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, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● AL-Sen: We have some last-minute polls of today's GOP Senate runoff in Alabama, and they both point to a clear win for former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Cygnal gives Moore a 52-41 edge against appointed Sen. Luther Strange, while the GOP pollster Trafalgar Group has him up 57-41. Indeed, as of Monday evening, every single poll that's been released has shown Moore ahead, and even Strange’s best poll—which was paid for by his free-spending allies at the Senate Leadership Fund—still found Moore with 41-40 edge last week.
It's worth noting that both of these late polls were in the field Saturday and Sunday, just after none other than Donald Trump held a rally for Strange in Huntsville on Friday night. Strange has been tying himself to Trump as closely as possible, and the senator and his supporters have been hoping that Trump's popularity with the Republican rank-and-file will help him make up badly needed ground. However, Trump's event didn't exactly serve as a rallying cry for Alabama Republicans to back Strange.
In addition to going off on tangents against NFL players and North Korea, Trump told the crowd that he "might have made a mistake" backing Strange, perhaps the oddest thing an endorser could possibly say. Trump did argue that Moore could actually give Democrat Doug Jones an opening in the December general election if the former judge won the nod, but he still called both GOP candidates "good men," and Trump pledged to stump for Moore if it came down to it. That's probably not a very persuasive message for Trump-loving Republicans who might be on the fence about Strange.
In any case, we'll find out very soon if the polls are right, or if the only poll that matters in this race really is on Election Day. The polls close at 8 PM ET tonight, and Daily Kos Elections will begin our liveblog then. We'll also be live-tweeting the results as well. We hope you'll join us for what will be an eventful night no matter what happens.
● MS-Sen: State Sen. Chris McDaniel almost unseated Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 GOP primary, and he's spent months flirting with a primary bid against Roger Wicker, Mississippi's other senator. McDaniel, who is also considering a 2019 bid for lieutenant governor (which is a powerful post in Mississippi), tells The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender that he hopes to decide by the end of October, though he did not commit to that deadline.
As we've written before, Wicker is likely to be a much tougher foe than Cochran was. While Cochran had not faced a tough opponent in decades and started the race with little money, Wicker chaired the NRSC during the 2016 cycle, and he had $3.1 million in the bank at the end of June. However, while Wicker has done far less to piss off conservatives than Cochran ever did, he still seems to have angered Steve Bannon, the white supremacist chief of Breitbart News and Trump’s former top adviser.
Bannon and billionaire mega-donor Robert Mercer reportedly want to unseat Wicker in the primary, and if they decide to go after him in full force, the incumbent could be in for a rough ride. Under Bannon, Breitbart was a huge McDaniel booster during his 2014 primary, and McDaniel says he's met with Bannon several times recently.
● AK-Gov: Over the weekend, businessman Scott Hawkins, whose company provides supply chain logistics to mining and energy concerns, announced that he was joining the GOP primary to challenge independent Gov. Bill Walker. Hawkins has only run for office once, narrowly losing a 1996 race for the Anchorage Assembly, but he's been very active in state GOP politics.
Hawkins has worked with a business-backed GOP super PAC called the Accountability Project, which just happens to be headquartered in the offices of Hawkins' company. Last year, the Accountability Project targeted two moderate Republican state House members in primaries, largely over their support for a tax credit that was anathema to the oil industry, and also to prevent them from joining a governing coalition with the Democratic state House minority. One of those targeted Republicans lost his primary, but state Rep. Paul Seaton survived and ended up forming that dreaded coalition with four other Republicans and the chamber's 17 Democrats.
A few other Republicans have filed out paperwork to raise money. Former GOP state Sen. Charlie Huggins has filed to run, and his wife says he's in. State Rep. Mike Chenault, a former speaker, filed to run two weeks ago but said he was still deciding what office to seek. A few other Republicans are talking about jumping in as well.
● CO-Gov: Over the weekend, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton kicked off his long-expected bid for the GOP nomination for governor. Stapleton, a second cousin of George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, has been raising money for months for an allied super PAC called Better Colorado Now.
Stapleton will have no shortage of intra-party foes, however. Also in the race are former investment banker Doug Robinson, a nephew of Mitt Romney; suburban Denver District Attorney George Brauchler; and wealthy businessman Victor Mitchell, who briefly served in the state House. A few other Republicans, including ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, are also considering. Democrats have their own crowded primary as well.
● CT-Gov: Late last week, former business executive Bob Stefanowski announced that he would seek the GOP nod to replace retiring Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy. Stefanowski, who has served as CEO of the financial services firm DFC Global, unsurprisingly is playing up his business background and arguing he’s a political outsider. Note that a different Republican businessman, hedge fund manager David Stemerman, said he was likely to run as well last week. A number of other Republicans have entered the race or formed exploratory committees, and there's no clear frontrunner.
● ME-Gov: GOP Sen. Susan Collins has said for a while that she will decide whether to run for governor by the end of September, but she's moved her timeline back a bit. Collins, citing the ongoing Trumpcare debate, now says she that by Columbus Day (so, Oct. 9), "I'll definitely announce my decision."
● MI-Gov: Until this weekend, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller had refused to rule out entering the Republican primary to replace termed-out GOP Gov. Rick Snyder. But Miller, who retired from the House last year, instead joined Donald Trump and endorsed Attorney General Bill Schuette.
● MN-Gov: Back in November, ex-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty didn't quite rule out a comeback bid for his old job, only saying he was "politically retired." However, the Star-Tribune's J. Patrick Coolican writes that while Pawlenty has been saying the same kind of thing for months publicly, GOP sources say that behind the scenes, Pawlenty really is considering getting in. Coolican reports that the former governor is "watching to see if the current field is locking down financial and political support."
If Pawlenty ran, he'd certainly be the biggest name in the GOP primary. And as we wrote months ago, Pawlenty currently works in D.C. as a lobbyist for banks, which gives him access to plenty of money. Of course, that also means that Democrats wouldn't need to work hard to portray Pawlenty as a tool of greedy Washington interests if he were to attempt a comeback.
It's also not clear how popular Pawlenty, who ran an unimpressive race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, is. Pawlenty last was on the ballot in 2006, when he narrowly won re-election 47-46 during the Democratic wave. He left office with weak approval ratings, but a 2015 PPP survey gave him a positive 42-33 favorable score.
The GOP field is still slowly taking shape. The current notable candidates are Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who lost to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton 50-45 in 2014; ex-state party chair Keith Downey; state Sen. David Osmek; and state Rep. Matt Dean. Several other Republicans, most notably House Speaker Kurt Daudt, are still talking about getting in. Back in July, Daudt said he would decide by the early fall, which would put his announcement around … now? However, he’s been pretty inconsistent about his timeline in the past.
Democrats also have a crowded primary that's still taking shape, though a few days ago, former Vice President Walter Mondale, a former senator from Minnesota, gave his backing to Rep. Tim Walz.
● NJ-Gov: Suffolk: Phil Murphy (D): 44, Kim Guadagno (R): 25.
● PA-Gov: State Sen. Scott Wagner is out with another poll of the GOP primary from McLaughlin & Associates that shows him leading businessman Paul Mango, the only other announced candidate, 46-16 in a two-way race. In April, McLaughlin had Wagner up 42-13, almost the exact same margin as now.
Wagner also released a version of the poll that included Laura Ellsworth, an attorney in suburban Pittsburgh who said earlier this month that she was considering getting in. We'd never heard of Ellsworth before now, and according to this poll, neither have many voters. In this three-way matchup, Wagner still crushes Mango 45-13, with Ellsworth at just 5.
McLaughlin is a pollster we are very much not fond of, even without taking into account their infamous 2014 poll that showed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor easily winning his primary just before he lost it. However, we just don't have any other numbers to fall back on here. Still, it seems unlikely that Wagner, who has represented a York County Senate seat for just three years, has the name recognition to be this far ahead this early in the primary campaign. He’s very wealthy, though, and it's unclear if Mango has the resources to take him on.
It's also not clear if any other notable Republicans will get in. Besides Ellsworth, the only Republican who seems interested is state House Speaker Mike Turzai. However, Turzai doesn't seem to be preparing to run, and local Republicans seem skeptical he ever will.
● RI-Gov: On Saturday, House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan announced that she would seek the GOP nod to face Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. Morgan had just $8,000 on-hand at the end of June, though she announced a little while later that she was exploring a bid, so she may have brought in more cash since then. Morgan is the first notable Republican to enter the primary, though Cranston Mayor and 2014 nominee Allan Fung has made it no secret that he plans to get in, too.
A few Democrats have also made noises about challenging Raimondo in the primary, including ex-Gov. Lincoln Chafee. A few months ago, Chafee left open the possibility that he would run as an independent, but he told WPRI's Eyewitness News on Monday that he remains a Democrat and would run as one if he gets in.
Chafee remains in no hurry to decide on a primary bid, saying he'll wait to "see what happens over the course of the next few months" with the state's finances. Chafee, a former Republican who was elected governor as an independent in 2010, left office very unpopular in early 2015, and his hapless bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination—which lasted less than five months—also doesn't exactly inspire confidence in his chances.
● VA-Gov: We have two new polls giving Democrat Ralph Northam a mid-single digit lead over Republican Ed Gillespie. Christopher Newport University has Northam leading 47-41 in their first poll since March, while IMGE Insights, a group we had not previously heard of, polled on behalf of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and gave Northam a 45-41 lead. There were several questions on healthcare policy after the horserace numbers, which may explain Pfizer's interest here, though they also asked about other topics, including manufacturing jobs and Confederate monuments.
Altogether, we've seen seven different polls in the last week. Suffolk University and Mason-Dixon showed a tie, while Fox's bipartisan team of Democratic firm Anderson Robbins Research and the GOP outfit Shaw & Company Research gave Northam a 42-41 edge. Quinnipiac, meanwhile, found a Northam 51-41 blowout, while the University of Mary Washington joins Christopher Newport University and IMGE in the middle with their 44-39 Northam lead.
● WI-Gov: On Monday, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout joined next year's race for Wisconsin governor, making her the fourth notable Democrat to run. Vinehout has sought the governorship twice before, though, and neither effort went well. In the 2012 recall election, Vinehout finished in third place in the Democratic primary with just 4 percent of the vote. She ran again in the regularly scheduled 2014 elections but dropped out after she injured her arm in a car accident.
Already seeking the Democratic nod this time are state schools superintendent Tony Evers, businessman Andy Gronik, and state Rep. Dana Wachs. Meanwhile, GOP Gov. Scott Walker has been making preparations to seek a third term, but he's yet to formally announce. Walker at one point had said that he was waiting until after he signed the state's budget—which he finally just did, three months late. But now he's pushed his self-imposed deadline off until "early November," according to the Associated Press.
● IN-02: Former healthcare executive Mel Hall, who'd reportedly been weighing a bid against GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski, has now confirmed that he is in fact considering the race and plans to decide "very soon," according to the South Bend Tribune. Hall has met with the DCCC and has polled the race, so he sounds serious. He's also reportedly wealthy and may be willing to self-fund, which could help pull a contest that would otherwise struggle to gain traction on to the map.
Trump won this seat, which includes the South Bend area, by a dominant 59-36 margin. However, Democrat Joe Donnelly (who is now senator) held this predecessor version of this seat for two terms in the previous decade, and Walorski only won her first term in 2012 by a 1-point margin, making this race a not-implausible "reach" opportunity for Democrats.
● MI-11: RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who formerly ran the Michigan Republican Party and is also a niece of Mitt Romney, had been mentioned as possible candidate for the state's 11th Congressional District in the wake of Rep. Dave Trott's surprise retirement announcement earlier this month. However, at a local GOP conference over the weekend, Romney McDaniel unambiguously said, "I'm not running." The field is still developing on both sides for this well-educated district in the Detroit suburbs that supported Donald Trump by a 50-45 margin.
● NY-19: The crowded Democratic primary to face freshman Republican Rep. John Faso got a little less crowded on Monday when business consultant Sue Sullivan dropped out. Sullivan raised only $55,000 from mid-May to the end of June, and she said she decided to end her bid after "after assessing my ability, as a first-time candidate, to raise the resources necessary to win this election."
● Special Elections: In addition to the Alabama GOP Senate runoff, Tuesday brings us four special legislative election. As always, Johnny Longtorso has the goods:
Florida SD-40: Back in April, freshman Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles resigned after he unleashed a racist tirade against fellow state senators, opening up this Miami-Dade County seat. The Democratic nominee is Annette Taddeo, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2008 and 2016, and was Charlie Crist's running mate for governor in 2014. The Republican nominee is state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. Also running is independent Christian "He-Man" Schlaerth (and yes, he will appear on the ballot this way). This seat went 58-40 for Hillary Clinton in 2016; according to Florida data expert Matthew Isbell, it backed Barack Obama 54-45 in 2012.
Florida HD-116: Because of Florida's resign-to-run law, GOP state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz has to resign from the state House to run in the special election for SD-40. Diaz's departure from the lower house takes effect Sept. 26, regardless of whether he wins or loses the Senate race. The Democratic candidate to succeed Diaz in this Miami-Dade County seat is Gabriela Mayaudon, who was a congresswoman in her former home of Venezuela. The Republican candidate is Daniel Perez, an attorney. This seat went 51-46 for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 55-44 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
New Hampshire House, Rockingham-4: This is an open Republican seat east of Manchester. The Democratic nominee is Kari Lerner, a realtor, while the Republican nominee is James Headd, a former state representative. Also on the ballot is Libertarian James Jarvis. This seat backed Donald Trump by a 59-36 margin in 2016 and voted 60-39 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
South Carolina HD-31: This is an open Democratic seat in Spartanburg. The Democratic candidate is Rosalyn Henderson Myers, a member of the Spartanburg City Council. The Republican candidate is Michael Fowler, who ran for this seat in 2016 and lost 77-23. This seat went 72-24 for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 79-20 for Barack Obama in 2012.
As we wrote in our most recent Voting Rights Roundup, Hurricane Irma hit the two Florida seats hard earlier this month, and several areas are still working to recover. This includes Richmond Heights in SD-40, a heavily black neighborhood, which is still suffering from major power outages. Democrats and nonpartisan voting rights groups had called on Republican Gov. Rick Scott to delay the special election, but the governor refused.
● Miami, FL Mayor: Candidate filing closed on Saturday for this November's nonpartisan race to succeed termed-out GOP incumbent Tomás Regalado, and we have a complete snoozer on our hands. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Francis Suarez, a Republican, was the only notable candidate to file. Suarez, the son ex-Mayor Xavier Suarez, who also serves on the commission, ran for this seat once before in 2013, but his bid collapsed due to some very sloppy mistakes from his campaign. However, no other credible candidates ever showed much interest in running this time.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: On Monday, former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan picked up an endorsement from Dow Constantine, the executive of King County, which contains the city of Seattle. Durkan faces activist Cary Moon in the November general election; though the race is formally nonpartisan, both candidates are Democrats.
● GA-SoS: In an unexpected development, former Georgia Rep. John Barrow announced on Sunday that he'd run for secretary of state, a position that will be open next year because the current Republican office-holder, Brian Kemp, is running for governor. Barrow has the distinction of being the last white Democrat to hold a seat in Congress in the Deep South—a seat he held during many tough elections, even after Republicans repeatedly made his district redder and forced him to move twice. However, Barrow finally lost 55-45 in the GOP wave of 2014 to Republican Rick Allen.
During his time in office, Barrow cultivated a reputation as a conservative Blue Dog, a profile that allowed him to survive all those difficult races but may not serve him as well should he face a contested statewide primary. That seems unlikely, though: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that former Rockdale County Tax Commissioner R.J. Hadley "has been persuaded to stand down," while another candidate, state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, reported raising no money in the first half of the year. No other Democrats are running, and Barrow's message of nonpartisanship should serve him well in pursuing a post like this one, which ought to be (though often isn't) apolitical.
Republicans, on the other hand, have a multi-way fight for their nomination, which includes a trio of state legislators—state Reps. Buzz Brockway and Brad Raffensperger, plus state Sen. Josh McKoon—as well as Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who has led in fundraising so far. Whoever the GOP chooses, though, will have to contend with Kemp's mistakes as secretary of state, most notably a costly data breach that exposed the confidential information of over six million Georgia voters in 2015.
● Pres-by-LD: Daily Kos Elections' project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits Utah, a solidly red state that hosted an unexpectedly chaotic presidential race. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 46-27, with conservative independent Evan McMullin taking 22 percent; as a bonus, we've calculated McMullin's results in each legislative district in addition to Trump and Clinton's. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
The GOP has controlled both chambers of the Utah state legislature since the 1970s, and Team Red maintains huge majorities. The Republicans have a 62-13 House supermajority and a 24-to-five edge in the Senate. Favorite son Mitt Romney, possibly a future U.S. senator, defeated Barack Obama 73-25 here, taking 68 of the 75 House seats and 27 of the 29 Senate districts. But things were a lot more eventful in 2016. Trump won a plurality in 55 House seats, while Clinton took 19 and McMullin managed to carry one. In the Senate, Trump carried 23 seats and Clinton won six, while McMullin struck out.
We'll start with a look at the House, which is up every two years, and contains the one McMullin seat anywhere in the country. McMullin's win came in HD-63, located in the Provo area (where McMullin was born). While Romney won it 86-11, McMullin outpaced Trump 44-32, with Clinton a distant third at 19 percent. Republican state Rep. Dean Sanpei defeated his Democratic foe 79-21.
McMullin came relatively close to winning one other seat, the neighboring HD-64. Romney won 82-15 here, while Trump outpaced McMullin 39-34, with Clinton taking 22; GOP incumbent Norm Thurston was unopposed. McMullin also took second place in another 31 seats, all of which were carried by Trump. McMullin's weakest performance was in HD-25, which just happened to be both Obama and Clinton's best seat. Obama carried this Salt Lake City seat 70-24, while Clinton beat Trump 74-11; McMullin took just 8 percent.
Clinton won a majority of the vote in the same seven House seats that Obama carried, and Democrats represent them all. An additional 12 seats flipped from Romney to Clinton, half of which are held by Democrats and half by Republicans. No Democrats represent any Trump seats.
The Democrat in the most competitive seat is Sue Duckworth in Salt Lake County's HD-22. This district went from 59-37 Romney to a thin 35.8-35.3 Clinton, while McMullin took 20.3 here. Amidst all this chaos, Duckworth beat her GOP opponent 52-48. The Republican in the bluest seat is Craig Hall in HD-33, another Salt Lake County seat. This district went from 53-44 Romney to 45-31 Clinton, with 16 going to McMullin. However, Hall won 51-49.
Utah's large Mormon population did not cotton to Trump, though many Mormons voted for him anyway on Election Day. Altogether, Trump took an outright majority of the vote (excluding write-ins) in only 23 of the 75 House seats. Romney scored a higher percentage of the vote in every single seat; unsurprisingly, the biggest swings away from Romney were in McMullin's two best seats. The district that shifted the least from Romney to Trump was HD-69, which includes all of Carbon County. Romney won 71-26 here, while Trump defeated Clinton 67-20, with McMullin taking just 8.
Trump scored his highest percentage of the vote in HD-55, which is dominated by Uintah County. Trump beat McMullin 77-12, with Clinton taking 8 percent (this is the one seat where she failed to take at least 10 percent of the vote), though that was still quite the drop from Romney's 90-8 win.
We'll turn to the Senate, where half the chamber is up every two years. McMullin's best performance was in SD-16, another Provo-area seat. Trump beat him 42-35 here, with Clinton at 18; four years ago, Romney won it 86-11. McMullin took second in another 13 seats, all of which went for Trump. McMullin's worst performance was in SD-29, a Washington County seat that went from 83-16 Romney to 68-17 Trump, with McMullin at 11.
Clinton held the two Obama districts and took another four seats. All five members of the Democratic caucus, as well as Republican Brian Shiozawa, are on Clinton turf. The Democrat in the most competitive seat is Karen Mayne in SD-05 in Salt Lake County. This seat went from 57-40 Romney to 41-32 Clinton, with McMullin at 19 percent. Mayne was last up for re-election in 2014, when she won without opposition. Shiozawa's SD-08, which is another Salt Lake County seat, swung from 57-40 Romney to 45-32 Clinton, with 17 percent for McMullin; Shiozawa won re-election last year 57-43.
Altogether, Trump won a majority in 10 of the 29 Senate seats. Trump did best in SD-24, which went from 87-11 Romney to 70 percent Trump, while McMullin beat Clinton 15-11 for second. The smallest drop between Romney and Trump was in the aforementioned SD-29, which was McMullin's worst seat.
● Where Are They Now?: Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic congressman from New York City who twice derailed his own political career by sharing lewd pictures of himself with women who were not his wife, will now pay a much steeper price. On Monday, a federal judge sentenced Weiner to 21 months in prison for sending sexually explicit text messages to a 15-year-old North Carolina girl, following a plea agreement Weiner made with prosecutors earlier this year. Weiner had faced up to 10 years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender.
In May of 2011, Weiner earned instant notoriety when he publicly tweeted a photo of himself in underwear to a woman, then claimed he couldn't "say with certitude" whether he was in fact pictured in the photo. (He was.) Smarting from brutal losses in the midterm elections just six months earlier and having no stomach for distractions, Democrats from all corners of the party immediately put pressure on Weiner to resign, which he soon did. But his departure didn't do much to lessen the pain: Republicans went on to pick up Weiner's seat in a special election that fall.
Two years later, Weiner plotted a political comeback and unexpectedly jumped into the wide-open Democratic primary to succeed term-limited New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, promising that he'd reformed his ways and asking voters to give him a "second chance." Weiner quickly surged into first place in the polls, but just as quickly, his campaign imploded when, yet again, it came out that he'd continued to trade sexual messages with other women—even as he'd been asking the public for forgiveness. Weiner insisted on staying in the race and finished in fifth place with just 5 percent of the vote. He continued his compulsive sexting, of course, and now he's finished for good.