Newly-minted Democratic Senate candidate Maggie Hassan, with would-be colleague Jeanne Shaheen and a friend
• NH-Sen: The long-awaited duel between Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan is on! On Monday, Hassan announced that she would challenge Ayotte in a contest that could very well determine control of the U.S. Senate. Independent polls have usually shown a tight race, with perhaps a small edge for the GOP.
Both parties agree that Hassan is the strongest possible Democratic challenger for Ayotte. Hassan has usually posted high favorable ratings, and she won re-election 52-47 even as the GOP wave was hitting New Hampshire last year. Ayotte's allies spent millions airing ads against Hassan, hoping that they could deter her from running (or at least drive down her favorable ratings). Democrats also didn't have a compelling fallback contender if Hassan said no. With Hassan's entrance into this contest, we're changing our race rating from Lean Republican to Tossup.
New Hampshire is a very competitive state and it has plenty of voters who are willing to split their tickets, and neither Ayotte nor Hassan can take anything for granted. Ayotte hasn't been particularly popular in recent years but she is a formidable candidate, and she won't go down without a fight. Ayotte is also a strong fundraiser: She raised $1.6 million over the last three months and has a hefty $5 million on hand, and Hassan will need to play catch up. But Hassan gives Team Blue the chance to score a critical pickup, and both sides are going to spend whatever they need to spend to win here.
: John McCain
(R-inc): $1 million raised, $4.9 million on hand
• NH-Sen: Kelly Ayotte (R-inc): $1.6 million raised, $5 million on hand
• OH-Sen: Rob Portman (R-inc): $2 million raised, $11 million on hand
• MO-Gov: Eric Greitens (R): $1.4 million raised
• FL-???: Gwen Graham (D-inc): $500,000 raised, $1.2 million on hand
• PA-02: Dan Muroff (D): $160,000 on hand
• CO-Sen: George Brauchler's surprising decision not to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet has left the GOP scrambling for a viable candidate, but no one's stepped up yet. The Colorado Statesman's Ernest Lee Luning says that the state party has approached state Sen. Ray Scott about running, but Scott has yet to say anything.
• NC-Sen: State Rep. Duane Hall formed an exploratory committee two months ago, but he's ignored his own self-imposed Labor Day deadline to decide whether he'll challenge Republican incumbent Richard Burr. Hall told Roll Call on Friday that he expects to decide within 10 days, but Tar Heel State Democrats don't think he'll jump in after all. Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey is already running and ex-state Rep. Deborah Ross looks likely to join him, while state Sen. Joel Ford is still considering.
• LA-Gov: The Louisiana Water Coalition recently drew attention when they released an ad attacking GOP Sen. David Vitter over his 2007 prostitution scandal, and Louisianans can expect to see more of where that came from. The group says they're spending an additional $625,000 on top of the $1.1 million they've already splurged. Louisiana Water Coalition is funded by a Baton Rouge law firm that's pissed at Vitter over his opposition to landowners' lawsuits against oil and gas companies.
We also have a new ad from Jay Dardenne, one of Vitter's intra-party foes. The narrator decries drug users getting welfare, and touts Dardenne's plan to increase drug testing for anyone receiving welfare or unemployment. The spot starts up with closeups of drug use, which is certainly not something you usually see in campaign ads.
• MO-Gov: On Monday, Republican rich guy John Brunner announced that he would run for governor, shocking absolutely no one. If fact, the bigger surprise may be that he's only announcing now: It's sort of like when you learn that a celebrity you've thought has been dead for years only just died.
Brunner has only run for office once before, and his 2012 bid for the Senate didn't go particularly well. Brunner ran into problems after his business background was closely scrutinized. In particular, it turned out that Brunner had a history of keeping his assets outside the U.S.—likely in order to avoid taxes—and he even admitted that he almost drove his family company into the ground. Brunner ended up losing 36-30 to Todd Akin: Quite an indignity indeed.
But Brunner proved that he's willing to dig deep into his wallet, and that could make all the difference in this crowded race. Missouri has no contribution limits and wealthy conservatives have demonstrated that they can and will drop plenty of dough into their favored candidate's coffer whenever they feel like it, but Brunner at least won't be dependent on anyone's generosity but his own. Brunner will face state Sen. Bob Dixon, retired Navy SEAL and former White House Fellow Eric Greitens, ex-state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder in the GOP primary; Attorney General Chris Koster faces no serious competition on the Democratic side.
• NH-Gov: While national Democrats are thrilled that Gov. Maggie Hassan is running for the Senate (see our NH-Sen item), her departure will make it more difficult for Team Blue to hold onto the governorship. New Hampshire holds gubernatorial elections every two years and since Jeanne Shaheen's 1996 win, Democrats have only lost the 2002 contest. However, New Hampshire is a very volatile state, and the GOP has a good chance to take back what's now an open seat.
Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, who hails from a powerful Granite State GOP political family, announced that he would run before Hassan finalized her plans. State Rep. Frank Edelblut has dumped $500,000 into an exploratory committee, but he has yet to declare that he's in. State Sen. Jeanie Forrester has also expressed interest, while state Senate President Chuck Morse and state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley have been mentioned as potential contenders but have yet to say anything publicly.
Things are also beginning to come into focus on the Democratic side. Shortly after Hassan confirmed her plans, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern said he'll announce his own in the coming days. Portsmouth Councilor Stefany Shaheen, the daughter of Sen. Shaheen, also said a few weeks ago that she was interested in running for an open seat, and former state securities chief Mark Connolly has also publicly expressed interest in this post. There are several other Granite State Democrats who have been mentioned for the job, and it might take a while for things to settle here.
• VA-Gov: Ex-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli only narrowly lost the 2013 gubernatorial race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, and he's not ruling out another try two years from now. Cuccinelli tells CNN that he's only just began thinking about it and is in no hurry to make up his mind. Democrats would be gleeful if Cuccinelli somehow wound up as Team Red's standard bearer again: While Cuccinelli came close last time, his extreme socially conservative record and at times weird campaign (remember that half-hour long campaign ad that only a few braves souls dared to watch?) gave McAuliffe a major boost. Former RNC head Ed Gillespie, who lost a shockingly tight race to Sen. Mark Warner last year, is already running, and there's little doubt that GOP bigwigs would rather have him carrying the party's banner in 2017 than Cuccinelli.
However, there's a decent chance that Cuccinelli or another extreme candidate could escape with the nomination no matter what the establishment wants. The GOP will choose their statewide nominees in a convention rather than a primary, and conventions tend to be dominated by delegates who care more about ideological purity than electability. The 2013 GOP contest originally looked like it would be a duel between the establishment friendly Bill Bolling, who was the lieutenant governor at the time, and Cuccinelli. But once Bolling decided that he'd have no chance to win in a convention, he chose not to run. Conservative delegates also picked little-known minister E.W. Jackson to be their lieutenant governor nominee over several better-qualified and better-known contenders: Jackson turned out to be a disaster, and he lost 55-45 in November. Gillespie secured the 2014 Senate nomination in a convention against a very weak field, but he could run into problems against someone with connections to the far right.
Cuccinelli and Gillespie aren't the only Republicans with their eyes on the governor's mansion. State Sen. Frank Wagner, who is favored to win re-election this year, is expressing interest in trying for a promotion. Retiring state Sen. Jeff McWaters, who is personally wealthy, also didn't rule it out last month. McWaters said at the time that he's "curious to see: Are we going to have good, talented people running for the job? And if not, I would consider it. If we got really good people, I don't have to be the guy doing it." It's unclear if he considers Gillespie one of the "really good people" or not.
Rep. Rob Wittman has been mentioned, and he actually did win a GOP convention in 2007 to get his current job. However, he may be covered with too many establishment cooties now to pull it off again. Some other possible GOP candidates include rich guy Pete Snyder, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart (both of whom lost to Jackson at the infamous 2013 convention), and state Sens. Bill Stanley and Tom Garrett. Stanley is leading Ted Cruz's Virginia campaign and if he runs instead of Cuccinelli, he might have the best chance to stop Gillespie. On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam appears to have the nomination locked up.
• AZ-01: On Monday, two more Republicans joined the race for this open Northern Arizona swing seat. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has a reputation as a border security hawk, which plays well in a primary, but he has one big potential liability. Babeu ran in the neighboring 4th District in 2012, but his campaign ended after he was accused of dating an undocumented immigrant and then threatened to deport him to keep him quiet. Babeu denied threatening his lover, and a state investigation cleared him of wrongdoing. Babeu did win re-election and was featured in a spot for 2014 gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones so maybe he's managed to put this all behind him, but his opponents will be on the hunt for any new dirt. Babeu also came out as gay during the 2012 campaign, which could also cause him problems with socially conservative voters.
Hours after Babeu kicked off his campaign, state House Speaker David Gowan also confirmed that he would run. Gowan's powerful post should help him raise money, but he won't start out with much name recognition in the 1st District. Most of Gowan's state House seat is located in the Tucson-area 2nd District, and he only represents about 6 percent of AZ-01. Babeu and Gowan join wealthy rancher and 2014 candidate Gary Kiehne and ex-Secretary of State and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett in the GOP primary. On the Democratic side, former GOP state Sen. Tom O'Halleran is the only candidate officially in, though state Sen. Barbara McGuire has formed an exploratory committee.
• IL-15: State Sen. Kyle McCarter has been reportedly mulling a primary challenge against longtime GOP incumbent John Shimkus, and Nathan Gonzales reports that McCarter is telling people that he'll announce this week. Shimkus hasn't faced a competitive race in this safely red seat in a long time, but if he runs, McCarter will need to prove he has what it takes to pull off an upset here. Gonzales also tells us that there's no sign that well-funded anti-establishment groups like the Club for Growth are preparing to get involved to help McCarter. Shimkus has a weak 66 percent lifetime rating with the Club so they'll almost certainly target him if they think he can be toppled, but the onus is on McCarter to prove that he can do it.
• KS-01, NC-11, VA-07: FreedomWorks is airing spots in support of Reps. Tim Huelskamp, Mark Meadows, and Dave Brat, all of whom hail from the anti-establishment wing of the GOP. All three spots are basically the same, promoting each incumbent as a conservative reformer.
Of this trio, Huelskamp is the one who looks like he's in the most danger of losing a primary next year: Huelskamp has alienated agriculture interests back home, and physician Roger Marshall outraised him during the second quarter of the year. GOP leaders have been reportedly shopping around for someone to take on Meadows, but no one has stepped up yet. Brat, who vanquished Eric Cantor in last year's shocker, also has yet to draw a serious primary opponent. There's no word on the size of these ad buys.
• KY-01: Democratic state Sen. Dorsey Ridley recently expressed interest in running for this open 66-32 Romney seat, and The Courier-Journal gives us a few more potential Democratic names. State Party Vice-Chair and businesswoman Brandi Harless confirms she's considering, though she says she's focusing on this fall's gubernatorial race. State Rep. Gerald Watkins also didn't completely close the door on a campaign, though he doesn't sound enthusiastic. Fellow state Rep. John Tilley has been mentioned, though he hasn't said anything about his plans. It's hard to overestimate how challenging this contest would be for Team Blue though: While Western Kentucky is still amenable to electing Democrats to local and state offices, it turned its back on federal Democrats a long time ago.
• MD-08: On Monday, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for House Affairs Joel Rubin announced that he would run for this safely blue seat, joining a crowded Democratic field. Rubin, who also runs the foreign policy consulting group Washington Strategy Group, got some attention for his confrontation with Rep. Trey Gowdy at a Benghazi Committee hearing. Foreign policy usually doesn't play a big role in House primaries, but Rubin could go far if his connections allow him to raise real money.
• NV-03: Democrats just cannot catch a break here. Heather Murren, whom Sen. Harry Reid and the DCCC tried to recruit, has announced that she will not run for this open swing seat. Team Blue has had a devil of a time trying to land a candidate here, and there aren't any obvious other choices on the horizon. The GOP has a formidable contender in state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, and Democrats can't just give him a free pass now and hope he'll become more vulnerable in a future year.
• NY-19: It seems that the GOP establishment has decided that ex-state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso is their man in this swing seat. Eight of the nine Republican members of the House delegation, as well as Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole, will attend an Oct. 6 fundraiser for Faso. Retiring Rep. Chris Gibson, whom Faso is seeking to replace, will be the odd man out, in keeping with his pledge to remain neutral until a nominee is selected. Faso currently faces only businessman Andrew Heaney in the primary, though Assemblymen Peter Lopez and Steve McLaughlin are both still considering.
• NV State Senate: Democrats need to net one seat next year to retake control of the state Senate, and the Las Vegas-area SD-06 is shaping up to be a major battleground. Obama won this seat 52-47, and even Shelly Berkley took it 47-45 even as she was narrowly losing the Senate race. The seat is held by Republican Mark Lipparelli, who was appointed after Mark Hutchison was elected lieutenant governor last year. Lipparelli has not publicly announced his plans, but Jon Ralston has confirmed that he will not run next year.
Silver State Democrats have already rallied behind Deputy Clark County District Attorney Nicole Cannizzaro. Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman, who picked up a Democratic-leaning seat during last year's red wave, was already planning to run regardless of what Lipparelli did, and we'll see if any other Republicans come out of the woodwork. Democrats still don't have a candidate for the other GOP-held Obama seat that's up in 2016, so the race to succeed Lipparelli could very well determine who controls the state Senate.
• KY Downballot: SurveyUSA gives us a look at the Bluegrass State's downballot contests, and they find that things are very close. The attorney general contest pits Democrat Andy Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, against GOP state Sen. Whitney Westerfield. SurveyUSA has the two men deadlocked 38-38, a big shift from Beshear's 40-33 lead in July. National Republicans are airing ads here and the winner is likely to be a major figure in Kentucky politics in years to come.
The secretary of state contest still looks good for Democrats. Incumbent and 2014 Senate nominee Alison Grimes holds a 46-38 edge against Republican Steve Knipper, about the same as her 46-40 lead in July. But Democratic Auditor Adam Edelen only posts a 35-33 lead for re-election: Edelen has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Sen. Rand Paul, and a narrow win or a defeat would damage his prospects. The GOP has small leads in the treasurer and agriculture commissioner races.
• Campaign Advertising: Daily Kos Elections community-member js18, also known as University of North Carolina political science Ph.D. candidate Jacob Smith, takes a look at the impact of non-traditional campaign advertising in North Carolina statewide elections. Longtime Republican Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, whose office oversees building elevator regulation, is best known for having her picture in all the state's elevators, which even led to songs about her and a parody Twitter account.
Berry put her picture in elevators after winning her second term in 2004 and she subsequently narrowly won re-election amidst the 2008 wave. Using spatial regression of county-level election results and elevators per capita, Smith and his co-author Neil Weinberg found that Berry's support increased in a significant manner in areas with more elevators than compared to what would be expected just based on partisanship. This outcome should be unsurprising to election-watchers, as advertising obviously plays a very large role in political campaigns; however, this particular measure is fairly unique.
Berry has capitalized on her incumbency advantage to increase her name recognition and project an image of authority in a seemingly-apolitical manner to voters, something that can't easily be done with a television ad. This strategy may have even made the difference in 2008 and might do so once again in 2016, when Berry will likely face former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker in a competitive race.
• Time Machine: Travel back in time with Daily Kos Elections, as we imagine our writeups of key races throughout history as though we were right there—and without the benefit of hindsight! We start with an odd little special election all the way back in 1937 that pitted an almost completely unknown former Texas National Youth Administration head named Lyndon Johnson against several better-known contenders. Johnson, a former congressional aide for another district, wasn't a complete Some Dude, but he was pretty close. Journey back with us for a look at the long odds Johnson faced in his first campaign.
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.