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.
● NY-25: Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, who represented the Rochester area in Congress for over 30 years, died on Friday, following a fall last week in which she sustained a concussion. Eighty-eight at the time of her death, Slaughter had been the oldest member of the House, a distinction that now falls to Texas Rep. Sam Johnson, who is retiring this year.
Slaughter, who was a distant relative of Daniel Boone, came to western New York from Kentucky in the 1950s, and won seats in the Monroe County Legislature and New York Assembly in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1986, then-Assemblywoman Slaughter challenged conservative one-term GOP Rep. Fred Eckert, a vocal supporter of Ronald Reagan, in what was then New York's 30th Congressional District. Slaughter assembled a huge volunteer army and ousted Eckert by a tight 51-49 margin, running ads that labeled him "Congressman No" for his votes against school lunches and sanctions on South Africa's apartheid regime.
Slaughter had little trouble winning re-election afterwards for decades. However, the 2012 round of redistricting changed her district quite a bit: Slaughter lost territory around Buffalo and was left in a seat based entirely in Rochester's Monroe County. Not only was the new 25th District considerably less Democratic than its predecessor (the 28th), Slaughter also only represented about 40 percent of its constituents.
While the congresswoman was still very well known in the Rochester area, Republicans smelled an opportunity and recruited Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, who had just decisively won re-election. Slaughter was taken off the campaign trail for a time after she broke her leg in a fall, but she continued to boast that she's always "had the stamina of three people" and joked that her slogan could be "Vote Louise. She has a leg up." Polls showed a close race for a time and Republican outside groups spent heavily, but Slaughter won 57-43 as Obama was carrying the seat 59-39.
National Republicans left Slaughter alone during the 2014 GOP wave, so it was a huge surprise on election night when she was locked in a close race with Mark Assini, a little-known town supervisor. The race wasn't called for a week, and Slaughter won re-election just 50.2 to 49.7. The following cycle, Slaughter took nothing for granted and easily dispatched Assini in a rematch by a 56-44 margin as Clinton was winning her seat 56-39. She had announced that she would seek another term just weeks before her death.
Slaughter, who never lost her Kentucky drawl, was known both as one of the nicest denizens of Capitol Hill and, at the same time, a fierce fighter for liberal causes. Slaughter was the co-author of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, and she also was known as a mentor for female lawmakers. In 2008, Slaughter also co-authored successful legislation to prevent insurance providers from discriminating on the basis of genetic information—an issue of great importance to her as the only microbiologist in the House. (She earned a master's degree in 1953, at a time when very few women were studying the sciences.)
Slaughter became the first woman to chair of the Rules Committee when her party took back the House in 2006, and she used her powerful role to help Democrats pass important pieces of legislation during the first two years of Obama's presidency. In 2010, as Slaughter was helping pass Obamacare, she recounted that she had received a death threat, and that a rock was used to smash her district office window.
Slaughter remained an influential member of Congress even in the minority. In 2012, months after "60 Minutes" ran a story exposing the fact that insider trading was completely legal for members of Congress, Slaughter made a renewed push to require public reports of any stock transactions by members of Congress. This proposal, known as the STOCK Act, had attracted little support in the past, but Obama helped change that after he called for reform in his State of the Union. The bill was signed by Obama months later.
● IN-Sen: The Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC is shelling out $500,000 on a TV ad buy in support of Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who has been facing attacks from a Koch-affiliated group for weeks. SMP's spot blasts the GOP's new tax law for cutting taxes for billionaires and adding trillions to the national debt, arguing Donnelly voted against it because he supports middle class tax cuts instead.
● MS-Sen-B: Republican Gov. Phil Bryant had previously said he planned to name a successor to Sen. Thad Cochran after the senator resigns on April 1, but now he says he'll select someone before that date, to give his appointee a chance to start campaigning for the special election that will be held in November. Bryant also made it explicit that he would not pick state Sen. Chris McDaniel for the job, saying simply, "He is not on the list." (We'd have been shocked to our socks if he were.)
McDaniel, however, has already announced that he's running for Cochran's seat, appointment or no. And as we just saw in Alabama right next door, politicians who have the establishment bona fides to secure Senate appointments may not be especially appealing to the conservative base.
● MT-Sen: Candidate filing closed on Monday for Montana's June 5 primary, and the state has a list of candidates here.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester faces a tough bid for a third term in a state that backed Trump 56-35, but he's proven that he's a tough candidate. Four Republicans are running to face him, and state Auditor Matt Rosendale is arguably the primary front-runner. Rosendale, who is the only candidate who holds statewide office, released a poll in February that gave him a 28-12 lead over businessman and Air Force veteran Troy Downing; former judge Russ Fagg took 11, and state Sen. Albert Olszewski languished at 5. However, much of that early lead seems to be the result of Rosendale being better-known than the rest of the field.
National Republicans reportedly were interested in Rosendale over the summer after Attorney General Tim Fox decided not to run. However, some Republicans privately worried that Rosendale's Maryland roots and accent would hurt him, though his defenders note that Rosendale lived in Montana for years before first seeking office in 2010; they also argued that Rosendale could help neutralize Tester's everyday Montanan image, saying that the auditor shares the same buzzcut that Tester has emphasized in his campaign ads. The national GOP establishment hasn't consolidated behind anyone publicly, but Rosendale does have the support of the hardline anti-tax group the Club for Growth.
Downing has the support of Lola Zinke, the wife of Rep.-turned Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. However, Downing's own Montana roots are, shall we say, tenuous. Downing, who operates a San Diego-based storage company, has residences in California and Montana, though he says he became a full-time Montana resident a few years ago. And over the summer, Downing was cited with seven misdemeanors for allegedly trying to buy or purchase hunting and fishing licenses as an out-of-state resident, which is against the law. Downing is scheduled to go on trial for misdemeanor charges just two weeks before the primary.
Fagg, a longtime district judge who left the bench before running, does not have those kinds of issues. Fagg also sports the endorsements of some prominent Montana Republicans of yesteryear, including former Reps. Rick Hill and Denny Rehberg (who was Tester's 2012 foe). Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon by trade, rounds out the GOP field, but he has little outside support. Both Rosendale and Fagg had about $500,000 in the bank at the end of 2017, while Downing had $150,000 to Olszewski's $105,000. Rosendale, Fagg, and Downing are each worth several million dollars, so we could see quite a bit of self-funding here. Tester is a strong fundraiser, and he ended the year with $6.3 million in the bank.
● NV-Sen, NV-03: On Friday, with just hours to go before Nevada's candidate filing deadline, wealthy perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian announced he was dropping his GOP primary bid against Sen. Dean Heller, and that he would instead once again run for the open and swingy 3rd Congressional District.
Tarkanian said on Tuesday that there was "zero chance under any circumstances" that he would make the exact swap he made three days later. But Tarkanian told the Nevada Independent on Friday that he later spoke to Brad Parscale, whom Trump recently named as his (first) 2020 campaign manager, and Parscale said that the White House wanted him to run for the 3rd instead.
Tarkanian relays that he decided he had to do what Trump wanted, but only if Trump made his wishes publicly known. On Friday, Trump tweeted, "It would be great for the Republican Party of Nevada, and it's unity if good guy Danny Tarkanian would run for Congress and Dean Heller, who is doing a really good job, could run for Senate unopposed!" and soon after, Tarkanian made his announcement.
Heller already faces a tough general election with Rep. Jacky Rosen, and he'll be relieved that he won't need to expend money and time in a primary anymore. And while Heller's primary prospects seemed to improve quite a bit over the last few months after he successfully ingratiated himself to Trump, Democrats still held out hope that the very flawed Little Tark would win. Still, the aborted primary campaign did force Heller to bind himself to Trump in a state that Clinton narrowly carried. If Trump is as toxic in Nevada in November as he is nationally now, Rosen will still have plenty of material to use him to tie him to the unpopular administration.
The race for the 3rd District will also be very different, and we'll take a look at the June GOP primary in the next Digest once we have a final list of candidates. However, now that Tarkanian has Trump's support (or at least a really nice Tweet), the other Republicans may have a tough time stopping him. Tarkanian was the GOP nominee here last cycle, and he narrowly lost an open seat contest to Rosen 47-46 as Trump was taking it 48-47.
● WI-Sen: The Koch-backed front group Concerned Veterans for America is re-upping their bogus attacks on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, whom they once again accuse in a new TV ad of failing to do anything about the problems at the veterans facility in Tomah, Wisconsin (not true). Rather berserkly, the spot also claims that "Baldwin's DC friends are attacking a Wisconsin veteran and his wife," simply because VoteVets ran an ad that—entirely correctly—called the Koch hits false. So now saying that an attack is untrue is itself an attack? That's garbage.
● CT-Gov: What a remarkable story: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton collapsed at an event Thursday night and was treated by another Republican candidate for governor, Prasad Srinivasan, who just happens to be a physician. Srinivasan said he administered CPR to Boughton, who was "having a seizure" and in "some form of cardiac arrest" with a "very feeble pulse." He added that the incident "was not a fainting spell," saying Boughton was "lucky to be alive" and called the event "one of the scariest moments of my life."
Boughton was released from the hospital Friday morning. In an interview, he said that the episode was caused by "severe" dehydration and his failure to take anti-seizure medication prescribed after he underwent surgery last year to remove a benign brain tumor. (In a strange irony, he had been discussing his health issues right before he collapsed.) Boughton described his condition as manageable and says he plans to return to the campaign trail on Monday.
● FL-Gov: State House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been looking like a probable GOP primary candidate for some time now, and the Miami Herald recently reported that he will announce he's running during the week of April 16.
● GA-Gov: Former state Sen. Hunter Hill is out with an early March poll of the Republican primary from Clarion Research that has him edging out Secretary of State Brian Kemp for second place behind Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who has led in every publicly available poll to date. The Clarion survey has Cagle leading Hill 48-21, while Kemp takes 15 percent, tech executive Clay Tippins earns 8 percent, and state Sen. Michael Williams sports just 7 percent. Hill undoubtedly intends for this survey to show him boxing out Kemp to make it into a potential runoff against Cagle, but it nevertheless has Cagle dangerously close to winning an outright majority needed to avoid a runoff, unlike previously released surveys where Cagle was far shy of 50 percent.
● ID-Gov: Rep. Raul Labrador is out with his first TV ad ahead of the GOP primary to succeed outgoing Republican Gov. Butch Otter. Labrador's spot promotes him as supposedly the only candidate in the race who is a "proven consistent conservative" who has fought tax increases, tried to defund Planned Parenthood, and ostensibly wasn't corrupted by his tenure in Washington.
● IL-Gov: Well that didn't take long. Just one day after the Democratic Governor's Association went up with an ad designed to boost hard-right state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the GOP primary by "attacking" her as too conservative, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is already out with a new TV ad that tries to call out Democrats for meddling in the GOP primary. Rauner's spot says "Washington liberals" are trying to help Ives win the primary because she "has already surrendered to [Democratic state House Speaker] Mike Madigan." The ad then features a context-free clip of Ives saying, "We'll work with Mike Madigan," whom Rauner has tried to make his boogeyman in this campaign.
On the Democratic side, state Sen. Daniel Biss' latest ad bashes his wealthy opponents for never having to have faced economic struggles that average Illinoisans deal with regularly, arguing they don't understand what it will take to help the middle class. Biss says he'll fight for "fair taxes, fully funded schools, and health care for all." Meanwhile, venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker is out with two ads of his own (here and here). The first one skewers Rauner for his record of failure and promises Pritzker will bring real change to Illinois. The second one attacks businessman Chris Kennedy for claiming to value college affordability even though he repeatedly raised tuition while serving as chair of the University of Illinois board of trustees.
● MI-Gov: Lt. Gov. Brian Calley began airing his first TV ad of the Republican primary for governor. His spot features him running, literally, as a steady stream of joggers join him as a visual metaphor for when he talks about running for office as a way to lead Michigan toward a better future.
● NM-Gov: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for New Mexico's June 5 primary, and the state has a list of candidates here.
GOP Gov. Susana Martinez is termed-out, and Team Blue has a very strong chance to take back the governor's office. The once-popular Martinez has seen her numbers collapse in the final years of her tenure, and the never-popular Trump is unlikely to help Team Red in a state he lost 48-40.
Three noteworthy Democrats are competing, and there's a very clear front-runner. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who hails from a prominent state political family, utterly dominated at the state party convention earlier this month when she took 67 percent of the delegates votes. Lujan Grisham also recently released a poll giving her 72 percent of the vote in the primary. Neither businessman Jeff Apodaca, whose father was governor in the mid-1970s, nor state Sen. Joe Cervantes have offered any sort of contradictory data showing them with a path to victory in June.
On the GOP side, Rep. Steve Pearce faces no opposition in the primary. However, there's little question that he's in for a tough general election. Pearce gave up his House seat in 2008 to run for the Senate in 2008 and lost 61-39 to Democrat Tom Udall. Pearce won his conservative House district back two years later, and he's done nothing to make himself more palatable since then. Most infamously, Peace, a member of the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, released a 2014 memoir that featured a passage where the congressman, citing the Bible, wrote, "The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice." He simultaneously insisted that "submission is not a matter of superior versus inferior," but good luck explaining that one.
● PA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Paul Mango has begun more forcefully attacking state Sen. Scott Wagner in his latest Republican primary ad. Mango's spot lambasts Wagner as yet another failed Harrisburg politician and skewers him for wanting to raise taxes on pensions for seniors. Mango promises he'll get rid of property taxes and plays up his background as a non-politician and veteran.
● RI-Gov: State House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan is out with her first ad ahead of the Republican primary, which her campaign says is backed by $30,000 for the rest of March. The commercial hits Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo for supposedly being a failure, while it attacks Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in the primary as someone who is working for D.C. insiders, not the people of Rhode Island.
● WY-Gov: Republican state Treasurer Mark Gordon has at long last officially kicked off his bid to succeed outgoing GOP gov. Matt Mead. Gordon is the first prominent elected official to join the GOP primary, though he may face some trouble over having donated to Democratic campaigns more than a decade ago, including to John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004. Gordon joins a Republican primary that includes prominent attorney Harriet Hageman and physician Taylor Haynes.
● DGA: Following its Republican counterpart at the RGA, which made its first ad reservations last month, the DGA announced its own initial set of bookings on Friday. The committee says it's buying $20 million worth of TV time in four states—Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin—though it didn't specify any sort of breakdown. Previously, the RGA had also purchased time in Nevada and Ohio, as well as Arizona and Florida.
● CA-44: Compton Mayor Aja Brown launched a surprise top-two primary challenge against Rep. and fellow Democrat Nanette Barragan shortly before the filing deadline in this heavily Democratic southern Los Angeles-area seat, but she may be facing some unpleasant news of her own. A new audit from the state controller's office was deeply critical of the city's financial management, concluding that officials overpaid themselves, claimed dubious expenses on the public dime, and have generally tarnished the city's fiscal health. While the report did not call out Brown, who took over as mayor in 2013, by name, that may not prevent voters from associating her with the city's poor financial standing.
● FL-09: Florida's entire Democratic House delegation has endorsed first-term Rep. Darren Soto for re-election in this blue-leaning central Florida seat. Soto faces no notable primary foe yet, but bomb-throwing former Rep. Alan Grayson has been raising money for months by filing for a nearby GOP seat, and he could try to switch races to reclaim his old district from Soto.
● IN-04: Diego Morales, a former adviser to then-Gov. Mike Pence, might be the front-runner in the GOP primary for this safely Republican seat west of Indianapolis, but he may have a problem with his résumé. The Journal & Courier reports that Morales was fired in 2009 for doing a poor job when he worked for then-Secretary of State Todd Rokita, whose open House seat he happens to be running for this year. Morales reportedly left another position with former Secretary of State Charlie White in 2011 over poor performance after just a month on the job.
Furthermore, while Morales calls himself a former "senior adviser" to Pence, his tasks such as event planning and venue preparation weren't in the same league as roles like chief of staff. Lastly, Morales calls himself a business owner and former adjunct professor, but his business was dissolved last November, and an Ivy Tech Community College official said he was merely an "instructor," not a professor. While many insiders in Penceworld seem to regard Morales highly, his primary opponents likely won't be as forgiving of Morales' apparent résumé embellishment.
● KS-02: Judging by the Kansas City Star's new report on the state of play in the 2nd Congressional District, Republicans are legit freaked out about their chances of holding the seat—as well they should be. Using words like "panic" and "anxiety" to describe the GOP's weak field of candidates, especially compared to presumptive Democratic nominee Paul Davis, the paper relays this truly sad spectacle:
"If the election were held today, (there's) a 70 percent chance Davis gets elected," Mike Stieben, co-chair of Kansans For Life's political action committee, told the crowd at a convention prayer breakfast.
He passed an empty KFC bucket around the room, urging people to drop in donations so his anti-abortion group could start campaigning in the district.
Wouldn't the cash be all, like, greasy afterwards? Ick. The article goes on to note that Davis has far outraised every GOP candidate, despite the fact that this district voted for Trump by an imposing 56-37 margin. Quotes from the Congressional Leadership Fund and the state GOP chair also sound various levels of alarm, and one anonymous Republican consultant even suggested that this is "maybe the weakest field in a Republican seat that you will ever find." Challenge accepted!
● MT-AL: Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte infamously won a May special election last year 50-44 the day after he physically attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. Gianforte later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, though the story is far from forgotten. In November, documents were released revealing that Gianforte tried to mislead investigators about what had happened by telling police that Jacobs had grabbed him and pulled them both to the floor, a story that multiple witnesses contradicted. Gianforte assaulted Jacobs after most ballots had already been cast, so it's not clear how much this did or didn't damage him at the polls. While Montana is a conservative state, Democrats hope that Gianforte's weak showing will give them an opening in a good year.
Six Democrats have filed to take on the wealthy Gianforte. Attorney John Heenan, who has done some self-funding, ended 2017 with $375,000 on-hand, which was a little more than the $345,000 the incumbent had available. Grant Kier, who stepped down as the director of a Missoula nonprofit dedicated to preserving open lands in western Montana just before he launched his campaign in mid-September, had $308,000 to spend.
Two former legislators are also in, though they had considerably fewer resources. Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, who chose not to seek re-election in 2016, had $49,000 to spend. Ex-state Sen. Lynda Moss, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Public Service Commission in 2012, had just $20,000 in the bank. Environmental lawyer John Meyer entered the race just before the filing deadline, while fellow attorney Jared Pettinato ended 2017 with just $25,000 on-hand.
● NH-01: Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire's open 1st Congressional District, just won the endorsement of the state branch of the National Education Association. NEA-NH is New Hampshire's largest union, with some 17,000 members, around half of whom live in the 1st District. Pappas has been endorsed by a number of other small unions as well.
Meanwhile, Republican businessman Bruce Crochetiere, who'd said earlier this month that he'd announce whether or not he'd run here "very soon," now says he'll decide in a matter of "weeks." He certainly sounds like a candidate, though, and more importantly, he's confirmed GOP hopes that he'd self-fund a bid, saying, "I'm going to put a considerable amount of money into the campaign."
● NM-01: Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced all the way back in December of 2016 that she was leaving to run for governor, and there's a crowded primary to succeed her. The GOP made a serious play for this Albuquerque seat as recently as 2010, but they've shown little interest in contesting since. The only Republican running for this 52-35 Clinton seat is former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who lost to Lujan Grisham 59-41 in 2012.
Six Democrats have filed to run here, and despite our early hopes, none of them were "Breaking Bad" cast members. Former party chair Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American woman to ever serve in Congress, took first place at the recent party convention with 35 percent of the vote, while retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez took 25. However, the rest of the field decided to stay in the race.
Former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez ended 2017 with a $323,000 war chest, a bit less than the $348,000 Sedillo Lopez had to spend, but more than Haaland's $196,000. Businessman Paul Moya and former deputy Bernalillo County assessor Damian Lara have mainly been self-funding their bids, but they each had less than $150,000 on-hand. Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis is also in, but he's had trouble raising money throughout his campaign.
● NM-02: For the second time in ten years, GOP Rep. Steve Pearce is leaving this southern New Mexico seat behind for a risky statewide bid. Back in 2008, when Pearce unsuccessfully ran for the Senate, Democrat Harry Teague flipped the district. Pearce unseated Teague to win it back two years later, and he had little trouble winning his next three campaigns. This district went from 52-45 Romney to 50-40 Trump and the GOP is favored to hold it, but a bad political climate for Team Red could once again give Democrats an opening. This seat also has a large Latino population, so Trump's unpopularity could make it particularly enticing.
On the GOP side, former state party chair Monty Newman originally looked like the front-runner against state Rep. Yvette Herrell. But Herrell, who has a reputation as one of the most conservative members of the legislature, pulled off a surprise 58-26 win against Newman at the February state party convention. Newman has remained in the race, and he did hold a strong $357,000 to $203,000 in cash-on-hand lead at the end of December. However, if momentum has shifted to Herrell, she could be tough to stop in June. Three other Republicans are also running including Gavin Clarkson, who resigned his post at Trump's Interior Department under, shall we say, not great circumstances, but they've attracted little attention.
On the other side, state and national Democrats are consolidating behind water-rights attorney Xochitl Torres Small, a former staffer for Democratic Sen. Tom Udall. Torres Small, whose husband is state Rep. Nathan Small, kicked off her campaign with endorsements from several prominent legislators, county party chairs, and local officials. Torres Small soon was added to the DCCC's Red to Blue program that highlights top candidates, and she decisively won the state party convention. And on Friday, she capped off a strong few weeks with an endorsement from EMILY's List. Torres Small faces history professor Mad Hildebrandt, who raised a decent $132,000 in the fourth quarter, and one other primary foe, but she very much appears to be the front-runner.
● NV-04: Despite signs that he was considering a reversal of his decision to retire in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen nevertheless did not file to run again by the time the filing deadline passed on Friday in this suburban Las Vegas-area district. Democrats will undoubtedly be relieved they won't have to worry about the risk of the damaged Kihuen being their nominee for a second term in this 49-45 Clinton seat. Multiple noteworthy Democrats are running to succeed him, and we'll take a more thorough look at the field soon.
● OH-16: On Friday, Rep. Jim Jordan endorsed state Rep. Christina Hagan over former football star Anthony Gonzalez. Jordan's seat doesn't quite neighbor this one, but Jordan is a very influential member of the far-right. If the former chair of the Freedom Caucus brings money and endorsements to Hagan, who was an early Trump supporter, it could help her quite a bit in May against the better-funded Gonzalez.
And just how Trumpy is Hagan? The state representative debuted an ad in November where, as Hagan said she'd secure the borders, footage was shown of people scaling a wall. However, as CNN's Andrew Kaczynski discovered, this was actually video of migrants fleeing from Morocco into Spanish-controlled African territory.
● PA-05: Democratic state Rep. Greg Vitali dropped his bid for Congress in February with a social media message where he complained about fundraising and concluded, "Well, I say no thanks. And for the rest of the candidates still in the race, good luck." Well, Vitali is now one of those rest of the candidates still in the race. And while Vitali may have discovered his inner love for dialing for donors, he's now coming into conflict with a longtime friend-turned congressional opponent.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer explains, Vitali kicked off his congressional campaign in January for what was at the time a swing seat by saying he wouldn't also seek re-election to the state House, even though Pennsylvania law allows candidates to run for both offices at once. Three candidates, including teacher and close friend Larry Arata, entered the contest to succeed him in the legislature. In February, when Vitali announced he was dropping his congressional bid and seeking re-election, the other candidates left the state House race, and Arata decide to run for this new 63-34 Clinton congressional district.
However, now that Vitali has jumped back in the race for Congress, his would-be successors are pissed. Because of court-ordered redistricting, the filing deadline to run for the U.S. House was moved back a few weeks, but the March 6 filing deadline to run for everything else was left alone. This means that anyone who wanted to run for Vitali's state House seat but dropped out for him is out of luck. Vitali insists that he never planned to do this, and he showed the paper vacation tickets he bought on March 6 to go to Florida as proof that he didn't have any idea he'd be campaigning for Congress now. Vitali says he decided just before his trip that he couldn't go, because if he did, "my hope of becoming a U.S. congressman is gone."
Instead, it's his friendship with Arata that's gone. Arata says Vitali's move ruined his reputation for integrity, while the state representative declared that, while he understands while Arata is mad, "This is a strategic political maneuver on his part. He's trying to knock me out of the race." There is a huge crowd of other Democrats seeking this seat, and we'll have a better sense of where things stand in the May primary after filing closes on Tuesday.
● SC-04: On Thursday, former state Sen. Lee Bright entered the June GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy, but Bright's recent electoral history isn't what you'd call good.
Bright was one of several Republicans who challenged Sen. Lindsey Graham in the 2014 primary, and while Bright took second place with 15 percent of the vote, he was well behind Graham's 56 percent. Two years later, Bright lost renomination 52-48 after he was squeezed from both the left and the right. The Conservation Voters of South Carolina went after him, while the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce ran ads against Bright on conservative talk radio after he voted against policies like what the Greenville News described as "tort reform, road-funding plans and aid to flood-stricken farmers." Then-Gov. Nikki Haley also campaigned against him, saying she took issue with his opposition to ethics reform.
However, Bright does have some ardent supporters on the far-right. Bright, who once proposed that South Carolina should get its own currency, also tried to pass a state version of North Carolina's notorious bathroom bill. Bright also ardently defended keeping the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the statehouse.
● TX-27: Former state Water Development Board Chair Bech Bruun led former Victoria County GOP Chair Michael Cloud by a surprisingly thin 36-34 in the primary for this red seat, and the two will face off again in the May 22 runoff. On Friday, all four defeated candidates threw their backing behind Cloud. None of them took more than 12 percent of the vote, but their support could make all the difference if their voters break for Cloud.
● VA-02: The progressive group VoteVets, which backs Democratic veterans running for Congress, just gave its support to Elaine Luria, who served in the Navy for 20 years. As we've noted before, Virginia's 2nd District has a heavy military presence, and both Luria's main primary opponent, Gary Hubbard, and the man both are trying to unseat, GOP Rep. Scott Taylor, are Navy veterans as well.