● Omaha, NE Mayor: On Tuesday, Omaha held the first round of its officially non-partisan mayoral race, and as expected, Republican incumbent Jean Stothert and ex-state Sen. Heath Mello, a Democrat, advanced to the May 9 general. However, Stothert's 44-41 lead wasn't exactly impressive, and next month's contest should be quite competitive.
Taylor Royal, a 27-year-old Republican whose father gave his campaign $240,000, took 11 percent. It's possible that his supporters will break for Stothert, but his voters may also respond to Mello's anti-status quo message. Then again, much of Royal's pitch was that Omaha needed an NFL team, so many of the people who pulled the lever for him may not exactly have partisan politics on their minds.
May turnout is also a big question. In 2009, turnout increased from 43,000 voters in the primary to 76,000 in the general; it was a similar story in 2013, when turnout went from 59,000 in the primary to 83,000 a month later. In both those races, Democrat Jim Suttle dramatically increased his vote share between the primary and the general even though most of the other primary contenders were Republicans, so there's good reason for Mello to think that the people who stayed home on Tuesday but will vote next month will favor him. In any case, we'll have our answers before too long.
One other good sign for Mello is that he's mostly caught up with Stothert in the money race. At the beginning of 2017, the incumbent led Mello $890,000 to $427,000 in cash-on-hand. However, as of March 20, Stothert had a considerably smaller $524,000 to $440,000 edge. Democrats have a small bench in Nebraska, and if Mello wins next month, he could be a future candidate for statewide office or for the competitive 2nd Congressional District.
● WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): $2.2 million raised, $2.4 million cash-on-hand
● FL-Gov: Andrew Gillum (D): $243,000 raised, plus $522,000 for allied PAC
● MA-Gov: Charlie Baker (R-inc): $5.2 million cash-on-hand
● FL-13: Charlie Crist (D-inc): $717,000 raised, $672,000 cash-on-hand
● SD-AL: Dusty Johnson (R): $127,000 raised, $200,000 cash-on-hand
● ND-Sen: Last week, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said she would decide on whether to seek a second term by the summer. However, if Heitkamp's fundraising is any indication, she's going for it. Heitkamp reports raising $1.6 million during the first three months of 2017, and she has more than $2 million on-hand.
● CO-Gov: On Wednesday, suburban Denver District Attorney George Brauchler announced that he would seek the GOP nomination for next year's race to succeed Colorado's termed-out Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. Brauchler is best known for prosecuting the 2012 Aurora theater shooter, though he was unable to secure the death penalty. National Republicans tried to convince Brauchler to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016 and he almost did, but Brauchler abruptly announced that he would seek re-election instead. The National Journal wrote at the time that a "serious family health issue" unexpectedly kept him out of that race.
Brauchler immediately made it clear that the death penalty will be one of his major issues. Brauchler has criticized Hickenlooper for granting convicted murder Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve from the death penalty, and has pledged that if he becomes governor, he will put Dunlap back on death row on "day one."
That's a potentially risky tactic in a general election, though. In 2014, the GOP tried to use Dunlap against Hickenlooper in an expensive ad campaign that featured the father of one of Dunlap's victims calling Hickenlooper a liar and a coward. The commercial generated plenty of controversy, especially after other members of the victim's family objected to it. Hickenlooper's camp also took issue with the GOP for arguing that the governor wanted to give Dunlap "full clemency." It's unknown what impact the commercial had, but Hickenlooper ended up winning re-election 49-46.
Brauchler won't have the primary to himself by any means, and we recently ran down the large developing field. Brauchler himself offered some commentary about his intra-party rivals, telling The Denver Post that "[e]very single one of them is a potential self-funder or has long family connections to politics. I'm not that guy." In particular, this seems like a dig at state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a second cousin of George W. Bush; Stapleton isn't running yet and is publicly playing coy, but the local media is treating him like a likely candidate.
We also have one other Republican who is reportedly considering. Multiple news outlets say that Jack Graham, the wealthy former athletic director of Colorado State University, is considering, though Graham doesn't seem to have said anything publicly. Graham ran for the Senate in 2016 but lost the primary 38-25 to Darryl Glenn, a favorite of the far-right.
● IA-Gov: Yet another Iowa Democrat is talking about running next year against Republican Kim Reynolds, who will likely be governor soon after incumbent Terry Branstad is confirmed as ambassador to China. John Norris, a longtime Iowa political hand who served as chief of staff to Tom Vilsack both during Vilsack's governorship and during his stint as U.S. secretary of agriculture, tells Iowa Starting Line that he's considering.
In addition to his connections to Vilsack's network, Starting Line's Pat Rynard says that Norris is close to ex-Sen. Tom Harkin's donor base and to national fundraisers. Norris himself ran for the House in 2002 and lost 55-43 to Republican incumbent Tom Latham. Several other Democrats are looking at the gubernatorial race.
● IL-Gov: Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's first two years in office have been defined by his many fights with the Democratic-led legislature, but apparently, that's still not good enough for some Republicans. After a conservative state representative went on the radio and attacked Rauner for not meeting with Trump on Medicare and accused him of mulling a tax increase, Politico Illinois started looking into whether there actually was any energy for a primary challenge to Rauner. Apparently, the answer is actually yes. State Sen. Sam McCann tells Politico that he's been approached by unnamed people about a bid. McCann ruled nothing out, saying that he does "not intend to think about the concept of running for governor, let alone comment on it, until after May 31st, if at all."
While it sounds like if McCann ran, he would challenge Rauner from the right, the state senator has a good relationship with labor. Last cycle, Rauner supported a primary challenger against McCann, and the governor's allied PAC dropped $3 million against the incumbent. However, labor groups helped McCann, who won renomination 53-47.
If McCann or anyone else decided to challenge Rauner for renomination, it's tough to see them actually winning. While a credible primary campaign could force Rauner to spend some money, the uber wealthy governor could easily restock his warchest without a second thought. However, as Politico notes, the real danger for Rauner would be if a challenger forced the governor to tack to the right. Illinois is a very blue state, and Rauner doesn't have much room for error if he wants to win a second term next year.
No matter what, though, Democrats will have a primary of their own, and it may be about to get bigger. Wealthy venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker recently formed an exploratory committee, and Politico reports he will announce he's in on Thursday. Pritzker is actually considerably wealthier than even Rauner, and if he makes it to the general, he could negate Rauner's potential financial advantage. However, a number of other Democrats are also running, and if Pritzker is really in, he can't take the primary for granted.
● MN-Gov: This week, Rep. Tim Walz unveiled endorsements from two Democratic politicians from very different parts of Minnesota. Walz has the support of Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents a conservative rural seat in the northwest corner of the seat, and ex-Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Most of Walz's intra-party rivals come from the Twin Cities, and Rybak's backing could help him make inroads in this voter-rich area.
● NM-Gov: The New Mexico Professional Firefighters Association has thrown their support behind Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the slowly-developing Democratic primary. As we like to note, firefighters are usually good allies in political campaigns: They tend to stand out in crowds, and they're a group that almost everyone respects.
● RI-Gov: Several Republicans have made noises about challenging Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, and we may have our first taker soon. Joe Trillo, who left the state House this year and ran Donald Trump's Rhode Island campaign, says he's "in the process" of forming an exploratory committee, and is "a month or two" away from revealing more about the specifics. When The Providence Journal asked why Trillo, who is 74, is considering, he replied, "Because I get bored playing golf. I get bored on a trip. I get bored sitting on the beach and...I think I can make a difference in this state, and leave it a better place than I found it. It needs to be whipped into shape." If "vote for me, I'm bored" isn't a compelling slogan, what is?
Meanwhile, the Providence says that there's speculation that ex-Gov. Lincoln Chafee could be looking to retake his old job after he gave a speech criticizing Raimondo's performance. After witnessing Chafee's 2016 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, we frankly don't want to waste any more time talking about Chafee than we possibly have to. We'll just note that in February, when Chafee was asked by reporter Tara Granahan if he was interested in another bid for Senate, governor, or president, Chafee replied, "there's a presidential race in 2020!" and added, "I'm in between right now… it's early, Tara!" Apparently, Joseph Trillo isn't the only former Rhode Island politician who has nothing else to do.
● TN-Gov: Donald Trump has reportedly chosen state Sen. Mark Green to be secretary of the Army, though the decision has not yet been announced. If Green is really Trump's pick (though we can still hold out hope that he's not), it means he's out of the GOP race for governor, but there are plenty of other people out there who may fill the void. Indeed, rich guy Bill Lee, a major GOP donor who is an appointed member of the state Higher Education Commission, recently reiterated his interest, and says he'll decide "sooner rather than later." The Tennessean says that Lee will make up his mind in the next few weeks, but there's no quote from Lee in the article to that effect.
However, we can definitively cross off one other possible GOP candidate. Fellow rich guy Bill Hagerty was recently nominated to serve as Trump's ambassador to Japan. It's unclear how interested in a gubernatorial run Hagerty was, but unless his nomination falls through or he gets really bored in Tokyo fast, we can take him out of the running.
● CA-34: The all-party primary for this safely blue downtown Los Angeles seat was held on Tuesday, and as we expected, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez advanced to the June 6 general election. But in a bit of a surprise, ex-Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn, a fellow Democrat, will be Gomez's opponent. Gomez led Ahn 28-19, with nonprofit founder Maria Cabildo a distant third at 10 percent. There are still ballots left to count, but it's extremely unlikely that Cabildo will be able to come close to bumping Ahn out of the general.
Gomez is backed by several labor groups and plenty of influential state Democrats, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and ex-Rep. Xavier Becerra, who resigned from this seat to become state attorney general. However, Ahn looked like a Some Dude to us for most of the contest. But Ahn came on to our radar days before the primary when we learned that he had decisively outraised each of his many opponents, and that he had also self-funded his campaign even more money.
If Ahn wins in June, he would become the nation's first Korean-American House member in two decades, and that fact seems to have resonated with the area's local Korean-American voters. While Koreans made up just 6 percent of registered voters in this heavily Hispanic seat, they cast about one quarter of the mail-in ballots for this special according to an analysis by Political Data.
Ahn also employed some pretty shady tactics during the primary. Los Angeles Times' staffers reported that Ahn sent out campaign literature in envelops marked "Jury Duty!" or falsely promising "New Polling Place Information." If that's not against the law, it sure should be.
P.S.: Arturo Carmona, whose former colleagues from the Bernie Sanders campaign accused him of sexism and mismanagement in his capacity as Sanders' deputy political director last year, took 5 percent of the vote.
● CA-45: For the second time this week, a Harvard-educated UC Irvine professor who used to work for a Democratic U.S. senator has kicked off a bid against sophomore GOP Rep. Mimi Walters. Dave Min, who was an aide to now-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer from 2007 to 2009, is seeking this historically red but anti-Trump Orange County seat. Min is the son of Korean-born parents, and he notes that 20 percent of eligible voters here are of Asian or Pacific Island descent, and that Korean-American donors have backed other members of the community. Min does seem to understand how tough his campaign will be, predicting that a successful Democratic candidate will need at least $5 million; Min also says that, "If I see I don't have a chance, I will drop out."
A few days ago, fellow UC Irvine law professor Katie Porter jumped in the race. Porter used to work for California's newly-elected Sen. Kamala Harris when Harris was state attorney general and she was a student of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Harvard Law, and both senators endorsed Porter out of the gate. This district, which includes Irvine and Mission Viejo, has been red for a long time, and Romney easily carried it 55-43. However, Orange County reacted badly to Trump, and Hillary Clinton won 50-44 here last year. Walters easily won her second term against an unheralded Democratic foe last year and Republicans still do very well here downballot. However, if this area remains pissed at Trump next November and Walters' eventual Democratic foe has the resources to tie her to The Donald, things could get interesting.
● GA-06: That sound you hear is shards of glass hitting the floor, as Republicans have smashed open their "in case of emergency" box and pressed the button marked "Osama bin Laden." The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC close to Paul Ryan, has released a new web ad that tries to link Democrat Jon Ossoff to Osama bin Laden by featuring a photo of the extremely deceased 9/11 mastermind while insinuating that Ossoff has aided and abetted terrorism thanks to the work his filmmaking company has done for Al Jazeera. We don't usually take note of online-only ads, but we make exceptions for utter flaming horseshit.
Suffice it to say this is not the kind of advertisement you run when you're feeling good about your chances. And the CLF's wildly careening messaging also indicates a lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with this race: First they painted Ossoff as an unprepared Star Wars cosplayer, then they decided he was a black bloc anarchist, and now they're making him out to be the number three at Al Qaeda. (They also have a more traditional new ad that brands him as a Pelosi stooge.) These kinds of fear tactics worked all too well in Bush era (remember another Georgia Democrat, Max Cleland), but will they succeed now? In a well-educated district like this one, such base appeals might do more than fail—they could backfire.
While national GOP groups try desperately to make sure Ossoff doesn't win a majority in the April 18 primary (thus averting a runoff), the actual Republican candidates still have to battle it out on the airwaves for what they hope will be a runner-up spot worth winning. One outside group, Ending Spending, is coming to the aid of former Secretary of State Karen Handel, the nominal GOP frontrunner, with a new ad that praises her as a "proven conservative" who's balanced budgets—not exactly red meat. Politico's Elena Schneider says the group, which was created by the wealthy Ricketts family of Nebraska (Pete Ricketts is now governor), is spending "six figures" on the buy.
Still, it's an open question as to which Republican will take that second slot. Handel's occupied it in every publicly released poll to date, though sometimes only by the narrowest of margins. And now businessman Dan Moody, a wealthy former state senator, is arguing that the gap has closed completely: He's put out a new one-day survey from Meeting Street Research showing him tied with Handel at 12 (Ossoff is far, far ahead at 43). Moody, however, has clocked in in fourth place in all four polls we've seen prior to this one, so either he's seeing a late surge, or he's try to placate donors and keep his staff's morale up. But if the GOP's nightmare scenario comes to pass, it won't matter who gets the silver medal.
● NH-01: This week, ex-state Liquor Commission Enforcement and Licensing Director Eddie Edwards became the first Republican to announce that he would challenge Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in this very swingy seat. Edwards, who also used to be police chief of the small town of South Hampton, ran for the 4th state Senate district in 2014 and lost to Democratic incumbent David Watters 56-44, not a bad performance considering that Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was carrying the seat 58-42. Three other Republicans have also talked about running here.
● NM-01: Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced back in December that she was leaving behind this Albuquerque seat to run for governor, and while several Democrats expressed interest in running to succeed her, no one has announced a bid yet. However, Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, the head of the progressive group Progress Now New Mexico, is the first potential candidate to set up a campaign with the FEC. As we've noted before, not all candidates who file paperwork with the FEC end up running, though Davis has done further than anyone else so far. The GOP only lost this seat in 2008 after decades of control and they came close to retaking it in the 2010 GOP wave, but at 52-36 Clinton, it's very likely to stay blue next year.
● PA-06: Republicans drew this suburban Philadelphia seat to be as tough for Team Blue as they could make it, and Republican Rep. Ryan Costello decisively defeated underfunded opponent Mike Parrish 57-43 last year. However, this district swung a bit to the left in the presidential race, lurching from 51-48 Romney to a narrow 48.2-47.6 Clinton win, and it very well could be gettable in a good year.
Politico reports that one Democrat, Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan, formed an exploratory committee last month, and it sounds like she has an interesting profile. Houlahan was a top executive at the footwear company AND1, and she went on to be a teacher and nonprofit executive. This seat is located in the expensive Philadelphia media market and Costello is a formidable fundraiser, so whoever challenges him will need access to plenty of money to have a good shot.
● Bolingbrook, IL Mayor: Tuesday's non-partisan race for mayor of the village of Bolingbrook (population 73,000) unexpectedly attracted national headlines after state and local progressives rallied against longtime incumbent Republican Roger Claar after he hosted a fundraiser for Trump. But Claar seems to have held on and defeated Will County Board member Jackie Traynere by 104 votes. There aren't many votes left to count, and Traynere's campaign doesn't seem to have much hope that the outcome will change.
● New Orleans, LA Mayor: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is termed out of office this year, and a so-called "jungle" primary to succeed him will be held on Oct. 14. All candidates will compete on one ballot, and if no one takes a majority, the top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 18 general election regardless of party. There's little question that Landrieu's successor will be a fellow Democrat in this very blue city, but it's far from clear who it will be. (And note: Because mayoral races kept coinciding with Mardi Gras season, this election was recently bumped up from February 2018 to October 2017; future races will take place every four years in October from now on.)
The filing deadline is July 14, and as is often the case in slow-moving Louisiana politics, the race may not fully take shape until then. Back in 2010, after initially announcing that he wouldn't run, Landrieu himself kicked off his successful campaign that year just days before the filing deadline. Landrieu was already one of the most prominent people in New Orleans politics so he could afford to change course at the last moment, but it's not uncommon in Louisiana for politicians to make their plans clear late in the cycle.
This year, two notable contenders have jumped in so far. Former Judge Michael Bagneris, who lost to Landrieu 64-33 in 2014, has announced that he'll run again, but his last campaign was decidedly unremarkable. However, City Councilor LaToya Cantrell announced last week that she would also run, and she's likely to be a formidable candidate.
Cantrell, who was the subject of an in-depth Politico Magazine profile a couple of years ago, rose to prominence for her work helping her neighborhood recover from Hurricane Katrina. She later won a city council seat in a 2012 special election by defeating an opponent who was backed by both Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond, who represents New Orleans in Congress. On the council, Cantrell is perhaps best known for spearheading a successful drive in 2015 to ban smoking in bars and casinos. She'd also be New Orleans' first female mayor.
She's likely to face more competition, though, since a number of other Democrats are eyeing the race. State Sen. J.P. Morrell, who hails from a prominent local political family, says he's "very interested," and The Advocate says he's expected to announce his plans in mid-May. State Rep. Walt Leger also recently formed a new campaign committee that allows him to raise money for a mayoral race, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that he's "expected to announce his candidacy soon."
However, Leger and Morrell are close, and it's possible one of them will decide not to run. Leger also has a prominent profile: He has served as speaker pro tem of the GOP-dominated state House since 2012 (such odd arrangements are still a feature of state politics), and last year, newly-elected Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards selected him to be speaker. In Louisiana, the governor traditionally chooses the legislature's leaders, but the GOP caucus (as well as one rogue Democrat) balked at letting a Democrat run the chamber, and Leger narrowly lost.
State Sen. Troy Carter has expressed interest, too, and he's close to Richmond, who is an important presence in city politics. Carter is a longtime politician who has served in the state House, on the city council, and in various government consulting jobs since 1991. However, Carter performed badly during his 2002 mayoral campaign and in two races a decade ago for the House seat now held by Richmond.
But wait—there's still more! Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, who, like Morrell, hails from a well-connected family, previously said no to a mayoral bid, but she's reportedly reconsidering. And bombastic rich guy Sidney Torres IV, who stars in a reality TV show that features him as a real estate investor/guru, is talking about jumping in, and says he'd spend $4 million of his own money.
Torres, who also is a member of a prominent political family (but one that hails from nearly St. Bernard Parish) and is known for creating an app that purportedly helps fight crime in the French Quarter, cuts a decidedly Trump-esque profile that he readily embraces. He even bragged to the New York Times that he was asked to move his private jet because Trump wanted to use the same hanger for a campaign rally! But Orleans Parish gave 81 percent of its vote to Hillary Clinton last year, so this may not be the best city for a candidate looking to emulate President Agent Orange.
And even after running through this extensive list, there are still several other New Orleans politicians whose names have been mentioned in the local press, so the roster of hopefuls could still grow further.
As for the race itself, the city's high crime rate is a perennial election issue, and it likely will remain so this year. Race is also often a fault line in local elections, though not always. African Americans are 57 percent of registered voters here while white voters make up 35 percent of the electorate, and black politicians have tended to dominate the landscape. However, in 2010, Landrieu became New Orleans' first white mayor since his father, Moon Landrieu, left office in 1978, so race is not destiny here.
And given the potential size of the field and the lack of a single dominant candidate, it's impossible to forecast how the vote might split. Bagneris, Cantrell, Morrell, Carter, and Charbonnet are all black, while Leger and Torres are white.
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.