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.
● HI-Gov: On Saturday, a stunning set of failures led to the state of Hawaii to issue an emergency alert warning of a ballistic missile attack, and the debacle almost immediately became a campaign issue. First-term Gov. David Ige was already facing a very serious challenge in the Democratic primary from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, and now he's facing extraordinary scrutiny over the incident. The trauma the event instantly generated for residents will not soon be forgotten: As one Hawaii political scientist, Colin Moore, put it, "Everyone is going to want to talk about their story—that morning when they were terrified, and why it took the governor so long to respond."
Indeed, Hanabusa immediately began criticizing Ige, focusing on the extraordinary fact that it took officials 38 minutes to retract their false alarm, specifically blaming the governor and saying the fiasco could harm the state's all-important tourism industry. In response, an Ige spokesperson complained, "It is unfortunate that she is using yesterday's event to draw attention to herself while offering no solution." It's more than just a war of words, though: One local pollster noted that Hanabusa appeared on TV to reassure the public before Ige himself did, reinforcing questions about his "lack of leadership."
While Hanabusa probably wouldn't want to turn an issue like this into an attack ad—voters likely wouldn't take kindly to stark reminders of such a frightening event—she also doesn't have to. Pretty much everyone in Hawaii politics is piling on Ige right now, and as the New York Times notes, he faces the prospect of a lengthy series of public investigations on both the state and federal level. There's a good chance this story will dominate right through the August primary, and if it does, that can only be bad news for Ige.
Click here for our chart rounding up all Senate fundraising numbers. As per usual, we'll have a chart of House numbers after the reporting deadline, which is Jan. 31.
● NY-Gov: Andrew Cuomo (D-inc): $6 million raised (in the second half of 2017), $31 million cash-on-hand
● WI-Gov: Dana Wachs (D): $280,000 raised (in the second half of 2017), additional $235,000 self-funded, $163,000 cash-on-hand
● TX-Gov: Lupe Valdez (D): $46,000 raised (in December), $40,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-04: Jessica Morse (D): $294,000 raised; Regina Bateson (D): $255,000 raised
● PA-16: Jess King (D): $196,000 raised
● WI-01: Randy Bryce (D): $1.2 million raised
● FL-Sen: The political world is still waiting for termed-out Republican Gov. Rick Scott to announce that he'll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson this year, but while his massive wealth and universal name recognition would allow him to launch a campaign with little runway, there are hints that he's hesitating. Last month, the New York Times reported that Scott, "mindful of the midterm climate," was "not yet sold" on a Senate bid, and now the Washington Post says that unnamed "associates" of the governor are "of mixed opinions on the likelihood that he will do it."
On the flipside, there's the fact that, just a week ago, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a special exemption from Donald Trump's new plan to allow offshore oil drilling just about everywhere for Florida—and Florida alone. The move came after Scott briefly met with Zinke at the airport in Tallahassee, and few people were fooled. Nelson himself declared, "This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott." Why go through all that trouble, then, if Scott's not going to run?
For what it's worth, CNN's Manu Raju reports that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio believes that Scott will make a decision at the conclusion of the current session of the legislature, which is scheduled to end on March. 9. But of course, Rubio didn't even know whether he himself would run for the Senate last cycle, so maybe he's not the guy to trust on this.
● MD-Sen: Chelsea Manning, the former Army soldier who was convicted of sharing hundreds of thousands of classified military reports to the site Wikileaks, announced on Sunday that she would challenge Sen. Ben Cardin in this June's Democratic primary. Manning is originally from Oklahoma but lived in Maryland before joining the Army and moved back there last year after seven years of confinement, following Barack Obama's commutation of the remainder of her 35-year sentence. While Manning's international fame ensures that her candidacy will grab some headlines, Cardin is well-liked and well-respected and is a virtual lock to win renomination barring unforeseeable developments. In 2012, Cardin also faced a primary challenge as an incumbent and crushed the entire field, taking 74 percent of the vote to his nearest opponent's 16 percent.
● MN-Sen-B: Hmm. While former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty refused last month to rule out a run against Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, one unnamed GOP donor just told the Washington Post that a T-Paw bid is not gonna happen. "He's told me unequivocally he's not going to run for the Senate," said the donor, and notably, Pawlenty declined to comment in response. So far, the only Republican running in the November special election is state Sen. Karin Housley.
● OH-Sen: Last week, the Washington Examiner reported that some Republicans pined for Youngstown State University president Jim Tressel to run against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, even though there was no sign that Tressel was even remotely interested. Tressel, who is widely known as the championship-winning former head football coach at the Ohio State University, soon took to Twitter to post that, while he appreciated the kind words, he was "committed to continuing our work at YSU. Much accomplished. Much to do!"
That's not a no, but it was very close. And with less than a month to go before the Feb. 7 filing deadline, Tressel would need to cram a lot if he wants to accomplish much more at Youngstown State. In any case, the tweet seems to have killed whatever Tressel chatter there was.
● IA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell went up with his first TV ads for the June Democratic primary all the way back in October, and he's out with another commercial. The narrator describes how Hubbell and his wife opened a Planned Parenthood clinic in Dubuque, a theme Hubbell hit in his first ad. The spot also praises him for "finance[ing] new mental health beds when the state slashed funding," cleaning up after a film tax credit scandal, and "speaking out against reckless tax giveaways like Apple."
Meanwhile, another Democrat is joining Hubbell on TV. State Sen. Nate Boulton, an ally of state labor groups, is starting what his campaign calls a "six-figure" TV buy. The ad praises Boulton for standing up to then-GOP Gov. Terry Branstad and incumbent Kim Reynolds as they tried to strip away "decades-old laws protecting Iowa workers." The narrator declares that Boulton is "[d]efending cops and teachers, protecting health care against corporate giveaways and cuts to schools," and touts the freshman legislator as a new voice and a "new generation of leadership for Iowa." Several other Democrats are competing to take on Reynolds, and if no one takes at least 35 percent of the vote in the primary, the nomination will be decided at a party convention.
● KY-Gov: Republican Gov. Matt Bevin defied the polls in 2015 and won his first term 53-44 in this conservative state, but there are still a number of Democrats who could challenge him next year. Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, has been mentioned as a possible, and even likely, candidate since Beshear's very narrow 2015 win. The two have a horrible relationship, with Beshear suing Bevin over his executive orders at least four times, and Bevin calling his adversary "one of the most incompetent attorneys" in the state.
Beshear said back in August that he still hadn't decided what he'll do in 2019. However, Beshear attracted plenty of attention when he attended the Fancy Farm picnic, a key annual event for Kentucky politicos, and both released his 2016 tax returns and challenged other elected officials to follow his lead. Bevin has refused to release his own income taxes, and Beshear's move was widely seen as a sign the attorney general was very interested in taking on the governor.
The other noteworthy Democrat who has made the most noise about a bid is state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Adkins has served in the legislature since 1987, and he won re-election 66-34 as Trump was carrying his rural Eastern Kentucky seat 68-28. Adkins served as a captain and point guard for the 1983 Morehead State University basketball team that went to the NCAA tournament, which gives him a good profile in this basketball-obsessed commonwealth.
Kentucky's filing deadline is in late January of next year, so prospective candidates have a little more than a year to decide what they'll do. Bevin himself launched his surprise 2015 bid on the very day of the filing deadline.
● LA-Gov: GOP Sen. John Kennedy spent the last several months refusing to rule out a bid against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2019, but he only explicitly acknowledged he was considering last week. Kennedy told the Associated Press he "will run if it feels right to me, if it's something I want to do and if I can really affect some changes to make Louisiana a better place to live and raise a family, not all in that order." Kennedy won his seat in 2016 after two unsuccessful tries (including a 2004 bid as a Democrat), but he wouldn't be the first politician to get tired of Congress early after spending so much time and energy trying to get there.
While polls show Edwards to be very popular (a late November Southern Media & Opinion Research survey gave him a 65 percent approval rating), Kennedy is far from the only Republican in this conservative state scouting out a campaign. Rep. Ralph Abraham said last year he'd decide if he'd run during the first half of 2018. State Sen. Sharon Hewitt also recently publicly expressed interest, and several other Bayou State politicians have also been name-dropped.
Two of Abraham's House colleagues also didn't quite say no to running. The Associated Press' Melinda Deslatte writes that some Republicans hope that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who survived a deadly shooting last year, will run. Scalise said in response that "it's not something that I'm interested in right now," but Deslatte didn't take that as a no and continued to press him. And sure enough, Scalise wouldn't rule it out, saying instead, "I decided years ago that I would not speculate about what's going to happen tomorrow." Rep. Garret Graves also said a bid was "not on our radar," which again isn't a no.
The filing deadline to run for governor isn't until August of next year, and it's not uncommon for politicians to only decide whether they'll jump in in the last hours of the race. Sometimes this procrastination even plays out in ridiculous ways. According the book Long Shot, wealthy Democrat John Georges was in France the day of the 2015 filing deadline, but he had filled out candidate paperwork to run before he left. Georges gave the qualifying papers to a close ally named Jack Capella and instructed him to wait in his car outside the secretary of state's office in case a candidate unexpectedly entered or left the race. Georges called Capella just before qualifying closed and told him that, since there were no developments, he wouldn't enter the race.
● MI-Gov: Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer has won most of the labor endorsements ahead of the August Democratic primary, and she added the 140,000-member Michigan Education Association on Monday.
● MS-Gov: The last few contests for governor of Mississippi have been quite uneventful, but the 2019 race to succeed termed-out Republican Phil Bryant may be a bit more exciting. The Clarion Ledger's Sam Hall takes a look at where things stand well over a year before the primaries.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves hasn't announced he's in yet, but there isn't much of a question he'll run and start as the clear GOP primary frontrunner. While most of America's lieutenant governors don't have much power, Reeves has used his formal and informal powers to decide what bills the state Senate will and won't consider. Reeves has made enemies, with Hall writing that there is "a sizable faction within the mainstream Republican Party" that fears a Gov. Reeves would "freeze them out," and they're looking for someone willing to go toe-to-toe with him in the primary.
While state political observers think Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann will run to replace Reeves as lieutenant governor, Hall speculates he could instead challenge Reeves. Hall also mentions Rep. Gregg Harper, who has announced he will not seek re-election to the House in 2018, as a possibility. Harper didn't quite rule it out in a conversation with Hall, but Hall believes he's sincere about wanting to call it a career. However, he writes that, while the idea of a 2019 Harper run "seems more like a wish born of a lazy conspiracy, it could grow legs given time." There's also been talk that other Magnolia State Republicans, including state Treasurer Lynn Fitch, could get in.
On the Democratic side, the list pretty much begins and ends with Attorney General Jim Hood, who said in November that he expects to decide this year. There have been a couple of early polls, and they show Hood in a competitive position in hypothetical general election matchups. In December, Mason-Dixon released a survey giving Hood a 43-37 lead against Reeves. However, a poll from around that same time from the Democratic firm Chism Strategies for Millsaps College showed Reeves beating Hood 45-38. Mississippi's candidate filing deadline is usually in the late winter.
● AZ-02: It's been clear for months that GOP Rep. Martha McSally planned to leave this competitive Tucson-area seat behind to run for the Senate, and she made it official on Friday. Lea Marquez Peterson, the well-connected head of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announced she would run to succeed McSally back in December, and she still faces no credible opposition in the GOP primary. While Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller said she was interested last month, she said Friday she'd stay out. Miller's reaction to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville was to post on Facebook that she was "sick and tired of being hit for being white," so the GOP dodged a bullet by losing her. But the filing deadline isn't until the end of May, so there's still time for other candidates to get in.
Several Democrats have been running for months: Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who gave up a neighboring House seat to unsuccessfully run for the Senate in 2016, looks like the frontrunner in the late August primary.
● CA-39: On Friday, GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher backed Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson in the June top-two primary for this open seat race.
● MI-11: Kristine Bonds, a sales professional and the daughter of the late longtime local TV anchor Bill Bonds, announced this week that she would seek the GOP nod for this open suburban Detroit seat. Bonds had announced in late December that she was challenging Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence in the nearby 14th District at the end of 2017. It's certainly odd that Bonds initially planned to run for a 79-18 Clinton seat instead of this open 50-45 Trump district, and it's likely a sign she's not a particularly serious candidate.
Bonds' old website also was… something. According to Deadline Detroit, it mentioned her father's 19 Emmys, but didn't describe her own professional background. Instead, the only page read:
Michigan voters were just given A LOT of money back via our historic tax cut. Plus- we are now off the hook for being forced to buy Obamacare. YAY!!!
Why then do we have a Rep in Congress who VOTED AGAINST BOTH? I will keep our prosperity agenda rolling with a Republican rubber stamp!
Why not BONDS - Why not NOW?
A number of other Republicans are running to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Trott in the 11th District, so we may find out soon enough why BONDS won't win NOW.
● NV-04: On Monday, GOP Las Vegas City Councilor Stavros Anthony dropped his bid for this open seat, citing his health. Former Rep. Cresent Hardy was supporting Anthony, but after Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen announced last month that he would retire after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, Hardy said he was considering a comeback bid. Just after Anthony exited the race, Hardy said he would spend "the coming days" talking to his family about "a potential candidacy," and that he'd be deciding "very shortly." Hardy lost this seat, which includes Las Vegas' northern suburbs, to Kihuen 49-45 as Clinton was carrying it 50-45.
● OK-01: Tulsa, we have a problem: The Senate still doesn't seem particularly inclined to confirm GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine to the job Donald Trump has nominated him for—the administrator of NASA. Trump put Bridenstine's name forward in September, but the nomination immediately earned heated objections from many corners thanks to Bridenstine's lack of any formal science background or administrative experience, his rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change, and his virulently anti-gay beliefs. Bridenstine's appointment squeaked through committee on a party-line vote in November, but Republican leaders were apparently reluctant to give him a vote on the Senate floor, so now he's back to square one.
Only it's more like square zero, because the math has gotten a lot worse since last year. With Doug Jones' victory in last month's special election in Alabama, the GOP only holds a bare 51-49 majority in the chamber, and two Republican senators, John McCain and Marco Rubio, appear to be opposed to Bridenstine's elevation. Of course, Rubio is notorious for expressing "concerns" about this-or-that Trump idea only to cave in the end, but even if he does, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran's poor health could preclude him from voting.
Consequently, if McCain's own health issues don't keep him away from work, that would send Bridenstine's dreams crashing and burning by a vote of 50 against to just 49 in favor. NewsOK also suggests that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, himself a former astronaut who is adamantly against Bridenstine's nomination, might have some hitherto unrevealed Republican votes he can call on to tank Bridenstine once and for all.
But even if Bridenstine fails to launch, we won't have him to kick around much longer. Long ago, he promised to abide by a self-imposed three-term limit, and he's taken no steps to suggest he might renege. Indeed, he's raised literally bupkes all cycle, and congressional reporter Jaime Dupree recently said that Bridenstine's office had told him the congressman is not running for re-election "no matter what happens" with NASA. And in fact, several fellow Republicans have been running to replace Bridenstine for some time. Oklahoma's Tulsa-based 1st Congressional District is very red, having voted for Trump by a 61-33 margin, so Bridenstine's successor will almost certainly look quite similar to him.
● PA-09: Over the weekend, GOP state Sen. John Eichelberger announced he would seek this safely red open seat. Eichelberger represents about a quarter of this Altoona-area district, and he's so far the only elected official to jump into the March primary.
Eichelberger, who was a county commissioner in Altoona's Blair County, ran for this seat that last time it was open in 2001 in the special election to succeed Rep. Bud Shuster, who had resigned under an ethical cloud. However, Eichelberger lost the nominating convention to Bill Shuster, the former congressman's son and the dude who is retiring now.
But Eichelberger got his chance to win a promotion to the legislature in 2006 when he challenged 32-year incumbent Robert Jubelirer, a powerful figure in the state government who was the state Senate's president pro tempore. Eichelberger campaigned against Jubelirer's support for an unpopular legislative pay raise, which boosted the incumbent's own salary from $108,000 to $145,000. Jubelirer had apologized and helped repeal the law, but the damage was done.
Future Sen. Pat Toomey, a popular figure in conservative politics and the head of the anti-tax Club for Growth, supported Eichelberger over Jubelirer, and Eichelberger won the primary 44-36. Eichelberger invoked his 2006 campaign in his campaign kickoff, declaring he had gotten elected by fighting the GOP establishment. Eichelberger joins businessman Art Halvorson, whose underfunded campaign almost beat Shuster in the 2016 primary, in the May primary.
● House: It's time for another installment of the Daily Kos Elections House Vulnerability Index, which quantifies which GOP and Democratic seats in the House are most vulnerable to defeat in the 2018 election. It doesn't predict how many seats will flip, but it does suggest the order in which flipped seats will fall.
This year's edition underscores the value of open seats to the opposition party: six of the seven most endangered Republican-held seats are open seats this year, starting with FL-27. Jeff Denham in CA-10 is the most vulnerable GOP incumbent, followed by Barbara Comstock in VA-10. On the Dem side, the most vulnerable seat is the open seat left by Tim Walz in MN-01.
● Special Elections: The special election machine never stops, but fortunately, neither does Johnny Longtorso:
Iowa HD-06: We have another edition of Special Election Musical Chairs here, as Republican Jim Carlin vacated this seat when he was elected to the state Senate in December. Democrats have nominated retired principal Rita DeJong, while Republicans have nominated Jacob Bossman, a staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley who narrowly lost the primary here in 2016. This seat went 62-33 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 54-44 for Mitt Romney in 2012.
South Carolina HD-99: This seat was left vacant following the suspension of Republican James Merrill, who is under indictment for ethics violations. The candidates here are Democrat Cindy Boatwright, a counselor, and Republican Nancy Mace, a political consultant who ran against Lindsey Graham in the 2014 Senate primary and got 6 percent of the vote. This seat went 58-35 for Trump in 2016 and 66-32 for Romney in 2012.
Wisconsin SD-10: This seat is open due to Republican Sheila Harsdorf's appointment to Scott Walker's cabinet. The Democratic nominee for this seat is Patty Schachtner, a member of the Somerset School Board and the St. Croix County medical examiner. The Republican nominee is Adam Jarchow, a state assemblyman. Also on the ballot is Libertarian Brian Corriea, a Navy veteran. This seat went 55-38 for Trump in 2016 and 52-46 for Romney in 2012.
Wisconsin AD-58: This seat is open following the death of Republican Bob Gannon. The Democratic candidate is Dennis Degenhardt, the president of a local credit union, while the Republican candidate is Rick Gundrum, the Washington County Board chair. This seat went 67-28 for Trump in 2016 and 68-31 for Romney in 2012.
● Deaths: Former California Sen. John Tunney, a Democrat whose charmed political career quickly took a massive plunge that culminated in his 1976 loss, died Friday at the age of 83. Tunney was the son of famous boxer Gene Tunney, a former heavy weight champion. The younger Tunney was close to the Kennedy family before he got his own start in politics: Tunney worked on John F. Kennedy's 1958 re-election campaign to the Senate and rooming with future Sen. Ted Kennedy at the University of Virginia Law School. Tunney won his first election to the House in 1964, when he unseated GOP Rep. Patrick Minor Martin 53-47 in a Riverside County seat.
Tunney decided to challenge freshman GOP Sen. George Murphy in 1970. Murphy had unseated appointed Democratic Sen. Pierre Salinger during the 1964 Democratic wave. However, the former song-and-dance man was seen as weak going into his re-election campaign due in large part to his age and poor health, and over the $20,000 salary he had been paid as a senator to serve as a movie company's public relations consultant. Tunney beat Rep. George Brown 42-33 in the Democratic primary, while Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, the father of future Rep. and current County Supervisor Janice Hahn, took 17 percent. Tunney defeated Murphy by a decisive 54-44 margin, larger than GOP Gov. Ronald Reagan's 53-45 score during his own re-election campaign that year.
Tunney quickly was seen as a rising Democratic star, and was mentioned as a potential running mate for 1972 Democratic presidential frontrunner Ed Muskie. Muskie lost, but that same year, actor Robert Redford starred in the film The Candidate based on Tunney's Senate campaign. In 1974, a poll showed Tunney more popular than Reagan in the state.
However, Tunney's bright career soon began to collapse. Tunney faced a primary challenge in 1976 from Tom Hayden, a well-known activist in the anti-Vietnam War movement and the husband of actress Jane Fonda. Plenty of liberals argued Tunney hadn't opposed the war soon enough, and they were angry with him for not supporting striking state farmworkers. Hayden infamously also used Tunney's Ted Kennedy ties against him, calling the incumbent "a Chappaquiddick waiting to happen." Tunney won by a weak 54-37 margin, and while Hayden later apologized for the Chappaquiddick remark, he offered only perfunctory support for Tunney in the general election.
Tunney faced off against Republican S.I. Hayakawa, a 70-year old former Democrat and first-time candidate. Hayakawa had risen to fame in 1968 as president of San Francisco State College when he showed up at a student protest, climbed onto a sound truck the protesters were using, and yanked out the wiring. Hayakawa had a reputation for gaffes, including suggesting that some Japanese-Americans benefited from being interned during World War II. However, Hayakawa's shoot-from-the-lip style resonated with voters unhappy with the moderate Tunney, and some Hayden supporters backed him to spite the senator.
Hayakawa beat Tunney 50-47 as Gerald Ford was carrying the state 49-48. Tunney never again sought elected office, and Hayakawa retired after one term; Hayden, who died last year, would be elected to the California legislature in the 1980s.
● Where Are They Now?: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and former GOP Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle are both trying to stop teenagers from eating Tide Pods. No, that's not from some game of Mad Libs, this is the reality we live in.
You may have heard of the Tide Pod Challenge, where teenagers are biting into toxic laundry detergent pods. Tide understandably does not want to be associated with a craze that's sending participants to the hospital, and they recruited Gronkowski to remind viewers that they should "[u]se Tide Pods for washing not eating." So what's this have to do with Buerkle, who narrowly won a Syracuse-area seat in 2010 in a shocker during the tea party wave and lost it two years later?
In 2013, even as Buerkle was considering another bout against Democrat Dan Maffei, Obama appointed Buerkle to a seat on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Buerkle has been acting chair since early 2017, and Trump picked her to lead the commission full time. Florida's Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in particular was not happy with Buerkle, who opposes government standards to limit carbon monoxide emissions in portable power generators, and he grilled her on the issue at her September confirmation hearing. Buerkle's nomination cleared the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation along party lines but never made it to the full Senate, and Trump had to renominate her this month. However, Buerkle remains acting chair, and the commission has been reviewing how to make Tide Pods tougher to puncture.
We here at Daily Kos Elections are no fans of Buerkle, who was a dyed-in-the-wool conservative in the House, and whose nomination to lead the commission was met with plenty of justifiable anger from consumer watchdog groups. But she's right on this one: Don't eat Tide Pods.