Outgoing Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber
• OR-Gov: In a stunningly quick descent, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced on Friday that he would resign his post, effective Wednesday. Kitzhaber's departure follows revelations that his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, had failed to disclose six figures' worth of payments from a clean energy concern at the same time as she was advising the governor on energy policy. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, won re-election to a fourth term last fall, and ordinarily, an issue like this would seem insufficient to knock an incumbent from his perch.
But in a shocking Feb. 4 editorial, the state's largest newspaper, the Oregonian, called on Kitzhaber to resign over the controversy. Only days before, Kitzhaber had held a press conference to address Hayes' role in his administration; while even some of Kitzhaber's allies weren't happy with his performance, the Oregonian editorial was still a bolt-out-of-the-blue. Things then snowballed with remarkable speed, and Kitzhaber himself asked the state's attorney general to investigate the matter, even though a state ethics commission already had an inquiry underway.
That wasn't enough to deter Kitzhaber's detractors, though. Republicans began launching recall efforts, but far more problematic for the governor, many Democrats were reluctant to rally to his side for a variety of reasons. Among them was the fact that if the long-serving Kitzhaber were to quit, he'd automatically be replaced by a fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Kate Brown.
In fact, Kitzhaber actually summoned Brown—who was attending a conference in Washington, D.C.—back to Oregon on Wednesday, launching one of the strangest episodes in recent political history. Kitzhaber's office spent all day refusing to comment, as did Brown's, and stories flew that Kitzhaber was about to resign. But then on Wednesday night, Kitzhaber released a statement claiming he had "no intention of resigning" after all.
A new round of media reports then emerged saying that Kitzhaber had indeed planned to quit but then changed his mind—but it was far too late to change his fate. Brown put out her own statement saying that upon meeting with the governor, he asked her why she'd returned home so quickly, and she called the entire situation "bizarre." Over the course of the day, more top Democrats publicly abandoned Kitzhaber, including the state treasurer and state Senate president. Making matters uglier, the local press reported that Kitzhaber had asked state officials to destroy thousands of his emails just a week before.
Without any allies left—a fact Kitzhaber bitterly pointed out in a defiant departing statement—the governor finally decided to give up the ghost, and now Brown will take his place. She won't, however, serve out the rest of his term. Instead, Brown will have to go before voters in a special election in 2016, though if she were to win (and she'd be favored against any Republican in a presidential year in blue Oregon), she'd be eligible to run for a full four-year term in 2018. Brown, who became the country's first bisexual statewide official when she was first elected in 2008, will also be the first openly LGBT person to assume gubernatorial office.
It's a very sad and disappointing end for Kitzhaber, a medical doctor who was often admired for his thoughtfulness. But he has spared his party and his state some potentially serious agony, and Oregon Democrats seem excited about Brown. It's a new day in the Beaver State.
P.S. For more background on Kitzhaber's fall, please check out David Jarman's insightful analysis.
• ID-Sen, 01: There's been plenty of speculation over the years that tea party-saturated Rep. Raul Labrador will challenge Sen. Mike Crapo in the Republican primary. Crapo, who has announced that he'll seek another term, has been a mostly-bland establishment figure... with one exception. Crapo was arrested for drunk driving in late 2012, puncturing his image as a Mormon teetotaler. The ambitious Labrador thought about primarying Gov. Butch Otter last year before deciding against it, and it would make sense for him to turn his sights on Crapo.
Labrador finally spoke about his 2016 plans on Friday, and it sounds like he's more likely than not to stay put. When asked if he'll take on the senator, Labrador told The Hill, "I think Crapo is running for reelection and I don't intend to challenge him at all." That's not exactly a no, but Labrador doesn't appear to be incredibly interested right now at least.
Crapo doesn't have any other viable primary opponents on the horizon, and his DUI has mostly faded from view over the last few years. Still, Otter came remarkably close to losing renomination to an underfunded state senator last year, and it's always possible someone else will come out of nowhere and give Crapo trouble.
• MD-Sen, ND-Sen: Following Massachusetts Democrats' pioneering move when Mitt Romney was governor, legislators acting to deprive governors from naming replacement senators is a theme in several states this year. West Virginia Republicans, who took control of both chambers last year, kicked things off with an effort to require a quickie special election in the event of a Senate vacancy—something that might happen if Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin runs for his old job as governor and wins.
Their counterparts in North Dakota are worried about Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp doing the same thing, so they're now advancing a similar piece of legislation. (Lest you had any doubt that this was a blatantly partisan move, an amendment to require special elections to fill vacancies for all statewide offices failed on a purely party-line vote.)
Conversely, in Maryland, Democrats have unexpectedly found themselves with a GOP governor, so they're taking a page from their Bay State brethren and trying to deny Gov. Larry Hogan the ability to appoint any fellow Republicans should a Senate vacancy arrive. There, matters are a bit more hypothetical, but Sen. Barbara Mikulski is 78 and Sen. Ben Cardin is 71, so it's not inconceivable they might decide to quit before their terms are up.
Of course, this attempt at maximizing partisan advantage didn't work out so well in Massachusetts, where Scott Brown rode a perfect storm—in part fueled by resentment over how Democrats tried to rig things in their favor—to a special election win in 2010 after Ted Kennedy died. Thankfully, Elizabeth Warren rectified that disaster just two years later, and it's unlikely we'll see an election as unusual as Brown's any time soon. Then again, the circumstances that led to Manchin, Heitkamp, and Hogan all winning office were unusual enough to begin with, so you can never be sure.
• OH-Sen, 13: A day may come when the courage of Tim Ryan fails, when he forsakes his friends in the House and he runs for higher office. But it is not this day. The Democratic congressman and perennial almost-statewide contender had been mulling a Senate bid, but he announced he wouldn't go for it on Friday. Ryan's ally former Gov. Ted Strickland has also been thinking of challenging Republican Sen. Rob Portman, and Ryan's decision may mean that Strickland is in. Or it may just be Tim Ryan being Tim Ryan.
A few local Democrats had already begun preparing for the possibility that Ryan would vacate his Youngstown-area seat, including former Rep. John Boccieri. The good news for them is that Ohio will host a gubernatorial election in 2018, and Ryan is a potential candidate. Of course, there's a good chance that Ryan will decline to run then, and they'll be disappointed once again.
• MS-01: It's going to be a little while before the Republican field fully takes shape for the upcoming special election. We recently ran through the many candidates who might run, and Sam Hall of the Clarion-Ledger gives us some new details. Itawamba County District Attorney Chip Mills was mentioned and confirmed he was looking at the seat on Friday.
Hall also gives two new potential names. Joseph Murray, who used to work for American Family Radio and Pat Buchanan, sent out a press release both to express interest and to publicize his new book. Murray acknowledged that he's openly gay but moved quickly to emphasize his conservative credentials, saying, "Just as Nixon was able to go to China, I believe that my Conservative track record will overshadow any ill-conceived concerns over my sexuality." It's pretty rare that you'll see someone favorably compare himself to Nixon; maybe Murray stayed up late watching Star Trek VI before writing this?
Hall also adds Mandy McGrevey, the counsel to the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee and former campaign field director, to the potential candidate list. Hall's source is an unnamed group in D.C., but McGrevey hasn't said anything publicly about her plans, nor did she invoke the memory of any disgraced presidents.
• TX-27: Back in December, Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold was sued for sexual harassment by Lauren Greene, his former communications director. On Friday, Farenthold formally denied the allegations in court, and argued that Greene was a bad employee who is lying about him now.
This story had mostly faded from the headlines at the end of last year, but the ongoing lawsuit ensures that it'll be getting more attention now. The fact that Farenthold's own office admitted that the congressman was once propositioned for a threesome (but not by a lobbyist!) won't help him dispel his reputation as a creepy sex-crazed buffoon. Back in December, we found out that Farenthold owned the domain name "Blow-me.org" for well over a decade and wrote some very... questionable columns.
Farenthold represents a safely red seat, but there's been talk of him receiving a primary challenger over this. So far no one's stepped up to the plate, but it might only be a matter of time.
• NRCC: On Thursday, the DCCC unveiled its initial Frontline members, designating which incumbents it plans to expend resources to protect. It was Team Red's turn to rollout its incumbent protection program on Friday, and the NRCC released the names of its first 12 Patriot Program members. The names are below, with the Obama-Romney numbers for each district in parentheses, and each member's 2014 performance in brackets:
• Martha McSally, AZ-02 (48-50) [50-50]
• David Valadao, CA-21 (55-45) [58-42]
• Carlos Curbelo, FL-26 (53-46) [51-49]
• Bob Dold!, IL-10 (58-41) [51-49]
• Mike Bost, IL-12 (50-48) [52-42]
• David Young, IA-03 (51-47) [53-42]
• Bruce Poliquin, ME-02 (53-44) [47-42]
• Frank Guinta, NH-01 (50-49) [52-48]
• Cresent Hardy, NV-04 (54-44) [49-46]
• Lee Zeldin, NY-01 (50-49) [54-46]
• John Katko, NY-24 (57-41) [59-40]
• Will Hurd, TX-23 (48-51) [50-48]
All these Republicans hold seats that Obama either won or came close to winning, so there aren't any real surprises here. While some of these representatives easily prevailed in 2014, it still makes sense for them to be on the list: They can't count on another red wave next year, and they may draw stronger opponents than they did last time.
The most notable omission is probably Rod Blum, of IA-01. Blum only won 51-49 in a seat Obama carried 56-43, and he's already drawn at least once credible Democratic opponent. Blum is capable of some self-funding, but he's not loaded enough to finance his entire race on his own.
Blum did vote against John Boehner in the January speaker race though, and the GOP leadership may be sending him a message by excluding him here. Blum also has drawn some scrutiny for some ugly-looking high-interest loans he gave out, and the NRCC may have just decided that they'd rather keep their distance from the whole mess before it blows up in their faces.
• Anchorage Mayor: Filing closed on Friday for the April 7 non-partisan primary in Alaska's largest city, and a list of candidates is available here. Lance Ahern, the city's chief information technology director, entered the race just before the deadline arrived. Ahern is making his first ever run for office and it doesn't sound like he's exactly been laying the groundwork for a campaign, but he may have enough connections to at least effect the race.
It looks like there are four notable contenders: Republican City Assemblymember Amy Demboski; former Assemblymember Dan Coffey, a conservative independent-turned-Republican; former Anchorage Chamber of Commerce head Andrew Halcro, an independent; and former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, the 2008 Democratic nominee against Republican Rep. Don Young and the 2010 gubernatorial nominee. Republican former Assembymember Paul Bauer is also in, but his campaign hasn't made much of an impact. If no one takes 50 percent in April, a runoff will be held at a later date.
• Las Vegas Mayor: The planned constriction of a tax-payer funded $200 million soccer stadium has emerged as the major theme in the race between independent Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Republican Councilor Stavros Anthony. Goodman backs the plan while Anthony and plenty of powerful labor and gambling interests are against it. But on Thursday, Major League Soccer announced that Las Vegas would not get a new team in the near future, all but killing the stadium.
It's hard to say how this will impact Goodman's re-election chances. The mayor had invested a lot of time and energy into the stadium, and seeing it go down in flames doesn't make her look particularly good. However, it does make this less of a salient issue for Anthony. Plenty of stadium opponents aren't convinced the project is dead and plan to go ahead with a June ballot measure to block it though. Anthony himself is still hitting Goodman on the stadium, arguing that if she wins another term, she'll just try again. The non-partisan primary is April 7, so we won't need to wait too long to see if this controversy will continue to cause Goodman problems.
• Memphis Mayor: Shelby County Commission Chairman Justin Ford has been flirting with a bid against incumbent A C Wharton, and on Monday he announced he'll jump into the Oct. 8 race. Ford hails from a powerful and controversial political dynasty: His father Joe Ford ran for this post in 1999, and his uncle is former Rep. Harold Ford Sr. (making former Rep. and 2006 Democratic Senate nominee Harold Ford Jr. his first cousin).
Justin Ford has not been immune to controversy himself. His successful 2014 re-election campaign was overshadowed by an investigation into his residency; the county attorney concluded that his listed address was "probably" his main residence. While Ford is a Democrat, he's often sided with Republicans of the county commission, and other Democratic members sued him last year over his performance as chair.
Besides Wharton, Ford will face former Commissioner James Harvey, Councilor Jim Strickland, and former University of Memphis basketball player Detric Golden. Several other people are considering joining the race as well, and they have plenty of time until the July 17 filing deadline. Wharton won an easy victory in his 2011 re-election campaign, but a surge in violent crime and particularly bad unemployment numbers have left the incumbent looking vulnerable.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Taniel, and Dreaminonempty.