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.
● AZ-Sen, AZ-SoS: On Monday night, following a ballot drop that increased her margin to over 38,000 votes, the AP declared Rep. Kyrsten Sinema the winner of Arizona's hard-fought Senate race, making her the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the Grand Canyon State in 30 years. Though Sinema trailed Republican Rep. Martha McSally on election night, ballots counted after Election Day consistently favored her, allowing her to leg out to a margin of 49.7 to 48.0 at the time the race was called.
This seat became open when Republican Sen. Jeff Flake decided to retire after a single term, recognizing that he could no longer win a GOP primary after being on the receiving end of heaps of abuse from Donald Trump. What passes for the Republican establishment these days then rallied around McSally, who beat two ultra-extreme opponents, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and the disgraced ex-sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, to capture the GOP nomination. Sinema, meanwhile, won the Democratic primary with little opposition, despite her transformation from a one-time Green Party member to a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition.
Both parties spent heavily, and the race was a tossup the whole way through—a remarkable enough development on its own, given Democrats' long drought in Arizona. (Until Monday, they hadn't won a statewide race of any kind here in a decade.) But this very diverse state reacted poorly to Trump, holding him to a 48-45 win that was the poorest showing for a Republican presidential candidate since 1996.
That marked the latest step in a gradual transformation that saw Democrats put together their strongest election night in Arizona in a very long time. In addition to powering Sinema to a win, this latest ballot update also moved Democrat Katie Hobbs into a 5,667-vote lead over Republican Steve Gaynor in the race for secretary of state, and she's likely to keep it. This post is doubly important because, in addition to serving as the state's top election administrator, the secretary of state is also next in line for the governorship. (Arizona has no lieutenant governor.) Four of the state's last nine governors have, in fact, been elevated from this position.
On top of that, shortly after their Sinema call, the AP announced Democrat Kathy Hoffman as the winner of the race for superintendent of public instruction, a position Democrats last held in the mid-1990s. Sandra Kennedy is also poised to win a seat on the corporation commission, which regulates utilities, making her the only Democrat on the five-member board.
On the legislative level, Democrats picked up four seats in the state House, slicing the Republican majority to a narrow 31-29 margin. And while Democrats did not make gains in the Senate (which Republicans held 17-13 heading into the election), one GOP-held seat remains uncalled, and there are still some 172,000 ballots left to count statewide. Both chambers will assuredly be top targets for Democrats in 2020.
● FL-Sen, FL-Gov: As expected, recounts in three super-tight Florida races—for senator, governor, and agriculture commissioner—were ordered on Saturday, since all three were separated by a margin of less than 0.5 percent. All 67 counties are busy conducting a machine recount of all ballots, meaning ballots are fed back through scanners, with a deadline of 3 PM ET on Thursday.
Prior to the recounts, the tallies in each race stood as follows:
- FL-Sen: Rick Scott (R): 4,098,107 (50.07 percent), Bill Nelson (D-inc): 4,085,545 (49.92 percent); margin: 12,562 (0.15 percent)
- FL-Gov: Ron DeSantis (R): 4,075,879 (49.59 percent), Andrew Gillum (D): 4,042,195 (49.18 percent); margin: 33,684 (0.41 percent)
- FL-Ag. Comm'r: Nikki Fried (D): 4,030,337 (50.03 percent), Matt Caldwell (R): 4,025,011; margin: 5,326 (0.07 percent)
After the machine recounts, if any races are within a margin of 0.25 percent, a second manual recount will take place of all undervotes and overvotes to determine voter intent. An undervote means a voter failed to vote in a particular race, while an overvote means a voter chose too many options in a given race—or at least, a machine thinks so. A human can be more discerning.
The massive number of votes and the short timeframe are putting a strain on some counties, some of which are now working 24 hours a day. Susan Bucher, the top elections official in heavily Democratic Palm Beach County, where over half a million ballots were cast, said on Sunday that it would be "impossible" to finish on time, though she later expressed confidence her county would meet the deadline.
And of course, the recounts have also led to a flurry of litigation—accompanied on the Republican side by incendiary rhetoric from Donald Trump on down designed to undermine democracy by attacking the very notion that all votes should be counted. One judge, who rejected a request by Scott to impound voting machines in Broward County, even warned the attorneys in his courtroom "to tamp down the rhetoric," adding, "We have to be careful about what we say."
Of course, the biggest question is whether any of these recounts could flip the outcome in any of these races. Marc Elias, a top Democratic election lawyer who is working for Nelson, sounds cautiously optimistic, saying he ultimately expects his client "to take a small lead." In particular, Elias thinks that the well-documented undervote problem in Broward County, where some 25,000 voters apparently skipped the Senate race, was due to improper scanner calibration rather than poor ballot design—though the ballot does seem to have been poorly laid out. But Elias' track record is good: He prophesied on Thursday that Kyrsten Sinema would win the Senate race in Arizona, a forecast that turned out to be quite keen.
In any event, we're unlikely to have any greater clarity before Thursday, and since a second recount in at least two of these contests is likely, we probably won't know how things turn out for some time—and that's not even taking into account further lawsuits, which are inevitable.
● GA-Gov, GA-07: Democrats in both of Georgia's outstanding races have filed lawsuits seeking to have rejected ballots counted, on similar grounds: Stacey Abrams and Carolyn Bourdeaux are both asking that officials be ordered to tally ballots where information such as voters' birth dates is missing or mismatched—small errors that Bourdeaux's team termed "immaterial." While the cases are still pending, Republican Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden instructed local election officials on Monday to count ballots missing dates of birth, as long as voters' identities can still be verified.
Though their arguments are similar, the two Democrats’ ultimate aims differ, though. Bourdeaux is hoping to reverse the outcome in her race, where GOP Rep. Rob Woodall currently leads by 901 votes. Abrams, by contrast, is hoping to knock Republican Brian Kemp below a majority of the vote, which would force a Dec. 4 runoff. At the moment, Abrams would need to gain 20,594 votes in order to do so. Counties must certify their results by 5 PM ET on Tuesday, so we may have more clarity then.
● CA-10: Since our last update in Friday's Digest (reflecting tallies as of late Thursday), Democrat Josh Harder has seen his lead over Republican Rep. Jeff Denham grow considerably. Harder is now up 3,447 votes, giving him a 50.8-49.2 edge. Previously, he'd been up 1,287 votes, or 50.6-49.4.
● CA-21: While this race actually was previously called for Republican Rep. David Valadao, it's grown much, much closer. Valadao is now up just 2,079 votes on Democrat T.J. Cox, a margin of 51.2-48.8; he'd previously led by about 54-46. There may not be enough ballots left out there for Cox to win this, but this is still a remarkable result, considering that Republicans had considered Valadao safe until they hit the panic button in the final week—rightly, as it turned out.
● CA-39: Republican Young Kim has watched Democrat Gil Cisneros slice sharply into her lead over the last few days. She's now up 50.6-49.4, a difference of 1,957 votes. On Thursday, she'd been ahead 3,874 votes, a 51.3-48.7 margin. In yet another disparagement of democracy, Kim's campaign issued an absurd statement just ahead of Monday's vote drop citing her vote share in each of the three counties that make up the district and then warned, "Anything falling significantly outside of those percentages could reflect foul play." That's hot garbage, of course, because late ballots in California historically favor the Democrats, just as they have this year.
● CA-45: Guess what? Yet another Republican lead has dwindled precipitously. Republican Rep. Mimi Walters had been up 4,037 votes on Democrat Katie Porter, but that's been reduced to just 1,011, or 50.2 to 49.8. Believe it or not, even as she's been fighting for her political life, Walters had floated the possibility that she might run for NRCC chair for the coming cycle. On Sunday, she thought better of that harebrained idea and pulled the plug, but we'll be here for "Mimi Walters for NRCC chair" jokes for a long time to come.
● ME-02: The secretary of state's office continued to scan ballots on Monday in preparation for conducting the instant runoff newly required by state law, with one official suggesting the tabulation could take place on Wednesday. GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin holds a 46.2 to 45.5 lead on Democrat Jared Golden, but an exit poll conducted by the Bangor Daily News suggests those who cast ballots for independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar overwhelmingly favored Golden as their second choice. The poll projects that Golden will win the runoff 52-48.
● NJ-03: According to Philly.com, Democrat Andy Kim is now up to a 4,353-vote lead on Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur after Democratic-leaning Burlington County tallied a batch of votes it had failed to count on Election Day. Election websites, however, are not yet displaying this update, so it's not quite clear what the candidates' total vote tallies (and percentage margin) are. (The AP has Kim ahead 49.9 to 48.8, but that reflects a lead of 3,424 votes.)
As of Friday, there were still some 7,200 provisional ballots left to count; officials in Burlington said they'd work through the weekend to process them, while those in Ocean County (the other county that makes up this district) said they'd meet this week to finish. However, since twice as many ballots are in Burlington, which has strongly favored Kim to date, there's almost no chance the outcome will change.
● NY-22: After leading by 1,422 votes on election night, Democrat Anthony Brindisi has seen his advantage on Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney dip to 1,293 votes (a 50.3-49.7 margin) after results were added from a voting machine that hadn't been tallied. Some 17,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted, a process that will start on Tuesday. For what it's worth, Brindisi told local news station WNBF on Monday that he's "still very confident," while Tenney "was not available for comment." However, Tenney did tell right-wing nutter site Newsmax that victory was "not impossible" for her, which makes her sound rather less than "very confident."
● UT-04: A batch of ballots counted on Friday was helpful to GOP Rep. Mia Love, but she still trails Democrat Ben McAdams by 4,906 votes, a margin of 51.2 to 48.4. Prior to this drop, McAdams had led by 7,128 votes. It's unclear how many ballots remain outstanding, though the Salt Lake Tribune's Robert Gehrke estimates there are around 56,000. The majority of these are in McAdams-friendly Salt Lake County, but part of the Friday batch came from Salt Lake, too, and that favored Love. New updates are expected on Tuesday (election offices were closed Monday because of the Veterans Day holiday).
● CA-48: On Saturday evening, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin learned he'd need to find a new best friend in Congress after the Associated Press projected that Democrat Harley Rouda had unseated 15-term GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. As of Monday afternoon, Rouda's margin of victory in California's 48th Congressional District stood at 52-48, or about 8,500 votes, and it will likely get larger as more ballots get counted.
While this coastal Orange County seat, which is the setting for the show "Arrested Development," swung from 55-43 Romney to 48-46 Clinton, Rohrabacher didn't seem to have any real idea about how much danger he was in until it was too late. Back in May of 2017, Rohrabacher told the Washington Post's Dave Weigel that, "A lot of Republican women voted for Hillary. That is not going to translate into anything else next year." Rohrabacher also predicted that Donald Trump wouldn't cause him any problems, adding, "Trump is a very boisterous guy, and that was a turnoff for some people, but these are Reagan-type conservatives." Suffice to say, he was really, really, really wrong.
However, Rohrabacher's own behavior may be just as much to blame for his defeat as Trump and Orange County's changing politics. The congressman continued to ardently defend Putin and far-right extremists overseas, and he even went on Albanian television and declared that "Macedonia is not a state" and should be split up and given to other countries. Rohrabacher was also involved with his close friend and disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a strange plan ostensibly to help the Republic of Congo defeat the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Closer to home, Rohrabacher put on his tinfoil cap and argued that it was really Democrats who were behind the violence in Charlottesville last year. In Rohrabacher's world, a former "Hillary and Bernie supporter" got Civil War re-enactors to gather in the Virginia college town to pretend to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee. The congressman declared the white supremacist procession was actually "a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors," and "it was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation" and to "put our president on the spot."
Rohrabacher of course didn't stop there. In May, he spoke out in defense of allowing realtors to discriminate against LGBTQ homebuyers, which cost him the endorsement of the powerful National Association of Realtors. Rohrabacher also continued to meet with far-right troll Charles Johnson, who has both minimized the Holocaust and been banned from Twitter for saying he wanted to "take out" a Black Lives Matter leader.
In September, Rohrabacher endorsed a candidate for a local school board post who had a recent history of racism and anti-Semitism, including a YouTube playlist titled "Holocaust hoax?" He also was recorded ridiculing the allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had committed sexual assault in high school.
Rohrabacher may have yet survived all this if he had raised enough money to effectively compete in the very-expensive Los Angeles media market, but that would be out of character for Dana Rohrabacher. Both the congressman and Rouda had to spend plenty of cash to advance through a very competitive June top-two-primary, where Rohrabacher faced a serious challenge from his former ally Scott Baugh and Rouda only narrowly got past another Democrat. However, while Rouda held only a tiny cash-on-hand edge at the end of June, he outraised the incumbent $4.15 million to $652,000 from July 1 to Oct. 17.
While major Democratic and Republican groups each spent over $4 million here during the general election, Rohrabacher's allies opted for cheaper cable TV ads in the final weeks of the contest while Democrats continued to spend heavily to the end. In the end, while the race was still close, Rohrabacher's many bad decisions helped bring his 30-year career crashing down.
● MS-Sen-B: Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who's facing off against Democrat Mike Espy in a Nov. 27 runoff for the final two years of former Sen. Thad Cochran's term, found a new way to astonish over the weekend when she offered this bizarre "compliment" to a supporter:
"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."
Yes, that's a Republican in Mississippi, who's running against a black opponent, expressing an eagerness for watching a lynching … in 2018. And since it's 2018 and Republicans now all follow Trump's refusal to apologize for anything ever, Hyde-Smith naturally did not apologize and in fact derided anyone who might a problem with what she said, saying that "any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous." That group includes Espy, who called Hyde-Smith's creepy remarks "reprehensible."
● KS-Gov: The end of an election cycle means a lot of things, including a lot of good stories about what went wrong for defeated candidates. Following Republican Kris Kobach's loss to Democrat Laura Kelly, more than a dozen GOP strategists and officials spoke to the Kansas City Star to dish about what they said was a weak campaign effort.
These Republicans, most of whom were not named, argued that Kobach showed little interest in fundraising and didn't even set up a basic get-out-the-vote effort, with one long-time party operative calling the campaign "the most dysfunctional thing I've ever seen in my life." Another relayed that, "The joke was, you'd say 'the Kobach campaign' and (then) you'd say, 'what campaign?'"
Kobach relied in large part on loans from his wealthy running mate, oil businessman Wink Hartman, to finance the campaign, but they found themselves outspent. One GOP official said that they'd gotten a call from a party donor who wanted to contribute who was pleading for a call from Kobach. The call never happened, and Kobach's cash-strapped campaign couldn't advertise heavily on TV until October. The day after Election Day Kobach blamed his defeat in part on Kelly's fundraising advantages, though he didn't penalize himself for not bringing in enough cash to counter her.
Republicans also faulted Kobach for focusing his bid on immigration even though school funding was dominating the campaign, as well as surrounding himself with the wrong people. Kobach's former spokeswoman even said on the record that he'd "rather hire somebody who is loyal but not necessarily good than somebody that is good and not loyal, which made it difficult for the professional campaign staff to do what was needed to win."
Even though polls consistently showed Kobach and Kelly locked in a tight race, the Republican's staffers almost literally measured the drapes. The Star writes that two weeks before Election Day, his senior staff did a walk-through of the governor's office. Kelly ended up beating Kobach to win that very office 48-43.
● KY-Gov: State House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins, who has been mulling a bid against GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, has scheduled a special announcement for Wednesday. Adkins also filed paperwork with the state's elections office naming Jefferson County School Board Steph Horne as his running mate, so there isn't much suspense about what Adkins will announce. Attorney General Andy Beshear is already running in the May primary.
● LA-Gov: While Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry says he's still interested in challenging Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards next year, he adds that he won't do it if GOP Sen. John Kennedy runs. Kennedy said last month that he would announce his plans before Dec. 1, and while he insists he's still undecided, he sounds like he's leaning towards running. Kennedy said recently that he's "got a lot going on (in the Senate), but at the same time, my state's in trouble."
There's also been some renewed chatter that state House Majority Whip Steve Scalise could be interested. Scalise definitively ruled out running in June, but his calculations may be changing now that the GOP has lost the House. Scalise is currently running for House minority whip, so he seems to want to stay in D.C. right now, but there's no guarantee he'll win that leadership fight.
Scalise doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about any renewed interest in a gubernatorial bid, but Kennedy seems to be taking the idea somewhat seriously. The senator said that his polls show him and Scalise running the best against Edwards. Kennedy also seemed to be trying to discourage Scalise from running when he told The Advocate that he'd help him become speaker someday if that's what he wants, though he didn't directly address the possibility that the congressman could run against him next year.
● MO-Gov: Mike Parson was promoted from lieutenant governor to governor in May after fellow Republican Eric Greitens resigned in disgrace as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, and Parson will be up for a full term in 2020. Parson has a much better relationship with the GOP establishment than Greitens did, and it doesn't look likely at this early point in the cycle that he'll face a serious primary threat, but one very familiar Republican reportedly has been eyeing a bid.
Back in September, former Democratic state Sen. Jeff Smith tweeted that none other than Eric Greitens "has called at least one donor to test the waters re: a 2020 gubernatorial primary." We haven't heard anything since then, and it's possible that Greitens has been hit with a cold dose of reality at some point.
However, it may take a lot more to dissuade Greitens from trying to resurrect what briefly looked like a promising political career. The Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske wrote nearly two months ago that, while people close to the former governor weren't aware of the calls to donors, "they're also not the least bit surprised." They noted that Greitens has dreamed of running for president "since grade school," so he may not be willing to give up despite his turbulent and aborted year-and-a-half in office.
● MS-Gov: Apparently, GOP state Sen. Chris McDaniel's distant third place finish in Tuesday's special election wasn't enough to crush his dreams of statewide glory. McDaniel acknowledged to the Clarion Ledger this week that he was hearing the rumors that he could run for governor next year, and that "it's possible." He added that he would consider after the Nov. 27 special election between GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, whom he's endorsed, and Democrat Mike Espy.
So far, no notable Republicans have kicked off bids to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Phil Bryant. However, pretty much everyone in Mississippi politics expects Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to run. On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jim Hood is in, and he's very unlikely to face any serious competition. The state's filing deadline is March 1, and the primary will be Aug. 6. If no one takes a majority in the primary, there would be a runoff Aug. 27.
Hood is almost certainly the strongest candidate whom Team Blue could field in this conservative state, but a Jim Crow-era election law makes his task even more difficult. As we've written before, the state's 1890 constitution requires gubernatorial candidates to win both a majority of the statewide vote and a majority of the 122 districts that make up the state House. If no candidate wins both the popular vote and a majority of districts, the state House then picks the winner from the top two finishers.
The GOP gerrymandered the state House map, so even if Hood does win a majority, he very well may fail to take a majority of the House. The state GOP House majority would get to choose the governor under those circumstances, and there's no reason to think that they'd pick Hood even if he got the most votes.
● MT-Gov: Democrats have won four consecutive terms in this conservative state, but with Gov. Steve Bullock termed-out in 2020, Team Red has a good chance to finally regain power.
The potential GOP candidate with the most early buzz is state Attorney General Tim Fox, whom national Republicans unsuccessfully tried to recruit to challenge Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018. Fox, who was treated for colon cancer earlier this year, told the Great Falls Tribune in September that a "run for governor is an option." There are plenty of other Republicans who might be interested, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told the local radio station KBUL-AM on Friday that he wouldn't run.
● NC-Gov: On Tuesday the North Carolina GOP lost the legislative supermajorities that they'd used to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes, and they're hoping to regain power by unseating Cooper in two years. Former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who lost re-election to Cooper in a very tight 2016 race, is currently working as a pundit on a Charlotte radio station, and he hasn't ruled out a comeback campaign. In September of 2017 McCrory said he'd "consider it down the road."
As far as we know McCrory hasn't said anything since then about his interest, but another potential Republican candidate seems to be preparing for a possible primary against the former governor. Three months ago Lt. Gov. Dan Forest put out a statement denouncing a tolls project on I-77, declaring it was "a colossal mistake" started by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and "signed by the McCrory administration, punted by the Cooper administration and would be fixed by a Forest administration."
Forest hasn't announced a 2020 campaign against Cooper yet, but that very unsubtle statement doesn't leave much ambiguity about his plans. He also has one prominent ally already in his corner: Back in October of last year, Rep. Mark Meadows, who chairs the nihilist House Freedom Caucus, pre-endorsed Forest.
● UT-Gov: GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who has been in office since mid-2009, has made it clear that he won't run for another term in 2020, and there are more than enough Republicans who could run to succeed him in this very red state.
In October the Salt Lake Tribune released a poll of a hypothetical GOP primary from the University of Utah that showed former Rep. Jason Chaffetz leading Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox 25-16, with Rep. Rob Bishop at 11 and former Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller, outgoing state House Speaker Greg Hughes, and Attorney General Sean Reyes all in the single digits. Primary polls aren't particularly predictive more than 18 months ahead of Election Day, but they're useful for getting potential candidates to talk about their interest, and this crop did not disappoint.
Chaffetz, who resigned from Congress last year and soon became a Fox News talking head, has already been talking about running for governor for years, and he reiterated his interest to the Tribune in late October. Chaffetz isn't in any hurry to decide, though, with him saying that a final decision is "more than a year away."
Cox also told the paper he was interested, adding that he was leaning towards running. Like many Republicans, Cox was an ardent Donald Trump critic during the 2016 presidential primary, but unlike many Republicans, he's actually stayed one over the last two years. In June, Cox tweeted that he "want[s] to punch someone" over the administration's family separation policies, adding, "Some in my party are doing and supporting things I never thought possible," and, "We get what we deserve. If we want change, we have to change ourselves." In any other state that kind of candor about Trump would be poison in a GOP primary, but Utah Republicans may feel differently.
Bishop, who has represented northern Utah since 2003, announced last year that he wouldn't seek re-election in 2020, but he may not be done with politics yet. Neither Bishop nor his congressional campaign would rule out a gubernatorial bid in October, with them both saying he was focused on his uncompetitive race in November. Miller, the former CEO of the Utah Jazz basketball team, was a little more direct, saying he was "considering but certainly not committed to at this point."
Hughes, who was an early Trump supporter, didn't rule out running for governor in January when he announced he would retire from the state House. He still hasn't closed the door on anything, declaring that the Tribune's October poll was "interesting." Reyes' campaign advisor had a very different reaction and declared he still doesn't "give a flip about a Salt Lake Tribune poll." That response may be rude, but it also isn't ruling anything out about the attorney general's interest.
● WA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is eligible to run for re-election in 2020, but no Washington governor has even sought a third term since Republican Daniel Evans successfully did so in 1972. Inslee doesn't look likely to break this streak since he seems far more interested in a possible presidential run, though he told the Seattle Times this month that he hadn't ruled out a third term. The governor said he'd decide on a White House bid over the next few months.
If Inslee retires, there are plenty of Evergreen State Democrats who could run here. The last time Republicans won this seat was 1980—the GOP's worst losing streak in the nation—and it's possible that enough voters will be looking for change to give Team Red an opening. However, legislative Republicans took some serious losses last week, and they may struggle to win this blue state as long as Donald Trump is the head of their party.
● WV-Gov: GOP Gov. Jim Justice said in late October that he would probably seek a second term, and he would be sure in a "little while."
Justice, who was a registered Republican until 2015, was elected as a Democrat the next year but rejoined the GOP in 2017 at a Donald Trump rally. However, while it looked very possible at the time that Justice could face a serious primary challenge, that could be difficult as long as he has Trump's support. Trump has continued to gush over the governor over the last year, declaring in August that Justice is "the largest, most beautiful man."
While Justice also had an awful relationship with the GOP-led legislature during his months as a Democratic governor (Justice even dropped an actual pile of bull manure on a copy of the GOP's budget when he vetoed it—because Republicans refused to raise taxes!), things seem to have improved since he rejoined Team Red. State Senate Leader Mitch Carmichael said a year after Justice's switch that it worked out "fantastically," and praised his vision for the state.
Still, GOP Secretary of State Mac Warner seems open to running in 2020, though he revealed his interest in a not-so-ideal venue. Last month, the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management held a hearing to settle some wrongful termination lawsuits leveled by former secretary of state employees whom Warner had fired after taking office. Warner had sacked 15 registered Democrats as well as an independent and replaced them with new people who were either registered Republicans or had ties to conservative political organizations.
Warner testified last month that, while he was indeed interested in running for governor in 2020, he had not hired staffers with GOP ties in order to help prepare a campaign. It's not clear if Warner is thinking of challenging Justice in a primary or just hoping he'll retire.
● MD-06: On Friday, GOP state Del. Neil Parrott announced that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential run for a redrawn 6th Congressional District. Parrott's move came days after a federal court struck down the lines for this seat on the grounds that Democrats had discriminated against Republicans in violation of their First Amendment rights when they flipped it from red to blue in 2012 due to redistricting. It's unclear if this case will survive an appeal to the Supreme Court, or if the current heavily blue version of the 6th will survive for the rest of the decade.
● Where Are They Now?: Two former Democratic congressmen who left office four years ago earned new political jobs last week. Former Rep. Ron Barber will serve as district director for Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona's 2nd District in the Tucson area. Barber held this post under Rep. Gabby Giffords, and he was wounded in the 2011 assassination attempt against her. Barber successfully ran to succeed Giffords in a 2012 special and he held the 2nd District until Republican Martha McSally defeated him in a razor-close 2014 race.
Over in Maine, former Rep. Mike Michaud won his race for town selectman of East Millinocket. Michaud represented the 2nd District from 2002 until he mounted an unsuccessful campaign against GOP Gov. Paul LePage in 2014.