The DSCC is looking for an alternative to former Rep. Joe Sestak
• PA-Sen: We recently learned that incoming Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer has been searching for a candidate to oppose 2010 nominee Joe Sestak in the primary, and he may have found him. The Associated Press tells us that Schumer and DSCC head Jon Tester are trying to recruit Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro to run, though of course no one's saying anything on the record and Shapiro deflected questions when asked.
Shapiro, who runs the state's third-largest county, was the original choice of Keystone State Democrats who were skeptical of a Sestak re-run, though he never publicly expressed interest one way or another. And for a long time, it appeared that Shapiro had no real interest in this seat, but lately, unnamed Democrats have told the press that he's still considering.
The signals are mixed: Gov. Tom Wolf recently appointed Shapiro to head the state's Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which would give him a way to boost his law and order credentials ahead of a possible campaign for state attorney general in 2016. But national Democrats are still eager to make Shapiro their man to face Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
If Shapiro runs, he'll need to dispatch Sestak, who represented another part of suburban Philadelphia in the House. So why does Sestak attract so much teeth gnashing from members of his own party? Head below the fold to find out.
Sestak has had a terrible relationship with the state party since he successfully challenged party-switching incumbent Arlen Specter in the 2010 primary. While Sestak came close to beating Toomey that fall in spite of the Republican wave, lots of insiders—rightly or wrong—feel he ran an amateurish race that cost them a win.
It's hard to say whether this take is justified, but during his last race, Sestak stocked his campaign with family members rather than professionals and did little to co-ordinate with the party. Sestak's detractors are convinced he's going to run another disorganized campaign if he's the nominee, and he hasn't done much to reassure his critics that this time will be different.
Once again, his 2016 campaign team is also quite inexperienced. He's also had little communication with the DSCC, and his recent march across the state has only reinforced fears that he's spending time on publicity stunts rather than buckling down for the hard work he needs to do to beat Toomey. Still, while it's been clear for a very long time that local Democrats actively (if unsuccessfully) looking for someone to take him on, the DSCC hasn't appeared to be intensely anti-Sestak until now.
And there's certainly no guarantee Shapiro will run. As Alex Roarty reminds us, Shapiro is up for re-election this fall, and he won't have much time to raise money in the interim. While Shapiro could afford to make a late entry if he were to run for attorney general, a serious Senate candidate running in an expensive state like Pennsylvania doesn't have that luxury. Shapiro's allies in the state and national party would help him with fundraising, but it's clear Sestak won't be exiting the primary. For all his perceived flaws, Sestak proved in 2010 that he's a tough campaigner, and Shapiro can't run a distracted race if he wants to beat him.
If Shapiro sits this out, the DSCC has a few alternatives. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has expressed interest, and powerful Rep. Bob Brady has indicated that he'd support him. However, Williams has taken out a few conservative positions (he recently sued Wolf over the governor's death penalty moratorium for instance), and Sestak knows very well how to beat a primary opponent by running to his left. State Sen. Vincent Hughes, a more liberal African American from the City of Brotherly Love, also brought his possible interest in February, though he's been quiet since then.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has been talking about jumping in recently, though his abortive 2014 gubernatorial campaign does not inspire confidence. Finally, former Rep. Chris Carney threw his name into consideration back into January, but he, too, has been mum in recent months. Carney was quite conservative during his time in the House (he was a member of the Blue Dogs), so he's also not an ideal pick. There's also the possibility that some of these pols run even if Shapiro does or just against one another, which would make it easier for Sestak to reclaim the nomination.
Maybe the party's attitudes toward Sestak are driven by wounded egos after it went all-out to protect Specter in 2010, or maybe they're motivated by genuine concerns about Sestak's abilities as a candidate—or perhaps both. But regardless of what side you come down on in this debate, Joe Sestak isn't going anywhere, and the Democratic establishment isn't going to accept him as their nominee unless he wins the primary again—or it decides it has absolutely no other choice.
• AZ-Sen: State Sen. Kelli Ward has been talking about challenging Sen. John McCain in the GOP primary for a while, and she's now created an exploratory committee to start raising money. So far, no other Republican has shown any real interest in taking on McCain, but Ward is going to need to work hard if she's going to convince skeptical conservative groups that she can topple the well-funded incumbent.
• CA-Sen: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was probably one of the very few Republicans who could have put this race on the map, but he never seemed very interested. Back in January after Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer announced her retirement, Faulconer put out a statement saying he was focused on leading the city, which wasn't quite an ironclad no. Well, Faulconer just endorsed local Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, so he's definitely out of the running. But we probably haven't seen the last of Faulconer: Assuming he wins re-election in 2016, he'll be touted as a candidate in the state's open 2018 gubernatorial contest.
• FL-Sen: On Saturday, Republican state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced he would not run for the Senate next year. As recently as a week before, Atwater was reportedly calling activists and donors to tell them he was in, and his supporters had formed a super PAC to back his campaign-in-waiting just two days before he changed his plans. Atwater cited his family as the reason he won't jump in, saying that they didn't want him constantly traveling between South Florida and Washington. There are a host of other Republicans looking at this seat though, and we should see some movement here very soon. Republican incumbent Marco Rubio is set to announce on Monday if he'll run for president or for re-election (he's said repeatedly he won't try to do both), and all signals point to a White House run.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Patrick Murphy earned the endorsement of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as well as state Rep. Alan Williams. There was some light speculation that Gillum could run for this seat but since he was only elected mayor last year, it always seemed very unlikely.
• IL-Sen: In a big development for Rep. Tammy Duckworth, fellow Democratic Rep. Bill Foster just endorsed her nascent campaign for Senate. Foster's support is important not because he'd move any votes but because he'd also been considering a Senate bid of his own, and he'd have been able put together a well-financed effort. Foster specifically said he wanted to "avoid what would be a costly and, ultimately unnecessary, primary," arguing that "[t]he resources on the Democratic side should be focused on winning that seat back for the people of Illinois, not on Democrats fighting one another."
In addition to Foster, Rep. Cheri Bustos had previously hinted that she would back Duckworth rather than run herself. Though she hasn't made a formal endorsement yet, Bustos has been joining Duckworth at her Senate campaign events, so it probably isn't too far off. That pretty much just leaves Rep. Robin Kelly as the only major Democrat still considering a bid, though with all these big players rallying to Duckworth's side, she'll have to think hard about whether she wants to give up a safe House seat for what would be a difficult primary fight.
• IN-Sen: Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller was mentioned as a possible successor to retiring Sen. Dan Coats, but he never showed much of an appetite for a campaign. On Tuesday, Zoeller put whatever speculation there was to bed when he made it clear that he wouldn't run, forcing Ron Wyden to continue to languish at the end of the roll call list. Currently, former Coats Chief of Staff Eric Holcomb has the GOP field to himself, though other pols are eying the race.
• MD-Sen: In a disappointing development, Rep. Donna Edwards announced that she raised just $335,000 in the first quarter of the year, a very small sum compared to the $1.2 million her Democratic primary rival, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, pulled in during the same time period. What's more, Van Hollen reported $2.5 million in cash-on-hand, thanks to a sizable war chest he brought with him to the race; Edwards, by contrast, had only $30,000 in the bank at the end of 2014.
Given how expensive it is to run statewide in Maryland—almost half the state is covered by the pricey D.C. media market, while fully 50 percent is in Baltimore, which ain't cheap either—Edwards will need to seriously step it up in order to compete with Van Hollen and have the chance to introduce herself to voters outside of her district.
• NC-Sen: Democrats so far don't have a credible contender against Sen. Richard Burr, and it's far from clear if former Sen. Kay Hagan will seek a comeback (or if she should, given how poor her favorable ratings remain after the ugly 2014 race). Treasurer Janet Cowell has been meeting with the DSCC and is probably the party's preferred backup candidate, but the National Journal reports that state Democrats are skeptical she'll go for it in the end. State Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, who ran for the Senate in 2002, could run, but he hasn't attracted too much excitement.
State Sen. Jeff Jackson's name has been mentioned a few times, but until now there wasn't really any reason to think he was very interested. However, the National Journal cites a source close to Jackson who says he will decide in the next few weeks whether to run. Jackson, a veteran, has been earning attention for his speeches against the GOP-led legislature, and he's viewed as a rising star. A recent PPP survey found Burr leading the largely unknown Jackson by a 46-30 margin; while Jackson should make up a lot of ground if he makes it to the general, it's clear that Burr would start out the favorite in this light red but very polarized state.
• MO-Gov: Republican state Sen. Mike Parson, who has been considering a gubernatorial bid for the last month, recently told the Missouri Cattlemen's Association that he's in. Parson doesn't start out with much statewide name recognition but he has about $500,000 in the bank already, and his base of support in rural Missouri could help him in a contest where most of his likely opponents hail from the St. Louis area.
Parson was close to Tom Schweich, who committed suicide in February, and has spoken out against the nasty politics that may have contributed to Schweich's death. Parson will join former Speaker Catherine Hanaway and ex-state Rep. Randy Asbury in the GOP primary; businessman and 2012 Senate candidate John Brunner and former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens have also formed exploratory committees.
• OR-Gov, Portland Mayor: John Kitzhaber's resignation and Kate Brown's subsequent elevation to the governor's mansion complicated the plans of plenty of Oregon Democrats. Treasurer Ted Wheeler, state House Speaker Tina Kotek, and probably several others were looking at running in 2018 for what was supposed to be an open seat. They can try unseating Brown next year in the primary for Kitzhaber's final two years, but it's not easy to beat an incumbent, even an un-elected one.
However, Wheeler is being recruited to run against another high-profile Beaver State Democrat next year. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has alienated members of the city's business community, and the Willamette Week says they've reaching out to Wheeler, who is termed-out in 2016. All Wheeler said about his plans was that he's "been approached by lots of people about lots of opportunities," and that "I haven't ruled anything in and I haven't ruled anything out." There were rumors that Kotek was also mulling a mayoral bid, but she took her name out of the running. While Hales is a known quantity, Brown is only starting her tenure, and her potential intra-party rivals are probably going to wait and see if she looks vulnerable.
• AZ-02: Over the weekend, former Democratic Rep. Ron Barber announced he would not seek a rematch with freshman Republican Martha McSally, who narrowly unseated him in 2014. Until a few days ago, there was little talk of a Barber restoration. But in a strange move, he told the media on Friday that he would unveil his 2016 plans on a local political talk show on Sunday, leading to two days of speculation that he was going to attempt a comeback. Democrats are expected to make this Southern Arizona seat, which Romney won 50-48, a top target, but McSally is going to be prepared for whatever comes her way. McSally announced that she had raised $640,000 in the last three months, a very good sum for a competitive contest.
Democrats have a good bench around the Tucson area, and there are a few potential candidates who could run in Barber's stead. State Rep. Bruce Wheeler has formed an exploratory committee, and he recently told TucsonSentinel.com that he would stay in regardless of what Barber did. Wheeler, who represents a light blue seat around Tucson, has said that he'll make a decision in May, but it sounds like he's in.
Former state Rep. Matt Heinz is another possibility. Heinz sounded ready to defer to Barber (not a surprise, since Barber easily beat him in a 2012 primary), but his calculations may change now. Businesswoman Nan Walden, state Sen. David Bradley, state Rep. Victoria Steele, and state Rep. Randy Friese have all been mentioned, though none of them have publicly expressed interest yet. However, state Sen. Steve Farley announced Friday that he's staying put, calling Congress "a horrible mess that I don't want to be a part of."
While the district is winnable for Democrats, there's a chance it won't stay that way. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of Arizona's independent redistricting committee this summer and if they strike it down, the GOP legislature will have the chance to redraw the map their way. A redder district may not be good news for McSally though. State House Speaker David Gowan is reportedly planning to create a conservative Southern Arizona district that he could run in, and there may not be enough room for both him and McSally.
• NE-02: Freshman Democrat Brad Ashford isn't going to have an easy time winning re-election in his conservative Omaha seat, but one Republican is passing up the chance to challenge him. Nathan Gonzales reports that former state Treasurer Shane Osborn will sit this out, which probably won't devastate the NRCC. Osborn's 2014 Senate bid was derailed after the public learned that he had produced a fake Navy memo to defend his military record, something Ashford would have loved to use against him. The GOP has a deep bench here, so it won't be hard for them to find someone stronger: Retired Brig. Gen. Don Bacon is already in, and other local politicians are considering.
• Deaths: If you're confused by the dueling stories about Barack Obama meeting with Raul Castro and Raul Castro having died, bear in mind that the latter Castro is Raul Hector Castro, the former Democratic governor of Arizona. Castro was Arizona's first and only Latino governor, and one of the first Latino governors anywhere, serving from 1975 to 1977; his term was shortened when Jimmy Carter (for whom Castro had been an early endorser) appointed him as ambassador to Argentina. After a terribly impoverished childhood and early-adulthood, he went to law school and became an international lawyer; Castro then served as ambassador to Bolivia and El Salvador before being elected governor.
The full obituary at the Arizona Republic is well worth a read, given the remarkable arc of his life. One interesting detail: This is far from the first time Arizona's Castro and the Cuban family have been confused. By shear coincidence, the future governor was honeymooning at the same Mexico City hotel where Fidel Castro was planning the Cuban Revolution, and armed men looking to meet with Fidel were repeatedly misdirected to Raul's room. Castro died on Friday at age 98: The most dangerous job in America — oldest living ex-governor — now falls to Indiana's Edgar Whitcomb, whose own story is pretty amazing, too (especially his World War II adventures).
• History: If you haven't been following politics that long, you might think that talking about Republican "red states" and Democratic "blue states" is just the way it's always been, but that's actually a pretty recent standard. For instance, David Jarman distinctly remember that in CBS's coverage of the 1980 election, Republican states were blue and Democratic states were red, leading Dan Rather to make a reference to "Lake Reagan" at one point. (In other news, as Jarman puts it, "I'm old.")
The Washington Post's Philip Bump has a terrific look at how that standard came to be. Interestingly, though, conventional wisdom has the story wrong, too. Most people assign 2000 as the year that it stuck, after comedians and pundits talked extensively about red and blue states as the election went into overtime. Bump tracked down network coverage in previous years, though, and it looks like Republican red and Democratic blue had been consistent since 1988 (though maybe just coincidentally and not out of coordination)! Which leads us to ask: What's Dave Leip's excuse for his notorious color scheme!?! (Just kidding. Dave Leip is a god among men.)
The article is full of great details, like the 1976 election when, on ABC, the Republican states were yellow, and when NBC had, instead of computerized graphics, an actual 3-d map made of plastic, which then started to melt. So, if you want a one-stop-shopping link to 50 years' worth of videos of network election night coverage, prepare to lose hours down the YouTube rabbit hole.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and Taniel.