Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee
• WA-Gov, Sen: Washington's Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee only won a narrow victory when he was first elected in 2012. However, Public Policy Polling suggests he'll have an easier time when he runs for re-election, even if it's a rematch against ex-Attorney General Rob McKenna. Inslee sports a 41-42 job approval, consistent with an uneventful first few years and an improving economy; his strength in head-to-head matchups seems more about the fact that the Republicans don't have any top-tier options who seem interested in challenging him.
• 46-34 vs. Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant
• 45-31 vs. state Sen. Andy Hill
• 43-38 vs. ex-Attorney General/2012 opponent Rob McKenna
• 45-34 vs. Rep. Dave Reichert
The only potential opponent who comes within single digits is McKenna, who seemed like he was interested in a rematch right after the 2012 election but lately has seemed unenthusiastic in re-emerging from the private sector. The only candidate who has actually declared, Bryant, trails by 11, and that's not purely an artifact of Bryant being almost completely unknown. You can see that Inslee polls at 43 against McKenna but at 46 against Bryant, so McKenna's presence seems to change a few minds.
What's perhaps most surprising is that Dave Reichert, long considered the best option on the GOP's bench for a statewide run (an option he never exercises, preferring to keep his House seat, which got much safer after redistricting), performs closer in line with the nobodies than with McKenna. You can also see that in PPP's poll of Washington's 2016 Senate race, where he's also down by double digits against Patty Murray, who'll be seeking her fifth term. Perhaps some of the novelty of his "tough-guy-who's-also-moderate" shtick has worn off, as he's gotten more entrenched as a part of the national GOP's House.
• 47-37 vs. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler
• 46-41 vs. McKenna
• 48-37 vs. Reichert
• 48-35 vs. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers
While McKenna also comes within single-digits of Murray, Reichert performs about as well as Herrera Beutler. Bear in mind, though, that none of these named opponents have expressed any interest in running. McMorris Rodgers isn't going to give up her House GOP leadership slot for a suicide mission, and party elders would probably discourage Herrera Beutler from running anyway, since an open WA-03 would be at serious risk of flipping in a presidential year. Basically, any Republican with any juice would focus on the potentially-winnable gubernatorial race instead, meaning the person with the thankless task of opposing Murray will probably be either a random rich guy or a state legislator looking to build up some name rec.
Part of the unremarkable-ness of Inslee's tenure is that he and the legislature haven't really done much other than just keep the lights on (nothing big is going to happen as long as Republicans control the state Senate). Instead, the momentous changes have happened through the initiative process -- which is usually the case in the West Coast states anyway, even when one party holds the trifecta. PPP also polled the recently passed initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana, recognizing same-sex marriage, and expanding background checks on gun purchases.
They found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that voters now approve of those choices by wider margins now than the original vote. For instance, while same-sex marriage was approved by an 8-point margin, respondents now approve of it by a 56-36 margin, and 53 percent say it's had no impact on them at all. Interestingly, gun purchase background checks are even more popular than either same-sex marriage or marijuana. Respondents now approve of background checks by a 68-24 margin, and in a sample where 41 percent of respondents own guns, only 18 percent say the measure has had a negative impact on them.
• FL-Sen: GOP Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera recently said that he wouldn't make a final decision on whether or not to run until the late summer, but according to the National Journal, it's not indecision that's delaying him. Instead, Lopez-Cantera is using his time as a non-candidate to attract donors to his super PAC Reform Washington, which can raise unlimited amounts of money. Once Lopez-Cantera actually becomes a candidate he can't coordinate with the group, but right now there's nothing stopping him from working on building it up ahead of what will be an expensive race.
Jeb Bush is trying this approach in the presidential race, and a lot of politicians are going to be watching both men closely to see if it's worth trying something like this in future cycles. However, one downside is that would-be candidates can't hire campaign staff, so a long delay could cost them critical talent.
• MD-Sen: Here's an interesting bit of inside baseball that impinges on the Democratic primary for Senate in Maryland: According to a report in the New York Times, Rep. Donna Edwards joined a diverse group of fellow House members who tried to make the case to Nancy Pelosi earlier this year that Chris Van Hollen would have enough support from the caucus to succeed her as party leader, rather than Steny Hoyer, the current number two.
The lobbying effort failed, though. Pelosi reportedly refused to offer any assurances that she'd offer her own backing to Van Hollen, who then decided to run for Barbara Mikulski's open Senate seat instead. All this is trivia for junkies, of course, but as one nameless Van Hollen backer suggests to the Baltimore Sun, Edwards' criticism of Van Hollen's progressive credentials is "undermine[d]" by her support for his leadership bid. However, is this the kind of thing Van Hollen's camp will really push, though, and would voters even care? Probably not. Still, it's a rare look inside back rooms branching off the halls of power, and it shows that appearances can be very deceiving when it comes to political relationships.
• NV-Sen, 03: After initially ruling out a Senate run, Republican Rep. Joe Heck is now reportedly leaning strongly toward a bid. However, Roll Call tells us that Heck is likely to wait on finalizing his plans until Gov. Brian Sandoval has completely and utterly ruled out a campaign. Sandoval is likely to make his announcement after the legislative session ends in early June. There's little reason to expect that Sandoval will jump in, but he hasn't said no yet.
Speculation has begun to turn to who would run to succeed Heck in the swingy 3rd District. GOP state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson looks likely to go for it, and tea partying Las Vegas Councilor Bob Beers may drop down from the Senate race to this contest. Beers hasn't attracted much attention in his yearlong Senate bid, but he could draw some blood from Roberson if he can turn the spotlight on his support for Sandoval's proposed tax increases. Democrats will want to contest this seat especially if Heck leaves, but wealthy philanthropist Susie Lee just kicked off her campaign for the neighboring 4th District and there's no obvious fallback choice right now.
• DE-Gov: Democrats had been wondering why former state Attorney General Beau Biden hasn't made his 2016 plans clear, and it looks like we may have to keep waiting. On Tuesday, his father Vice President Joe Biden announced that Beau is receiving treatment at Walter Reed for an undisclosed illness. The younger Biden suffered a stroke in 2010 and had a small lesion removed in 2013.
• KY-Gov: Matt Bevin's apparent 83-vote win in Tuesday's GOP primary wasn't just one of the tightest contests we've ever seen, it was the closest major party gubernatorial primary in Kentucky history. Smart Politics takes a look at both parties' history since the early 1900s and finds that before this, the closest Republican primary was in 1991, when Rep. Larry Hopkins beat lawyer Larry Forgy by a 50.6-49.4 margin. However, Hopkins' 1,945-vote win feels like a landslide compared to the cliffhanger we just saw! Ultimately, Hopkins lost to Lt. Gov. Brereton Jones by a decisive 65-35 margin.
On the Democratic side, the closest gubernatorial primary was in 1983, when Lt. Gov. Martha Collins beat Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane 34.0-33.3, or by 4,532 votes. The tight primary didn't keep Collins from defeating former Major league Baseball player and future Sen. Jim Bunning by a 55-44 margin though.
While Attorney General Jack Conway's primary was just an afterthought compared to the messy GOP race, he did make history on Tuesday. Smart Politics reports that Conway's 79-21 margin over perennial candidate Geoff Young was the most decisive showing in any contested Democratic gubernatorial primary. Because Democrats traditionally dominated the Blue Grass State, it makes sense that they'd have plenty of up-and-comers looking for promotions. But while Team Blue still holds the state House and most statewide offices, the party rallied behind Conway in preparation for what could be a tight race.
• FL-06: Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford is about to leave office, and he seems to have his next campaign in mind. Rutherford tells First Coast Connect that he's "eyeing" this safely red open seat, and is "looking at putting a team together as we speak."
None of Jacksonville's Duval County is in the 6th, and only about one-third of the district is located in the Jacksonville media market. However, if enough Orlando-area candidates run, Rutherford might have a good shot in the GOP primary. And sure enough, former New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer is already in, and ex-Rep. Sandy Adams looks likely to take the plunge soon. However, state Sen. Travis Hutson's office has announced that he will not be joining them.
• FL-18: Palm Beach County Commissioners Priscilla Taylor and Melissa McKinlay are already facing off to succeed Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, and lawyer Jonathan Chane is reportedly considering joining them in the Democratic primary. It's often difficult to tell if these various attorneys are legit candidates or Some Dudes, but the fact that Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg is the one relaying Chane's interest makes it sound like he has some connections.
Three Republicans are already running in this Romney 52-48 seat, and they may also get some company soon. Stephen Leighton, who works in the Martin County sheriff's department, says he's interested. However, while his call for a "bipartisan, moderate representative" probably isn't going to gain much traction, he could hold back fellow Martin County moderate Rebecca Negron if he gets in.
K.C. Ingram Traylor, who has been active in opposing a proposed Miami-to-Orlando rail service, is also publicly considering, but she has her own apostasy. Traylor appeared in a spot for Murphy last year, arguing that the Democrat was "independent, like me." Something tells me that's not going to sit well with GOP primary voters.
• ME-02: Freshman Republican Bruce Poliquin will be a top Democratic target in his 53-44 Obama seat, but Team Blue knows it won't be easy to beat him. Maine's 2nd District hasn't ousted an incumbent member of Congress since 1916, and Poliquin has proven to be an incredibly good fundraiser. 2014 nominee Emily Cain, who lost to Poliquin by a 47-42 margin, is running again, but her $136,000 haul last quarter isn't scaring off one potential primary foe.
Bangor Councilor Joe Baldacci, the brother of former Gov. John Baldacci, has been mulling a campaign for a while. Last week, Baldacci released part of a mid-April PPP survey that he says shows him "in a statistical dead heat" with Poliquin. Baldacci hasn't committed to anything, but he's been meeting with local Democratic groups. But it appears we won't be seeing a rerun from former state Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson. While he has yet to rule anything out, he tells Roll Call that he's less likely to run since Cain is getting national Democratic support already. Jackson badly lost last year's primary to Cain, so it's not too surprising he doesn't have much of an appetite for another go.
• NY-01: So it turns out that Long Island Democrats will have to fight it out for the right to take on freshman GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, but the latest entrant isn't exactly a Democrat herself. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst is a member of the Independence Party who has, in the past, received the backing of the Democratic Party under New York's fusion voting rules. However, she'll have to switch her registration to run in the Democratic primary, something she says she's doing.
Venture capitalist Dave Calone, who joined the race earlier this month, took a subtle dig at Throne-Holst after she announced her bid on Wednesday, calling himself a "lifelong Democrat." It's the kind of issue that could come up in a primary, but the DCCC isn't bothered by her party switch, though, as the committee has already met with her in D.C., as has EMILY's List. (The D-Trip has met with Calone, too.) Two other candidates are also considering the race, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and former Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko.
• NY-02: Democrats would love to oust veteran GOP Rep. Peter King from his Long Island House seat, but he's held in with ox-like stubbornness for years even though his district gave 52 percent of its vote to Barack Obama. Will 2016 finally be the year that King is deposed? It would take a hell of a lot, but Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory, the chamber's presiding officer and an Army veteran, is going to give it a shot.
King has been in office since 1993 and has always won re-election handily. Even though he's quite conservative by his own admission, he's managed to carve out a reputation as a security-obsessed loudmouth who knows when to break with his party and support local interests. In other words, he knows how to appeal perfectly to worried New York suburbanites.
But lately, he's been making goofy noises about running for president—he even claims he's "50-50"!—and that's the kind of thing that never endears you to your constituents. It could also be a sign that King, who is 71, has finally gotten bored of the House. So whether he does or doesn't actually run (what a thing to type), Gregory will have the chance to make the case that the 2nd District deserves someone more engaged representing it. Add in a Hillary Clinton nomination at the top of the ticket and a surprise isn't impossible.
• CA State Senate: Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer pulled off a 55-45 win over Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in the special election to succeed Rep. Mark DeSaulnier. While both candidates are Democrats, this contest attracted $7 million worth of spending. Glazer has served a close advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, but he has a terrible relationship with labor groups, and unions spent big against him.
One major issue in the contest was whether Bay Area Rapid Transportation (BART) union workers should be allowed to strike. Glazer came down strongly against it, and he struck a chord with voters in this East Bay seat. A recent SurveyUSA poll, which gave Glazer a 45-35 lead just days before the vote, found that respondents said that BART workers should not be allowed to strike by a 60-30 margin. Two 2013 BART walkouts caused problems for local commuters, and the issue helped Republican Catherine Baker win a local Obama 58-40 Assembly seat last year. Glazer's reputation as a moderate also helped him make inroads with the seat's Republican minority, which appears to have overwhelmingly backed him against Bonilla.
• Charlotte Mayor: Republican ex-Councilor Edwin Peacock lost the 2013 race to Democrat Patrick Cannon by a respectable 53-47 margin, and he announced on Tuesday that he's trying again. Peacock should be favored against 2011 nominee Scott Stone in the GOP primary, and he may have a good chance to prevail here in November. Charlotte is a Democratic-leaning city, but Peacock's last race proved that city hall isn't out of reach for Republicans.
Peacock may not learn the identity of his opponent for a while though. Interim Mayor Dan Clodfelter, who replaced Cannon after his arrest and resignation last year, will face Councilors Michael Barnes and David Howard and former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary, and an Oct. 6 runoff will be held if no one takes more than 40 percent of the vote.
• Colorado Springs Mayor: Voters in Colorado's second-largest city went to the polls in Tuesday's runoff and to no one's surprise, former state Attorney General John Suthers defeated ex-Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace by a 68-32 margin. Suthers outpaced the moderate Makepeace by a 46-24 margin in the primary and with two conservative candidates taking most of the remaining vote, she didn't have much room to expand. Over the years, the GOP has attempted to convince Suthers to run for Senate or for governor but he's always declined, and it seems he's now found his dream job.
• Philadelphia Mayor: If you're wondering how Jim Kenney wound up winning the Democratic primary in the Philadelphia mayoral race with surprising ease, take a look at Philadelphia magazine's lengthy recap of the race, which touches on every nuance of this race. Kenney's feat initially seems surprising, since he was running against a well-known African-American state senator in a city that's plurality-black, and he was splitting the blue-collar white vote with a former district attorney with a law-and-order reputation.
Nevertheless, here's their summary of how he won:
•Large numbers of black voters were unsatisfied with [state Sen. Anthony Hardy] Williams, the only high-profile black candidate in the race. Many were looking for an alternative.
•Kenney locked up union support early — and not just the Electricians. He won the backing of the city employee unions, the teacher's union, the hospital workers union, to name just a few. These are unions with large numbers of middle-class black voters, many of whom seem to have voted for Kenney.
•He secured what proved to be a critical early endorsement from a group of influential black political leaders in Northwest Philadelphia, headed by state Rep. Dwight Evans.
On top of that, Kenney managed to position himself well with middle- and upper-middle-class whites as the most progressive candidate on issues like LGBT rights and marijuana decriminalization. And Kenney was helped along by Williams' own problems, including ineffective ads from his pro-charter school backers (who never went negative against Kenney), and a late implosion when Williams went after the city's popular police chief.
• Special Elections: Via Johnny Longtorso:
New Hampshire House, Rockingam-32: This was a Republican hold; Yvonne Dean-Bailey defeated Democrat Maureen Mann by a 52-48 margin.
Pennsylvania SD-05: Democrats easily held this seat, no doubt due in part to the mayoral primary occurring at the same time. Democrat John Sabatina Jr. defeated Republican Tim Dailey by a 76-24 margin.
The New Hampshire contest would have attracted little attention if it was held in almost any other state, but GOP presidential candidates couldn't resist the chance to wave the red flag
for party activists. Rick Perry and Carly Fiorina stumped for Dean-Bailey, a 19-year old attending college in Massachusetts. Americans for Prosperity also got involved in get-out-the-vote efforts. Romney won this seat 54-45
so Dean-Bailey's win wasn't a huge surprise in the end.
• Toledo Mayor: The special election to fill the final two years of the late Mayor Michael Collins' term is getting interesting. On Wednesday, his widow Sandy Drabik Collins announced that she would run as an independent, pledging to carry out his agenda.
Interim Democratic Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson is already running and she appears to have consolidated her party's support, but she could face another well-known Democrat. Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said this week that he's seriously thinking about another campaign, and he'll make a decision by the late summer. Finkbeiner voluntarily left office in 2009 and love him or hate him, he's not a boring guy. There will be no primary for this special election, and all the candidates will run together on one non-partisan ballot in November: The filing deadline is Sept. 4.
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.