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7:54 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NV-Sen: On Monday, Rep. Joe Heck kicked off his long-awaited Senate campaign. National Republicans worked hard to recruit the once-reluctant Heck, who initially showed no interest in giving up his secure House district for a risky statewide bid. Team Red quickly closed ranks behind Heck once it became clear that popular Gov. Brian Sandoval would not run for this seat, and he's unlikely to face any credible primary opposition. The Democrats are fielding ex-state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who also should have little intra-party opposition.
Heck is a tough candidate who has easily held a swingy House seat in the last two elections, and he's worked hard to cultivate a moderate reputation. Any Republican looking to win the Silver State in a presidential year will need to win over a good share of Hispanic voters, and both parties think Heck has the chance to do it. However, Heck knows that Masto won't make it easy: If she wins, she'll be the nation's first Latina senator, and she has retiring Sen. Harry Reid's powerful political machine at her back.
Nevada gave President Obama solid victories in the last two presidential races, and Team Blue has a good chance to carry the state's six electoral votes again. But Heck has proven that he can run ahead of his party before, and neither side is taking this seat for granted. If Heck can continue to do well in his swingy Las Vegas-area seat and carry Reno's Washoe County, he has a good chance to win regardless of what happens at the top of the ticket. Indeed, this strategy gave Republican Sen. Dean Heller a narrow 46-45 victory (albeit against a weakened opponent) in 2012 even as Obama was taking Nevada 52-46. Democrats need to hold onto this seat if they want to retake the Senate next year, and we're in for a long, tough battle.
8:31 AM PT (Jeff Singer): FL-Sen: Businessman Randy Fine, one of a few lesser-known Republicans scouting out this open Senate seat, has announced that he will stay out of the contest. Fine will instead continue his bid for the open HD-54, a light red seat located in Brevard County.
Meanwhile, Gravis Marketing surveys hypothetical primary matchups on both sides. The GOP numbers look reasonable enough: Ex-Attorney General Bill McCollum leads Rep. Ron DeSantis 25-16, with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Rep. Jeff Miller in single digits. McCollum hasn't announced if he's running yet but given his name recognition from his long career in state politics, it's pretty likely he'd at least start out with a lead.
But the Democratic primary between announced candidate Patrick Murphy and likely-opponent Alan Grayson is where things get more than a little nuts. Grayson posts a insane 63-19 lead, which is very different than what other firms have found. Even the GOP pollster Vox Populi gave Grayson "only" a 56-21 edge after they told respondents exclusively negative information about Murphy and positive messages about Grayson. (Their initial numbers gave Murphy a 34-24 lead). Suffice to say, it's very unlikely that 82 percent of Florida Democratic primary voters have already made up their minds and overwhelmingly chosen Grayson at a time when the campaign has barely even begun.
8:53 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NH-Sen: While Granite State Democrats are hoping that Gov. Maggie Hassan will challenge Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte, they've been scouting out alternatives in case she stays put. However, ex-Rep. and 2010 nominee Paul Hodes is probably one of the last names to come to mind. But Hodes says he's been encouraged to look at a rematch with Ayotte, and isn't ruling anything out if Hassan declines.
Hodes lost his first bout with Ayotte by a punishing 60-39 margin. Some of this was due to circumstances largely outside his control. New Hampshire swung heavily towards the GOP that year, and it wasn't hard for Team Red to tie Hodes to Obama's unpopular policies. Still, it's pretty hard to feel good about Hodes chances after what happened last time, though New Hampshire's very swingy nature always makes things unpredictable. (Indeed: Hodes lost his 2004 race to Republican Charlie Bass 59-38, before unseating him 53-46 two years later).
8:58 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Specials: If a Tuesday goes by without a special election in New Hampshire, did it really happen? Johnny Longtorso gives us the rundown:
New Hampshire House, Rockingham-20: This is an open Republican seat located along the coastline, consisting of the towns of Hampton Falls and Seabrook. The candidates are former state Rep. Elaine Andrews-Ahearn on the Democratic side and community college student Rio Tilton on the Republican side.
The 19-year-old Tilton has encountered a problem that many Millennial candidates for public office will likely hit in the future, that of controversies arising from images posted on social media. The district is pretty Republican, having gone 54-45 for Mitt Romney in 2012, and 57-43 for Walt Haverstein and 63-37 for Scott Brown in 2014.
9:27 AM PT (Jeff Singer): PA-Sen: Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski's chances at taking the Democratic nomination never looked particularly good, and his Senate hopes are probably completely dead now. On Thursday, the FBI searched Allentown's city hall, and the mayor's office was one of the places they visited. The city claims the FBI was looking for information about contracts, though the bureau has yet to comment. Pawlowski isn't saying much about the probe but he was questioned by agents.
State and national Democratic leaders have been openly searching for an alternative to 2010 nominee Joe Sestak, who they're convinced ran an amateurish campaign against Republican Pat Toomey last time. But Pawlowski never earned much love from Sestak haters, who were unimpressed by his aborted 2014 gubernatorial bid. The Democratic establishment was already looking for a non-Sestak candidate before Thursday and Katie McGinty, the chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf and another 2014 candidate, has been getting some attention recently. McGinty hasn't commented publicly, which isn't a surprise given her current post, but we may hear more from her after the state's budget stalemate ends.
Ex-Rep. Chris Carney, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, and state Sen. Vincent Hughes all initially expressed interest in a Senate bid, but they've been silent for months (though Hughes is also busy with the budget). Pawlowski may have been able to win over some reluctant establishment support if no one else had challenged Sestak, but it's safe to say that's not happening now. It's quite possible that the Keystone State Democratic establishment will either need to land McGinty or just reconcile with Sestak.
9:42 AM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-Gov: Remember that weird Verne Kennedy poll that Kennedy himself said was misreported? Well, Kennedy finally gave the complete results to Robert Mann, who summarized them on his blog. But honestly, the whole controversy was more interesting than the poll itself. The initial toplines did indeed show Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle only trailing Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards 20-18 in the race for the second place runoff spot (Republican Sen. David Vitter is far ahead with 31). But when Kennedy redistributes African American voters to reflect the usual Democratic performance, Edwards easily edges Angelle 29-17.
Kennedy also gave us a look at the likely runoff between Edwards and Vitter, and gave the senator a 45-36 lead. When African Americans are redistributed, the contest stands at a 43-43 tie. However, Kennedy doesn't appear to have redistributed white voters at all, so there's almost certainly a good portion of conservative voters in the undecided sample who will come home to Team Red in November.
9:55 AM PT (Jeff Singer): FL-02: Last week, we heard that Mary Thomas, who serves as general counsel at the state Department of Elder Affairs, was interested in challenging freshman Democrat Gwen Graham. And sure enough, Thomas has formed an exploratory committee, and she has a few prominent local Republicans in her corner. Romney carried this North Florida seat 52-47 but Graham proved herself last year when she unseated Steve Southerland in the midst of the GOP wave. Attorney Pete Williams could also challenge Graham, but he's been quiet about his plans.
10:04 AM PT (Jeff Singer): FL-13: On Friday, St. Petersburg Councilor Darden Rice announced that she would sit out the 2016 contest. Rice said she'd reconsider if the state Supreme Court redraws this swing seat to be more Democratic, but it's far from guaranteed that'll happen. Rice's move leaves former Obama Administration official Eric Lynn and ex-Tampa Councilor Mary Mulhern as the only candidates against Republican Rep. David Jolly. Lynn recently posted a solid fundraising total, and he's not going to be shy about reminding primary voters that unlike Mulhern, he's actually from the St. Petersburg area.
10:13 AM PT (Jeff Singer): FL-18: Over the holiday weekend, lawyer Jonathan Chane announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for this open swing seat. Chane worked with the Obama campaign in 2008 on legal matters, so he may have some connections. However, local Democrats have mostly consolidated behind Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who recently unveiled an endorsement from Dave Aronberg, the county's state attorney. Fellow Commissioner Priscilla Taylor is also running for Team Blue.
Things have been quite crowded on the GOP side, with five credible candidates already in and more considering. But we won't see a bid from Bill Castle, who serves as general counsel for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.
10:26 AM PT (Jeff Singer): FL-24: Rep. Frederica Wilson doesn't appear to have done anything to upset Democratic voters in her safely blue Miami-area seat, but she's earned a primary challenger anyway. Randal Hill, who played for the Miami Dolphins in the 1995 and 1996 seasons, just quit his job as an agent at the Department of Homeland Security to take on the three-term incumbent. Hill's portraying Wilson as someone who's fine on the issues but does nothing for the district. Wilson turned back a well-funded 2012 primary challenge from businessman Rudy Moise by a 66-34 margin, and she had no trouble winning renomination last year.
10:32 AM PT (Jeff Singer): OH-Sen, PA-Sen: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has never been shy about dumping money to help its allies, but it's still surprising to see them going on the air this early. Their Pennsylvania spot praises Republican incumbent Pat Toomey as a bipartisan job creator, while their Ohio ad hits Democrat Ted Strickland's economic record as governor. There's no word on the size of either buy, but the Chamber is calling it "significant."
10:46 AM PT (Jeff Singer): IA-02: Rep. Dave Loebsack is the only Democratic member of the Iowa delegation after last year's GOP wave, and one notable Republican sounds ready to try and finish the job. Iowa Starting Line reports that state Sen. Mark Chelgren has been discussing a possible campaign with party leaders, though Chelgren hasn't said anything publicly yet.
While Loebsack only pulled off narrow wins in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, he's had little trouble prevailing in presidential cycles in this Obama 56-43 seat. Chelgren's district backed Obama 53-45 and he survived a serious Democratic effort to oust him last year. But Chelgren comes with his own baggage: He made news in 2011 when he compared preschool to Nazi indoctrination, though he's done a better job keeping his inner Steve King in check since then. Loebsack isn't the strongest incumbent ever but if he's in danger next year, it's probably a good sign that Team Red is in for another good cycle.
10:55 AM PT (Jeff Singer): IA-04: Loudmouth Republican incumbent Steve King is always testing the limits of Iowa nice, but he's easily turned back credible Democratic foes in the last two cycles. Iowa Starting Line reports that Kim Weaver, a local AFSCME official and county Democratic Party chair, is looking to challenge King in this Romney 53-45 seat. Weaver is respected for her work organizing Democrats in reliably red Western Iowa, but King will need to outdo himself if he's going to lose here.
11:05 AM PT (Jeff Singer): IL-08: The GOP doesn't face great odds in this open Obama 57-41 seat, but one credible Republican sounds ready to give it a shot. DuPage County Commissioner Pete DiCianni says he's strongly considering a campaign here, and will announce his plans sometime in July. A few other Republicans have been mentioned for this seat, but DiCianni is the only one to sound interested. The Democratic primary is currently a three-way contest between businessman Raja Krishnamoorthi, state Sen. Tom Cullerton, and state Sen. Mike Noland (who went from exploring a bid to actually in while we weren't looking).
11:14 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-04: Ex-Lt. Gov. and 2014 gubernatorial Anthony Brown brings us our first poll of the crowded Democratic contest for this safely blue seat. Brown's survey from Fred Yang gives him a 42-20 lead over former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, with the other candidates each taking no more than 5 percent. It's not a huge surprise that the well-known Brown would start out ahead, though Ivey isn't exactly anonymous here.
11:19 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MN-08: After Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan's daughter was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the year, there were rumors that he would retire. However, Nolan confirms that he'll see a third term (or sixth, if you count his first tour back in the seventies) in this Obama 52-46 Iron Range seat. Nolan narrowly defeated rich guy Stewart Mills last year, and Mills sounds ready to try again.
11:30 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NV-04: When you're already one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress, you'd probably rather avoid reports about how you've owed millions in unpaid taxes. But while it's never been a secret that freshman Republican Cresent Hardy and his business partners have had financial problems, the Las Vegas Sun finally gives us the full extent of the damage. Among other things, Hardy and his partners have faced business debts and tax liens totaling to $5.3 million. Hardy is arguing that he was a victim of bad economic conditions, which would be a lot more persuasive if he hadn't hit his 2014 primary opponent for some unpaid business taxes of his own.
11:37 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NY-19: It's taken a surprisingly long time for anyone to jump into the race for this open Upstate New York swing seat, but we may finally have some movement. Ex-Assemblyman and 2006 Republican gubernatorial nominee John Faso has formed an exploratory committee, though he hasn't announced anything yet. Faso's likely to face some primary opposition, with Assemblyman Pete Lopez showing the most interest. (Hat-tip Politics1)
11:52 AM PT (Jeff Singer): OH-06: Republican Rep. Bill Johnson hasn't appeared on many target lists after easily dispatching briefly-touted rival Jennifer Garrison last year, but one prominent local Democrat isn't closing the door on a bid. State Sen. Lou Gentile tells the Youngstown Vindicator's David Skolnick that "all options are open" for 2016, and that he'll be making a decision soon.
Romney won this eastern Ohio seat 55-43 but likely Democratic Senate nominee Ted Strickland represented the last incarnation in the House and performed well in the area during his unsuccessful 2010 re-election campaign for governor. Gentile thinks that Strickland and Hillary Clinton will boost Team Blue's fortunes here, and he may be able to ride the tide to victory. Gentile won an expensive state Senate race in 2012 by a 52-48 as Romney was carrying the district 51-46, so he does have experience winning over crossover voters.
But Skolnick thinks that Gentile is leaning towards running for re-election, and notes that there really aren't any other credible Democratic candidates here. Johnson also hasn't done much to offend conservative voters, and he won't be easy to beat in any case.
12:02 PM PT (Jeff Singer): IL-Sen: Ex-Chicago Urban League leader Andrea Zopp will have a lot to prove if she's going to beat Rep. Tammy Duckworth in the Democratic primary to face Sen. Mark Kirk, but this isn't a bad sign for her. Zopp has announced that she's raised $665,000 since she kicked off her campaign in mid-May, which is enough to prove she's credible but isn't a massive amount in an expensive state like Illinois. Neither Duckworth or Kirk have announced their quarterly totals yet.
12:09 PM PT (Jeff Singer): IN-Sen: Republican Rep. Todd Young hasn't announced if he's running for the state's open Senate seat, but his quarterly fundraising totals don't leave much doubt about his 2016 plans. Young reports hauling in $1 million and has about $2 million on hand, far more than a congressman in a safely red seat would need without a credible primary challenger on the horizon. (Young's money can be transferred from his House account to a Senate campaign once he establishes one).
12:26 PM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-Sen: Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards has never had a reputation as a solid fundraiser, and this isn't going to help. Edwards' camp has announced that they brought in $590,000 during the last three months, not a particularly good total in an expensive state. To advertise statewide, candidates need to purchase time in both the pricy Baltimore and Washington media markets, and this haul isn't going to buy too many eyeballs. Primary rival Chris Van Hollen hasn't unveiled his quarterly totals but his team says he'll report more than $3.5 million on hand, which would be more than three times what Edwards likely has in the bank.
1:55 PM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-Sen: GOP Sen. David Vitter still looks like the clear frontrunner in this fall's gubernatorial race, but the battle to succeed him in the Senate is only just beginning. Reps. John Fleming and Charles Boustany and state Treasurer John Kennedy each hope that Vitter will appoint them. Fleming has publicly said that if Vitter becomes governor, he'll run for this seat in 2016 even if he doesn't get the appointment, and the National Journal's Andrea Drusch reports that Boustany just told a group of donors that he's also going to seek a promotion if Vitter goes to the governor's mansion.
Boustany hasn't confirmed anything but it doesn't look like he's bluffing. Boustany's camp says he's raised $700,000 in the last three months, far more than he'd need to defend his safe House seat, and has already hired an experienced campaign manager. Boustany still hopes that he'll earn an appointment and be able to run in 2016 as an incumbent, but it looks like he's all-in regardless unless Vitter's gubernatorial bid somehow goes haywire.
It's anyone's guess what will happen here. Fleming or Boustany may just decide to back down in the end and run for re-election if they don't get chosen rather than give up their House seats. Kennedy is up for re-election this fall so he wouldn't be risking his job, but he might decide he won't beat an appointed incumbent. It's a good bet that Vitter will go to bat for his choice, and it won't be easy to defeat someone with his full backing. Tea partier Rob Maness has also hinted that he'll run for the Senate, though he has a lot less to lose than the other three men.
However, Vitter could always just pick a placeholder who will step aside next year and let the process play out. If Vitter's appointed senator loses re-election it could embarrass him, and he might decide to avoid the problem altogether. Ultimately, the GOP shouldn't have a problem holding onto this seat in red Louisiana, but we may see an expensive year-long intra-party brawl.
2:00 PM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-04: Ivey's team quickly released a survey from Ron Lester that gave Brown a more-modest 33-27 edge.
2:08 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NV-03: Republican Rep. Joe Heck's decision to run for Senate means that his 50-49 Obama seat is up for grabs. GOP state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson hasn't announced anything yet but he's very likely to jump in soon. But it looks like Las Vegas City Councilor Bob Beers won't be challenging him in the primary. Shortly before Heck's announcement, Beers said he wasn't planning to run for Congress and will likely seek re-election instead.
On the Democratic side, the DCCC has spoken with former Secretary of State Ross Miller and state Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, but neither man has said anything about their intentions. Other Democrats may start scouting this contest out now that they know Heck is gone, though this isn't going to be an easy race regardless.
2:21 PM PT (Jeff Singer): 2Q Fundraising:
• AZ-Sen: John McCain (R-inc): $1.4 million raised, $4.5 million cash-on-hand
• OH-Sen: Rob Portman (R-inc): $2.9 million raised, $10 million cash-on-hand
• MO-Gov (June large contributions): Eric Greitens (R): $540,000 raised; Chris Koster (D): $340,000 raised
• AZ-01: Gary Kiehne (R): $500,000 cash-on-hand
• AZ-02: Martha McSally (R-inc): $1 million raised, $1.4 million cash-on-hand
• FL-18: Melissa McKinlay (D): $180,000 raised (in seven weeks); Tod Mowery (R): $85,000 raised (in six weeks); Rebecca Negron (R): $175,000 raised
• NY-21: Elise Stefanik (R-inc): $425,000 raised, $500,000 cash-on-hand
• TN-04: Grant Starrett (R): $721,000 raised ($250,000 self-funded)