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.
● FL-19: On Saturday, just one day after he refused to rule out supporting an impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, GOP Rep. Francis Rooney announced that he would not seek a third term in Florida’s safely red 19th Congressional District.
Rooney was the subject of retirement speculation after he barely raised any money over the last six months. While the congressman’s office insisted Thursday that he was running again and “in it to win it,” Rooney himself acknowledged the next day that he hadn’t decided what he’d do in 2020.
Rooney also didn’t close the door on supporting an impeachment inquiry on Friday following acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s admission that the administration had withheld military aid to Ukraine to try and pressure it into launching an investigation to help Trump. Rooney said, “The president has said many times there wasn’t a quid pro quo . . . and now Mick Mulvaney goes up and says, ‘Yeah, it was all part of the whole plan.’”
Rooney also responded to Mulvaney’s walk-back by declaring, “The only thing I could assume is he meant what he had to say, that there was a quid pro quo on this stuff. . . . It’s not an Etch A Sketch.” The congressman also didn’t seem concerned that he was jeopardizing his re-election chances, adding, “I didn’t take this job to keep it.” He continued, “I took this job to do the right thing at all times — the right thing. And if that means I got to go find, go back to my other job, that’s okay, too. I like building buildings and drilling oil wells.”
Rooney’s southwestern Florida seat, which includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers, backed Trump 60-38, and the GOP should have no trouble holding it without an incumbent. In fact, this will be the fourth time in just eight years that this district will host an open seat race. Back in 2012, four-term Rep. Connie Mack IV left to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, and conservative radio host Trey Radel was elected to succeed him. In October of the following year, though, Radel was arrested by an undercover officer in D.C. after he attempted to buy cocaine, and he resigned months later under pressure from party leaders.
Self-funding businessman Curt Clawson won the 2014 special election to succeed Radel, but he announced just two years later that he would retire to spend time with his newly widowed father. Rooney, who had served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican and was himself a wealthy businessman, quickly entered the 2016 primary and secured the support of then-Gov. Rick Scott. Rooney dumped close to $4 million of his own money into his bid and massively outspent his opponents, and he beat former congressional aide Chauncey Goss (the son of Mack’s predecessor Porter Goss), by a wide 53-30 margin.
Rooney is the second two-term House Republican who is retiring this cycle after spending millions of their own money to get elected in the first place. Michigan’s Paul Mitchell spent over $7 million in personal funds between his failed 2014 bid and his successful 2016 run, but he announced in July that he was done with Congress. Altogether, Rooney is the 18th House Republican who is exiting the chamber so far, while just six Democrats are calling it quits.
It may be a while before the race for this once-again open seat takes shape. Florida’s candidate filing deadline isn’t until the start of May, and the primary will take place in late August.
● Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our third quarterly fundraising charts of the 2020 election cycle for both the House and the Senate!
As always at this point in the cycle, we've included every race we expect to be competitive in next year's general elections as well as open seats in otherwise safe districts that feature primaries. We also list contests where incumbents potentially face a credible primary challenge, members of Congress who might retire or run for higher office, and under-the-radar contests where a candidate raised or self-funded an unexpectedly large sum.
Just as it was three months ago, the big takeaway remains that, despite some Democratic fears (and GOP hopes) that Team Blue's crowded presidential primary would divert donors from the congressional battlefield, the House class of 2018 is continuing to raise money at a pace that would have been unthinkable little more than two years ago.
The top fundraiser among vulnerable Democrats by far was California Rep. Katie Porter, who hauled in over $1 million and ended September with close to $2 million in the bank. Five more freshman Democrats in competitive seats raised over $700,000 for the quarter as did sophomore Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who is defending a seat that Trump narrowly carried. An additional 19 Democrats who flipped seats last year also raised over $500,000 during the quarter.
Among non-incumbents, the top Democratic fundraiser was Texas' Gina Ortiz Jones, who raised a cool $1 million in her campaign to flip the open 23rd District. Not far behind was another Texan, Wendy Davis, who took in $939,000 for her bid against GOP freshman Rep. Chip Roy in the 21st District (Roy raised $573,000).
Last year, Democratic challengers managed to outraise many Republican incumbents―often quite dramatically. So far, not many Republican candidates have accomplished that, though Team Red did have a few notable fundraisers.
Two Republicans looking to flip blue House seats raised more than $500,000 for the quarter. Over in California's 21st District former Rep. David Valadao, who narrowly lost his seat last year, outpaced Democratic incumbent TJ Cox $539,000 to $398,000. In New Mexico's 2nd District oil businesswoman Claire Chase, who raised considerably more than any other Republican in the primary, took in $511,000. However, freshman Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small still outraised her by bringing in $588,000.
Of course, as we noted last quarter, we're comparing Democratic incumbents with Republican challengers, but that just reflects the reality of next year's battlefield: The GOP has to go on offense, so the races that will determine control of the House will take place in districts held by potentially vulnerable Democrats. If Republicans can't match resources with Democrats, they're going to have a very hard time taking the 19 districts that they need for a majority now that Justin Amash has become an independent. (Speaking of Amash, he raised $150,000 during his first quarter since leaving the GOP.)
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Team Blue's Senate fundraising all-star was Kentucky's Amy McGrath, who outraised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell $10.6 million to $2.2 million. The second place spot went to Arizona's Mark Kelly, who outraised appointed Sen. Martha McSally $5.6 million to $3 million. The top GOP challenger, and the only one who outraised a Democratic incumbent, was Michigan's John James, who took in $3.1 million to Sen. Gary Peters' $2.5 million.
There's a whole lot more to check out, and you'll want to bookmark our House and Senate charts.
● CO-Sen: The Democratic firms Keating Research, OnSight Public Affairs, and Martin Campaigns are out with a poll giving former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper a 53-42 lead in a hypothetical general election with GOP Sen. Cory Gardner. The result is similar to what two other Democratic pollsters found in August before Hickenlooper entered the race. The Denver Post notes that Curtis Hubbard of OnSight has donated to Hickenlooper's Senate campaign, though he says this survey was not done for a client.
The KOM poll gives Hickenlooper a 51-35 favorable rating, which is a bit better than what the previous two polls showed. A Public Policy Polling survey for Hickenlooper's allies at 314 Action Fund gave the former governor a 45-38 favorable score while Global Strategy Group, which was polling for Senate candidate Mike Johnston, had Hickenlooper lower at 46-42 (Johnston dropped out of the Democratic primary after Hickenlooper entered the race).
KOM also finds Gardner underwater with a 34-45 favorable rating, which is a little worse than the 32-44 score GSG gave him. PPP also found the senator sporting a negative 30-49 job approval rating.
● ME-Sen: Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon debuted her first TV ad on Thursday, and now Republican Sen. Susan Collins has launched her own first TV ads, putting $142,000 behind her buy across cable and broadcast for a 60-second spot. There's no copy of Collins' spot available yet.
● LA-Gov: Republican pollster We Ask America has released a new poll of next month's runoff that finds Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards tied at 47-47 with Republican challenger Eddie Rispone.
Meanwhile, Edwards' newest TV ad goes after "Phony Rispone" over his business practices, claiming Rispone "cheated workers out of overtime pay" to make his fortune, benefitting from $516 million in corporate tax breaks. The ad also hits Rispone for hiring "foreign labor" instead of Louisiana workers.
● MS-Gov: Donald Trump is reportedly preparing to come to Tupelo, Mississippi to do a rally for Republican nominee Tate Reeves on Nov. 1, just four days before Election Day.
● UT-Gov: Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton sent a fundraising email to supporters saying she's going to run for the Republican nomination for governor, but "it hasn't been made official yet." Meanwhile, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman told supporters that he'll make a decision whether to run for the GOP nomination in "two to three weeks," and a spokesperson said an announcement is likely "sometime in November."
● CO-03: On Thursday, former Seattle Fish Co. CEO James Iacino launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Scott Tipton. Iacino stepped down as CEO of his family's Denver-based wholesale fish business earlier this month, and he's making what appears to be his first bid for political office. Iacino described himself as a moderate, and he joins a primary that includes 2018 nominee Diane Mitsch Bush and state Rep. Donald Valdez.
● MD-07: A special election will be held sometime next year following the death of longtime Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday, and there's no question that whoever wins the Democratic primary will prevail in this 76-20 Clinton seat. Baltimore City makes up just over half of the 7th District, while another quarter of the district lives in suburban Baltimore County. The balance resides in Howard County.
There's a long list of Democrats who could run, and unsurprisingly, potential candidates aren't talking about running so soon after Cummings' death. However, local politicos have already begun to speculate about the possible field.
The potential contender who is getting the most attention right now is Maryland Democratic Party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is the congressman's widow. Maryland Matters writes that it's "widely assumed" that Rockeymoore Cummings will consider running, and unnamed party operatives tell the National Journal that they believe she'd clear the field.
Rockeymoore Cummings, who leads a policy consulting firm and once served as chief of staff to former New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, ran for office for the first time last cycle when she entered the primary for governor. However, Rockeymoore Cummings dropped out months before the primary after Cummings was hospitalized. In December, after GOP Gov. Larry Hogan was decisively re-elected, Rockeymoore Cummings successfully challenged state party chair Kathleen Matthews.
A number of other local Democrats have been mentioned as possible candidates by Maryland Matters, the National Journal, and Roll Call. They are:
- State Del. Vanessa Atterbeary
- Howard County Executive Calvin Ball
- State Del. Talmadge Branch
- State Sen. Jill Carter
- State Sen. Antonio Hayes
- State Del. Keith Haynes
- State Del. Cory McCray
- Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby
- State Del. Nick Mosby
- Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
- State Del. Charles Sydnor III
- State Sen. Mary Washington
- State Del. Courtney Watson
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and state Del. Nick Mosby are married to one another and presumably would not compete in the same primary.
One person who quickly took his name out of contention, though, was 2018 gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous.
● NY-01: EMILY's List has endorsed Stony Brook University professor Nancy Goroff in the Democratic primary, where she faces 2018 nominee Perry Gershon.
● OH-01: Republican Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign finances, which have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, remain in disarray following the filing of third-quarter fundraising reports.
Of the $92,000 Chabot spent during the quarter, fully $57,000 in July and August went to the company of Jamie Schwartz, his now-former campaign manager, for what the campaign described as "unknown" purposes. The campaign told the FEC that the "purpose of those [disbursements] can not be determined until the completion of the investigation" of former campaign treasurer James Schwartz, father of Jamie Schwartz.
The elder Schwartz, however, insists that he never served as treasurer even though his name appeared on the campaign's FEC reports for at least eight years. His son, meanwhile, is reportedly the target of an FEC investigation that began last month after $124,000 in previously unreported receipts popped up when Chabot amended his first-quarter report, and his whereabouts still appear to be unknown.
Chabot has said he's running for re-election but has refused to clarify what's going on aside from previously claiming he was the victim of "financial crime.”
● TX-10: GOP Rep. Michael McCaul announced earlier this month that he'd raised $400,000 during the third quarter of 2019, but that number was not borne out by his FEC filing. McCaul's campaign instead reports that it raised $334,000; that's still a credible number, but it's quite a bit below what the incumbent said it was. McCaul's team also said they had nearly $850,000 in the bank at the end of last month when their FEC report shows they really had $820,000 available. We don't know the reason for these discrepancies, but we'd sure like to hear McCaul explain them.
McCaul has been accustomed to easy re-election campaigns in this gerrymandered seat, which stretches from Austin east into the Houston area, but his constituency has been drifting to the left in recent years. Donald Trump's 53-42 win in 2016 was a noticeable drop from Mitt Romney's 59-39 performance four years before, and Team Red also had a rough ride here in 2018: McCaul fended off Democrat Mike Siegel by a surprisingly close 51-47 margin, and Beto O'Rourke narrowly carried this district 49.6-49.5 against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. However, McCaul said in August that he'd seek re-election rather than join the growing Texodus.
Siegel, who is running again, raised $109,000 for the third quarter and ended September with $152,000 on-hand. However, the 2018 nominee faces two opponents in the March primary with more funds at their disposal. Attorney Shannon Hutcheson raised $210,000 for the quarter and had $373,000 in the bank, while medical school professor Pritesh Gandhi took in $185,000 and had $318,000 to spend. (Hutcheson and Gandhi each also self-funded a little more than $5,000 during the quarter.)
● WI-07: On Friday, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers scheduled new dates for the special election to succeed former GOP Rep. Sean Duffy in the northwestern part of the state. The filing deadline will remain Dec. 2, the same day that Evers originally set, but the party primaries will take place Feb. 18. The general election for this 58-37 Trump seat will be May 12.
Evers originally set the primary for Dec. 30 and the general for Jan. 27 because state law requires special elections to take place 28 days after the primaries. However, he had to scrap those dates because federal law mandates that absentee ballots be shipped out to military and overseas civilian voters at least 45 days before Election Day in federal contests.
The GOP primary is currently a duel between state Sen. Tom Tiffany and Army veteran Jason Church. Tiffany raised $242,000 during his first three weeks in the race and ended September with $241,000 in the bank. Tiffany also recently picked up an endorsement from Americans for Prosperity, a group that is a key member of the Koch empire. Church only opened his fundraising committee in October after the end of the quarter.
On the Democratic side, the only notable candidate is Wausau School Board president Tricia Zunker. Zunker, who would be the state's first Native American member of Congress, only entered the race in October, so we'll also need to wait for our first look at her fundraising.
● Salt Lake City, UT Mayor: Former state Sen. Jim Dabakis, who finished a very close third in the August nonpartisan primary, wrote on Thursday that he couldn't support City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall in the Nov. 5 general election.
Dabakis did not endorse state Sen. Luz Escamilla, but he used his Facebook post to argue that Mendenhall, who was council chair at the time, had negotiated a bad deal with developers over the Utah Inland Port Authority, a state-formed agency that has attracted a great deal of controversy. Dabakis wrote that the City Council had signed a "feeble agreement" that didn't do enough to protect the local environment and gave away "full power, executive and jurisdictional control of the heart of the inland port."
Mendenhall, who opposes the inland port, responded by arguing that its creation "has always been about the reality of the influence, power and willingness of the state government to override city authority," and that Dabakis had failed "to protect Salt Lake City in the state Legislature during the inland port negotiations." Mendenhall has argued in the past that, by negotiating with the GOP legislature over the project after outgoing Mayor Jackie Biskupski walked away from the table, she secured important concessions for the city.