Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet
• CO-Sen: The GOP has struggled to recruit a viable candidate against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, but that finally may be changing. Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler has been quiet about his 2016 plans for most of the year while he prosecuted James Holmes, who murdered 12 people in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, and it looked like Brauchler was far more likely to run for governor in 2018 anyway. But now that the trial is over (Holmes was found guilty, but Brauchler unsuccessfully sought the death penalty), Brauchler sounds quite interested in challenging Bennet.
While Brauchler says he's not committing to anything, he recently told the Denver Post, "You can definitely say I'm considering it," easily his strongest expression of interest to date. Brauchler may not have the GOP field to himself: Rich guy Robert Blaha, who tried to unseat Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 2012 primary, reaffirms that he's also considering and won't defer to Brauchler. But Brauchler is undoubtedly Team Red's best bet at this point. Brauchler already had some name recognition as chief lawyer for an important swingy county, and the theater trial has dominated the news in recent months. It's also unclear who else the NRSC can turn to at this point, since their other potential recruits have all either declined or seem very uninterested.
Bennet's win during the 2010 wave demonstrated that he's a tough candidate, and he'll have presidential turnout at his back this time, so he'd likely start out favored if Brauchler gets in. But the district attorney will definitely make national Republicans happy if he runs.
• CT-Sen: After flirting with Senate bids in both New York and Connecticut, always-wrong CNBC talking head Larry Kudlow appears to have selected door number two. Kudlow says that he'll challenge Democratic incumbent Richard Blumenthal if Blumenthal votes for the Iran deal (Blumenthal is publicly undecided). Connecticut is a dark blue state especially in presidential years and Blumenthal is incredibly popular, so this wouldn't exactly be a clash of the titans.
• FL-Sen: Here's another sign that Florida's Democratic primary for Senate isn't breaking down across neat ideological lines: Rep. Patrick Murphy just came out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal, while Rep. Alan Grayson continues to poormouth it. Grayson hasn't announced his position yet, and he may well wind up following Murphy, but it's notable the Grayson, who fancies himself the more progressive option, is far more hawkish on Iran.
Grayson's also regularly trashed Murphy as some sort of Wall Street shill, but in a good catch, the Tampa Bay Times reports that three financial industry types (along with Joan Jett!) recently co-hosted a fundraiser for Grayson in New York City. Grayson's campaign responded by saying that anyone who points out stuff like this is deploying "the same bogus attack that Wall Street has used against Elizabeth Warren," but how are Grayson's attacks on Murphy any different?
• KS-Sen: Physician Milton Wolf has been claiming for a while that the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, which regulates doctors, cleared him of wrongdoing over his gruesome Facebook posts in which he publicly made grisly comments about the x-rays of deceased patients. (Sample quote: "What kind of gun blows somebody's head completely off? I've got to get one of those.") But Wolf hadn't offered any evidence that his case had been closed, and the board refused to say either way.
Now, though, he's supposedly shown a letter from the board to columnist Steve Kraske that says the investigation is over. But Kraske hasn't reproduced the letter, and Wolf hasn't published it himself, even though he easily could. So the whole thing still remains bizarre.
As for why we still care about Wolf, who lost to Sen. Pat Roberts in last year's Republican primary, it's because he hasn't yet ruled out another Senate bid. In fact, he confronted Kansas' other senator, Jerry Moran, at a town hall event earlier this summer, accusing Moran of having pushed the medical board to investigate him in the first place. Wolf did better than expected against Roberts, but Moran, who was NRSC chair during the GOP's successful takeover of the Senate last year, would be a much tougher opponent.
• KY-Gov: The conservative Americans for Prosperity is launching what they describe as a "hefty" six-figure ad buy, and I'll give you one guess what it's about. That's right: They're linking Democrat Jack Conway to Barack Obama on Obamacare, a predictable but effective line of attack in red states. The narrator blames Obamacare for causing a "crisis" in the hospitals, then hits Conway for supporting the program.
• OR-Gov: Physician Monica Wehby lost her 2014 Senate bid to Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley by an ugly 56-37 margin, but she's actually thinking about running in next year's special election for some reason. A spokesperson for Wehby's PAC says she is considering taking on interim Democratic Gov. Kate Brown (who hasn't officially announced that she's running, but looks very likely to). Wehby's 2014 campaign was pretty disastrous: Among other things, she was accused of stalking an ex-boyfriend and she actually tried to use the story to argue she'd make a good senator. (It didn't work.) The GOP doesn't have many options in the Beaver State, but they can still do better than Monica Wehby.
However, it looks like Team Red will need to do without 2014 gubernatorial nominee Dennis Richardson. Richardson didn't really say no, but he declared that we should "just leave it at 'not interested in running for any 2016 position at this time.'" Right now, physician Bud Pierce is the only declared Republican, though a few others are considering.
• VT-Gov: Until recently, it looked like Vermont Republicans were the ones who needed to worry about a third-party candidate costing them a win next year. Wealthy conservative Bruce Lisman flirted with running as either a Republican or an independent, and he could have definitely done some real damage to Team Red's eventual nominee. However, Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning says that Lisman recently contacted him to tell him he's running as a Republican.
Lisman hasn't confirmed his plans yet, but an unnamed source tells Vermont Public Radio that he'll announce his candidacy on Tuesday. The GOP establishment has been pushing Lt. Gov. Phil Scott to run and Scott seems to be leaning in that direction, so we could see a rare competitive statewide GOP primary here.
However, the left may not be so unified next November. The Vermont Progressive Party often allies with the Democrats, and they didn't run a candidate during the last three gubernatorial elections. But the Progressive's party chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanak tells the National Journal that they're looking to field their own candidate next year. While Mulvaney-Stanak said their decision would depend on how the Democratic field looks, she's not happy with either state House Speaker Shap Smith or his likely primary opponent ex-state Sen. Matt Dunne. State Transportation Secretary Sue Minter is still considering a bid and she does have good connections to liberal groups (Mulvaney-Stanak doesn't appear to have mentioned Minter).
Mulvaney-Stanak also says that state Sen. Anthony Pollina is considering running as a Progressive next November. Pollina ran in 2008 and took more votes than the Democratic nominee, though GOP incumbent Jim Douglas won with 53 percent. Pollina has since been elected on a Democratic-Progressive fusion ticket (Vermont law allows candidates to run for and accept multiple party nominations) and he did make noises about running even before Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin announced his retirement. However, Pollina said back in June that he wanted the Progressives to run a candidate in the Democratic primary, and it's unclear if he's changed his mind and decided it would be better to go it alone. But if Pollina declines to go for it, the Progressives don't have many other options.
• CA-52: While national Republicans are hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in this swingy seat, local business interests aren't playing along. On Thursday, the powerful San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce endorsed Peters. The group, which is headed by former GOP San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, backed Peters in the 2014 cycle, though some of that may have been due to Sanders bad relationship with GOP nominee Carl DeMaio. Retired Marine Jacquie Atkinson is running for Team Red this cycle, but so far her fundraising has been poor.
• FL-23: Over the weekend, at a DNC meeting in Minneapolis, Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz reportedly blocked a resolution from reaching the floor that would have expressed support for President Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran, according to the Washington Post. It's a pretty amazing turn of events, considering that Wasserman Schultz was Obama's hand-picked choice the lead the party, but the two have long been at loggerheads, and Wasserman Schultz's failure to come out for the deal has been noteworthy.
But this version of events may or not represent an entirely accurate understanding of what transpired, since the DNC member who put forth the idea, James Zogby, said it would not be accurate to say Wasserman Schultz "blocked" the resolution. It sounds like Zogby is blaming the affair on some sort of parliamentary snafu, but it's not really clear what did in fact happen.
Regardless of what did take place, though, Wasserman Schultz only seems worse off now than before: Fellow Democrats are ticked off enough to run to the Post while opponents of the Iran deal are ramping up pressure on her. Miami-Dade school board member Martin Karp, one such opponent, organized a rally targeting Wasserman Schultz on Monday and has refused to rule out a primary challenge. Even in her weakened state, she'd be hard to unseat, but things never should have gotten to this place to begin with.
• IL-11: Republican DuPage County Board Member Tonia Khouri opened a campaign account with the FEC all the way back in April, but she only officially announced that she'll oppose Democratic incumbent Bill Foster over the weekend. Obama won this seat 58-41, so Khouri very much has her work cut out for her. Fellow Republican Lisle Township Trustee Michael Tams has also filed with the FEC, but he has yet to announce.
• NV-04: Here's another one of those "not actually good news for the guy releasing it" internal polls, this time courtesy of GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy. In his survey (from Moore Information), Hardy leads all of his potential Democratic opponents, but there's a serious problem:
• 36-35 vs. former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores
• 38-28 vs. state Sen. Ruben Kihuen
• 38-28 vs. former state Assembly Speaker John Oceguera
• 39-28 vs. non-profit director Susie Lee
You can see it right away: Hardy's below 40 percent in every matchup. For a Republican incumbent in a seat Barack Obama carried by a 54-44 margin
, that's pretty lousy. Then again, Democrats oughtn't feel too excited. This is a seat the party should by all rights hold and only lost in a fluke thanks to the combination of last year's Republican wave and a total forfeit in the governor's race at the top of the ballot. The fact that Team Blue is on track to recover Nevada's 4th is the bare minimum Democrats should expect for 2016.
• Charlotte, NC Mayor: Early voting is about to start for the Sept. 15 partisan primaries, and PPP gives us our first independent poll of each party's contest on behalf of the Charlotte Observer.
On the Democratic side, PPP gives Mecklenburg County Commissioner and 2012 NC-09 nominee Jennifer Roberts a 39-21 lead over interim Mayor Dan Clodfelter. A runoff will be held Oct. 6 if no candidate takes more than 40 percent of the vote, but Roberts looks like she's very close to winning the Democratic nomination outright. City Councilors Michael Barnes and David Howard bring up the rear with 14 and 9 percent respectively. As of June 30 Roberts had far more cash on hand than any of her three opponents so if this poll is correct, she should be well-positioned for the next two weeks.
On the GOP side, PPP gives 2013 nominee and ex-Councilor Edwin Peacock a 44-26 lead against 2011 nominee Scott Stone. Peacock came close to winning this post two years ago and his moderate reputation gives Team Red a chance in the November general election in this Democratic leaning city.
• Nashville, TN Mayor: Until now, the officially nonpartisan mayoral runoff in Nashville, Tennessee, hasn't been particularly ugly, but that all changed Monday. Conservative candidate David Fox had already been attacking runoff rival Megan Barry as unacceptably liberal on economic matters, but now he's descended to new depths by depicting Barry as an anti-Christian extremist.
Fox's new radio ad aimed at African-American voters begins with the narrator accusing Barry of doing little to help black voters and gets much worse from there:
We might see Megan Barry around election time, but when the election's over, she's gone. So how do Megan and her husband Bruce spend their time since, it's not in the black community? Well, I'll tell you. They're opposing the National Day of Prayer, opposing prayer before high school football games, fighting with Christian faith-based organizations that he called and I quote, 'part of the Jesus-Industrial Complex.' Can you believe that? She doesn't share our values and Megan Barry doesn't deserve our vote.
The "Jesus Industrial-Complex" line comes from a 2010 blog post from Bruce
, not Megan, Barry that attacked a specific group
, the Family Action Council of Tennessee, known by the acronym FACT. Bruce Barry's full quote makes it clear that he's only talking about the religious right, not Christianity in general:
The simpleminded mistake that FACT and other organizations comprising the Jesus-Industrial Complex make is assuming that the absence of the "separation" phrase in the Constitution means that the doctrine of separation has no legal value in our constitutional system.
Megan Barry has also been defending herself from a whisper campaign going after her faith
: She recently accused Fox of pushing a phone banking campaign where callers informed voters that Barry allegedly is an atheist. Fox, who is Jewish, has denied all involvement with the calls, but he obviously isn't shy about directly disparaging Barry on matters of faith. The runoff is Sept. 10.
• NM-SoS: New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran was just charged by state prosecutors with 64 counts fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering, stemming from allegations that she used campaign contributions for personal purposes. In particular, Duran is accused of withdrawing over $430,000 in 2013 and 2014 at eight different casinos, in part by writing checks out of her campaign account for bogus reasons.
Duran is claiming some sort of conspiracy on the part of Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas, whose office has brought the case against her. Duran's lawyer asserted that she had "identified some serious potential violations of law" by the attorney general's staff and further sought to muddy the waters by saying "We hope this is not a politically motivated case and that the attorney general is not engaging in a selective prosecution of a political adversary." However, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez hasn't bought into this view, calling the criminal charges "deeply troubling and concerning."
• PA-AG: Here's how it ends for indicted Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane: with the loss of her license to practice law. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that state Supreme Court's disciplinary board has moved to suspend Kane's license, which would force her to step down from her post since attorneys general are required to be members of the bar in good standing (duh). What's more, Kane would apparently have a very hard time fighting any effort to strip her license, so this probably really is it for her.
If Kane is forced to quit, then Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat, would have the chance to appoint a successor. That pick, though, would be subject to approval by two thirds of the state Senate, which is in Republican hands. Because of that, the GOP might insist that any replacement agree not to seek re-election next year, when the attorney general's job would otherwise be up again. Reporter Charles Thompson took a look at some possible choices several weeks ago.
• Deaths: On Sunday, former Maryland Democratic Gov. Marvin Mandel died at the age of 95. Mandel served for six years as the state's powerful House speaker before he was appointed governor in 1969 after Spiro Agnew became vice president. Mandel was re-elected in 1970 and 1974 and is credited with streamlining government and implementing many progressive policies without raising taxes. However, Mandel may be best remembered for his messy and public divorce and the scandal that sent him to prison for 19 months.
Mandel was close to Irvin Kovens, a wealthy businessman. But prosecutors accused Mandel of receiving favors from Kovens and others. Mandel was convicted in 1977 and stripped of his duties, but an appeals court overturned it just in time for him to serve out the final 45-and-a-half hours of his term in 1979. However, the sentence was reinstated a few months after he left office, and he soon went to prison. He left jail 19 months later after Ronald Reagan commuted his sentence, but Mandel was still disbarred.
Finally in 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky law that was similar to the one that was used to prosecute Mande. His conviction was soon overturned once-and-for-all, and he was reinstated to the bar. Mandel never returned to elected office but he resumed his law career and served on the University of Maryland Board of Regents from 2003 until he stepped down in 2009.
• WATN?: Ever since he lost re-election after just one term in 2010, former Democratic Rep. John Boccieri has been looking for a way to get back into elected office. Boccieri has flirted with runs for Congress in three different congressional districts over the years, and he sounded interested in seeking Ohio's 13th District this cycle before Democratic incumbent Tim Ryan announced that he wouldn't be running for the Senate.
But Boccieri may finally be in luck. Democratic state Rep. Ronald Gerberry recently resigned in disgrace after admitting that he hid campaign money, and it's up to the Ohio House Democratic Caucus to appoint a new representative. Boccieri, who served in the legislature until he was elected to Congress in 2008, is publicly jockeying for the appointment. Boccieri got some good news recently when a prominent county commissioner decided not to seek the job: There are several other Democrats interested in the post so nothing's guaranteed, but this looks like Boccieri's best chance to return to office. The caucus says they hope to have a choice by Oct. 1.
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 Stephen Wolf.