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.
● NY-17: On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, who serves as chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, announced that she would not seek a 17th term in New York's reliably blue 17th Congressional District. Lowey, who will be 83 on Election Day, is the sixth House Democrat who is not seeking re-election this cycle, while 17 Republicans are heading to the exits.
Lowey got her start in politics back in 1974 when a friend approached her to help a "young and totally unknown lawyer, Mario Cuomo" run for lieutenant governor. Cuomo lost the Democratic primary, but he was appointed New York secretary of state the following year and soon hired Lowey. Cuomo was elected governor in 1982 while Lowey remained at the secretary of state's office until 1987, when she resigned to run for Congress against GOP Rep. Joe DioGuardi in what was then numbered the 20th District.
DioGuardi (the father of future American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi) had twice won his Westchester County-based seat after nasty Democratic primaries, but Team Blue's 1988 contest was a much more civil affair. Lowey ended up defeating Hamilton Fish V, the publisher of The Nation and a member of an influential family that had held various major offices across more than a century, 44-36 to claim the nod.
However, the general election was an expensive and negative contest. DioGuardi got some bad headlines in the fall when the local media reported that Crabtree Automotive, which was one of Westchester County's largest car dealerships, might have illegally funneled $50,000 to his campaign. DioGuardi's campaign also ran ads saying that Lowey's campaign manager, Lisa Meyer, had been indicted, but they took down the spots after Meyer said she had only been called to testify before a grand jury.
Ultimately, Lowey pulled off a close 50-47 victory. DioGuardi sought a rematch in 1992 in what was now the 18th District, but Lowey defeated him 56-44. (DioGuardi would lose several House races in a neighboring seat over the following years, as well as the 2010 Senate race).
Lowey never failed to take less than 55% of the vote in a general election during any of her re-election campaigns, and she also never faced any serious primary opposition. In 1999, Lowey said she would probably run for New York's open Senate seat if then-First Lady Hillary Clinton didn't, but she ended up seeking re-election to the House that cycle after Clinton jumped in. Lowey served as chair of the DCCC during the following cycle, but Republicans netted eight House seats in an election that took place just 14 months after the 9/11 attacks and amid a playing field shifting to further favor Republicans in the 2000s redistricting cycle.
Lowey's seat, which is now numbered the 17th District, backed Hillary Clinton 59-38, and the Democratic nominee should have no trouble holding it. Westchester County makes up 57% of the 17th District, while the balance is in Rockland County.
Attorney Mondaire Jones, who served in the Obama Justice Department as well as in the Westchester County Law Department, announced in July he would challenge Lowey for renomination. Jones currently has the primary to himself, and he announced Thursday that he had raised $218,000 during his first fundraising quarter. Jones would be the first openly gay black member of Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.)
Several other Democrats showed some interest in running after Lowey retired, including state Sen. David Carlucci. Carlucci was one of the founding members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group that voted with the GOP to give the minority party control of the New York state Senate in 2013 even though Democrats nominally had a majority.
The IDC officially rejoined the mainstream Democrats in 2018, but six of their eight members went down in defeat in that year’s Democratic primaries. Carlucci kept his seat, though, by turning back an intra-party challenger just 54-46. Since the start of this year Carlucci and fellow IDC alum Diane Savino have caucused with the new Democratic majority.
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti also said he was interested, and he added, “I’m expecting that every elected official who lives in Nita’s district will look at the opportunity and weigh it to see if it’s worth jumping into the primary.”
Politico writes that several observers also believed that fellow Assemblyman David Buchwald was likely to run, and he did not deny he was thinking about running. In a separate interview with the New York Times, Buchwald said he would announce his plans in a few days. Buchwald is the author of the Trust Act, which allows Congress to obtain Donald Trump’s New York tax returns; unsurprisingly, Trump is suing to block it.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin didn’t rule anything out, though she told Politico she was caught by surprise by Lowey’s decision and, “I have no thoughts now, but will be doing a little investigating. I assure you I will let everybody know when I have a sense of what’s going on.”
Newsday also mentioned White Plains Mayor Tom Roach as a possibility. But to the surprise of no one, a spokerson for Andrew Cuomo quickly took the governor’s name out of contention.
Finally, there’s been speculation for years that former first daughter Chelsea Clinton could run here when the seat opened up. Clinton said last year that “if someone were to step down or retire” from office, she would think about whether running is the “right choice for me.” Clinton did not specify at the time that she was thinking about running to succeed Lowey, or even running for Congress, and her spokesperson didn’t say anything about her 2020 plans on Thursday. Clinton lives outside of the district in Manhattan, though both Bill and Hillary Clinton are residents of the 17th District.
The GOP is unlikely to have much of a shot here, but one notable Republican is reportedly considering. A former spokesperson for former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, said, “People are talking to Astorino and his team is looking at it.” He added that Astorino, who is currently a CNN talking head, is “happy with his current life situation, but it’s worth taking a look at, certainly.” Astorino lost the 2014 gubernatorial race to Cuomo 54-40, and he lost re-election three years later by a similar 57-43 margin.
● KS-Sen: Susan Wagle (R): $523,000 raised, $495,000 cash-on-hand
● TN-Sen: Bill Hagerty (R): $1.9 million raised (in three weeks), $1.88 million cash-on-hand
● AZ-01: Eva Putzova (D): $35,000 raised, $11,000 cash-on-hand
● FL-16: Margaret Good (D): $450,000 raised
● IL-13: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D): $380,000 raised, $700,000 cash-on-hand
● MA-01: Alex Morse (D): $217,000 raised
● ME-02: Jared Golden (D-inc): $380,000 raised, $794,000 cash-on-hand
● MI-03: Hillary Scholten (D): $230,000 raised
● NY-10: Lindsey Boylan (D): $155,000 raised
● OH-01: Steve Chabot (R-inc): $420,000 raised
● PA-01: Debbie Wachspress (D): $215,000 raised, $190,000 cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: National Republicans have worried that skincare company executive Daniel McCarthy could be an unwelcome distraction for appointed Sen. Martha McSally in next August's GOP primary, but he self-funded a mere $120,000 during his first quarter in the race. McCarthy likely will need to invest more of his own money if he wants to keep his campaign afloat, though, since he raised less than $10,000 from donors.
● KY-Sen: 2018 House nominee Amy McGrath announced this week that she'd raised a massive $10.7 million during her first quarter in the race against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McGrath will need a lot to go right to prevail in this red state in a presidential year, but this haul indicates she'll at least have the resources to get her message out against the well-funded incumbent.
● LA-Gov: The GOP firm JMC Analytics is out with one last poll of Saturday's all-party primary for the media company Nexstar, and they find Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards still short of the majority of the vote he needs to avert a November runoff. Edwards takes 45% of the vote, while wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone edges Rep. Ralph Abraham, a fellow Republican, 21-20 for second. JMC released a survey earlier this week for the Louisiana Association of Health Plans that had Edwards at 47% while Rispone lead Abraham 22-19.
JMC also is the second pollster to release numbers this month testing Edwards in hypothetical Nov. 16 runoff scenarios. They find the governor leading Abraham 47-37, while he edges Rispone by a similar 48-39 margin. Mason-Dixon found Edwards beating Abraham and Rispone 53-38 and 51-42, respectively.
Rispone has decisively outspent Abraham throughout the campaign, and he released four new ads on Wednesday to try to put his intra-party foe away. Two of those spots (here and here) attack Abraham, while a third features footage of Mike Pence praising Rispone. Rispone's fourth spot features the candidate with Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson, and well, it's far less awkward than Robertson's ad with Republican David Vitter four years ago. None of Rispone's quartet of ads mentions Edwards.
● MO-Gov: Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway outraised GOP Gov. Mike Parson $545,000 to $316,000 during her opening quarter, but thanks to his super PAC, the incumbent is likely to maintain a large financial advantage. Uniting Missouri, which is funded in part by conservative megadonor Rex Sinquefield, took in $1.5 million during the third quarter of 2019, while Galloway's allies at Keep Government Accountable took in $518,000.
Parson ended September with $1.2 million in the bank to Uniting Missouri's $4.3 million, while Galloway and Keep Government Accountable have not yet released their cash-on-hand totals.
● UT-Gov: On Tuesday, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman finally acknowledged he was considering running for the post he resigned back in 2009. Huntsman did not say when he expected to decide on a GOP primary bid, though unnamed sources recently said that he would take his time.
● WV-Gov: Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Gov. Jim Justice. The National Journal recently wrote that Salango is "a familiar face in Democratic fundraising circles," so he may have some good connections.
Salango, who is the founding partner of a Charleston-based law firm, was appointed in 2017 to a vacant seat on the three-member commission for the state's largest county. The following year, he was elected to a full term without any opposition. During his time in office Salango helped build the Shawnee Sports Complex, which the local CBS affiliate says has generated over $20 million in revenue.
Salango joins community organizer Stephen Smith and state Sen. Ron Stollings in the May Democratic primary. Both Salango and Stollings describe themselves as moderates, while Smith is appealing to progressive voters.
● MA-03: This week, freshman Rep. Lori Trahan unveiled an endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Trahan faces a possible Democratic primary rematch next fall against Dan Koh, whom she defeated by just 145 votes last year.
● MI-10: State Rep. Shane Hernandez became the first notable Republican to announce a bid to succeed retiring Rep. Paul Mitchell in this safely red seat. Hernandez is the chair of the state House Appropriations Committee, which could give him access to donors.
● NY-14: On Thursday, New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera confirmed that he would challenge freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is already one of the most high-profile Democrats in the country, in the June primary.
New York's 14th District, which includes the East Bronx and northern Queens, is safely blue, but that didn't stop Cabrera from echoing Ocasio-Cortez's many conservative critics in his announcement. Cabrera declared, "Socialism doesn't work. I don't want it for my children, for my grandchildren," and he also went after Ocasio-Cortez for backing the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
Cabrera also took issue with Ocasio-Cortez on more local issues. He told Politico that he first considered running after she opposed Amazon's planned Queens headquarters, a project that the company ultimately dropped in the face of high-profile local opposition. Cabrera said, "It was staggering to me" that she opposed the $3 billion in tax breaks and subsidies intended for Amazon, and he argued, "We have somebody who literally dismantled the possibility of us having 25,000 jobs, and she has yet to bring any jobs into the district."
Cabrera, who lives outside the 14th District, also portrayed Ocasio-Cortez as "a no-show in the district." Cabrera further argued that AOC was the true outsider here, saying, "I've been working in the Bronx 32 years," while, "She came from Yorktown. She's in D.C., not here. She's in a luxury apartment over there."
This seat backed Hillary Clinton 78-20, but Cabrera insisted, "This district is a moderate district," adding, "If you look at almost every Council member representing that area, they're moderates and conservatives." Cabrera himself has a long and ugly record of support for the government of Uganda, which just announced on Thursday that they will try again to pass the death penalty for homosexuality after a 2014 effort was nullified. In 2014, his gay colleagues on the City Council condemned him after a video surfaced of Cabrera saying of Uganda, "Godly people are in government," and, "Gay marriage is not accepted in this country."
Cabrera insisted at the time that, "I do not support the persecution of gays and lesbians anywhere, whether it's in Uganda or right here in New York State." This week, he also said, "I always find it ironic because I have supported every bill, every single bill that has come to the Council that was important to the LGBT caucus."
Cabrera, who works as a pastor, also made news in 2017 when he said in a sermon that "it's harder being rich than being poor." He responded to the social media backlash by saying of his critics, "I feel honored because they're treating me like Jesus," and, "They did to Jesus the same thing."
While Cabrera is reportedly close to the Bronx Democratic Party, his attempts to win higher office have gone badly in the past. Cabrera challenged state Sen. Jose Gustavo Rivera in the primary in 2014 and lost 59-41, and he lost their rematch two years later by a wider 63-37 spread. In 2017, the last time Cabrera was on the ballot, he took just 55% of the vote as he won renomination to the City Council.
Ocasio-Cortez pulled off a shocking primary victory two years ago against incumbent Joe Crowley, but she's very much the favorite this time. AOC was the top House fundraiser in the country during the second quarter of 2019, and she raised another $1.43 million over the following three months. Cabrera may be able to raise money from AOC's many detractors, though this predominantly Republican audience would need to be willing to donate to a Democrat.
● OH-14: Attorney Hillary O'Connor Mueri, a retired Navy pilot, announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Dave Joyce. Mueri, who flew combat missions in Iraq under the callsign "Toro," is seeking office for the first time.
This Northeastern Ohio seat, which includes some of the Cleveland suburbs, moved from 51-48 Romney to 54-42 Trump. Last year, Joyce turned back a credible opponent 55-45.
● OK-05: Multiple unnamed Republicans told The Oklahoman this week that former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has told them that he won't challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn. Cornett has not yet said anything publicly about his 2020 plans.
● PA-16: This week, Democratic state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro said that he would not challenge GOP Rep. Mike Kelly in this seat in the Erie area. This district backed Donald Trump 58-38, but Kelly only won 52-47 last year.
● TX-21: While freshman GOP Rep. Chip Roy refused to say if he was running again last month, he very much sounded like a candidate on Wednesday. Roy said of 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, "That's who I'm running against," and added, "She's gonna be running versus me."
● TX-24: On Thursday, businessman and Green Beret veteran Desi Maes and 2018 state House nominee Deanna Metzger joined the March GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kenny Marchant in a suburban Dallas-Fort Worth seat that has been moving away from the Republicans in recent years. Their announcements come two months after former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne kicked off her bid for the GOP nod.
Maes retired from the military in 2005, and the Dallas Morning News writes that he became a top executive at both Dell and Brink's Home Security. Maes, who describes himself as a "Hispanic, disabled veteran," has not run for office before.
Metzger, who calls herself a "self-made businesswoman," ran last year for the 107th House District, a seat that had swung from 52-47 Romney to 52-43 Clinton. Democrat Victoria Neave had narrowly defeated a GOP incumbent in 2016, but she held off Metzger by a larger 57-43 spread.
● WI-05: GOP state Rep. Adam Neylon announced Wednesday that he would not run for this open seat. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald currently has next year's GOP primary to himself, though other potential candidates are still considering.
● WI-06: Former state Sen. Jess King has launched an unexpected campaign against Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman, giving Democrats a noteworthy candidate in a district that has been a tough nut to crack this decade.
King (not to be confused with the 2018 Pennsylvania congressional candidate with the same name) was part of a wave of Democrats who ousted Republican state senators in the 2011 and 2012 recalls, which temporarily gave Democrats control of the state Senate. However, she narrowly lost re-election in 2012 as Mitt Romney was carrying her district by a similarly slim 50-49 margin.
Grothman, a former state senator who first won this Fox River Valley and Sheboygan-based seat in 2014, has a long history of extreme positions and offensive statements that make him a boogeyman for Democrats. Grothman's record includes him saying that there's no wage gap between men and women, calling Kwanzaa a fake holiday, authoring a bill to declare single parenthood a factor in child abuse, and claiming Planned Parenthood wasn't necessary because women can get birth control from grocery stores. Most infamously, Grothman proposed legislation that would eliminate protections that guarantee workers at least one day off each week, and he has said multiple times that the GOP's voter ID law would improve their election chances.
However, despite that record, Grothman will be a tough target to dislodge in a seat that backed Trump by a wide 56-39 margin. Grothman faced a well-funded challenge last year by Democrat Dan Kohl, who is the nephew of former longtime Sen. Herb Kohl, but the incumbent decisively prevailed by a 55-44 margin. Still, it's always a good thing to have a strong candidate running in case the stars align, and King could be just that candidate for Democrats.
● KY-AG: On Thursday, a Jefferson Circuit judge ruled that Republican Daniel Cameron had the requisite legal experience to serve as state attorney general. Last month, a Kentucky man filed a lawsuit arguing that Cameron should be removed from the November ballot because he lacked the eight years as a "practicing lawyer" required by the state constitution for anyone wishing to serve in the post. Cameron was admitted to the state bar in October of 2011—just barely eight years before next month's election—but he clerked for a federal judge for two years before entering private practice.
The plaintiff argued that, because ethics guidelines for clerks forbid them from practicing law, Cameron had not been a "practicing lawyer" for the required eight years. However, the judge ruled on Thursday that Cameron's time as a clerk did indeed count. Cameron faces former Democratic state House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who previously served as attorney general from 2004 to 2008, in next month's race to succeed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andy Beshear.