The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is once again pleased to bring you our quarterly House fundraising roundup chart. We have reports from every major race for the third quarter of 2017, including a few candidates who turned in surprisingly strong hauls.
Over the coming days, we'll be taking a look at key House races to analyze which candidates are bringing the type of money they need to win, and which ones aren't. One thing we like to look at isn't necessarily who's outraising whom but rather which contenders will have the resources to get their message out and which ones won't. It's not uncommon for candidates to win primaries or general elections despite being dramatically outspent. But what is uncommon is for them to win without having the money to air television ads, hire a skilled staff, build a field operation, and pay for all the other things it takes to run a credible race. And of course, it costs much more to air ads in some television markets than others, so what might look like a decent fundraising haul in North Dakota may be underwhelming in New Jersey.
However, we've learned over the years that sometimes, a candidate's fundraising can change quickly. A memorable example came from Illinois Republican Mike Bost in 2014. Bost's fundraising was extremely weak for months after he launched his campaign against Democrat Bill Enyart in the 12th Congressional District, and something we cited in March of that year when we downgraded Bost's chances here. But even though Bost had no primary opposition, his fundraising took off like a rocket once he officially won the GOP nomination that same month. He ended up having all the money he needed to beat Enyart, whom he handily dispatched by a comfortable 52-42 margin.
It's a good reminder that sometimes, a weak fundraiser can turn things around well before its too late. Still, people like Bost are rare, and quarterly fundraising reports do give us a good window into who is capable of running a serious campaign and who isn't.
In addition to our House fundraising chart, you can also check out our companion Senate chart, which we're still updating. (Why? Because even though it's 2017, Senate FEC reports are still filed on paper and scanned in! It therefore takes forever to get the data, and it's beyond ridiculous and utterly insulting.)
● FL-Sen: Bill Nelson (D-inc): $1.8 million raised, $6.3 million cash-on-hand
● VA-Sen: Corey Stewart (R): $191,000 raised, $150,000 cash-on-hand
● AL-Sen: On behalf of Raycom News Network, local Republican pollster Strategy Research takes a look at the December general election and gives Republican Roy Moore a 51-40 lead over Democrat Doug Jones. This is Moore's largest lead to date, though two other firms gave him an 8-point edge.
● CA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced that she would seek re-election last week, but while she'd telegraphed her decision all year, her third quarter fundraising was surprisingly weak. From July to September, Feinstein raised just $500,000, and she has $4 million on-hand. By contrast, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who has not yet announced if he'll run again, raised about twice that amount for a significantly cheaper state.
Maybe Feinstein will ramp up her fundraising now that she's officially in, but this could be worth watching. Still, Feinstein's campaign says she'll tap into her $79 million fortune if she needs to, so she shouldn't lack money if it comes down to it. Feinstein faces an intra-party challenge from state Senate leader Kevin de León.
● MO-Sen: On behalf of the local political newsletter Missouri Scout, Republican pollster Remington Research is out with a poll pitting Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill against GOP Attorney General Josh Hawley. They give Hawley, who kicked off his campaign the day before this poll went into the field, a 48-45 lead. The poll does give Trump a 47-48 rating in a state he carried 56-38, which might give McCaskill some hope that Trump won't be quite the asset Republicans would expect him to be.
● MS-Sen: While Sen. Roger Wicker may need to watch his back in the GOP primary if state Sen. Chris McDaniel runs, Mississippi Republicans rarely have much to worry about from Team Blue here anymore. Still, one interesting Democrat is making noises about running. The Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes that Brandon Presley, who chairs the state's three-member Public Service Commissioner, has not ruled out a Senate bid, saying only that he enjoys his current gig. Presley also tweeted a link to Harrison's article and wrote, "A Presley in the Senate? You can bet that lazy DC bunch needs to be 'All Shook Up'!" And yes, he is in fact related to The King.
Presley, who represents northern Mississippi on the commission, has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for higher office for a while. In late 2014, Presley raised some eyebrows when he held a Washington fundraiser headlined by some big names. There was speculation that Presley could run for lieutenant governor or even challenge Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in 2015, and he didn't do anything to dispel the rumors for months. However, Presley ended up running for re-election, and he won 61-39.
The next year, Presley's district backed Trump 61-37, putting it a little to the right of Trump's statewide 58-40 win. There aren't too many Mississippi politicians left who have won territory this red with a "D" next to their name (public service commission races are, in fact, partisan affairs), so if Presley actually is interested, he could have the name recognition and connections to make things interesting. Still, this is an incredibly tough state under the very best of circumstances, and even the prospect of McDaniel as the GOP nominee may not be enough to put it in play.
There may also be more unpredictability in store this cycle for Mississippi's other Senate seat, too. Sen. Thad Cochran, who narrowly beat McDaniel in the 2014 primary runoff, isn't up until 2020, but a new piece in Politico reports that 79-year old incumbent, who'd recently been treated for a urinary infection, "appeared frail and at times disoriented during a brief hallway interview on Wednesday." According to Politico, Cochran "needed a staffer to remind him where the Senate chamber is located" and voted in favor of an amendment even though aides repeatedly told him he was supposed to vote against it. The same thing then happened again Thursday.
Cochran insists he's not going anywhere, but political observers are already speculating about whom Bryant might appoint to the seat if Cochran doesn't complete his term.
● MT-Sen: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new entry in the Poorly Staged Campaign Kickoff Hall of Fame! Republican Russell Fagg, who recently stepped down as a state judge to run for Senate, formally launched his campaign on Tuesday … in front of a crowd of eight people in the city of Bozeman. But here's what makes this story extra-awesome: Fagg then begged reporter Freddy Monares from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle to downplay how pathetic the event was:
"I would ask you just not to emphasize the crowd, because, to me, it's the fact that I was here, giving people the opportunity to be here," he said.
Of course, that only ensured the paper would comment on it, and now so are we. Fagg joins such luminaries as Keith Downey, George Cicotte, Jo Ellen Litz, and honorable mentionee Carly Fiorina, who wasn't kicking off her Senate campaign in the photo in question but was, apparently, hosting a rally for tractors.
Fagg's rivals for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester don't seem much more impressive, though. Businessman Troy Downing, who's been running since May, raised just $61,000 in the recently concluded third quarter, and he only managed to finished with $307,000 in the bank thanks to a $250,000 personal loan. State Sen. Albert Olszewski fared even worse, taking in just $25,000 and loaning himself $100,000 to end up with $144,000 in cash-on-hand. These numbers would be bad for a House race, let alone a Senate contest.
State Auditor Matt Rosendale, the preferred pick of the NRSC, did better, taking in $410,000 and banking $354,000, but that's still well off the $689,000 pace of Tester's last opponent, then-Rep. Denny Rehberg, in the same quarter of 2011. Fagg himself has yet to report any numbers, since he only just got into the race, but given the size of his, uh, following, we're not expecting much from him in the future.
● WI-Sen: Solutions for Wisconsin PAC, a group funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein to help businessman Kevin Nicholson, is already launching its first spot nearly a year ahead of the GOP primary. The ad, which the group says is part of a "six-figure buy," praises Nicholson's service in Iraq and Afghanistan and proclaims him "an outsider ready to fight for conservative values in the U.S. Senate." Nicholson faces state Sen. Leah Vukmir in the primary to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
● CA-Gov: While tech investor Sam Altman didn't rule out running for this seat as a Democrat in May, he recently told Fortune he wouldn't do it.
● CO-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in for the third quarter of 2017, and the Denver Post's John Frank has a great summary. On the Democratic side, Mike Johnston, who used to represent a state Senate seat in Denver, somewhat surprisingly has the most money in the bank, raising $321,000 for the quarter and finishing with $725,000 on-hand. The candidate with the second-largest war-chest is Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who took in $374,000 during her first two months in the race and has $322,000 in the bank.
Rep. Jared Polis raised $100,000 and donated another $370,000 to his campaign. Polis has a modest $220,000 in the bank, but it's unlikely that the wealthy congressman, who represents a Boulder-area House seat, will lack money when it's crunch time. Ex-state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who recently finished a stint as a Denver vice mayor, raised $226,000 and ended with $254,000 on-hand. Businessman Noel Ginsburg raised $217,000 and has $173,000 left over.
On the GOP side, businessman Victor Mitchell, a self-proclaimed "longshot" candidate who served a term in the state House a decade ago, has by far the most cash-on-hand. Mitchell only raised just shy of $10,000, but thanks to a $3 million loan he gave to his campaign months ago, he has $2.3 million in the bank. Mitchell admits he didn't back Trump last year, however, so no amount of money may be able to save him with primary voters. By contrast, businessman Doug Robinson, a nephew of Mitt Romney, has the second-largest campaign account with $184,000 on-hand after raising just $75,000 during his first quarter in the race. George Brauchler, a district attorney in suburban Denver, raised about $100,000, and he has $174,000 to spend.
State Treasurer Walker Stapleton raised only $8,000, and he has just $18,000 on-hand. However, Stapleton only entered the race a week before the deadline, and he spent the previous months raising money for an allied super PAC. Stapleton also loaned his campaign $260,000 in October. By contrast, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter has been running for months, so there's no way to spin his meager $2,000 bank account.
● FL-Gov: Oct. 19 was the 14th anniversary of the Swing State Project, the site that became Daily Kos Elections in 2011, and what better way to celebrate than with an appearance from one of SSP's least-favorite Democratic candidates of yesteryear? Ok, we can think of many better ways to celebrate, but we don't control the news. Also, we just can't restart the Tom Cole Deathwatch series all on our own.
Billionaire developer Jeff Greene, who badly lost the 2010 Senate primary to then-Rep. Kendrick Meek 57-31, didn't rule out a bid for governor back in February, but he insisted he wasn't "actively looking at it," and his name soon disappeared from the conversation. But on Wednesday, Greene resurfaced to say was in fact still considering, though he added that he was worried about the toll a campaign could take on his family. Greene says he'll decide by the spring.
We'd be just fine if he decides to spent more time with his family. Back in 2010, Greene's candidacy was hurt by reports about his allegedly sketchy business practices and especially about rancorous parties aboard his yacht, which Talking Points Memo summed up at the time with the headline "Jeff Greene And His Reef-Destroying, Vomit-Caked, No Good, Very Bad Yacht." Greene sued the Tampa Bay Times over the reports, and the two sides finally settled last year for an undisclosed sum. Greene also says his Florida home is two doors down from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago lair, but while Greene spoke out against his neighbor before the election, the New York Times also identified him as a Mar-a-Lago member in early January.
But for all of Greene's many liabilities, the billionaire does have access to one big thing the current Democratic field lacks: cold hard cash. The combined Septembers fundraising of the three leading Democratic candidates, ex-Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and businessman Chris King was dwarfed by state Sen. Jack Latvala's totals for the month alone, and Latvala is far from the top fundraiser in the GOP primary. September did see a major hurricane hit Florida, so it may not be the best month to look at in isolation, but Team Blue hasn't exactly been raking it in so far.
A couple of other Democrats with access to more money have also been thinking about jumping in. Wealthy Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who has spoken kindly of Trump in the past and briefly talked about running as an independent, said in August that he'd decide in November. John Morgan, a very well-off and eccentric lawyer, is also flirting with a bid, but like Greene, has said he won't decide until the spring.
● IA-Gov: Businessman Fred Hubbell, one of the many candidates running in Iowa's June Democratic primary, is already up with his first TV spot. Hubbell and his wife Charlotte describe how the candidate decided to remain on the board on the local Planned Parenthood even in the face of protests that could have harmed his department store business. Hubbell tells the audience that Planned Parenthood "provide[s] an excellent service in our community, including all around the state of Iowa. And I felt that our customers needed to have access to good quality affordable healthcare, so I was not going to back down." The Des Moines Register says Hubbell has put at least $100,000 behind the total ad buy.
● IL-Gov: Quarterly campaign finance reports are in and, well, let's just say a lot of TV station owners in Illinois are going to make it out of this race very, very, very rich—perhaps rich enough to self-fund their own campaigns for governor in four years. GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner only raised $407,000 for the quarter, but the extremely wealthy incumbent is sitting on a $66 million war-chest. Rauner currently faces no serious primary opposition at the moment, but plenty of local Republicans were angered when Rauner signed a bill that expands access to abortion and have threatened to take him on. The candidate filing deadline is Dec. 4, so we'll soon know if their bark is worse than their bite.
On the Democratic side, billionaire venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker unsurprisingly has the most cash available. Pritzker loaned his campaign $7 million for the quarter, and he's thrown in an additional $7 million since Sept. 30. Pritzker, who has been entirely self-funding his campaign, had $7 million in the bank at the end of September, but as he's already demonstrated, he can resupply whenever he feels like it. Businessman Chris Kennedy, meanwhile, raised $750,000 from donors, self-funded another $250,000, and he had $1.3 million on-hand. State Sen. Daniel Biss raised $838,000 for the quarter and had $2.7 million on-hand. Madison County schools official Bob Daiber, the only candidate from outside the Chicago area, had just $12,000 in the bank.
● MA-Gov: VoteVets has thrown their support behind Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who served in Iraq, in the Democratic primary to face GOP Gov. Charlie Baker.
● OH-Gov: Rep. Marcia Fudge, who represents much of Cleveland, endorsed ex-Rep. Betty Sutton on Thursday in the Democratic primary. The two served together in the House for several years until Sutton lost re-election in 2012.
● SC-Gov: While state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell didn't rule out a Democratic primary bid earlier this year, she'd said she was leaning against running. Unsurprisingly, Norrell has decided to say out and endorse state Rep. James Smith's bid instead.
● IN-04: Over the last few days, two more Republicans have joined the primary for this open and safely red western Indiana seat. Jared Thomas, an Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star last year in Iraq, kicked off his campaign, but it's unclear if he has any political connections. On Thursday, state Rep. Jim Baird also jumped in. Baird, who earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, operates Baird Family Farms, offering a potential point of connection with rural voters.
This seat, which includes Kokomo, Lafayette, and Indianapolis' western suburbs, backed Trump 64-30, and all the action should be in the GOP primary. Two noteworthy Republicans were already raising money before this week, but there doesn't seem to be a frontrunner right now. Diego Morales, who served as a senior advisor to Mike Pence when he was governor, raised $208,000 over the last quarter, and he had $202,000 on-hand at the end of September. Steve Braun, a former state Workforce Development director, raised $163,000 and had just shy of $150,000 in the bank.
● IN-06: On Wednesday, businessman Greg Pence, an older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, announced that he would seek this safely red open seat. In addition to being a close advisor to his brother, who previously represented the prior version of this seat before he was elected governor in 2012, Pence served a brief stint in state government himself in 2005 when then-Gov. Mitch Daniels hired him for a senior position at the Department of Environmental Management. Pence, however, had no environmental credentials, and he ended up leaving after just two-and-a-half months.
However, there just may not be stopping Pence. Thanks in large part to his little brother's connections, Pence should be able to raise as much money as he could possibly want. Pence is also an ally of local Rep. Luke Messer, who is leaving this eastern Indiana seat behind to run for the Senate. And while a couple of other Republicans were already running here, neither of them looks like they'll have the resources to stand up to Pence. State Sen. Mike Crider raised $67,000 in the third quarter of 2017 and had just $59,000 in the bank at the end of September, while businessman Jonathan Lamb raised only $17,000 from donors, loaned his campaign $50,000, and had $53,000 on-hand.
● NH-01: The Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter doubled in size on Wednesday when ex-Somerworth Mayor Lincoln Soldati, who previously served as Strafford County attorney, jumped in. Soldati joins Terence O'Rourke, a retired Army captain (who is not related to Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke) in the primary.
This seat, which includes Manchester, is one of the most competitive districts in the nation. Obama won 50-49 and Trump carried it 48-47, and this seat has flipped between the parties in five of the last six elections. But so far, the GOP candidates are bringing in an underwhelming amount of cash for such a swingy area. From July to September, state Sen. Andy Sanborn raised only $59,000 and loaned himself another $36,000, ending the quarter with $176,000 on-hand. Eddie Edwards, a former state Liquor Commission Enforcement and Licensing director, brought in only $28,000 and had just $87,000 on-hand at the end of September.
Shea-Porter only retired in October after the fundraising quarter ended, but this was going to be a major GOP target even when it looked like she'd be the Democratic nominee again, so there's no reason the Republicans shouldn't have been raising serious money. This district is also located almost entirely in the Boston media market, where it takes a pretty penny to air ads. WMUR's John DiStaso writes that national Republicans have noticed their candidates' weak numbers, and they're not happy.
● NM-01: Jeff Bingaman, who represented New Mexico in the Senate from 1982 until he retired in 2013, has thrown his support behind former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez in the Democratic primary for this 52-35 Clinton seat in Albuquerque. Martinez is one of several Democrats competing to succeed gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, and quarterly fundraising reports now give us a better idea of who the major candidates are.
Martinez himself raised $158,000 during his first quarter in the race, self-funded another $53,000, and had $189,000 in the bank at the end of September. Martinez raised more cash than any of his opponents even without taking his personal money into account, and he has the second-largest war-chest. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a retired law professor at the University of New Mexico, raised $125,000 for the quarter and had $240,000 on-hand.
Meanwhile, Deb Haaland, a former state party chair, was the only other Democrat to raise at least $100,000 from donors. Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman to be elected to Congress, brought in $110,000 for the quarter and had $162,000 in the bank. Damian Lara, a former deputy Bernalillo County assessor, raised just $26,000, but self-funded $75,000 and had $139,000 in the bank. But Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis only had $52,000 on-hand, while John Abrams, the mayor pro tem of the small town of Edgewood, reported bringing in nothing.
● NY-24: On Thursday, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner announced that she would not challenge GOP Rep. John Katko next year. Miner has sounded far more interested in running against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary for months, so this move was not a surprise, but it leaves Team Blue without an obvious candidate against in New York's 24th District. This seat shifted from 57-41 Obama to 49-45 Clinton, and Katko won his second term last year 60-39, but it still remains a top Democratic target, and a rare seat where recruitment hasn't yet panned out.
Katko is a strong fundraiser, and while his $257,000 haul last quarter wasn't overwhelming, he had $913,000 in the bank at the end of September. The only Democrat who has been raising money is Anne Messenger, a small business entrepreneur, but she took in only $52,000 during the quarter. Several other Democrats did express interest in running in July, but it's been pretty quiet here since then. It's possible several of them were waiting on Miner before making a final decision, so we'll see if there are any developments now.
● NY-27: Just a month after former State Department official Erin Cole dropped out of the race against GOP Rep. Chris Collins, Democrats have found an alternative in former prosecutor Sean Bunny, who recently left the Erie County District Attorney's office to run for Congress. Like Cole, Bunny is also an Army veteran, and he served in Iraq before heading to law school. The race remains daunting, as Trump won this Buffalo-area district by a punishing 60-35 margin, but Collins' ethics woes only keep growing worse, potentially giving Democrats an opening.
Last week, the Office of Congressional Ethics released a report saying there was "substantial reason to believe" that Collins "shared material nonpublic information" about an Australian biotech company he'd invested heavily in—in other words, engaged in insider trading. Collins' $17 million investment was wiped out earlier this year when the company's lone drug failed in clinical trials, but with the House Ethics Committee continuing to look into the matter, his woes may only grow.
● OH-12: In a big surprise, GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi announced on Thursday that he would resign from Congress to become head the Ohio Business Roundtable, a lobbying group. Tiberi said he would leave office by Jan. 31, though he says he hasn't picked an exact date yet.
Ohio's 12th Congressional District, located in suburban Columbus, went from 54-44 Romney to 53-42 Trump, barely any change in a year that saw Ohio swing sharply to the right. Democrats, however, don't have much of a bench in this seat, which also backed Republican Josh Mandel 51-44 even as he was losing the 2012 Senate race to incumbent Sherrod Brown 51-45. Still, special elections in the Trump era have been anything but predictable, and this one may very well be worth keeping an eye on.
And Tiberi himself is one of the last people who, under normal circumstances, we'd have expected to jump ship. Tiberi has had a secure hold over his House seat for ages, and he has a prominent place on the powerful Ways and Means Committee as well as a tight relationship with House leadership. He's also just 54, so he'd have plenty of time to amass even more influence in the House if he wanted to. Indeed, he certainly wasn't tired of Congress earlier this year, when he spent months flirting with a Senate bid, and even raised $1.4 million for his possible bid.
Tiberi himself did not address the reason for his departure in his statement, beyond saying how excited he was to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable. However, as the New York Times notes, a number of senior Republicans are jumping ship after less than a year of having to deal with Trump. And Tiberi's departure could be a portent that even more Republicans who could have hung around for decades are on their way out the door.
Still, it took very little time for potential Republican successors to start popping up. State Sens. Kevin Bacon and Jay Hottinger each told cleveland.com that they're considering getting in, while state Sen. Kris Jordan also told the Columbus Dispatch he was interested, too. (And yes, you can get from Kevin Bacon to Kevin Bacon in six degrees.) State Rep. Rick Carfagna also said he's thinking about running and said he knows he doesn't have much time to decide. Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo, who recently pulled the plug on a bid for state treasurer, said he would "defer comment" on his plans, which is not a no.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Mike Duffey has been mentioned as possible candidate, but he hasn't said anything publicly. The Newark Advocate also writes that state Sen. Troy Balderson is likely to consider, and they list state Reps. Wes Goodman and Jim Hughes as possible candidates as well.
Things are considerably quieter on the Democratic side. The only Democrat who showed any interest on Thursday was Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor, who says he hasn't "had the time to think about it, honestly."
● PA-15: Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein, who won a gold medal in cycling at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has joined the GOP field for Pennsylvania's open 15th Congressional District. That makes him the third Republican in the race, along with state Reps. Ryan McKenzie and Justin Simmons. Because Rep. Charlie Dent only announced his retirement last month, his would-be successors haven't had a lot of time to fundraise, but in the early going, McKenzie more than doubled up Simmons in the third quarter, bringing in $110,000 versus his rival's $46,000 (both have similar amounts of cash in the bank). Meanwhile, the only Democrat to file a report, pastor Greg Edwards, raised $57,000 and had $56,000 left over—thrifty!
● TX-16: On Thursday, former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar received an endorsement from EMILY's List, which noted that Escobar would be the first-ever Latina to represent Texas in Congress. This is also an interesting development because Escobar's chief rival in the Democratic primary for this open seat is also a woman, former El Paso school board president Dori Fenenbock. However, EMILY's mission is to support pro-choice Democratic women, and while Escobar is a vocal supporter of reproductive rights, it's hard to find anything on Fenenbock's views on the subject.
It's also worth noting that Fenenbock only voted in a Democratic primary for the first time last year, having voted in GOP primaries in the past (Texas doesn't register voters by party), and she's relied heavily on Republican donors, who made up almost half of her contributors in the second quarter of the year, when she raised $293,000. In the just-concluded quarter, however, Fenenbock's take dipped to $207,000, as Escobar, who only joined the race in August, outraised her with a $332,000 haul. But thanks to her earlier start plus a $50,000 loan to her own campaign, Fenenbock holds a $405,000 to $297,000 cash advantage. Given how blue this seat is—Hillary Clinton won it 68-27—whoever wins the Democratic primary is all but assured of heading to Congress in 2019.
● UT-04: On Wednesday, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, a Democrat, announced that he would challenge sophomore GOP Rep. Mia Love. About 85 percent of the 4th District lives in Salt Lake County, so McAdams should start out with plenty of name recognition. Last year, McAdams won re-election against a GOP foe 59-41, running ahead of Hillary Clinton's 42-33 win in the county (conservative independent Evan McMullin took 19 percent). This seat, however, is considerably redder: It backed Trump 39-32, while McMullin took 22 percent.
As we noted when McAdams started talking about running here earlier this month, Love has an interesting electoral history. In 2012, Republicans chewed up Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson's House seat in redistricting in an effort to beat him, and Love gave the incumbent his most serious challenge in years. Indeed, by the end of the race, it looked like Mitt Romney's coattails would be too much for Matheson to overcome, but the Democrat pulled off a surprise 48.9-48.5 win even as Romney took the seat 67-30.
Matheson opted to retire in 2014, and for almost a year, it seemed that Love, who decided to run a second time, would win this seat without much of a fight. However, Democrat Doug Owens kept things unexpectedly close despite the GOP wave and lost just 51-46. There's always been the uncomfortable possibility that some conservative voters weren't voting for Love because she's black, but 2016 did finally give Love a clear and decisive victory. Owens tried again, and while national Democrats gave him much more attention in his second attempt, Love won their rematch 54-41.
Love herself also does one very odd thing. Love uses direct mail to fundraise, a method that brings in tons of money from small donors. But there's one huge catch: Direct mail costs so much to implement that candidates end up netting very little cash, and as a result, it has a scammy reputation. Now that Love is a member of Congress with access to a broader fundraising network, you'd think she'd find a much more efficient way to raise money, but for some reason, she continues to employ direct mail despite all its drawbacks. During the third quarter of 2017, Love raised $249,000 but spent $292,000, an absolutely crazy burn rate this far from Election Day, leaving her with a modest $310,000 on-hand. And as UtahPolicy.com notes, Love spent $150,000 just on direct mail over the last three months.
Love's team, of course, argues that all is well: Her campaign manager insists that she's just been "building our lists and prospecting." The fact that Love has been doing this "list building" for years and is still tearing through cash doesn't seem to bug them. Team Love argues that their fundraising has taken a hit without Hillary Clinton to kick around, but other vulnerable Republican House members aren't exactly lighting all their money on fire like this.
For instance, Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who is widely regarded as a strong fundraiser and sits in a much more vulnerable seat, raised a comparable $290,000 but only spent $150,000 during the third quarter. Likewise, Virginia's Barbara Comstock, another good fundraiser in a difficult district, brought in $448,000 and spent $205,000 during this timeframe. Unlike her colleagues, Love doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to actually find a way to keep the money she raises, so McAdams may be able to build up a stronger war-chest than the incumbent before too long.
● WA-08: Democrat Brayden Olson, a 29-year-old who runs a company that specializes in educational games, announced this week that he would run for this competitive open seat in suburban Seattle. Olson, who is reportedly wealthy, says he'll use his personal resources here.
But Olson's first brush with fame was of the decidedly non-political kind. In early 2015, Business Insider ran a story about Olson's claims that he'd started getting messages from women who did not know him comparing him to Christian Grey, the young and rich titular character in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series—claims that Business Insider admitted it hadn't verified.
In the piece, Olson acknowledged some superficial similarities and told the publication that about 1,000 fans of the series reached out to him, even saying few flew out to Seattle to see him in person. He also said that the coincidental resemblance has given him a good chance to talk about domestic violence. Mercifully, Olson now says that he's "not running for Congress to talk about me or a fictional character," since we have a policy of talking about "Fifty Shades of Grey" as little as possible.
Several other candidates are seeking to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Dave Reichert in this seat, which narrowly backed both Obama and Clinton but is more friendly to Republicans down-ballot. Four other notable Democrats are running, and two of them look like they'll have the resources to compete here. From July to September, pediatrician Kim Schrier raised $268,000, while attorney Jason Rittereiser took in $222,000; Schrier led Rittereiser $237,000 to $184,000 in cash-on-hand. By contrast, Amazon manager Toby Whitney had just $44,000 on-hand, while mortgage broker Mona Das barely registered with just $12,000 in the bank.
The GOP only has one noteworthy candidate, but he's a big one. State Sen. Dino Rossi entered the race with only about a week to go before the fundraising reporting deadline, but he scooped up $579,000 in that brief time and has $567,000 on-hand. Team Blue may be content, though, if Rossi scares off other Republicans. In Washington, all candidates run on one primary ballot, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general. There's always the nightmare possibility that if too many Democrats run, they'll split the left-leaning vote and allow Rossi and another credible Republican to advance, but if Rossi's the only serious GOP candidate, that could save Democrats from this potential disaster.
● Statehouse Action: This Week in Statehouse Action: You Give Laws a Bad Name edition features the latest in dollars and lack of sense in Virginia, a Florida man running (not just for office), and the possible revival of Utah's "porn czar," because American political discourse isn't sufficiently absurd, I guess.
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