The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● House: On Thursday, the new 116th Congress members take office following the 2018 elections, and we'll have plenty of statistics and data visualizations to come regarding the new members and the election results themselves. As shown on the cartogram map here, we illustrated which 2018 House winners hail from districts that voted for or against their party in the 2016 presidential election, according to our calculations of the presidential election results by district.
In total, 204 Democrats sit in Clinton-won districts, but a sizable 31 hold seats that voted for Trump—seats that could be more vulnerable against GOP challengers in 2020. By contrast, only three of the 199 Republicans hold Clinton districts, demonstrating just how thorough the GOP's 2018 midterm wipeout was in districts that leaned against their party, but Democrats still have quite a number of promising targets heading into 2020. Finally, one last Trump district outcome is disputed over a GOP campaign operative's alleged election fraud (see our NC-09 item), and a 2019 special election will likely take place to fill it.
The 2018 House and 2016 presidential results aren't the only results we can measure by district—indeed the results of 2018 statewide partisan elections can also yield highly informative data about a district's underlying partisanship. Consequently, we're calculating the election results for 2018 Senate and governor by congressional and state legislative district, and you can bookmark our compilation of those results here, where we also have a cartogram map showing the partisan control over each state legislative chamber following 2018.
● AZ-Sen: Over the holidays, Politico's James Arkin took a look at the emerging Democratic primary to take on appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally in 2020, and he broke the news that former astronaut Mark Kelly and Greg Stanton, who will be sworn into the House on Thursday, are both considering. Rep. Ruben Gallego and former GOP Attorney General Grant Woods have been openly mulling running for the Democratic nod for a while, and they each reiterated their interest to Politico.
Neither Kelly nor Stanton has said anything publicly about running, but state Democratic Party Chair Felecia Rotellini confirmed that both of them were talking about getting in. An unnamed source also says that Kelly recently met with DSCC chair Catherine Cortez Masto about a possible run.
Kelly is the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was badly wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt. Kelly and Giffords now are involved with Giffords PAC, a prominent gun safety advocacy group that spent over $17 million in the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats have unsuccessfully tried to recruit Kelly to run for office over the years, but it sounds like he's showing much more interest this time than he ever has before.
Stanton, by contrast, spent a bit more than six years as mayor of Phoenix, which is the state's largest city, before he successfully ran for the 9th District last year. There's less information about Stanton's interest in this race, and we don't know if he's met with national Democrats about jumping in.
Gallego told Politico he was leaning towards running and expected to announce his plans in early January. Woods, a former Republican who recently joined the Democratic Party, didn't lay out a timeline for when he expected to decide, but he told Arkin that his potential campaign was "full speed ahead."
● GA-Sen: Most Georgia Democrats seem to be waiting to see if 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams will challenge GOP Sen. David Perdue, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently named two more possible candidates. They wrote last month that 2014 gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter, a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, was unlikely to run, but hadn't ruled it out. They later wrote that Carter was interested, but the paper didn't include any other information; Carter himself doesn't appear to have said anything publicly.
The paper also wrote last month that former state Rep. Doug Teper, whom they describe as a top ally of former Gov. Roy Barnes, was considering. There's also no word from Teper, who left office in 2004 to unsuccessfully run for DeKalb County CEO.
● IL-Sen: Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin picked up an unexpected primary challenge this week when state Rep.-elect Anne Stava-Murray announced that she would run. Stava-Murray added that she feared Durbin would win and resign, which would allow state party leaders to pick a new senator. Durbin has not committed to seeking a fifth term but sounds very likely to, saying over the holidays that he was "tell[ing] people that I'm raising money and trying to lose some weight," which he called "usually the first indication that you're up for re-election."
Stava-Murray has a very uphill battle against Durbin if he runs, but this won't be the first time she's come into conflict with the state Democratic Party. Last year, Stava-Murray challenged a GOP incumbent in the Chicago suburbs, and she established herself as a loud critic of powerful Democratic state House Speaker Mike Madigan. Stava-Murray, who narrowly won in November, not only pledged to vote against making Madigan speaker again, but she refused to receive any help from the Madigan-run state party.
● NH-Sen: Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen hasn't committed to seeking a third term in 2020, and but she recently told reporters that she "expect[s] to make a decision very soon and I'll be announcing that." Democratic state party head Ray Buckley seems to think she'll run again, though, and he said two weeks ago that, "We've got to re-elect Jeanne Shaheen to the United States Senate in 2020."
While New Hampshire is usually very competitive turf, the Concord Monitor's Paul Steinhauser writes that major Republicans don't seem very interested to challenge her. Steinhauser relays that people close to former Sen. Kelly Ayotte think it's very unlikely she'll run.
Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown, a former Massachusetts U.S. senator who lost to the 2014 campaign to Shaheen 51-48, also doesn't seem to be in a hurry to seek a rematch, but doesn't appear to have ruled it out. Steinhauser writes that Brown allies say "there are no current plans for him to prematurely end his diplomatic post and return to New Hampshire to possibly launch a Senate campaign."
State Rep. Al Baldasaro did show some interest, saying that a Senate bid is "on my radar. It's crossed my mind." However, national GOP leaders may hope Baldasaro stays out. Back in 2016, he declared that Hillary Clinton should be "put in the firing line and shot for treason." Baldasaro refused to apologize, and the Secret Service investigated him. Predictably, though, Baldasaro remains in good standing with the state GOP. Last year, Baldasaro only narrowly lost a race to lead the party in the state House, and he was named to a leadership post as a consolation prize.
● KY-Gov, KY-06, KY-Sen: GOP Gov. Matt Bevin ended 2018 with poor approval ratings, and while he's declared that he'll seek re-election this year, his fellow Kentucky Republicans are openly wondering if he'll wind up retiring ahead of the candidate filing deadline at the end of this month.
State Senate President Robert Stivers stoked the speculation during a Dec. 19 news conference, when he called on the governor to work with the legislature to improve Kentucky's infrastructure. "Those type of things are going to have to be established by the person who has the ability," said Stiver, "be it this governor, or if he is not successful or does not run or whatever, the next governor, to establish and set the predicate for whatever may happen."
Homing in on these pregnant remarks, a reporter immediately asked Stivers if he was "concerned the governor might not run." Stivers responded, "No, he said he's going to run," but then hedged slightly, saying, "I'm just throwing out any potential possibility." However, last month, the Lexington Herald Leader's Daniel Desrochers wrote that, while state Republicans largely believe Bevin will go ahead with his stated plans to seek a second term, they do in fact think "there is a chance he'll pull out at the last minute."
Indeed, are some good reasons to think he might. In December, Desrochers noted that, while Bevin had announced he would run again back in August, he still had not opened up a committee to raise money for this year's campaign. That appears to be no less true today: Bevin still doesn't seem to have set up a 2019 campaign committee.
And Bevin himself isn't exactly doing much to dispel rumors that he's eyeing the exits. On Dec. 20, he said of his re-election campaign, "I have said that I'm going to do that and it is my intention to do that"—far from a firm and simple "Yes, I'm running." Even more telling, he mused that other potential candidates "don't have to wait for me—anyone who wants to get in should get in."
That's a very tepid reading on the fire-in-the-belly-o-meter compared to Bevin's fiery re-election declaration in August, when he pledged, "There was not a chance that I was going to walk away and leave the seeds that we've put in the ground to be trampled on or intentionally dug up by any kind of people that choose to follow behind." But we may need to wait until the Jan. 29 filing deadline to know if Bevin is actually thinking about walking away, since he's no stranger to making last-minute decisions: In 2015, Bevin surprised most observers when he jumped into the race on the last possible day to do so.
It's also by no means unheard of for politicians to retire just before filing closes in order to help their preferred successor avoid a serious fight, and Desrochers says that there's some speculation Bevin could be trying to pull that very stunt. In 2008, for instance, GOP Rep. Ron Lewis attempted his maneuver when he submitted paperwork to run for Kentucky's 2nd District again but withdrew from the ballot late on filing day. Not so coincidentally, his chief of staff, Daniel London, filed to run minutes before the deadline. If Bevin wanted to try and get some heir apparent through the GOP primary with as little fuss as possible, it would make sense if he acted like he was planning to run for re-election until the last possible second.
However, Lewis and London learned the hard way that this move doesn't always work as intended. The NRCC had already lined up state Sen. Brett Guthrie to run in case Lewis bailed, and he deposited his filing fee literally five seconds before it was too late. Those seconds made all the difference: The NRCC formally threw its support behind Guthrie, and London dropped out a little while later. Guthrie held the seat in November, and he still represents it.
It's nonetheless very possible that Bevin is in fact serious about seeking a second term this year, and that he's been slow to organize for reasons having nothing to do with a lack of desire. Simply put, Bevin may be tardy because he's still the same disorganized candidate he was in 2015. Back then, his would-be-allies at the RGA were so frustrated with what they saw as a weak campaign that they temporarily stopped airing ads on his behalf to bludgeon him into getting his act together. It's also possible that the wealthy Bevin is planning to do self-funding and doesn't feel the need to raise money early.
Another reason Bevin may be dragging things out is that he hasn't settled on a running mate. Kentucky requires gubernatorial candidates to select a number two when they file, and Bevin doesn't seem eager to run with Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton again. Back in early December, Bevin said he was still mulling whether to partner with Hampton for a second time, but while he promised a decision soon, we still haven't heard anything since.
While Bevin seems content to keep people guessing over the next month, several Democrats are also preparing for 2019. Attorney General Andy Beshear and state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins currently have the May primary to themselves, but an unnamed source told WKYT that former state auditor Adam Edelen will announce he's in on Monday. State Rep. Attica Scott also recently said that she's still considering.
However, we can cross off one name. Former Marine combat pilot Amy McGrath announced just before the holidays that she would not seek any office in 2019. McGrath's statement, though, didn't address speculation that she's interested in a rematch with GOP Rep. Andy Barr, who narrowly beat her in 2018, or the possibility that she might be eyeing a campaign against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's up for re-election in 2020.
● MS-Gov: While the Clarion-Ledger wrote last month that political observers had long considered state Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller as a "likely candidate" for governor, Waller himself doesn't sound so excited. Waller, who will step down from the bench at the end of January, recently told the Associated Press that when it came to running this year, "Actually, I'm probably leaning against it, but I am not excluding it and I am considering it."
Waller also didn't give any indication about what party he might run under. Waller is the son of the late Gov. William Waller Sr., who served as a Democrat from 1972 to 1976 and appointed African-Americans to state administrative boards and commissions for the first time since Reconstruction. However, the younger Waller is forbidden from declaring a party affiliation as a justice. Mississippi's candidate filing deadline is March 1.
● MT-Gov: Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announced on Wednesday he would seek the GOP nomination to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in 2020, making him the first noteworthy candidate from either party to jump in.
Stapleton, a Navy veteran and former state Senate GOP leader, sought this office back in 2012 the last time it was open. However, he lost the primary 34-18 to former Rep. Rick Hill, the establishment favorite who ended up losing to Bullock. Stapleton ran statewide again two years later when he sought Montana's only House seat, but he narrowly lost that primary to eventual winner Ryan Zinke by a 33-29 margin. Stapleton finally won statewide office in 2016 when he prevailed in the general election for secretary of state 55-41 against Democratic state Auditor Monica Lindeen.
Stapleton is unlikely to have this GOP primary to himself. Attorney General Tim Fox has been talking about running for governor for a while, and he and Stapleton have already come into conflict. Last year, Fox criticized Stapleton after the secretary of state opted to hire attorney Emily Jones, who is the wife of former state party director and Stapleton friend Jake Eaton, rather than use an attorney provided by Fox's office for a case against the state Green Party. Fox called Stapleton's decision "mystifying," concluding, "Ultimately, he made a political decision to needlessly spend $60,000 on outside counsel and lost the case."
Stapleton has also attracted more scrutiny over his ties to Eaton. Last year, Stapleton's office mailed out voter guides that contained mistakes, and they paid Eaton's company $265,000 to quickly print out corrected guides. Stapleton defended the decision, saying he'd taken bids and Eaton's company just happened to be the best for the job.
● NC-Gov: While former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory finally ruled out running for North Carolina's 9th District on Wednesday on his radio show (see our NC-09 item), he told listeners that he was still considering seeking a rematch with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2020. McCrory also expressed interest in running for the Senate in 2022 to succeed Republican incumbent Richard Burr, who said during his 2016 re-election campaign that he would not seek a fourth term.
McCrory, who lost to Cooper 49.0-48.8 in 2016, didn't provide a timeline for when he'd decide on another statewide bid, saying only that he was "going to do a thorough assessment about running" for governor or for the Senate in 2022. North Carolina's candidate filing deadline for the 2020 cycle is in December of this year.
If McCrory does decide to seek his old job back, he's likely in for a primary with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Back in August, Forest unsubtly hinted that he planned to run and wasn't going to get out of the way for McCrory when he put out a statement denouncing a tolls project on I-77. Forest declared 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."
● CA-50: GOP Temecula City Councilor Matt Rahn quietly set up a campaign fundraising committee with the FEC in November, and he recently told East County Magazine that this was an exploratory committee he set up while awaiting the outcome of GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter's scheduled September corruption trial. In a separate interview with The Press-Enterprise, Rahn declared that it's been tough enough for him to be an advocate for the area "when our representative is sidelined and unable to do his job while under indictment." It's not clear if Rahn, who is finishing up a term as mayor, is willing to oppose Hunter if there's no verdict by the December filing deadline or if the congressman is acquitted.
● ME-02, ME-Gov: A full seven weeks after Election Day, departing Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin finally dropped all legal challenges and acknowledged his loss to Democrat Jared Golden in Maine's 2nd District. Poliquin had waged a legal battle contending that Maine's new instant-runoff voting law, also known as ranked-choice voting, violated the Constitution after Poliquin earned a slim plurality among first-preference votes only to see Golden prevail in the final round by a 50.6-49.4 margin once votes were assigned to subsequent preferences as minor candidates were eliminated.
However, Poliquin's lawsuit was frivolous, and both the district court and an appellate court emphatically rejected his legal arguments since nothing in the Constitutional provisions he cited came close to barring the use of instant-runoff voting, which several states have used for overseas and military voters for years to comply with federal law regarding absentee ballots. Nevertheless, both Poliquin and Paul LePage, whose term as governor ended Tuesday, have continued to undermine democracy by refusing to recognize the legitimacy of Golden's victory.
Poliquin, for one, still maintains that instant-runoff voting is unconstitutional despite the courts saying otherwise. LePage, meanwhile, had the temerity to scrawl "stolen election" on the form that officially certified the election results. That petulant behavior was par for the course for a governor who routinely made astonishingly racist statements and repeatedly tried to block the results of a legitimate election to expand Medicaid after a 2017 ballot measure. However, it's Maine voters who will get the last laugh after voting last year both to keep instant-runoff voting and electing Democrat Janet Mills as governor with a Democratic legislature that will finally implement Medicaid expansion
Unfortunately, though, we may still have Bruce Poliquin to kick around this cycle. After Poliquin finally conceded defeat, his advisor Brent Littlefield said he had "nothing to report" about the defeated congressman's plans for 2020, so he doesn't seem to be ruling out a comeback bid.
● NC-03: While Republican Rep. Walter Jones had said last year that he'd retire in 2020, his office only officially confirmed his plans on Wednesday, the day before the swearing-in of the 116th Congress. You can keep tabs on all open House seats by bookmarking our handy tracker, which we'll update continually throughout the election cycle.
● NC-09: Republican Mark Harris' odds of making it into Congress continue to drop from slim toward none after incoming Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the new Democratic House majority will refuse to seat him when Congress reconvenes on Thursday. Hoyer cited well-founded concerns over the legitimacy of Harris' nominal victory over Democrat Dan McCready amid the ongoing scandal involving one of Harris' campaign operatives, who allegedly orchestrated a major election fraud scheme. The House majority retains the power to refuse to seat members who were not duly elected, and North Carolina's Elections Board has refused to certify the results.
While North Carolina Republicans had signaled they were resigned to a special election both in public statements and by passing a law to require a new primary in such an event, they quickly reversed their public posturing last month. That includes state GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse, who careened from demanding the board to certify the results in the 9th District, to saying he'd accept a special election if fraud were proved, to finally declaring Harris "the duly elected congressman-elect" and once again calling for results to be certified. However, the GOP's demands are sure to be ignored by the new Democratic majority in the House.
What happens next is unclear, since the House's refusal to seat Harris won't automatically trigger a new election; it would have to specifically vote to do so. The House could instead hold its own investigation and leave the seat vacant until its resolution, at which point it could then order a new election. It's not clear whether House Democrats will pursue this route, though, since they may prefer to let North Carolina officials handle the matter and, if their own investigations warrant it, declare a new election themselves.
But complicating matters, the composition of the state board itself is still in flux amid the GOP's ongoing battles with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, whom they've sought to prevent from appointing a Democratic majority to the board. Until late December, the previous iteration of state board was evenly split between the parties and had an unaffiliated tiebreaker, but because the GOP's repeated efforts to deny Cooper a Democratic majority were struck down in court each time, that board was dissolved shortly before the end of 2018.
The board was supposed to revert back to the system the state had used prior to 2016, with three members from the governor's party and two from the opposition, until a permanent board with a similar composition comes into being on Jan. 31. However, Republicans have refused to nominate anyone for their two seats on the board, denying Democrats the possibility of the four votes needed to order a new election.
Cooper therefore announced on Wednesday that he wouldn't appoint anyone at all to the board while Republicans stonewall. And since it will lack any members, the board itself was forced to postpone its Jan. 11 hearing on the matter, even though Harris is finally slated to face questioning from state investigators on Thursday as investigators seek to ascertain just how involved Harris was with the fraud scheme himself. Consequently, the House might step into the breach with its own investigation, but it could conceivably wait until the permanent board is in place, though the longer matters get delayed, the longer residents of the 9th District will go without representation in Congress.
Whatever happens, a new election seems all but certain at this point, and the Republican field to face McCready continues to slowly unfold. We can scratch off the biggest names, though. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whom Harris narrowly defeated in last May's primary that may have also been tainted by Harris' absentee ballot fraud operation, announced just before the New Year that he wouldn't try to reclaim his seat.
Meanwhile, former Gov. Pat McCrory, who easily carried this district even as he narrowly lost re-election to Cooper in 2016, also declined to run (though he did publicly express interest in a gubernatorial rematch; see our separate NC-Gov item). While Harris could seek the GOP nomination again, Republican operatives have already declared him "toxic," so the names of other potential contenders are sure to emerge.
● TX-02: Democrat Todd Litton lost last year's open seat contest to Republican Dan Crenshaw 53-46, and he recently told the Houston Chronicle that he was open to another try in 2020. Litton said he'd "consider it. I don't know that I'm going to do it," adding, "We'll see how Dan does and what he says." This suburban Houston seat moved from 63-36 Romney to a much-smaller 52-43 Trump, and Litton's performance was the best showing for a Democratic House candidate in this area in a long time.
● New York, NY Public Advocate: With Democrat Tish James' ascension to state attorney general thanks to her victory last year, a special election will be held on Feb. 26 for the post she just vacated, New York City public advocate. The race will be an unusual one: All candidates will run together on a single, nonpartisan ballot, and whoever gets the most votes, wins—no primaries beforehand, and no runoffs after.
It gets stranger. Candidates themselves will have to create their own ballot lines, so voters won't have the benefit of knowing who's a Democrat and who's a Republican when they examine their ballots—and those ballots are going to be crowded. Because this election is taking place off-cycle, no current office-holders have to give up their posts to run, so tons of folks are rolling the dice. (One political science professor said it's "like buying a lottery ticket.")
The timing also means that turnout is sure to be low as well, so whoever prevails will likely do so with both a very small number of votes and a very small share of votes as well. And what's the prize? Less than a year in office: Partisan primaries will be held later this year, followed by a general election for the final two years of James' term (which otherwise would have been up in 2021).
The job itself is also extremely limited. The public advocate is little more than an ombudsman with a $3 million-a-year budget, and the office has regularly been targeted for elimination. Its holder, however, is first in line to succeed the city's mayor, and local media tends to give the public advocate a fair bit of ink—especially when he or she is attacking the mayor.
That, in fact, seems to be the main role of the public advocate. Mayor Bill de Blasio, for instance, used the perch to regularly jab at his predecessor, Mike Bloomberg, and launch his own mayoral career. Now, though, it's his turn in the hot seat. While James had usually been a de Blasio ally, her successor as acting public advocate, City Council Speaker Cory Johnson, has been a sharp de Blasio critic and says he plans to make the most of his short stay in the office. His successor may keep up a similar barrage, especially if he or she wants continued attention from the press.
But as for who that will be, it's anyone's guess. According to QNS, more than two-dozen candidates have already entered the race or are exploring, and more could join, though some might eventually fail to make the ballot. Two of the biggest Democratic names are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Councilman Jumaane Williams, whose relatively close 53-47 loss in the primary for lieutenant governor to incumbent Kathy Hochul last year earned him some good notice. Several other city councilmembers and legislators are also in the mix, plus a variety of activists, lawyers, businessmen, and Some Dudes.
Polls of this bizarre race, should anyone dare try, will be useless. With such a small electorate, such a large field, and nothing resembling a household name on the ballot, it'll come down to whoever has the best field operation, and we won't know that until Election Day.
● Deaths: Former Iowa Sen. John Culver, a longtime confidant of the Kennedy family and the father of former Gov. Chet Culver, died last week at the age of 86. Culver, a Democrat, represented the Hawkeye State in the House from 1965 until he was elected to his sole Senate term in 1974. Culver lost re-election in 1980 to Republican Chuck Grassley, who still holds the seat.
Culver first met future Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1950 when they were both freshmen on the Harvard Crimson football team. The two became close and often played football together with other friends at the Kennedy family’s Hyannis Port compound in what Culver described as “no-holds barred” games where injuries were common. In 1951, Culver first encountered John F. Kennedy during one of those competitions when the future president, who was a congressman at the time, rolled down his car window and playfully shouted “Culver’s a bum!” at the players, before he took part in the game himself. Culver was actually one of Harvard’s stars, and in 1953, he helped the Crimson pull off a 13-0 win over their Yale, Harvard’s first victory over their arch-rival in 13 years.
Culver was drafted to play in the NFL after graduating the next year, but he instead went on to take a scholarship at Cambridge University, serve in the Marines, and later return to Harvard for his law degree. In 1962, while he was still enrolled in law school, Culver volunteered to help Ted Kennedy's successful bid for John F. Kennedy's old Senate seat, with the campaign operating out of the president's former bachelor pad.
While Culver had been a conservative Republican when he'd met Ted Kennedy over a decade before, his politics had changed over the years. Culver quickly became the new senator's top legislative aide and press secretary, even though he would later say that at the time he "knew nothing about press. I knew nothing about legislation."
Culver learned quickly, and he soon went back to Iowa to challenge two-term GOP Rep. James Bromwell for a seat in the northeast corner of the state. 1964 was a very strong Democratic year, and Lyndon Johnson, who had become president after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, decisively carried Iowa. Culver ended up unseating Bromwell 52-48, which was the closest race of his House career.
Culver established himself as a defender of civil liberties, and in 1967, he was one of the few congressmen to vote against a bill making it a federal crime to burn the American flag. Culver was a member and a vocal critic of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and he wrote dissenting opinions for each of their reports that criticized the methods they used to investigate American citizens and their alleged ties to communism. He was also an opponent of the war in Vietnam.
Culver remained close to Ted Kennedy while both of them served in Congress. Decades later, Culver recounted the night before Robert F. Kennedy's funeral in 1968, where Ted Kennedy was to give the eulogy for his murdered brother. Culver said that he "rode with Ted around New York City, alone, with a driver, virtually all night, before he made that remarkable eulogy."
A few weeks later, some party leaders tried to convince Kennedy to make a late bid for the presidential nomination at the convention. Culver served as the senator's emissary in Chicago, where Kennedy decided not to run. A year later, Culver was one of the Kennedy allies who helped advise him during the Chappaquiddick incident.
In 1974, Culver ran to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Harold Hughes. The GOP nominated state Rep. David Stanley, who had held Hughes to a 50.3-49.7 win six years before. This race was also incredibly tight, and Culver won 50.0-49.3―a margin of about 6,400 votes. Culver sought re-election in 1980 but faced a very tough contest against GOP Rep. Chuck Grassley. Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter 51-39 in Iowa, and Grassley unseated Culver 53-46.
Culver wouldn't seek elected office again, though his son, Chet Culver, was elected to a single term as governor in 2006. The elder Culver and Kennedy remained close until the Massachusetts senator died in 2009.
● Race ratings: David Jarman takes a look back at how the Daily Kos Elections crew did in 2018, with both qualitative race ratings, and quantitative poll averages. The only qualitative ratings that were "wrong" (in other words, "Lean" or "Likely" races that went the other way than the prediction) were four long-shot House races that the Democrats picked up: CA-21, NY-11, OK-05, and SC-01. Poll averaging worked generally well, too: the most significant error was the Indiana Senate race, which predicted a 2-point Joe Donnelly win but ended as a 6-point loss.