● MN-Gov, MN-08: On Friday, Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan announced that he would not join the crowded race for governor of Minnesota. Nolan instead said, "The challenges and consequences of the issues facing our Nation in Washington are too important for me to walk away from at this time," so it sounds like he'll seek another term in his competitive Iron Range seat.
Nolan's decision will likely come as a relief to national Democrats who want to hold the 8th Congressional District. The ancestrally blue rural seat dramatically swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump, and it likely would have been tougher for Team Blue to hold without an incumbent. Nolan himself defeated wealthy Republican Stewart Mills 49-47 during the 2014 GOP wave, and he won their 2016 rematch by an ever-tighter 50.2-49.6 margin as Trump was romping to victory here.
Democratic legislative candidates still do relatively well in the 8th District, so Team Blue may have still been able to hold the seat without Nolan. However, national Democrats will probably be happy to have a battle-tested incumbent running rather than taking a chance on a new candidate. Still, it's likely that Nolan will be in for another tough contest in 2018. Back in February, Mills didn't rule out a third try. It's possible that national Republicans would prefer a different candidate this time, but they're likely to spend heavily here once again regardless of who steps up in the end.
● MI-Sen: Republicans recently landed their first candidate willing to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in businesswoman Lena Epstein, but evidently, they're still on the hunt for someone better. According to Crain's Detroit Business, a group of "metro Detroit business professionals" are trying to encourage 36-year-old businessman and Iraq War veteran John James to run, and a friend of James' says he's considering, though James himself isn't commenting. James, a first-time candidate, would be the first African-American to represent Michigan in the Senate were he to run and win.
● MT-Sen: National Republicans were reportedly hoping that Attorney General Tim Fox would challenge Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, but it sounds like they're going to need to settle for some disappointment. Politico, citing two unnamed GOP sources, reports that Fox has decided not to run, though Fox has yet to say anything.
According to one D.C. Republican, Senate Republicans have Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte to blame. Gianforte was Team Red's 2016 nominee against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, and he was reportedly interested in a 2020 run to replace Bullock once term limits kicked in. However, Republicans already felt that Gianforte was a weak candidate before he was slapped with a misdemeanor assault charge last week for body-slamming a reporter. Fox has been interested in running for governor, but he may have been reluctant to go through a primary with the wealthy Gianforte. But now that Gianforte is looking a whole lot less impressive, Fox's calculations appear to have changed.
● GA-Gov: On Thursday, state Sen. Michael Williams announced that he was joining the crowded GOP primary to succeed termed-out Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Williams, who used to own a barber shop chain, first won his exurban Atlanta seat in 2014 by spending $300,000 of his own money to unseat an incumbent in the primary. Williams says he'll use a "significant sum" of his fortune on his campaign, and he attacked the GOP-led state government for failing to deliver "basic conservative legislation."
Williams was the first Georgia elected official to back Donald Trump, and he's wasted no time pitching himself as the Trumpiest candidate in the land. Even before he announced, Williams took the time to troll one of his primary rivals, state Sen. Hunter Hill, on Twitter, arguing that Hill hadn't "work[ed] to elect Trump but now you use his name for votes?" Williams followed up by telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Hill was "wrong for a candidate to prey on loyal Trump supporters for their votes based on false pretenses."
A number of Georgia Republicans have already kicked off their bids. Secretary of State Brian Kemp also launched his campaign by trying to portray himself as Georgia's Donald Trump. By contrast, the AJC recently noted that Casey Cagle, who has served as lieutenant governor since 2007, did not even mention Trump in his campaign kickoff; Cagle is close to the pre-Trump Republican establishment and business groups. Hill, who represents an affluent Atlanta seat that turned against Trump, hasn't ignored Trump the same way that Cagle seems to be doing, arguing that Williams "thinks he is the only Georgian allowed to support President Trump." However, Williams has geared his campaign more towards local issues like his support for school vouchers.
The primary field may get even larger before too long. Ex-Rep. Jack Kingston, who represented a Savanna seat for 22 years before narrowly losing a 2014 Senate primary, has been talking about getting in. Kingston went on to serve as a Trump campaign advisor, and he's become a pro-Trump talking head on CNN. Nick Ayers, a former head of the Republican Governors Association and a top 2016 campaign aide to Mike Pence, is also reportedly considering, and other Peach State Republicans may also run. If no one takes a majority in the primary, there will be a runoff.
However, while state House Speaker David Ralston didn't rule out a bid three months ago, he did seem to back away from a possible gubernatorial run in late May. Ralston gave a speech declaring, "I intend for my focus, this year and next, to be where it has always been, and that is on the Georgia House of Representatives and the good people of Georgia that we represent." That's not a no, but it doesn't sound like he's planning to give up his position in the state House for a risky statewide bid.
● IA-Gov: Democrat John Norris, a former state party chairman and chief of staff to ex-Gov. Tom Vilsack, is the latest candidate to join the primary for governor in 2018. Norris has never held elective office, although he did narrowly lose a state House race in 1990 and lost 55-43 in a House race against GOP then-Rep. Tom Latham in 2002. However, Norris appears to be very well-connected in Iowa state politics, and he's reportedly close to former Sen. Tom Harkin's donor base, meaning he could have some serious fundraising potential. Norris joins an increasingly crowded primary field that includes state Sen. Nate Boulton, state Rep. Todd Prichard, fellow former state party chair Andy McGuire, and several other noteworthy candidates.
● IL-Gov: There are still roughly nine months until the March 2018 Democratic primary and 17 months until the general election, but billionaire investor Democrat J.B. Pritzker has released yet another minute-long gubernatorial TV ad, with this one being the first to attack Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Pritzker appears on camera in the slickly produced spot to skewer Rauner for forcing a years-long budget crisis that has caused cuts to services combating domestic violence, providing mental health care, supplying senior care, and fighting drug-abuse during the state's opioid crisis. He closes by arguing Illinois needs someone who will stand firm against Trump.
● ME-Gov: Ex-state Republican Party head Rick Bennett, who served as Maine Senate president in the early 2000s, has been considering running for this open seat for a while. Bennett tells the Bangor Daily News that he expects to decide in the early summer. Bennett has been active in Maine politics for decades. He was Team Red's nominee for a U.S. House seat in 1994, but he lost to future Gov. John Baldacci 46-41. Bennett ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012, but he took third place in the primary with 18 percent of the vote.
● MI-Gov: In late April, businessman Shri Thanedar set up a campaign committee to seek the Democratic nomination, but he said nothing publicly about his plans. Thanedar recently spoke to the Detroit News and told them he hasn't decided whether to run. Thanedar, who was at the high-profile Mackinac Policy Conference, added that some unnamed attendees told him not to get in.
● NM-Gov: Republican pollster the Tarrance Group has released a survey from late May of next year's open gubernatorial race that shows Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham leading GOP Rep. Steve Pearce by just 47-43 in a hypothetical general election. Lujan Grisham has been in the race for several months, but Pearce is not a formal candidate, and it's possible that this survey was released to entice him into the race since it's unclear who sponsored it. Pearce's chief of staff had previously said in early May that the congressman would take the "next couple of months" to decide, but local political blogger Joe Monahan has previously reported that he's not expected to run.
A mere 4-point lead appears to be a rather favorable result for the hardline Pearce given New Mexico's blue lean and the unpopularity of term-limited GOP Gov. Susana Martinez and Trump. Polling for this race has been sparse, and there's still a very long time until the general election, so it's hard to say where the horse race stands right now. However, given the struggles Republicans have been having finding a candidate and Lujan Grisham's dominant early position in the Democratic primary, party insiders potentially don't see the quite same picture that Tarrance portrays. Pearce himself previously failed spectacularly by 61-39 in the open 2008 Senate race against Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, so he may be reluctant to give up his strongly conservative southern New Mexico House seat next year for another risky statewide bid.
● NY-Gov: Although he he hasn't formally declared his bid for a third term yet, well-funded Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to be in the driver's seat in this absurdly expensive and decidedly blue state, but a few Republicans are nonetheless interested in possibly challenging him in 2018. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro had previously been mentioned as a possible candidate, and he confirmed that interest in a Thursday fundraising email by saying he's "giving serious thought to running." Meanwhile, it turns out that Syracuse-area state Sen. John DeFrancisco had refused to rule out a campaign back in March.
Republicans have so far struggled to find a challenger against Cuomo, but former hedge fund manager Harry Wilson, who lost the comptroller's race in 2010, and tea-partying wealthy businessman Carl Paladino, who lost to Cuomo in 2010, have both previously said they're considering it.
● RI-Gov: Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who lost by just 41-36 as the 2014 Republican nominee, has been expected to seek a rematch with Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo next year, and he recently said that he is indeed considering running again, with a decision to come later in 2017. Rhode Island is a strongly Democratic state in federal elections, and its legislature has been overwhelmingly Democratic for more than half a century, but Republicans have long been competitive in gubernatorial elections—indeed, Raimondo's 2014 election was the first Democratic gubernatorial victory in 24 years.
The governor's often rocky tenure has led to speculation that she might even not seek re-election. However, so far she has said that she's planning on running again, and Raimondo is sure raising money like she's going to. Her vulnerability has nonetheless helped spur several other Republicans to consider the race in addition to Fung, including ex-state Rep. Joseph Trillo, who headed Trump's state campaign, and a handful of businessmen who might be able to substantially self-fund. However, while state Rep. Robert Nardolillo had expressed interest in running for governor, he instead launched a longshot Senate bid against Democratic incumbent Sheldon Whitehouse last month.
● TN-Gov: On Friday, Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green announced that he would not re-enter the GOP primary for governor. Green had launched a bid at the beginning of the year, but dropped out after Donald Trump nominated him to become secretary of the Army. Green's bid to serve in Trump's administration ran aground over his long history of disparaging remarks about Muslims and LGBT people, and after he pulled his nomination, he considered relaunching his campaign for governor.
However, state Sen. Mae Beavers, a fellow social conservative from Middle Tennessee, entered the race before he made his decision. If Green and Beavers ran, they likely would have been competing for a similar pool of primary voters, and Green acknowledged a few days ago that her campaign may have made it tougher for him to win. Green did not mention Beavers when he announced that he wouldn't run, but it's very possible that her decision to run played a part in convincing Green not to get back in the race.
However, we may not have heard the last from Green. His statement said that "[s]everal options exist in the near future to do this and I will continue discussions with people around the state and Washington as I find the best path of service," which could be a sign that he's interested in a Senate or House bid.
Meanwhile, another Tennessee Republican may be making a move in the near future. Rep. Diane Black, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has been publicly considering a bid for a while. Black recently told The Hill's Scott Wong that she's still deciding on her 2018 plans, but state and national Republicans expect her to run for governor and say she could announce as soon as this summer.
But even if Black has already decided to run, congressional matters could delay her kickoff for a while. Black is chair of the House Budget Committee, and she's a key player in discussions on tax and spending changes. Party rules would likely force Black to step down as chair after she announced a bid for governor, something she probably won't want to do for a while, especially if she thinks she can score some high-profile legislative wins in Congress ahead of a statewide campaign. (It's possible that Green is interested in running for Black's 6th Congressional District, though his entire Senate seat is in GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn's 7th District.)
Regardless of what Black does, it may take a while for the GOP primary to fully take shape. Two wealthy businessmen are already in: state Higher Education Commission member Bill Lee, and ex-Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett also is considering, though he doesn't seem interested in raising money.
Both of Tennessee's top legislative leaders also may be making their moves soon. State House Speaker Beth Harwell has been publicly considering, and an unnamed GOP source tells The Hill that she's expected to get in. State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris has also been considering for months, and both Norris and Harwell each recently told the Associated Press Erik Schelzig's that they're planning to decide soon. Schelzig notes that Norris is the only serious potential contender who hails from West Tennessee, which could give him a leg up in a crowded race.
Sen. Bob Corker hasn't ruled out getting in himself, though there's no sign he's seriously considering. While most Southern states require runoffs if no one takes a majority of the vote in a primary, it takes just a simple plurality to win in Tennessee.
● AZ-01: Kevin Cavanaugh, a former police officer who briefly served as deputy sheriff of Pinal County, will seek the GOP nomination to face freshman Democrat Tom O'Halleran. The Arizona Daily Star's Tim Steller says that Cavanaugh briefly ran for Pinal sheriff last year, but he ended up supporting the winning campaign. State Sen. Steve Smith is already running for this northern Arizona district, which narrowly backed both Trump and Romney.
● AZ-02: Several Democrats are considering challenging GOP Rep. Martha McSally in this Tucson seat, which flipped from 50-48 Romney to 50-45 Clinton, and the Arizona Daily Star's Tim Steller adds a new potential contender to the list. Mary Matiella, a CPA who served in the Obama Defense Department as assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, says she's interested. Matiella has the backing of Bill Roe, a longtime local Democratic leader. While Matiella is aware that the GOP would brand her as a D.C. bureaucrat, she does have an interesting backstory. Matiella was born into a family of migrant farmworkers, and she went on to earn a master's degree in education from the local University of Arizona.
However, ex-Rep. Ron Barber, who narrowly lost to McSally in 2014, has a different potential candidate in mind. Barber is urging Ann Kirkpatrick, who represented the 1st District before unsuccessfully running against Sen. John McCain last year, to get in. Kirkpatrick, who says she's moved to the 2nd District for family reasons since her defeat, has been considering running. Barber did speak well of Matiella, but said he's "concerned, as I am in any race, that we find the candidate who has the best chance to win."
● CA-45: EMILY's List, an influential group dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women, endorsed its first House challenger of the cycle on Friday, backing law professor Katie Porter. Porter already had the support of Sen. Kamala Harris, whom Porter worked for when Harris was attorney general, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Porter is one of three noteworthy Democrats competing to face GOP Rep. Mimi Walters for an Orange County seat that shifted from 55-43 Romney to 50-44 Clinton, and these endorsements could help her raise money and stand out from the rest of the field.
● GA-06: With just over two weeks left until the June 20 runoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, we finally have something we've never publicly seen before: a poll with a proper trendline. Republican pollster Landmark Communications has taken a second survey for local news station WSB-TV, and this time they find Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly edging Republican Karen Handel 49-48; back in early May, Landmark's first poll had Handel up 49-47.
That makes Landmark the only outfit to test the race twice since the April 18 primary, which is helpful because smart analysts know that for a true apples-to-apples comparison, you have to look at two polls conducted by the same pollster using the same methodology. So while the contest remains incredibly tight, Ossoff has to feel good about its direction. Indeed, Landmark's initial poll is so far the only one conducted after the primary to show Handel ahead. Five others have put Ossoff on top, so you really have to wonder whether Republicans have failed to offer up any contradictory polls simply because they don't have any.
Indeed, the worry on the GOP side seems to be escalating. A new "nonprofit" created by several Trump campaign alums called America First Policies says that it's going to spend $1.6 million on new TV ads, adding to the already enormous sums that other Republican groups have poured into this race for months. (The spots are not available yet.) But will this really be the million bucks that turns things around, or has the GOP reached the point of diminishing returns?
● OH-05: Republican Rep. Bob Latta doesn't appear to have made many enemies in his conservative northwest Ohio seat, but Van Wert County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum has announced that he will challenge him in the primary. Wolfrum, an attorney who writes weekly conservative newspaper columns, argued in his kick off that "conservatives in northwest Ohio and around the country have been largely betrayed by the Republicans we have sent to Washington." Only about 4 percent of the 4th's denizens live in Van Wert County, and Wolfrum will likely need a whole lot of things to go right to have a shot. This seat went from a tough 54-44 Romney to 60-35 Trump.
● Activism: We're pleased to tell you about a brand new tool for political engagement called Advocate, which boasts longtime friend of Daily Kos Elections Ben Schaffer as an advisor. Advocate is an activism platform that lets individuals track key races either in their own areas or anywhere across the country, and it also allows campaigns (like Jon Ossoff's) to "claim" their pages, Yelp-style, to provide updates to their supporters and offer them opportunities to get involved.
In addition, organizations like Daily Kos can put together slates of candidates they've endorsed, which in turns allows users to drill down and learn more about each campaign and the actions you can take to get them elected. Right now on our page, you'll see Ossoff and Robert Jackson, who's running for the New York State Senate against a "Democratic" incumbent who sides with the GOP, but we'll be adding more candidates as we issue more endorsements throughout the election cycle.
You can sign up here to check it out and start following—and taking action on behalf of—your favorite candidates today.
● Polling: The New York Times' Nate Cohn reported back from this year's convention for the American Association for Public Opinion Research, about how the nation's pollsters are trying to learn from their mistakes in the 2016 election. His excellent recap finds that pollsters are optimistic about being able to deal with the three main categories of errors that affected their 2016 conclusion: the need to weight for education to make sure that samples don't contain too many college-educated voters, the problem of late-breaking undecided voters, and the need to refine who fits within likely voter screens.
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.