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.
● KY-Gov: On Wednesday, despite facing a nearly insurmountable deficit, Gov. Matt Bevin requested a recanvass of Tuesday's vote while his fellow Republicans in the legislature began plotting to overturn the results of Kentucky's election for governor.
With all precincts reporting, Democrat Andy Beshear currently leads 49.2 to 48.8, a margin of 5,189 votes. In typical Trumpian fashion, Bevin has repeatedly claimed that the election was marred by "voting irregularities," but, reports the Louisville Courier Journal, his campaign has "not replied to multiple requests asking for any of those examples."
Not that there are any problems to uncover, but a recanvass—which differs from a recount—wouldn't find them anyway. In a recanvass, officials simply check the tallies reported by each voting machine and compare them to the numbers that were reported to the state Board of Elections. (To seek a recount, in which all ballots would be individually reviewed, Bevin would have to petition a court and pay the entire cost.)
Barring an impossible profusion of tabulation errors, then, the end result won't change as a result of a recanvass—something Bevin knows well, since a recanvass of his narrow 2015 primary win didn't budge his 83-vote lead by even a single vote. In fact, a recanvass has never altered the outcome of an election in Kentucky.
The goal, however, is not to clarify the results but rather sow confusion about them—and, if state Senate President Robert Stivers has his way, throw the election to the GOP-dominated legislature. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Stivers cited Section 90 of the state constitution, which specifies that "[c]ontested elections" for governor "shall be determined by both Houses of the General Assembly"—and hasn't been used since 1899.
There are no grounds, of course, for such a contest, but Stivers is happy to invent one: He said it was "appropriate" that Bevin hadn't conceded because he thinks that most of the votes received by Libertarian John Hicks, who won just under 2% of the vote, "would have gone to Bevin."
This is as bonkers as it is anti-democratic. For starters, Kentucky obviously doesn't have any sort of instant-runoff voting, though Stivers surely could have passed such a law at any point during the last three years, when Republicans held complete control of state government. In our actual reality, rather than Stivers' fantasy, Hicks was in fact on the ballot and therefore his vote wouldn't "have gone" to another candidate—it did go to Hicks and Hicks alone. Stivers can't now retroactively invent a kinda-sorta instant runoff on his own say-so.
What's more, there's good reason to think that Hicks' supporters want nothing to do with Bevin. In a statement posted on Facebook, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky said, "[W]e are always happy to split the vote in a way that causes delicious tears. Tonight there are plenty of delicious tears from Bevin supporters." The post continued, "We split the vote. And we could not be more thrilled. If our friends in the major parties do not want this to happen again, they should think about passing ranked choice voting."
Bevin has yet to take any formal steps toward seeking a recount or contesting the election, though he'll likely wait until after the recanvass, which Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says will take place on Nov. 14. Republicans won't have much time to launch any schemes to steal the election after that date, though, as Beshear's inauguration is currently set for Dec. 10.
Election Result Recaps
● Aurora, CO Mayor: Former GOP Rep. Mike Coffman won the mayor's office in Aurora, a city of 367,000 in the Denver area, one year after he lost re-election for Colorado's 6th District. Coffman took first place in the five-way nonpartisan contest with 38% while local NAACP head Omar Montgomery, who was the only Democrat in the race, was in second place with 33%. There is no runoff here, so Coffman's plurality win has kept this seat red.
Local Democrats also were hoping to take a majority on the City Council by defeating three moderate and conservative members, but they didn't make any gains. Instead, the only councilmember who lost was unseated by a fellow conservative.
● Des Moines, IA Mayor: Democratic incumbent Frank Cownie, who is the longest-serving mayor in Des Moines history, was forced into a Dec. 3 runoff against former state Sen. Jack Hatch. Cownie took 43.4% of the vote while Hatch, who was Team Blue's 2014 nominee for governor, was just behind with 42.7%.
Hatch entered the race just before the mid-September filing deadline and ended up self-funding most of his campaign. Hatch, who works as a developer, has argued that the city needs to do a better job improving infrastructure and mental health care. He also attacked Des Moines' new zoning code for "fast-tracking" development projects, saying they will mean less input from the neighborhoods that will be impacted.
● Houston, TX Mayor: Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner took 47% of the vote in Tuesday's nonpartisan primary, which was a little less than the majority he needed to avoid a Dec. 14 runoff. The second spot went to wealthy trial attorney Tony Buzbee, who defeated conservative independent and 2015 runner-up Bill King 28-14. Two fall polls both showed Turner failing to take a majority but still leading Buzbee by double digits in what was at the time a hypothetical second round.
Buzbee poured at least $10 million of his own money into his campaign, and we should probably expect more where that came from. Buzbee, who successfully defended then-GOP Gov. Rick Perry on corruption charges in 2014, refuses to identify himself with any party, and he's hosted fundraisers with Donald Trump as well as Hillary Clinton.
However, Buzbee also donated $500,000 to Trump's inaugural committee and has a Trumpesque habit of insulting his enemies over social media, prompting Turner to run ads connecting the two men. On Tuesday night, Buzbee delivered what the Texas Tribune called a "boisterous, rambling speech" while clad in what the candidate described as his "Marine Corps greens."
● Indiana: Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett won re-election as mayor of Indianapolis by defeating GOP state Sen. Jim Merritt in a 72-27 landslide. Hogsett turned in the best performance for a Democratic candidate for mayor since the city's government merged with the rest of Marion County in 1970.
Indianapolis Democrats also went into Tuesday with a small 14-11 majority on the City-County Council, but they ended the night with a 20-5 supermajority. Democrats won a narrow majority on the body back in 2011, but for years they struggled mightily to hold it. In 2013, the GOP legislature eliminated the four citywide seats, all of which were controlled by Democrats, in a move Democrats denounced as a "power grab."
Team Blue still maintained a majority after the 2015 elections, but early last year, nine members of the GOP minority joined five Democrats to oust the Democratic council president and install Democrat Stephen Clay in a power sharing agreement. Clay ended up stepping down after six weeks, though, and mainstream Democrats quickly retook control.
Democrats also had a strong night in neighboring Hamilton County, which is home to highly educated suburbs, by winning a council seat in Carmel and two council districts in Fishers. The Indianapolis Star writes that Republicans have had a monopoly on both city councils for decades, and politicos can't even remember the last time Democrats had any representation in either city.
All of Hamilton County is located in Indiana's 5th Congressional District, which is held by retiring GOP Rep. Susan Brooks. The once-solidly red 5th has been moving to the left in recent years, and Tuesday's results should give Democrats more reasons to be optimistic about flipping it next year.
● KY-AG, KY-SoS: While Democrat Andy Beshear appears to have unseated GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, Team Red won every other statewide office. Republican Daniel Cameron, a former general counsel for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, won the race to succeed Beshear as attorney general by beating former state House Speaker Greg Stumbo 58-42. Cameron is the first Republican to hold this office since World War II, the state's first black attorney general, and the first black candidate to ever be elected in their own right to statewide office (outgoing Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton was only elected on a ticket with Bevin in 2015).
The contest to succeed termed-out Secretary of State Alison Grimes, who was McConnell's Democratic opponent in 2014, was considerably closer. However, Republican elections attorney Michael Adams still beat former state Department of Veterans Affairs head Heather French Henry 52-48. GOP incumbents were also decisively re-elected in the races for auditor, treasurer, and commissioner of agriculture.
● Manchester, NH Mayor: Democratic incumbent Joyce Craig won a second two-year term as mayor of this swing state's largest city by beating former GOP state Rep. Victoria Sullivan 57-43. Craig has been talked about as a rising star in state Democratic politics for a while, and this wide victory will only increase her stature. It doesn't sound like she's looking to run for governor next year, though, since Craig said on election night she was "excited to serve the people of Manchester for another two years."
● Mississippi: While Republican Tate Reeves' 52-47 victory over Jim Hood was Team Blue's best showing in a gubernatorial race in two decades, Democrats also lost their last two sources of statewide power. Republican state Treasurer Lynn Fitch won the race to succeed Hood as attorney general by defeating former state ACLU executive director Jennifer Riley Collins 58-42. Either candidate would have been the first woman to hold this post, but Fitch is also the first Republican to serve as attorney general since 1878, which was right after Reconstruction ended.
Republicans also took a 2-1 majority on the state Public Service Commission, which is charged with regulating utilities, by flipping an open seat that had voted for Hood, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. The remaining Democratic member is Brandon Presley, who was unopposed despite running in a northern Mississippi district that not even Hood came close to winning. Presley has been mentioned as a future statewide candidate for a while, but he's always opted to stay put.
Republicans decisively kept control over all their statewide offices, and they also narrowly maintained their three-fifths supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature, which are needed to pass budgets without any Democratic votes (overriding vetoes requires two-thirds). Consequently, Republicans now hold more power in Mississippi than at any point since Reconstruction.
● NJ State Assembly: New Jersey Republicans made some gains on Tuesday in South Jersey, though they're still deep in the minority. Team Red has won at least two Assembly seats and successfully defended Minority Leader Jon Bramnick from a serious Democratic effort to oust him, while another two Democratic-held seats are still unsettled.
The GOP flipped both Assembly seats in LD-01 and they also lead both Democratic incumbents in LD-02 in the AP's count as of Wednesday evening, though the latter contest is very tight. The Press of Atlantic City wrote Wednesday that when mail-in votes, which are not currently included in the LD-02 tally, are added in to the totals, both Democrats emerge with narrow leads. There are still more ballots to count in LD-02, though, and no one has declared victory on either side yet. The paper writes that final results are "at least a week away."
● New York: New York hosted several races for county executive on Tuesday, and both parties scored some notable wins.
Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello unseated GOP incumbent Cheryl Dinolfo 52-48, which will make him the first Democrat to hold this office since the end of 1991. Over in Erie County, Democratic incumbent Mark Poloncarz won a third term by beating County Legislator Lynne Dixon, a member of the Independence Party who was also running on the GOP line, 54-46. Democratic incumbent Steve Bellone also won a third term in swingy Suffolk County by turning back Republican John Kennedy, the county comptroller, 55-43.
Republicans had more success elsewhere. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who was Team Red's 2018 nominee for governor, won re-election by a wide 59-41 against Joseph Ruggiero, a former executive director of the New York State Bridge Authority. National Republicans have been hoping to recruit Molinaro to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado in New York's 19th Congressional District, and they'll probably step up their persuasion campaign following his victory on Tuesday. Over in Onondaga County, Republican incumbent Ryan McMahon beat self-funding Democrat Tony Malavenda 55-45.
Meanwhile, out on Long Island, Republicans also appear to have regained an office they controlled for over a century until 2017. Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin holds a 50-49 lead for town supervisor over incumbent Laura Gillen, a margin of just under 1,400 votes. Clavin has declared victory but Gillen, a Democrat, has not conceded. The Town of Hempstead, which used to be the center for the once-powerful Nassau County GOP machine, has a population of about 770,000, which is larger than many major American cities.
Finally, in New York City, voters adopted instant-runoff voting for all city primaries and special elections by approving Ballot Question 1 by a 74-26 margin. Instant runoffs will come into effect for races for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and the New York City Council starting in 2021.
The success of this measure means that New York City will be by far the largest jurisdiction in America to use instant-runoff voting. This could also impact the 2021 Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Bill de Blasio, a contest that could attract a large field of contenders. Question 1 does not impact general elections, where it still will take just a simple plurality of the vote to win.
● Pennsylvania: Democrats scored historic wins in the Philadelphia suburbs in 2017, and they made history again there on Tuesday by taking control of the board of county commissioners in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Lehigh Counties.
The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that this is the first time that Democrats have won control of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners since 1983, while Team Blue hasn't run the Delaware County Council (the equivalent of a county board) since the Civil War. The paper also adds that Democrats had never won the Chester County Board of Commissioners until Tuesday. The Morning Call says this is the first time in decades that Democrats have taken the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners.
Democrats are counting on strong wins in the Philadelphia suburbs next year to take the state's 20 electoral votes away from Donald Trump, and Tuesday's results are a good omen. The Bucks County results in particular should also encourage Democrats looking to take down Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick: Bucks County makes up the vast majority of the 1st Congressional District, which is one of just three seats won by Hillary Clinton yet still represented by a Republican.
The news wasn't uniformly good for Team Blue in the Keystone State, though, since the party lost control of several boards of county commissioners in western Pennsylvania. However, state political analyst Ben Forstate writes that after Tuesday, over half of the state will live in a county controlled by Democrats since the counties they flipped had roughly twice as many residents as those they lost to the GOP.
Republicans also suffered a historic defeat in Philadelphia to the progressive Working Families Party, though not all Democrats are happy about it. The 17-member Philadelphia City Council contains seven citywide seats (the other 10 are single-member districts), but each party can nominate only five candidates. This has allowed Republicans to control at least two citywide seats since the city's Home Rule Charter went into effect in the 1950s, but Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks cost Team Red one of those seats on Tuesday.
Brooks' victory came despite efforts by Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady, a former congressman who runs what was once a powerful city political machine. Brady argued before the election that Brooks could cost the five Democratic candidates support, and he suggested that any party committee members or ward leaders who supported a non-Democratic contender could be expelled from the committee. All five Democrats won, but Brady was still angry after Election Day.
● Prince William County, VA Board of Supervisors: Democrat Ann Wheeler decisively won the race to succeed Confederacy fanboy and frequent GOP statewide candidate Corey Stewart as leader of Virginia's second-largest jurisdiction. Wheeler beat John Gray, a Republican who ran a pro-Trump campaign, 55-35. Wheeler and her ticketmates also turned what was a 6-2 GOP majority on the Board of Supervisors for this large Northern Virginia County into a 5-3 Democratic edge.
● Salt Lake City, UT Mayor: City Councilor Erin Mendenhall ended Tuesday night with a wide 59-41 lead over state Sen. Luz Escamilla, a fellow Democrat. While there are more ballots to be tabulated, Escamilla conceded defeat on Wednesday evening.
● San Francisco, CA District Attorney: As of Wednesday evening, appointed District Attorney Suzy Loftus holds a 51-49 lead over public defender Chesa Boudin, a margin of 2,205 votes. That represents an increase for Loftus from the 240-vote edge she held in the morning before a new batch of votes were added.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of the most interesting special elections from Tuesday. You can check out the results of all Democrat vs. Republican races with our Big Board here.
CA-AD-01: Republican Megan Dahle defeated Democrat Elizabeth Betancourt 58-42 to win this deep red seat in California's rural far north. Betancourt was able to slightly improve on both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's margins here, following on her unusually solid showing for a Democrat in the first round of voting.
MO-HD-99: Democrats got their second special election flip of the year after Trish Gunby defeated Republican Lee Ann Pitman 54-46. This district, located in the suburbs of St. Louis, has been shifting leftward in recent years. Mitt Romney won it 55-43 but Donald Trump prevailed just 49-44.
NJ-SD-01: Republicans, meanwhile, earned their fifth special election flip of the year, as Mike Testa unseated Democratic Sen. Bob Andrzejczak 53-47 to win this South Jersey seat. This district had moved from 53-46 Obama to 53-44 Trump, and Andrezejczak attempted to position himself as a conservative Democrat by declining to rule out voting for Trump in 2020.
TX-HD-28: The race to replace former Rep. John Zerwas in this suburban Houston district is heading to a runoff. Eliz Markowitz, the lone Democrat in the race, and Republican Gary Gates will be the participants in the runoff, after taking 39% and 28%, respectively. Five other Republicans combined to take the remaining 33% percent. Overall, Republican candidates outpaced the Democrat 61-39. The runoff date has not been determined, but will be chosen by Gov. Greg Abbott.
In addition, two of Tuesday's local election results in the Northeast will prompt special elections for a pair of Republican-held seats that Democrats will have a shot at flipping:
NY-SD-50: Republican state Sen. Bob Antonacci won a state Supreme Court race on Tuesday (New York's lower courts are confusingly called supreme courts), which creates a vacancy for his suburban Syracuse seat. This district supported Clinton 50-45 and Obama 54-43. Antonacci came out on top 51-49 in his race last year, a low mark given that this district's previous Republican incumbent faced no serious opposition in the last several elections.
PA-HD-18: Republican state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo was elected to the Bucks County Commission on Tuesday, opening up his Bensalem-based state House seat. While DiGirolamo never had any trouble winning re-election, this district is strongly Democratic at the presidential level. Clinton was victorious here 58-41, and Obama won by a similar 59-39 spread.
● Wichita, KS Mayor: Democratic state Rep. Brandon Whipple unseated GOP incumbent Jeff Longwell 46-36 to win control of Kansas' largest city in an officially nonpartisan race. GOP businessman Lyndy Wells, who took a close third in August's primary, launched a write-in campaign during the final weeks of the race, and most of the 18% of write-in votes likely went to him.
Longwell drew some bad headlines in September when The Wichita Eagle reported that he had steered a large and crucial city contract for a new water treatment plant to his political allies and friends. The race took another nasty turn a week before Election Day when Whipple filed a defamation lawsuit against a Republican operative and two unnamed defendants over a web ad that falsely accused Whipple of sexual harassment. Longwell condemned the spot and denied any involvement.
● FL-07: Physician Leo Valentin is the latest Republican to join the race to unseat sophomore Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in central Florida's 7th Congressional District. So far, all of the other GOP contenders look like Some Dudes, though it's not yet clear whether Valentin, who only moved to the area last year, offers a different profile.
● FL-13: Trump superfan Matt Gaetz has endorsed Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna, who is one of several Republicans running to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist. While Gaetz's district in Florida's panhandle is a long way from the 13th (which is based in St. Petersburg), his seal of approval could help Luna lock down the frothiest elements of the GOP base. That, however, isn't likely to be a boon in the general election, though, considering that this district leans Democratic.
● FL-19: On Wednesday, state House Majority Leader Dane Eagle became the first Republican to announce a bid for Florida's 19th District, which recently became open thanks to GOP Rep. Francis Rooney's retirement. Eagle, who is term-limited as a state legislator, currently represents just under a quarter of the congressional district he's now running for.
A very large number of other Republicans are still hovering around this seat, though, so Eagle could get some company very soon. Several in fact reaffirmed their interest after Eagle's announcement, including one new name, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson.
● IN-01: Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky announced Wednesday that he would not seek a 19th term representing Indiana's 1st Congressional District. Visclosky's seat, which includes the state's northwestern corner, backed Hillary Clinton 54-42, and the winner of the May Democratic primary should have no trouble holding it.
Visclosky, whose father served as mayor of Gary in the 1960s, got his start in politics as a congressional aide to local Rep. Adam Benjamin. Benjamin died in office in September of 1982, and Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher and his allies in the district Democratic Party selected state Sen. Katie Hall to take Benjamin's place as the Democratic nominee. Hall's general election victory made her the state's first black member of Congress, but she faced a tough primary challenge two years later from both Visclosky and Lake County Prosecutor Jack Crawford.
Hall argued during the 1984 race that "[i]f I wasn't black and female, there wouldn't be a contest." Her opponents, though, insisted that Hall took her orders from Hatcher, a prominent black politician who many local white voters despised. (The Washington Post's Mike Debonis explained Wednesday that much of the district's white electorate viewed Hatcher, who was his city's first black mayor, as "the man who had destroyed Gary," though the city's struggles were "of course waaay more complicated" than that.) Visclosky and Crawford also said that Hall had missed key House votes. Visclosky, who dubbed himself the "Slovak Kid," ended up edging Hall 34-33, while Crawford was just behind with 31%.
Visclosky had no trouble winning in November, and he always won at least 56% of the vote in all of his general election contests. Visclosky did face two more primaries against Hall, though. The incumbent defeated her 57-36 in 1986, and he won by a similar 51-30 margin during their third match in 1990. That race was also the last time that Visclosky faced a serious intra-party contest.
However, that could have changed in 2020. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott had expressed interest in challenging Visclosky for renomination, and McDermott announced that he would run here immediately after the congressman said he would retire.
McDermott is a self-described moderate, and last month, he faulted Visclosky for backing an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. McDermott argued that Democrats should censure Trump instead because the Senate would just acquit him, and he further insisted that the congressman's support for impeachment could cost the region federal funding for a commuter rail extension to Chicago.
● VA-07: Despite an epic botch that led to his name getting left off the ballot, Republican Del. Nick Freitas appeared to have won re-election to his safely red state House district on Tuesday night thanks to a write-in campaign, but he may not stick around long. When asked after the results came in if he'd commit to serving a full two-year term in the legislature, Freitas was decidedly non-committal, saying, "Look, my job is to serve the people of the 30th District, and I'm going to continue to do that."
That's likely because he's been mentioned as a possible candidate to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in the 7th Congressional District, a race that the Club for Growth has sought to recruit him for. Freitas' legislative district largely overlaps with the 7th, though he represents less than 10% of the latter. However, he'd be able to run without giving up his current seat.
● TX-24: Less than a month after launching her campaign, Republican businesswoman Deanna Metzger has dropped out of the race for Texas' open—and highly competitive—24th Congressional District.