Russ Feingold, the once and future senator?
• WI-Sen: On Thursday, ex-Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold announced that he would seek a rematch with Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, who defeated him in 2010.
Both parties have been anticipating Feingold's comeback bid for a while, especially after he resigned from his post as a State Department envoy to Africa a few months ago. However, Feingold has always been an unpredictable enough guy that we couldn't be quite sure, but there's no ambiguity anymore. There were a few Wisconsin Democrats who might have run against Johnson if Feingold had stayed out, but he shouldn't face any real primary opposition now. The DSCC also wasted no time endorsing him.
Assuming Democrats hold the White House next year, they'll need to net four seats to retake the Senate, and this looks like it will be one of their best opportunities. In March, PPP gave Feingold a strong 50-41 lead and last month, Marquette saw Feingold destroying Johnson by an astonishing 54-38 margin. Both pollsters found that Feingold's favorable ratings have more than recovered since he was dumped 52-47 in 2010, while Johnson hasn't made much of an impression in his time in the Senate.
The Badger State has favored Democrats in recent presidential cycles, and Feingold will be in a good position if the trend continues. Still, this isn't a slam-dunk for Team Blue yet. Feingold has been insulated from partisan attacks for the last few years, and the GOP is going to do whatever they can to drag his image back into the muck. Johnson will have the money to do it: While the wealthy Republican has indicated that he won't use his personal resources for this contest, there's nothing stopping him from changing his mind.
By contrast, Feingold's support for campaign finance reform could also hamper his fundraising in the post-Citizens United world. Feingold also ran a shaky campaign last time, and he could have problems if he hasn't considered what went wrong in 2010. But Johnson isn't exactly a disciplined candidate, and he could cause his party some avoidable problems.
Feingold's return is good news for his party, but the GOP isn't going to give up this seat without a fight. We'll be watching all the developments at Daily Kos Elections.
• CA-Sen: Attorney General Kamala Harris has had the Democratic field to herself since January, allowing her to build a war chest and rack up endorsements, but she finally earned a credible opponent on Thursday. After spending months flirting with a bid for this open Senate seat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez announced that she will run.
The Orange County congresswoman doesn't start out with nearly as much name recognition as Harris and she doesn't have as much money in the bank. However, Sanchez will be looking to consolidate Hispanic and Southern California voters against Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney. If fellow Rep. Xavier Becerra, another Latino Southern California congressman, gets in, Sanchez's already tough task will become a lot harder though.
Sanchez is very much the underdog, and her chaotic campaign kickoff doesn't inspire much confidence. Sanchez also has a shoot-from-the-hip style that has gotten her into trouble more than once. But Sanchez may have a path to victory if she can secure enough support in next year's top-two primary to advance to a general election with Harris. Sanchez is a Blue Dog Democrat, and she'll have a much easier time appealing to the state's Republican minority than Harris. If Sanchez can make it to November and forge a coalition of Southern Californians, Hispanics, and conservatives, she could pull off a surprise.
Of course, that's a very big if. In the Golden State, Republicans tend to vote in disproportionate numbers in the primary, which makes it harder for two Democrats to advance. Neither of the GOP's two notable candidates, state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez or former state party chair Tom Del Beccaro, inspires much excitement. However, it's easy to imagine one of them taking enough primary support to advance to a general election with Harris. It's always tough to game out a blanket primary this far in advance, but Sanchez is going to need a lot to go right if she's going to make it to a general, much less actually win.
• FL-Sen: I'm beginning to think that Alan Grayson doesn't like Patrick Murphy. Politico reports that Grayson, who is still mulling a Senate bid, compared his House colleague and would-be Democratic primary rival "to a piece of excrement" in a call with DSCC head Jon Tester. Grayson also reportedly swore at Tester when he learned that the DSCC was going to endorse Murphy, which Grayson denies.
However, there's no disputing that Grayson asked the Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith if he was "some kind of shitting robot? You go around shitting on people?" No, Grayson's defecating Cylon metaphor wasn't some kind of backdoor audition to be a South Park writer. Instead, Grayson was asked about some hedge funds he has in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven.
Grayson told Smith that he was advised to set up the funds in the Caymans but he has yet to invest any money in them, and "[y]ou want to write shit about it, and you can't because not a single dollar of taxes has been avoided." Needless to say, we haven't heard the last of this. Grayson also he'll make a final decision on whether to run for the Senate in the next 60 days (he previously indicated that he'd make his choice by the end of the month) and that he's "probably going to run."
So far, there are no shitting robots on the GOP side, but it sounds Team Red should prepare for an expensive primary too. Last month when state CFO Jeff Atwater looked poised to enter the Senate race, his supporters set up the Reform Washington super PAC. But now that Atwater has decided not to run, the group's staffers aren't just taking their ball and going home: Reform Washington will now support likely candidate Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Reform Washington is backed by wealthy businessman Norman Braman, while well-funded groups like the Club For Growth have rallied behind Rep. Ron DeSantis. (It would be pretty funny if Lopez-Cantera ended up not running either and the PAC had to find someone else to help, but that doesn't look likely.)
• IL-Sen: The Mark Kirk ad that we mentioned on Wednesday has now been released. It's a one-minute-long ad that's something of an introductory biographical spot for people who might not be familiar with him, as well as a reassurance that he's physically recovering from his stroke, for those people who have been paying more attention to the news. In addition to the previously-announced $161,000 cable buy, he's also putting small amounts of money behind broadcast TV buys ($77,000 in Chicago and $6,000 in Champaign). It's an impressive ad, but his jumping in this early underscores that he knows how big a challenge getting re-elected in a state as blue as Illinois in a presidential year will be.
• OH-Sen: It's been apparent for a long time that Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld isn't going to drop out of the Democratic primary now that establishment favorite ex-Gov. Ted Strickland is in. But on Thursday, Sittenfeld once again made it abundantly clear that he's staying in, arguing that
Ted Strickland is old the primary is a battle "between the old and the new, between the future and the past." The winner will face Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who will be able to consolidate his considerable resources as the Democrats nuke each other.
• KY-Gov: In his latest spot, Matt Bevin continues to portray himself as above the fray as Republican primary rivals James Comer and Hal Heiner attack each other. Bevin doesn't mention his opponents this time, only noting that he's running a positive campaign while decrying nasty politics. Polls project a close three-way race on Tuesday, and we'll see soon if Bevin's strategy of hovering above the mud pays off.
• MT-Gov: Wealthy businessman Greg Gianforte looks likely to challenge Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock next year, but he may have some primary opposition. Public Service Commission Chairman Brad Johnson said on Tuesday that he has been approached and has "not said no." Johnson's recent statewide electoral history isn't particularly great though. He narrowly won the secretary of state post in 2004 and narrowly lost re-election in 2008, before losing his comeback bid 51-45 in 2012. Johnson did turn things around last year with an easy win for District 5, but a gubernatorial campaign is a much steeper climb.
• WA-Gov: GOP Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant has never made it any secret that he wants to be governor, and on Thursday, he kicked off his campaign against Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee. While Bryant is the first credible Republican to announce, he may not be the last: Other potential GOP candidates include Rep. Dave Reichert and state Sens. Andy Hill and Steve Litzow. Washington hasn't elected a GOP governor since 1980, but Evergreen State Republicans are hoping that voter fatigue and Inslee's so-so approvals will give them an opening next year.
Bryant doesn't start out with much name-recognition but his ties to business elites should help him raise the money he needs to compete. However, while Bryant's relatively moderate views could be an asset in a general election, they may cause him problems in the top-two primary against a more conservative candidate. Bryant has also been involved in a controversy this week as Shell oil rigs docked in Seattle in preparation for Arctic drilling. Bryant was the lone member of the Port Commission to vote against a resolution asking Shell to delay their arrival until a legal review of a city law designed to keep the rigs out.
Bryant faces one other challenge: Port of Seattle Commissioner is perhaps a smaller stepping stone than anyone has used successfully to become governor in recent memory. In the last 50 years, the people elected governor were a congressman (Jay Inslee), an attorney general (Chris Gregoire), a King County executive (Gary Locke), another congressman (Mike Lowry), a Pierce County executive (Booth Gardner), another King County executive (John Spellman), the head of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (Dixy Lee Ray), and, least consequentially, a state representative (Dan Evans ... though he probably wound up being the most consequential governor in that period).
While Bryant can accurately claim that he has more constituents than a U.S. representative since Port of Seattle commissioners are elected countywide, it's a job that's rarely in the news. The post is also one that's elected on a nonpartisan basis, so few voters were even aware that he's a Republican. While Hill and Litzow would each be attempting to become the first state legislators to win since Evans in 1964, they've at least carried Democratic-leaning areas in partisan elections, something any successful GOP statewide candidate needs to do.
• CA-46: Rep. Loretta Sanchez's Senate bid means we have an open seat race to succeed her. Her district, which is centered around Anaheim and Santa Ana, backed Obama 61-36 and should be safe in a presidential cycle barring a top-two primary disaster.
Democrats have a good bench in this part of Orange County, and we could see a crowded race. Ex-state Sen. Lou Correa, who represented about 78 percent of this seat until he was termed-out last year, sounded very interested in running when he was asked a few weeks ago. Former state Assemblyman Jose Solorio's name has also circulated quite a bit. Solorio, who badly lost the contest to succeed Correa in 2014, didn't rule anything out last month, though he didn't sound incredibly excited.
Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez (who lost a 2012 bid to succeed Solorio), Anaheim Councilman Jordan Brandman, and Rancho Santiago Community College District Claudia Alvarez, and Santa Ana Unified School District Trustee Valerie Amezcua have all been mentioned, but they have yet to say anything about their plans. Team Blue would probably prefer not to have Claudia Alvarez, who has a history of inflammatory comments, as their standard bearer. Brandman also has had his own issues, with him being accused of plagiarism in 2013. We'll probably see some other names come onto the radar in the coming days and weeks.
• FL-18: On Thursday, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay announced that she will run to succeed Senate candidate Patrick Murphy in this light-red seat, where she will face her colleague Priscilla Taylor in the primary. As the Palm Beach Post notes, McKinlay has only served in elected office for the last six months, but local Democrats were impressed with her $400,000 haul during her 2014 race. By contrast, the local party was caught by surprise when Taylor started running here in March, and it sounds like the local establishment leans more toward McKinlay.
On the GOP side, Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron and 2014 nominee Carl Domino are currently the only announced candidates, but several other potential candidates are scouting out the contest. The Post tells us to "[l]ook for St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery to launch a GOP campaign soon," though Mowery hasn't publicly said anything about his plans yet.
• NH-01: While the barely-functioning FEC is treating GOP Rep. Frank Guinta's campaign finance violations as the electoral equivalent of a traffic violation, there are signs on the ground that it's having a real impact on Guinta's hold on power. Guinta is skipping a previously-arranged town hall on Saturday; more generally, John DiStaso takes an ominous tone in pointing out his lack of GOP defenders (and DiStaso, the dean of the New Hampshire press corps, isn't usually one to get hyperbolic).
• Houston Mayor: With conservative City Councilor Oliver Pennington out of the contest, a few of his former rivals are making a renewed push to win over center-right voters. Businessman Bill King, a former Kemah mayor, is launching an early ad campaign with a biographical TV spot.
The size of the buy is only $84,000 so it won't be seen by too many voters, but it appears to be aimed more at conservative political elites who are trying to choose between him and Councilor Stephen Costello. Not coincidently, the spot is mainly airing in reliably Republican neighborhoods. The crowded non-partisan primary will be held Nov. 3, and if King or Costello can consolidate the conservative vote, they would have a good chance to secure one of the two spots for the December runoff.
• Philadelphia Mayor: City Council President Darrell Clarke and City Controller Alan Butkovitz have gotten around to endorsing ex-Councilor Jim Kenney in the Philadelphia mayoral Democratic primary ... now that public polling has showed Kenney a very likely winner, so it's not quite a profile in courage. (Clarke and Butkovitz probably would have endorsed each other if one of them ran, but neither one did.)
• Demographics: If you think "immigrant" and "Texas," chances are, you're likely to visualize someone who immigrated from Mexico. New data from a report by Texas's state demographer, however, shows that first impression is getting less and less correct each year; immigration from Asia to Texas has nearly caught up with immigration from Latin America. In 2005, 69 percent of immigration to Texas was from Latin America and 17 percent was from Asia; in 2013, though, 40 percent was from Asia and 43 percent was from Latin America. If that continues, it's possible that all of Texas will start looking more and more like Fort Bend County, Houston's southern suburbs and perhaps the one county in the entire nation (except maybe for Queens, NY) that comes closest to four-way parity between whites, African-Americans, Asians, and Latinos.
• History: Smart Politics is all over the Russ Feingold announcement, with a post looking at the history of Senate race rematches in Wisconsin: short answer, there's never been a true rematch before there. There have been seven attempts by losing Senate nominees to try again in Wisconsin, though; three of them resulted in second losses in the general election, while four of them didn't even emerge from the primary (most recently Mark Neumann in 2012).
Smart Politics also addressed the nationwide question of Senators who lost election coming back to win again; the two most recent examples are Slade Gorton in Washington in 1988 and Howard Metzenbaum in Ohio in 1976, though those weren't rematches, but rather for their states' other seat. The last person to win a rematch with the person who defeated him six years earlier was Peter Gerry in Rhode Island, way back in 1934.
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.