● VA-Gov: In the wake of ex-Rep. Tom Perriello's surprise entry into this year's Democratic primary for governor, Virginia's political establishment is reaffirming its support for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. Nearly all of the state's prominent elected officials had already endorsed Northam's campaign, but to remind folks of where the race stands, Northam is touting the backing of Virginia's entire Democratic congressional delegation—including both senators—save one member. That lone exception is Rep. Gerry Connolly, who declined to endorse either candidate, citing his personal friendship with Perriello (the two were elected to the House in the same year, 2008).
Meanwhile, Perriello is seeking to reposition himself for a bid in a state that's a lot more liberal than his old congressional district was. One of Perriello's most problematic votes during his one term in office was for the so-called Stupak Amendment, a piece of legislation that former Blue Dog Rep. Bart Stupak tried to attach to the Affordable Care Act to prevent the federal government from paying for abortions.
The move was a dangerous poison pill: Stupak and his allies said they wouldn't support the ACA if the amendment wasn't included, while pro-choice members of Congress said they wouldn't support the ACA if it was.
Stupak's proposal didn't make it into the final bill, but it was an affront to reproductive rights advocates and women everywhere. That's why, in a new Facebook post, Perriello now says he "regret[s]" his vote for it, though he says he backed it at the time because he'd promised his constituents that he "would support health care reform only if it was consistent with the Hyde Amendment." (The Hyde Amendment is another piece of federal legislation that also bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions; Stupak claimed the ACA would create a loophole to Hyde, hence his amendment.)
Notably, however, Perriello didn't say in his post whether he still supports Hyde itself, though according to a new interview with the Huffington Post, he has apparently disavowed it. The Hyde Amendment has been a pillar of the anti-abortion movement for over 40 years, but for the first time in 2016, the Democratic platform formally called for its repeal. While it wasn't much remarked on during a presidential race that centered on anything but the actual issues (thanks, email-obsessed media), Hillary Clinton openly campaigned on getting ride of Hyde—and won the commonwealth of Virginia.
● TX-Sen, TX-16: Did Beto O'Rourke decide that perhaps he's not ready to take a bite of that Brontoburger just yet? Late last week, the third-term Democratic congressman said he would "very likely" challenge GOP Sen. Ted Cruz next year, a race that would be enormously difficult even with a lot of good fortune. Now O'Rourke appears to have backtracked a little, saying in a new interview, "Nothing material has changed" and adding that he hasn't "declared or made the decision."
O'Rourke had also previously pledged to serve no more than four terms in the House, so even if he doesn't run for Senate this cycle, 2018 would be his last re-election campaign if he keeps his promises. That would mean that his safely blue district would come open before too long either way, though ordinarily, we're loathe to start talking about potential open-seat races that might never happen (aren't you glad we didn't waste your time with tales of all of the candidates who wanted to success Cathy McMorris Rodgers?).
However, one name is worth noting even at this early juncture. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, who isn't seeking a second term this year, says he's considering a bid for O'Rourke's seat. Most of the 16th District is in El Paso, so O'Rourke, who was elected mayor in a non-partisan race but identifies as a Democrat, would likely start off with a name-recognition advantage. Some other folks have already expressed (or disavowed) interest, but like we say, we'll wait until we get the final word from O'Rourke before we delve deeper.
● IL-Gov: State Treasurer Mike Frerichs' name has come up a bunch as a possible Democratic contender for governor, but in what appear to be his first public comments on the topic since Election Day, he says he's "not looking at" a bid against GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner. That's the kind of thing that politicians who actually are considering a run for higher office say, but Frerichs followed that up with a string of remarks about what he'd like to accomplish in his current role—and then lashed out at politicians who are always "looking at the next election and not looking at the office they were elected to." Frerichs could always change his tune, of course, but it sounds like he's not just being coy.
● MN-Gov: On Friday, state Auditor Rebecca Otto entered the race to succeed retiring Gov. Mark Dayton, making her the third Democrat to join the contest. Otto's won three statewide elections to her current post, including a narrow escape during the 2010 GOP wave. She's also clashed with Republican lawmakers who've sought to narrow the scope of her office's oversight and voted against granting leases to companies to mine for nonferrous minerals, a move that buttressed her environmental credentials but prompted hostility from rural regions.
Like the two other candidates already running, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and state Rep. Erin Murphy, Otto hails from the Twin Cities area. A number of other Democrats are still considering the race, and plenty of Republicans are, too, but none have gotten in yet.
● NJ-Gov: Former Goldman Sachs exec Phil Murphy continues to hoover up support from New Jersey's political establishment in his bid for governor, and now he's capped off a string of endorsements by earning the support of the state's top two Democrats, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker. What's also interesting here is that Menendez, though under indictment for corruption and up for re-election next year, remains very much a central figure in Jersey politics—he attended Monday's press conference along with Booker.
Murphy faces Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter, in the June primary, but the Garden State rarely rewards upstarts. (Case in point: Hillary Clinton crushed Sanders 63-37 last year, and the fact that Democrats are sticking with Menendez should tell you something about the party's sclerosis.) State Sen. Ray Lesniak is also apparently seeking the Democratic nod, but we're skeptical. Some minor Republicans have entered the race, but we're still waiting to hear from a few bigger players.
● NV-Gov: On Monday, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who had reportedly been considering a bid for governor, announced that he would not seek to succeed his boss, term-limited Gov. Brian Sandoval, in next year's election. That makes Hutchison the second prominent Republican after Sen. Dean Heller to turn down a bid, though according to Jon Ralston, state Attorney General Adam Laxalt is now "seriously considering" a run for the GOP. No Democrats have enterer the race either.
● PA-Gov: Hey look, there's yet another rich Republican who could run against Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf next year! Western Pennsylvania businessman Paul Mango hasn't said anything publicly about his interest, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Mango is privately "assembling a team of strategists." If he gets in, the Inquirer says that Mango will likely self-fund. So far, wealthy state Sen. Scott Wagner is the only Republican challenging Wolf. However, Rep. Mike Kelly and rich guy Paul Addis are openly considering getting in, while a number of other politicians haven't ruled it out.
● TX-Gov: Bor-ring. While a few signs pointed to the possibility that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would drag Gov. Greg Abbott into a bloody street fight in next year's GOP primary, Patrick announced on Monday that he's running for re-election—and endorsing Abbott, even though Abbott hasn't actually said he'll seek a second term yet. Whatever. Lame!
● GA-06: GOP state Rep. Chuck Martin has ruled out running for this suburban Atlanta seat in the likely special election to succeed Rep. Tom Price, Donald Trump's choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services. So far, state Sen. Judson Hill remains the only notable Republican in the race.
However, ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel, who lost the 2010 runoff for governor and 2014 Senate primary, has said to "[w]atch for a formal announcement early in the new year," and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that she's "widely expected to join the race." The AJC also says that ex-state Sen. Dan Moody is likely to get in. State Rep. Betty Price, who is Tom Price's wife, said last month that it was "premature" to decide on a bid until there's officially a special election. The AJC also wrote a little while ago that Betty Price would likely defer to Handel, though no one has said anything like that publicly. The paper also reported on Monday that state Sen. Brandon Beach is believed to be leaning against jumping in.
Donald Trump only carried this seat 48-47 four years after Mitt Romney won it 61-38, and Democrats could take it if the stars align. However, Team Blue's first task in the special election will be to make sure they actually have a candidate in the runoff. As we've noted before, all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot in the special election, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff in the likely event no one takes a majority in the first round. Four Democrats are running, with former congressional aide Jon Ossoff and ex-state Rep. Sally Harrell sporting the most support from local elected officials. Democrats would benefit if a few more Republicans get in the race, which would reduce the chances that two Republicans advance while too many Democrats split the blue vote.
● MT-AL: Nazi leader Richard Spencer, who coined the deceptively anodyne term "alt-right" to rebrand the white supremacist movement, had been toying with a run for Montana's at-large congressional seat, which would become vacant if and when the Senate confirms GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke as Donald Trump's interior secretary. Now, though, he's apparently decided against a bid, according to the Missoulian, "at least for the time being," in reporter Keila Szpaller's words. Let's hope that never changes.
● TX-03: On Friday, GOP Rep. Sam Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018 in this suburban Dallas seat. This district, which is based entirely in Collin County and includes Plano and McKinney, backed Donald Trump 55-41. That's a huge drop from Mitt Romney's 64-34 win four years before, but most of the action is still likely to be in the GOP primary. Johnson, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, is 86, so his decision didn't exactly startle his potential successors. So far, Collin County Judge Keith Self is the only Republican who is publicly considering a bid, but there are plenty of other local Republicans who could jump in.
State Sen. Van Taylor's name immediately was mentioned, and The Dallas Morning News said he would be "an instant frontrunner" if he gets in. On Monday, Taylor put out a statement that will do nothing to take his name out of contention: After acknowledging how “humbled” he is by all the people supposedly asking him to run, Taylor only says that he’s concentrating on the upcoming legislative session. Taylor ran for Congress in a seat to the south in 2006, losing to Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards 58-40 during the Democratic wave. (Taylor was one of the few Iraq War veterans to run for Congress that year as a Republican.) About 94 percent of the 3rd District is in Taylor's state Senate constituency, so he could have a name-recognition edge if he ran; other potential contenders could also decide to run for his seat rather than for Congress.
A number of other Republicans have also been mentioned as possible candidates for Johnson's seat. The Morning News name-drops state Reps. Jeff Leach, Matt Shaheen, and Pat Fallon; Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis; and County Commissioner Susan Fletcher. Morning Consult, citing a "Washington-based Republican familiar with candidate recruitment," also mentions state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg and ex-state Sen. Florence Shapiro.
The Morning News also mentions Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere as a possible contender. LaRosiliere won this non-partisan office in 2013 without ever needing to run under either party’s banner. But LaRosiliere notably gave an impassioned 2014 speech in favor of LGBT rights, so he almost certainly wouldn’t run as a Republican if he’s at all interested.
● Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso tees up Tuesday's pair of legislative special election in the Old Dominion:
Virginia SD-22: This is the seat left vacant by Republican Rep. Tom Garrett, who was just elected in November; it stretches from Lynchburg to the western edge of Richmond's suburbs. The Democratic nominee is Ryant Washington, a former Fluvanna County sheriff. The Republican nominee is Mark Peake, an attorney who lost the primary for this seat to Garrett back in 2011. This is a conservative district, having voted 55-40 for Donald Trump last year, 57-40 for Republican Ed Gillespie in 2014's Senate race, and 54-38 for Republican Ken Cuccinelli in 2013's gubernatorial contest.
Virginia HD-85: And this is the seat vacated by newly elected Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, located in Virginia Beach. The candidates here are Democrat Cheryl Turpin, a teacher, and Republican Rocky Holcomb, a Virginia Beach sheriff's deputy. This is a closely divided, albeit Republican-tilting, district, having gone 47-46 for Trump, 50-47 for Gillespie in 2014, and 48-46 for Cuccinelli in 2013.
Polls close at 7 PM ET, and we'll be liveblogging the results at Daily Kos Elections.
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: State Sen. Vincent Fort was one of Bernie Sanders' most prominent Georgia supporters during least year's Democratic presidential primary, and the Vermont senator is returning the favor. On Saturday, Sanders endorsed Fort in this fall's non-partisan race.
Sanders lost Fulton County, which contains most of Atlanta, 71-29, so his support may not be worth many votes for Fort. But if Sanders' massive donor list helps Fort fill up his campaign coffers, Fort won't complain. Sanders' Saturday endorsement also came just before the legislative session began on Monday. Until the sessions ends in late March or early April, Fort is forbidden from raising money, so whatever cash Sanders brought in for him over the weekend will be all his campaign gets for a while.
Fort is a vocal critic of termed-out Mayor Kasim Reed, a fellow Democrat, and the mayor also appears ready to choose sides in the crowded race. Reed recently sent a message to his email list with an invitation to a Jan. 26 fundraiser for City Councilor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The invitation didn't include Reed's name on it, but it's very unlikely he just blasted it out just for kicks.
● San Antonio, TX Mayor: Bexar County Democratic Chair Manuel Medina formed an exploratory committee a few weeks ago for this May's non-partisan race, and he's now officially entered the contest. Medina, who says he'll do some self-funding, faces Mayor Ivy Taylor, who is seeking another two-year term, and City Councilor Ron Nirenberg: Taylor is a conservative who has identified as a Democrat, while Nirenberg has refused to align himself with either party. In December, Medina gave a preview of his strategy when he argued that Taylor is really a Republican and is too close to Donald Trump, while Nirenberg is a centrist.
● Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide has arrived in Alabama. And despite our pledge to be deep in the cold cold ground before we calculate Missourah, we did it anyway. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available. You can also click here to learn more about why this data is so difficult to come by.
Alabama's GOP-drawn congressional map was designed to create six safely red congressional districts and one heavily Democratic seat, and that's exactly what it did. Hillary Clinton carried the 7th District 70-29, while Donald Trump took at least 63 percent of the vote in each of the other six seats. In fact, depending on how you measure it, GOP Rep. Robert Aderholt's Alabama's 4th is likely the most Trumpy congressional district in the nation: This rural northern seat backed Trump 80.34-17.45. While we still have five states left to calculate, it's unlikely (though not impossible) that any district will give Trump more than 80.34 percent of the vote.
However, Texas' 13th District is also a contender for reddest district in the nation. This seat, located in the Texas Panhandle, supported Trump 79.90-16.85: While Trump won a higher percentage of the vote in AL-04, his margin of victory was slightly larger in TX-13. In 2012, TX-13 was the clear champ for reddest seat in the nation. The bluest seat anywhere will almost certainly once again be New York's 15th District, a Bronx seat that backed Clinton 94-5.
Trump carried Missouri 57-38, a much-stronger performance than Mitt Romney's still-clear 54-44 win in 2012. Trump and Romney carried the same six congressional districts, while Clinton won the remaining two seats that Barack Obama took.
It looks likely that the GOP's six-to-two majority will continue under the current map. The Kansas City-based 5th did swing from 59-39 Obama to 54-41 Clinton, but that's still quite blue. On the other side, the suburban St. Louis 2nd went from 57-41 Romney to 53-42 Trump, making it the only congressional district in the state where Clinton improved on Obama. Republican Rep. Ann Wagner is a potential 2018 Senate candidate so Team Blue may have a chance to try and put the seat in play soon, but this is still tough turf for Democrats. Clinton carried the 1st District 77-19, while Trump took at least 63 percent of the vote in each of the remaining five seats.
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.