Alabama GOP. Gov. Robert Bentley
• AL-Gov: Republican Gov. Robert Bentley won a second term in a landslide just last fall, but unpleasant matters stemming from his personal life have now threatened his tenure, and it's possible he might not complete his term. It began late last month, when First Lady Dianne Bentley, the governor's wife of 50 years, filed for divorce, a move that came as a complete surprise to Alabama's political establishment. After a judge granted the parties' motion to seal the proceedings, rumors began to fly that the governor improperly used state resources to conceal an affair with a top political advisor.
Two GOP state representatives have now asked Attorney General Luther Strange to investigate whether Bentley misused his office, particularly with regard to state-owned aircraft. (Using state planes for personal travel was one of the key things Mark Sanford was nailed for.) Additionally, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey is reportedly already making plans for a transition, though we can't say whether she's just being circumspect or is actually trying to pressure Bentley to leave. Bentley has denied misusing public resources, but he's refused to answer any questions about his divorce.
At this point, what we don't know exceeds what we do know, and Bentley has given no indication that he's looking for an exit. But he doesn't have a great relationship with the GOP-dominated state legislature, whom he's feuded with as he's tried to raise taxes. As we saw in Oregon earlier this year when now-ex Gov. John Kitzhaber abruptly fell from power in a blazing flash, a governor's relationship with powerful members of his own party can make all the difference when a scandal hits. This situation in Alabama may well come down to nothing, but especially after Kitzhaber's quick collapse, it bears watching.
• CO-Sen: Wealthy Republican businessman Robert Blaha promised he'd run against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet if he came out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal; Bennet did just that, and so Blaha is now promising to formally announce a campaign in early October. So far, only a passel of Some Dudes are actually in the race on the GOP side, though state Sen. Tim Neville and prosecutor George Brauchler are considering.
• NH-Sen: On behalf of NBC, Marist has a new survey of the highly anticipated but still hypothetical contest between Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte and prospective Democratic challenger Gov. Maggie Hassan. They give Ayotte a 48-45 edge, which tracks pretty closely with a recent PPP poll. Marist has surveyed this contest twice this year and their results have bounced all over the place: Back in July, they gave Ayotte a stronger 50-42 lead, but they had Hassan up 48-44 in February. They do give Hassan a good 51-35 approval rating among registered voters (Ayotte wasn't tested).
Conservative groups have spent millions this summer trying to deter Hassan from running, or at least damage her in the eyes of Granite State voters if she does get in, and Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire is firing another volley. Their new spot goes after Hassan for vetoing the GOP-passed state budget, and the narrator accuses her of "playing politics with the lives of New Hampshire citizens." The ad specifically mentions the state's heroin epidemic, and argues that Hassan is holding valuable funding for dealing with the crisis hostage. There's no word on the size of the buy.
• OH-Sen: From the Dept. of You've Got To be F*ing S*ing Me, former Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana says she just might donate some of her leftover campaign cash to Sen. Rob friggin' Portman, the Ohio Republican who faces a competitive re-election battle. It's a mystery as to why Landrieu still has any money in her kitty after her drubbing last year, but the idea that she'd repurpose contributions that folks gave her to protect a fragile Democratic majority in order to help Republicans cling to their own vulnerable majority is just downright offensive. This is just total b.s., and it says only terrible things about Landrieu.
• PA-Sen: Newly-minted Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty has been picking up support from some influential Keystone State Democrats, and she recently added Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to the list. McGinty already has the backing of Pittsburgh-area Rep. Mike Doyle.
It's not a huge surprise that these Western Pennsylvanians turned to McGinty over 2010 nominee Joe Sestak, who has a poor relationship with the Democratic establishment. But when asked for a response, Sestak eschewed the usual "we're confident our positive message will break through" rhetoric, and literally just emailed a ":-)". Wasn't it Mario Cuomo who said that you campaign in emoticons and govern in emojis?
• WA-Sen: The Washington Senate race, where Patty Murray will be seeking her fifth term, isn't high on anyone's watch list as a competitive race. However, the Republicans have nailed down a candidate who's a step above Some Dude. It's Chris Vance, who's probably best known as the state GOP chair from 2001 to 2006, which meant he was Team Red's main not-giving-up-school-guy during the 2004 imbroglio over the gubernatorial recount.
Vance was an elected official in the 1990s, as a state representative and a King County councilor, but hasn't run for anything since he lost to Adam Smith 62-35 in WA-09 back in 2000. Since 2006, he's been a frequent freelance pundit in local media on political issues. To give you an idea of his chances, though, he says he'll be running a campaign with "virtually no overhead." And you can already see that at work with his new campaign website, which, as Joel Connelly points out, features a cheap Photoshop job of Vance wearing a suit on top of a scenic vista that would've required him to climb 3,900 feet to get to.
• KY-Gov: While Republican Matt Bevin has been strangely unwillingly to air general election ads, his allies at the RGA aren't so reluctant. Their newest spot accuses Democrat Jack Conway of lying about Bevin's taxes, before showing people praising Bevin's business record. The commercial emphasizes over and over again that Bevin's company "paid the taxes it owed," which suggests that the national GOP is worried that Conway's attacks may be getting traction.
• LA-Gov: State Rep. John Bel Edwards, who remains the only major Democrat in the race (qualifying closes on Thursday), is out with his first commercial. The spot goes biographical, emphasizing his military career and casts him as "a fighter for education, healthcare, and working families." The ad doesn't mention that he's a Democrat, though the text on the screen flashes that he's "pro-life" and "pro-second amendment." There's no word on the size of the buy: Edwards' campaign says it's airing almost everywhere except New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but those two media markets make up about 54 percent of the state.
• NH-Gov: GOP Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, the scion of the powerful political family, has been looking for an opportunity to advance for a long time, and he's decided that 2016 will be his year. On Monday, Sununu announced that he will run for governor, the post held by his father back in the 1980s. Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan has not said if she'll seek another two-year term or run for the U.S. Senate (see our NH-Sen item). A recent PPP survey gave Hassan a 48-41 lead against Sununu, but gave him the edge against three prospective Democratic replacements (albeit with a ton of undecideds).
Sununu is the first major Republican to get in, but he may not be the last especially if Hassan runs for the Senate. State Rep. Frank Edelblut has formed an exploratory committee, and the Boston Globe's James Pindell reports that he's already dumped $500,000 of his own money into his prospective campaign. Several other Republicans, including state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, have also been mentioned. However, Sununu's place on the Executive Council and family ties will give him access to plenty of money and connections, and his early start could scare off some potential intra-party foes.
• VT-Gov: On Tuesday, GOP Lt. Gov. Phil Scott announced that he would run to succeed retiring Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Scott is Vermont's only statewide elected Republican, and he pulled off decisive re-election wins in 2012 and 2014. The GOP establishment, including ex-Gov. Jim Douglas, has worked hard to recruit Scott for a while, and he almost certainly gives Team Red their best chance to score a pickup in this blue state.
However, Scott will not have the primary to himself. After flirting with an independent bid, retired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman announced last week that he would run as a Republican. The Vermont GOP can usually count on Democrats using up their resources in competitive primaries while the Republican pick gets to hoard money for the general election, but that won't be the case this time. Additionally, 2014 nominee Scott Milne and 2012 nominee Randy Brock both recently reaffirmed that they're interested in another run. Both men will have a hard time catching on now that the GOP establishment has Scott, but they could still make things interesting.
Democrats will have their own competitive primary as well. State House Speaker Shap Smith and ex-state Sen. and Google executive Matt Dunne have both announced that they're in, and state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter says she'll announce her plans soon.
• CA-46: Former Democratic state Sen. Joe Dunn filed with the FEC a few weeks ago, and he's finally announced that he'll seek this open Orange County seat. Dunn served as CEO of the California Medical Association and later ran the state bar association, so he's definitely connected. However, Dunn was fired by the bar last year and he subsequently sued them, so he may have some baggage that could hamper him. Ex-state Sen. Lou Correa (who succeeded Dunn after he was termed-out) and Anaheim Councilman Jordan Brandman are also running, while Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen has filed papers but made no official announcement yet. Obama won this seat 61-36, so it should stay blue without much trouble.
• FL-18: The huge GOP field for this open swing seat got a little smaller on Monday, as St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery dropped out of the contest. Mowery wasn't a particularly strong fundraiser, so he's unlikely to leave a massive void here.
• FL-23: Democratic incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently announced that she would back the Obama Administration's Iran deal, and her decision may earn her a primary challenge. Miami-Dade School Board member Martin Karp didn't rule out a run before she made her position clear, and he now says that he's "really thinking about this — thinking about it a lot."
Wasserman Schultz was a strong fundraiser even before she was appointed chair of the DNC, so she won't lack resources. Most of this district is located in Broward County, so Karp wouldn't have a strong geographic base of support. But Wasserman Schultz's style has earned her some enemies in the Democratic Party even before the Iran deal, and she hasn't always displayed the best political instincts in recent months. It's going to be tough for Karp or anyone else to topple Wasserman Schultz but things could get interesting, especially if Iran deal foes try and make an example out of someone as high profile as Wasserman Schultz.
• IL-07, Sen: The rumors that Rep. Danny Davis would retire were particularly strong this year, but Davis has announced that he'll seek another term in this safely blue Chicago seat. While several Democrats expressed interest in running to succeed him, no one has made any moves to actually challenge him.
But one of those potential successors, Ald. Walter Burnett, said that he's worried that Davis is actually just attempting a "bait-and-switch" by pretending to run again only to drop out and give a preferred candidate a leg up. He may have a point: If a candidate drops out of the race after winning his or her party's nomination in Illinois, the local county party committees would pick the new nominee. Burnett says he "has no plans to challenge Davis," (the Sun-Times' words) which isn't entirely a no.
If Davis is serious about running again, that could complicate things for Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin. Boykin formed an exploratory committee to run for the Senate, but there was plenty of speculation that he was really actually raising money to run for the House when Davis retired. In any case, we'll see soon how serious Boykin's Senate ambitions really are.
• IL-12: There was some talk at the beginning of the year about ex-Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon challenging freshman Republican Mike Bost in this swingy suburban St. Louis seat, but Simon soon made it clear that she was looking at running for the state Senate instead. And sure enough, Simon has announced that she'll campaign for SD-58 (An open GOP-held Romney 55-42 seat), taking her out of the running for IL-12 once and for all. Team Blue has struggled to find a viable candidate to face Bost, with labor lawyer C.J. Baricevic not impressing many people in D.C. so far.
• MN-02: Two more Republicans are making noises about running for this open swing seat. Former Dakota County District Court Judge Mary Pawlenty has not said anything publicly, but a former aide to her husband, ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, says on the record that she's "thoughtfully and carefully considering a run."
Businessman and 2014 Senate nominee Mike McFadden also says that he's "giving serious consideration" to running. McFadden's campaign wasn't particularly impressive last year, and he narrowly lost this seat to Democratic Sen. Al Franken. In fact, the most memorable thing about McFadden's bid was an ad where he and his son Conor recounted how McFadden once chose to remove Conor's stitches rather than pay a nurse $100 to do it: McFadden was arguing that he's lovably cheap, but that's not how he came off. But McFadden has money and he could make an impact here.
These Republicans are just two of many who are considering this seat following Rep. John Kline's surprising retirement announcement. If you're looking to track who's in, who's out, and who's a maybe, be sure to check out Rachel Stassen-Berger's continuously updated Google Doc at the Pioneer Press.
• PA-09: House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster pulled in a weak 54 percent of the vote during last year's GOP primary, and that was before he fast-tracked a bill being pushed by an airline lobbyist he was dating. Businessman Art Halvorson, who took 35 percent, has announced that he'll challenge Shuster again.
Halvorson's last effort wasn't very impressive: He raised little money and didn't self-fund very much, and he made some amateurish mistakes on the campaign trail. It's also possible that another candidate will jump in and take some anti-Shuster votes away from Halvorson. But Shuster's clearly worn out his welcome with much of the GOP base in this safely red seat, and Halvorson could pull off an upset especially if the incumbent draws more bad headlines.
• Baltimore, MD Mayor: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has looked very vulnerable ever since last spring's riots, and two credible candidates just announced that they will challenge her in next April's Democratic primary. State Sen. Catherine Pugh badly lost to Rawlings-Blake in the low-turnout 2011 primary, but she may do better now that next year's contest aligns with the more high-profile presidential and Senate primaries. Councilor Carl Stokes in turn lost his 1999 bid to Martin O'Malley. The Baltimore Sun describes both as "well-known political leaders with money, proven constituent bases and legislative records," so they very well may be able to avenge their past defeats.
A few other candidates are mulling bids here as well. Councilor Nick Mosby says he's "seriously considering," while author Wes Moore and Del. Jill Carter haven't ruled it out, and other names could come out of the woodwork. Additionally, former Mayor Sheila Dixon is already running, but she has her own baggage. If enough candidates get in they could split the anti-Rawlings-Blake vote enough to secure her renomination in this very blue city, but it's quite possible that the incumbent is just too damaged by her performance during the riots and the increase in crime to win.
• Nashville, TN Mayor: The Thursday runoff is almost here, and both conservative David Fox and progressive Megan Barry have one more spot out as this nasty race comes to a close. Barry talks to the camera and decries Fox's negative campaign, contrasting her plan to improve the city for everyone with "Mr. Fox and his Wall Street friends."
Fox's ad features a guy in a fox suit, while Fox (the candidate) argues the fox standing his ground to protect the city from Barry, who threatens to turn the city into Atlanta. This isn't the first time Fox has used Georgia's largest city as a boogyman, nor is it the first time we've seen a giant fox in his ads (which parody Matthew McConaughey's Lincoln commercials). A recent PPP survey found a tight race, so we'll just need to wait for Thursday night to see who finally prevails here.
• Toledo, OH Mayor: Filing has closed for this November's special election, a chaotic non-partisan winner-take-all contest. The Toledo Blade runs down who's in and their path to victory, and argues that six of the seven candidates could come out on top this fall. Here's a quick look at the candidates:
• Mike Bell: Ex-mayor, conservative independent
• Special Elections
• Sandy Drabik Collins: Former gubernatorial aide, widow of ex-Mayor Mike Collins, independent
• Opal Covey: Perennial candidate, Republican
• Mike Ferner: Former councilor, narrowly lost 1993 race, liberal independent
• Carty Finkbeiner: Former mayor, Democrat
• Paula Hicks-Hudson: Interim mayor, Democrat
• Sandy Spang: Councilor, former Republican turned independent
: Yeah, we've got one next Saturday. Via Johnny Longtorso:
Delaware HD-18: The Democrats' legislative supermajority depends on this Democratic seat in New Castle County, just east of Newark. The candidates here are Democrat David Bentz, who served as a legislative aide for the district's former representative, and Republican Eileen O'Shaughnessy-Coleman.
The seat went 74-25 for President Obama in 2012. These lopsided numbers make the district sound as if it should be an easy hold for the Democrats, but prior to 2008, this district was held by a Republican and not just a backbencher, but the speaker of the house. In addition, O'Shaughnessy-Coleman has outraised Bentz, and the oddball timing of the election won't help Democratic turnout. If Team Blue loses this seat on Saturday, they'll lose their ability to pass taxes and fees on their own.
• Deaths: The polling community lost one of its leading members on Tuesday; Andy Kohut, who led the Pew Research Center from 2004 to 2012, died at the age of 73. Kohut's career before Pew included president of Gallup for 10 years and founding Princeton Survey Research, as well as co-authoring four books and frequent news media appearances. His work at Pew is especially noteworthy, though, as he not only helped them become one of the most accurate pollsters of the presidential horse race, but also as they expanded into wide-ranging topics like political typologies, religion, and global attitudes.
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.