Democratic state Rep.-elect Cyndi Munson
• OK State House: Something pretty crazy happened on Tuesday night in Oklahoma: Democrat Cyndi Munson defeated Republican Chip Carter 54-46 in a special election for a state House district that Mitt Romney carried by an overwhelming 61-39 margin in 2012. Republicans have held the seat for over 50 years, and Munson ran for it last year but lost by 13 points. So pretty nuts, huh?
And this isn't some seat in the ancestrally Democratic region known as Little Dixie in Oklahoma's southeast, where Democrats used to regularly win; rather, the 85th House District is in the northern suburbs of Oklahoma City. What's more, it was once occupied by the state's current governor, Republican Mary Fallin. But Democrats have long believed that the demographic trends in OKC have been heading in their direction, and that belief finally bore fruit.
Munson's triumph makes her just the 15th woman and 30th Democrat in the 101-member state House, but it's a start. Remarkably, this is also the third GOP-held state House seat to flip to the Democrats since August, following Leanne Krueger-Braneky's win in Pennsylvania and Taylor Bennet's victory in Georgia. You almost never want to take low-turnout special elections as the harbinger of any trend, but the news certainly hasn't been bad for Democrats—and you'd much rather be the team picking up seats than losing them.
• AR-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge, who'd been considering a run for office ever since he resigned his post last month, announced on Wednesday that he will in fact challenge GOP Sen. John Boozman next year. Given Arkansas' hard march to the right, Eldridge faces an extremely daunting task: Last year, amidst the Republican wave, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor got absolutely destroyed, taking just 39 percent. For a scandal-free incumbent, that kind of result is just brutal.
Sure, 2016 won't be 2014, and Eldridge has that coveted prosecutor's profile, meaning he doesn't have the baggage of a voting record. But he was appointed to his job by the president, and the fact that he has a "D" after his name is more than enough for Republicans to tie the dreaded Obama anvil around his neck. Boozman, meanwhile, hasn't screwed anything up, which is generally enough to ensure re-election for a Republican in a red state (or a Democrat in a blue one). Undoubtedly Eldridge has conducted polls that show him with a path to victory, but then again, Bob Kerrey did, too.
• CA-Sen: On Wednesday, former state GOP chair Duf Sundheim announced that he would run for the U.S. Senate, joining fellow ex-GOP chair Tom Del Beccaro and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez on the Republican side. Unless voters in this dark blue state wake up one morning and decide that they can't get enough of that wonderful Duf, Sundheim's chances of winning are very long, but he could still have an impact on the race.
If Sundheim, Del Beccaro, and Chavez each do well enough in the June top-two primary, they could conceivably split the GOP vote enough to send both Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez to the general election. However, Republicans tend to vote in disproportionate numbers in California primaries, so the electoral math just may not work out. Sanchez's campaign also hasn't been going particularly well so far, so she may not be strong enough to take advantage of a divided GOP field.
• IL-Sen: Hillary Clinton is the latest national Democrat to back Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Clinton recently declared that Duckworth "should be the next senator from Illinois," a pretty unambiguous show of support.
Duckworth faces former Chicago Urban League head Andrea Zopp in the primary, with state Sen. Napoleon Harris also looking likely to get in. However, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin has announced that he would stay out of the contest to face GOP Sen. Mark Kirk. Boykin formed an exploratory committee last month, but there was speculation that he was really raising money for a bid to succeed Rep. Danny Davis if he retired. Davis recently announced that he would seek another term: While Boykin didn't address Davis' decision, it's hard to believe that the timing is just a coincidence.
• MO, OH, PA-Sen: The American Chemistry Council has demonstrated over the last few cycles that they're willing to spend big money to support Republicans that they like, and this time is no different. The group, which I'm told is not just a front for some Breaking Bad wannabes, is launching a seven-figure ad buy supporting GOP Sens. Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, and Pat Toomey. Unlike many groups, ACC actually created three unique positive ads rather than just cutting-and-pasting the senators' names and states into the same spot, though none of the commercials are particularly exciting.
• IN-Gov: Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard publicly ruled out challenging Gov. Mike Pence in the GOP primary back in July, but he may be reconsidering the idea. Jennifer Hallowell, a long-time advisor to Ballard, tells Brian Howey that the mayor isn't closing the door on a run.
Howey offers some more details on his site's front page, though the content there will change before too long. Hallowell says Ballard isn't actively thinking about running, but notes that a "lot of people" are watching Pence to see what he'll do about a proposed civil rights code expansion to the state constitution aimed at protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers. Right now, it seems that Ballard is much more likely to stick with his earlier plan not to run, but it's definitely notable that his team is putting his name back in circulation.
If Ballard does get in, he's going to have a tough time winning. While Pence's support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act set off a firestorm last spring and forced Pence and legislative Republicans to "fix" what was widely seen as an anti-LGBTQ law, polls show that Republicans largely still approve of him. Ballard's relatively liberal social positions (he recently served as grand marshal of Indianapolis' LGBTQ parade) should help him make inroads with business types who distrust Pence after the RFRA mess, but socially conservative voters are another story altogether.
Former Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle also made noises about challenging Pence in the GOP primary a while back, but he's been quiet recently and seems more intent to pressure Pence's administration into adopting more LGBTQ-friendly positions. Democrats would love it if Pence had to spend some money to secure renomination, though they'd almost certainly have a harder time against Ballard if he somehow won.
• LA-Gov: It's been over eight years since voters learned about Republican Sen. David Vitter's history of soliciting prostitutes, but one group is betting that this story still has legs now that Vitter is running for governor. Louisiana Water Coalition PAC, a self-described "bi-partisan group" that we've never heard of until now, is out with a new spot that goes directly after Vitter's past with brothels. The ad also resurrects a story from 2010 about how Vitter kept an aide on staff who attacked his own girlfriend with a knife, and ends with a clip of Bill O'Reilly saying, "I don't think Vitter should be there."
The group says the ad is airing on TV, but there's no hint of a size of the buy. In any case, commercials like this will make the October jungle primary an interesting test case to see if Vitter's scandals still matter to voters after so long, or if they're just too stale. Democrat Charlie Melancon tried this approach during the 2010 Senate race and badly lost, but conservative voters may be more likely to care now that they have Republican alternatives like Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle or Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
• ND-Gov: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has decided not to run for governor next year in the wake of GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple's retirement. Heitkamp would have unquestionably been the strongest possible Democratic candidate, but had she run and won, her Senate seat would have almost certainly flipped because of a new law the Republican-held legislature just passed that would have required a special election in 2017. The DSCC will consequently be pleased, though Heitkamp will have a beast of a re-election campaign in 2018 if she chooses to run again.
Democrats still have other options for the gubernatorial race, though the party's odds will be very steep. The list starts with Heitkamp's brother Joel, a radio host, and also includes former U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon; state Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider; former USDA official Jasper Schneider; state Sen. George Sinner; and, believe it or not, ex-Rep. Earl Pomeroy. Purdon, the Schneiders (they're first cousins), and Sinner all sound unlikely, but Joel Heitkamp seems more interested. As for Pomeroy, it seemed like he was done with politics after his tough loss in 2010—he now works in D.C. as a lawyer. But he still keeps a home in Grand Forks and says he wants "to be in the discussions."
Meanwhile, the two most prominent Republicans considering are Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, but Wrigley recently admitted to having an extra-marital affair, so that may weigh him down. Democrats haven't won the governorship in North Dakota since 1988, though Heitkamp almost managed it in 2000 until a diagnosis of breast cancer not long before Election Day derailed her campaign. The one thing Democrats have going for them is presidential-year turnout, but the GOP will still be heavily favored.
• NH-Gov: Executive Councilor Chris Sununu recently announced that he will run for governor, but another Granite State Republican isn't deterred so far. State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, the chair of the powerful Finance Committee, tells WMUR that she's thinking about getting in, and will decide once the budget deadlock is resolved. If Forrester leaves the legislature, it would open up her Obama 53-46 seat and give Democrats a better chance to end the GOP's 14 to 10 majority in the chamber.
A few other Republicans are reportedly eyeing the governor's mansion. State Rep. Frank Edelblut has formed an exploratory committee and dumped $500,000 of his own money into it. WMUR's John DiStaso also mentions state Senate President Chuck Morse and state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley as potential candidates, though they've been quiet about their plans so far. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has not announced if she'll run for re-election or for the U.S. Senate, and many potential Republican candidates are waiting to see what she'll do before making a decision.
• OR-Gov, Portland, OR Mayor: Termed-out Democratic state Treasurer Ted Wheeler spent months refusing to rule out a primary challenge to interim Gov. Kate Brown, but he always seemed much more likely to challenge Portland Mayor Charlie Hales instead. So it comes as no surprise that Wheeler announced on Wednesday that he will take on Hales next year. Wheeler was the only notable Democrat who looked at all interested in opposing Brown, and it appears she'll have an easy path to renomination in this blue state.
• CA-24: Democratic establishment types have mostly been tripping over themselves to endorse Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, but Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider just got a noteworthy endorsement. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who represents about 60 percent of this seat in the legislature, has thrown her backing behind Schneider.
• CA-52, MN-08: No one's sure what role the Obama Administration's agreement with Iran is going to play in the 2016 elections, but one prominent Republican group is testing the waters by using the issue to hit two Democrats. The American Action Network, which is close to Speaker John Boehner, is spending $100,000 each against California's Scott Peters and Minnesota's Rick Nolan. Their two TV ads, which are identical aside from the congressman's name and picture, do the predictable fear mongering: The narrator warns that the deal will allow Iran to get a nuke, before telling the congressman to "stop siding with Iran."
• IL-07: Rep. Danny Davis recently kicked off his campaign for another term in this safely blue Chicago seat, but he may have a primary challenger on the horizon. Amara Enyia, who heads the local chamber of commerce in the Austin neighborhood, has already formed an exploratory committee and sounds likely to run. Enyia may have some connections, but it won't be easy at all to beat a longtime incumbent like Davis. Enyia also ran a little-noticed campaign for mayor that ended months before the primary, so she may need to work hard to attract attention this time.
• IL-10: Former Rep. Abner Mikva, who was the last Democrat to represent Illinois' 10th Congressional District until Brad Schneider won it in 2012, just switched his endorsement in next year's primary from Schneider to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering over Schneider's opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Mikva is a liberal icon who served as a prominent federal judge for many years before becoming White House counsel to Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s. Schneider and Rotering are both hoping to take on GOP Rep. Bob Dold!, who defeated Schneider in a rematch last year.
• MD-06: After Democratic Rep. John Delaney's surprisingly close win last year, the GOP is taking a much more serious look at this suburban D.C. seat. Two elected officials, Washington County Commissioners President Terry Baker and Del. David Vogt, are running, but via Bethesda Magazine's Louis Peck, it's national security consultant Amie Hoeber who might be the one who's worth watching.
Hoeber, who served as a deputy undersecretary of the Army during the Reagan administration, was reportedly recruited by the NRCC. Hoeber is married to Qualcomm executive Mark Epstein, and he's reportedly planning to set up a super PAC to help her and put as much as $1 million behind it. Hoeber herself says that she's raising money from donors rather than primarily self-funding, though she acknowledges she "certainly will partially self-fund" her campaign.
But toppling Delaney won't be easy in a presidential year in this Obama 55-43 seat. Delaney himself is wealthy and is more than willing to open his own wallet when he needs to. Delaney hasn't ruled out a Senate bid, though he hasn't done anything in months to indicate that he's still interested.
• MN-07: Rep. Collin Peterson, in his usual style, hasn't exactly said whether he'll seek re-election yet, but Republicans still haven't landed a candidate, even though Minnesota's 7th is now the reddest district held by a Democrat in the nation. One GOP name that's popped up belongs to state Sen. Scott Newman, but he doesn't sound very interested. However, Newman didn't rule out a bid, saying he has "no intention" of running for Congress and "every intention of running for re-election" to the legislature. There's a way to say "no," and this is not it.
• PA-08: As it did last cycle, EMILY's List is giving its backing to businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton, who is once again running for Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District. Just like last year, Naughton faces a male opponent in the primary—this time state Rep. Steve Santarsiero. But in that prior race, the DCCC showed at least some favor toward Army vet Kevin Strouse; this time, Santarsiero doesn't seem to be getting much establishment love. The two are competing for the seat left open by GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick's retirement. Oddly, no notable Republicans have stepped forward here yet.
• Charlotte, NC Mayor: The Democratic primary for mayor is on Tuesday, and the only released poll shows ex-Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts leading interim Mayor Dan Clodfelter 39-21, one point below the 40 percent she'd need to win without a runoff. Roberts entered the homestretch with a major cash lead and while Clodfelter outraised her from Aug. 5 to Sept. 1, she outspent him $145,000 to $73,000 during this time. Councilor David Howard spent $109,000 but PPP found him only taking 9 percent of the vote; Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes only spent $25,000, but posted a stronger 14 percent in PPP's survey.
• NV State Senate: Nevada Democrats need to net one seat next year to retake control of the state Senate, and Northern Nevada's SD-15 is likely to be a major target. Obama won this district 51 to 47 and Republican incumbent Greg Brower announced his retirement on Tuesday. But Team Red likely already has a formidable candidate lined up: Jon Ralston says that Brower's moves "paves way" for Heidi Gansert, a former assemblymember and former chief of staff to Gov. Brian Sandoval. Democrats currently don't have a credible candidate: Sheila Leslie, who narrowly lost in 2012, has already ruled out another bid.
• WATN?: Oh Artur Davis, how can we miss you when you won't go away? Davis, a former Democratic rising star who joined the Republicans after badly losing the 2010 primary for governor of Alabama, was last seen losing the nonpartisan Montgomery mayoral election 57-27 in August. Davis declared that he'd run again four years later, but it sounds like he's going to seek another office first.
Davis hasn't announced anything, but he's making it no secret that he's looking at a run for the Montgomery County Commission next March against Democratic incumbent Dan Harris, who took third place in the mayoral race. And Davis says that he's a Democrat again, because why not?
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.