Wanna see a magic trick? I'm going to make this Senate seat... disappear!
• KY-Sen: Rand Paul has been trying all sorts of shenanigans to find a way to run for both president and Senate simultaneously, and it looks like he's finally managed to become a cake-eater. Paul succeeded in cajoling a state GOP committee into green-lighting his plan for the party to hold a March caucus instead of its traditional May primary; that would allow him to run in both races without running afoul of Kentucky laws that prohibit candidates from appearing on the same ballot twice.
But Rand can't start snarfing down the red velvet just yet. For one thing, the fully state party has to approve this change, and that won't happen until August. Even if that's just a formality, there's a much more important issue at stake: If Paul does somehow emerge with the GOP presidential nomination, it's appears that Republicans would not be able to replace him on the Senate ballot. That could very well mean giving Democrats a crazy automatic pickup in a state that's quite hostile to the part on a federal level. Even Paul himself admitted he doesn't have an answer to this problem, so maybe there will be no yummy dessert for him after all.
• AK-Sen: Of course the Club for Growth doesn't like Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski—you probably could have guessed that she's dead last among Republican senators on their newly released 2014 scorecard without even looking. So it's hardly any surprise that the Club says they're "watching" Murkowski's race for re-election, though as political director of Daily Kos, I'd say the same thing about, say, Dan Lipinski, whether or not there was real hope of a primary challenge.
But even Joe Miller, the tea guzzler who upset Murkowski for the GOP nomination in 2010, only to lose in the general after she waged a historic write-in campaign, hasn't expressed any interest. And after him, the list of would-be insurgents is completely empty, so the Club might be "watching" clear on through November 2016.
• IN-Sen, Gov: The Hoosier State is currently a wasteland for competitive races, with Republicans Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Dan Coats poised for easy re-elections. But Coats has been openly contemplating retirement, and Pence hasn't ruled out seeking the presidency. Indiana is chock-full of ambitious Republicans, and the National Journal's Karyn Bruggeman takes a look at who might run if either incumbent calls it quits.
Coats is probably the more likely of the pair to leave, and he's promised a decision by April 5. State House Speaker Brian Bosma has acknowledged interest in both the governorship and the Senate seat, and any of the state's seven Republican House members could run for either post. However, Reps. Marlin Stutzman, Todd Young, and Todd Rokita have gotten the most attention. Stutzman ran against Coats in the 2010 primary, and his 2014 bid for majority whip demonstrated that he's still quite ambitious.
Todd Young and Todd Rokita are more establishment-flavored than Stutzman, which can be a double-edged sword in GOP primaries. Rokita is a former statewide elected official, though there aren't going to be many voters outside his district waxing nostalgic for those golden days when he was their secretary of state. Last month, Howey Politics also great mentioned Coat's Chief of Staff Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, as well as the other four GOP House members.
All of these Republicans and more could try to run for Pence's seat when he leaves, but they may need to wait a little while. The governor says he'll decide on his presidential plans after the late April legislative session ends, and he wouldn't try to seek re-election at the same time. But Pence hasn't made any real moves to run for president, and he's almost certainly just waiting to see if any of the current frontrunners implode.
Should Pence surprise us and depart for New Hampshire, state Sen. Jim Merritt is a potential candidate, and Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann is also likely to take a look at this. Merritt has expressed interest in the governorship in the past, and Ellspermann only offered an evasive answer when asked about her hypothetical plans. Should Pence get chosen as the vice presidential nominee, the Indiana Republican State Committee would need to replace him on the gubernatorial ballot, and Bosma and Ellspermann would definitely get some attention. Pence will be termed-out in 2020 if he wins re-election, so all these people might end up just delaying their plans for four years.
No notable Democrats are running for Senate right now, though that would change if Coats left. The gubernatorial race has attracted more interest, with both 2012 nominee John Gregg and former Rep. Baron Hill seriously considering challenging Pence. Gregg made it clear to the National Journal that he wouldn't switch over, and even said that Hill "needs to focus on the U.S. Senate race." Hill did run for this seat against Coats in 1990 and talked about trying again in 2010, so he might be persuadable.
• MD-Sen: Right now, the Democratic primary is a duel between Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards (who will reportedly announce her bid on Tuesday), two House members from the D.C. suburbs. This leaves plenty of room for a Baltimore-area candidate, something that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is no doubt taking into account. On Monday, she confirmed that she is considering the Senate (a spokesperson previously said she was interested, but this is the first time we've heard it from the mayor herself).
Rawlings-Blake would start out with more name recognition than probably anyone else in the Baltimore media market, where half the state lives. Many of the other potential Democratic candidates hail from the D.C. market (where 46 percent of the state resides), though local congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, and Elijah Cummings are considering.
On the GOP side, Chrysovalantis Kefalas, a former aide to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, is considering a campaign. Kefalas is vice president of Executive Communications for the National Association of Manufacturers, so he may have some money to burn.
One unusual aspect of this contest is that seven of the state's eight members of the House are either contemplating bids or are actually running. While others are also considering the race, this congressional crop of candidates will form the top tier of contenders, and because they've all served on Capitol Hill, we can directly compare their ideologies using the DW-Nominate system pioneered by University of Georgia Prof. Keith Poole.
Political scientists generally regard DW-N as the gold standard when it comes to evaluating overall ideology because it relies on every single vote cast in Congress, not just a select few. It also has another advantage: By looking at the records of the several hundred lawmakers who have served in both the House and the Senate, it's possible to come up with scores that treat both chambers as a single legislature. In other words, these "Common Space scores" allow direct comparisons between senators and representatives, even though the two bodies often vote on different pieces of legislation (and follow different rules of procedure).
With all that in mind, we've put together an ideology chart for Maryland's entire delegation, including retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, fellow Sen. Ben Cardin (who isn't up for re-election until 2018), and Rep. Steny Hoyer, the only Democrat who definitely won't run for Mikulski's seat:
As you can see, Edwards is by far the most liberal of the bunch, which is not too surprising since she also represents the bluest district in the state
. But district demographics don't necessarily translate perfectly into ideology: Sarbanes' seat gave 61 percent of its vote to Barack Obama, but he's a touch to the left of Cummings, whose district is comparable to Edwards' (76 percent Obama versus 78 for Edwards).
And while Van Hollen has spent his career as an establishment player, he's also slightly to the left of Mikulski, who is generally regarded as a very solid liberal. Meanwhile, at the far right of the chart is Maryland's lone Republican congressman, Rep. Andy Harris, so you can see just how far out-of-step he is with the rest of the delegation. Harris would probably be the GOP's best get for this race, but considering that Obama carried the Old Line State by a 62-36 margin, Harris will almost certainly prefer to stay in his safely red seat.
• OH-Sen: The Democratic establishment continues to rally around Ted Strickland's bid for Senate, as Ohio's other senator, Sherrod Brown, just endorsed the former governor on Monday. (The two served in the House together before both earned promotions in 2006.) Last week, three of the state's four current members of the House also backed Strickland, who faces a primary with Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
Given Strickland's prominence, it's no surprise that big-name Democrats are standing at his side. But the fact that this orchestrated show of strength is even necessary in the first place suggests that power brokers aren't having an easy time getting Sittenfeld out of the way, even though it's hard to envision any primary that doesn't conclude with Strickland romping. But Sittenfeld has responded to this latest development by digging in further: He just announced that he's embarking on an 88-county tour of the entire state.
So what is Sittenfeld hoping to accomplish? Well, reporter Steve Koff, who wrote Strickland's House endorsements, cleverly broke the fourth wall to explain:
This isn't entirely bad for Sittenfeld. You are reading this article on the website of a Cleveland-based news organization.
Until recently, you probably didn't know P.G. Sittenfeld existed.
The problem, though, is that while Sittenfeld might be earning a little bit of media attention, he's also pissing off members of his own party. Not only did he recently toss caltrops toward his fellow Democrats with a not-so-veiled jab at Strickland's age
, he also apparently had pledged to leave the race
if Strickland got in. So even if he winds up with some extra name recognition, he could also wind up with far fewer friends. That's not something a 30-year-old politician with a future wants to do.
• NC-Gov: A good catch from Jonathan Kappler: A North Carolina group with the head-spinning name of Conservatives for Clean Energy commissioned a poll that, after a huge battery of questions on various energy issues, finds GOP Gov. Pat McCrory with a slim 44-42 edge over Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper. We've never heard of the pollster before, a firm called Diversified Research (whose website dates to 1999—and looks that way), but these numbers are in line with those from other outfits, including PPP.
• CA-21: While Republican Rep. David Valadao represents a Central Valley seat that Obama won 55-44, he's managed to win both his terms with ease. In 2012, Democrats were stuck with an incredibly weak candidate, and last year, Amanda Renteria was sunk by the GOP wave and horrible midterm turnout. The DCCC hopes that 2016 will give them that magic combination of a credible nominee and presidential-year enthusiasm, and they've begun searching for a standard bearer.
Renteria quickly took herself out of the running after she signed up to work for Hillary Clinton, and we can cross physician Joaquin Arambula off the list too. The DCCC recently interviewed Arambula, but he told the Fresno Bee that he knows that splitting his time between California and D.C. could put a huge strain on his family (he is likely to seek an Assembly seat, which is a less brutal commute).
The DCCC has already begun speaking to another prospect though. Roll Call's Emily Cahn reports that the committee is talking to Daniel Parra, who serves as mayor pro-tem in the small town of Fowler. Parra ran for a seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in 2014 and lost 62-38 in a seat Obama won 52-47. Given how bad Democratic turnout was in the Central Valley though, it's hard to really hold this against him.
• IL-18: Well, Aaron Schock does have a primary challenger now (at least, for the moment), but attorney Mark Zalcman sounds like a serious Some Dude. Zalcman isn't even from the district, and he got thrown off the ballot last year for a lack of signatures when he attempted to unseat GOP state Rep. David Leitch. Zalcman is a Christian conservative, running on the slogan "Because Washington needs the Gospel." Godspeed.
• MD-08, 06: We have our first, but by no means our last, official Democratic candidate for the open and safely blue 8th District. Del. Kumar Barve, a former majority leader, jumped into the race on Monday. Barve's seat is split between the 6th and 8th Districts, so he will need to introduce himself to a lot of people, but at least he has a good head start.
Hotel executive Kathleen Matthews is likely to run in this suburban D.C. seat, and a whole host of other Democrats are considering what to do. Roll Call recently gave us a huge list of potential contenders, and the Baltimore Sun tells us that Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez is also talking about jumping in. Via Bethesda Magazine's Louis Peck, we also learn that former Obama White House staffer William Jawando is expressing interest: Jawando, who narrowly lost a 2014 primary for state delegate, confirmed that he's "taking a very strong look at it." The Sun also quotes state Sen. Jamie Raskin saying that he won't go for it if his colleague and friend Richard Madaleno does, "[b]ut if he's not running, I don't think wild horses could get me away from this race."
Wild horses might carry a few potential MD-08 candidates over to the nearby 6th District though if incumbent John Delaney enters the Senate race. Peck tells us that Del. Bill Frick will likely take a look at the 6th; Frick considered running here in 2014 when Delaney was talking about jumping into the gubernatorial race. State Sen. Roger Manno is also reportedly eying both House seats.
Peck also gives us some new Democratic names for just MD-06, telling us that state Sen. Brian Feldman, Del. Kirill Reznik, and Montgomery County Councilor Craig Rice could campaign here. Former Del. John Donoghue has already talked about a run: While he hails from the far less populous Hagerstown area, he could capitalize if enough Montgomery County candidates get in. The GOP came close to winning the 6th District last year, and some Republicans will eye it especially if Delaney goes.
• MS-01: It's so nice when politicians upgrade their status from "We all know I'm a candidate, but I don't want to say it yet, because fuck you" to just "candidate." Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert is the latest to finish this ancient ritual, which historians say dates back to the "Gaius Julius Caesar for Dictator Exploratory Committee." Tagert is expected to have the support of former Gov. Haley Barbour's political machine, though sitting Gov. Phil Bryant is close to rival candidate Boyce Adams. Seven other Republicans are currently running, but the March 27 filing date is still a little ways away.
• NJ-05: Attorney Roy Cho, who unsuccessfully ran against GOP Rep. Scott Garrett in 2014, says he won't try again next year. Cho waged an outsider's campaign and received the most notice when he secured an endorsement from, oddly enough, Wu Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah. Cho wound up raising a respectable $1.25 million but lost 55-43, thanks to the district's tough demographics and the Republican wave.
Given the long odds (and lack of outside help) that Cho faced, that actually wasn't a terrible result, and Democrats have long thirsted after Garrett's seat, though they've seldom made a concerted go of it. That's because despite of Garrett's extremely conservative record (he even flirted with opposing aide for victims of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated his own state), Republican map-makers have gifted him with some very inflexibly red turf.
That means it would take a very favorable Democratic year to make this seat change hands, and there hasn't been much talk of potential challengers this time. Indeed, just last week, another would-be contender, Ridgewood Mayor Paul Aronsohn, said that he, too, would not run. (Aronsohn lost to Garret 55-44 in 2006.) However, PolitickerNJ says that businessman Josh Gottheimer, who used to serve as an advisor to both Hillary and Bill Clinton, is considering a bid.
• TN-04: After news broke in late 2012 that Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais had carried on affairs with multiple patients and tried to convince at least one to get an abortion, he spent most of the 2014 cycle looking like a dead man walking. However, despite being badly outspent in the primary, DesJarlais managed to turn back a challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy by all of 38 votes. Tracy hasn't said if he'll try again yet, but Nathan Gonzales tells us that former Romney aide and real estate executive Grant Starrett is talking to donors about a bid, though he hasn't decided if he'll run yet.
Starrett might be able to run a more focused campaign than Tracy, who barely hit DesJarlais on his scandal. But by the time the 2016 primary rolls around, this story will be almost four years old, essentially ancient history in politics. It might be difficult for Starrett or anyone else to get voters to care about this whole thing after they've known about it for so long. And if Tracy or anyone else also runs, it could split the vote enough for DesJarlais to slip by with just a plurality: Unlike many Southern states, Tennessee has no runoff. Still, DesJarlais can't take renomination for granted after his tight (if still miraculous) win last year. No matter how the primary shakes out, this very conservative seat, which spans part of Eastern and Middle Tennessee, is all-but-assured to stay red.
• Chicago Mayor: Odgen & Fry is out with a new tracking poll for the April 7 runoff, but they find that little has changed in the last week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel posts a 44-38 lead over Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia: It's a little wider than the incumbent's 43-39 edge last week, but it very well could just be noise. Rahm and his allies are preparing to kick off a major ad blitz painting Garcia as a do-nothing politician, and we'll see if it moves the needle any.
• Special Elections: Just one legislative special election this week, courtesy Johnny Longtorso:
Maine HD-93: This is an open Democratic seat consisting of a couple coastal towns, Owls Head and Rockland. The Democrats nominated former Knox County Commissioner Anne Beebe-Center, while the Republicans chose James Kalloch, who ran for this seat last year and lost 52-48. Also on the ballot are Green Party candidate Ron Huber and Libertarian Shawn Levasseur. The district went 64-34 for President Obama in 2012 and 50-41 for Mike Michaud in 2014.
The seat is open because the sitting legislator, Elizabeth Dickerson, resigned to pursue professional opportunities
out of state. This actually is not the first time we've seen a resignation in Maine for this sort of reason. Four years ago, state Sen. Larry Bliss made headlines when he quit his post
because he was unemployed and could not find work in his home state. This unfortunately is the sort of thing that happens when you have part-time legislatures that pay their members very little.
• Votes: Last week we wrote about the House vote to provide "clean" funding for the DHS, saying that the collection of Republican "yes" votes was a clear illustration of who was in the leftmost third of the Republican caucus. Well, the VoteView blog (the public face of the DW-Nominate vote-aggregating system) just released their analysis of the vote, and actually it wasn't an ideological fissure, but rather more of a "second-dimension" vote, at least within the GOP caucus.
In other words, the "no" votes were from the more anti-establishment part of the GOP caucus, regardless of whether they end up more on the moderate or conservative end of the caucus. This wasn't immediately apparent to me because the stereotypical northeastern moderates all voted "yes." But a variety of GOPers who don't register as consistently conservative because of their idiosyncratic, populist-flavored voting records (like Walter Jones, Don Young, and Lou Barletta) were all "no" votes on the DHS bill. In a separate post, VoteView also covers the earlier failed three-week DHS bill, which has a more clearly ideological breakdown.
Their post about the DHS vote also contains this throwaway line at the end, which really caught our attention. This is a big deal, because a user-friendly, real-time DW-Nominate output (instead of a once-a-year spew of an incoherent .txt file) would be fantastic:
This image are from a new stand-alone DW-NOMINATE that can be run daily as new roll calls are cast. We will have more to say about this software at a later date.
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