Be sure to check out our second quarter Senate fundraising chart, which we'll be updating as new numbers come in. We're also including the totals for House members who are publicly or reportedly considering Senate bids.
● CT-Sen: Chris Murphy (D-inc): $2 million raised, $5.1 million cash-on-hand
● IN-Sen, IN-04: Todd Rokita (R): $1 million raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand
● NV-Sen: Dean Heller (R-inc): $1.4 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand
● AL-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has made it clear that they'll spend whatever they need to spend to help appointed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange win this year's GOP primary, and their first spot goes right after Rep. Mo Brooks. Brooks is a leading member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus and it should be all but impossible to run to his right, but SLF may have the perfect wedge issue.
Just before last year's Super Tuesday presidential primaries, Brooks, who was backing Ted Cruz, went on MSNBC and bashed rival Donald Trump. Brooks declared, " I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says," and, "I think what you're going to see 12 to 18 months from now is a lot of people who have supported Donald Trump, they're going to regret having done so, 12 to 18 months, but right now they're enamored with the personality." And wouldn't you know it, that footage is featured prominently in the SLF's ad.
After the viewer sees Brooks doubting that Trump can be trusted, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi appear onscreen as the narrator argues, "They all attack Donald Trump. Trying to stop him." After that Brooks clip plays again, the narrator insists that Brooks "even refused to endorse Donald Trump for president." After Brooks is shown suggesting that many of Trump's supporters will regret it, the narrator argues that Brooks sided with "Them" as Pelosi and Warren flash by again. Brooks actually was siding with Cruz, but that's not something the audience is supposed to know.
The first round of the GOP primary is Aug. 15, and in the likely event that no one takes a majority of the vote, there will be a September runoff. There has been zero public polling here, though AL.com's John Sharp recently wrote that unreleased campaign polls show Strange narrowly leading Brooks for the second place spot. In first is Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is a hero to Alabama religious conservatives for defying the U.S. Supreme Court's orders to recognize same-sex marriage, but he has a bad relationship with the political establishment and will likely have problems raising cash.
If the unreleased polls are right, Brooks poses a far more immediate threat to Strange than Moore, which is why the SLF is training their fire on him right now. Strange has been a loyal ally of McConnell's since he got to D.C. earlier this year while Brooks and Moore would likely be a Ted Cruz-allied pain in the ass, which explains why the GOP leadership is so eager to help Strange stay in office.
● MO-Sen: Several influential Missouri Republicans have been calling for Attorney General Josh Hawley to challenge Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill for months. Hawley's office has also confirmed that Vice President Mike Pence called Hawley over the weekend and encouraged him to run. In the past, Hawley has said little about his interest while notably refusing to rule it out, but for the first time, Hawley's spokesman acknowledged that his boss "is giving the race serious consideration."
● WV-Sen: Now this would be something. MetroNews' Hoppy Kercheval writes that Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, is considering getting in the GOP primary. There's no quote from Blankenship, but Kercheval says that Blankenship blames Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for what he considers a politically motivated prosecution against him. Blankenship recently finished a year-long prison sentence for a misdemeanor for conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws. The government was hoping to convict Blankenship for far more serious felony charges over the deaths of 29 of Blankenship's employees in the 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion, but they were unsuccessful.
Manchin would certainly be pleased if Blankenship somehow won the GOP nod. A May 2016 poll from Public Policy Polling survey found that only 10 percent of West Virginians had a favorable opinion of Blankenship, while 55 saw him in a negative light. And while Kercheval writes that Blankenship is hoping to tell his side of the story of the Upper Big Branch disaster, it may be a tough sell. One year ago, 60 percent of respondents said that Blankenship's prison sentence was too short, while only 9 percent thought it was too long.
Another West Virginia Republican isn't ruling out a bid, and he's also not someone that the GOP establishment would like. Businessman John Raese recently told Kercheval that "I never say never" when it comes to a Senate run. Raese certainly isn't lying about never saying never to running for something, since he's lost four Senate races and one gubernatorial campaign without ever winning elected office. We'd call him the Danny Tarkanian of West Virginia, but Raese has been playing this game for far longer than Little Tark.
Raese actually came pretty close to beating Democrat Jay Rockefeller in 1984, losing just 52-48 to the outgoing governor. Raese lost the gubernatorial primary by 6 points four year later, and he was off the ballot for the next 18 years. Raese tried again in the new millennium and got trounced 64-34 by Democrat Robert Byrd in the 2006 Senate race. Byrd died in 2010 and Raese challenged Manchin, then the state's popular governor, in the special election for his seat. For a time the polls showed Raese competitive with, or even leading, Manchin. However, despite the year's GOP wave, Manchin won by a solid 53-43. Raese tried again in 2012 but both parties largely ignored the race, and Raese lost 61-36.
Two GOP office holders, Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, are both challenging Manchin. Both have their flaws, but they'd both be better for Team Red than Raese, and far better than Blankenship.
● CO-Gov: It's been a while since we've heard anything about Attorney General Cynthia Coffman's interest in seeking the GOP nod in this open seat race. However, Coffman recently confirmed to the Denver Post that she is still considering, though she only said she has "a personal timeline" for when she will decide. A number of Republicans are already in, and state political observers expect state Treasurer Walker Stapleton to join the field as well.
● CT-Gov: This week two Connecticut politicians, Democrat Dan Drew and Republican David Walker, announced that they were done exploring a bid for governor and were officially running. Drew, the mayor of Middletown, formed an exploratory committee back in January, well before Democratic incumbent Dan Malloy announced that he would not seek a third term. Drew may have been hoping to raise a lot of money early and scare off some potential primary rivals, but neither seems to be happening.
While Drew is the first notable Democrat to officially announce he's running for governor, many others are exploring. (Exploratory mode confers certain advantages related to how Connecticut provides public financing to campaigns, so many people who have decided to run have an incentive to officially just be exploring for a while.) And while Drew started raising money before anyone else, he had the least amount of cash-on-hand at the end of June of any Democrat who was raising money for a possible gubernatorial bid. Drew may be hoping to attract some extra attention as the first officially declared Democratic contender.
Walker, who served as the U.S. comptroller general from 1998 to 2008, was a co-founder of the No Labels group, and he was mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate for Americans Elect, another purportedly centrist group. Walker ended up rejoining the GOP and he ran for lieutenant governor in 2014, taking a close third place in the primary. Walker joins Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, and state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan as declared GOP candidates, but there are plenty of other people still officially exploring.
● IA-Gov: On Wednesday, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett announced that he had raised $800,000 in the month since he entered the GOP primary. Corbett faces a tough race against incumbent Kim Reynolds, who was promoted from lieutenant governor to governor when Terry Branstad resigned in May to become ambassador to China. Most of the Iowa GOP establishment is behind Reynolds, and she announced this week that Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst would serve as her state co-chairs.
● NJ-Gov: Monmouth takes a look at this fall's general election, and let's just say that Kim Guadagno is not favored to keep the governor's beach house red. The survey gives Democrat Phil Murphy a massive 53-26 lead, not much different than the 55-26 edge Quinnipiac found in June. Monmouth has termed-out GOP Gov. Chris Christie down in the dumps with a 15-80 approval rating.
● NM-Gov: While Lt. Gov. John Sanchez originally expressed interest in seeking the GOP nomination for governor, he's turned his attention toward a potential bid against Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich in recent months. Unsurprisingly, Sanchez endorsed Rep. Steve Pearce's gubernatorial bid on Tuesday.
● WI-Gov: Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, told CBS reporter David Ade on Tuesday that he was considering seeking the Democratic nod to take on GOP Gov. Scott Walker. Mitchell was Team Blue's nominee for lieutenant governor in the 2012 recall race, and he lost to GOP incumbent Rebecca Kleefisch 53-47. So far, businessman Andy Gronik is the only notable Democrat who has entered the race, but several others are considering.
● CA-49: This week, real estate investor Paul Kerr became the latest Democrat to announce a bid against longtime GOP Rep. Darrell Issa. Kerr will face Marine veteran Doug Applegate, who narrowly lost to Issa in 2016, and attorney Mike Levin in next year's top two primary to face the ultra-wealthy Issa. This well-educated suburban San Diego seat flipped from 52-46 Romney to 51-43 Clinton.
● FL-01: Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz only won his safely red Pensacola-area seat last year, but it's possible he'll be leaving it behind for bigger things soon. Florida Politics' Peter Schorsch relays that there's chatter "buzzing from the Panhandle to the Potomac" that Gaetz could run for state attorney general next year. Gaetz didn't exactly quash the talk when Northwest Florida reporter Tom McLaughlin asked him about it, with the congressman instead just saying, "My job is to fight for Northwest Florida in Congress." That's far from a no.
While it's pretty common for House members to run for the Senate or for governor, it's much less common for them to seek out a lower statewide office. However, Republican Adam Putnam pulled this trick in 2010 when he left the House to successfully run for Florida agriculture commissioner. Putnam is the GOP primary frontrunner for governor next year, so this trade seems to be working out pretty well for him. And if Gaetz also has big ambitions down the line, he'd probably be much better positioned to run as a statewide office holder than as a congressman from a fairly isolated part of a state as big as Florida is.
● MO-02: Earlier this month, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner surprisingly announced that she would seek re-election this this suburban St. Louis seat rather than run for the U.S. Senate. Missouri's 2nd District went from 57-41 Romney to a smaller 53-42 Trump, but it's still very tough turf for Democrats, and the well-connected Wagner will have all the resources she'll need to defend herself. However, she did pick up a Democratic foe on Wednesday when attorney Cort VanOstran, a professor at the Washington University School of Law, announced that he would challenge her. Attorney Kelli Dunaway also kicked off a bid this week.
A few other Democrats also expressed interest in running when it looked like this would be an open seat. This is going to be a very challenging race for Team Blue even if a strong Democratic candidate emerges from the primary, but this well-educated suburban seat could be a target in a wave year.
● NM-02: This week, state Rep. Yvette Herrell became the first noteworthy Republican to announce that she would seek this open southern New Mexico seat. The Santa Fe New Mexican writes that Herrell "has won a reputation as one of the more conservative members of the state House of Representatives" in her four terms in office. Notably, Herrell has tried to outlaw most abortions after 20 weeks, and called for amending the U.S. Constitution to put restrictions on government spending. State Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell and state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn are both publically considering getting in for Team Red as well, while Democrats are hoping to put this 50-40 Trump seat into play.
● WV-02: The GOP has held this central West Virginia seat since 2000, and Trump's 66-29 win doesn't exactly make it look like inviting territory for Team Blue. However, Democrats are still hoping that sophomore GOP Rep. Alex Mooney is just weak enough to lose it all. Talley Sergent, a former U.S. State Department official and Coca-Cola executive, announced that she would seek the Democratic nod.
Mooney, a former member of the Maryland legislature, moved to West Virginia in 2013 and immediately began talking about running for the House. (Just the prior month, Mooney had refused to rule out a congressional bid back home in the Old Line State.) Mooney ended up taking the GOP nod, but he only beat a well-financed Democratic foe 47-44 in a hellish year for Democrats nationally and Mountain State Democrats in particular. Last year, Mooney beat underfunded former state Del. Mark Hunt 58-42; not exactly a close shave, but still quite weaker than Trump's performance.
Mooney will have had four years to distance himself from his carpetbagging ways, though Sergent is wasting no time portraying him as an outsider. Sergent kicked off her bid noting that she is a sixth generation West Virginian and assailed Mooney as "Washington through and through—he's not one of us."
Team Blue is going to need a lot to go right to unseat Mooney next year in an area that has been trending the wrong way for a long time. Sergent also was Hillary Clinton's state director, and while she may have some good connections from that post, the GOP will likely use that job to assail her as an out-of-touch liberal.
Sergent also faces a contested primary before she can focus on Mooney. Army veteran Aaron Scheinberg, a New Jersey native, kicked off his bid a few days ago. Scheinberg was the regional director for The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that helps returning veterans readjust (the group was founded by now-Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens), but Scheinberg only moved to West Virginia in January, and he'd have a tough time hitting Mooney as a carpetbagger.
P.S.: Fun fact: When Mooney was in college at Dartmouth, he also ran for the 400-person New Hampshire state House and lost.
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