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.
● AL-Gov: Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has been mulling seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Alabama, and on Thursday, he announced that he was forming an exploratory committee. Maddox says he's still deciding, though he put out a very candidate-like statement and video. Maddox did not say when he expects to make a final decision.
Maddox didn't hide his party affiliation, writing, "There's something else you need to know. I'm a Democrat. While many have urged me to change parties for the sake of political convenience, that would be dishonest. Dishonest with you and dishonest with myself." Still, Maddox argued that "the days of running for the Democratic Party or for the Republican Party need to end." Maddox told the Montgomery Advertiser that Alabama needs a break from its many recent scandals; most dramatically, GOP Gov. Robert Bentley resigned in May after trying to cover up an affair with a top staffer. The Yellowhammer State is incredibly conservative, but Democrats may have an opening if they can make the case that change is needed.
Democrats don't have a very large bench here, but Maddox has long been mentioned as a rising star. Maddox earned some attention for his work helping Tuscaloosa recover from the destructive 2011 tornados, and he recently won a fourth term with ease. However, if Maddox runs, he won't have a clear path to the Democratic nod. Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, one of the last Democrats to win statewide office, is in. However, Cobb made some enemies in the party when she resigned in 2011, which allowed Bentley to pick her successor; she also backed then-Sen. Jeff Sessions' nomination to become attorney general.
A few other Democrats, most notably 2010 nominee Ron Sparks, have also expressed interest. Things are even more unsettled on the GOP side, where new Gov. Kay Ivey has yet to announce her 2018 plans, but several Republicans are running regardless of what she does.
● CA-Gov: There's a very Groundhog Day-esque nature to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer's flirtations with running for governor of California. There's always a report that Faulconer is considering, Republicans get excited, then Faulconer says he's not considering, though he never completely shuts the door on a bid. Unsurprisingly, Republicans haven't given up trying to recruit Faulconer, and the Los Angeles Times now reports that, according to "GOP strategists familiar with his thinking," Faulconer is indeed considering.
The Times says that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is concerned that, if Team Red doesn't field a strong candidate at the top of the ticket, it will hurt the GOP in competitive House races, and McCarthy is trying to convince Faulconer that he has a path to victory in this very blue state. So far, Faulconer and his team haven't commented, though if history is any guide, they'll put out some statement saying something like, "Kevin Faulconer is not looking at running for governor at this time" that won't discourage Republicans from continuing to ask. ♫Then put your little hand in mine. There ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb…♫
● GA-Gov: Nick Ayers, a former executive director of the RGA who most recently was a senior advisor to Mike Pence during his vice-presidential campaign, has reportedly been considering a bid for the GOP nod, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Thursday that he would stay out. A few hours later, Pence's office announced that Ayers would become his new chief of staff.
● IA-Gov: This month, ex-Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn quietly set up a campaign committee, though his campaign treasurer says that Wilburn hasn't decided if he will seek the Democratic nod. Wilburn served on the city council from 2000 to 2011, and he was chosen as mayor for the 2006-2007 term. Wilburn currently is the associate program director and diversity officer at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
● NH-Gov: Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky is one of several Democrats who has been mulling a bid against GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, and Volinsky gave WMUR a rough timeline for when he plans to decide. Volinsky says he won't have his decision before the end of the summer, and maybe not before the fall.
● OH-Gov: Ex-state Sen. Nina Turner, who was Team Blue's 2014 nominee for secretary of state, has reportedly been considering running for governor next year. However, Turner will take over as head of the Bernie Sanders' allied group Our Revolution. The announcement did not address Turner's possible gubernatorial campaign, but it seems unlikely that she would take a new gig if she were planning to leave in a few months to run statewide.
● TN-Gov: State House Speaker Beth Harwell reportedly is planning to join the crowded GOP primary, and we won't need to wonder much longer in any case. After Harwell was asked at a fundraiser if she'd run, she responded, "Well, we'll know in July."
● CO-06: A month-and-a-half after forming an exploratory committee, Levi Tillemann, a clean-energy expert who served in Obama's Department of Energy, confirmed that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Mike Coffman. Tillemann is the grandson of ex-Lt. Gov. Nancy Dick, who left office three decades ago and who chaired his exploratory committee.
Clinton carried this suburban Denver seat 50-41, but Coffman won re-election last cycle 51-43 over a touted Democratic candidate. Army veteran Jason Crow was the first noteworthy candidate to announce, and the National Journal reports that Crow was recruited by national Democrats. Coffman's team has also focused most of their attention on Crow. Attorney David Aarestad is also running, while state Sen. Rhonda Fields may be interested.
● IL-14: Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren's western suburban Chicago seat swung from 54-44 Romney to just 49-45 Trump, and Democrats are showing more interest in this district than they've shown in years. Matt Brolley, the president of the village of Montgomery, announced that he would run on Thursday.
Brolley, a member of the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, entered the race with the support of 11th District Rep. Bill Foster, who lost to Hultgren in 2010 before returning to the House after redistricting. However, the majority of Montgomery (which had a population of 18,000 in 2010) is located in the 11th District, so not many voters will start out very familiar with its president. Navy veteran Victor Swanson, the brother of comedian Andy Richter, is also seeking the Democratic nod.
● KS-01, KS-02: On Thursday, the Chicago-based conservative think tank Heartland Institute announced that former GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp would be its new president, which almost certainly means he won't be running for Congress again next year.
Huelskamp represented the rural western 1st District for six years, and he had a horrible relationship with the House leadership and with agricultural interests. Huelskamp lost renomination last year to now-Rep. Roger Marshall 56-44 (ex-Speaker John Boehner famously toasted Huelskamp's primary loss), but he wasted little time raising money for a possible rematch; there was also speculation that Huelskamp could run for the open 2nd District instead. However, taking a job in Illinois is a surefire way to announce you're not running for office in Kansas anytime soon.
P.S.: If you missed Huelskamp's reaction to a misdirected crude birthday text in May, check it out.
● MA-07: Rep. Michael Capuano won this safely Democratic Boston-area seat in 1998, and he's faced no serious primary opposition since then. However, the Boston Globe's Joshua Miller reports that Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen is planning to challenge Capuano for renomination next year in Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District.
Mazen, who is not seeking re-election this year, didn't reveal his plans, but he's not denying the report at all. Instead, Mazen said that, "It's true that I'm beginning to focus on campaign plans for 2018, but until I've had the chance to confer with officeholders on one side, and a wide range of allies on the other, I will not be able to comment just yet on any campaign specifics."
In 2013, Mazen became the first Muslim to be elected to a governing body in Massachusetts, and he's called for fellow Muslims to run for office. In 2015, Mazen was the top vote getter in Cambridge's citywide council election, and he's made some influential allies in the city. Mazen founded and ran two startups, and he may have the connections to raise a serious amount of money. And while Mazen has emphasized affordable housing during his political career, he's also earned attention for speaking out against Trump and Islamophobia in general
However, Capuano will be very tough to beat. Capuano doesn't appear to have done anything to have alienated liberal voters or influential political figures in this 84-12 Clinton seat, and he hasn't been shy about going after Trump either. If Mazen runs, it's also not clear what argument he'd make to try and convince primary voters to dump their longtime congressman. Geography also may be a challenge for Mazen. About half of Mazen's Cambridge base is in the 7th, but it only makes up about 7 percent of the seat's population. About two-thirds of the district's denizens live in the city of Boston, while the rest of the seat includes some of the nearby suburbs, including Capuano's home of Somerville.
● TN-02, TN-Sen: Republican Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett recently ruled out a bid for governor, but he told WBIR that he would run for Congress next year. Burchett says he hasn't decided whether to run for the Senate or for the House, but that "[w]e'll be making a decision shortly."
If Burchett goes through with his plans, he'll need to be prepared to face an incumbent in the primary. Sen. Bob Corker hasn't announced if he'll seek re-election yet, though he said he was leaning towards it. State Rep. Andy Holt has also expressed interest in challenging the senator, and if both he and Burchett run, they could split whatever anti-incumbent vote there is. (Unlike many Southern states, there's no primary runoff in Tennessee.) When Burchett was considering running for governor, he predicted that he'd have trouble raising money, so he may just not have what it takes to expand his name recognition outside the Knoxville area.
A bid for Tennessee's 2nd District could be a bit more interesting. The heavily Republican seat, which hasn't had a Democratic representative since before the Civil War, has been held by Rep. Jimmy Duncan since 1988, and his father held the seat for the preceding 23 years. Duncan will turn 70 next month, though he hasn't given any indication that he's interested in retiring. Duncan is close to the Paulist wing of the GOP and he was one of the few Republicans in Congress to vote against the Iraq War, but he's never faced a serious opponent for renomination. About 60 percent of the 2nd is in Knox County, so Burchett would likely start out with a bit of name recognition if he ran.
Still, if Duncan seeks another term and Burchett gets in, it's unclear how the mayor plans to convince voters to fire their longtime congressman. Burchett himself seems to be mainly hoping that Duncan retires, though back in May he didn't rule out a primary bid if Duncan didn't go.
● St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: On behalf of Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls takes another look at this year's non-partisan race between Democratic incumbent Rick Kriseman and Republican Rick Baker, the city's former mayor. They give Baker a 44-39 lead over Kriseman, which is actually a big improvement for Kriseman over the 46-33 Baker edge they found in May. However, there is one key difference between the two polls. In May, St. Pete Polls tested a straight fight between the two Ricks, while this survey includes six minor candidates, who take a combined 9 percent of the vote. The primary will be Aug. 29, and if no one takes a majority, the general election will take place in November.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: On Thursday, incumbent Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that he wasn't going to pursue a write-in bid, and he instead endorsed ex-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan as his chosen successor. Murray surprisingly withdrew from the race shortly before the May filing deadline, facing a serious obstacle in the form of a civil lawsuit from a man claiming that Murray sexually abused him in the 1980s. Not long after the withdrawal, the plaintiff withdrew the lawsuit; the damage was already done, but Murray started mulling over the idea of running a write-in bid, to the extent that he paid for polls testing the idea.
As we pointed out at the time, even polls showing strong support for a write-in bid for someone who has more name-rec than the rest of the field don't account for the actual practical difficulties of winning a race that way. And Murray seemed to quickly come to that realization as well.
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