● NC Redistricting: On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling issued last year that struck down the congressional map that North Carolina Republicans drew in 2011 on the grounds that lawmakers had engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, handing voting rights advocates a major victory and dealing a huge blow to what was arguably the most effective congressional gerrymander of the modern era.
As shown here, Republican legislators used surgical precision to pack black voters into just two districts, the tentacular 1st and the snake-like 12th. The lower court found that these districts separated voters on the basis of race in violation of the constitution, a move that effectively prevented black voters from electing their preferred candidates in neighboring seats.
Before Republican legislators put these new lines into place, the black population in both the 1st and the 12th constituted a plurality in each of those districts. During redistricting, the GOP increased those pluralities to majorities, claiming alternately that the Voting Rights Act forced them to do so (in the case of the 1st) or that they'd ignored race entirely and only considered partisan preferences in the 12th (something that is still permissible).
The Supreme Court, however, rejected both arguments. Black voters in both districts had for years been able to elect their candidates of choice (black Democrats), so increasing the black population in these two seats wasn't necessary to ensure this state of affairs would continue. Indeed, in related cases, the Supreme Court has consistently rejected the notion that mapmakers are required to create districts with majority-black populations.
As a result, because Republicans so flagrantly disregarded traditional redistricting criteria with respect to the 1st, and because they could have achieved their partisan objectives by different means with the 12th, the court held that race unconstitutionally predominated in the redistricting process.
As noted above, this now-invalidated congressional map was one of, if not the very most, aggressive partisan gerrymanders in modern history. North Carolina is a relatively evenly divided swing state—Donald Trump won it by just 3 points last year—yet these lines offered Republicans 10 safe districts while creating three lopsidedly Democratic seats. Amazingly, all 10 Republican districts hit a perfect sweet spot with GOP support between 55 and 60 percent, a level that is high enough to be secure yet spreads around Republican voters just carefully enough to ensure the maximum number of GOP seats possible.
Unfortunately, Republican legislators swiftly replaced this map with an equally aggressive gerrymander (shown here) that, they claimed, only took into account partisan considerations. As we have previously demonstrated, this map maintained the same split of 10 Republicans and three Democrats last year, and indeed, this was borne out in last year's elections.
Republican state Rep. David Lewis even explicitly defended the redrawn map as a partisan gerrymander, stating unequivocally that it was intended to maintain the maximum possible edge for the GOP. This brazenly undemocratic admission was part of a legal tactic intended to insulate the new lines from renewed racial gerrymandering claims, but it opened up the map to lawsuits alleging unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. Again, partisan gerrymandering is currently allowed under U.S. law, but the Supreme Court will likely address this topic, too, in a series of related cases in North Carolina and other states.
Nevertheless, Monday's ruling is a significant victory in a state that has been ground zero in the battle over voting rights. This decision will make it easier to challenge GOP racial gerrymanders elsewhere, which is significant because Republicans in nearly every Southern state could have drawn another congressional district that would elect black or Latino voters's candidate of choice. What's more, North Carolina also will likely have to contend with an upcoming Supreme Court case regarding illegal racial gerrymandering of its state legislature.
However, the North Carolina GOP's new, allegedly "partisan-only" map is still in place at the moment, and there's still a long way to go before it, too, might come undone at the hands of the courts.
● MI-Sen: Although Trump won Michigan by the skin of his teeth in 2016, three-term Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow hasn't been one of the GOP's top 2018 targets, but they finally landed their first noteworthy challenger against her. Businesswoman Lena Epstein, whose family owns an automotive and industrial lubricant company, has announced she will run. Epstein hasn't previously held elective office, but did co-chair Trump's state campaign in 2016. It's unclear if Epstein is willing to self-fund a substantial amount in a state that isn't particularly cheap.
Despite Stabenow's apparent edge, a few other noteworthy Republicans have previously expressed interest in challenging her too. Ex-state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has said he's considering a bid, while Rep. Fred Upton and former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Young Jr. have refused to rule it out. However, as Chad Livengood of Crain's Detroit points out, prominent Republican consultant John Yob is working for Epstein despite previously urging Young to run, which is perhaps a sign that the former justice isn't in the mix anymore.
● MS-Sen: After coming close to toppling Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 GOP primary, state Sen. Chris McDaniel has been flirting with challenging Roger Wicker, Mississippi's other Republican senator. McDaniel said back in March that he hopes to decide in October, but Wicker's team is out with a late April poll from Public Opinion Strategies urging him not to bother. The survey gives Wicker a 55-30 lead, including a 47-37 edge with "strong Republicans favorable to the tea party."
As we've noted before, Wicker looks to be a much tougher opponent than Cochran was for McDaniel. While Cochran dithered about whether to seek re-election and began his eventual campaign with relatively little money, Wicker has already kicked off his bid for another term and had $2 million in the bank at the end of March. But more importantly, while Cochran was loathed by tea partiers, Wicker doesn't seem to have made any real enemies in the GOP.
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender also argues that McDaniel squandered the chance to be a major figure in the state GOP after his narrow 2014 loss to Cochran. McDaniel spent months trying to overturn Cochran's primary win (and as far as we know, he has yet to acknowledge he lost), and Pender writes that in the process, he "likely burn[ed] up some political capital along with financial capital." McDaniel also didn't do much to try to extend his influence in state politics afterwards. The state senator did not play much of a role in the 2015 state legislative primaries, and he "was about as effective and dynamic as his chair in the state Senate this legislative session." Ouch.
● FL-Gov: Powerful Tampa Bay GOP state Sen. Jack Latvala has pushed back his timeline for deciding on this race. Earlier in May, Latvala said that while he was "leaning in the direction" of running, he was still "a month or two away" from deciding. However, Florida Politics reports that Latvala told a recent gathering that he'll announce his plans in August.
● KS-Gov: Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach stated in a recent interview that he'll decide whether to run in 2018 to succeed Kansas' term-limited GOP Gov. Sam Brownback within the next two months. One of the country's foremost Republican crusaders for voter suppression nationwide, Kobach was recently named the vice-chair of Donald Trump's new "voting integrity" commission that will undoubtedly recommend new voting restrictions, and it's unclear how long his involvement with Trump's voter fraud witch hunt will go on.
If Kobach does jump into the race for governor, the stridently anti-immigration Republican could be a formidable contender for the GOP nomination. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has previously said he's considering running, while several other major Republicans haven't ruled it out. However, with one recent poll finding Brownback's approval rating at a toxic 21 percent thanks largely to his disastrous budget policies, the eventual nominee will have to contend with an incumbent administration that has provoked a sharp backlash against the party in many recent races in the state.
● MA-Gov: On Saturday, Newton Mayor Setti Warren announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Gov. Charlie Baker. Warren, an Iraq War veteran who also served as an aide to then-Sen. John Kerry, was elected mayor of this affluent Boston suburb in 2009, and he launched a brief Senate bid against GOP incumbent Scott Brown in 2011. However, Warren didn't gain much traction, and he left the race soon after Elizabeth Warren (no relation) got in. Warren's decision to run for the Senate less than two years after being elected mayor angered some locals, but he easily won re-election in 2013. Warren has been fundraising for his likely gubernatorial bid for months, and his Saturday announcement was no surprise.
So far, ex-state budget chief Jay Gonzalez is the only other notable declared Democratic candidate. Ex-state Sen. Dan Wolf, the founder and chief executive of Cape Air, has been considering, while state Attorney General Maura Healey has only said she "plans" to run for re-election when she's been asked about her interest in running for governor. However, while Massachusetts is a very blue state in federal elections, it's elected plenty of Republican governors, and Baker has usually polled well. Major Bay State Democrats also don't seem to be very interested in ousting the governor, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hasn't ruled out endorsing the Republican.
● MN-Gov: Over the weekend, Republican Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek announced that he would seek for re-election in 2018 rather than run for governor. Stanek, who has long touted his bipartisan appeal, may have had a tough time winning the GOP nomination. Still, Democrats will be happy that they won't need to worry about facing Stanek, who has decisively won in this large and blue county, in the general election.
● VA-Gov: A new internal poll of next month's Democratic primary from Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam gives him his biggest lead to date, yet the overall picture is still cloudy. Northam's survey, from Garin-Hart-Yang, finds him up 50-33 on ex-Rep. Tom Perriello, an even bigger margin than a recent PPP poll conducted for a Northam ally that had him ahead 45-35.
However, in between these two pro-Northam polls, the Washington Post released a survey finding Perriello ahead by a tight 40-38 spread. There are just three weeks to go before the election, so whether the candidates are separated by 2, 10, or 17 points matters a great deal. With so little polling to go from, it's very hard to say who might be right.
We have a bit more data to go on for the general election, including some fresh numbers from that same WaPo poll. Both Democrats crush the Republican frontrunner, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie, in similar fashion: Perriello leads him 50-37 and Northam's on top 49-38.
Term-limited Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe also enjoys a strong 49-25 job approval rating, so whether Northam and Perriello are both benefiting from McAuliffe's glow, or if they're all benefiting from disgust toward Donald Trump, Democrats have to be pleased with the way things are looking in the Old Dominion. The most recent prior survey of this race was courtesy Quinnipiac last month, and they, too, found the two Democrats ahead by comparable margins.
● CA-39: A few weeks ago, Politico reported that Mai-Khanh Tran, whom they described as "a "Wall Street analyst-turned-pediatrician," was expected to run against longtime California GOP Rep. Ed Royce, and she recently told The Atlantic she was in. Tran was born in Vietnam and she was evacuated out of Saigon just before the city fell in 1975. Tran's campaign skills are unknown, but if she can get her name out in this Southern California seat, which is located in the expensive Los Angeles media market, she may be able to contrast herself well against Royce. Tran has also made it clear that she'll make Royce's vote for Trumpcare a centerpiece in her campaign.
So far, the only other announced Democrat is Cal State Fullerton chemistry professor Phil Janowicz, another novice candidate who currently manages an education consulting firm. Royce was first elected to the House in 1992, and he's never taken less than 57 percent of the vote. Royce also ended March with a strong $2.9 million in the bank, and he has the ability to raise a lot more. However, this ancestrally red seat suburban seat, which is home to Fullerton and Yorba Linda, did not react well to Trump last cycle, shifting from 51-47 Romney to 51-43 Clinton. If Trump's unpopularity causes problems for Orange County Republicans downballot next year, Royce could be in for a real fight.
● CA-52: Suburban San Diego's wealthy and well-educated 52nd District has all but fallen off the GOP's radar after Democratic Rep. Scott Peters won two narrow races in 2012 and 2014, then coasted in 2016, but Republicans might finally have a candidate for 2018. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Army Reserve lawyer Omar Qudrat is expected to announce soon and has already launched a campaign website. It's not entirely clear if he'll run as a Republican in California's all-party top two primary, but the Union-Tribune notes that he has donated exclusively to Republican candidates and appeared at GOP functions. Qudrat would face a daunting race if he decides to run, since Clinton prevailed 58-36 here in a big improvement from Obama's 52-46 edge in 2012.
● GA-06: There's a great scene in an episode of "The Simpsons" where a military recruiter posing as a boy band manager falls into a fever dream that his commanding officer calls "the hippie fantasy." This addled lieutenant, one L.T. Smash, imagines a trio of filthy counterculture burnouts shouting slogans like "Burn down the barbershops!" and "I hate America!" overwhelming a phalanx of well-armed riflemen by shooting daisies from slingshots, whose deadly stems jab the eyeballs of the overmatched soldiers. As his admiral drags him from his latest daymare, Smash assures him, "They're getting less frequent, sir."
Not so for the Republican Party, though. With the 60s half a century gone, the "hippie fantasy" is still alive and well in the GOP mind. The Congressional Leadership Fund, one of the biggest spenders in the special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, already ran one ridiculous ad featuring feeble wannabe hippies "from" San Francisco declaring their love for high taxes, a weakened military—and Jon Ossoff.
And the hippie fantasy continues: CLF has now released another ad featuring the exact same actors (yeah, ya gotta eat, but do these people have any self-respect?) firing the exact same verbal daisies. Lt. Smash would be terrified, but will Georgia voters be moved? We're obviously not the targets of advertising like this, but if this is the best Republican have got, it sure seems weak.
● MN-01: Democratic Rep. Tim Walz is leaving behind this southern Minnesota seat to run for governor, and while a number of Democrats have made noises about running, no notable candidates have jumped in yet. This historically swingy seat went from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump and holding it will be a challenge, but we may have our first Democratic contender soon.
The Wall Street Journal's Reid Epstein reports that Dan Feehan, an Army veteran who served as an assistant secretary of defense during the final year of the Obama administration, is "preparing to run." Epstein notes that while Feehan grew up in the district, his family moved away about 20 years ago when he was 14 and he's currently house hunting. Feehan himself was quoted in the article, though he didn't indicate when he's planning to announce.
● MN-08: If Democratic Rick Nolan runs for governor, he'll leave behind a seat that violently swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump. However, this Iron Range seat still does elect Democrats downballot, and Team Blue won't concede it with or without Nolan. Democrat Sue Hakes, who served as a commissioner in Cook County (population 5,300), formed an exploratory committee for a potential bid.
● NE-02: On Monday, non-profit president Kara Eastman announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, becoming the first noteworthy challenger to first-term Republican Rep. Don Bacon. Eastman also serves as vice chair of the Metropolitan Community College Board, a position to which she was elected in 2014 in a district covering roughly one-fourth of the Omaha-based 2nd District, which means she could have the connections and campaign chops needed to run a serious race.
The 2nd backed Donald Trump just 48-46 in 2016, and it's the type of well-educated urban and suburban district that Democrats plan on aggressively targeting on their roadmap to regaining the House in 2018. Former Rep. Brad Ashford and his wife, attorney Ann Ferlic Ashford, have both also previously said they're interested in running.
● NY-19: While this Hudson Valley seat shifted from 52-46 Obama to 51-44 Trump, several Democrats are already running against freshman GOP Rep. John Faso. We may have another soon: The Wall Street Journal's Reid Epstein reports that former Army intelligence officer Pat Ryan is "preparing" to run. Ryan was quoted in the article, though he doesn't seem to have publicly committed to running yet.
● OH-01: Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the DCCC was trying to recruit Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune for a bid against Ohio GOP Rep. Steve Chabot. WVXU's Howard Wilkinson further reports that Cincinnati City Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld is also being "sounded out by the DCCC." Sittenfeld did not deny he was interested, only saying it was "flattering that the national folks would be interested, but my focus is squarely on Cincinnati and specifically our current budget process," and adding, "If anything ever changes, I'll be sure to let you know." Trump carried this seat 51-45, about the same as Romney.
Two years ago, Sittenfeld kicked off a bid against Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, and raised a credible amount of money early on. However, once ex-Gov. Ted Strickland began making noises about running, Sittenfeld refused to defer to the national party's favorite, even after his fundraising largely dried up. While Sittenfeld relentlessly argued that Strickland's evolution away from his once pro-NRA views was insincere, and he made more than a few not-so-subtle jabs at Strickland's age (74), he ended up losing the Democratic primary 65-22. While Sittenfeld's upstart bid didn't please Democrats at the time, Wilkinson writes that "he didn't seem to do himself any permanent damage with the Democratic party establishment," especially since some Ohio Democrats believe that he would have done better against Portman than Strickland ended up doing.
Another Cincinnati-area Democrat is also eyeing this race. In late March, state Rep. Alicia Reece expressed interest in running here, and high-level Democrats like Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings reportedly were interested in her potential bid. Reece reaffirmed her interest to WVXU and confirmed that she's spoken to the DCCC, though she added she hasn't "had any hard-core discussions about" it. Reece also said she might run for statewide office instead. Wilkinson writes that the DCCC believes that Reece, who is black, "might be able to fire up African-American voters in the district in a way that other candidates could not."
● PA-07: Democratic attorney Dan Muroff has picked up an endorsement from ex-Gov. Ed Rendell for his bid against GOP Rep. Pat Meehan. This suburban Philadelphia seat shifted from 50-49 Romney to 49-47 Clinton, and Democrats want to make Meehan a target. However, Muroff is from Philadelphia, and he even unsuccessfully ran for Congress in the 2nd District last year. While Muroff says he'll move to the 7th, Republicans would love to portray the eventual Democratic nominee as just a Philadelphia carpetbagger. A few other Democrats are running here, but we'll need to wait a little while to see who is capable of running what will need to be a very tough campaign against Meehan.
● TX-16: Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke announced that he would vacate his El Paso-based 16th District to run for Senate two months ago, but the field to replace him has been slow to develop. El Paso school board chair Dori Fenenbock has filed with the FEC to create an exploratory committee, but doesn't appear to have announced her intentions since she said she was considering the race a while back. It's also not totally clear if Fenenbock would run as a Democrat, but it would be highly difficult for a non-Democrat to win this 68-27 Clinton seat. El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and state Rep. César Blanco have both previously said that they're considering the race, and other Democrats could add their names to the mix too.
● Special Elections: We have four specials on tap for Tuesday, and only half of them are for the New Hampshire House! Johnny Longtorso fills us in:
New Hampshire House, Carroll-6: This is an open Republican seat located in Wolfeboro, northeast of Concord. The Democratic nominee is Edie DesMarais, the former director of a child care center. The Republican nominee is Matthew Plache, an attorney. This district went 51-44 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 56-43 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
New Hampshire House, Hillsborough-44: This is an open Republican seat in Manchester. The Democratic nominee here is James Morin, who unsuccessfully ran for this seat in 2016. The Republican nominee is Mark McLean, a former one-term state representative. This seat went 52-43 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 51-48 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
New York SD-30: This is an open Democratic seat centered in Harlem. The Democratic nominee is Brian Benjamin, a real estate developer. The Republican nominee is Dawn Simmons, an unsuccessful candidate in a special election for the city council back in February. Also on the ballot is perennial candidate Ruben Vargas, running on the Reform Party ticket. This seat went 94-4 for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
New York AD-09: This is an open Republican seat on Long Island. The Democratic nominee is Christine Pellegrino, a teacher, and the Republican nominee is Thomas Gargiulo, a retired teacher. This seat went 60-37 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 55-43 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
● Monessen, PA Mayor: Ordinarily we wouldn't write about what's transpiring in the municipal government of Monessen, Pennsylvania (population 7,720 in 2010), but here's a story that's not only about a scrappy underdog but also about the blowback that the Trump administration may be generating in the very places in the Rust Belt that put him over the top last November. You might remember the visuals from a weird Trump campaign speech that put him in front of a wall of compacted garbage: That was in Monessen, and one of Trump's key backers there was Louis Mavrakis, the city's 79-year old Democratic mayor who shared Trump's preference for pessimistic-sounding pronouncements about working-class America.
Mavrakis finally gets the chance to enjoy his retirement, because last Tuesday, he got bounced in the Democratic primary by a 26-year-old newcomer, Matthew Shorraw. Shorraw is the assistant band director at the local high school but also has been active in community rehabilitation projects in this once-vibrant steel town in the Mon Valley south of Pittsburgh (which, at 81 percent white and 16 percent college-educated, is about as prototypically Trumpish a place as you could ask for); he doesn't face a Republican opponent in November in this 55-42 Clinton town
● Seattle, WA Mayor: The filing deadline for Seattle's suddenly-interesting mayoral race was on Friday, May 18. However, it looks like all the action was in the immediate aftermath of incumbent mayor Ed Murray's announcement two weeks ago that he wouldn't seek re-election; there were no big entrants in the final week of filing.
The final list of filers, 21 in all, has maybe five names on it to watch. From most to least "establishment"— really the only way to draw distinctions between them, since they're all various flavors of progressive—they are ex-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, labor-affiliated state Sen. Bob Hasegawa, environmentalist ex-Mayor Mike McGinn (who was defeated by Murray in 2013), and Black Lives Matter-affiliated lawyer and activist Nikkita Oliver.
Also interesting is who didn't take the plunge: maybe the most surprising omission is Murray-allied City Councilor Lorena Gonzalez, who's a consensus "rising star" but is young enough to wait. Also missing is City Councilor Bruce Harrell, who finished 3rd in the 2013 mayoral primary and whose name received a lot of floating when it was first rumored that Murray might drop out. Ex-King County Executive Ron Sims has often seemed interested in getting back in the political game and also saw his name floated, but he's backing Durkan.
The biggest potential wild card here was Socialist Alternative party member and City Councilor Kshama Sawant, who has a core of very devoted (and mostly young) fans, though probably not enough backers to win a mayoral race. Sawant isn't running, but endorsed Oliver, which is a big publicity boost for someone who hasn't sought office before. That could possibly be enough to help Oliver squeak into the runoff, but on the other hand, grabbing a share of the youth vote (which was key to McGinn's win in 2013 and close loss in 2017) could just wind up skunking McGinn's chances and leaving a runoff between two more establishment-flavored candidates.
● FL-??: Following his bruising 52-44 Senate race loss against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio in 2016, 34-year-old Democratic ex-Rep. Patrick Murphy's name quickly arose as a possible 2018 candidate for his old West Palm Beach and St. Lucie-area House seat or another office. Trump won the 18th District 53-44 and new Republican Rep. Brian Mast prevailed 54-43 over a well-funded foe, but Democrats haven't given up hope on this seat, particularly after Mast supported the House GOP's health care bill.
Murphy recently once again refused to rule out a possible 2018 bid for an unspecified race, but does not seem inclined toward running for the House again after he stated “I miss public service, but I don’t miss the House much, especially with Trump and all.” The former accountant also said he's unlikely to seek the open statewide position of chief financial officer, which is Florida's equivalent to state treasurer. Murphy has been raising money for his own federal political action committee, and those funds could either be transferred to a state committee or spent to support another bid for federal office if he chooses.
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections' project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits California, where legislative Democrats have just the right number of seats they need to maintain their vital supermajorities, but where the GOP is planning to go on the offensive. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new data sets; you can also find all of our calculations from 2016 and past cycles here.
California has been one of the nation’s most Democratic states for a while, and Donald Trump is doing nothing to change that. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the Golden State 62-32, a stronger margin than even Barack Obama’s already dominant 60-37 win over Mitt Romney four years earlier. While Democrats were unable to dislodge any of California’s 14 GOP members of Congress, they were able to make critical gains in both legislative chambers. Team Blue picked up three Assembly seats, taking a 55-25 majority, while in the Senate, Democrats flipped a Southern California district, giving them 27 of the 40 seats in the chamber. The entire Assembly is up every two years. Odd-numbered Senate seats are up in presidential cycles, while even-numbered ones are up in midterm years.
Under California law, two-thirds support in each chamber is needed to pass any tax increases. Democrats have one seat more than they need for a supermajority in the Assembly, while they have the exact number necessary in the Senate. Last month, Democrats used their narrow supermajorities to pass a gas tax increase in order to fund a $52 billion transportation plan, a vote the GOP is determined to make one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats regret soon.
Freshman state Sen. Josh Newman, who narrowly won a four-year term in Southern California’s SD-29 last year, backed the bill: Newman was the deciding vote after Democrat Steve Glazer, who represents a very blue Bay Area seat but won office with the support of big business by defeating a labor-backed candidate, voted no while termed-out GOP state Sen. Anthony Cannella voted yes. Conservative San Diego radio host Carl DeMaio, who lost a close 2012 bid for mayor and a tight 2014 congressional race, proceeded to launch a recall campaign against Newman.
If DeMaio and his allies can collect 63,593 valid signatures by Oct. 16, they will be able to hold a recall vote against Newman on the June 2018 primary ballot; if they act faster, they might even be able to put the recall on the ballot this November, where turnout will be lower. The effort is reportedly being funded in part by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an anti-tax group, while Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is raising money to help Newman.
Newman’s SD-29, which includes Fullerton and Yorba Linda in Orange County and small portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, shifted from a very tight 49.1-48.7 Romney win to a wide 53-41 Clinton victory. Newman himself won an expensive campaign against GOP Assemblymember Ling-Ling Chang by just a 50.4-49.6 margin, so he doesn’t have much room for error, but Clinton’s strong showing hopefully offers something of a cushion.
Three other Senate seats flipped from Romney to Clinton (no seats went from Obama to Trump), and two of them were also up in 2016, but Republicans decisively held both. Romney carried Orange County’s SD-37 54-44, but Clinton took it 50-44. This seat hosted a special election in 2015, but Democrats didn’t even field a candidate. Republican John Moorlach won that race, and last year, he defeated his Democratic foe 57-43 even as Clinton was taking the seat.
In SD-21, which is located in northern Los Angeles County and stretches into San Bernardino County, Republican Assemblyman Scott Wilk won 53-47 as his district went from 50-48 Romney to 49-46 Clinton. Meanwhile, the one Romney/Clinton seat up in 2018 is SD-36, which includes parts of the coasts of Orange and San Diego Counties. This district flipped from 55-43 Romney to 48-46 Clinton; Republican incumbent Patricia Bates, who is the chamber’s minority leader, won her first term 66-34 in 2014.
The good news for Senate Democrats is that, even as Republicans target Newman, they have the chance to go on the offensive in 2018. Three Obama/Clinton GOP-held seats will be on the ballot, which could allow Democrats to keep their two-thirds Senate supermajority without Newman’s seat. On paper, all three look like solid Democratic pickup opportunities, since Clinton won each seat by at least a 20-point margin. However, none of the three districts are gimmes by any means.
The best Democratic target may be SD-12 where Anthony Cannella, who was the one Republican who backed the gas tax, is termed out. Clinton carried this seat, which includes part of the rural Central Valley, by a 57-37 margin, close to Obama’s 58-40 margin. However, Democrats have had a very challenging time turning out voters in the Central Valley when there isn’t a presidential election on the ballot. With Trump in the White House things may be different in 2018 than they were in 2010 and 2014, but nothing’s assured. And if Team Red knocks off Newman and holds all their seats, Democrats will have an extremely tough time finding another GOP vote for a tax increase. It doesn’t help that Glazer, the one Democrat to vote no on the gas tax, isn’t up until 2020.
The other two Clinton-Obama GOP-held seats both are held by incumbents who also won’t be easy to beat in 2018. Republican Andy Vidak’s SD-14, which is also in the Central Valley and includes part of Fresno and Bakersfield, went from 58-40 Obama to 59-36 Clinton. But Vidak won a narrow 52-48 victory in a 2013 special election and held his seat 54-46 the next year. Like Cannella’s SD-12, this is an area where Democrats struggle to turn out voters in non-presidential years, though again, Trump could disrupt this pattern.
Finally, Orange County Republican Janet Nguyen is defending SD-34, which includes parts of Anaheim, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana; Nguyen won her seat 58-42 in the 2014 GOP wave. The good news for Democrats is that SD-34 went from 53-44 Obama all the way to 59-36 Clinton. The bad news is that not only does Team Blue also need to worry about midterm turnout here, a blunder by Senate Democrats only helped to elevate Nguyen’s profile a few months ago.
Nguyen, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from the Vietnam War, made headlines after she spoke out against the late Tom Hayden’s opposition to the war on the Senate floor. The presiding Democratic senator had security remove Nguyen from the chamber on the grounds that she had violated the chamber’s rules by criticizing a former fellow member. (Hayden, best known as a radical 60s activist, had served in the Senate in the 90s.) While Democratic Senate leader Kevin de Leon quickly apologized, the incident made Nguyen a hero to Golden State Republicans and earned her favorable coverage in a seat with a large Vietnamese electorate.
We’ll turn next to the Assembly. To help follow along, Stephen Wolf has created an interactive map where each seat is colored based on whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump won it, and whether the seat is held by a Republican or a Democrat. As we said above, Democrats hold a 55-25 majority, one seat over the critical two-thirds line, and the whole chamber is up every two years.
Clinton carried 66 Assembly seats, holding onto all 58 Obama districts while taking eight Romney seats. However, Republicans hold all the Romney/Clinton seats, as well as three Obama/Clinton districts. The bluest GOP-held Assembly seat, based on the 2016 presidential results, is AD-16 in Northern California, which includes Walnut Creek, Livermore, and Pleasanton. Obama won this seat 58-40, but two years later, Catharine Baker won a close race to become the only Republican to represent the San Francisco Bay Area in some time. Clinton then won the same seat in a 64-29 landslide, but Baker hung on for a second term by 56-44 margin.
Meanwhile, the seat that saw the biggest net swing to the left was AD-77, located around San Diego. However, while this district went from 50-48 Romney to 55-39 Clinton, GOP Assemblyman Brian Maienschein won re-election 58-42.
Amazingly, Clinton carried every single Democratic-held seat by at least a 10-point margin. Her weakest showing in a Democratic-held district was in Southern California’s AD-60, located around Corona in Riverside County. This seat went from 51-46 Obama to 52-42 Clinton, and Democrat Sabrina Cervantes unseated Republican incumbent Eric Linder 54-46.
However, there are a few Democrats worth watching in 2014. Democrats Sharon Quirk-Silva and Al Muratsuchi both first won their seats in 2012, were unseated in the 2014 GOP wave, and won them back in 2016. Quirk-Silva’s AD-65, which includes Fullerton and Buena Park in Orange County, went from 52-46 Obama to 57-37 Clinton. In 2014, Republican Young Kim beat Quirk-Silva 55-45; last year, the Democrat won their rematch 53-47.
In the coastal AD-66, which is home to Torrance and Manhattan Beach, Muratsuchi lost to Republican David Hadley 50.3-49.7 in 2014. Last year, as this seat went from 54-43 Obama to 60-34 Clinton, Muratsuchi beat Hadley 54-46. 2018 will likely be better for Democrats than 2014 was, but this is all a good reminder that so many of these California seats have been a lot less friendly to Team Blue in midterm years than they have in presidential cycles.
● Site News: In a truly humbling new profile, McClatchy's Alex Roarty takes a close-up look at the Daily Kos Elections team. With our endorsement of Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia's upcoming special election as his hook, Roarty examines our role at the intersection of the activist ecosystem and the world of hard-headed political analysts—and dubs us "the Democratic Party's new kingmakers." We're blown away by the recognition, but there's still a ton of hard work to do between now and June 20, and a lifetime of tough battles to come!
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.