During that brief debacle, Cheney pissed off most of Wyoming's Republican establishment when, for reasons she never articulated, she decided she'd try to oust Sen. Mike Enzi in the GOP primary. No one seemed to have any problem with Enzi, but they certainly did with Cheney, who was immediately painted as a carpetbagger who'd spent most of her life in suburban DC and had only recently moved back to her birthplace to wage an overweeningly ambitious bid for public office. After just a few months, an endless parade of bad headlines, and some ugly-looking polls, Cheney mercifully abandoned her ill-conceived project.
And it looks like she learned some important lessons, too. In announcing her newest campaign on Facebook, she did so from the quiet back-country Wyoming town of Alexandria, Virginia:
Whoops! Let's see if Cheney gets dinged for this by any of her primary opponents, a groups that so far includes state Sen. Leland Christensen and state Rep. Tim Stubson. But we still have a fair bit of time before Wyoming's Aug. 16 primary, so others may yet join—particularly since Cheney looks no more intimidating now than she did last time around.
● 4Q Fundraising:
Be sure to check out our complete fourth quarter Senate fundraising chart, and look for our big House chart this coming week.
● CA-Sen: Loretta Sanchez (D): $2.1 million cash-on-hand; Rocky Chavez (R): $369.00 cash-on-hand (not a typo); Tom Del Beccaro (R): $43,000 raised, $39,000 cash-on-hand; Duf Sundheim (R): $70,000 cash-on-hand
● FL-Sen: Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R): $318,000 raised; David Jolly (R): $112,000 raised
● MD-Sen: Chris Van Hollen (D): $1.14 million raised, $3.67 million cash-on-hand
● WI-Sen: Ron Johnson (R-inc): $1.6 million raised, $4.4 million cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: The Behavior Research Center is taking another look at the Arizona Senate race and they find mixed news… for John McCain! In the August GOP primary, they give the incumbent a 47-11 lead over ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward, a small change from his 41-11 edge in November. In the general, they have McCain leading Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick just 38-37, closer than his 37-31 edge a few months before.
As we've noted before, the Behavior Research Center isn't an incredibly impressive pollster. The group doesn't release numbers very often, and they infamously gave Obama a 42-40 lead in 2012, weeks before he lost the state 53-44. Unfortunately, general election polling has been scarce here. Strategies 360 gave McCain a very different 51-36 lead in December, and it's been months since anyone else has weighed in.
● CO-Sen, Gov: While GOP state Sen. Ray Scott expressed interest in taking on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet a few months ago, he says the crowded Republican field has convinced him not to go for it. However, Scott says he's mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid instead.
● MD-Sen: The year has been forgotten. It has been millennia since Earth's sun burned out for the last time. Humanity long ago left the Milky Way galaxy behind and evolved beyond our corporeal bodies. However, one ball of pure glowing energy, known only as Elijah, has told the assembled other balls of pure energy, "You know what? I'm not going to run for the United States Senate in 2016."
Ok, that's a slight exaggeration. However, on Monday, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings—who literally kept us waiting on his decision for a full year—told Politico that he would seek re-election to the House rather than run for the Senate. Cummings' decision seems to have been made very recently, since his spokesman also said on Monday that the congressman would "file—for something." The filing deadline is Wednesday, and unless there's a massive last-minute surprise (or the sun goes nova a few hundred million years ahead of schedule), the Democratic primary will remain a two-person race between Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen. The winner should have little trouble in November in this blue state.
● OH-Sen: Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld has one good line of attack against ex-Gov. Ted Strickland in the March 15 Democratic primary: guns. Sittenfeld has spent months arguing that Strickland has been too close to the NRA, and he's insisting that Strickland doesn't really support stricter gun laws. Sittenfeld doesn't have much money available but he's getting some air support from New Leadership for Ohio, a super PAC that was set up to help him. The group is launching a $700,000 ad buy that will run from Feb. 13 to the end of the month.
New Leadership for Ohio's minute-long spot has been online for a while, and let's just say the production values are not impressive. However, the message is good: It starts with a March radio interview where Strickland brags about his favorable rating from the NRA and vote against the Assault Weapons ban. The narrator then argues that Strickland and Republican Sen. Rob Portman, the man both Democrats want to unseat, have very similar records on guns. The spot only briefly mentions Sittenfeld at the end.
Even with this commercial, Sittenfeld needs a lot to go right if he's going to have a chance to win Team Blue's nomination. A recent PPP for the Ohio Democratic Party gave Strickland, the favorite candidate of the Democratic establishment, a dominant 61-10 lead, while Some Dude Kelli Prather also takes 10. There haven't been any other recent public polls; while it's possible Sittenfeld has better numbers, the little-known councilman is still probably badly trailing in any case.
However, this is the first time anyone's spent any real money hitting Strickland this cycle and Sittenfeld's allies could at least draw some blood. Strickland only has $2 million in the bank and any cash he needs to spend on Sittenfeld is money he won't have against the very well-funded Portman. Republicans also won't complain if Strickland tacks to the left and loses his crossover appeal with the rural voters he used to represent in the House.
P.S. If you're wondering how New Leadership for Ohio was able to raise so much money when Sittenfeld has struggled to bring in cash, you're not alone. However, the super PAC is apparently not getting a boost from Republicans looking to create some chaos; rather, as Deirdre Shesgreen of Gannett shows, all of the group's major donors appear to be Democrats.
● PA-Sen: Democratic establishment favorite Katie McGinty has been talking plenty of labor endorsements, and the state SEIU just got behind her as well.
● WV-Gov: Filing closed over the weekend for West Virginia's May 10 primary, and the state has a list of candidates here.
There were no surprises in the open seat gubernatorial contest. Democrats have a three-way primary between coal billionaire Jim Justice, ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler. Justice, who has been running ads for months, also got an endorsement on Monday from ex-Gov. Gaston Caperton. Caperton left office in 1997 and spent years leading the College Board, which is in charge of the AP test, making him the bane of high school students across America.
On the GOP side, state Senate President Bill Cole, a wealthy auto dealer, faces no primary opposition. West Virginia hasn't elected a GOP governor since 1996 but the state has been moving Team Red's way for years, and Daily Kos Elections rates the general election as Lean Republican.
● IN-03: Indiana's filing deadline is Friday, but one candidate is jumping in at the eleventh hour. Former Allen County Councilor Kevin Howell, a veteran who used to be an aide for departing Rep. Marlin Stutzman, is seeking this safely red Fort Wayne-area seat. Howell is going to have a tough time carving out a niche ahead of the May primary: State Sen. Jim Banks has the support of influential anti-establishment groups, while farmer Kip Tom also has plenty of money to spend; state Sen. Liz Brown is also in the mix, though she doesn't have either Banks or Tom's resources.
● NY-19: We'll have a Democratic primary in this Hudson Valley swing seat after all. Town of Livingston Councilman Will Yandik, who also runs a farm, has announced that he'll run here even though law professor Zephyr Teachout has the support of the district's county party chairs.
Yandik used to serve as an advisor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who represented much of this area in the House before she was appointed to the Senate, so he may have some good connections. (Correction: Yandik was never a Gillibrand advisor.) However, Livingston is a very small town, so he won't start out with much name recognition. And while some Democratic activists speak highly of Yandik, Roll Call reported recently that "other Democrats question how much Yandik's town council service really prepares him for a district-wide run." While Teachout only moved to this area in the last year and still has an apartment in New York City, Yandik is a local, which could give him an edge in the primary.
We'll need to see if Yandik, or Teachout for that matter, has what it takes to win in a swingy but ancestrally GOP area like this. Team Red has a competitive primary of their own between ex-Assembly Minority Leader John Faso and businessman Andrew Heaney, both of whom have proved that they can raise a credible amount of money. A third Republican, farmer Bob Bishop, brought in a negligible amount of cash and probably won't be much of a factor in the June primary.
● PA-07, -08: While national Democrats are supportive of pastor Bill Golderer's campaign against Rep. Pat Meehan in Pennsylvania's 7th District, local Democrats aren't so enthusiastic. In recent days, the Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery County Democratic Parties voted support 2014 nominee Mary Ellen Balchunis. Balchunis lost 62-38 last cycle and she's raised little money this time; while Golderer has a tough road ahead of him if he wants to beat Meehan, it's almost impossible to see Balchunis pulling it off.
And that national vs. local divide is even sharper in the neighboring 8th District. While plenty of area groups and politicians are supporting state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, DC Democrats have been dismayed by his fundraising and prefer businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton. Santarsiero has made it clear that he's going nowhere and over the weekend, he picked up the support of both the 8th District's county parties.
Santarsiero's fundraising has improved a bit over the last few months, though it's still not great for a competitive seat located in the expensive Philadelphia media market. From October to December, Santarsiero hauled in $200,000, while Naughton raised $302,000. As of the end of 2015, Naughton leads Santarsiero $635,000 to $422,000 in cash on hand.
● TN-08: Congress must suck even harder than we know, because the exodus of members of the Republican class of 2010 continues apace. The newest is Rep. Stephen Fincher, who bailed on Monday; his departure follows that of Rich Nugent (FL-05), Dan Benishek (MI-01), Chris Gibson (NY-19), Richard Hanna (NY-22), Scott Rigell (VA-02), Rob Hurt (VA-05), and Reid Ribble (WI-08), who only announced he was quitting on Saturday night.
Like most of the others on this list, Fincher was a political outsider who won office by picking up a Democratic-held seat, in this case a district represented by Blue Dog founder John Tanner, who retired rather than seek re-election in the face of the oncoming GOP onslaught. Tennessee's 8th was one of those areas, in fact, that hadn't sent a Republican to Congress since Reconstruction, but voters there, as they have throughout most of the South, had grown quite conservative and finally stopped splitting their tickets.
Fincher won in a landslide, but only after a nasty primary that revealed him as one of the biggest hypocrites in the Republican Party: Despite railing against government largesse, Fincher, an agribusiness kingpin, had taken millions in farm subsidies for himself. That issue re-emerged during his congressional career, when Fincher supported cutting billions in food stamps as part of a farm bill that offered yet more subsidies. Of course, in a district like this, which gave 66 percent of its vote to Mitt Romney, that brand of two-faced politics probably isn't much of an impediment.
And likewise, that deep conservatism means the GOP primary is the really race to follow. In fact, no fewer than four Republicans immediately said they'd run: radiologist George Flinn, who ran in the 2010 primary; state Sen. Brian Kelsey; Shelby County Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood; and former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, who was a George W. Bush state campaign chair. The list of other potential contenders is extremely long, but Roll Call's Simone Pathé has us covered. For what it's worth, the Democrat who lost to Fincher by 20 points, former state Sen. Roy Herron, says he's considering a bid, but it would be generous to describe his odds as long.
● TX-15: On Monday, EMILY's List endorsed Dolly Elizondo, a realtor and former Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair. Elizondo faces six primary opponents in the March 1 race for this 57-42 Obama Brownsville-area seat. None of the candidates had much time to raise money after Rep. Ruben Hinojosa announced his retirement in November and if EMILY spends big here, they could give Elizondo a huge leg up.
Right now, it looks like attorney Vicente Gonzalez would be the only candidate capable of matching EMILY on the airwaves. Gonzalez loaned his campaign $750,000, giving him a hefty $524,000 on hand. None of the other contenders, including Elizondo, had so much as $50,000 on hand at the end of the year. However, Edinburg School Board member Sonny Palacios and Ex-Hidalgo County Commissioner Joel Quintanilla may have enough name recognition and connections to do well. If no one takes a majority in March, there will be a runoff in May.
● WI-08: Republican Rep. Reid Ribble announced over the weekend that he'd retire from this 51-48 Romney seat, and there are plenty of people from each party who could run to succeed him. Ribble's departure gives Democrats a much better shot at a pickup: With Ribble gone, this seat becomes the 12th most vulnerable Republican-held seat in the nation in our House Vulnerability Index (it was number 63 with Ribble there).
On the GOP side, state Rep. John Nygren quickly expressed interest. Nygren made news during the 2011 state Senate recalls, though not in the way he wanted. Nygren planned to challenge Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen but didn't quite collect enough valid signatures to get on the ballot: Nygren only had 398 of the 400 he needed, leaving Team Red with just a Some Dude. State Rep. David Steffen also says he'll decide over the next two weeks.
A number of other Republicans could also go for it. State Sens. Rob Cowles, Frank Lasee, and Roger Roth and ex-state Rep. Chad Weininger didn't respond to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's questions, so they're at least not shooting the idea down. Simone Pathé also puts on the legendary Roll Call Great Mentioner sorting hat and gives us a few more names. One interesting possible candidate is former Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who has been active in GOP politics. In this Green Bay-area district, a former Packer is certainly a good get on paper. Former Marine Mike Gallagher, who was Scott Walker's foreign policy advisor during his presidential campaign, and state Rep. John Macco could also be interested.
This is a seat Team Blue needs to pick up to even have an outside chance at retaking the House. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson has expressed interest; while Hansen (the state senator) says he isn't running as of now, he added that he's watching to see which Democrats get in. 2012 nominee Jamie Wall, who lost to Ribble 56-44, has also been mentioned.
● WV-02, 01, 03: All three Republican incumbents are seeking re-election in West Virginia, but only Alex Mooney in the 2nd looks at all vulnerable. Mooney only won his central West Virginia seat 47-44 in 2014, even with the GOP wave at his back. Mooney had only moved to West Virginia from Maryland in 2013 to run for Congress, and Democrats relentlessly attacked him as a carpetbagger.
Local Democrats are excited about Army lawyer Cory Simpson, but he needs to get past ex-Del. Mark Hunt in the primary first. Two other Democrats are also running here, but neither of them looks like more than a Some Dude. Mooney himself only faces a primary from Marc Savitt, who made little impression when he ran for Congress in Virginia last cycle. Romney won this seat 60-38, but Mooney isn't a particularly strong candidate and he could lose if things go right for Team Blue.
The other two seats aren't looking very interesting though. In the 1st, Republican Rep. David McKinley faces former Democratic Del. Mike Manypenny. However, while Manypenny has been running here for months, he has yet to open a campaign account with the FEC, meaning he doesn't have many pennies to spend here. (Sorry). Over in the 3rd, Rep. Evan Jenkins only faces ex-Secret Service Agent Matt Detch in the general. While outgoing Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin talked about running here back in April, he never showed any interest after that.
● NY State Senate: Contrary to earlier reports claiming that local boards of election would be unable to handle consolidating any special elections with New York's April 19 presidential primary, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indeed set specials to replace the state's two convicted former legislative leaders for that day. The election to succeed former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver on Manhattan's Lower East Side will be of interest only to Democratic insiders, but the battle for former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' seat on Long Island will be hotly contested by both parties.
And in an extremely rare move, Cuomo endorsed freshman Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, the Democratic pick, right off the bat. Cuomo has always preferred a Republican-controlled Senate and typically has withheld his backing from Democrats, or only offered a half-hearted endorsement at the last possible second. Of course, he may not plan on anything more than a press release. In fact, that's the safer bet.
Note that the timing of the election might pose a problem, too. That's because there's a greater chance that the Republican presidential race will still be ongoing at that point, while the Democrats' contest could be over by then. If so, that would juice GOP turnout. However, while Democrats landed their first choice in Kaminsky, a former prosecutor who helped convict ex-Rep. Mike Grimm, Republicans seemed to have trouble convincing any of their preferred candidates to run. In the end, they wound up with personal injury attorney Christopher McGrath, which is amusing, since Republicans always love to attack plaintiffs' lawyers.
Skelos' district was carried by Barack Obama, but New York Republicans have long excelled at holding down light-blue districts. And putting the presidential primary aside, special election turnout is rarely good for Democrats. It's also difficult to say precisely how many seats Democrats need to retake the Senate, since five turncoat members of the "Independent Democratic Conference" caucus with the GOP and might continue to do so even if Republicans wind up in the minority. But a Kaminsky victory is very possible, and it would bolster Democratic hopes for November, when the entire chamber will be up for re-election.
● Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso speaks:
Connecticut HD-121: This is an open Democratic seat located in Stratford. The candidates are Democrat Joe Gresko, a member of the Stratford Town Council, and Republican Susan Barksdale, a municipal employee. This seat went 70-30 for President Obama in 2012.
● WA State Senate: Washington's state Senate is one of the most on-a-knife's-edge of all the nation's legislative chambers; out of 49 seats, there are currently 25 Republicans, 23 Democrats, and 1 Democrat who caucuses with the GOP. However, there was already one good open-seat pickup opportunity (in SD-25 in Tacoma's suburbs, a 52 percent Obama district where Bruce Dammeier is retiring), and now there's another one: Don Benton is finally retiring.
The socially conservative Benton has held down SD-17 since 1996; it's a 49 percent Obama district in Vancouver's suburbs, so it's far from a slam-dunk, but Benton was facing a rematch with former Democratic state Rep. Tim Probst, who lost by only 76 votes to Benton in 2012. With two pickups (and holding potentially vulnerable SD-05), Senate Democrats would have a Tim Sheldon-proof majority.
● VA Redistricting: In another win for Democrats, the Supreme Court declined a Republican request to stop Virginia's new court-ordered congressional map from going into effect this year. As a result, elections will proceed under new lines that will almost certainly result in the 4th District turning from red to blue. A separate GOP appeal attacking the map on the merits is still pending before the SCOTUS, with oral arguments scheduled for March and a decision likely in June. However, Monday's ruling does not augur well for Republicans.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and Stephen Wolf.