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.
● AZ-Sen: Immediately after GOP Sen. Jeff Flake announced his retirement on Tuesday, speculation began about which Arizona Republicans would run for his seat. Ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward, who lost the primary to John McCain 51-40 last year, has been running for months, and polls showed her badly beating Flake, who had alienated many primary voters with his public criticism of Trump. Ward remains in the race, but she'll likely have a much tougher time catching on now that she's just another candidate rather than the hated Flake's main rival, especially since she is a poor fundraiser.
With Flake gone, a batch of new Republicans started making noises about running. Attention immediately turned to Rep. Martha McSally, who represents a competitive Tucson seat. McSally is a very strong fundraiser who has experience with tough races, and while a Senate bid would likely give Democrats a much better shot at her House seat, Senate Republicans wouldn't mind that trade. McSally has said nothing publicly, but a source close to her told the Washington Examiner that she was "being bombarded by supporters to consider." The Examiner also wrote that McSally's team was "expected to run the traps on a possible bid."
Rep. Trent Franks, a member of the nihilistic Freedom Caucus, told the Examiner that he was considering, adding, "If the objective for me were to become a U.S. senator ... this would be an excellent time to do that. I don't know what the future holds, maybe there would be another time, but I'm just going to see who else decides to look at it for now." Franks eyed this race in 2012 and even reportedly was about to announce he was in, but he reversed course at the very last second. Back when Flake was running for re-election in late August, Franks reportedly met with Trump and a few other state Republicans and agreed that ex-state party chair Robert Graham was the most likely member of the group to challenge the incumbent, though things may have changed now that Flake is on his way out.
Rep. David Schweikert, another Freedom Caucuser, said on Wednesday that, while he wasn't ruling it out, "there is not a burning desire to do that; there just isn't." But Schweikert played all sorts of games last cycle when he sounded very unlikely to challenge McCain, only to reportedly start looking at the race again. Ex-Rep. Matt Salmon, a far-right bomb-thrower who helped pressure John Boehner to leave the speakership, also spent last cycle considering a McCain challenge before he just decided to retire. Salmon has said nothing about this seat yet, but a source close to him told The Hill he was "still digesting everything."
A few Republicans talked about challenging Flake before he bailed, and they once again began making noises about running. State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who is close to Trump, reportedly was unlikely to run against Flake, but he says that his retirement is a "game changer." An unnamed state GOP operative told CNN on Tuesday that DeWit would have Trump's support if he enters the race quickly, but he had "two days to grab the ring." The Washington Examiner, also citing unnamed party insiders, suggested that DeWit "could be discouraged from running by the opposition research book," though there aren't any details about what's in said opposition research book.
Trump and his allies, including DeWit, seemed to have been ready to back Graham two months ago, but there were no obvious developments in the ensuing time. Graham, the former state party chair, said after Flake retired that he's still considering, and that he and DeWit agreed that only one of them would run.
Wealthy attorney Jay Heiler, an ally of ex-Gov. Jan Brewer, said earlier this month that he was also considering challenging Flake, and he also quickly reaffirmed his interest and insisted that Flake's decision wouldn't impact his own. Notorious ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was pardoned by Trump in August, also had flirted with facing Flake, and said on Tuesday that he wasn't saying no. However, Arpaio is famous for talking about running statewide but never doing it, though unlike in past years, he has no elected office to fall back to.
GOP insiders also mentioned a number of other state Republicans who have yet to signal interest in this seat. Among the names dropped are: freshman Rep. Andy Biggs; wealthy former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones, who narrowly lost the primary to Biggs last year; Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery; state Sen. Steve Montenegro, who is currently running for secretary of state against a GOP incumbent; Arizona Christian University President Len Munsil, who badly lost the 2006 gubernatorial election to Democratic incumbent Janet Napolitano; Attorney General Mark Brnovich; and ex-Rep. John Shadegg, who retired in 2010.
The one member of the GOP House delegation who has said no so far is Rep. Paul Gosar, whose office said he would seek re-election on Wednesday. Gov. Doug Ducey, who is seeking re-election next year, also quickly slammed the door on a Senate bid.
On the Democratic side, there has been little change so far. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who jumped in with the DSCC's support, still has no credible primary foes on the horizon. While California Rep. Ro Khanna suggested that Rep. Ruben Gallego could run, he apparently didn't bother asking his colleague since Gallego quickly said no. Rep. Raúl Grijalva did not show any interest in running himself either, but he relayed that, with Flake gone, there's "buzz among progressives and labor" about finding a more liberal candidate than Sinema. Grijalva didn't drop any names, and said that, "On some issues coming up—with DACA, with tax reform, with the budget—people are waiting to see how she positions herself."
● FL-Sen: Republican Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited next year and hasn't officially joined the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, but one could easily be mistaken judging by his penchant for running TV ads. Scott's latest move involves making a $1.9 million ad buy over the next several weeks. The spot touts his efforts to help Florida recover from the recent Hurricane Irma, claims credit for Scott convincing the federal government to fix the Lake Okeechobee dike, and asks voters to urge their legislators to support a proposed measure to keep taxes down.
Scott has long played coy about his widely anticipated Senate campaign, and ads like this are one reason why he can afford to wait. Funding it out of Scott's state political committee can skirt federal limits on campaign donation size since he isn't officially a candidate or gearing the ad toward a particular campaign for office. He's also independently wealthy enough that he can self-fund millions to his eventual campaign like he did in his two runs for governor, and Scott has previously expressed his willingness to wait until 2018 before deciding whether to join the race. Indeed, a spokesman for Scott once again simply refused to rule out a Senate campaign when Politico asked him if his state political committee's activities foreshadowed a Senate bid.
● WI-Sen: Restoration PAC is putting down $625,000 for a TV ad buy in support of Kevin Nicholson in the Republican Senate primary. Their spot introduces Nicholson as a Marine and Bronze Star recipient, playing up his outsider background as a businessman. The ad notably compares Nicholson to Ronald Reagan as "a passionate convert to conservatism," in an effort to get ahead of Nicholson's past as the president of the College Democrats of America while avoiding any explicit reference to it. The ad claims "nobody is better suited to defeat ultra-liberal Tammy Baldwin, who disrespected our veterans." Nicholson faces state Sen. Leah Vukmir in next year's primary.
● IL-Gov: Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to make lemonade out of the lemons that are Illinois' budgetary struggles by blaming things on state House Speaker Mike Madigan amid the Democratic-majority legislature's latest push to override his vetoes. Rauner's new ad features the Republican governors of three neighboring states, Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin, "thanking" Madigan for sending jobs to their states by raising taxes and blocking Rauner's "reforms." Rauner even has the chutzpah to have Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb brag about "growing union jobs" even as Rauner has long clashed with Illinois' legislature in order to push anti-union measures akin to those in right-to-work Indiana.
Unfortunately, Rauner's very deep pockets and a willingness to self-fund many tens of millions will allow him to shell out $935,000 for TV time just this week. Nonetheless, it's never a good sign when the incumbent governor has to attempt to shift the blame for the handling of the budget and economy under his tenure to someone else whom voters statewide have no role in electing.
● MI-Gov, MI-09: Attorney and businessman Andy Levin, who has previously worked as a state official in various labor-oriented positions, is the latest Democrat to express interest in running to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder next year. Levin said he thinks "we have a number of great people in the race," but that he's "just trying to figure out what our best shot is." The Detroit News also reported that Levin is nearing a decision on whether to run, but there's no direct quote regarding his timeline.
Levin's past campaign experience involves very narrowly losing a GOP-leaning state Senate district in the Detroit suburbs in 2006, but his father is longtime 9th District Rep. Sandy Levin, likely meaning he has major connections in state politics. At 86-years-old, there has been speculation that the elder Levin may finally decide to retire in 2018, and Andy Levin refused to rule out running for House in that event, though the congressman has thus far said nothing publicly to convey that he's considering stepping down. Located in the suburbs just north of Detroit, Michigan's 9th dropped from 57-42 Obama to just 51-44 Clinton, but would likely still lean toward Democrats in the current political environment if the incumbent hangs it up next year.
● NJ-Gov: Quinnipiac: Phil Murphy (D): 57, Kim Guadagno (R): 37 (Sept.: 58-33 Murphy)
● OK-Gov: On Wednesday, Democratic state House Minority Leader Scott Inman announced that he was dropping out of the 2018 gubernatorial contest and also resigning his legislative seat, citing the stress that campaigning and prioritizing his political career had placed upon his family. Inman's departure from the race leaves former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson as the only notable Democrat running for the nomination to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Mary Fallin next year.
● RI-Gov: Businessman Giovanni Feroce, who is the CEO of a watchmaking company, stated late last year that he was interested in joining the Republican primary for governor in 2018, but he hadn't said much publicly since then. On Tuesday, he told WPRI that "I've always felt that the spring is the right time to announce and be able to dedicate 110 percent of your day to being serious and running for governor," meaning a bid is very much still on the table for him. Feroce previously served as a state senator and was Team Red's losing nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994. It's unclear whether he has the means or willingness to significantly self-fund if he runs for governor.
● TX-Gov: Businessman Andrew White says he's interested in running for Texas governor as a Democrat, with Texas Monthly reporting that he's planning to launch an exploratory campaign this week. White runs an investment firm and made the news for using his own boat to help rescue people during Hurricane Harvey this past summer. He is also the son of recently deceased Gov. Mark White, a Democrat who lost his 1986 re-election bid after making the difficult choice of raising taxes to preserve public services like education in the face of a budget crisis, and the younger White argued he would be a governor who would similarly make the right choices even if they're unpopular.
Of course, some of Andrew White's policy preferences may be problematic with the very party whose nomination he could end up seeking. White says: "I've spent my career in business. I'm a very conservative Democrat, or I'm a moderate Republican, or I don't care what you call me." While that message may help appeal to the sort of upscale suburban Republicans that a Democrat likely needs to persuade in order to prevail in this implacably conservative state, it could prove seriously detrimental to winning a primary or convincing the more progressively inclined base to turn out in a midterm general election.
Nevertheless, White may have an opening if only because not a single notable Democratic official is running or appears likely to do so. The most prominent Democrat in the race so far is Dallas bar owner Jeffrey Payne, who has said he'll self-fund $2.5 million, which doesn't go very far in this incredibly expensive state. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is heavily favored for a second term and had a $41 million war chest at the end of June, meaning it will likely take a massive upset for Democrats to win. But just simply having a candidate who can run a credible race is key to ensuring voters turn out for winnable down-ballot races, something Nevada Democrats learned the hard way in 2014 when they ran a nobody for an unwinnable gubernatorial contest.
If White were to win the nomination, he'd likely have about as good of a foil as he could hope for in his bid to peel off pro-business Republicans from a Texas GOP that has increasingly pushed for hard-right social policies that are divisive with big corporations. That includes an anti-LGBT "bathrooms bill" that would require transgender persons to use the bathroom corresponding to the biological sex on their birth certificate instead of the one matching their gender identity.
Abbott and the Republican-dominated state Senate led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have pushed for this transphobic law earlier in 2017, but the state House under GOP Speaker Joe Straus' leadership blocked it from getting a vote. However, Straus announced on Wednesday he won't run for re-election in a move that may herald the exodus of more center-right Republicans next year, giving Abbott a more like-minded ally running the state House.
If Texas follows North Carolina's lead in passing this type of transphobic legislation, it could spark boycotts that cost thousands of jobs and billions for its economy, potentially damaging officeholders who supported the law. White is positioning his potential candidacy as a way for pro-business Republicans to ward off against that possibility, but it's unclear if even a "conservative" Democrat like himself can gain enough traction over such issues to become the first Democrat to win statewide office in Texas since 1994, the longest drought of any state in the nation.
● VA-Gov: Republican Ed Gillespie continues his inexorable slide towards the Donald Trump/Corey Stewart style of GOP politics with his latest TV ad, in which he hits Democrat Ralph Northam for wanting to take down Virginia's monuments to the Confederacy. "Ralph Northam will take our statues down," the ad's narrator proclaims—a telling statement in terms of specifically which voters Gillespie is appealing to with this ad. Identifying Confederate monuments as "our statues" explicitly excludes the sentiments of Virginia's communities of color, for which these statues are lurid reminders of the shameful institution of slavery and the lengths to which white southerners went to preserve the subjugation of other human beings.
This ad, while fairly mild in overall tone, is just another extension of the racist thread that has run through a number of other campaign communications from both Gillespie and down-ballot GOP campaigns this cycle. Just this past Monday, Gillespie dropped a spot hitting Northam for Gov. Terry McAuliffe's work to automatically restore voting rights to those with felony convictions after they've served their time. That ad not only ignores the racist history of felony disenfranchisement, but it also furthers the systemically racist trope that those who have served their time don't deserve to vote, sit on juries, or otherwise exercise their rights as citizens.
Gillespie's latest ad is a clear attempt to hang an "us vs. them" lampshade on his commitment to the white supremacy symbolized by monuments to the Confederacy, and it's only the latest evidence of his desperation to activate an ugly segment of the GOP's base.
● CA-48: Democrat Harley Rouda, who owns a real estate company, released an early October poll from Tulchin Research that has him trailing GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher just 48-44 in a hypothetical general election. That deficit is a cautiously optimistic result for a challenger who is still working to get his name out against a 15-term incumbent in this historically Republican district. This well-educated coastal Orange County seat flipped from 55-43 Romney to 48-46 Clinton, and Rohrabacher has earned negative press for being a transparent shill for Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin. The survey also found the incumbent's favorable rating of 39 percent is below his unfavorable rating of 44 percent.
However, there's no guarantee that a Democrat will even make the November general election ballot thanks to California's top-two primary. Rohrabacher faces one Republican challenger, businessman Stelian Onufrei, who has already self-funded $200,000 for his campaign. Meanwhile, four Democrats all finished the third quarter with at least $100,000 on-hand, including Rouda, biologist Hans Keirstead, Nestlé executive Michael Kotick, and attorney Omar Siddiqui. If they each split the Democratic vote badly enough in the primary, Republicans could luck out by having Onufrei snag the other runoff spot.
Rouda's polling memo did not include matchups of the primary or testing Rohrabacher against other Democrats, if they even asked about it. However, there's still a long way to go until next June's primary, and it's quite possible that the Democratic field will consolidate more strongly behind just one candidate or Rohrabacher's Republican challenger will turn out to be a dud.
● CA-49: Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, who represents California's 52nd District in suburban San Diego, endorsed fellow Democrat Paul Kerr in the race to take on Republican Rep. Darrell Issa in the adjacent 49th District. Kerr, who is a real estate investor, faces two other notable Democrats who are seeking to make it into the general election against Issa: environmental attorney Mike Levin and retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, who narrowly lost to Issa in 2016. The 49th takes in parts of San Diego and Orange counties and swung from 52-46 Romney to 51-43 Clinton last year.
● ID-01: Kind of remarkably, none of the Republicans running for this safely red western Idaho seat are raising much money at all. Ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher, who lost the 2014 primary for governor 51-44 to incumbent Butch Otter and has the support of departing Rep. Raul Labrador, had just $102,000 in the bank at the end of September, which is still more than either of his main primary foes. State Rep. Luke Malek, who entered the race in mid-August, had $75,000 on-hand. Attorney David Leroy, a former lieutenant governor who narrowly lost the 1986 general election for governor, had $70,000 available.
● IL-03: Progressive activists (including Daily Kos) have long wanted to punt Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski out of office, thanks to his strident hostility to reproductive rights and his anti-LGBT views—despite the fact that he represents a suburban Chicago district that supported Hillary Clinton by a 55-40 margin. But the most recent quarterly fundraising numbers show just how hard a task that will be. While Lipinski only raised $178,000, an unimpressive sum for an incumbent, he's managed to stockpile a hefty $1.5 million. Meanwhile, businesswoman Marie Newman, Lipinski's first serious primary challenger in a decade, took in just $76,000 and has only $98,000 on-hand. Lipinski may be badly out of step with the Democratic Party, but Illinois' primary is in March, so Newman doesn't have a lot of time left to alter the trajectory of this race.
● IL-10: This seat, which includes the affluent suburbs north of Chicago, has long been friendlier to Republicans down-ballot than it has in presidential races, but that may not mean too much in the age of Trump. Last year, Democrat Brad Schneider unseated Republican Bob Dold (Bob Dold!) in a very expensive race 53-47 as the district moved from 58-41 Obama to 62-33 Clinton; Dold, who lost to Schneider in 2012 and beat him in 2014, decided not to seek a fourth match a few months later. But one Republican did raise a credible amount of money for the third quarter.
Physician Sapan Shah, whom we had not previously mentioned, brought in $210,000 for his opening quarter, and he threw in another $100,000 of his own money. Jeremy Wynes, who has served as Midwest Regional Director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, raised $98,000 during this time. At the end of September, Shah led Wynes $306,000 to $221,000 in cash-on-hand.
After going through three difficult races in a row, however, Schneider is understandably not taking this one for granted. Schneider raised $466,000 for the quarter, and he had $1.43 million in the bank. With the GOP on the defensive in so many places and with a few Democratic-held Trump seats in play, it's tough to believe they'll pour resources into a district like this that's located in the expensive Chicago media market, but this race may be worth keeping an eye on just in case.
● IL-13: After a disappointing 2014, Democrats didn't seriously target Republican Rep. Rodney Davis last cycle, and his downstate seat ended up going from a very tight Romney win to 50-44 Trump. But this time, a few Democrats are raising a credible amount of money for this seat, which includes part of Springfield, Bloomington, and Champaign. Attorney Erik Jones, a former policy director for state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, raised $221,000 for his opening quarter, and he had $195,000 on-hand at the end of September. Betsy Londrigan, a fundraising consultant who has previously worked with Sen. Dick Durbin, took in $176,000 during this time, and she had $129,000 on-hand.
Two other Democrats failed to break $100,000. Retired Navy intelligence officer Jonathan Ebel fell just short with $95,000, and he had $76,000 in the bank. Meanwhile, perennial candidate David Gill raised only $23,000, and he had just $4,000 left over. Gill, who had run several times in the past, beat the favored candidate of the Democratic establishment in the 2012 primary, but he only lost the open seat race to Davis 47-46. Gill tried to run here as an independent in 2014, but he failed to make the ballot. Davis is a strong fundraiser, and he brought in $386,000 for the quarter, and he had $1 million on-hand.
● IL-14: This seat, which includes Chicago's western exurbs, went from 54-44 Romney to 49-45 Trump, and a few Democrats have kicked off bids against GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren. So far, however, no one is raising much cash. The top fundraiser of the third quarter was Matt Brolley, the president of the village of Montgomery, and he only took in $82,000.
Brolley, nurse Lauren Underwood, and high school teacher Victor Swanson, a brother of comedian Andy Richter, each had less than $65,000 on-hand at the end of September. Hultgren himself only raised $180,000 and he had $420,000 on-hand. That's not a huge war-chest for an incumbent, but it's going to take some serious money to pry him loose in a seat located in the expensive Chicago media market.
● IL-17: Republicans didn't run a serious campaign against Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos last cycle, and they were surprised when her downstate seat, which includes part of Rockford and the Quad Cities, swung from 58-41 Obama to 47.4-46.7 Trump. Businessman Mark Kleine entered the race at the end of August and raised a credible $373,000 for the quarter, and he loaned himself another $135,000. Bustos took in $429,000 during that time, and she had a $2.36 million to $508,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of September.
● IN-09: Last cycle, Democrats launched a late offensive against Republican Trey Hollingsworth, a businessman who had only recently moved to Indiana, in what was an open seat contest. Hollingsworth won 54-40, well behind Trump's 61-34 victory in this southern Indiana district, but still not a close shave. This race doesn't look like it will be a top Democratic target, but two candidates raised a surprisingly strong amount of cash over the last three months.
Civil rights attorney Dan Canon took in $202,000 in his opening quarter, and he had $129,000 in the bank at the end of September. Indiana University Professor Liz Watson, who served as a senior Democratic staffer on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, wasn't far behind with $198,000 raised for her inaugural quarter, but she had a stronger $169,000 war-chest. Hollingsworth doesn't seem very worried, since he hauled in just $129,000 for the quarter and had $249,000 on-hand. Hollingsworth and his family are wealthy, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to just throw their own money down if things get messy: Last cycle, national Republicans had to step in and help Hollingsworth as Democrats got involved.
● KS-02: Democrats were excited when ex-state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who narrowly lost the 2014 governor's race to Sam Brownback, entered the race for this open central Kansas seat, and his fundraising so far is giving them good reason to be happy. David brought in $400,000 during his opening quarter, and he had $344,000 on-hand at the end of September. This seat, which includes Topeka, part of Lawrence, and nearby rural areas, backed Trump 56-37, but Davis carried it 51-45 as he was losing statewide 50-46.
By contrast, none of the current crop of Republican candidates are hauling in much at all. The top fundraiser for the third quarter easily was state Sen. Caryn Tyson, who raised $109,000 and self-funded another $50,000, giving her $157,000 on-hand. Former Brownback administration official Antonio Soave, state Rep. and former American Ninja Warrior contestant Kevin Jones, state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, and Basehor City Councilor Vernon Fields each raised less than $32,000. Fitzgerald, who has been running since the spring, had $150,000 on-hand, but none of the other Republicans had more than $32,000 in the bank. (Fields even had a negative balance.) There's still plenty of time for other Republicans to run here and some may, since none of the current field is impressing at all.
● KS-03: This suburban Kansas City seat swung from 54-44 Romney to 47-46 Clinton, and several Democrats are running against GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder. The top fundraiser for the third quarter was teacher Tom Niermann, whom we hadn't previously written about, took in $182,000 during his opening quarter and had $125,000 in the bank. Attorney Andrea Ramsey, who entered the race in late June, raised a smaller $134,000 from donors but self-funded another $105,000, and she had $374,000 on-hand.
Labor lawyer Brent Welder, who served as a Bernie Sanders delegate from Missouri at last year's Democratic National Convention, and someone whom we also had not mentioned before, took in $108,000, and he had that amount on-hand. Last year, Yoder beat businessman Jay Sidie 51-41 in a race that attracted attention from both national parties late in the game. Sidie made it clear he'd run again almost immediately, but he raised just $3,000 for the quarter and had $32,000 on-hand.
Yoder himself will be a tough target no matter whom Team Blue nominates. The incumbent raised $425,000 for the quarter, and he had $1.4 million on-hand.
● KY-06: Retired Marine Amy McGrath, who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, entered the Democratic primary with a hard-hitting introductory video that quickly went viral, and she got more than just YouTube views from it. McGrath raised a hefty $723,000 during her opening quarter, and she had $552,000 in the bank at the end of September. State Sen. Reggie Thomas brought in $109,000 during that time, and he had $78,000 on-hand.
Both Democrats are hoping to unseat GOP Rep. Andy Barr in this central Kentucky seat. Barr raised just shy of $300,000 for the quarter, and he had $1.3 million in the bank. This seat, which includes the Lexington area, backed Trump 55-39, but state Democrats have done better here. In 2015, Democrat Jack Conway carried the 6th 49-46 as he was losing statewide 53-44, and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray won it 52-48 as he was losing last year's Senate race to incumbent Rand Paul 57-43. Gray was originally the top Democratic prospect, and he said he would likely decide on a bid in the next two or three months … about five months ago.
● MA-03: Daniel Koh, a former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, announced on Wednesday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for this open Merrimack Valley seat. Koh had resigned from Walsh's administration and moved back to his hometown of Andover in the 3rd District (Boston is located outside the seat), and his exploratory committee had already raised a massive $756,000, so his announcement was, shall we say, not a surprise.
Koh wasn't the only Democrat who began raising money before officially entering the race. Business consultant Lori Trahan, who once served as chief of staff to ex-Rep. Marty Meehan, brought in $242,000 before September 30, and she announced she was in soon afterwards.
But while state Sen. Barbara L'Italien said in mid-September that she had created an exploratory committee of her own, she still has not created a fundraising committee with the FEC. Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen, a 3rd District native whose constituency is outside of this district, had filed with the FEC while he was considering a bid for the nearby 7th District, but he announced in early October that he would run here instead; however, Mazen doesn't report raising money before Sept. 30. A few other Democrats entered the race after Oct. 1, and we'll need to wait to see how much money they're bringing in. This seat, which includes Lawrence and Lowell, backed Clinton 58-35, but Republicans have done better in statewide down-ballot races.
● MD-06: Republican Amie Hoeber, a former Army Department official, announced on Tuesday that she would run for the 6th District again next year. Hoeber was the 2016 Republican nominee and lost 56-40 to Democratic Rep. John Delaney as Hillary Clinton won this western Maryland seat by a similar 56-40 margin. She may stand a better chance next year now that Delaney isn't running again, but she'll also now have to contend with the fact that it will be a midterm election under an unpopular Republican administration.
However, Hoeber likely has one thing going for her: super PAC money. Her husband, Qualcomm senior executive Mark Epstein, was the primary donor to a super PAC that spent $3.1 million on her behalf last cycle, and he may be wealthy enough to repeat that feat in the 2018 cycle.
● MT-AL: This week, ex-state Sen. Lynda Moss filed papers with the FEC for a bid for the Democratic nod, though she has yet to announce anything. Moss, who served as majority whip in the 2008-2010 session, gave up her seat to run for a seat on the Public Service Commission in 2012, but she lost the primary 56-44.
Several other Democrats are challenging freshman GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte, who won the May special election 50-44 the day after he physically attacked a reporter. Attorney John Heenan entered the race in August and raised $225,000 for the quarter, and he also loaned his campaign another $100,000. Grant Kier, who stepped down as the director of a Missoula nonprofit dedicated to preserving open lands in western Montana just before he launched his campaign in mid-September, raised $193,000 for the quarter. At the end of September, Heenan led Kier in cash-on-hand $257,000 to $174,000. State Rep. Tom Woods entered the race in October after the fundraising deadline.
Gianforte raised $191,000 during his first full quarter as a member of Congress and had $178,000 on-hand, which is comparable to Kier and less than Heenan. Gianforte may be a little too busy to be dialing for donors right now: In August, he was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management two months after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault months before. However, the wealthy Gianforte loaned himself $1.5 million during his last campaign, and he likely can chip in more if he wants to.
● NC-02: Trump carried this Raleigh-area seat 53-44 last year, a convincing win, but close enough to give Democrats hope in a good year. Two businessmen have kicked off bids against GOP Rep. George Holding, and while neither of them raised more than $100,000 from donors, both have generously given to their campaigns.
Distillery owner Sam Searcy threw down $480,000 of his own money during his first quarter in the race, and he had $506,000 in the bank at the end of September. Tech executive Ken Romley loaned his bid $240,000, and he had $234,000 on-hand. A third Democrat, ex-state Rep. and 2012 and 2016 lieutenant governor nominee Linda Coleman, announced she was in back in late September, but she didn't begin fundraising until after the reporting deadline.
Holding, a former U.S. attorney, raised just $154,000 during the quarter and had $220,000 on-hand, less than either Searcy or Romley. But Holding has demonstrated that he can raise money when he feels threatened. After North Carolina was ordered to redraw its congressional districts in 2016, Holding and fellow Rep. Renee Ellmers ended up running against each other in the primary. Holding quickly ramped up his fundraising, and he convincingly beat Ellmers.
● NC-03: Iconoclastic Rep. Walter Jones is no stranger to getting outspent in GOP primaries, so he may not care than his latest intra-party foe already has more money than he. Craven County Commissioner Scott Dacey entered the race in July promising to be a reliable Trump ally, and he proceeded to raise $149,000 for the quarter and self-funded another $18,000. Jones brought in just $55,000 during this time, and he trailed Dacey in cash-on-hand $150,000 to $115,000 at the end of September.
Jones himself has had a bad relationship with the party leadership for years, with him bragging in 2015 that he "like[s] to be a thorn in people's ass." Jones hasn't been any easier to work with in the age of Trump. He notably voted against the House version of Trumpcare, and he was the only Republican in the chamber to vote against repealing major parts of the Dodd-Frank Act, a 2010 bill that added new restrictions on the financial industry to protect consumers after the 2008 financial crisis and is widely hated in GOP circles.
However, Jones has survived some tough scrapes in this safely red coastal seat. While Jones was originally so in favor of the Iraq War that he pushed for "Freedom Fries," he later became a loud voice against the war. Jones survived his 2008 primary with 59 percent of the vote, and he got to rest easy for a few years. But in 2014, some establishment Republicans banded together behind a challenge issued by former George W. Bush aide Taylor Griffin, who held Jones to a dicey 51-45 win.
Griffin sought a rematch last year, but he received little outside support and crashed and burned. Jones ended up outpacing another underfunded primary foe 65-20, with Griffin taking just 15. Still, Dacey seems like he's off to a promising start, and if voters agree with him that Jones isn't supporting Trump, the congressman could be in for a world of pain.
● NC-09: Kind of impressively, GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger got badly outraised during the last quarter by both a Republican and a Democratic rival. Minister Mark Harris, who lost to Pittenger by 134 votes in the 2016 primary, entered the race over the summer and outraised Pittenger $248,000 to $143,000 in his opening quarter. Pittenger still had more money on-hand at the end of September, but his $264,000 to $187,000 edge wasn't impressive. While Trump carried this suburban Charlotte seat 54-43, solar businessman Dan McCready is giving Team Blue good reason to be excited. McCready brought in $357,000 in the quarter and had $700,000 on-hand, close to twice as much as Pittenger and Harris combined.
Despite his very weak win in his 2016 three-way primary, Pittenger had reason to be optimistic earlier this year that his troubles were over. Last year, after the legislature was ordered to redraw the congressional map, Pittenger ran for a seat that was 60 percent new to him. Pittenger was also facing an FBI and IRS investigation related to Pittenger's old real estate company over loans he made to his 2012 congressional campaign. However, Pittenger now represents 100 percent of the seat he's seeking, and the investigation ended in May without any charges. Still, it seems that Pittenger's problems aren't finished by a long shot.
Pittenger is wealthy, but that doesn't mean he will dip into his personal bank account if things get bad. During the 2016 primary, Pittenger didn't do any self-funding. Either Pittenger couldn't afford to donate more money to his campaign, or he badly misread the situation and decided he didn't need to.
● Charlotte, NC Mayor: With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, SurveyUSA finds a very tight race. They give Democratic nominee Vi Lyles, who serves as Charlotte's mayor pro tem, just a 41-40 lead over Republican City Councilor Kenny Smith. This is the only poll we've seen here.
Charlotte is a very blue city, but it's been very open to backing Republicans in mayoral races. In 2009, Anthony Foxx won a close race to become Charlotte's first Democratic mayor since Harvey Gantt left office in 1987. In 2013, moderate Republican Edwin Peacock lost to Democrat Patrick Cannon 53-47, and he lost to Jennifer Roberts just 52-48 in 2015. Smith is considerably more conservative than Peacock, but it's possible that's just not sinking in.
Lyles beat Roberts in the September Democratic primary by a convincing margin. Republicans were eager to go after Roberts, who had a very tough two years in office, and they were disappointed when she lost. Still, Republicans didn't waste any time tying Lyles to Roberts and arguing that the city needed a change in direction.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: It's been hard to get a definitive read on the state of Seattle's mayoral race since the August primary, since there haven't been any trustworthy public polls of the race (the only independent poll of the general election only called landlines, a bizarre omission when polling the young and mobile Seattle electorate.) While former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan easily finished in first place in the primary, she didn't come close to breaking 50 percent, and urban planner Cary Moon could still hypothetically win by consolidating most of the non-Durkan primary voters.
However, new information about the financial state of the race makes it clearer who has the upper hand. Durkan's independent expenditure backers are spending $494,500 on a sizable ad buy for both broadcast and cable for the closing weeks. Moon does have an IE group backing her as well, but who've only spent $25,000 on digital advertising. In addition, Moon's campaign is not just broke, but $60,000 in debt when placed orders are accounted for. Moon's campaign, which is primarily self-funded, has struggled to attract donors; over the course of the campaign, Durkan has raised $865,000 from 3,600 donors while Moon (after subtracting self-funding) has raised $144,000 from 794 contributors.
● Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso brings us the results from New Hampshire:
New Hampshire House, Strafford-13: Democrats held this one in a landslide, with Casey Conley defeating Republican Guy Eaton by a 78-14 margin. Libertarian Brian Shields pulled in the remaining 8 percent. This seat went 67-26 for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 69-29 for Barack Obama in 2012.
● Nassau County, NY Executive: It's quite clear both parties think local corruption is the defining issue two weeks ahead of the general election to lead this large Long Island county. Democratic nominee Laura Curran, who serves as a member of the county legislature, is up with a spot tying ex-state Sen. Jack Martins to former state Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos, who represented part of Nassau until he was convicted on corruption charges in late 2015. (Skelos' convection was overturned last month.)
The commercial features footage of Martins in the Senate exclaiming, "Please sit down!" with the narrator arguing that Martins was "silencing those who tried to sack Dean Skelos after his corruption arrest." The narrator then says Martins was "caught with Skelos on an FBI wiretap". Curran then shows up and decries how Nassau is "paying a corruption tax" and promises a better way. Interestingly, the ad doesn't directly mention GOP County Executive Ed Mangano, who is departing a year after being indicted on corruption charges.
Martins himself began his general election last month with an ad focused on local corruption. Martins has also been trying to connect Curran to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio and some of his aides were facing a probe over their fundraising, but the investigation was dropped in March with no charges. Martins has been making hay over the fact that Curran hired a consulting firm that was at the center of the investigation. No one has released any polls here.
● Westchester County, NY Executive: With two weeks to go, Democratic state Sen. George Latimer is out with a mid-October poll from Summit Strategy Group giving him a bare 47-46 lead over Republican incumbent Rob Astorino. This is the first poll of the general election we've seen here.
Westchester is usually a reliably blue county in federal races, and it backed Clinton over Trump 65-31. Latimer is hoping some of Trump's unpopularity will rub off on Astorino, and he's out with a spot tying the two Republicans together. The narrator accuses Astorino of following Trump's playbook by breaking his promises and raising taxes while making local politics more corrupt.