• LA-Sen: Last cycle Republican Rep. John Fleming thought about taking on then-Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, but deferred to the eventual winner Bill Cassidy. Cassidy had spent years laying the groundwork for his bid, and by the time Fleming wanted to run it was too late. This time, Fleming is trying to make sure that someone else doesn't push him out.
Last month the congressman made it clear that he wants Sen. David Vitter to appoint him to his seat if Vitter wins the governorship this year. On Tuesday Fleming declared that he "absolutely will run if Sen. Vitter is elected governor." Fleming also made it clear he would run in 2016 even if he weren't appointed, though it's hard to say if he actually would give up his safe House seat to challenge Vitter's chosen successor or if this is just bluster. In any case, you can't say Fleming is being subtle.
• LA-Gov: Republican Sen. David Vitter is many things, but he isn't cash-strapped. His gubernatorial campaign reported raising $4 million throughout 2014, and it has $3.5 million on hand. His allied PAC "The Fund for Louisiana's Future" also has more than $3 million on hand. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle recently reported having $1.5 million on hand though he only got into the race in October; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, another Republican, has not announced his totals yet.
• ND-Gov, Sen: Speculation has been swirling for a while that Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp will run for governor in 2016 instead of re-election in 2018 and on Monday she did nothing to quell it. When asked about her interest in the governor's mansion she said "the proof is in the past," referring to her 2000 gubernatorial campaign. Heitkamp also called being governor "the greatest honor that you can have from the people of North Dakota," which isn't exactly a sign that she's happy in Washington. Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple has been coy about his 2016 plans, and Heitkamp would probably be even more interested in the governorship if he called it quits.
• NY-11: Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan is the all-but-official Republican nominee, but it may take a lot longer for Team Blue to select their candidate. Staten Island Democratic Chair John Gulino will hold a party convention to decide whom the county party will back (there are no party primaries in New York special elections). Right now Assemblyman Michael Cusick looks like the frontrunner but nothing is assured, and no credible Democrat has officially entered the race. Other potential candidates include former Rep. Michael McMahon, Assemblyman William Colton, Councilman Vincent Gentile, and Middle Class Action Project co-founder Robert Holst.
On paper this upcoming special election should be very competitive. Obama won 52-47 here in 2012, and McCain carried the seat 51-48 four years earlier. However, Alexis Levinson of Roll Call reports that national Democrats are not feeling good about their chances. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio is very unpopular on Staten Island and that will likely drag the party's nominee down. It doesn't help that Democratic turnout tends to disproportionally drop in special elections. The DCCC is looking at targeting the seat, but knows it's not going to be an easy pickup.
• NY-25: Gates Supervisor Mark Assini was just 583 votes away from pulling off the biggest election night shocker last year, barely losing to Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter in a contest that almost no had on their radar. Assini is trying again, and this time he may be able to attract actual money and outside support. But it's not going to be easy to win in a presidential year: Obama won this Rochester-based seat 59-39 and Slaughter should be better prepared if she runs again. Of course Assini wasn't supposed to get close last time either...
• PA-08: Republicans are looking to defend this open Bucks County swing seat, but they'll need to do it without outgoing Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley. On Tuesday, Cawley announced that he would head the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, taking him out of the running here.
While Cawley was the GOP's top recruit, the party doesn't lack potential candidates here. James McGinnis of the Bucks County Courier Times reports that state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo is meeting with local Republicans about a potential run; DiGirolamo himself says he might announce his decision within the next two weeks. DiGirolamo's 18th House District backed Obama 58-41 so he definitely has experience winning over crossover voters: The 20-year incumbent did not even draw an opponent last year.
If DiGirolamo declines, Team Red has some other fallback options. Roll Call recently named Bucks County Commission Chair Robert Loughery and state Rep. Scott Petri, with PoliticsPA identifying Petri as the more interested of the two. National Republicans have also not been subtle about trying to persuade retiring Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick to reverse course and run again, but so far they seem to be having no luck.
On the Democratic side state Rep. Steve Santarsiero is already in, and 2014 candidate Shaughnessy Naughton is looking at another bid. Former Rep. Patrick Murphy is also a potential candidate, though PoliticsPA notes that between his MSNBC gig and his job at a Philadelphia law firm, Murphy may not want to go back to Congress. (Note: This post originally mis-identified the location of Murphy's law firm as Washington, D.C.). Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia could also run but she's said no to the DCCC for years. In any case, we should have quite a race to watch in a seat that Romney only carried by 0.10 percent.
• LA-???: It looks like we haven't heard the last from Rob Maness. The tea partying veteran took 14 percent in the 2014 Senate jungle primary, not incredible but not nothing. Since then he's founded Gator PAC, and as Andrea Drusch of the National Journal tells us, some prominent Republicans are lending him a hand. Sen. Bill Cassidy, whom Maness tried to beat in 2014, is one of the PAC's supporters, as is Sen. and gubernatorial frontrunner David Vitter.
They aren't helping the former gadfly to be nice: Maness has a lot of pull with the type of conservative voters that Vitter needs in his corner. Maness hasn't endorsed anyone yet, but he admits he's likely to back Vitter. Maness himself hasn't ruled out another campaign of his own, though it's unclear where he'd run. There has been talk of Maness taking on fellow Republican and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in the 1st District. However, Maness came to Scalise's aid during his recent high-profile controversy and it doesn't sound like he's gunning for him now.
• WA State Senate: Washington's state Senate continues to challenge the New York state Senate for the weirdest legislative chamber in the nation. On Monday, they upped the ante: The chamber's minority Democrats voted unanimously to elect a Republican as the Senate president pro tem, defeating the Democrat that the Republicans wanted in that position. And not just any Republican, but Pam Roach, who the Republicans threw out of their caucus for several years, not for moderate ideological heresy but for outright mental instability. The Democrat that the GOP wanted to elect was Tim Sheldon, who was part of the coup that swung the chamber to the Republicans in 2012 and is the only remaining nominal Democrat who still caucuses with Team Red.
Lest you think that the Dems were simply trying to improve their lot for 2016 by moving the GOP's looniest member to the spotlight, it's not that simple. For starters, president pro tem is a ceremonial presiding job; the majority leader wields the real power. Also, Roach was re-elected in 2014 as something of a quasi-Dem, thanks to Washington's top-two primary. She's in a red-enough district that her November opponent was a more neurotypical but also more conventionally conservative Republican; Roach beat her thanks to public employee union support. (Roach is in that odd Don Young-type space, where she's rabidly conservative on guns, and social and environmental issues, but friendly with labor). Because the GOP has a bare majority in the Senate now, though, she needed one GOP vote beside her own to win; she got that from fellow social-conservative Don Benton.
• Caucuses: If you've been following politics for a long time, you might remember when the Republican Study Committee was the fringe right-wing caucus within the larger House Republican caucus, one that most members didn't want to be associated with. If you need an example of how the tea party ouroboros coils tighter and tighter as it devours itself, though, now the most extreme members of the Republican Study Committee are ditching it because it's gotten too mainstream. The core 37 members who'll be forming the new, as yet unnamed, group (I'd recommend calling it the Study Committee of Republicans, in tribute to the Judean People's Front and People's Front of Judea) include Jim Jordan, Mick Mulvaney, Justin Amash, and Scott Garrett.
As funny as the purity-within-purity may be, it actually makes sense, to the extent that the RSC became a victim of its own success. The group had expanded to the point that the vast majority of Republican House members were also RSC members, making it indistinguishable from the larger caucus. National Journal has a helpful graphic, showing how in 1995 only 15 of 218 House Republicans were members, but it grew rapidly each term. The first year the RSC was a majority of the House Republican caucus was 2007 (108 of 203), after many moderates got wiped out in the 2006 wave. However, most of the gains in 2010 were RSC types, to the extent that 171 of 234 GOPers were RSC members last term.
• Demographics: Pew Research recently took an in-depth look at the relationship between financial security and voting behavior. Unsurprisingly, the more financially unstable you are, the less likely you are to vote, to be politically engaged, or even to be registered to vote. David Jarman digs deeper into the underlying data, and offers some potential solutions for attacking the structural problems that cause this gap.
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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