● OH-Gov: Rep. Jim Renacci has long been considering seeking the Republican nomination for Ohio's open 2018 governor's race, and he announced that he would indeed run on Monday. Renacci first won election to Ohio's northeastern 16th District in 2010, and the former businessman is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, meaning he has the ability to self-fund millions for a campaign if he chooses to.
In case there were any doubt about whether the congressman would tie himself to Donald Trump, he played up his business background and attacked career politicians in his announcement video, and he has a very Trump-like campaign website name and logo of "Ohio First" in case the comparisons weren't clear enough. Renacci stood out from his fellow Ohio Republicans like term-limited Gov. John Kasich when he fervently supported Trump's campaign last year, which could endear him to primary voters now that Trump remains overwhelmingly popular with Republican partisans.
Should Renacci secure the GOP nomination, he might ironically end up facing a rematch against former Rep. Betty Sutton, who is seeking the Democratic nomination. Renacci narrowly defeated Sutton in 2012 after the Republican gerrymander sliced up her old district and placed her in a more Republican-leaning seat with Renacci. The Republican field to succeed Kasich has become fairly crowded with Renacci's entrance. Already running are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and state Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is also a former senator, while Secretary of State Jon Husted is also seen as a likely candidate.
● IN-Sen: GOP Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita both sound very interested in challenging Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly next year, and a third member of the House delegation isn't saying no. Rep. Jim Banks, who was elected last year, declined to rule out a bid back in December before he was even sworn in, but he went silent afterwards. But Banks tells WIBC that, while he's totally not thinking about the race, he plans to talk about it with his family after everyone's had time to adjust to his commute to D.C. During his last campaign, Banks earned the support of powerful anti-establishment groups like the Club for Growth, but there's no guarantee that they'd back him if he ran for the Senate.
● NJ-Sen Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez was indicted in April of 2015 on charges of bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements: Prosecutors alleged that Menendez used his office to benefit a friend of his, wealthy eye surgeon Salomon Melgen, who had provided Menendez with lavish gifts, including private air travel. However, Menendez's trial still hasn't taken place, and state Democratic leaders have signaled that they plan to support his re-election campaign next year. But it doesn't look like Menendez will be able to run out the clock. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the senator's case, and Menendez's trial remains scheduled for Sept. 6.
● IL-Gov: On Monday, state Sen. Daniel Biss joined what is becoming a crowded Democratic primary to face GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner next year. Biss, a former University of Chicago math professor who represents Evanston and several other northern Chicago suburbs, will need to raise a lot of money to get his name out in this very expensive state. Last year, Biss was the lead elected official publicly involved with a well-funded labor-backed super PAC that aided Democrats in state legislative races, so he may have the connections he'll need.
Biss joins businessman Chris Kennedy, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, and Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber in the primary, while venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker recently formed an exploratory committee. Kennedy and especially Pritzker will likely have plenty of money at their disposal, while Pawar and Daiber still have to prove themselves. However, it's possible that even a longshot like Daiber could benefit if he gets to be the one primary candidate who hails from outside the Chicago area. Illinois has a relatively early primary in March of next year, but it may be a while before this contest firms up. State Sen. Andy Manar (who also hails from downstate Illinois), Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers, and Rep. Robin Kelly have all expressed interest in getting in, while state Sen. Kwame Raoul and ex-Gov. Pat Quinn haven't ruled it out.
● MN-Gov, MN-01: Democratic Rep. Tim Walz has been flirting with a bid for governor, and an unnamed Democratic source tells the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the congressman is "telling people he is running," and that we should expect an announcement "soon." If Walz wins the Democratic nod, Team Blue may benefit from having a candidate who has won in areas that flipped from Obama to Trump last year. However, Walz's southern House seat will be far from an easy hold without the incumbent. This district, which includes Rochester and Mankato, swung from 50-48 Obama all the way to 53-38 Trump.
● NJ-Gov: Decades after his acting career peaked, ex-Saturday Night Live cast member Joe Piscopo has apparently found out a way to wring out a few more months of renewed media attention. NJ Advance Media reports that Piscopo has decided not to run for governor this year as a Republican, but is "planning" to campaign as an independent. Piscopo hasn't said that publicly, though his recent declaration that, "There is no way a Republican can win in New Jersey" was a strong sign the Trump supporter would not run under Team Red's banner. Piscopo currently hosts a radio show that he would need to give up as soon as he declared, which gives him some incentive to wait as long as possible. Of course, there's no guarantee Piscopo will run: Piscopo also mulled a 2005 independent bid, but didn't go for it in the end.
● OH-Gov: Democratic Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley has been openly considering a bid to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. John Kasich in 2018, and she is reportedly "expected to announce any day now" according to WVXU's Howard Wilkinson. Whaley also will supposedly have the support of Cincinnati's Democratic Mayor John Cranley if she does run. The mayor recently avoided one major impediment when she drew no challenger for re-election in 2017, giving Whaley the freedom to pursue a 2018 bid for higher office without having to worry about awkwardly campaigning for another term in the meantime.
Republicans aren't the only ones with a crowded primary for governor (see our OH-Gov entry above). Whaley would join a Democratic field that includes former Rep. Betty Sutton, ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, and state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni. Even more candidates could jump in, since state Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill, former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, and former state Sen. Nina Turner are all considering.
It's possible that such a jumbled field for both parties will lead to some candidates switching to seek a different office, especially since candidates for lieutenant governor have to run on a ticket with their gubernatorial nominee.
● TN-Gov: State House Speaker Beth Harwell hasn't been subtle about her interest in this open seat, and she opened a new fundraising account at the beginning of the year. But while Harwell hasn't announced that she'll seek the GOP nod yet, ex-state party chair Susan Richardson Williams says that Harwell recently contacted her and told her she was in. The Times Free Press says that Harwell is likely to announce after the legislative session ends in late April or early May.
● VA-Gov: On Monday, ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell endorsed former RNC head Ed Gillespie in the June GOP primary. McDonnell left office in early 2014 with ethical black clouds hanging over his head, and he was convicted later that year for bribery. However, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned that conviction last year, ruling that the "officials acts" necessary to support a corruption charge had been defined too broadly; prosecutors soon announced that they would not retry the case. Gillespie doesn't seem to have a problem accepting an endorsement from McDonnell, since his campaign issued a press release touting the ex-governor's support.
● CA-34: The crowded April 4 jungle primary for this safely blue downtown Los Angeles seat is coming up quickly, and while it's very likely that two Democrats will advance to the June general election, it remains to be seen which two. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez has the support of the state party establishment and several prominent labor groups, so it would be a big surprise if he didn't make it to round two; still, anything's possible in a low-turnout contest. However, things are a bit more muddled for the second spot. Arturo Carmona, who served as Bernie Sanders's deputy political director during last year's presidential primary, is hoping to win over enough Sanders' supporters to prevail. But while Sanders hasn't issued an endorsement, the pro-Sanders National Nurses United union has thrown its backing behind Carmona.
Meanwhile, former Los Angeles City Council aide Sara Hernandez is up with her second spot. Just like in her first ad, Hernandez goes directly after Trump, with the narrator declaring that, "Teacher Sara Hernandez has three lessons for Donald Trump." The commercial touts her support for healthcare, immigrants, and public schools; Hernandez ends by saying, "I've been a classroom teacher, and I know how to deal with bullies." There is no word on the size of the buy: At the end of December, Hernandez trailed only Gomez in cash on hand. So far, former Obama White House staffer Alejandra Campoverdi is the only other candidate to advertise on TV.
● GA-06: On behalf of the blog ZPolitics, the conservative pollster Clout Research is out with their second survey of the April 18 all-party primary for Georgia's 6th Congressional District. Their numbers are below, with the results of their February poll in parenthesis:
Investigative documentary maker Jon Ossoff (D): 41 (32)
Ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel (R): 16 (25)
Businessman Bob Gray (R): 16 (11)
State Sen. Judson Hill (R): 9 (9)
Ex-state Sen. Dan Moody (R): 5 (2)
Ex-state Sen. Ron Slotin (D): 3 (not tested in February)
Certified public accountant David Abroms (R): 2 (not tested in February)
Businessman Bruce LeVell (R): 1 (1)
In the likely event that no one takes a majority of the vote in April, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to a June runoff. At least according to this poll, Jon Ossoff looks very well-positioned to reach the runoff, while Karen Handel's stock has dropped a bit. By contrast, rich guy Bob Gray, a Trump supporter who literally attempted to drain a swamp in one of his ads, could edge out Handel for the second runoff spot.
But there's one number Democrats will very much like. Back in February, Clout showed the GOP field taking a combined 48 percent of the vote, while Ossoff grabbed 31. In their March poll, the GOP still takes 48 percent while Ossoff and fellow Democrat Ron Slotin take a combined 44 percent. This seat has been Republican for decades, but it swung from 61-37 Romney to just 48-47 Trump. The April electorate will be different from the June electorate, but this survey at least indicates that more voters are keen to support the Democrats now than they were a short time ago.
There are a few big caveats. Not many groups have surveyed this race, and it's never a good idea to rely on one pollster. Clout Research, formerly known as Wenzel Strategies, also does not have a good record, and Clout has also displayed some strange habits in the past. This poll gives Ossoff some potentially good numbers, but Clout/Wenzel's lousy record alone is a good incentive to wait for more data.
● IA-02: Both state GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann and his son, state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, have been mentioned as potential candidates against Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, and the younger Kaufmann isn't saying no. Bobby Kaufmann tells the Quad-City Times that he hasn't ruled out a bid, and thinks he can wait until the end of the year before deciding. However, Kaufmann says that one factor will be if physician Christopher Peters runs again. Peters raised very little money last cycle and lost to Loebsack 54-46 as this eastern Iowa seat swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump, but apparently, Peters impressed Kaufmann. For his part, Peters sounds likely to try again.
● NH-01: Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter chronically faces hard-fought battles in eastern New Hampshire's swingy 1st District, and after her seat favored Trump by 48-47, she will likely be a top Republican target in 2018 too. The latest name to come up as a possible Republican challenger is state Sen. Andy Sanborn, who finally acknowledged that he is considering the race after it was previously reported that he had already met with the NRCC.
Sanborn isn't the first candidate to express interest in running, but he's likely the one with the relatively biggest public profile so far, which could give him a leg up in a possible primary. The four-term state senator is one of only 24 members in the upper chamber, whereas a state representative would be just one out of 400. Also considering the race are state Rep. John Burt, former state Liquor Commission Enforcement and Licensing Director Eddie Edwards, and former state Commissioner of Health and Human Services John Stephen, who was also Team Red's 2010 gubernatorial nominee.
● OH-16: With GOP Rep. Jim Renacci leaving behind his Republican-leaning 16th District in northeastern Ohio to run for governor (see our OH-Gov item at the very top), there are a slew of potential candidates who might try to succeed him in 2018. No prospective candidates declared their intentions since Renacci's announcement, but Roll Call's Simone Pathé says Republican operatives have speculated that GOP Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor could drop her gubernatorial bid and switch offices to avoid a crowded primary. Over at Cleveland.com, Henry Gomez had played Great Mentioner back in February, giving us a few more possible contenders. He reported that Republican state Sen. Frank LaRose previously said that he would look at running if Renacci vacated
Gomez additionally suggested that the following Republicans could also run: state Rep. Christina Hagan, who was a passionate Trump backer in 2016; state Rep. Tom Patton, who is also a former state senator; state Senate President Larry Obhof; state Rep. Scott Wiggam; state Rep. Kristina Roegner; Wayne County Commissioner and former longtime state legislator Ron Amstutz; and finally, Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chairman Rob Frost. Frost said back in February that he thought it was inappropriate to discuss this race before Renacci made his plans clear, so he at least wasn't ruling it out then; Gomez also notes that Frost spoke well of Patton.
The 16thsupported Trump by 56-39, so it will likely be tough for Democrats. However, Democrat Betty Sutton only lost to Renacci 52-48 after the two incumbents were thrown into the same seat by the Republicans drawing the new congressional lines, so this seat may be worth keeping an eye on. Gomez reported back in February that ex-Parma Mayor Dean DePiero said he would consider running if Renacci didn't run again.
● UT-03, UT-Sen: Evan McMullin, who took 21 percent of the vote in Utah last year as a conservative independent presidential candidate, has expressed interest in challenging GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch in the past. On Friday, McMullin added that "it is possible" he will run against Hatch or GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz in 2018. McMullin didn't say whether he was considering running as a Republican or an independent. However, McMullin added that, "Plenty of people outside of Utah or who do not vote in the Republican primary are eager to see Chaffetz replaced, for example. But he may be supported by his Republican primary voters, and if so, that has to be taken into account," so it sounds like he's considering both options. Last year, Trump defeated McMullin 47-24 in Chaffetz's seat, while Clinton actually came in third with 23 percent.
● Miami, FL Mayor: While Miami-Dade County has become reliably blue in presidential races, both the county government and the city of Miami are still run by Republicans, and that state of affairs may continue a while. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado is termed-out this year, and County Commissioner Francis Suarez has essentially had the field to himself for the last 10 months. Suarez, a Republican who got some fundraising help from GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, has raised $2 million so far, while none of his opponents have brought in much at all. The filing deadline isn't until September, but if anyone else is considering getting in, they're doing it quietly. The non-partisan race will be held on Nov. 7, and there will be a Nov. 21 runoff if no one takes a majority.
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.