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.
● NC-03: Expect plenty more like this over the next million years: a Republican ad that tries to turn New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into a scary socialist bogeyman (bogeywoman?). Michele Nix, a vice-chair of the North Carolina GOP and one of 17 Republicans desperately trying to distinguish themselves in the special election primary for the state's 3rd Congressional District, has launched a spot in which she snipes that AOC "has the media" and "has the followers," but "bless her heart, she has some terrible ideas."
For those of you unfamiliar, "bless your heart" is ordinarily a passive-aggressive Southern insult designed to cloak contempt beneath a veneer of gentility. It's goofy to use here, though, because Nix is open in her hostility: "Guaranteeing government jobs for some, while killing small-town jobs for others" is what Ocasio-Cortez's platform amounts to, she gripes. "Her 'green deal' is a bad deal for North Carolina." Nix concludes, "I'll stand up to socialism. Congress needs a good strong dose of conservative, mature common sense"—which sounds like a jab at the 29-year-old congresswoman's age.
This isn't the first GOP advertisement this year to reference AOC—Republican D. Raja, who's running in an April 2 special election for the Pennsylvania state Senate, splashed her photo on-screen alongside those of Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders—but it's the first we've seen that makes her the centerpiece. We'll soon see if it works—and whether Nix's rivals try to imitate her.
● AL-Sen: In its ongoing attempt to prove that other Republicans shouldn't bother trying to run against Rep. Mo Brooks in next year's GOP primary for Senate, the nihilistic Club for Growth has released another poll purporting to show Brooks in the pole position. The survey, from WPA Intelligence, finds Brooks up 43-32 on the lone declared Republican candidate, fellow Rep. Bradley Byrne, a result that seemingly looks good.
But just last week, another WPA poll for the Club had Brooks leading 2017 nominee Roy Moore by a much wider 52-32 margin. And notably, in this latest poll, fully 25 percent of primary voters remain undecided. There's also the problem that in the GOP primary two years ago, Brooks finished a distant third with less than 20 percent of the vote—not the kind of track record that's likely to scare off many opponents.
What's more, the field is likely to look quite a bit more complicated, given how eager Alabama Republicans are to unseat Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Several others (including Moore) are considering the race, and a new name just joined their ranks: former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum, who in 1995 became the first deaf woman to win the crown and has reportedly been polling the contest.
● IN-Gov: Democrats haven't won the governorship in Indiana since 2000, but at least one potential candidate is considering a bid against Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb next year. Brian Howey of the newsletter Howey Politics reports that former state Health Commissioner Woody Myers is thinking about a bid—or "playing a more national role," whatever that might mean. Myers was the state's top health official in the second half of the 1980s, a role he also went on to play in New York City amidst the burgeoning AIDS crisis before resigning in 1991 after just over a year on the job.
Since then, Myers has largely worked in the private sector, though he did once run for office: In 2008, he finished a distant second to now-Rep. Andre Carson in the Democratic primary for the special election for Indiana's 7th Congressional District, despite self-funding over $2 million.
Howey adds that state Sen. Eddie Melton and former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel (a name Howey's mentioned before) could run as well. He further says that former state House Speaker John Gregg, who was the Democratic nominee for governor in both 2012 and 2016, "has been making rounds but isn't talking." Howey also notes that more possibilities are expected to emerge once the legislature concludes its current session, which is set to end by April 29.
Some potential candidates appear to be out of contention, though. While former Sen. Joe Donnelly has always sounded unlikely to run—and in fact just took as a job with a lobbying firm—Howey now says he's a "no." The same goes for Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, who had previously urged Donnelly to run, and two other mayors: Greg Goodnight of Kokomo and Joe Hogsett of Indianapolis.
● KY-Gov: In the Department of Awful Things That Should Matter Electorally But Probably Won't, Republican Gov. Mike Bevin told a radio host on Tuesday that rather than vaccinate his nine children against chicken pox, he deliberately exposed all of them to a sick neighbor so that they could contract the disease instead.
Medical experts universally condemn the practice, calling it dangerous, because even healthy children can experience serious complications and even die from the virus. Predictably, though, Bevin also insisted that the federal government "should not be forcing this upon people"—"this" being a safe practice that has saved countless lives, including those of people too immunocompromised to receive vaccinations themselves.
Meanwhile, Bevin's underdog challenger in the May 21 primary, state Rep. Robert Goforth, has unveiled his first TV ad. In the awkward and cheaply produced spot, Goforth is shown on his farm touting his local roots, saying, "It's time we have a governor from Kentucky and Main Street, not New England and Wall Street." That's a jab at Bevin, who grew up in New Hampshire but moved to Kentucky 20 years ago. Goforth says his ad is running statewide on cable and in a couple of local broadcast markets, but when asked about the size of the buy, he responded with just one word: "YUGE." We tend to doubt it.
● MT-Gov: Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, whose aims have been the subject of a fair bit of speculation ever since reports first emerged in January that he's considering a second bid for governor, just released a statement that will do nothing to tamp down all the chatter. Gianforte's office would only say that the congressman is "honored by the trust and confidence Montanans have in him and remains focused on the job they elected him to do"—which reads like the very definition of not ruling out a run for higher office.
But as Gianforte dithers, the GOP field grows. In a rather understated campaign launch, state Sen. Al Olszewski told MTN News this week that he's joining the race for governor, but he hasn't even bothered to tweet out an announcement. Two noteworthy Republicans are also already running, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and state Attorney General Tim Fox.
On the Democratic side, no one has yet entered the race to succeed Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who's term-limited. However, Bullock's lieutenant governor, Mike Cooney, now says he's weighing a run, though he didn't specify any sort of timetable for a decision. Cooney has a long history in Montana politics, which includes three successful bids for secretary of state in the 1980s and 90s, bookended by terms in the state House (to which he was first elected at just 22) and state Senate. He also ran for governor once before, finishing a distant third in the 2000 Democratic primary.
One other possibility noted by MTN News is attorney John Heenan, who narrowly lost last year's Democratic primary for Montana's at-large House seat to former state Rep. Kathleen Williams (see our MT-AL item for more on what she's up to now). MTN says that Heenan "may consider" a bid, but only "if Gianforte gets in," which is a telling aside. As Montana State University political science Prof. David Parker notes, the thuggish Gianforte could be "a more polarizing figure" than alternative GOP candidates, thereby giving Democrats a better chance of extending their unlikely 16-year streak in the governor's mansion.
In addition, there's also Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins, who says he's also examining Senate and House bids. There's more on him as well in our MT-AL item below.
● IL-06: Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business reported on Wednesday that former Republican state Sen. Karen McConnaughay was considering a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Sean Casten, according to unnamed "GOP sources." However, after his piece was published, McConnaughay called Hinz to say she's "not interested" in running, though those words are his rather than hers. McConnaughay's name last surfaced in an unusual story in December, when she said that former Gov. Bruce Rauner had approached her last year about taking his place on the Republican ticket for governor. McConnaughay demurred—wisely, seeing as Rauner got obliterated in November.
● IN-05, IN-AG: Howey Politics reports that former state Sen. Mike Delph, who got crushed by Democrat J.D. Ford in his bid for re-election last year, is weighing a challenge to Rep. Susan Brooks. While Brooks is an unambiguous conservative, she's decidedly establishment-flavored, though she may have fallen out of favor with party honchos, too, since she was booted from a key leadership role after the midterms.
Delph, a hardcore extremist, had considered bids for Senate in 2012, 2016, and 2018 but declined all three times, so he may be more talk than action. Democrats would very much like it, though, if they had the opportunity to pursue Indiana's 5th as an open seat, since it's a well-educated and relatively affluent suburban district that could flip under the right circumstances.
They may get their chance, though, no matter what Delph decides: Howey also says that Brooks is being urged to run against state Attorney General Curtis Hill, whom fellow Republicans have called on to resign after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct last year. Hill has refused, but while he avoided criminal charges, he now faces disciplinary proceedings that could lead to the loss of his law license—and thereby his job.
Notably, nominations for attorney general are handled at party conventions in Indiana rather than via primary, and Brooks did not fare well the last time she threw herself on the mercy of such insiders. In 2016, after Trump tapped Gov. Mike Pence as his running-mate, a 22-member committee of the state GOP chose Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb as his replacement in the race for governor by a 14-8 vote. A convention, though, would feature over a thousand delegates, and if the party remains arrayed against Hill, then Brooks ought to do better under such a scenario.
● MT-AL: If Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte enters Montana's open-seat race for governor—see our separate MT-Gov item above—that'd set off an inevitable scramble for his House seat, which he won by an uncomfortably close spread in a 2017 special election after assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs and lying about the attack to police.
While plenty of Republicans would be sure to pile in, for the first time, some Democratic names are surfacing. Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, who as Team Blue's nominee in 2018 held Gianforte to a 51-46 margin despite the fact that Trump had carried the state by 20 points just two years earlier, now tells MTN News that she's contemplating a second bid. She adds that she plans to make a decision "early next month," and unnamed sources say they expect her to go for it.
Another possibility is Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins, who says he's thinking about all three of Montana's big 2020 races: Senate, governor, and House. Collins, a Liberian refugee, made headlines last year when he narrowly defeated incumbent Jim Smith, becoming the state's first-ever black mayor. He's refusing to say which party banner he'd run under for statewide office, but after last year's officially nonpartisan campaign, he explained, "I lean Democrat" but "see myself as a progressive."
As for the GOP, would-be House candidates have largely remained silent as they wait on Gianforte to make up his mind. MTN does say, though, that state Auditor Matt Rosendale, who lost last year's Senate race to Democrat Jon Tester, "is expected to consider running." Rosendale sought this seat once before, finishing third in the Republican primary back in 2014. But despite his weak electoral track record, the radical anti-taxers at the Club for Growth are pushing hard for him to enter.
● NY-15: It looks like New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres is about to forge ahead with a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano: An invitation for an April 11 fundraiser to benefit him describes him as "Democratic Candidate for Congress (NY-15)." In addition, he just filed paperwork to create a campaign committee with the FEC. Previously, Torres had said he was considering a bid, and earlier this month, the New York Post reported that he would indeed run.