• CO-Sen: National Republicans have a very unimpressive lineup of candidates challenging Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, but one potentially strong contender still refuses to rule out a bid. When the Denver Post asked Rep. Scott Tipton about his 2016 plans, he once again declared that, "Our focus is on the Third (Congressional District) and we're planning on running for re-election." If Tipton really wanted to take his name out of contention, all he needs to do is say, "We're running for re-election and not for the Senate." And if he wants to rule out running for the Senate without sounding like a Borg drone, all he needs to say is "I'm running for re-election and not for the Senate." (Or maybe he joined the Congressional Royal We Caucus without telling anyone.)
It's pretty unclear at this point how seriously Tipton is thinking about a statewide bid. On the one hand, he raised just $207,000 from July to September, and he only has $272,000 on hand. However, it's worth noting that during the third quarter of 2013, then-Rep. Cory Gardner raised only $263,000, though he had a stronger $764,000 on hand. Gardner had previously declared that he wouldn't run for the Senate, but he ended up jumping into the race in late February and winning.
The Post also notes that Tipton has been earning some headlines over the last few days. The normally low-key congressman has picked a fight with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper over his support for allowing Syrians fleeing ISIS into the state, and co-authored two pieces of legislation to make it much more difficult for the federal government to admit them. If Tipton wants to run for the Senate, then going out of his way to stoke xenophobia is certainly one way to raise his profile.
Tipton is nowhere near as well regarded as Gardner was, but he's probably the strongest candidate the GOP can get right now. Currently, Republican primary voters have some unappealing options to choose from. There's ex-Aurora Councilor Ryan Frazier, a relative moderate who badly lost a high-profile congressional race in 2010, then failed to become mayor the next year. There's state Sen. Tim Neville, whom national Republicans fear is just too conservative to beat Bennet. There's rich guy Robert Blaha, who spent tons of his own money only to earn 39 percent in a 2012 House primary. And then there's a fairly anonymous bunch of candidates and potential candidates who have a lot to prove if they want to unseat Bennet.
Tipton isn't a fantastic candidate, but he'd start out with access to national money, something any Republican will need if they want to unseat the well-funded senator. The filing deadline is March 7, so the Tipton Collective has a little time to decide if they'll be running for Senate or for re-election.
• CA-Sen: Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris just went through a bit of a staff overhaul, replacing her campaign manager and chief fundraiser in the wake of concerns that her spending rate was just too high. Now she's looking to shake off those adjustment pains by announcing a big endorsement from AFSCME, one of the largest and most powerful unions in politics. AFSCME, which mostly represents government workers, has 1.6 million members nationwide and 179,000 in California. Harris' chief opposition for the Golden State's open Senate seat is from Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a fellow Democrat.
• WI-Sen: A new Marquette poll from Wisconsin once again finds Democratic ex-Sen. Russ Feingold pummeling GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, this time by a 49-38 margin. That's very similar to the school's September survey, which gave Feingold a 50-36 lead.
• LA-Gov: We have one last ad ahead of Saturday's runoff. This one features a clip of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne endorsing Democrat John Bel Edwards, with Dardenne reminding voters that, while he's a Republican, he's choosing the person, not the party.
• ND-Gov: To nobody's surprise, state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has confirmed that he'll seek the GOP nod. Stenehjem currently only faces state Rep. Rick Becker in the primary; Becker is best known for trying to curtail the use of surveillance drones by police, and he doesn't look like he's capable of putting up much of a fight.
And shortly after Stenehjem made his decision public, state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt announced that she would run for re-election instead. Rich guy Doug Burgum is the only notable Republican still considering, and he hasn't ruled out running as an independent instead.
• NH-Gov: Executive Councilor Chris Sununu is the only Republican officially in the race to succeed Gov. Maggie Hassan, and he's trying to keep it that way. On Thursday, he rolled out endorsements from two former governors, Judd Gregg and Steve Merrill; Gregg, of course, also served in the Senate. A few other Republicans are poking around, including state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, businessman Frank Edelblut, and Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, but no one's taken steps to run.
Two Democrats, meanwhile, are in the race: Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and New Hampshire's former top securities regulator, Mark Connolly. In recent days, both Van Ostern and Connolly have sought to distance themselves from Hassan, who enjoys the dubious distinction of being the only Democratic governor in the nation to call for a halt to admitting refugees from Syria. Sununu, of course, agrees with Hassan.
• CA-21: After briefly considering a bid, Bakersfield City School District Trustee Andrae Gonzales has decided not to challenge Republican David Valadao. Fowler Mayor Pro-Tem Daniel Parra remains the only Democratic candidate here, but he's raised a depressingly low amount of money for two straight quarters. Obama carried this Central Valley seat 55-44, but Valadao defeated another weak Democrat 58-42 in 2012. Unless Parra dramatically steps up his game or Team Blue lands a much stronger recruit, the same thing is likely to happen next year.
• IN-01: It really feels like Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott won't be happy unless he's talking about running for a promotion. McDermott spent months flirting with a gubernatorial or Senate bid before announcing he wouldn't run statewide next year, but he pointedly did not rule out challenging longtime Rep. Pete Visclosky in the Democratic primary. Local Democrats seem to consider the idea more than just bluster. Lake County Democratic chair John Buncich recently removed a McDermott ally from the county election board, a move that McDermott claims is retaliation against him for talking about running against Visclosky. (Buncich says there were unrelated reasons for his move.)
If McDermott is serious about going toe to toe with Visclosky, he's not going to have an easy time. While Visclosky has faced some questions about his ethics, nothing serious has stuck, and he's routinely won renomination without any problems. Visclosky also has powerful allies in heavily Democratic Lake County. This safely Democratic seat is entirely located in the pricey Chicago media market, so McDermott would also need to raise a lot of money quickly to get his name out before the May 3 primary. The filing deadline is in early February, so McDermott has a little time to make his decision.
• IN-02: After pulling off a surprisingly narrow win in 2012, Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski rode last year's GOP wave to an easy victory. Romney carried her northern Indiana seat 56-42, but Hoosier Democrats don't have many other reasonable targets here, and they may have a candidate before too long. Lynn Coleman, who served as the investigation division chief for the South Bend police, is reportedly considering a bid, and the South Bend Tribune's Jack Colwell says that state and national Democrats like him and expect him to get in.
Walorski won't be an easy target for Coleman or anyone else. While she ran in 2012 with the nickname "Wacky Jackie," Walorski has been a low-key House member, and she even ran ads in 2014 stressing her bipartisan record. Still, she could be vulnerable if Democrats make a serious play for Indiana's 11 electoral votes. In 2008, as Obama was narrowly carrying Indiana, he also narrowly took the 2nd District.
• TX-27: Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold has settled a lawsuit brought by his former communications director, Lauren Greene, who had accused Farenthold of sexually harassing her and engaging in retaliatory discrimination after she complained. As is typically the case in such matters, the terms of the settlement were not disclosed. A couple of months ago, the Office of Congressional Ethics, which was investigating the matter, said there was "not substantial reason to believe" Greene's allegations.
• Charleston, SC Mayor: Voters went to the polls Tuesday for the runoff to replace Mayor Joe Riley, who is retiring after an astounding 40 years in office. Businessman John Tecklenburg, a former city economic development director, defeated state Rep. and fellow Democrat Leon Stavrinakis 58-42.
The contest took a negative turn in the closing weeks, with Stavrinakis attacking Tecklenburg for his past association with a group called Coastal Conservation League, which opposes the construction of a local interstate. Tecklenburg fired back, portraying Stavrinakis as a career politician. Tecklenberg also benefited from the support of third-place primary candidate Ginny Deerin.
• Montgomery County, AL Commission: Even when things are darkest, we can still watch Artur Davis lose something.
The former Democratic congressman joined the GOP in 2012 and campaigned for Mitt Romney, but sought to rejoin the Democrats to run for a seat on the Montgomery County Commission next year. Alabama Democrats have a law, known as the Radney Rule, that prohibits anyone who has campaigned against the party from running as a Democrat if they didn't support a Democratic nominee anytime over the last four years. The party executive committee has waived the rule in the past, but told Davis to get lost last month.
Davis subsequently sued, arguing that since the party has waived the rule for other defectors, they need to do the same thing for him. On Wednesday, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs told Davis to fuck off (he may not have used those exact words), writing that, "The Board is well within its discretion to conclude that allowing a prodigal son to run against a Democratic stalwart is not beneficial to the party." Davis says he'll appeal the decision to the Alabama Supreme Court.
• Demographics: We've discussed reports several times in recent years that Mexican immigration had fallen off dramatically since the beginning of the Great Recession, but Pew Research has crunched the numbers and found something even more startling: Mexican migration in the 2009-2014 period is a net negative! In other words, 140,000 more immigrants went from the U.S. to Mexico than went from Mexico to the U.S. That follow a nearly flat period between 2005 and 2009, which followed a huge spike of 2.27 million in the 1995-2000 period.
Deportation accounts for only a small portion of the returns to Mexico, only 14 percent (though it's likely that stricter border enforcement acted as a deterrent to coming in the first place). And while it's tempting to blame the diminished job market during the Recession years as the prime factor — especially if you're a Republican floundering around for an anti-Obama talking point after the "Mexicans are coming here in waves and taking our jobs!!" one vaporizes — that's not what returnees are citing, either. Instead, it's the more basic concern of "family reunification," which 61 percent of returnees cite as the main reason.
• President-by-LD: We venture back to New Mexico for a look at the 2014 statewide elections. We have the results calculated by district for state House, state Senate and congressional district. We also have the results calculated for the 2012 presidential and Senate elections. You can find our master list of states here. Also be sure to check out Stephen Wolf's interactive state legislative maps.
Last year, Republicans won their first majority in the state House since the 1950s. GOP Gov. Susana Martinez's strong 57-43 win over Democrat Gary King, as well as the GOP wave, gave Team Red a critical boost. Martinez took 51 of the 70 state House seats, and Team Red currently has a small 37-33 edge in the chamber. Twelve Republicans hold seats that Obama won in 2012, so Democrats will have plenty of targets next year. Still, the state House map, which was drawn up by a trial court after Martinez vetoed the Democratic legislature's maps, give the GOP a boost. Obama won the median seat in the state House 51-45, about 4 points smaller than his 53-43 statewide win.
The state Senate wasn't up last year, and Democrats maintain a 24 to 18 edge there. If the chamber had been up, Team Red would have stood a good chance of flipping it: Martinez carried 32 of the 42 seats. Obama won 27 districts and the median district is only 0.50 percent to the right of the whole state, so Democrats have a good shot at keeping the state Senate absent another Republican wave.
Democrats hold the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts, while the GOP controls NM-02. The status quo should continue for a while. Even though Martinez won all three seats, the GOP didn't field strong challengers against Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Lujan, and both Democrats easily kept their seats. Team Blue flipped the 2nd District during the 2008 wave, but it's going to be tough for them to knock off Republican Rep. Steve Pearce anytime soon. Hector Balderas led the Democratic ticket last year with his 58-42 win the attorney general race, but he still lost NM-02 52-48.
• Votes: On Thursday, in a shameful outburst of bigotry and xenophobia, the House passed the so-called "SAFE Act," a hateful piece of legislation designed to bar Syrian refugees from entering the country. The bill prevailed by a wide 289 to 137 margin, with all but two Republicans voting in favor of it, along with 47 Democrats, who ought to be truly ashamed of themselves. The only two GOP dissenters, Walter Jones and Steve King, both voted against it from the right.
The list of spineless Democrats, meanwhile, includes several unexpected names, like New York Rep. Louise Slaughter, who'd always had a reputation as an outspoken liberal. As a result, she makes an appearance in a very helpful new feature on GovTrack, "statistically notable votes." These are votes that are the "most surprising, or least predictable, given how other members of each voter's party voted," plus other unspecified factors. Slaughter's vote is definitely a surprise—a very regrettable one.
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.