Ex-Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler
• NC-Sen: According to two unnamed sources "with direct knowledge" who spoke to the National Journal, ex-Rep. Heath Shuler is considering a bid for Senate next year. Shuler, a former NFL quarterback, was a Blue Dog congressman who was originally recruited by Rahm Emanuel to run in 2006, but he retired in 2012 after Republican gerrymandering made his district much redder.
Shuler compiled a very conservative record in the House: He voted against Obamacare and even tossed his name in against Nancy Pelosi (and John Boehner) in the vote for speaker after the Democrats got crushed in 2010. (Shuler got crushed, too: Only 10 colleagues voted for him, and just one is still in the House today. And all but one of his departed supporters were replaced by Republicans.)
Shuler would bring some assets to the race, like his name recognition and fundraising ability, but he could struggle to win a primary even against a weaker opponent. (In 2010, after that Obamacare vote, he took just 61 percent against a Some Dude primary challenger.) He'd also have to adapt to a state that, on the whole, is to the left of where his old district was. Neither of the Democrats who have carried North Carolina (or come close) at the federal level in recent years—Barack Obama and Kay Hagan—fit the sort of good ol' boy model Shuler relied on to win, nor would it work statewide today.
Given that it's August and Democrats have no one running against GOP Sen. Richard Burr, Shuler might look appealing to the DSCC, and it's very possible there's no one better out there. But while he has some positives as a candidate (though boy would he be a pain in the ass for Senate Democrats if he won), he'd face a very tough race.
• FL-Sen: GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis just picked up an endorsement from a fellow member of Florida's congressional delegation, Rep. Tom Rooney. It's a bit against type, as Rooney is more of an establishment sort while DeSantis is the Club for Growth's paisan. But as the Palm Beach Post notes, Rooney may want to run for Senate himself come 2018, so this may be an early attempt to curry favor with the guy he thinks is best-positioned to win this year. DeSantis faces three other Republicans in the primary for Marco Rubio's open Senate seat.
• MD-Sen: Former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich irritatingly pulled some "no plans to run" shtick the other day as to whether he might make a bid for Maryland's open Senate seat, meaning we couldn't quite cross him off the list. He finally cleared things by directly saying "no" on Tuesday, but even then, he was weird about it. When asked, he said, "Let me ask my mouthpiece," referring to a nearby aide. It's not clear whether the aide had anything to say, but only after this diversion did Ehrlich answer in the negative. Just odd.
• NH-Sen: Republicans are still working hard to keep Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan out of next year's Senate race, and the latest effort comes from the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, which is spending a reported $1.3 million to run a new attack ad. The spot accuses Hassan of vetoing tax cuts and supporting tax hikes, charges that Democrats have called "completely false." If that's true, though, then it should be fairly easy to get the ad taken off the air, since third-party advertising doesn't receive the same kind of carte blanche that ads from candidates themselves do.
• PA-Sen: EMILY's List had reportedly been involved in recruiting Katie McGinty into Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, so it's only expected that they've gone ahead and endorsed her. The real test will come in about two months from now, though, when we'll be able to see what kind of fundraising operation McGinty's put together with EMILY's help.
• LA-Gov: A few weeks ago, businessman John Georges commissioned a poll testing himself as the Democratic candidate in both the October jungle primary and in a November runoff with Republican Sen. David Vitter. Now, Georges is acknowledging that he is "monitoring the race very closely," and while he doesn't plan to run, "I don't think it's too late." Georges is also stepping down as publisher of the Baton Rouge paper The Advocate only a little more than a week before the Sept. 10 candidate filing deadline, which has definitely raised eyebrows.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards has had the Democratic field to himself for the entire race, and it's unclear if Georges thinks he can scare him out of the contest or if he's willing to run against him. Georges is wealthy, so he can definitely have an impact here: If both men are on the jungle primary ballot, they could split the Democratic vote enough to give Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne or Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (both Republicans) a chance to grab a runoff spot with Vitter.
However, Georges' odds of actually winning the governor's mansion probably aren't great. He took a distant third both when he ran for governor as an independent in 2007 and when he ran for mayor of New Orleans in 2010 as a Democrat, so money can't buy him everything. Louisiana has also become very hostile to Democrats (though Georges may use his history as a George W. Bush fundraiser to appeal to conservatives). Georges' own poll also showed him losing a hypothetical runoff to Vitter 45-31, a little worse than Edwards' 44-34 deficit, so he wouldn't start out in a great place. Georges flirted with a gubernatorial bid in 2011 and he may just do the same thing this year, but his wealth and Louisiana's electoral laws make him worth keeping an eye on.
• PA-08: Steve Santarsiero is sending a pretty loud message: He's going nowhere. Last week, a nameless Democratic operative—supposedly "with close ties to the DCCC"—told PoliticsPA that establishment power-brokers were trying to nudge Santarsiero out of the party's primary in favor of 2014 candidate Shaughnessy Naughton. But as we said at the time, you don't go public like this if your private efforts are working, and unsurprisingly, neither approach has succeeded, because Santarsiero's team just responded in fairly angry terms, saying their guy has every intention of staying in the race—and accusing Naughton of being behind the earlier report.
Pennsylvania's 8th will be an open seat next year, thanks to GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick's retirement, and it's a top pickup opportunity for Team Blue. But the bad blood already permeating through this primary will only make that task harder.
• PA-AG: Pennsylvania Democrat Kathleen Kane just became the second sitting state attorney general this week to get indicted. On Thursday, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman charged her with perjury and obstruction of justice, stemming from a scheme to leak confidential grand jury materials to embarrass a critic and then cover up the leak. (Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, was indicted for securities fraud on Monday.)
It's the culmination of a long investigation into Kane, and it's an amazingly quick and harsh downfall for her as well. Kane powered into office in 2012, winning more votes that year than any statewide candidate, including Barack Obama, and becoming the first woman and first Democrat ever elected attorney general. (The position had been an appointed one prior to 1980.) That sort of popularity, combined with her law-and-order profile, suggested that Kane was destined to become a rising star, but she soon derailed her own career with a series of incredibly poor choices that seemed to stem from a personal vendetta.
During her 2012 bid, Kane campaigned extensively on her claim that the probe into the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State centered around Jerry Sandusky, and led by prosecutor Frank Fina, had been stalled by Gov. Tom Corbett, who'd been attorney general at the time. Corbett, the argument went, didn't want to rile up Penn State's rabid and extensive fanbase by investigating further and implicating legendary football coach Joe Paterno. Shortly before the election, Sandusky received a 60-year sentence—effectively, life.
More than a year after Kane took office, either Fina or forces loyal to him retaliated for Kane's campaign trail slights by telling the Philadelphia Inquirer about a corruption investigation that Fina had been pursuing into several Philadelphia Democrats. Kane had spiked the inquiry, though, claiming the case was "dead before we even got to it" and further arguing it had unfairly targeted black politicians.
What were her true reasons? We don't know. Maybe she really did think it was a weak case, or that it was in fact racially problematic. Or maybe she just didn't want to anger powerful Philly pols. But Fina, who'd secured a life sentence for Sandusky, had moved over to the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams right after Kane became attorney general, and Williams, who is black, picked up the corruption case and went on to secure several convictions—so "dead" the case was not.
Kane could have just let matters lie there, but instead, she fired back at Fina—and here's where everything started to unravel for her. Kane's office allegedly leaked secret grand jury materials to the Philadelphia Daily News in an attempt to undermine Fina by saying he'd dropped the ball on another investigation, this one into the head of the Philadelphia NAACP, Jerry Mondesire.
At that point, a special prosecutor started investigating, and Kane proceeded to weave a series of lies about the Mondesire leaks and even tried to blame her top deputy, Adrian King, while under oath. But emails exonerated King, who'd opposed the efforts at retaliation, and ultimately a grand jury found that Kane had given false testimony and attempted to conceal what she'd done. Ferman, the Montgomery DA, brought this sordid matter to its expected conclusion on Thursday with her indictment.
Kane has pledged to remain in office, but Gov. Tom Wolf—like Kane, a Democrat—has already called on her to step down. (He'd get to nominate a replacement if she does.) While Kane theoretically can ignore the world and insist she's going nowhere, her best bet at this point is probably a plea agreement with prosecutors that involves a reduced sentence in exchange for her resignation. No matter what happens, though, it's a sad end to a truly pathetic and petty tale.
• FL Redistricting: Surprise, surprise. Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown, one of the party's foremost traitors in the fight against redistricting reform, has sued to block implementation of a Florida Supreme Court ruling that would, among other things, eviscerate her congressional district. Brown, who previously joined an unsuccessful Republican lawsuit against the Fair Districts amendments that formed the basis of the high court's decision, argues that dismantling the state's 5th District would undermine the cause of African-American representation.
But it's not so—not remotely. The Supreme Court was very careful to explain that while the current configuration of the 5th violated the Fair Districts' prohibition against gerrymandering for political purposes (by packing black voters into a single snake-like district, Republicans made surrounding districts redder), the amendments nevertheless required that a seat capable of electing a black Democrat be preserved. To accomplish this, the court specified that a new district should be drawn that stretches west from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, rather than south from Jacksonville to Orlando, as the 5th presently does.
And that's exactly what the legislature's proposed new map does. Matthew Isbell, who has carefully analyzed the entire plan, says that African Americans would still constitute 66 percent of all Democratic voters and 45 percent of the total voting-age population. That's a very small drop from the current percentages (69 and 48, respectively), and since the revamped district would still be safely blue at 64-35, the winner of any Democratic primary, who is likely to be black, would almost certainly prevail in the general election as well.
Brown is not unhappy because of her bogus claims about fair representation. Rather, she's worried that an up-and-coming politician from Tallahassee, such as Mayor Andrew Gillum, could challenger her in next year's primary and win. And here's further proof of her phoniness: The heavily black areas at the south end of the current 5th District would instead get absorbed by the 10th, turning it from a Republican-leaning seat to a solidly Democratic one—and giving a black candidate a good chance there, too. Indeed, 2012 nominee Val Demings, who nearly won the 10th under its present lines, is already sounding interested in another run. (Demings, the former police chief of Orlando, is black.)
Brown doesn't have much to stand on, either morally or legally, so hopefully this suit will get turned back quickly.
• President-by-LD: We return to Massachusetts for a look at the 2014 statewide races. We have the results calculated by state House, state Senate, and congressional district for the U.S. Senate race, the governor's contest, and the elections for attorney general, state auditor, secretary of the commonwealth, and state treasurer. We also have the 2012 presidential and U.S. Senate race and the 2013 special election for Senate calculated. You can find our master list of states here. Also be sure to check out Stephen Wolf's interactive state legislative maps.
Massachusetts is a deep blue state (or commonwealth), and Democrats easily won five of the six statewide contests. But the Bay State has been more than willing to send Republicans to the governor's office, and Charlie Baker defeated Democrat Martha Coakley 48-47. While the five victorious Democrats carried all nine congressional districts (though the GOP came close to taking MA-09 in the treasurer's race), Coakley only took three seats. Coakley narrowly won western Massachusetts' MA-01 and took MA-05 and MA-07 by double-digits. Baker's best seat was MA-06, which he carried 55-41. However, his coattails weren't enough to help Republican nominee Richard Tisei, who lost to now-Rep. Seth Moulton by a similar margin.
Democrats have held supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature for a long time, and Team Blue currently holds a 125-35 state House majority and a 36 to six edge in the state Senate. However, Baker did carry 92 state House seats and 26 state Senate districts. By contrast, former Gov. Mitt Romney won just 25 state House seats and no state Senate constituencies in 2012.
• Voting Rights Act: Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and if there's one article you read on the subject, it should be Jim Rutenberg's cover story for the New York Times magazine. He takes a comprehensive look at the decades-long Republican effort to gut the VRA and roll back many of its provisions. Rutenberg covers the history of the VRA's effect all the way from protecting the rights of African-Americans to vote soon after its implementation to the ways in which Republicans have successfully chipped away at it, culminating in 2013's Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted its main enforcement mechanism.
Of particular note is the critical role Chief Justice John Roberts has played ever since serving as a lawyer for Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. After Republicans successfully used an illegal voter purge to win the presidency in Florida in 2000, George W. Bush played a key role in packing the Justice Department with anti-VRA ideologues who used their power to concoct fears of voter fraud as a means of suppressing votes. In recent years, Republicans have professed a colorblind approach to equal protection that is willfully ignorant of the of the legacy discrimination that still pervades many predominantly-Southern states and diminishes minority voter power. You really ought to read the whole thing though as it's far too long to be done justice with a simple summary.
Daily Kos Elections' own Stephen Wolf takes a look at the motivations and justification for the Voting Rights Act and how Republican efforts have succeeded in undermining it. He proposes 13 reforms to both restore the VRA and go beyond it by fundamentally reshaping our electoral system to promote the equality and power of each individual voter instead of elites.
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.