● AL-Sen: GOP Gov. Robert Bentley will get to pick Alabama's new senator once Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Trump's attorney general (which sadly seems very likely to happen). On Thursday, Bentley's office released what they said are the six finalists for the job:
Rep. Robert Aderholt
Director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Jim Byard
Ex-state Rep. Perry Hooper Jr.
State Sen. Del Marsh
State Rep. Connie Rowe
State Attorney General Luther Strange
Strange has already declared he'll run for the seat in 2018 whether he's appointed or not, though he could just be trying to pressure Bentley into choosing him. Strange's office is also currently investigating Bentley in connection with allegations that Bentley used state resources to conceal an affair with a staffer—and Bentley would be able to pick a new state attorney general if Strange resigns. Strange should have made it clear that he won't accept any appointment from Bentley while he was charged with investigating him, but instead, he said back in November that he would accept the post if the governor offered it.
So who are the Alabama Republicans who were interviewed but got chopped before the final round? Al.com provides 13 names. Along with several state legislators, Bentley met with the infamous Roy Moore, who was recently suspended as Alabama's chief justice for defying federal court's orders on same-sex marriage. Moore ran against Bentley in the 2010 primary, and he's expressed interest in replacing the termed-out governor in 2018. Bentley also interviewed Tim James, another alum of the 2010 primary: Bentley edged out James by 209 votes to advance to the runoff. Reps. Mo Brooks, Gary Palmer, and Martha Roby also didn't make the cut.
● VA-Sen: Last month, GOP Rep. and Eric Cantor-slayer Dave Brat didn't rule out a 2018 bid against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, but he's evidently had a change of heart since then. Buzzfeed's Alexis Levinson quotes Brat describing a Senate bid as "off the table" for him.
A number of other Republicans have been mentioned as possible candidates, though no one has stepped forward yet. The top choice of the GOP establishment would almost certainly be Rep. Barbara Comstock, who held her Northern Virginia seat 53-47 even as the Clinton/Kaine ticket was carrying it 52-42. So far, Comstock hasn't publicly expressed interest in a Senate bid, and the other prospective candidates are a lot less impressive. Conservative pundit Laura Ingraham is publicly considering, though her pro-Trump rhetoric may not play well in a commonwealth The Donald lost 50-44.
Buzzfeed also mentions ex-HP head Carly Fiorina, the 2010 California Senate nominee and 2016 failed presidential candidate; Fiorina also waged the shortest vice presidential campaign in American history last year. It's unclear how interested Fiorina is, though her name was mentioned quite a bit last year as a GOP candidate for the 2017 special election that would have taken place if Kaine had become vice president. Buzzfeed also name-drops ex-Gov. Jim Gilmore, whose 2016 presidential bid made Fiorina's look… well, less unsuccessful. It's also unclear if Gilmore is at all interested in a Senate bid, but considering that he seems to have nothing better to do with his time these days than lose campaigns, he may very well be.
● FL-Gov: State Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has looked like the frontrunner for the GOP nomination next year for a long time. Putnam isn't officially in yet, and he recently said he'd focus on 2018 after the legislative session ends in May. However, Putnam's allied PAC is sitting on $4.46 million, which doesn't leave much doubt about Putnam's intentions.
Putnam may not have the GOP primary to himself, though. State House Speaker Richard Corcoran is periodically mentioned as a possible candidate, and while Corcoran hasn't said anything publicly, he's had more than enough time to clamp down on speculation. Last year, there were also reports that state Sen. Jack Latvala, who heads the powerful Appropriations Committee, was looking at a bid. Latvala recently confirmed his interest, saying he won't decide at least until the session ends. Latvala, who is termed-out of his St. Petersburg-area seat next year, is very well-connected, and he has $2 million in the bank he could use for a gubernatorial race.
However, Latvala also has a reputation as a moderate: He even attended a fundraiser for a Democratic congressional candidate in 2015 in what seemed to have been an attempt to woo Democratic state senators during his unsuccessful bid to lead the chamber. One of Latvala's allies, who also speculated that he might run for chief financial officer instead, claims that "there are a lot of Republicans who have been looking for a moderate," a statement that hasn't been true in a long, long time. The Tampa Bay Times also reports that outgoing Gov. Rick Scott "is said to be looking to recruit a self-funded political outsider like himself," though there aren't any hints about who Scott is looking at.
● GA-Gov: Secretary of State Brian Kemp is one of the many Republicans who has been mentioned as a possible 2018 candidate, and he made it very clear on Thursday that he's interested. Kemp told a meeting of the National Federation of Independent Businesses that he wants to use his "unique experience to help lead our state during the next decade," and he also played up his business background.
So far, no Republicans have entered the race to succeed termed-out Republican Nathan Deal. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution says that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is "likely to jump in," while ex-Rep. Lynn Westmoreland is publicly considering. There are plenty of other Peach State Republicans who could get in.
● ID-Gov: The GOP primary to succeed retiring Gov. Butch Otter got started a while ago, with both Lt. Gov. Brad Little and ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher announcing their candidacies last year. Little brought in $340,000 from July to December, and he added $50,000 of his own money. That's far better than Fulcher, who lost the 2014 primary to Otter 51-44; since he announced in late August, Fulcher hauled in just $50,000.
Still, Little's warchest probably won't intimate other prospective GOP candidates. Tea partying Rep. Raul Labrador reportedly told House colleagues last year that he'd run, and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is frequently mentioned. Developer Tommy Ahlquist also said last month that he's considering, though it's unclear if he has the personal wealth or connections to mount a serious race.
● KS-Gov: The Wichita Eagle recently surveyed the developing field to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, and two more potential candidates have since made their interest known. On the GOP side, oil businessman Wink Hartman says friends and acquaintances have encouraged him to get in and he's "reviewing the possibilities … and seeing what some of the other possible contenders are going to do." Hartman ran for the House in 2010, losing the GOP primary for the Wichita-based 4th District to Mike Pompeo, who recently became director of the CIA.
On the Democratic side, ex-Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty says he's "taking a far closer look" at running now than he was four years ago. Svaty served in the state House before he took charge of the Agriculture Department (an appointed position) in 2009; Svaty later became a senior advisor for the regional office of the EPA. Kansas is a very conservative state, but Brownback's horrific budget cuts have made him very unpopular and could give Team Blue an opening next year. Ex-state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who lost 50-46 to Brownback in 2014, and ex-Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer are also considering seeking the Democratic nod.
● MA-Gov: While ex-state budget chief Jay Gonzalez recently became the first Democrat to enter the race to face GOP Gov. Charlie Baker next year, Newton Mayor Setti Warren doesn't seem to be in any hurry to make his likely bid official. Warren, who has been raising money since late last year, said this week that he'll make his final decision over the next four or five months.
● OH-Gov: Last week, Cleveland.com reported that Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley was having "serious conversations" about seeking the Democratic nomination next year. Whaley has confirmed that she's interested, though she didn't give any timeline for when she expects to decide. Whaley is up for re-election this year, and it would be very awkward to run for both jobs at once.
Whaley and other possible Democratic candidates may be looking to see what Rep. Tim Ryan does before making up their minds, and they may not need to wait for too much longer. Ryan recently told Politico that he expects to make up his mind in a few weeks, and some local Democrats privately say they expect the decision to come in the next three to four weeks. Ryan is infamous for always flirting with a statewide bid but never going for it, and we'll see if this time is any different.
● VA-Gov: Christopher Newport University takes an early look at both parties' June primaries. On the GOP side, 2014 Senate nominee Ed Gillespie leads state Sen. Frank Wagner 33-9; Corey Stewart, the Trump-esque head of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, takes 7, while distillery owner Denver Riggleman grabs 1. On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. and establishment favorite Ralph Northam leads ex-Rep. Tom Perriello 26-15.
● CA-34: This week, we got our first look at all the candidate's warchests ahead of the April jungle primary to succeed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in this safely blue downtown Los Angeles House seat. The FEC reports cover the period from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, though Becerra wasn't nominated as state attorney general until after the November election:
Labor activist Wendy Carillo: $52,000 raised, $49,000 cash-on-hand
Former Obama White House staffer Alejandra Campoverdi: $106,000 raised, $102,000 cash-on-hand
Former Bernie Sanders staffer Arturo Carmona: $68,000 raised, $25,000 self-funded, $91,000 cash-on-hand
Former Los Angeles Board of Education member Yolie Flores: $75,000 raised, $73,000 cash-on-hand
Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez: $296,000 raised, $5,400 self-funded, $293,000 cash-on-hand
Former Los Angeles City Council aide Sara Hernandez: $195,000 raised, $5,100 self-funded, $194,000 cash-on-hand
Los Angeles County prosecutor Steven Mac: $2,000 raised, $2,000 cash-on-hand
SEIU organizer Raymond Meza: $28,000 raised, $28,000 cash-on-hand
At this early stage the fundraising champs are Gomez, who has the backing of a number of local and state politicians, and Hernandez. The next campaign finance reports aren't due until March 23. All the candidates will compete on one ballot on April 6; in the very likely event that no one clears 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will compete on June 6. It's a very good bet that the two finalists will both be Democrats.
● SC-05: Another Republican has joined the likely special election for this conservative northern South Carolina seat. The newest candidate is Tom Mullikin, the commander of the volunteer S.C. State Guard. The special will be held if GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney is confirmed as Trump's head of the Office of Budget and Management.
● Cleveland, OH Mayor: This week, Mayor Frank Jackson announced that he would seek an unprecedented fourth term this year. Jackson was already facing a challenge from City Councilor Jeffrey Johnson, a fellow Democrat. Johnson has been arguing that Jackson's administration has favored corporate interests over the least fortune, and the councilor recently earned an endorsement from the SEIU.
On Thursday, Jackson picked up another opponent. Brandon Chrostowski, who runs a well-known local restaurant that helps former inmates get jobs in the restaurant industry, jumped in. But Chrostowski doesn't sound ready to make the case that Jackson needs to be fired, saying that the mayor has "done a great job. But I've just got a different idea of what should work." All the candidates will face off in the non-partisan primary in September, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
● Minneapolis, MN Mayor: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, a Democrat, is seeking re-election this fall, and she began the year badly trailing one of her rivals in cash. City Councilor Jacob Frey outraised Hodges $91,000 to $60,000 in 2016, and he holds a $178,000 to $41,000 cash-on-hand edge. Frey only announced that he would run for mayor in January, but he's allowed to transfer this money to his new campaign. Former Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, a prominent member of the local Black Lives Matter movement, entered the race in November and raised $6,000 during the rest of the year. State Rep. Raymond Dehn announced at the end of December and also brought in $6,000.
As we've noted before, Hodges hasn't had an easy tenure since she was first elected in 2013. Most notably, a black man named Jamar Clark was fatally shot by police in 2015, and Hodges' response has come in for criticism. Levy-Pounds in particular has made this a focus, arguing that someone needs to hold cops and local government responsible.
In Minneapolis, all the candidates will compete on one November ballot, where voters will be allowed to rank their top three choices. As the city's own website explains, if no one takes a majority of the vote, "Candidates with no mathematical possibility of winning (including the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes) are defeated, and votes for those candidates are transferred to the next ranked candidate on those ballots." The process continues until someone takes a majority.
● St. Louis, MO Mayor: On Thursday, retiring St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay endorsed Alderman Lyda Krewson in the March 7 Democratic primary. Krewson looks like the frontrunner a month out. A recent poll from the GOP group Remington Research Group on behalf of the Missouri Times gave Krewson a 29-18 lead over President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed, who lost the 2013 primary to Slay 54-44; Alderman Antonio French and City Treasurer Tishaura Jones took 13 and 8 percent, respectively. Elections in St. Louis tend to be racially polarizing, so Krewson could benefit from being the only serious white candidate. There is no primary runoff, and the April general election should be very uneventful in this heavily Democratic city.
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.