● KS-Sen: The recently formed conservative group Free Forever PAC is out with a GOP primary survey from the Republican firm Trafalgar Group arguing that 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach would have a good shot to win even if U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo entered the race. The poll finds Kobach and Pompeo deadlocked 26-26 in a hypothetical contest, while Rep. Roger Marshall is a distant third at 13%. Trafalgar also tests a primary without Pompeo and gives Kobach a 33-18 lead over Marshall.
Free Forever is chaired by Ryan Girdusky, a former correspondent for the far-right One America News Network who now runs a "Nationalist-Populist" newsletter. His group doesn't appear to be publicly supporting anyone yet, but there's good reasons to think it's pulling for Kobach. Trump ally and would-be vampire Peter Thiel hosted a fundraiser for Kobach, and the Kansas City Star writes that the billionaire is expected to financially support a pro-Kobach group. When the paper asked Girdusky if the PAC had received a donation from Thiel, Girdusky responded "possibly."
● NC-Sen: GOP Sen. Thom Tillis will be a top Democratic target in this competitive state, but he no longer needs to worry about winning renomination. Tillis' main intra-party foe, wealthy businessman Garland Tucker, dropped out in early December, and none of the people who ended up filing look capable of giving the incumbent a serious fight.
On the Democratic side, the DSCC and other national groups have consolidated behind former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who served with the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan and lost the 2010 primary for the state's other Senate seat. Also in the race are two current elected officials, state Sen. Erica Smith and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller.
A Braun Research poll for Fox News conducted in November found Smith leading Cunningham 18-13, while Fuller took 10%. However, Cunningham may have much more room to grow because he ended September with a huge $1.1 million to $56,000 cash-on-hand lead over Smith, while Fuller had less than $500 to spend.
● WY-Sen: Billionaire megadonor Foster Friess, who was the runner-up in last year's GOP gubernatorial primary, reiterated his interest in running for this open seat on Thursday. Friess hinted he'd take his time deciding, though, saying in an email, "Last time around, we entered the race with 119 days to go -- so it wouldn't surprise anyone if my decision comes later." Wyoming's candidate filing deadline is at the end of May, and the primary will take place in August.
One person we won't be seeing in that race, though, is former Gov. Matt Mead. Mead, who left office early this year, never showed any obvious interest in a Senate run, but he only publicly said no on Thursday.
Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis has been the only notable GOP candidate in the Senate race since she announced in July, but she may have some company soon. Rep. Liz Cheney, who succeeded Lummis in 2017 as Wyoming's only House member, recently reaffirmed that her decision would come in early 2020.
● NC-Gov: Two Republicans are competing to take on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has been raising money for years for this race, while state Rep. Holly Grange entered the contest in July without much cash. However, some GOP leaders reportedly believe that Grange could be a more electable nominee than Forest, who was an ardent supporter of the anti-LGBTQ "bathroom bill" HB2 and warned about the "diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today" in a hate-filled sermon in June.
● VA-Gov: Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax remains in office almost a year after two women publicly accused him of sexual assault, and he said on Wednesday he was "planning on running" for governor in 2021. Fairfax's spokesperson, Lauren Burke, said afterwards that her boss hadn't planned to announce this, but, "He got comfortable, and here we are."
Burke added that it wasn't clear when Fairfax would officially file to campaign for this open seat except that it would come "[a]fter session, I guess." Virginia's 2020 legislative session ends in March.
● CA-50: While some unnamed GOP House members have griped about the idea of former Rep. Darrell Issa returning to Congress in a different seat, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and all but one member of what's left of California's Republican delegation endorsed him on Thursday.
Unsurprisingly, the lone holdout was soon-to-be former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy to convert campaign funds to personal use and says he'll resign "[s]hortly after the Holidays." However, Hunter's father, namesake, and predecessor, former Rep. Duncan Hunter, is backing Issa.
● NC-02: GOP Rep. George Holding decided to retire after redistricting transformed his gerrymandered 53-44 Trump seat into a compact Raleigh-based district that Hillary Clinton carried 60-36 and that Democrats are all but assured to flip.
The most prominent Democratic contender at this point in the race is 2016 Senate nominee Deborah Ross, a former state representative who lost an expensive contest to GOP Rep. Richard Burr 51-45 but easily carried this seat.
Another candidate who entered the race after redistricting is former Obama administration official Andrew Terrell, who would be North Carolina's first gay member of Congress. Wake County School Board member Monika Johnson-Hostler was running against Holding before the seat was redrawn, but she had just $28,000 on-hand at the end of September.
● NC-05: While GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx only represents 28% of this new seat, no one filed to challenge her in the primary. Gaston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tracy Philbeck had expressed interest earlier this month, but he announced just before filing closed that he'd stay out. This district, which includes the Western Piedmont and Appalachia, is safely red at 67-30 Trump.
● NC-06: GOP Rep. Mark Walker decided not to run for anything in 2020 after redistricting replaced his gerrymandered 56-41 Trump district with a seat in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem area that backed Hillary Clinton 59-38.
Five Democrats are competing for another district that's almost certainly going to flip in November. The candidate who is likely most familiar to readers is Kathy Manning, a prominent Greensboro philanthropist and former lawyer who was the 2018 Democratic nominee in the previous 13th District. Manning lost the expensive contest to GOP Rep. Ted Budd 52-46, but since the old 13th District makes up 44% of the new 6th, she may benefit from residual name recognition.
The only current elected official in the contest is state Rep. Derwin Montgomery, who served almost a decade on the Winston-Salem City Council before getting appointed to the legislature in the middle of last year.
Former state Rep. Ed Hanes, the man who unexpectedly resigned from the seat Montgomery now holds, also is running here. During his time in the state House, Hanes was one of the few Democrats to support a GOP school voucher program. Hanes was also fined $1,000 by the state in 2018 after auditors found he'd used campaign money to pay for personal things like a "gym consultation fee."
Also in the race is Rhonda Foxx, a former chief of staff to Rep. Alma Adams. Finally there's former Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis, who lost to Budd 56-44 in the old 13th District while Trump was carrying the seat 53-44. Davis was last on the ballot in 2017 when he lost a race for mayor of High Point by just 41 votes.
● NC-08: Redistricting moved GOP Rep. Richard Hudson's seat a bit to the left from 56-41 Trump to 53-44 Trump, and he faces a challenge this year from former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, who was the only Democrat to file.
Timmons-Goodson's 2006 appointment made her the first black woman to ever serve on the state's highest court, and she served until her 2012 retirement. Barack Obama appointed Timmons-Goodson to the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 2014 and nominated her for a federal judgeship two years later, but GOP Sen. Richard Burr successfully blocked her.
This seat, which includes Fayetteville and the Charlotte suburbs, is conservative turf, but it could be winnable under the right circumstances: In 2016, Republican Pat McCrory carried the district by a modest 52-45 as he was narrowly losing statewide. However, Hudson will start out with a big financial head start. The four-term incumbent ended September with nearly $1.1 million in the bank, while Timmons-Goodson only entered the race in mid-December.
● NC-09: GOP Rep. Dan Bishop narrowly won a very expensive special election here in September, and he still holds a 54-43 Trump seat after redistricting.
A few Democrats are running for this district, which includes the Sandhills and Charlotte suburbs, and the only current elected official is Hoke County Commissioner Harry Southerland. However, Hoke County makes up just 6% of this seat, so Southerland won't start with much of a geographic base of support. Southerland also was disbarred in 2004 after the State Bar ruled he'd misused money he'd been holding in trust for clients, though he was allowed to apply for reinstatement after five years.
Also in the race is financial services vice president Cynthia Wallace, who serves as 9th District Democratic chair.
● NC-11: GOP Rep. Mark Meadows announced his retirement on Thursday, one day before filing closed, and 12 Republicans filed to succeed him in this 57-40 Trump seat in Appalachian North Carolina.
The only elected official in the bunch is state Sen. Jim Davis (no, not the Garfield guy. And no, not the former Florida Democratic congressman). Also in the race is businesswoman Lynda Bennett, who is a longtime GOP activist and vice party chair in Haywood County, and Meadows' Deputy Chief of Staff Wayne King. Businessman Vance Patterson, who lost the 2012 runoff to Meadows 76-24, is running as well. And it’s always possible that one of the other candidates in this crowded contest will catch fire ahead of the primary.
On the Democratic side, the field includes Air Force veteran Morris Davis, music producer Michael O'Shea, and a few contenders who raised almost no money through September. Republican Pat McCrory carried the seat by a modest 52-45 margin as he was very narrowly losing the 2016 gubernatorial race, so a strong Democratic nominee may be able to make things interesting.
● NJ-02: Politico reports that Donald Trump's allies at the Committee to Defend the President are spending $208,000 on a TV ad praising GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew. The spot begins with clips of prominent Democrats, including Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, calling for putting "country over party." The narrator then says that's just what Van Drew did by "standing by President Trump rather than participate in a sham impeachment." The commercial does not directly mention Van Drew's recent party switch.
● NY-02: Trump campaign advisor Lara Trump said Wednesday that she would not run to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Pete King.
● NY-17: Westchester County Board of Legislators Majority Leader Catherine Parker announced Thursday that she would join the crowded June Democratic primary for this reliably blue open seat. Parker, who was first elected to her current post in 2013, is a resident and former city councilwoman in Rye, which is located just outside of this seat in the neighboring 16th District. Parker stressed her record on the environment in her announcement, including her support for government incentives to spur energy efficient construction.
Catherine Borgia, who is another Democratic member of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, recently took part in a candidate forum, but it's not clear if she's announced she's running. Borgia doesn't appear to have filed paperwork with the FEC as of Friday, and her website still touts her as a candidate for re-election to the county legislature.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Thursday's special election in Tennessee—the last election of the decade!
TN-HD-77: Republican Rusty Grills beat Democrat Mike Smith 85-13 to hold this deep red seat. As a result, Republicans will maintain their 73-26 supermajority in this chamber.
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