● AZ-Sen: Call it the tea partier's lament: You've got your Freedom-Loving Big Gun who can take out the Loathsome Establishment Traitor in the primary, but there's some irritating Grade-A Nutbar who won't drop out and will make it impossible for Big Gun to win. That's the dilemma conservatives face in Arizona, where GOP Rep. David Schweikert's camp has recently started making noises about a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain—and in a one-on-one race, Schweikert could definitely prevail. (A May PPP poll had McCain up just 40-39 in a hypothetical matchup.)
But former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is best known for holding a town hall about the mind-controlling "chemtrails" that airplanes spray on an unsuspecting populace to further the sinister goals of the Illuminati, has been in the race for quite some time, and a spokesman just confirmed that Ward is "staying in this campaign, and full speed ahead." Considering that Ward resigned her seat in the legislature earlier this month to focus on the race, that's no surprise.
And as long as Ward remains on the ballot, Schweikert would have a hell of a time rounding up enough anti-incumbent votes to topple McCain, a cold fact that has to make Schweikert less likely to run. Ward, meanwhile, is almost certainly too weak to unseat McCain herself—outside groups have treated her like she has Multidrug-Resistant Cooties. So in the end, quite ironically, John McCain might get saved by chemtrails. No wonder the Bilderbergs, the Trilateral Commission, and the Gnomes of Zurich all love them so much.
● CA-46: Anaheim City Councilor Jordan Brandman entered the race for Rep. Loretta Sanchez's open House seat with some unpleasant baggage (over charges that he plagiarized a report that Orange County had paid him $24,000 to produce), and now he's quitting amidst serious, though unrelated, acrimony. The backstory to the ruckus behind Brandman's departure is one that Digest readers might find particularly interesting, since it revolves around a favorite topic: redistricting.
Like many localities, Anaheim has long elected its city council via at-large elections, which have the effect of minimizing minority representation, even in municipalities with a large minority presence. (Anaheim, with a population of 345,000, is about 53 percent Latino.) Fortunately, a recent lawsuit challenged this system and forced Anaheim to adopt a district-based council map, a move that's been successful in increasing the number of minority elected officials elsewhere, such as in Yakima, Washington.
But Brandman seemed determined to undermine this progress, first by joining a 3-2 majority on the council to delay elections in the one majority-Latino district the new map would create from 2016 to 2018. (Two of the five other seats would have Hispanic pluralities.) Then more recently, Brandman voted in favor of scrapping the new map altogether and considering other plans instead (which again passed by a 3-2 vote). Latino activists exploded in anger, and his votes earned Brandman censure from the local Democratic Party. Facing that hostility, he decided to bail on his congressional bid. Good riddance.
With Brandman's departure, that leaves three other Democrats in the race: former state Sens. Lou Correa and Joe Dunn and Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen. California's 46th gave 61 percent of its vote to Obama and should be safely blue in a presidential year.
● FL-18: It seemed pretty evident that the DCCC recruited businessman Randy Perkins into the race for Rep. Patrick Murphy's House seat because of his wealth, and now Perkins says he's already dumped $1 million of his own money into his House campaign. Perkins faces attorney Jonathan Chane and Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor in the primary. Taylor has struggled with fundraising, but during Chane's first quarter in the race, he raised $200,000 and lent himself another $100,000—small compared to Perkins' haul, but not nothing.
Meanwhile, physician Marc Freeman says he'll spend $1 million of his own dough to help him win the crowded GOP primary. But both Perkins and Freeman may find their cash only takes them so far. While a million bucks might sound like a lot of money to you, me, or just about any normal person on earth, it's actually not that much when it comes to a campaign for a top-tier congressional race. Murphy, for instance, raised $4.8 million when he defeated Allen West in 2012, and Murphy didn't have to contend with a contested primary, as both Freeman and Perkins will.
As for Freeman, the additional millions he'll need won't come as easily as he once thought: Back in October, Freeman had to refund one donor's check … that totaled $200,000. Needless to say, that was a wee bit in excess of the legal maximum contribution of $5,400 per cycle—a limit Freeman's campaign admitted it was "unaware of" in a letter to the FEC.
● IL-01: Just over a week ago, Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins sounded very amped up about his challenge to Rep. Bobby Rush's nominating petitions, but in the end, it looks like his claims have fallen just a bit short. According to CBS Chicago, Rush squeaked by with just 90 more valid signatures than the minimum 1,300 he needed, despite submitting some 3,100 petitions in total. Though election officials won't issue a final ruling for another few weeks, both campaigns apparently agree that Rush will make the ballot. Now Brookins will face a much tougher task of actually trying to unseat Rush in the March Democratic primary.
● MD-06: In the previous Digest, we noted that Montgomery County Councilor Duchy Trachtenberg had filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC, which, if she followed through with an actual campaign, would set up a challenge against Rep. John Delaney in next year's Democratic primary. But local blogger Jonathan Shurberg notes that Trachtenberg's filing came in response to a "Disavowal Notice" from the FEC, which requires a would-be candidate to either "disavow" financial activity undertaken on his or her behalf, or to simply file as a candidate. Shurberg claims the latter is actually simpler than the former, even for someone who doesn't intend to actually run, and adds that "sources close to Duchy" have confirmed to him that Trachtenberg is not running.
But that's not what Trachtenberg herself is saying. Speaking to reporter Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat, Trachtenberg would only say, "I have not made a decision to run," adding, "I am no wallflower and if I made a decision to run for Congress, Rep. Delaney would know it." As Peck rightly notes, Trachtenberg's statement "stopped well short of a Shermanesque denial"—a distinction Daily Kos Elections is always extremely vigilant about making, too. That said, while Trachtenberg does seem at least somewhat interested (she said she thought the 6th District "could be better represented"), she'd face heavy obstacles in going after the wealthy Delaney, and she has little time to make up her mind.
● NM-02: New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District is one of those areas—like, say, Texas—that Democrats keep thinking is trending their way, but the deadline for it to flip keeps getting pushed off into the future. Still, unlike Texas, Democrats have won here in the recent past, albeit when the 2nd was an open seat and Democrats enjoyed a huge wave (2008). But if the stars align once more, perhaps businesswoman Merrie Lee Soules, who just announced a bid, will manage the unlikely feat of defeating GOP Rep. Steve Pearce. It's not entirely clear what kind of chops Soules brings to the race, though she did only narrowly lose a primary for the state's Public Regulation Commission last year, and her brother is a state senator, Bill Soules. Still, it would take a lot to put this race in play.
● NY-19: In a massive disappointment for Democratic Party recruiters, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein announced on Friday that he would not run for New York's open 19th Congressional District, a swingy must-win seat that would be part of any plausible Democratic majority. Both local and national Democrats had begged Hein for months, but he insisted he'd only decide after his (successful) re-election bid as county executive last month. Now the wait is over but the news isn't good.
What's more, Team Blue's bench in this area (the Hudson Valley and the Catskills; also the site of Woodstock) is not strong, and backup options are all speculative. The only positive is that Republicans are in the midst of what's shaping up to be a bruising primary, with former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, Assemblyman Peter Lopez, and businessman Andrew Heaney leading the pack. Even with a lesser candidate, Democrats still have a shot here, given that it's a presidential cycle and Hillary Clinton will likely top the ticket. But time is running out for an alternative to get a serious campaign up and running.
● VA-07: Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade said just the other day that he was "strongly considering" a primary challenge to GOP Rep. Dave Brat, and now he's filed paperwork with the FEC. However, he still hasn't made a formal announcement, and as we often remind folks, plenty of people submit filings to the FECs without ever actually following through. (In fact, see our MD-06 item above for a relevant example.)
● NC Redistricting: In a disappointing development for Democrats, North Carolina's Supreme Court has once again upheld the state's GOP-drawn congressional and legislative maps, following a review mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in light of new caselaw that requires greater scrutiny of racial gerrymandering. The plaintiffs say they will appeal to the SCOTUS. The full opinion can be read here.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and Stephen Wolf.