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.
● WA-Gov: On Friday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination. However, Q13 Fox reporter Simone Del Rosario asked him just after his campaign kickoff if this meant he was ruling out a bid for a third term as governor in 2020, to which Inslee replied, "No. No. No."
Washington's filing deadline isn't until May of next year, so Inslee can test his luck in plenty of presidential primaries before deciding what to do back at home. The last time a governor sought a third term was in 1972, though, so we'd be surprised if Inslee broke the streak.
For his part, Inslee told Q13 Fox reporter Brandi Kruse last month that he had "talked to other people who potentially could be interested" in running for governor, so he certainly doesn't seem to be trying to deter any Democrats from campaigning to succeed him. In recent weeks, both Attorney General Bob Ferguson and King County Executive Dow Constantine have expressed interest in running if Inslee doesn't.
Another Democrat, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, also said Thursday that "a lot of people have asked me to run and it's something I'm considering." Franz, whom the Seattle Times called a "favorite of Seattle environmentalists" during her 2016 campaign, won that year by a 53-47 margin against a Republican opponent.
A few Republicans are also eyeing this race. State Sen. Doug Ericksen, a longtime legislator from the Bellingham area in the northwestern part of the state, told Kruse he was considering. Ericksen was an early Trump supporter and served as vice chair of his state campaign, which is unlikely to play well in this blue state. Last year, Ericksen won re-election 50.03-49.97―a margin of 46 votes―in a seat that had narrowly backed both Clinton and Obama.
Another Republican who sounds very interested is 2016 gubernatorial nominee Bill Bryant, a former member of the Port of Seattle Commission. Bryant lost to Inslee 54-46 as Clinton was carrying Washington 53-37, and when Kruse asked him on Thursday if he was considering another try, he responded that "there is a lot of time to make that decision."
However, other Republicans seem less inclined to run. Former Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is the source of Washington's rain and lost the 2012 race to Inslee just 51.5-48.5, said Thursday that he had "no plans to run in the foreseeable future." State House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox acknowledged that he'd considered running for governor "but I really like the teamwork of the House."
Former Rep. Dave Reichert, who retired last year from a swingy House seat, said during the fall that running for office again wasn't "something that I'm seeking to do, but if I'm called to do it I may seek another office. But I doubt it." Reichert has since taken a job with a lobbying firm, and when he was asked about running for governor, his spokesperson said that he was "focusing on his new job" working on a project to combat human trafficking. That statement does not seem to have addressed this race, though.
Team Red hasn't won the governorship since 1980, which is the GOP's worst losing streak in the nation, but they did come close to victory in 2004 and 2012 even as Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama were carrying the state. It's always possible that, even with Trump dragging the GOP brand through the muck, Republicans could have an opening if enough voters are looking for change after 36 years of Democratic governors.
Washington, like California, also employs the top-two primary rather than party primaries, which further complicates things. All the contenders run on one ballot, and the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general. There's a chance that this system could lead to an all-Democratic or all-Republican general election should things go very wrong for one party.
This very outcome happened here in the 2016 top-two primary for state treasurer. The three Democratic candidates took a combined 51.6 percent of the vote in the primary, while the two Republicans took just 48.4 percent. However, because the larger Democratic vote was split three ways, it allowed the two Republicans to advance to the general election, which automatically gave Team Red control of an office they had last won in 1952.
● TX-Sen: On Friday, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro's spokesperson released a statement saying that the Texas congressman "will seriously consider running for Senate in 2020." Castro's team has not said when he expects to decide whether or not to challenge GOP Sen. John Cornyn, though his brother, presidential candidate Julian Castro, said that he "would imagine he would make a decision at some point soon."
Joaquin Castro, who has represented a safely blue seat in San Antonio since 2013, has been talked about as a rising star in Texas Democratic politics for a long time. However, while Castro has flirted with running for higher office several times, he's always stayed put.
● LA-Gov: On Thursday, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise once again said he was "not running for governor" of Louisiana this year against Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards, and ordinarily, Scalise's newest statement is the kind of straightforward announcement we'd take to the bank. However, there's reason to think that Scalise's "no" isn't as definitive as he may want it to seem.
To begin with, Politico reports that Scalise's latest declaration only came after weeks of "buzz" that he was "toying with the idea of running for governor" and that unnamed "[o]peratives in D.C. and Louisiana have been approaching Scalise, asking him to run." Scalise already said twice last year that he wouldn't run, including over the summer when he declared there was "no way" he would seek the governorship, but at least some insiders think that he's still considering despite that seemingly iron-clad pronouncement.
Scalise also followed his latest short statement with a series of comments that sound exactly like the sort of thing that politicians dodging this type of question always say. First, Scalise said, "There have been people who have asked me to run for a while. What I've told them is I appreciate their interest, but I have a job that I really enjoy." That's a classic "not-a-no" dodge and a far cry from his earlier declaration that there was "no way" he'd run.
Then, Scalise name-checked the two Republicans already in the race, businessman Eddie Rispone and Rep. Ralph Abraham, but followed that up by saying, "It's good to know there are good people running, let's see what they do." It's that "let's see what they do" that has us wondering what, in fact, Scalise is hoping to see. If he turns out to be unsatisfied with the efforts of Abraham and Rispone, will he decide to jump in himself? Our spidey-sense is telling us we can't rule out the possibility.
While we can't know exactly what Scalise is thinking, of course, we do know that some Republicans aren't happy with their two current choices. Scott Wilfong, the chair of the state party's rules committee, voiced some of the frustration out loud in mid-February, saying he'd "been getting a lot of chatter about, 'Is this the field?'" Wilfong added that there was "definitely some movement to try to get another candidate into the race," though he didn't name any alternatives.
State GOP chair Louis Gurvich soon pushed back and said that "[f]rom the party's perspective, we feel very confident that we have two great candidates in the race for governor," but it doesn't sound like Wilfong was just speaking for himself. A few days later, LAPolitics summed up the knocks against both declared Republicans, writing that "Abraham has the personality but not the money to win" while Rispone's detractors say he "has the money but not the personality to shake trees and move rooms."
Indeed, Wilfong characterized Abraham's first fundraising report, in which the congressman revealed he'd raised $357,000 during the final weeks of 2018, as "very concerning." The good news for Abraham's team, which insists they've been bringing in plenty of money since the start of the new year, is that the current fundraising quarter ends in about a month, so they'll soon have a chance to change the narrative about the financial state of their campaign.
However, Louisiana's candidate filing deadline isn't until Aug. 8, so Republicans who want an alternative to Abraham and Rispone have almost half a year to search for one. And it's not uncommon in the Pelican State for politicians to only decide whether they'll jump in in the last hours of the race, so these disgruntled Republicans may keep looking until the very possible moment. Even if no other major candidates end up running, this could mean five more months of Abraham and Rispone having to deal with chatter about how a better choice might be just around the corner.