● AL-Sen: So, we'll get right to the point: Alabama GOP Sen. Luther Strange just released a new web ad featuring a fictional paper with a fictional headline proclaiming that as state attorney general, he investigated the disgraced now-ex-governor who actually appointed him to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. As the ad goes on, the narrator credits Strange for Gov. Robert Bentley's resignation even though Strange was no longer attorney general by that point, while another fake headline claims that Bentley pled guilty to a "sex coverup," which is also false. Strange's chutzpah is so strong, you could use it to fry fried dill pickles.
Just exactly why requires a bit of backstory. Strange faces a competitive August GOP primary this fall ahead of the December special election, and he's earned actual bad headlines from actual publications for months. Bentley, as you may know, was accused last year of using state resources and personnel to cover up a long-term affair with a top staffer. The Republican-led legislature began a slow-moving impeachment inquiry, but just before Election Day, Strange—then still the state's attorney general—sent lawmakers a letter asking they halt their proceedings "until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed." Legislators complied, seeing as they rightly concluded that Strange was conducting his own investigation.
However, after Trump nominated Sessions to become his attorney general following his surprise victory in November, Strange belatedly claimed in December that he had never actually said he was looking into the governor, lest he look shady for coveting a Senate appointment from someone he was supposedly investigating. But of course, once Bentley tapped Strange, his replacement as state attorney general confirmed that, oh yeah, Strange's office had been investigating Bentley all along, which Strange later conceded was true.
Last month, Bentley finally resigned in utter shame, and Republican Kay Ivey, Alabama's new governor, moved up the special election for the remainder of Sessions' term from 2018 to this December. Despite being the nominal incumbent, Strange quickly attracted several notable primary foes, including former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a darling of social conservatives who won't hesitate to make Strange's ties to Bentley an issue. There will be a September runoff if no one takes a majority in the primary, so Strange can't just hope all his opponents split the vote and allow him to slip through with a plurality.
And Strange certainly knows his seamy Bentley connection is an issue, which is why he's using his opening ad to portray himself as a crusader against corruption—a mantle that's as fictitious as the "newspaper" featured in his spot.
Strange's ad opens with a narrator proclaiming, "We sent him to Montgomery to clean up political corruption," as Strange drives a dirty car through a car wash and soaks some men in nice suits. Just after the narrator praises Strange for "fighting corrupt Montgomery insiders and special interests," a headline from something called the "Valley Times" flashes by proclaiming, "Strange will investigate Bentley."
But as AL.com's Kyle Whitmire notes, neither that headline nor the "Valley Times" actually exist outside the alternate universe this campaign ad takes place in. (Perhaps it's published in Hill Valley, California.) And even if this headline was true—which it isn't—that wouldn't excuse the fact that Strange tried to pretend as thought he might not actually have been investigating Bentley while the governor was considering him for the Senate, a charade Strange kept up until he was in Washington.
The narrator then brags about Strange's conservative values, including how he fought "gay marriage" (utilizing another made-up headline) before going back to taking about Strange's allegedly extensive work prosecuting corrupt Alabama politicians. Another pseudo headline about a separate notorious corruption case appears on-screen, saying that GOP state House Speaker Mike Hubbard was "sentenced to 4 years."
But while the attorney general's office did successfully prosecute Hubbard, Strange didn't: Whitmire reminds us that Strange recused himself because his campaign had business ties to the speaker. In fact, it's possible that this portion of the ad could amount to something worse than mere resume inflation. Whitmire writes that Strange's recusal meant he wasn't supposed to have anything to do with the case against Hubbard, but "if he's now saying that wasn't the case, then maybe that's the sort of issue Hubbard might find useful on appeal."
And it just goes on. The ad then goes back to Bentley as still one more phony headline reads, "Bentley resigns, pleads guilty to sex coverup," while the narrator lists "the investigation and governor's resignation" as one of Strange's accomplishments. Whitmire notes that Strange wasn't even attorney general when Bentley resigned, precisely because Bentley had promoted him to the Senate two months earlier. Nor did Bentley plead guilty to "sex coverup": He pled guilty (as part of a deal with prosecutors in conjunction with his resignation) to some decidedly unsexy campaign finance violations. The rest of the spot goes on to describe what an awesome conservative Strange is. We won't subject you to that portion, though Whitmire sums it up well as "force-feed[ing] us rancid red meat like it's chow time in Guantanamo and we're the inmates."
Despite Strange's considerable baggage, he's now an official member of the Republican Senators Club, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants him to stay there: McConnell's allied super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, recently reserved $2.6 million to help Strange in August's GOP primary. Politico also recently reported that SLF has been very openly digging up dirt on Alabama state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, who has been mulling a primary against Strange. What are they looking into? Marsh's "ties to unpopular ex-Gov. Robert Bentley." The chutzpah never ends with these guys.
● AL-Sen: Alabama Democrats have a very tough task ahead of them if they want to score a win in the December special election in this very red state, but a notable candidate jumped in this week. Lawyer Doug Jones, who served as U.S. attorney from 1997 to 2001, kicked off his campaign with about a week to go before the May 17 filing deadline.
Jones is best known for successfully prosecuting two members of the Ku Klux Klan for the murder of four girls who were killed when the Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, an act Martin Luther King Jr. called "one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity." Jones also helped indict Eric Robert Rudolph, who bombed a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998 and killed a police officer.
● ME-Sen: While GOP Gov. Paul LePage spent years talking about a 2018 campaign against Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, he never seemed incredibly enthusiastic about it, and on Wednesday, the termed-out governor announced that he would not run. State Sen. Eric Brakey, who is close to Ron and Rand Paul, is the only notable Republican in the race, but he faces tough odds against King.
However, there's still a chance we could see LePage in the Senate in early 2019. GOP Sen. Susan Collins is flirting with a gubernatorial bid, and if she were to win, it's possible that LePage would be charged with appointing her replacement to the Senate. LePage has made it no secret that he doesn't think he'd make a good legislator. Seriously, he literally said he thought he "wouldn't make a very good legislator." However, if LePage has the chance to name himself to the Senate for the final two years of Collins' term, it would be far from the craziest thing he's ever done.
● TX-Sen: Earlier this year, ABC News commentator Matthew Dowd, who served as an advisor to George W. Bush before publicly criticizing him over the Iraq War, talked about challenging GOP Sen. Ted Cruz as an independent. However, Dowd told the Texas Tribune this week that he would sit the contest out, though he took some shots at Cruz anyway.
● AL-Gov: Secretary of State John Merrill has been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate, but until now, he hadn't said much about his interest. When Merrill was asked about his plans this week, he made it clear he wouldn't run in this year's special election for U.S. Senate, but he was a lot more vague on the gubernatorial race. Merrill said, "If we're able to make a difference, then maybe the people might recommend me to do another job for the state." Republican Kay Ivey, who became governor last month when Robert Bentley resigned in disgrace, has not yet said whether she'll seek a full term.
● CT-Gov: Democratic Attorney General George Jepsen never seemed very enthusiastic about a possible run for governor, and this week, he announced that he'd stay out of the race. Jepsen gave a very candid reason for why he wouldn't run, telling a local radio station, "The test I gave myself all along was when I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, do I see somebody who wants to be governor so badly, and for the right reasons, that I'm willing to put up with all the misery of running to get there." He decided that no, it wasn't worth the misery.
● FL-Gov: Florida Politics reports the most recent fundraising numbers for the month of April for the four noteworthy declared candidates and their allied political committees. For Democrats, former Rep. Gwen Graham leads the pack after raising $429,000 and transferring $1.2 million from her congressional campaign account, giving her $1.6 million cash on hand. Wealthy real estate company owner Chris King reported raising $300,000, of which roughly $100,000 was self-funded, bringing his cash on hand to $1.5 million. Lastly, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum brought in $200,000 last month and finished April with $743,000 on hand.
Republican state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's allied committee raised $300,000 in April and had roughly $7.8 million on hand, giving him a bankroll that dwarfs the other candidates. Despite only formally launched his bid on Wednesday, Putnam and his allies have been raising money ever since 2015 for this election, so he's had a huge head start over other candidates.
Several other notable candidates are still considering jumping into the race, but many of them will likely need to do so sooner instead of later if they want to raise enough funds to be competitive in this incredibly expensive state. One such Republican is term-limited state Sen. Jack Latvala, who said on Thursday that he is "leaning in the direction" of running but is still "a month or two away" from deciding. Latvala's campaign committee has roughly $3 million on hand, and he chairs the state Senate's appropriations committee, which could help him even further with fundraising, but his relatively moderate record is unlikely to be a positive with GOP primary voters.
● IA-Gov: Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad's nomination to become ambassador to China easily cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, so Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds won't need to wait much longer to drop that "Lt." from her title. However, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett has talked about challenging Reynolds in next year's GOP primary for months, and on Wednesday, he told a local NBC affiliate that he'd decide within 45 days (so June 24 by our math).
Corbett, who is not seeking re-election this year, has been doing a statewide book tour and promoting Cedar Rapids' recovery from devastating floods in 2008. Back in February, Corbett also earned a spot in the Daily Kos Elections Hall of Shame when he teased a "big surprise" at the end of his final state of the city address. That "big surprise" turned out to be Corbett singing "Sweet Home Cedar Rapids," a tribute he wrote to the tune of "Sweet Home Chicago."
● MI-Gov: Following recent reports suggesting he might run for governor, Democratic attorney and current University of Michigan Board of Regents member Mark Bernstein confirmed that he's "very seriously" thinking about it on Wednesday. Bernstein was elected to his current statewide post in 2012 and hails from a well-known family of lawyers that includes current Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, meaning he would start out the race with some name recognition and could potentially do some self-funding.
If Bernstein gets in, he would join former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer as the most prominent Democrats in the primary, while former Detroit Health Commissioner Abdul El-Sayed is also running a longer-shot bid after resigning his position earlier in 2017 to focus on his campaign.
● NJ-Gov: Fundraising reports for all candidates were due on May 8 ahead of the June 6 gubernatorial primary, and the numbers for the entire cycle (including self-funding and public matching funds) are presented below for all the major candidates in both parties. First the Democrats:
Phil Murphy (D): $19.2 million raised, $855,000 cash on hand
Jim Johnson (D): $2.3 million raised, $597,000 cash on hand
John Wisniewski (D): 1.4 million raised, $97,000 cash on hand
Ray Lesniak (D): $543,000 raised, $287,000 cash on hand
Then the Republicans:
Kim Guadagno (R): $2.2 million raised, $1.5 million cash on hand
Jack Ciattarelli (R): $1.3 million raised, $461,000 cash on hand
Hirsh Singh (R): $1 million raised, $885,000 cash on hand
Wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy outraised and outspent the entire rest of the field combined thanks to his ample self-funding, which appears to have paid off as he's led every poll of the race for ages in both the primary and the general. A separate part of the report lists two nominally independent committees backing Murphy that have spent an additional $5.1 million to support him, further legging out his advantage. Another two committees backing state Sen. Ray Lesniak have dished out $832,000 on his behalf.
On the Republican side, front-runner Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno raised nearly twice as much as the man who appears to be her main rival, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. Meanwhile, relatively unknown businessman and aerospace engineer Hirsh Singh, whom we previously have not written about, raised a surprising $1 million. However, his campaign has so far failed to gain traction according to the latest polls, and he failed to qualify for the GOP debates.
● NM-Gov: Attorney General Hector Balderas has been considering entering the Democratic primary for a while, and on Wednesday, Joe Monahan quoted a Balderas consultant saying her boss would decide in "the next two weeks." At the end of April, Balderas was photographed at a state Democratic event physically picking up and carrying Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, one of his would-be primary rivals, in a manner Monahan describes as "like a new wife and looking for a threshold to carry her over." That's ... not usually how politicians interact with people they're planning to run against.
● NV-Gov: While influential Republicans in Nevada and D.C. are circling the wagons around very likely gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt, who serves as state attorney general, another statewide Republican is still mulling a primary bid. State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who like Laxalt was swept into office during the 2014 GOP wave, expressed interest in February, and his spokesperson recently told the National Journal that he's "hoping to announce in June but things can always change."
Schwartz ran an utterly forgettable race Congress in the 4th District in 2012, taking a distant fourth place with just 11 percent of the vote. However, he was elected to his current post two years later, and as we've noted previously, he immediately made enemies. 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 controversial state party chair Michael McDonald for a six-figure job at the treasurer's office (McDonald soon resigned). But while Schwartz would probably be a long shot against Laxalt, the attorney general hasn't exactly had a great week over renewed questions about the extent of his obeisance to powerful GOP donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
● AZ-02: Arizona Republican Rep. Martha McSally won a second term last year by a huge 57-43 margin against Democrat Matt Heinz even as her Tucson seat swung from 50-48 Romney to 50-45 Clinton, and the well-funded incumbent won't be easy to beat. However, Democrats can't afford to let McSally off easy if they want to flip the House. Fortunately, McSally's vote for Trumpcare—highlighted by her own battle cry to her colleagues that it was time to get this "fucking thing" done—seems to be inspiring some Democrats to challenge her, with one notable opponent joining the fray on Wednesday and many more waiting in the wings.
The Tucson Sentinel's Paul Ingram reports that ex-state Rep. Bruce Wheeler recently attended a town hall meeting in the district, which was hosted by Phoenix-area Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, since McSally's gone into hiding. (Last week, New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney encouraged his Democratic colleagues to "adopt a district" and show up for town halls wherever their Republican counterparts had gone AWOL.) Wheeler took the occasion to tell the friendly crowd he was running against McSally.
Last cycle, Wheeler formed an exploratory committee for a planned bid but announced that, because of a torn retina, he wouldn't run for Congress or for re-election. Wheeler joins Billy Kovacs, the operations manager of the historic Tucson Hotel Congress, in the primary, but more Democrats are interested.
One of those prospective candidates is Ann Kirkpatrick, who until this year represented the neighboring 1st District, which includes a bit of the Tucson suburbs. Kirkpatrick gave up her competitive House seat to run for the Senate in 2016, but she lost to John McCain 54-41. However, according to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, McCain carried the 2nd District by a much-smaller 49-46, the same margin as in the 1st. Kirkpatrick attended the renegade town hall where Wheeler made his announcement, and according to Ingram, her associates say she might move to the 2nd District to pursue a comeback bid.
We're not done yet, since several other Democrats are eyeing this seat, which hosted the closest congressional race in the nation in 2014. Last month, the Tucson Weekly's Jim Nintzel reported that Air Force veteran Jeff Latas had formed an exploratory committee. Latas ran for a previous version of this seat in 2006 but took just 6 percent in the primary. Nintzel also reports that Heinz, a former state representative, is considering another try, though there's no quote from Heinz.
Nintzel adds that ex-state Rep. Victoria Steele is considering another go as well, but there's also nothing on the record from her. Steele ran here last year too but raised very little money and lost the primary to Heinz. The Arizona Daily Star's Tim Steller also reported last month that retired Army Col. Lou Jordan, who commanded the local Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, and foreign service officer Joshua Polacheck are prospective candidates.
● CA-25: Attorney Bryan Caforio, a Democrat who lost last year to GOP Rep. Steve Knight 53-47 while Clinton was carrying this northern Los Angeles seat 50-44, has been mulling a second run for a while, and it sounds like we'll hear something more soon. Caforio is teasing a "special announcement" for Saturday; presumably, it is not a rendition of "Sweet Home Cedar Rapids."
● FL-27: Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores had recently said she was considering running in the race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the Miami-based 27th District, but on Wednesday she announced that she would stay out. A horde of candidates from both parties are still considering running for this heavily Cuban-American seat, which supported Clinton 59-39 yet is historically Republican downballot, but Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is so far the only Republican to officially announce a bid.
● GA-06: As Democrat Jon Ossoff drops another $1.4 million on ad buys, taking his total reservations up to $6.6 million, Republicans are, of course, continuing to hammer him on the airwaves. A new spot from the NRCC tries to paint Ossoff as "naïve" on terrorism because of his support for the Iran ("Eye-ran," says the narrator) nuclear deal, an attack we saw fairly frequently during the 2016 elections. Does it actually move votes, though? Presumably Republicans have polling suggesting it does, but we'll just have to see.
● IA-01, ME-02, MI-06, NV-02: A quartet of polls in four GOP-held House districts pitting Republican incumbents against generic Democratic opponents finds good news for Team Blue—but as ever with generic polling, the data must be treated cautiously. More on that in a minute; first, to the numbers, which come from two different pollsters (Clarity Campaign Labs and Public Policy Polling) working for two different pro-Democratic organizations (Patriot Majority USA and Save My Care, respectively). The first three polls are all Clarity/Patriot Majority; 2016 president results are in brackets:
IA-01: Rod Blum (R): 32, "Democratic challenger": 47 [Trump 49-45]
ME-02: Bruce Poliquin (R): 43, "Democratic challenger": 44 [Trump 51-41]
MI-06: Fred Upton (R): 37, "Democratic challenger": 41 [Trump 51-43]
NV-02: Mark Amodei (R): 46, "Democratic opponent": 45 [Trump 52-40]
All of these districts feature Republicans who voted to repeal Obamacare, though Clarity's memo doesn't explain why these particular races were chosen. As you can see, these are all districts Trump won, and all of them also moved to the right last year. Indeed, Obama had carried both Iowa's 1st and Maine's 2nd, while he lost Michigan's 6th by just a point. As such, they're also the sort of districts that, if there's a Trump backlash, could move back in the other direction.
And that's what makes Nevada's 2nd the most interesting of the bunch. This is an enormous, conservative, and heavily rural district that encompasses most of the state—including all of the so-called "cow counties"—where Democrats have always struggled to compete. What's more, Amodei himself has made it sound like he's strongly considering retirement. If this is a 1-point race with him, it could be even more compelling without him.
Of course, this is where all the caveats come in. Polling real office-holders against generic candidates represents a sort of platonic ideal: Voters can easily imagine the perfect Democrat, free of flaws and right on all the issues, while the Republican is presented with warts and all. What's more, in some races, Democrats may not land serious challengers; in others, Democratic candidates may stumble or fail to gain traction.
It's also extremely, extremely early. As soon as we saw these polls, we were reminded of a very large batch of surveys testing generic Democrats against actual Republicans—61 in in all—that MoveOn commissioned in October of 2013, just after the Republicans forced the federal government to shut down. Then as now, the data looked very favorable for Democrats.
At the time, we said of those polls, "This portends one of two possible scenarios: either Republicans are in for a serious drubbing in 2014, or we'll be treated to a series of articles about how generic polling a year out isn't predictive of very much." We're not sure we ever got that series of articles, but it certainly was another good test case for why generic polling so far out wasn't incredibly useful. Indeed, there was a wave in 2014, but it was the GOP that netted 13 House seats.
Now, MoveOn smartly fielded those polls at a very bad low-point for Republicans. Had the shutdown and general GOP intransigence remained present in voters minds, perhaps 2014's outcome would have been very different. Needless to say, though, life quickly, well, moved on, and the shutdown soon became a vague memory.
Trump, however, presents an entirely different sort of stimulus—one that will very likely (sad to say) still be tormenting us come November of next year. If anything, we could see a scenario where his presence grows even more toxic for his party and brings all kinds of otherwise seemingly uncompetitive districts online. But again, we're still a very long way off, and there's a lot for Democrats to do between now and then to be able to capitalize on this opportunity.
● ID-01: Rep. Raul Labrador's decision to run for governor likely delighted plenty of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle who won't miss the bomb-throwing tea partier, and it certainly made Idaho Republicans awaiting a rare open congressional seat happy. Trump carried the 1st District, which includes the Idaho Panhandle and part of the Boise area, by a 64-25 margin, and it's likely to easily stay red unless the one-and-only ex-Rep. Bill Sali starts looking for a comeback. (Please?)
It didn't take long for the first notable Republican to kick off a bid to replace Labrador, though he's quite a blast from the past. Ex-Lt. Gov. David Leroy, whom The Spokesman-Review's Betty Russell describes as a prominent attorney, jumped in Thursday. Leroy was elected state attorney general in 1978 and lieutenant governor four years later, and he was Team Red's gubernatorial nominee in 1986. Leroy lost that race to Democrat Cecil Andrus, the last Democrat to hold the governorship, 50-49, and went on to serve as a nuclear waste negotiator under George H.W. Bush. Leroy wanted to challenge Democratic Rep. Larry LaRocco in 1994, but he badly lost the primary 48-29 to eventual winner Helen Chenoweth, who was also … quite a character.
Though he's been out of office for many decades, Leroy may yet have the connections to run a tough campaign, but there's almost no way he'll have a clear path to the GOP nomination. Former state Schools Superintendent Tom Luna, who served from 2007 to 2015, is considering, though he says he'll wait for Labrador to formally launch his gubernatorial bid before he "officially take[s] my next steps". The Idaho Statesman's Bill Dentzer also reports that GOP names "circulating" include state Sen. Bob Nonini, state Rep. Luke Malek, and state House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. Dentzer says that of the trio, Moyle and Nonini "lean more conservative." For some reason, Dentzer adds, "None can discuss a run until they are in the race officially," though it's not clear what's stopping them.
Also, Bill Sali, if you're reading this, please drop us a line. We miss you!
● MT-AL: Interesting. Wealthy Republican Greg Gianforte is airing a rather defensive-sounding new TV ad in which he pushes back against what may have been the most devastating argument against him during his failed bid for governor last year: that he had sued the state to block public entrance to a stream along which he owned property—a major violation of Montana traditions that strongly value open access to waterways.
In his spot, a fellow named Brad Huempfner claims that Gianforte "never blocked access to this stream," adding, "I know because I fished here for years." There's a big problem with this, though: Gianforte didn't block access to his frontage along the East Gallatin River because his lawsuit against the state never went anywhere! Instead, Gianforte built a new fence around his property and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks established a new trail to the stream; the easement in question remains in public hands today. The argument has always been that Gianforte tried to keep people off his land, not that he succeeded.
What's notable about all this, though, is the fact that Gianforte feels compelled to answer these charges in the first place. If things were going as they should be in a state as red as Montana, then Gianforte ought to be able to shrug off these attacks and run a strictly positive campaign. But we know these criticisms drew blood last year, when Gianforte lost to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock by 4 points even though Trump carried the state by 20, so it stands to reason they could be effective again.
And Gianforte's allies are definitely taking nothing for granted. The NRCC is airing a new spot that features excavator Kraig Trippel, who says that Democrat Rob Quist hired him "to build a dance floor at his house," then "stiffed" him after the job was done. Trippel ultimately filed a lien for payment, one of many lodged against Quist over the last 16 years. Another ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund also hits the topic of Quist's financial woes, but it's less effective than the NRCC's since it doesn't actually showcase anyone like Trippel with a direct claim against Quist.
● NJ-11: According to NJ.com's Jonathan Salant, the DCCC recently contacted Assemblyman John McKeon to sound out his interest about a possible run against longtime GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. McKeon has already spoken publicly about challenging the powerful Appropriations Committee chair in this ancestrally red North Jersey seat, which backed Trump just 49-48.
However, McKeon says he won't decide or raise money for a House bid until New Jersey's state elections take place this November. That could pose a problem, since the 11th District is located in the ultra-expensive New York City media market. Frelinghuysen is wealthy and well-connected and will likely have all the money he could possibly need, but his eventual Democratic foe could suffer from starting to fundraise too late.
In any case, one Democrat isn't waiting on McKeon to decide. Mikie Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor who flew helicopters in the Navy, announced that she would run on Wednesday. It's unclear if Sherrill has the connections she'll need, though she definitely has an interesting profile.
● SC-05: The GOP pollster Trafalgar Group gives us our first, and likely only, survey of Tuesday's Republican primary runoff, and they find a very tight race. Ex-state Rep. Ralph Norman, who has emerged as the favorite of tea party groups, leads state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, who is backed by business conservatives, 46-45; Pope led Norman 31-30 in the primary. On Thursday, Norman also got an endorsement from ex-Sen. Jim DeMint, who was recently sacked as head of the Heritage Foundation.
● WV-03: Democrats represented West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District, a seat located in the southern part of the state, for well over 80 years even as it shifted from a district that had narrowly backed Walter Mondale to one that decisively went for Mitt Romney. Longtime Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall held on here even as this seat started backing Republicans in presidential races, and he pulled off a final 54-46 win in 2012 as Romney was carrying the 3rd 65-33.
But following Evan Jenkins' 55-45 win against Rahall during the 2014 GOP wave and Trump's insane 73-23 victory last year, it's very tough to see Team Red losing the general election to replace Jenkins, who is running for Senate. Still, at least one local Democrat is hoping that there are enough conservatives out there who are open to voting blue downballot.
On Thursday, state Sen. Richard Ojeda announced that he would run for the 3rd. Ojeda, an Army veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, has had a short but very noteworthy political career. Ojeda was Sen. Joe Manchin's guest to the 2013 State of the Union, and Manchin put out statements praising him. Later that cycle, Ojeda kicked off a primary bid against Rahall, but lost 66-34.
Ojeda soon set his sights on a different Democratic incumbent and issued a challenge to state Sen. Art Kirkendoll last year, a campaign that unexpectedly ended up making national news. Two days before the election, a man named Jonathan Porter viciously attacked Ojeda at a political cookout. Ojeda, who needed two plates inserted into his cheek, argued that the attack was politically motivated because he had been "questioning leaders" and calling out nepotism. Ojeda watched from his hospital bed as he scored a 55-45 win against Kirkendoll. That fall, Ojeda won the general election 59-41 even as Trump carried his seat 78-19—a stronger margin than even Trump's victory in the 3rd.
In office, Ojeda has become known for sponsoring the successful legislation that legalized medical marijuana in the state, but last year's assault case continues to make headlines. Last month, Porter pled guilty to unlawful assault, but a furious Ojeda said he didn't even know the hearing was happening and argued that Porter had reached a deal by lying to the judge.
An Ojeda win would be very difficult under any circumstances, but his ability to win a very-Trump friendly seat gives Democrats reason to hope that he has enough crossover appeal. And it wouldn't be impossible: Democrat Jim Justice also won the 3rd District 55-38 last year during his successful campaign for governor. However, Justice cut a very Trump-esque figure as a populist billionaire, a profile that helped him turn back GOP attempts to link him to unpopular national Democrats, so he may be a very unique case that other Mountain State Democrats can't easily duplicate. Still, at least the 3rd is still willing to vote for someone they see as the right kind of Democrat.
Ojeda himself told the New Yorker last year that he was backing Trump, saying that Trump was the first national politician in a long time to care about West Virginia. Ojeda, whose grandfather hailed from Mexico and whose West Virginia-born father moved there when he was eight, also argued that "when people hear Donald Trump saying we're going to take benefits away from people who come here illegally and give them to people who work, that sounds pretty good." In this seat, that kind of rhetoric could very well help Ojeda in a general election, and the Democratic primary electorate may be conservative enough to accept him.
Also on Thursday, another state legislator entered the race, but as a Republican. Rupie Phillips, who was first elected to the House of Delegates as a Democrat in 2010 and became an independent early this year, announced that he was joining the Republican Party and running for Congress. Jenkins himself was a Democratic state senator who also joined the GOP in the same breath as he was announcing his bid for this seat.
In 2014, though, Jenkins had the primary to himself, so his recent conversion wasn't an issue; for Phillips, his change of heart might be. Ex-state Del. Rick Snuffer, who was Team Red's 2004 and 2012 nominee against Rahall, is already running again, and no matter what else may be said about Snuffer, he does have a long track record as a Republican. State GOP Chair Conrad Lucas is mulling a run as well, and other Republicans (current and otherwise) may also be interested.
● Where Are They Now?: On Thursday, former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown was found guilty of fraud and tax evasion on 18 of the 22 charges prosecutors had brought against her. The congresswoman, who hails from Jacksonville, Florida, was convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars for her personal use from a fake charity that was supposed to be awarding scholarships to poor students. Nice lady, huh?
Brown had represented the heavily black 5th Congressional District ever since the 1992 round of redistricting allowed her and two other Democrats to become Florida's first black members of Congress since Reconstruction. However, a 2015 court ruling against the GOP's gerrymandered district lines forced Florida to dramatically reconfigure its congressional map for the 2016 cycle (which Brown fought alongside Republicans to oppose).
Instead of spanning from Jacksonville to Orlando—a 140-mile-long snake that Republicans created in order to pack as many black voters as possible into a single seat— Brown's new district was reconfigured to drop Orlando in favor of Tallahassee, to the west. The new district remained both substantially black (by population) and blue (by political preference), but former state Sen. Al Lawson, whose political base in Tallahassee was drawn into the revamped 5th, chose to challenge the incumbent. Brown was indicted just weeks before the primary, and she lost last year's primary to Brown by a 48-39 margin.
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.