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.
● Illinois: Candidate filing for Illinois' March 17 primaries closed on Monday, and you can find a complete list of candidates here. At least one Democrat and one Republican filed in every district except IL-08, where Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi is running unopposed. However, challenges to nominating petitions are frequent in Illinois, and candidates are often knocked off the ballot, so expect some changes.
IL-03: Running down the key races by district has us starting with Illinois' 3rd District, a solidly blue seat in southwestern Chicago where conservative Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski once again faces a challenge from businesswoman Marie Newman. Newman held Lipinski to a narrow 51-49 win in last year's primary, but complicating matters for her this time is the presence of two other candidates: activist Rush Darwish and mechanic Charles Hughes. Hughes has been thrown off the ballot twice in prior bids for local office and hasn't even filed with the FEC, but Darwish has raised $345,000. It only takes a simple plurality to win, so Lipinski could benefit if there's a split in the anti-incumbent vote.
You can find our roundup of candidate filings in all of Illinois' other key races in our House section below.
● AK-Sen: DC Democrats have now joined their local counterparts in getting behind orthopedic surgeon Al Gross in his bid to unseat GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan: On Thursday, the DSCC endorsed Gross, following the same move by the Alaska Democratic Party in October. Gross is an independent, but under state law, he's permitted to run in the Democratic primary. If he wins the nomination (as is likely), he'd be listed on the general election ballot both as "(U)" (for "undeclared") and as the "Alaska Democratic Party Nominee," much as Alyse Galvin was in last year's House race.
● AL-Sen: Rep. Bradley Byrne is out with his first TV ad ahead of the Republican primary, and the spot features typical conservative boilerplate such as touting his Christian values, family, and support for building Trump's wall. Byrne highlights his pro-Trump voting record and claims he stood up to corruption in state politics.
● KS-Sen: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that reports that he's preparing to run for Senate in Kansas are "completely false," but just like his denials earlier this year, his public professions aren’t too convincing. Trump himself said on Tuesday that he'd ask Pompeo to run if he thought the seat were in danger, and McClatchy now reports that Pompeo has recently reached out to billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the GOP's most prolific megadonor, to "gauge interest" about a bid.
Adelson isn't the only Republican megadonor on Pompeo's radar: He has also been in contact with Charles Koch, whose Koch Industries is headquartered in Pompeo's home base of Wichita. Both billionaires were reportedly receptive to Pompeo's overtures, and he could be planning to build up an overwhelming financial advantage upon joining the Republican primary if he does run.
● MI-Sen: VoteVets is going up with a $700,000 ad buy over a two week period to support Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. Their ad shows Peters riding a motorcycle while the narrator praises him as one of the most effective senators in Washington. The narrator lauds Peters for his service in the Navy and how he helped secure a major pay raise for the troops.
● TX-Sen: The Democratic pollster Beacon Research has conducted a survey on behalf of a group called the Democratic Policy Institute, and it shows Republican Sen. John Cornyn could be in for a competitive election. Matched up against four of the Democrats running against him, Cornyn leads state Sen. Royce West by 45-33, 2018 House candidate MJ Hegar by 44-30, former Rep. Chris Bell by 45-30, and 2018 Senate candidate Sema Hernandez by 45-29. However, those wide leads appear to be largely a function of the low name recognition of the Democratic field, since Cornyn leads a generic Democrat by only 46-44.
● CA-25: Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed Democrat Christy Smith in the special election for California's vacant 25th Congressional District, joining her state's junior senator, Kamala Harris, who also recently gave her backing to Smith.
● CA-50: Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to a single charge of conspiracy to convert campaign funds to personal use, bringing an end to a long-running corruption case that began more than three years ago. Hunter faces a prison term of up to five years when he's sentenced on March 17.
Prosecutors clarified that Hunter will not be required to resign his seat in Congress (which he's held since inheriting it from his father in 2008) as part of his plea deal, though they said they believe he'll do so soon.
● IL-06: The NRCC was dealt a heavy blow when its touted recruit, former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, dropped out of the race to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Sean Casten in October, leaving the GOP with former state Rep. Jeanne Ives as its only notable candidate in Illinois' 6th District. Ives is a conservative extremist who's a poor fit for this affluent and highly educated district in the western Chicago suburbs (check out this racist and transphobic ad she ran during her unsuccessful campaign for governor last year).
Hillary Clinton won this district 50-43 in 2016, though according to one analysis, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner carried it 50-45 last year despite getting blown out statewide.
● IL-07: A trio of contenders have filed to challenge longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the Democratic primary in Illinois' 7th District, a predominantly black seat covering Chicago's West Side and downtown. They include attorney Kristine Schanbacher, activist Kina Collins, and teacher Anthony Clark, who lost to Davis 74-26 last year. Davis, who is 78, has often flirted with retirement and declined to discuss his plans when the Chicago Tribune questioned him in April, but assuming his petitions are valid, we can take him off the retirement watch list.
One detail to note is that Davis, Collins, and Clark are black while Schanbacher is the lone white candidate. Schanbacher has actually outraised Davis, a notoriously weak fundraiser, though the incumbent has more cash in the bank.
● IL-11: Democratic Rep. Bill Foster drew a primary challenge from Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, who criticized the incumbent from the left when she launched her campaign, but it doesn't look like the well-connected Foster has much to fear. Ventura so far has raised just $18,000 while Foster has $3.2 million in the bank. Republicans haven't put up a serious challenge for the solidly blue 11th District, located in the southwestern Chicago suburbs, in years, and they won't in 2020 either.
● IL-13: After losing a heartbreaker by less than a percentage point last year, Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan quickly launched a rematch against GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois' 13th District and largely cleared the field for herself. (The only other Democrat, activist Stefanie Smith, hasn't reported raising any money yet.) This district, located around the capital of Springfield in the central part of the state, voted 50-44 for Trump but went for Democrat J.B. Pritzker 46-43 in last year's race for governor. Both Londrigan and Davis are monster fundraisers and this district will once again be highly competitive.
● IL-14: Seven different Republicans are challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood, who upset GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in the traditionally red 14th District last year. Hultgren, however, isn't among them: While he didn't rule out a comeback bid back in May, he did not file paperwork for a rematch.
The most prominent—but by no means best—contender is wealthy state Sen. Jim Oberweis, who has the most cash among the GOP hopefuls but sports a comically awful electoral track record. Remarkably, Oberweis is also reportedly the target of recruitment efforts in Florida's open 19th District, where he owns a home and hasn't ruled out running. However, the Sunshine State's filing deadline isn't until a month after the Illinois primary, so Oberweis could lose that race but still run again!
In the meantime, though, he has to deal with several actual opponents, including businessmen Ted Gradel, fellow state Sen. Sue Rezin, and former Trump administration official Catalina Lauf, plus three minor candidates. This district, based in the western Chicago exurbs, went 49-45 for Trump and 51-43 for Rauner, making this the reddest seat Democrats will be defending in Illinois in 2020.
● IL-15: Illinois' only open seat this cycle is the 15th District, where veteran GOP Rep. John Shimkus is retiring. This district occupies a wide swath of the east-central and southeastern parts of the state and is dark red turf (Trump won it 71-25), so the action will be found in the Republican primary, where six candidates have filed. The most notable appears to be farmer Mary Miller, whose husband is a state representative, while others include Altamont School Board member Kerry Wolff, Vermilion County Treasurer Darren Duncan, physician Charles Ellington, and former Trump state director Kent Gray. No one has filed a fundraising report yet.
● IL-17: Rep. Cheri Bustos is one of 31 Democrats nationwide to represent a seat Trump won (albeit by less than a point), but Republicans haven't managed to give her a stiff challenge in a long time. That doesn't seem likely to change next year: The congresswoman's only notable opponent, real estate attorney Esther Joy King, has so far raised just $123,000. Bustos, who as chair of the DCCC has unmatchable access to money, has $2.7 million in the bank. And King might not even wind up as her party's nominee: Conspiracy theorist Bill Fawell, who got crushed by Bustos last year, is running again for the 17th District, which is based in northwestern Illinois.
● IN-01: Attorney and environmental advocate Sabrina Haake is the latest Democrat to join the crowded primary to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky. Haake is running her first race and is the first LGBTQ candidate in the contest.
● ME-02: Penobscot County Treasurer John Hiatt is the latest Republican to jump into the primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, but he may have trouble gaining traction with primary voters based on his positions. Hiatt says he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 following the Access Hollywood video revelations about Trump, he supports universal health care and background checks for gun purchases, and he currently deems himself "neutral" when it comes to Trump. However, Hiatt also describes himself as anti-abortion and fiscally conservative.
Hiatt would also be the first autistic member of Congress if he were elected, and he joins a primary that includes 2018 Senate nominee Eric Brakey, former state Rep. Dale Crafts, and real estate agent Adrienne Bennett.
● NC Redistricting, NC-06, NC-13: Now that the court has lifted its injunction and congressional candidate filing has begun, candidates are starting to react to the passage of the GOP's new congressional map, and at least one incumbent has found himself in a difficult position: GOP Rep. Mark Walker. Walker said that he won't rush his decision, noting the Dec. 20 filing deadline, and hinted he could either run in the new 13th District or the 6th. Walker's predicament is that the new 6th is solidly Democratic and that running in the safely Republican 13th could set him on a collision course with fellow GOP Rep. Ted Budd.
However, despite his base in the suburbs of Greensboro being absent from the 13th District and Budd's being included, Walker may have a better claim to running in the 13th than Budd does. That's because 47% of the 2016 GOP primary voters in the new 13th are currently Walker's constituents, compared to 39% who are Budd's constituents. By contrast, 43% of the new 6th District's 2016 GOP primary voters are Budd constituents compared to just 26% who are currently represented by Walker.
Potentially running in the 13th against Budd wouldn't be the first time Walker has won a challenging primary. During his initial 2014 run for the previous version of the 6th District as a first-time candidate, Walker pulled off an upset landslide against then-Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., who is the son of powerful state Senate leader Phil Berger and was supported by the state GOP establishment.
● TX-11: Former congressional staffer Brandon Batch is up with his first TV ad ahead of the Republican primary for this open red seat. The minute-long spot focuses on his biography growing up in West Texas and how his mother struggled with multiple sclerosis. Batch promotes his conservative values and says he'll be a strong ally of Trump if elected.
● VA-07: State Sen. Bryce Reeves and 6th District Rep. Ben Cline have endorsed state Del. Nick Freitas for the Republican nomination to take on first-term Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. Reeves had been mentioned as a potential candidate himself, so his endorsement takes him out of the running. Freitas faces a primary that includes fellow state Del. John McGuire, former Trump Defense Department official Andrew Knaggs, and nonprofit director Tina Ramirez.
● WI-07: Filing closed on Monday for the May 12 special election for Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District, with two candidates from each major party making it on to the Feb. 18 primary ballot.
State Sen. Tom Tiffany and Army veteran Jason Church will compete for the Republican nod. Much of the state's GOP establishment, including ex-Gov. Scott Walker, have come out for Tiffany, but Church has a compelling story: He lost both legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan but later went to law school and worked as counsel for GOP Sen. Ron Johnson. (Johnson doesn't appear to have weighed in on the race.)
Democrats, meanwhile, will choose between Wausau School Board President Tricia Zunker and businessman Lawrence Dale. Zunker is also a justice on the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court and would be the state's first Native American member of Congress. As for Dale, he doesn't actually live in the district, which sprawls across most of northern Wisconsin, or even in the state: He hails from Ironwood, which lies just across the Montreal River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
This once-competitive seat, like many other rural white districts, has moved sharply toward the GOP in recent years: Mitt Romney carried the 7th by a small 51-48 margin in 2012, but Donald Trump won it 58-37 four years later. That pattern continued last year, when Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin won a 55-45 blowout statewide but lost the district 52-48, according to J. Miles Coleman. Republicans are therefore likely to hold this seat, which became vacant when former Rep. Sean Duffy resigned in September.