James Comer may emerge with the GOP nomination despite past allegations of domestic violence
• KY-Gov: SurveyUSA takes a look at next Tuesday's increasingly nasty GOP primary, and they find a very close three-way contest. Tea partying businessman Matt Bevin leads Agriculture Commissioner James Comer just 27-26, with wealthy ex-Louisville Councilor Hal Heiner at 25. Former state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott continues to be a non-factor with only 8 percent support. These results track very closely with a recent PPP survey and it looks like any of these three men can emerge with the GOP nomination on May 19.
The poll was conducted May 5 to 10, at a time when accusations against Comer were dominating the discussion. Comer's ex-girlfriend Marilyn Thomas has come forward and said that in college, Comer physically and emotionally abused her and took her to get an abortion. Two of Thomas' old roommates confirm that she was in an abusive relationship while she was with Comer; Comer has denied everything and his old roommate backs up his story.
Comer claims that Heiner paid Thomas to lie, but he's offered no evidence. However, a blogger who informally coordinated with the Heiner campaign is being investigated for allegedly threatening the children of Comer's running mate. Suffice to say this is an ugly situation but so far it doesn't seem to have sunk either Comer or Heiner. Bevin has managed to stay out of the mess and he loaned himself another $500,000 for the home stretch of the race. Bevin doesn't have much money left over but like Heiner, he's capable of self-funding his bid.
There's a lot less drama on the Democratic side, where SurveyUSA shows Attorney General Jack Conway leading perennial candidate Geoff Young 68-13. But SurveyUSA took a look at each hypothetical general election matchups and gives Conway clear leads:
• 45-39 vs. Comer
• 48-36 vs. Heiner
• 48-37 vs. Bevin
• 48-32 vs. Scott
There is no other recent general election polling, so we don't know how on-target SurveyUSA is. Even if they're right, it's a good bet that things will get closer once this primary is over and the GOP has had time to heal its wounds. It's also possible that some normally GOP voters are backing Conway right now as the Republicans nuke each other and they'll come back in the fold once things settle down. Still, it's a very good sign for Conway that he's this close to 50 against two of his likely opponents, and that the guy who keeps it closest may be the candidate who's most likely to self-destruct in the fall.
• CA-Sen: After spending months mulling over a bid for Barbara Boxer's open Senate seat, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff announced on Tuesday that he would stay in the House. Schiff had little statewide name recognition but he did have about as much money in the bank as Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has had the Democratic field to herself for the last four months.
Two other Southern California Democratic House members are actively considering running for this seat. Loretta Sanchez has sounded very interested in jumping in and she said on Monday that she hopes to decide by the end of the week, though she ignored her self-imposed announcement deadline last time. On Tuesday, news broke that Sanchez would kick off her campaign on Thursday, but she quickly said that she's still making up her mind. Xavier Becerra could also get in, though he'd need to give up his senior position in the House leadership.
• CO-Sen, 03: The Republican primary seems to have entered a holding pattern as potential candidates wait for Rep. Mike Coffman to make up his mind, but a new name is making her interest in this seat known. State Sen. Ellen Roberts, who represents the southwest corner of the state, tells The Durango Herald that she's considering a campaign against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, though she recognizes that "it would be a longshot."
Roberts has an interesting mix of social views. She voted for a 2013 bill that legalized civil unions and she identifies as pro-choice, but she backed a fetal homicide law and supported a proposal that would have let parents opt their children out of vaccinations. Roberts also acknowledges that she "would expect a tough primary," because she "tend[s] to be more of a centrist."
The Herald notes that she lives in GOP Rep. Scott Tipton's district and could run to succeed him if he jumped in the Senate race. But Roberts says she isn't as interested in a House race, and the point may be moot anyway. Tipton talked about running for Senate in January but has been quiet since then, and his spokesman says that he's "very happy to be serving Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, and I don't see that changing anytime soon." That's not a no and Tipton may get some pressure from the NRSC if Coffman declines to run, but he doesn't seem very enthusiastic about giving up his secure seat.
• FL-Sen: In March, news broke that Republican Gov. Rick Scott was considering a 2018 Senate bid against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Scott publicly addressed his plans for the first time in an interview with Politico, but he didn't say much. Scott gave the boilerplate answer about how he's focusing on his job and will need to talk to his family before deciding on another campaign.
• ID-Sen: Back in February, Rep. Raul Labrador indicated that he wouldn't run against Sen. Mike Crapo in the GOP primary, but he didn't quite say no. Well, Crapo just announced that Labrador will co-chair his re-election campaign, so we can finally take him out of contention once and for all. A few years ago Crapo looked like he could be in trouble after he pled guilty to drunk driving in a strange case. But so far, no credible Republicans have expressed any interest in challenging him in this very red state.
• IN-Sen: GOP state Sen. Mike Delph began talking about running for this seat after Dan Coats announced his retirement in March, but he's been pretty quiet since then. However, Howey Politics tells us that Delph will make a decision on whether to run in the next couple of months.
Like newly-minted GOP Senate candidate Marlin Stutzman, Delph doesn't exactly have a great relationship with his party's leadership. Delph was stripped of his leadership responsibilities last year after he leaked internal caucus information and publicly criticized state Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, and it doesn't sound like he's patched things up since then. But Delph could make waves if he takes a few of the anti-establishment primary voters that Stutzman's courting. But Stutzman did get some good news on Tuesday when he earned the backing of the Senate Conservatives Fund.
• LA-Gov: On behalf of "private subscribers," Southern Media and Opinion Research surveys the Oct. 24 jungle primary. Unsurprisingly, they have Republican Sen. David Vitter and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards taking the two runoff spots, with Vitter leading 38-25. Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is a bit behind at 17, with GOP Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle barely registering with 5 percent.
Only Angelle is spending any real money on ads so far so things can change, but a Nov. 21 Vitter-Edwards runoff looks likely as long as Edwards has the Democratic side to himself. Hypothetical runoff scenarios were not tested, though SMOR asked if voters would prefer a Republican or Democratic governor, and generic Republican leads 47-39.
• WA-Gov: Ordinarily, it wouldn't be Daily Kos Elections-worthy news if a member of the Port of Seattle Commission announced that he wasn't going to run for re-election in the upcoming 2015 general election. However, it's newsworthy when the member of said obscure commission is Republican Bill Bryant, whose name has been closely linked to the 2016 gubernatorial race, and this makes it pretty clear that he's moving in that direction.
He might also be getting out of town ahead of a potential loss, which would be an inauspicious way to kick off a campaign for a promotion (a la Mitt Romney's decision not to risk a run for a second term in Massachusetts, ahead of his presidential run). Bryant has been the Commission member most publicly in favor of allowing Shell Oil to base Alaskan drilling operations out of the Port of Seattle, a locally-unpopular decision that has made many previously-unaware people aware for the first time that there's actually a Republican elected to something in Seattle. (Port Commissioner is an officially nonpartisan position that's elected by all of King County.)
• FL-01: Republican Rep. Jeff Miller is mulling a Senate bid, and one local politician is getting ready to succeed him. State Sen. Greg Evers tells Northwest Florida Daily News that he's likely to run if Miller departs, saying he "would like to follow in his footsteps." Evers won Miller's old state House seat after he was elected to Congress in 2001, so this would be nothing new for him. Evers represents about 68 percent of this safely red Pensacola-area seat in the legislature so he'd start out with a good amount of name recognition, though other local Republicans will probably eye this race if Miller leaves. (Hat-Tip Tyler Yeargain)
• IN-03: On Tuesday, two candidates joined state Sen. Jim Banks in the GOP primary to succeed Senate candidate Marlin Stutzman. Fellow state Sen. Liz Brown, who lost the GOP nomination for Fort Wayne mayor in 2011, wasted little time making it clear that she's in. Brown represents about twice as much of this safely red seat as Banks, but his military background (Banks took time off from the legislature to serve in Afghanistan) and longer tenure could help him stand out.
Pam Galloway, a former Wisconsin state senator, has also announced that she's in. Galloway came to prominence in 2012, when Badger State Democrats tried to recall her. Galloway ended up resigning instead, citing a family illness (the GOP held her seat). Galloway and her husband, an Indiana native, moved south afterwards and she got involved in local politics by helping elect a local state representative. Galloway isn't running away from her time in the Wisconsin legislature, with her highlighting her support for Scott Walker's agenda. But she probably won't note that her resignation cost the GOP their one-seat majority for the rest of the year.
• MS-01: Voters went to the polls on Tuesday non-partisan primary to replace the late GOP Rep. Alan Nunnelee. Democrat Walter Zinn took first with 17 percent, which isn't a huge surprise considering that all 12 of his opponents identified as Republicans. But Trent Kelly, who serves as district attorney for about one-third of the district, edged Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert 16-13 to take the second place spot for the June 2 runoff. Kelly had little money but his initial name recognition and the support of Nunnelee's widow seems to have made the difference. Kelly will be heavily favored next month in this Romney 62-37 seat.
• TX-32: Former NRCC head Pete Sessions dispatched an underfunded intra-party challenge from tea partier Katrina Pierson by a meh 64-36 margin last year, and he may soon have bigger things to worry about. State Sen. Don Huffines tells the Quorum Report that he isn't ruling out a primary campaign against Sessions, though he didn't say much more.
Last year, Huffines narrowly unseated 24-year incumbent John Carona in a bitter and expensive primary, so he's no stranger to tough contests. Huffines, who ran as a tea party challenger, portrayed his opponent as a "serial tax raiser" and centrist. However, Huffines had his own problems after voters found out that his own business benefited from special tax hikes. If Huffines faces Sessions, it's likely that we'll see a similar battle, with the dreaded label "Washington insider" thrown in for flavor. Sessions helmed the NRCC as the GOP was retaking the House in 2010, and it would certainly be ironic if he ended up as a tea party victim.
Huffines represents about 55 percent of TX-32, though as a freshman he hasn't had much time to establish himself or heal any lingering primary wounds. And while Sessions may not be beloved, the powerful incumbent won't struggle to raise money. Romney won this Dallas-area seat 57-42 and the winner should be able to keep it in GOP hands without much trouble.
• Philadelphia Mayor: If you just looked at the campaigns themselves, you'd think the money chase in the May 19 Democratic primary in Philadelphia's mayoral race was a dead heat. State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams has raised $1.34 million since the beginning of the year, while ex-City Councilor Jim Kenney brought in $1.3 million. However, you have to look at the contributions of Super PACs (yes, they're a big deal now even at the municipal level) to get the full picture.
American Cities, a PAC funded by three wealthy Williams backers who support his pro-charter schools agenda, raised $6.8 million in the period from Jan. 1 to May 4, according to the latest round of campaign finance disclosures. By contrast, the principal PAC supporting Kenney, Building a Better PA (linked to the electricians' union), raised only $1.5 million in the same period. Nevertheless, Kenney has had a small but consistent edge over Williams in the recent round of leaked internal polls. Ex-District Attorney Lynne Abraham started the race with the most name recognition, but she doesn't have a PAC ally (and her campaign raised $1 million), and her polling numbers seem hurt by her relative lack of advertising.
• Demographics: Religion has a big impact on politics in America; whether a person is an evangelical Protestant or a non-Christian has a lot of predictive value in terms of whether they'll be a Republican or Democrat. The Census Bureau doesn't ask about religion, though, so we simply don't know as much about religious demographics as we do about, say, race, income, or marriage. But the last few months have seen a big influx in new data about religion, via huge-sample-size polling, first from PRRI and now from Pew Research.
Pew's findings closely mirror those from PRRI: perhaps the biggest story is the dramatic rise in recent years among the unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics, and, most numerous, those opting for "nothing in particular"). In the years between 2007 and 2014, the unaffiliated share among Americans rose from 16 to 23 percent. Non-Christian religions rose from 5 to 6 percent of the population in that period, while all Christian denominations together fell from 78 to 71 percent of the population. In particular, the plurality of those losses came among mainline Protestants, outpacing losses among Catholics and evangelicals. Even the raw number of Christians fell in that period: from 178 million to 173 million.
There's a wealth of information here. If you look deeper into the crosstabs, Pew breaks down each category further along topics like race and education, as well as breakdowns for each state as well as the nation, all of which is available in interactive graphic form as well. Maybe most interesting, though, is their age data; generational replacement is what's driving the rapid change, with Millennials much likelier to be "unaffiliated" than previous generations. The Silent Generation (born 1928-45), for instance, is 85 percent Christian and 11 percent unaffiliated, while younger Millennials (born 1990-1996) are 56 percent Christian and 36 percent unaffiliated. And while the Silent Generation became 2 points more unaffiliated in the years between 2007 and 2014 (from 9 to 11 percent), older Millennials (born 1981-1989) moved 9 points in the unaffiliated direction (from 25 to 34 percent).
Many pundits have weighed in on Pew's new findings, but a particularly good analysis is from Paul Waldman, writing at the American Prospect. For one thing, he turns the generational disparities into a bar chart, which Pew didn't do and which puts it into stark relief. Also, he nails the political implications of the shift, playing out as we've seen with the recent "religious freedom" controversies in Indiana and Arkansas lately:
Part of the problem is that the more diverse the country becomes, the more embattled and oppressed conservative whites and Christians feel. Republican politicians respond to those feelings by reinforcing their victimhood narratives and emphasizing identity politics. That then further alienates non-whites and non-Christians, hardening the limits of the GOP's appeal and making it more difficult to "reach out" to those voters they're going to need to stay competitive. It's a vicious cycle, and one they can't quite figure out how to break out of.
: Gerrymandering is a serious problem in the US and frequently one of the proposed solutions is automated redistricting. Computers would draw districts to be as geometrically compact as possible, resulting in many straight borders with squarish or triangular districts. In a new post, Stephen Wolf looks at the flaws of this method
and the dangerous consequences of its utilization in even political science research.
• SimCity Mayor: Can a virtual city simulation game predict how candidates will perform as real life mayors? In a fascinating must-read article, Jason Koebler of Vice describes a 1990 experiment where contenders for mayor of Providence spent the day as mayor of SimProvidence.
A professional cartographer, computer scientist, and research consultant used the original SimCity to design a virtual version of Rhode Island's largest city that emulated the real-life Providence as best they could. Five of the six Democratic candidates for mayor played the game, and the results were written up in the Providence Journal.
The experiment may have had real-world electoral consequences. While four of the five players relayed their orders to Joseph Braude, the journalist who set up the game, state Rep. Victoria Lederberg insisted on implementing the controls herself. However, Lederberg didn't have a good grasp of the game and she ended up making several avoidable mistakes. Braude describes how she ran a SimProvidence that was crime-free "but the expense was so high that all available city funds were depleted and taxes rose far beyond reasonable limits." Lederberg lost the primary by 482 votes to City Councilor Andrew Annaldo, who performed better in the simulation. Lederberg later became a State Supreme court justice but she very much blamed Braude for her defeat.
Annaldo was overshadowed in the general election by two independents, wealthy businessman Fred Lippitt and legendary ex-Mayor Buddy Cianci, who both took part in the experiment. While Lippitt's SimProvidence had little crime, local businesses struggled under him. But Cianci proved to be a great SimCity player, perhaps because "[h]e was the only candidate who had taken the trouble to scribble his expenses on a scratchpad." Cianci defeated Lippitt in the real life election by 317 votes: SimCity may not have made the difference, but it probably didn't hurt. It doesn't appear that anyone in the United States has tried a similar experiment since 1990, but it has been attempted in Europe, most notably in a 2002 race for mayor of Warsaw.
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.