● WI-08: On Thursday, Democrats got their top choice for this open seat when Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson announced he was in. Outagamie, which includes Appleton, is the second-largest county in the district, and it's about as competitive as the entire seat: Romney carried Outagamie 50-48, while he won the 8th 51-48. While a few other Democrats have made noises about running here, it doesn't sound like Nelson will face any credible challengers in the August primary.
The district, which also includes Green Bay, usually votes Republican, though Democrats have had some success here in wave years. Steve Kagen took it in 2006 and defended it in 2008 while Obama was winning 54-45 here, though Kagen got tossed in the 2010 GOP landslide. Nelson is a great candidate on paper, but we'll need to wait until July to get a sense of his fundraising capabilities. The GOP has a primary between former Scott Walker advisor Mike Gallagher and state Sen. Frank Lasee; filing doesn't close until June, though no one else has made noises about running. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Lean Republican.
1Q Fundraising: Be sure to check out our first quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in.
● MD-Sen: Donna Edwards (D): $1.2 million raised
● WI-Sen: Russ Feingold (D): $3.4 million raised
● FL-06: Brandon Patty (R): $110,000 raised
● FL-18: Rebecca Negron (R): $239,000 raised
● IA-01: Monica Vernon (D): $335,000 raised, $774,000 cash-on-hand
● IL-10: Brad Schneider (D): $818,000 raised
● KY-06: Nancy Jo Kemper (D): $100,000 raised
● MN-03: Jon Tollefson (D): $86,000 raised
● NY-03: Anna Kaplan (D): $445,000 raised
● CO-Sen: Michael Bennet, the only potentially vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election this year, is already running his first television ad, which touches on an issue that is far from the national limelight. The spot touts Bennet's efforts to change an FDA regulation that would have made it more difficult for beer brewers to sell their spent grain to ranchers, who use it as cattle feed. Says Bennet: "They say one man's trash is another guy's treasure—or sometimes, these guys' treasure," as he then points to a herd of mooing cows. A bearded brewer then praises Bennet's work on the industry's behalf. According to the Smart Media group, Bennet is spending "at least" $261,000 to run the ad statewide.
● KS-Sen: While the NRSC is, naturally, most displeased with the idea that Rep. Mike Pompeo might challenge Sen. Jerry Moran in the GOP primary, the Club for Growth sounds intrigued. A spokesman for the group compared Pompeo's lifetime Club score to Moran's (93 versus 73), calling Pompeo "rock solid" on their preferred issues but Moran merely "lukewarm." The Club also declined to say whether they'd been in touch with Pompeo, who now says he'll make a decision "in the next days or maybe a week or so."
Of course, this may all just be some attention-getting saber-rattling from Pompeo, who may in fact be more interested in Kansas' open race for governor in 2018, or even a Senate bid in 2020, when the 79-year-old Pat Roberts, who struggled against an underfunded and undisciplined opponent in 2014, will once again be up for re-election. We'll see soon enough.
● PA-Sen: A new Quinnipiac poll finds GOP Sen. Pat Toomey leading both of his main potential rivals, ex-Rep. Joe Sestak and former state Dept. of Environmental Protection head Katie McGinty. Toomey is up 47-39 on Sestak and 47-38 on McGinty, somewhat tighter than the respective 49-34 and 51-31 advantages Quinnipiac showed for Toomey the last time they polled here, all the way back in October.
On their face, though, these latest numbers don't support the DSCC's implicit claims that McGinty would be the stronger general election candidate. And indeed, in a brief aside, an unnamed Republican strategist just told Politico that GOP data shows McGinty as "less formidable." Of course, that could just be a psych-out: What incentive does a Republican operative have to be honest here? But if there's a case to be made that McGinty is the preferable option, it's lying locked up in some very private polling memos.
There's also an issue with Quinnipiac's results themselves. Self-identified Republicans make up 36 percent of the poll's sample, while Democrats are just 34 percent. There is simply no way that reasonably anticipates this year's electorate, though. Even in 2010, Democrats still outnumbered Republicans in Pennsylvania by a 40-37 margin, and in 2012, which is a better guide, it was 45-35 in favor of the Democrats. Toomey still has the edge—we rate the race Lean Republican—but Quinnipiac is simply too bearish.
P.S. McGinty also earned one more notable labor endorsement this week, from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
● AK-AL: Thursday turned out to be quite a good day for Democratic recruiters, who haven't had a whole lot of big scores recently in the House. But in addition to landing their preferred candidate in Wisconsin's 8th Congressional District (see our item below), Democrats now also have locked down a credible contender for Alaska's lone seat in the House, former journalist and non-profit executive Steve Lindbeck. Lindbeck, who recently stepped down as CEO of the state's public radio network, says the Alaska Democratic Party's executive director convinced him to run, and previously said he'd met with the DCCC on a trip to DC when he was considering the race.
Longtime Republican Rep. Don Young certainly won't be easy to beat, but he only defeated an underfunded Some Dude 50 to 40 in 2014, despite Alaska's strong GOP lean and the big wave year. Young, however, has rubbed a lot of voters the wrong way over the years with his big mouth, and if things go haywire for Republicans at the top of the ticket, he could find himself a victim. It's also worth noting that Alaska has actually been trending blue in recent years. It was a rare state where Obama turned in a stronger performance in 2012 than 2008: While part of that might have been due to Sarah Palin not being on the ballot the second time, Obama also did far better than John Kerry or Al Gore, even in 2008. This race is a longshot, but not out of the question. Daily Kos Elections currently rates it Likely Republican.
● CA-Sen, House: The California Labor Federation, which is the state affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has made a number of endorsements in races that feature two notable Democrats. In the open Senate contest, they're joining most labor groups in choosing Attorney General Kamala Harris over Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Over in the safely blue 17th District, they've picked Rep. Mike Honda over former Obama administration official Ro Khanna.
The Federation has also made moves in a few other competitive intra-party House races, and they're making the same endorsements as the state SEIU did last month. In the open 24th and 44th, they're joining most influential state Democrats in supporting Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal over Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and state Sen. Isadore Hall over ex-Hermosa Beach City Councilwoman Nanette Barragan respectively; the 44th is safely blue, while the 24th could be competitive in the fall.
In the 25th, they're supporting attorney Bryan Caforio over Agua Dulce Town Councilman Lou Vince for the right to face GOP Rep. Steve Knight. This race has divided Democrats; the national party has signaled that they prefer Caforio, while the state party has endorsed Vince. And in the safely blue 46th, they're supporting ex-state Sen. Joe Dunn over ex-state Sen. Lou Correa and Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen. Dunn has been doing very well with labor, though most Southern California House members who have taken sides are backing Correa.
● IN-03: State Sen. Jim Banks is out with another ad ahead of the May 3 primary for this safely red seat. Like every pro-Banks ad, it emphasizes his military career. The narrator reminds the audience that ISIS is out there, and calls Banks "a battle-tested conservative leader." Banks' main opponent in this Fort Wayne seat looks like wealthy farmer Kip Tom; state Sen. Liz Brown is also running, but she hasn't aired any spots yet.
● IN-09: A super PAC supporting wealthy businessman Trey Hollingsworth, who only recently moved to Indiana from Tennessee, has released a poll showing their guy leading the GOP primary for this open seat. The survey, from National Research on behalf of Indiana Jobs Now, finds Hollingsworth at 28, while Attorney General Greg Zoeller is at 16, state Sen. Eric Houchin at 8, state Sen. Brent Waltz at 8, and businessman Robert Hall at 3. In February, a poll for the PAC had Hollingsworth ahead just 17 to 16 over Zoeller, so his gains are almost certainly thanks to his heavy TV presence.
And that, in fact, seems account for the entirety of Hollingsworth's campaign. According to Howey Politics' most recent newsletter, Republican leaders in the district say they've had zero contact with Hollingsworth, whom they accuse of wanting to "buy" a seat in Congress, and Howey says that Hollingsworth's camp "doesn't return media phone calls"—indeed, his campaign website doesn't even list a phone number. It's an unorthodox approach, to say the least, but operatives also say they believe Hollingsworth has no ground game, which is often crucial in a primary. As a result, this contest could still be very much up for grabs, no matter how much money Hollingsworth and his allies flood it with.
● MN-08: Wealthy businessman Stewart Mills is back for another try at unseating Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, and he's trying to use a new poll from the Tarrance Group to argue that the race is competitive. The survey finds Nolan up 49-46, which theoretically is close, but if you're already at 49 percent in your opponent's own poll, that's not a bad place to be. What's more, the poll also has Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump 43-30 and Ted Cruz by an even more sizable 49-40. Seeing as Obama carried this seat 52-46, though, such results would augur a massive Democratic collapse. Does anyone really think such an outcome is in the cards?
Oddly enough, the poll's memo mentions that Tarrance conducted a previous survey back in July, but it doesn't seem to have ever surfaced publicly. In fact, Mills claimed he had done polling last year but refused to share it, even after the DCCC released an internal robopoll that showed him trailing Nolan 40-29 in October, the only other numbers we've seen here this cycle. Democrats evidently expect another tough contest, since the House Majority PAC just made a fall TV ad reservation here, but while Mills only lost by a little over 1 percent last time, 2016 isn't likely to be much better for him.
● PA-08: Just a few days after earning the backing of the state AFL-CIO, state Rep. Steve Santarsiero has scored an endorsement from another major union, the Pennsylvania SEIU. In fact, when it comes to labor groups, Santarsiero has all but run the table against his Democratic primary opponent, businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton.
● House: The pro-Democratic House Majority PAC is already publicizing a second round of fall TV ad reservations to go along with their first. Once again, the reservations are listed by media market, along with our best guesses as to the specific congressional races they pertain to:
Chicago, IL: $978,861 (IL-10)
Duluth, MN: $227,434 (MN-08)
Lansing, MI: $327,617 (MI-07, possibly MI-08)
Minneapolis, MN: $2,415,794 (MN-02)
Washington, DC: $888,547 (VA-10, possibly WV-02)
Once again, no surprises here, as these are all among the most competitive House races this year. And with the exception of MN-08, held by Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, all of these represent Democratic pickup opportunities.
● Baltimore, MD Mayor: We have three weeks to go before the Democratic primary, and OpinionWorks is out with a new poll on behalf of The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore. This time they have state Sen. Catherine Pugh leading ex-Mayor Shelia Dixon 31-25; last month, Pugh only edged Dixon 26-24. Pugh has been airing plenty of spots since then, which helps explain her upward trajectory.
Attorney Elizabeth Embry is all the way back at 9, and the rest of the field lags behind her. We don't have any other recent polls but unless someone else surges late in the game or this survey is very wrong, Pugh and Dixon are the only two contenders who have a shot on April 26. It only takes a plurality to win the nomination, which is tantamount to election in heavily Democratic Baltimore.
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.