● NC Redistricting: On Tuesday evening, a federal district court ordered the North Carolina legislature to redraw its state legislative districts by March 15, 2017, following a ruling earlier in 2016 that struck down 28 of 170 districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The court held in August that Republicans had impermissibly used race to pack African-American voters into a few seats like the state Senate's 21st District (shown here) in order to effectively dilute their strength in neighboring districts like the 19th. New district maps will be used in a November 2017 special election in the affected districts if this court ruling survives a likely Supreme Court review.
North Carolina is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. Republicans so aggressively manipulated the process that they won veto-proof legislative majorities in 2012 even when Democratic candidates won more votes statewide. They maintained those veto-proof majorities in 2016 even as Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper appears to have ousted Republican Gov. Pat McCrory from office. Federal courts previously struck down the state's gerrymanders for Congress and even local governments in addition to the legislature in 2016.
Republicans legislators will unfortunately be able to draw new replacement gerrymanders. However, they likely won't be able to use racial gerrymandering to win quite as many seats as before, and their state House majority of 74-46 is only two seats above the three-fifths minimum of 72 needed to override vetoes. These special elections will be key because they could lead to Democrats gaining enough seats to sustain a Gov. Cooper's vetoes, finally giving the party a check against North Carolina Republicans' reactionary agenda.
Republican legislators will certainly appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court. However, given Justice Anthony Kennedy's recent rulings against just this very sort of naked racial gerrymandering, there is a good chance that he will side with the four liberals in favor of the plaintiffs and require that these maps be redrawn.
● ND-Sen, ND-AL: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is arguably the most endangered Democrat in the chamber, and incoming NRSC chair Cory Gardner has talked up Rep. Kevin Cramer as a potential challenger. Cramer, who represents the entire state in the House, hasn't said anything about his plans, and it's possible that he'll take a post in the Trump administration instead. State Sen. Tom Campbell recently told The Jamestown Sun that he's interested in running against Heitkamp, but only if Cramer doesn't. The Sun writes that Campbell will run for the Senate in a Cramer-less field, but they don't provide a direct quote from him definitively saying that.
But Campbell did make it clear that, if Cramer resigns his seat for a job with Trump, he would "immediately" run in the special election to succeed him. The Sun also says that Campbell will run for Cramer's seat in 2018 if the congressman leaves to challenge Heitkamp, but again, there's no direct quote. Heitkamp herself also hasn't made it clear that she'll seek a second term in this conservative state.
● AL-Gov: There are a ton of Republicans who could run for this open seat in 2018, though few of them have publicly expressed interest. However, Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington isn't being coy. Carrington was the county president of Jefferson, which includes Birmingham, in 2011 when it filed for what was at the time the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. The county has exited bankruptcy since then, and Carrington is arguing that he helped "clean up the messes left by others" and can do the same thing as governor.
Carrington also didn't waste much time positioning himself against the state GOP establishment, saying that "I was told by a representative of the GOP establishment that I was 'cutting into the front of the line,' and that I needed to 'wait my turn.' My response was that the others are in the wrong line."
● FL-Gov: Modern efforts to "draft" candidates for office are so trivially easy to pull off—all you need is a Facebook page—that they usually fall below our radar, but sometimes, they can actually succeed in getting their target's attention. And remarkably, a petition from a group of progressive students asking Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to run for governor that had just 18 signatures as of Tuesday morning managed to get a response from Gillum's top consultant. Kevin Cate gleefully extolled his client's virtues, telling Politico, "It's early, but it's also undeniable that Mayor Gillum has the right profile, energy and courage needed to win Florida."
Gillum, who was first elected mayor in 2014, could indeed be a compelling choice for Democrats. He's young (just 37) and, so far, he's the only potential African-American candidate to get Great Mentioner treatment. But Gillum would almost certainly wind up facing some serious competition in the primary, and thanks to his youth, he could choose to wait for some future opportunity. In fact, earlier this year, he considered a bid for the House but ultimately declined to run.
The thing with rising stars, though, is that they can only rise so far before they start to lose their luster. Sometimes you just need to abandon caution and go for it while you're still shining.
● IL-Gov: Prior to Election Day, a spokesperson for Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos didn't rule out a possible bid for governor by her boss. Now with a third term in the House secure, Bustos herself is saying the same thing. In a new interview, when asked if she was "thinking about" running against GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, she said she's "not closing the door" to the idea.
At least a dozen other Democratic names are in circulation, though, and here's a new one: Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar. Back in 2011, the unheralded and underfunded Pawar defeated the "hand-picked replacement" of a 35-year incumbent alderman, a notable accomplishment in a city notorious for the dominance of old-school machine politics. Pawar understandably sounds unintimidated by the prospect of going up against much more established candidates, including the billionaire Rauner, and he says he's "close" to getting into the race, though he didn't offer a specific timetable for making an announcement.
● MA-Gov: Newton Mayor Setti Warren hasn't publicly spoken about running for governor, but according to a new report in the Boston Globe, he's recently been raising money from donors, specifically with an eye toward taking on Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. According to one anonymous person who received a solicitation, Warren said, "I am going to run for governor, and I am starting my campaign now." Why not just go public, then? Warren would be the first to do so, and it could give him a leg up and potentially deter rivals. Politicians can be very hard to understand sometimes.
● ME-Gov: On a night of many disappointments, the race for Maine's governorship proved an especially bitter one for Democrats in 2014, as then-Rep. Mike Michaud fell 5 points short of unseating Gov. Paul LePage, one of Republicans most despised by liberals. Come 2018, though, LePage will be term-limited, theoretically giving Team Blue a better shot at reclaiming Maine's governorship, and there are several candidates on both sides who could run.
Local TV news station WCSH has a helpful rundown of some of the main (sorry) contenders. For Democrats, businessman Adam Cote, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who lost the primary for Maine's 1st Congressional District in 2008 to now-Rep. Chellie Pingree, has expressed interest. So has car dealer Adam Lee, whose company describes itself as the state's "no. 1 volume auto dealer."
A trio of current officeholders have also not ruled out bids: state Attorney General Janet Mills, state Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, and state House Speaker Mark Eves. (Both Alfond and Eves are about to leave office shortly due to term limits, and note that in Maine, attorney general is not an elected position.) WCSH also mentions Troy Jackson, a former state Senate majority leader who is returning to the chamber and was just selected to replace Alfond as Democratic leader. Jackson, who lost the 2014 Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District, was also Bernie Sanders' top surrogate in the state this year.
On the GOP side, the big question is whether Sen. Susan Collins will run. Collins has long been rumored to be interested in making the switch from the Senate to the governor's mansion, and a spokesman is keeping those rumors alive, saying this week that "it was too early to speculate" about her intentions. That's probably driving other Republicans nuts, since they'll all have to wait to see what Collins does. In the meantime, though, state party chair Rick Bennett says that he's considering, and WCSH also mentions Rep. Bruce Poliquin, state Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, and former state Rep. Joe Bruno, the CEO of a chain of pharmacies, as potential candidates.
● MI-Gov: State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof never sounded very enthused about a possible gubernatorial bid in 2018, and now he's definitively said no to the idea, saying, "It is not where my faith and my God have led me to serve." That leaves two other notable Republicans who are still considering (and apparently preparing for) bids, state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, though other names might yet surface.
In fact, local news station WTVB also mentions state Sen. Rick Jones as a possibility; like Schuette and Calley, Jones is also term-limited in two years' time. For good measure, the Detroit News adds in state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who will also be termed out, and further notes that Rep. Candice Miller, who just won the job of Macomb County public works commissioner, has said "she is focusing on her new job." We count that as "not ruling out a bid" (previously, Miller had only received Great Mentioner treatment).
The News also tosses in one new Democratic name, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. Other possible Democrats include former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, Rep. Dan Kildee, and Rep. Debbie Dingell.
● OK-Gov: While Democratic ex-Rep. Dan Boren publicly considered running for this open seat in 2018, he recently told the Associated Press that he wouldn't go for it. The conservative Boren frustrated progressives when he was in the House, but he is probably one of the only Democrats who can win statewide in Oklahoma these days. But David Boren, who is Dan Boren's father and a former governor and U.S. senator, will be happy with his son's move: Earlier this year, the elder Boren publicly advised Dan Boren not to run.
Still, there are some other Democrats who may be interested in running. Ex-state Rep. Joe Dorman, who lost to GOP incumbent Mary Fallin 56-41 in 2014, said back in January that he wouldn't run against Boren. However, Dorman also said that "we will see what happens as it gets closer to the time to announce," and he may still be interested. WGOU, the local NPR affiliate, also mentions state House Minority Leader Scott Inman, who is termed-out in 2018, though they note that Inman hasn't said anything about his plans.
The potential GOP field is unsurprisingly much larger. In October, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt confirmed he was thinking about running to succeed the termed-out Fallin. The Associated Press also mentions Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, and state Treasurer Ken Millers as possible GOP candidates, though none of them appear to have publicly expressed interest yet.
A few days ago, wealthy Tulsa lawyer Gary Richardson also said that he would take a "very serious look" at running. Whether or not Sooner State Republicans want Richardson is another question. In 2002, Richardson ran for governor as an independent and spent $2 million of his own money. Democrat Brad Henry narrowly beat Republican Steve Largent by fewer than 7,000 votes, or 43.3-42.6, and the 14 percent of the vote that Richardson won probably cost Largent the governorship. However, Richardson says that if he runs in 2018, it will be as a Republican.
● CA-49: Retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate surprised the hell out of the political world back in June after GOP Rep. Darrell Issa won California's top-two primary by a slim 51-46 margin, and he went on to prove those results were no fluke. Applegate, a political unknown until the primary, subsequently earned serious support from both the grassroots and the establishment, and he came awfully close to beating Issa in November, losing by less than 1 percent (currently 50.4 to 49.6).
Next time around, though, there will be no surprises. On Tuesday, just a day after Issa was finally declared the winner, Applegate announced he would seek a rematch. In addition to giving him far more time to prepare, Applegate's early move is likely a signal to other potential Democrats who might suddenly be interested now that Issa's vulnerability has been confirmed.
The last two midterm elections have not been kind to Democrats, who saw big drops in turnout among their supporters. But at the same time, history has shown that midterms are usually bad for the party that holds the White House, which of course would benefit Applegate if this general pattern continues. However, it's very hard to say how Trump will affect things, and it's possible that his candidacy hurt Issa; without Trump on the ballot next time, the congressman might just be better off.
● GA-06: On Wednesday, Republican state Sen. Judson Hill became the first candidate to officially join the race for the special election to succeed Rep. Tom Price, who is likely to get confirmed as Donald Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services early next year (ugh). Several other Republicans also now say they are considering bids: state Sen. Brandon Beach, former Secretary of State Karen Handel, and businessman Bruce Levell join immigration attorney Charles Kuck in the "maybe" crowd.
In addition, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein reports that former state Sen. Dan Moody and former Johns Creek Councilwoman Kelly Stewart are also looking at the race, though they haven't said anything publicly. Moody is personally wealthy and has reportedly been telling people he's willing to self-fund.
Democrats, meanwhile, have fewer options to choose from, but it looks like at least one might be interested. State Rep. Scott Holcomb told Bluestein, "It's a tough race, but the right candidate could raise all the money necessary. The district is not looking for a rubber stamp for Trump." That sounds like someone who's thinking things over. And indeed, as we've noted, Trump only carried Georgia's 6th District by a narrow 48-47 margin, far closer than Mitt Romney's 61-37 win here for years ago.
● LA-03: The Dec. 10 all-GOP runoff for this Lafayette area seat is fast approaching. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who did well here during the 2015 gubernatorial jungle primary, entered this race as the man to beat. However, Angelle only narrowly led Clay Higgins, a former spokesman for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office, by a 29-27 margin in the November jungle primary.
The GOP pollster the Trafalgar Group soon released a survey, apparently independent of any candidate or group, that showed Higgins leading Angelle 50-42. Just before Thanksgiving, Angelle's team released a survey from OnMessage Inc. showing him ahead of Higgins 46-42. The conservative blog The Hayride later wrote on Nov. 23 that a Higgins super PAC had commissioned a poll from Magellan Strategies that showed Higgins ahead by a wide 50-32. However, the writeup did not include necessary basic details about the poll, including the field dates.
This is shaping up to be a prototypical Republican insider versus conservative outsider battle. Angelle held senior positions under two former Louisiana governors, Democrat Kathleen Blanco and Republican Bobby Jindal, and Jindal appointed him interim lieutenant governor in 2010. (Angelle was a Democrat at the time, and he switched parties shortly before leaving office.) Angelle's congressional campaign has the support of both the influential Louisiana Sheriffs' Association and the NRA. Higgins raised very little money before the November jungle primary, but he is a local celebrity from his "Crime Stoppers" videos, which featured him dramatically calling out criminals and have drawn national attention.
● DCCC: While some Democrats had wanted to make the position of DCCC chair a position elected by the entire caucus rather than hand-selected by the party's leader, that reform was not one of those adopted by Nancy Pelosi in her successful bid to remain the top Democrat in the House on Wednesday. Several days before the vote, in fact, Pelosi said she would once again tap New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan to head up the D-Trip, and now his position at the committee is secure.
With this news, we now know the 2018 chairs for all four major party committees. Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen will helm the DSCC, while Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner will run the NRSC and Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers will be in charge of the NRCC.
● Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the presidential election results by congressional district arrives in Utah, a safely red state that was a bit more chaotic than usual in 2016. 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.)
While Donald Trump carried the Beehive State, he took just 45.5 percent of the vote, the worst showing for a GOP presidential nominee in 24 years. Hillary Clinton was still a distant second with 27.5 percent, while conservative independent Evan McMullin took 21.5 percent, the strongest performance from a third party or independent candidate in a presidential election in any state since 1992. We've calculated how well McMullin did in each of Utah's four congressional districts, and he managed to edge Clinton out for second place in UT-03. Trump took this seat with 47.2 percent of the vote, while McMullin led Clinton 24.5-23.3 for the silver. Over in the 1st District, Trump won with 49.7, while Clinton edged McMullin 22.4-22.3 for second place.
Democrats tried to target freshman GOP Rep. Mia Love in the 4th District, but she defeated Democrat Doug Owens by a convincing 54-41. Trump led Clinton 39.1-32.4 here, with McMullin taking 22.5. Finally, Trump carried the 2nd District 46.0-32.0, while McMullin took just 16.9.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.