● GA-Sen: 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams said on Monday that she will decide on a 2020 Senate bid by the end of March. Most Georgia Democrats seem to be waiting to see what Abrams will do before making any decisions about challenging GOP Sen. David Perdue.
● KS-Sen: On Tuesday, GOP state Treasurer Jake LaTurner announced that he would run for Kansas' open Senate seat, making him the first notable declared candidate from either party. LaTurner first won a state Senate seat in the southeastern corner of the state in 2012 when he was just 24 and he held it until Gov. Sam Brownback appointed him treasurer in April 2017 to replace Ron Estes, who had just been elected to Congress in a special election. LaTurner won a full term in November 2018 by a 58-42 margin, and at age 30, he's the youngest statewide elected official in the country.
● TN-Sen: Attorney and Iraq War Army veteran James Mackler announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander. Mackler ran for Tennessee's other Senate seat in 2017 and raised close to $1 million, but he dropped out after former Gov. Phil Bredesen got in.
● KY-Gov: On Tuesday, state Rep. Robert Goforth announced that he would challenge Gov. Matt Bevin in the May GOP primary. Goforth, an Army veteran who has served in the legislature since last February, took aim at Bevin's New England upbringing, declaring, "I am not a New England transplant using the people of Kentucky to feed my ego or audition for another job."
Goforth also took aim at Bevin's leadership style, saying, "People are tired of being ridiculed, maligned and just talked down to," and added that the governor was pursuing a "corporate first agenda." Bevin himself has announced that he'll run again, but many Republicans are wondering if he'll pull out before the Jan. 29 filing deadline.
On the Democratic side, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced that he had brought in $1.16 million since launching his campaign in July, and that he had $850,000 cash on hand. Beshear faces state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins and former state auditor Adam Edelen.
● LA-Gov: Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced that he raised $3.8 million in 2018, and that he began this year with $8.4 million cash on hand. Wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone, who is one of the two Republicans who has announced that he'll run in 2019, also said that he has $5.5 million on hand. Of that haul, Rispone said he self-funded $5 million, with the balance coming from donors. GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham, who kicked off his campaign in early December, has not yet revealed how much money he raised in 2018. The deadline to do so is Feb. 15.
● IL-03: So what do you when when you survive a primary challenge from the left by a bare 51-49 margin, largely due to your hostility to reproductive rights? Why, you headline the anti-abortion "March for Life"—once again! We'll see you in 2020, Dan Lipinski.
● IL-14: On Friday, Navy veteran Matt Quigley became the first Republican to announce a bid against first-term Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. Newly representing Illinois' 14th District, a 49-44 Trump seat in the western Chicago exurbs, Underwood will likely be a top GOP target in 2020, but as with most first-time candidates, we don't know yet whether Quigley has the connections or skills to mount a serious campaign.
Quigley also used his announcement to attack Underwood for allegedly casting an Illinois absentee ballot in 2016 while she was living in Washington, D.C. The Will County State's Attorney's office told the Daily Chronicle's Alex Ortiz that the state Board of Elections is investigating the matter but offered no further details.
However, the original charges surfaced in an exceptionally dubious manner: Just before Election Day, they appeared in an un-bylined "article" in a fake newspaper (complete with website) called the "Will County Gazette" which was, in fact, a disguised political mailer paid for by a super PAC funded by former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and conservative radio host Dan Proft. The "Gazette" is part of a network of many similar phony newspapers whose pernicious influence prompted Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant to issue a detailed warning about them in 2016. Underwood does not appear to have responded yet.
● NC-09: While Republican Mark Harris loudly continues to assert that he fairly won this seat in November and that he should be seated despite ongoing concerns about election fraud allegedly committed on his behalf, he's not so keen on answering questions about any of this. On Monday, Harris was so desperate to avoid the local media after his address to the Mecklenburg County Republicans at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center that he took a fire escape and sounded an alarm when he opened the door to the ground floor.
An unidentified man tried to block reporters from following Harris down the fire escape, but he relented after they asked him if he worked for the city. Harris then sprinted into the parking lot of a Baptist church (indeed, it was the same church where he used to be a pastor) and then got into a car, which sped away from the journalists.
WSOC reporter Joe Bruno tweeted out the video of Harris' escape, which the Republican later retweeted and added, "Hey man, Sorry I missed you guys tonight. I had to get to the kickoff of the #NationalChampionship game. We'll have plenty to talk about in the days ahead. #GoTigers." The Clemson Tigers football team did win, and they even did it without the help of Leslie McCrae Dowless.
● NJ-05: GOP Assemblymember Holly Schepisi didn't quite rule out challenging Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer in this North Jersey seat, but she doesn't sound very enthusiastic about the idea. Schepisi told the New Jersey Globe, "As I sit here today, I don't imagine doing it," adding, "You never say never, but I'm not running." Schepisi is seeking re-election this year to the legislature, so if she did decide to run against Gottheimer, she would need to decide pretty quickly after the November election.
This seat backed Trump 49-48, but the GOP struggled mightily last cycle to find a candidate to face Gottheimer, whom the Globe dubbed the "human fundraising machine." Many local politicians, including Schepisi, declined to run, and Republicans ended up nominating attorney John McCann. McCann raised very little cash and Republicans wrote off this seat long before Election Day, and Gottheimer won his second term by a convincing 56-42 margin.
National Republicans will certainly hope to avoid a repeat of 2018, but they'll want a candidate who has access to plenty of money. This district is located in the New York City media market, where it costs a pretty penny to run TV ads. The Human Fundraising Machine won't have a problem getting his message out, and he had more than $4 million in the bank in late November.
● NM-02: After losing last year to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small by a 51-49 margin, Republican Yvette Herrell sent an email to supporters on Tuesday announcing she'd seek a rematch in 2020. Herrell has spent the months since the election denigrating democracy by making evidence-free allegations of "voting irregularities," but she let a Monday deadline to file a legal challenge to the results pass without taking any action.
● NY-22: Freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who narrowly won an upstate seat that backed Trump 55-39, will likely be a top GOP target, and one local Republican sounds interested in taking him on. On Friday, Broome County District Attorney Stephen Cornwell announced that he would not seek a second term, and he said days later "there are some other opportunities" he wants to pursue.
Cornwell was asked if he was looking to challenge Brindisi and he said he was "not ruling anything out right now." Cornwell also didn't deny that he had been asked to consider running, saying, "I do things that I think are right for the people and me," and adding, "If I thought that was the right thing, and that people were willing to support me and wanted me to do that, then obviously I've got to take a serious, serious look at that." He also said that he expects to make his plans known in "the next week or two."
● UT-04: Former Rep. Mia Love, a Republican who narrowly lost re-election to Democrat Ben McAdams last year, recently began her new gig as a CNN commentator, but she says this doesn't mean she's done running for office. Love said she’s keeping "other options open, including another run for elected office," though she doesn't seem to have said if she's interested in appearing on the ballot again in 2020.
● State Legislatures: America's 99 state legislative chambers have varying term lengths and likewise conduct their elections on different schedules, and Stephen Wolf has created a set of maps to help you make sense of when each state's legislative seats are up each decade. Every state is sized the same, with each state's upper chamber making up the top half of each hexagon and the lower chamber on the bottom (Nebraska's unique unicameral legislature takes up a whole hexagon).
As illustrated, most states have elections every two years that coincide with even-year federal elections, although many upper chambers (as well as the lower chamber in North Dakota) have four-year terms where only some seats are up every two years. These are known as "staggered" terms, in much the same way that only a third of seats in the U.S. Senate are up each cycle. However, some chambers elect their seats only in odd-numbered years, only midterms, only presidential years, or some other unusual combination.
Finally, Wolf has mapped which chambers are up for election in 2019 and 2020, denoting which party currently holds power in each one. Republicans control 62 legislative chambers after 2018 compared to just 37 for Democrats, but Team Blue has several promising offensive opportunities over the next two years, starting with both chambers of Virginia's legislature this November.
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Chicago's Feb. 26 nonpartisan mayoral primary is less than two months away, and the city's biggest political headlines are being dominated by the indictment of Alderman Ed Burke, a powerful member of the Chicago City Council who has served on the body since 1969. Burke's offices were raided twice by the FBI last year, and on Thursday, Burke, who has an astounding $12 million spread across his campaign committees, was charged with using his position to try to extort business in order to benefit his tax law firm. It's unclear what impact this story will have on the race to succeed Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but so far, it looks like Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle may have the most to lose from all this.
Burke's indictment alleged that he had pressured the owner of a Burger King franchise to donate $10,000 to a candidate, and Preckwinkle's campaign quickly acknowledged she was the recipient. Preckwinkle has denied any knowledge of Burke's activities and she has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and she says she automatically returned the donation because it exceeded campaign finance limits.
Last month, after Burke's office was raided, Preckwinkle returned about $13,000 he had donated to her over the years. However, it was only Sunday that she returned $116,000 that she had raised at a fundraiser at Burke's home last year for her re-election campaign. Preckwinkle has also argued that, despite this fundraiser, she's had "little contact and no relationship with the alderman," saying that the event had instead been arranged through his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. The Chicago Tribune also reported last week that in 2014, Preckwinkle put Burke's son on the county payroll with a six-figure salary.
Preckwinkle has also voiced frustration with how much scrutiny she's getting since she's far from the only mayoral candidate who has ties to Ed Burke. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who is arguably the co-frontrunner in this race along with Preckwinkle, donated $10,000 in contributions from Burke last year after the FBI first raided his office. Mendoza has also called him a mentor, and she was married at his home; Justice Burke presided over the ceremony, and Alderman Burke played the piano.
Another mayoral candidate, former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico, got his start in politics back in 1983 working for Burke, and the alderman endorsed his campaign back in October. Chico, who once called Burke "a friend and supporter for decades" accepted the nod at the time, but he now says he will no longer "accept support" from him.
Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, a son and brother of Chicago's two longest-serving mayors, has known Burke for decades, and the Tribune wrote that Burke has donated at least $30,000 to the family's political accounts over the years. However, Daley did publicly call for Burke to retire back in October before federal agents showed up at the alderman's office.
Meanwhile, Preckwinkle's allies at the Chicago Teachers Union are out with a mid-December poll from Lake Research Partners that gives their candidate the edge in next month's primary with 18 percent of the vote. Mendoza edges Daley 12-10 for the second-place spot in an April runoff, while public policy consultant Amara Enyia and former Chicago Police superintendent Garry McCarthy each are just behind with 7.
This week, Mendoza also picked up an endorsement from the Laborers' International Union of North America, which Politico characterized as one of the city's largest unions.
● Dallas, TX Mayor: On Monday, Dallas Independent School District board member Miguel Solis announced that he was joining the crowded May nonpartisan primary. Solis' 2013 win made him the youngest ISD member in history at the age of 27, and the former board president was a vocal supporter of Democrat Beto O'Rourke's unsuccessful Senate bid last year.
● Prince William County, VA Supervisor Chair: On Tuesday, Confederate fanboy Corey Stewart, a Republican who lost last year's Virginia Senate race to Democratic incumbent Tim Kaine by a wide 57-41 margin, announced that he would not seek a fourth term this year as chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
Stewart, who lost his Northern Virginia constituency to Kaine 65-33, declared he was leaving politics "for the foreseeable future," adding his departure would last "until and unless the Commonwealth is ready for my views on things, and that's not right now, clearly." (Or as the Washington Post's Aaron Blake put it, "Corey Stewart is getting out of politics until people are more ready for Minnesotans who love Confederate history.")
Stewart, who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2013 and narrowly lost the 2017 gubernatorial primary, also summed up his feelings about his ostensible day job when he said he felt it "just isn't exciting for me anymore." The departing Republican, who kicked off his Senate run by pledging to "run a very vicious and ruthless campaign against Tim Kaine," also bemoaned that "Politics sucks," adding, "On a personal level, it's been a disaster."
Stewart has served as chair of Prince William County since he was elected countywide in a 2006 special election, and he won three full terms even as the area has been getting bluer. Stewart first made a name for himself by railing against undocumented immigrants, and he won his first race a dozen years ago by promoting a local resolution that directed the police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected wasn't in the country legally.
The measure, which led to an exodus of Latino residents from Prince William County, was later amended to apply just to individuals in police custody. Stewart's xenophobic crusade made him an early hero of national conservatives and something of a proto-Trump; Stewart himself has bragged that he was "Trump before Trump was Trump."
However, nlike his idol, Stewart never did rise to the higher office he sought. Still, he won re-election by double digits in 2007, 2011, and 2015. Stewart went on to serve as Trump's Virginia state chair, a post he was fired from in October 2016 after he led a protest against the Republican National Committee for what he saw was their insufficient support of Trump. Stewart only got worse afterward, and he took up the cause of preserving statues honoring Confederate figures. Among many other things, he's said that removing those monuments is something ISIS would do, and he threatened to defund any city that took down its memorial.
While Stewart had plenty of staying power in Prince William County, Democrats may finally have their chance to take power in Virginia's second-largest jurisdiction. There will be a June 11 partisan primary (the same day as Virginia's legislative primaries), and the general election will be Nov. 5.