● AL-Gov: You might remember that back in September of last year, there were allegations that Republican Gov. Robert Bentley had engaged in an affair after First Lady Dianne Bentley filed for divorce after 50 years of marriage. Bentley denied the accusations and nothing tangible showed up, but there was a push for an investigation into whether Bentley had used state funds to cover up the alleged affair. However, that investigation never surfaced, and the news soon disappeared from the headlines.
Well, that story has burst back into the media's attention again, and this time there's more evidence, in the form of audio recordings of Bentley and his former spokesperson engaging in some rather, um, explicit conversation. Bentley is now allowing that the recordings are legitimate, but at a Wednesday press conference, he still denied that anything "physical" happened. The press conference came after Bentley fired the state's former law enforcement chief, Spencer Collier, who then came forward to tell the press that Bentley had an affair.
Collier alleges that Bentley leased a state plane to cover things up, and says that Bentley "asked him to lie in a separate, unrelated investigation." Bentley, for his part, says he has no plans to step down; he's halfway through his second term and can't run for re-election, so he may think he can just ignore the story and spend the next two years trying to change the subject. But it looks like things will get a lot worse for Bentley before they get better, and he may eventually decide that a weak governorship isn't a prize worth fighting for. If Bentley does resign at some point, Republican Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey would succeed him.
● CA-Sen: Get ready for the race between Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez to go all the way to November, if the new poll of California's Senate race from the Public Policy Institute of California is correct. Their new survey of the June top-two primary puts Attorney General Harris at 26 and Rep. Sanchez at 17, followed by the two Republicans (both of whom are former state GOP party chairs): Tom Del Becarro at 9 and Duf Sundheim at 6.
The poll, unfortunately, was taken March 6-15, before Republican activist Ron Unz entered the race. But if neither Del Becarro nor Sundheim are topping Sanchez without Unz in the field, and they certainly aren't doing it with him splitting the GOP a third way. (Eleven percent support "someone else," and it's unclear who they have in mind, if it was before Unz's entry.) This is explicitly a primary poll, so the big question that remains is what happens to all that Republican support in an all-Democratic general election. If Sanchez, who is to the right of Harris, vacuums up most of the state's Republicans while retaining her primary supporters, she still has a path to victory in November.
● MD-Sen: The deep-pocketed National Association of Realtors is stepping up to help out Rep. Chris Van Hollen in the April 26 Democratic primary for the open Maryland Senate race. NAR didn't provide a link to the ad (which touts Van Hollen's efforts to preserve mortgage deductions) or the size of the buy, but FEC data shows that it'll be running on Baltimore television. What may be most interesting here is that earlier in the race, Van Hollen tried to get his opponent, Rep. Donna Edwards, to sign a "people's pledge" rejecting outside ads; Edwards, who's relying on EMILY's List support, didn't sign. But with recent polls showing Edwards opening up a bit of a lead, it looks like Van Hollen's open to outside help as well now
● NH-Sen: Senate Majority PAC must be pleased with how their ad linking Kelly Ayotte to Donald Trump has been performing, because they re-upped their buy with another $324,000, extending its run through April 3.
● NV-Sen: Buried 21 pages deep into a poll taken by Morning Consult for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation are a few slim details about the Nevada Senate race. The poll doesn't look at the Republican primary, and doesn't test Sharron Angle in the general, either; all we know is that Republican Rep. Joe Heck leads Democratic ex-Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto by a 33-32 margin, with a whole lot of undecideds left.
Maybe more interesting is that Morning Consult is now doing polls for private clients, and that client is Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson (Sands is his firm, that owns hotels in Las Vegas and Macau). The main point of the poll is looking for support for various Adelson priorities like a new stadium in Las Vegas and opening the Nevada electrical grid up for competition, so take the Senate numbers (which are already inconclusive) with a few grains of salt.
● PA-Sen: If the trends in their internal polls are matching Wednesday's Franklin & Marshall poll of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, this would explain why the DSCC needed to break the glass and explicitly endorse their preferred candidate, Katie McGinty. F&M finds ex-Rep. Joe Sestak pulling into a substantial lead over McGinty, with about one month left until the primary. They put Sestak at 31, McGinty at 14, and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman at 7.
Last month's figures put Sestak at 21, McGinty at 12, and Fetterman at 8, so all the growth has gone to Sestak. (Undecideds are down to 46 percent this month, which is actually pretty decisive compared to previous F&M polls.) The poll doesn't look specifically at how Sestak fares against Republican incumbent Pat Toomey in November, but they do find Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 46-33. If that holds, it would be pretty catastrophic for Toomey, unless he's able to generate unprecedented levels of ticket-splitting.
For their part, the SEIU is heeding the call and helping out McGinty. The group is running a new ad on her behalf, featuring a home health care worker touting McGinty's push for fair pay. The SEIU has made a six-figure buy in the Pittsburgh market.
● AZ-05: Christine Jones keeps looking for a way to get elected to something, and she seems to have found her best spot for 2016. Jones has opened an exploratory committee to run in the Republican primary for the open 5th District in Phoenix's suburbs, which is being vacated by Rep. Matt Salmon. Jones, formerly general counsel for GoDaddy, ran in the 2014 gubernatorial primary but finished third, and initially was looking into running in Arizona's 9th District this year before deciding against it. State Senate President Andy Biggs seems to have the inside track on the nomination in this dark-red district for now, though he faces state Rep. Justin Olsen in the August primary.
● CA-46: Democratic ex-state Sen. Lou Correa already looks like the favorite to win the open seat in California's 46th District, a safely-blue district which is being vacated by Rep. Loretta Sanchez. But now he's taking a page from Cory Booker and saving people from burning buildings in his spare time, for good measure.
● NC-13: With the filing deadline coming on Friday, Republicans continue to pour into the open 13th District. State Rep. Harry Warren is the newest entrant; the Salisbury-area legislator sounds like he'll be running as more of a business conservative. Also, ex-Winston-Salem City Councilor, perennial candidate, and all-around wacko Vernon Robinson followed through on his earlier threats to run here, filing on Thursday.
● NJ-05: How much of a screwup do you have to be if you're one of Wall Street's biggest friends in Congress, only to have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce refuse to endorse you? Apparently, you have to be a Scott Garrett-sized screwup; he's the only Republican House member from New Jersey who didn't get the backing of the Chamber this year.
Garrett has always been a rapid social conservative, but he had a secure hold over his North Jersey seat. However, he drew some nasty headlines last year after Politico reported that Garrett told the NRCC that he wouldn't donate to them because they supported gay candidates. Last year, Goldman Sachs made it clear that they wouldn't contribute to him anymore, and the exodus of Wall Street donors has not stopped. Last week, PNC Financial Services said that they wouldn't help him and on Thursday, State Farm Insurance became the latest financial services sector company to drop Garrett. However, the Chamber's move doesn't seem to be about Garrett's rabidly social conservative views as much as his stance against the Export-Import Bank (a Chamber priority), and his votes against recent Republican budgets from the right.
Also, here's the first evidence that Republicans within Garrett's district might be souring on him: GOP Norwood City Councilor Allen Rapaport just said he's backing Garrett's Democratic opponent, Josh Gottheimer. Rapaport is, by most any definition, a small voice, but he could be the proverbial canary in the coalmine if more defections occur. Gottheimer has been fundraising well, steadily making up ground on Garrett. But Republicans usually do well in this 51-48 Romney seat, so Gottheimer still has an uphill fight.
● NY-19: It's become conventional wisdom that Zephyr Teachout is on an easy path toward the Democratic nomination in the 19th District, a swingy open Hudson Valley seat. However, Livingston Town Councilman Will Yandik just received the endorsement of the Greene County Democratic Committee, to go with his previous endorsement from the Columbia County committee (which is his home county).
● PA-08: Democratic state Rep. Steve Santarsiero got another union endorsement on Thursday (he already has backing from groups like the AFSCME and NEA). The Professional Fire Fighters Association threw its support behind Santarsiero; he faces businesswoman Shaugnessy Naughton in the Democratic primary for this swingy open seat. As we've noted in the past, firefighters are usually good allies in political campaigns: They tend to stand out in crowds, and they're a group that almost everyone respects.
● WA-07: State Sen. Pramila Jayapal, the lone woman in the field to replace retiring Rep. Jim McDermott in the safely blue Seattle-area 7th, got a key endorsement from EMILY's List on Thursday, which gives her a broader fundraising base. She's also recently gotten some individual endorsements from both national (Wendy Davis) and local (ex-Mayor Greg Nickels) figures, and probably also mightily boosted her name recognition among local voters as Bernie Sanders' opening act at his well-attended weekend event at Key Arena.
● Ads: Looks like Wheel of Fortune will be able to buy itself an endless supply of vowels, because an analysis by Bloomberg Politics finds that, of all the TV shows out there, it's the one that sees the most political ad spending. It's seen $17.8 million worth of ad time spent on it in various markets in just the first two months of the year. That's on track to easily surpass the $57 million it earned in 2012, when it was also the show with the highest number of political ads.
That figure may be distorted, because the show runs daily in syndication, rather than running once a week on a network. But it also reflects the show's broad, lowest-common-denominator appeal, as well as its elderly audience (average viewer age is 50, with 70 percent of its viewers saying they "always" vote).
● Dark Money: Senate Majority Mitch McConnell wants to emulate the Senate Democrats in one important way. McConnell wants super PAC contributions to go to one central PAC that can better coordinate a unified message and spending tactics at a national level, a la Senate Majority PAC for the Democrats. He's been pushing One Nation and the new Senate Leadership Fund, both portions of the convoluted Karl Rove-linked Crossroads empire, as the preferred destination for big donors, and it's apparently been working, as the two of them combined have raised significantly more than Senate Majority PAC so far this cycle.
But nuts to that, say individual Republican senators. Many of the vulnerable Republicans up this year already have their own super PACs (Rob Portman has Fighting for Ohio and Pat Toomey has Prosperity for Pennsylvania, for instance), and they don't want to turn control over to some other organization that might triage them if they get too far outside the GOP's firewall — especially when McConnell himself had two separate super PACs working him and just him in his 2014 re-election. In true Republican fashion, they prefer an every man for himself approach.
● Demographics: The Census Bureau has released its 2015 Population Estimate data at the county level and the metropolitan area level, which follows county lines. The headline number is probably the continued growth in Texas relative to other states, and, more specifically, the growth in Texas's big four metro areas (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin), which together accounted for the vast majority of all of Texas's growth. Fort Bend County in Houston's suburbs, for instance, was the nation's fastest-growing large county by percentage, gaining 4.3 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Only a few large counties lost population last year, and it's the usual suspects: Cook County, Illinois; Wayne County, Michigan; and Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Two counties topped the 1 million mark for the first time last year: Fulton County, Georgia and Wake County, North Carolina. If you want to sift through every county's numbers, Greg Giroux has helpfully condensed all the data into one easy-to-use Google Doc.
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.