• IL-18: One of the fastest (and funniest) implosions in the U.S. House in recent years is complete. It started only in early February, with an innocent-enough story in the Washington Post about how Republican Rep. Aaron Schock — then a young, rising-star politician from rural Illinois — had furnished his congressional office with lavish Downton Abbey-inspired office décor. Schock's strange evasiveness about that story just led to more stories about how he paid for the remodel, though, and things just started unraveling for Schock from there, as a pattern of gratuitous, improperly-reported, and perhaps even fraudulent expenses came to light.
Now, Schock is on his way to being a historical footnote (or if he's really unlucky, a punch line for decades to come) instead of, say, a future governor of Illinois. On Tuesday, he announced he would resign from the House, effective March 31. Schock's move comes a day after the Office of Congressional Ethics began contacting Schock's associates in an initial investigation.
In fact, just hours before he finalized his departure, Politico reported that there were huge discrepancies in Schock's mileage reimbursement requests. Schock billed the federal government for 170,000 miles logged in his Chevy Tahoe, but when he sold the vehicle in July 2014, the odometer only read 80,000 miles, meaning he overbilled by 90,000 miles (worth tens of thousands of dollars to him). In conjunction with Schock's prior answer from last week about whether he broke the law with any of his activities—"I certainly hope not" ... though he added the disclaimer that he's "not an attorney"—it sounds like he decided things were only going to get worse from here on out.
With Schock soon to be out of the picture, we can already start looking at the race to replace him. We have some early details on the special election to replace Schock. Gov. Bruce Rauner must call for an election within five days of Schock's resignation, and the race must occur within 115 days of that date—in other words, before the end of July). Romney won this Downstate Illinois seat, which includes Quincy and parts of Peoria and Springfield, by a 61-37 margin, so all the action will be in the GOP primary.
The Chicago Tribune has gotten three potential contestants on the record, all of whom, as of Tuesday, were variations on "maybe." State Sen. Darin LaHood says he's been getting a lot of encouragement, but he'll have a "formal decision" on Wednesday. LaHood is the son of moderate ex-Rep. Ray LaHood, who represented this area for 14 years before retiring and becoming Barack Obama's transportation secretary. The younger LaHood seems to have a good base of support, but it's possible his dad's apostasy may come back to haunt him in a primary against a more conservative opponent.
Fellow state Sen. Bill Brady says he is "very happy where I'm at, but I am not going to say no." Apart from being Obama's poker buddy during the president's tenure in Springfield, Brady is best known for serving his party's 2010 gubernatorial nominee. Despite posting a lead in most polls, Brady narrowly lost after Pat Quinn portrayed the Republican as a socially conservative extremist. This won't be a problem in a seat this red, but Brady's defeat may have done him some damage at home. Brady cratered in the area during the 2014 primary despite facing two opponents from the Chicago area.
Yet another state senator, Jason Barickman, says he'll "consider" the race but wants to talk it over with his family first. State Rep. Mike Unes also announced on Tuesday that he's "giving it the consideration it deserves." Mark Zalcman, the Some Dude who was already challenging Schock in the primary, is staying in to the excitement of just about no one. However, Peoria City Councilman Ryan Spain quickly made it clear that he wouldn't run. Not much activity is expected on the Democratic side, though state Sen. John Sullivan's name has been mentioned. Sullivan represents a 55-43 Romney seat so he does have experience winning over conservative voters, though a higher profile congressional campaign would not be easy.
• AZ-Sen: Here's an illustration of how a state's lack of primary election runoffs can save the bacon of an incumbent who's loathed by his party's base. In a straight-up one-on-one primary challenge, Sen. John McCain runs the risk of getting edged out by someone running a tea-flavored challenge from his right. Throw more than one challenger into the mix, though, and the anti-establishment vote just gets split multiple ways, letting him win easily.
And that's potentially what's happening in the Republican primary in Arizona, where state Sen. Kelli Ward has been making a push to raise her profile ahead of a possible run against McCain: She's reaching out to the right-o-sphere, pushing a flurry of red-meat legislation, and even having her supporters start a super PAC on her behalf. Mindful of that potential clown-car problem, a stronger challenger—namely, Rep. Matt Salmon, now sounds less likely to enter the race.
Salmon would have the name recognition and the support from D.C. anti-establishment groups like the Club for Growth, to have at least a plausible shot against McCain in a one-on-one fight. Salmon represents a Mesa-area seat and may be dimly remembered statewide from losing the 2002 gubernatorial race, while Ward isn't well-known outside of smallish Lake Havasu City (which is still part of the Phoenix media market, but is on the state's periphery). So if Salmon runs, McCain might get saved by the clown car, and if he doesn't, then fear of the clown car could be what keeps McCain in the Senate.
• FL-Sen: The Democratic field in the Florida Senate race (either against Marco Rubio, or for an open seat, if he goes all-in on a presidential bid) got clearer on Tuesday, with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz confirming that she'll run for re-election to her House seat instead of rolling the dice on a promotion. Wasserman Schultz floated a trial balloon in February, but that was quickly punctured by a wave of terrible press after big donor John Morgan leaked embarrassing e-mails in which she offered to flip-flop on her opposition to medical marijuana in exchange for his support. The DWS boomlet, such as it was, died down in a hurry after that.
With ex-Gov. Charlie Crist also taking a pass on the Senate race this week, that leaves Rep. Patrick Murphy in pole position for the Democratic Party nomination. Rep. Alan Grayson has also expressed interest in the Senate primary, and in fact reiterated on Tuesday that he'd be more likely to run with Wasserman Schultz out of the picture. But with an ongoing bigamy trial against his estranged wife, his mind may be elsewhere for the time being.
As for a Republican replacement for Rubio, don't look for Rep. Tom Rooney. He says he's not going to run in 2016, but he is interested in a Senate bid in 2018, when incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will be up again (though the septuagenarian Nelson is a retirement possibility). Rooney did tout his fellow GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis for next year, though.
• IL-Sen: Rep. Bill Foster is one of the Illinois House members who always gets mentioned in relation to the Democratic nomination to go against Mark Kirk in 2016, but he actually hadn't done anything more than refuse to rule out the race in December—until now. Foster issued a statement on Tuesday saying that he's "seriously considering" a bid, as well as tearing into Kirk's decision to sign on to the Tom Cotton letter to Iran.
Kirk was quick to respond to Foster's statement of interest, responding with the same bluff bravado (or hubris?) that he did earlier when Rep. Tammy Duckworth also expressed her interest.
"I very much look forward to a Foster candidacy," Kirk told reporters when asked by The Washington Post about Foster's statement earlier in the day saying that he was "seriously considering" challenging Kirk. "I would welcome him coming in because I know I would beat him soundly."
For all his bluster, Kirk is taking the race seriously and has kicked his fundraising operations into high gear
, pulling in $200,000 in one night on Monday at an event with new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The show of force, however, may be just as oriented toward warding off potential primary challengers (like ex-Rep. Joe Walsh) as well as Democratic opponents.
Foster, incidentally, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress and could certainly self-fund, but this race is a high-enough priority that any top-tier Democratic nominee will receive adequate financing.
• MD-Sen: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has been publicly mulling a campaign for the Democratic nomination for this open seat. However, BuzzFeed's Darren Sands reports that while Rawlings-Blake hasn't closed the door on this contest, she's looking a lot less interested than she was even a few days ago. According to unnamed sources close to the mayor, she's very unlikely to run unless she has the financial commitments she thinks she'll need, or a big-name endorsement (she seems to have former Gov. Martin O'Malley in mind). Rawlings-Blake is up for re-election as mayor in 2016, so she may decide to keep her post and then seek the governorship in 2018 rather than risk her current job.
If Rawlings-Blake stays out, that could be good news for some of her would-be primary foes. Rep. Elijah Cummings has been talking about jumping in, and he'd rather not compete with another African-American from Baltimore in what could be a crowded primary. Rep. Donna Edwards is already running and EMILY's List is reportedly talking to both her and Rawlings-Blake. EMILY's endorsement would bring some useful outside spending with it, and Edwards would benefit if she earned their backing. However, EMILY supposedly to prefer Rawlings-Blake to Edwards, and they've apparently still trying to woo her into the race.
• FL-18: All signs are pointing to a Senate bid for Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, and one unconfirmed report even says he'll launch his campaign next week, so the Great Mentioner is already hard at work when it comes to replacements. Interest in this swingy coastal seat is sure to be high on both sides: On paper, the 18th District leans to the right (it went for Romney 51-48), but factor in a presidential race plus the possibility of Murphy at the top of the ticket and Democrats will be keen, too.
For the GOP, some possibilities include state Reps. Gayle Harrell and Pat Rooney, Jr. (the brother of FL-17 Rep. Tom Rooney); Stephen Leighton, a former district director for Tom Rooney; Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron (the wife of state Sen. Joe Negron); Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith; St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery; businessman Gary Uber; and former state Rep. Carl Domino, the hapless 2014 nominee. Uber and Mowery sound the most likely in the early going; Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, meanwhile, just took a pass.
The Democratic bench is smaller but by no means barren. Among the top options are Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, state Sen. Jeff Clemens, and state Rep. Dave Kerner, who says he has plans to meet with the DCCC. One Democrat has also suggested he's a no, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, though he didn't formally rule it out. An open seat would be tough for Democrats to hold, but it's by no means impossible.
• IL-10: Ex-Rep. Brad Schneider seems to have settled on a third-straight matchup against Rep. Bob Dold, stating last week that he was "all but decided" on a rematch. Assuming he runs, though, he'll have some company in the Democratic primary: Nancy Rotering, the mayor since 2011 of Highland Park (pop. 30,000), said on Tuesday that she's "definitely running." The primary could get expensive, but given the district's 58 Obama-41 Romney configuration, it's a prime opportunity in a presidential election year for whoever emerges from the primary.
While the DCCC seems to prefer Schneider, Rotering has some major backers within the local Democratic establishment: she has the support of former Chicago Inspector General (and 2010 Senate candidate) David Hoffman, plus two names familiar from previous losing efforts in IL-10: three-time nominee Dan Seals and ex-state Rep. Julie Hamos. However, Rotering still have an uphill effort in the primary, given Schneider's name recognition advantage. Schneider's camp shared some toplines from a Normington Petts poll conducted last week that gives their guy a 56-12 edge over Rotering in a primary. Schneider also has 88 percent name identification while Rotering has 25 percent.
• NC-03: GOP Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. will have to fight the Law and win if he wants to stick around in the House for another term. Thirty-three-year-old Phil Law, a businessman and Marine combat veteran from the Iraq war, announced that he'll run against Jones in the 2016 Republican primary.
Jones won a narrow 51-45 victory in the 2014 GOP primary against former George W. Bush aide Taylor Griffin (who is considering a rematch), so the iconoclastic Jones is at least somewhat vulnerable against well-funded opponents. It remains to be seen, however, whether Law has the same access to money (he's characterized as being "active in Onslow County politics," though that could mean anything). Jones is a rather slippery target for an establishment challenge, though, since—as someone partially aligned with the party's Paulist wing but also one of the few pro-minimum wage, pro-children's health insurance GOPers—he's simultaneously to the left and to the right of the median Republican.
• Nashville Mayor: Several wealthy candidates are seeking this open seat, and it was only a matter of time before one of them announced a big ad buy. Attorney Charles Robert Bone has reserved $923,000 in airtime from now until the August 6 non-partisan primary, and he's out with his first spot. This being Music City, it unsurprisingly features the narrators singing their argument that Bone will be a mayor for the whole city. Charter school founder Jeremy Kane is also on the air with a spot emphasizing education, though his $25,000 buy is far more modest.
• Campaign Finance: Law professor Larry Lessig made some waves in the 2014 election with his "super PAC to end super PACs," Mayday PAC, and he initially outstripped his own fundraising expectations. The PAC was designed to elect candidates who would support campaign finance reforms, but that didn't pan out where it actually matters, though: the business of getting any of its preferred candidates to win their races. This week, Lessig announced that Mayday wouldn't be back, at least in the form of spending money directly on races; instead, it'll be more of a "platform ... to engage citizens as lobbyists," whatever that means.
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 Taniel.