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.
● Bucks County, PA Commission: Republicans have spent decades in charge of the three-member Board of Commissioners in suburban Philadelphia's populous and competitive Bucks County, but Democrats finally have the chance to take the majority on Tuesday.
Team Blue already achieved a major breakthrough in 2017 when they took four of Bucks' five so-called "row offices," which are the countywide offices other than commissioner; until that year, Democrats hadn't won a single row office in over 30 years. Republicans then got some more unwelcome news earlier this year when one of their two county commissioners, Charley Martin, decided to retire after 23 years on the board.
County commission races operate under different rules in Pennsylvania than they do pretty much anywhere else. All three seats are elected countywide, and voters can select up to two candidates. However, each party can only nominate two candidates, so the board will wind up with a 2-1 split no matter what. The question is which party will get that vital second seat that they need to control the body.
The board's Republican chair, Robert Loughery, is seeking re-election, and he's joined by state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, who represents a Democratic-leaning seat in the legislature. The Democratic ticket features incumbent Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Bob Harvie, who serves as chair of the Falls Township Board of Supervisors.
In 2015, the last time the commission was up, Loughery took first place with 27% while Ellis-Marseglia was close behind with 26%. Martin managed to edge out a Democratic candidate for the third and final seat by a narrow 23.8-23.5 margin, a 728-vote victory that allowed Republicans to hang on to the majority for another four years, but that long streak could come to an end next week.
And while these elections are decidedly local, Democrats in D.C. should be paying attention. That's because Bucks County makes up the vast majority of Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District, one of just three seats won by Hillary Clinton yet still represented by a Republican. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick will once again be a top target for Democrats next year, and these results could offer important clues about his future.
● AL-Sen: As he reportedly contemplates what could be a tricky comeback bid, former Sen. Jeff Sessions has earned vote of support from the fellow Alabamian he served alongside for 20 years, Sen. Richard Shelby. Shelby, the state's senior senator, said he spoke with Sessions on Monday and believes "a lot of indications point to him running." Shelby added that if Sessions does go for it, he'll endorse him, saying, "He's always endorsed me. He's my friend."
● ME-Sen: On Wednesday, the Maine Ethics Commission fined a now-defunct PAC run by Democrat Sara Gideon $500 for reimbursing Gideon for $500 in donations she made to two state-level political committees in 2016.
Reimbursements like these run afoul of federal and state laws that forbid anyone from making campaign contributions in another person's name. Such laws exist to prohibit so-called "straw donations," where an individual seeks to circumvent contribution limits by reimbursing others for their donations. (Conservative activist Dinesh D'Souza, for instance, was convicted of exactly this crime in 2014 and sentenced to eight months of confinement in a halfway house.)
Gideon, however, didn't try to conceal her efforts; rather, they were discovered because her PAC publicly disclosed the reimbursements. For that reason, the commission declined to investigate further, concluding Gideon's disclosure meant it was unlikely she had knowingly sought to violate the law.
In addition, Gideon made four other similar donations, totaling $2,750, that were also reimbursed and are the subject of a complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Gideon previously said she had sent a $3,250 check to the U.S. Treasury to offset the reimbursements.
● NM-Sen: Late on Tuesday evening, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver abandoned her bid for New Mexico's open Senate seat and endorsed Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the lone notable Democrat still in the race.
Luján had amassed a nearly 20-to-1 lead over Toulouse Oliver in cash-on-hand, and the lone public poll of the race—a Luján internal from April—likewise showed him up big, 64-25. Given New Mexico's blue lean, Luján is now the heavy favorite to win this seat, which became open earlier this year thanks to Democratic Sen. Tom Udall's retirement.
● LA-Gov: Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' latest ad ties Republican Eddie Rispone to despised former Gov. Bobby Jindal, playing a clip where Rispone says, "It is a great honor with a lot of pride that I get the opportunity to introduce our speaker, Gov. Bobby Jindal." The ad then pivots to showing Jindal next to large text that reads "$2 billion projected deficit" interspersed with footage of Rispone saying he's "done a phenomenal job." News clip voiceovers talk about the cuts to education and health care under Jindal's tenure as Rispone continues to praise the former governor.
Meanwhile, the DGA-affiliated Gumbo PAC has a new ad that attacks Rispone over his business record. The spot features footage of Rispone touting his record of job creation for "Louisiana citizens," then calls him a hypocrite for relying on a "program that outsources jobs to foreign workers" while Louisiana had a high unemployment rate. The ad also hits Rispone for benefiting from over $500 million in corporate tax breaks that resulted in only 19 new jobs.
● VT-Gov: Two of Vermont's most prominent elected officials, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Progressive Party Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, have been publicly considering bids for governor since the middle of the year, but in new interviews this week, neither would confirm their plans one way or the other.
Zuckerman, who was elected on both the Progressive and Democratic ballot lines, has however changed his tune a bit. In June, he told Seven Days, "If I'm going to challenge the governor, I'll have my kickoff in November or December," but now he insists he does not have a "specific timeline." VTDigger reports, though, that both Zuckerman and Donovan "are angling to make final decisions by the end of the year."
VTDigger also says that the two have been talking to one another and previously reported that the two are "reluctant" to face one another in a primary. But if either does decide to go for it, a contested Democratic nomination battle looms nevertheless, since former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe has been running since July.
Other Democratic entrants are possible, though none seem likely. Former state House Speaker Shap Smith says he "did give it some consideration" but added, "I'm just not sure that this is the right time personally." Smith ran for governor in the 2016 cycle but suspended his campaign after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. He later contemplated re-entering the race but wound up running for lieutenant governor instead (he lost the primary to Zuckerman, 44-38).
Meanwhile, VTDigger reports that Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberg is "not currently thinking about running," according to his chief of staff. Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he'll announce whether he'll seek a third two-year term after the legislative session ends on May 20, but with Vermont's candidate filing deadline just a week later, it would be a surprise if he left his party in the lurch by retiring at such a late date.
● CA-25: Sure, what's one more Republican criminal in Congress, right? Former Trump apparatchik George Papadopoulos, who served two weeks in federal prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with the Russian government, filed paperwork with the FEC to create a campaign committee on Tuesday and promised an announcement "soon."
It's possible that this numbnuts just opened himself up to more legal scrutiny, though. As Playboy's Alex Thomas noted, Papadopoulos tweeted, "California's 25th congressional district looks like it's for the taking" on Oct. 17—a day before the right-wing sewer site RedState first published the revenge porn that drove Democratic Rep. Katie Hill to announce her resignation. Publishing revenge porn is illegal under California law. (Thomas also reports that the NRCC "was shopping around" the images of Hill, an accusation the committee has denied.)
Don't be too sure this schmendrick will actually go for it, though. Late last year, shortly after his release from prison, Papadopoulos said he wanted to run for an unspecified House seat in Orange County, even though he lives in Los Angeles County. At least this time he's in the right county, though he still doesn't live in the 25th District. In fact, according to his new FEC filing, Papadopoulos is represented by none other than Trump bête noir Adam Schiff. Just imagine the grifting he could pull if he ran there!
Shifting gears to the Democratic side, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said on Wednesday that he would not run in the special election to succeed Hill. Padilla had reportedly been looking at the race but Assemblywoman Christy Smith launched an aggressive campaign the day after Hill made her announcement and has already locked up significant establishment support. Padilla did not issue an endorsement but instead said, "I look forward to supporting whoever the Democratic nominee is."
But while Smith almost certainly has the inside track at this point, it's possible other Democrats could yet join the race. National Journal editor Alex Clearfield reports that 2016 nominee Bryan Caforio, who lost last year's primary to Hill, will decide on whether to try a third time "in the next few weeks."
● FL-19: Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman and state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen are the latest Republicans to express an interest in running for this safely red open seat.
● MI-10: Businesswoman Lisa McClain is the latest Republican to join the race for this heavily Republican open seat. McClain is a senior vice president at a financial services company and is making what appears to be her first bid for public office. She joins state Rep. Shane Hernandez and retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum in the GOP primary.
● OR-02: On Tuesday, state Sen. Cliff Bentz became the first prominent Republican to kick off his campaign to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Greg Walden in this heavily GOP district. Bentz hails from the town of Ontario, which is located alongside the Idaho border at the far eastern edge of the district, and his sprawling Senate district makes up one-sixth of the 2nd District's population. Meanwhile, fellow GOP state Sen. Tim Knopp has ruled out running here.
● PA-17: As expected, Army veteran Sean Parnell, a Republican, has announced he'll challenge Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb. Parnell is an author and a recurring Fox News guest, and that latter role has unsurprisingly earned him fawning praise from frequent Fox News-watcher Donald Trump in recent days.
● SC-01: The hardline anti-tax Club for Growth has released a poll from the GOP firm WPA Intelligence of the Republican primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, and the survey shows a race that is still fairly wide open with 57% undecided. The poll gives state Rep. Nancy Mace the lead with 23%, followed by Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert and Bikers for Trump founder Chris Cox at 8% each, with Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing taking 5%.
● TX-13: Amarillo City Councilor Elaine Hays is the latest candidate to join the GOP primary for this ruby red open seat. She joins Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley and Texas Cattle Feeders Association government relations director Josh Winegarner in the primary to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Mac Thornberry.
Meanwhile, Chris Ekstrom, whom the Texas Tribune has called a "big anti-establishment donor from Dallas," has also announced a run of his own. Ekstrom previously conducted a campaign against state Republican leaders to oppose removing Confederate monuments.
● TX-31: Round Rock City Councilor Tammy Young is the first elected official to announce a bid for the Democratic nomination to face Republican Rep. John Carter in this blue-trending suburban Austin seat. She joins a primary that includes several candidates who struggled to raise a significant amount in the third quarter: Tech businesswoman Donna Imam raised only $60,000 and had $53,000 on-hand at the start of October, physician Christine Mann raised $53,000 and held $38,000 in the bank, and actor Dan Janjigian raised a mere $22,000 and finished the period with $21,000 left-over.
By contrast, Carter raised $152,000, which is far from an intimidating sum for an incumbent in this day and age, but he had a sizable $726,000 in his war chest.
● Monroe County, NY Executive: Republican incumbent Cheryl Dinolfo faces Democratic County Clerk Adam Bello in next week's race to lead Monroe County, which includes Rochester and some of its suburbs.
Dinolfo, who is seeking her second term, is emphasizing how she passed the county's first property tax rate decrease in a decade and said that 20,000 local jobs were created during her administration. Bello, though, has reminded voters that the county will still collect more in property taxes than it did the previous year and argued that Dinolfo has dramatically inflated that job creation number. Bello has also declared that the incumbent has done a poor job dealing with issues at the county Child Protective Services division.
Democratic presidential candidates have carried Monroe County in every election starting with 1992, and the county supported Hillary Clinton 54-39; Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo also carried it 51-42 last year. However, Republicans have controlled the county executive's office since 1992.