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-02: On Monday morning, veteran Republican Rep. Peter King announced he would not seek a 15th term next year, opening up yet another vulnerable House seat the GOP will have to scramble to defend.
King's career began in local politics over 40 years ago when he won a seat on the Hempstead Town Council—and the backing of what was then the indomitable Nassau County Republican Party machine, which would play a critical role throughout his tenure in public office. King went on to win a close election to the House in 1992, flipping a seat that Democratic Rep. Robert Mrazek had left open to pursue a bid against GOP Sen. Al D'Amato. (Mrazek's campaign ultimately collapsed as a result of the House banking scandal.)
During his long tenure, King, 75, only occasionally faced competitive challengers, despite representing a suburban district that Democratic candidates for president usually carried. He accomplished this act of political levitation despite compiling a very conservative record by carving out a reputation as a security-obsessed loudmouth who knew when to vocally break with his party and emphasize his support for local interests.
Only once did he win re-election by less than double digits: last year, when he held off activist Liuba Grechen Shirley by just a 53-47 spread, despite the fact that Shirley had attracted little outside support from Democrats. That tight result (and perhaps the demise of the Nassau machine) prompted speculation that King might retire, a possibility the congressman did not rule out two months ago, even though he said at the time, "Right now, I fully intend to run for re-election."
King's change of plans make him the 20th Republican overall to pass on re-election next year, with the pace of GOP retirements almost matching the record-setting 2018 cycle. And as they must in so many other corners of the country, Republicans will now have to find someone new to hold King's district, which represents fertile territory for Democrats.
While this seat, which takes in a swath of Long Island's South Shore to the east of New York City, swung to Donald Trump by a 53-44 margin after backing Barack Obama 52-47, it snapped back in the 2018 midterms, giving Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo a 51-47 win. And while educational attainment in New York's 2nd is roughly in the middle of the pack, the district has one of the highest average incomes in the nation, suggesting it could still move further away from the Trump-era GOP.
The only notable Democrat who'd sought to challenge King this cycle before he announced his departure was Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon, an Afghanistan veteran and Jamaican immigrant, though Shirley had also said in April that she was considering a rematch. Gordon's fundraising has been unspectacular so far, however, and any race for a competitive open seat in the New York media market is bound to get expensive fast.
Of course, as is often the case when a tough incumbent finally retires, we're likely to see new candidates from the opposing party surface, and there's also no shortage of Republicans who might run as well. We'll run down all of the emerging contenders in the next Digest.
● KY-Sen: Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones formed an exploratory committee for the Democratic primary earlier this year, and he reiterated that he was still thinking about running following Democrat Andy Beshear's apparent upset victory over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin last week. Jones revealed that he had made up his mind not to run if Beshear had lost and had planned to "spend a few days thinking about it" if Bevin lost, but now he says he has "more to think about."
Meanwhile, Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker announced that he's forming an exploratory committee. The 35-year-old Booker was first elected in 2018, becoming the state's youngest black legislator in 90 years, and he says he intends to campaign on a progressive platform including support for the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
● LA-Gov: Polling on behalf of several local TV stations, Mason-Dixon finds a tight race ahead of Saturday's runoff. Taken from Nov. 5-7, their survey has Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards holding a slim 48-46 lead over Republican Eddie Rispone, which is consistent with the few other polls we've seen here following last month's all-party primary.
● UT-Gov: Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes hasn't yet jumped into the Republican primary, but he's certainly acting like he will. Hughes' personal PAC revealed in a filing that it raised $499,000 this year and had $479,000 in cash-on-hand. Hughes has previously said he expects to decide whether to run in December.
● CA-25: Former Republican Rep. Steve Knight has announced that he'll run to reclaim his old seat in the upcoming special election to replace the Democrat who defeated him last cycle, former Rep. Katie Hill. Knight first won this seat in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016 even as it flipped from 50-48 Romney to 50-44 Clinton, but he lost to Hill by a wide 54.4-45.6 margin in a very expensive contest as 2018's blue wave swept out half of California's Republican delegation.
While Knight undoubtedly brings high name recognition on the GOP side, he's starting out with only $15,000 left over from his 2018 campaign. Navy veteran Mike Garcia was the best fundraiser on the GOP side in the third quarter, during which he raised $230,000 and finished with $322,000 in cash-on-hand at the start of October. Garcia reaffirmed his commitment to running after Knight kicked off his campaign.
So far, state Assemblywoman Christy Smith is the only prominent candidate on the Democratic side. The dates for the special election haven't yet been set, but if no one wins a majority in the first round, there would be a runoff between the top-two finishers.
● FL-19: Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass is the latest Republican to refuse to rule out a run for this safely red open seat, saying only that he's not considering the race "at this time." Meanwhile, Florida Politics mentions a few more names who could run that we haven't heard before, including former Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott and former Minnesota state House Minority Whip Dan Severson, who last ran for office in his old home state in 2014 and lost a very close contest for secretary of state. However, there's no indication yet whether either Republican is interested.
Amusingly, Scott's not the only Midwesterner whose name has come up for this seat: Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis also hasn't ruled out the idea of abandoning his campaign for Congress in the Land of Lincoln and picking right up with a new one in the Sunshine State. If both men go for it, we could wind up with a transplanted Great Lakes battles along the Caloosahatchee River.
● IN-01, IN-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Eddie Melton has announced that he'll continue his bid for governor rather than switch races and run for the open 1st District following Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky's recent retirement announcement.
● MD-07: Maryland Democratic Party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings plans to make a "special announcement" Tuesday morning, and all signs point to her joining the Democratic primary to replace her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.
● NJ-03: John Novak, who is the deputy mayor of Barnegat Township (population 21,000) launched his campaign for the Republican nomination last week, but his kickoff generated little media buzz. Meanwhile, former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs, who formed an exploratory committee back in September, will reportedly launch her campaign for the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim sometime before Thanksgiving.
● NJ-05: Paul Duggan is the latest Republican to join the primary to take on Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Duggan ran for the post of Bergen County executive last year and lost the GOP primary by just 50.3-49.7 to Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz, who went on to lose the general election to Democratic incumbent James Tedesco by a 63-37 drubbing. Duggan's past electoral experience hasn't been any more successful, including close defeats for a 2017 state Assembly primary and a 2007 general election for the Bergen County Board of Freeholders. He joins a GOP primary that includes 2018 nominee John McCann, former Wall Street banker Frank Pallotta, and Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali.
● TX-13: According to Roll Call, former White House chief physician Ronny Jackson is reportedly considering a run for the Republican nomination in this dark-red district. Jackson was Trump's personal physician until a botched nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs last year, which saw Jackson withdraw from consideration after whistleblowers accused him of drinking to excess while on the job and overprescribing medications. Jackson has denied those charges, and Roll Call reports that he's still "well-liked by Trump," meaning it's possible he could capitalize on those ties if he ends up running for this open seat.
● Special Elections: After last week's flurry, there's just one special election on tap for Tuesday.
AL-HD-74: This is a Republican district based in Montgomery. This vacancy was created after former Rep. Dimitri Polizos died in March. The Democrat is retired state worker Rayford Mack and the Republican is businesswoman Charlotte Meadows. Polizos faced both of these candidates over the course of his career. Mack was the Democratic candidate for this seat last year and fell to Polizos 61-39. Polizos and Meadows ran in the 2013 special primary for this seat and faced each other in a primary runoff, which Polizos won 57-43.
Alabama is a nightmare from a data standpoint, so we don't have presidential results from this district. However, there are several indicators of this district's partisan lean. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, this seat has been in Republican hands since 1983. Additionally, Meadows has crushed Mack in fundraising to the tune of $34,000 to $4,000.
Republicans control this chamber 75-28, with this and one other seat vacant.
● San Francisco, CA District Attorney: In a victory for the criminal justice reformers movement, public defender Chesa Boudin has defeated appointed incumbent Suzy Loftus to become San Francisco's next district attorney. In the first round of instant-runoff voting, Boudin held a 36-31 lead over Loftus, with former San Francisco prosecutor Nancy Tung taking 19% and deputy state attorney general Leif Dautch taking 14%. After Dautch and Tung were eliminated, their voters who expressed a preference between Boudin and Loftus put Boudin over the top by a slim 51-49 margin.
Boudin had the support of a number of prominent reformers, including Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, while Loftus was supported by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. Both have called for overhauling the local justice system, but Boudin's platform advocated for the biggest departure from the status quo.
Boudin also has an unusual background that helped shape his views: Both of his parents were members of the militant far-left Weather Underground and went to prison when he was just 14 months old for their role as getaway drivers in the notorious Brink's armored car robbery north of New York City that ended in the deaths of two police officers and a security guard in 1981. (Boudin was reportedly flying back from visiting his father in prison in New York when he learned that he had won.) He's vowed to pursue policies such as ending cash bail and measures to address racial bias and to hold the police accountable in misconduct cases.