● Pres-by-LD, NV State Senate, NV State Assembly: Our project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits Nevada, a rare Democratic bright spot in 2016. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
Hillary Clinton carried the Silver State 48-46, a drop from Barack Obama's 52-46 win against Mitt Romney. However, Clinton's narrow victory, thanks no small part to the formidable get-out-the-vote machine built by Harry Reid, helped Team Blue avenge its embarrassing loss of both chambers of the state legislature two years earlier. That debacle came about when Democrats all but conceded the 2014 gubernatorial race against GOP incumbent Brian Sandoval, leaving uninspired Democratic voters to largely stay home; Team Red won a 27-15 majority in the Assembly and an 11-10 edge in the Senate.
But 2016 saw a perfect reversal, with Democrats taking back a 27-15 Assembly majority and an 11-10 Senate edge. A few days after the election, one Republican, state Sen. Patricia Farley, announced that she'd become an independent and caucus with the Democrats, giving her new allies a 12-9 majority. The entire Assembly is up every two years, while half the Senate was up in 2016; the other half, including Farley, will be up in 2018.
The Assembly results correlated very strongly with the presidential outcome. Two Democrats won Trump Assembly seats, while no Republicans represent Clinton turf. Democrat Skip Daly lost his Reno-area AD-31 by a painful 55-45 margin to Republican Jill Dickman during the 2014 GOP landslide, but he unseated Dickman last year by 38 votes even as Donald Trump was taking his seat 49-43 (Romney had narrowly won the district, 49.5-48.5).
It was a similar story with Leslie Cohen, the other Democrat in a Trump district. In 2014, Cohen lost her seat to Republican Stephen Silberkraus 55-45, but last year, she knocked off Silberkraus 50.4-49.6, a margin of 212 votes. Trump carried AD-29, located around Henderson, by a slim 47.0-46.4 margin, a swing to the right from Obama's 50-48 win four years earlier.
Remarkably, Cohen's seat was the one Assembly district in the state to go from Obama to Trump, while no seats went from Romney to Clinton. However, there's no doubt that the Assembly map, while drawn by a court, benefits Team Blue. One way to illustrate this is to sort each seat in each chamber by Trump's margin of victory over Clinton and see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted.
Because Nevada has an even number of Assembly seats, we average the Clinton and Trump percentages for the middle two seats to come up with the median. This middle point in the House backed Clinton 52-43, well to the left of her 48-46 statewide win. This means that Republicans would have to pick up some decidedly blue seats in order to regain a majority.
Of course, the Democratic edge didn't mean much in 2014 when not enough Democratic voters showed up to the polls. But in 2018 there will be an open seat race to succeed Sandoval, while Democrats are likely to target GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Even if Democrats lose both races, they should at least be able to avoid a repeat of the 2014 turnout disaster.
We'll turn next to the Senate, where Clinton won 14 of the chamber's 21 seats. No districts went from Obama to Trump, while one seat swung from Romney to Clinton: SD-08 in the Las Vegas area, which went from 49.5-48.9 Romney to 48-47 Clinton. This seat is represented by none other than Patricia Farley, the Republican who became an independent and caucuses with the Democrats.
Of the 11 senators who won in 2016, only one prevailed even as the opposite party's presidential candidate was winning the seat. In the open Reno-area SD-15, Republican Heidi Gansert, a former chief of staff to Sandoval, won 53-42 even though Clinton carried the seat 47-44. However, Democrats narrowly flipped the open SD-06 in suburban Las Vegas, which was what they needed to do to control the chamber without Farley; Democrat Nicole Cannizzaro won 51-49 as Clinton carried the seat 50-45. Democratic state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse's 48-47 re-election win also saved the Democratic majority; Clinton carried SD-05 around Henderson 48-46.
The good news for Senate Democrats is that their majority should be safe in 2018. The median Senate seat in the chamber backed Clinton 50-45—again, to the left of Clinton's statewide score. What's more, only three of the 10 seats up next year are Democratic-held, and all three decisively stayed blue during the 2014 disaster. However, Farley may have a bumpy re-election. Meanwhile, the GOP will have at least one if not two difficult seats to defend. Of the six Republicans up in 2018, only Becky Harris in the suburban Las Vegas SD-09 represents a Clinton seat, but at 51-43 Clinton, it's tough turf for Team Red. And Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who lost the 2016 primary for the 3rd Congressional District, is also defending a seat that Trump won just 48-46.
● AL-Gov: GOP Gov. Robert Bentley told decency to scram when he named state Attorney General Luther Strange to Jeff Sessions' Senate seat—even though Strange was apparently in the middle of investigating Bentley—and now he's completed the second move in his sordid two-step: On Monday, Bentley appointed Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall (no relation?) to fill Strange's post, which Marshall will get to hold for the remaining two years of Strange's term.
Marshall pledged to recuse himself from any Bentley investigation, but at his swearing-in, he also kept up Strange's weird refusal to even say whether there even is a pending investigation. It's all so bizarre, because back in early November, Strange asked the state legislature to pause an impeachment inquiry into whether Bentley had improperly used state resources to conceal an affair with a staffer "until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed." What the hell else could "necessary related work" mean if he weren't conducting his own investigation?
Notably, it was only after Trump's victory (and the possibility of a Senate vacancy) that Strange began claiming that he'd never said he was investigating Bentley—in other words, he was trying to make it seem as though it wouldn't be hinky for a target of his own probe to remove him from pursuing that very same probe. But Strange never said there wasn't an investigation; he only claimed that he never said there was. And yet even that's not true, unless "necessary related work" means something different to Luther Strange than it does to the state legislature, as well as pretty much anyone else on the planet.
Marshall is keeping up this ridiculous song-and-dance, saying, "Nowhere have I seen confirmation that Gov. Bentley is under investigation." Is there no one he can ask? But at least there's a canary we can keep an eye on now: If Marshall does recuse himself, then we'll know there's a "direct investigation," to use his phrasing. If he doesn't, then there's either no "direct" investigation (whatever that bit of parsing means), or he's just a stone-cold liar.
But it wouldn't be especially easy for Marshall to bury any such investigation, even if he wanted to. Two Republican members of the state House are circulating a new petition to reboot the Bentley impeachment investigation, and notably, neither of them signed on to the original effort. But the optics of the Bentley-Strange-Marshall do-si-do are apparently troubling enough to spur new action, and that could mean real problems for the governor—and for Marshall, if he doesn't provide clarity on the situation soon.
● CO-Gov: Wealthy businessman Victor Mitchell, who'd been considering a bid for governor, just became the first notable Republican to enter the race on Monday and says he'll spend $3 million of his own money on his campaign. Mitchell served one term in the state House a decade ago before quickly deciding to return to the private sector.
Predictably, he's trying to run as an "outsider," though he says he didn't vote for Trump, which is not a helpful resume item in a GOP primary. He also says he has "a 100 percent voting record with the NRA, but I don't believe in bazookas in our schools," which seems directly contrary to the Republican platform of bazookas in schools. Mitchell acknowledges he's a "longshot," and that seems to be right, as a number of much bigger GOP names are waiting in the wings, including state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and prominent Denver-area prosecutor George Brauchler.
Two Democrats, state Sen. Mike Johnston and businessman Noel Ginsburg, are already in the race, but several more are eyeing this open-seat contest, which will be hotly contested next year.
● FL-Gov: Democratic businessman Chris King has confirmed recent reports that he's looking at a bid for governor, saying publicly that he plans to "make a decision in the next 30 to 60 days." King doesn't have any political experience, but his father, David King, was the lead attorney in overturning Florida's GOP-drawn congressional map under the state's "Fair Districts" laws. It's not clear whether King, a real estate developer, has any kind of personal wealth he can bring to the race, but with many prominent Democrats considering bids, he'd need a lot to go right to have a shot.
● CA-34: The first Democrat to go on the airwaves in the extremely crowded special election to replace former Rep. Xavier Becerra (who is now California's attorney general) is former Los Angeles City Council aide Sara Hernandez. The spot stars Donald Trump as the villain, with a narrator asking, "How do you stand up to a bully?" as Trump's ugly mug appears onscreen. "It takes a classroom teacher," she continues, as the footage switches to Hernandez working with a bunch of kids in a school.
The announcer then says that Hernandez "isn't part of the establishment, or beholden to special interests," describing her once again as a teacher and also a non-profit founder. (It leaves out her work for prominent City Councilman Jose Huizar, who's served in office for over a decade and considered running for this seat himself.) And in what passes as the campaign-ad equivalent of a profanity-laced HBO diatribe worth of Al Swearengen, the voiceover adds, "Sara's been kicking real butt for the community!" Salty! The spot finishes with yet another shot of His Orangeness, almost certainly a smart move in a district this overwhelmingly blue.
The ad is reportedly running on TV, but there's no word on the size of the buy. Hernandez reported raising almost $200,000 as of Dec. 31, which was good enough for second-best in the field. That still won't go far in the expensive Los Angeles media market, though Hernandez has undoubtedly raised more money since the end of the last reporting period. All candidates from all parties will appear on a single ballot on April 4; in the likely event that no one takes a majority, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to a June 6 runoff. Given the nature of this district, it's like that two Democrats will make the second round.
● GA-06: The filing deadline for the special election to replace Republican Tom Price is at 1 PM ET on Wednesday, and two more credible Republicans kicked off their campaigns on Tuesday. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel hasn't won an election since 2006, but she only narrowly lost the 2010 gubernatorial runoff to eventual winner Nathan Deal. Handel also ran for the Senate in 2014 and came just short of advancing to the runoff. In between those campaigns, Handel served in a senior position for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, and in early 2012, she helped convince the board to end its financial support to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings. Komen soon reversed its position amid a national outcry, and Handel resigned.
The other new GOP candidate is Bruce LeVell, who headed the Trump campaign's "national diversity coalition" (a group that allegedly did exist). LeVell, who owns a jewelry store, also used to serve as the chair of the Gwinnett County GOP, which is outside the 6th District. Several other Republicans are still considering, and we'll have a complete rundown on the entire field once filing closes.
● HI-02, HI-Sen: Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has justly draw immense scorn and criticism for her secret trip to Syria, in which she met with murderous Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and came back spouting the Assad/Putin line that the real killers are the Americans. And, reports the National Journal's Colin Diersing, this is starting to cause some real problems for the ambitious Gabbard, particularly back home.
A number of editorials in Hawaii newspapers have sharply questioned Gabbard's bizarre behavior, and Diersing says unnamed local Democrats are likewise nonplussed. One who did speak on the record was state Sen. Stanley Chang, who warned that "this is the most coverage [Gabbard]'s ever gotten on any single issue or incident," which is saying something given how good the congresswoman has been at convincing feature writers she's a rising star.
And while no one seems quite ready to talk primary, Chang, who ran for Congress once before, could be a potential challenger. So could a number of other mainstream Hawaii Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, state Sen. Josh Green, and state Rep. Justin Woodson, to suggest a few. There's also, suggests Diersing, the possibility that Gabbard could seek out a primary challenge of her own—against Sen. Mazie Hirono, who is up for re-election in 2018—a "constant subject of speculation" among local operatives.
All we can say is: please. There's no reason to think Gabbard wouldn't get smashed by Hirono, the dean of the state's congressional delegation and a widely respected figure with a long tenure of public service. (That's actually a positive in Hawaii.) What reason, aside from her own desire to move up in the ranks, could Gabbard give Democratic voters to dump Hirono, especially when Gabbard has all but refused to speak out against Donald Trump? Well, if Gabbard is crazy enough to think that Assad is a swell fellow, maybe she's equally delusional about her own chances at advancement.
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.