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.
● State Legislatures: Democrats won a smashing victory in Virginia on election night, picking up both the state House and state Senate from Republicans and taking control of the state’s government for the first time in a quarter century. But Democrats didn’t just paint Virginia blue: They also elected its first truly progressive-leaning legislature—and a key reason they did so was Donald Trump.
In fact, since Trump was first elected, Democrats have now flipped nine state legislative chambers and haven’t lost a single one, as you can see from this map. And while Republicans still hold a sizable edge—thanks in large part to brazen gerrymanders in several large swing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania—the gap has closed considerably.
Just how much? After 2016, 61% of the U.S. lived in states with Republican-run statehouses while just 28% resided in states where Democrats held majorities and 11% lived in states with split control. Now, the divide has been cut in half, to 57% Republican to 41% Democratic, with 2% in divided states.
And in 2020, there’s a good chance Democrats will pick up even more legislatures. Democrats have a shot at winning both chambers in states like Arizona, Minnesota, and North Carolina, for instance, and they could even break the GOP’s hammerlock in Texas by flipping the closely divided state House. With Trump casting his orange shadow over next year’s elections just as he did this year’s, more big legislative gains for Democrats are eminently possible.
Election Result Recaps
● Aurora, CO Mayor: Former GOP Rep. Mike Coffman maintains a 281-vote lead over Democrat Omar Montgomery in the five-way race for mayor of this city of about 370,000, but we’ll have new vote totals soon. The clerk in Arapahoe County, which includes 88% of the city of Aurora, plans to post final numbers on Thursday. Election authorities in Adams County also expect to post their updated numbers the following day. (A tiny part of the city is also located in Douglas County, but only a little over 100 Aurora residents live there.)
Recounts are only permitted if the margin between the two candidates is 0.5% of the leading candidate's vote total. Coffman currently has 26,516 votes, so his lead would have to fall below 133 votes for a recount to become possible.
● WA Ballot: Affirmative action supporters have conceded defeat in an election that would have overturned Washington state's ban on the practice. While late-counted votes from the Seattle area helped narrow the election night margin, Referendum 88 was narrowly trailing 50.4 to 49.6 as of late Wednesday afternoon. A renewed effort could have greater success next year, however, when the presidential election will bring a more liberal electorate to the polls.
Meanwhile, a measure to cap vehicle registration fees known as Initiative 976 has passed, with the vote in favor at 53%. The initiative would result in severe cuts to state transportation spending, which is supported by these fees. However, opponents have already pledged to challenge it in court, and similar measures in the past have failed to pass muster under the state constitution.
● AL-Sen: Advertising Analytics reports that former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is spending at least $67,000 on a Fox News TV buy well ahead of the March GOP primary. We do not yet have a copy of his spot.
● AR-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Arkansas' March 3 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Runoffs will take place on March 31 in contests where no candidate wins a majority of the vote.
GOP Sen. Tom Cotton and all four members of the state's all-Republican House delegation are running for re-election in what has become a very red state during the last decade, and none of them face any primary opposition. Democrats also got some unwelcome news in the Senate race when Joshua Mahony, who was their only candidate, dropped out just over two hours after the deadline passed.
It's not clear if Democrats can replace Mahony, who cited a "family health concern" as his reason for exiting the race. The secretary of state's office said of the matter, "Until we receive the official notification letter and the reason for his withdrawal, we cannot make any determination." Cotton is safe no matter what, but it's always preferable to have a viable candidate in case the unexpected happens.
Democrats got better news in the 2nd District when state Sen. Joyce Elliott, who was the 2010 Democratic nominee for a previous version of the seat, entered the race to take on GOP Rep. French Hill. (Check out our last Digest for more on this contest.) However, while Team Blue also has candidates against Reps. Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman, Rep. Rick Crawford has no opposition in the 1st District.
P.S: Alabama and Arkansas are the only states with November filing deadlines, though the deadline for the special election for Maryland's 7th Congressional District will be on Nov. 20. Next month, though, we have filing deadlines in California, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas, as well as for the special election in Wisconsin's Congressional 7th District. We've put together a calendar of every state's filing deadlines, primaries, and (where applicable) runoffs, which you'll want to bookmark and keep handy.
● KS-Sen: Kansas State Board of Education member Steve Roberts announced Tuesday that he would seek the GOP nod for this open seat. Roberts was first elected to the 10-member body in 2012 from a district located in the Kansas City suburbs, and he beat a Democratic opponent 51.5-48.5 to win re-election in 2016.
● KY-Sen: On Tuesday, radio host Matt Jones said he would decide whether to seek the Democratic nod to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "in a couple of days―the next few days."
● MS-Sen: The DSCC endorsed former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy on Wednesday, which was one day after he launched his second campaign against GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. Espy, who lost last year's officially nonpartisan race to Hyde-Smith 54-46, is unlikely to have any serious primary opposition in this very red state.
● LA-Gov: On Wednesday, a New Orleans judge ordered GOP groups to remove a TV spot from the airwaves that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ campaign had already gotten local stations to take down.
The spot in question comes from the poorly named group Truth in Politics and the blandly named Causeway Connection PAC (sadly for the GOP, Democrats claimed the name Gumbo PAC years ago). The ad claimed that Edwards had given his former roommate at West Point, Murray Starkel, a state contract for coastal restoration work "worth up to $65 million" after he was first elected in 2015. However, as we mentioned before, that contract was never actually awarded to Starkel's firm or any of the other bidders who qualified, since the project didn't go forward.
Some of the wording of the commercial was altered afterwards, but Wednesday's judicial order applied to the new version of the ad as well. GOP state Sen. Conrad Appel, who chairs Causeway Connection, says the group will appeal the ruling.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump will hold a rally for Republican Eddie Rispone on Thursday, which is two days before the election. The event, which will take place in Bossier City in the northwest part of the state, is Trump’s third campaign visit this fall. Trump previously held a rally the night before the October all-party primary, and he did one other event for Rispone last week.
● AL-02: Businessman Jeff Coleman is going up with his first TV ad well ahead of the March GOP primary. Coleman talks about turning his family's trucking business into a major company and adds, "I like moving and shaking, kinda like President Trump. Though I bet I know a little more about the moving part." (As of this writing, Trump has yet to tweet about his vast and genius knowledge about moving things, though maybe that'll change when we get to our next Infrastructure Week.) There is no word on the size of the buy.
● CA-25: Democratic Rep. Judy Chu endorsed Assemblywoman Christy Smith this week in the unscheduled special election for this competitive seat in northern Los Angeles County. Smith, who is still the only notable Democrat in the race, already had the support of Reps. Karen Bass, Jimmy Gomez, Ted Lieu, and Brad Sherman, who each represent a portion of Los Angeles County.
● FL-19: This week, former Minnesota state House Minority Whip Dan Severson said that he would seek the GOP nod to succeed retiring Rep. Francis Rooney in this safely red open seat. The Minnesota Florida Man (or is it Florida Minnesota Man?) ran for statewide office back in the Land of 10,000 Lakes several times during the early part of the decade and lost two close general elections for secretary of state.
In 2010, Severson gave up his seat in the Minnesota state House to challenge Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and lost 50-46. Severson sought the GOP nod to take on Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar two years later even though polls showed him and the other candidates badly losing in hypothetical general election matchups. Severson ended up dropping out of the race after losing the state party convention to Kurt Bills, who predictably got destroyed by Klobuchar in November.
Severson ran one more campaign in Minnesota in 2014 to succeed Ritchie, who decided not to seek another term as secretary of state. This time, Severson lost to Democrat Steve Simon 47-46.
Severson moved to Florida after that trio of defeats, and this will be his first run for office in the Sunshine State. Severson told Florida Politics that he actually had planned to challenge Rooney for renomination before the incumbent decided to retire, saying he was angry with the incumbent for championing a carbon tax. Severson will face state House Majority Leader Dane Eagle (yes, that's the Florida House) in the August primary, and several other Republicans are also considering running.
● IN-01: Attorney Jim Harper announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nod to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky in this reliably blue open seat. Harper, who is a former Visclosky aide, joins Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott and North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan in the May primary for this northwest Indiana seat.
Harper, who is the co-founder of a law firm that provides legal services to veterans at free or reduced costs, has also unsuccessfully run for office twice before. In 2016, he challenged a GOP state senator in 2016 and lost 60-40 as Donald Trump was carrying the district by a 59-35 margin. Harper took on GOP Secretary of State Connie Lawson last year and lost 56-41, although he still easily carried the safely blue 1st District in that race.
● NY-27: Democrat Melodie Baker, who recently took a leave of absence as director of education for the Buffalo branch of the United Way, announced Tuesday that she would run in the upcoming special election. The only other Democrat running for this 60-35 Trump seat is 2018 nominee Nate McMurray.
Under New York law, the party nominees will be chosen by the district's county parties instead of through a primary. McMurray has endorsements from the party chairs of seven of the eight counties that make up the 27th District, and together, they make up about 51% of the vote in the nomination contest. Erie County, which makes up the remaining 49%, has yet to weigh in, though, and Baker is arguing she can still change the mind of at least one of the county leaders who is currently supporting McMurray.
● PA-01: Businessman Skylar Hurwitz, who owns a technology consulting firm, announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. Hurwitz, who is 27, does not appear to have run for office before.
● TX-10: EMILY's List has endorsed attorney Shannon Hutcheson in the March Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Michael McCaul.
● TX-17: Construction company owner Scott Bland announced Wednesday that he would seek the GOP nod for this open 56-39 Trump seat. Bland served as a U.S. Secret Service agent before taking over his family's Waco-based business in 2006. Bland's most prominent opponent in the March primary is former Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost re-election last year in a seat located 80 miles away from this district.
● TX-22: This week, retired Marine Maj. Jon Camarillo announced that he would seek the GOP nod for this competitive open seat. Camarillo, who spent two decades in the military, was decorated for his combat service in the Iraq War, and he appears to be running for office for the first time.
● TX-23: This week, retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd endorsed Navy veteran Tony Gonzales's bid for this swing seat. Gonzales raised a very disappointing $85,000 during his first two months in the race, but the GOP may not have any better options this close to the Dec. 9 filing deadline. Attorney Sharon Thomas entered the race last week, but it remains to be seen if she'll have the resources to run a competitive campaign either.
● UT-01: Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson filed with the FEC in late October for a potential bid for the GOP nod in this open seat, and he said Monday that he'd announce his plans soon. Stevenson didn't say exactly when he expected to make his intentions clear, though he said it might be next week.
● VA-07: Unnamed sources close to GOP Del. Nick Freitas tell Politico that he's likely to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.
Freitas hasn't said anything publicly about his interest in this race, though he was busy over the last several months waging a write-in campaign to keep his seat in the legislature after he failed to properly file the papers he needed to be listed on the ballot. Freitas prevailed last week 58-42 in a district that backed Trump 60-36, and right after Election Day, he refused to commit to serving the entire two-year term he sweated so much to secure.
● WI-05: State Sen. Chris Kapenga said Tuesday that he would not enter the GOP primary for this safely red open seat. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has had the field to himself since he entered the race almost two months ago, and the only other Republican who is still publicly considering taking him on is developer Matt Neumann. Neumann recently said that he expected to decide sometime next year.
● WI-07: Army veteran Jason Church has launched the first TV spot of the Feb. 18 special GOP primary, which his campaign says is a five-figure cable buy that will only run on Fox News.
Church tells the audience how he lost his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan and that he was recovering at the same time that his father was called up to deploy there. Church goes on to say that Donald Trump "needs people who come from outside politics, people who don't owe anything to anyone, people who just want to do things right." Church faces state Sen. Tom Tiffany in the primary for this 58-37 Trump seat.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's lone special election in Alabama.
AL-HD-74: Republican Charlotte Meadows defeated Democrat Rayford Mack 69-31 to hold this Montgomery-area seat for her party. Mack was unable to improve upon his 61-39 showing in this district last year, which came against former Rep. Dimitri Polizos. Republicans now have a 76-28 advantage in this chamber with one other seat vacant.