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: Brian Kolb (R): $16,000 raised (in December), $15,000 cash-on-hand
● PA-Gov: Tom Wolf (D-inc): $11.1 million raised (for 2017), $11 million cash-on-hand
● NY-01: Kate Browning (D): $163,000 raised (in five weeks)
● FL-Sen: It's apparently open season for celebrities to flirt with bids for top-tier political offices. After notorious Republican political strategist Roger Stone recently suggested Hulk Hogan as a Senate candidate in Florida, the retired World Wrestling Entertainment star isn't ruling things out. Hogan said, "I don't want to run, okay. I have a great life here on the beach. ... Right now, this moment, it's a flat-out no." However, he also stated, "If I run, I would win."
Republicans still have no notable candidate running against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, but that's almost certainly because GOP Gov. Rick Scott is widely considered to be a likely candidate. If Scott decides to sit things out, however, there could be a flood of interest from other Republicans. It's unclear if a celebrity with limited political experience like Hogan would stand much of a chance of winning the nomination, but in the age of Donald Trump, we'd be crazy to entirely rule out that prospect.
● MO-Sen, NV-Sen: Politico reports that Mike Pence will go to Missouri in March to campaign for state Attorney General Josh Hawley, while he will travel to Nevada in April to stump for Sen. Dean Heller. Hawley is undoubtedly the front-runner to face Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, although he does have a few lesser-known primary rivals. However, Heller faces a tough primary challenge from fire-breathing perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian.
● NJ-Sen: On Friday, the Justice Department announced that they intend to retry Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez. Menendez, who is up for re-election this year, was indicted back in 2015 on charges of bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements. Prosecutors allege that Menendez used his office to benefit a friend of his, wealthy eye surgeon Salomon Melgen, who had provided Menendez with lavish gifts, including private air travel. In November, a judge declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict.
Menendez has maintained his innocence and is planning to seek re-election this year. New Jersey's powerful Democratic leaders have supported the senator through this whole ordeal, and no major candidates have even hinted at challenging him in the June primary. The Republicans are hoping that Menendez's problems will give them a shot in this blue state, and wealthy pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin reportedly plans to run. If Menendez resigns, newly-inaugurated Gov. Phil Murphy would appoint a successor for the final months of his term.
● AK-Gov: Former state Sen. Charlie Huggins has suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor, although Huggins' statement sound like he's essentially dropping out of the contest for good. Meanwhile, conservative blog Must Read Alaska reports that ex-state Sen. John Binkley "is still on the fence but expected to announce his decision within days," while businessman Bob Gillam has opted not to run. Neither man has confirmed things publicly, however. So far, former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy and businessman Scott Hawkins are the only notable Republicans in the race against independent Gov. Bill Walker.
● CA-Gov: Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has scored the endorsement of the California Professional Firefighters, which is the largest firefighters' union in the state. Newsom has so far led every poll ahead of the June top-two primary election, where he faces several notable opponents from both parties.
● IL-Gov: Whelp, it turns out that GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's latest ad was designed to win media attention only, not reach actual TV viewers. Rauner put only $12,000 behind the 14-minute ad, which plays the recording of an old wiretapped call between current Democratic front-runner J.B. Pritzker and disgraced then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Rauner has been harping on the call in an attempt to portray Pritzker as having done something corrupt in exchange for political favors, though there's no indication that Pritzker acted unethically in the matter.
Meanwhile, Rauner's primary rival has screwed up something once again. State Rep. Jeanne Ives’ campaign initially said it had $662,000 on hand at the end of 2017, but in what they're claiming was a "glitch in filing software," Ives actually had $404,000 on hand. This isn't the first mistake Ives' campaign has made, since she initially botched her filing petitions and had to circulate corrected versions when she was trying to qualify for the ballot.
● MN-Gov: The biggest question hovering over the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Gov. Mark Dayton is what Attorney General Lori Swanson will do. Swanson has been quiet about her interest for months, but the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes that there's a "widespread belief she will be a candidate." Swanson's office is still playing coy, with a spokesperson saying she's "at an important juncture in fulfilling her responsibilities as attorney general and cannot at this time divert her focus to commenting on the governor's race."
The paper also says that if Swanson gets in, she'll likely skip the party's endorsement convention. As we've written before, both major parties will hold nominating conventions of activists the weekend of June 1. Many candidates will, in local parlance, "abide" by the party endorsement process and drop out instead of proceeding to the August primary if they aren't chosen. And while a party's endorsement carries weight with plenty of voters, candidates can still win their primary without it.
Indeed, in 2010, Dayton announced he would not abide by the party endorsement and would proceed to the primary no matter whom the convention picked. Convention delegates gave their backing to state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, and a number of defeated candidates, most notably Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, ended their campaigns right then and there. Nevertheless, a few months later, Dayton, who was a former senator, beat Kelliher in the primary by a tight 41-40 margin.
The Star-Tribune also commissioned Mason-Dixon to conduct a new statewide poll, featuring early looks at both primaries. However, we aren't writing them up because both polls sampled too few voters. The Democratic primary poll included 298 respondents while the Republican portion included just 218. Daily Kos Elections requires a poll to include a minimum of 300 respondents in order to make it to the Digest.
The reason for this cutoff is that the smaller the sample size, the less accurate a poll tends to be. Small sample sizes are also are more prone to produce fluctuations where there aren't any, creating statistical noise that pundits invariably insist has to mean something, even when it really doesn't. This seminal chart that compares Gallup's up-and-down 2012 presidential polling with the Obama campaign's much more sophisticated—and much more stable—polling illustrates the problem well.
On the down-ballot level, the University of New Hampshire's habit of releasing polls of House races with small sample sizes likewise highlights this issue. UNH's results often shift wildly from one poll to the next, and while the changes often get hyped (the Democrat is surging! ... oh no, she's plummeting now!), they're often simply the result of random error. As Daily Kos Elections' Daniel Donner has explained, this problem could largely be eliminated simply by polling more people in each poll.
We've seen very little polling in Minnesota, so we won't see large swings from one candidate to another just yet. However, because Mason-Dixon sampled so few voters for each primary, especially on the GOP side, it's tough to know where each candidate actually stands: Are they truly ahead, or are they just benefiting from random error? Hopefully, we'll see some larger sample sizes and more polls here soon to get a better feel for where these races stand.
● NY-Gov: Back in August, actress Cynthia Nixon didn't rule out running in the primary against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and she recently once again didn't dismiss the idea. Nixon has taken on an activist role within state Democratic politics, and at a recent event where she was asked if she had plans to challenge Cuomo, Nixon smiled and said "maybe."
Cuomo has a huge campaign war chest of over $30 million and still maintains a relatively strong approval rating. However, his years of facilitating Republican control of the state Senate, which in turn has prevented New York from enacting a slew of progressive policies, could create an opening for a more progressive primary challenge.
● FL-09: Back in December of 2016, soon-to-be ex-Rep. Alan Grayson filed to raise money for another federal campaign. Grayson, a Democrat, put on his FEC papers that he was running in GOP Rep. Daniel Webster's 11th District, which had just gone from 59-40 Romney to an even-worse 65-32 Trump. However, Grayson said at the time that he wouldn't actually decide if or where to run until the May 2018 filing deadline. Grayson has now told the Orlando Sentinel that he still hasn't made either of those decisions, but he seems most interested in running for his old 9th District in the Orlando area. Grayson once again said he didn't need to make up his mind until the filing deadline.
That seat went from 56-43 Obama to 55-42 Clinton, so it's much more friendly territory for a Democrat. The problem is that there's already a Democrat in that district, freshman Rep. Darren Soto. However, Grayson doesn't seem remotely concerned with that. When he was asked if he was considering challenging an incumbent, he declared, "I think that in that circumstance, it would a Democrat challenging me."
If Grayson challenged Soto (which is what would be happening everywhere outside of Grayson's head), it would be the second time in as many cycles that Soto has tangled with a member of the Grayson family. In 2016, Soto took first place in the primary with 36 percent of the vote, while Grayson's wife, Dena Grayson, took third with 28 percent. That same day, Alan Grayson lost his Senate primary to fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy 59-18 after he attracted awful headlines on topics ranging from potential ethics violations to alleged domestic abuse. Our numbers have Grayson winning his district 39-36, a whole lot better than his statewide performance, but not a sign he's beloved at home.
If Grayson does try to return to his old seat, this unfortunately will be a race to watch. While the former congressman is wealthy and has a huge fundraising list, however, he's never been good about keeping the money he raised. Grayson brought in $600,000 from July to September of 2017 (even though he wasn't actually running for anything) and loaned himself another $100,000. However, Grayson spent $511,000 during that time (again, even though he wasn't actually running for anything), and he had $261,000 in the bank, as well as $2.5 million in debt.
Grayson also might have a tough time convincing voters to oust Soto. While Soto had a moderate reputation when he was in the state legislature, he's been a reliable Democratic vote in the House. This seat also is home to the state’s largest Puerto Rican population, which is unlikely to want to fire Soto, the state's first Puerto Rican congressman. Indeed, this region’s Puerto Rican population has almost certainly grown larger since 2016 thanks to the influx of refugees following Puerto Rico’s crisis recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
● FL-27: On Thursday, Latin Grammy award winning songwriter Angie Chirino announced she would seek the GOP nomination for this open seat. Chirino has worked with popular singers like Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, and Marc Anthony, and she's the daughter of the well-known Cuban singer Willy Chirino. This Miami-area seat backed Clinton 59-39, and the GOP has had a very tough time finding a viable candidate. Chirino gives them an interesting contender, and we'll see if she can run a credible campaign in a tough environment.
● MS-03: Politico reports that state Sen. Sally Doty will announce she's joining the Republican primary for outgoing GOP Rep. Gregg Harper's seat on Jan. 26, though Doty has yet to confirm things publicly. Along with Vermont, Mississippi is one of just two states that has never sent a woman to Congress, which could help Doty stand out in a crowded field if she's the only major female candidate. Meanwhile, state Rep. William Shirley's name has also surfaced as a Republican who is reportedly considering it, although there's no direct quote from Shirley. This seat stretches across the state from suburban Jackson to northeastern Mississippi and favored Trump by 61-37.
● NC Redistricting: As expected, the Supreme Court has stayed a recent lower court ruling that struck down North Carolina’s Republican-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander. While the court has not yet decided when or even whether to hear the GOP’s appeal, this ruling means the existing lines will remain in effect for the 2018 midterms. The Supreme Court will likely either hear the appeal during its 2018-2019 term or send the case back to the lower court for reconsideration depending on how the justices rule in related, pending cases concerning Maryland and Wisconsin.
Although this development is unsurprising, it is nevertheless deeply disappointing given how North Carolina Republicans had loudly defended their map as an explicitly partisan gerrymander designed to elect 10 Republicans and just three Democrats in this evenly divided swing state. Furthermore, it means that Republicans will have gotten away with unconstitutional gerrymanders for four out of five election cycles this decade. When the courts are this slow to remedy the violation of voters’ constitutional rights, GOP legislators will continue to draw illegal gerrymanders in the future when they know they can get away with them for one or more elections, even if they’re eventually slapped down.
● NV-04: Former Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy has filed to run again for his old seat, although he has yet to formally announce his intentions. Located in Las Vegas' northern suburbs and several rural counties, the 4th District sent Hardy to Congress in an upset in 2014 thanks to unexpectedly terrible Democratic turnout in that year's GOP wave. However, after doing little to moderate his hardline views once he lucked into office, Hardy lost re-election by 49-45 to Democrat Ruben Kihuen in 2016 as the seat went for Clinton by a similar 50-45. Although Kihuen is foregoing re-election this fall due to a sexual harassment scandal, Hardy could still have a tough time winning such a blue-leaning seat in a year when the national political environment is strongly favoring Democrats.
● PA-06: Uh, is Ryan Costello cracking under the pressure? The sophomore Republican, who represents a swingy seat in suburban Philadelphia, popped on Facebook the other day to accuse two "associates" of his leading challenger, Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, of trespassing on his property to take photos of his home and "intimidate" his wife. The only problem is that the police investigated and determined there had been "no crime committed," calling the matter "closed."
Apparently, a couple of canvassers for Planned Parenthood did stop by the Costello household and were asked to leave by the congressman's wife, which they did. But when reporter Holly Otterbein explained this non-mystery to Costello, he bizarrely declared, "I think that just makes it all the more weird and creepy, to be honest with you." No, no it doesn't, but it does make him seem all the weirder and creepier.
It certainly wouldn't be the first time we've seen a politician unused to tough races—Costello skated by against weak opponents in his first two elections for Congress—start to go wobbly when faced with a serious challenge, which Houlahan is poised to provide. In describing his 2004 re-election campaign, then-Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning infamously accused his Democratic opponent of being responsible for "little green doctors pounding on my back." (Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, barely escaped his chartreuse medical tormentors with a 51-49 win that fall even as Bush won Kentucky 60-40; he died last year.)
A bit closer to Costello's imaginings was a 2012 incident when the late Rep. Bill Young, who represented a seat in the Tampa, Florida area, claimed that he and his wife had been stalked and their home broken into twice. Young, who had long been accustomed to facing trivial challengers, blamed it all on Occupy Wall Street, saying, "The Occupiers are after me." However, police in that case also determined there had been no intrusions, explaining that an alarm had gone off after "a storm blew open a garage door with a faulty lock."
A storm is blowing this year, too, and it looks like Costello's hair is getting a bit mussed. He might want to get himself a hat—and a zipper for his lips.
● WV-03: State Del. Shirley Love has jumped into the Democratic primary for West Virginia's 3rd District. Love is a longtime legislator and former TV broadcaster with 44 years of experience, so he may have some decent name recognition in this southern West Virginia seat. He previously served as a state senator and as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention many times. However, at 84 years old, Love would become the second-oldest member of the entire Congress if he were to win, which could make him a tough sell with voters (only 88-year-old New York Rep. Louise Slaughter would be older).
Love joins a Democratic primary that includes state Sen. Richard Ojeda and Tri-State Transit Authority CEO Paul Davis. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, however, recently decided to drop out of that primary. This seat favored Trump by a brutal 73-23, but it's ancestrally Democratic and possibly still open to supporting state Democrats.
● NY State Senate: Alessandra Biaggi, a former attorney in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office who recently filed paperwork to challenge state Sen. Jeff Klein in this year's Democratic primary, has now made her campaign official. Biaggi made her announcement in the wake of former Senate staffer's accusation that Klein had forcibly kissed her in 2015, calling the allegations "disturbing" and adding "#timesup." Klein has denied the charges, and horrifyingly, the Senate is refusing to investigate, a cover-up Biaggi also cited as inspiring her to run.
Despite this new hit to Klein's reputation, Biaggi will face some very steep obstacles. As head of the turncoat faction of Democrats known as the IDC that for years has allowed the Republican minority to remain in power in the Senate, Klein has proven his never-ending willingness to serve as chamberlain for the state's moneyed business interests and is a monster fundraiser as a result. In addition, there's already another Democrat in the race, attorney Lewis Kaminski. To stand a chance at unseating Klein, mainstream Democrats need to rally behind a single standard-bearer; with two challengers running, that can only help split the anti-incumbent vote.
Biaggi, though, appears to have the inside track among anti-IDC activists, with law professor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout offering encouragement on Twitter following Biaggi's entry. But even if she can ease Kaminski aside, Biaggi will still need to work incredibly hard and raise a ton of cash to have any shot at defeating Klein.
● Babka: With Virginia's seemingly never-ending elections finally, well, coming to an end, we can now announce the winner of
this last year's Daily Kos Elections prediction contest! Out of a maximum possible 16 points, the winner was user Octa, who scored an impressive 14. That tied with user jv, but due to a much closer answer on our tiebreak question, the delicious Green's babka goes to Octa.
To find out how you did, you can check out our scoreboard and also see how well everyone else guessed on average. The toughest question by far was, appropriately enough, how many seats Democrats would wind up with in Virginia's House of Delegates. Thanks to an epic, historic night, the final total ended up at 49—far higher than almost anyone had imagined, and which just one person (out of 355 entrants!) nailed. We're delighted so many people participated, and we look forward to our next contest this fall. In the meantime, a big congrats to Octa, and be on the lookout for an email from us!