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.
● NM-Sen: On Monday, Rep. Ben Ray Luján became the first major Democrat to announce a bid to succeed New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat who announced last week that he would retire. Luján was chair of the DCCC during the last two election cycle, including during the party's enormously successful 2018 year, so he will enter the contest with plenty of fundraising connections. Luján would furthermore be the first Latino senator of this plurality Latino state since Democratic Sen. Joseph Montoya lost reelection in 1976.
Luján, who has represented the northern third of New Mexico in the House since his 2008 win, also hails from a prominent local family. All the way back in 1989, then-GOP Sen. Pete Domenici joked that New Mexico may as well have three parties: The Democrats, the Republicans, and the Lujáns. Ben Ray Luján's late father served as speaker of the state House from 2002 until his death in 2012, and Democratic Gov. Michelle Luján Grisham and the congressman are distant cousins by marriage.
Luján will be a formidable opponent in the primary in this Democratic-leaning state, but he may still have to fight to win his party's nomination. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is eyeing the race, and she reportedly told last Luján week that she'd be willing to run against him. Freshman Rep. Deb Haaland and Valerie Plame, the CIA agent whose identity was infamously leaked by the Bush administration, are also considering running in the Democratic primary.
● Election Night: Starting Off On the
Light Right Foot: We have our first major election night of 2019 on Tuesday, and we have much to see across the nation. We've put together our preview of the big contests to watch here.
Chicago will hold its general election for mayor, while Kansas City, Missouri will host a very crowded nonpartisan mayoral primary. In Pennsylvania, Democrats are hoping to flip a competitive state Senate seat, while Team Blue is trying to hold a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat in a race that could prove vital to rolling back Republican gerrymandering. Finally, in Las Vegas, a disgraced former Democratic congressman is hoping to win a City Council seat. You can find out more about each race here.
The first polls close at 8 PM ET (7 PM Central Time) in Chicago, Kansas City, and Pennsylvania, and we'll begin our liveblog at Daily Kos Elections then, as well as tweeting. Polls close at 9 PM ET in Wisconsin (8 PM local time), and in Las Vegas at 10 PM ET (7 PM local time). We hope you'll join us on Tuesday for a big election night!
It's that time again! The deadline for House and Senate candidates to file their quarterly fundraising reports (covering the period from Jan. 1 through March. 31 of this year) is April 15, but it's common for campaigns to leak their numbers early to generate some press. (Deadlines vary by state for gubernatorial contenders and often aren't quarterly.)
We'll be posting numbers as we get them, and we’ll be releasing our House and Senate fundraising chart after the April 15 deadline.
● CA-10: Josh Harder (D-inc): $800,000 raised
● KS-01, KS-Sen: Roger Marshall (R-inc): $700,000 raised
● SC-01: Joe Cunningham (D-inc): $650,000 raised
● MN-Sen: The National Journal recently reported that some Republicans were trying to recruit 2018 attorney general nominee Doug Wardlow to challenge Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, and Wardlow responded by sharing the article multiple times on Twitter. Wardlow also retweeted posts from the local tip-sheet Minnesota Morning Take saying that he was "positioning to run against Tina Smith."
● KY-Gov: State Attorney General Andy Beshear is out with his first TV ad ahead of the May 21 Democratic primary. Beshear, who narrates the ad, begins by focusing on a young boy named Lukas who has diabetes, telling the audience, “Some politicians are trying to take away health care coverage for pre-existing conditions. That would hurt Lukas and nearly half of all Kentuckians.”
Beshear pledges not to allow that to happen, and declares that he’s helping lead a “national effort to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions,” and that as governor, he’ll “protect expanded Medicaid,” something that GOP Gov. Matt Bevin won’t do. There is no word on the size of the buy.
● MO-Gov: The Kansas City Star reports that plenty of Missouri conservatives have grown disenchanted with GOP Gov. Mike Parson, and that they're particularly pissed over his unsuccessful attempts to raise revenue to repair bridges. However, while Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was repeatedly mentioned as a potential primary foe, he told the paper he "fully support[s] the current governor" and that he "expect[s] I'm going to run for secretary of state" in 2020.
The only other person mentioned as a possible primary candidate was Tony Monetti, who lost last year's Senate primary to eventual winner Josh Hawley by a lopsided 59-10 margin.
● AZ-06: Physician Hiral Tipirneni, who was Team Blue's nominee for the neighboring 8th District last year in both the special election and regular contest, filed paperwork over the weekend to challenge GOP Rep. David Schweikert in the 6th District. Tipirneni has not yet announced she's in, though she publicly expressed interest in the race for this 52-42 Trump seat back in February.
● CA-10: Over the weekend, former Tracy City Councilor Ted Howze announced that he would challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Harder. Howze ran in last year's top-two primary and came unexpectedly close to reaching the general election last year against incumbent Jeff Denham, a fellow Republican. Harder edged out Howze just 17.0-14.6, a margin of a little more than 3,000 votes, for the second-place general election spot. Howze set up a 2020 campaign committee just weeks after his primary defeat, well before Denham lost the general to Harder.
● CA-15, MA-06: Both Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts have been flirting with joining the Democratic presidential primary, and each recently promised a decision soon.
Politico reported on Monday that Swalwell attended a fundraiser on Friday and declared, "Don't tell anybody, but I'm announcing in two weeks." (Apparently, someone told.) On Sunday, Moulton told CNN he would make up his mind "in the next few weeks." Moulton still has not made it clear if he'd run for re-election and for president at once, which is allowed under state law, while Swalwell says he won't seek both offices at the same time.
● CA-45: On Monday, GOP Yorba Linda Councilor Peggy Huang filed paperwork with the FEC to raise money for a campaign against freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, though she has not announced anything publicly yet. All of Yorba Linda is in neighboring the 39th District, which is held by another freshman Democrat, Gil Cisneros.
● CO-04: Rep. Ken Buck was elected chair of the Colorado Republican Party over the weekend, and he quickly confirmed that he would be staying in the House.
● IN-05: While Howey Politics reported a few weeks ago that GOP Rep. Susan Brooks was being urged to challenge scandal-tarred Attorney General Curtis Hill at next year's GOP nominating convention, she told Roll Call last week that she would indeed be seeking re-election. While there's no direct quote from Brooks, reporter Simone Pathé writes that Brooks is sticking around and is "energized by her position as chairwoman of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee."
Brooks has been accustomed to easy wins in this suburban Indianapolis seat, which went 53-41 Trump, but this year could be different. Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly carried this seat during his unsuccessful 2018 re-election campaign, and Team Blue is trying to recruit former state Rep. Christina Hale. Howey Politics also recently reported that former state Sen. Mike Delph, a conservative hardliner who got crushed by Democrat J.D. Ford in his bid for re-election last year, is considering a primary bid against Brooks.
● MI-06: Democratic state Rep. Jon Hoadley tells Politico that he's considering a bid against longtime GOP Rep. Fred Upton. Hoadley has represented a safely blue Kalamazoo seat since 2014, a win that at the time made him one of just two gay Michigan state legislators. (Hoadley would also be his state's first gay member of Congress.) 2018 nominee Matt Longjohn, who lost to Upton 50-46, is also reportedly considering another bid.
● MN-08: Former Democratic state Rep. Joe Radinovich, who lost last year's open seat race to Republican Pete Stauber 51-45, tells Roll Call that he's considering another try but likely wouldn't decide until the summer. They also mention former Duluth news anchor Michelle Lee as a potential candidate, but there's no word from her about any interest. Lee lost the 2018 primary to Radinovich 44-28 and a 2019 special election primary for state Senate by a 53-47 margin.
This seat, which includes the Iron Range in the state's northeast corner, is ancestrally blue turf, but it's become very rough territory for Democrats in recent years. The district swung from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump, and it was the rare House seat that went from blue to red in 2018. Democrats Tina Smith and Tim Walz also narrowly lost the seat even as they were winning the special Senate election and gubernatorial contest by double digits last year, and Democrats also lost control of an Iron Range state Senate seat in a February special.
● NM-03: Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján's decision to run for the Senate opens up his northern New Mexico House seat, which includes the state capitol at Santa Fe, and Team Blue should be able to keep it this Clinton 52-37 seat (Libertarian Gary Johnson, the state's former GOP governor, won an additional 9%) without much trouble.
On Monday, freshman state Rep. Joseph Sanchez, who represents a seat to the northeast of Santa Fe, became the first Democrat to announce he would run here, and he's unlikely to be the last. Local political writer Joe Monahan took a look at the potential primary field a few days before Luján kicked off his Senate bid.
The possible candidates Monahan mentioned are state House Speaker Brian Egolf; Public Regulation Commissioner Valerie Espinoza; state Rep. Andrea Romero; Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna; former state Rep. Carl Trujillo; state Rep. Linda Trujillo; and Santa Fe City Councilor Rene Villarreal. So far, none of them has publicly expressed interest in jumping in.
● NY-15: New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who truly is a Democrat in name only, now says he's considering a bid for New York's open 15th Congressional District to (and you'll like this) represent "conservative Democrats ... a kind of population that's not too much to the left." That's Diaz for you: In February, he was stripped of his committee chairmanship after declaring the Council was "controlled by the homosexual community" in a radio interview but has ignored widespread demands that he resign.
Diaz has an entire career's worth of comments like this. 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: He once sued to block the expansion of a public school serving at-risk gay teens, and in 2016, he even campaigned in the Bronx with Ted Cruz (a total of a dozen people showed up).
But while Diaz is unusually nettlesome, he's not entirely the outlier you might think. Barkan observes that there's a "typical pattern" with the councilman: "he says something inflammatory, politicians grumble and move on." That's because, Barkan notes, "Social 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. Much like Trump, Diaz stands apart because of the volume of his invective rather than the content of his opinions.
Some of those in this bucket have, fortunately, evolved in the right direction, including Diaz’s own son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who once opposed same-sex marriage but has since become a supporter. He’s publicly said his father should apologize but hasn’t called on him to resign. (Barkan says the two men, who share the same name but not the same politics, are “close.”)
But should a crowded Democratic primary field emerge, it's by no means impossible to imagine Diaz winning: In 2017, after a 15-year sojourn in Albany as a state senator, Diaz returned to the city council by comfortably winning a five-way primary with 42% of the vote, more than 20 points ahead of his nearest rival. The cowboy hat-wearing Diaz is a big talker, though, and at 75 years old, he may not actually have much interest in a congressional campaign, especially since he reportedly gave up on the state legislature because he hated the commute. But progressives need to stay alert, particularly since this is the bluest district in the country when judging by presidential results.
Indeed, a number of other contenders are already gathering. Assemblyman Michael Blake, who'd previously been mentioned as a possible candidate, has now confirmed to Gothamist's Brigid Bergin that he's considering a bid. So has Amanda Septimo, who used to be the district director for retiring Rep. José Serrano and lost a primary challenge to Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo by a 63-37 margin last year. Bergin also flags City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson and activist Samelys Lopez as potential entrants.
● OR-02: On Monday, Politico flagged longtime GOP Rep. Greg Walden as a potential 2020 retiree, writing that his first quarter fundraising could give us a clue about his plans. We hadn't previously heard anything about Walden, a former NRCC chair who will be 64 on Election Day, thinking about calling it quits from his safely red eastern Oregon seat. However, Walden's voting record may indicate that he's not too happy in Donald Trump's D.C.
Walden was an extremely reliable administration ally during Trump's first two years, and according to FiveThirtyEight, he voted with Trump 99% of the time during the 115th Congress. However, Walden began acting very differently during the first days of the new Congress. In January, he was just one of seven House Republicans to vote for a pair of Democratic bills to reopen the federal government during the shutdown.
Walden's behavior didn't change once the shutdown ended a few weeks later, either. FiveThirtyEight puts his Trump Score for the 116th Congress at just 53%, lower than all but seven other members of the GOP House caucus.
It's possible Walden just figures that he's safe from any primary foe and actually can afford to vote however he wants. However, if Walden does decide to call it a career, he'd have the luxury of voting against Trump without any electoral repercussions.
● Special elections: We have several special election results to recap and preview, starting with this weekend's results out of Louisiana:
LA-HD-17: Pat Moore defeated fellow Democrat Rodney McFarland 63-37 to win this safely blue seat. Moore very nearly won this race outright when she took 49% of the vote in the first round of voting.
LA-HD-18: Democrat Jeremy LaCombe defeated Republican Tammi Fabre 69-31 to hold this seat for the Democrats. LaCombe improved on Hillary Clinton's 58-40 defeat in this district by 55 percentage points and Barack Obama's 55-44 loss by 48 percentage points. This gave LaCombe the second largest overperformance in a special election compared to presidential margins of any candidate in 2019, trailing only Darrell Pugh's performance in the Kentucky Senate special election in March. Unlike Pugh, LaCombe's overperformance was in a winning effort.
Just like the first round of voting, the turnout for this race was unusually high for a special election with a quarter of the registered voters participating.
LA-HD-62: Independent Roy Daryl Adams beat Republican Dennis Aucoin 54-46 in a surprising victory that cost the GOP control of this seat. This race capped off a slate of elections in Louisiana that went about as well as Democrats could have hoped for. Aucoin went into this round of voting as the heavy favorite in a district Donald Trump won 57-40 and Mitt Romney won 56-43.
While Adams is officially an independent, and it remains to be seen whether or not he plans to caucus with a party when he arrives in Baton Rouge, his victory can be chalked up to his strength with Democratic voters. According to Republican pollster John Couvillon of JMC Analytics, Adams posted a huge 86-14 margin among black voters. Additionally, Adams held his losses with white voters to a respectable 56-44 margin. This added up to a sizable victory for Adams overall and the first time Republicans have lost one of their seats in the 2019 special election calendar.
Meanwhile, there are three special elections on Tuesday, headlined by a key state Senate race in Pennsylvania.
PA-SD-37: This is a Republican district located in the western and southern suburbs of Pittsburgh. This vacancy was created by former state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler's election to the U.S. House.
The candidates were selected by the parties. The Democrat is Navy veteran Pam Iovino while the Republican is businessman D. Raja. Iovino is not new to Pittsburgh-area politics: She was in the running to be the Democratic nominee in the 2018 special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District but was passed over for eventual winner Connor Lamb. Raja also has political history in this area. He ran for this seat once before in 2012, losing to Democrat Matthew Smith 53-47.
This race is the first of its kind on the 2019 special election calendar. The special election slate this year has largely been comprised of safe seats on either side, with Democrats holding a few key seats in difficult races. However, four of the year's five flips so far have gone for Team Red, while an independent picked up one seat from the GOP. This race therefore marks the first true pickup opportunity for Democrats this cycle.
Though the 37th has been red turf in the last two presidential elections, the trends have gone the right way for Democrats: After supporting Mitt Romney by a 56-43 margin, the district went for Donald Trump by a narrower 51-45 spread.
Democrats also fared very well here last year. Gov. Tom Wolf rolled to a 57-41 victory while Sen. Bob Casey racked up a 55-43 win. Lamb, meanwhile, carried the 37th (which is located almost entirely inside the old 18th Congressional District) by a 56-43 margin in his special election win. In addition, Democrat Lindsey Williams flipped the adjacent (and demographically similar) 38th State Senate District, beating Republican Jeremy Shaffer 50.3-49.7 in 2018.
The composition of the Pennsylvania Senate stands at 26-21 in favor of Republicans with three vacancies, including this one. The other two are safely red, but if Iovino can flip the 37th, Democrats will only need to pick up three more seats next year to take control of the chamber. That's why both sides have spent seven figures on this race, though almost all of the GOP spending has come thanks to extensive self-funding from Raja.
ME-HD-52: This is a Democratic seat located in the Bath area. This seat became vacant after former state Rep. Jennifer DeChant resigned in February to take a private sector job. The candidates in this race were chosen by the parties: The Democrat is Bath City Councilman Sean Paulhus and the Republican is Navy veteran Kenneth Sener. Christopher Hallowell is also running as the Libertarian candidate. This is a solidly blue district that voted for Hillary Clinton 59-34 and Barack Obama 64-33.
MS-HD-101: This is the runoff for an election that took place in March. The candidates are businessman Kent McCarty and Steven Utroska. While special elections in Mississippi are officially nonpartisan, this is a strongly Republican district and both candidates say they would caucus with the GOP in the state House. The most interesting aspect of this race are the ages of the candidates: Regardless of the outcome, a millennial will be representing this Hattiesburg-area seat as McCarty is 26 and Utroska is 31.