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.
● AL-Sen: On Monday, following a call from his own party’s leaders that he should drop his Senate bid, a fifth woman stepped forward to accuse Alabama Republican Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager. In a statement to the media, Beverly Young Nelson says that when she was 16 years old, Moore, who was in his 30s at the time, offered her a ride home from the restaurant where she worked but then proceeded to park behind the restaurant, lock the car’s doors, and attack her, attemping to pull off her shirt and force her head into his crotch. Moore, she says, finally let her go after she tried to fight him off while in tears. Nelson specifically cited the “courage of four other women that were willing to speak out about their experiences” for inspiring her to speak out.
That was only the most stunning part of a truly remarkable day. Last week, when the Moore news first broke, Mitch McConnell would only say, "If these allegations are true, he must step aside"—and of course didn't specify how the veracity of the charges might be established. By Monday, though, something had changed: Hours before Nelson’s press conference, McConnell declared, "I believe these women" and added that Moore "should step aside." After Nelson’s address, NRSC chair Cory Gardner took things one step further, saying that if Moore refuses to heed McConnell’s demand and still wins next month’s special election, the Senate should vote to expel him, something that would require the support of two thirds of the chamber.
But while Nelson’s testimony was vividly shocking, it’s unlikely that McConnell actually had a change of heart about Moore's accusers. Rather, it's almost certain that pure political considerations motivated his shift, since politics is the only thing that ever moves McConnell. While we don't know what private data he's seen, two public polls released since the Washington Post's bombshell story came out last Thursday have shown Moore slipping. The latest is from Republican pollster JMC Analytics, which tantalizingly finds Democrat Doug Jones leading Moore 48-44, a big turnaround from the 48-40 advantage the firm gave Moore at the start of October.
That follows a Friday survey from Opinion Savvy that had the race tied at 46 apiece; at the end of September, they had Moore up 50-45. A third poll from Change Research, a new outfit that only appeared on the scene this year, still has Moore leading by a 48-44 spread, but odds are McConnell's internal polling looks a lot more like JMC's and Opinion Savvy's. To call on his own party’s candidate to drop out when there isn't even a possibility of replacing him on the ballot harkens back to Mark Foley—not coincidentally, another Republican who pursued teenagers—and suggests McConnell is seriously spooked.
And that leaves Republicans with choices that range from garbage to junk. McConnell says he's "looking at whether or not there is not someone who can mount a write-in campaign successfully," even though a day earlier, the chair of the Alabama GOP had threatened any Republicans who support a write-in bid by saying they could be denied ballot access in the future. What’s more, if Moore refuses to drop out, there's every chance that a write-in candidacy would only split the right-leaning vote and hand victory to Jones. Indeed, Opinion Savvy actually tested a three-way matchup that included Sen. Luther Strange, whom Moore defeated in the primary: Jones leads Moore 44-41 with Strange taking just 12. There's also precious little time for anyone to mount a serious write-in bid, since Election Day is coming up fast on Dec. 12.
Or is it? On Friday night, the New York Times reported that Alabama Republicans were considering whether to transform their state into a full-blown banana republic by having Gov. Kay Ivey delay next month's special election—simply because the GOP is on track to lose. This dictatorial madness received immediate and fierce pushback, forcing Ivey herself to confirm that yes, the election “will be on December the 12th,” so the “cancel democracy” card goes back to the bottom of the deck, for now.
Republicans have, pathetically, been down this path before, trying to rid themselves of stubborn Senate candidates with deranged views about women. But like Todd Akin, Moore doesn't seem interested in going anywhere. Not only has he denied all charges, he's threatening to sue the Post for defamation, and his most ardent supporters have managed to convince themselves both that the accusations are entirely fabricated and that Moore did nothing wrong by initiating sexual contact with teenage girls. In the face of a campaign so unmoored from reality, is it even possible that McConnell's move might finally succeed in pressuring Moore to stand down?
Nope. On Monday afternoon, Moore retorted that the “person who should step aside” is … Mitch McConnell. A Moore advisor also responded to Gardner’s expulsion threat by all but promising civil war: "He’s going to run, he's going to win and he’s going to be seated, or there will be in trouble in this nation,” said Dean Young. No matter what happens now, there will be no pleasant outcome for the GOP.
● PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Businessman Paul Addis, who is running in the Republican primary for Senate, has released a mid-September poll from the firm Bellwether that tested next year's GOP primaries for both Senate and governor. For Senate, Rep. Lou Barletta has an early lead of 22 percent while Addis and the remaining candidates are all "in the low single-digits." For governor, state Sen. Scott Wagner leads by 23-10 against businessman Paul Mango. Bellwether's survey consequently shows both races are still wide open as most voters are undecided, which Addis argues gives him an opening once he can increase his name recognition, but that remains to be seen.
● CO-Gov: George Brauchler, who serves as the district attorney for several counties in the Denver suburbs, has dropped out of the Republican primary for governor and will instead run for attorney general next year. Brauchler's move is unsurprising; his gubernatorial campaign was circling the drain, with Brauchler having recently lost his campaign manager with no replacement in sight. He also struggled to raise money after bringing in just $100,000 during the third quarter.
With Attorney General Cynthia Coffman having recently joined the Republican primary for governor, Brauchler bailing to seek Coffman's now-open position is a logical move. However, after how poorly his campaign for governor went, Brauchler may still struggle in the attorney general's race.
● MI-Gov, MI-Sen: Former Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak had previously ruled out running for governor next year, but he recently opened the door to a campaign just slightly after receiving encouragement to run. Stupak declared "never say never" and that if there are four serious candidates he could potentially win with just a quarter of the primary vote.
The current Democratic field includes former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, former Detroit health commissioner Abdul El-Sayed, and self-funding businessman Shri Thanedar, meaning a potential Stupak candidacy would make for four notable Democrats. Yet even with a divided field, Stupak's conservative positions could prove anathema to Democratic primary voters, particularly his opposition to reproductive rights and his views on guns, which often sided with the NRA.
Meanwhile, politics newsletter MIRS has released a new poll from Target-Insyght that tested next year's gubernatorial election, and their numbers point to a competitive race with Whitmer leading Republican state Attorney General Bill Schuette by a slim 41-40. The survey also asked about Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who easily won re-election just last week and is not actually in the race. The poll finds Duggan would trounce Schuette by 47-32 if he is the Democratic nominee instead.
Kyle Melinn at MIRS graciously gave us a look at the rest of the survey, which also included numbers for the primary in the races for governor and Senate. The poll was taken from Nov. 1 through Nov. 6 and included a sample size of 1,000 in the general election and 400 voters in each party primary.
In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Whitmer has a large 45 percent plurality, while El-Sayed takes 13 percent and Thanedar just 2 percent. Target-Insyght also tested hypothetical matchups with three Democrats who aren't officially in the race: Duggan, prominent attorney Geoffrey Fieger, and former state official Andy Levin. However, Whitmer still led Duggan 43-29, Fieger by 41-28, and Levin by 42-19. If Fieger somehow wins the nomination, the survey found him deeply unpopular with the general electorate at just 27 percent favorable and 55 percent unfavorable; he would lose to Schuette by 42-35.
In the GOP gubernatorial primary, Target-Insyght found Schuette leading Lt. Gov. Brian Calley by a sizable 38-14 spread, while no other candidate topped 5 percent. Calley has yet to formally join the race, but has appeared as a likely candidate for a while. The pollster also tested the primary for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, and they give businessman John James a 24-19 lead over Rep. Fred Upton, with former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young back at 7 percent. Upton hasn't jumped into the contest yet, but is publicly considering it.
● MN-Gov: Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens may be the latest Republican to join the crowded primary for governor next year. Giuliani Stephens recently registered website domain names that portend a statewide race, and she refused to rule out a gubernatorial bid by saying "stay tuned." Woodbury, where Giuliani Stephens has served as mayor since the 2010 elections, is a suburb east of St. Paul with roughly just 69,000 people, meaning she would likely start out with little name recognition if she runs.
● NY-Gov: Former hedge fund manager Harry Wilson recently announced that he would make a decision before Christmas about whether or not to run for governor next year. Wilson was the Republican nominee for comptroller in 2010 and lost by just 51-46 to Democratic incumbent Thomas DiNapoli, which was the closest the GOP has come to winning any statewide race since former Gov. George Pataki's 2002 re-election victory. However, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be very tough to beat in this expensive state, and Republicans so far have no notable candidate in the race.
● RI-Gov: Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is out with a new poll from TargetPoint that shows him winning next year's race for governor. The survey gives Fung a large 45 percent plurality in the GOP primary, with state House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan at 24 percent and former state Rep. Joe Trillo at 10 percent. Fung's poll also shows him with a 46-41 lead over Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo in the general election, while Raimondo's approval rating is underwater at just 43 percent with 49 percent disapproving.
Fung was Team Red's 2014 nominee and likely starts off with a name recognition advantage over his intraparty rivals, which would make his primary lead relatively unsurprising at this stage in the race. It's hard to tell just how much trouble Raimondo is in for the general election, though, because Rhode Island is rarely polled. However, she has previously had some high-profile stumbles during her one term, and she may be in for a tough fight if this survey is accurate.
● WI-Gov: The large field of Democrats seeking the party's nomination to take on GOP Gov. Scott Walker next year grew even larger after Mahlon Mitchell joined the crowded primary on Monday. Mitchell is the head of the state's firefighter union and was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor during the 2012 recall against Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, which Mitchell lost 53-47.
Mitchell's background with organized labor could prove to be a key asset in a Democratic primary in a state where Walker's anti-union policies have galvanized Democratic opposition. He also immediately picked up an endorsement from Rep. Gwen Moore, whose Milwaukee seat is the bluest House district in the state. Mitchell joins a Democratic field that includes state education Superintendent Tony Evers, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, Assemblyman Dana Wachs, businessman Andy Gronik, and former party chairman Matt Flynn.
● MA-03: On Monday, former Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford joined the crowded Democratic primary for this open Merrimack Valley seat. Gifford previously served as finance director to Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, where his name was attached to a lot of fundraising emails. (Gifford sent a final fundraising email the day before the election; Buzzfeed summed up Twitter's reaction with, "Spam king, or pen pal? A lot of people were kind of sad to see him go.") In addition to being well-connected in national politics, his father is a former Bank of America chair.
However, Gifford's local roots are not exactly strong. The self-described "Massachusetts nomad" hasn't lived in the Bay State in 20 years, and he's originally from Manchester-by-the-Sea, which is well outside the 3rd District. A number of other Democrats, several of whom also didn't live in the 3rd until recently, are competing for this 58-35 Clinton seat.
● OH-16: GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs, who represents a neighboring seat, has endorsed former football player Anthony Gonzalez in the primary for this open seat. Gonzalez faces state Reps. Tom Patton and Christina Hagan for the GOP nod for this very red Canton-area seat district.
● PA-10: Last month, GOP Rep. Tom Marino withdrew his nomination to become Donald Trump's drug czar after a devastating report in the Washington Post about legislation Marino had pushed through Congress at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry to deliberately hobble the DEA's ability to crack down on the black market flood of prescription narcotics. Marino was silent about his 2018 plans until recently, but he's announced that he'll seek another term in this 66-30 Trump seat. While several Republicans made noises about running here when it looked like Marino was on-track for confirmation, no credible candidates have expressed interest in challenging the incumbent in this rural northeastern east.
● PA-18: Over the weekend, Republican delegates selected state Rep. Rick Saccone to be their nominee for the March special election for this Western Pennsylvania seat. (Under Pennsylvania special election law, there are no primaries.) Saccone, a former Air Force counterintelligence agent, defeated state Rep. Jason Ortitay and state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler and Kim Ward.
Earlier this year, Saccone kicked off a bid for the GOP nod to face Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, but he dropped down after GOP Rep. Tim Murphy resigned in disgrace in October. Saccone's Senate bid began with him filing what almost resembled a ransom note with the FEC, and things didn't get any better from there. Saccone had just $52,000 in the bank at the end of September, a weak sum for a House bid, much less a statewide campaign. Maybe Saccone's House campaign will go better now that he's the GOP nominee rather than just one of many people competing to face Casey, but he's sure not impressing us so far.
This seat, which includes several of Pittsburgh's suburbs, backed Trump 58-39, so even if Saccone phones it in, he has room for error. Democrats will pick their nominee on Sunday though a caucus.
● TX-29: Another senior member of the Texas delegation announced his retirement on Monday, but this time, it’s a Democrat who is calling it quits. Rep. Gene Green, who has represented a safely blue seat in the Houston area since 1993, declared that he would not seek another term. Last cycle, Green faced a primary challenge from ex-Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who was his first credible opponent in decades. Green decisively beat Garcia 57-39, so it’s a bit surprising to see him retire just after all that. Still, Green recently turned 70, so his decision to leave isn’t an utter shock.
Texas’ 29th District, which includes part of Houston and Pasadena, backed Clinton 71-25, and the Democratic nominee should have no trouble winning the general. But Green made his announcement just a month ahead of the Dec. 11 filing deadline, so local Democrats will need to decide pretty quickly. Green, Lloyd Doggett, and Beto O’Rourke (who is leaving the House to run for the Senate) were the last three Caucasian Democrats (known as Anglos in Texas political parlance) to represent Texas in the House, but Latinos make up 62 percent of the district’s eligible voters, so there’s a good chance the seat’s next representative will be Latino. Under Texas election law, if no one takes a majority of the vote in the primary, there will be a runoff.
P.S.: Green is the third House Democrat who has announced so far that he will leave the House without seeking another office (the others are Massachusetts’ Niki Tsongas and New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter.) By contrast, 13 House Republicans are retiring so far.
● VA-06: Del. Ben Cline and Republican National Committeewoman Cynthia Dunbar immediately kicked off bids for the GOP nod for this very red seat after Rep. Bob Goodlatte announced that he was retiring, and they may have company before too long. Del. Steve Landes told the Daily Progress that Goodlatte encouraged him to run to replace him. Landes says he "wouldn't rule it out, but it's not something I've contemplated."
● Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso brings us the lay of the land in Tuesday's special elections in Oklahoma:
Oklahoma SD-37: This is an open Republican seat on the southwestern edge of Tulsa. The candidates are Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman, a therapist, and Republican Brian O'Hara, a former member of the Jenks City Council. This seat went 67-27 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 69-31 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Oklahoma SD-45: This is an open Republican seat in southern Oklahoma City. The candidates here are Democrat Steven Vincent, a 911 dispatcher, and Republican Paul Rosino, a realtor. This seat went for 67-27 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 70-30 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Oklahoma HD-76: This is an open Republican seat in Broken Arrow, southeast of Tulsa. The candidates for this seat are Democrat Chris Vanlandingham, a teacher, and Republican Ross Ford, a retired police officer. This seat backed Donald Trump by a 65-30 margin in 2016 and Mitt Romney by a 71-29 margin in 2012.
● Albuquerque, NM Mayor: Research & Polling takes a look at the Nov. 14 nonpartisan general election for the Albuquerque Journal, and it looks like it will be a blowout for Team Blue. They give Democrat Tim Keller, who serves as state auditor, a 53-34 lead over City Councilor Dan Lewis. The winner will succeed GOP Mayor Richard Berry, who is retiring.
While Berry decisively won re-election in this blue city in 2013, the area's high crime rate seems to have left him incredibly unpopular. Lewis has been trying to depict Keller as too weak to fight crime, but it's a tough argument to make when voters are unhappy with the GOP city government that Lewis is part of.
● New Orleans, LA Mayor: New Orleans' Nov. 18 runoff is coming up quickly, and City Councilor LaToya Cantrell very much looks like the person to beat. Cantrell led ex-Judge Desiree Charbonnet, a fellow Democrat, 39-30 in the October jungle primary; ex-Judge Michael Bagneris, who took third place with 19 percent, quickly endorsed Cantrell. Two recent polls also give Cantrell clear leads. On behalf of Democrats for Education Reform (which isn't backing anyone), LJR Custom Strategies gave Cantrell a 44-26 lead in early November. Market Research Insight, once again polling for "an independent group of 20 business people," gave Cantrell a 51-36 edge in their Nov. 8 survey.
Over the last few weeks, Charbonnet and her allies have hit Cantrell for allegedly using her city credit card for personal and campaign expenses that she only belatedly paid back. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, a prominent Charbonnet backer, announced that he had forwarded an anonymous tip about Cantrell's spending to GOP state Attorney General Jeff Landry, and Cantrell's team quickly argued that he was trying to make the situation look worse than it was.
However, both polls indicate that the story hasn't changed things much. LJR says that they planned to stop polling in late October but added an extra few days to the survey, but it didn't change much. An Oct. 23 poll from MRI that we hadn't seen before also gave Cantrell a 54-36 lead, not much different than the 51-36 lead they found a few weeks later.
Donors are also betting big on the city councilor. During the primary, the well-connected Charbonnet decisively outraised Cantrell. However, it was Cantrell who outraised Charbonnet $613,000 to $354,000 from Sept. 25 to Oct. 29. Either Cantrell or Charbonnet would become New Orleans' first black female mayor.