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.
● WA State Senate: One of Tuesday's biggest wins, second only in importance to the Virginia governorship, came in Washington state, where Democrats flipped a crucial state Senate seat that gave them a majority in the chamber and, with it, control of the entire state government. Thanks to a turncoat Democrat named Tim Sheldon, Republicans had clung to a narrow 25-24 majority for years and thus stymied all manner of progressive priorities, even though Democrats have long held the state House and governor's mansion.
But late last year, GOP state Sen. Andy Hill died, prompting Tuesday's special election between Democrat Manka Dhingra, the Democratic nominee, and former congressional aide Jinyoung Lee Englund, the Republican candidate, in the state's 45th District in the northeastern Seattle suburbs. This seat shifted sharply to the left last year, as Hillary Clinton carried it by a 65-28 margin following a 58-40 win for Barack Obama in 2012, presenting Democrats with the opportunity they'd been thirsting for for years. But the 45th had always been amenable to Republicans with pragmatic profiles like Hill, so it was by no means a gimme, despite the presidential numbers.
And as you'd expect, the GOP was determined to fight like hell to keep it, because it represented the entire ballgame: Win and maintain their roadblock; lose and go home, perhaps forever. As a result, the race became the most expensive in state history, with an astounding $10 million spent by the two campaigns and their allies.
But the portents were ominous for Republicans. In the August top-two primary, in which all candidates from all parties ran together on a single ballot, Dhingra led Englund by a sizable 52 to 41 margin. While both candidates advanced to the November general election, Washington's primaries tend to be very strong predictors of the ultimate results, and indeed they were: While many votes remain to be counted, Dhingra leads Englund 55-45, and that advantage is only likely to grow. Englund hasn't yet conceded, but her hopes of pulling this one out are zero.
And that means, once the results are certified next month, Democrats will take over the Senate, opening up a world of possibilities. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee says he plans to push for legislation to address climate change, including a cap-and-trade bill and a carbon tax, while state Sen. Andy Billig, who is likely to become deputy majority leader once the handover takes place, says he wants "to pass the biggest jobs bill to ever come out of Olympia."
Of course, these audacious plans will still have to contend with narrow majorities and competing interests. But a new day will soon dawn in Washington, a blue state that finally has the government it deserves.
● AL-Sen: Strategy Research is out with their latest poll of Alabama's Senate special election, this time on behalf of Raycom News Network. Their latest survey's results give Republican Roy Moore a 51-40 lead over Democrat Doug Jones. That margin is identical to the 52-41 edge that Moore attained in their Oct. 23 poll and the 51-40 margin he had in their Oct. 16 survey. Strategy Research has consistently given Moore larger leads than other outfits previously found, but the consensus of polls nevertheless shows Moore with a decisive advantage.
● AZ-Sen: Republican pollster HighGround Public Affairs returned to survey Arizona's 2018 Senate race, and they give Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema a 34-27 edge over former Republican state Sen. Kelly Ward. Sinema expanded her lead from her 32-31 margin in HighGround's August poll, but these results simply aren't that useful given the sky-high share of undecided voters for this open-seat race where there's still a long way to go until the primaries. Furthermore, HighGround didn't release matchups between Sinema and other Republicans, if they tested them.
Indeed, while Ward is so far the only notable Republican in the race, she's unlikely to be the last. Rep. Paul Gosar is the latest Republican to confirm that he's considering joining the race, though there's no indication of when he might make that decision. Regarding Rep. Martha McSally's reported-yet-unofficial decision to run, Gosar merely said "She had to make a decision ... good for her" and notably did not appear deterred from running. However, one other Republican won't be joining the fray after former Rep. John Shadegg announced he wouldn't run.
● CO-Gov: Republicans may have just taken a beating in elections across the country, but they just landed one of their biggest names yet in Colorado after state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced she would seek the GOP nomination to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2018. Coffman is only finishing up her first term, but she easily won a hard-fought race in 2014 where her 51-42 margin was the best performance for statewide Republicans that year. Coffman is also a strong fundraiser and has deep ties in the state GOP, where her recently divorced ex-husband Mike Coffman also represents the 6th Congressional District in suburban Denver.
Cynthia Coffman's entry into the Republican primary is a sign that the current field isn't exactly intimidating. Indeed, none of the other Republicans running raised more than $200,000 during the third quarter, though a few had more cash inflows thanks to self-funding. One such candidate, suburban Denver-area District Attorney George Brauchler, has seen his campaign enter a death spiral after the departure of his campaign manager with no replacement. He may soon decide he'll have a better shot running to replace Coffman as attorney general instead, but even that is no sure bet given how weak his gubernatorial campaign has looked.
While Coffman may end up being the preference of some major players in the party establishment, she almost certainly won't have a clear path to the nomination, especially if she ends up being vulnerable on her rightward flank. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a far-right xenophobe who nearly won the party's 2014 nomination, recently joined the race, and he may not need to match Coffman's fundraising pace given his existing support among the nativist elements of the party. They'll also face state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, self-funding businessman Victor Mitchell, and former investment banker Doug Robinson, who is Mitt Romney's nephew.
● IL-Gov: Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner angered many in his party's base when he signed a law allowing public funding for abortions earlier this year, and state Rep. Jeanne Ives recently jumped into the primary against him. However, a new We Ask America poll from late October for Capitol Fax has Rauner easily dispatching Ives 64-19 ahead of the March primary.
While Ives only had 17 percent name recognition and could improve her standing once she gets her name out, that feat is not guaranteed given the fundraising needed to compete in this big state. Rauner is also willing to self-fund an unthinkable amount and can afford to nuke his opponent if needed. Perhaps most tellingly, the survey still gives Rauner a 61 percent favorable rating and just 24 percent unfavorable among Republicans. That's not stellar for an incumbent facing a tough general election, but it doesn't scream danger in a primary just yet.
● NY-Gov: Republican state Sen. John DeFrancisco had expressed interest in running for governor back in June. He now says he's exploring a run and has hired consultants, with a decision coming by the end of the year. Republicans don't yet have a notable candidate in the race against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has previously filed paperwork while he's considering it.
However, one potential aspirant just got knocked down a peg in Tuesday's elections when Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino lost re-election in a 57-43 landslide to Democratic challenger George Latimer. Astorino was Team Red's 2014 nominee and hadn't ruled out running again, but his bruising loss could make him a much less appealing candidate for Republicans next year.
● CA-39: Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragan, who represents the nearby 44th District in South Los Angeles, has endorsed Navy veteran Gil Cisneros, who is running to take on GOP Rep. Ed Royce in the Orange County-based 39th District. Cisneros faces several fellow Democrats ahead of the top-two primary, including businessman Andy Thorburn, pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran, and former Commerce Department official Sam Jammal.
● NJ-02: Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo's surprise decision not to seek a 13th term representing New Jersey's southernmost district has left Democrats salivating at the prospect of finally flipping this swing seat, and there's one name at the top of their list: state Sen. Jeff Van Drew. National Democrats have tried and failed to recruit him to challenge LoBiondo for years, but Van Drew announced he was "considering it seriously" almost immediately after the incumbent revealed on Tuesday that he wouldn't run again. Powerful South Jersey party boss George Norcross even openly encouraged Van Drew to run, and NJ.com reports that Van Drew "plans to enter the race" according to an unnamed person close to him.
Van Drew would likely be one of the strongest general election nominees that Democrats could put forth. He has represented a competitive district since 2001 in the Assembly and then state Senate, holding down what is the most Republican part of the 2nd Congressional District. Van Drew just won his 2017 re-election bid by a 65-35 blowout even though his seat backed Trump 53-44 last year, demonstrating his record of winning over GOP-leaning voters.
However, Van Drew may not have a clean shot at the nomination, and his past voting record stands as one of the most relatively conservative among state legislative Democrats. After declining to seek higher office again and again, some Democrats may think it's time for the 64-year-old to step aside for new blood. No other major Democrats have expressed interest in running yet, but Roll Call's Simone Pathé mentions state Sen. Fred Madden and retired state Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten as two possible alternatives.
On the Republican side, Pathé names Assemblyman Chris Brown, who just won a promotion to the state Senate against an appointed incumbent in a 54-43 Clinton seat on Tuesday; retiring Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles; and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, although Guardian's narrow re-election loss to Democratic challenger Frank Gilliam may change how likely he is to go for it. However, none of the three Republicans has said anything publicly about whether they're interested or not.
This district has long been swingy at the presidential level and flipped from 54-45 Obama to 51-46 Trump last year, meaning Republicans are unlikely to give it up without one hell of a fight. But after losing in 1992, LoBiondo never won by less than 17 points in any election since 1994. LoBiondo's decision to hang it up is a game-changer for Democrats in what is shaping up to be a Democratic-favoring 2018 midterm environment.
● NV-03: Former consumer reporter Michelle Mortensen recently stepped down from KLAS-TV local news, and she announced on Wednesday that she will seek the Republican nomination in the 3rd District. Mortensen doesn't appear to have run for office before, but she may have some existing name recognition from her local TV news career.
Several other Republicans are already running in the primary for this open Democratic seat in Las Vegas' southern suburbs, which flipped from 50-49 Obama to 48-47 Trump. The rest of the GOP field includes state Sen. Scott Hammond, former Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman, and former Clark County party chairman Dave McKeon.
● TX-02: On Tuesday, GOP Rep. Ted Poe announced his retirement. Before he was elected to the House in 2004, Poe earned national headlines as a Harris County judge for using public humiliation as a punishment. Perhaps most notably, Poe sentenced a teenager named Mike Hubacek to go outside high schools and bars once a month with a sign reading "I KILLED TWO PEOPLE WHILE DRIVING DRUNK," maintain a memorial to the deceased, keep photographs of the two victims in his wallet, and send $10 weekly to a memorial fund in their names, a series of punishments that would conclude after 10 years. Hubacek later said the sentence was the best thing that happened to him because onlookers were so compassionate.
Poe was elected to the House in 2004 after the new GOP-drawn map made Democratic incumbent Nick Lampson much more vulnerable, and Poe beat him 56-43. Poe never had a serious primary or general election challenge afterwards in this Houston-area seat, and he attracted far less attention as a congressman than he ever did as a judge. His retirement will likely encourage plenty of Republicans to eye this seat, but they don't have long to decide before the Dec. 11 deadline. However, state Rep. Kevin Roberts, who was first elected last year, wasted no time before announcing he was in.
This seat, which includes part of Houston and some of its northern suburbs, is very red down-ballot. This district went from 63-36 Romney to a smaller 52-43 Trump, however, and it could be interesting in a good year for Team Blue.
● TX-05: Republican state Rep. Lance Gooden had previously been mentioned as a potential candidate to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling, and he's now refusing to rule out the prospect. Gooden recently stated he's "completely focused" on fighting annexation in Mesquite before a new state law goes into effect on Dec. 1 that makes it harder for cities to annex areas. That's not a "no," of course, but it leaves Gooden just 10 days to decide on a campaign before the Dec. 11 filing deadline for this dark-red seat, which is located in part of Dallas and the rural territory to its southeast.
● TX-21: Shortly after Republican Rep. Lamar Smith announced his retirement, GOP state Rep. Jason Isaac was mentioned as a possible candidate to replace him. Now, the Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston reports that Isaac "is interviewing potential staff for a congressional run," although he has yet to confirm anything publicly. This seat, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio and includes part of the Texas Hill Country, swerved from 60-38 Romney to just 52-42 Trump and could be competitive in a Democratic wave election.
● UT-03: Some special elections are expensive and suspenseful affairs, and some are… not. On Tuesday, Republican John Curtis, the mayor of Provo, beat Democrat Katie Allen 57-27 to succeed infamous ex-Rep. Jason Chaffetz. As America's most heavily Mormon congressional district, Utah's 3rd District backed quasi-native son Mitt Romney by 78-19, but Donald Trump won it by a much weaker 47-24 over Evan McMullin, with Hillary Clinton actually taking third place at 23 percent. However, the seat remains extremely red down-ballot, and Trump's local unpopularity never really gave Democrats an opening here.
● WV-03: Republican Conrad Lucas recently resigned as state party chair and declared the he would join the primary for the open GOP-held 3rd Congressional District in southern West Virginia. Lucas became party chairman at just age 30 back in 2012, but he presided over the transformation of West Virginia from having Democrats dominate at the state level to Republicans gaining unified control of state government for the first time since before the Great Depression.
Lucas joins a GOP primary that includes longtime state Del. Carol Miller and a few other candidates, though only Miller reported raising anything substantial in the third quarter, with $131,000. If Lucas can capitalize on his connections as former party chairman to raise even just a decent amount by national standards, he could prove to be a strong contender for the nomination. Democrats had held this House seat from the Depression until 2014, but at 73-23 Trump, it's likely the GOP will be strongly favored in 2018 to keep what is one of the most heavily white working-class districts in the country.
● NY Ballot: New Yorkers voted by an astounding 83-17 margin against holding a convention to rewrite the state constitution. Under state law, this question automatically appears on the ballot every 20 years. In 1997, the last time it was up for a vote, "con-con" lost 63-37. While it's universally agreed that the state government is dysfunctional and corrupt, a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and reproductive rights organizations, as well as some conservative groups, opposed this year's proposed con-con, arguing that special interests would be able to hijack the delegate elections and shred important rights found in the constitution.
● Special Elections: In addition to all the regularly scheduled elections that took place on Tuesday, nearly three dozen special elections to state legislatures in 10 states were also held—and Democrats kicked some serious ass on that front, too. In all, five GOP-held seats flipped to the Democrats and none went the other way. In addition, Democrats held a difficult seat in Michigan that had flipped from Barack Obama to Donald Trump last year.
The biggest of them all, by far, was the race for Washington's 45th State Senate District, which wound up flipping the chamber to Democrats, and with that, control of the entire state government. Because that race was so huge, we address it in depth in a separate writeup, but the other contests are also important.
Three of the seats that changed hands were in Georgia, and one was crucial. In the 6th State Senate District, which went for Hillary Clinton by a 55-40 margin, two Democrats beat out a fractured field of five Republicans to advance to a Dec. 5 runoff, guaranteeing the seat will turn blue no matter what—and breaking the GOP's supermajority in the chamber. That second round still matters, though, because attorney Jen Jordan has established herself as the bona fide progressive voice in the race while her opponent, dentist Jaha Howard, was exposed for repeatedly expressing shockingly homophobic and misogynist views on social media. Jordan edged Howard 24 percent to 23 and has the support of most local Democrats (as well as Daily Kos), so hopefully she'll ride to victory next month.
(While we're pleased about this outcome, though, we still remain adamantly opposed to top-two primaries because they deprive voters of the chance to vote for candidates from their preferred party—and because next time, it'll be Democrats who get screwed in a situation like this.)
Another flip came in the 119th State House District, where software engineer Jonathan Wallace was the only Democrat facing three Republicans. Wallace avoided a runoff by capturing an impressive 57 percent of the vote in a district that Trump won by a sizable 51-44 margin. Finally, in the 117th State House District, Democratic attorney Deborah Gonzalez beat Republican consultant Houston Gaines by a 53-47 margin, picking up a seat that had gone 49-46 for Trump—and one that Democrats hadn't even contested this entire decade. Until last night, Democrats had held just two Trump seats in the entire state House.
Meanwhile, Democrats continued to roll in New Hampshire, where they took their fourth state House seat from Republicans this year. In the 15th Hillsborough District, Democrat Erika Connors, a Manchester School Board member, edged Republican Al MacArthur, a firearms instructor, by a narrow 50.4 to 49.6 margin. Trump had also done well here, winning the district 53-43. And finally, Democrats also held Michigan's 109th State House District, which looked like a very difficult race because the seat had swung to Trump, who won it 49-45, after Obama had carried it 53-45 four years earlier. But Marquette City Commissioner Sara Cambensy kept this one in the blue column nevertheless, dispatching former Marquette School Board president Rich Rossway 57-42.
Ever since Trump's election, we've been tracking special elections across the country, and the Democratic enthusiasm they pointed to proved to be a portent for Tuesday night. While Democrats did not outperform recent presidential election results this week to the same degree they previously had, they nevertheless continue to exceed Clinton's margins by an average of 9 points and Obama's by 6. If that trend holds up—and we now have 60 separate data points to back it up—then Republicans will be back on their heels come 2018.
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: As the final polls projected, Keisha Lance Bottoms will face fellow City Councilor Mary Norwood in the Dec. 5 runoff to succeed termed-out Mayor Kasim Reed. Bottoms finished first with 26 percent of the vote, while Norwood, a rare politician who identifies as an independent in this very blue city, edged ex-City Council President Cathy Woolard 21-17 for the other runoff spot.
Until the final months of the campaign, it looked like Norwood was a lock to advance to round two while Bottoms was in a fight with several other contenders for second. However, late polls showed Bottoms surging, and she also received Reed's endorsement in the final month. Back in the 2009 primary, Norwood led Reed 45-38, but she lost their runoff 50.4-49.6, a margin of less than 1,000 votes.
If Norwood wins this time, she will be Atlanta's first white mayor since Maynard Jackson unseated Sam Massell in 1973, while Bottoms will be the city's second black female mayor. It's not clear what role race will play in the contest, but Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz notes that black candidates for mayor received a total of 51 percent of the vote on Tuesday, while white contenders took 49 percent.
● Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Mayor John Cranley defeated City Councilor Yvette Simpson, a fellow Democrat, 54-46 in a huge shift from Simpson's 45-35 lead in the May nonpartisan primary. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Jason Williams argues that Cranley helped turn things around in part by retooling his campaign after the primary: While Cranley dramatically outspent Simpson in both rounds, he focused far more on voter turnout than ads this time. Williams also writes that in August, Simpson also blundered when she demanded that Children's Hospital double its planned contribution to its local neighborhood if it wanted the city's permission to expand. Cranley quickly began hitting Simpson over Children's Hospital, which may have cost her dearly.
● Cleveland, OH Mayor: Mayor Frank Jackson beat City Councilor Zach Reed, a fellow Democrat, 59-41 to win a historic fourth term. Reed had argued that Jackson has not done enough to deal with the city's high crime rate, and that he's focused too much on improving downtown at the expense of the city's neighborhoods. However, it was never clear that voters were tired of their mayor after 12 years.
● Detroit, MI Mayor, Detroit, MI City Clerk: To no one's surprise, Mayor Mike Duggan defeated state Sen. Coleman Young II, a fellow Democrat and the son of Detroit's first black mayor, 72-28. In a much more suspenseful campaign, City Clerk Janice Winfrey only fended off a challenge from fellow Democrat Garlin Gilchrist 51-49. Winfrey's office earned awful headlines for its botched handling of the last year's presidential elections, with a post-election audit concluding that "an abundance of human errors" by election administrators contributed to the problem. Less seriously but still annoyingly, the Detroit City Clerk's office is responsible for an infamous Clip Art document of absentee precincts. Gilchrist says he's considering a recount.
● Minneapolis, MN Mayor: City Councilor Jacob Frey beat several fellow Democrats, including Mayor Betsy Hodges, to become mayor of Minneapolis. Voters are allowed to rank their top three choices. If no one takes a majority of first-place votes, then second and third choices are redistributed from the candidates with the fewest votes to those still remaining. Frey led businessman Tom Hoch 25-19 among first choice votes, while Hodges led state Rep. Raymond Dehn 19-18 for third place. Dehn managed to hang on through three more rounds of tabulation as the rest of the field was gradually eliminated, but in the fifth and final round, Frey beat him 57-43.
Hodges's critics have long charged that she hasn't done enough to challenge law enforcement and especially for her handling of incidents where police have shot unarmed civilians. Over the summer, the city attracted international attention after an officer fatally shot Justine Damond, an Australian-American woman who'd reported a possible assault near her home. Hodges's opponents also went after her on the state of the police force, and they argued that downtown was unsafe. Frey entered the race with far more money than anyone else, including Hodges, which likely helped him pull ahead of the mayor's many opponents.
● Raleigh, NC Mayor: Mayor Nancy McFarlane, a left-leaning independent, decisively defeated Democrat Charles Francis 58-42. Back in the October nonpartisan primary, McFarlane fell just short of taking the majority she needed to win outright for the first time. However, Francis always had a very uphill task, and he even considered dropping out just after the primary.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: Ex-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan decisively beat urban planner and fellow Democrat Cary Moon 61-39 to become the first woman to serve as mayor of Seattle since the 1920s, as well as its first openly-lesbian mayor.
At the beginning of the year, it looked like incumbent Ed Murray would easily win a second term. However, Murray dropped his re-election campaign just days before the candidate filing deadline after multiple people came forward and accused him of past sexual abuse, and he later resigned. Durkan quickly emerged as the favorite of the city and state establishment, and she outraised everyone. In the general election, Durkan and her allies utterly dominated the money race again. Because Murray resigned, Durkan will become mayor right after the vote is certified.
● St. Paul, MN Mayor: In a surprise, ex-City Councilor Melvin Carter won this open seat contest on just first-choice ballots, and he will become St. Paul's first black mayor. Carter took 51 percent of the vote, while fellow ex-Councilor Pat Harris was well behind with 25 percent. In St. Paul, voters are allowed to rank their top three choices. If no one takes a majority of first-place votes, then second and third choices are redistributed from the candidates with the fewest votes to those still remaining. However, because Carter unexpectedly won on round one, this did not come into play.
Carter, who like all the main candidates is a Democrat, had served as Gov. Mark Dayton's state director of early childhood education programs, and he had the support of both his old boss and Sen. Al Franken. Late in the race, the local police union argued that Carter didn't do enough to help them find two guns that were stolen from his home, and a PAC partially funded by the union went a step further, trying to link Carter's actions to a rise in crime. Coleman, Dayton, and Harris all condemned the union, and Dayton went so far as to say that the attack on Carter "injected that kind of negativity and that kind of racial bias into a mayor's race." The union's move seemed to backfire dramatically on Tuesday.
● Toledo, OH Mayor: Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson was the unlucky Ohio mayor who lost to a fellow Democrat on Tuesday, with Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz defeating her 56-44. Hicks-Hudson became mayor in 2015 after incumbent Michael Collins died, and she won a crowded and chaotic special election that fall 36-17 for the final two years of Collins' term, so she'd never been elected with the support of a majority of voters.
Kapszukiewicz had a big spending edge, and he argued that Hicks-Hudson had done a poor job keeping track of the city's money, noting that the city recently learned that $8.2 million has been sitting unused since 2011. Kapszukiewicz also insisted that progress in downtown Toledo was happening in spite of the mayor, and hit Hicks-Hudson over toxic algae in the city's water.
● Nassau County, NY Executive, Hempstead, NY Town Supervisor: Democratic Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran pulled off a tight 51-48 victory against Republican Jack Martins, a former New York state senator, to win the executive office this large Long Island county. The once dominant Nassau County Republicans also suffered a shocking loss in the race to lead Hempstead, a town with a population of 760,000 that was once the center of the powerful GOP machine. Attorney Laura Gillen unseated Supervisor Anthony Santino 51-49 to become the first Democratic supervisor of Hempstead in more than a century. However, the Republicans maintained a narrow edge on the county legislature.
The GOP ran things here for decades, and the Nassau party had a huge influence over New York Republican politics. However, corruption and infighting gradually helped weaken what was once one of the most powerful Republican parties anywhere. (For more, check out Steve Kornacki's excellent 2011 article). In 2001, Democrat Tom Suozzi broke the GOP's stranglehold on the county executive's office, and won re-election four years later. But in 2009, with the Great Recession hurting Democrats nationwide, the local GOP unexpectedly regained control over Nassau when Ed Mangano unseated Suozzi by 386 votes. Not only did almost no one forecast a Mangano win, but Suozzi himself had $1 million left in his war-chest that likely could have saved him.
The state seized control of Nassau's finances in 2011 and when Suozzi kicked off his comeback attempt against Mangano two years later, he initially looked like the man to beat. However, Suozzi lost 59-41, another defeat that foreshadowed the national Democratic Party's problems for the following year. But last year, Mangano was indicted on federal corruption charges. The county GOP made it very clear that they didn't want Mangano as their nominee again and they consolidated behind Martins, who had lost a congressional race in 2016 to none other than Tom Suozzi.
Corruption, unsurprisingly, was a major issue, though Curran focused more on tying Martins to former state Senate Leader Dean Skellos (whose own corruption conviction was vacated last month by an appeals court) than to Mangano. Martins had seized on the issue, though he emulated Ed Gillespie in Virginia and launched a racist mailer targeting Curran that featuring Latino gang members. In the end, it wasn't enough, and Curran will become Nassau County's first female executive and only the second Democrat in decades.
Over in Hempstead, the forces that Kornacki described that helped tear the Nassau County GOP down at the end of the 20th Century repeated themselves. Santino fought with two prominent fellow Republicans, Town Board members Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman over their calls for ethics reforms in public meetings that often resulted in shouting. The two took issue to a Santino proposal to restrict board members from taking more than $125,000 in outside income. While Santino denied it, the two attorneys argued that it was an attempt to throw them off the board. And they very much did not keep their criticisms to themselves.
Blakeman, a longtime Long Island politician who lost the 2014 race for New York's 4th Congressional District 53-47 and sounded interested in seeking the GOP nod for county executive, ended up crossing party lines and backing Gillen. King Sweeney publicly called the supervisor a bully before the election and also endorsed Gillen. King Sweeney's well-known father, Rep. Peter King, also decried what he called Santino's "cowardly attack" on her. Allegations of cronyism and nepotism, many coming from his fellow Republicans, also dogged Santino.
Santino had won re-election 60-40 against a Democratic opponent just two years ago. Gillen entered the race as a political unknown, and despite everything, few seemed to give her a chance. However, Gillen's win put a cap on what may have been the worst election night in the Nassau GOP's long history.
● PA Supreme Court: The three retention elections for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court went as we expected, though one contest was much closer than it looked. Voters voted to retain GOP Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Democratic Justice Debra Todd 68-32 and 71-29, respectively. (Voters were asked only if they wanted to retain the incumbents or not, rather than given a choice for an alternative candidate.)
GOP Justice Sally Mundy held off Democrat Dwayne Woodruff, who sits on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and played cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, by just 52-48. Mundy had been appointed to the bench last year by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and confirmed by the GOP state Senate. Team Blue will retain their five-to-two majority, which will be incredibly important once legislative redistricting rolls around in 2021.
● Westchester County, NY Executive: Republican Executive Rob Astorino lost his bid for a third term 57-43 to Democratic state Sen. George Latimer in this large suburban county. Back in 2009, it was Astorino who scored a huge win over a Democratic incumbent, and he won his second term 56-44 in 2013. Astorino almost immediately kicked off a bid against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lost 54-40, losing Westchester 55-42.
Astorino did not take the hint and refused to rule out a 2018 rematch with Cuomo earlier this year. The governor's team reportedly worked to recruit a candidate to take on Astorino this year after they decided that Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins was too weak to win a general election.
Astorino decisively outspent Latimer, and he also received help from a group generously funded by billionaire Trump megadonor Robert Mercer. Latimer tied Astorino to Trump, who lost Westchester 65-31, and the Mercer help may have made his task that much easier. Latimer also went after Astorino's very conservative positions, while both campaigns portrayed the other candidate as unethical. Westchester Democrats also won a supermajority on the county board, which would allow them to change its leadership structure.