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.
● OH-Gov: On Thursday, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted announced that Husted was dropping out of the GOP primary for governor and would instead be DeWine’s running mate. There haven't been many polls here, but the ones we've seen consistently showed DeWine, a former U.S. senator, far ahead of Husted and the rest of the primary field. While DeWine and Husted had a similar amount of cash in the bank at the end of June, Husted seems to have decided that joining DeWine as his candidate for lieutenant governor was the better option than waging an expensive and uphill primary battle.
The other two GOP primary candidates, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Rep. Jim Renacci, each affirmed on Thursday that they weren't going anywhere. Taylor has the support of termed-out Gov. John Kasich, but so far, her campaign hasn't gone well. Taylor had just $437,000 in the bank at the end of June while DeWine, Husted, and Renacci each had over $4 million on-hand. Taylor’s own poll also showed her trailing DeWine 36-17 in August, with Husted at 20. Weirdly, Taylor teased an "announcement on [the] future" just after news broke about the DeWine-Husted ticket, leading to furious speculation that she was also dropping out. It's unclear if Taylor actually was considering quitting or she was just hoping to get the presses’ attention, but it's rarely helpful when politicos spend hours wondering if you're about to end your campaign.
Renacci has barely registered in the polls we've seen, but he may have room to grow. Renacci is close to Trump allies, and the wealthy congressman has contributed $4 million of his own money to his campaign so far. Renacci, who has served in the House since 2011, has been positioning himself as a Trumpesque outsider, and he's hoping that voters will pick him over a longtime politician like DeWine. Indeed, Renacci's campaign summed up DeWine and Husted as "the Jeb Bush on Xanax of this race now, and the conservative base is not only bored to tears by that team, they are disgusted by it."
● AL-Sen: Roy Moore is getting badly outspent on the airwaves by Doug Jones, but he's found enough cash to scrape together another TV ad. This spot features a clip of Donald Trump ranting about Jones, saying, "We don't need a liberal person in there. Jones—I've looked at his record. It's terrible on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment."
● AZ-Sen: After almost a year of waffling about a potential GOP Senate bid, we can finally cross state Treasurer Jeff DeWit off the list. On Wednesday, Trump nominated his longtime ally to serve as chief financial officer of NASA, a post that requires Senate confirmation.
Meanwhile, we get to wait some more for notorious ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to decide on a bid of his own. Arpaio, who was pardoned by Trump months after he lost re-election, says he'll decide in 2018. Arpaio is famous for talking about running statewide but never doing it, though unlike in past years, he has no elected office to fall back to.
● IN-Sen: When businessman Mike Braun announced that he would run in the GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, we wondered if he had the personal wealth to get his name out. It turns out, the answer very much is yes. The Journal Gazette recently reported that Braun, who resigned from the state House to concentrate on his bid, has an estimated net worth of nearly $66 million. Braun has so far loaned his campaign $850,000, and there's probably a lot more where that came from.
Braun is also taking to the airwaves well ahead of next spring's primary. Braun launched an early $329,000 radio and TV buy in November, and he's up with another TV spot. Braun promotes his business background and argues that "President Trump is right: We need fewer career politicians in Washington." Braun's two main opponents in the primary are Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, who start with considerably more name recognition, but also a whole lot of enmity for one another.
● MN-Sen: Two more women have accused Democratic Sen. Al Franken of engaging in unwanted touching, bring the total number of accusers to six. Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin says that when she took a photo with Franken when he visited the Middle East on a USO tour in 2003, Franken reached around her and groped her breast for five to 10 seconds before she moved her body away from his hand just before the picture was snapped. Separately, another woman, described as a "former elected official in New England" who requested anonymity, told Jezebel that Franken tried to give her a "wet, open-mouthed kiss" when she appeared as a guest at a live taping of Franken's radio show in 2006.
While demands for Franken to resign have not yet reached the level they have for Michigan Rep. John Conyers (see our MI-13 item), one top Democrat is saying he should go. On Thursday, New York Rep. Joe Crowley, who's the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, said that both Franken and Conyers should quit. So far, though, Senate leaders have yet to issue any similar calls.
● NM-Gov: This week, a federal judge ruled that GOP Rep. Steve Pearce could use the $900,000 sitting in his federal campaign account for his bid for governor. Both Pearce and fellow Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking the Democratic nod, had asked the secretary of state's office how much of their federal cash they could move over, and were told that the state law that prevents one campaign from transferring more than $11,000 to another campaign applied to them. Lujan Grisham did not argue and she sent large chunks of her congressional campaign money to other candidates and groups, leaving her federal account with just $10,000 on-hand at the end of September.
● OH-Gov: On Thursday, Jerry Springer announced that he would not seek the Democratic nomination. A few state Democratic leaders actually seemed open to the idea of a Springer bid, but the king of trash TV would always have been a tough sell in a primary. In any case, we'll have this very honest TV commercial from Springer's failed 1982 primary campaign, where the former Cincinnati mayor admitted to "spent[ing] time with a woman I shouldn't have. And I paid with a check."
However, a much more serious Democratic candidate seems ready to announce soon. After ex-Attorney General Richard Cordray resigned as head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau two weeks ago, there was little doubt he was preparing to run for governor, and multiple sources tell the Associated Press he will announce no later than next week.
Some of the Democratic candidates have criticized Cordray for leaving the CFPB and allowing Trump to appoint a successor who could weaken or kill the agency. On his way out the door, Cordray tried to get the agency's chief of staff Leandra English to take over, but Trump announced that White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney would be the acting director. Both English and Mulvaney began the week saying they were in charge, but a judge recently sided with Mulvaney. The ongoing mess could be a liability for Cordray in a primary, especially if it ends with Mulvaney or another Trump lackey in charge.
● TX-Gov: Democrats have a very daunting task ahead of them if they want to mount a serious bid against GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, but it looks like two noteworthy candidates will jump into the primary before the Dec. 11 filing deadline. While there were initially some incorrect reports on Wednesday evening alleging that Lupe Valdez had resigned as Dallas County sheriff to run for governor, unnamed state party officials tell the Houston Chronicle that she plans to get in the race. Under the state's resign-to-run law, Valdez is required to quit as sheriff before she can mount a bid for governor; for her part, Valdez's office said on Wednesday that she hadn't made a decision.
Businessman Andrew White, however, doesn't seem deterred. On Wednesday evening, during the few hours where it was believed that Valdez had already resigned, White said he was "full steam ahead" with his preparations. The next day, White scheduled his announcement for Dec. 7. White is the son of the recently deceased Gov. Mark White, who was elected governor in 1982 and lost four years later.
Valdez would likely have a big edge in a primary: Valdez is reportedly the favored candidate of the state party leadership, while White recently described his political positions as "a very conservative Democrat, or I'm a moderate Republican, or I don't care what you call me." Abbott would be a huge favorite against either Democrat, but Team Blue would benefit from a strong candidate who could help turn out voters for more competitive races, or could take advantage of the situation if Abbott looks more vulnerable later in the cycle.
● CO-03: Karl Hanlon, who serves as chief legal counsel for the city of Glenwood Springs, announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nod to challenge GOP Rep. Scott Tipton. Hanlon joins state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush in the primary for this western Colorado seat, which went from 52-46 Romney to 52-40 Trump.
● IL-03: The pro-choice group NARAL, which recently endorsed Democrat Marie Newman, is now airing a TV ad attacking her primary opponent, Rep. Dan Lipinski. The spot slams Lipinski for opposing same-sex marriage, for voting against background checks for gun buyers, voting to defund Planned Parenthood, and voting "52 times to outlaw abortion." The ad is only backed by a "five-figure" buy, however, and is airing on cable for just a week. Newman faces a serious financial deficit, and could use all the support she can get. Hopefully for her, this is a sign of more help to come.
● IL-04: On Thursday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders joined retiring Rep. Luis Gutierrez in endorsing Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in the primary for this safely blue Chicago seat. Sanders carried this seat 58-42 in the 2016 Democratic primary, so his support for Garcia, who was a high-profile Sanders ally last year, could be a big asset. One of Garcia's primary rivals, Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, is a prominent member of the Sanders-aligned Democratic Socialists of America, and Sanders support for Garcia could make it harder for him to gain traction.
Gutierrez announced he was retiring on Tuesday, less than a week before the Dec. 4 filing deadline, and potential candidates have to scramble to gather enough valid signatures in time to make the ballot. Politico recently reported that Sol Flores, the founding executive director of a local organization that helps people living in poverty and homelessness, had decided to run, and Flores sounded very much like a candidate in an interview with NBC. NBC also says that Neli Vazquez Rowland, the co-founder of the community group A Safe Place, is "expected" to run, but we've heard nothing from her so far. We'll know who actually is trying to make the ballot on Monday, though it will take some time for election authorities to announce who actually has enough signatures to make it to the primary and who doesn't.
● MI-13: The dam broke for John Conyers on Thursday as every member of the House Democrats' leadership team called on him to resign, including Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn, who is the highest-ranking African-American in the party's caucus and the third-ranking member overall. These developments came less than two days after the Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement declining to ask Conyers to resign.
Despite being hospitalized due to "stress," per a consultant, Conyers is fighting back against those who want him to quit: His attorney declared, "It is not up to Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman, and she sure as hell won't be the one to tell the congressman to leave." However, according to "two sources close to the Conyers situation" cited in a late Wednesday local news report, Conyers plans to announce in January that he won't seek re-election. That wouldn't be enough to satisfy Conyers' growing chorus of critics, though, and in any event, no one from his team has confirmed this report.
● NC-09: Ex-Rep. Sue Myrick, a former Charlotte mayor who went on to represent past versions of this seat from 1995 to 2013, backed the Rev. Mark Harris' GOP primary bid against Rep. Robert Pittenger last year. Harris lost by just 134 votes and he's trying again, and Myrick is once again supporting him.
● NJ-05: While Warren County Freeholder Jason Sarnoski formed an exploratory committee for a potential run for the GOP nod back in April, he announced this week that he wouldn't run. So far, ex-Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a well-known conservative who has lost several high-profile bids, and attorney John McCann, the general counsel to the New Jersey Sheriff's Association, have the GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer to themselves in this competitive North Jersey seat.
● PA-01: As the jaws of justice tighten their clamp around Democratic Rep. Bob Brady, the longtime congressman may soon find himself squeezed politically as well. On Thursday, Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad, who moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh as a child and worked for many years as a molecular biologist, resigned from her post to run against Brady in next year's primary.
Ahmad also said she might self-fund part of her campaign to match the $600,000 Brady already has in the bank. (Ahmad's husband is a real estate developer, and those guys are usually pretty rich.) She won't, however, have the support of her now-former boss: Following Ahmad's move, Mayor Jim Kenney reiterated his endorsement of Brady, who's being investigated for orchestrating a $90,000 payment to a rival to get him to drop a primary challenge in 2012. And Kenney's continued backing is also a good demonstration that despite the fact that several individuals involved in the scheme have either reached plea agreements or are under indictment, Brady remains a formidable figure in Philadelphia politics.
● PA-10: Back in October, 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 eventually announced that he would seek a fifth term in this 66-30 Trump seat, but he won't have a clear path to renomination. This week, Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko announced he would challenge Marino, and he wasted no time taking aim at the issue that derailed the congressman's drug czar bid.
McLinko argued that, "Rather than standing up for his constituents who have been hit hard by this epidemic, Tom Marino made the opioid crisis worse. He solicited campaign contributions from big drug companies and then sponsored a bill that allowed them to flood our communities with opioids." While McLinko says he was motivated to challenge Marino after the story about his bill came to light, there isn't much love lost between the two. McLinko talked about challenging Marino from the right all the way back in 2013, but he didn't do it that cycle.
A little less than 10 percent of this rural northeastern seat is in Bradford County, so McLinko likely starts with little name recognition. However, if conservative primary voters are disgusted enough with Marino, things could get interesting. Marino also had just $113,000 in the bank at the end of September, a pretty weak war-chest for an incumbent.
● TX-06: Last week, GOP Rep. Joe Barton apologized after "a graphic nude photo" of him began circulating online. From there, things quickly spiraled out of control for congressman, who has represented the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985: On Thursday, he announced that he would not seek re-election in Texas' 6th Congressional District, a seat that backed Mitt Romney 58-41 and Donald Trump by a slightly narrower 54-42 margin.
It's an inglorious end for Barton, the former chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who earned the derisive nickname "Smokey Joe" from environmentalists in 2005 for championing the dangerous gas additive MTBE. Barton had insisted just weeks ago that he was running for yet another term, but just before Thanksgiving, he admitted that a very not-safe-for-work-photo that had been posted by an anonymous Twitter account did indeed depict him. 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, where he was heard confronting her both for communicating with other women he was having relationships with and for sharing some explicit materials with them.
The scandal grew worse after the holiday break. A Republican activist named Kelly Canon shared several salacious text messages from Barton that he sent her while he was still married, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the congressman "took it a step too far on rare occasions." Said Canon, "He was very fascinated with my attire, to the point of being inappropriate." (Sample exchange: Barton: "so that means u to wearing a tank top only and no panties?" Canon: "ok that's enough you know my attire! Good night." Barton: "answer me miss evasive.") Canon said she came forward to encourage other women to do so, saying that "there is a sickness here, and there's a pattern here. And I cannot be the only one."
Several prominent Texas Republicans had reportedly urged the Barton not to run again in private; as the details mounted, those calls became public. In the end, Smokey Joe decided to take the advice. Texas' filing deadline is Dec. 11, so potential successors need to decide what they'll do quickly. While Republicans will be favored to retain this seat no matter what, given the ongoing outpouring of progressive energy across the country these days, it makes sense for Democrats to make a push here and at the very least keep the GOP back on its heels.
It didn't take long for the GOP field to start taking shape. Just after Barton called it quits, Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright, who served as Barton's chief of staff until 2011, announced he would resign from his post to run to succeed his old boss. Wright reportedly has been considered Barton's heir apparent for some time. Barton said Thursday that he'd probably vote for Wright, though in a rare moment of self-awareness, he joked that, "Given my current status, I'm not sure if anybody would want my endorsement, so I might come out against somebody if that helps them."
Jake Ellzey, a veteran who serves on the Texas Veterans Commission, had kicked off a primary bid against Barton earlier in the week, saying he planned to run even before the scandal broke. Ellzey ran for the state House in 2014 but took just 16 percent of the vote in the primary even with then-Gov. Rick Perry's support, so he'll likely have a tough time here if he forges ahead.
● TX-29: Retiring Rep. Gene Green has endorsed state Sen. Sylvia Garcia's bid to succeed him in this safely blue Houston seat. So far, no other notable Democrats have announced a bid, and time is running out before the Dec. 11 filing deadline. One Democrat who had talked about running, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, announced just before Green made his endorsement public that she'd seek re-election instead. Garcia is a longtime Houston politician who represents 90 percent of Green's constituents in the legislature, so it makes sense if other local politicians have decided not to run against her.
Ex-Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia (who is not related to Sylvia Garcia) reportedly asked for filing papers just after Green announced he would retire two weeks ago, but we've heard nothing from him since then. Green beat Adrian Garcia 58-39 in last year's primary (Sylvia Garcia was a high-profile Green ally during that campaign), so understandably, Green isn't exactly waiting to see what his former rival will do before taking sides.
● Statehouse Action: This Week in Statehouse Action: I Guess This Is Where We Are Now edition is full of all kinds of badness: sexual misconduct in statehouses all across the country, New Hampshire Republicans making it harder for college students to vote, Republicans appointing a serious racist to join them in the Colorado House, and more!
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