● IL-Sen: The progressive organization VoteVets, which helps elect Democratic veterans to office, is coming to the aid of one of their own, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. VoteVotes says it's spending $600,000 to air a new ad statewide hammering GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, who recently launched a scurrilous ad against Duckworth that tried to induce panic over Syrian refugees. The VoteVets spot is quite good, and draws you in to Duckworth's remarkable bio far better than her own recent introductory ad just did.
The ad stars Michael Terranova, a Marine veteran from Chicago. Terranova declares, "You gotta be a special kind of person to fly one of these," as troops rush to board a Blackhawk helicopter, before a still image of Duckworth in the chopper's cockpit is shown. Making explicit what Duckworth's spot only alluded to, Terranova explains that even though Duckworth "lost her legs in service to her country, she still served ten more years in the National Guard," while footage of Duckworth pedaling a handbike rolls.
Terranova then mentions how Kirk just attacked Duckworth by asking who voters trust, before Terranova goes on to blast Kirk for voting against "fixing broken equipment that keep guys like me safe in the field, and against expanding our veterans benefits when we get home." Terranova ends by declaring, "I trust Tammy Duckworth, and it's not even close." The use of moving images makes this ad look much more dynamic and modern than the recent Duckworth spot. The congresswoman is the favorite against ex-Chicago Urban League head Andrea Zopp and state Sen. Napoleon Harris in the March 15 primary.
● LA-Sen: Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has announced that he'll run for David Vitter's open Senate seat, making him the most prominent Democrat to join the race. But oddly, there seems to be little media coverage of the news, and Campbell hasn't even posted anything to his social media accounts. Campbell may not have even planned to announce last week: In a Thursday radio appearance, he only said he was "making preparations to run for the U.S. Senate," though an aide confirmed the next day that Campbell is a candidate. The only other Democrat running so far is 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Caroline Fayard; a recent poll of the all-party jungle primary found Campbell leading her … but with all of 7 percent of the vote compared to her 4.
But the Republican field is quite divided: The GOP's highest vote-getter in that survey was state Treasurer John Kennedy, who took only 22 percent, and several other notable names are also running. For that reason, there's a good chance that one Democrat and one Republican will make it to the December runoff, but the latter would be heavily favored in such a scenario. Campbell does have one thing going for him: Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who won a stunning victory over Vitter last year, is in his corner. But repeating the Edwards magic in this red state would require another Vitter-esque Republican, and there doesn't seem to be one in sight.
● OH-Sen: The super PAC supporting Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld is running three new 15-second TV ads, with two (one on abortion, the other on guns) criticizing Sittenfeld's Democratic primary opponent, ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, and the third a positive spot. There's no word on the size of the buy. The super PAC also released a pretty scurrilous web video that calls the 74-year-old Strickland "tired" and "unsteady" because he momentarily called GOP Sen. Rob Portman "Bob" before catching himself. Ridiculous.
● NH-Gov: It looks like state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley's perennial flirtation with a statewide run is over for this cycle. Bradley hasn't quite ruled out a gubernatorial bid, but the Republican tells WMUR that he's "very unlikely" to go for it, and he expects to seek re-election instead.
Executive Councilor Chris Sununu has been running for Team Red for months, though it's not clear if wealthy state Rep. Frank Edelblut is officially in, or if he's only formed an exploratory committee. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas says he expects to set up an exploratory committee soon, while state Sen. Jeanie Forrester appears to be leaning toward running. On the Democratic side, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and ex-state Bureau of Securities Regulation head Mark Connolly have been facing off for a while. Portsmouth City Councilor Stefany Shaheen, the daughter of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, initially expressed interest in this open seat, but she's been quiet for months. The primary isn't until September.
● VT-Gov: Former Democratic state Sen. Peter Galbraith now says he'll make up his mind about whether to run for governor by April. But Galbraith's been considering since at least last June, if not before, when he claimed he'd been contemplating a primary challenge to Gov. Peter Shumlin (who later announced his retirement). Galbraith has also flirted with other runs for office in the past and has always declined. Two other Democrats, former state Sen. Matt Dunne and former state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter, are already running, and state House Speaker Shap Smith, who suspended his campaign last year due to his wife's battle with breast cancer, has said he might rejoin the race in May.
● AZ-05: On Thursday, Rep. Matt Salmon announced his retirement from this safely red seat and immediately endorsed state Senate President Andy Biggs' campaign to succeed him. Rep. Trent Franks also quickly backed Biggs: However, if Biggs was hoping that this show of force would scare off other Republican aspirants, he's going to be disappointed.
The Arizona Republic's Rebekah Sanders has been keeping track of the many Republicans who could run here. Former state House Speaker Kirk Adams narrowly lost the 2012 primary to Salmon, and he sounds ready to try again. Adams, who serves as Gov. Doug Ducey's chief of staff, says he's decided what to do, but he won't announce it yet.
There is a long, long list of other Mesa-area Republicans who have expressed interest in this seat. It includes (deep breath): state Sen. Bob Worsley; state Reps. Justin Olson, Bob Robson, and Kelly Townsend; Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri; Mesa Councilman Alex Finter; former GoDaddy executive and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones; ex-Mesa Mayor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Scott Smith; and rich guy Stephen Viramontes. A spokesman for the city of Chandler also says that Mayor Jay Tibshraeny is considering. Some other potential candidates include Maricopa County Supervisor Denny Barney and ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce, who was recalled in 2011. However, Gilbert Mayor John Lewis has said no: Apparently, the prospect of spending a career known as "That Other Rep. John Lewis" was not appealing. The Arizona filing deadline isn't until June.
● CA-32: Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano, who is 79 years old and is seeking a 10th term in Congress, says she recently suffered a "very minor stroke" but will continue her re-election campaign. In a show of strength, every other House Democrat from California—all 38 of them—just endorsed Napolitano. She faces a challenge from Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, a fellow Democrat, in the June top-two primary.
● FL-02: The primary for this safely red seat has looked like a straight fight between establishment favorite Neal Dunn and Mary Thomas, who has the support of anti-establishment groups like the Club for Growth. However, tea partying Rep. Ted Yoho has complicated things by endorsing a third candidate, businessman Jeff Moran. Yoho currently represents about 32 percent of this new seat, so he has some pull here. Moran and Thomas are also likely to draw upon a similar base of support in August, which is good news for Dunn.
● LA-04: While a number of Republicans are seeking this conservative north Louisiana seat, the awesomely-named Rocky Rockett, who serves as Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation president, will not be among them.
● NC-12: After the state legislature passed a new congressional map that separated freshman Democratic Rep. Alma Adams from her Greensboro base, a number of Charlotte politicians began making noises about challenging her in the June primary. No one has kicked off a campaign against Adams yet, but it sounds like we won't need to wait very long: The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill says that state Rep. Rodney Moore plans to announce he's in sometime in the next week.
The Observer's Taylor Batten also says that ex-state Sen. Malcolm Graham, who took second place in the 2014 primary for the old version of this seat, "plans to run," though Graham also hasn't said that publicly. Ex-Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, who took fourth place in last year's mayoral primary, has also expressed interest, and a few more Queen City Democrats are making noises about getting in. State Rep. Tricia Cotham confirms she's considering, while Batten writes that fellow state Rep. Carla Cunningham is also thinking about it. The filing deadline is in mid-March, though the new map has yet to be approved in federal court.
The legislature did away with primary runoffs for 2016, so a simple plurality is all that's needed to secure the Democratic nod in this safely blue seat. While Adams doesn't live anywhere near the new 12th District, she currently represents about half the seat: If enough opponents run, she could very well win. Cotham may also benefit from a crowded field. While Adams and all the other potential candidates are black, Cotham is white. According to Batten, only 35 percent of the seat's voting age population is black (though Democratic primary voters should be disproportionately African American), so Cotham could definitely prevail here if things go right for her.
● NH-01: Well, Rep. Frank Guinta may get lucky after all. After he was fined last year for an illegal six-figure campaign loan from his parents, Guinta was abandoned by the GOP establishment and left with almost no money and little support. But Guinta can still win renomination in September if enough primary opponents split the anti-Guinta vote, and right now he's facing former business school dean Dan Innis and ex-Deputy state House Speaker Pam Tucker. A third Guinta opponent may just push him over the top, and businessman Rich Ashooh is still considering getting in.
Ashooh has been flirting with a bid for months, and he tells New Hampshire Public Radio that he's "very close" to deciding. Ashooh says he's working on a project right now but "that's going to be wrapping up soon, and then I'll be able to clearheadedly make this decision." Ashooh also claims he'll announce what he's doing in April. Ashooh and Guinta faced off in 2010, and Guinta beat him just 32-28.
Of course, a Guinta primary win will likely turn out to be a pyrrhic victory. New Hampshire's 1st District is very swingy, and Guinta will have a difficult time in the fall against either ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter or rich guy Shawn O'Connor. One of the other three Republicans may be able to hold this seat (though Tucker's conservative views could be a big liability), but Guinta is probably hosed. Even a GOP wave may not be enough to save him: Guinta only unseated Shea-Porter 52-48 in 2014, before most voters or GOP elites cared about his campaign finance scandal.
● NJ-09: On Thursday, ex-Paterson Mayor Jeffery Jones announced that he would challenge Rep. Bill Pascrell in the June primary for this safely blue seat. Pascrell and Jones have a rivalry going back decades to when Pascrell was the mayor and Jones was on the city council. However, there's little doubt that Pascrell will be incredibly tough to beat. Jones took fourth place in his 2014 re-election campaign after a very frustrating single term. Jones' old allies have also signaled that they're not going to back him, and many have already sided with Pascrell.
By contrast, Pascrell decisively won a competitive 2012 Democratic primary against fellow Rep. Steve Rothman, and he carried Patterson's Passaic County with 90 percent of the vote. Jones doesn't sound ready to stop his quixotic campaign after the primary: The former mayor said that while he's running as Democrat, "I believe that, if you can't win as a Democrat, independent is a great option." Yeah, good luck with that.
● OH-08: The March 15 GOP primary for John Boehner's old seat is quickly approaching, and outside groups are preparing to spend big to win. A new group called Right Way Initiative says they're dropping $450,000 in support of state Rep. Tim Derickson, and they're out with their first spot backing him. Right Way's commercial mostly consists of just clips from Derickson's own opening ad, with some very similar narration dubbed over: Talk about lazy. (Right Way's spot also loses all the charm of Derickson's original one.)
The Club for Growth meanwhile says that they'll spend "upwards of $900,000" for tea partying veteran Warren Davidson, though it's unclear if they mean they're spending another $900,000 on top of the $400,000 they've already splurged, or $900,000 total. State Sen. Bill Beagle is also running for this safely red seat, though no well-funded outside groups are doing much for him yet.
● PA-06: The Democratic primary in Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District is a bit of a bantamweight fight between businessman Mike Parrish and financial advisor Lindy Li, but Parrish is hoping to score a TKO and automatically advance to the general election bout against GOP Rep. Ryan Costello. Parrish is challenging the signatures Li filed to get on the ballot, saying she didn't filed enough valid petitions. Li naturally disputes the charge, but it'll be at least a month before we know the outcome. But even if Parrish is successful, he'll be a serious underdog against Costello, who may be a rookie but by comparison looks like a Golden Gloves champ.
● WA-07: Democratic state Sen. Pramila Jayapal picked up a major union endorsement in the fight to replace long-time Rep. Jim McDermott in the 7th. She got the backing of the local United Food and Commercial Workers, which Publicola's Josh Feit describes as "perhaps Seattle's most lefty union." Jayapal faces King County Councilman Joe McDermott (no relation to the incumbent) and state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw in the August top-two primary for this safely blue seat.
● Demographics: It's become kind of a cliché to say that the recovery from the Great Recession has been "spiky," but that's exactly what it is. Many of the nation's major cities are as healthy as they've ever been, while vast rural swaths and, increasingly, certain suburbs, are continuing to lose ground. If you want to see that in stark relief in interactive map format, a new study from the Economic Innovation Group shows the disparities all the way down to the ZIP code level.
Each ZIP gets a "distress score," which combines a number of factors like housing vacancies, people without high school degrees, adults out of the work force, poverty rate, and change in unemployment. That's all presented as an interactive map, so you can see where the economic boundaries fall. CityLab's writeup also includes some other interesting tables, including cities with the highest percentage of people living in distressed zones (Camden, New Jersey takes the top slot), and counties with the highest rates of inequality.
● Where Are They Now?: Remember the two tea partying Michigan Republicans who were having an affair, then tried to gin up a fake gay sex scandal to distract from their actual affair, then had to resign/got expelled from the state House after it all came to light, then unsuccessfully tried to run in the special elections to fill the vacancies left by their departures? Yeah, those guys: Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat—big, big winners. Well, the hijinks ain't over, since state Attorney General Bill Schuette just filed felony charges against both of them, including felony perjury for Courser and "misconduct in office" for both. Both potentially carry multi-year sentences.
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.