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-09: Yowza! Democrat Dan McCready announced on Tuesday that he raised a monster $1.6 million in the first quarter of the year and has $1.46 million in cash-on-hand as he awaits the outcome of the GOP primary in the do-over special election for North Carolina's 9th District that awaits us later this year. In the same quarter in 2017, only two House candidates put up numbers in the same realm: Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Jon Ossoff, both of whom were also running in hotly contested special elections.
None of the 10 Republicans running, meanwhile, have yet shared their fundraising hauls. However, they'll have to file reports with the FEC by midnight Eastern time on Monday. Republicans are, however, gearing up for their May 14 primary, with state Sen. Dan Bishop releasing the first TV ad of the race. In it, Bishop berates "[t]hese crazy liberal clowns" as headshots of Democratic bogeymen (most prominently AOC) digitally mounted to the top of several bop bags sway back and forth. The National Journal reports that the spot is backed by a "six-figure district-wide buy."
- NH-Sen: Jeanne Shaheen (D-inc): $1.4 million raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
- VA-Sen: Mark Warner (D-inc): $1.4 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
- LA-Gov: John Bel Edwards (D-inc): $2.6 million raised, $10.2 million cash-on-hand
- MT-Gov: Tim Fox (R): $204,000 raised (since Jan. 1); Corey Stapleton (R): $65,000 raised (includes money raised in 2018)
- AL-01: Jerry Carl (R): $387,000 raised
- AZ-01: Eva Putzova (D): $31,000 raised, $20,000 cash-on-hand
- KS-03: Sharice Davids (D-inc): $450,000 raised
- TX-10: Pritesh Gandhi (D): $161,000 raised (in one month), $157,000 cash-on-hand
● AZ-Sen: On Monday, the DSCC gave its endorsement to former astronaut Mark Kelly in the race to unseat GOP Sen. Martha McSally, sending a public signal to other would-be contenders that D.C. power brokers would prefer they stay out. The most notable Democrat who hasn't made up his mind is 9th District Rep. Greg Stanton, who in February did not rule out a bid after repeatedly getting pressed on the question by a local reporter.
More recently, former state Rep. Chris Deschene, who unsuccessfully sought the presidency of the Navajo Nation in 2014, said last month that he was considering a run. Since that time, Kelly announced he'd raised more than $4 million in his first two months on the campaign trail, putting any potential primary opponents at a serious disadvantage if they choose to enter now.
● NH-Gov: If Republican Gov. John Sununu runs for Senate next year, that'd be welcome news for the NRSC but a difficult development for their counterparts at the RGA, who'd have to defend an open governorship in a swing state with the added unknown of Trump's impact at the top of the ballot. Should Sununu decide to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, though, the National Journal's Madelaine Pisani mentions two new possible GOP alternatives for the gubernatorial race: state Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse, and state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who very narrowly lost the 2016 primary to Sununu.
● UT-Gov: In response to reports that he's contemplating a return to the Utah political scene, former Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman would only say that there's "nothing to consider until our current commitment is done." That "current commitment" refers to his present status as U.S. ambassador to Russia, but of course, diplomats serve at the pleasure of those who appoint them, so if Huntsman really means it, then he's on the hook until he pisses off Trump (or Putin) and gets called home.
● CA-15: On Monday, Rep. Eric Swalwell, who has represented California's safely blue 15th Congressional District in the San Francisco Bay Area since his 2012 win, announced that he would join the Democratic presidential primary. While California appears to allow Swalwell to both seek re-election and run for president at the same time, he's said repeatedly he won't do that.
However, the congressman gave himself some wiggle room a few weeks ago to pursue a fifth term if a White House bid falters. Swalwell told the San Jose Mercury News that "if I'm in the [presidential] race," by the time the state filing deadline comes up, "I'm going to stay running for president." California's filing deadline is in December, so if Swalwell keeps his word, he'll need to decide if he wants to continue running for president before any primaries or caucuses have taken place.
For now, though, we have an open seat race in the 15th. This seat, which includes the communities of Hayward, Livermore, and Pleasanton, backed Hillary Clinton 70-24, and Democrats should have no trouble holding it. Indeed, this seat is so blue that there's a real possibility that two Democrats will advance through the top-two primary and fight it out in the general election, which is exactly what happened in 2012.
While the borders—and the numbering—of the 15th District have of course shifted over the years, it's always been centered around Alameda County south of Oakland, on the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay (better known as the East Bay). Notably, the last time this district came open was in 1924, when Republican Rep. Albert Carter won it. Carter went on to lose to Democrat George Miller in 1944, and remarkably, between Miller (not to be confused with another former California Democratic congressman with the same name) and Swalwell, only one other representative ever served here: Democrat Pete Stark, who unseated Miller in a primary in 1972.
In 2012, when an independent redistricting commission redrew California's lines for the first time, Stark sought re-election in the new 15th District, which included a little less than half of the constituency that he'd represented over the prior decade. Most local Democrats were content to wait and allow Stark, who would turn 81 just after Election Day, to hold the seat just a bit longer before he retired. But Swalwell, a little-known member of the Dublin City Council and an Alameda County prosecutor, decided to take his chances and challenge the longtime incumbent.
That gamble worked out very well for him. Stark, who had not faced any serious competition in decades, drew negative headlines on the campaign trail when he accused Swalwell of taking bribes without providing a shred of evidence and labeled him a "fucking crook." The two each advanced to the general election, and in a contest where more and more stories about Stark's behavior kept surfacing, Swalwell won 52-48. In 2014 state Sen. Ellen Corbett, one of the Democrats who had wanted to run whenever Stark retired, ran against Swalwell, but her third-place finish in the top-two primary likely helped convince other local politicians to just wait out the new congressman rather than challenge him.
They may have to wait a bit longer, though, since some Democrats might be hesitant to launch a congressional campaign knowing that Swalwell could yet return home and run for re-election. However, the Mercury News' Casey Tolan asked a few local politicians about their interest in this race back in late March, and a few showed some interest in getting in. State Sen. Bob Wieckowski said, "If ultimately Congressman Swalwell decides to not file for re-election, I will consider it then." Wieckowski represents a little over 60 percent of the 15th District, so he would likely start out with some name recognition should he run.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta didn't rule out running last month, saying it was "way too premature for me to be making any decisions." However, Bonta's Oakland-based seat barely overlaps at all with this congressional district: Indeed, at the time the 2010 Census was conducted, all of 42 people lived in both seats. Hayward City Councilor Aisha Wahab also didn't say no. Wahab, whose win last year made her one of the first Afghan American women to ever win elected office, told Tolan that she was leaving "all doors open." In the no camp are Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Assemblyman Bill Quirk.
Unsurprisingly, the list of potential GOP candidates is much shorter. Former Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, who narrowly lost re-election last year, didn't quite rule it out a few weeks ago, saying she did "not have any plans to run for CD15 should Eric not run for re-election."
● NJ-02: Former construction company CEO David Richter, who had reportedly been considering a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew, says he has formed an exploratory committee ahead of a possible campaign, though he did not announce a timetable for making a decision. Richter is reportedly wealthy and potentially has the ability to self-fund, but he also has a liability: He currently lives in Princeton, which is both geographically and culturally distant from New Jersey's southernmost 2nd District.
● NJ-07: Even though Republicans are reportedly about to land their dream candidate, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, one potential alternative is still suggesting she could make the race. Attorney Rosemary Becchi said this week she hasn't ruled out a campaign but didn't offer a timetable for making a decision, saying only that she wants to focus on her anti-tax advocacy group, Jersey First.
A couple of Republican legislators, Assemblyman Erik Peterson and state Sen. Mike Doherty, also haven't completely closed the door on running, but neither has spoken publicly since word of Kean's apparent bid surfaced on Monday.
However, another possible candidate has just said no: former Rep. Leonard Lance, who was unseated by Malinowski 52-47 last year. We hadn't seen any previous talk of a Lance rematch, so it would have been a surprise had the 66-year-old ex-congressman wanted back in. Instead of running himself, Lance offered heaps of praise for Kean and said he "very well may" offer a formal endorsement if and when he enters the race.
● NJ-11: Reinier Prijten's newborn campaign for Congress is starting to look stillborn. It turns out that Pritjen, a financial industry executive who's challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Mike Sherrill, doesn't even live in the state of New Jersey—and never has. Rather, a spokesperson admits, he's "lived in the New York region most of the last 30 years," which is not really the best way for an aspiring politician to describe his relationship to the Garden State, which forever has a chip on its shoulder about its rather more famous neighbor to the east.
The same spokesperson also says that Prijten "will become a full-time resident of Morristown" in May, which is quite curious, because on his campaign website, Prijten says he "resides with his son in Morristown," present tense. He reminds us of another would-be New Jersey politician: disgraced Goya Foods fratboy Andy Unanue, who announced his (incredibly brief) campaign for Senate in 2008 while on a ski vacation in Vail, Colorado—and also lived in New York.
Last week, immediately after launching his bid, anti-immigrant blog posts Prijten once wrote immediately came to light. Prijten said he stood by his writings, apparently heedless of the irony that he himself is an immigrant from the Netherlands.
● NM-03: Local reporter Joe Monahan channels the Great Mentioner—yes, he invokes our old friend by name—and identifies attorney Teresa Leger de Fernandez as a possible Democratic candidate for New Mexico's open 3rd Congressional District. Monahan notes that Leger (the name she goes by professionally) "has done considerable business with Native American tribes" and was named a White House fellow by Bill Clinton in 1994.
● NY-01: Newsday's Mark Chiusano reports that Democrat Nancy Goroff, who chairs of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, expects to announce whether she'll run for New York's 1st Congressional District in July, "after she wraps up some of her academic professional obligations." (Waiting for the semester to end is like the academic equivalent of waiting for the legislative session to end.)
Chiusano also relays that a spokesperson for EMILY's List says the group has been in touch with Goroff, who says she's spoken to the DCCC as well. In addition, Chiusano notes that Goroff may be able to self-fund: She's been a big donor to Democratic causes, and her ex-husband, whom she recently divorced, used to work at Renaissance Technologies, one of the most profitable hedge funds of all time.
● TX-07: Republican Cindy Siegel resigned her position on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County on Monday in order to run for Congress. Siegel rather oddly didn't specify which district she'd seek, but the only plausible option is Texas' 7th District, which is held by freshmen Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher. That's because, prior to serving on the transit authority's board, Siegel served for eight years as the mayor of the small city of Bellaire, which is located in the Houston area and is contained entirely in the 7th.
Siegel does not have the primary to herself, however. Last week, Army veteran Wesley Hunt joined the race, reportedly at the urging of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
● Deaths: South Carolina Democrat Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, who served as governor from 1959 to 1963 and in the Senate from 1966 to 2005, died Saturday at the age of 97. Hollings was elected governor as an ardent segregationist, but during his tenure, he helped peacefully integrate the state's public schools and accepted that the colleges must also be desegregated. At the end of his term as governor he told the legislature they "must make clear South Carolina's choice, a government of laws rather than a government of men. This should be done with dignity."
Hollings had run for the U.S. Senate in 1962 but lost the Democratic primary, which was still largely the only contest that mattered, 66-34 to incumbent Olin Johnson. Johnson died in office and Gov. Don Russell, whom Hollings had defeated in the 1958 primary, resigned from office to accept a Senate appointment from the new governor. Hollings won their primary rematch 61-39, but he faced a challenging general election in a state where Republicans were quickly gaining strength. The state's other senator, Strom Thurmond, had joined the GOP in 1964 months ahead of Barry Goldwater's 59-41 win against President Lyndon Johnson.
On Nov. 8, 1966, Hollings won election to the Senate on what proved to be an unusual day in American politics. The infamous Thurmond won his first race as a Republican 62-38 while at the same time, Hollings beat Republican Marshall Parker in a special election for the final two years of Johnston's term 51-49. That marked the last time that a Republican and a Democrat each won a Senate race held in the same state on the same day. Hollings and Thurmond would serve together for 36 years, which helped make Hollings the longest-serving junior senator in American history.
While Hollings' own 1984 presidential bid went nowhere, he easily won re-election for decades. In 1986, his GOP foe was Henry McMaster, who is now South Carolina's governor. McMaster suggested during that campaign that Hollings take a drug test to which the incumbent responded, "I'll take a drug test if you'll take an IQ test." Neither test happened, but Hollings won 63-36. However, Hollings only pulled off a 50-47 victory six years later. His final re-election campaign against GOP Rep. Bob Inglis ended with Hollings prevailing 53-46. Hollings retired in 2004 and Republican Jim DeMint decisively won the race to succeed him.
● Radio: On Sunday night, Jeff Singer appeared on Kudzu Vine to discuss a wide variety of topics including the 2020 Senate battlegrounds. Click here to listen to a recording.