● MT-AL: Democrat Rob Quist is definitely kicking Republican Greg Gianforte's butt when it comes to fundraising. New reports were due at the FEC over the weekend detailing both candidates' fundraising between April 1 and May 5, during which time Quist raised $2.3 million, spent $2.4 million, and had $669,000 left ahead of the May 25 special election for Montana's lone congressional seat. Gianforte, meanwhile, brought in just $624,000, shelled out $1.5 million, and had $826,000 in his bank account.
All told, since the start of the campaign in early March, Quist has raised $3.3 million—a stunning sum for such a short time and in such a cheap state—while Gianforte has taken in $2.3 million. The only reason he's been able to keep pace was by lending his campaign an additional $1 million during the most recent reporting period. However, Gianforte's also benefitted from far more outside spending: A recent tally by reporter Mike Dennison of local news station KTVH found that Republican groups, led by the Congressional Leadership Fund, have pumped $3.9 million to aid Gianforte while Democrats have spent just $632,000.
So unless the cavalry comes, the Quist campaign is going to have to make the case against Gianforte mostly by itself. Quist finally went negative last week with a pair of ads attacking Gianforte for trying to block public access to a stream he owns property along, and now, in a new spot, Quist is hitting his opponent for his two-faced comments about the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare.
The ad begins by featuring clips of news reports explaining that Gianforte offered "two different stances to two very different audiences." The narrator doesn't offer any detail on stance number one (basically, Gianforte tried to keep his distance from the legislation) but rips him for stance number two, saying, "Gianforte said he was 'thankful' for a bill that takes away protections for pre-existing conditions and raises premiums—thankful, because he got a huge tax break in return." It's certainly true that the uber-rich Gianforte would benefit handsomely if this bill became law. The question now is whether it's enough to get Montanans to sour on him.
● AL-Sen: The May 17 filing deadline for Alabama's Senate special election is swiftly approaching, and Rep. Mo Brooks just became the latest Republican to jump into the race against embattled appointed GOP Sen. Luther Strange. Brooks has represented the Huntsville-area 5th District since 2011 and has been an enthusiastic member of the hardline Freedom Caucus, meaning he'll almost certainly be running an anti-establishment challenge from the right against Strange, who has the backing of national Senate GOP leadership. The Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund super PAC has already reserved $2.6 million in ad time for Strange, while the NRSC reportedly threatened to blacklist consultants who work for his opponents.
Strange is facing considerable blowback from how he orchestrated an appointment from disgraced ex-Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned last month after trying to conceal a sex scandal. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Christian Coalition of Alabama ex-leader Randy Brinson, and state Rep. Ed Henry have already jumped into the GOP primary against Strange, while several others are still considering it such as state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, who is seen as a likely candidate.
According to Politico, unnamed Alabama GOP operatives say Brooks hopes to win by letting Strange and Marsh to nuke each other into mutual destruction, allowing him to snag one of two spots along with Moore ahead of a likely runoff if no one wins a majority in the Aug. 15 primary. Moore's history of being twice removed from office for violating the law to impose his own religious beliefs has left him with a significant support base among religious conservatives, but also strongly polarized opposition, and Brooks reportedly hopes that whoever faces Moore in the runoff would be favored to win.
● IN-Sen: About two months ago, GOP Rep. Luke Messer announced that he was forming a statewide campaign fundraising committee, a strong indication he was planning a Senate bid. Last week, fellow GOP Rep. Todd Rokita finally did the same thing; both members have been talking about running against Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly for months, but neither has officially jumped in yet.
● MO-Sen: GOP Rep. Ann Wagner has been heavily fundraising ahead of her likely Senate bid, but she hasn't announced if she's challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill yet. But according to the National Journal, Wagner is planning to officially jump in July, and she's seen unreleased polls showing her already leading the incumbent. Wagner may not have the primary to herself, though. Last month, local Republicans released an open letter to state Attorney General Josh Hawley urging him to run for the Senate, and he didn't say no.
● WV-Sen: While GOP Rep. David McKinley had shown no obvious interest in running against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for most of this cycle, he told Roll Call a little while ago that he'd likely announce his plans last week. Well, last week a different member of West Virginia's House delegation, Rep. Evan Jenkins, did announce he was running for the Senate, but McKinley didn't. However, McKinley did tell the State Journal that he'd probably reveal his plans either this week or the next.
McKinley doesn't sound incredibly enthusiastic, saying that he's developed seniority in the House but would "have to start all over in the Senate." He added by asking, "Do you want an ego trip, or do you want to get something done? We'll see." If McKinley does seek that ego trip, he'll need to get through a tough primary with Jenkins before he can even get at Manchin. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has been flirting with a Senate bid for a while, and he sounds a whole lot more interested in running against Jenkins than McKinley does.
● CA-Gov: According to Democratic ex-San Francisco Mayor and longtime former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, tech firm Y Combinator president Sam Altman is considering running for California governor as a Democrat, possibly in 2018. It's only fitting that the home state of Silicon Valley might have a rich tech dude with zero political experience throwing his hat into the ring, but while Altman might be able to self-fund many millions, California is an ultra-expensive state that has often not been kind to wealthy self-funders. Altman himself refused to rule out running, and if he jumps in he'd join a race that's already crowded with Democratic heavyweights, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and state Treasurer John Chiang.
● IL-Gov: Illinois Democrats have long wanted wealthy businessman and Kennedy family scion Chris Kennedy to run for office, but now that he's finally undertaking a gubernatorial campaign, Politico reports that some in the party are pressuring him to drop out in favor of billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker in the primary. There's no indication that Kennedy is considering doing so. A union coalition tied to powerful longtime state House Speaker and party chairman Mike Madigan recently backed Pritzker earlier in May, and according to Politico the state AFL-CIO might soon join them.
While both candidates are rich enough to do substantial self-funding, only Pritzker's wealth would allow him to match billionaire GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner in an expensive state where spending could easily top $100 million. That reportedly has some Democratic players eager to see Pritzker lead the ticket in 2018 so they won't have to worry as much about fundraising. For his part, Pritzker just released his second ad even though the primary isn't until March of 2018. Another minute-long spot, it touts his record as a job-creator who helped grow the tech industry in Illinois.
● NM-Gov: Republicans have yet to land a prominent candidate to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Susana Martinez, but two potential GOP recruits aren't ruling it out. State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn's spokesperson says his boss is "evaluating all options," which is the first we've heard about his interest. Dunn just narrowly defeated a Democratic incumbent to win his current post in the 2014 GOP wave, and his father Aubrey Dunn, Sr. was a longtime Democratic state senator who lost a gubernatorial primary all the way back in 1982. Meanwhile, retiring Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry hasn't made much noise recently, but he reiterated that he wasn't ruling out a campaign and would "address the next steps once the time is right."
● PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Republican state House Speaker Mike Turzai confirmed that he is indeed considering challenging Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf next year in a letter written to state party committee members obtained by the Associated Press. Turzai wrote that he aims to formally declare this summer or early fall. Having served in the state House since 2001, Turzai is probably better known to Daily Kos Elections readers as a Republican who admitted what voter ID laws are all about: helping Republicans win elections. Ahead of the 2012 elections, he bragged how a new strict voter ID requirement would "allow ... Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania," but fortunately that law was thrown out in court and never implemented.
If Turzai pulls the trigger on a gubernatorial bid, he'll join wealthy Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner in the primary, while rich businessman Paul Mango and Rep. Mike Kelly have previously said they're considering it. We can cross off one potential Republican name though after state House Majority Leader Dave Reed announced that he would not run for governor, nor would he wage a Senate campaign against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2018.
● AZ-01: Last cycle, Democrat Tom O'Halleran won an open seat contest against the extremely scandal-tarred Paul Babeu by a 51-43 margin even as Trump was narrowly carrying Arizona's 1st Congressional District 48-47. O'Halleran will likely be a top GOP target next cycle, and on Monday, state Sen. Steve Smith announced that he would challenge him. Smith entered the race with endorsements from Reps. Trent Franks and Andy Biggs, who are both members of the far-right Freedom Caucus. It's unclear if any other notable Republicans are eyeing this huge seat, which includes the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona, parts of the Tucson area, and has the largest Native American population of any district in the country.
Smith, who represents part of the Tucson suburbs, has made a name for himself as an immigration hardliner, but he's not had much success getting his priorities implemented. In 2010, Smith launched a crowd funding effort to pay for a border wall, but he gave up in 2015. Earlier this year, Smith pushed for a bill that would have lengthened minimum prison sentences for undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, but it failed in the GOP-led state Senate. When Smith saw which way the vote was going, he tried to shame his colleagues into voting his way, but to no avail.
● AZ-02: In the last Digest, we discussed a PPP poll in which GOP Rep. Martha "Let's get this fucking thing done!" McSally trailed an unnamed "Democratic opponent" by a painful 50-43 margin. Now we've gotten our hands on another PPP poll of the same race, but this data is even more compelling. The survey was conducted for former state Rep. Matt Heinz, who lost to McSally 57-43 last year and, according to media reports, is reportedly considering a rematch.
Heinz's poll suggests a very different landscape this time: He'd lead McSally 48-44 in a hypothetical matchup. That's much more worrisome for the incumbent, since this question tests her against an actual name, not some flawless platonic ideal of an opponent. Heinz also asked about another potential Democratic candidate, former 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who also beats McSally by an identical 48-44 margin. This could form the basis of an argument in a possible primary that Kirkpatrick, despite her experience and greater name recognition, wouldn't necessarily be a stronger challenger.
But again, the more important news here is about McSally, whose job approval is also underwater at 40-53—though that's actually not quite as bad as the prior PPP poll (conducted for a progressive group called Save My Care), which had her approvals at a truly painful 35-56. Interestingly, the two polls were in the field back-to-back in early May, but it just shows you that even the same pollster using the same methodology can yield different numbers. Neither set, however, are good for McSally.
● CA-10: While ex-Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno originally said no to a run against California GOP Rep. Jeff Denham, she recently told the Turlock Journal that she's reconsidering now that she's received encouragement from local and national groups. Madueno says she plans to decide by July, but she's said she's on a "listening tour," and that Trumpcare (which Denham supported) has only encouraged her to run even more. Madueno, who describes herself as a moderate, ran for the state Assembly last year in a conservative Central Valley seat, but took third place in the top-two primary against two Republicans.
If Madueno challenges Denham, she'll need to fight her way through another top-two primary. Investor Josh Harder and emergency room nurse Dotty Nygard, who is a former city councilor from Riverbank, are both already running. Denham pulled off wins in 2012 and 2016 even as Team Blue's presidential nominees were narrowly carrying his Modesto-area seat, and he won't be easy to defeat. However, a familiar opponent may also be considering getting in.
Former astronaut Jose Hernandez expressed interest in a 2018 bid over a year ago, and the Modesto Bee's Jeff Jardine writes that Hernandez "is making the kinds of public appearances that would suggest he might be gearing up to challenge Denham again next year, though he hasn't yet declared." Denham beat Hernandez 53-47 in 2012 as Obama was winning California's 10th District 51-47.
● CA-25: Over the weekend, attorney Bryan Caforio announced that he would seek a rematch with GOP Rep. Steve Knight in California's 25th Congressional District. Last cycle, Caforio challenged Knight in this ancestrally red seat, which is located in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles. Both parties only began spending heavily in the final month of the contest, and the GOP worked hard to portray Caforio, who had only recently moved to the district, as an outsider. The seat swung from 50-48 Romney to 50-44 Clinton, but Knight won 53-47.
Caforio will not be the only Democrat running in next year's top two primary. Vulcanologist Jess Phoenix and non-profit executive director Katie Hill are both already in, and it's possible more Democrats are eyeing this race. However, Democrats don't have too many local elected officials in this part of Los Angeles County.
● MD-06: Democratic Rep. John Delaney has been considering running for governor, and he recently said he'd have "something formal to say on the matter" in June. It didn't take long for state House Majority Leader Bill Frick, a fellow Democrat, to start raising money in case this suburban D.C. seat opens up, and earlier this month, Del. Aruna Miller also set up a campaign account with the FEC. Several other Democrats have also expressed interest in running for the House if Delaney challenges GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, and a few Republicans are also eyeing the 6th. Clinton won this seat 56-40.
● NY-27: Earlier this month, after the New York Times reported that Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was mulling a rematch with GOP Rep. Chris Collins, Hochul didn't exactly rule it out. However, Hochul was a lot more firm with the New York Daily News. After describing Washington as "dysfunctional", Hochul said she's "the type of person who wants to accomplish things. New York State is the place to do it." Hochul also added that she likes having a job that lets her travel across the state from her home near Buffalo, something she obviously couldn't do if she made it back to D.C, and that she believes she can do more good as lieutenant governor. Trump carried this Buffalo-area seat 60-35, and while Collins has generated plenty of bad coverage at home for his full-throated support for Trumpcare, it's going to be very tough to beat him in a seat this red.
● OH-01: Democratic ex-Rep. Steve Driehaus won a single term in the Cincinnati-based 1st District in 2008 by ousting GOP Rep. Steve Chabot only for Chabot to come back and return the favor in 2010, but Driehaus has long been mentioned as a potential challenger since then. Heavy Republican gerrymandering caused the current 1st to lurch to the right after 2010 and it backed Donald Trump 51-45, but that still makes it his smallest margin among any of the GOP's 12 seats in Ohio. For his part, Driehaus will soon return to the U.S. after spending a six-year stint with the Peace Corps in Swaziland, but doesn't sound too eager to run for office again. He recently told WVXU that he's "not particularly interested in it," but wouldn't quite rule out the prospect.
● TX-07: A few days ago, attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher became the latest Democrat to announce that she would oppose GOP Rep. John Culberson. Fletcher is a first-time candidate, though the Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston says she expects her to raise at least a decent amount of money.
Culberson hasn't faced a serious Democratic opponent since 2008. However, while he won 56-44 last cycle, his suburban Houston seat (which is descended from the district that George H.W. Bush first won in 1966) swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47 Clinton, and a number of Democrats have already kicked off bids against him. The only former elected official in the bunch is Debra Kerner, who won a countywide seat on the board of the Harris County Department of Education in 2008 and didn't seek re-election in 2014. However, while Kerner announced her bid at the beginning of the year, she seems to have waited two months before filing with the FEC, and she doesn't appear to have raised enough money before March 31 to need to file a report with them.
We also have two more new names: Joshua Butler, who serves as an administrator at the University of Texas' Health Science Center, and Laura Moser, who founded the progressive group Daily Action. Non-profit executive Alex Triantaphyllis and cancer researcher Jason Westin also kicked off their bids in recent days. Three-time nominee James Cargas brings this field to seven (so far), though after three double-digit losses, Team Blue will probably want to try someone new. This is one race where the second quarter fundraising reports, which are due in mid-July, will help us determine who is serious about running what will need to be an expensive campaign against the entrenched Culberson.
● VA-10: A fifth Democrat has entered the race to challenge GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock in this Northern Virginia seat. The newest candidate is former Naval intelligence officer David Hanson, who announced on Friday. Hanson's rivals for the Democratic nomination are former teachers union head Kimberly Adams; Army veteran Dan Helmer; former Obama administration official Lindsey Davis Stover; and state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, whom national Democrats successfully recruited.
● San Antonio, TX Mayor: On Saturday, ex-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who went on to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, endorsed City Councilor Ron Nirenberg over Mayor Ivy Taylor ahead of the June 10 non-partisan runoff. While Castro and Taylor both identify as Democrats and Nirenberg doesn't affiliate with either party, Nirenberg is the more liberal candidate in the race. Taylor edged Nirenberg 42-37 in the May 6 primary, with Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina taking 15. Medina, who appealed to tea party groups during his bid, has yet to back either runoff candidate.
● Westchester County, NY Executive: Last week, state Sen. George Latimer earned the endorsement of the county Democratic Party for this fall's race against Republican County Executive Rob Astorino. County Legislator Ken Jenkins, however, says he will continue on to the September Democratic primary. Jenkins has been running for months, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team and other local Democrats reportedly decided he was too weak to beat Astorino, who was Cuomo's 2014 opponent and may run again next year, and wanted a different candidate.
● Demographics: Race and education are more predictive than ever in terms of voters' preferences, especially in places where there's a synergy between the two categories. You may have seen this trend by looking at exit polls over the years or the American National Elections Studies data, but David Jarman takes a new approach to the question, bucketing counties according to demographic criteria and then looking at the evolution in vote share over the decades. What was already a trend pulled even further apart in 2016, with the real problem for Democrats being how the lowest diversity, lowest education counties turned much redder much faster than the high diversity, high education counties turned bluer.
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.