● Baltimore, MD Mayor: On Wednesday, literally minutes before candidate filing closed, Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson entered the crowded Democratic primary to become mayor of Baltimore. Mckesson gained prominence during the Ferguson protests in 2014, and he's utilized social media to get his message out. (Hillary Clinton notably called him a "social media emperor.") Mckesson, who is originally from Baltimore, was active in the demonstrations that followed after Freddie Gray died in police custody. Mckesson recently moved back to the city from the Midwest a few months ago.
The Democratic primary is April 26, and Mckesson faces plenty of competition. The best-known contender is ex-Mayor Sheila Dixon. Dixon resigned in 2009 after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families. However, some early polls show her leading the rest of the field, and she has a credible amount of money in her campaign account. Businessman David Warnock is capable of self-funding, and he has more cash available than any of his foes.
State Sen. Catherine Pugh is well financed as well, and lawyer Elizabeth Embry also has some cash to burn. City Councilman Nick Mosby, the husband of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and fellow Councilor Carl Stokes are also in, though they haven't raised too much money. Warnock and Embry are white, while Mckesson, Dixon, Pugh, Mosby, and Stokes are black: In Baltimore, African Americans outnumber whites 63-32.
Mckesson isn't going to have an easy time winning, but Baltimore's election rules could give him a lift. It only takes a simple plurality to secure the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in this very blue city. A candidate with a small but loyal group of supporters could definitely do well in a crowded field. Mckesson will need to get his campaign together very quickly, but his ties to national Black Lives Activists will help him raise money. Indeed, less than 24 hours after he entered the race, Mckesson raised $39,000. Mckesson earned national media attention when he kicked off his bid, and he probably won't struggle to get noticed.
We have a while to go until April. Most of the candidates haven’t aired many ads yet, and voters haven't begun to tune in. But Mckesson's campaign adds a jolt to what was already shaping up to be a competitive race.
● LA-Sen: On Thursday, attorney Caroline Fayard became the first notable Democratic candidate to kick off a bid for this open seat. Fayard comes from an influential political family, and she raised a respectable amount of money for her 2010 lieutenant governor campaign. Fayard lost 57-43, but few Democrats seemed to hold her defeat against her in what was an awful year for the party.
Fayard considered running for governor or secretary of state the next year, but she stayed off the ballot. Fayard did make some news during 2011, and not in a good way. Fayard declared that she "hates Republicans" because they are "cruel" and "eat their young," a very reckless thing to say in a red state. She tried to do some damage control by declaring she didn't support President Obama, which only seemed like a good way to alienate Democratic voters too. This campaign will be a good test to see if Fayard has become more disciplined since then.
It will be very difficult for Team Blue to win a federal race in Louisiana. However, John Bel Edwards' decisive victory in last year's gubernatorial race has other Democrats at least mulling a long-shot bid here. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell; state Rep. Robert Johnson; state Sen. Eric LaFleur; businessman Josh Pellerin; Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy; and state Sen. Gary Smith have all expressed interest over the last few months. The GOP already has a crowded contest between Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming, state Treasurer John Kennedy, and tea partying veteran Rob Maness, and a number of other notable Republicans are also considering getting in.
The filing deadline isn't until July 22, and races often develop late in Louisiana. All the candidates will compete one on ballot in November and, in the very likely event that no one takes a majority, the top two vote-getters will face off in a December runoff.
● MD-Sen: Filing closed Wednesday for Maryland's April 26 primary, and the state has a list of candidates available here. The Democratic field to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski is finally settled, and it looks like it's looked for almost a year. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards are the only two notable candidates to file: Both hail from the DC area and they are each focusing on improving their name recognition around Baltimore. Labor has been divided in the campaign, and two groups sided with Edwards this week. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 and UNITE HERE together represent 50,000 workers.
The Republicans actually have two non-Some Dude candidates: former gubernatorial aide Chrys Kefalas and state House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga. However, there's very little chance at a GOP upset in this deep blue state in a presidential year.
● OH-Sen: The pro-P.G. Sittenfeld super PAC New Leadership for Ohio recently announced that they'd spend $700,000 in February to help the Cincinnati councilor overcome ex-Gov. Ted Strickland in the March Democratic primary, and they're out with a new spot. Unsurprisingly, the ad goes after Strickland on guns. While the first portion of the commercial praises Sittenfeld as someone who will stand up to the NRA, the second part makes use of a 2015 radio interview where Strickland brags about his A+ NRA rating. During the Strickland half, a gun with Strickland's face on it ominously appears on screen.
● FL-10: Former Orlando police chief Val Deming has apparently hired Global Strategy Group as her pollster, but in what is presumably an effort to save money, GSG in turn commissioned Public Policy Polling to survey the Democratic primary in Florida's redrawn (and now solidly blue) 10th Congressional District. GSG is a traditional live-interview telephone pollster. PPP on the other hand, as Digest readers know, uses so-called interactive voice response technology to conduct its polls, often referred to as "robopolling," which is much cheaper. While you can generally do much more in-depth message-testing with a traditional poll, a robopoll is a good, inexpensive way to make a point to donors, activists, and power players.
And that's exactly what Demings is trying to do here, since PPP shows her with a wide 44-24 lead over state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, while former state party chair Bob Poe is a distant third with just 7 percent. Demings also has endorsements from Nancy Pelosi and EMILY's List, and she led the pack in fundraising this past quarter, so this poll might also be aimed at her opponents, with the message "Don't bother trying."
But there's still plenty of time for things to change, especially since Poe seems to have some personal wealth and says he loaned his campaign $265,000. And while he starts off little-known, he's both the only white candidate and only man running, so even though this district is heavily minority, Poe has a path to victory if Demings and Thompson fight over a similar portion of the electorate and wind up splitting it.
● FL-18: Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor startled (and dismayed) some local Democrats when she unexpectedly jumped into the race to succeed Rep. Patrick Murphy, but now she's bowing out and will seek re-election instead. Taylor, who brought in just $40,000 in the most recent quarter, said she felt she would "not be able to raise the funds necessary to run a successful congressional campaign" and complained that "these types of elections are driven more by who raises the most money than by who has the most qualifications or experience."
That's a barely veiled shot at wealthy businessman Randy Perkins, who only joined the Democratic Party late last year but pulled in a hefty $428,000 from donors last quarter and also self-funded another $1 million. Just a couple of months ago, Melissa McKinlay, another Palm Beach County commissioner (and one of the folks unhappy about Taylor's surprise bid), also quit the contest for the same reason. However, Perkins doesn't have the race to himself: He still faces attorney Jonathan Chane, though Perkins has a huge $1.4 million to $290,000 cash-on-hand edge.
● MD-01: After flirting with a Senate bid, Republican Rep. Andy Harris is seeking another term in this safely red seat. Harris faces a primary challenge from ex-Del. Mike Smigiel. Smigiel has been trying to make Harris' opposition to legalizing marijuana an issue, but he has almost no money to spend. Smigiel recently released a Gravis Marketing poll that appeared to show him badly beating Harris, but that was only after a barrage of negative questions about Harris and positive questions about Smigiel were asked. Needless to say, a Smigiel upset is incredibly unlikely.
● MD-04: What initially looked like a crowded primary for this safely blue suburban DC seat has turned into a three-way race. Ex-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown starts out with plenty of name recognition from his unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial bid. However, Brown has struggled to raise money and both his Democratic primary foes, ex-Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, are arguing that they have a path to victory in April. Last week, Ivey's campaign released a poll showing Brown only leading him 34-30, with Peña-Melnyk taking just 9. Peña-Melnyk's camp is pushing back with a GBA Strategies survey showing her competitive.
Peña-Melnyk's poll still gives Brown the lead with 21 percent of the vote. However, Peña-Melnyk isn't too far behind with 17 percent, while Ivey takes 15. It's still a good sign for Brown that both his opponents show him winning, but both Ivey and Peña-Melnyk may have a better chance to expand their support. As of the end of 2015, Ivey had far more money than either of his opponents: Ivey has $527,000 on hand, while Peña-Melnyk and Brown have $378,000 and $269,000 respectively. Peña-Melnyk does have the support of EMILY's List: If they spend big for her, they could make a huge difference. Of course, we can't count out Brown. While many Democrats are still angry with him for losing last cycle, he only needs a plurality to win in April.
● MD-06: Democratic Rep. John Delaney never bothered to announce that he wouldn't run for the Senate, but he's taken his name out of contention by filing for re-election. Delaney only won 50-48 last cycle during the GOP wave, but this Obama 55-43 suburban DC seat probably isn't going anywhere in a presidential cycle.
A few notable Republicans have filed, and the most interesting is Amie Hoeber, a former deputy undersecretary of the Army. Hoeber is married to Qualcomm executive Mark Epstein, and he pledged to finance a super PAC for her. And sure enough, Epstein has already thrown $300,000 into a group called Maryland USA, which has been airing ads for Hoeber.
Hoeber herself had $201,000 in the bank at the end of the year, and she says she can do some self-funding. Hoeber faces two elected officials, Del. Dave Vogt and Washington County Commissioner Terry Baker, in the primary, but neither of them have much money or outside support. It's hard to see Delaney losing this year, and he can also self-fund if he feels threatened, but this race is worth keeping an eye on just in case.
● MD-08: We have a crowded race in this safely blue suburban DC seat. Until earlier this month, local observers said that the two frontrunners were Kathleen Matthews, a former local TV anchor and Marriott executive (she's also married to cable news blowhard Chris Matthews), and state Sen. Jamie Raskin.
However, rich guy David Trone recently jumped in and has already started spending big. Trone hasn't attracted particularly good headlines: He explained away $150,000 worth of donations to Republican candidates with, "I sign my checks to buy access," and he fired three members of his team for spying on Matthews and Raskin's campaigns. But in a crowded race, you can't count out someone with Trone's wallet.
A number of other candidates are in. Most notably, we have Dels. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutierrez, and former Obama administration officials Will Jawando and Joel Rubin. None of them have anywhere near the money that Matthews, Raskin, and Trone bring to the table, but they can't be discounted.
● NJ-03: Democrats have had no luck recruiting a candidate against freshman Republican Tom MacArthur, and the April 4 filing deadline isn't too far away. Politico's Matt Friedman reports that the DCCC is trying to recruit Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, but there's no indication which way Lampitt is leaning.
Whoever steps into the ring with MacArthur isn't going to have an easy time. While Obama carried this South Jersey district 52-47, it's still very friendly to Republicans downballot. The seat is split between the very expensive New York and Philadelphia media markets, and anyone who wants to win here will need to spend a ton of money. MacArthur is wealthy, but his eventual Democratic foe may not be so lucky. Lampitt's entire legislative seat is in the neighboring 1st Congressional District, so she wouldn't start out with much initial name recognition. But if Team Blue wants to retake the House anytime soon, this is one of the seats they need, and it's not like potential candidates are clamoring to take on MacArthur.
● PA-06: Despite claims late last year that Mike Parrish's brief political career was dead, it sure doesn't look like anyone's preparing for a funeral. Parrish, a businessman, Army vet, and Republican-turned-Democrat, just announced the backing of former Gov. Ed Rendell and a whole boatload of local elected officials, which follows recent endorsements from the Chester and Montgomery County Democratic Parties.
This comes in spite of a December report in Roll Call that claimed exasperated national Democrats had given up on Parrish thanks to his weak fundraising. That certainly hasn't changed: Parrish took in just $40,000 in the fourth quarter, following a crummy $29,000 in the third. That's left the door open for 25-year-old Lindy Li, who doesn't have many accomplishments to her name but at least is somewhat better at raising money ($144,000 in the last quarter).
But while Democrats in DC might prefer Li, locals seem to be having none of it and would rather stick with Parrish, whatever his flaws. This is a very familiar sort of split, one we've seen repeatedly this cycle in many different races. National operatives may roll their eyes at candidates who suck at raising money and scoff at the local activists who support these candidates, but it does no one, except Republicans, any good when Democrats are divided. Engaging in a little outreach to bridge these divides is never a bad idea.
● TN-08: Six Republicans are already running for this conservative West Tennessee seat, but physician Ron Kirkland will not be among them. Kirkland ran here in 2010 and lost the primary 48-24 to Stephen Fincher, who is retiring.
● Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections' massive fourth quarter House fundraising chart is now available. We have listings for over 330 candidates ranging from longshots to top-tier battles, with plenty of hotly contested primaries thrown in as well. You won't find a more comprehensive—and more succinct—roundup anywhere else. Also be sure to check out our complete fourth quarter Senate fundraising chart.
There are plenty of candidate hauls (or lack thereof) worth noting, and we'll be detailing our observations in future digests. The race for Iowa's swingy 3rd District is looking potentially interesting. Freshman Republican David Young easily won last cycle, but he can't rest easy in a central Iowa seat that Obama carried 51-47. Young hasn't been raising much money though: He only brought in $170,000 in the fourth quarter, and while he has a decent $782,000 on hand, that warchest is a lot smaller than some of his other vulnerable House freshmen.
The Democrats have a fight between veteran Jim Mowrer, who ran in the 4th last cycle, and rich guy Mike Sherzan. Sherzan only entered the race in December but, thanks to a loan, he only trails Mowrer $240,000 to $220,000 in cash on hand. A third candidate, Desmund Adams, continues to bring in very little. Things could get complicated if ex-Gov. Chet Culver runs, but that's a big if.
The open Michigan's 1st is another Democratic target. Romney carried this northern Michigan seat 54-45, but it is still is friendly to Democrats downballot. Former state party head Lon Johnson has a reputation for strong fundraising and once again, he didn't disappoint: He hauled in $274,000, and he has $484,000 on hand. Johnson needs to get past 2014 nominee Jerry Cannon first, but Cannon only has $5,000 to spend. On the GOP side, state Sen. Tom Casperson brought in just $145,000. Casperson also attracted a primary challenge from ex-state Sen. Jason Allen, who entered the race after the end of the fourth quarter.
One seat Democrats need to guard is California's 24th around Santa Barbara. Many Democrats are impressed with Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, and he leads intra-party rival Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider $970,000 to $247,000 in cash-on-hand. However, GOP businessman Justin Fareed has been an unexpected fundraising all-star. Fareed raised $438,000 last quarter without any self-funding, and he has $767,000 on hand. GOP Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian made a splash when he entered the race but he's turned in weak quarter after weak quarter, and he only has $257,000 on hand. Obama carried this seat 54-43 and it should stay blue, but Democrats can't take it for granted. Be sure to check out our chart for a whole lot more.
● Deaths: Former Indiana Gov. Edgar Whitcomb, who served from 1969 to 1973, died on Thursday at the age of 98. Whitcomb, a Republican, had the distinction of being the oldest living governor in America, a title that now falls to 95-year-old former Delaware Gov. David Buckson.
Whitcomb was also known for his service during World War II: Despite being tortured, the future governor escaped from a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines. Whitcomb was recaptured, but he escaped again. After swimming through shark-infested waters, he eventually made it to China and contacted American forces. Whitcomb wrote about his experience in a 1958 book called Escape from Corregidor, which Republicans distributed during his 1968 gubernatorial campaign.
● International Elections: While everyone in the U.S. is focused on the hotly contested race to succeed Barack Obama, there are dozens of important elections taking place around the world this year. To shed light on these races, Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our comprehensive guide to every key national election worldwide in 2016, from Australia to Zambia, with nations like France, Iran, and the Dominican Republic in between. We offer a look at each country's political landscape, public opinion polling, and electoral system; while these often differ greatly from our own, there are many recognizable patterns that repeat themselves the world over. For anyone interested in foreign affairs, international politics, or the future of global progressive reform, this piece is a must-read.
● Where Are They Now?: In 2014, Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray was ousted by Muriel Bowser 44-32 in the Democratic primary. Gray's term was dominated by allegations that he had illegally ran a shadow campaign in his 2010 race to unseat then-Mayor Adrian Fenty; while polls showed that the city's residents were actually happy with Gray's performance as mayor, they just didn't feel they could trust him. However, federal prosecutors ended their investigation in December without charging Gray, and he's wasting little time restarting his political career.
On Thursday, Gray announced that he would run for his old spot on the City Council. Gray will try to unseat Yvette Alexander, whom he endorsed when he left this post to run for Council chairman. Gray carried this district 59-29 during his 2014 defeat. If Gray's career path sounds familiar, there's a good reason: In 1992, ex-Mayor Marion Barry retook his old Council seat after being released from prison, and he was elected mayor again two years later.
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.