● AZ-05: On Tuesday, former GoDaddy executive vice president Christine Jones kicked off her bid for this safely red open seat. Jones is wealthy, and she sounds ready to do some significant self-funding in the late August primary.
Jones took just a distant third place in the primary when she ran for governor in 2014, but she may still have the edge in what's shaping up to be a pretty mediocre field. State Senate President Andy Biggs, who is backed by retiring Rep. Matt Salmon, raised a pretty meh $100,000 during his first month in the race, but he also loaned himself another $100,000. Biggs is wealthy and can likely self-fund much more, though he acquired his money in a very different way than Jones. In 1993, Biggs won $10 million in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, and that incredible bit of luck has allowed Biggs to serve in the part-time state legislature without holding any other job.
State Rep. Justin Olson brought in only $15,000 during his first three weeks in the campaign, and he lent himself another $70,000; unless he won a Powerball when we weren't looking, he probably won't be able to self-fund enough to make up for his weak fundraising. Ex-state Parks Director Bryan Martyn (who disappointingly looks nothing like Ron Swanson) and ex-Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley both entered the race too late to report any first quarter fundraising. However, Martyn has some glaring flaws that could hold him back. In 2012, Martyn was found guilty of disorderly conduct after he got into a fight; he was later suspended for two weeks after he hired three of his sons for department posts, which violated the employment-of-relatives statute.
Stapley also had legal trouble after he was indicted by notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for alleged financial improprieties. The charges were eventually dismissed and Stapley was awarded a $3.5 million settlement from the county. However, Arpaio is a very popular figure in Arizona GOP politics, and Stapley's tangle with him probably won't go over well with primary voters. The filing deadline is June 1, so it's possible someone else will jump in.
● CA-Sen: SurveyUSA is out with another poll of the June 7 top-two primary and like everyone else who has released numbers, they show both Democrats grabbing the two general election spots. Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez take 29 and 18 percent, respectively. Ex-state Republican Party Chair Tom Del Beccaro is in third with 10, with 1994 gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz and fellow ex-state party head Duf Sundheim at 8 and 7.
All the Republicans have minimal name recognition or money, so it'll be tough for any of them to pick up enough support from the large pool of undecided voters to knock Sanchez out of second without some considerable outside help. Early voting is about to start so if there are any wealthy Republicans who really want to make sure their party doesn't get locked out of the general election, now's the time to act.
● IN-Sen: Well, that was anticlimactic. On Tuesday, Todd Young decisively defeated fellow Rep. Marlin Stutzman in the GOP primary to succeed retiring Sen. Dan Coats. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Young clobbered Stutzman 67-33.
Young's overwhelming win didn't come as much as a surprise. While powerful tea party-friendly groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed Stutzman, they spent almost nothing for him. Stutzman had problems raising money after he replaced most of his campaign team last year, and his nominal allies decided that they had better things to spend their cash on. Meanwhile, GOP establishment organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Senate Leadership Fund took nothing for granted and flooded the airwaves for Young.
Young will take on Democratic ex-Rep. Baron Hill, whom he unseated in 2010. Hill has raised very little money and national Democrats probably will triage this seat now that they've learned that they won't get to face the undisciplined Stutzman. Still, if there's a Democratic wave, we may see this seat come back onto the radar this fall. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Republican.
● NC-Sen: On behalf of the conservative Civitas Institute, the GOP pollster National Research takes a look at the general election, and they find Republican incumbent Richard Burr beating Democrat Deborah Ross just 39-37. Two other pollsters have released numbers since the mid-March primary, and they also found Burr with small leads: Elon University had Burr edging Ross 37-33, while PPP gave him a similar 40-36 advantage. It's worth noting that this same National Research sample also gave Democrat Roy Cooper a 46-36 lead in the gubernatorial contest, which seems a bit too good to be true for his party.
● AK-Gov: Former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich opted not to run for either the House or Senate this year after his heartbreakingly close re-election loss in 2014, but an intriguing new report suggests he may not be done with electoral politics quite yet. According to the Alaska Dispatch News' Nathaniel Herz, Alaska Republicans are worried that Begich will seek the governorship in 2018—the state party's new vice-chair said there's "zero chance that he doesn't run"—and Begich himself isn't commenting, though a friend of his called the idea "nonsense."
But if this is anything more than just an effort by the GOP to fire up its ranks, it would create a very unusual situation for state Democrats. That's because in 2014, the same electorate that unseated Begich also narrowly booted out Republican Gov. Sean Parnell in favor of independent Bill Walker, who ran with the support of Democrats (and even had one on his ticket as his running-mate). A Begich bid would therefore be predicated on Walker not seeking a second term, though the incumbent hasn't yet said what he'll do.
However, Alaska faces a horrendous fiscal picture, thanks to falling oil prices and Parnell's calamitous multi-year effort to push off any reckoning until after Election Day. It didn't work, but it left Walker with what the New York Times termed an "Alaska-size problem," one that might even lead to the state's first income tax in 35 years.
Making matters worse, the Republicans who control the legislature—many of whom were allies of Parnell—have resisted Walker's proposals for filling the state's $4.1 billion budget gap. So whether the crisis gets resolved or whether it drags on interminably, Walker will likely find his political standing badly damaged, perhaps so much so that he can't feasibly run for re-election. If that happens, Democrats would probably eagerly turn to Begich, though we're still a long way off from seeing what will happen.
● NH-Gov: Democrats are a long way from deciding on a nominee for New Hampshire's open governor's race—the primary isn't until September, and several candidates are running—but the state Democratic Party just reserved $2.1 million in TV ad time for the general election. There's a decent chance that the funds for this reservation will come from the DGA, since the RGA recently just booked $3 million worth of airtime itself.
● NY-Gov: In a surprising move, retiring GOP Rep. Chris Gibson announced on Monday night that he would not run for governor in 2018. Back in February, Gibson created an exploratory committee to prepare for a bid, and the fact that he had previously opted to leave the House at the end of this year strongly indicated he wanted to avoid a potential re-election loss before embarking on a difficult statewide run—and wanted to give himself as much time as possible to campaign.
But "difficult" was probably an understatement. No Republican has carried New York since former Gov. George Pataki won a third and final term in 2002, and the state has only grown bluer since then. And whether Andrew Cuomo, the current governor, runs again in two years or another Democrat takes his place, the race would strongly favor Team Blue: Even in the hell years of 2010 and 2014, Cuomo won with 62 and 54 percent of the vote, respectively.
All of this would have—and should have—been apparent to Gibson when he first began weighing a gubernatorial bid, but only now has he changed his mind. Indeed, he even went with the old "spend more time with his family" excuse. Gibson also received a teaching job from Williams College in Massachusetts, though it's only as a visiting lecturer, not a permanent position. That means Gibson could easily come back some day, though he says he's refunding donations to his exploratory committee. As for 2018, Republicans will likely wind up putting up a veritable Some Dude and getting pasted, once again.
● WV-Gov: PPP gives us our first look in months at the May 10 Democratic primary, and they show billionaire Jim Justice leading ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin 37-23, with state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler at 19. Back in February, a poll from Repass Research for MetroNews West Virginia gave Justice a 32-25 lead over Goodwin. PPP also takes a look at the general election against Republican state Senate President Bill Cole and like Repass, they find Justice performing noticeably better than the other two Democrats. Justice starts out with a 41-35 lead against Cole, while Goodwin trails 39-33 and Kessler falls 40-30.
The Democratic primary has gotten quite nasty over the last week. Justice recently ran an ad against both his opponents, but he ran a second spot focusing on Goodwin. Goodwin has responded by hitting Justice, while a mysterious group called Americans for Integrity In Government Officials also recently went up with a commercial using dash cam footage from an incident in late 2014 when Justice was pulled over for speeding and proceeded to berate the officer. These ads had started to air when PPP started polling on April 29 to May 1. However, while we know the AIGO ad ran for $110,000, we don't know how much Justice and Goodwin have been spending on their commercials, though Justice has the resources to air as many ads as he wants.
Kessler doesn't have much money or internal party support so if anyone's going to stop Justice, it'll probably be Goodwin. Goodwin did get one new talking point against Justice this week, when The Charleston Gazette-Mail's David Gutman reported that in 2012, Justice made a hefty $200,000 donation to the Republican Governor's Association. One of the Democrats the RGA spent against that year was Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the man Justice wants to succeed. Justice made his donation after he and his family members each donated $1,000 to Tomblin's campaign, the maximum amount allowed by state law. It's unclear if this story has any legs, or if this is just too little, too late. Tomblin has remained neutral in the primary, though the 2012 state Democratic Party chair is working for Justice now.
● FL-04: Ex-Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford looks like the clear frontrunner in this safely red seat, but one local Republican is going to test him in the late August primary. State Rep. Lake Ray (who may have the most Florida-name this side of Gator von Epcot) kicked off his bid on Tuesday; St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure is also in, but he seems to have attracted very little attention so far. A St. Pete Polls survey from last month showed Rutherford leading Ray 49-13.
And no, Tim Tebow still isn't running here.
● FL-13, FL State House: On Tuesday, former Department of Defense Official Eric Lynn dropped out of the Democratic primary for Florida's 13th Congressional District and announced that he would instead seek a suddenly open state House seat. Lynn was locked in a very uphill race against ex-Gov. Charlie Crist. While Lynn had a large warchest, polls showed that Crist was popular with Democratic primary voters. Lynn would have needed everything to go right and then some if he was going to deny Crist the nomination in late August, and he evidently agreed that a state House bid was a better bet.
Lynn's decision removes one of the last roadblocks in Crist's way. While several local Democrats expressed interest in running here, Lynn was the only one who didn't defer to Crist last summer. At this point, it's tough to see anyone credible making a late bid and putting up much of a fight in the primary. The redrawn version of this St. Petersburg seat backed Obama 55-44, and no notable Republicans have jumped in.
GOP Rep. David Jolly decided to run for the Senate after redistricting made this seat much bluer but in recent weeks, he's refused to rule out changing course and opposing Crist. However, while reporter Adam Smith claims to have seen a "recent private poll" that had Jolly up 4 points on Crist, it's very hard to see Team Red keeping this seat. Jolly has a horrible relationship with the NRCC, and he's a weak fundraiser. And while Crist, a former Republican, has his share of detractors, voters in St. Petersburg seem to like him just fine. Crist decisively carried this area during his unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial bid, and it's unlikely Jolly or anyone else could stop him in a presidential cycle. The filing deadline is June 24; Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Democratic.
● IA-01, 03: Two notable labor endorsements in a pair of contested Democratic primaries in Iowa: In the 1st District, the International Association of Firefighters is backing Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon, and in the 3rd, the Iowa Federation of Labor is supporting Iraq vet Jim Mowrer.
● ME-02: Ex-state Senate Majority Leader Emily Cain initially had trouble fundraising for her rematch against freshman Republican Bruce Poliquin, but she seems to have turned a corner recently. From Jan. 1 to March 31, Cain actually outraised Poliquin $386,000 to $329,000, though the well-connected incumbent still holds a strong $1.8 million to $785,000 cash-on-hand lead. The DCCC recently reserved $871,000 in ad time for the fall, and both sides are likely to dump a whole lot more cash into this rural northern Maine seat. Obama won 53-44 here, but this area is often very amenable to GOP incumbents. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Lean Republican.
● MI-01: We've seen some early fall House ad reservations from party committees and super PACs, and now at least one individual campaign is getting in on the act, too. Ex-state Democratic Party chair Lon Johnson says he's booked $420,000 in TV time for September and October, and it's not just a reservation—he's already paid. It's a reflection of Johnson's fundraising strength (he'd banked $609,000 at the end of March), and also a sign that he's not concerned about the primary, where he faces badly underfunded 2014 nominee Jerry Cannon.
Three Republicans are also running to hold this red-tinted seat: state Sen. Tom Casperson, ex-state Sen. Jason Allen, and former Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman. Casperson is the choice of retiring Rep. Dan Benishek, but neither he nor his two rivals have raised anywhere close to what Johnson has pulled in. Given the GOP field's relative lack of funds and its contested primary, it'll be a while before any Republicans are able to spend on TV for the general election.
● MT-AL: Freshman Republican Ryan Zinke isn't a top-tier Democratic target yet, but state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau continues to raise money well. During the first three months of 2016, Juneau brought in $363,000; while Zinke's $783,000 haul appears to dwarf that, the congressman is infamous for using direct mail to fundraise. Direct mail brings in tons of money from small donors, but it costs so much to implement that candidates end up netting very little moola. Indeed, Zinke spent almost 60 percent of the money he brought in for the quarter, while Juneau's burn rate was just 22 percent.
At the end of March, Zinke held a $1.07 million to $524,000 cash-on-hand edge. Montana backed Romney 55-42, though Obama lost it just 49-47 in 2008 and Democrats still do well downballot. Still, Juneau won't have an easy time convincing conservative voters to ditch their conservative congressman. Daily Kos Elections rates the general as Likely Republican.
● NJ-05: Big monied groups are pissed at Republican Rep. Scott Garrett over his anti-LGBT rhetoric and his opposition to the Export-Import Bank, and they're siding with Democrat Josh Gottheimer. Over the first three months of 2016 Gottheimer, a former aide to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, dramatically outraised Garrett $602,000 to $256,000. Garrett still holds a $2.5 million to $1.7 million cash-on-hand edge, but Gottheimer definitely will have the resources to run ads in the ultra-expensive New York media market. This North Jersey seat backed Romney 51-48, and it won't be easy for Gottheimer to win even against a damaged Garrett. Still, it's possible that voters will finally decide that Garrett is just too extreme even for this conservative area. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Lean Republican.
● NJ-07: Rep. Leonard Lance, a relative moderate, only beat perennial candidate David Larsen by a 54-46 margin in the 2014 GOP primary, and Larsen is back for another round. Last time, Larsen spend only about $59,000 during the whole campaign and while he's again barely raised any cash, he's lent himself $222,000 so far. At the end of March, Lance held a $502,000 to $173,000 cash-on-hand edge. However, Lance only brought in $167,000 for the quarter, so he doesn't appear to be taking this contest incredibly seriously despite his weak performance last time.
Outside groups haven't shown much interest in getting involved ahead of next month's primary on either side. A third Republican is running, which could cost Larsen some anti-Lance votes. Romney won 52-46 here, and Democrats don't appear to have anyone strong enough to win here even if Larsen pulls off an upset: Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.
● NY-19: Law professor Zephyr Teachout, one of three beneficiaries of the magic of Bernie Sanders' email list, says she's raised $418,000 in April alone, following an already-strong first quarter in which she took in $500,000. We previously mentioned former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, whose total April haul now stands at $481,000—more than she'd raised for the entire race before Sanders came along. A third Sanders congressional endorsee, Washington state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, hasn't yet revealed her numbers from last month, but they were likely good. Why isn't Sanders doing this for more candidates?
● SC-05: This upstate seat has been safely red ever since Republican Mick Mulvaney unseated longtime Democratic incumbent John Spratt in 2010 and at 55-44 Romney, it's likely to stay in GOP hands for a long time. Still, Democrats are fielding a credible candidate in Fran Person, who served as an aide to Joe Biden for eight years and was a football player at the University of South Carolina before working for the school.
Person seems to be making the most of his connections: Person raised $178,000 during the first month he was in the race, and Mulvaney has an unintimidating $334,000 to $152,000 cash-on-hand edge. Person faces no serious primary opposition: While state Rep. John King filed here, he dropped out a few weeks ago. Daily Kos Elections rates this seat as Safe Republican, but we're going to want to see if Person can raise more cash once he's had a full quarter in the race, and if either national party starts taking this seat seriously.
● WA-07: The primary to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott in this dark-blue district seems to be a three-way battle between state Sen. Pramila Jayapal (who has the Bernie Sanders fundraising stamp of approval), state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (who has a lot of local players in his corner), and King County Councilor Joe McDermott (who has coincidental name recognition in his favor). But now it looks like there's a fourth candidate who rises above the level of Some Dude, by virtue of previous elective office: Arun Jhaveri, the former mayor of Burien, a diverse suburb of about 50,000 immediately to the south of Seattle.
With the vast bulk of the 7th's residents living in Seattle's city limits, Jhaveri doesn't seem to have made any impact in terms of fundraising yet, and even the Associated Press's recent preview of the race gives him only a partial sentence's worth of coverage.
● WY-AL: If Liz Cheney doesn't win the August primary for this safely red seat, it won't be because she didn't raise enough money. Cheney, the daughter of ex-Vice President Dick Cheney (who used to represent this seat), hauled in an insane $733,000 during her first quarter in the race, and she threw in another $27,000 of her own cash, because why not. Cheney faces two state legislators in the primary and she's beyond lapped them in fundraising. At the end of March, state Rep. Tim Stubson had a little less than $100,000 on-hand, while state Sen. Leland Christensen had $55,000 to spend; Cheney had $623,000 in the bank.
Cheney has run for office in Wyoming once before, and it didn't go so well. In 2013, Cheney announced that she would challenge Sen. Mike Enzi for renomination. Cheney, who only moved to Wyoming from Northern Virginia the previous year, never gave a good reason for why primary voters should fire Enzi, and she infuriated the senator's many local allies. After just a few months, an endless parade of bad headlines, and some ugly-looking polls, Cheney dropped out, and Enzi went on to win easily.
This time, Cheney won't be trying to unseat a popular figure. Some of the hurt feelings from 2013 also have dissipated: While ex-Sen. Alan Simpson blasted Cheney during her last bid, he quickly endorsed her this time around. While Stubson and Christensen will likely try and portray Cheney as a carpetbagger, they don't appear to have the resources to blast their message far and wide, and they also risk splitting whatever anti-Cheney vote there is. It's early, but it looks like Cheney is in the drivers' seat this time around.
● NY State Senate: On Monday, election officials certified Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky as the winner of last month's special election on Long Island to fill the seat previously held by former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was automatically expelled from the chamber after his conviction on corruption charges last year. Kaminsky had led Republican attorney Chris McGrath by 780 votes on election night; after absentee ballots were counted, Kaminsky wound up prevailing by 866 votes, a margin of a little more than 1 percent.
Democrats now nominally control 32 seats in the Senate to 31 for Republicans, but five turncoat Democrat are members of the "Independent Democratic Conference," which governs in a coalition with the GOP. A sixth Democrat, Simcha Felder, outright caucuses with Republicans. That means mainstream Democrats still need to pick up more seats this November to either force the IDC back into the fold, or render it and Felder irrelevant.
Fortunately for Team Blue, there are many potential targets, and a new one opened up on Tuesday, when Republican state Sen. Hugh Farley, who has served in the legislature since 1976—longer than most Americans have been alive—announced his retirement. Farley's seat, in the area around Albany, only went for Barack Obama by a 51-47 margin, so it's more of a longshot for Democrats.
But GOP Assemblyman Jim Tedisco says he's "strongly considering" a bid, which paradoxically could be good news. Longtime junkies will remember Tedisco as the guy who memorably botched the 2009 special election for now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's House seat—and inspired one of the greatest-ever Swing State Project headlines when his campaign melted down shortly before Election Day: "Panic! At Tedisco." So if Tedisco is his party's nominee, who knows? Maybe he'll give Democrats a shot once again.
But other opportunities abound. In a recent piece following Kaminsky's win, Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman ran through the various seats that are likely to be in play this fall, almost all of which are held by Republicans. However, New York's filing deadline is not until July 14, and state primaries won't take place until Sept. 13, so we have a while yet before the field gets set. Still, Democrats have to feel good about their chances with former Sen. Hillary Clinton heading the ticket, and a potential Donald Trump disaster dragging down the entire GOP.
● International: Yarrr, mateys! Buccaneers be sailin' with a full wind at thar backs, what with the king of the frozen north run off like a scurvy dog thanks to a secret trove of treasure maps liberated from tropical hideaways down south! Translation: Iceland's Pirate Party is leading in the polls following the resignation of the country's prime minister after the Panama Papers revealed he had undisclosed foreign assets—big trouble in a nation racked by massive protests against big banks in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. But when will we see new elections, and what does it all mean for Iceland's future? Check out the latest edition of the Daily Kos International Elections Digest to learn more, and get updates on electoral developments in South Korea, Brazil, the United Kingdom and many other nations around the world.
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.