Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford will be a top GOP target in 2016
• NE-02: There are a couple warning signs on the road ahead for freshman Rep. Brad Ashford, who will be a top GOP target in a seat that Romney won 53-46. For one thing, his fundraising is off to a slow start — he says he's raised about $150,000 this year, short of his $250,000 goal for the (almost over) first quarter. That's apparently generating a lot of heartburn at the DCCC, who've named him to their Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents. Ashford's stance on fundraising, per the article, is admirable, if quaint and reeking of loser-speak:
"If I don't get re-elected because I don't toe the party line, or I don't raise enough money by the first quarter, then I don't," Ashford said. "But I don't think that's going to make a difference. I think I'll be graded on how I do."
Perhaps more importantly, though, the tension over fundraising also seems to be generating a lot of turmoil
within the office. Ashford has already lost a chief of staff and two communications directors after just two-and-a-half months in office. Roll Call
's article draws an apt comparison to Nancy Boyda, who won a similarly-red Midwestern district in 2006 thanks to an unpopular incumbent, proceeded to run a laid-back, 20th-century style "grade me on my accomplishments" type-campaign, and promptly lost re-election. Ashford is going to have a tough fight next year no matter what, but if he doesn't pick up the slack, he may very well meet the same fate as Boyda.
• FL-Sen: Republican Gov. Rick Scott seems to have stumbled across One Weird Trick that lets you win elections despite being personally unlikeable and enacting terrible policies: just dramatically outspend your opponents and run only in non-presidential years. And it looks like he might keep putting that trick to use. Scott is telling donors that he's thinking about running for the Senate ... but in 2018, where he'd face Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. While Nelson is fairly popular and was re-elected convincingly in 2012, he will be 76 in 2018, and might contemplate retirement at that point.
As for who might carry the red flag in 2016 if Sen. Marco Rubio retires to run for president, the Republicans still have a deep bench of less wealthy but also less repellent options than Scott. We've known for a while that state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater recently met with the NRSC about a potential campaign, but Politico tells us that Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera (a close personal friend of Rubio) has also been to Washington to seek support for the race. Three U.S. Reps. — Ron DeSantis, Vern Buchanan, and Curt Clawson — are also mentioned as having been approached by activists to run. DeSantis himself has been publicly mulling a bid, but Buchanan and Clawson haven't said much about their 2016 plans.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Patrick Murphy looks set to run for Senate any day now. But Rep. Alan Grayson thinks this whole "getting an early start and introducing yourself to voters and raising money for difficult race in a giant state" idea is for the birds. In comments following Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's decision not to run for Senate, Grayson demonstrated his usual obnoxiousness by referring to himself in the third person—and referring to Murphy in the zeroth person:
"The stars are certainly starting to align for a Grayson-for-Senate run," he said. "But there's time. Qualifying for this office isn't until May 2016. What do they say? Fools rush in."
When asked if he thought Murphy was a fool, Grayson demurred by saying, "Moi?"
. The fact that Grayson is enmeshed in a messy divorce battle where he's accused his estranged wife of committing bigamy surely has nothing to do with his reticence. Nor, undoubtedly, does the fact that Grayson $30 million net worth would allow him to self-fund a late bid, while Murphy will actually have to work hard to raise money himself, starting right now.
Incidentally, it's that $30 million fortune Grayson is trying to keep out of his wife's hands with this bigamy claim. If a court doesn't buy it, then Grayson could find his bank account quite a bit slimmer. So even Alan Grayson might have to hit the campaign trail and shake the money tree earlier than he might like, if he runs for Senate at all. We'll see who looks the fool then.
• SD-Sen, AL, Gov: When U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson announced last month that he'd leave his government post, South Dakota Democrats were momentarily excited that he might run against either Sen. John Thune or Rep. Kristi Noem this cycle. But alas, it's not to be. Johnson, who just joined a private law firm, just told Roll Call that he does not have "any sort of plan or interest" in seeking either office "at the moment." However, Johnson could still run for governor in 2018, when GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard will be term-limited. Given the Democrats' shallow bench in the state, he'd probably be the party's top recruit.
• OR-Gov: Republican Bud Pierce, the head of the Oregon Medical Association, is still publicly only "contemplating" a run for the 2016 gubernatorial special election. But Blue Oregon points out that his new website makes pretty clear that he's in. For one thing, it has "Bud Pierce for Governor" in the copyright footer, along with a whole lot of "Coming soon!" in the "issues" and "philosophy" sections. Most intriguing is mysterious Issue #5, which is denoted by an icon of a paper airplane.
• IL-18: The race is on to inherit soon-to-be-former Rep. Aaron Schock's Downton office. Romney won this Downstate Illinois seat 61-37, so most of the action in this special election will be in the GOP primary. State Sen. Darin LaHood, the son of former Rep. Ray LaHood, quickly announced he would run, but he probably won't have the field to himself.
However, fellow state Sen. and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady will not be on the ballot, nor will his colleague Jason Barickman. There may still be a Brady in Winterfell though (yes, I know that's the wrong show). His brother Ed Brady sounds very interested, saying, "this just seems to be the right time." Ed runs a homebuilding company so he could conceivably self-fund, but the family business has earned its share of bad headlines. State Rep. Dan Brady (no relation) is also thinking about it.
Two other Republicans are publicly considering. State Rep. Mike Unes quickly acknowledged his interest on Tuesday, and former state Rep. Jil Tracy is also taking a look at this seat. Tracy was Kirk Dillard's running mate during his 2014 gubernatorial bid, and she is capable of self-funding a campaign. State Rep. Tom Demmer has also been mentioned, but he doesn't appear to have said anything about his intentions.
Democratic optimism is not high, but there are some local politicians who could jump in. State Sen. John Sullivan has been getting some attention, and the Journal-Courier's Greg Olson also great mentions his Senate colleagues David Koehler and Andy Manar. Over at Roll Call, Emily Cahn gives us state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, Peoria city official Sonni Choi Williams, state Department of Transportation advisor Kristin Dicenso, and 2008 nominee Colleen Callahan.
P.S: Check out this encouraging quote from Schock's father.
• MD-04: Two more candidates have jumped into the race to succeed Donna Edwards in this safely blue suburban DC seat. Former Prince George's County Council Chairwoman Ingrid Turner and Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk are joining former Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey and ex-Lt. Gov and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown in the Democratic primary. There is a very deep bench here, so this field could get even larger.
• MS-01: We always knew there would be a crowded Republican contest to replace the late Alan Nunnelee, but maybe not this crowded. In the last few days, another three candidates have announced that they'll run in the May 12 special election, bringing us to 12 Republicans and one Libertarian. The most notable new arrival is probably Sam Adcock, an executive at Airbus Helicopter and a former district director for then-Sen. Trent Lott. If Adcock has some money to burn and still has some connections to Magnolia State politics, he could definitely make an impact. Adcock is making national security a centerpiece for his campaign, which may also help him stand out from the pack.
Adcock is joined by Ed Holliday, a dentist and active tea partier. If Holliday can consolidate far-right support, he might be able to advance to the June 2 runoff. However, he might have a hard time getting traction now that fellow tea partying physician Starner Jones is in. Finally, former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross is making a third bid for this seat. Ross performed poorly against Nunnelee in 2010 and 2012, so he probably shouldn't get his hopes up this time. The filing deadline is March 27, so there's time for still more candidates to join the race.
• NV-04: Jon Ralston breaks some big, and somewhat surprising, news in Nevada's 4th district, which is one of the House Democrats' best pickup opportunities in 2016. While the DCCC had been trying to convince former Rep. Steven Horsford to seek a rematch with Republican freshman Cresent Hardy, Horsford has been telling people he will not run again. Horsford himself confirmed the story on Wednesday, saying that he'll instead partner up with an advertising firm he used to work for.
This seat went for Obama by a 54-44 margin in 2012, and Democrats thought Horsford was a lock until the final weeks of the 2014 campaign. But poor turnout and heavy last minute Republican spending propelled Hardy to victory, despite his lackluster fundraising. Horsford had a reasonably clear route back to the House with presidential year turnout and probably had the right of first refusal in terms of the nomination, but his move opens the door for other Democrats.
Team Blue has a good bench in this suburban Las Vegas district, so they shouldn't have a hard time finding a candidate. Indeed, former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores quickly announced that she is "seriously considering" this race. Flores' rising star status dimmed a bit after her 59-34 loss in the 2014 lieutenant governor contest. However, Flores' poor showing may have been due more to turnout factors that were beyond her control than anything she did wrong.
Alexis Levinson of Roll Call also gives us a few other potential Democratic candidates. One familiar name is state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, an ally of Harry Reid. Kihuen ran for NV-01 in 2012, but dropped out after he failed to gain traction in the primary against eventual winner Dina Titus. We also have state Sen. Pat Spearman, Communities in Schools of Nevada Board President Susie Lee, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee (who lost his Senate seat to Spearman in a 2012 primary), and Las Vegas Councilor Ricki Barlow. We won't see a comeback from 2012 Senate nominee and former Rep. Shelley Berkley though: She quickly told Roll Call that she's not considering this contest.
• TX-19: So much for that. Back in January, Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson made noises about challenging Rep. Randy Neugebauer in the GOP primary for this dark red Panhandle seat. But in early March, Robertson announced he wouldn't go for it. Neugebauer never looked particularly vulnerable and we shouldn't expect him to have any problems from here on out.
• CA State Senate: We're poised for a big-money, business versus labor special election in California's 7th Senate district, where candidates are jostling to move up after Mark DeSaulnier vacated the seat to move to the U.S. House. The top-two primary on Tuesday night ended with two Democrats advancing, as you might expect from a dark-blue district in Contra Costa County in the Bay Area suburbs. Orinda mayor (and Jerry Brown's former campaign manager) Steve Glazer got 33 percent and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla got 25 percent, finishing ahead of ex-Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan at 23 percent and the only Republican, Michaela Hertle, at 17.
Glazer, however, touts himself as a "fiscally responsible problem solver," and has a record of taking anti-union stances, including proposing banning BART strikes when running unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 2014. Bonilla and Buchanan, on the other hand, competed for union backing, with Bonilla receiving the bulk of it. More than $2 million was spent, overall, on the primary, and that's likely to only increase ahead of the May 19 runoff.
• Chicago Mayor: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his allies have had the airwaves to themselves since the primary ended, but Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia is out with his first runoff spot. Garcia appears at a shuttered school and decries Rahm for closing down 49 others. Garcia then accuses Rahm of taking the money and sending it to elite private schools run by his donors. There's no word on the size of the buy, though Garcia's press release describes it as "substantial."
Garcia may also already have the material for his next spot too. In recent days, we've learned that the Chicago Housing Authority spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its pension and to buy government debt, rather than use the money to help the 280,000 person backlog find affordable housing. But Rahm received some better news on Wednesday, when a We Ask America poll gave him a 51-36 edge. This is the third recent survey to show the mayor with a double-digit lead.
• Houston Mayor: The entire city has been waiting breathlessly (ok, not exactly) to see if Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia will enter this year's open seat race. Garcia, a Democrat, would be a formidable contender, but he'd be required to immediately resign his post to run (the Harris County Commissioners Court is also expected to replace Garcia with a Republican, which plenty of local Democrats are not excited about). The Houston Chronicle's Theodore Schleifer reports that Garcia will in fact seek the mayor's office this November, and will make an announcement within a month. However, an anonymous source tells Schleifer that Garcia hasn't finalized his plans just yet.
• Great Mentioner: Joe Sestak narrowly lost his 2010 race to Republican Pat Toomey in the midst of the GOP wave, and it's not surprising that he's seeking a rematch. However, many Democratic power players are frantically searching for someone to challenge Sestak in the primary. While even Sestak's detractors acknowledge that his unconventional style can be an asset, they feel he ran a disorganized campaign last time that cost them this seat. In a new Daily Kos Great Mentioner post, we look at who might oppose Sestak in the Democratic primary.
• House: With Aaron Schock's surprise departure from the House on Tuesday, we felt it was the perfect time to re-launch one of our favorite Daily Kos Elections features from cycles past: our House Open Seat Watch! So far, we already have 10 open seats in the 114th Congress, including three vacancies that will be resolved in special elections (including Schock's IL-18, of course).
But that's not all. James L. has meticulously compiled the most thorough list of potential retirements you'll find anywhere. In fact, we already have over 50 names, most of whom might run for higher office but some of whom might just bail outright. Of course, there are always surprises, so we'll be keeping this list updated all cycle long.
• WATN: This probably wasn't the sort of comeback Connecticut ex-Gov. John Rowland had in mind. He's coming back, all right ... to prison. Ten years after he was first imprisoned for accepting illegal gifts while in office, the Republican was sentenced again on Wednesday to 30 months in prison after being convicted in federal court of hiding campaign work from election officials.
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.