Cox himself looks likely to run, but he hasn't committed to it. On Tuesday, he said he won't make a final decision until his son returns from Africa this summer and can weigh in on Cox's plans along with the rest of the family. The lieutenant governor added, "I'd say we're 90 percent there, but it's that last 10 percent that's the hardest part because that's when it gets real." Cox would not be the first politician to get 90 percent of the way there only to bail in the end.
Meanwhile, another local Republican is also taking steps toward running. Real estate company owner Jeff Burningham announced on Tuesday that he was considering a bid, adding that, while he would only make a final decision within the next year, he's already opened a fundraising committee and hired a campaign manager. Burningham also says that if he ran, he would probably do some self-funding, though he didn't say how much of his own cash he was willing to part with. The company Burningham founded is worth $2 billion, so he probably has money to burn.
● KS-Sen: National Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have reportedly been trying to recruit U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for this open seat, and NRSC chief Todd Young made it little secret how much he wants him to run when he declared this week, "I can say without equivocation and without qualification, I can conceive of no one who I'd rather work with in the United States Senate from the state of Kansas than Mike Pompeo."
However, McConnell and Young and don't just want Pompeo to join them in the Senate so they can all partake in Seersucker Thursdays, chug some Senate Bean Soup, or join up to restart The Singing Senators. McClatchy reports that Young and his allies want Pompeo to run because they want to make sure that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn't their nominee in 2020.
Kobach ran a weak campaign for governor last year (one GOP operative snarked after the election, "The joke was, you'd say 'the Kobach campaign' and (then) you'd say, 'what campaign?'"), and he lost to Democrat Laura Kelly 48-43. Kobach has been talking about running for the Senate, and he'd probably give Democrats their best chance to win a Kansas Senate seat since 1932. National Republicans don't like that idea one bit, and they're not making it a secret that they think Pompeo is the candidate best-positioned to both beat Kobach and keep this seat red.
However, it's far from clear how interested Pompeo is in running, and since Kansas' filing deadline isn't until June of 2020, everyone could be waiting a long time to see what will happen. Young doesn't seem inclined to rush Pompeo, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the secretary of state has "roughly a year to make that decision." When Hewitt said he'd like to see Pompeo stay in the cabinet for another year "to try and see through some of the initiatives," Young responded, "I agree."
● NH-Sen, MI-Sen: Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte and 2018 Senate nominee John James have both been mentioned as possible 2020 GOP candidates against New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, respectively, and NRSC chief Todd Young recently made it clear he was interested in seeing each of these recruits go for it. However, Young seems more enthusiastic about the prospect of a James comeback than an Ayotte one.
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt first asked Young if Ayotte was "a possibility to get back in the game and try for a rematch" with Shaheen. (Hewitt's misremembering Ayotte's career, since she has never faced Shaheen; it was New Hampshire's other Democratic senator, Maggie Hassan, who narrowly unseated Ayotte in 2016.) Young responded by saying how highly he thinks of Ayotte, adding, "You know, that'll be a decision for her." However, Young quickly moved on to saying, "I've heard other big and accomplished names mentioned. The name Sununu still resonates in New Hampshire."
It's not clear how likely Young thinks it is that Ayotte will get in, but a few weeks ago, the Concord Monitor reported that people close to her thought it was very unlikely she would run. We're also not sure which member of the Sununu family Young may be interested in fielding. Gov. Chris Sununu, who is up for re-election next year, said in 2017 that he "will never run for the U.S. Senate," and there's no sign he's changed his mind. Sununu's brother, John Sununu, was the senator who lost re-election to Shaheen in 2008, and we haven't heard anything about him or anyone else from the family eyeing this seat.
By contrast, Young seemed a lot more optimistic about landing James in Michigan. When Hewitt asked him if he expected James, who lost last year's Senate race to Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow 52-46, to challenge Peters, the NRSC chair praised him to the stars after declaring "I think John listens to your show, so I hope he hears this." Young added that he thought James "would be as good a candidate as I can conceive of to run in the state of Michigan. So let's see if he's prepared to suit up again." James declared on election night that "we're not done" so he hardly seems done with politics, but he hasn't said anything about his 2020 plans.
● NH-Gov: On Thursday, WMUR published an email from Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky to party activists where he wrote he was "fairly likely to run for governor in NH in 2020," adding, "It is a path that I have been on for some time and things are falling into place." Last cycle, Volinsky flirted with challenging GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, but he decided not to go for it.
Volinsky was elected to New Hampshire's unique five-person Executive Council in 2016, and he delighted progressives in his first months in office by grilling Sununu's nominees to head the state department of education and for administrative services commissioner. Volinsky, who was a vocal Bernie Sanders supporter in the 2016 presidential primary, is also close to labor.
● GA-06: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently wrote that former GOP Rep. Karen Handel was mulling a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in Georgia's 6th District, and Handel's former campaign strategist has now confirmed it.
Rob Simms, who worked for Handel last cycle, tells the paper that she's very much considering another try and will announce her plans soon. The AJC also adds that, while Handel has kept a low profile since her defeat, she's made sure to keep in close contact with donors and key supporters. Handel lost to McBath 50.5-49.5 as Democrat Stacey Abrams was carrying this suburban Atlanta seat 51-48.
If Handel runs again, she'll need to go through a primary against state Sen. Brandon Beach, who announced he was in over the weekend. Interestingly, the AJC points out that both Handel and Beach both got their start in politics by leading the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, with Beach replacing his would-be rival there in 2002.
The paper also predicts that, even if Handel sits out the primary, it's unlikely the field would be cleared for Beach. They write that several other GOP politicians have been mentioned as possible candidates, though the only one mentioned by name is state Sen. John Albers, and we have heard anything from him about his 2020 plans yet.
● GA-07: On Monday, attorney Marqus Cole, a first-time candidate, became the first Democrat to announce a bid against GOP Rep. Rob Woodall in this suburban Atlanta seat. Cole's unlikely to be the last, especially given Woodall's 419-vote win over Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux last year in a race that the incumbent very much didn't take seriously. This district moved from 60-38 Romney to just 51-45 Trump, and Democrat Stacey Abrams carried it 50-48.6 in last year's gubernatorial contest.
● IL-03: Businesswoman Marie Newman has shown plenty of interest in seeking a rematch with conservative Rep. Dan Lipinski since her tight 51-49 Democratic primary loss last year, and she told Talking Points Memo on Tuesday that she's preparing to run again. Newman said she wouldn't make a final decision for "two to three months," but that "[p]ersonally, my family and I are ready to go." Newman added that, "On a political and constituency level, I want to make sure we're still in alignment. I believe we are."
Last year, Lipinski, a longtime ally of the old Chicago Democratic machine and a number of influential unions, was slow to take Newman seriously, and he only began responding to her ads in earnest in the final weeks of the campaign. Local Democrats insist to TPM that this won't happen again, and he'll be better prepared for a 2020 primary. Still, Lipinski, who addressed the anti-abortion March for Life rally on Friday, doesn't seem to be in any hurry to mend fences with progressives. Lipinski has already announced that he's seeking an eighth term in this 55-40 Clinton seat.
● MI-06: The New York Times has surfaced a distressing story that didn't get much national attention at the time but caused major havoc for local Democrats shortly before Election Day last year: former Vice President Joe Biden's decision to give a speech in southwestern Michigan in which he heaped kudos on Republican Rep. Fred Upton, calling him "one of the finest guys I've ever worked with" and "the reason we're going to beat cancer."
The address, to what the Times describes as a "Republican-leaning audience," was paid for in part by an Upton family foundation and netted Biden $200,000. Upton, who was facing an exceptionally tough re-election challenge, quickly sent out mailers featuring Biden's accolades and referenced them at a debate. A super PAC supporting Upton also used them in digital ads.
Biden was apparently motivated to applaud Upton because of the congressman's work on a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, which helped speed the drug approval process and was supported by, among others, the pharmaceutical industry. It was also backed by Biden, because it provided $1.8 billion in funding for the "Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot," an initiative named after the vice president's son, who died of cancer in 2015.
But whatever Biden's intentions were, Democrats in Michigan's 6th District felt betrayed. Upton's challenger, Democrat Matt Longjohn, beseeched Biden to undo the damage, but he says Biden's staff never responded. After the Times' story was published, Longjohn's campaign manager, Ben Young, said that Biden's behavior was "brutal at the time and stings even more today."
And while of course no one can say definitively whether the incident and its fallout were dispositive, Biden's fulsome praise offered the incumbent an uncommonly potent measure of cross-partisan support in an extremely polarized time. Upton wound up beating Longjohn just 50-46, the closest race of Upton's career. In fact, he'd never before won by less than double digits. Longjohn doesn't appear to have said anything about a possible rematch, but given how close he came in the face of such an unexpected and difficult headwind, he may well want to consider a second bid.
● MI-13: Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones went back to her day job this month in city politics after spending three weeks representing Michigan's 13th Congressional District in the lame duck session of the 115th Congress, but plenty of politicos are wondering if she'll soon try to get back to D.C.
In early January, the Detroit News wrote that local political observers had been busy speculating whether Jones might challenge freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat. Jonathan Kinloch, the chair of the local Democratic Party, said he hadn't talked to Jones about 2020, however, and isn't privy to her plans. Jones herself, meanwhile, hasn't commented publicly yet, so the rumors continue to swirl that she could take on Tlaib.
Thanks to some very unusual circumstances, Tlaib and Jones faced off three times in 2018. In August, Michigan held two different Democratic primaries on the same day for this seat: One for a special election for the final months of former Rep. John Conyers' term, and one for the regular two-year term. Tlaib narrowly beat Jones 31-30 in the six-way primary for the full term. However, there were only four candidates on the ballot in the special election primary, and in that race, it was Jones who beat Tlaib 38-36.
The two candidates who were only on the ballot for the regular term, state Sen. Coleman Young II and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson, took a combined 18 percent of the vote, so their absence in the special primary likely had an impact. Jones, Young, and Jackson, along with more than half the district's residents, are black, while Tlaib is of Palestinian descent (only 4 percent of residents identify as Arab-American). It's therefore probable that the presence of two additional African-American candidates in the regular primary but not in the special made all the difference between the two close outcomes.
Jones, however, didn't relish the idea of serving just a few weeks in the House and launched a last-minute write-in campaign against Tlaib for the general election. It was a misguided move, though, as she took just 0.32 percent of the vote. Jones and then-Speaker Paul Ryan ended up working out an apparently unprecedented agreement that allowed Jones to serve a few weeks in the House without resigning as head of the Detroit City Council, letting her take a hiatus from that post then resume it this month after Tlaib was sworn in.
Tlaib, along with Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, are the first two Muslim women to serve in the House, and she made news on the very first day of her term when she said of Donald Trump, "[W]e're going to impeach the motherfucker." Her comments brought Tlaib plenty of approbation from Republicans and pundits complaining about "civility," but they aren't exactly a liability in a seat that backed Clinton 79-18. It's also not clear what argument Jones or another primary opponent would use for why voters should fire Tlaib. However, if race plays a central role in a 2020 primary, the incumbent could be in for a tough contest.
● NJ-07: Republicans are going to want to target freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski in this 49-48 Clinton seat, and GOP Assemblyman Erik Peterson isn't saying no. Peterson tells the New Jersey Globe that he's "just focusing on getting re-elected this year, so that's my sole focus." By contrast, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz said this week that she had "100 percent" ruled out running.
The Globe writes that state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., the son of former Gov. Tom Kean Sr. and the 2006 Senate nominee, is considered the front-runner to take on Malinowski. The younger Kean reportedly did not rule out anything back in November, though he hasn't said much publicly since then. However, since his statewide defeat 12 years ago, Kean has talked about running for governor or for the Senate again several times but never gone for it, so Team Red probably shouldn't count on 2020 being different.
● OK-05: Freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn will be a top GOP target next year in this 53-40 Trump seat in the Oklahoma City area, and Republicas have a deep bench of candidates who could take her on. The local CBS affiliate News 9 writes that state Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett have been mentioned as possible contenders, though neither has said anything publicly yet.
Cornett ran for this seat all the way back in 2006, but he lost the primary runoff 63-37 to future Gov. Mary Fallin. Cornett ran to succeed Fallin last year but lost the gubernatorial runoff 55-45 against eventual winner Kevin Stitt, who ran plenty of ads attacking Cornett for refusing to back Trump in 2016. A little more than a month after that defeat, Cornett said he was probably done running for office.
● TX-18: On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced she was resigning as head of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and temporarily stepping aside from a House Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship over a lawsuit brought against her by a former aide.
The former staffer, identified only as Jane Doe, says that in 2015, when she was interning for the CBCF, she was sexually assaulted by a supervisor named Damien Jones. Doe said she informed a CBCF representative at the time and considered seeking legal action but ultimately decided not to. Doe’s lawsuit went on to say that in 2018, she learned that Jones was seeking a job in Jackson Lee’s office.
Doe recounts telling Glenn Rushing, who was Jackson Lee’s chief of staff at the time, that she’d had a “prior situation” with Jones, and that Rushing assured her that Jones wouldn’t be hired. However, Doe says that some time later, she saw a message from the CBCF’s chief executive to Jackson Lee telling the congresswoman that she had “background on” Doe, which she believed was a “clear reference” to the claims she’d made to the foundation in 2015.
Doe says she then told Rushing she planned to seek legal action against the foundation and wanted to speak to Jackson Lee about it. Doe says, however, that the conversation never took place. She was fired two weeks later and, she says, told it was because of budget issues. Doe didn’t accept the explanation, and in her suit says that Rushing also told her that, in addition to budgetary reasons, “It didn’t help that you lied about the car.” (It’s not clear what the car is a reference to.)
Rushing, who is no longer with Jackson Lee’s office, responded to the story by telling BuzzFeed, “We had nothing to do with any of the actions that have been cited and the person”—meaning Doe—“was not wrongfully terminated.” Jackson Lee’s team also issued a statement saying that her office “adamantly denies the allegations that it retaliated against, or otherwise improperly treated, the plaintiff.”
However, the New York Times writes that congressional Democrats weren’t satisfied with Jackson Lee’s response. The CBCF’s board reportedly told her last week that she needed to either step down or face a vote of removal, while other Democratic House members planned to force a vote to remove her from her Judiciary Committee subcommittee chairmanship. It remains to be seen if there will be any fallout for Jackson Lee in the safely blue Houston seat she’s held since 1995.
● VA Redistricting: On Tuesday, the court that struck down Virginia's GOP-drawn state House map for discriminating against black voters ordered the adoption of a replacement map to remedy the GOP's now-invalid gerrymander. As Stephen Wolf has mapped and explained, these new districts would give Democrats a great chance to gain a majority in this November's elections. Currently, the GOP holds a 51-49 edge, but seven of their members would be sitting in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton while no Democrats would hold Trump seats, according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections and the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
● Dallas, TX Mayor: In a surprise, Democratic state Rep. Eric Johnson announced on Tuesday that he was entering the May nonpartisan primary for mayor. Johnson is entering the contest late, but he does have one notable supporter on day one. His campaign treasurer is former Dallas Cowboys player Mel Renfro, a well-known former NFL player who is a member of the National Football Hall of Fame.
Johnson has attracted attention for leading the charge to remove a plaque from the legislature that lionized the Confederacy and pledged to teach that the Civil War "was not a rebellion nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery." (Spoiler: It was about slavery). The plaque, which was set up in 1959, was finally done away with this month.
Johnson has also been involved in trying to protect his district, which includes South and West Dallas, from the effects of gentrification, though with less success. The area has attracted the attention of developers in recent years, and Trinity Groves, a dining theme park (yes, really) has been at the center of it. However, residents are being displaced by rising property taxes and the expensive new complexes that are replacing old housing units.
Back in 2017, Johnson pushed for legislation to try to keep property taxes from rising and to require that 20 percent of the revenue from the Sports Arena Tax Increment Finance District go to supporting affordable housing. The GOP-dominated legislature was not onboard, and the bill never received a vote.
However, while Johnson's legislation didn't pass, it could give him a strong pitch for residents worried about gentrification. Indeed, the mayoral candidates were already focusing on the importance of protecting residents from displacement, with D Magazine writing that this issue is "perhaps trailing only an increase in funding for police and fire." City Councilman Scott Griggs, who kicked off his own bid this month, even co-wrote an op-ed with Johnson two years ago advocating for his bill.
● 2019 Elections: 2019 may be an off year, but there are numerous important elections taking place nationwide, ranging from gubernatorial elections to mayoral races in some of the country's largest cities. Click here to find—and bookmark—our calendar of all the key races. A version of this calendar in spreadsheet form, with more details about specific election procedures for each race as well as the population for each jurisdiction, can be found here.
● Where Are They Now?: Running for mayor of Montgomery. Again. Former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat-turned Northern Virginia Republican-turned Alabama Republican-turned Alabama Democrat, has kicked off a second bid to lead Alabama's capital city. This is a nonpartisan race, and we have no idea what party Davis identifies with today.
Back in 2015, when Davis was a Republican, he challenged GOP incumbent Todd Strange and lost 57-27; Strange is not seeking re-election this year. The primary is Aug. 27, and if no one takes a majority, there would be a runoff Oct. 8.