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.
● Deaths: Former Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican who was elected in 1976 and served until his 2012 primary defeat, died Sunday at the age of 87. Much has already been written about Lugar's long tenure in national politics, including his work helping secure nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, and we wanted to focus on another important aspect of Lugar's career from before he was in the Senate. Lugar served as mayor of Indianapolis from 1968 to 1976 and he successfully pushed through the merger of the city government with the rest of Marion County. This new system, known as Uni-Gov, helped keep the GOP in the mayor's office for a generation, and other localities debating similar mergers are still analyzing and debating its impact.
In a great article, Indianapolis Star's Christopher Rickett writes that before Uni-Gov, Marion County consisted of 60 different governments, including the county government, city and town governments, townships, school districts, and "special-purpose governments." Lugar successfully convinced the state government to allow Indianapolis to essentially annex the rest of Marion County, which doubled the city's population. While some communities retained their own government and emergency services initially were still separate from the city's (local police and some fire departments would eventually be merged in 2005 and 2007), all voters in Marion County could now participate in races for mayor of Indianapolis and the new City-County Council.
Republicans knew that by adding white suburbanites to the Indianapolis electorate, they were dramatically improving their fortunes in local races. Marion County GOP chair Keith Bulen even explicitly said in 1969, "It's my greatest coup of all time, moving out there and taking in 85,000 Republicans." Democrats wouldn't retake city hall until 1999, when Democrat Bart Peterson won his first term, but he lost to Republican Greg Ballard eight years later. It wasn’t until 2015, when Ballard retired and Democrat Joe Hogsett decisively won the open seat race, that Democrats would win control of the mayor's office, all of the major citywide posts, and the City-County Council for the first time.
Lugar pitched Uni-Gov as a way to help the regional economy, and it seems to have succeeded in helping attract or retain major companies to the area. However, critics argue that it hurt the city's black population by diluting their voting power and giving politicians an incentive to ignore them in favor of white suburbanites. Indianapolis Democratic state Rep. John Bartlett recently said, "I think if Uni-Gov wouldn't have happened, our neighborhoods wouldn't be as neglected as they are," adding, "We're bringing hotels downtown, but we're neglecting our city streets."
The boundaries of the county's many school districts were also not changed by the merger, and Lugar himself would explain the decision a few years ago by saying, "A good number of people really wanted to keep at least their particular school segregated." Indeed, as Chalkbeat noted, African Americans were just 3% of the student body in the township schools, while they were a third of the students in Indianapolis' public schools. The courts eventually ordered busing to try to integrate the school districts, a mandate that lasted from 1981 until it expired in 2016.
Today, Uni-Gov is still a hot topic outside of Indiana. Over in Missouri, there is an ongoing debate about whether St. Louis City and St. Louis County should merge, and days before Lugar died, St. Louis Public Radio published a piece looking at the effects of Uni-Gov. Both the supporters and opponents of the merger have invoked the impact of Uni-Gov in their arguments.
● GA-Sen: Over the weekend, Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan tweeted that she would stay in the legislature rather than run against GOP Sen. David Perdue.
● NC-Sen: Thomas Mills of the local politics blog PoliticsNC brings us the names of several potential Democratic candidates who could run against Republican Sen. Thom Tillis next year, reporting that the DSCC and EMILY's List have been trying to recruit former state Treasurer Janet Cowell into the race. Cowell won two terms as treasurer in 2008 and 2012 by relatively comfortable margins and had been frequently seen as a potential candidate for higher office, but she didn't seek a third term in 2016 and has been out of the political spotlight since then. Cowell herself has yet to say anything about whether she's even interested in running.
Mills also reports that state Rep. Brian Turner is considering the race, although he hasn't said anything publicly. Turner has experience winning in a tough district near Asheville that had been gerrymandered to favor Republicans, but he would be starting out with little name recognition as one of 120 state House members.
Furthermore, Mills relays that a Republican operative mentioned 9th District special election nominee Dan McCready and state Rep. Rachel Hunt as possible candidates, although neither has said anything publicly. McCready wouldn't lack for fundraising capacity, but it could be difficult for him to turn to around and run for Senate right after the upcoming special election, which likely won't be until Nov. 5. As for Hunt, she just barely won her first term last fall as the 2018 wave swept Democrats into office in historically Republican-leaning suburban areas. However, Hunt is the daughter of former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt, meaning she's likely much better-connected than the typical first-term representative.
Finally, Mills reports that former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx won't run. Foxx, who was previously mayor of Charlotte, has frequently topped the list of candidates national Democrats have tried to recruit for higher office in recent years but has never shown much public interest in doing so.
● TX-Sen: Rep. Joaquin Castro's team says he will announce Wednesday whether or not he'll join the Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn. While the Texas Monthly reported over a month ago that Castro was "all but certain" to run, over a dozen state and national Democrats recently told the Texas Tribune that they're skeptical he'll jump in.
Air Force veteran MJ Hegar kicked off a bid last week, but she may have some primary opposition no matter what Castro ends up doing. The Tribune reports that state Sen. Royce West "has had recent conversations about his own potential run," though he hasn't said anything publicly yet. West first won his safely blue seat in Dallas in 1992, and he doesn't appear to have faced a competitive primary in all of that time.
● KY-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in covering the period of Jan. 1 to April 21. On the Democratic side, state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins raised $885,000, while former state Auditor Adam Edelen took in $836,000 from donors. Attorney General Andy Beshear, who was in first place in a recent Edelen poll, took in $750,000 since the start of the year.
However, Edelen ended up taking in the most money thanks to a $1.4 million loan from his running mate, wealthy developer Gill Holland, which puts his campaign's total haul at $2.3 million. Holland incorrectly predicted back in January that he didn't think he'd need to self-fund because of "Adam's popularity and support across the state," though he didn't actually rule out investing his own money.
A pro-Edelen super PAC called Kentuckians for a Strong Future also took in a total of $682,000 from a total of six donors: $500,000 of that came from philanthropist Christy Brown, who happens to be Holland's mother-in-law. The Holland family's largess has helped Edelen and his allies decisively outspend both of his opponents ahead of the May 21 Democratic primary.
On the GOP side, Gov. Matt Bevin outraised state Rep. Robert Goforth $814,000 to $15,000, but Goforth loaned his campaign an additional $750,000. Goforth has outspent Bevin $263,000 to $98,000 since the start of the year, though Bevin's allies at the RGA recently began airing radio ads for him. We have yet to see any polls of next month's GOP primary.
● WV-Gov: While Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin continues to consider whether to run for governor next year, one other Democrat isn't waiting for him to make up his mind. Indeed, former community organizer Stephen Smith is already running in the primary and says he won't defer to Manchin. Furthermore, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that Democratic insiders are befuddled by Manchin's suspense act, with some wondering whether he's actually interested in running or just trying to crowd out other contenders while he searches for an ally to back. Manchin has given no timeframe for when he'll reach a decision.
● MA-06: Former Democratic Rep. John Tierney acknowledged on Friday to the Gloucester Times that he was "keeping an open mind" about a 2020 bid for his old seat, which includes Lynn, Salem, and several communities north of Boston.
Tierney narrowly won a previous version of this district for the first time in 1996, and until 2012, he had little trouble holding it. That cycle, though, Tierney was dogged by a scandal involving his wife and brother-in-law. In 2010 they had pleaded guilty to tax evasion in connection with operating an illegal gambling ring, later spending time in prison.
Tierney was never accused of any wrongdoing himself and always insisted he had no knowledge of his wife's activities—and no evidence ever emerged to suggest otherwise. However, he only managed to defeat Republican Richard Tisei 48-47 even as Barack Obama was carrying the 6th District by a wide 55-44 margin.
Tisei sought a rematch the following cycle, and for a time, this looked like a good pickup opportunity for Team Red. However, Tierney lost the primary to Marine veteran Seth Moulton 51-40 in a race that political operatives agreed dramatically shifted towards the challenger in the final days.
Tierney, whose private polling reportedly had him ahead by double digits as recently as three weeks before the primary, had been saving his considerable war chest for his expected showdown with Tisei. The incumbent recognized late in the contest he was in real danger of losing to Moulton, but that revelation seems to have arrived too late to change his fate. Moulton beat Tisei 55-41, while Tierney went on to take a job at a nonprofit focused on reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons.
Moulton is currently running for president, but his team says he'll seek re-election if his White House bid fails. However, at least one local Democrat isn't quite so sure about that. Governor's Councilor Eileen Duff tells the Gloucester Times that she's considering running, saying, "Seth clearly has his eyes on other things, he's running for president." Duff insisted she has nothing against the incumbent, noting that there's a picture of the two together on her website, but she thinks "Seth clearly has other ambitions. For me, I'm not one to throw stones." Duff has served on the Governor's Council, an elected body that advises the governor on certain issues like appointments and pardons, since her 2012 win.
● NM-03: On Friday, attorney Teresa Leger de Fernandez told the state Democratic Party's central committee that she would seek this open seat in northern New Mexico.
The Sante Fe New Mexican writes that Leger (the name she goes by professionally) "may be best known for representing tribes as well as tribal enterprises," and that she served on the Obama administration's President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Leger also worked on the successful 2017 lawsuit that required the Santa Fe City Council use instant-runoff voting for the city's elections, an order that came almost a decade after local voters approved this system.
A number of Democrats are still eyeing this 52-37 Clinton seat. However, Santa Fe City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler announced Friday that she would sit the contest out.
● SC-01: Local Republicans have speculated that Mark Sanford could try to pull off one last comeback next year, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards for our favorite real estate developer-turned political neophyte-turned congressman-turned governor-turned national conservative hero-turned national punchline-turned censured but not impeached governor-turned disgraced former governor-turned comeback seeker-turned guy who was about to lose a safely red seat-turned guy who beat Stephen Colbert's sister-turned congressman-turned Trump skeptic-turned primary loser-turned University of Chicago political fellow.
Sanford, whose stint in Chicago ends at the end of May, told the Post & Courier he wasn't ruling out another return to politics, though he sounded unexcited about it. He said, "If there's anybody who's ever learned you never to say never, it would be me. But I don't see it." Sanford didn't mention a possible bid for his old House seat, which Democrat Joe Cunningham won in a surprise last year, though he explicitly ruled out running for mayor of Charleston.
For now, Sanford seems to be enjoying teaching, where his seminars include: "I Am a Conservative & Why You Want to Become One Too!" and "The Dangers of Isolation in Politics: Four Lessons from My Mistakes." Sanford revealed to the paper that his infamous 2009 scandal, where his gubernatorial staff initially said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail before he admitted he was in Argentina visiting his mistress, was up for discussion in his classes, saying, "If they can't get it from me, they can Google it."
● VA-07: Republican Tina Ramirez, who started and runs a nonprofit she says is focused on bringing "freedom to persecuted communities worldwide," announced on Monday that she would challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.
Ramirez, who previously worked as a staffer at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and on a bipartisan House task force focused on this topic, is the first notable Republican to enter the race for this suburban Richmond seat, but she may face intra-party opposition. In early March the radical anti-tax Club for Growth announced they were trying to recruit Del. Nick Freitas, but there's still no word if he's interested. This district backed Trump 51-44, and Spanberger is the first Democrat in decades to represent this area.
● GA Supreme Court: Former Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat who lost last December's runoff for Georgia secretary of state 52-48, announced on Monday that he would seek an open seat on the state Supreme Court. Barrow is running to succeed retiring Justice Robert Benham, whose 1989 appointment made him the first African American on the court and is the court's last remaining justice appointed by a Democratic governor.
Next year's nonpartisan race will take place on the same day that Georgia holds its May primary election for state offices. Court of Appeals Judge Sara Doyle, who was elected to her current post in 2008 with the help of influential conservative attorneys, has already filed to run here.
● Special Elections: There is one special election in Wisconsin on tap for Tuesday:
WI-AD-64: This is a Democratic district in southeast Wisconsin, located between the cities of Racine and Kenosha. This seat became vacant after former state Rep. Peter Barca, a former congressman who served as Assembly minority leader from 2011 until 2017, was chosen by Gov. Tony Evers to be secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Barca's appointment continues a running theme of this special election cycle where newly elected Democratic governors have pillaged state legislatures to fill cabinet positions, a move that led to defeats for Team Blue in both Connecticut and Minnesota.
There are two candidates in this election: Democrat Tip McGuire and Republican Mark Stalker. McGuire is a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney and Stalker is a businessman in Kenosha. In their party primaries, Stalker was unopposed while McGuire collected 55% of the vote in a three-way field. This district backed Hillary Clinton 53-42 and Barack Obama 59-40.
● Dallas, TX Mayor: Dallas holds its nonpartisan primary election on Saturday, and campaign finance reports are in from the period of March 26 to April 24:
Developer Mike Ablon: $219,000 raised, additional $275,000 self-funded, $508,000 spent, $44,000 cash-on-hand
Businessman Albert Black: $46,000 raised, additional $120,000 self-funded, $128,000 spent, $61,000 cash-on-hand
City Councilor Scott Griggs: $79,000 raised, $154,000 spent, $35,000 cash-on-hand
Democratic state Rep. Eric Johnson: $180,000 raised, $367,000 spent, $259,000 cash-on-hand (Note: Johnson's report shows a larger cash-on-hand because he's required to report legislative money along with mayoral money)
Philanthropist Lynn McBee: $138,000 raised, $661,000 spent, $155,000 cash-on-hand
Attorney Regina Montoya: $97,000 raised, $237,000 spent, $50,000 cash-on-hand
Dallas Independent School District Trustee Miguel Solis: $198,000 raised, $434,000 spent, $30,000 cash-on-hand
Former GOP state Rep. Jason Villalba: $22,000 raised, $25,000 spent, $3,000 cash-on-hand
If no one takes a majority on Saturday, there would be a runoff June 8.