● NV State Senate: The GOP flipped both chambers of the Nevada legislature in 2014, a year where Democratic voters disproportionately stayed home. While presidential turnout should allow Team Blue to retake the Assembly, where Obama carried 26 of the 42 seats, neither party has much room for error in the state Senate. Democrats need to net one seat to take back the upper house: They're on the offensive in the open SD-06 around Las Vegas and in the open SD-15 in the Reno area, while Republicans are hoping to unseat state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse in SD-05 around Henderson.
In SD-15, Republican leaders closed ranks months ago behind ex-Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, who also used to serve as Gov. Brian Sandoval's chief of staff. It took a while for Democrats to find a candidate for this Obama 51-47 seat, but they finally got someone in January. Attorney Devon Reese picked up an endorsement from Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, whom Jon Ralston describes as "a nonpartisan who rarely endorses." Democratic state Senate leaders are also backing Reese. To make things a bit more exciting, wealthy brothel owner Dennis Hof is running as a Libertarian. (Prostitution is not legal in Reno, but it is allowed in some nearby rural counties.)
Over in SD-06, the GOP has a primary between two Assembly members, Erv Nelson and Victoria Seaman. Nelson has the support of the GOP leadership, and he outraised Seaman $121,000 to $89,000 last year; Seaman won her Assembly seat in a fluke after her Democratic foe was disqualified from the ballot. The Democrats are fielding Clark County Deputy District Attorney Nicole Cannizzaro, who raised $101,000. Obama carried this seat 52-47. Finally, in SD-05, Woodhouse faces Republican charter school principle Carrie Buck in a seat Obama took 52-46. Woohouse outraised Buck $135,000 to $79,000 last year.
● CA-Sen: On Monday, GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez announced that he was quitting the race for this open seat and seeking re-election instead. Amusingly, Chavez made his declaration on stage right before a Senate debate was about to begin and he immediately exited the studio, leaving behind two shocked former opponents. Sadly, Chavez did not shout, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!" on his way out the door.
Before the days of the top-two primary, Chavez's abrupt departure would be an amusing item, but not worth much more attention. However, the June primary is a lot different with him gone. Before Monday, Chavez and ex-state party chairs Duf Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro looked likely to split the GOP vote and allow two Democrats, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, to advance to the November general election. While Chavez had almost no money, he did have some name recognition in the San Diego area. Chavez also had the support of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a rising star in the state party, so he could have taken a decent chunk of the GOP vote.
But if there are just two notable Democrats competing against two notable Republicans, it'll be easier for Sundheim or Del Beccaro to grab one of the two spots in the general. Polls show that Harris is better known than Sanchez, and Harris has much more money available: If only one Democrat gets to advance, it'll probably be Harris. The attorney general would absolutely prefer to face a weak Republican in this blue state instead of a fellow Democrat, so she's undoubtedly pleased by this development.
California's filing deadline is next month, so there is still a little time for a semi-credible Republican to jump in and change the June primary math again. But it sounds like the Golden State's few influential Republicans are picking Sundheim over Del Beccaro: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin have both thrown him their support. Neither Sundheim nor Del Beccaro has much money available but if GOP power players side with Sundheim, it'll make it much easier for him to consolidate the GOP primary vote and take one of the general election slots.
● FL-Sen: Wealthy homebuilder Carlos Beruff has publically expressed interest in seeking the GOP nod, and it sounds like he's about to jump in. Beruff hasn't announced his plans yet but Joanna Burgos, a consultant to Gov. Rick Scott, tells the Associated Press that Beruff is likely to run and has already picked out who will staff the campaign.
Beruff is close to Gov. Rick Scott, and he could make a splash if he gets in. Right now, the GOP primary is a four-way race between tea partying Rep. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Rep. David Jolly, and rich guy Todd Wilcox. Beruff is an ardent anti-tax advocate, so he may hurt DeSantis the most. DeSantis seems to recognize this, since he quickly put out a statement comparing Beruff to Charlie Crist, who is utterly despised by Florida Republicans.
● IN-Gov: Ex-state Republican Party head Eric Holcomb dropped his bid for Indiana's open Senate seat on Monday, but Hoosiers will see him on their ballot after all. On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence announced that Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who has applied to become president of a local college, will resign in the near future. Holcomb will take her place after she departs, and he will also serve as Pence's running mate this fall.
Lieutenant governor candidates rarely make much of a difference in the general election, and while Pence may have hoped that Holcomb could have helped him reconcile with angry business conservatives, it doesn’t look good so far. Ex-Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle has been one of Pence’s fiercest GOP critics ever since the governor backed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year, a law that would have made it easier for businesses to discriminate against LGBT residents. Oesterle had a better view of Holcomb, and he set up a super PAC to help his Senate campaign. But Oesterle wasted no time characterizing Holcomb’s decision to join Pence’s ticket as a “betrayal.” Holcomb raised very little during his Senate race, so it’s unlikely that there are other wealthy donors who will be persuaded to back Pence now that he has Holcomb at his side.
● NY-Gov: From the moment he announced he wouldn't seek re-election last year, every political observer in New York began speculating that GOP Rep. Chris Gibson wanted to run for governor in 2018. Now, 33 months before Election Day, he's gone and created an exploratory committee for a bid against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. No Republican has won statewide office in New York since George Pataki secured a third and final gubernatorial term in 2002, and he had the good fortune to first win office in the Gingrich tsunami of '94.
For Gibson, the challenge will be even tougher: The state is bluer now, and you can't exactly bank on a massive wave election to aid your cause. What's more, Cuomo is a madcap fundraiser who will spend tens of millions on his re-election campaign—if, that is, he actually runs again. But even if Cuomo decides not to seek a third term, Democrats will still be heavily favored. However, the New York media, which hasn't gotten to cover a competitive statewide race in ages, will be very eager to portray Gibson as an ideal Republican candidate and will do everything in its power to act as though the contest is close, so expect an annoying few years ahead.
● LA-03: On Thursday, ex-state Rep. Brett Geymann set up a campaign account with the FEC, but he has yet to announce that he's in. If Geymann runs, he'll join fellow Republicans Erick Knezek, a Lafayette School Board member, and energy businessman Greg Ellison in the hunt for this open 66-32 Romney seat. (Hat-tip Politics1)
● NC-02: The Club For Growth endorsed businessman Jim Duncan's campaign against GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers a little while ago, and they're now backing up their press releases with action. Roll Call reports that the Club is spending $400,000 to support him ahead of the March 15 primary for this safely red Raleigh-area seat; the buy, which includes some online advertising, will last about two weeks.
The Club's TV spot argues that Ellmers has become part of the problem in Washington in just five years, hitting her on votes "for massive corporate giveaways," and her support for the "sheep industry improvement center in Maine." Of course, there's the obligatory picture of a cute sheep and a bahhh sound effect. Ellmers herself was a tea party activist who came to Congress in 2010 by upsetting an entrenched Democratic congressman, but quickly became close to the House leadership. Ellmers turned back a 2014 primary challenge from underfunded foe Frank Roche by a weak 59-41, and she has her work cut out for her if she wants to survive next month's primary.
Ellmers isn't an incredibly strong fundraiser: In the fourth quarter of 2015, she brought in a meh $175,000. Duncan took in only $75,000 from donors during that time, but he's wealthy enough to do some-self funding. Ellmers posts a $415,000 to $212,000 cash-on-hand lead, but it's unclear if any outside groups will follow the Club's lead and spend on her.
Ellmers has three other primary opponents, which could end up saving her. In North Carolina, the top two vote-getters only advance to a runoff if no one takes more than 40 percent. Neither Roche, former state party spokeswoman Kay Daly, or freakazoid part-time ark-hunter Tim D'Annunzio have so much as $50,000 between them. But if they take enough anti-Ellmers votes away from Duncan, they could secure her one more term.
● OH-08: The Club for Growth has launched a $400,000 buy in support of veteran Warren Davidson, who faces two other notable opponents in the March 15 GOP primary for this safely red seat. The TV ad promotes Davidson's military and business background, and stresses that he's "not a political insider." Riveting.
Another GOP candidate, state Rep. Tim Derickson, is also spending $70,000 on a commercial. The spot starts with shots of cows in a barn as Derickson decries Washington politicians, before showing a cow pie to underscore his point about how DC politics "always stinks" (symbolism!). Derickson then talks about his farming background and how he's "used to cleaning up a mess" (subtle!), before talking about his conservative record in the legislature. Derickson proclaims at the end that he's "fed up with the," with his final words being drowned out by a cow mooing. (He was going to say "bullshit." Sorry to deprive you of the mystery.) The ad is actually good at grabbing the viewer's attention, especially compared to the Club's bland offering.
Davidson is the favorite of anti-establishment groups and tea party friendly politicians like House Freedom Caucus Chair Jim Jordan. Derickson is closer to the GOP establishment in Butler, a suburban Cincinnati county where about half the district lives. The two men were evenly matched in money at the end of the year: While Davidson hasn't raised much from donors, he self-funded his way to a $138,000 warchest, the same amount that Derickson had in the bank.
Thanks to a combination of fundraising and self-funding, state Sen. Bill Beagle had $203,000 available to spend. Beagle hails from the less-populated northern part of the district around Dayton, and he's hoping that he can consolidate enough support there to win. Davidson also comes from this area, though his tea party base is different from Beagle and Derickson's more establishment-oriented backers.
● WI-08: While GOP state Rep. John Macco initially expressed interest in this open Green Bay seat, he's decided not to go for it. A number of other Republicans and a few Democrats have flirted with bids for this 51-48 Romney district, but no one has entered the race yet.
● IL State House: Illinois Democrats hold a 71 to 47 majority in the state House, exactly the number they need to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's vetoes (Team Blue has a stronger edge in the state Senate). However, state Rep. Ken Dunkin, who represents a safely blue Chicago seat, was the one Democrat who broke ranks on a key budget vote that would have reversed Rauner's cuts to social services. State Democrats, especially Speaker Mike Madigan, were infuriated, and they're openly supporting attorney Juliana Stratton's campaign against Dunkin in the March 15 primary.
The Chicago Sun-Times' Andy Grimm takes a look at the very nasty contest, which has turned into a proxy war between Rauner and Madigan. The GOP-allied Illinois Opportunity Project has contributed $500,000 to Dunkin's campaign, and the group IllinoisGO has spent $140,000 supporting him. Dunkin is also running against Madigan, arguing that the "Mike Madigan slave mentality of his plantation politics is real," and calling Stratton the speaker's puppet (Dunkin and Stratton are both black, while Madigan is white). Dunkin also called his Democratic colleagues "monkeys" on Monday, before changing his description to "minions."
Stratton is asserting her independence from Madigan, but isn't hesitating to portray Dunkin as Rauner's ally. Stratton has the support of some key local Democrats, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis. There's no guarantee that Team Blue will net enough seats in November to override Rauner's vetoes without Stratton, and the March 15 primary will be closely watched.
● Predictions: The Monkey Cage, the poli sci arm of the Washington Post, is running a 2016 prediction contest in concert with the Good Judgment Project, and proprietor John Sides is encouraging the Daily Kos Elections community to take part. You can check out the questions they're asking and submit answers here, though note that Monkey Cage expects the list of questions to grow as the election cycle progresses.
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.