● FL-26: Miami-area freshman Republican Carlos Curbelo will be a top Democratic target, and national Democrats tried to clear the field for businesswoman Annette Taddeo. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer even outright urged two prospective candidates, ex-Rep. Joe Garcia and businessman Andrew Korge, to stay out. Well, he was half successful. While Korge originally insisted he would run here even after Hoyer's plea, he's announced that he'll challenge state Sen. Anitere Flores instead (see our FL State Senate item below for more on that race). However, Garcia, who lost to Curbelo last cycle under the old district lines, announced that he'd run again on Wednesday.
Garcia had a number of issues during his brief tenure. Most seriously, Garcia's former campaign manager went to prison after being convicted in a 2012 voter fraud scheme. While there's no evidence that Garcia knew about it, the whole matter didn't make him look good. Garcia also made some very weird mistakes in 2014 that drew some unwanted attention. When discussing how border security creates jobs, Garcia declared that, "[w]e've proved that Communism works." Garcia was being sarcastic, but it was the wrong thing to say in a district full of Cuban American voters who don't see communism as a laughing matter.
Garcia also was caught on camera during a House Judiciary Committee appearing to pick his ear and eat what he found. Garcia claimed it was a hangnail, which isn't exactly appealing either. You can watch the video and decide for yourself… you know what, on second thought, just don't. Garcia lost his seat to Curbelo 51-49 during the GOP wave, which on the surface isn't so bad. However, gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist (who had Taddeo on his ticket as his running mate) carried the district 51-46 that same night.
Florida's congressional map was redrawn last year, and the 26th became quite a bit bluer. While Obama carried the old seat 53-46, he won the new version 55-44. Numbers like that are certainly daunting for Team Red, and even a flawed opponent like Garcia may not be enough to save Curbelo. However, this area is still friendly to local Republicans, and Curbelo has a hefty $1.5 million warchest. Taddeo had a little more than $460,000 on hand at the end of 2015, and she's going to need to spend some of it in the August primary. National Democrats will invest in this race in the fall, but they won't be happy that their preferred candidate will be distracted for the next few months.
Be sure to check out our complete fourth quarter Senate fundraising chart, and look for our big House chart later this week.
● NV-Sen: Catherine Cortez Masto (D): $1.3 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand; Joe Heck (R): $1.2 million raised, $2.9 million cash-on-hand
● ND-Gov: Wayne Stenehjem (R): $240,000 raised, $239,000 cash-on-hand; Rick Becker (R): $31,000 raised, $20,000 cash-on-hand
● AL-Sen: GOP Sen. Richard Shelby definitely seems like the type of guy who brings a hydrogen bomb to a knife fight. While influential conservative groups aren't providing primary challenger Jonathan McConnell with any outside support, Shelby is airing yet another ad. This one features a constituent, who is identified as the father of an Air Force pilot, accusing Obama of wanting to weaken the military by cutting defense spending, while praising Shelby for standing up to the president.
There is no word on the size of the buy, but Shelby can afford to spend whatever he wants. Shelby raised $1.1 million over the last three months of the year and he had $17 million on hand at the end of December, while McConnell had just $293,000 available. McConnell's team said a while ago that he raised $750,000 and lent himself another $250,000, but those numbers seem to have been grossly exaggerated. McConnell actually raised $550,000 but $255,000 of that (plus a separate $36,000 loan) was from his own wallet, and he ended up refunding $105,000 anyway.
● CA-Sen: The few polls we've seen of the June top-two primary have shown both Democratic contenders, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, easily blowing past the muddled GOP field to advance to the general election. While Harris would likely be favored over Sanchez in November, she'd have a far easier time defeating one of the Republicans in this dark blue state. A David Binder Research poll for Harris argues that Sanchez could end up taking just third place in June and missing the general: While Harris leads with 33 percent, Sanchez barely edges ex-state Republican Party Chair Tom Del Beccaro 11-9, while Assemblyman Rock Chavez and Duf Sundheim, another former party chair, take 8 and 5 respectively.
However, the Field Poll has consistently given Sanchez a much higher percentage of the vote than the 11 she takes here. It seems very unlikely that Sanchez, for all her many faults, will do anywhere near that badly. The same can't be said for the Republicans: All three contenders have minimal name recognition and almost no money. If Team Red consolidated behind one of them, that candidate may be able to pass Sanchez and take the second place general election spot in June, but that just doesn't seem to be happening.
● KY-Sen: Local man turned down for promotion, will focus on keeping current job.
● LA-Sen: Tea partying veteran Rob Maness wasn't much more than a distraction during the 2014 Senate race; while he's made some moves to cozy up to the GOP establishment since then, it's hard to see him winning this race. Still, Maness just received an endorsement from Billy Nungesser, who was sworn in as lieutenant governor last month. Nungesser is plenty conservative but he's not an enemy of the establishment: In fact, his father was an influential Republican back in the days when Louisiana barely had a Republican Party. Nungesser probably isn't moving many votes on his own, but it's worth watching to see if Maness gets more against-type endorsements.
● PA-Sen: Katie McGinty raised a credible, though not spectacular, $980,000 during the final three months of 2015, but that's gargantuan compared to her two Democratic primary rivals. 2010 nominee Joe Sestak, who is disdained by national Democrats, hasn't been bringing in much during this whole campaign, and he only hauled in $375,000 in the last quarter. Sestak got a big start over McGinty and he does lead her $2.6 million to $1.2 million in cash on hand. However, McGinty has the support of a number of influential Democrats and labor groups, which could make all the difference in the April primary.
This was Braddock Mayor John Fetterman's first full quarter in the race, and we wondered if he'd have the resources to advertise in an expensive state like Pennsylvania. The answer is no: Fetterman brought in only $158,000, and he has just $132,000 on hand. Fetterman doesn't have the name-recognition of Sestak or the connections that McGinty has. While he's the only Western Pennsylvanian in the primary, it may just not matter if he can't get his name out.
Whoever emerges with the Democratic nod will need to take on Republican incumbent Pat Toomey. While Pennsylvania leans blue, Toomey has worked hard to ditch his old image as a true conservative and carve out a reputation as a moderate. Toomey brought in $1.9 million over the last quarter, and he has a scary $9.6 million in the bank. This seat is a major Democratic target and the eventual nominee should have plenty of outside support, but Toomey isn't going to go down without a big fight.
● CA-46: Most of the Southern California Democratic House members who have taken a side in this race have backed ex-state Sen. Lou Correa. However, Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen has unveiled an endorsement from Rep. Judy Chu.
It's unlikely that Chu, who hails from the other side of the Los Angeles area, has much pull in this Orange County seat. However, if Chu helps Nguyen raise money, he certainly won't complain. As of the end of the year, Nguyen has just $43,000 on hand. Nguyen's two Democratic foes both have more cash than him, though they're not exactly rolling in dough either. Correa has $252,000 in the bank, while ex-state Sen. Joe Dunn has $176,000.
None of that money will buy much airtime in the expensive Los Angeles media market and if this race comes down to name recognition, Correa will benefit. Correa represented three-quarters of this district in the legislature until the end of 2014; while Dunn held that same Senate seat, he's been out of office since 2006. Most of Garden Grove is in a neighboring congressional district, which doesn't help Nguyen. The top-two primary is in June for this safely blue seat.
● IL-10: Sen. Dick Durbin threw his support behind Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering in the Democratic primary a few weeks ago, and he's now staring in a TV ad for her. Durbin promotes Rotering's record fighting the NRA, before Rotering decries how Congress has done nothing to pass stricter gun laws after mass shootings. The ad only briefly mentions ex-Rep. Brad Schneider, who is facing Rotering in the March 15 primary, and GOP Rep. Bob Dold!.
There's no word on the size of the buy. However, Rotering has about $930,000 in the bank thanks in part to self-funding, so she can afford to air ads in the expensive Chicago market. It's certainly in Rotering's best interest to make sure voters see this spot, since it's a good one. Durbin's presence definitely helps get the viewer's attention, and having him there to vouch for Rotering is effective. But the ad makers also do a good job zeroing in on one issue Democratic voters care about. A lot of commercials try and throw a lot of talking points in only 30 seconds, making it difficult for the audience to remember anything. But by focusing on just guns, Rotering makes it a lot easier for the viewer to identify her with one important issue.
● LA-04: On Wednesday, cardiologist Trey Baucum kicked off his bid for this conservative North Louisiana seat. Baucum, a Republican, comes from a well-known family and he's served as emcee at local Mardi Gras celebrations, which is not a small thing in Louisiana.
Besides ex-state Sen. Elbert Guillory, who ran a weak lieutenant governor campaign last year, Baucum is the first Republican to enter the race for this open seat. However, he's unlikely to be the last. LaPolitics' Jeremy Alford says that state Rep. Mike Johnson is "all geared up to run," and state Rep. Jim Morris and Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation President Rocky Rockett have also expressed interest. Alford also mentions businessman Mike Reese and Shreveport Councilor Oliver Jenkins as possible candidates. A few Democrats have kept their names in contention, but it won't be easy to win this 59-40 Romney seat.
● NJ-07: Rep. Leonard Lance only beat perennial candidate David Larsen 54-46 margin in the 2014 GOP primary, and Larsen announced that he'd run again a little while ago. While Larsen barely spent any money that year, he's loaned himself a little more than $200,000 for this campaign. That amount isn't going to buy too much TV time in the ultra-expensive New York media market, and it's unclear if Larsen can do more self-funding. Lance still has a $440,000 to $200,000 cash-on-hand lead, but Larsen is at least capable of putting up more of a fight in the June primary this year than he was before.
Lance has a reputation as a moderate, and Larsen is running far to his right. But 2013 Senate nominee Steve Lonegan, whom no one would ever mistake for a centrist, has given the congressman his seal of approval. Romney carried this central New Jersey seat 53-46.
● NM-02, NM-SoS: Filing closed Tuesday in New Mexico, but there aren't many federal or statewide races to watch. Democratic Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján are unopposed in the primary, and they face only minimal GOP opposition. Republican Rep. Steve Pearce is probably safe in November too, but Team Blue at least has a non-Some Dude candidate. Businesswoman Merrie Lee Soules is running: Soules only narrowly lost a primary for Public Regulation Commission last cycle and her brother is a state senator, so she may have the chops to run a credible race. Still, Democrats will need a lot of luck to flip this 52-45 Romney southern New Mexico seat.
New Mexico normally holds all its statewide races in mid-term years, but we have a special election for secretary of state. Republican Dianna Duran resigned last year as part of a plea deal on charges that she illegally gambled away her campaign funds in casinos around the state. Appointed incumbent Brad Winter isn't running to fill the final two years of Duran's term; the GOP is instead fielding state Rep. Nora Espinoza. Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who serves as Bernalillo County clerk, narrowly lost to Duran in 2014, and she's running again.
Democrats will also try to retake the state House this year. The GOP won control of the chamber in 2014 for the first time since the 1950s, but their 37-33 edge is far from secure. The entire state Senate is also up, and Team Blue is defending their 24-18 majority.
● WI-08: Another Democrat is expressing interest in this open 51-48 Romney northeast Wisconsin seat. Ex-state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber says she's looking at the field and wants Team Blue to have the best candidate. Bernard Schaber ran for state Senate in a swing district last cycle and lost to Republican Roger Roth 57-43. However, Scott Walker carried the Senate district by a similar margin that year, so it's hard to hold Bernard Schaber's defeat against her. Roth himself mulled running for Congress, but he's announced that he won't go for it.
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson is considering running and he seems to be at the top of Team Blue's wish list; restaurateur Lars Johnson is also looking at this seat, though he sounds like he'd defer to Nelson.
● FL State Senate: By campaigning for the state Senate rather than for Congress (see our FL-26 item), businessman Andrew Korge is really doing state Democrats a solid. Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores will be running in a district that backed Obama by 5 points, but she'll be well-funded. Team Blue will need someone who can raise money and it sounds like Korge, who is the son of a prominent party fundraiser, will be able to deliver. The GOP currently holds a 26-14 majority in the state Senate and if Democrats want to make major gains, this is exactly the type of seat they need to flip.
● Special Elections: Via Johnny Longtorso:
Connecticut HD-121: No surprises this week, as Stratford Town Councilor Joe Gresko easily held on to this seat for the Democrats, defeating Republican Susan Barksdale by a 61-39 margin. Obama won this seat 70-30.
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 Stephen Wolf.