● LA-03: On Saturday, former police officer Clay Higgins defeated Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle 56-44 in the all-GOP runoff for this open seat in the Lafayette area. Angelle had done well in this area during his unsuccessful 2015 gubernatorial bid, and he decisively outraised all his opponents in last month's jungle primary. However, Higgins had celebrity on his side. While serving as a spokesman for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office, Higgins starred in a series of "Crime Stoppers" videos that featured him melodramatically calling out criminals. Higgins' theatrics earned national attention, and the Tonight Show even featured one last year. Nathan Gonzales suggested on election night that Higgins "might be the first internet meme to get elected to Congress." Given how American politics is looking these days, he may sadly not be the last.
However, Higgins didn't just have fame aiding him. After Angelle lost the 2015 gubernatorial primary to GOP Sen. David Vitter, he refused to endorse Vitter in the runoff. While Angelle didn't go as far as Jay Dardenne, another defeated Republican who actually backed Democrat John Bel Edwards' successful campaign, Vitter's allies wanted to exact their revenge on the public service commissioner. Vitter's former chief of staff headed a super PAC called Make Louisiana Great Again (guess who they also like?) that ran ads against Angelle in the congressional runoff. The PAC also received help from people close to state Attorney General Jeff Landry; if Angelle had won, he and Landry might have been opponents in the 2019 gubernatorial race to face Edwards.
Higgins and his allies ran with it, arguing that Angelle was a corrupt insider who was disloyal to the GOP, and that was certainly a potent theme in the year of Donald Trump. Yet just before the runoff, Higgins' ex-wife released a tape that featured the candidate telling her that if he won, his $174,000 annual congressional salary would help him pay off the more than $100,000 he owes her in child support. That didn't prevent Higgins' easy win, so good news for his pocketbook!
● LA-Sen, LA-04: Louisiana also held runoffs on Saturday both for the Senate and in the 4th Congressional District, and unsurprisingly, the GOP easily held both. In the Senate race, GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy beat Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell 61-39, a margin very similar to Donald Trump's 58-38 win here last month. For Kennedy, he finally achieved success in his third bid for the Senate. In 2004, Kennedy, then a Democrat, ran for what was then an open seat but took just 15 percent of the vote in the jungle primary which fellow Republican David Vitter won outright. Kennedy joined the GOP in 2007 and challenged Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu the following year, but he lost by a somewhat closer-than-expected 52-46.
In the Shreveport-based 4th District, Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson defeated Some Dude Democrat Marshall Jones 62-38; Trump similarly won 61-37 here last month. Johnson, who unsuccessfully pushed for the anti-LGBT "Marriage and Conscience Act" in 2015, is a favorite of both local religious conservatives and the powerful national anti-tax group the Club for Growth.
● ME-Sen: Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, will be up for re-election in 2018. Outgoing Republican Gov. Paul LePage has talked about running against him, but there's never any telling what LePage will actually do. A GOP source also tells the Bangor Daily News that state Sen. Eric Brakey is planning to kick off a campaign just after New Year's Day, though Brakey hasn't said anything publicly.
Brakey, who is 28 years old, was Ron Paul's state director in 2012, when Paul came close to winning the state caucus. Brakey unseated a Democratic incumbent two years later and was Rand Paul's state chair in 2016. (Paul's campaign died long before this year's Maine caucus.) It remains to be seen if the GOP plans to make King a major target, or whether the national GOP would be okay with a Paulist like Brakey as their nominee.
● ND-Sen: Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is up for re-election in 2018, and there's the unsettling possibility that she'll take a job in the Trump administration rather than defend her seat. If Heitkamp resigns, there will be a special election within 95 days to fill her seat. North Dakota backed Donald Trump by an insane 62-27 margin last month, and Republicans would be heavily favored to pickup this seat without Heitkamp.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, who represents the entire state in the House, is a potential challenger for Heitkamp if she does stay and defend her seat, and a special election run may just be too good to pass up. Indeed, The Hill reports that Cramer recently met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and incoming NRSC chair Cory Gardner about a run. They also say that Cramer has told his friends and colleagues that he's likely to challenge Heitkamp if she stays put. If Cramer doesn't run, the GOP has plenty of other options in North Dakota, but Team Blue doesn't have that luxury.
● OH-Sen: A few days ago, we first heard GOP state Sen.-elect Matt Huffman mentioned as a possible candidate against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Huffman himself has now acknowledged that he's considering, telling The Lima News that he's "talking with some people to see if it's in the realm of reality."
Huffman added that he "think[s] it's way too early to be deciding and to begin a campaign," which may be more than a little naive. State Treasurer and 2012 nominee Josh Mandel is already running, and while Mandel is an asshole, he's a well-connected asshole who already has $1.4 million in the bank. Rep. Pat Tiberi, who is an ally of Gov. John Kasich, is also talking about getting in, and Tiberi has a massive $5.2 million in his House account that he could immediately transfer to a Senate campaign. Huffman says he does recognize that any prospective GOP Senate candidate will need to raise between $5 and $10 million for the primary, which he insists he can do.
● WV-Sen: If Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin runs for re-election in 2018, he'll have a big fat target on his back in a state Donald Trump carried 68-26. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has been mentioned as a possible challenger, and he didn't rule anything out when the National Journal asked him about his plans.
However, it's very possible that Manchin will take a job with Trump rather than run for re-election. If Manchin does sell out his party and join the Trump administration, the timing of his resignation would help determine whether outgoing Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin or Democratic Gov.-elect Jim Justice would be the one to appoint his successor, or whether there would be a special election.
Under current state law, the governor gets to appoint a new senator, who would get to serve until the 2018 election. However, when Manchin thought about running for governor in 2015, the GOP-controlled state legislature considered changing the law to force a special election and prevent the governor from appointing an interim senator. It only takes a simple majority in each chamber to override a veto, so there was little Tomblin could have done to stop them.
The plan died after Manchin decided to stay in the Senate, but the GOP could go through with it this time. The small bit of good news for Team Blue is that the 2017 West Virginia legislative session doesn't begin until Feb. 8, so the current law is safe at least until then. An appointed Democrat would still have a very tough time in 2018, but a special election would probably be close to hopeless in modern-day West Virginia.
● FL-Gov: Ex-St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican, has been out of office since 2010, and while he's made noises about running for Congress or statewide office many times, he's never gone for it. Baker has been mentioned as a possible 2017 challenger for current St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, but he's reportedly instead telling people around him that he's interested in running for governor.
However, the Tampa Bay Times'Adam Smith says that he has "yet to hear much enthusiasm for the idea, or confidence that Baker will ultimately pull the trigger." Smith writes that Baker's many flirtations with higher office "has earned a reputation as something of a hand-wringing Hamlet." Baker has reportedly dismissed talk about a gubernatorial bid, though there's no definitive quote from him saying "I'm not going to run."
No notable Republicans have entered the race to succeed termed-out Gov. Rick Scott yet. State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is likely to get in, while ex-state House Speaker Will Weatherford has talked about running. New House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been mentioned, though Corcoran hasn't said much about his 2018 plans. Smith also briefly mentions state Sen. Jack Latvala as a possibility.
● IA-Gov: Assuming GOP Gov. Terry Branstad is confirmed as Donald Trump's ambassador to China, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will be the incumbent heading into the 2018 cycle. Democrats could have an easier time against Reynolds than they would have against Branstad, who has won the governorship six times in the past, but Iowa has become an unfriendly state for Team Blue over the past two election cycles. Democrats will be looking to turn things around, but it's still far from clear who will be their standard bearer.
Over at the Iowa Starting Line, Pat Rynard dons his Great Mentioner cap (hey, we should actually make those!) and looks at which Democrats might run. Rynard reports that Rich Leopold, the director of the Polk County Conservation Board, is considering, though Leopold doesn't appear to have said anything publicly. (Polk County is home to Des Moines, Iowa's largest city.) Outgoing Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy (short for Andrea) McGuire has been a rumored candidate for a while, though Donald Trump's 52-42 win and Team Blue's horrible night downballot may hurt her. Rynard also writes that plenty of people are waiting to see if state Sen. Liz Mathis, who won a hard-fought 2011 special election that kept the state Senate blue until this year's debacle, will get in.
Rynard throws out several other names who could make the race, though as far as we know, none of these politicians have yet to show any interest publicly or privately. The most high-profile possibility is Rep. Dave Loebsack, who is Iowa's only remaining Democratic member of Congress. While Loebsack's 2nd District solidly backed Obama in 2012, Trump carried it 49-45, and national Democrats probably wouldn't relish defending it without Loebsack. Rynard also mentions state Rep. Todd Prichard; state Sen. Rita Hart; ex-state Rep. Tyler Olsen, who briefly ran in 2014; Bill Brauch, a former head of the state attorney general's consumer protection division; and incoming state Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg, who lost the 2016 Senate primary to former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge.
● MN-Gov: Last month, when Democratic Rep. Tim Walz was asked if he'd consider running for governor in 2018, a spokesperson issued a statement that didn't address the question directly but also didn't rule the idea out. Now Walz himself confirms that stance, saying "the future is always open." While a gubernatorial race wouldn't be easy, Walz might well be seeking an escape hatch: In a total surprise, he barely won re-election this year by less than 1 percent, and Donald Trump carried his district, which had gone 50-48 for Obama, by a scary 53-38 margin. However, you can bet that the DCCC will try to convince Walz to stay and defend his seat.
● NM-Gov: A few days ago, we first heard ex-Univision executive Jeff Apodaca mentioned as a possible 2018 Democratic candidate. Now Apodaca, whose father, Jerry Apodaca, was governor in the 1970s, has publicly expressed interest. A number of other Democrats have also talked about getting in.
● PA-Gov: Keystone State politicos just held their annual schmancy confab under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Society (which, amusingly, takes places every year in New York City), and it's always a time for reporters to catch up with would-be office-seekers and ask what they're up to between nibbles on canapés. To that end, PennLive's John Micek has some helpful updates on a variety of possible Republican gubernatorial contenders:
● Former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley: We previously had him down as "reportedly considering," but now we're upgrading him to "hasn't ruled it out" after he told Micek, "I think about a great many things." So do we. So many things.
● State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman: His status hasn't changed (still at "hasn't ruled it out"), but now he's offered a vague timeline, saying he's going "to do my job for the next six months and then make a decision."
● State House Speaker Mike Turzai: Previously, he'd only gotten Great Mentioner treatment, but now he's actually saying on the record, "I have not ruled out anything for the future."
● Rep. Lou Barletta: This is an entirely new name to us. The nativist Barletta, who's reportedly a potential Trump administration hire, was very coy in talking to Micek, but he definitely didn't rule anything out and said, "I've never planned ahead." Ah, exactly the mindset you want in an elected official! He'd be perfect fit with the Trump team.
So far, the only Republican running for the right to face Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2018 is wealthy state Sen. Scott Wagner, though several others have either expressed interest or seen their names appear on the kind of lists that inevitably circulate this early in the cycle.
● RI-Gov: Even though Rhode Island has long been a blue state on the federal level, another Republican is considering a run against Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo in 2018. Giovanni Feroce, the CEO of the watch company Benrus, says he's taking "a serious look" at the race, and he may have some personal wealth he can bring to bear. (GoLocalProv listed him at number 20 on their list of "Rhode Island's 50 wealthiest and most influential" people last year.)
Perhaps more intriguingly, GoLocalProv also mentions attorney Clay Pell as a possible Democratic challenger to Raimondo, saying that private polls taken before the election showed the governor "with negatives in the 65 to 70 percent range." That's brutal, to say the least, and would be difficult to recover from, even with the election two years away. Pell, the grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (who was responsible for the student loan program that bears his name) came in third in the Democratic primary two years ago. He also exhibited some really weird behavior in connect with claims that his car had been stolen—weird enough that it generated a lot of headlines and weird enough that we still remember it as the defining feature of his campaign all these years later.
But maybe he's gotten his act together since then, or maybe some stronger contenders are thinking about taking on Raimondo. With numbers like hers, she'll have to watch her back carefully.
● CA-34: Whoa. In a shocking development, former Assembly Speaker John Perez has dropped out of the special election for Xavier Becerra's soon-to-be-vacant House seat, citing an undisclosed health issue. Perez, just 47, entered the race almost immediately after Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Becerra as California's new attorney general and very quickly rolled out a big slate of high-profile endorsements from multiple Congressional Democrats and statewide elected officials, which makes his departure such a surprise.
However, despite Perez's hefty show of support, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez didn't hesitate to join the contest, and he's now secured a major endorsement of his own, from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. In other potentially good news for Gomez, another Democrat, Los Angeles City Councilor David Ryu, has also declined a bid. However, a bunch of other pols have gotten Great Mentioner treatment, and with Perez out, they might now be more inclined to jump into the race for this dark blue seat in downtown Los Angeles.
● Deaths: On Saturday, West Virginia Democrat Ken Hechler, who was the oldest living former member of Congress, died at the age of 102. Hechler had a long career in politics, starting with a job editing President Franklin Roosevelt's papers. After serving in World War II, Hechler became a speechwriter for President Harry Truman from 1949 to 1953, and he was head of research for Adlai Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign.
Soon after, Hechler moved to Huntington, West Virginia to teach at Marshall University. A Long Island native, he quickly entered politics himself and narrowly unseated Republican Rep. William Neal in 1958. Hechler later described himself as "a carpetbagger in a state where people and their ancestors are very much honored," but he went on to hold elected office in the Mountain State for decades. Hechler was reportedly the only member of Congress to join Martin Luther King in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, and he also spent his tenure fighting to improve safety and health standards in coal mines.
In 1976, Hechler gave up his House seat to run for governor, but he lost the primary to then-Secretary of State Jay Rockefeller 50-13. Hechler tried to hold onto his southern West Virginia House seat later that year through a write-in campaign, but he lost the general election to Democrat Nick Rahall 46-37. Hechler ran in the Democratic primary against Rahall two years later, but lost 56-44. After another stint teaching at Marshall, Hechler was elected West Virginia's secretary of state in 1984. Hechler made another attempt to beat Rahall in 1990, but he again lost 57-43; Rahall would remain in the House until his 2014 defeat at the hands of Republicans.
Hechler won two more terms as secretary of state and gave up his post to run for a different House seat in 2000 at the age of 86, but lost the primary 43-25. Hechler ended up running for secretary of state yet again in 2004, only to narrowly lose the general election. Hechler launched one last campaign in 2010 when he was 95, running in the Senate primary against then-Gov. Joe Manchin from the left. Hechler's campaign posed no real threat to Manchin, who beat him 73-17. With Hechler's death, the oldest former member of Congress is now Republican John Wold, a 100-year old who was a congressman from Wyoming from 1969 to 1971.
● Polling: In a development that's dismaying to all election-watchers and data hounds, the vaunted Field Research announced that it will be closing shop next year. The firm was founded in 1947 by Mervin Field, the son of Jewish immigrants and a World War II veteran who went on to become a legend for his highly accurate polls of California politics. Field himself only died last year at the age of 94 and had remained actively involved with his company into his 90s.
Unfortunately, the firm's flagship product, the Field Poll, became a victim of shrinking media budgets, as media subscribers were Field's chief clients. A French public relations outfit, Havas, had been the company's chief sponsor but recently decided to end the relationship. As Field's director, Marc DiCamillo told the Sacramento Bee, "It's the end of an era"—and a sad end indeed. The polling world will be poorer without Field.
● Pres-by-CD: We cover four new states in our project to calculate the presidential election results by congressional district: Arizona, Washington, Maine, and Rhode Island. 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 final results are officially certified and the precinct-level election results we need for our calculations become available.
Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Arizona 49-45, a drop from Mitt Romney's 54-45 win there four years ago. Trump took five of Arizona's nine congressional districts, losing one seat that Romney had won: The 2nd District, located in the Tucson area, swung from 50-48 Romney to 50-45 Clinton. But Republican Rep. Martha McSally ran far ahead of the ticket and defeated Democrat Matt Heinz 57-43, two years after unseating Democratic incumbent Ron Barber by just 168 votes. National Democrats spent almost nothing on Heinz, but Clinton's win could encourage them to make this a target in another cycle. However, McSally is a very strong fundraiser, and her decisive win could dissuade local Democrats from challenging her.
Democrats, meanwhile, hold one seat that backed Trump. The gigantic 1st District, which stretches from Arizona's northern border to the Tucson suburbs, supported Trump 48-47, not much different than Romney's 50-48 here. However, Democrat Tom O'Halleran held this open seat for Team Blue, defeating Republican Paul Babeu by a clear 51-44 margin. Babeu's awful past helped keep this seat from flipping. National Democrats ran commercials highlighting the child abuse that happened under Babeu's watch at a Massachusetts school he once ran; Babeu denied that he knew what was happening, but court documents, the testimony of his former students, and Babeu's own words contradicted that. GOP outside groups spent almost nothing to help prop up Babeu, apparently deciding that he was just too weak to be worth their investment.
Clinton decisively took the 3rd, 7th, and 9th Districts, and each seat has a Democratic House member. The 9th, which includes parts of Tempe, Scottsdale, and Mesa, shifted from a 51-47 Obama seat to one Clinton carried by a much wider 55-38. If Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema leaves this seat to run statewide, Team Blue will be happy if they don't need to spend much to defend her district. Trump took the other four seats, and the GOP represents each of them. Rep. David Schweikert's 6th District, which includes some of Phoenix's northern suburbs, did move from 60-39 Romney to 52-42 Trump. That's still quite red, but it could be a hopeful sign for Democrats for the future.
We turn next to Washington. Clinton carried the Evergreen State 54-38, not too different than Obama's 56-41 win in 2012. Clinton won the same seven congressional districts as Obama did, while Trump took the same three Romney seats. All of the Trump/Romney seats have GOP representatives while the 8th District, based in Seattle's eastern suburbs, is the one Clinton seat to send a Republican to the House. Clinton won 48-45 here, a touch better than Obama's 50-48 victory. However, GOP Rep. Dave Reichert defeated an underfunded Democratic opponent 60-40. National Democrats haven't seriously targeted Reichert ever since the 2012 round of redistricting made his seat redder.
The remaining nine seats look safe for the party that currently holds them. While Romney carried the Vancouver-based 3rd just 50-48, Trump won it by a stronger 50-43; Democrats also haven't made a serious effort to unseat Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler since redistricting made her seat more Republican. The Spokane-based 5th District may be open soon, since GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers is reportedly Trump's pick to head the Interior Department. However, Trump won it 52-39, so it will be very tough for Democrats to win here.
We also have the results for Maine's two congressional districts. Clinton carried Maine 48-45, a big drop from Obama's 56-41 win in 2012. Clinton carried the 1st District, which includes Portland, 54-39, several points closer than Obama's 60-38 victory. But the rural northern 2nd District was, to borrow from the great Scottish political sage Jamie MacDonald, a catastrofuck. While Obama won the 2nd 53-44, Trump ran away with it 51-41.
Trump's victory not only gave him one extra electoral vote (Maine and Nebraska give an electoral vote to the winner of each of their congressional districts), but it had downballot repercussions as well. Freshman Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin had defeated Democrat Emily Cain 47-42 during the 2014 GOP wave, and Democrats hoped that a better political climate would lift Cain to victory in her rematch. No such luck: Poliquin won their expensive second battle 55-45.
Finally, we also have results from Rhode Island, which Hillary Clinton carried 56-40. That wasn't particularly close, but was still a noticeable drop from Obama's 63-35 win in 2012. Clinton won both of the Ocean State's congressional districts, but she did far better in the eastern 1st District than in the western 2nd. Clinton carried the 1st 60-40, but she won the 2nd by a modest 51-44. In 2012, Obama took the 1st 66-32 and the 2nd 60-38.
However, 2nd District Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin pulled off an easy 58-31 win, and this seat is still probably blue enough that the GOP won't make a major play for it. If anything, Langevin has much more to fear from Democratic colleague David Cicilline than from any Republican. There's a good chance that Rhode Island will shrink to just a single congressional district 2020 census, and if they stick around until then, Langevin and Cicilline would battle it out in 2022 for the honor of being the Ocean State's only congressman.
● Radio: If you're wondering what the Daily Kos Elections team really sounds like, you're in luck. Over the weekend, Jeff Singer was on the Kudzu Vine talking about Donald Trump's victory, transition, and where Team Blue goes from here. Meanwhile, David Nir spoke with Tom Cheevers on the CoffeeCast about the election results and the races Democrats need to focus on going forward.
● Where Are They Now?: On Monday, former Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction in June on charges that he stole federal funds to repay a million-dollar campaign loan. Not long before he went on trial, Fattah lost the Democratic primary in his dark blue Philadelphia district to then-state Rep. Dwight Evans. Shortly after he was found guilty, Fattah resigned, and Evans won a special election to finish out the remainder of Fattah's term last month. Prosecutors had sought a 17- to 22-year sentence for Fattah, but as the U.S. attorney who oversaw the case put it, "Ten years is a very long time to be sitting in federal prison.
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.