Terry McAuliffe: "You don't like my judge? Fine—no redistricting for you!"
• VA Redistricting: That was definitely one short special session. Virginia lawmakers had been called back to the state capitol on Monday to hammer out a new congressional map, seeing as the current lines were ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander by a federal court earlier this year. But with the state House and Senate in Republican hands and forever at loggerheads with Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, odds were always high that the two sides would never reach an agreement and would instead send the whole matter back to court to have the judges serve as cartographers.
Now that's a near certainty, though for reasons unrelated to redistricting. At the start of the new session, Republican lawmakers attempted to oust state Supreme Court Justice Jane Roush, whom McAuliffe appointed on an interim basis last month, with a judge more to their liking, Ronnie Alston. However, the vote failed, thanks to a defection by retiring GOP state Sen. John Watkins, who was disgusted by his own party's flagrant partisan posturing.
But had the legislature remained in session to work on redistricting, Republicans could have kept trying to install Alston in place of Roush. Since Democrats were pissed at Republicans for trying to bump off Roush in the first place, and since they knew there was no longer any hope of any kind of deal on a new map, they banded together with Watkins a second time to adjourn the special session—all on the very day it began.
It's a pretty fascinating exercise in power, with one chamber basically saying "fuck you" to the other. Republicans say they think the Senate might not be able to adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the House, so we could be back here right quick. But if Watkins continues to defect, the GOP will lack a quorum and won't be able to conduct any business; in that scenario, McAuliffe would be able to re-appoint Roush to a second interim term when her current one expires in September. And Republicans, who could have traded a favorable congressional map for a Democratic priority like, say, Medicaid expansion, will instead walk away with nothing—and at least several more months of Jane Roush on the high court.
• CO-Sen: Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler's name has come up as a possible statewide candidate for some time—as far back as last cycle, in fact, when fellow Republicans talked him up as a possible challenger to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. Then as now, however, Brauchler has suggested he's been too busy overseeing the prosecution of James Holmes, the shooter who murdered 12 people and wounded 70 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012.
However, Holmes was recently convicted and sentenced to life in prison (Brauchler had sought the death penalty), so now, presumably, Brauchler has more time to devote to politics. But maybe not just yet: In a recent interview, he did not rule out a bid against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, but said he still has additional charges to attend to regarding the Holmes case. So far, no serious Republicans have stepped forward.
• NC-Sen: All of a sudden, we're hearing quite a bit more chatter from potential Democratic Senate candidates in North Carolina than we have been all cycle. Chris Rey, the mayor of Spring Lake (pop. 13,000), now says he's considering a bid and will decide by the second week of September. Rey is young (just 38), and he's also African American, which sets him apart from the other three Democrats who have expressed varying degrees of interest lately: former Rep. Heath Shuler, former state Rep. Deborah Ross, and state Rep. Duane Hall.
• WI-Sen: If you scratch your head hard enough to figure out why a conservative group called Restoration PAC just released this new poll of Wisconsin's Senate race, you're going to draw blood—a lot of it. The survey, an online-only affair from Luntz Global, finds Democratic ex-Sen. Russ Feingold beating GOP Sen. Ron Johnson by a 50-42 margin, an absolutely punishing place for an incumbent to find himself. What's more, it's very close to a March PPP poll that had Feingold up 50-41, numbers that were confirmed by a 54-38 Feingold lead Marquette found in April.
So what is Restoration PAC thinking? They claim that the race is "closing to single-digits" (that misplaced hyphen is just killing me), and based on what? Real Clear Politics' polling average, which includes exactly two surveys: the ones from PPP and Marquette. You know what? Fine. Let's throw out that Marquette poll entirely and rewrite Restoration's press release. Here's a proposed headline: "Ron Johnson's Poll Numbers Still Terrible."
Actually, the real shtick here is that Restoration just ran a minute-long ad on Wisconsin TV pushing some ridiculous fear-mongering about the proposed nuclear deal with Iran, and they're trying to argue that their campaign had an effect. We have no idea how much they spent, but we do know that their bogus ad initially featured a lame photoshop of Barack Obama shaking hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, even though the two have never met. Given what we know of how these guys operate, the fact that they think it's a good idea to publish a poll like this is suddenly a lot less mysterious.
• IN-Gov, Sen: Former state House Speaker John Gregg's only remaining rival for the Democratic nomination for governor, state Sen. Karen Tallian, dropped out of the race on Monday, citing a lack of money and support. Unlike state Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz, who endorsed Gregg after bowing out about a week ago, Tallian didn't immediately offer her support, but reporter Dan Carden of the Times of Northwest Indiana hints that she could wind up as Gregg's running mate.
Gregg further consolidated his position with an endorsement from the Indiana AFL-CIO, the labor umbrella group whose 800 affiliates in the state represent more than 300,000 workers. Right now, he's the favorite to take on Republican Gov. Mike Pence, but it's still possible Gregg could face an opponent in the primary. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott just reiterated that he's still looking at both the gubernatorial and Senate races, though he says he won't make a decision until he wins a fourth term this November. (But it's probably never a good idea to refer to your own re-election campaign as a "three-foot putt," as McDermott just did.)
Speaking of the Senate, the battle for the Democratic nomination in contest just got a little more interesting. Former non-profit director John Dickerson just entered the race over the weekend, and while he doesn't have any political experience, the only candidate running so far, ex-Rep. Baron Hill, has raised an embarrassingly small sum of money—just $151,000 in the second quarter. Even if Dickerson doesn't have the juice to make an impact on the contest, someone like McDermott could. Republicans, meanwhile, face a multi-way primary of their own, though they'll be favored to hold on to the seat of GOP Sen. Dan Coats.
• UT-Gov: Wealthy businessman Jonathan Johnson, who is chairman of the board of directors of Overstock.com, announced on Saturday that he'd challenge Utah Gov. Gary Herbert for the GOP nomination next year. Johnson had been considering for a while, and his argument seems to boil down to his claim that Herbert isn't a sufficiently bellicose conservative. Early polling has shown Johnson with diddly squat name recognition, so he'll have to spend a bunch of his money to change that.
Herbert doesn't seem to be in any way unpopular—even Johnson called Utah "well-managed" earlier this year. But one new wrinkle is that Utah law now allows candidates to petition their way on the primary ballot, whereas before, they had to win the votes of at least 40 percent of delegates to a party convention in order to secure a slot. Still, whether at a convention or in a primary, Johnson has a tough fight ahead of him.
• IA-03, 04: Democrats have finally landed a legitimate candidate to take on GOP Rep. David Young in Iowa's 3rd District, and it's a name you might recognize: Jim Mowrer, an Iraq vet who ran against Rep. Steve King last year in the neighboring 4th District. Mowrer ran a creditable race against King and actually outraised the incumbent with a $2.1 million haul, but the 4th is a decidedly conservative seat—it went for Mitt Romney by a 53-45 margin. Simple demographics plus the Republican wave protected King from his own notoriously big mouth, and he beat back Mowrer 62-38.
But the 3rd favored Barack Obama by a 51-47 spread, and Young's not a strong fundraiser. Mowrer also brings some good connections to the race: He says he was inspired to run a second time by the death of Beau Biden, a friend of his from the time they served together overseas. Mowrer also hinted that Joe Biden himself might have encouraged him to run, saying "I'll keep any conversations between the vice president and I between him and I." There is still the question of carpetbagging, though, as Mowrer only recently moved to Des Moines.
And some local Democrats are still holding out hope for someone they think would be a stronger alternative, U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt. It's usually very hard if not impossible to get a read on whether people in that position are interested in running, since their jobs forbid them from making public political forays. But according to Roll Call, Klinefeldt previously "suggested he was not going to run," and an anonymous "Iowa Democratic operative" tells Politico that Klinefeldt told him there was "no chance" he'd make a bid.
Meanwhile, back in the 4th District, Democrats have landed someone willing to take another go at King, O'Brien County Democratic Party chair Kim Weaver. Weaver does not have any elected experience, though she is a member of the state party's Central Committee. She'll need King to really do a number on himself in order to have a chance here, but that's something you can ever rule out with this guy.
• CA-46, Sen: Though she didn't rule out a re-election bid when asked if she might abandon her Senate run after her disastrous initial launch, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez probably isn't looking for an escape hatch at this point. The latest sign: Her sister, Rep. Linda Sanchez, just endorsed former state Sen. Lou Correa, who is running to succeed Loretta Sanchez in the House.
• FL-10: Even though we don't have a final new map of Florida's congressional districts yet, everyone—including the current Republican incumbent, Rep. Daniel Webster—expects the 10th District to become much, much bluer. In fact, it'll likely become a safely Democratic district, which is why Webster is howling, and why former Orlando police chief Val Demings just announced that she plans to run here a second time. Demings, who'd been considering a bid ever since the legislature first proposed new lines in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the current map, lost a close 52-48 race to Webster in 2012.
A seat that will probably be this blue, though, will be very tempting for other Democrats, and one, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, has already expressed interest. It'll also be interesting to see whether or not Webster retires. He's already on record saying this seat would be "impossible" for him or any other Republican to win if these changes go through, and he's not wrong, but maybe he'll put up a fight anyway.
• ME-02: This is deeply bizarre. Freshman GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin is simply refusing to say whether he participated in a fundraiser with John Boehner in Maine earlier this month—even though, you know, other actual humans were presumably in attendance, and a couple of nameless Republicans confirmed the event took place to reporter Michael Shepherd. In fact, Poliquin's comments are so strange, you just have to see them for yourself:
"We have events all the time, Mike. You know, because of confidentiality and security reasons, you know, we don't confirm a lot of these things," Poliquin said. "So, that is not a confirmation or a denial."
The craziest thing is that Boehner headlined a fundraiser for Poliquin last fall
, and Poliquin's campaign readily confirmed it. So why were all those "confidentiality and security reasons" apparently not a worry last year? This makes no sense.
• PA-02: Attorney Dan Muroff just became the first Democrat to file papers with the FEC for a potential primary challenge to indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah. Muroff doesn't have elective experience, but he leads Philadelphia's 9th Ward, which apparently earns top marks for turnout, and he's worked for several members of Congress and was chief of staff for Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano.
• Port of Seattle Commission: If you're a fan of the Little Perennial Candidate Who Couldn't (and we know there are lots of fans of that genre at Daily Kos Elections), here's a heartwarming story. Goodspaceguy is one of the best-known examples, perhaps thanks to his odd adopted name as well his decades of futile bids; he runs every year for something or other in King County, Washington, and he's finally managed to advance from the top-two primary into the general election, for the first time since Washington adopted the top-two system. (If you look at the sidebar in the linked article, you'll see that he did participate in several general elections as an independent candidate for King County Council, but that was under Washington's old electoral regime.)
So who's the sad sack who managed to finish third, behind Goodspaceguy, in the election two weeks ago? It's John Naubert, who was so explicitly old-school socialist in his voter's pamphlet description that slightly more voters actually preferred Goodspaceguy's libertarian-meets-futurist-space-exploration-themed mumbo-jumbo. Don't look for his luck to continue in the general, though: The incumbent, Courtney Gregoire (who's ex-Gov. Chris Gregoire's daughter) took 83 percent of the vote.
• Demographics: Pundits talking about people's decisions about where to move to or from often turn it into a purely utilitarian decision based only on economic inputs. Where are the jobs? Where are tax rates low? Where is housing affordable? Where is there less inequality? Well, that may be one more case where we're overthinking why people do what they do.
Christopher Ingraham, the Washington Post's master of unusual county-level maps, has discovered that the USDA has attempted to quantify the issue of how physically pleasant it is to live in a particular place. They have a six-item index that takes into account factors like winter and summer temperatures, winter cloud cover, summer humidity, topographic variation, and proximity to water.
The output of that index is exactly what you'd expect—California tops the list, followed by Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and the Northwest—but what may be surprising, if you look at the graph at the end of Ingraham's article, is how strongly the results correlate with how many people are migrating to those locations. In other words, with fewer things tying people down to a particular location (looser family ties, a more homogenized culture, a more diversified rather than regionalized economy), the natural landscape itself is becoming one of the principal factors driving where people move to.
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.