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.
● House: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to announce our initial House race ratings for the 2018 election cycle. All 435 seats in the House are up for election this fall. Including vacancies, Republicans hold 240 seats while Democrats hold 195, meaning Democrats would need to pick up a net of 23 seats in November in order to gain control of the chamber.
Our full chart rating the competitiveness of each contest is below, with Democratic seats in blue and Republican seats in red. (One seat that pits a Republican incumbent against a Democratic incumbent due to redistricting is listed in purple.) These ratings are also visualized in this map, which shows each congressional district as equally sized. (You can find a traditional map here.) We currently rate 97 races as potentially competitive.
These ratings represent our attempt to forecast the outcomes of this November's elections, using the best information we have available. As circumstances warrant, we'll issue changes in these ratings from time to time. To keep up with any changes, please subscribe to our free newsletter, the Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest, which we send out each weekday. And for a comprehensive overview of how our ratings work, please check out our detailed methodology statement.
● UT-Sen: The University of Utah takes a look at next week's GOP primary and unsurprisingly has former charity boxer Mitt Romney leading state Rep. Mike Kennedy 65-23. They also give Romney a 58-20 lead with Democrat Jenny Wilson in the general election, while Kennedy a smaller 43-28 edge.
● FL-Gov: RABA Research, a bipartisan seat of pollsters that came on the scene last cycle, takes a look at the late August Democratic primary and gives former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine a slim 27-26 edge over former Rep. Gwen Graham. Businessman Chris King is firmly in third with 15, making this the second poll to ever find him in the double digits, while Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and billionaire Jeff Greene take 8 and 3, respectively.
● GA-Gov: Secretary of State Brian Kemp has announced that he's reserved $1 million in TV time for the final month leading up to his July 24 GOP runoff with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
● KS-Gov: State Sen. Laura Kelly is out with a GBA Strategies poll of the August Democratic primary, and it gives her a 33-22 lead over former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer; former state Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty takes third with 12 percent. This is the first poll we've seen of the primary since state House Minority Leader Jim Ward dropped out of the race in May.
● KY-Gov, KY-Sen: Republican Gov. Matt Bevin hasn't made his plans known yet with his first term ending after next year's election, and he surprisingly refused to say whether he would run for a second term or even challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 2020 Republican primary. When asked if a 2020 Senate bid was in the cards, Bevin only said, "... I'm worried about being governor. I'm the governor, that's my focus." However, McConnell has publicly urged him to seek re-election next year.
Bevin previously ran against McConnell in 2014 as a tea party insurgent and lost by 60-35. However, it's possible McConnell's increasingly stark unpopularity with GOP voters nationally could be hurting his numbers at home. Furthermore, it's not a given that he'll run again two years from now anyway, but we'll just have to wait to find out what each of the two Republicans plans to do.
● ME-Gov: On Wednesday, Maine election officials revealed that state Attorney Janet Mills had won the Democratic primary for governor by 54-46 over businessman Adam Cote following four rounds of instant-runoff tabulation. You can see here what each of those rounds preliminarily looked like and how the votes were redistributed, but note that we don't have full vote transfer information yet and may not for some time as the last remaining ballots are counted.
The initial round saw Mills at 33 percent, Cote with 28 percent, activist Betsy Sweet with 17 percent, and former state House Speaker Mark Eves at 14 percent. Since none of the remaining three Democrats topped 4 percent and collectively had no way to beat out Eves' 14 percent, they were all eliminated at once and had their votes reassigned after the first round. Each subsequent round still didn't change the candidates' ordering, though: Eves was eliminated in round two, followed by Sweet in round three and finally Cote in round four.
Interestingly, while Eves and Sweet had reached a pre-election deal where they urged all of their supporters to list both candidates first or second, those pleas must have fallen on deaf ears. While Sweet did gain the most votes of the three remaining Democrats when Eves was eliminated in round two, she was far short of even winning a majority of them, leaving her with only 24 percent of the vote in round three, well behind Cote's 35 percent and Mills' 41 percent. If all of Eves' supporters had favored her instead, Sweet theoretically could have advanced to the final round against Mills.
With Maine voters deciding to keep instant-runoff in last week's referendum, it's critical that voters adapt well to this new voting system. In an encouraging sign, the final round of the Democratic primary saw 93 percent as many votes as the initial round, which is a far lower drop-off rate than is typically seen in states that hold separate runoff elections between only the top-two primary finishers.
● NM-Gov, NM-01, NM-02: Carroll Strategies, which is run by a former strategist for both Democratic and Republican campaigns, takes a look at New Mexico's big races. In the contest for governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leads Republican Steve Pearce 51-43. The only polls we've seen here are Pearce internals that showed him narrowly behind, so we don't have much else to work with. Clinton won the state 48-40, so it would make sense for Lujan Grisham to be ahead by the same margin.
However, Carroll poll of the open 1st District is a head stretcher. They give Democrat Deb Haaland just a small 47-43 lead over former Republican state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones in a contest we rate as Safe Democratic. While this Albuquerque-based seat was swingy turf as recently as 2010, it's been solidly blue since then. Lujan Grisham beat Arnold-Jones here 59-41 in 2012, and neither national party is acting like they think this 52-35 Clinton seat is at all competitive. Arnold-Jones had just $20,000 in the bank in mid-May, so she doesn't have the resources to mount a strong campaign.
Over in the open 2nd District, Carroll gives Republican Yvette Harrell a 49-35 lead over Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. This seat went from 52-45 Romney to 50-40 Trump, so those results aren't as tough to believe as the poll of the 1st. However, the DCCC very much is acting like they think this district is in play. They added Torres Small to their Red to Blue list months ago, and they recently released a poll giving Harrell just a 45-43 lead. Finally, Carroll's poll of the 3rd District finds Democratic incumbent and DCCC chair Ben Ray Lujan up 58-30 in his 52-37 Clinton seat.
● RI-Gov: A conservative group called Rhode Island Forward, which is funded by the RGA, has begun a statewide TV ad against Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo for $50,000 (hat-tip Madelaine Pisani). Relying on a recent editorial in the Providence Journal, the spot attacks Raimondo over a legal dispute with nursing homes that might cost the state $24 million, which the paper's editorial board called a "colossal blunder."
● SC-Gov: According to the firm Medium Buying, Gov. Henry McMaster and his allies have a huge advertising edge over wealthy businessman John Warren heading into Tuesday's GOP primary runoff. Medium tweeted on Wednesday evening that McMaster and his allies had spent $1.37 million on TV and radio in the runoff campaign, while Warren and friends deployed $487,000.
● TN-Gov: The NRA has endorsed Rep. Diane Black ahead of the early August GOP primary.
● WI-Gov: On Thursday, businessman Andy Gronik dropped out of the crowded Democratic primary. Gronik cited a recent Marquette poll that found him taking just 4 percent of the vote, saying he wasn't able to break away from the pack.
● FL-27: Bendixen & Amandi International takes another look at the late August Democratic primary for Donna Shalala, and they give the former University of Miami president a wide 43-16 lead over state Rep. David Richardson; former Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and former journalist Matt Haggman take 8 and 5, respectively.
● HI-01: Democratic State Rep. Kaniela Ing's campaign suffered a blow on Wednesday when Hawaii's campaign finance regulatory body fined him more than $15,000 for filing 23 false campaign finance reports since 2011 in his state legislative races. While Ing was fortunate to avoid any criminal prosecution over the matter, the whole ordeal almost certainly won't look good in the eyes of the voters in the August primary.
● LA-03: Politico's Alex Isenstadt brings us the truly bizarre story about how Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is holding a fundraiser for little-known candidate Josh Guillory, an attorney who is challenging Rep. and fellow Republican Clay Higgins in Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District—and neither the House leadership, the state GOP, nor the White House is happy about it. It didn't escape anyone's notice that Guillory's campaign finance director, Jennifer LeBlanc, just happens to be Giuliani's new girlfriend. On Thursday, one day after the story broke, Trump’s re-election campaign announced that he was supporting Higgins.
Higgins, a former local police officer who became famous for a series of "Crime Stoppers" videos that featured him melodramatically calling out criminals, has been a reliable vote for Trump in this safely red coastal seat. The White House was therefore reportedly blindsided when they learned that Giuliani was venturing to southwestern Louisiana to help his opponent.
Isenstadt writes that Trump's political advisors had privately told Higgins' allies that they have little control over what the former New York City mayor does. However, that didn’t stop House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who represents a neighboring House seat, from complaining to Trump and Mike Pence's political aides. Higgins' friends were also reportedly nervous that Guillory would make it seem like an endorsement from Trump's lawyer was an endorsement from Trump himself, and Guillory very much didn’t seem bothered by the idea that voters would mistakenly think Trump was in his corner. However, it seems that Higgins’ powerful supporters successfully convinced the Trump campaign to just endorse their guy and clear up any possible confusion.
It's very unlikely Guillory will be emerge as a huge threat to Higgins, especially now that Trump is on his side. At the end of March, the incumbent held a wide $211,000 to $45,000 cash-on-hand edge, and he doesn't seem to have made many conservative enemies at home during his brief tenure. Under Louisiana law, all the candidates will face off on one ballot on Nov. 6, and if no one takes a majority, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to a December runoff. But at least until November, voters in this Lafayette-area seat will be treated to what state Attorney General and Higgins supporter Jeff Landry called "a National Enquirer-type situation."
● ME-02: On Wednesday evening, Maine election officials announced that state Rep. Jared Golden, a Marine veteran who saw combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, had won the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the first in the nation instant-runoff House primary. The result was hardly a surprise, since Golden led conservationist Lucas St. Clair 49-41 after the June 12 primary, while bookstore owner Craig Olson took 10. Golden won 54-46 in the second round of tabulations, so Olson's supporters seem to have broken roughly equally between the two main candidates.
● MS-03: On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Bryant endorsed Michael Guest, the district attorney of Madison and Rankin Counties, ahead of next Tuesday's GOP primary runoff. Guest led Baptist Health Foundation President Whit Hughes 45-22 in the first round on June 5, and it would be quite an upset if he didn't prevail next week.
● NY-14: Longtime Rep. Joe Crowley, the powerful chair of the Queens County Democratic Party, faces a primary next week from activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in this safely blue seat, and he seems to be taking it seriously. From April 1 to June 6, which the FEC defines as the pre-primary period, Crowley outspent Ocasio-Cortez $1.09 million to $127,000, which is quite a lot for an entrenched 10-term incumbent to spend. Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old first-time candidate, is hoping to pull off an upset by portraying the incumbent as too close to corporate interests and too much of an insider.
● OK-01: GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine resigned from this seat months ago to lead NASA, but he seems to weighing in against one of the candidates in Tuesday's primary to succeed him. The Tulsa World reports that they received a text message on Monday from a personal phone associated with Bridenstine, and it had some very unflattering things to say about wealthy businessman Kevin Hern.
The text, which reporter Randy Krehbiel says apparently went out to other outlets, declared that Hern "has been using my name and image in his campaign ads," so, "Voters should know that Kevin Hern initiated a run against me in 2016 and poll tested messages that included terrible lies about me. I learned of this when the pollster called my home." Bridenstine did not respond to follow-up inquiries from the paper.
● PA-01: The Republican Jewish Coalition has reserved $530,000 in TV time for next two weeks to oppose Democratic nominee Scott Wallace. There's no copy of the spot available online yet, but the tracker firm Medium Buying says it attacks Wallace over how his charity had donated to groups that support the "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" movement against Israel, commonly called "BDS," to argue he's anti-Israel. However, Wallace said last month when the issue first came up that he "unequivocally disavows the BDS movement."
● Demographics: The nation has passed Peak White People, at least according to the Census Bureau's new 2017 Population Estimate released Thursday. According to The Hill's Reid Wilson, this is the first time ever that the nation's non-Hispanic white population has decreased in a one-year period. It's largely a matter of declining birth rates, relative to death rates, for white persons (also known as natural decrease), though a contributing factor is the low levels of immigration from European countries.
The decline is still very small, relatively speaking: the nation's white-alone population declined by only 0.02 percent, staying near 197.8 million (and in fact, the "white alone or in combination" population, which includes multi-racial persons, still increased). The fastest-growing segment of the population is, as has been the case for several years now, not Hispanics but rather Asians; the Asian population gained at a rate of 3.1 percent to a total of 22.2 million, largely because of immigration rather than birth rates.
The Census Bureau's release also took a deep dive into the median age of various states and counties; the state with the highest median age is, interestingly, Maine, at 44.7 years (up from 42.7 years in 2010). Florida still barely has a higher percentage of senior citizens than Maine does (20.1 in Florida, 19.9 in Maine), but highly-diverse Florida also has a lot more kids than does Maine, currently also one of the whitest states in the nation.
Only 531 of the nation's 3,000+ counties saw their median age go down between 2010 and 2017; more than half of those counties were in the Midwest. That's partly because of a growing Hispanic population there but also because of some fast-growing areas where resource extraction is attracting young adult males. (For instance, the county with the single biggest decline in median age in those years, Williams County, North Dakota — where the median age fell 7.1 years — was the center of the fracking-related population boom of several years ago.)