• LA-Gov: With just days to go before Saturday's runoff, Louisiana's gubernatorial race has become as dispiritingly awful as it's possible for politics in America to get. Republican Sen. David Vitter decided to find the foulest gutter he could dive into and guzzle like a thirsty camel, with a revolting new ad that uses actual footage of the Paris terrorist attacks to attack both refugees and his opponent, Democrat John Bel Edwards:
One of Paris ISIS terrorists entered France posing as a Syrian refugee. Now Obama is sending Syrian refugees to Louisiana. David Vitter warned Obama the dangers of Syrian refugees weeks ago and promised as governor no Syrian refugees will enter Louisiana. John Bel Edwards has pledged to work with Obama to bring Syrian refugees to Louisiana.
The ad then tendentiously features a clip of Edwards saying, "I supported the president"—a clip recycled from an October candidate forum in which Edwards was asked who he backed in the 2012 presidential election—followed by the narrator declaring, "He always does." We don't know what Vitter is spending on this garbage, but Politico's Kevin Robillard says the spot is airing statewide. The Fund for Louisiana's Future, a pro-Vitter super PAC, is also running a similarly disgusting ad that features footage of what are presumably ISIS troops.
Depressingly, there isn't much daylight on this issue between Vitter and Edwards, who fired back with a new ad of his own saying that he "immediately called for an end to bringing Syrian refugees to Louisiana" after the Paris attacks and accusing Vitter of "distorting the facts and trying to use this tragedy to save his desperate campaign." Edwards also hits Vitter for skipping congressional hearings on the refugee crisis. At least Edwards just speaks directly to the camera and doesn't deploy the same kind of fear-mongering rhetoric or scary imagery, but this is all still so dismaying.
On the non-refugee front, the campaigns have also traded some fresh blows on the airwaves. Another Vitter spot criticizes Edwards for skipping a candidate forum, saying he instead invited voters to join him "for free drinks" at a "strip club," then "hauled them on a party bus for early voting." The whole ad is basically a racial dog whistle—just watch to see what we mean. And what makes this all so chutzpahdik is that Vitter himself ducked many debates before the primary, and was called on it by his opponents.
Meanwhile, two pro-Edwards groups are laying into Vitter. One ad, from Louisiana Families First, says that Vitter would represent a third term for deeply unpopular Gov. Bobby Jindal, using a clip of Vitter saying "I like Bobby. I respect his leadership. I agree with all his political values." In a bit of odd timing, Jindal just dropped out of the race for president on Tuesday night, ensuring that he'll swallow up a local news cycle—though who knows if Vitter (who is actually known to loathe Jindal) will be pleased or miffed at the distraction.
Finally, the DGA-backed Gumbo PAC revisits Vitter's prostitution scandal, then whacks him for "paying a private investigator to spy on a Republican sheriff." That's a reference to this pathetic story, in case the oozing buckets of slime emanating from this race have been too much to keep up with.
And to close on one non-ad-related note, the conservative blog RRH Elections (formerly known as Red Racing Horses) has commissioned a poll from PMI, Inc. showing Edwards with a 48-42 lead on Vitter. That's identical to the results that another right-wing blog, The Hayride, recently found. Independent pollsters have generally seen a much bigger advantage for Edwards, but given the spotty track records of the firms that have gone into the field here, there's every reason to be skeptical of all the polling.
• ND-Gov: Despite forming an exploratory committee, GOP state Sen. Tom Campbell has announced that he will not run for governor next year. A number of other Republicans are mulling bids, with the big dog looking like state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
• VT-Gov: On Tuesday, state House Speaker Shap Smith suspended his bid for the Democratic nomination, citing his wife's ongoing battle with breast cancer. Smith said that its unlikely that he'll return to the campaign. With Smith out, the Democratic primary is a duel between ex-state Sen. Matt Dunne and former state Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter. However, other Democrats may take an interest in this race now that the well-connected Smith is gone.
• AZ-01: Much of the Arizona Democratic establishment has consolidated behind former GOP state legislator Tom O'Halleran, and former Rep. Ron Barber adds his endorsement to the pile. O'Halleran currently faces no major primary opposition, and there don't appear to be any other notable Democrats looking to run in this open swing seat.
• CA-07: Democrat Ami Bera has pulled off two narrow wins in this suburban Sacramento swing seat, and he's in for another tough battle this cycle. On Monday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones announced that he would run here. Jones is known for calling for tougher immigration laws, and immigration is likely to be a major issue here. 2014 nominee Doug Ose and ex-Sheriff John McGinness both had expressed some interest in challenging Bera, but they both are supporting Jones instead.
Bera is a formidable fundraiser and he pulled off a victory during last year's GOP wave, so he shouldn't be underestimated. But Bera's support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership has left him with a poor relationship with local unions, and labor has threatened to sit out this race. In a district this competitive, neither side has much room for error.
• CA-20: On Tuesday, Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Jimmy Panetta announced that he would run for this safely blue coastal seat. Panetta is the son of Leon Panetta, who represented this area in the House from 1977 to 1993 and most recently served as secretary of defense. A number of other Democrats are considering running.
• FL-18: On Tuesday, businessman Randy Perkins confirmed that he would run for this open 52-48 Romney seat as a Democrat. The DCCC reportedly worked to recruit Perkins, who told them he's willing to spend as much as $5 million of his own money.
Perkins only switched his party registration from independent to Democrat last week, and his rivals aren't going to hesitate to challenge his Democratic bonafides. In fact, Palm Beach County Supervisor Melissa McKinlay is already reminding voters that Perkins' disaster recovery company donated $100,000 to GOP Gov. Rick Scott in 2010. Perkins also faces Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor and lawyer Jonathan Chane in the Democratic primary. Chane has more money on hand than either Taylor or McKinlay, though Perkins will likely outspend each of his foes if he wants to. There's an even more chaotic battle on the GOP side.
• NY-22: GOP Rep. Richard Hanna only beat back a primary challenge from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney 53-46 last year, and Tenney has announced that she's back for a rematch. Hanna has been a thorn in the side of the House leadership for a long time. In 2012, he encouraged women to donate to Democratic candidates to "remind people that you vote," and he recently declared that a big part of the Benghazi Select Committee's investigation "was designed to go after people, and an individual, Hillary Clinton."
But it remains to be seen if conservative groups will come to Tenney's aid. In 2014, they mostly stayed on the sidelines while American Unity PAC, a group funded by wealthy hedge fund manager Paul Singer, splurged on Hanna. The wealthy Hanna and American Unity PAC argued that Hanna, not Tenney, was the true conservative in the race, and she didn't have the resources to effectively fight back. We'll see if Tenney can bring in more money this time, and if organizations like the Club For Growth come to her aid.
Romney only narrowly carried this district but Team Blue didn't even field a candidate last year, and there's no word if this time will be any different. It's also possible that Hanna can stay in Congress even if he loses the GOP primary. In 2014 Hanna won the Independence Party's nomination (New York allows candidates to accept multiple parties' nominations) and if he does the same thing this cycle, he'll have a spot on the general election ballot. If Democrats don't field a candidate, Hanna would likely emerge as the de facto Democratic nominee.
• NJ State Assembly: Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon has decided not to seek a recount after final tallies showed her losing to Democrat Andrew Zwicker by 78 votes once provisional ballots had been counted. In a sign of just how big an upset this was, Zwicker actually conceded on election night, then reversed course once updated numbers came in. (It's also a good example of how meaningless concessions are.) With Zwicker's win, Democrats picked up four seats in the state Assembly in this month's elections, leaving them with a 52-28 edge over the GOP.
• Houston, TX Mayor: The Dec. 12 runoff between Democratic state Rep. Sylvester Turner and conservative Bill King is quickly approaching, and King just picked up a surprising endorsement from ex-Rep. Chris Bell. Bell, who was also Team Blue's gubernatorial nominee in 2006, tried to appeal to progressive voters during the primary, and ended up taking fifth place with 7 percent. Houston usually leans Democratic, but Bell's support could help King make inroads with skeptical Democratic voters.
But Turner is up with a new TV spot painting King as unacceptably conservative. Turner hits King for initially tweeting to Sen. Ted Cruz, "What an honor to have you punch support for Bill King on your ticket!" and then deleting the Tweet. The narrator then segways into attacks on King's past financial problems.
• VA Redistricting: Over the summer, a federal court ruled that Virginia's current GOP-drawn congressional map was unconstitutional and therefore appointed a special master, UC Irvine Prof. Bernard Grofman, to help redraw the lines. On Tuesday, Grofman released two proposed remedial plans, which are both similar to one another (and to a plan Daily Kos Elections community member JacobNC previously submitted to the court) in terms of their impact on racial and political representation. Earlier this year, Republicans appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to save the current map, but if the lower court's ruling stands, some version of Grofman's proposals will likely become the map used for the 2016 elections.
By way of background, the court had previously ruled that Republicans legislators had illegally packed black voters into a single 3rd District stretching from Richmond to Norfolk. That allowed the GOP to ensure that all surrounding districts would vote for Republicans, while simultaneously depriving black voters in the area the ability to elect their candidate of choice. That latter issue is what made the current map illegal under the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Voting Rights Act.
Grofman's remedial proposals (which you can find in full here) would constrain the 3rd to just the Hampton Roads region, leaving it just shy of an African-American majority. Meanwhile, the 4th District would take in heavily black areas in and around Richmond, making that seat around 41 to 42 percent African-American. Consequently, these plans would likely to give black voters in the 4th a strong opportunity to elect a black representative, and Democrats would almost certainly pick up either of Grofman's versions of the 4th District, since Obama would have carried them with over 60 percent of the vote. (Grofman's changes to other districts are minimal.)
Altogether, these remedial plans represents a small but clear win for Democrats. Sadly, though, this case demonstrates once again that it pays for Republicans to violate redistricting law. Thanks to the glacially slow pace of our judicial system, the GOP has had the benefit of running under illegal maps for two of the five election cycles this decade. But, as long as the Supreme Court doesn't interfere further, Democrats will at least have a fairer playing field for the next three elections that will take place before the 2020 round of redistricting.
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.