● AL-Gov: Late on Friday afternoon, Jack Sharman, the special counsel hired by Alabama's state House Judiciary Committee to oversee its probe of GOP Gov. Robert Bentley, released his long-awaited report of the governor, and…Bentley looks very doomed.
The report says that Bentley, whose 50-year marriage came to a shocking end in 2015, used state law enforcement officers to try and cover up an affair with a top aide, Rebekah Mason. It also says that Bentley told Spencer Collier, the then-head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, to "be prepared to arrest" people with recordings of an explicit conversation with Mason.
The report depicts how Bentley tried to intimidate Heather Hannah, the chief of staff to Dianne Bentley, the governor's now-former wife. Hannah taught the then-first lady how to record phone conversations with her cellphone, and in March of 2014, Dianne Bentley obtained an amorous message from the governor intended for Mason. In August of 2014, Bentley suspected that Collier had a copy of his call, and he told him to "find out whether there were criminal statutes that applied to Hannah's suspected activity," and to prepare to arrest Hannah if the recording was released.
Hannah told investigators that Bentley himself confronted her in a parking lot and told her to "watch herself," with Bentley adding that as governor, "people bow to his throne." In June of 2016, after Hannah testified to the Alabama Ethics Commission, she found scribbled onto her car window the messages "BITCH DIE," and "you will fucking die." A few days later, a rock was thrown through Hannah's kitchen window; Hannah believes that both events were related to her testimony. According to the report, Bentley also not only used state law enforcement officials to try and track down copies of the recording before it could be released, he twice ordered the head of his protection detail to break off his relationship with Mason for him.
Both chambers of the state legislature are dominated by Republicans, but few members of Bentley's party seem to want him to stick around. On Thursday, state Senate leader Del Marsh urged Bentley to resign, and state House Speaker Mac McCutcheon echoed that call a day later before Sharman's report was released. If Bentley has any defenders, they've been very quiet.
But Bentley has remained defiant ever since the recording of his conversations with Mason leaked a year ago, and it looks as though he's going to need to be forced out. On Friday morning, Bentley once again announced that he wasn't resigning. That day, his legal team argued in court that the report should not be released, or that the state House Judiciary Committee should not be allowed to consider impeachment because Bentley didn't have enough time to mount an adequate defense. Later on Friday, a judge granted Bentley a temporary restraining order that would have stopped the Judiciary Committee's hearings, but the state Supreme Court lifted it on Saturday. The state's highest court has asked for legal briefs from both sides on Monday, but the Judiciary Committee is still scheduled to meet that day.
In Alabama, 60 percent of the state House must vote to consider impeaching a governor, though it only takes a simple majority to actually impeach. If the chamber does impeach Bentley, his powers would pass to Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, a fellow Republican and a potential 2018 candidate to succeed him. If the state Senate convicts him, then Ivey would become governor in her own right. The only way out would be an acquittal by the Senate, but if Marsh's comments are any indication, that's not at outcome Bentley should waste much time hoping for. Bentley is termed-out next year, but unless the courts delay impeachment, it's tough to see Bentley surviving in office anywhere close to that long.
● CT-Gov: Prasad Srinivasan (R): $126,000 raised; Timothy Herbst (R): $83,000 raised; Mark Boughton (R): $65,000 raised
● IL-Gov: Chris Kennedy (D): $750,000 raised, $250,000 self-funded
● IL-08: Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-inc): $820,000 raised, $1.65 million cash-on-hand
● CT-Gov: Now this would be insane. Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, a Democrat, has filed a request with the state to allow him accept public financing for a potential statewide bid. However, since Ganim is a felon, state law forbids him from receiving public financing, so the mayor is asking for an exception. If the State Elections Enforcement Commission turns him down, Ganim could take the matter to court. In a statement, Ganim says he hasn't decided to seek statewide office, but he is considering it. The mayor did not name what post he's interested in, but the Hartford Courant's Christopher Keating reports that Ganim's supporters are encouraging him to run for governor.
Ganim is frequently compared with another controversial New England mayor, Providence's late Buddy Cianci. Ganim was mayor of Bridgeport through most of the 1990s, and he was often credited with revitalizing the city and holding down property taxes. However, Ganim spent seven years in prison after he was convicted of steering city contracts in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of perks, including expensive wine and diamonds.
Ganim was released in 2010, and in 2015, he challenged two-term incumbent Bill Finch in the Democratic primary to regain his old job. Ganim benefited from fond memories of his tenure, and the local police union, which had come into conflict with Finch over staffing levels, was also ironically a solid base of support for Ganim. Ganim won 47-44, and he took 54 percent of the vote in a crowded general election.
Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is eligible to run for re-election, and he says he'll make his decision after the state budget is done. Malloy is very unpopular, though, and it would be a surprise if he sought a third term. But while other Nutmeg State Democrats might be reluctant to run unless Malloy didn't, Ganim and the governor do not have a good relationship.
Bridgeport is Connecticut's largest city, but it still only contains less than 5 percent of the state's population. If Ganim ran, he'd need to convince a lot of voters who aren't familiar with his accomplishments that they should look past his ugly history, which may be very difficult.
● NY-Gov: While the chattering class went wild with speculation that Preet Bharara could challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary after Bharara was fired as U.S. attorney, there was never much of a sign Bharara was interested. And on Thursday, Bharara reiterated that he was not interested in seeking elected office.
● GA-06: The Paul Ryan aligned-Congressional Leadership Fund is out with another TV spot linking Democrat Jon Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi, their latest commercial in what is so far a nearly $3 million overall ad campaign. If you've seen one of these spots, you've seen them all: The narrator argues that Pelosi's agenda drove up America's debt and she wants more taxes and the Obama administration's nuclear agreement with Iran, and that Ossoff is "on her side." The commercial ends imploring the audience to vote Republican.
Speaking of that crowded GOP race, the well-funded group Ending Spending recently launched a commercial praising ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel. We now know that the size of the buy is $500,000.
● IL-10: This affluent suburban Chicago seat has traded hands over the past few cycles, with Democrat Brad Schneider beating Republican Bob Dold! 53-47 in what was their third match in a row. (Schneider unseated Dold, a first term congressman, in 2012, and Dold returned the favor in 2014.) Trump lost 62-33 here, and Dold's probably the only Republican who could have a shot next year, but it's unclear if he's really interested. Back in December, Dold didn't rule out another campaign, but in February, he told Roll Call that he hadn't spoken to the NRCC about it. The NRCC notably left this seat off their target list that month, a strong sign that they didn't expect a competitive race here again.
Still, at least one local Republican whose name is not named Bob Dold! is considering. Jeremy Wynes, the Midwest Regional Director for the Republican Jewish Coalition and the former Midwest Political Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, confirms he's interested, and the Jewish Insider says he's met with the NRCC. Wynes says he'll make a final decision "soon after" Passover ends on April 18. Wynes (Jeremy Wynes!… sorry, that doesn't work, does it), may have the connections to raise money, but he'll need a lot of help in a seat this anti-Trump that's located in the expensive media market, and it would be a big surprise if national Republicans didn't just triage this race if Dold doesn't come to their rescue.
● KS-04: On the heels of the NRCC pumping $92,000 in TV and digital ads into Tuesday's special election for Kansas' dark-red 4th Congressional District, none other than Mike Pence is reportedly recording a robocall for Republican Ron Estes, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is showing up for a rally in Wichita on Monday. Both Pence and Cruz (who did very well here during last year's presidential caucuses) are popular with evangelicals, who are a big presence in this district.
But the fact that Estes needs any help at all against Democrat James Thompson has some Republicans getting angsty. As one anonymous GOP operative put it to the Washington Examiner's David Drucker, who broke the Pence news, "Ron's run a horrible campaign. Hasn't raised much money, his ads are abysmal—no energy. It's a low turnout special and weird things happen."
Another complained to Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections, "The campaign had no media strategy, no social media strategy, no outreach strategy. There was no vision. His biggest commercial was him in a swamp with gators. He is not a tea party candidate from Alabama." That certainly sounds like a candidate who took his race for granted and got extremely lazy. Lazy enough to let this seat slip out of the GOP's hands? We'll find out Tuesday.
● MN-07: Last cycle, Republicans fielded Some Dude Dave Hughes against longtime Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, but Hughes held the incumbent to a 52-47 win as Trump was carrying this rural seat by a monster 62-31 margin. Hughes is already running again, but it looks like he'll get shoved aside by someone higher up on the food chain. On Friday, GOP state Rep. Tim Miller announced that he would challenge Peterson here.
Peterson hasn't decided if he'll seek another term, but recently said that he's "actually having fun" in Congress, so he "might hang around." Peterson went years without a serious challenge until Team Red fielded state Sen. Torrey Westrom. However, even with the GOP wave, Peterson still won by a convincing 54-46, so he's hardly untested.
● MT-AL: In a surprise development, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock used his special "amendatory veto" to change an uncontroversial election bill in order to allow Montana to conduct the upcoming May 25 special election for the state's sole congressional district entirely by mail. Voting access advocates had been pushing the change as a cost-saving measure that would increase turnout, since every registered voter would be mailed a ballot rather than have to visit a polling place. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington already vote entirely by mail in this fashion, and they consistently rank well above average in terms of turnout.
Unfortunately, Republican state House members had blocked a proposed vote-by-mail from receiving a floor vote, and the GOP state party chair even acknowledged their opposition to vote-by-mail was solely because it could help Democrats. Republicans hold comfortable-yet-not-overwhelming legislative majorities, but the state Senate had already consented to vote-by-mail. With Bullock's move now apparently forcing the full House chamber to vote on the measure, Democrats could secure enough Republican support to pass the bill.
● VA-01: Republican Rep. Rob Wittman has never had trouble winning re-election and this seat, which stretches from Northern Virginia down to the Richmond area and includes part of Hampton Roads, doesn't exactly look like fertile turf for Democrats: Trump won 54-41 here, not very different than Romney's 56-44 victory. However, Prince William County school board chair Ryan Sawyers has entered the race, so Democrats may have a viable candidate in case things truly go to hell for the GOP next year. In 2015, Sawyers became the board's first Democratic chair in a long time in an election that swept Team Blue into the majority there. However, only about 20 percent of the district is in Prince William.
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections' project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits Hawaii, where the GOP barely has a presence anymore in the state House and has zero seats in the Senate. 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 Hawaii 62-30, a drop from Barack Obama's 71-28 win in 2012, but it was still her strongest margin of victory outside of the District of Columbia. Like Obama, Clinton carried every single one of Hawaii's 51 state House seats. Donald Trump's best district was HD-47, which he lost 48-40, while Mitt Romney lost it 52-46. This north Honolulu seat is represented by a Democrat, since Sean Quinlan unseated GOP incumbent Feki Pouha 51-49 last year.
Republicans only won six of the 51 state House seats in 2016. The GOP hasn't controlled the speaker's chair since before statehood, and that's very unlikely to change anytime soon. To add insult to injury, Beth Fukumoto Chang, the House minority leader, was removed from her party post earlier this year after she spoke out against Trump, and she soon left the party. Fukumoto Chang is now an independent, but she says she wants to join the Democratic Party; Fukumoto Chang's HD-36 backed Clinton 58-36. Of the five remaining Republicans, Gene Ward holds the bluest seat; his HD-17 backed Clinton 62-32, but he won re-election 74-26. There are a lot of reasons why the GOP has so few seats, but gerrymandering may not be one of them. The median seat backed Clinton 62-28, almost the same as her statewide margin.
We'll turn to the state Senate, where the GOP is in an infinity worse position. In 2010, Democrats took one of the chamber's only two Republican seats, leaving Sam Slom as the one and only GOP member of the Senate. Slom, the minority leader by default, was a member of every single one of the Senate's committees and panels, even though it was frequently impossible for him to make it to all his committees. But last year, as Clinton was carrying his SD-09 by a 63-31 margin, Slom lost 53-47 to Democrat Stanley Chang. (Before the last election, a Chang supporter mused that the defeat of the one Republican in the chamber would allow Democrats to "get a lot of things done.)
No Republicans replaced Slom in the Senate, making 2017 the first time that one party won 100 percent of the seats in a chamber since Louisiana Democrats swept all their state Senate seats in 1979. However, that year, the Bayou State elected David Treen as its first GOP governor since Reconstruction. Aloha State Republicans don't have anywhere near that much power, and Democratic Gov. David Ige doesn't look very vulnerable heading into his 2018 re-election campaign.
To no one's surprise, Clinton also swept all 25 state Senate seats, winning the median district 64-31. The closest seat was SD-19, which Clinton won by a mere 52-41, but where Democrat Will Espero won another term 62-38.
● Albuquerque, NM Mayor: Republican Mayor Richard Berry isn't seeking a third term in 2017, and New Mexico's largest city is in for its first open-seat race in 20 years. The non-partisan race will take place on Oct. 3, and there will be a runoff if no one takes a majority.
Albuquerque is usually reliably blue in presidential races and Democrats have a good chance to retake the mayor's office, but Republicans aren't conceding this race at all. Earlier this month, Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican, kicked off his bid with a conservative platform. Johnson in particular faulted the city for entering a settlement with the Department of Justice in 2014 after the DOJ faulted the police force for displaying a pattern of excessive force. Johnson also called for "right-to-work" policies, which he insisted would actually strengthen unions.
Johnson is not the only candidate who entered the race ahead of the April 28 candidate filing deadline. State Auditor Tim Keller, a Democrat, is the only contender who successfully applied for public financing. Two notable Democrats, ex-Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta and ex-state party chair Brian Colón, decided not to try for public financing, as did Johnson and fellow Republican and City Councilor Dan Lewis.
● Ferguson, MO Mayor: The St. Louis, Missouri, suburb of Ferguson was the site of major civil unrest in 2014 after a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, sparking national attention for Black Lives Matter and a civil rights movement opposing brutality against African-Americans. The town's botched handling of the aftermath incurred heightened scrutiny over the systemic racism in its law enforcement and politics. One big fact stood out: While Ferguson is two-thirds black and heavily Democratic, this municipality of 21,000 had a white Republican was mayor and a heavily white GOP city council.
Activists initially had great hopes that the torrent of attention focused on Ferguson could lead to changes in the city's governance, and reformers won important gains in city council races in 2015. But on Tuesday, Mayor James Knowles, a white Republican who was in power during the 2014 unrest, easily won another term by a 56-44 margin against Councilwoman Ella Jones, a black Democrat. And despite Feguson's once-central presence in the national conversation, this year's mayoral race surprisingly did not generate as much attention as other local elections have across the country.
One major reason why for this result is turnout. It's well documented that voter participation drops dramatically between presidential elections and other dates when only local offices are on the ballot; indeed, many mayoral races routinely draw turnout of less than 15 percent. As was likely the case in Ferguson, young people, African Americans, Latinos, and working-class voters are often disproportionately less likely to vote in the off year. In 2013, this led to Ferguson's mayoral electorate being majority white even though the electorate was over 70 percent black in the 2012 presidential election.
Rock-bottom turnout is a crisis for a democracy when it results in an electorate that looks radically different than the citizenry at large, leading to the election of officials whose priorities clash with the people they represent. Roughly three-fourths of American cities elect their local governments on dates that don't coincide with state and federal races. Moving these local dates to match up with the federal cycle could increase turnout more than almost any other type of electoral reform. Doing so could see underrepresented demographics like young voters and black voters elect their chosen candidates at a far more proportionate rate.
● Westchester County, NY Executive: Conservative Republican Rob Astorino is seeking a third term this fall in this large suburban county, which backed Hillary Clinton 65-31. Astorino unseated four-term Democratic incumbent Andy Spano in 2009 and decisively held off a Democratic attempt to beat him four years later, before he quickly launched a 2014 bid against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Astorino lost that race 54-40, and even fell short in Westchester 55-42. But Astorino isn't ruling out a second campaign against Cuomo next year, and despite the Republican's clear loss last time, Cuomo's allies reportedly want to unseat him this fall before he can run for governor again.
Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins entered the race a while ago, but Cuomo's team reportedly doesn't think much of him and wants a different candidate, and it seems they've found one. Back in February, the New York Daily News reported that state Sen. George Latimer was one of a few Democrats that Cuomo's allies had spoken to about a possible bid, and Latimer entered the race at the end of March. The Democratic primary isn't until September, but there will be a party convention on May 10, and Latimer says he will drop out of the race if someone else is chosen then. Jenkins has said that he'll keep running in the primary no matter what happens in May.
The Democratic field may not be settled yet. After Latimer's announcement, state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti reiterated that he's still deciding on whether to run. However, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano took his name out of the running in late March. David Spano, the son of ex-County Executive Andy Spano (the family is not related to Mike Spano) is also in, but he doesn't look like a particularly serious candidate. David Spano actually challenged his father in 2009, but he didn't get enough signatures to make the ballot. The younger Spano says that the two have mended fences and he's running this time with his father's blessing. However, while Spano calls himself a "progressive Democrat," he notes he was an early member of Occupy Wall Street and the tea party.
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.