Republican Rep. Mike Bost is expected to be a top Democratic target
• IL-12: Former Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon emerged as a potential contender against freshman Republican Rep. Mike Bost last month, but she doesn't sound incredibly interested. Simon didn't rule anything out, but she told The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report that she's "not actively pursuing" a bid.
Democrats held this swingy suburban St. Louis seat for decades before losing it to Bost last year, and they are expected to target the seat with or without Simon. Roll Call gives us some prospective names: state Rep. Jerry Costello II, state Rep. Jay Hoffman, and St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly. Costello is the son of former Rep. Jerry Costello, who represented a version of this seat for 20 years. The younger Costello also has easily held onto a very conservative state House district, so he should have some useful crossover appeal. Costello did turn down the chance to succeed his father in 2012, and it's unclear how interested he is this time.
Hoffman ran for Congress in another Downstate district back in 1996 and narrowly lost to Republican John Shimkus. However, it's been very difficult to land him for another run. In 2011, Hoffman actually kicked off a campaign for the nearby 13th District but then started flirting with a switch to the 12th; in the end Hoffman didn't go for either seat, forcing his party to scramble for replacement candidates. Maybe this will be his year but after what happened last time, the DCCC shouldn't waste any energy clearing the field for him.
Kelly is another Democrat who thought about a 2012 bid but utlimately declined, and we'll need to wait and see if this time will be different. St. Clair is the largest county in the district, so he would start out with some good name recognition if he jumped in. The DCCC has signaled that retaking this seat will be a top priority, so we should see some activity here no matter who steps up.
• AZ-Sen, 09: Republican Sen. John McCain himself hasn't committed to anything for 2016 but said on Tuesday that he's "most likely" running. The senator has been preparing for a campaign for a while, so it would be a huge surprise if he didn't go for it at this point. Reps. Matt Salmon and David Schweikert are still deciding which one of them will challenge him in the primary, but whoever steps up will have some wealthy friends ready to help him.
The Club for Growth has not been subtle about its plan to go after McCain, and the group's president David McIntosh said on Tuesday that it would "do research and polling and determine if there's a path to victory and is the money well spent." In other words: If The Club doesn't get involved, it's because McCain's primary challenger is a bumbling idiot who can't win—which is exactly what happened in 2010. The Club recently spent over $3 million on Chris McDaniel's failed primary campaign against Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, and they'll likely spend even more against their old rival.
There's been less activity on the Democratic side, but one potential candidate seems to be positioning herself to run. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema hasn't ruled out challenging McCain and just created a leadership PAC, which is not something you normally do if you're planning for a long and quiet career in the House. Sinema has also taken a few high-profile conservative votes recently, which could be another sign that she's prepping for a statewide bid. If Sinema does vacate her Tempe-area seat, Democrats would start out favored to keep it. Obama won it 51-47, and our preliminary numbers say Democrat Fred DuVal carried it 49-46 in last year's gubernatorial contest.
• CA-Sen: You don't typically see state lawmakers band together to recruit a candidate to run for U.S. Senate, but the California Latino Legislative Caucus has taken the unusual step of commissioning a poll to show that Attorney General Kamala Harris doesn't yet have the race for Barbara Boxer's seat sewn up. The survey, from Garin-Hart-Yang, is meant to encourage former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has been seriously contemplating a bid and trails Harris 28-18 in a four-way matchup that finds Republican Ashley Swearengin in first at 31 and Rep. Adam Schiff at 4.
That contrasts with a recent PPP poll from Harris' camp that had her beating Villaraigosa by a much wider 34-9 margin, with Condi Rice earning 33 percent as the GOP's dreamboat candidate. But as Gene Maddaus at LA Weekly points out, even GHY's numbers aren't very welcome news for Villaraigosa, seeing as he has higher name recognition than Harris yet still trails by 10—and that's in what amounts to his own internal poll.
What's more, this particular four-way heat is favorable to Villaraigosa. That's because two of the most likely alternate candidates still waiting in the wings, Reps. Xavier Becerra and Loretta Sanchez, would both eat into Villaraigosa's base geographically and ethnically (all three are Latinos from Southern California). The longer Villaraigosa waits, the harder it will be for him to overtake Harris' early lead, but even if he jumps in right now, he'll have a difficult time making it to November.
Meanwhile, as everyone else makes up their minds, Harris just hoovered up another endorsement from another sitting member of Congress, this time from freshman East Bay Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.
• CT-Sen: Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal may attract a non-Some Dude opponent after all. Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker is mulling a run, and says he'll decide within a month if he'll go for it. Walker was last seen running for the Republican nomination of lieutenant governor last year, taking a tight third place. Walker is close to Jeb Bush and should have access to some money, but Blumenthal probably isn't incredibly worried in this very blue state. It doesn't hurt that a late October PPP poll gave the incumbent a strong 54-32 approval rating.
• NC-Gov, Sen: PPP takes another look at their home state, but finds not too much has changed since December. Neither Republican Gov. Pat McCrory nor Republican Sen. Richard Burr are particularly popular, but each starts out with mid-single digit leads against their most likely general election foes.
Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper hasn't officially kicked off his campaign but he's made it clear for a while that he'll take on McCrory. The governor currently posts a 44-39 lead over Cooper, and a 44-34 edge against the barely-known Ken Spaulding. Cooper's own name recognition isn't incredible and the undecideds are disproportionately Democratic, so he should have some room to grow. But McCrory will have a lot of money on his side, and it won't be easy to unseat him in this polarized light red state.
Team Blue has been trying to recruit former Sen. Kay Hagan to take on Burr, and she hasn't ruled anything out. PPP gives Burr an early 48-42 lead over his former colleague, but finds that Hagan still hasn't recovered from last year's bruising campaign. Hagan's favorability is a pretty dire 38-54, while Burr is quite anonymous with a 34-35 job approval. Over time Hagan's numbers may recover, but if she runs, the GOP will spend whatever they need to knock them back down.
PPP tested several other possible candidates against Burr. The senator leads both Treasurer Janet Cowell and former Rep. Mike McIntyre by 7, and has larger leads against outgoing UNC President Tom Ross and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. Cowell has been touted as a Senate candidate for a while but hasn't said much publicly. Foxx hasn't officially ruled anything out but doesn't appear very interested. McIntyre's name has been mentioned recently, but he hasn't said anything about his future plans. Ross' controversial and high-profile firing led to some speculation that he'll now run for office, but there's currently no sign that he's actually interested.
• NJ-Gov: Though New Jersey Republicans are focused on picking up some seats in the legislature this fall, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno recently admitted that it would be "pretty disingenuous" to say she hadn't considered the possibility of running to succeed her boss, Gov. Chris Christie, in 2017. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick acknowledged that he, too, has the race in the corner of his eye, and hopes to bolster his case by making legislative gains this year. That won't be an easy task, though, given how entrenched most Garden State Democrats are.
• CA-16: Rep. Jim Costa is one of the biggest pieces of dog meat in the Democratic caucus. Not only does he often cast wankerish votes, he regularly almost loses elections he has no business almost losing. Back in 2010, despite sitting in a 60 percent Obama district, Costa eked out a 52-48 win over Republican Some Dude Andy Vidak. Sure, it was a GOP wave year, but Costa never should have been threatened.
Then, in 2012, Costa screwed over Team Blue by insisting on seeking re-election in the newly drawn 16th District, where only a small fraction of his existing constituents lived, rather than the 21st, where most of his old district wound up. Why? Because the 16th was bluer—59 percent Obama, almost the same as his prior seat—and would allow him to sleepwalk to victory. That decision left Democrats without a strong contender in the 21st and the seat fell to Republican hands.
Costa kept right on sleepwalking after 2012 straight through into 2014. You'd think his experience four years earlier might have put a scare into him, but Costa took his even more Some Dude-ish challenger even less seriously this time and scratched out a pathetic one-and-a-half-point "win," if you can even call it that. Vidak at least raised almost a million bucks, and even became a state senator a few years later. Johnny Tacherra, by contrast, took in just $340,000.
It's hard to earn a shabbier victory than that for an incumbent, which explains why Tacherra is reportedly considering another shot at Costa this cycle. It would actually be Tacherra's third try—he unsuccessfully ran in the primary in 2012, too—and with presidential-year turnout, it would certainly be a much harder race. In addition, an actual GOP elected official, Madera County Supervisor David Rogers, is apparently planning a bid, too.
They might both be better off waiting until 2018, but if Jim Costa's proven anything over the past few cycles, he's definitely capable of blowing what would be a sure thing in anyone else's hands.
• IL-18: Hah, wow! And this is awesome.
• KS-01: It's been clear for a long time that Rep. Tim Huelskamp's antics have left him vulnerable in a Republican primary. The incumbent's poisonous relationship with the House leadership got him thrown off the House Agriculture Committee, and local agricultural interests were not happy about it. Several of them helped underfunded 2014 challenger Alan LaPolice make a last-minute stand against Huelskamp, and the congressman was left with a weak 55-45 victory.
The National Journal reports that LaPolice may try again this time. Physician Roger Marshall, another prospective candidate, has also emerged as a favorite among anti-Huelskamp groups, and he may be stronger than LaPolice. However, there's a real danger that if too many candidates run, Huelskamp can skate by with just a plurality: Roll Call previously named state Sen. Garrett Love and 2010 candidate Tracey Mann as potential candidates.
Still, Huelskamp's enemies sound ready to rumble. Now or Never PAC spent $230,000 against him last time, and they've hinted that they'll get involved again. Whoever wins the Republican primary will have no trouble holding this very red seat in the general.
• NY-11: So it's been a solid month now since GOP Rep. Mike Grimm resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to tax fraud, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo still hasn't scheduled a special election to replace him. Cuomo told the Observer that he's "looking at" the matter now but admitted "we don't have" a timeframe, and indeed, New York law does not actually specify any sort of deadline.
In fact, when Rep. Eric Massa resigned back in March of 2010, then-Gov. David Paterson set the ensuing special election to coincide with the regular November election. That eight-month gap infuriated Republicans, who were sure Paterson wanted to delay the special to help Democrats hold Massa's seat (the thinking being that turnout would be better for Democrats in a general election). The GOP sued to force an earlier date, but a judge sided with Paterson. (In the end, it scarcely mattered: Republican Tom Reed rode that year's red wave to a double-digit victory.)
However, waiting eight months until the next general election is one thing. If Cuomo seriously wants to leave the seat vacant for a full term, a different judge might look askance at such shenanigans. What's more, the optics of such a long postponement might play right into Republican hands. Of course, with Cuomo, you never know—that could actually be his intention.
• NV State Assembly: Anti-tax activists are trying to remove three Republican assemblymembers from office, including Speaker John Hambrick. Over at The Recall Elections Blog, Joshua Spivak takes a look at the strange laws governing Silver State recalls.
Essentially, organizers need to get 25 percent of all voters who went to the polls in the last race for the position. That doesn't sound too hard, but there's a few catches. To begin with, each signer needs to have actually voted in the last election, so they can't just be a registered voter. The 25 percent figure also is for the number of people who went to the polls—not just the number who voted for the office that's the subject of the recall. So if twice as many votes were cast for governor than for the Assembly, you'd still need 25 percent of the district's voters who voted in the gubernatorial contest to sign the recall petition. (In an older post, we incorrectly said that 25 percent of registered voters in the district need to sign the recall petition).
Spivak also notes that it's sometimes very difficult to actually prove who voted in the last election. In a very recent recall attempt against the mayor and part of the city council in Ely, the secretary of state and county clerk could not find the voting records for the 2011 election. Because they couldn't verify that the people who signed the recall petitions had actually voted when the offices were last up, everything was thrown out. As Spivak puts it, "[Y]ou can actually do everything right, but still have an administrative error pull the rug out from under you and kill the recall."
Even if the recall actually reaches the voters, the incumbent can still win even without a majority of the vote. If no candidate runs against the incumbent, it's just a straight up "yes" or "no" vote on whether to do a recall, with a special election held later to fill the spot if "yes" wins. But if one or more candidates file, the recall turns into a first-past-the-post race. So if only 40 percent of voters pick Speaker Hambrick but 35 percent select his Democratic opponent and 25 percent go for his tea party foe, Hambrick would stay in office. It is still possible to recall elected officials in Nevada, but it's certainly not easy!
• Philadelphia Mayor: Campaign finance reports were due here on Tuesday and at first blush, it looked like Democratic primary rivals state Sen. Anthony Williams and former District Attorney Lynne Abraham had hauled in similar amounts during 2014.
However, Abraham's campaign also threw in their January 2015 numbers into their press release while Williams did not: Williams actually outraised Abraham by quite a bit during the last year. Williams' financial edge got even larger on Tuesday. The founders of the Susquehanna International Group have spent big on him in past races and they just committed another $250,000 to him, a very big sum given how little money the entire field has in comparison.
We also learned that former Judge Nelson Diaz hauled in a pretty meh $79,000 during the year, but still better than former mayoral aide Doug Oliver's $1,470. Former Councilor Jim Kenney ended 2014 with only $77,000 on hand, but he didn't start eying the mayoral contest until this year.
• Great Mentioner: Our new Daily Kos Great Mentioner series continues in Florida, where Republican Sen. Marco Rubio looks ready to ditch the Senate to run for president. If Rubio retires as expected, a hoard of candidates from both parties are going to eye this seat, and several potential contenders are already making their interest known. Check out our post for more.
• Voting rights: While a lot of red states are taking steps to enact more hurdles on the way to vote, Oregon -- which already has one of the highest turnout rates in the nation, thanks to vote-by-mail -- is taking the opposite path. On Monday, Secretary of State Kate Brown introduced a new legislative measure to move to a more automatic registration process, where hundreds of thousands of new voters would be automatically registered from Dept. of Motor Vehicles data. Passage is likely, considering that Democrats managed to gain seats in the legislature in 2014.
• WATN: Yet another politician who recently left Congress has signed on with lobbying giant Squire Patton Boggs: ex-Rep. Jack Kingston, who lost last year's GOP Senate runoff to David Perdue in Georgia. Just a few weeks ago, former Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat, also joined the same firm.
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.