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.
● CA-39: In a huge surprise, veteran GOP Rep. Ed Royce, who is termed-out as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced on Monday he would not seek re-election. Royce has represented Southern California in the House since 1992, and he's never taken less than 57 percent of the vote. However, Royce's ancestrally red seat, which includes Fullerton and Yorba Linda, did not react well to Trump in 2016, swinging from a 51-47 win for Mitt Romney all the way to 51-43 showing for Hillary Clinton.
Sensing vulnerability, several noteworthy Democrats had already entered the race here, but Royce had amassed a huge $3.5 million war-chest at the end of September and until now had given every indication he was planning to fight it out. In fact, in mid-September, a Royce aide even responded to speculation his boss would bail by saying Royce was "100% running for re-election." Funny how plans can change when the political climate turns bad for your party.
Republicans still do well in Orange County down the ballot, and they won't give this seat up without a fight. However, Team Red's chances of holding this diverse and well-educated seat are almost certainly a whole lot worse without Royce, unless the top-two primary saves the GOP again. Under California law, all candidates from all parties will compete on one ballot in June, and the two contenders with the most votes will advance to the general election, regardless of party.
It's therefore distressingly possible that the many Democrats running here will fracture the left-leaning primary vote just enough to allow two Republicans to take first and second place and turn a promising pickup opportunity into an automatic GOP hold. Infamously, this this very disaster unfolded in the nearby 31st District in 2012: Two Republicans advanced to the general election in a seat that ended up backing Obama 57-41, depriving voters of a real choice. Democrats will have to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
California's candidate filing deadline is in mid-March, so potential GOP candidates still have a little while to make up their minds. It's possible more Democrats will jump in now that Royce has hit the eject button, but as we said above, the Democratic field is crowded enough as it is. The top contenders are Navy veteran Gil Cisneros, who once won $266 million in a lottery; Andy Thorburn, a businessman and former public school teacher who has highlighted how he was arrested and jailed in the 1970s for participating in an illegal teachers' strike; and Mai-Khanh Tran, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam and became a Wall Street analyst and later a pediatrician.
Each of these three has thrown a considerable amount of their own money into the race, with Thorburn alone dropping $2 million. Former Commerce Department official Sam Jammal and education consultant Phil Janowicz are also running, though they trail in the money race. The 39th District is located in the Los Angeles media market, where it costs a pretty penny to go on TV and introduce yourself to voters, so both the primary and general election will be expensive. But barring a top-two debacle, this seat, which was already high on Democratic target lists, just shot to almost the very top of the list.
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.
● MN-Sen-B: Karin Housley (R): $150,000 raised (in 12 days, no loans)
● MO-Sen: Claire McCaskill (D-inc): $2.9 million raised, $9 million cash-on-hand
● WI-Sen: Kevin Nicholson (R): $800,000 raised; Leah Vukmir (R): $400,000 raised
● CO-Gov: Walker Stapleton (R): $750,000 raised, $250,000 self-funded
● IL-Gov: Daniel Biss (D): $1 million raised, $3.1 million cash-on-hand
● MI-Gov: Gretchen Whitmer (D): $740,000 raised (between Oct. 21 and Dec. 31)
● MN-Gov: Tim Walz (D) $1.1 million raised (in 2017), $500,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-45: Katie Porter (D): $266,000 raised, $500,000 cash-on-hand
● FL-18: Lauren Baer (D): $325,000 raised
● NM-02: Madeline Hildebrandt (D): $132,000 raised, $113,000 cash-on-hand
● NY-01: Perry Gershon (D): $163,000 raised, $340,000 self-loaned, $800,000 cash-on-hand
● NY-11: Max Rose (D): $330,000 raised
● NV-03: Michelle Mortensen (R): $80,000 raised (in eight weeks)
● OH-01: Robert Barr (D): $230,000 raised, $200,000 cash-on-hand
● OH-12: Troy Balderson (R): $125,000 raised (in three weeks)
● TX-07: Laura Moser (D): $215,000 raised, $329,000 cash-on-hand
● TX-32: Colin Allred (D): $160,000 raised
● WI-06: Dan Kohl (D): $329,000 raised
● CA-Sen, CA-Gov: Environmentalist Tom Steyer, a billionaire mega-donor who has spent more than $100 million to support Democratic and progressive campaigns in recent years, has announced he won't be a candidate for Senate, governor, or any other office in 2018. Steyer says that instead he plans to spend $30 million on an effort to get young people registered to vote in key congressional districts needed for Democrats to flip the House in 2018. Although he has been funding a multi-million dollar ad campaign calling for Donald Trump's impeachment, Steyer declared the he won't set out a litmus test over the issue for candidates who receive his financial backing in November.
● MN-Sen-B: Recent news reports have previously indicated that Republican Rep. Tom Emmer is considering running in this fall's Senate special election and that he "is feeling pressure" to run if former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty doesn't. However, Emmer's chief of staff recently told Patrick Coolican at the Star Tribune that his boss "is happy where he is in the House." That isn't exactly a firm statement ruling it out, but it also doesn't sound like Emmer is itching to take on newly appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith.
● MO-Sen: Republican pollster Remington Research is out with a new poll of this November's Senate election on behalf of the Missouri Scout. Their survey finds Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley winning by 49-45 against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, which is almost exactly the same as their October poll, where Hawley led 48-45. Very few pollsters have looked at this contest so far this cycle, but Remington has consistently found a slim Hawley advantage. Their latest poll gives Trump an approval rating of just 50 percent compared to 44 percent disapproval. That's a big drop for a state he won by 56-38, but it still shows McCaskill is facing headwinds in this conservative state.
● NJ-Sen: Politico reports that wealthy pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin is considering running for Senate as a Republican against Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez. Hugin was a Trump delegate at the RNC, and he reportedly has "deep ties" to outgoing GOP Gov. Chris Christie. There's no word directly from Hugin about his interest, but he is said to be "making the rounds" among key party members. Republicans so far have no notable candidate in the race against Menendez, but Politico relays that Hugin could self-fund millions in this expensive state if he runs.
● NV-Sen: Attorney Jesse Sbaih launched a longshot Democratic primary campaign for Senate last April, and we previously hadn't covered his candidacy. However, Sbaih says he's loaning his campaign $2 million in his quest to win the nomination over Rep. Jacky Rosen, who has been running since the first half of 2017. Sbaih generated national headlines in 2016 when he claimed former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid had told him that being a Muslim would prevent him from winning election to the House and encouraged him to drop out of that race, which Reid denied.
Sbaih's $2 million could make him a more serious candidate than he initially appeared ... that is, if he actually spends it. Sbaih ran against Rosen in the 2016 primary for Nevada's 3rd District when the two were seeking what was then a GOP-held open seat. He loaned himself roughly $500,000 in that primary, but ended up returning $450,000 to himself after he lost the nomination by a 62-13 drubbing. Rosen quickly earned the support of many key national party groups soon after she joined the Senate race, and she thus far appears to be heavily favored over Sbaih.
● OH-Sen, OH-Gov: All eyes are on the Republican field for Senate after state Treasurer Josh Mandel unexpectedly dropped out the race against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, and Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones is the latest GOP name to arise. Jones recently said "I'm not ruling anything out" and that it makes him proud that people want him for the job. But Jones also bemoaned how it "will take $100 million to be competitive in this race," which may be deterring him from running.
Jones has been sheriff of suburban Cincinnati-area Butler County since 2005. He has long talked about running for Congress yet never ended up doing it. However, he didn't waste time blasting the John Kasich wing of the GOP, and Jones made sure to boast about how he supported Trump during the 2016 primaries instead of the Ohio governor. The Cincinnati Enquirer writes that he is known in conservative circles for his "tough stance" on immigration, which could help him appeal to GOP primary voters in the age of Trump.
Meanwhile, another Trumpish Republican sounds quite interested in running. Wealthy GOP Rep. Jim Renacci has been running for governor for months, but his consultant said on Friday he's considering switching races. Renacci's spokesperson now says that the congressman's "position regarding the Senate race is that he’s fully focused on the governor’s race right now. However, if the White House contacts him and urges him to run for the Senate, he will fully consider it." It would be really funny if the Feb. 7 filing deadlines passes and gubernatorial candidate Renacci is left explaining why the White House never called to
ask him to prom ask him to run for Senate.
● UT-Sen: Republican Rep. Chris Stewart's spokesperson recently said that Stewart "is going to take some time to discuss the race with his family" before deciding whether or not to run for GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch's open Senate seat this fall. Stewart had previously expressed interest in the race back in August, even though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's name had already come up as a probable GOP primary candidate in the event Hatch retired. However, an unnamed Republican operative reportedly in communication with Stewart recently indicated Stewart "would like to run ... but he knows better" than to run against the popular Romney, who appears likely to join the race.
● AL-Gov: Businessman Josh Jones announced recently that he was dropping his Republican primary campaign for governor. Jones had been waging a long-shot bid against Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who still faces a primary that includes Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower, and evangelical minister Scott Dawson.
● MN-Gov: GOP state Sen. David Osmek says he's suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. Osmek's statement suggests he's closer to dropping out than potentially resuming his campaign later, with Osmek urging, "I would encourage all the other Republican candidates who aren't getting traction with GOP activists to also withdraw so that we can present a united front to the liberal candidates in the DFL." The remaining Republican field includes former state party chair Keith Downey, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, state Rep. Matt Dean, and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who was the 2014 GOP nominee.
● OH-Gov: Former Rep. and two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has spent the last year refusing to rule out a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio. While Kucinich hasn't announced he's in yet, he set up a fundraising committee on Monday.
Kucinich is, shall we say, not our favorite option in the May primary. While Kucinich portrayed himself as a progressive hero during his quixotic 2004 and 2008 presidential bids, he emerged as a Trump defender last year. Kucinich, who has been a Fox commentator for years, praised Trump's inauguration speech (you know, the "American carnage" one), and argued in February that U.S. intelligence agencies forced Michael Flynn to resign as Trump's national security advisor. In May, he agreed with Sean Hannity that the "deep state" was out to get Trump, and in a July Fox appearance, he called Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskay "a bunch of nothing." Kucinich has also repeatedly met with and defended Syria's murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad.
There's a crowded Democratic primary in May, and it's possible that Kucinich has enough name recognition and support to win. However, he may not have much oomph left. In 2012, Kucinich and fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur were drawn into the same congressional district, and while Kucinich openly mulled running for the House in other states (he seemed particularly interested in Washington), he decided to stay put. Kaptur represented about 47 percent of the new seat to Kucinich's 39 percent, and she won the primary by a convincing 56-40 margin.
Kucinich has been off the ballot over the last six years, though he did play a high-profile role for a ballot initiative in November of last year to lower the price the state pays for prescription drugs. Kucinich starred in several TV ads for Issue 2, but it lost 79-21.
Plenty of other Democrats are competing in the May primary. Richard Cordray, a former state attorney general who just departed as director of the national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, looks like the frontrunner, but he hasn't scared off ex-state Rep. and 2014 treasurer nominee Connie Pillich; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni; ex-Rep. Betty Sutton; or Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Soon-to-be former Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill is still in the race for some reason.
● SD-Gov: Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether, a Democrat-turned-independent, announced on Monday that he would not seek office in 2018. Huether had been talking about running for governor since November of 2016 even before he left the Democratic Party. It's very possible that if Huether jumped in, he would have cost Team Blue more votes than the GOP in what's usually a reliably red state, though now we'll never know.
Republicans took the governorship in 1978 and have never let it go, and they're favored to hold it for another four years. Still, Democrats do have an interesting candidate in state Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton, and he has experience winning on very red turf. The June GOP primary is a slugfest between Rep. Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley.
● WY-Gov: Attorney Harriet Hageman says she will join the Republican primary for governor, with a formal announcement to take place on Jan. 16. Hageman has some major connections within state GOP circles. She was Wyoming's outside counsel in the early 2000s in a lawsuit over a U.S. Forest Service rule that "barred road construction or reconstruction on millions of acres of Forest Service land," something that angered environmentalists so much that they tarred her as the "Wicked Witch of the West." She later served as an advisor to now-Rep. Liz Cheney in her failed 2014 Senate campaign and successful 2016 House race, and was also a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Hageman appears to be making her first campaign for office, and it remains to be seen if she has what it takes. She joins a field that so far only includes little-known businessman Bill Dahlin, but Secretary of State Ed Murray, state Treasurer Mark Gordon, and state House Speaker Steve Harshman have all previously said they're considering it.
● FL-13: Ex-GOP Rep. David Jolly was already completely and utterly despised by D.C. Republicans before he started publicly trashing Donald Trump, and his recent decision to endorse Democrat Gwen Graham for governor didn't exactly change things. But Jolly, who now is an MSNBC talking head, still hasn't completely ruled out a rematch against Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist for his old St. Petersburg seat. Jolly said last week he was "still considering being on the ballot for Congress, and having conversations about some statewide possibilities that we might confront by filing deadline," but he acknowledged how tough 2018 was shaping up for the GOP. Jolly said he needed to decide if this was even the right year for a Republican to run, adding, "People on the left cannot wait to get to November. I don't think the right has that enthusiasm."
Last cycle, Jolly lost to Crist 52-48 after court-ordered redistricting made this seat considerably more Democratic. The NRCC notably refused to aid Jolly even after Democrats started spending millions to help Crist. This seat did move quite a bit to the right from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton, but no other notable Republicans have made noises about running against Crist so far. Florida's congressional filing deadline is in early May.
● HI-01: State Attorney General Doug Chin announced last month that he would seek the Democratic nomination for this open Honolulu seat, and he says he'll step down from his post in mid-March to focus on his campaign. In Hawaii, the attorney general is appointed by the governor rather than elected.
● IL-04: Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa is one of several Democrats running for the nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez in this open Chicago district, but Politico reports that an unnamed source says Ramirez-Rosa plans to drop out of the primary, with an announcement possibly coming as soon as this week. Ramirez-Rosa reportedly has polling that shows Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia dominating the field, with the source relaying that Ramirez-Rosa called his rival "unbeatable." Garcia did extremely well here in his failed 2015 runoff for mayor against incumbent Rahm Emanuel, and his advantage in the March 20 primary would be unsurprising.
● MS-03: GOP Rep. Gregg Harper surprised plenty of people when he announced he would retire last week, but it didn't take long for the GOP field to begin to shape up ahead of the early March filing deadline for this safely red seat. Michael Guest, who serves as district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties in the Jackson area (only a few Mississippi district attorneys represent just one county), quickly announced he would run. The Clarion Ledger writes that Guest has been considered a rising star in GOP politics for some time. Guest's constituency makes up about a quarter of the seat, so he should have some name recognition.
A few other Republicans have expressed interest in running here. State Sen. Sally Doty said she was considering, and the Clarion-Ledger wrote she is expected to announce she's in soon. If Doty won, she would be the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress. (Vermont is the only other remaining state with this not-so-nice claim to fame.) State Rep. Andy Gipson, who helped push for a bill to allow guns in churches, also said he was thinking about getting in. The paper also writes that Perry Parker, the owner of an investment company, is considering, though he has not said anything publicly.
They also name-drop state Treasurer Lynn Fitch; businessman Gerard Gibert; Neshoba County Chancery Judge Joey Kilgore; Whit Hughes, the president of the Baptist Health Foundation (and a player on the Mississippi State's 1996 Final Four team); education consultant Katherine Tate, an "advocate for educational choice;" and attorney Mitch Tyner, who represented state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his unsuccessful attempt to challenge his 2014 primary loss to Sen. Thad Cochran.
McDaniel, whose base is just across the border in the 4th District, said on Thursday he had no plans to run here, which isn't a no. McDaniel has been talking about challenging Sen. Roger Wicker or running for lieutenant governor in 2019, and he's promised to announce his plans soon. The primary will be in June, and if no one takes a majority of the vote, there will be a runoff a few weeks later.
Trump carried this seat 61-37, and not surprisingly, not many Democrats are jumping to run here. The Clarion-Ledger mentioned state Rep. Michael Evans, whom they say has ties to state firefighters and poultry farmers, as a possible candidate, but he hasn't shown any public interest.
● NH-02: Several Republicans have spent years hoping that ex-state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker would challenge Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in this light blue seat, and it looks like they're about to get their wish. Blankenbeker recently set up a campaign committee with the FEC, and while she told WMUR on Monday that she's only leaning towards running, she's scheduled to make an announcement about her "political future" on Wednesday.
Blankenbeker, who served as a combat nurse in Iraq and Afghanistan, won a heavily Democratic seat in the 400-person state House in a 2009 special. Blankenbeker had planned to challenge Kuster in 2015, but she was called up for deployment with the Navy first. Back in May, WMUR's John DiStaso reported that Blankenbeker's supporters hoped she would run after she left active service this month.
But as we've noted before, Blankenbeker may not be as strong a candidate as they want her to be. Blankenbeker has a long history of far-right and conspiracy theorist rhetoric (notably, she speculated in 2011 that Osama Bin Laden may not have actually been killed) that may not play to well in a general election. This seat went from 54-45 Obama to 49-46 Clinton, and a few other Republicans are competing in the September primary to take on Kuster.
However, we can cross one possible GOP candidate off the list. While former WMUR political director Josh McElveen spent a few months considering jumping in, he said no on Monday.
● PA-01: Minister Michele Lawrence is the latest Democrat who may end up running in the primary against embattled incumbent Bob Brady in this dark-blue Philadelphia district. Lawrence refused to rule it out when asked if she would run, and Philadelphia magazine reports that she is expected to announce "any day now." Lawrence is a former bank executive, and she might be wealthy enough to engage in some self-funding if she runs.
Brady already faces a primary challenge from former Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad and financial planner Lindy Li, and the larger the field opposing him, the higher the chance that he could win a plurality with just a small share of the vote. However, the continued interest of notable Democrats in running here could be a sign they don't believe Brady, who is under investigation for corruption, will even be on the ballot, but only time will tell.
● PA-11: This week, former federal prosecutor Joe Peters announced that he would seek the GOP nomination for this open 60-36 Trump seat in the Wyoming Valley. As we've written before, Peters was the Republican nominee for state auditor back in 2004, where he lost 52-45. Several years later, Peters was brought on to serve as Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane's communications director.
Peters resigned in 2014 after a report broke alleging that Kane had put a stop to a sting operation. Peters later was a witness in the investigation into grand jury leaks that ultimately led to Kane's indictment. Kane ended up not seeking a second term (and was later sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail) and Peters ran in the GOP primary to succeed her, but he lost 64-36. Peters did well in the northeastern corner of the state around Scranton, an area that overlaps partially with this seat, but lost almost everywhere else.
Peters is one of several Republicans seeking to succeed Senate candidate Lou Barletta. Also in the running in the May primary are state Rep. Stephen Bloom; former state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser; and businessman Andrew Lewis, who lost a tight 2016 state Senate primary. There's no clear frontrunner at this point.
● PA-15: This week, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who has been in office since 1991, announced he would seek the Democratic nomination for this open Lehigh Valley district. Morganelli said back in September that this GOP-held seat, which went from 51-48 Romney to 52-44 Trump, "is not a liberal district and it fits my moderate profile well," and well… he's not kidding about not being a liberal.
As we've written before, Morganelli joined GOP Sen. Pat Toomey during the tight 2016 Senate race to discuss sanctuary cities, an issue Toomey and his allies loved to use against Democratic nominee Katie McGinty. Morganelli said after the event that he wasn't backing Toomey, but showing solidarity on an "issue I have been involved with for 16 or 17 years." After the election, Morganelli tweeted at Trump, "Thankful for your coming leadership. Waiting to hear from transition. Met you at Bedminister when I played in Member Guest," and "Pa. most senior prosecutor against illegal immigration waiting to hear from transition. Hope to serve. Met Pres at Bedminste" [sic].
Perhaps worst of all, Morganelli told Trump's twitter account, "Pres-elect sent personal note to my son. I worked with Barletta and Kobach against illegal immigration. Pa. most senior DA." Kris Kobach is the notorious Kansas secretary of state who was spearheading Trump's bogus voter-fraud commission until it was disbanded last week, while Rep. Lou Barletta is now seeking the GOP nod to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in Pennsylvania.
However, Morganelli seems quite popular with Democrats in the area. While Morganelli took a distant third place with just 16 percent of the vote in the 2016 primary for attorney general (his fourth bid for the post), he did well in the counties that make up the 15th District. Notably, Morganelli took Lehigh, which makes up about half the seat and is entirely located in the 15th, 63-27.
Morganelli faces several rivals in the May primary, and the new round of campaign finance reports, which are due at the end of January, will give us a better idea of who is running a serious race for a tough seat. In the running are ex-Allentown Solicitor Susan Wild, pastor Greg Edwards, and Bill Leiner, a former mayor of the small community of Coplay. Morganelli's Northampton base makes up just under a quarter of this seat so he almost certainly starts with more name recognition than his rivals. However, if someone has the resources to get their message out, they'll have plenty of material to use against Morganelli in the primary.
● TN-01: We didn't have GOP Rep. Phil Roe on retirement watch, but his spokesperson recently told News Channel 11 that "the congressman has not yet made a decision and expects to make an announcement in the coming weeks." This East Tennessee seat backed Trump 77-20, and it's been in GOP hands since 1881.
● VA-02: National Democrats have been expecting Elaine Luria, a retired Navy commander, to challenge GOP Rep. Scott Taylor for a while, and Luria announced she was in on Monday. The armed forces have a huge presence in this district, so Luria's career in the Navy could be a big asset; Taylor himself is a former Navy SEAL. Luria also runs a few local paint-your-own mermaid studios in the area (mermaids have become Norfolk's unofficial emblem in recent decades).
This Hampton Roads seat, which is dominated by Virginia Beach, is quite competitive. Trump won 49-45 here, and according to analyst Miles Coleman, Democrat Ralph Northam (a former state senator from the area) carried it 51-47 in last year's governor's race. And as we've written before, if you sort all 435 House seats by Donald Trump's margin of victory over Hillary Clinton, Virginia's 2nd falls right in the middle. This one district likely won't be the district that determines who controls the House, but Democrats need to win light red seats like VA-02 to win back the speaker's gavel.
● VA-06: On Saturday, the 6th District GOP voted to hold a party convention on May 19 rather than a primary to select their nominee for this safely red open Shenandoah Valley seat. In a controversial move, however, the party also voted for an amendment that could allow candidates to win the nomination on a single ballot with just a plurality of the vote. According to Del. Ben Cline, who looks the like the early frontrunner to succeed retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the convention delegates will decide later if they'll adopt this rule or not. (Cline put out a statement saying he supports holding a convention, but he wants to require the nominee to win a majority.)
A number of Republicans are running, including Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Circuit Court Clerk Chaz Haywood and Republican National Committeewoman Cynthia Dunbar, who has the support of some local committee chairs. However, conventions can be incredibly unpredictable, and it's possible that one of the many other candidates in the running can win the whole thing with a good speech that wows the delegates.
● Special Elections: We have our first two specials of 2018, and Georgia is on tap. In Peach State specials, all the candidates run on one ballot, and if no one takes a majority, the two candidates with the most votes advance to a runoff, regardless of their party. Johnny Longtorso is back in business:
Georgia SD-17: This is a seat located southeast of Atlanta. It was left vacant by Republican Rick Jeffares, who is campaigning for lieutenant governor. Four candidates are running, including one Democrat, minister Phyllis Hatcher. Three Republicans are also in the race: Brian Strickland, who was a state representative until resigning to run for this seat; Ed Toney, a retired civil engineer; and Nelva Lee, a healthcare executive who ran for this seat in 2012 as a Democrat. This seat went 57-41 for Donald Trump in 2016 and 60-39 for Mitt Romney.
Georgia HD-111: This is a seat also southeast of Atlanta. It was left vacant by Republican Brian Strickland, who is running in the above special election. Two Democrats are in this race: El-Mahdi Holly, a campaign staffer and substitute teacher, and Tarji Leonard Dunn, a realtor. Also running are two Republicans: Geoff Cauble, a construction company executive, and Larry Morey, a real estate developer. This seat went 50-47 for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 50-49 for Mitt Romney.
● Virginia State House: The election saga continues in Virginia, where Democratic voters in House District 28 have appealed Friday's federal court decision to allow the Virginia House of Delegates to seat Republican Bob Thomas when the legislature convenes on Jan. 10. Democrats are also asking the court to void the race results and order a new election in this seat.
At issue is the narrow win for Republican Bob Thomas in HD-28, who beat Democrat Joshua Cole by just 73 votes following a recount. However, Virginia election officials determined that at least 384 registered voters were assigned to the wrong district in HD-28 and two neighboring districts, and at least 147 of them cast a ballot. Democrats maintain that the only remedy for so many disenfranchised voters is to call a new election.
Democrats appealed Friday's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and filed an emergency motion to stop Thomas from being seated Wednesday. If the court grants the emergency motion, Republicans will still technically have the majority in the chamber with 50 seats to Democrats' 49 and will be able to elect a House speaker when session begins on Wednesday. However, Democrats have not yet indicated whether they intend to pursue another recount or further action in HD-94, where Republican Del. David Yancey won re-election to his seat in this ostensibly tied race by sheer luck.
● Demographics: One driving force in American culture and political geography that doesn't get talked about a lot is religion, and that's partly because it's difficult to pin anything down quantitatively about it; the U.S. Census, for instance, doesn't ask anything about religiosity. One useful source of religion data, however, is Association of Religion Data's decennial census of congregations, and David Jarman has converted ARDA's county-level data to a first-ever religion-by-congressional-district spreadsheet.
The resulting religion map winds up looking a lot like the political maps that we're all used to: Catholicism dominates in blue America, across the Northeast, Southwest, and urban parts of the Midwest, while evangelicalism is predominant across the South, with smaller concentrations of Mormons in the interior West and mainline Protestants in certain rural parts of the Midwest.
● International Digest: The Czech Republic holds its next presidential election in January, and incumbent Milos Zeman could lose re-election to a centrist challenger. The presidency is mostly ceremonial compared to parliament in this Central European nation, but Zeman has vigorously supported both Donald Trump and Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin, while he has also strongly opposed taking in refugees and immigrants from the Middle East. Meanwhile, Catalans voted for another pro-independence majority in their first regional election since a disputed independence referendum led to a clamp-down by the Spanish national government. Check out these stories and more in the January edition of Daily Kos Elections' International Digest.
● Special Elections: Democrats overperformed presidential results in 2017 special elections by large amounts. And we've seen that this is much better than recent years, when Democrats have typically underperformed. But how does it compare to, say, 2008? In the first part of a series, we introduce the Special Elections Index, which measures the political environment by comparing special elections results to results of regular elections held in the same district for the same position, allowing us to look much further back in time. The results? The Special Elections Index for 2017 was the best for Democrats since the late 1980s.