The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● NJ-03: Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur received heaps of scorn after he helped save Trumpcare from the brink of death, and on Monday he just drew his first noteworthy Democratic challenger in 2018 when national security expert Andrew Kim kicked off his campaign. A veteran and Rhodes Scholar, Kim previously served on the National Security Council as the director for Iraq under Obama. He declared his reason for running for the House was MacArthur's Trumpcare amendment that would allow insurers to charge sick people more for premiums than healthy ones.
New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District spans from Philadelphia's eastern suburbs to the Jersey Shore, and the historically Republican seat flipped from 52-47 Obama to 51-46 Trump while MacArthur easily won re-election last year. The incumbent is one of the wealthiest members of Congress and will assuredly have as much money as he needs in this district, which covers two of the most expensive media markets for TV ads in the country. However, with Trumpcare already sparking a public opinion backlash nationally, MacArthur may have just seriously endangered his re-election prospects after his amendment was instrumental to securing the bill's passage in the House.
Kim might not have the Democratic primary to himself though, which would be a vast turnaround for Team Blue compared to 2016, when a weak perennial candidate won the nomination. Locally prominent civil rights attorney Katherine Hartman previously filed the paperwork to run so she could raise money while considering a campaign, but she has yet to make a formal announcement that she's in the race.
● Senate: This cycle, Indiana GOP Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita and Missouri GOP Rep. Ann Wagner all sound very likely to run for the Senate, while a number of other House members on both sides have expressed interest. However, so far only two members, Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke and West Virginia Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins, have actually announced they're seeking a Senate seat, while the rest of the crop of would-be candidates are at least officially undecided. Roll Call's Simone Pathé takes a look at why so many House members are holding back, and in many cases, the reason is fundraising.
House candidates can immediately transfer all their campaign account to a Senate bid (or vise-versa), so incumbents can raise cash for a possible Senate bid while officially running for re-election instead. Pathé points out that corporate PACs have an incentive to generously contribute to House members to help advance their own agendas in Congress.
However, those same corporate groups, who don't want to offend influential members on either side of the aisle, are a lot more reluctant to open their wallets to candidates who are facing an incumbent senator or another House member. But they're still willing to donate to House members who have yet to jump into the Senate race, even if it's very likely that they eventually will. As one GOP strategist told Pathé, the corporate PACs have "plausible deniability" if the House member isn't officially running yet. As a result, House members who plan to run for the Senate focus on raising cash in the fundraising quarter before their announcement.
Of course, not every House member who is flirting with a Senate bid, or even planning to run, actually ends up running. If a member feels like they're not raising enough cash, they may just decide to seek re-election. And Jenkins demonstrated earlier this year, some members may decide an early announcement is beneficial, even if it hampers their fundraising.
● WI-Sen: While Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate against Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, she never showed much interest in running. And on Monday, Kleefisch told the Associated Press that she'd sit this contest out and instead seek a third term on Gov. Scott Walker's ticket.
● IL-Gov: On Monday, two longtime Chicago Democratic House members took sides in the primary to take on GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez threw his support behind venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, while Rep. Bobby Rush endorsed businessman Chris Kennedy.
● KS-Gov: Last Friday, Republican former state Sen. Jim Barnett announced he would run for the governor's office again in 2018. Barnett was Team Red's nominee in 2006, but lost by a 58-40 landslide against Democratic incumbent Kathleen Sebelius during that year's Democratic wave. The former state senator has been out of office since 2010, but he stated that he supports Medicaid expansion and distanced himself from unpopular outgoing GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's "dismal" fiscal policies, which have wreaked havoc on the state's finances.
Barnett could consequently capitalize on growing outrage within the GOP against the Brownback faction's ultra-conservative radicalism, but it's unclear if most primary voters are ready yet for a move toward the center. Wealthy businessman Wink Hartman and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has supported Brownback's agenda every step of the way, are both already running in the primary, while Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has previously said that he's considering it.
● VA-Gov: Fresh off of last week's Virginia primary elections, both the RGA and the DGA have given $1 million to their respective gubernatorial nominees, ex-Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. What little polling we have seen has generally shown a competitive race in this swing state, which backed Hillary Clinton by a modest 50-44, and we can likely expect the national parties to invest considerably in this race going forward since it's one of just two gubernatorial contests taking place this November.
● WI-Gov: Wisconsin Democrats so far have no noteworthy candidates in the race against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to seek a third term in 2018, but Democratic Madison Mayor Paul Soglin had previously revealed that he was considering mounting a campaign. Now, the mayor says he'll announce his plans in July or August while he's "getting prepared" to run. The 72-year-old Soglin has served three separate stretches as mayor of the state's capital over the last five decades, but he argues that private polling he has seen shows his age isn't a detriment with voters. It's unclear if the mayor's association with staunchly progressive Madison will turn off swing voters in this narrowly Trump state, something Soglin himself previously expressed fear about.
Nevertheless, Democrats will be eager to field a serious challenger against a governor who has become a national boogeyman for imposing a hardline conservative agenda on an evenly divided swing state. Assemblyman Dana Wachs and businessman Andy Gronik have both previously said they're considering running for Team Blue, as has Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, who previously lost the 2014 attorney general's race.
● AZ-02: On Monday, accountant Mary Matiella became the latest Democrat to announce her candidacy for Arizona's Tucson-based 2nd District. Matiella previously served as an assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller during the Obama administration, while she also holds a doctorate in education. It's unclear if Matiella has the campaign skills needed to beat Republican Rep. Martha McSally as a first time-candidate, but she could have the connections needed to run a strong race.
Following the 2nd District having flipped from 50-48 Romney to 50-45 Clinton and McSally's cavalier approach to passing the unpopular Trumpcare bill, many Democrats are eagerly either running here or thinking about it. Former state Rep. Bruce Wheeler and hotel operations manager Billy Kovacs are already in the race, as is 2016 nominee and ex-state Rep. Matt Heinz. Meanwhile, former 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick has said she's considering running here after recently moving to Tucson.
● CA-39, IL-12, MI-06: In a new piece about the potential political effects of Tuesday's special election for GA-06, the New York Times names several new potential Democratic candidates in tough seats who they say are considering getting in, though none of them said anything to the paper on the record.
In California's 39th District, which is centered around Orange County, the Times says that Navy veteran Gil Cisneros has been meeting with party officials about a possible run against longtime GOP Rep. Ed Royce. Cisneros and his wife won $266 million in the 2010 Mega Millions lottery, and they soon used $20 million to create a scholarship to help Hispanic youths get to college. Two other Democrats, pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran and Cal State Fullerton chemistry professor Phil Janowicz, are already challenging Royce. This seat swung from 51-47 Romney to 51-43 Clinton.
Illinois' 12th District, which includes part of the greater St. Louis area, is a very different kind of seat. Democrats held this downstate seat for decades, but GOP Rep. Mike Bost won it in the 2014 GOP wave. Two years later, this seat swung from 50-48 Obama to 55-40 Trump. The Times says that Democrat Brendan Kelly, who is the state's attorney for St. Clair County, is likely to get in. St. Clair is by far the largest and most Democratic county in the seat.
Michigan's 6th, which includes the Kalamazoo area, is another seat that swung towards Trump. Romney carried the seat just 50-49, but Trump won 51-43 here. Republican Rep. Red Upton, who hasn't ruled out a Senate bid, has consistently won here by double digits for decades, though Team Blue hopes that his role in salvaging Trumpcare will give them an opening. The Times reports that Matt Longjohn, whom they describe as "a physician who is the Y.M.C.A.'s national health officer," is likely to challenge Upton.
● GA-06: Two last polls have snuck over the line ahead of Tuesday's special election runoff in Georgia. The first survey, from Republican pollster Landmark Communications on behalf of local TV news station WSB, finds Democrat Jon Ossoff leading Republican Karen Handel 50-48; that's barely changed from early June, when Landmark had Ossoff ahead 50-47.
The other comes from the Trafalgar Group, another GOP shop, and it's the first (and last) legitimate poll since early May to put Handel in front, 50-49, though without rounding, her edge is closer to two points. Less than a week ago, Trafalgar had Ossoff on top 50-47. Incidentally, that early May poll—the only other survey conducted since the April 18 primary to find a similar result—came from Landmark, which went back into the field three subsequent times and showed Ossoff up on each occasion.
As always, we prefer to rely on the aggregate of all available polls rather than put our faith in any one set of numbers. Inputting all of this data into the Daily Kos Election model, though, shows what we've known for a long time: This race is incredibly tight. Our final average has the race a dead heat, tied at 48 apiece. We'll all just have to tune in on Tuesday night to see how this race winds up!
And needless to say, we’ll be liveblogging all of the proceedings, starting the moment polls close at 7 PM ET. Check back in with Daily Kos Elections for complete coverage!
● IA-01: State Rep. Abby Finkenauer earned a major endorsement on Monday ahead of the 2018 Democratic primary from EMILY's List, a prominent organization devoted to electing pro-choice Democratic women. Finkenauer currently faces engineer and former Bernie Sanders Democratic National Convention alternate delegate Courtney Rowe in the primary, so EMILY's backing could be a sign that they see Finkenauer as the more viable woman in the race and don't expect other high-profile women to become candidates.
This northeastern Iowa district, which includes Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, backed Trump 49-45, but Democrats are optimistic they can deny Republican Rep. Rod Blum a third term in a seat that once voted 56-43 for Obama in 2012. Democrats who have previously said they're mulling the possibility of running here include: state Sen. Jeff Danielson, former U.S. Labor Department staffer Thomas Heckroth, and Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker (who is a man, despite his more typically feminine first name).
● NE-02: He's back! Former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford recently announced he would make his third consecutive bid for the 2nd Congressional District after he just narrowly lost re-election 49-48 against Republican now-Rep. Don Bacon in 2016. Ashford bucked the 2014 GOP wave when he knocked off beleaguered Republican Rep. Lee Terry in 2014, but Trump's 48-46 victory in this historically Republican-leaning seat was likely too much for Ashford to overcome last year. However, the Omaha-based 2nd is just the sort of relatively well-educated light-red district that Democrats need to contest to retake the House in 2018, and the party is hopeful they can oust Bacon next year.
Nonetheless, Ashford won't have a clear path to the nomination after non-profit president Kara Eastman, who serves in elected office as vice chair of the Omaha-area Metropolitan Community College Board, jumped into the race last month. However, the former congressman's nascent candidacy means we can cross one potential candidate's name off the list: attorney Ann Ferlic Ashford, who had previously said she might run if her husband didn't.
Brad Ashford also says he also spoke with ex-state Sen. Heath Mello, who unsuccessfully ran for Omaha mayor as the Democratic standard-bearer in 2017, and Mello reportedly said he wasn't planning to run for the 2nd District in 2018, although he hasn't confirmed that publicly. However, Mello did tell the Omaha World-Herald that he would decide on "any potential run for public office sometime between July 4 and Labor Day."
● NY-19: On Monday, former diplomat Jeff Beals became the latest Democrat to jump into the race against first-term Republican Rep. John Faso, giving Team Blue a surprisingly large field of noteworthy candidates despite this Hudson Valley seat swinging from 52-46 Obama to 51-44 Trump. Currently a high-school teacher, Beals used to be a CIA intelligence officer and diplomat who reportedly "played a central role in setting up Iraq's parliament and in mediating the drafting of its constitution throughout 2005." He more recently served on the Hillary Clinton campaign's foreign policy team, and his past career could give him the connections needed to mount a strong campaign.
Meanwhile, VoteVets announced their endorsement of former Army intelligence officer and Iraq War veteran Pat Ryan, who had kicked off his own bid earlier in June. In addition to Ryan and Beals, the robust Democratic field here includes: attorney Antonio Delgado; businessman Brian Flynn; business consultant Sue Sullivan; Gareth Rhodes, who was a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and a few others.
● UT-03: The GOP field ahead of the August primary got dramatically smaller over the weekend in this reliably red seat. In a surprise, ex-state Rep. and real estate developer Chris Herrod won the state party convention, which earns him a spot on the primary ballot.
Herrod still has some work to do before he can claim the GOP nomination, though. Utah recently adopted a law that allows contenders to collect signatures to make it to the primary in case the convention doesn't go well. Only two notable Republicans, consultant Tanner Ainge, who is the son of former Brigham Young University basketball star and current Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, and Provo Mayor John Curtis, went with this route. The other GOP candidates were depending on a good performance at the convention, so their campaigns are now over.
Herrod's win was a big surprise. He has been out of elected office since 2012, when gave up his seat to challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch, a fellow Republican. Ironically, Herrod attracted little support at that year's convention, which killed his campaign. But this time, Herrod beat state Sen. Deidre Henderson, a former campaign manager to departing Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who looked like a favorite going into the convention, as well as a few other elected officials. The August primary will be the second time that Herrod and Curtis have tangled. According to the Daily Herald's Katie England, the two competed in a 2007 special election for the state House, and while Curtis won among GOP delegates by one vote, "because of quirks in the party bylaws, Herrod ended up being appointed to that seat."
It's worth noting that the convention was done under special rules. Normally, if no one takes more than 60 percent of the delegates at the convention, the two contenders with the most support would advance to the primary. But on Saturday, Herrod defeated Henderson 55 percent to 45 percent in the final round. The Herald explains that "[a]ccording to the special convention rules, the first candidate to obtain more than 50 percent of the delegate vote would head to the primary."
The winner of the August primary will be the favorite in the November general election. This Provo seat gave Trump 47 percent of the vote, while conservative independent Evan McMullin edged out Hillary Clinton 24-23 for second place. Still, this is an unpredictable time, so this seat may be worth keeping an eye on in the fall. Democrats also will be fielding a candidate with more resources than usual. Before Chaffetz announced he would resign, physician Kathryn Allen raised $564,000 from donors eager to unseat the House Oversight Committee chair. Allen won the Democratic nomination over the weekend, and she has no primary foe.
● WV-03: Republican state Del. Carol Miller recently told Ron Gregory of the Herald-Dispatch that she is thinking about a bid to succeed GOP Rep. Evan Jenkins following his decision to run for Senate in 2018, but she won't give it serious consideration until after the state budget gets done. Gregory reports that fellow GOP state Del. Marty Gearheart is also considering, but there's no direct quote. State Del. Rupie Phillips and former state Del. Rick Snuffer, who was the party's unsuccessful 2012 nominee, are already running, while former state party chair Conrad Lucas has said he's considering it too.
Democrats had held this southern West Virginia district for over 80 years until 2014, but Trump's 73-23 victory presents a daunting challenge for the party here. Nonetheless, Democratic state Sen. Richard Ojeda previously joined the contest last month and is hoping for a repeat of his 2016 performance, where he convincingly won an open 78-19 Trump state Senate seat in the heart of Coal Country that had zoomed rightward in recent years.
● Specials: We have two other special elections on Tuesday in addition to GA-06 and SC-05. Johnny Longtorso checks in:
South Carolina HD-48: This is the seat vacated by Ralph Norman, the Republican nominee for the special election in SC-05. It is located in York County, south of Charlotte, North Carolina. The candidates are Democrat Bebs Barron Chorak, the former deputy director of an education nonprofit, and Republican Bruce Bryant, the former sheriff of York County. This seat went 59-35 for Donald Trump in 2016, and 63-36 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
South Carolina HD-70: This is an open Democratic seat located directly outside of Columbia in an easterly direction. The candidates here are Democrat Wendy Brawley, the former chair of the Richland 1 school board, and Republican Bill Strickland, a retired IT director. This seat went 70-27 for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and 74-25 for Barack Obama in 2012.
● Milwaukee County, WI Sheriff: Game on? Last month, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke claimed he'd soon leave his post for a job with Donald Trump's Department of Homeland Security—a job that the department refused to confirm had ever actually been offered to Clarke. It's impossible to know who or what was responsible for this cockup—CNN exposed a Clarke plagiarism scandal just a few days later, and DHS probably didn't appreciate him jumping the gun.
Of course, this all could have just been typical Trumpworld chaos and incompetence, but whatever the reason, the dream has died: Clarke now says he's "rescinded his acceptance" of that Homeland Security post. Was he ever in fact green-lighted for the job? Who knows? A department spokesman said that Clarke "is no longer being considered for a position," which sure sounds like he wasn't, but our choice is which of two sets of thugs we prefer to believe.
And now Clarke is faced with the unappetizing prospect of seeking re-election to another term as sheriff next year, even though polling shows him with dire prospects in the Democratic primary. (Yes, Clarke is an elected Democratic official, despite his well-known penchant for brutality and his unhinged support for Donald Trump.) And if he does run again, Clarke would run headlong into an extremely strong challenge from former Milwaukee Police Captain Earnell Lucas.
His alternative could be a run for Senate (as a Republican) against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who also goes before voters in 2018. But that would entail both a difficult GOP primary and general election, so it's very possible Clarke will simply hang it up and hit the wingnut welfare circuit to find some more bogus pins to stick on his uniform.
● Gerrymandering: On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of a ruling that struck down Wisconsin's Republican-drawn state Assembly districts late last year for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, which we detailed extensively here. The Supreme Court has previously held that partisan gerrymandering could theoretically be unconstitutional, but has never before invalidated any particular map because it hasn't agreed upon a standard for when to do so. Expected to be argued late in 2017, this case could subsequently set a landmark precedent against partisan gerrymandering if the plaintiffs prevail, leading to a wave of lawsuits against congressional and legislative maps nationwide.
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections' project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits the halfway point with West Virginia, the 25th state we've done. 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.
Democrats won control of the state legislature in the 1930s, and they held both chambers even as West Virginia began favoring GOP presidential candidates. As recently as 2012, Democrats won a 54-46 majority in the state House and a 24-10 Senate edge even as Mitt Romney was carrying the state 62-36. However, the GOP finally flipped both chambers in the 2014 wave (though it was a party switch that gave them the Senate).
Last year, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton 69-26, his best state outside of Wyoming, and Team Red currently holds a 64-36 state House edge and a 22-12 Senate majority. Interestingly, Democrat Jim Justice also won the governor's office last year, though he had a very Trumpesque appeal despite his party affiliation. Several Democrats still hold very red turf, but not nearly as many as just a few years ago. Unlike nearly every other state, it only takes a simple majority of both chambers to override the governor's veto.
We'll start with a look at the state House, which is up every two years. The state House is divided into 67 different districts, and they can have anywhere between one and five representatives. Clinton carried exactly one seat in either chamber, taking the Charleston-area's HD-37, which has the largest black population of any seat, 64-30.However, this was still a big drop from Obama's 71-26 win here in 2012. Clinton lost three state House seats that had backed Obama: One of these Obama/Trump seats has a Democratic member, while the other two are represented by the GOP. Interestingly, Clinton's second-best seat has a GOP member. HD-67, located in the Eastern Panhandle, went from 52-46 Obama to just 48-46 Trump, but Republican Riley Moore won his first term 51-49.
The reddest seat with a Democratic representative is HD-20 in the southern part of the state. This Coal Country district went from 70-28 Romney to 82-16 Trump, but Democratic incumbent Justin Marcum won a third term 67-33. (This is an early contender for reddest seat held by a Democrat anywhere in the country.) Another 13 Democrats come from seats where Trump won at least 70 percent of the vote. Almost every Democrat represents a seat that backed Trump by double digits … though that's mainly because Trump won 63 of the 67 seats by double digits.
Trump's margin was greater than Romney's in every single seat. The smallest swing towards Trump was in HD-51, located in the north and containing the West Virginia University, which barely moved from 53-44 Romney to 51-41 Trump. This five-member district has three Democratic representatives and two Republicans. The largest swing towards Trump was in HD-02 in the Northern Panhandle. Romney won it by a relatively modest 54-44, but Trump took it 69-29; however, Democrat Phil Diserio won his first term last year 61-39.
We'll turn to the state Senate. Each of the 17 districts elects one senator in a presidential year, and the other in a midterm year. Both Trump and Romney carried every single one of the Senate seats. Trump's worst seat was SD-13, which is located in the northern part of the state. This district, which has two Democratic members, went from 52-45 Romney to 53-40 Trump.
Interestingly, the reddest seat in the whole chamber has two Democratic senators as well. SD-07, which is located in Coal Country, went from 66-31 Romney to 78-19 Trump, but Democrat Richard Ojeda won his first term 59-41 last year. Ojeda, who volunteered that he backed Trump during the campaign, is currently running for West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District. Not surprisingly, each Senate seat also swung towards Trump. The largest swing was in the SD-07 while the smallest was in SD-13, which just happen to be the two seats we mentioned above.
● Where Are They Now: On Friday, federal prosecutors announced that neither former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who resigned more from his post more than two years ago, nor his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, would face criminal charges stemming from concerns over whether Hayes' consulting activities on clean energy issues broke any conflict-of-interest laws. Those concerns, though, proved surprisingly potent as a political matter, enough for Kitzhaber's fellow Democrats to hastily abandon him just months after he'd won re-election to a fourth term as governor. Kitzhaber's shockingly quick downfall led to the elevation of then-Secretary of State Kate Brown to the governorship; Brown went on to win a special election for the final two years of her predecessor's term last November.