● TX-Sen, TX-Gov, TX-32: Donald Trump decisively carried Texas last fall, but his 52-43 win was the GOP's weakest performance in a presidential race in 20 years. The last time a Democrat was elected statewide was 1994, but local leaders are hoping that a 2018 backlash against Trump will at least give them a shot at several offices.
According to the Texas Tribune, Team Blue's major focus is the Senate race. Reps. Beto O'Rourke and Joaquin Castro have both talked about challenging GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, and the consensus seems to be that O'Rourke is more likely to run. Cruz has the advantage of running for re-election in a red state, but the disadvantage of… well, being Ted Cruz. It's tough to see Cruz losing to a Democrat, but it's worth taking him on in case there's a blue wave next year; at the very least, a credible Democrat could inspire voters to turn out for other contests.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, meanwhile, will be extremely hard to beat, and there don't seem to be any well-known Democrats looking to face him. Ex-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who is Joaquin Castro's identical twin brother, is frequently talked about as a possible future statewide candidate, but he says he's "unlikely" to run for anything next year. That "unlikely" gives him a little room to change his mind, but the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development does seem to be waiting for another year. The Tribune says that state party Finance Chairman Mike Collier is the "most frequently floated gubernatorial candidate." Collier lost the comptroller race 58-38 in 2014 but impressed Democrats in defeat; the Tribune also says he's been touted as an opponent against the powerful and notorious Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Democrats are also hoping that they can beat Attorney General Ken Paxton or state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Paxton is currently awaiting trial for securities fraud, and prosecutors are arguing that he and his supporters are on a "crusade" to influence possible jurors. Miller meanwhile, is a grade-A asshole and conspiracy theorist. The Tribune says no Democrats have stepped up to challenge either man, and both Republicans still have a lot of room for error in a state this red. But if Team Blue could pull off a longshot win, it would go a long way to restocking the statewide Democratic bench.
Last cycle, Hillary Clinton carried three GOP-held House seats, and Democrats will want to try and target them. The Dallas-based 32nd District surprisingly swung from 57-42 Romney to 48.5-46.6 Clinton. However, the area remains very red downballot, and ex-NRCC chair Pete Sessions will have all the money he could possibly need to win. Dallas school board member Miguel Solis is the first Democrat we've heard mentioned for this post, and he tells the Tribune he's considering.
There's no word on who Team Blue is looking at against GOP Rep. John Culberson in the Houston-area 7th District. Like Sessions' seat, the 7th is very red downballot and Culberson is entrenched, but the district swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47.1 Clinton. The 23rd, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio, backed Clinton 50-46; however, Republican Rep. Will Hurd won a competitive race 48-47, and we also haven't heard of anyone looking to challenge him next year yet.
● CA-Gov: Apparently, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer really just enjoys messing with people. When the Republican was running for re-election last year, he pledged that he would serve out his four-year term. But ex-Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan recently relayed that Faulconer told him in December that he intended to run for governor, and Faulconer's office put out a statement that didn't rule anything out. But a few days ago, the Los Angeles Times's Mark Barabak asked the mayor if his 2016 pledge to stay on as mayor was still ironclad, and Faulconer responded, "It is."
So is Faulconer just predicting he'll run and lose and be stuck as mayor until 2020? Faulconer is the GOP's top choice to run for governor next year and Team Red is unlikely to stop asking him anytime soon, and these games aren't going to make the speculation go away.
● NJ-Gov: One Democratic candidate we haven't mentioned much is Jim Johnson, who served as undersecretary of the Treasury in the 1990s. Johnson doesn't seem have much establishment support, but Politico notes that, since he raised $410,000 before Jan. 1, he's already qualified for New Jersey's two-for-one matching campaign funds. Johnson doesn't have anything resembling the resources of wealthy ex-Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy, a former ambassador to Germany who has the support of most of the state's powerful Democratic establishment. But Murphy's other primary foes, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and state Sen. Ray Lesniak, haven't qualified for matching funds yet. Murphy is in a strong place but if he stumbles before the June primary, Johnson may end up as the candidate who is the best positioned to capitalize.
● NV-Gov: Attorney General Adam Laxalt hasn't announced that he'll run for this open seat next year, but he's largely scared off his would-be GOP primary rivals. However, state Treasurer Dan Schwartz is now making noises about getting in, telling the Reno Gazette-Journal that he'll want to do some polling and finish the legislative session, which is set to end in June.
Laxalt is a well-connected far-right true believer and he'd be tough to beat in a primary. Schwartz also has made his share of enemies in office: In 2015, lawmakers from both parties trashed his alternative budget proposal, and Schwartz has a bad relationship with outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval. Schwartz also drew some unwanted attention after he hired state party chair Michael McDonald for a six-figure job. But if Schwartz runs and just distracts Laxalt for a while, Team Blue wouldn't complain, especially since Democrats will likely have their own contested primary.
● OH-Gov, OH-16: Betty Sutton, a Democrat who represented a Cleveland-area House seat from 2007 to 2013, has been name-dropped as a possible gubernatorial candidate, but until now, she's said nothing publicly. Sutton, who ran the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp until recently, told cleveland.com, "Like many Ohioans, I have been in deep thought about the future of our state and nation. As one who has spent her life fighting for working families, it's clear that we have more work to do and I am considering what I can do to help." However, it's not clear if Sutton is considering running for governor, a different state office, the House, or keeping all her options open.
Sutton was last on the ballot in 2012, after redistricting threw her into the same seat as Republican Rep. Jim Renacci. Sutton lost 52-48, running ahead of Obama's 53-45 deficit here. Renacci has been flirting with a bid for governor or Senate (he seems far more interested in governor), and Sutton could run for this seat again if he goes. However, Donald Trump won the 16th by a brutal 56-40, and it will take a lot to turn it blue anytime soon. Cleveland.com also mentions several possible GOP candidates if there's an open seat, but we won't do more speculating until Renacci makes his plans clear.
● GA-06: In the wee hours of Friday morning, under cover of darkness, the Senate confirmed ethically tainted Georgia Rep. Tom Price on a strict party-line vote to serve as Donald Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services, aka Obamacare wrecker-in-chief. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Nathan Deal set the dates for the special election to replace Price. An all-party primary will be held on April 18, and in the likely event that no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will take place on June 20. The candidate-filing deadline is coming up very quickly on Feb. 15.
This suburban Atlanta seat is usually reliably Republican, with Mitt Romney taking it 61-38. But this area did not react well to Trump at all, and he won this district by a bare 48-47 last year. It won't be easy for Democrats to convince voters to reject Republicans who aren't named Donald Trump, but if Team Blue can successfully make this contest a referendum on the Orange One, things could get interesting. A few Republicans entered the race before Price was confirmed, and we should see a lot more action before filing closes in the next few days.
● KS-04: On Thursday, state Treasurer Ron Estes won the GOP nomination for the April special election this heavily Republican Wichita seat. Instead of a primary, Kansas law requires each party to pick its special election nominees through a district convention. The establishment-oriented Estes won on the second ballot with 66 of the 126 votes, while former Trump transition team member Alan Cobb took 43 delegates.
Trump himself recently made calls to help his favored candidates in contests to run the Michigan and Ohio state parties, and Cobb may have hoped The Donald would do the same thing on his behalf. However, there's no sign Trump lifted a finger for Cobb; as Alex Burns notes, Trump usually shows far more interest in punishing his enemies than actually helping his allies. However, we may not have seen the last of Cobb: Roll Call notes that he could run for the nearby 2nd District, where GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is retiring. Cobb hasn't said anything about this publicly, but he may be in the mood for some district shopping now.
Ex-Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who represented this area from 1995 until he gave up his seat to run for the Senate in 2010, placed a distant third with just 17 votes. This is the second time Tiahrt has tried to return to the job he left behind: Tiahrt challenged incumbent Mike Pompeo in the 2014 cycle, but got destroyed 63-37. Tiahrt seems like that character in a bad romantic comedy who breaks up with his girlfriend to unsuccessfully pursue a much more attractive girl, only to realize he had a great relationship once his ex has a new beau. Or maybe Tiahrt is more like George Costanza, trying to get his job back after dramatically quitting.
However, unlike in the movies, both of Tiahrt's grand schemes to take back his love ended in with embarrassing failures. This time, Tiahrt sent mailers to the delegates arguing that if he returned to the House, he'd get his post back on the powerful Appropriations Committee. However, GOP House aides told The Hill that they had absolutely no idea what Tiahrt was talking about, and that the Appropriations Committee was already full. But at least Tiahrt can take comfort knowing that, after two unsuccessful attempts to return to the House, he's still nowhere near the late Louisiana Republican Clyde Holloway and his five failed comeback campaigns.
● Pres-by-LD, AK State House, AK State Senate: Our project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation lands in Alaska, where the state House is run by a coalition of Democrats, three Republicans, and two independents. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
Last fall, Donald Trump carried Alaska 53-38, and took 27 of the 40 state House seats. However, just after the election, the 17 Democrats announced that they had formed a coalition with five other members to run the chamber. This is far from the first time legislators have crossed party lines like this. From 2006 to 2012, the Democrats and a few Republicans controlled the state Senate. Several Democratic legislators also caucused with the GOP in past sessions. Most of them, including new Speaker Bryce Edgmon, represented heavily Native American seats where voters prize clout and seniority, and they saw it as prudent to join whatever majority existed.
All three Republican coalition members represent districts that Trump won by double digits. Paul Seaton's HD-31, which includes Homer, backed Trump 56-35, making it the most Trumpy of the trio of seats. The two independents also hold Trump-friendly districts. Daniel Ortiz's HD-36, located on Alaska's most southeastern point, supported Trump 55-33, while Jason Grenn's Anchorage-area HD-22 backed Trump 52-40. Four Democrats also hold Trump seats: Scott Kawasaki's Fairbanks HD-01 is the reddest at 50-40 Trump. All 18 Republicans in the minority hold Trump seats as well.
Over in the Senate, Team Red has 14 of the 20 seats. One Democrat, Lyman Hoffman, is a member of their coalition. Hoffman's large rural SD-S (in Alaska, Senate seats are identified by a letter rather than a number), which stretches to the Aleutian Islands, backed Clinton 54-32. Hoffman represents a seat with a large Native American population, and he holds a prominent leadership post as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Bill Wielechowski is the only Senate Democrat who holds a Trump seat, and his Anchorage-area SD-H only backed The Donald 47-43. All the Republicans represent Trump constituencies, though he only carried state Sen. Mia Costello's Anchorage SD-K by 172 votes. Half the Senate was up in 2016, while the other half will face election in 2018.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.