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.
● NH-01: In a major surprise, Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter announced on Friday that she would not seek re-election to New Hampshire's swingy 1st Congressional District. Shea-Porter only just returned to the House after narrowly unseating GOP incumbent Frank Guinta last year in their fourth straight matchup: Guinta had unseated Shea-Porter in the 2010 GOP wave, but she returned the favor in 2012, only to lose to Guinta again in 2014. And given her persistence (and success) in trying to win back office so many times, it's hugely unexpected to see the 64-year-old congresswoman choose to move on at this juncture.
Throughout her tenure, Shea-Porter has always been an ardent progressive despite representing a very swingy seat. However, she's also a notoriously weak fundraiser, and when she has won, she's never taken more than 52 percent of the vote. According to stolen documents released by WikiLeaks last year, national Democratic leaders weren't very enthusiastic about her last comeback bid, and it seems they'll belatedly get their wish for a new nominee. But whether the Democratic establishment liked her or not, Shea-Porter at least was a well-known quantity, and it's far from clear who will step up to run in her place.
This seat, which includes Manchester (the state's largest city) and much of the rest of east New Hampshire, may just be the most competitive and volatile congressional district in the nation. Not only did it change hands in five straight elections between 2008 and 2016, it's jumped back and forth on the presidential level as well. In 2012, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney just 50.2-48.6, while four years later, Donald Trump took it 48.2-46.6.
That's due in large part to the fact that New Hampshire is home to an unusually high proportion of swing voters, making it more susceptible that most places to the national political climate, which will once again likely play a huge part in determining which party wins this seat next year. Indeed, back in 2006, Shea-Porter herself was a little-known and underfunded candidate who, after defeating the DCCC's preferred candidate in a primary, ended up unseating Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley in a major shocker when that year's Democratic wave hit New Hampshire.
State Sen. Andy Sanborn and Eddie Edwards, a former director of the state's Liquor Commission, were already seeking the GOP nod before Shea-Porter hit the eject button. Shea-Porter was never the most intimidating incumbent and this seat was always going to be a top GOP target, so her decision to retire might not have a big impact on the Republican field. However, it'll undoubtedly prompt much discussion on the Democratic side in terms who will run to succeed her.
3Q 2017 Fundraising
● VA-Sen: Tim Kaine (D-inc): $1.8 million raised, $8.4 million cash-on-hand
● IL-Gov: Chris Kennedy (D): $750,000 raised, $250,000 self-funded, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
● NM-Gov: Steve Pearce (R): $1 million raised
● FL-27: Matt Haggman (D): $512,000 raised, $469,000 cash-on-hand
● MI-08: Mike Bishop (R-inc): $350,000 raised, $700,000 cash-on-hand
● NY-01: Perry Gershon (D): $435,000 raised, $65,000 self-funded
● NY-19: John Clegg (D): $220,000 raised, $180,000 cash-on-hand; Gareth Rhodes (D): $165,000 raised; Pat Ryan (D): $375,000 raised
● AZ-Sen: With Sen. Jeff Flake looking so weak in next year's GOP primary, it's not surprising that another Republican is making noises about challenging him. Wealthy attorney Jay Heiler, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents and a close ally of ex-Gov. Jan Brewer, tells the New York Times that he's considering, arguing that Arizona needs a senator who will back Trump's agenda whole-handedly. Ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward is already running, and Trump and his state allies have been talking to ex-state party chair Robert Graham about getting in. As we've noted before, if too many people run in the primary, it could split the anti-Flake vote enough to allow the incumbent to win with just a plurality.
However, national Republicans seem very pessimistic that anything can save Flake. The Times even reports that Flake "appears so weakened with Republican voters that there is increasingly talk of contingency planning should he not run again or seek re-election as an independent." However, Flake has not even hinted publicly that he's interested in doing anything but seeking the GOP nomination again next year.
● VA-Gov: Republicans really are going all-in on Willie Horton-style racism in Virginia's gubernatorial race. GOP nominee Ed Gillespie has been attacking Democrat Ralph Northam over so-called "sanctuary cities" that don't enforce federal immigration laws, even though Virginia has none. Republicans have engaged in racist demagoguery to argue a tiebreaking state Senate vote Northam had cast would allow sanctuary cities and open the door to the violent gang MS-13. Now, the country's most prominent racist demagogue has weighed in after Donald Trump himself tweeted:
"Ralph Northam,who is running for Governor of Virginia,is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities. Vote Ed Gillespie!"
Republicans assuredly must be hoping to gain from racially tinged attacks that rile up their base. Of course, associating Gillespie with Trump may end up doing Northam a favor in a state that voted 50-44 for Hillary Clinton and where Trump's approval rating is undoubtedly not high with swing voters.
Sanctuary cities aren't the only subject where Gillespie is going hard-right on the culture wars. His latest ad blasts Northam for wanting to use "scarce tax dollars" to take down Confederate monuments in the wake of the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. Gillespie says he "think[s] the monuments should stay up," and Virginia should use that money to create jobs and raise pay for teachers and police. Meanwhile, Northam's latest ad hits Gillespie for wanting to end a woman's right to choose, playing an audio clip where Gillespie said earlier this year that he "would like to see abortion be banned."
In addition to Trump, two former presidents have also ventured into the race recently. However, their approaches are notably different based on how popular or unpopular they were when they left office: George W. Bush is holding private fundraisers for Gillespie, while Barack Obama joined Northam on the public campaign stump.
● MA-03: Yet another Democrat is eyeing this open Merrimack Valley seat. State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell tells Politico that she's "just considering" getting in, and won't decide until the end of the year at the earliest. Campbell argued that her reputation as a moderate could be an asset to this seat, which backed Clinton 58-35 but has backed Republicans in down-ballot races.
● PA-18: With Republican Rep. Tim Murphy resigning in disgrace later this month, we have a special election in our future. Under Pennsylvania law, local party delegates will select their candidates for an upcoming special election rather than hold primaries. Trump carried this Pittsburgh-area seat 58-39 and the GOP nominee will be the clear favorite, though several Democrats are taking a look at this contest.
On the GOP side, state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler announced in the brief window of time between when Murphy said he would just not seek re-election and when he announced he would actually resign. Reschenthaler seemed to be emerging as a consensus GOP favorite even before Murphy announced he was leaving Congress, but he hasn't cleared the field. State Sen. Kim Ward announced on Thursday that she would also run here. Ward is a longtime Westmoreland County politician, and high-ranking Republicans reportedly tried to recruit her to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey during the 2012 cycle.
State Rep. Rick Saccone, whose Senate campaign seems to be going nowhere, has also talked about switching to this race. TribLive says that state Rep. Jason Ortitay also says he's considering, though there's no quote from Ortitay. City & State also writes that Allegheny County Councilman Sam DeMarco and Allegheny County GOP head D. Raja (who is not to be confused with Communist Party of India head D. Raja) are "rumored" to be looking at this seat.
On the Democratic side, a few candidates were already running here before Murphy hit the eject button. The influential group VoteVets backed Navy veteran Pam Iovino on Wednesday, while former Allegheny County Council Member Mike Crossey and physician Robert Solomon are also in. However, while this seat isn't particularly friendly to national Democrats, local Democrats still sometimes do well in this ancestrally blue area, and a few are talking about running. (Democrats will also choose their nominee though a convention.)
Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli said on Thursday she's "highly considering running" and has formed an exploratory committee, and that she was looking to decide within the next week. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Chris Potter also writes that federal prosecutor Conor Lamb, the nephew of Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb, is "said to be considering a run." Democratic operatives also tell Politico that they expect others to get in, and they name Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce head Matt Smith, state Rep. Dan Miller, and Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas as possibilities.
Finally, we have one more note on the saga of soon-to-be-ex. Rep. Tim Murphy. Murphy, a loud opponent of abortion, had apparently encouraged his mistress to get one when she mistakenly thought she was pregnant with their child, and Murphy announced he was leaving Congress a day after the story broke. However, Politico writes that a different unsavory story about Murphy was what convinced him to resign. Murphy and his chief of staff Susan Mosychuk reportedly have a long history of being verbally abuse to staffers, with them often berating them as "worthless" and calling their work "garbage."
Among other things, Mosychuk would yell at aides for taking bathroom and lunch breaks. Mosychuk also was earning a large paycheck for her work with Murphy's re-election campaigns, much more than House rules allowed. Republican leaders reportedly were worried that that the House Ethics Committee would need to start investigating Murphy and Mosychuk's actions, and they worried that a steady stream of negative stories about the now nationally-infamous congressman would be an unwelcome. However, by resigning, Murphy would avoid that investigation.