• KY-Gov: There are ugly races, and there's Kentucky's May 19 GOP gubernatorial primary.
This contest dove into the gutter last week, when we learned that a blogger named Michael Adams was accusing Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of abusing his girlfriend back in college, something Comer vigorously denied. Adams was in communication with the campaign of Comer's primary rival, businessman Hal Heiner, who subsequently apologized for any role his team had played in spreading unfounded rumors. But on Monday night, Marilyn Thomas, who Comer says he dated for four months when they attended Western Kentucky University, came forward and told the Courier Journal that the candidate had in fact abused her, and had also taken her to get an abortion.
Comer has once again denied that he ever harmed Thomas, and he is now accusing Heiner's campaign of paying her to lie. However, Comer acknowledges he has no proof of this. Thomas is insisting she's telling the truth, and her mother and college roommate confirm what she says (Comer's old roommate says he never saw any abuse). Thomas also says she has documentation that she had an abortion in the early 1990s, but says the papers are in a bank that she doesn't have immediate access to. Comer continues to insist that her story isn't true and is challenging her to produce the document.
To make things even messier, Adams is being investigated over claims that he threatened the children of Comer's running mate, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders, who is conducting the inquiry, wouldn't offer much about how things are progressing, except to say that the Comer campaign has provided "voluminous documentation" about the situation.
A third candidate, tea partying businessman Matt Bevin, has managed to stay out of this whole mess, and he may be able to benefit if he stays unscathed. But Heiner's allies have been running ads against Bevin, accusing him of inflating his resume and taking bailout funds. Bevin challenged Sen. Mitch McConnell is the 2014 primary and his team is still angry, but it's unclear what, if anything, they'll actually do to stop him (though their old attacks are getting recycled by Heiner's buddies).
There's one remaining candidate, former state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott. Scott has raised little money no one has spent any real resources helping him or attacking him. If things get messy enough, it's possible Scott could do better than expected, but he doesn't seem to be strong enough to emerge as the last man standing.
Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway has no real competition in his primary, and he can't be displeased as his top potential opponents nuke each other, nor would he be unhappy if the Heiner-Comer smackdown allowed Bevin to slip through, as he's the weakest-polling Republican in the general election. Team Blue is going to need to work hard to hold this seat this fall, but the GOP seems to be doing everything they can to make life easier for the blue team.
• FL-Sen: Rep. Ron DeSantis jumped into the race on Wednesday, and it looks like he'll soon have company in the GOP primary. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a close friend of retiring Sen. Marco Rubio, has been preparing for a bid for a while, and the Miami Herald reports that he's calling donors and activists to let them know that he's likely in. His allies are also setting up a super PAC in preparation for his bid, though that's de rigueur for any serious candidate at this point. Of course, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater was telling people he was running but ending up sitting out the contest, so we can't be sure Lopez-Cantera is in until he's in.
Lopez-Cantera doesn't start with much statewide name recognition, but he may have the resources to fix that quickly. Norman Braman, who used to own the Philadelphia Eagles, sounds prepared to spend real money to help him. Other Republicans publicly considering the race include Reps. Jeff Miller and David Jolly, ex-state Attorney General Bill McCollum, and former state Senate President Don Gaetz.
• CA-25: Democrats have landed their first potentially legit candidate to challenge freshman GOP Rep. Steve Knight, Santa Clarita water board member Maria Gutzeit, who announced a bid on Thursday. Gutzeit had reportedly spoken with the DCCC last month, and she actually has experience winning office (the water board is an elected body), which is not insignificant given how thin the Democratic bench is around these parts.
Knight's also a pitiful fundraiser, and since Mitt Romney only carried this blue-trending district by 2 points, it's possible Gutzeit could put it in play. But last year, Democrats were shut out of the general election because poor primary turnout allowed Knight and another Republican to move on to November. There's a risk this could happen again, particularly if other Democrats pile into the race, so if Gutzeit winds up being the favorite, she'll have to work hard to make sure she performs well enough in the primary.
• CO-06, Sen: National Democrats are hoping to give Republican Rep. Mike Coffman a tough challenge in this Obama 52-47 seat, and they may have a new candidate in mind. The Denver Post reports that state Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll will meet with the DCCC and EMILY's List next week, something Carroll did not deny. While Coffman beat Denver-based politicians in his last two contests, most of Carroll's seat is located in the suburban 6th District, giving her an advantage previous Democrats lacked. However, at 60-38 Obama, Carroll's constituents are well to the left of CO-06 as a whole.
Centennial Councilor Rebecca McClellan and ex-state Rep. Ed Casso have also been mulling bids against Coffman. The incumbent is a formidable fundraiser, and both sides know that he won't be easy to beat, but it's hard to see a path to a Democratic House without this seat. There's also a possibility that Coffman runs for the Senate instead, which would almost certainly give Team Blue a better shot here. (Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet would be less delighted.) However, Coffman seems more interested in seeking re-election, but he has yet to rule anything out.
• FL-06: Rep. Ron DeSantis is leaving behind a safely red seat along Florida's northeast coast to run for Senate, and several Republicans are mulling bids here. Former Rep. Sandy Adams, who represented about a quarter of this district from 2011 to 2013 before losing the primary in another seat, has already said that she's looking at a comeback. Now, Adams confirms that she's shopping for a home in the district, so it looks like she's in.
But Adams can't expect an easy path back to the House. Former New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer says he "plans to run for the vacated seat." Barringer's old constituency isn't huge (population 23,230), but if he's well-connected enough he could raise the money he'll need to win here. State Rep. David Santiago also is interested, and he tells the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he's talking to party faithful. Most of Santiago's seat is located in the neighboring 7th District so he too probably can't count on too much initial name recognition.
Outgoing Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford also says he's interested. None of Duval (Jacksonville and surrounding areas) is in the district and only one-third is even in the Jacksonville media market, so Rutherford, like most of this gang, would also start out as an unknown.
• FL-18: Republican state Rep. Pat Rooney announced on Thursday that he won't run for this open light red seat. Rooney never seemed incredibly excited about the idea, and he's citing his "duties here at the Palm Beach Kennel Club" as a reason to stay put. Finally, a politician who isn't running in order to spend more time with his dogs!
Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron and 2014 nominee Carl Domino currently have the GOP field to themselves, but now that the wealthy Rooney is definitely out, other Republicans might start to look at this seat with renewed interest. Bill Castle, the general counsel to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, has been reportedly meeting with consultants in preparation for a possible run. Castle's father is a well-connected local businessman, which should come in handy if he jumps in.
Conservative pundit Noelle Nikpour was reluctant to oppose Rooney, so she may go for it now. Some other potential GOP candidates include state Rep. Gayle Harrell, St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery, Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith, businessman Gary Uber (like Uber, but for Congress), and auctioneer Reed Hartman.
On the Democratic side, Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor is in while her colleague Melissa McKinlay is considering. St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky has also been mentioned, though he hasn't said much about his plans. Romney won this seat 52-48 and we expect both parties to work hard to win it.
• MS-01: Thirteen candidates are facing off in the April 12 non-partisan primary in this conservative northern Mississippi seat. There's absolutely no telling which two contenders will advance to the June 2 runoff, but their fundraising stats gives us some small clues as to their viability. These reports cover the entire special election up to April 22. Note that with the exception of Democrat Walter Zinn, all these candidates are Republicans.
• Boyce Adams: Businessman, 2011 Public Service Commission nominee, ally of Gov. Phil Bryant: $114,000 raised, $245,000 loaned, $305,000 spent, $54,000 cash-on-hand
• Sam Adcock: Airbus Helicopters executive, former aide to then-Sen. Trent Lott: $121,000 raised, $120,000 loaned, $124,000 spent, $117,000 cash-on-hand
• Nancy Collins: State senator: $56,000 raised, $142,000 loaned, $163,000 spent, $35,000 cash-on-hand
• Ed Holliday: Dentist, tea partier: $5,000 raised, $47,000 spent, $59,000 cash-on-hand
• Starner Jones: Physician, tea partier: $21,000 raised, $15,000 self-funded, $350,000 loaned, $327,000 spent, $59,000 cash-on-hand
• Trent Kelly: Multi-county district attorney: $118,000 raised, $61,000 spent, $57,000 cash-on-hand
• Chip Mills: Itawamba County prosecutor: $71,000 raised, $30,000 loaned, $16,000 spent, $19,000 cash-on-hand
• Greg Pirkle: Attorney: $191,000 raised, $100,000 loaned, $144,000 spent, $147,000 cash-on-hand
• Henry Ross: Attorney, former Eupora mayor, 2010 and 2012 candidate: $17,000 raised, $76,000 self-funded, $33,000 spent, $59,000 cash-on-hand
• Daniel Sparks: Attorney: $18,000 raised, $9,000 loaned, $16,000 spent, $11,000 cash-on-hand
• Mike Tagert: Transportation commissioner, ally of former Gov. Haley Barbour: $329,000 raised, $245,000 spent, $127,000 cash-on-hand
• Quentin Whitwell: Attorney, former Jackson city councilor: $122,000 raised, $98,000 spent, $25,000 cash-on-hand
• Walter Zinn: Former Jackson mayoral aide, only non-Republican: $12,000 raised, $9,000 spent, $3,000 cash-on-hand
This is not exactly an expensive contest. Only Boyce Adams and Starner Jones have spent more than $300,000, with Mike Tagert at $245,000. This trio may be best-positioned to advance but in a race this packed, really anything can happen.
• MS-AG: Jim Hood is the only Democrat who still holds statewide office anywhere in the Deep South, but he may yet stick around a bit longer. A new Mason-Dixon poll gives Hood a 55-40 lead over Republican former assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst in this year's attorney general race. There don't appear to be any other vaguely competitive statewide races in Mississippi (the gubernatorial contest is a snoozer) so maybe the GOP will make beating Hood a priority. But Hood won his last term 61-39 as the GOP was sweeping the state, and his 70-22 approval rating emphasizes just how tough he's going to be to dislodge.
• Philadelphia Mayor: Former judge Nelson Diaz has long languished as the distant fourth wheel in the polls of the Democratic primary in Philadelphia's open mayoral race. It may be too late for him to do anything about that, but he's finally rolling out an ad that'll run on broadcast TV, backed by a "six-figure buy." It's one of those kitchen-sink type ads that campaigns with limited money put together at the last minute, with 15 seconds of biographical intro and 15 seconds of hitting everybody else (Anthony Hardy Williams on school vouchers, Jim Kenney on police brutality).
• Demographics: While much of the discussion that followed in the wake of the New York Times' "1.5 million missing black men" story focused on the role of the prison pipeline, more than half of that number is driven by differences in mortality rates. A new study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine (written by a mix of health behavior, economics, and geography professors) looks closer at the mortality side of the equation, and the implications that may have had on recent elections.
Vox's condensed version points out that the mortality gap between whites and blacks is greatest between ages 40 and 65, when probability of turning out to vote is highest. (Click through for the startling graph on age of death for the two races.) The study re-ran the math on the 2004 election, wondering if the outcome would have been different if there was no mortality gap. Although there would have been 1.74 million more African-Americans of voting age alive in 2004 if it weren't for that gap, they aren't concentrated enough in any one swing state to have flipped any of them that year. (For instance, it would have resulted in 24,000 more black votes in Ohio, but that's not enough to have pushed John Kerry into the lead there.) However, some close Senate and gubernatorial races might have been affected at various points.
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.