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.
● VA-Sen: After coming shockingly close to upsetting Ed Gillespie in last month's GOP gubernatorial primary, Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart announced on Thursday that he would challenge Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine next year. Kaine hasn't emerged as a major Republican target so far, and if Stewart emerges from next year's primary, they may just abandon this race altogether. Trump lost Virginia 50-44 and he certainly hasn't gotten any more popular here, but Stewart has bragged that he was "Trump before Trump was Trump."
Stewart kicked off his new campaign by pledging to "run a very vicious and ruthless campaign against Tim Kaine and I'm going to win," and he's probably not kidding about that first part. During the gubernatorial primary, Stewart referred to Gillespie as a "cuckservative" without any prompting on Reddit, and his allies also altered real news headlines on Facebook to attack Gillespie.
Stewart also scored some points by belatedly siding with the Confederacy. When Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia, voted to remove its statue of Robert E. Lee, Stewart infamously tweeted in April that "[n]othing is worse than a Yankee telling a Southerner that his monuments don't matter." (Stewart is originally from Minnesota, which, incidentally, is where Kaine was born as well.) Back in the 1960s, this kind of rhetoric may have been an asset in a Virginia campaign, but it probably won't be anymore.
Stewart's underfunded campaign came close to toppling Gillespie last month, but as the National Journal's Andrea Drusch recently pointed out, Stewart may face one big stumbling block in a Senate primary he didn't have last time. While Gillespie and his allies ignored Stewart on the airwaves, national Republicans have been far more active in Senate races to try to prevent unelectable candidates from breaking through. If Team Red wants to target Kaine, don't be surprised if the well-funded Senate Leadership Fund gets involved to boost another candidate or tear down Stewart.
However, it's unclear who else will step up and challenge Kaine. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham and ex-HP head Carly Fiorina, who ran for the Senate in California in 2010 and for president in 2016, have both expressed interest, but neither of them looks incredibly formidable either. The Washington Post writes that there has been speculation that Del. Jimmie Massie, who is not seeking re-election to his suburban Richmond seat, may be interested as well. At the beginning of the cycle there was also talk that Rep. Barbara Comstock could run, but she seems focused on defending her competitive Northern Virginia seat instead.
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.
● AZ-Sen: Jeff Flake (R-inc): $1.5 million raised, $3 million cash-on-hand
● FL-Sen: Bill Nelson (D-inc): $2.1 million raised, $5.1 million cash-on-hand
● IN-Sen: Joe Donnelly (D-inc): $1.5 million, $3.7 million cash-on-hand
● MA-Sen: Elizabeth Warren (D-inc): $3.45 million raised, $11 million cash-on-hand
● MI-Sen: Debbie Stabenow (D-inc): $2.1 million raised, $5.8 million cash-on-hand
● PA-Sen, PA-03: Mike Kelly (R): $370,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
● TX-Sen: Ted Cruz (R-inc): $1.6 million raised, $5.7 million cash-on-hand; Beto O'Rourke (D): $2.1 million raised, $1.9 million cash-on-hand
● WV-Sen: Joe Manchin (D-inc): $1.4 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand
● MO-Sen: Attorney General Josh Hawley is being pushed to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill by influential Republicans, but Hawley has yet to make a decision. The New York Times' Jonathan Martin relays that, in addition to family concerns, Hawley is worried that a Senate bid could make it more difficult for him to get chosen for a vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat, a concern anyone can certainly relate to. In any case, two Republicans who don't see themselves modeling in black robes anytime soon are moving ahead with potential bids.
State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who like Hawley won statewide office just last year, hasn't said anything publicly about his interest, but the Washington Examiner's David M. Drucker reports that he's traveled to D.C. to meet with the NRSC. State Rep. Paul Curtman meanwhile has confirmed reports that he's forming an exploratory committee, and he said on Monday that he expects to make a decision in a few days. Curtman, who is termed out of office, chairs the state House Ways and Means Committee, so he may have some good connections.
● TN-Sen: GOP Sen. Bob Corker hasn't announced his 2018 plans yet, though he's said he's leaning towards another bid. Corker may face a primary challenge from the right, and state Rep. Andy Holt has expressed interest in taking him on. However, Holt tells The National Journal that he'd stay out if one of a trio of other Republicans ran instead: Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Americans for Prosperity State Director Andy Ogles, or state Sen. Mark Green.
Burchett has said that he will run for Congress next year, though he's trying to decide between a Senate bid or a campaign for GOP Rep. Jimmy Duncan's 2nd Congressional District. Back in February, Ogles, who leads the Koch brother's influential group, refused to rule out a Senate run and said "we'll have another conversation in a few months," but he doesn't appear to have said anything since then.
Green hasn't shown any public interest in challenging Corker, but if he does decide to go for it, he may have the profile to make things interesting. Green launched a campaign for governor in January, but he dropped out after Donald Trump nominated him to become secretary of the Army. But Green's bid to serve in Trump's administration ran aground over his long history of disparaging remarks about Muslims and LGBT people, and he pulled his name.
Green's failed nomination may have actually boosted his profile at home with like-minded conservatives, and he considered reentering the gubernatorial race. However, he stayed out after state Sen. Mae Beavers, a fellow social conservative from Middle Tennessee, announced she would run before he made his decision. Still, Green did say that he would "continue discussions with people around the state and Washington as I find the best path of service," which may be a sign that he is interested in federal office.
● WV-Sen: In response to reports that he's interested in a bid against West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, disgraced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship confirmed to a local radio station that he is looking at a campaign. Blankenship said a run against Manchin was "always a possibility," and said that if he did jump in, he may run as a Republican or an independent.
Blankenship himself said that he assumes that Manchin "would love to see me get in the race because he would probably think I would be more easily beatable than the others," and he's probably not wrong. As we recently noted, 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.
A May 2016 Public Policy Polling survey gave Blankenship a horrible 10-55 unfavorable rating, and found that 60 percent of respondents agreed that Blankenship's prison sentence was too short. Blankenship said on Thursday that "more than anything I'm just still trying to figure out how to get the truth out about UBB," but it looks like he'd have an incredibly tough task bringing West Virginians over to his point of view. Right now two Republican office-holders, Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, are competing for the GOP nod.
● MD-Gov: Former NAACP head Ben Jealous was an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter during last year's Democratic presidential primary, and Sanders returned the favor on Thursday with an endorsement. While Sanders lost Maryland 63-34, his support could help Jealous raise money and consolidate support from Sanders voters in what's shaping up to be a crowded primary to face GOP incumbent Larry Hogan.
● CA-39: This week, the influential group EMILY's List endorsed pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran in the Democratic contest to face longtime GOP Rep. Ed Royce in this suburban Southern California seat. Tran will face education consultant Phil Janowicz in the June top-two primary, while Navy veteran Gil Cisneros is also reportedly considering getting in.
● CA-52: After two tight races, Democratic Rep. Scott Peters won his third term 57-43 as his San Diego-area seat was shifting from 52-46 Obama to 58-36 Clinton. Peters doesn't look like he'll be a major target next year, but Army Reserve lawyer Omar Qudrat, who also does counter-terrorism consulting, announced that he would run as a Republican next year. It's unclear if Qudrat will have the connections to put up a strong fight against Peters, who is a strong fundraiser.
● TX-16: El Paso school board chair Dori Fenenbock set up an exploratory committee for a possible bid for this safely blue seat in May, and she's raised a credible $272,000 for the Democratic primary in that time. Fenenbock says she's still deciding what to do, but that's certainly a lot of money to raise for a race you're not sure you're going to get into. Fenenbock's consultant also says that she will make her bid to succeed Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke official in August. County Judge Veronica Escobar is also talking about running for this open El Paso seat.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: There's a final push of labor endorsements in the Seattle mayoral race, ahead of the Aug. 1 top-two primary (with mail-in ballots about to hit the mailboxes). The biggest prize is probably the backing of the King County Labor Council (the umbrella group that covers local AFL-CIO affiliates), who split their endorsement between state Rep. Jessyn Farrell and state Sen. Bob Hasegawa; that should be considered more of a win for Farrell than for Hasegawa, a former Teamsters leader who'd been expected to dominate the "labor" lane in the race.
Farrell also got the sole endorsement of Unite Here! local 8, while ex-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan (who gets assigned the "business" candidate moniker) recently received the backing of the SEIU and Fire Fighters locals. Hasegawa did get the backing of the Seattle Education Association, but even there, he wound up sharing a co-endorsement with attorney Nikkita Oliver, the most openly left-ish candidate in the race who hasn't held office before but has gotten strong notices for her stump-speaking presence.
One other big boost for Oliver is that last week she got the endorsement of city councilor Mike O'Brien, notable because he was a significant ally of Mike McGinn during McGinn's mayoral term, and perhaps indicative of the general lack of interest in McGinn's comeback bid this year. Oliver also has the backing of Socialist City Councilor Kshama Sawant, who's the lodestar for the city's lefty youth voters, while four other city councilors are backing Durkan and one is for Farrell.
McGinn's surprising election in 2009 was via cobbling together an environmentalist, labor, and young voters coalition, but this year the young voters seem to have mostly gravitated toward Oliver, while labor is heading toward Farrell and Hasegawa—and the move by O'Brien (the key enviro on the city council) suggests even the green part of McGinn's coalition is shrugging.
It's possible that McGinn still manages to grab one of the two general election slots thanks to name recognition, but, with both McGinn and Hasegawa's balloons seeming to be deflating, it's looking likely that Seattle—a city that hasn't elected a female mayor since Bertha Knight Landes in 1926—may wind up with two women contesting the mayoral race in November.
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections' project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation visits Oklahoma, a heavily Republican state where Democrats just picked up two conservative seats in special elections on Tuesday. 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 haven't won Oklahoma's electoral votes since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide, and Al Gore's 60-38 loss was the last time a Democratic presidential nominee won a single county in the state. Team Blue maintained control of the Oklahoma legislature decades after the state stopped supporting Democratic presidential candidates, but the state House flipped in 2004 and the Senate went red four years later.
The GOP has a firm hold over both chambers, but surprisingly, Democrats have scored some pickups in special elections over the last few years. In September of 2015, Democrat Cyndi Munson pulled off a 54-46 win in HD-85 in the Oklahoma City suburbs, a seat that backed Mitt Romney 61-39. In January of 2016, Democrat J.J. Dossett won SD-34 in the Tulsa area 56-44, a big turnaround from Romney's 70-30 win. In November, Munson won 54-46 as her seat backed Trump by a smaller 49-43 margin. Dossett, whose seat backed Trump 68-26, does not face voters again until 2018.
Despite those twin pickups, Trump's 65-29 victory made it tough for Team Blue to make any gains in November. The GOP netted three state Senate seats and emerged with a 42 to six supermajority, while Team Red netted four seats in the lower chamber and won a 75-26 edge. In the Senate, where half the chamber is up every two years, Trump carried 44 seats, losing only the same four districts that Romney had lost four years before. In the state House, which is up every two years, Trump won 90 of the 101 seats; Trump lost three Romney seats while flipping no Obama districts.
Despite Team Blue's bad showing in November, Democrats again performed well in 2017's special elections. In a May special for HD-28, a seat located on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, Republican Zack Taylor won just 50-48 in a district that had gone from 69-31 Romney to 73-23 Trump. And on Tuesday, Democrats scored one pickup in each chamber. In HD-75, located in the Tulsa area, Democrat Karen Gaddis won 52-48 a few months after the seat went from 64-36 Romney to 58-36 Trump. In the Oklahoma City-area SD-44, Democrat Michael Brooks-Jimenez pulled off a 55-45 victory in a district that moved from 61-39 Romney to 56-37 Trump.
Democrats are still deep in the minority, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon in such a conservative state. Still, Team Blue's wins when there is no presidential race on the ballot may be a good sign for the party's chances in the 2018 governor's race. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is termed out, and a May poll from SoonerPoll.com gave her a horrific 31-61 favorable rating. There's little other data, but Tuesday's special election flips, in addition to being a sign that anti-Trump Democratic enthusiasm is high, may be an indication that even conservatives are fed up with the status quo.
And the status quo is bad. As we've noted before, thanks in large part to falling oil prices, Oklahoma's financial situation is an utter mess. Over the years, the GOP-dominated state government has instituted large income tax cuts and huge cuts to oil and gas production taxes, and the state is suffering from the loss of revenue. Rural hospitals have been closed, and state troopers are only allowed to drive 100 miles per day. Perhaps most dramatically, scores of schools have adopted four-day school weeks. Team Blue has two potentially strong candidates running for governor: state House Minority Leader Scott Inman, a vocal Fallin critic, and ex-state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who narrowly lost the 2010 primary.
However, if Democrats want to regain the governor's office after two terms of Fallin, they'll need to win over voters who haven't backed Democrats in a while. Even after Tuesday, Democrats hold just three Trump Senate seats and 17 Trump House seats. The reddest Democratic-held Senate district is Dossett's district. In the House, the Trumpiest Democratic seat is HD-01 in the southeast corner of the state. This district moved from 76-24 Romney to 81-17 Trump, but Democratic incumbent Johnny Tadlock won a second term 60-40. This isn't quite the reddest Democratic-held seat we've found so far anywhere in the country, but it's close; in West Virginia, Democrats hold a district that backed Trump 82-16.
The GOP holds one House seat that backed Clinton. HD-71, located in the Tulsa area, moved from 53-47 Romney to 50-43 Clinton, but Republican Katie Henke won a third term 56-44. However, a relatively red state House seat will be up soon. HD-46, located around Normand, went from 60-40 Romney to 52-41 Trump. On Sept. 12, there will be a special election between Democrat Jacob Rosecrants and Republican Darin Chambers. The GOP holds no Clinton Senate seats, though SD-40, located in the Oklahoma City area, went from 57-43 Romney to just 46-45 Trump. Freshman Republican Ervin Yen will be up in 2018.
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