● NC-Gov: On Monday afternoon, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory finally conceded defeat to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper. Cooper led by 4,480 votes on election night and now is up by just over 10,000 ballots cast, or 0.22 percent. After a recount in heavily Democratic Durham County proved fruitless for McCrory, he finally threw in the towel, bringing to a close one of the most contentious races in the country in 2016.
It also saw the ugliest possible finish, all thanks to the GOP. Although Cooper's election night lead always looked solid, McCrory nonetheless filed countless protests with various state and county elections boards challenging the validity of hundreds of votes and baselessly alleging fraud, particularly in Durham. However, these challenges utterly lacked evidence, and even Republican election officials repeatedly ruled against the governor. Winning these spurious protests wasn't the point, though, since they were never going to overturn Cooper's lead. Rather, they were focused squarely on delegitimizing the results.
Democrats and nonpartisan observers alike began to fear that McCrory might use the specter of bogus voter fraud to claim the election was rigged and legally contest it before the GOP-held legislature. That would have allowed Republicans to crown McCrory the winner even if he'd lost the popular vote. Fortunately, that ugly scenario didn't come to fruition, but Republicans will likely use McCrory's cries of wolf to justify further voter suppression laws. And while they didn't have the stomach to undo the results of the gubernatorial election, Republicans might try to erase another by packing the state Supreme Court, which saw Democrats take a 4-3 majority thanks to another win last month. It never ends with these guys.
Whatever happens, though, Cooper's win is a huge one for Democrats, and one of the few bright spots on what was otherwise a dismal Election Day. North Carolina is the ninth-largest state, and fast-growing one, too. Tar Heel Republicans had tried to drive this purple state in a radically conservative direction and have now paid a price for their extremism. While the legislature remains firmly in GOP hands, Cooper’s presence in the governor mansion will make a huge difference going forward.
● IN-Sen: Republican Jim Banks won election to the House just last month, and hasn't even been sworn in yet, but already unnamed conservatives are talking him up for a Senate bid—and he's not ruling it out, telling the National Review, "You can never say never." Freshman Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is up for re-election in 2018 and will be a top GOP target.
● PA-Sen: So far, Pennsylvania Republicans have been fairly slow to signal interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2018, with only wealthy businessman Paul Addis putting his name on the list. But now, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari reports that GOP Rep. Pat Meehan "is open to the idea of running," according to an unnamed "source close to the congressman." Meehan, who just easily won a fourth term, would likely be a strong candidate, but if he sought a promotion, he'd have to give up a safe seat in the House—a bespoke district that was gerrymandered to within an inch of its life in order to ensure his re-election.
● GA-Gov: Even though GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland chose to retire from Congress this year, he may not be done with politics. Westmoreland says he's considering a bid for governor in 2018 and has even been traveling the state on some version of a proverbial listening tour to test the waters. (He's calling it a "reconnect tour," which is weird, because he's only ever served voters in the Atlanta suburbs, so who exactly is he reconnecting with?) The congressman also adds that he likely won't make a decision until after next year's legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 24.
Westmoreland claims he's waiting out of respect for incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal, who is term-limited. But Westmoreland also seems bizarrely uncomfortable with, well, politics, saying, "I don't want somebody coming up and going, 'oh, well the governor vetoed this bill or the governor said he's going to do this. What would you have done?' I don't want to get into that." Those kinds of questions won't come off the table in four months, and tons of other Republicans are looking at the race—many of whom won't have a problem answering these questions.
● OK-Gov: State House Minority Leader Scott Inman, who'd previously been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, now confirms that he's considering a bid. Inman is termed out in 2018, as is GOP Gov. Mary Fallin, whose departure has prompted a wave of interest from fellow Republicans, since they'll be heavily favored to retain the governorship in dark-red Oklahoma.
● RI-Gov: Hi-diddley-ho, Ocean Staters! WPRI's Ted Nesi adds former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders to the list of potential Republican candidates who could take on Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo in 2018. Flanders isn't ruling it out but says "it's premature at this point to comment on anything like that." Nesi notes that Flanders achieved some prominence a few years back when he was appointed the receiver of the small mill town of Central Falls, which declared bankruptcy in 2011 and came close to defaulting on its pension obligations.
Flanders oversaw steep cuts to those pension payments, saying, "Something was better than nothing, and a haircut looked a lot better than a beheading." But the move understandably left many angry, and while there might not have been better choices, "At least I didn't send you to the guillotine" might not be a winning campaign platform. At least two other Republicans are in contention: businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
● CA-07: After a third straight tight election, Republicans will likely take another run at unseating Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in 2018, but it sounds like they'll have to find someone else to carry their banner. Asked whether he'd try again, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who lost to Bera 51-49, seemed pretty emphatic, saying, "Oh god no. I'm not sure if I have another one in me." While that second sentence might seem a bit ambiguous, Jones may have been referring to his current post as sheriff. He's up for re-election in 2018 and hasn't yet decided whether to seek another term.
● CA-34: When a safe, long-held House seat finally opens up, there's almost always a massive flurry of potential successors whose names float up, and the situation in California's 34th Congressional District is playing out exactly as you'd expect. Right after Gov. Jerry Brown announced he'd tap Rep. Xavier Becerra, who has represented this dark blue, majority-Hispanic seat in downtown Los Angeles since 1993, to replace Kamala Harris as state attorney general, former Assembly Speaker John Perez immediately jumped into the race, and now he's got company.
On Monday, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez became the second Democrat to join the contest, and plenty more could follow. Here's a rundown:
● Los Angeles City Councilor Gil Cedillo (an aide says he's "exploring all of his options")
● Los Angeles Board of Education member Mónica García (reportedly being recruited by EMILY's List)
● Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina
● Ex-Los Angeles City Councilor Nick Pacheco
But several more have said no. Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was one of the better-known potential contenders, but he's opted against a bid. State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said of Becerra, "I look forward to working with him side-by-side to defend California's progress every day for the next two years," so he's taken himself out of the running, too. And Assemblyman Michael Santiago offered almost the exact same phrasing, saying, "I look forward to serving side-by-side with him in my continued role in the state legislature."
State Sen. Holly Mitchell has also ruled out the contest and threw her backing to Perez, who has racked up quite a string of early endorsements. Half a dozen sitting members of Congress have come out for Perez, including Reps. Julia Brownley, Ted Lieu, Jared Huffman, Karen Bass, Scott Peters, and Judy Chu, as have a number of other notable elected officials. While these kinds of endorsements don't move votes, they do signal establishment support, which can mean quite a bit when it comes to raising money and motivating groups capable of turning out actual voters (like unions).
And in a special election, with its compressed timeframe and small electorate, that kind of help can really matter. That's of particular importance to Perez, who doesn't have a lot of local name recognition, according to a new PPP poll commissioned by local Democratic operative Michael Trujillo. Trujillo tells us that he paid for this poll out of his own personal interest and adds that doesn't have a rooting interest in this race, though he notes that he's worked for Huizar in the past.
Speaking of Huizar, the survey was taken before he declined, but he'd have started out in front, with 22 percent, with Garcia at 14, Gomez taking 10, Pacheco at 5, and Perez with just 3. Of course, that still leaves a ton of undecideds—46 percent—and with Huizar out, that means the race is even less settled. But in a head-to-head with Garcia, Perez would trail 38-23. (Other matchups weren't tested.) And right now, it's just a two-way race between Perez and Gomez, with a lot of game left to play.
● MN-01, MN-07: Two unheralded Minnesota Republicans who came close to pulling off major upsets last month both say they're running again in 2018. In the 1st District that runs along the state's southern border, businessman Jim Hagedorn will run again Democratic Rep. Tim Walz a third straight time; in November, he Hagedorn held the incumbent to a scary 50.4 to 49.6 win, though if anything, it was Walz who pulled off the miracle, after the district swung violently from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump.
Meanwhile, in the 7th, Some Dude Dave Hughes lost to Rep. Colin Peterson 52.5 to 47.5, and Hughes has already kicked off a rematch. If anything, Peterson's victory might have been even more miraculous, as Trump carried his already-conservative rural seat in Minnesota's northwest by a 62-31 margin.
It'll be a while, though, before we know whether either of these matchups will take place as planned. Walz hasn't ruled out a bid for governor, while Peterson has flirted with retirement in recent cycles and sounds pretty pissed about how liberal the Democratic Party is these days. Meanwhile, now that Hagedorn and Hughes have shown how vulnerable these two districts are, they may get shunted aside by stronger politicians. That's not a given, though, because Minnesota's unusual system of party endorsements often favors candidates from outside the establishment, and many if not most contenders who fail to earn that endorsement decline to run in the subsequent primary.
● Pres-by-CD: We touch down in Iowa for our project to calculate the presidential election results by congressional district. We have a chart of all 435 congressional districts here, which also includes results from 2012. That's the page you'll want to bookmark, since we're updating it continuously. We'll be pushing out new data on a rolling basis as the results are officially certified and the precinct-level election results we need for our calculations become available. (Ballotpedia has a list of state certification deadlines.)
Safe to say, Iowa was an ugly state for Democrats in 2016. While Barack Obama carried the Hawkeye State 52-46 in 2012, Donald Trump won it 52-42. And though Obama carried three of the state's four congressional districts, Trump took all four this time.
The 1st District, which includes Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, swerved from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump. Democrats targeted freshman Rep. Rod Blum in 2016, but he defeated Monica Vernon 54-46, running quite a bit ahead of the top of the ticket.
The 2nd District, which includes Iowa City, also swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump. Rep. Dave Loebsack is the only Democrat left in Iowa's congressional delegation, and he defeated a Some Dude opponent 54-46. Let this be a warning flare, then: Loebsack had close calls in both 2010 and 2014, and it's a good bet that the GOP will field a stronger challenger next time.
The Des Moines-area 3rd District went from 51-47 Obama to also 49-45 Trump. Democrats targeted freshman Republican Rep. David Young, but he defeated Democrat Jim Mowrer 53-40. The 4th District, represented by the infamous GOP Rep. Steve King, went 53-45 for Mitt Romney four years ago, and Trump utterly dominated 61-34 here.
● Voting: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our newest regular feature, our weekly Voting Rights Roundup. Every Saturday, Stephen Wolf will take a look at the most important recent news concerning voting rights and election law. This week's major developments include key redistricting court cases in Wisconsin and North Carolina that could lead to national Supreme Court precedents curtailing gerrymandering; a voter ID law proposed by Michigan Republicans; and efforts by the New Hampshire GOP to end same-day voter registration. To receive our new roundup by email, click here.