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.
● NV-02: On Thursday, the anti-tax Club for Growth fired a warning shot by releasing a poll from WPA Intelligence showing former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt leading Rep. Mark Amodei 39-35 in a hypothetical GOP primary.
Amodei doesn't currently face a serious intra-party challenge in his reliably red northern Nevada seat from Laxalt or anyone else, but the Club very much wants to change that. Club president David McIntosh declared, "Rep. Mark Amodei has failed to support conservative principles as well as President Trump during his time in office," adding, "The message to Republican candidates is clear—cozying up to Democrats on impeachment will result in severe consequences at the ballot box."
Laxalt, who lost a bid for governor last year and was recently was named a co-chair of Trump's Nevada campaign, responded to the poll by saying, "As I have stated numerous times, I am not running against Mark Amodei in my home district. I am currently focused on practicing law in the private sector and helping President Trump win Nevada and re-election next year."
However, the Nevada Independent's Jon Ralston very much did not interpret this statement as a denial of interest from Laxalt and reminded us that "Amodei found out Team Laxalt was sniffing around and went after them" by more or less daring Laxalt to enter the race earlier this year.
Back in March, Amodei told Ralston he was pissed when he learned Laxalt was acting like he was about to retire and leave the 2nd Congressional District open for the taking. Amodei, who confirmed he was running again, suggested the next month that Laxalt might run against him rather than just wait for him to retire. That was the last we heard about a potential Laxalt congressional campaign until the Club released their poll Thursday.
Even if Laxalt passes, though, Amodei may still find himself in for a world of pain in next June's primary. The congressman pissed off conservatives across the country last month when he became the first House Republican to identify as impeachment-curious, saying of the inquiry into Donald Trump, "Let's put it through the process and see what happens." Amodei added, "I'm a big fan of oversight, so let's let the committees get to work and see where it goes."
Where it went was a firestorm of far-right outrage, with angry conservatives convinced that Amodei had actually called for impeaching Trump. Amodei quickly responded by protesting, "In no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment," but even expressing openness to an inquiry was enough to infuriate not only the rank and file but top Republicans as well. Amodei told the New York Times that he faced the same question from the party's congressional leaders, the Trump campaign's political director, and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney: "What the heck are you doing?"
Amodei seemed to recognize how much trouble he was in, snarking, "I'm Brutus, and Trump's Julius Caesar." For assassinating his patron, Dante consigned Brutus to the very last circle of hell, to be eternally chewed on in one of Satan's three mouths, which is probably where many Republicans would like to see Amodei.
However, while he's repeatedly criticized how congressional Democrats have handled the inquiry, Amodei has said he's still keeping an open mind about what information it brings to light. Last week, he said he was still "where I was before," and added, "I don't know whether it is or isn't instantly, it's like, let's see what happened with some level of credibility, and then you let the chips fall where they are."
That, naturally, did not appease Trump's team. This week, the Trump campaign announced that Laxalt and the two top Republicans in the legislature would serve as its state co-chairs for 2020, but Amodei's name was tellingly left off the list. Amodei was a co-chair in 2016 and is the only Republican left in Nevada's congressional delegation, making the omission all the more glaring. The congressman even told the Associated Press that the campaign had approached him earlier this year about taking up that role again this cycle and says he prepared a statement accepting the position.
Amodei issued a statement about his snub saying, "Since I have yet to hear from their campaign, your guess is as good as mine." However, he seemed to know exactly why he'd gotten left out since he continued, "I can only assume that a fake news story from a few weeks ago has obviously created some discomfort for them, so they acted accordingly." He added, "In today's political climate, even if a story is proven incorrect, there clearly isn't any margin for even a wrongful claim."
Of course, there was nothing "fake" about the statements on impeachment that came out of Amodei's own mouth, making his efforts to sound like a Trump cultist utterly hollow.
● GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: On Wednesday, 2014 Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn announced that she would continue to lead the nonprofit CARE USA rather than run in either of Georgia’s two Senate races this cycle.
● NC-Sen: American Foundations Committee, a super PAC supporting businessman Garland Tucker in the GOP primary, is up with a TV ad attacking Republican Sen. Thom Tillis for spending years opposing a border wall. There is no word on the size of the buy.
● NH-Sen: While former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski signaled last week that he'd decide on a Senate bid soon, he now seems content to keep everyone guessing into next year.
Lewandowski said Tuesday that, while Trump encouraged him to run, he wasn't sure a campaign was the best thing for his family. Lewandowski continued by saying he believed he could both defend Trump on TV from impeachment and run against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen "come January," which is when a possible Senate trial might conclude. While it sounds like Lewandowski plans to make up his mind early in 2020, he's sent decidedly mixed signals about his interest in the Senate race for a while now, so who knows.
● TX-Sen: This week, state Sen. Royce West picked up an endorsement from Rep. Al Green in the March Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn.
● NC-Gov: The GOP firm Harper Polling is out with another survey for the conservative Civitas Institute, and they continue to give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper a clear lead over his prospective GOP foes.
The survey shows Cooper beating Lt. Gov. Dan Forest 46-36, which is similar to his 48-36 edge in August. Cooper also bests state Rep. Holly Grange 46-27, which is also not much different from his 48-30 lead over the summer. Harper also tests Cooper in a hypothetical rematch with former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and finds the incumbent ahead 44-38. However, while McCrory talked about running again earlier this year, he's hasn't shown any obvious interest in this race in months. The filing deadline is Dec. 20.
● ND-Gov: GOP Gov. Doug Burgum announced on Thursday that he would seek re-election next year. While Burgum has often feuded with the GOP legislature during his time in office, especially over his authority over budget bills, there's no sign that he'll face a serious intra-party challenge in this very red state. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner even said that, despite their differences, he was "pleased" the governor was running again.
● KY-Gov: GOP Gov. Matt Bevin has gone up with another TV ad that attacks Democrat Andy Beshear because his former law firm once defended Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and accuses him of profiting off opioids. As ever, the claims are spurious. Beshear has repeatedly said he had no involvement with the case and did not benefit financially from his firm's work on the matter, and no evidence to the contrary has ever emerged.
In 2015, shortly before Beshear became attorney general, Purdue reached a settlement with Beshear's predecessor, Democrat Jack Conway, in which the company agreed to pay $24 million to the state for allegedly misleading the public about the addictive nature of OxyContin.
● CA-25: On Wednesday, the House Ethics Committee announced it had launched a preliminary investigation into allegations that freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Hill had violated House rules by having a relationship with a congressional aide. Hill, who represents a competitive seat in Southern California, responded by denying the allegations and calling them part of a "coordinated effort" by her estranged husband to humiliate her during their ongoing divorce proceedings.
In a letter to her constituents, Hill acknowledged that she had had a relationship with a member of her campaign staff—not her congressional staff—"during the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage." She added, "I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment." Congressional rules do not prohibit relationships with campaign staff.
● IL-14, FL-19: On Monday, days after GOP Rep. Francis Rooney announced that he would retire from Florida's safely red 19th Congressional District, the DCCC put out a statement "calling" for Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis to drop his campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood and run there instead. Oberweis owns a home in Rooney's district and has benefited in the past from a homeowner's tax exemption by listing it as his "primary" residence, but there was never any indication that anyone was interested in seeing him run in Florida … until Thursday.
Amazingly, Florida Republicans are reportedly taking this Democratic trolling as sincere advice. Even more strangely, Oberweis' own campaign may be doing the same thing. This week, Oberweis spokesman Travis Akin acknowledged to Politico, "There's a push from Republicans in that district" for him to run. Akin could have simply dismissed the idea of his boss running in Florida, but instead he continued, "All he'd have to do is move down there and he'd win."
Oberweis has a truly awful electoral history in Illinois, so national Republicans may not mind it if he actually did campaign for a safe seat in Florida rather than in Underwood's competitive district. However, despite his campaign's strange response to this story, it doesn't sound likely.
Politico writes that "Oberweis is focused" on running against Underwood in Illinois, though there's no quote from Akin or anyone else outright ruling out the idea of him running to the south. Still, Akin did add that "Jim's in good shape to win the primary" to take on Underwood, so it doesn't seem like the state senator is interested in quitting that race.
Illinois' filing deadline is in early December so we'll know soon enough if he'll be on the ballot for the competitive 14th Congressional District. Amusingly, though, Florida's deadline is in April, so if Oberweis loses Illinois' March primary, he might be able to run for Congress in the Sunshine State anyway!
● IL-15: This week both physician Charles Ellington and farmer Mary Miller joined the March GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Miller is married to state Rep. Chris Miller, and she says she raised $100,000 during her first few hours in the race.
Until this week, no serious candidates were competing in the race to succeed longtime Rep. John Shimkus, who announced that he would retire just before Labor Day. Illinois' Dec. 2 filing deadline is coming up quickly, so potential contenders will need to decide what they're doing soon.
● LA-05: While GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham sounded like he planned to run for re-election on the night of his defeat in the Oct. 12 all-party primary for governor, it now seems like he's considering retiring from his safely red northeast Louisiana House seat. Abraham told reporter Greg Hilburn of the Monroe News Star that he would make up his mind by January, saying, "If we decide not to run we want to make sure those who are interested have time to put together their teams for a campaign."
Abraham said that the state of the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump would likely play the biggest role in his choice, saying, "We want to be there for the president if this continues to move forward." That doesn't really make much sense, though, since the congressman's current term will last into the start of 2021 so he'll still "be there" for Trump all the way past this presidential election whether Abraham runs again or not.
We may not want to hold Abraham to his January timeline, either, since he said on Oct. 12 that he'd make up his mind in the coming weeks. Abraham also severely procrastinated on his decision to run for governor: While he said in December of 2017 that he would make up his mind "sometime in the next quarter or second quarter [of 2018] at the latest," he only ended up entering the contest about a year later (which was the fourth quarter of 2018, for those keeping score at home.) Louisiana's filing deadline isn't until July, so it's possible we could end up waiting a while.
Abraham did tell Hilburn that he wouldn't be sticking around the House much longer if he did run again, though. The Republican pledged during his successful 2014 bid that he'd serve no more than three terms, and while he'd be breaking that promise by running for term four next year, he insisted that he wouldn't go past that.
Abraham added, "I'm a term limit guy, whether it's three or four at the most," though he acknowledged he didn't understand how powerful the House seniority system was when he made his 2014 pledge. Still, Abraham insisted, "I'm a guy of my word" and still believes in term limits, even though he'd be breaking that word by running in 2020.
Despite his defeat earlier this month in the race for governor against fellow Republican Eddie Rispone, Abraham probably wouldn't have much trouble winning re-election next year. According to analyst Miles Coleman, Abraham edged Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards 40-39 in the 5th District while Rispone took third with 19%. If Abraham does retire, the GOP won't have any trouble holding his 63-34 Trump seat.
● OH-13: On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan ended his hopeless presidential bid and reaffirmed that he'd run for re-election to the House. Ryan's seat moved from 63-35 Obama to 51-45 Clinton, and it's possible that Ryan has weakened himself at home by spending six months on the road rather than in his Mahoning Valley-based district. However, the GOP never landed a serious candidate during Ryan's White House run, and there's no sign one will emerge ahead of the mid-December filing deadline.
● TX-13: On Thursday, lobbyist Josh Winegarner joined the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry in this safely red seat. Winegarner served as an aide for Sen. John Cornyn before becoming director of government relations for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.
● TX-21: On Thursday, EMILY’s List endorsed 2014 gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis’ bid against freshman GOP Rep. Chip Roy.
● UT-01: State GOP vice chair Aaron Starks said this week that he was considering running to succeed retiring Rep. Rob Bishop in this safely red seat. Starks, who used to work for Bishop as well as for a few political action committees in Utah, said he plans to decide in the coming weeks.
● Salt Lake City, UT Mayor: Thursday brought us our first two polls of the Nov. 5 general election between Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall and state Sen. Luz Escamilla, a fellow Democrat, and they both give Mendenhall the lead. A Dan Jones & Associates survey for the Salt Lake Chamber gave Mendenhall a 42-37 edge, while a Y2 Analytics survey for Utah Policy had her ahead 46-33.