● VA-Sen: Virginia is a relatively rare state where parties get to choose whether to hold either a regular state-run primary to pick their general election nominees or instead opt for a convention of party activists. Last Saturday, a divided Republican state party committee voted to hold a primary next year to nominate their challenger against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Holding a primary is generally more conducive to picking more establishment-flavored nominees, in contrast to the ideologically purist types typically preferred by most convention-goers.
However, it's not certain that primary voters will necessarily help Republicans select their most electable nominee, since county supervisor Corey Stewart, a notorious Civil War revanchist and Trump fanatic, fell just 1 point shy of beating former RNC chair Ed Gillespie, the undisputed establishment choice, in this month’s gubernatorial primary despite having raised far less money. The GOP's Senate field has been slow to develop, but Stewart has previously said he's considering a second statewide run, as have ultra-conservative radio host Laura Ingraham and former presidential (and vice-presidential!) candidate Carly Fiorina.
But regardless of whom they choose—or how they choose ‘em—Republicans likely face an uphill battle to beat Kaine in this blue-leaning state.
● CO-Gov: DaVita CEO Kent Thiry, whose company is the world's second-largest kidney dialysis firm, had previously been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper next year, and he confirmed that he is indeed considering running in a recent interview. Thiry only switched his registration from independent to Republican in March, and the ostensibly centrist businessman might struggle to win a GOP primary after having supported past tax increases and contributed to both parties before.
Thiry, however, has said he's open to self-funding, which could give him a substantial boost given his immense wealth and past involvement backing ballot initiatives. (In 2011, Thiry was the 24th highest-paid CEO in the country, with a total compensation of $30 million.) Thiry directed millions toward a successful 2016 initiative that opened up Colorado's primaries to registered independents, which could aid him if he runs next year, but his business record could also contain some liabilities.
The Denver Post reports that DaVita spent almost $1 billion in recent years to settle federal investigations into corruption and alleged efforts to defraud the government, but the company admitted no wrongdoing. Thiry’s also known for some rather eccentric behavior as CEO: He makes his employees sing DaVita’s corporate song “hundreds” of times a year (it’s “terrible,” in the words of CBS MoneyWatch), and he regularly wears a “Three Musketeers” costume around the office. In one skit, according to the New York Times, “a DaVita musketeer killed a federal bureaucrat,” so that ought to endear Thiry to the base.
But no matter how sharp his sword, this DaVita D’Artagnan would also first have to make it past a Republican primary that already includes some noteworthy contenders. The GOP field currently includes suburban Denver metro area District Attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted the Aurora movie theater shooter; former investment banker Doug Robinson, who is Mitt Romney's nephew and reportedly has his support; wealthy businessman and ex-state Rep. Victory Mitchell; and Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter.
● CT-Gov: And this is why we always wait to hear from the actual candidate—the proverbial "horse's mouth"—before we can conclude for certain that he or she is or isn't running. On Monday, Democratic state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. announced that he would not join the crowded contest to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy. Back in March, before Malloy announced that he wouldn't seek a third term, an unnamed source "close to" Kennedy told the CT Post that there was a "90 percent" chance that the senator would run if Malloy didn't. Good thing we held off on printing those "Ted Kennedy Jr. for governor in 2018 and in no other year" T-shirts: There may be some poor soul out there who is still trying to get their money back for "Trent Franks for Senate 2012" coffee mugs.
● FL-Gov: Uber-wealthy trial lawyer John Morgan, a major donor to liberal causes, has been flirting with a run for governor for a while, and it seems like he'll be flirting for a while longer: Morgan recently told Politico that he'll announce his plans in the spring … of 2018. Morgan says he's not incredibly impressed with the current Democratic field, saying that "I look around and I think, 'Who can make the best case for the forgotten?' And I think it's me. That is what keeps pulling at me," though he added, "But what I worry about is how much of that could be my own ego? Those are the two forces that I fight. How much is this about me and how much is about them."
● GA-Gov: On Monday, ex-Gov. Roy Barnes endorsed state Rep. Stacey Evans in the Democratic primary. Barnes, who lost re-election in 2002 and was Team Blue's nominee in 2010, is reportedly close to Evans, so his move isn't much of a surprise.
● RI-Gov: Late last year, state Rep. Patricia Morgan, the leader of the tiny GOP state House caucus, didn't rule out challenging Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. Morgan recently told WPRI's Ted Nesi that she won't decide on running until the fall. Several Republicans are eyeing this seat including Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who lost to Raimondo 41-36 in 2014.
● TN-Gov: While Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett spent some time mulling a bid for the GOP nomination, he told a GOP group on Saturday that he wouldn't run. Burchett didn't seem interested in raising cash, so he might not have gone very far even if he had jumped in.
● CA-10: On Monday, beekeeper Michael Eggman announced that he would not seek a third match with GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in this competitive Modesto-area seat. (Goo goo g'joob.) Eggman instead has founded a PAC dedicated to ousting the seven California Republicans in House seats that Clinton won, including Denham. Team Blue also doesn't lack candidates in this 48.5-45.5 Clinton seat: Emergency room nurse Dotty Nygard and investor Josh Harder are both already running, and more Democrats are eyeing this race.
● KS-04, KS-Gov: Back in April, just after Republican Ron Estes pulled off a weak 52-46 win in Kansas’ very red 4th Congressional District, state Senate President Susan Wagle's office didn't shoot down speculation that she was mulling a primary challenge. The shock of Estes's poor performance has faded a bit over the past two months, but Wagle's office recently confirmed that she is indeed thinking about taking him on. Wagle didn't rule out running for governor at the beginning of the year either, and her spokeswoman also says she’s still mulling a bid to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.
Another Republican is also talking about joining the governor's race. Businessman Mark Hutton, who retired from the state House after just two terms last year, recently told the Wichita Eagle that he’s thinking about a gubernatorial bid and expects to decide by July. Hutton told the paper that "[t]here's good ideas on both sides, and if we can get the conversation a little bit more in the middle, the state's going to be better off and so is the party," so he's not exactly planning to run as a true red conservative.
● MO-02: Republican Rep. Ann Wagner is likely to give up her House seat to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and a few Democrats are eyeing her suburban St. Louis district. While Missouri swung heavily towards Trump last year, the 2nd District went from 57-41 Romney to a smaller 53-42 Trump. Still, this is still very red turf, and it's not going to be easy to shake loose even in a wave. Here’s one metric: In 2012, as Democratic state Treasurer Clint Zweifel won re-election 50-45, he narrowly lost the 2nd 49-48. Other Democrats did carry it that year, though they won statewide by double digits.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Chuck Raasch tells us about a few Democrats who are considering this race. Army veteran Mark Osmack, who served in Afghanistan and worked for Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth when she was in the House, says he's "strongly considering" getting in. Cort VanOstran, a professor at the Washington University School of Law, tells the paper that he's thinking about running for the House or for a state Senate seat. VanOstran insists that Wagner's moves won't affect his decision, adding that he’ll make his choice in the "near future."
Raasch also writes that attorney Sam Gladney, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, is also thinking about seeking the Democratic nod, though there's no direct quote from him. Gladney is the stepson of Jo Ann Emerson, a former Republican House member who represented a rural Missouri district until she resigned in early 2013 to take a job as a lobbyist.
● SC-05: Last week, Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs tax advisor, lost the special election to Republican Ralph Norman by a shockingly small 51-48 margin, so it makes sense that he hasn't decided if he'll run for this seat again next year. Trump won the 5th District 57-39 and Norman will be tough to beat, especially now that he’ll be the incumbent. Still, Parnell did come much closer than almost anyone expected, and national Democrats may take more of an interest in him if he tries again.
● OH Auditor: Democrat Zack Space represented a conservative eastern Ohio congressional district for two terms before he was unseated by Republican Bob Gibbs in 2010, and now he’s looking to make a comeback. Space recently filed to run for state auditor, though he has yet to formally announce he's in. Republican Auditor Dave Yost is termed-out and running to succeed GOP Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is seeking the governorship.
We’re not just interested in Space because he won a notable race in a difficult district in the Democratic wave of 2006, but also because Ohio's state auditor rather improbably plays an important role in legislative redistricting. Starting with the next round of redistricting, a commission consisting of the governor, the secretary of state, the state auditor, two members appointed by Democratic legislative leaders, and two members appointed by GOP legislative leaders will redraw Ohio's legislative districts.
For a map to become law for an entire decade, at least two members of the minority party must vote to approve it, but there's a catch. The majority of the commission can ram a map through that will have legal effect for four years—and at the end of those four years, it only takes another simple majority to pass yet another map. (This is why activists decried this new commission as a bogus reform.) But if Democrats can flip the auditor’s post, they'll have a stronger hand when it's time to redraw Ohio's legislative maps.