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.
● WA-08: Democrats got some huge news on Wednesday when GOP Rep. Dave Reichert announced that he would not seek re-election to Washington's 8th Congressional district, a competitive seat in suburban Seattle. Reichert is a former King County sheriff who made his name after the serial killer Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, was apprehended on his watch (though it's a stretch to say that Reichert himself was the one who caught Ridgway), and he first won a seat in the House in 2004.
Democrats repeatedly tried to unseat Reichert once he took office, but he proved to be an incredibly tough target, and he managed to pull off close wins during both the 2006 and 2008 Democratic waves. He also survived a surprisingly tight race during 2010, a strong GOP year, but redistricting soon made his seat redder and Democrats haven't made a serious effort to oust him since then.
However, Washington's 8th backed Obama 50-48 and Clinton 48-45, so with Reichert gone, it will instantly spring to the top of Democratic target lists. A few Democrats were already running before Reichert called it quits, but none are especially prominent, and other, more established figures will likely take a much closer look at running now.
Republicans have held this seat for a long time, though, and they're not going to give it up without a fight. Indeed, Evergreen State Republicans have a history of performing well in districts that backed Clinton and Obama, so Democrats can take nothing for granted. It's also worth noting that Washington elections are run using a so-called "top-two" primary: All the candidates will face off on one primary ballot next year, and the two candidates with the most votes will advance to the general, regardless of their party. In all likelihood, though, one Democrat and one Republican will face off in November of 2018.
Things have so far remained quiet on the Democratic side, but almost from the moment that Reichert announced his departure, attention turned to GOP state Sen. Dino Rossi. In a post on Facebook, Rossi sounded pretty interested in running to succeed Reichert, saying that Washington, D.C. could “use some new leaders” and adding that he “won’t take long to make a decision.”
Rossi, a commercial real estate developer by trade, ran for governor in 2004 in an open seat race and originally appeared to have won. However, after a long and ugly recount, Democrat Christine Gregoire was declared the winner in December with a lead of 129 votes. Rossi argued that there was no way to tell who actually won and called for a new election, but it didn't happen. Rossi did the next best thing and sought a rematch with Gregoire in 2008, but lost by a clear 53-47 margin. Two years later, Rossi challenged Sen. Patty Murray and lost the expensive race 53-47. Last year, Rossi was appointed to the state Senate after Republican incumbent Andy Hill died. The GOP coalition controls the state Senate by just one seat, but Rossi said he wasn't interested in running in this November's special election to defend it.
Other Republicans are talking about getting in. State Rep. Drew Stokesbary told the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner that he would need to talk to his wife and to Reichert before deciding on a bid. King County Councilor Reagan Dunn, the son of Reichert's late predecessor Jennifer Dunn, also sounds interested. Dunn said he was concentrating on his re-election campaign this November but wouldn't rule out a House bid; a GOP operative also told The Hill's Reid Wilson that Dunn would likely run if Rossi didn't. Dunn ran for state attorney general in 2012 and lost 53.5-46.5, but he carried the 8th District 54-46.
Local NBC reporter Natalie Brand also says that ex-Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, who was Team Red's 2016 nominee for governor, is considering. Bryant challenged Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee last year, but his campaign never attracted much outside support. While Bryant lost 54-46, however, he won this seat by that same margin.
The News Tribune's Walker Orenstein also tweets that two more Republicans, state Rep. J.T. Wilcox and Pierce County Councilor Pam Roach, aren't saying no. Roach in particular is quite a character and has a reputation for being very difficult to work with (Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, a fellow Republican, recently ordered county staff to only respond to written messages from Roach.) A GOP operative also tells Wilson that state Reps. Paul Graves and Cary Condotta could also run, though neither has said anything yet. However, three Republicans, Dammeier, state Rep. Matt Manweller, and state Sen. Joe Fain, are all noes.
● AL-Sen: Appointed incumbent Luther Strange is out with his first negative TV spot ahead of the Sept. 26 GOP runoff with Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The narrator charges that "40-year politician Roy Moore" got rich off his office and his Christian fund. The narrator concludes by saying that Moore is "in the Montgomery swamp."
● TN-Sen: Back in 2014, then-state Rep. Joe Carr ran against Sen. Lamar Alexander in the GOP primary and held him to a 50-41 win. Two years later, Carr challenged Rep. Diane Black for renomination, but he badly lost 64-32. Black is running for governor, and while Carr has expressed some interest in seeking her open Middle Tennessee seat, he seems more inclined to face off with GOP Sen. Bob Corker. Carr, who has talked about running before, claims he's formed a PAC to defeat Corker that has already raised $500,000 in three weeks. Carr has said in the past that he'll announce his 2018 plans after Sept. 14.
● AL-Gov: Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox formed an exploratory committee ahead of a possible bid for the Democratic nod in late June, but he's in no hurry to officially jump in. Maddox recently told supporters that he will announce whether or not he's running in mid-January. Sue Bell Cobb, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is the only notable declared candidate, and she has a similar amount of money in the bank as Maddox. At the end of August, Cobb led Maddox $79,000 to $73,000 in cash-on-hand.
● ME-Gov: Two more Maine Republicans are planning to enter the primary, and neither of them is named Susan Collins. On Wednesday, state House Minority Leader Ken Fredette announced that he had formed an exploratory committee. However, Fredette didn't even pretend he was still considering whether or not to run, saying he "wouldn't be running if I didn't think I could win." Fredette has been a close ally of outgoing Gov. Paul LePage, and he's rallied his caucus to support the governor through thick and thin.
State Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason reportedly was planning to announce on Wednesday that he was also running, but he called off the event after his mother died the day before. Mason is close to the state's conservative Evangelical political network, and he was a prominent supporter of Ted Cruz during the GOP primary caucus, which Cruz decisively won, and of Donald Trump during the general election.
Until now, Mary Mayhew, a former commissioner of the state's Department of Health and Human Services and a LePage ally, was the only notable declared GOP candidate. However, Sen. Susan Collins says she will decide by the end of September. Collins pissed off many local Republicans when she voted against Trumpcare, and an early August PPP survey for an unnamed client showed her trailing Mayhew 44-33 in a hypothetical primary. In past cycles, Collins could have benefited if Mayhew, Fredette, and Mason all ran and whatever anti-Collins vote there was, but 2018 may be different.
In 2016, Maine voters approved an instant runoff voting system. The state Supreme Court has advised that instant runoff voting is unconstitutional for state-level general elections, but not for primaries or federal elections. It's still not clear to what extent instant runoff will be implemented in 2018, but if it's used in the GOP primary, Collins wouldn't be able to just coast to the nomination if a majority of Maine GOP voters don't want her to win.
On the Democratic side, ex-Gov. John Baldacci expressed interest in running again last week, but the local NBC affiliate reports that he's told them he'll stay out of the race. Baldacci was quite unpopular at the end of his term in late 2010, so Democrats probably aren't devastated.
● NV-Gov: On Tuesday, Nevada state Treasurer Dan Schwartz kicked off his long-awaited bid for the GOP nod to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Schwartz is the first notable Republican to officially enter the race, but Attorney General Adam Laxalt and his allies have made it no secret that he's preparing to jump in. In late August, Laxalt said he would "be making that decision in the coming weeks."
Some of those Laxalt allies also wasted no time going after Schwartz. The outside group the American Integrity Project dropped an early August poll from WPA Intelligence giving Laxalt a comical 64-5 lead over Schwartz. Back in June, Schwartz released a poll from consultant Doug Schoen (whom we are not a fan of) giving Laxalt a much-smaller 34-30 edge.
As we've noted before, Schwartz does not have a good relationship with local GOP power players at all. In 2015, lawmakers from both parties trashed his alternative budget proposal. Schwartz has also not been shy about going after Sandoval. In February, he pissed off the governor's office when he dubbed the governor's budget "Saint Brian and His Bag of Goodies." Schwartz has also gone after local billionaire GOP donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, arguing that Adelson "has bought" Laxalt.
Schwartz also labeled Laxalt as "alt-right" and criticized him for scheduling an appearance with the notorious ex-Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and he's been less than a full-throated Trump backer. Schwartz recently said that, "I think the president deserves a chance, and we should give it to him. I don't agree with everything he's done, whereas I think Adam has really shown himself to be very far to the right." That's… probably not a winning GOP primary message. Schwartz reportedly is wealthy and says he'll self-fund $500,000. However, with so many powerful forces against him, he may need a whole lot more.
● OR-Gov: Several anti-abortion conservatives don't want state Rep. Knute Buehler, a self-proclaimed "pro-choice" Republican, as their nominee, and they tried to convince state House GOP Leader Mike McLane to run instead. However, McLane announced on Wednesday that he would stay out of the race, saying he didn't "want to be a cause for division that could hurt the chances for real change in 2018."
Buehler remains the only notable Republican who has kicked off a bid against Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, and thanks in part to a $500,000 donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, he brought in $1 million in August. A few other Republicans have made noises about running, but it may be tough for them to secure the money to compete with Buehler.
● SC-Gov: On Wednesday, state Sen. Tom Davis, a former chief of staff to then-Gov. Mark Sanford, announced that he would not run in the GOP primary. Davis' decision still leaves Henry McMaster, who became governor after Nikki Haley became U.N. ambassador earlier this year, with plenty of primary opposition. Catherine Templeton, a former state Department of Health and Environmental Control director, and Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant are both already running, and a few other Republicans are eyeing the race.
● VA-Gov: The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity just launched its first TV ad attacking Democrat Ralph Northam and says it plans to spend $1 million to $2 million over a three-week period to air it. The spot accuses Northam of "miss[ing] nearly 60 percent of meetings for a board that could have prevented cronyism and corruption. Instead, he let a fake Chinese company with a false address and phony website take $1.4 million of our money."
That's a reference to a 2014 scandal at an entity called the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which has been targeted for an overhaul following a highly critical audit. As the Washington Post explains, though, Northam was one of 24 board members, and those members were "not directly involved in grant decisions"; rather, "grants were recommended by staff and approved by the governor." Those kinds of distinctions, however, mean precious little in the face of seven-figure ad buys.
● IN-04: Republican Steve Braun resigned as head of the state Department of Workforce Development at the end of August, and he announced this week that he would run to replace Senate candidate and world's best boss Todd Rokita in this safely red western Indiana seat. Braun served in the state House for one term from 2012 to 2014, and he resigned after then-Gov. Mike Pence appointed him to lead workforce development.
Braun's brother, state Rep. Mike Braun, happens to be running for the Senate in the primary against Rokita. Both Brauns have long histories in the business world and Mike Braun has pledged to self-fund his own bid, but it's unclear if Steve Braun is willing and able to do that. However, the Associated Press' Brian Slodysko writes that Steve Braun has ties to both Pence and current Gov. Eric Holcomb, so he may have strong support from local GOP leaders. So far, the only other notable Republican candidate for this House seat is Diego Morales, who worked as an aide to then-Gov. Pence, but others are eyeing this race.
● MA-03: A number of Democrats are mulling a run for this open Merrimack Valley seat, but one notable Republican is laying the groundwork as well. This week, wealthy auto parts businessman Rick Green, the founder of the conservative advocacy group Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, announced that he was forming an exploratory committee.
This seat backed Clinton 58-35, and Democrats are favored to hold it, but local Republicans have won here in recent statewide races. In 2012, as Elizabeth Warren was unseating GOP Sen. Scott Brown 54-46, she lost the 3rd 51-49. In the special election for Massachusetts' other Senate seat the next year, Democrat Ed Markey also narrowly lost the seat 51-49 as he was winning statewide 55-45. In 2014, Republican Charlie Baker also carried this district 52-43 as he was winning the governorship 48-47. Republicans haven't won a single House race in Massachusetts since 1994, and they're going to have a tough time changing that with an unpopular Republican in the White House, but a free-spending Republican nominee could still make things interesting.
We may also have some movement on the Democratic side soon. State Sen. Barbara L'Italien has talked about running here from the day that Rep. Niki Tsongas announced her retirement, and Politico's Lauren Dezenski wrote on Wednesday that L'Italien told her she's "got a big announcement in the next day or so." Steve Kerrigan, a longtime political insider who was the Democrats' 2014 nominee for lieutenant governor, has also expressed interest, and unnamed people close to him tell Dezenski something will come from him soon.
● PA-15: On Wednesday, state Rep. Justin Simmons announced that he would challenge GOP incumbent Charlie Dent in the primary for this Lehigh Valley seat. Dent is one of the more moderate members of the House GOP caucus and he's been a loud Trump critic, which has pissed off some local conservatives, and Simmons is arguing that Trump needs an ally in this seat.
But just before Simmons jumped in, Dent released several friendly messages Simmons sent him last year, including a request for help with a fundraiser and an August text asking, "Do you think there's any chance the party can replace Trump on the top of the ticket?" Simmons didn't dispute the messages authenticity; instead, he argued that Dent has changed in the past year. Simmons doubled down on that message in his campaign kickoff, saying that, "Like many Republicans, I used to support Charlie Dent. But in the past year, Charlie Dent has completely gone off the rails. Dent has been on the wrong side of every major issue from ObamaCare, spending, border security and the list goes on."
Dent has consistently won easily here, but if Simmons can take the nomination, Team Blue could have an opening. While Trump carried Pennsylvania's 15th District 52-44, Mitt Romney won it by a smaller 51-48 margin four years before, while Democratic Sen. Bob Casey took it 50-48 during his 2012 re-election campaign. Still, even a weak Republican may be able to keep this district competitive. In 2014, as GOP Gov. Tom Corbett was losing re-election 55-45, he narrowly won the 15th 50.3-49.7.
It's also not clear if Simmons will have what it takes to unseat Dent. At the end of June, Dent had $1.1 million on-hand, while Simmons will be starting from scratch. Dent quickly went on the offensive against Simmons after the state representative started talking about running last week, so it doesn't look like the incumbent will be caught napping at all.
● Special Elections: On Tuesday night in New Hampshire, Republicans held on to Grafton District 9 in the state House, with Vincent Migliore narrowly defeating Democrat Josh Adjutant by a 51-47 margin. Barack Obama carried this seat 50-48, but it swung hard to Donald Trump, who won it 55-40, so the special election outcome once again reflects a snap back from the 2016 results.