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.
● PA-01: Back in September, retired Judge Jimmie Moore pleaded guilty to concealing a $90,000 payment from Rep. Bob Brady to get him to drop out of the 2012 Democratic primary, a few months after a Moore staffer took part in a similar plea agreement for the same crime. Last month, the case accelerated further, as two longtime Brady aides were indicted for helping orchestrate the scheme. While Brady's camp still denies any wrongdoing, there's no question that the feds are aiming to go after the longtime congressman himself. And sure enough, a federal court just unsealed a search warrant that reveals that the FBI is indeed investigating Brady.
Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District backed Hillary Clinton by a gigantic 80-18 margin, so there's no danger of it falling into Republican hands. However, what happens next could be critical. Pennsylvania's primary is May 15, so if Brady is still in office then, he could face a serious challenge. In fact, it was only last cycle that Rep. Chaka Fattah, who represented the neighboring 2nd District and was under indictment at the time as part of a separate corruption investigation, lost to Dwight Evans 42-34. So far, no serious Democrat has announced that they will jump in against Brady. However, while even a few years ago other Democrats might have been wary of challenging the longtime leader of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, things are a bit different now.
The local party has lost quite a bit of juice, and this year, its preferred candidates embarrassingly lost Democratic primaries for city controller and for several judgeships—precisely the type of low-profile contests that a strong party machine is supposed to win with ease. Last year, Brady also backed Fattah to the hilt, which turned out to be a humiliating error in judgment. However, even though Brady is the most vulnerable he's ever been, we still don't know who might take him on. Nonprofit director Omar Woodard said back in August that he expected to decide by early October, but we've heard nothing in the ensuing months. There's also financial planner Lindy Li, who said in September that she was interested in running for Congress and reportedly told activists she wanted to run in the 1st, but later she claimed she hadn't mentioned this seat at all.
It's also possible that Brady could yet resign (perhaps as part of a plea bargain) in time to hold a special election before the primary. If that happens, local Democratic ward leaders would chose the nominee for the special election, a nominee who would almost certainly wind up becoming the next congressman. And guess who would mastermind that selection process? Seventy-five percent of the 1st District is in Philadelphia, so Brady's own Philadelphia Democratic City Committee would have the most influence in selecting the nominee. (The balance of the district is in Delaware County.) Even if Brady ends up leaving his party leadership post, too, his allies could essentially hand-pick his successor.
Of course, that person would then have to run in the regular May primary, and getting stamped as the choice of the corrupt Brady machine might not exactly be an asset.
● AL-Sen: The GOP pollster Strategy Research, polling on behalf of Raycom News Network, gives Republican Roy Moore a 47-45 lead over Democrat Doug Jones. Strategy Research has usually been one of the more bullish pollsters for Moore. Their last poll, conducted for a local Fox affiliate a few days after the Washington Post first reported about Moore's predatory behavior, gave him a 49-43 lead. As usual, Strategy Research sampled 3,000 voters in a single night, which could indicate they're not exactly being picky with who they include in their likely electorate.
But that's nothing compared to the GOP firm WT&S Consulting, a group that did work for Moore in the primary, which sampled close to 12,000 voters in three days. The survey, which was obtained by the very pro-Moore white supremacist site Breitbart, gives Moore a 46-41 edge, a drop from the 11-point lead they gave him after the allegations first came out.
Jones has had a huge advantage on TV throughout the general election, and an allied group is also coming to his aid. A group called Highway 31 touts Jones, a former U.S. attorney, as a "tough prosecutor" who brought Eric Rudolph, known as the Olympic Park Bomber, to justice and convicted the men who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 and murdered four young black girls. The narrator also praises Jones for having "fought for Alabama alongside legendary Sen. Howell Heflin," who was the last Democrat to represent the state in the Senate. It concludes by describing Jones as, "The son of a Fairfield, Alabama, steel worker. A strong defender of the Second Amendment. And a Christian whose faith guides his work. Doug Jones will be a senator we can be proud of."
The firm AdvertisingAnalytics says that Highway 31 has purchased $278,000 for the week of Nov. 21; this is the first time an outside group has aired TV ads in the general election.
● CT-Gov: Back in May, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp's office refused to rule out a bid for the Democratic nomination next year, and they said she was focused on winning re-election in November. Well, Election Day has come and gone and Harp won decisively, so she's… still refusing to rule out a bid for the Democratic nomination next year. On Monday, Harp was asked if she was considering a statewide bid and she replied, "Right now I'm not considering it. I'm going to do whatever is best for New Haven." When she was asked specifically if she was ruling out a bid for governor she responded, "I'm going to do whatever's best for New Haven." Several Democrats have been raising money here for months, but there's no clear frontrunner.
● CA-25: Another Democrat has joined the race to face GOP Rep. Steve Knight in this northern Los Angeles County seat. Diedra Greenaway, a former Department of Defense staffer who also owned an in-home healthcare company, recently announced she was in. Last year, Greenaway was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council; most of Northridge is located in the neighboring 30th District, but a portion of it is in the 25th. (Hat-tip: Zack from the SF) The other Democrats running are attorney Bryan Caforio, who lost to Knight 53-47 last cycle; Katie Hill, a local nonprofit director; and volcanologist Jess Phoenix. At the end of September, Caforio and Hill had a comparable amount of cash-on-hand, while Phoenix barely raised anything. This seat flipped from 50-48 Romney to 50-44 Clinton.
● TX-02: At least one new Republican has joined the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Poe in this Houston-area seat. Daniel Crenshaw, a retired Navy SEAL, announced he was in on Tuesday. Crenshaw lost an eye in Afghanistan after being hit by an IED blast in 2012, and he returned to service overseas after surgeries restored his vision. It's unclear if he has the connections to mount a serious bid.
Another Republican also filed to run here, and she does have connections. Kathaleen Wall, a major Texas GOP donor, set up campaign paperwork with the FEC on Monday, but she has not yet announced she's in. State Rep. Kevin Roberts and businessman Rick Walker have also kicked off primary bids here, and we may see more names pop up before the Dec. 11 filing deadline. This seat went from 63-36 Romney to 52-43 Trump.
● TX-06: A few weeks ago, after a number of his home state colleagues decided to call it quits, longtime GOP Rep. Joe Barton felt the need to make it clear that he'd seek re-election to the House next year seat, but … well, that was before he apologized on Wednesday after "a graphic nude photo" of the Texas congressman began circulating online courtesy an anonymous Twitter account.
Barton didn't deny the provenance of the photo, but he offered little explanation as to how it became public. In an opaque statement to the Texas Tribune, he would only say:
"While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women. Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down."
According to the Dallas Morning News, the photo surfaced "earlier this week" and quickly made the rounds among Texas politicos, setting off speculation about Barton's future. Indeed, on Tuesday, before all of this became widely known (but, apparently, after the photo was made public), Nathan Gonzales tweeted that GOP sources had told him Barton might resign or retire.
And he just may. Barton himself told the Tribune's Abby Livingston that he's reconsidering his options, saying, "You're as aware of what was posted as I am," he said. "I am talking to a number of people, all of whom I have faith in and am deciding how to respond, quite frankly." However, Barton’s newly hired crisis communications expert quickly announced that the congressman would not be resigning.
Hours later, a woman provided The Washington Post, on condition of anonymity, with audio of a secretly recorded phone conversation she said she had with Barton in 2015, as well as an explicit video of Barton. In her recorded conversation, Barton is heard confronting her both for communicating with other women he was having relationships with and for sharing some explicit materials of him with them. Barton tells her, “I want your word that this ends,” adding, “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”
After the woman asks why he’d do that and what he’d tell the Capitol Hill Police, Barton replies:
“I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.”
The woman told the Post that she had begun communicating with Barton in 2011 online after she commented on his Facebook page. She recounts that he eventually began flirting and sending her explicit messages, which she said initially made her uncomfortable. The two met in person the next year, and she gradually became aware that he was with other women, and he described the congressman as “manipulative and dishonest and misleading” when it came to telling her about his other relationships. However, she told the Post that she never planned to use any materials to hurt Barton, and that she did not post the explicit image to Twitter. Barton was still married in 2011, and court records say his now-ex-wife filed for divorce in 2014.
The congressman told the paper in response to the story that the recording could be “evidence” of a “potential crime against me,” and that the Capitol Police had opened an inquiry. In 2015, Texas passed a law making it illegal to intentionally share photos or videos “depicting another person with the person's intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct” without their consent, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.
Even if Barton bails, Republicans would still be favored to hold his 6th District seat around Arlington in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. However, this district did become somewhat bluer last year, narrowing from a 58-41 win for Mitt Romney in 2012 to a smaller 54-42 victory for Donald Trump in 2016, and given how strong Democratic recruitment has been in tough seats, it would make sense for Team Blue to make a play here. The candidate filing deadline is Dec. 11, so the 68-year-old Barton has only a little time to decide what to do.
● VA-06: Republican Chaz Haywood, who serves as Rockingham-Harrisonburg clerk of court, announced on Tuesday that he would run to succeed retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte. Local clerks of court are usually far from the most visible of public officials, so Haywood may have a tough time gaining traction. However, local Republicans have hinted that they'll choose their nominee through a party convention rather than a primary, and activist dominated conventions often are unpredictable. Del. Ben Cline and Republican National Committeewoman Cynthia Dunbar are also seeking this 60-35 Trump seat in the Shenandoah Valley.