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.
● TX-05: On Tuesday, GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling (known as Jeb! Hensarling in our hearts), announced he would not seek re-election to Texas' 5th Congressional District. Hensarling's seat, which stretches from the Dallas area into rural East Texas, backed Romney 65-34 and Trump 62-34, so the future GOP nominee should have little trouble holding this district. But Hensarling's departure does fit a pattern we've seen where senior congressional Republicans are looking for the exits after less than a year in Trump's D.C.
Hensarling of course didn't mention Trump in his retirement announcement. However, as the chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, Hensarling is a power player in Congress. Hensarling is termed-out as committee chair at the end of this Congress, but the eight-term Republican probably could have gotten another perch if he stuck around, and at only 60 years old, Hensarling could have stuck around a long time. It's possible that Hensarling is telling the truth and really has just decided he's spent too long in the House, but it's widely acknowledged that Trump is pushing more members to the exits.
Hensarling always coasted to victory in the primary with minimal opposition, but plenty of Republicans who haven't experienced life under Trump (or who may find life under Trump appealing) are likely to eye this seat now. If no one takes a majority in the first round of the primary, there will be a runoff. About 40 percent of this seat is in Dallas County, with the balance located in smaller, rural areas. The Dallas portion is by far the bluest part of the seat, so rural candidates may have a big edge in a GOP primary over suburban Dallas politicians.
Or maybe a Florida candidate will come out on top. Ex-Rep. Allen West, who represented a South Florida seat for one term, moved to Texas after his 2012 defeat, and the tea party favorite didn't take long to fit into the Lone Star State's political scene. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed West to the 12-person Texas Sunset Commission, which recommends whether the legislature should continue various state agencies, in 2015 as one of its two non-legislative members. On Tuesday, the Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston contacted West and he expressed surprise at Hensarling's decision. West very much did not rule out a run here, instead saying, "I didn't move here to run for political office, but that's some interesting news you just told me."
Back in Florida, West was a huge tea party favorite who had a knack for finding unique ways to be offensive. To take just a few examples, West declared, that if Nazi propagandist "Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine," and said that "when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool." West, who was one of the few African American Republicans in Congress, argued that he was "here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman, to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad, away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility." West lost his House seat in a very close race in 2012 even as Mitt Romney was narrowly carrying it, and while he eventually conceded, West charged that "many questions remain unanswered" about the vote totals.
And, of course, West has only gotten worse in the Trump era. In December, he shared a Facebook meme about James Mattis, who is Trump's secretary of Defense, captioned, "Fired by Obama to please the Muslims. Hired by Trump to exterminate them." West also launched a transphobic attack on Pennsylvania Physician General Rachel Levine last year. West remains popular in the far-right media sphere, and if he ran, he'd probably have no trouble sucking in donations.
● 3Q 2017 Fundraising: Quarterly fundraising reports covering the months of July through September are now available online with the FEC, and we have published an updated Senate fundraising chart that includes figures for all the key candidates in all 33 races that are on the ballot this cycle. Be sure to check out our companion chart for House races, too.
● AL-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is out with a late-October poll by Axis Research that gives Republican Roy Moore a 56-39 lead over Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama's Dec. 12 Senate special election. That spread is Moore's biggest margin in any poll to surface since the general election began just over a month ago, although he has consistently led in nearly all other polls. The survey also places Trump's approval rating at 57 percent, which would present Jones with a tough hill to climb if accurate.
● CA-Sen: Unsurprisingly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has endorsed longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein ahead of her 2018 Senate race against state Senate President Kevin de Léon, a fellow Democrat. Pelosi's endorsement adds to a growing list of the party establishment who are standing by Feinstein.
● WI-Sen: Republicans have recently been attacking Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin on the airwaves, and Democratic-aligned groups are now coming to the rescue. The first is the Senate Majority PAC, which is the main super PAC affiliated with Senate Democratic leadership; they're spending $1 million on TV and digital. Their spot slams "out-of-state billionaires" for smearing Baldwin to fight for a "Republican tax plan that benefits the top 1 percent." The ad praises Baldwin for repeatedly voting for tax cuts that benefit the middle class instead.
Meanwhile, the League of Conservation Voters is also shelling out $300,000 to commend Baldwin for helping to stop invasive Asian carp from coming to Wisconsin's Great Lakes. Their spot notably praises Baldwin for working "with Democrats and Republicans" to stop pollution and protect the environment.
● CO-Gov: Former Rep. Tom Tancredo revealed on Monday that he will run for governor in 2018 as a Republican. Tancredo is perhaps the most prominent bigot in Colorado politics, which makes him a perfect fit for Donald Trump's GOP. During his five terms in Congress from 1999 to 2009, Tancredo rose to infamy as a zealot against undocumented immigrants. He more recently began taking public steps toward running for governor earlier this year after blasting state Republicans for refusing to speak out "in defense of free speech" after a Colorado Springs resort cancelled the booking for a conference by VDARE, a notorious white-supremacist hate group.
This is far from Tancredo's first bid for higher office. Tancredo abandoned his House seat in 2008 for a quixotic presidential bid that predictably went nowhere. In 2010, he ran for governor under the far-right Constitution Party banner and became the de facto Republican nominee after the actual Republican candidate imploded in scandal. Tancredo lost that election to Democratic now-Gov. John Hickenlooper, who now faces term-limits in 2018, but he took second place with 37 percent to Hickenlooper's 51 percent.
Tancredo rejoined the GOP in time for the 2014 gubernatorial contest, but he lost the Republican primary by just 30-27 to fellow ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez, who went on to narrowly lose to Hickenlooper that fall. In 2015, Tancredo left the Republican Party again, but he has since rejoined it.
The Republican field previously had no obvious front-runner, but it already included state Treasurer Walker Stapleton; suburban Denver-area District Attorney George Brauchler; former investment banker Doug Robinson, a nephew of Mitt Romney; and self-funding businessman Victor Mitchell. Tancredo once again stands a strong chance of winning the nomination with a mere plurality if he can consolidate the most hardcore anti-immigrant part of the GOP base while running against a divided field of opponents.
However, Tancredo could struggle to win the general election in a state where even white voters are among the best-educated in the country, a demographic that did not take kindly to Trump's toxic brand of xenophobia last year. Nevertheless, Democrats should be careful what they wish for in a year where they have no incumbent running, since Tancredo as governor may be about the worst possible outcome that could happen in next year's election.
● NM-Gov: The Majority Institute, a Democratic-affiliated outfit formerly known as Project New America, has released a poll from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner of next year's Democratic primary for governor. Their survey shows Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham with a staggering 75 percent support, while former Univision executive Jeff Apodaca takes just 10 percent and state Sen. Joe Cervantes 3 percent. There's been practically no publicly available polling of this race, so it's impossible to say exactly how accurate these numbers are.
Nevertheless, Lujan Grisham taking 75 percent just seems too high to be believable for an open-seat race where candidates aren't yet bombarding the airwaves with TV ads. She has already established herself as the clear front-runner, however, thanks to fundraising, endorsements from major party figures, and her existing name recognition as the congresswoman for one-third of the state.
● SC-Gov: South Carolina Public Affairs conducted a poll in the first half of October that tested next year's Republican primary contest for governor of South Carolina, with the most popular option being "undecided" at 50 percent. Among the four candidates in the race, incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster leads with 33 percent, followed by former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton at 7 percent, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant at 5 percent, and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill at 5 percent.
McMaster was elevated to the governor's office after Nikki Haley became U.N. ambassador earlier in 2017, but he is nevertheless facing a vigorous primary challenge. While this survey gives McMaster an early lead if accurate, it shows that this race is still far from over with so many undecided voters. Templeton in particular has raised more than enough money to remain competitive with the incumbent, and her polling numbers may consequently rise once she begins running TV ads in earnest and boosts her name recognition.
● VA-Gov: The Washington Post and George Mason University's Schar School have published a new poll of Virginia's swiftly approaching gubernatorial election by Abt Associates, and they find Democrat Ralph Northam beating Republican Ed Gillespie by 49-44, while Libertarian Cliff Hyra takes 4 percent. That marks a noticeable drop from their early October survey, where Northam led 53-40 among likely voters. However, we wrote at the time how that poll looked like an outlier, meaning this more recent result could be just as much a reversion to the mean as it is the sign of a tightening race.
One metric does indicate that this race could come down to the wire, though: fundraising. Northam raised $11 million from Oct. 1 to Oct. 26, and finished the period with $1.7 million in cash-on-hand. Although Gillespie had lagged far behind in prior months, he nearly caught up in the most recent period by raising $9.7 million and heading into the final stretch with $1.4 million in cash-on-hand.
Gillespie benefitted considerably more from the national party committees, with the Republican Governors Association and its allies chipping in $4.75 for his campaign. On the other hand, Northam only relied on the Democratic Governors Association for just $3 million of his larger haul. Regardless, both parties are very much acting like this race could go either way.
● OH-12: Shortly after Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi announced his surprise retirement, GOP state Sen. Jay Hottinger said he was considering a run to succeed him, but Hottinger announced on Tuesday that he would not run for the House. So far, the only notable Republican candidate is Delaware County Prosecuting Attorney Carol O'Brien, though several others have previously said they're considering it. This seat includes the suburbs north of Columbus and backed Trump 53-42, meaning Republicans should be favored to hold it.
● TX-02: This Houston-area seat, which awkwardly loops around the area from Atascocita in the northeast to Northwest Houston, went from a very rough 63-36 Romney to a less-rough 52-43 Trump. Democrats haven't made a serious effort to oust Republican Rep. Ted Poe since his first 2004 win, but this time around he may be up against an opponent with access to some money. Nonprofit executive Todd Litton raised $131,000 during the second quarter and another $116,000 from July to September, and he had $230,000 on-hand at the end of September.
Poe's $2.18 million war chest still utterly dwarfs Litton, but the Democrat may have enough cash-on-hand to at least get noticed by outside groups and donors. Still, this area is incredibly red down-ballot, and it will take a lot to even put this race on the big board.
● TX-07: Democrats haven't seriously targeted longtime GOP Rep. John Culberson in a decade, but that very much changed after this ancestrally red suburban Houston seat swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47.1 Clinton. Several well-funded Democrats are competing to take on this seat and, surprisingly, two of them already have more cash-on-hand than the incumbent.
Nonprofit executive Alex Triantaphyllis hauled in $216,000 during the third quarter, and he had $536,000 in the bank at the end of September. Attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher took in $183,000 during this time and had $403,000 on-hand. Laura Moser, who founded the progressive group Daily Action, raised $165,000 for the quarter and had $272,000 on-hand, while MD Anderson cancer researcher Jason Westin raised just shy of $100,000 and had $167,000 to spend.
By contrast, Culberson took in only $172,000 during this time, and he had only $389,000 in the bank, a very underwhelming total for an incumbent with a spot on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Hurricane Harvey did hit Houston hard in late August so, obviously, all the candidates had a lot of other things on their minds other than fundraising for much of the quarter. Still, it's notable that Culberson really doesn't seem to be in a hurry to bulk up his war chest even though it's been clear for almost a year that Democrats would make a play for this seat.
● TX-21: Longtime Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, a global warming skeptic who alarmingly currently heads the House Science Committee, has never faced a competitive re-election campaign, and it will take a lot to change that. Still, it didn't go unnoticed last year that his seat, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio and takes up part of the Texas Hill Country (including Lyndon Johnson's unhappy childhood home of Johnson City), went from 60-38 Romney to a smaller 52-42 Trump.
A few Democrats are running, though only one has raised a notable amount of money. Joseph Kopser, an aerospace engineer and Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq, raised $168,000 for the third quarter and an additional $45,000 from supporters via a special vehicle called the Serve America Victory Fund from a fundraiser organized by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (we explain why we categorize that donation separately here). Smith took in $194,000 during this time and led Kopser $937,000 to $219,000 in cash-on-hand.
● TX-23: While this west Texas seat, which snakes from the outskirts of El Paso to San Antonio and takes up much of the border with Mexico, swung from 51-48 Romney to 50-46 Clinton, no one is under the illusion that beating sophomore GOP Rep. Will Hurd will be easy. Hurd is a strong fundraiser, having $870,0000 in the bank at the end of September, and he's incredibly good at generating positive press. But Hurd only won re-election narrowly last year, and a few Democrats are hoping a wave will give them a boost.
Former federal prosecutor Jay Hulings, who announced in mid-August, raised $196,000 in his opening quarter and had $189,000 on-hand. Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones took in $104,000 during this time and had $74,000 on-hand. Former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Judy Canales announced she was running in late September, but she didn't start raising money in the few days left of the quarter.
● TX-27: Last cycle, GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold only won re-nomination 56-44 against an underfunded GOP foe. Farenthold had generated some very bad headlines over the previous years, beginning in late 2014 when we learned that Farenthold owned the domain name "Blow-me.org" for well over a decade, and a collection of some of Farenthold's online writings from 2006 to 2010 was also unearthed. Also that year, Farenthold's former communications director sued him for sexual harassment. The lawsuit was settled in November of 2015, a few months before his primary.
Farenthold has kept his head down since then, but former Victoria County Republican Party Chair Michael Cloud is hoping that his close call last year is a sign that Republicans are tired of him in this red Corpus Christi-based seat. Cloud announced in early October that he was running, but he did some fundraising before that. At the end of September, Cloud had only $22,000 in the bank, and we'll see if things change now that he's officially in. But Farenthold doesn't seem too panicked, since he only had $209,000 on-hand.
● TX-31: Air Force veteran M.J. Hegar announced in July that she would challenge GOP Rep. John Carter in a 54-41 Trump seat in suburban Austin, and her candidacy generated plenty of attention. Hegar has a compelling story: She flew search-and-rescue missions in Afghanistan, and in 2009, she saved her passengers after the Taliban shot down her medevac helicopter; Hegar went on to lead a lawsuit against the Department of Defense against their now-defunct policy that prevented women from serving in ground combat positions. Hegar's memoir was published this year, and Angelina Jolie reportedly is in talks to star in a movie version. However, Hegar so far isn't bringing in much money for what will be a very tough race.
Hegar raised only $87,000 for her opening quarter, and she had just $54,000 in the bank at the end of September. Carter is sitting on $437,000, which isn't impressive for a longtime incumbent, but Hegar will need to raise a whole lot more to get close to matching even that.
● TX-32: This suburban Dallas seat is yet another Texas district that swung against Trump last year, moving from 57-42 Romney to 48.5-46.6 Clinton. But unlike some of his other state GOP colleagues, longtime Rep. Pete Sessions actually does seem to be taking his re-election campaign seriously. Sessions, who led the NRCC in the 2010 GOP wave and in 2012, hauled in $434,000 during the quarter, and he had $1.18 million on-hand at the end of September.
A few Democrats are raising money to take on Sessions. Ed Meier, a former staffer for Hillary Clinton, raised $238,000 during the quarter, and he had $438,000 on-hand. Lillian Salerno, a former U.S. Agriculture Department official who announced in mid-September, raised $133,000 during her opening quarter and had $120,000 left. Colin Allred, an NFL player-turned-civil rights lawyer, took in just $62,000, and he had $87,000 on-hand.
● VA-02: Democrats didn't seriously contest this Hampton Roads seat last cycle, and Republican Rep. Scott Taylor won his first term with ease as Trump was carrying the district 49-45. So far, Democrats have one candidate who is actively raising money, which if nothing else is a huge improvement from last time. Retired Air Force Col. Dave Belote, who chairs the Virginia Beach Democratic Party, raised $175,000 during his first quarter, and he had $134,000 on-hand at the end of September. Taylor took in $364,000 during this time, and he had $531,000 on-hand.
It's unclear if local Democrats will consolidate behind Belote, who ran for the state Senate in 2015 and lost 59-41 in a contest Democrats didn't seriously target. (Belote had more success in 2009 on Jeopardy! when he was still serving in the Air Force, and he ended up walking away with just shy of $135,000.) The National Journal reported in August that state Sen. Lynwood Lewis would decide in the next month, but as far as we know, Lewis hasn't said a word since then. (Yes, we know Virginia Democrats are a little busy right now.) Navy veteran Garry Hubbard is also running, but he hasn't reported raising any money.
● VA-05: Last year, Democrats made a late play for this district, which stretches from central Virginia to the North Carolina border. However, Republican Tom Garrett took the seat 58-42 as Trump was winning it 53-42. Despite that disappointing showing, several Democrats are running and bringing in a serious amount of cash.
Marine veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler raised eyebrows when he raised $337,000 during the second quarter of the year, and he had another good showing three months later. Huffstetler raised $255,000 and an additional $41,000 from supporters via a special vehicle called the Serve America Victory Fund from a fundraiser organized by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (we explain why we categorize that donation separately here). At the end of September, Huffstetler had $450,000 on-hand.
Financial advisor Ben Cullop raised $141,000 during his opening quarter, and he had $107,000 in the bank. Journalist and documentary maker Leslie Cockburn, the mother of actress Olivia Wilde, raised only $112,000 during the quarter but self-funded another $203,000, and she had $275,000 on-hand.
Garrett does not seem even remotely worried about his would-be Democratic foes, since he raised only $92,000 for the quarter. Somehow, Garrett had just $85,000 on-hand, less than each of the three Democrats! This is a very tough seat for Team Blue, but Garrett wouldn't be the first unprepared incumbent to go down in a bad political climate.
● VA-07: Back in 2014, Dave Brat etched his name into political history when he unseated then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the GOP primary. Brat has never had to worry about a Democrat here, but that may change next year. This suburban Richmond seat moved from 56-44 Romney to 51-44 Trump, and two Democrats are raising a serious amount of money in an area that has been red for decades.
Marine veteran Dan Ward, whom we hadn't mentioned before, took in $257,000 and had $228,000 in the bank at the end of September. Former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger, who also kicked off her campaign in the third quarter, was not far behind with $243,000 raised and $210,000 on-hand. Brat himself doesn't seem worried, since he raised only $86,000 during this time. Brat is still sitting on $405,000, which is far from an overwhelming amount of cash.
● VA-10: Republican Rep. Barbara Comstrock will be a top Democratic target in a Northern Virginia seat that swung from 51-49 Romney to 52-42 Clinton, but she won't be going down without an expensive fight. Comstrock hauled in $448,000 for the third quarter, and she had $985,000 in the bank at the end of September. Meanwhile, several Democrats are competing to face her.
State Sen. Jennifer Wexton was recruited by the DCCC to run here, but three other Democrats surprisingly outraised her in the second quarter. However, it was Wexton took in the most from July to September. Wexton hauled in $255,000, a bit more than her initial $202,000 take. Wexton had $346,000 on-hand, but that is still a bit less than some of her intra-party rivals.
Alison Friedman, who worked at the State Department from 2009 to 2015 to combat human trafficking, had the most cash-on-hand with $553,000. Friedman raised $242,000 during the quarter, quite a bit less than her opening $404,000 haul, but still credible. Army veteran Daniel Helmer gained plenty of attention with a viral video that we at DKE World Headquarters steadfastly refuse to watch, but his newfound notoriety didn't exactly lead to a rush of donations. Helmer raised $163,000 for the third quarter, also a bit less than his $246,000 take three months before, though his $398,000 war-chest was also larger than Wexton's.
Lindsey Davis Stover, a former Veterans Administration official, took in $136,000 and had $341,000 in the bank. Much further behind was Deep Sran, who founded the Loudoun School for the Gifted; Sran raised $94,000, and had $150,000 on-hand. Former Fairfax Education Association president Kimberly Adams barely registered, with only $7,000 in the bank.
● WV-01: It's tough to see this 68-26 Trump northern West Virginia seat turning blue again anytime soon, but Democrats hope that Ralph Baxter, the former head of the law firm Orrick, could put this district on the map. Baxter announced he was in in mid-September and proceeded to raise $28,000 and self-fund another $56,000. We'll see if Baxter steps it up in the next quarter, but those aren't exactly imposing sums for a seat this brutal. Republican Rep. David McKinley had $656,000 on-hand.
● WV-02: This seat, which includes Charleston and the eastern Panhandle, backed Trump 66-29, but Democrats still have some hope that Republican Rep. Alex Mooney could be vulnerable. Mooney, a former member of the Maryland legislature, moved to West Virginia in 2013 just before he began running here, and he only won the 2014 general election 47-44. Mooney beat an underfunded former state delegate 58-42 in 2016, not close, but still well behind Trump's showing.
Two notable Democrats jumped in back in July. Talley Sergent, a former U.S. State Department official and Coca-Cola executive, raised $113,000 during the quarter, and she had $106,000 on-hand. Aaron Scheinberg, an Army veteran and former nonprofit director who only moved to the state at the start of the year, raised $105,000 from donors and another $45,000 from a fundraiser organized by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, and he had $142,000 on-hand. Mooney seems to be taking his re-election campaign seriously enough, since he raised $229,000 for the quarter and had $888,000 on-hand. It's worth noting that this is one seat where it will be expensive to advertise in. One-third of the 2nd District is in the D.C. media market, where TV time is pricey.
● WV-03: This ancestrally blue southern West Virginia seat only turned red in the 2014 GOP wave, and Democrats have some hope of getting back this 73-23 Trump seat next year. Rep. Evan Jenkins is retiring to run for the Senate, and so far, none of the candidates on either side are bringing in much cash. GOP state Del. Carol Miller raised $131,000 in her opening quarter and had $134,000, which is more money in the bank than every other Democrat and Republican combined. Del. Rupie Phillips, who was re-elected as a Democrat in 2016 and became a Republican after a brief stopover as an independent, had only $15,000 on-hand. Ex-Del. Rick Snuffer has yet to file with the FEC. Snuffer was the GOP nominee in 2004 and 2012, so you'd think he'd know the drill by now.
On the Democratic side, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams raised $50,000 and had $42,000 on-hand. State Sen. Richard Ojeda, a veteran who represents the Trumpiest state Senate seat in the state, has attracted a ton of attention from the national media, including from us. But Ojeda has raised almost nothing, and he had only $4,000 in the bank at the end of September. To put it another way, if you gave Ojeda $1,000 for every paragraph we wrote about him when he announced in May, he'd have more money than he does now. Paul Davis, who runs the city of Huntington's bus system, had only $1,000 on-hand.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: With one week to go, Sen. Patty Murray has thrown her support behind ex-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. Durkan has the support of much of the state and local establishment and a huge fundraising edge against urban planner Cary Moon, a fellow Democrat.
● Nassau County, NY Executive: On behalf of Newsday, Siena gives us our first independent poll of next week's contest, and they give Republican Jack Martins a 43-41 lead over Democrat Laura Curran. At the beginning of the week, Martins released a poll showing him up 47-41, while Curran responded with a survey giving her a 43-39 edge, so everyone seems to acknowledge that this race is far from settled.
Most of this contest has revolved around corruption, but Martins is taking a page out of Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie's playbook and launching a racist mailer. The piece features three tattooed shirtless Hispanic men with the caption "MEET YOUR NEW NEIGHBORS!" and warning that Curran "will roll out the welcome mat for violent gangs like MS-13!" Martins argues that Curran is backed by "New York City special interest groups" that "want to make Nassau County a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants and protect those convicted of violent crimes from deportation," and concludes that Curran is "MS-13's choice for County Executive. She shouldn't be yours."
● Deaths: Judy Martz, who served as Montana's governor from 2001 to 2005, passed away on Monday at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer. Martz is the only woman to have served as Montana governor, and she is the last Republican to hold the office to date. Martz was first elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with Republican Gov. Marc Racicot in 1996, and she narrowly won the 2000 election to succeed him when he faced term limits.
However, Martz's signature accomplishments included painful budget cuts amid a crisis, and she became ensnared in controversy when her chief of staff was charged with negligent homicide over a drunk driving crash. Martz chose not to run for re-election in 2004, and Democrat Brian Schweitzer won the race to succeed her that year. Martz's last public venture into electoral politics saw her endorse retired local judge Russell Fagg back in September for the 2018 Senate primary.
● Where Are They Now?: If there's ever a dog bites man story, it's "former member of Congress joins lobbying firm," but things are a little more interesting when that dog is pals with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. You know what, don't examine that metaphor too closely.
A small Montana energy company called Whitefish Energy recently made news when received a huge contract to repair Puerto Rico's electric grid after Hurricane Maria, even though Whitefish had just two employees. It also did not escape notice that Zinke knows Whitefish's chief executive. Puerto Rico is trying to get out of the contract, FEMA has said it has "significant concerns" about how that contract was acquired, and on Tuesday, CNN reported that the FBI had opened an inquiry into the matter. But Whitefish has someone lobbying on their behalf: ex-Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a Blue Dog Democrat who represented a seat in California's Central Valley from 2003 to 2013.