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.
● Congress: Daily Kos Elections has updated our exhaustive guide to every member of Congress and the districts or states they represent to include the most up-to-date demographic data from the 2013-2017 American Community Survey, which is the Census Bureau’s large-scale statistical sampling of Americans to complement the data from the decennial census. Below, we'll detail the electoral and demographic information in our spreadsheet guide, and you can explore the data further in a post by Stephen Wolf with several maps and charts.
For each congressional district or state, our guide includes the following electoral and population demographics data:
- Daily Kos Elections' calculations of the 2008-2016 presidential elections by congressional district
- 2012-2018 House election results by district
- Senate election results by state for recent election cycles
- 2010 census racial demographics, which were used to draw each district, and the new 2013-2017 racial demographics by age and citizenship status to provide the most accurate estimation of the eligible voter population (You can find that data in a separate spreadsheet here that also provides a comparison for the new 2013-2017 estimates for the full population including non-citizens.)
- New 2013-2017 educational attainment estimates, including the proportion of adults with at least a high school education or at least a bachelor's degree, the latter looking at both the general population and among whites only
- New 2013-2017 median household income estimates, including among whites only
- Updated 2013-2017 data for our own approximation of the share of eligible voters who are whites without a college degree, which we did by combining the racial demographic estimates among citizens with educational attainment estimates among whites only
For each voting member of the House and Senate, we also have info on that member's:
- Race or ethnicity
- LGBTQ status
- Religious affiliation
- Name pronunciation
- WV-Gov: Stephen Smith (D): $148,000 raised (since November), $62,000 cash-on-hand; Mike Folk (R): $11,000 raised, $9,000 cash-on-hand
● KS-Sen: Kansas Chamber of Commerce Alan Cobb hasn't said much publicly about seeking the GOP nod for this open seat since January, but the Kansas City Star reports that he had meetings in D.C. earlier this month about a possible bid.
● MN-Sen, MN-02: The Twin Cities Pioneer Press' Dave Orrick asked two Republicans, former Rep. Jason Lewis and 2018 attorney general nominee Doug Wardlow, if they were considering challenging either Democratic Sen. Tina Smith or freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, and neither said no. Lewis, a former conservative talk radio host who lost his bid for a second term 53-47 against Craig, said of both races, "I'm taking a look at a lot of things." Wardlow, who lost to Democrat Keith Ellison 49-45, said he was "considering all options" when asked about each contest.
● NM-Sen: Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who still has the Democratic primary to himself, recently picked up the endorsement of the New Mexico Professional Fire Fighters Association. As we like to note, firefighters are usually good allies in political campaigns: They tend to stand out in crowds, and they're a group that almost everyone respects.
● TX-Sen: Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro has kept his party guessing about whether or not he'll challenge GOP Sen. John Cornyn, but so far, he hasn't been fundraising like a Senate candidate. Castro took in just $31,000 during the first three months of 2019, and he ended March with just $88,000 in the bank. As a point of comparison, then-Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who like Castro represented a safely blue House seat, took in $208,000 during the first quarter of 2017 while he was still considering whether to run for Texas' other Senate seat, and he ended that period with $535,000 on-hand.
● KY-Gov: State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins is out with his first TV spot ahead of the May 21 Democratic primary. Adkins begins by asking the audience if they know him and goes biographical, saying, "I play a little bluegrass" before he picks up a guitar and plays with a band, and that he "plowed the family farm using a team of mules."
The ad goes on to show a picture of Adkins when he was on the Morehead State basketball team back in the early 1980s, and the candidate explains he "[h]ad a little more hair then. Survived chemo and cancer. Lost my health care when I was laid off. Then I started my own business."
Adkins continues by saying that in the legislature he fought GOP Gov. Matt Bevin to protect health care and public schools, and declares the governor is "not one of us." Adkins' two main primary rivals, state Attorney General Andy Beshear and former state Auditor Adam Edelen, began advertising on TV weeks ago.
● NH-Gov: Mark Connolly, a former head of the state Bureau of Securities Regulation, died Saturday at the age of 63 after a sudden illness. Connolly had unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016, and back in January, the Concord Monitor wrote that his friends were urging him to run again.
● CA-15: An unnamed "person affiliated" with Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell's presidential bid recently confirmed to KTVU that the congressman isn't closing the door on running for a fifth term if his White House bid doesn't pan out. California's filing deadline is in December, and this source says Swalwell will make his final decision then on which office he'll seek in 2020.
Swalwell's would-be Democratic successors are well aware that this safely blue open seat may not be open when all is said and done. Hayward City Councilor Aisha Wahab announced she would run here on Friday, but she said that if Swalwell ends up seeking re-election her campaign "will re-evaluate then and there."
● CA-39: The Orange County Register recently asked 2018 GOP nominee Young Kim about her plans for this cycle, and she only told them that she wasn't ready to announce anything. The paper adds that Kim "is widely expected to make a bid" for a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros, who defeated her 51.6-48.4 in a very expensive race last cycle.
● CA-48: A little while ago, Republican Caleb Sturges, who works as a data scientist and economist for Peter Thiel's pro-floating cities nonprofit The Seasteading Institute, quietly kicked off a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda. Thiel is a prominent GOP donor and Trump ally, and it's possible Sturges will be able to raise a credible amount of cash through his connections to the would-be vampire.
● CA-49: GOP Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett tells the Orange County Register that she's considering challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Mike Levin. Only about a quarter of this seat is in Orange County (the balance is in San Diego County) so Bartlett likely wouldn't start with much name recognition.
This coastal California district, which includes San Diego's northern suburbs, was red turf until 2016 when it swung from 52-46 Romney to 51-43 Clinton. Longtime GOP Rep. Darrell Issa had narrowly won re-election that year but retired in 2018, and most major Republicans abandoned this race well before Election Day. Levin ended up beating Republican Diane Harkey 56-44, which was by far the GOP's worst defeat in any of the seven California House seats they lost last year.
● FL-05: Is Democratic Rep. Al Lawson thinking about retirement? In the first quarter of 2019, he raised exactly $25 from donors—and no, we're not missing any zeroes. To bring in that little money means he didn't send even a one fundraising email (unless it literally was just one email to a single person). The only other cash he raised was $22,000 from a variety of PACs, which requires almost no effort at all for a sitting member of Congress.
While Lawson has never been a strong fundraiser, in the first quarter of 2017, he did manage to pull in $67,000, including some $13,000 from actual humans. That makes his extremely low totals now all the more striking, particularly because last cycle, Lawson faced a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in this safely blue district that stretches across northern Florida. While Lawson turned Brown back by a comfortable 60-40 margin, he could definitely draw another primary opponent this cycle, but he's not acting as though he's at all concerned.
● IA-01: Former GOP Rep. Rod Blum hasn't said a word publicly about whether he might seek a rematch against the woman who ousted him last year, Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, but in his most recent FEC filing, he reported spending $11,000 on polling in January. And it looks like Blum did indeed order up a fresh survey: The disbursement—to Kellyanne Conway's old firm, The Polling Company—doesn't appear to be payment for an old bill from last cycle, since Blum's report specifically states the funds were spent toward 2020.
Blum's been doing a lot of candidate-y things lately, including running Facebook ads, traveling across his old district extensively, and sitting for a number of interviews. In other words, he's acting like his poll gave him the news he was hoping to hear, though of course he hasn't shared it with the world at large.
● IA-02: Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack’s Friday retirement announcement came as a surprise, but it took very little time for local politicians from both parties to express interest in this competitive southeastern Iowa seat.
On the Democratic side, state Sen. Rita Hart, who was Democratic gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell’s running mate last year, said she was considering. Fellow state Sen. Zach Wahls also quickly expressed interest, though he said he would support Hart if she ran. Attorney Ian Russell also didn’t rule out getting in, saying he had been encouraged to run but it was “too soon to know whether this is the right time for a congressional bid.” The local progressive blog Bleeding Heartland also mentioned state Rep. Wes Breckenridge as a possibility, but there’s no word on his interest.
Several Republicans are also eyeing this seat, including a couple of familiar names. State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was the GOP nominee against Loebsack in 2008, 2010, and 2014, said Friday that she would give a bid some thought. Miller-Meeks’ badly lost her first bid 57-39, but Loebsack defeated her by a modest 51-46 in a rematch that took place during the 2010 GOP wave. Four years later, during yet another GOP wave, Loebsack beat Miller-Meeks by a similar 52-47 margin. Miller-Meeks finally won elected office last year when she won an open state Senate seat 52-48.
Chris Peters, who was the GOP nominee in 2016 and 2018, didn’t rule out another try on Friday, saying he was on vacation in Italy and would “defer any further discussion for another week or two.” Peters raised very little money in 2016 and lost to Loebsack 54-46 as the seat was swinging from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump. Peters ran again last cycle but again failed to bring in much cash, and he lost 55-42.
State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann also expressed interest, though he said he was “in middle of legislative session,” which will last until early May. Kaufmann noted that one of the Republicans who had contacted him to inquire about his interest was his father, state party chair Jeff Kaufmann. The younger Kaufmann showed some interest in running here back in 2017, but he didn’t seem inclined to take on Peters at the time.
A number of media publications also name-dropped some other potential Republican candidates, though there’s no word on any of their interest. The names include: state Sens. Chris Cournoyer, Mark Lofgren, and Roby Smith; Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph; and Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher. Lofgren ran here in 2014 but lost the GOP primary to Miller-Meeks 49-38.
● NC-09: The political arm of the National Association of Realtors has a long history of heavy spending in races they care about, and they’re launching a massive buy in support former NAR official Leigh Thomas Brown in the May 14 GOP primary. The spot is not available yet, but the media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics says that NAR is spending a total of $868,000 here from Tuesday until primary day. So far, no other major outside groups have shown much interest in getting involved in this contest. If no one takes at least 30% of the vote in this crowded race, there would be a primary runoff in September.
Despite all of this, Brown is apparently upset that she’s not getting enough media exposure. On Monday, Brown announced she was suing the FEC for making her take down radio ads for her business while she’s running for office.
● NM-03: Santa Fe City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler is the latest local politician to express interest in running for this reliably blue open seat in northern New Mexico. Coppler, a Democrat who was elected last year, is the city’s former human resources director. She also works as a real estate agent, which could be useful if the National Association of Realtors, which has a history of heavy spending to elect their own from both parties, chooses to get involved here (see our NC-09 item for a recent example).
● NV-04: Former GOP Assemblyman Jim Marchant filed with the FEC in late January, and at some point, he updated his social media accounts to say that he's running for Congress. Marchant still may not have told his old donors, though, since he raised just $14,000 over the last two months for his bid against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford.
● NY-15: On Saturday, New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., a Bronx Democrat with a long history of homophobia, announced that he would run to succeed retiring Rep. José Serrano in New York's 15th Congressional District.
Diaz proudly declared he was "not progressive, I'm a conservative Democrat," and bemoaned that "a conservative Democrat has no voice." Diaz also called himself "the opposite" of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the prominent progressive who represents a neighboring House seat. Diaz is seeking a seat that gave Hillary Clinton 94% of the vote, but as we'll discuss, he unfortunately may have a real chance to win the primary for one of the bluest districts in the country.
As we've noted before, Diaz has a truly ugly record during his decades in office. As Ross Barkan recently recounted for Gothamist, Diaz "once equated being gay to 'having sex with animals' and attacked the 1994 Gay Games in New York because he said the participants were 'likely infected with AIDS.'"
It's not just words with him, though, it's deeds, too. Diaz once sued to block the expansion of a public school serving at-risk gay teens, and in 2011, he wasn't just the only Democrat in the state Senate to vote against legalizing same-sex marriage, he also led a rally to unsuccessfully try and derail the bill.
Diaz hasn't changed in the ensuring years, either. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Diaz, sporting his familiar cowboy hat, campaigned in the Bronx with Ted Cruz (a total of a dozen people showed up). During that race Diaz also said "I do like Donald Trump" and added, "He's like me, making enemies everywhere he goes."
In February, Diaz was stripped of his committee chairmanship after declaring the Council was "controlled by the homosexual community" in a radio interview, which set off widespread calls for his resignation. Diaz's son and namesake, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., also said the councilman should apologize, though he didn't called on him to resign: The elder Diaz has done neither. Around that same time, Diaz did take the time to express his disgust with Hispanic state legislators who voted for a bill to strengthen abortion rights protections, saying that because of them, "New York State became the abortion capital of the United States."
Unfortunately, none of this has stopped Diaz from winning Democratic primary after Democratic primary in one of the bluest communities in the country. In 2016, months after he stumped for Cruz, Diaz won renomination to his state Senate district with almost 90% of the vote. Diaz ran for the City Council the following year and won the five-way primary 42-21. Barken explained the problem in February when he noted that "[S]ocial conservatism has never been a disqualifier for politicians who want to rise to power in the Bronx" before rattling off a long list of local politicos with a history of hostility to gay rights.
While that last contest may show that Diaz's popularity has limits, it also underscores another potential problem here. It only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination for Congress, and in a crowded race, it's very possible Diaz's base could carry him to victory even if a majority of voters don't want him representing them.
We may well get that crowded race before too long. So far, the only other notable announced Democratic candidate is Tomas Ramos, the director of the Bronx River Community Center, who kicked off his bid over the weekend. However, nonprofit director Jonathan Ortiz and City Councilman Ritchie Torres have both filed paperwork with the FEC to run here, while plenty of other Democrats have expressed interest in running.
● NY-21: On Monday, 2018 Democratic nominee Tedra Cobb announced that she would seek a rematch against GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik. Cobb, a former member of the St. Lawrence County Legislature, raised a credible $1.5 million last year but lost 56-42. While this was a considerably closer race for Stefanik than her 2014 and 2016 victories, it still wasn't exactly a cliffhanger.
This upstate New York seat, which includes the rural North Country along the Vermont border, swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-40 Trump. According to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro also defeated Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo by a wide 59-35 margin last year.
● NY-24: Navy veteran Francis Conole announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. John Katko. Conole served two tours on active duty, including one deployment to Iraq, and went on to become a senior intelligence official with the U.S. Department of Defense. He also served as a Middle East policy adviser to then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and recently left the Pentagon to move back to Syracuse last month. Conole’s late grandfather, Patrick “Packy” Corbett, was the sheriff of Syracuse’s Onondaga County from 1964 to 1978, and he remains the only Democrat to have ever held that post.
Conole joins fellow Navy veteran Roger Misso in the Democratic primary to take on Katko in this 49-45 Clinton seat in the Syracuse area. 2018 nominee Dana Balter, who lost to Katko 53-47, has said she’ll announce her 2020 plans on Tuesday.
● NY-27: Republican Rep. Chris Collins, who survived re-election last year by less than a percentage point and is headed to trial on charges of insider trading, reported raising just $5,000 in the first quarter of 2019—almost all of it from PACs. While Collins is personally very wealthy and can replenish his coffers at any time (last cycle, he gave more than $1 million to his own campaign), this kind of absenteeism is unusual for him: In the first three months of 2017, for instance, he brought in about $280,000, split evenly between PACs and donors.
Collins, recently said he was still "debating" whether to seek re-election next year and suggested he wouldn't make a decision until "early next year." It looks like the "nay" side of the debate is currently winning.
P.S. About those PACs that gave to Collins: There were just two, the Tuesday Group and the Republican Main Street PAC. Both regard themselves as representing GOP "moderates" in the House. That's quite remarkable, considering that Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump. Oh, right, and he's still under indictment.
● TX-22: Over the weekend, attorney and local TV pundit Nyanza Moore announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Pete Olson. Moore set up a fundraising committee in late January and brought in $44,000 through March 31, and she ended the month with $19,000 on-hand. Moore will face 2018 nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni, who held Olson to a surprisingly close 51-46 win, in the primary.
Moore has worked as a political commentator on the local Fox affiliate, and as Media Matters noted, she didn't exactly distinguish herself in a conversation about LGBTQ rights back in 2017. At the time the GOP-led state Senate was making a move to pass a "bathroom bill" that would restrict access to transgender people. Joe Straus, a relatively moderate Republican who was the state House speaker, opposed this, saying he didn't "want the suicide of a single Texan on [his] hands." Moore's response was to say Straus made a "stupid statement" and she asked, "What does going to the bathroom have to do with suicide?"
Moore also added, "I don't know if the LGBT community has gotten so pressed with him to where they have convinced him that someone will actually kill themselves if they are forced to use a gender-identified bathroom." Moore's insensitive comments didn't take into account evidence that transphobic policies like this actually have put lives in danger. After North Carolina Republicans passed a similar bill in 2016, for instance, calls nearly doubled to a crisis hotline for transgender people.
● TX-24: Candace Valenzuela, a member of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board, announced on Monday that she’d seek the Democratic nod to take on longtime GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant. Valenzuela, who grew up poor and sometimes stayed in a homeless shelter, won office for the first time in 2017 by defeating an 18-year incumbent. Valenzuela, who is black and Mexican American, argued during that race that school board wasn’t anywhere as diverse as the student population, explaining, “It was more than half Hispanic, and yet there had only been one Latino board.”
Marchant had easily won re-election here until last year, when he only defeated Democratic rival Jan McDowell by a shockingly close 51-48 margin. It didn’t take long for politicos to speculate that Marchant would retire, but he dismissed that talk in December and bragged in February that he had a "pretty good war chest, and I'm adding to it quickly, earlier.” Marchant did haul in $238,000 during the first three months of 2019, which is considerably more than the $69,000 he raised at this point in the cycle two years ago, but it’s not a particularly intimidating number for an eight-term incumbent in a competitive seat. Marchant did end March with a serious $1.7 million on-hand, though.
This seat, which includes a small portion of the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth as well as most of the suburb of Irving, had been safely red turf until recently. However, after voting for Mitt Romney by a 60-38 margin in 2012, it went for Trump by a much narrower 51-45 in 2016, and according to the Texas Legislative Council, Beto O’Rourke actually edged Ted Cruz here 51-48.
● UT-04: So far no notable Republicans have entered the race against freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, but Team Red has a large bench here to recruit from. The Deseret News plays Great Mentioner and gives the names of three new Republicans who they say that party insiders have suggested could run here: state Rep. Ken Ivory, state Sen. Deidre Henderson, and state Sen. Dan Hemmert. Henderson ran in the 2017 special election for the neighboring 3rd District, but her campaign ended after she lost the convention to former state Rep. Chris Herrod, who proceeded to fall in the primary to now-Rep. John Curtis.
● Special Elections: There's one special election in Connecticut on tap for Tuesday:
CT-HD-19: This is a Democratic district located in West Hartford. This vacancy was created by former state Rep. Derek Slap's election to the state Senate in another special election that took place in February. As with all special elections in Connecticut, the candidates in this race were selected by their parties. The Democrat is former West Hartford school board member Tammy Exum, who was endorsed by Slap, while the Republican is businessman Bob Margolis, who runs a firearms training and safety company.
This district has been strongly blue at the presidential level, as Hillary Clinton carried it 66-29 and Barack Obama won it 58-41. However, Connecticut has proven to be shaky turf for Democrats in 2019 special elections. Two of the four Republican pickups this year have come in Connecticut, including one with a similar strongly Democratic profile.
Despite these concerns, Democrats have had little trouble holding this district in the past. Slap ran unopposed in 2018, and the closest the GOP has come here in recent times was Chris Barnes' 54-46 loss to Slap in 2016. Democrats currently control the state House 89-60 with two vacancies, including this one.