Republican Senate candidate Joe Heck could be competing for attention with an unexpected opponent
• NV-Sen: In any other state, a prospective Senate candidate who went around reminding voters that he owned a chain of brothels would be the subject of a police investigation within minutes. But not so in Nevada, where prostitution is completely legal in most of the scarcely populated rural counties. And sure enough, Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof has joined the Libertarian Party and formed an exploratory committee ahead of a potential bid. Unlike most third-party candidates, Hof isn't a total Some Dude. He has his own show on HBO and has an estimated net worth of $20 million. Hof is hinting that he'd self-fund, saying that "I've got 99 problems—but neither money nor women are one."
If he gets in, he could conceivably have an impact on the duel between Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Joe Heck. While it's too early to say for sure whom he'd end up hurting more, Hof says he's angry at Gov. Brian Sandoval's recent tax hike, so he may find a receptive audience with anti-tax conservatives. Religious conservatives will probably be less enthusiastic about him, but Hof's profession may not alienate other groups. A 2011 PPP poll found that Nevadans support keeping prostitution legal by a 56-32 margin, with even Republicans backing it 51-39. Of course, it's likely that Hof's just doing this all for attention (ok, more than likely) and won't run after all, or won't spend any real money if he actually does get in.
• FL-Sen: Patrick Murphy (D): $1.4 million raised, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
• IL-Sen: Mark Kirk (R-inc): $1.35 million raised, $3.2 million cash-on-hand; Tammy Duckworth (D): $1.2 million raised, $2.2 million cash on hand
• MD-Sen: Chris Van Hollen (D): $1.5 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand
• CA-07: Ami Bera (D-inc): $420,000 raised, $685,000 cash-on-hand
• CA-17: Mike Honda (D-inc): $350,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand; Ro Khanna (D): $420,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand
• FL-02: Gwen Graham (D-inc): $530,000 raised, $930,000 cash-on-hand
• NH-01: Shawn O'Connor (D): $47,000 raised, $500,000 self-funded, $950,000 cash-on-hand
• NV-04: Ruben Kihuen (D): $214,000 raised, $216,000 cash-on-hand
• NY-01: Dave Calone (D): $505,000 raised
• TX-23: Will Hurd (R-inc): $458,000 raised, $685,000 cash-on-hand
• AZ-Sen: Rep. Matt Salmon is one annoying fucker. Conservative groups have been working hard to recruit him to run against Sen. John McCain in the GOP primary, and the National Journal reported a little while ago that he was seriously looking at it. But Salmon told a local news station that he doesn't know where these rumors came from, and that he's happy to have his current job.
Luckily for Salmon, we know exactly where these rumors about his would-be Senate campaign came from: Matt Salmon himself. When The Hill asked him about his Senate plans in April, he told them, "I'm not saying that I'm in. I'm not saying that I'm not in."
And he's still not saying that he's not in. When KPNX asked him if his declaration that he's happy in the House is "an unqualified no, I'm not running for the Senate in 2016," Salmon responded that he's happy doing what he's doing, and he doesn't "know of any reason for me to look for something else." If the congressman truly wants to take his name out of contention, there's absolutely nothing stopping him from unambiguously saying, "I'm not running against John McCain."
• FL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson has been flirting with a Senate bid for months, and Roll Call reports that he'll announce he's in on Thursday. If Grayson goes for it, he'll set up an expensive and nasty primary with fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy, who has the backing of the national party establishment.
We also have a new candidate in the Republican corner. Todd Wilcox, who recently left his defense contracting business, announced on Wednesday that he would seek this open seat. Right now, it's unclear if Wilcox can or will self-fund a bid, if he has the connections he'll need to raise real money from donors, or if he'll just turn out to be an underfunded afterthought. Wilcox joins Rep. Ron DeSantis in the primary, with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera announcing his plans July 15 (spoiler alert: he's running) and Rep. Jeff Miller also likely to get in. Rep. David Jolly and ex-state Attorney General Bill McCollum are also mulling campaigns, though they haven't given much indication that they're all that interested.
• IA-Sen: It's hard to see anyone beating popular GOP Sen. and Dairy Queen fanatic Chuck Grassley, but one Democratic legislator sounds ready to take on the herculean task. State Sen. Rob Hogg has formed an exploratory committee, though he hasn't said when he'll make a final decision about whether to run.
• IL-Sen: A few months ago, tea partying ex-Rep. Joe Walsh sounded ready to challenge the relatively moderate Sen. Mark Kirk in the GOP primary, but he has yet to take any real steps to organize. But Walsh tells Politico that he hopes "to have a decision made very, very soon."
Democrats would be nothing but gleeful if the unhinged Walsh gave Kirk a hard time, but his odds of actually beating the senator aren't exactly good. Indeed, while Club for Growth chieftain David McIntosh says that he likes candidates like Walsh, "I think the consensus would be to spend the resources elsewhere." Translation: Even the Club doesn't want to waste money on Walsh, who would essentially forfeit this seat to Team Blue if he somehow upset Kirk.
• PA-Sen: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has privately indicated that he's willing to get behind 2010 nominee Joe Sestak's second bid for the Democratic nomination, but one powerful Keystone State politician is still very unwilling to embrace him. Rep. and Philadelphia Democratic Party Chair Bob Brady says that he wants Katie McGinty, who serves as chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, to run against Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, and that he'd be "100 percent in her corner."
Brady also was enthusiastic about a potential campaign from Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams back in February, but Williams hasn't given any indication since then that he's at all interested and the congressman appears to have moved on. Like many Pennsylvania Democrats, Brady isn't doing much to hide how little he likes Sestak. Brady specifically calls him out for endorsing Matt Cartwright's successful 2012 primary bid against then-Rep. Tim Holden.
Brady says he's spoken to McGinty but doesn't expect her to decide until the state budget is resolved. Brady also claims that the DSCC tried to recruit ex-Rep. Patrick Murphy, but was told no. Somewhat surprisingly, Brady also tells the Philadelphia Inquirer that the DSCC asked him to run and even polled his name identification, but Brady emphatically turned them down.
• KY-Gov: Democrat Jack Conway recently launched his ad campaign, but Team Red isn't letting him have the airwaves to himself. The RGA is up with their first spot and to the surprise of absolutely no one who has been paying attention to politics since Obama took office, it links Conway to the president. Specifically, it accuses Conway of backing Obama's cap-and-trade proposals and Obamacare. There's no word on the size of the buy.
• CA-24: Republicans were excited when they landed Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian for this open 54-43 Obama seat, but he's definitely going to need to improve his fundraising if he wants to pull off an upset. Achadjian brought in only $120,000 since he launched his campaign in mid-April; Achadjian says he's going to ramp things up in the coming weeks and the NRCC better hope he's serious. By contrast, Democratic Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal reports hauling in $620,000, while intra-party rival Santa Barbara Major Helene Schneider raised $225,000.
• FL-02: Another Republican is reportedly eyeing a campaign against freshman Democrat Gwen Graham. This time it's urologist Neal Dunn, who was appointed last year to serve as the state Senate's representative on the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors. But there's plenty of bad blood between Dunn and local GOP activists over his history of donating to Democratic candidates. Dunn's own finances aren't great either: He didn't pay taxes on time for his various properties, and he owes a huge debt to a bank. North Florida Republicans seem to be a lot more interested in state Department of Elder Affairs' general counsel Mary Thomas, who recently formed an exploratory committee and has just hired a prominent pollster.
• IL-18: On Tuesday, state Sen. Darin LaHood easily took the GOP nomination for this vacant Peoria-area seat, defeating political consultant and Breitbart editor Mike Flynn 69-28. LaHood, the son of former Rep. Ray LaHood, should have no trouble prevailing in the Sept. 10 general election in this Romney 61-37 seat.
This district became open in March after Aaron Schock resigned in disgrace. Schock's troubles began when the Washington Post sent a reporter to check out his Downton Abbey-inspired office, but things quickly snowballed out of control. Over the next few weeks, voters learned that Schock had a habit of living large on the taxpayers' dime. Things went from just embarrassing to possibly illegal after Politico reported that the congressman had over-billed the government in his mileage reimbursement requests. Schock saw the writing on the wall and resigned his seat, but a grand jury is now looking into his spending habits.
There is a huge GOP bench in the area, and several Republicans thought about running to succeed Schock. However, the well-known LaHood wasted little time jumping into the race, and his would-be opponents gradually decided to stay out. Flynn decided to take his chances but he raised little money and didn't have any real establishment support, and he predictably lost. But we'll be waiting with bated breath to see if LaHood repaints the Downton office.
• KS-01: Alan LaPolice lost the 2014 GOP primary to Rep. Tim Huelskamp by a respectable 55-45 despite spending very little money. But LaPolice seems to have learned the wrong lessons from his last campaign, since he didn't raise anything in the last quarter. LaPolice justifies it saying, "I doubt Lincoln spent the bulk of his time fundraising." Ok, but I doubt LaPolice spends the bulk of his time trying to win the Civil War. Physician Roger Marshall is also challenging Huelskamp, but he has yet to announce how much he's hauled. But as long as he's brought in something, he can accurately say that he's raised infinity more money than LaPolice.
• NV-03: Two days after Rep. Joe Heck announced that he was running for Senate, state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson kicked off his bid for this swing seat. The GOP establishment, including Roberson's ally Gov. Brian Sandoval, quickly consolidated behind him, and no one has made any noises about challenging him in the primary. Roberson is a respected fundraiser and he gives Team Red a strong chance to hold this 50-49 Obama seat.
Democrats will be looking to field a tough candidate, but so far they don't have anyone. State Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford spoke to the DCCC about a possible bid a little while ago, but he announced on Wednesday that he's staying out. Former Secretary of State Ross Miller has also met with the national party, but he hasn't said anything about his plans. Ex-Assemblyman Andrew Martin, who lost last year's controller race 53-38, does sound a bit more interested. Martin was at the center of a weird residency dispute in 2012 when a judge ruled just before the election that he didn't live in his Assembly district and couldn't serve. However, Martin won re-election and the chamber voted to seat him.
• NY-23: Rep. Tom Reed decisively turned back a credible Democratic challenge from Martha Robertson during last year's GOP wave, but Team Blue hasn't forgotten about his unexpectedly weak 52-48 victory two years earlier. Naval reservist John Plumb, who served as the White House National Security Council's director for defense policy and strategy, kicked off his campaign this week, and the DCCC sounds excited about him. Romney carried this seat 50-48 and Plumb will need to prove he can raise the type of money he'll need, but Democrats will be happy to have a contender who can't easily be caricatured as a "far out Ithaca liberal" like Robertson was. (Seriously, check out this actual 2014 ad).
• PA-06: Businessman Mike Parrish recently launched a bid against Republican freshman Ryan Costello for this light red seat, but that doesn't seem to be deterring physician Joe Denham. Denham, who serves on the Board of Supervisors for West Whiteland Township, recently set up a campaign committee, though he hasn't announced he's in yet. Parrish was a Republican donor as recently as 2012 but the state Democratic establishment likes him. Parrish entered the race with the support of ex-Gov. Ed Rendell, and he just picked up Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro's endorsement. (Hat-tip Greg Giroux).
• PA-09: Wealthy businessman and 2012 Senate nominee Tom Smith had been flirting with a primary campaign against Republican Rep. Bill Shuster, but he's announced he won't do it because "unexpected health problems arose." Smith could have given Shuster, who chairs the influential Transportation Committee, a real challenge in this safely red seat. The congressman only took 53 percent of the vote against two underfunded primary opponents last year, and his relationship with an airline lobbyist drew scrutiny this year after Shuster fast-tracked a bill she favored through his committee. (Shuster says she never lobbied his office after they started seeing each other).
Shuster may not be out of the woods yet. Art Halvorson, who took 33 percent against him last time, was willing to defer to Smith, but he could challenge Shuster now. But Halvorson ran an unimpressive campaign last time, and he may just not have what it takes to beat the powerful incumbent. It's always possible that someone stronger will try to take Shuster down, but there are no names on the horizon.
• SD Mayor: Even though the city of San Diego leans Democratic (Obama won 61 percent here), Republicans have usually controlled the mayor's office. Democrat Bob Filner broke Team Red's lock in 2012, but Republican Kevin Faulconer won the 2014 special election after Filner resigned in disgrace. Faulconer is one of the state GOP's few rising stars and Democrats would like to unseat him next year rather than face him in a 2018 statewide race.
But Team Blue needs a candidate, and so far they don't have anyone. Former interim Mayor Todd Gloria is running for the state Assembly, and neither outgoing Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins nor 2014 candidate David Alvarez appear interested. Two-time candidate Nathan Fletcher has explicitly said no, as have former Assemblymember Lori Saldaña and current Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.
Beating the low-key Faulconer wouldn't be easy under any circumstances, but local Democrats say the city's primary rules makes things even tougher. If one candidate takes a majority in the June non-partisan primary, he or she wins the seat without needing to go through a November runoff. Because conservative voters usually dominate primaries, it's pretty easy to see Faulconer winning outright in June.
Team Blue wants to put a referendum on the ballot to change the rules to require a mandatory fall runoff between the top two vote-getters, but it's unlikely that this would be approved before Faulconer faces the voters. Democrats are also hoping to recruit two strong challengers to drive up primary turnout and keep Faulconer under 50, but that's easier said than done. We have a while to go before next year's contest, but it looks like Faulconer will be the clear favorite.
• Specials: From Johnny Longtorso:
New Hampshire House, Rockingham-20: Despite the controversy over his social media posts, Republican Rio Tilton easily won this seat, defeating Democrat Elaine Andrews-Ahearn by a 67-33 margin.
Tilton, age 19, will be the youngest member
of the 400-member state House.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, and Daniel Donner.