New York County Democratic Committee member-elect David Nir
• New York County, NY: This is the deepest in the weeds we've ever gone at Daily Kos Elections, and in fact, this is just about the deepest in the weeds it's even possible to go. Utter Some Dude David Nir, an ex-attorney best known for blogging in whatever clothes he fell asleep in the night before, won a dominant upset victory for a spot on the New York County Democratic Committee, taking nine votes in a hotly contested election Thursday night. His nearest opponent, Shota Baghaturia, was far behind with seven votes, though as the top two vote-getters, both will earn spots on the committee. The team of Miriam and Richard Frieden finished with a distant five and four votes, respectively.
Observers had expected Baghaturia, who was listed first on the ballot, to take top honors, but Nir staged an unexpected come-from-behind win to carry the district, which covers a single city block. Campaigning on a platform of "Make the Upper East Side Great Again," grassroots enthusiasm for Nir was intense: Reportedly, a friend who lives down the street responded to an email by saying he'd be "out of town" but "would have loved to vote for you."
Nir now joins a body whose chief responsibility is picking party nominees for special elections in the event of any electoral vacancies, a procedure Nir has repeatedly decried as undemocratic in countless posts over the years. However, Nir promises to "open up the process" and communicate with the public about exactly what transpires behind closed doors should the committee ever be called upon to perform its duties. But in response to rumors that he might run for mayor, governor, or commissioner of baseball, Nir said, "Hell no, man! I'd have to put on pants!"
• MD-Sen: A few weeks ago, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings raised plenty of eyebrows when he hired an experienced Senate fundraiser and it seemed that, after months of waiting, Cummings was finally laying the groundwork for a Senate bid. However, the National Journal's Alex Brown checks back and finds that Cummings' allies are still very unsure if he'll run or when he'll decide.
Fellow Baltimore-area Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger says that he and Cummings expect to both finalize their 2016 plans by the end of the month. However, others say that Cummings is focused on his role as ranking member on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and they don't expect him to make a decision until Hillary Clinton testifies on Oct. 22. And no one, perhaps not even Cummings, seems to really know whether he's leaning towards running or staying in the Senate.
It's also not completely clear what Ruppersberger's plans are. While he's definitely going to defer to Cummings, it's not certain if he'll get in if Cummings stays in the House or if he'll continue to mull his plans. Cummings is very well-known and respected especially in the Baltimore area and he can afford to wait a bit longer before getting in, but Ruppersberger probably doesn't have that luxury. Right now, suburban D.C. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards are the only major Democratic candidates and a contender with a strong Baltimore base could definitely shake things up.
• NH-Sen: Conservative groups have spent millions here so far, and Ending Spending is the latest to go on the air. However, instead of targeting prospective Democratic candidate Gov. Maggie Hassan, Ending Spending shakes things up and goes positive for GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Their spot praises Ayotte for protecting the public from criminals and terrorists, characterizing her as "a mom who keeps us safe, a senator who makes us proud." There's no word on the size of the buy, though the ironically-named Ending Spending has never been shy about spending big.
• PA-Sen: Braddock Mayor John Fetterman has confirmed that he will seek the Democratic nomination to face GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. Normally the mayor of a place as small as Braddock (population 2,200) would be just the barest step above Some Dude, but Fetterman has earned national attention over the years for his work trying to revitalize the town. However, the Democratic establishment is largely coalescing around Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak still has plenty of support from his 2010 bid, so it doesn't appear that there's much of an opening for Fetterman. Still, he announced that his kickoff event will have a taco truck because "[n]o one wants to listen to politicians, but everyone wants to eat tacos. Tacos are the great uniter." If nothing else, Fetterman has excellent political instincts when it comes to food.
• IL-18: It's been clear for months that Republican Darin LaHood would win Aaron Schock's House seat, but until now, it's been a mystery what would happen to Schock's infamous former office.
Schock's problems began after his staff panicked when a Washington Post reporter visited his D.C. office for a seemingly-innocent story describing how Schock decorated his office in a way that seemed to have been inspired by the show Downton Abbey. The odd reaction led to scrutiny, and eventually Schock resigned after the world found out about his tendencies to charge the public for his life of luxury and phony mileage reimbursements. Rep.-elect LaHood will inherit Schock's old digs, but Roll Call reports that the Downton Abbey-ness has been completely wiped away since Schock's departure and replaced with boring but un-controversial white walls.
• MN-02: On Friday, state Rep. Roz Peterson and state Sen. Dave Thompson both announced that they would not run for the GOP nomination for this open swing seat. Besides tea party gadfly David Gerson, Team Red doesn't have a candidate yet to succeed retiring Rep. John Kline. However, ex-state Rep. Pam Myhra also said on Friday that she's thinking about getting in. Myhra, who served as Marty Seifert's running mate during his unsuccessful quest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination last year, says she expects to decide by early October.
Via the Pioneer Press's awesome and continuously updated Google Doc, we know of four other Republicans who are considering. State Reps. Steve Drazkowski and Tony Albright and 2014 Senate candidate Mike McFadden have all expressed interest, while former Judge and former state First Lady Mary Pawlenty is reportedly thinking about getting in as well.
On the Democratic side, health care executive Angie Craig and physician Mary Lawrence still have the field to themselves, though state Reps. Joe Atkins and Rick Hansen are both publicly considering. One thing neither woman will lack is money: According to the Pioneer Press, Craig is worth anywhere between $3.9 million and $9.4 million, while Lawrence has assets worth between $42 million and $190 million. As of late June, Craig has raised $327,000 and chipped in less than $10,000 of her own money, while Lawrence has raised a similar amount from donors but self-funded $800,000.
However, we may not exactly see an expensive primary between Craig and Lawrence. In Minnesota, nominations are frequently decided at party conventions held before the primary. These conventions, which are dominated by activists and party insiders, pick who earns the party's endorsement. The party endorsement isn't at all the same thing as the party's nomination, but many activists and political figures on both parties take it very seriously, and plenty of candidates drop out of the race if they don't earn the endorsement.
Craig says that she won't continue her campaign if the party endorses someone else, while Lawrence didn't rule out going to the primary no matter what. The party endorsement is important but it's not the be-all and end-all: In 2010, Minnesota Democrats endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the gubernatorial race, but she narrowly lost the primary to now-Gov. Mark Dayton.
• NE-02: After waging a brief independent campaign for this seat last year, ex-state Sen. Chip Maxwell has announced that he'll oppose freshman Democrat Brad Ashford as a Republican.
Ashford, who sits in a Romney 53-46 seat, will be one of Team Red's top targets, and he hasn't helped himself with his poor fundraising. The other GOP candidate, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bacon, actually raised even less money last quarter, but it's not clear if Maxwell can take advantage of Bacon's apparent weakness. Maxwell hauled in less than $10,000 during his pre-campaign phase, and he'll need to do a whole lot better in the next few weeks if he wants to earn any attention. Of course, after running against the GOP last year (however briefly), influential Republicans may not want anything to do with Maxwell anyway.
• UT-04: Hmm. Freshman GOP Rep. Mia Love does not seem to be reacting well to what ostensibly should have been a minor story. Love was dinged about a week ago for billing taxpayers $1,160 for traveling to D.C. to attend the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner—a no-no, because you can't spend government money on purely social events. Still, it should have been a simple thing to fix.
But though she said she'd reimburse the Treasury, Love's explanations as to what transpired simply did not add up. In fact, they didn't even match what her own office has said. Love testily told The Hill that she'd had a staff meeting the weekend in question, saying, "It's a strategy meeting I had with my chief of staff, OK?" However, a Love spokesman said that his boss had "attended several meetings" and "went into her office to conduct official business." So which was it? Just a single meeting? Or multiple meetings plus a side-trip to the office?
The Hill inquired further, but Love's office did not provide "any documentation, including emails or calendar entries, showing that she had official business that weekend." Instead, Love just snapped at a reporter:
"That's ridiculous. That whole thing's ridiculous." [...]
"First of all, I did nothing wrong. [...]
Asked why she paid back the cost of the flights if she did nothing wrong, Love replied: "I just didn't want any question. I didn't want anyone questioning my integrity or anything that I did. [...]
A Hill reporter then asked whether he could ride down the elevator with Love and continue the interview, to which Love replied, "Actually I'm going to go. This is something I don't really want to discuss with you."
That's not a good way to respond, particularly that last line.
• Baltimore, MD Mayor: On Friday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that she would not seek re-election next year.
It's been a very ugly few months for Rawlings-Blake. When Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced her retirement in March, Rawlings-Blake considered running to succeed her, and at the time she looked like a formidable potential candidate. But any Senate hopes Rawlings-Blake may have had were dashed in April, when riots broke out after Freddie Gray died in police custody. Rawlings-Blake was widely criticized for her handling of the crisis, and it quickly became clear that she'd have a very tough time holding her seat in the April 2016 Democratic primary.
Rawlings-Blake initially announced that she would seek another term, but prominent Charm City politicians began making noises about challenging her in the primary. In early September, state Sen. Catherine Pugh and Councilor Carl Stokes each kicked off a campaign. While it only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election here, it looked like Rawlings-Blake was just too damaged from the riots and the city's crime rate to win even against a divided field. Evidently, Rawlings-Blake agreed.
With Rawlings-Blake out of the race, the field is likely to grow over the next few months. Besides Pugh and Stokes, ex-Mayor Shelia Dixon is also already running. However, Dixon has her own liabilities: She resigned in 2009 after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families. Baltimore City Rep. Elijah Cummings is probably the only candidate who could clear the field, but a source close to him tells Roll Call that the congressman is not interested.
We have a long while to go before the April primary, which will be held on the same day as Maryland's presidential and Senate primary, and a lot will still happen. But it looks like we're in for an exciting wide-open contest here.
• MI State House: Now that was interesting! Michigan state Rep. Todd Courser, a tea partier who mega-insanely tried to concoct a tale that he'd solicited male prostitutes to deflect attention from an actual affair he'd had with a fellow GOP lawmaker, state Rep. Cindy Gamrat, resigned in the wee hours of Friday morning after his colleagues failed to expel him. Gamrat, however, did get expelled. "Say what?" you say? Well, legislators first tried to boot both members, but Democrats refused to participate in the vote, leaving Republicans without enough votes—and stuck with Courser and Gamrat.
The Democrats did so for a very savvy reason: They didn't want to let state House Speaker Kevin Cotter sweep the entire controversy away without first answering questions about what he knew of Courser and Gamrat's shenanigans and when he knew it. It was a brilliant bit of pressure from the minority party, since a defiant Courser and Gamrat would have been an anvil around the GOP's necks. Republicans therefore folded and agreed to require that the state police and the state attorney general's office jointly investigate the matter as part of the resolution to expel Gamrat.
With this deal in the offing, Courser decided to jump rather than get pushed. But the even more delusional Gamrat opted to stick it out and begged her colleagues to censure her rather than kick her out of office. Nuh-uh, they said, and shot her out of the cannon on a 91-12 vote. Special elections have already been called for both seats, though both should stay in Republican hands. However, we may yet see some further fallout as a result of the investigation into Courser, Gamrat, and Cotter, which law enforcement officials say has already begun.
• Seattle, WA Ballot: When Seattle voters head to the polls this November to elect their city council, they will also decide on a ballot initiative that would give each voter a $25 voucher to donate to their preferred local political candidates, funded by a modest property-tax increase. This measure attempts to level the playing field for the average voter against wealthy interests, since currently only 1.5 percent of voters donate in local races. Additionally, it imposes more stringent disclosure rules on private donations, establishes restrictions on lobbying, and bans city contractors from donating to candidates Supporters have raised nearly $400,000, although nearly all of that is from out of state, but opponents have raised practically nothing.
While it is far from clear whether such a voucher system will accomplish its stated goal of empowering the average voter, this measure is definitely one to watch for supporters of campaign finance reform. If successful in Seattle, the national donors who are supporting this initiative could likely fund similar measures in other states.
• Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso brings us the results of an important Saturday special election in Delaware:
Delaware HD-18: David Bentz held on to this seat for the Democrats, winning by a 57-43 margin over Republican Eileen O'Shaughnessy-Coleman.
This victory means Democrats keep their supermajority
in the state House, allowing them to raise taxes and fees without GOP votes. However, the Republicans have enough members in the state Senate to allow them to block whatever the House does if Team Blue can't peel off at least one Republican vote. Obama won HD-18 74-25
but Republicans held the seat until fairly recently, and Democrats were worried about poor voter turnout.
• Greece General: Voters in Greece go to the polls Sept. 20 for their first general election since the country agreed to accept a harsh bailout agreement in July. The ruling Syriza party is trying to maintain power, but much of its progressive base feels betrayed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' decision to accept the bailout in exchange for harsh new austerity measures. Polls show a tight race between Syriza and the pro-austerity, right-of-center New Democracy, with many other parties in the mix. In a new post, Stephen Wolf takes a look at this chaotic race.
• State Legislatures:
(click to enlarge)
It's been 100 years since women were guaranteed the right to vote nationwide, but women remain badly unrepresented in government. As the above map by Daniel Donner demonstrates, women are only approaching parity with men in a few state legislatures. In a new post, Donner looks at the relationship between female representation in each state legislature and party affiliation, and finds some real surprises.
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.