat, holding Republican Mia Love to a 51-46 victory in a seat Romney carried 67-30. It's not too surprising that Owens is interested in making another go at this district, telling The Salt Lake Tribune "I'm definitely interested in the issues and I enjoyed the campaign." Love has been criticized for running weak campaigns in the past, and there's the uncomfortable possibility that racism cost her votes. However, she'll have the advantage of incumbency in 2016, and it's going to be difficult for Owens or any other Democrat to knock her off in a seat this red.
• AZ-??? : It's been a while since we've heard from former Republican rising star and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. Babeu was once his party's go-to guy when it came to talking about border security, and he emerged as a major contender for the state's 4th Congressional District in 2012. However, Babeu's campaign ended after reports leaked that he dated an undocumented immigrant and threatened to deport him to keep the relationship a secret.
Babeu recently starred in a campaign ad for unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, and he's looking to resurrect his once-promising political career. The sheriff recently formed a PAC "Babeu for America," and his statewide PAC (imaginatively named "Babeu for Arizona") was active in 2014. He's also continued his appearances in conservative media, and his political consultant says he may run for the House or Senate at some point.
The 4th District is still represented by Republican Paul Gosar. Gosar, whom Babeu challenged in 2012, is a pretty bland congressman but he doesn't appear to have alienated primary voters, and he doesn't look likely to go anywhere anytime soon. Pinal County is split between the 4th and 1st Districts, and Babeu may be interested in AZ-01 instead. Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick won re-election in this swing seat and will undoubtedly be a Republican target again. Whether the GOP is willing to risk a candidate with Babeu's baggage is another question.
There's a possibility that Republican Sen. John McCain will retire in 2016, though McCain sounds more interested in running again. Babeu gained fame for appearing in a 2010 McCain ad, with Babeu proudly telling McCain "you're one of us" after the senator called for completing "the dang fence." McCain also defended Babeu as his scandal emerged, and it's hard to see him trying to primary McCain.
• Columbus Mayor: Democratic Mayor Michael Coleman's retirement has set off what is likely to be a crowded 2015 race in Ohio's largest city. Lucas Sullivan of The Columbus Dispatch takes a look at where things stand, and who may still run.
Most of the action is on the Democratic side. Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott jumped into the race early, but City Council President Andrew Ginther looks poised to join him. Sullivan notes that one of Ginther's backers is Rep. Joyce Beatty, who was briefly named as a potential candidate but is evidently staying in the House. Coleman hasn't talked about whom he'll support but he's expected to get behind Ginther. State Rep. Kevin Boyce has also admitted his interest; other potential Democratic candidates include state Sen. Charleta Tavares and Councilor Michelle Mills.
Columbus leans Democratic, but Republicans are definitely looking to put the mayor's office in play. State Sen. Jim Hughes has already been getting some attention, but Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien is another possible candidate. The filing deadline is Feb. 4, so we won't need to wait too long to see who's in. All the candidates will compete in a May 5 non-partisan primary, with the top-two vote-getters advancing to the Nov. 3 general.
• Houston Mayor: America's fourth largest city will elect a new mayor in 2015, with Democratic incumbent Annise Parker finishing her third and final two-year term. The contest is beginning to take shape, and Theodore Schleifer of The Houston Chronicle gives us a list of declared and potential candidates.
On the Democratic side, state Rep. Sylvester Turner is in. Former Rep. and 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell is also a likely contender. Bell was last seen losing a 2008 state Senate race and he said shortly afterwards that he was done running for office, but he seems to be planning a comeback now. Bell is currently suing Turner to stop him from transferring money from his officeholder account into a mayoral account, a very candidate-like move. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is also looking at running, but he will need to resign if he does enter the race.
The last non-Democrat to serve as mayor was Republican Jim McConn, who left office in 1981. Nevertheless, several candidates are hoping to break that streak. Councilmen Stephen Costello and Oliver Pennington have already announced their campaigns but while both men identify with the GOP, they have different bases of support. Costello's support for a drainage fee has left him on the outs with much of his party, while Pennington is a much more conventional conservative. Harris County Treasurer and 2001 mayoral-runner up Orlando Sanchez is also looking at a run for Team Red, though like Garcia he would need to resign to run.
Former Kemah Mayor Bill King, who is described as a "centrist, business-minded candidate" who has a history with both parties, is also reportedly telling his friends that he's in. Former City Attorney Ben Hall is launching another bid. Hall ran against Parker in 2013 and lost 57-28, with questions about his unpaid taxes dogging him throughout the contest. Hall is a conservative and the Chronicle identifies him as a Republican, but during his last race he drew the support of some prominent Democrats such as Rep. Al Green, and he doesn't seem to fit in completely with either party.
Several other would-be candidates are out there, and they'll be looking to see who runs and who doesn't before deciding. All the contenders will face off in a Nov. 3 non-partisan race: In the likely event that no one captures a majority, the top-two candidates will advance to a December runoff.
• 2015: We have plenty of races in store for the new year (see our Columbus Mayor and Houston Mayor items above just to start). Plenty of contests need more time to fully develop and we can probably expect an intense special election or two. Jeff Singer takes a look at five 2015 elections to watch, and we can expect even more excitement and unpredictability next year.
• Dark money: On the one hand, the Democrats have caught up to and surpassed the Republicans in one big area of campaign finance: Super PACs. A Politico roundup of FEC filings for the final run-up to the November election finds that, among the largest Super PACs, $177 million was spent backing Democrats and $88 million was spent backing Republicans.
On the other hand, that's not a big victory for Dem donors; it just reflects that Republican donors are increasingly turning to 501(c) funds instead, which don't require the same disclosures about donors. Among the biggest non-profit groups, $82 million went to FEC-disclosed ads boosting Republicans and only $19 million for Democrats.
In addition, that's only the part of the iceberg that's visible to the FEC. For instance, the Koch-created Americans for Prosperity reported spending only $6.4 million in that period, but their total budget was around $130 million. The remainder apparently went toward "issue ads," which don't require the same disclosure (but which are indistinguishable to most casual viewers ... you tell them apart by the "Call Politician X and tell him..." tagline at the end).
• History: As the recount begins in AZ-02 between Republican Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Rob Barber, Dan Nowicki of the Arizona Republic takes a look at some of the state's past recounts. One of the first examples is also the most fascinating: a 1916 gubernatorial race that took over a year to sort out.
Nowicki describes how Republican Thomas Campbell appeared to unseat Democratic Gov. George Hunt (who served as the state's first governor) in the initial tally. However, Hunt refused to leave office and needed to be ordered out by the state Supreme Court in January.
Campbell served as governor but just before Christmas of 1917, the court ruled that Hunt had kept his seat by 43 votes. Campbell was the one ordered to leave office this time, but he wasn't gone for long. He won an undisputed term in 1918 after Hunt retired to become a diplomat, but the Democrat had the last laugh in the end. Hunt returned in 1922 and unseated Campbell 55-45, costing him the governorship once and for all.
• Polltopia: One thing that stood out about the last three electoral cycles was that polling seemed to underestimate the Democrats in 2012, but underestimate the Republicans in 2010 and 2014. The Monkey Cage's Eric McGhee (the number cruncher behind the WaPo's predictive model) has taken a longer-term look at this problem, and it's not something new that just cropped up: In every year since 1990, polls of close Senate races have systematically underestimated the winner's vote.
That's true regardless of whether the winner was Republican or Democrat, whether it was a wave year or a 'meh' year, whether it was a presidential year or a midterm. That's a fascinating data point, though it's unclear how to apply that as an adjustment to make a predictive model more precise (after all, you only know the winner in hindsight).
Our theory has always been that's because undecided voters seem to break at the very end in one direction, toward the party that has the wind at its back in a particular year. But the fact that this rule applies even in non-wave years (like, say, 2004), and it happens to winners of both parties within the same election, discounts or at least minimizes that theory. (There was also some post-election research showing that, at least in 2014, late deciders didn't break particularly toward the GOP, which would further discount this theory.) McGhee offers several other possible explanations, of which "herding" seems the most convincing (i.e. individual pollsters being uncomfortable with releasing results that depart from the conventional wisdom that a race is close).
• Senate: Here's a piece of trivia (courtesy of the Smart Politics blog) that counts as progress, of a sort: 2014 was the first-ever election in which more than one incumbent female Senator lost re-election. (2014, of course, saw losses by both Kay Hagan and now Mary Landrieu.) It's progress, of course, because before you can get to a point where multiple female senators are losing, there actually has to be a critical mass (currently 20) of female senators in the first place. If you're wondering who the first female senator to get defeated for re-election was, you could say it was either Hattie Caraway (who lost for re-nomination in Arkansas in 1944), or Margaret Chase Smith (if you only focus on general elections, losing in Maine in 1972).
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.
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