The state Democratic Party has openly labeled Norwood a "closet Republican," a toxic charge in this very blue city and one that Norwood's opponents have run with. But Franklin is prominent politician and a longtime Democrat whose backing might combat that image. Norwood, however, has a lot of damage to undo on that front, and the latest wound is self-inflicted.
Last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released audio of Norwood speaking at a June gathering of young Republicans in which she questioned her narrow 2009 loss to Reed. Norwood accused Reed and his allies of "late-night fluffing" of vote counts, charging that Reed supporters delayed releasing precinct results until hours after the polls closed so "they would know the number to beat" (an accusation reminiscent of Caro). Norwood even claimed that Reed's people were "busing people in that weren't legitimate voters" and would do the same thing again but for her "secret weapon": "I know this stuff and people don't know that I know this stuff, it's never gone public."
Well, it's gone public now, but Norwood didn't offer a shred of evidence for her claims when the AJC asked her about them. In fact, Norwood only seems sorry that she was caught: She claimed she'd been "really careful about not putting all of this out there for years, because I didn't think this would be helpful "for Atlanta's reputation, and added in a statement that had she contested the election results "it would have further divided the city." How thoughtful! There may not be enough time left for Norwood's comments to do her significant damage, but repeating Republican rhetoric about voter fraud certainly can't help.
Despite her unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud, however, Norwood may nevertheless be able to make an issue of corruption in Reed's administration—an argument Franklin specifically backed her up on. Back in September, former city procurement director Adam Smith pleaded guilty to taking bribes as part of a deal with federal prosecutors. Reed has not been implicated in the matter, but his critics are saying the scandal is a sign that the city needs a new direction. Franklin has argued that Reed hasn't taken responsibility for what's happened on his watch, and she argued that she was backing Norwood because "[c]haracter, transparency and integrity are the first issues for me."
● AL-Sen: You know Republicans are desperate to change the subject when infamous scam-artist James O'Keefe and his fraudulent Project Veritas conduct one of their latest "sting" operations. However, this time it failed spectacularly when O'Keefe's group had attempted to provide the Washington Post with false allegations from a supposed new accuser against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore—only for the Post to conduct its own counter-sting operation. A woman working for O'Keefe claimed Moore had sexually abused her as a minor and repeatedly tried to get Post reporters to say on hidden camera that her story would cause Moore to lose the election. However, they wouldn't take the bait and instead documented how she brazenly lied about her background and ties to right-wing activists.
O'Keefe's organization is notorious for conducting fake "stings" that use doctored video obtained under false pretenses to paint Democrats and nonpartisan organizations like the Post in a bad partisan light, and he was previously sentenced to three years probation back in 2010 for using a fake identity to enter a federal building. This latest debacle was his attempt to muddy the waters by undermining the highly credible accusations against Moore that first started coming to light thanks to the Post.
Fortunately, the Post reporters saw through this charade, but it’s dangerous how the right-wing media bubble of outlets like Breitbart spread these lies to a receptive audience of Republicans who have been conditioned to distrust mainstream media outlets and instead trust outlets like Fox News. It should nevertheless be a warning of the danger in Republicans attempting to weaponize sexual assault for partisan ends. This astonishingly bad-faith by GOP partisans can only serve to discredit true allegations of abuse against other officeholders, lead to false accusations damaging innocent targets, and deter women from reporting their abuse if these serious charges aren't treated with due diligence.
Meanwhile on the campaign trail, Moore continues to struggle in light of his pedophilia scandal. The New York Times reports that private polls on behalf of Republicans have begun showing Democrat Doug Jones taking a lead, although they didn't give any key details regarding the actual poll results, so it's impossible to gauge the reliability of these reported surveys. In a sign of how toxic Moore is, a spokesperson for Donald Trump claims he won't campaign in person with Moore like he did with defeated Sen. Luther Strange ahead of the primary runoff. However, given how Trump has stood by his fellow accused sexual abuser and has frantically called for voters to defeat Jones, it wouldn't come as a surprise if Trump changes course and stumps for Moore.
Although Moore is struggling to find allies, that isn't the case for Democrats. A PAC called Highway 31, which is run by a former staffer of Democratic ex-Rep. Bud Cramer, began airing an ad praising Jones last week as part of a reported $278,000 ad buy. Recent FEC filings show the group dished out $1.1 million for TV and digital on Jones' behalf, so more spots could be on the way. Jones himself has a new ad where he attacks Moore for comparing pre-school and early childhood education to Nazi indoctrination, with Jones promising to fight to improve Alabama's pitiful 49th ranking among the states in education. Meanwhile, Moore's latest ad is a cheaply produced spot that argues the allegations against him are false and that a vote for him is a vote for conservative judges, tax cuts, and rebuilding the military.
On a final note, the Republican establishment's hope of running a prominent write-in candidate against Moore crashed and burned, but that may not stop one Republican disgusted with Moore from trying. Retired Marine Col. Lee Busby, who once served as a top aide to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, said he plans to mount a write-in campaign, though the Washington Post reported that he doesn't have much in the way of a formal campaign organization with just two weeks to go. Busby doesn't appear to be a particularly threatening candidate so far, and it remains to be seen just how many votes he could siphon off from Moore unless he can substantially increase his name recognition.
● AZ-Sen: Rep. Martha McSally has released an internal poll from the GOP firm WPA Intelligence that shows her with a 38-36 lead over former state Sen. Kelli Ward in a two-way matchup in the Republican primary. Other recent surveys have shown Ward with a modest lead, but all of these polls have found a large share of primary voters are undecided or favored other candidates. McSally hasn't officially joined the race yet, and Ward is so far the only announced candidate on the GOP side. However, media stories in early November reported that McSally had been telling her House colleagues that she would seek higher office now that Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is declining to seek re-election.
While McSally has undoubtedly released this poll to counter the narrative of Ward leading, it really doesn't paint much of a different picture given how far we are from the actual election. Taken together, these surveys indicate the race is still wide open. McSally tellingly didn't release numbers on each candidate's name recognition, which could indicate whether Ward's support is simply a function of her visibility from being the only announced candidate and having run in 2016 or whether McSally would face an opponent whose support base is more durable.
● MI-Sen, ND-Sen, NV-Sen, WY-Sen: The American Chemistry Council, which is not a PAC run by academic scientists but rather a group that promotes the interests of industrial chemical businesses, has begun airing TV ads to support two incumbent senators from both parties who face re-election next year. The group is putting $571,000 down to back Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow and $153,000 for North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, both of whom could face credible GOP general election challengers. The ad on Heitkamp's behalf praises her as a leader for North Dakota who will develop its energy resources, lessen regulations on farmers and energy, and work for bipartisan solutions on the economy.
The group is also placing $590,000 for a spot supporting Nevada Republican Dean Heller and $133,000 for Wyoming Republican John Barrasso. Heller already faces a major primary challenge from hardline perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, while Barrasso could also draw a notable primary challenger in deep-red Wyoming.
● MN-Sen: Two more women have come forward to accuse Democratic Sen. Al Franken of inappropriately touching them during his first campaign for Senate back in the 2008 election cycle. These allegations add to previous charges by radio host Leeann Tweeden and another woman named Lindsay Menz that Franken had groped them in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
Both of these latest accusers spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity. The first says that Franken grabbed her rear end when they posed for a photo in 2007 at an event hosted by the Minnesota Women's Political Caucus. She say she still voted for him after it happened because she is "a liberal person" but says she felt compelled to come forward after the initial allegations against him because she now believes Franken is "a serial groper."
The second woman contends that Franken also grabbed her buttocks at a fundraiser in 2008. When she tried to excuse herself to the bathroom in order to get away, she says he suggested he follow her, at which point she and her friend quickly left the event. According to HuffPost, the woman told several people about the incident years ago, including one of the reporters now covering the story, but said she felt powerless to report it the time. She says she feels more confident in speaking out now thanks to the other women who have also come forward.
In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio on Sunday and then a brief press conference on Monday, Franken again apologized for his behavior. However, as the Washington Post's Amber Phillips notes, Franken keeps apologizing but has yet to confirm or deny whether or not he's ever touched a woman inappropriately. Franken, Phillips observes, seems to want it both ways: He maintains that his accusers should be believed but says he doesn't recall repeated instances of his own alleged behavior.
Senate leaders and Franken himself have previously asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate these charges, though the committee has yet to confirm it will take up the matter. As more allegations mount, though, Franken may end up facing stronger pressure to resign. If he were to do so, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would name a replacement, who would serve until a special election for the final two years of Franken's term could be held next year concurrently with the regularly scheduled 2018 elections.
● FL-Gov: Wealthy trial attorney and major Democratic donor John Morgan announced over the holiday weekend that he won't run for the Democratic nomination for governor. However, much to the chagrin of Democrats, Morgan said he was leaving the party to become an independent and told Politico that he wasn’t ruling out a gubernatorial bid, just that he wouldn’t do it as a Democrat. Nevertheless, Morgan said he would like Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to run for governor and drop his re-election bid, to which a Nelson spokesperson swiftly rebuffed by saying his boss would stay put. Morgan also speculated that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle would jump into the primary, though she has yet to say anything about her interest publicly.
Morgan is reportedly worth $100 million and has given ample donations to Democratic candidates and political causes before, which could have made him a major contender for the nomination had he chosen to run and self-fund in this very expensive state. And if he runs as an independent, he could scuttle Democratic chances of winning this critical race next fall. However, he has his fair share of skeletons in the closet, something he once colorfully denied as untrue by claiming it's because "I've got live bodies in the basement."
Although Morgan has decided not to run in the primary, there are already several Democratic candidates, including former Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, businessman Chris King, and self-funding Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.
● NY-Gov: State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has been considering running for governor next year, and he recently told Auburn's The Citizen that he would decide by Dec. 15. Kolb had previously discussed a potential bid with Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a fellow Republican, about running on a ticket to avoid facing each other in the GOP primary, although New York holds separate primaries for lieutenant governor with the nominee then running on a joint ticket with the nominee for governor. However, neither has reached an arrangement with the other. Molinaro told The Citizen that he expects to reach a decision by the end of the year, but is still considering things despite having previously filed to run.
Meanwhile, Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan recently announced that he won't run after previously considering the prospect several months ago. That leaves Republicans without a notable candidate in the race against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is heavily favored to win a third term in this dark-blue state.
● SC-Gov, SC-06: Ex-state Rep. Bakari Sellers said back in June that he was interested in running for governor, but he seems to have settled on a bid for Congress … eventually. On Monday, Sellers said he wants to run for the safely blue 6th District at some point in the future, but he won't challenge incumbent Jim Clyburn, a powerful member of the Democratic leadership. Clyburn, who is 77, confirmed on Monday that he would seek re-election.
● TX-Gov: Powerful state House Speaker Joe Straus announced last month that he wouldn't seek re-election next year, dealing a major blow to the last bloc of relative moderates in Texas' Republican-dominated state government, but he didn't rule out challenging hardline incumbent Greg Abbott in the Republican primary for governor. However, Straus recently said that while he may run statewide at some point, he doesn't "think either of those in the immediate future is viable" when asked about a 2018 gubernatorial bid or a 2020 Senate race. That isn't quite slamming the door shut tight, but it makes Straus unlikely to run against Abbott, who is heavily favored in both the primary and general election.
● CA-52: Democratic Rep. Scott Peters has drawn two more Republican opponents ahead of next year's top-two primary after community leader John Horst and former energy company executive Michael Allman joined the race in November. The Times of San Diego describes Horst as a cybersecurity engineer who is prominent in the Mira Mesa neighborhood, which is home to roughly one-tenth of the population in the heart of the San Diego-based 52nd District.
It's unclear if either Republican has run for office before, but they'll face an uphill challenge against Peters in this very highly educated suburban district, which shifted from 52-46 Obama all the way to 58-36 Clinton last year. They'll join a GOP field that includes Army Reserve lawyer Omar Qudrat, who only had $47,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of September.
● FL-27: Former Miami-Dade County school board member Raquel Regalado had all the signs of a formidable general election candidate on paper when she said she was running for this Miami district back in May. Regalado is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, comes from a prominent family, hosts a well-known Spanish-language radio show, and is a self-described moderate Republican. However, things often don't work out the way they seem at first blush when it comes to what makes a good candidate. Regalado recently announced she was dropping out after raising a pathetic $15,000 through the end of September, which came after oddly waiting until July to even set up a fundraising account.
The only remaining noteworthy candidate running for Republicans here is Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who has also struggled mightily with fundraising. He pulled in an okay $176,000 during his first two months in the race, but raised a pitiful $42,000 in the third quarter, leaving him with just $176,000 on-hand. Meanwhile, there's been radio silence from other prominent Republicans about joining the race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The 27th has long been securely GOP thanks to Cuban-American voters, but that voting bloc and the shifting demographics of the region itself have trended sharply Democratic in recent elections. The 27th lurched from 53-46 Obama all the way to 59-39 Clinton, but the GOP has a large bench here, and down-ballot Republicans have still done much better than Trump.
It's surprising that a Republican with more fundraising prowess hasn't jumped in, but it may simply be a sign that Republicans don't have much faith in their chances of holding a district that was Trump's worst GOP-held seat in a midterm where his administration is deeply unpopular. By contrast, multiple Democratic candidates have raised several hundred thousand each, putting Team Blue in a strong position to flip this seat.
● ID-01: The hardline anti-tax Club for Growth group has endorsed former state Sen. Russ Fulcher in the Republican primary to replace outgoing GOP Rep. Raúl Labrador, who is running for governor next year. Fulcher faces a GOP primary that includes former Lt. Gov. David Leroy and state Reps. Christy Perry and Luke Malek, but none of the Republican candidates has raised an impressive amount of money so far.
● MA-03: A slew of Democrats are already running for this blue-leaning Merrimack Valley district to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas, and the field grew larger still after local bank vice president Bopha Malone recently joined the fray. Malone doesn't appear to have run for office before, and she doesn't technically live in the district, just like several of her primary rivals. However, Malone has much more extensive ties to Lowell than some of her opponents, since she works and has served several civic organizations there. Her background as a Cambodian refugee whose family fled the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge's genocidal regime when she was a child could also make her stand out.
This very large Democratic primary field now includes former Navy intelligence officer Alexandra Chandler, state Sen. Barbara L'Italien, state Rep. Juana Matias, business consultant Lori Trahan, Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen, 2014 lieutenant governor nominee Steve Kerrigan, former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, hotel president Abhijit Das, Westford School Committee Chair Terry Ryan, and Daniel Koh, who is former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. This seat backed Clinton by 58-35 and should remain securely Democratic.
● MI-13: On Sunday, Democratic Rep. John Conyers stepped down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee while once again denying allegations that he sexually harassed women on his staff. Conyers' office has confirmed that he issued a $27,000 settlement to a former staffer who said she was fired for rejecting his advances. Conyers' lawyer has insisted that the congressman will not resign, though his team has not yet announced if he will seek another term in the safely blue seat he's held since 1965.
● NC-09: Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger doesn't face primary voters until next May, but he's already up with a TV ad in the race against pastor Mark Harris, a fellow Republican who almost knocked him off in the 2016 primary with a big assist from court-ordered redistricting. Pittenger's spot leans hard into doublespeak by saying, "Let's end political correctness and put the true meaning of Christ back into Christmas." That of course doesn't mean acknowledging the "War on Christmas" is itself a politically correct-yet-baseless trope among Republicans or that the GOP should stop screwing over the poor. It's that Americans should say "Merry Christmas" more instead of "Happy Holidays."
● NH-02: On Tuesday, Republican Josh McElveen said he was giving "thorough examination" to a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. McElveen served as an anchor and political director on the local station WMUR, a post he left in April when he became vice president of communications and marketing for the healthcare company Dartmouth-Hitchcock. He resigned from that job recently, citing "a couple philosophical differences," but also said he hadn't planned to work there long. This seat, which includes the western half of New Hampshire, went from 54-45 Obama to 49-46 Clinton. State Rep. Steve Negron and former Veterans Affairs official Stewart Levenson are already running here.
● PA-15: Democrat Susan Wild, who joined the Democratic primary in early October, has announced her resignation from her appointed position as Allentown solicitor at the end of the year to focus on her campaign to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Charlie Dent in this 52-44 Trump seat located in the Lehigh Valley. Wild currently faces a Democratic primary that includes pastor Greg Edwards and Bill Leiner, who was the former mayor of the small borough of Coplay, but more prominent names may take a look at running here, especially if a state court strikes down the Republican-drawn congressional map in a trial taking place in December.
● TX-29: While state Rep. Armando Walle initially announced that he was entering the Democratic primary to succeed his old boss, retiring Rep. Gene Green, Walle dropped out of the race last week and decided to seek re-election instead. The filing deadline is Dec. 11, and so far, the only notable declared candidate for this safely blue Houston seat is state Sen. Sylvia Garcia. Two weeks ago, the chair of the Harris County Democratic Party said that ex-County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who lost the primary to Green 57-39 last year, had requested filing paperwork, but we've heard nothing from him since then.
● VA-07, VA-02: Democrats in two Virginia congressional districts have yet to decide whether or not to conduct a traditional state-run primary to select a nominee next year, but activists in at least one district are pushing for just that—and the two leading candidates agree. In the 7th, which occupies a swath of central Virginia anchored by Richmond's western suburbs, former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger and Marine veteran Dan Ward both say they favor a primary over a less-inclusive approach, and local party leaders say they'll reach a final decision in January. Democrats here are hoping to unseat GOP Rep. Dave Brat, who could be vulnerable next year, as Republican Ed Gillespie only carried this district by a 51-47 margin in this month's gubernatorial election, according to preliminary calculations by analyst J. Miles Coleman.
Democrats also have to figure out their plans in the 2nd District, which is represented by freshman GOP Rep. Scott Taylor. This seat, which is centered in Virginia Beach, is potentially even more vulnerable for Republicans, as Democratic Gov.-elect Ralph Northam won it 51-47. Democrats are expecting Navy veteran Elaine Luria to run here.
● Deaths: Ex-Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York Democrat who represented a district that sprawled from Ulster County to Ithaca from 1993 to 2013, died Wednesday at the age of 79. Hinchey was first elected to the state Assembly from 1974, and he chaired the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee. Hinchey led hearings that helped expose how a chemical company had dumped harmful toxic waste into Love Canal in Niagara Falls, and he sponsored a law that made New York the first state in the nation to focus on combating acid rain.
Hinchey ran for the House in 1992 and won the general election 50-47 against Broome County Legislator Bob Moppert, but he only prevailed 49-48 in their rematch during the 1994 GOP wave. However, Hinchey soon became entrenched, and he beat Moppert 62-37 in 2000. Hinchey was a prominent environmentalist in the House, and he had a safe hold on his seat for several more years. Hinchey also rose to become a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He had an unexpectedly competitive re-election fight during the 2010 GOP wave, and he only won 53-47. After New York lost two seats in reapportionment after 2010, Hinchey’s seat was carved up in redistricting and he decided to retire.
● Media Markets: One frequently-used database in the Daily Kos Elections toolkit is our spreadsheet that matches media markets with congressional districts (and states), so you can see what percentage of each CD is found in each media market, or what percentage of each media market is found in each CD. This data can help you ballpark how expensive it is to run a broadcast TV-focused ad campaign in a particular district. We've just updated that spreadsheet to account for the new congressional district boundaries in Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia that took effect with the 2016 election.
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