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.
● MA-06: Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who's best known for leading a failed revolt against Nancy Pelosi late last year, announced on Monday that he's joining the comically crowded Democratic primary for president. That's relevant to our interests here at the Digest only insofar as it might affect Moulton's re-election plans—and according to his campaign, it won't.
"He has no intention of giving up his seat in the House should he not become the Democratic nominee for president," said a spokesperson, so we should expect to see Moulton on the ballot next year. That by no means guarantees he'll wind up serving a fourth term in Congress, though. Progressive anger over Moulton's vain rebellion could net him a primary challenge: Women's health advocate Jamie Zahlaway Belsito recently filed paperwork to create a campaign committee, while former state Sen. Barbara L'Italien has said she's considering a bid—and has been very critical of Moulton.
As we've noted in regard to Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's longshot quest for the presidency, when a sitting member of Congress is jetting off to Iowa and New Hampshire on the regular, ambitious pols back home can devote all their time to raising money and campaigning with would-be constituents. That, for instance, is exactly what state Sen. Kai Kahele, who raised a strong $250,000 in the first quarter of the year, has been busy doing while Gabbard's attention has been focused elsewhere. For the right person in the Bay State, the opportunity is there for the taking.
● AL-Sen: Disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley didn't rule out seeking the GOP nod back in August, and the Alabama Political Reporter's Brandon Moseley writes that Bentley "has said that he is considering the Senate race and obtained clearance from the prosecutor in his misdemeanor guilty plea to run despite a provision agreeing not to run for office." There is no quote from Bentley about his interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, nor is there any other information about prosecutors giving Bentley permission to run.
Back in 2017, Bentley was under investigation for allegedly misusing state resources to cover up his affair with a top staffer, and the GOP state legislature was getting ready to impeach him. However, prosecutors ended up reaching a deal with the governor where Bentley resigned from office and pleaded guilty to some campaign finance violations. That deal contained an agreement that Bentley would never run for office again.
However, it's not clear that the plea deal actually could stop Bentley from seeking the Senate seat, or any other post for that matter. Last year, the local political site Yellowhammer asked former Montgomery County prosecutor Richard White about this, and White told them that, based on his reading of the text of the plea deal, the so-called "Bentley-ban" might be unenforceable now that his one-year probation sentence is over. White, who cautioned that he only had access to the publicly available information, said that, "As long as he's paid his money and it's been over a year, I don't think the court has any jurisdiction over him."
● KS-Sen: In a surprise blast-from-the-past, former Rep. Nancy Boyda told the Labette County Democrats on Thursday that she was considering a bid for Kansas' open Senate seat. Boyda, who pitched herself as a centrist, said she would think about running over the next few months. Democrats have not won a Senate seat in Kansas since 1932, which Boyda acknowledged as she called this contest a "tremendous uphill battle."
If Boyda runs, she may face a competitive primary against former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, who the National Journal reports may have inadvertently revealed his plans to run on Twitter. In what was likely meant to be a private message, Grissom tweeted to a state Democratic activist that he planned to announce a bid on July 1. The tweet has been deleted.
Back in 2006, Boyda pulled off a big upset to win the previous version of Kansas' 2nd District. Boyda had challenged GOP Rep. Jim Ryun the previous cycle in a seat located in the Topeka area and lost by a wide 56-41 as George W. Bush was carrying the district 59-39, and there wasn't much optimism about her second bid.
This time, though, Boyda was running in an awful environment for the GOP. She also shared a ballot with Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who was on her own way to a landslide win. Ryun was also hurt by his connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and to Florida Rep. Mark Foley, who had resigned in disgrace after he sent sexual messages to teenage pages. The DCCC launched a late last-minute buy to help Boyda, but it was still a big surprise when she won 51-47.
Boyda was immediately one of the GOP's top 2008 targets, and she got some bad news when state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins narrowly beat Ryun in the primary. However, Boyda still made it very clear that she didn't want the DCCC spending on her behalf again. In August, Boyda convinced them to cancel their $1.2 million TV reservation, arguing that "Kansas voters should control Kansas campaigns" and that the state should be able to "run our election without Washington interference."
The NRCC was not so accommodating, and they ran ads until the end of the contest. Boyda lost 51-46 as John McCain was carrying the seat 55-43, making her one of just five Democratic House members to be defeated in this historically blue year.
In April of the following year, DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen told a press conference that Boyda had left him a regretful voicemail that she wanted him to play for any vulnerable members who were thinking about rejecting the committee's help. Van Hollen went on to say, "Nancy Boyda has been very clear about the fact that she made a mistake," and that "she clearly felt that not participating was a good part of the reason she failed." However, Boyda landed on her feet a few months later when she was sworn into a post at the Department of Defense.
● MA-Sen: On Friday, attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible Democratic primary bid against Sen. Ed Markey, and she told the Boston Globe she'd make a final decision whether or not to run "in the coming weeks." So far, Liss-Riordan doesn't appear to have said anything about why Markey, who has held this seat since his 2013 special election win, should be ousted. Liss-Riordan has attracted national attention by suing ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft on behalf of drivers who were classified as "independent contractors" rather than employees.
● AZ-06: On Friday, businesswoman Stephanie Rimmer became the third Democrat to announce a bid against GOP Rep. David Schweikert. Rimmer, who owns a local lighting company, was the Democratic nominee for a state House seat in 2006 and 2008. Rimmer joins physician Hiral Tipirneni, who ran two competitive races for the neighboring 8th District last year, and 2018 nominee Anita Malik in the primary.
● CA-39: On Friday, 2018 GOP nominee Young Kim set up a fundraising committee with the FEC. Kim lost last year's very expensive open seat contest for this Southern California seat to Democrat Gil Cisneros 51.6-48.4. The Orange County Register wrote earlier this month that local observers expected Kim to run again, and when the paper asked her about 2020, all she would say is she wasn't ready to announce anything.
● GA-06: Well, this is strange. At the start of the month, former GOP Rep. Karen Handel sent out a press release claiming "a Q1 fundraising total of $325,000," but in the quarterly filing she submitted to the FEC in mid-April, she only reported raising $238,000. So where's that missing $87,000?
There are some slight-of-hand techniques a desperate candidate can use to inflate fundraising totals, but none appear to be in evidence here. And even if you were to add in an $11,000 refund from a media buyer—which you shouldn't, because vendor refunds definitely don't count as "money raised from donors"—that would only bring Handel up to about $250,000.
Handel's cash-on-hand total at the end of March came to $330,000, which is near-ish to $325,000, but the difference between a quarterly fundraising haul and money in the bank is as basic as they come. Maybe not to Handel's finance team, though.
● GA-07: On Monday, former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich became the first noteworthy Republican to announce a bid to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Rob Woodall in this competitive suburban Atlanta seat.
Homrich, who recently moved here from the neighboring 6th District, gave a preview to the kind of campaign she'd run in her launch video, where she heaped scorn on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, the House freshmen the GOP most loves to hate. Homrich told her audience, "If your kids behaved like these women, you'd ground them. If they worked in your business, you'd fire them." Bet she'd be ready to fire the guy in the Oval Office, right?
Homrich may have some primary opposition before too long. State Sen. Renee Unterman has been talking about getting in for a while, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein writes that she's "likely to soon join" the race. A number of Democrats are already in, and Bluestein adds that state Rep. Brenda Lopez will announce "soon" whether she'll seek this seat.
● IA-02: Former state Sen. Rita Hart (whom we'd incorrectly identified as a sitting legislator in the past) has been mulling a bid to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Loebsack, a fellow Democrat, and she says she hopes to decide by the end of April.
Hart has been through some tough races before. She last sought re-election in 2014 and held her seat 52-48 as Republican Joni Ernst was carrying it 50-46 in the U.S. Senate race. Hart had planned to run again in 2018 until she became gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell's running mate. Hubbell narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, though he carried the 2nd District 51-47.
A number of other Democrats have also been eyeing this seat. Businesswoman Veronica Tessler, who started and owns Iowa City's first frozen yogurt store and has been very active in local progressive politics, tells the Daily Iowan that she's "strongly considering" running. As we've noted before, Tessler opened a campaign account on April 4, which was just over a week before Loebsack announced his retirement, suggesting either that she had advance knowledge of his decision or that she had been considering challenging him in the Democratic primary.
On the GOP side, state Sen. Chris Cournoyer confirmed that she's considering getting in. Cournoyer, a former school board member and reserve deputy for the Scott County Sheriff's Department, pulled off a 54-46 victory to win Hart's open seat in a race that was targeted by both parties.
● IL-01: Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, who's been in office since 1993, flirted with quitting Congress ahead of the 2018 midterms, and his latest fundraising haul suggests he'll be dancing that dance once again.
During the first quarter of 2019, Rush took in just $3,000, all from PACs—the least of any Democratic incumbent in the House. He also managed to file his quarterly report three days late (not an uncommon occurrence for him), and those PAC contributions were even listed in the wrong section, under "Contributions from persons other than political committees."
It wouldn't be a surprise if this was all a harbinger of retirement. Last cycle, Rush waited until the last minute to file for re-election, while two years earlier, he nearly got knocked off the ballot for failing to submit a sufficient number of valid petitions (in the end, he squeaked by with just 90 more than the 1,300 minimum).
If Rush does intend to stick around, he certainly doesn't have to worry about a Republican opponent, since he sits in an extremely safe district in Chicago. However, up-and-comers have tried to primary him from time to time, though so far, no one's gotten especially close. That roster includes then-state Sen. Barack Obama, who lost a 2000 matchup by a 61-30 margin—the first, last, and only race Obama would ever lose.
But plenty of other longtime incumbents who'd previously thought themselves invulnerable have lately been greeted by plenty of electoral trouble while they've been snoozing, so the 72-year-old Rush could be making a similar mistake if he thinks he can coast to a 15th term. In fact, Rush just drew a challenge from 26-year-old gun violence prevention activist Robert Emmons. We don't know yet whether Emmons is capable of throwing a serious scare into Rush, but the congressman shouldn't take anything for granted.
There's also the matter of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues every incumbent (except vulnerable members) must pay to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help win—or in this case, ensure—a Democratic majority. Rush has blithely ignored his obligations for the last decade, but now that he holds an important post as chair of the House Energy Subcommittee, he might face more pressure to be a team player.
● IL-06: On Monday, former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti became the first notable Republican to announce a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Sean Casten. DuPage County Board Member Greg Hart has also been talked about as a possible contender, but he announced Monday that he wouldn't run. This seat, which includes Chicago's western suburbs, swung from 53-45 Romney to 50-43 Clinton.
As we've written before, Sanguinetti has only won one election on her own, for a position on the city council in the small city of Wheaton in 2011. Two years later, she was tapped by wealthy businessman Bruce Rauner to serve as his running-mate. The pair went on to narrowly prevail in both the GOP primary and general election the following year, making Sanguinetti the first Latina to win statewide office in Illinois.
Their administration proved to be very unpopular, though, and in 2018, Rauner and Sanguinetti barely survived an underfunded primary challenge from the right before they got obliterated by Democrat J.B. Pritzker by a 55-39 margin amidst the blue wave. However, according to analyst Miles Coleman, the Rauner-Sanguinetti ticket carried this traditionally red seat 50-45 even as Casten was defeating veteran GOP Rep. Peter Roskam by a wide 54-46.
Sanguinetti used her kickoff to try to put some distance between herself and Donald Trump, who is unlikely to be an asset here this year. That didn't stop Sanguinetti from trying to apply a Trumpesque nickname for her opponent, though. Sanguinetti told the crowd how her mother had escaped Fidel Castro's communist regime in Cuba and said of Casten, "We call him Sean Casten here today, but from a personal standpoint, I call him Sean Castro." Sanguinetti had tried to avoid saying whether or not she'd support Trump's re-election bid in a Friday pre-announcement interview, but her campaign soon confirmed she supported Trump.
● MN-08: 2018 Democratic nominee Joe Radinovich told Roll Call earlier this month that he would decide in the summer whether or not to seek a rematch with freshman GOP Rep. Pete Stauber, but Radinovich has attracted some bad press since then.
Back in March, the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation hired Radinovich for a $100,000-a-year managerial post after the job was listed as open for just 24 hours. The department had also produced an organizational chart five days before Radinovich was hired that showed him at his current post. After the local blog Timberjay broke the news last week, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz announced that state agencies were now required to list certain managerial jobs for at least 21 days.
Radinovich, who lost to Stauber last year 51-45, is the only notable Democrat who appears to have publicly expressed interest in running next year. This district, which includes the Iron Range in the state's northeast corner, 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 district 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.
● NC-03: Winning for Women, a conservative group that aspires to be the Mirror Universe version of EMILY's List, has launched what they're calling a "six-figure ad buy" in support of pediatrician Joan Perry in the 17-way April 30 GOP primary. According to Roll Call, the buy will include TV spots as well as mailers and digital ads.
The only other major outside group that's made an endorsement here is the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is backing accountant Celeste Cairns. The Club tells Politico that they will commit at least $200,000 to helping Cairns. If no one takes at least 30% of the vote next week, there would be a runoff on Sept. 10.
● NC-09: The anti-tax Club for Growth has endorsed state Sen. Dan Bishop, who is best (or worst) known as the author of the anti-LGBTQ "bathroom bill," in the May 14 GOP primary. Until now, the only major outside group that has gotten involved in this contest is the National Association of Realtors, which has spent $1.3 million for former NAR official Leigh Thomas Brown.
● NJ-02: Rep. Jeff Van Drew raised eyebrows when he brought in just $116,000 during the first quarter, which was the worst haul for any freshman Democrat in a competitive seat. Van Drew told the New Jersey Globe that he had chosen not to raise money, saying, "I thought it was a tiny bit distasteful in the very first weeks and months of my election being in there, that the very first thing I was doing was raising money again," and that he was focused on starting up his constituent services. Van Drew insisted that, now that the second quarter had begun, "I am raising money like crazy right now" and that he would meet his goal, though he didn't reveal what that was.
It's possible Van Drew's 2018 victory over an opponent the GOP abandoned months before Election Day lured him into a false sense of security in this 51-46 Trump South Jersey seat. However, his next race is likely to be much more challenging. Former construction company CEO David Richter formed an exploratory committee earlier this month, and he's reportedly willing and able to self-fund.
● OH-01: The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus announced at a fundraiser that, in the words of reporter Jason Williams, she had "no intention" of challenging GOP Rep. Steve Chabot. Driehaus is the sister of former Rep. Steve Driehaus, who unseated Chabot in 2008 but lost their 2010 rematch. Neither Driehaus sibling has shown much interest over the following decade in running for this 51-45 Trump seat, though Chabot's modest 51-47 win last year might entice other Democrats.
● TN-01: Republican Rep. Phil Roe raised just $723 (nope, we aren't missing any zeroes) in the first three months of 2019, once again raising questions as to whether he might retire. Last cycle, Roe broke a pledge to serve no more than 10 years in Congress and successfully ran for a sixth term despite raising very little money.
In fact, in the fundraising quarter prior to his re-election announcement in February of 2018, Roe had brought in just $3,700, a sum so small that it prompted speculation he might call it quits. (The local media, however, had seemed to forget the congressman's term-limits promise and never pressed him on it.)
Roe faced minimal primary opposition—the only serious threat to his political career in this dark red district—but he of all people should be aware that his fortunes could readily change: In 2008, he ousted one-term Rep. David Davis by just a 50-49 margin in the GOP primary. Roe could very well face a stiffer challenge next year, especially if someone wants to make hay of his broken promise to stay in office no more than a decade.
● Special Elections: There are two special elections, both in the South, on tap for Tuesday:
SC-HD-14: This is a Republican district located in Upstate South Carolina in the Laurens area. This vacancy was created by former state Rep. Mike Pitts' resignation in January due to health reasons. There are two candidates in this race: Democrat Garrett McDaniel and Republican Stewart Jones, both of whom are members of the Laurens County Council.
This district went for Donald Trump 67-30 and Mitt Romney 62-37, similar numbers to South Carolina's 6th Senate District where Tina Belge, the Democratic candidate, significantly overperformed presidential margins in a special election in March. However, that race occurred in the type of suburban area that has been moving leftward in the Trump era. Additionally, multiple 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls got involved in that race, endorsing Belge and sending staffers to assist her campaign.
Republicans have a 78-44 advantage in this chamber with two vacancies, including this one.
TN-SD-22: This is a Republican district located in Clarksville. This seat was left vacant after former state Sen. Mark Green was elected to the U.S. House in 2018 but has been held by Rosalind Kurita on an interim basis since January. Kurita served in the Tennessee Senate as a Democrat from 1996-2008 but decided not to seek this seat in the special election. (Kurita rejoined the legislature as an independent and caucused with Republicans—not a surprise given her history.)
There are four candidates running in this election: a Democrat, a Republican and two independents. The Democratic candidate is real estate agent and Army veteran Juanita Charles and the Republican is businessman Bill Powers. The independents are businessman Doyle Clark and engineer David L. Cutting. Neither independent's political leanings are clear, but Doyle has spoken about supporting small businesses and combating homelessness among veterans while Cutting has pushed to fight government corruption.
The independents could be wildcards in an otherwise solidly Republican district that voted for Trump 58-36 and Romney 55-44. This GOP controls this chamber by a wide 27-5 margin.
● Kansas City, MO Mayor: On behalf of the local political newsletter Missouri Scout, the GOP firm Remington Research is out with the first poll of the June 18 nonpartisan general election, and they give Quinton Lucas a 38-31 lead over fellow City Councilor Jolie Justus. Justus led Lucas 23-18 in the primary at the beginning of April.
As we've noted before, the two general election candidates have very different pitches for voters. Justus, who has the support of termed-out Mayor Sly James, has called for continuing the city's expansion. By contrast, Lucas is more skeptical of the status quo, and he's notably criticized incentives for developers.
● Where Are They Now?: Last year, South Carolina Democrats and Gov. Henry McMaster’s GOP primary foes hoped in vain that a long-running investigation involving powerful political consultant and longtime McMaster ally Richard Quinn would sink the governor at the ballot box. The story largely faded from the headlines well before the June primary, but Quinn's legal troubles very much did not go away, and he was indicted last week on perjury charges. The scandal has already led to the conviction of four former GOP state legislators including Quinn's son and close confidant, ex-state Rep. Rick Quinn.
For decades, the elder Quinn was one of the most powerful people in South Carolina politics. As The State's John Monk wrote two years ago, "Quinn's reputation as a power broker with access to and sway with anyone in South Carolina who counted was legendary. His political domain was even given a nickname worthy of an empire: 'The Quinndom.'" However, The Quinndom began to disintegrate after Quinn was charged with criminal conspiracy and illegal lobbying.
In December of 2017, state prosecutors agreed to drop the charges if Quinn agreed to truthfully testify before a grand jury. However, Quinn's new indictment declares that he "intentionally gave incomplete and evasive testimony throughout to pervert, obstruct, impede, and hinder the ongoing investigation by the state grand jury."
There's no sign that McMaster himself has anything to do with Quinn's alleged wrongdoing, but his ties to Quinn run very deep. McMaster had been a Quinn client from his unsuccessful 1986 Senate campaign until 2017, and Quinn helped save McMaster's re-election campaign for state party chair back in 2000. The party was in bad financial shape, but just before the vote, RQ&A and another firm contributed a total of $85,000 to the GOP's coffers. The party then released letters showing it had plenty of money in the bank, and McMaster won another term. But just days before the vote, the money was all wired back in secret—information that didn't come out until long after the election.