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.
● GA-Sen: On Tuesday, 2018 Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams announced that she would not challenge GOP Sen. David Perdue.
National Democrats tried hard to recruit Abrams, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer even designated her to give the party's response to Donald Trump's State of the Union. However, Abrams said this week that she wanted an executive role, and that the Senate is "not the role that best suits those needs." Abrams is still considering a 2020 presidential bid or a 2022 rematch against GOP Gov. Brian Kemp.
A number of Peach State Democrats had been considering running for the Senate if Abrams sat the contest out, and one is already making her move. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson formed an exploratory committee in early April, and she said right after Abrams’ announcement that she would reveal her Senate plans on Wednesday. Tomlinson also filed paperwork with the FEC on Tuesday, so there isn’t much suspense about what she’ll decide to do.
Jon Ossoff, who was the Democratic nominee in the ultra-expensive 2017 special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, has also said over the last few months that he was keeping his Senate options open should Abrams pass. Sarah Riggs Amico, who lost the 2018 race for lieutenant governor 51.6-48.4, has also been mentioned for months as a possible candidate, and she publicly expressed interest for the first time on Tuesday. Amico is the executive chair of the logistics and trucking firm Jack Cooper.
We might see even more Democrats eye this race now that Abrams isn’t running. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that allies of 2014 nominee Michelle Nunn are encouraging her to seek a rematch against Perdue, though there’s no word on her interest. Nunn ran a competitive race last time in an awful political climate for Democrats and lost 53-45.
● AL-Sen: Last week, disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley publicly spoke about the Senate race for the first time all year, and he's still not ruling out a GOP primary bid.
Bentley said that "doors open and doors close" (yes, that is indeed how doors work), and continued, "And you know, I never close doors completely. If the opportunity arises and things work the way they should, then we may consider it." We're not sure what Bentley means by "things work[ing] the way they should," but he doesn't sound like he's done with politics. Bentley is currently working as a dermatologist, a job he had before he won the governorship in 2010, and explained, "I love what I'm doing because I'm serving people," and he continued, "And that's what I did as governor. You know, I love serving the people of this state."
Whether the people of this state want to be served by Bentley again is another question. Back in 2017, the governor 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. Before that happened, though, Bentley agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. He resigned, pleaded guilty to some campaign finance violations, received a one-year probation sentence, and agreed he would never run for office again. However, no one seems to know if Bentley is still banned from seeking office now that his probation is over.
● IA-Sen, IA-03: A spokesperson for freshman Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne confirmed that his boss would seek re-election next year to her competitive House seat rather than challenge GOP Sen. Joni Ernst. Back in late February, Iowa Starting Line reported that the DSCC had spoken to Axne about the Senate race, but she didn't show any obvious interest in seeking a promotion over the following two months.
● NC-Sen: On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Walker declared that there was "zero chance" he would challenge Sen. Thom Tillis in the GOP primary.
Tillis pissed off pretty much everyone this winter when he published an op-ed in the Washington Post declaring that he would vote for a resolution rolling back Donald Trump's bogus emergency declaration because it was his "responsibility" to "preserve the separation of powers" and to "curb" "executive overreach," but then voted against the resolution three weeks later. Tillis doesn't have a credible primary foe yet, though Walker predicted this week that the senator would have a "legitimate" intra-party opponent.
However, while Tillis' detractors initially touted Walker as that possible opponent, the congressman's stock took a huge plunge in early April after federal prosecutors indicted North Carolina Republican Party Chair Robin Hayes, as well as GOP donor Greg Lindberg and two of his associates, for their part in an alleged bribery scheme. The indictment didn't mention Walker by name, but Politico quickly identified him as "Public Official A," whom Lindberg's associates said had been "trying to help us move the ball forward." Walker has denied any wrongdoing.
● KY-Gov: Both former state Auditor Adam Edelen and state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins are out with new positive TV spots ahead of the May 21 Democratic primary.
Edelen's commercial features the candidate with his younger brother, Austin, who has Down syndrome. Edelen tells the audience that GOP Gov. Matt Bevin "has forgotten my family, and yours. He's sold out to the insurance companies. He's let them jack up premiums and kick thousands off of their health care." Edelen pledges to expand Medicaid, lower prescription drug prices, and protect people with pre-existing conditions, like Austin.
Adkins' ad begins with the candidate declaring, "Parts of our state have little hope and no opportunity. We can do better in Kentucky." He goes on to say that the state is a leader in producing aerospace parts, cars, and energy, which Adkins says he helped make happen. He goes on to call for new roads, high speed internet, and free job training and community colleges.
● CA-39: On Monday, 2018 GOP nominee Young Kim announced that she would seek a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros in California's 39th Congressional District, and she immediately unveiled an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Last year, Cisneros defeated Kim by a close 51.6-48.4 margin in this Southern California seat, which includes the San Gabriel Valley and northern Orange County. Like many similar suburban areas, this traditionally Republican district rebelled against Trump, swinging from 51-47 Romney to 51-43 Clinton. However, last year's GOP gubernatorial nominee, John Cox, managed to beat Democrat Gavin Newsom here by a tight 50.4-49.6 spread despite getting pummeled statewide, so the district has by no means abandoned its Republican roots.
Kim is a former member of the state Assembly who was first elected in 2014 but lost her seat two years later. She ran for Congress last year with the support of her old boss, Rep. Ed Royce, whose retirement left this seat open. Both parties made the race a priority, and with a $34 million price tag, OpenSecrets ranks the general election as the most expensive House race of 2018. (The only House contest last cycle that attracted more money was the 2017 special election in Georgia's 6th).
Kim spent a good deal of time on the campaign trail trying to distance herself from Donald Trump, but after all the votes were cast, she gave up the charade. Kim had led by around 4,000 votes on election night, leading some over-eager election watchers to call the race for the GOP, but as has been the case in almost every corner of the Golden State for years, late-counted ballots consistently shifted the race in the Democrat's direction.
Days before Kim lost her lead, her campaign issued an absurd statement citing her current vote share in each of the three counties that make up the district and then warning, "Anything falling significantly outside of those percentages could reflect foul play." Kim almost certainly knew she was engaging in baseless, Trump-esque conspiracy mongering, and she ended up conceding a week later.
It won't be easy for Kim to unseat Cisneros in a presidential year if Trump remains anywhere near as unpopular here as he was in 2016 and 2018, but if she does, she'd become the first Korean American woman to serve in Congress. Weirdly, though, Kim's own supporters have gotten carried away and dramatically exaggerated how much history she would be making.
Just after Election Day, when Kim still led in the vote tally but when it was still far from clear who would emerge with the win, far-right activist Charlie Kirk infamously tweeted that Kim was "the FIRST ASIAN AMERICAN WOMAN EVER elected to Congress"—a "fact" he insisted the media was ignoring because she was a Republican.
Over here in reality, though, the first Asian American woman ever elected to Congress (we'll save you the all-caps) was Hawaii Democrat Patsy Mink. Mink, who was also the first woman of color ever to be elected to Congress, first took office back in 1965 and, unlike Kim, actually won her contest. And no, Kim wouldn't have even been the first Asian American Republican woman in Congress, either—an honor that went to another Hawaii politician, Rep. Pat Saiki, in 1987.
A few months after the elections, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik resurfaced these odd claims in musing that Kim "would have been the first Republican Korean American candidate." While Stefanik was considerably closer to the truth than Kirk, she was still off. The identity of the first Korean American in Congress belongs to another Southern California Republican, Jay Kim, who won office back in 1992.
We don't know if he was the first-ever Republican Korean American candidate for the House, but he definitely beat out Young Kim by a few decades. However, Jay Kim spent his final years in Congress wearing an ankle monitor after he pleaded guilty to taking $230,000 in illegal donations and subsequently lost his 1998 primary, so we're not surprised his fellow Republicans don't want to remember him.
● MN-01: 2018 Democratic nominee Dan Feehan sounds quite interested in seeking a rematch against freshman GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn, with him tweeting on Tuesday, "Your ignorance might be the norm in DC, but it is unacceptable for those of us you pretend to represent. See you soon." Feehan, an Army veteran and former Department of Defense official, lost last year's open seat race for this southern Minnesota seat by a narrow 50.1-49.7 spread. In December, DCCC chair Cheri Bustos said that she wanted him to run again.
Feehan's tweet came in response to Hagedorn's comments over the weekend at a Kiwanis Club meeting. The congressman spoke about how available food is in grocery stores and declared, "Nobody (in America) goes to sleep at night wondering if they'll be able to feed their families," a statement that probably comes as news to the millions of Americans who struggle to afford food. Feehan responded by calling Hagedorn out, tweeting that in Minnesota's 1st District "there are 58,000 food insecure people, nearly 20,000 of them children." The Democrat then hinted he'd be back in 2020.
This seat has been competitive turf for decades, but it lurched from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump. Team Blue did better here in 2018's statewide races, but this district still voted well to the right of the state as a whole. Democrat Tim Walz, who gave up this seat after 12 years to successfully run for governor, won statewide 54-42 but carried his constituency by a small 50-47 spread. Democratic Sen. Tina Smith also won her special election by a similar 53-42 margin but lost the 1st District 49-46.
● Fort Worth, TX Mayor, San Antonio, TX Mayor: In addition to Dallas, both Fort Worth and San Antonio will host nonpartisan mayoral races on Saturday, and the Texas Tribune gives us a preview of each contest. There will be runoffs June 8 in any contests where no one takes a majority of the vote.
Over in Fort Worth, Republican Mayor Betsy Price faces her first noteworthy challenge in years from Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Deborah Peoples, a former AT&T vice president. Fort Worth's Tarrant County has been a GOP stronghold for a while, but Team Blue was encouraged by Texas Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke's narrow victory there last year, and by wins in a local state Senate and county commission race. However, Price, who is seeking a fifth two-year term, held a huge financial lead in early April.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, a progressive independent, is running for his second two-year term, and his main foe is conservative City Councilor Greg Brockhouse. Brockhouse, who used to be a consultant for both the city's police and firefighter unions, used his February campaign kickoff to argue that Nirenberg was "needlessly" fighting first responders after the mayor repeatedly battled them over pensions and other issues.
However, in recent weeks, the fate of Chick-fil-A at the San Antonio airport has dominated much of the race. In March, the City Council voted to ban the fast-food chain because of the company's "legacy of anti-LGBT behavior." Nirenberg sided with the majority and explained he didn't want Chick-fil-A at the airport because it wasn't a local company and it wasn't open on Sundays. Brockhouse and social conservatives have gone after Nirenberg over this vote, and the councilman unsuccessfully tried to get the Council to reconsider.
Brockhouse has also been dealing with domestic violence allegations from 2006 and 2009. In March, the San Antonio Express-News reported that in 2006, Christine Rivera, who was married to Brockhouse at the time but was separated from him, called the police and said that Brockhouse had pushed her after she and her boyfriend ran into him when he arrived at their old home to retrieve some items. Brockhouse had also called the police and accused Rivera's boyfriend of punching him. No charges were filed, and Brockhouse denies any wrongdoing.
Three years later, Brockhouse's current wife, Annalisa, called the police and alleged that he had thrown her to the ground. No charges were filed this time either, and the city councilor said in March he didn't recall the incident. Annalisa also recanted her allegations and says she stands "proudly with Greg." Brockhouse told a moderator a few weeks ago that he would leave the event if any questions were asked about either police report, and none were.
● St. Louis County, MO Executive: St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, a Missouri Democrat, resigned on Monday hours after the public learned he had been indicted by federal prosecutors for his part in an alleged bribery scheme. The St. Louis County Council was tasked with choosing a replacement, who under county law needed to be from the same party as Stenger, and on Monday evening, they selected County Council Chairman Sam Page. Page will be up in November 2020 for the final two years of Stenger’s term.
Back in 2014, Stenger won the Democratic primary for this post by decisively defeating incumbent Charlie Dooley, the county’s first black executive. Days later, a black teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, a city located in St. Louis County, which sparked mass protests against police violence. Stenger had a tough time in the general election in a campaign overshadowed by his ties to County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, who attracted the scorn of plenty of protestors, and Stenger only narrowly beat his Republican foe in this predominantly blue county.
Four years later, Stenger only narrowly won renomination on the same night that McCulloch was going down in a surprise defeat. While Stenger had an easier time in November, his relationship with the County Council was bad. In March, the Council even began the process of removing Stenger from office because he’d skipped numerous meetings.
However, Page also begins his time as county executive with some controversy. The Council picked him the very day that Stenger resigned in a meeting where there was no public comment allowed. Council Vice Chairwoman Hazel Erby, a Democrat who was interested in the executive appointment, unsuccessfully tried to delay the meeting by arguing that the public needed time to weigh in, and she was the one member of the body who ended up voting against confirming Page.
Page’s appointment also means that the Council will now be deadlocked between three Democrats and three Republicans until his old seat, which St. Louis Public Radio calls “Democratic-leaning,” can be filled.
● Deaths: Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat who served from 1999 until she resigned to join the Obama State Department in 2009, died on Monday at the age of 67. The Los Angeles Times writes that Tauscher had been battling pneumonia for several months.
Tauscher, a former investment banker, got her start in politics as a fundraiser, and she co-chaired Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s 1992 and 1994 campaigns. In 1996, Tauscher challenged GOP Rep. Bill Baker in what was then California’s 10th Congressional District, a suburban seat located in the East Bay.
The Bay Area was hardly as monolithically Democratic back then as it is now, and this was one of the most expensive and competitive House races in the nation. Tauscher, whom Time Magazine described as “[a] millionaire former stockbroker and businesswoman” who “looked, at first glance, like a Rockefeller Republican,” pitched herself as a fiscal moderate and social liberal. Tauscher attacked Baker from the left on gun safety and abortion rights, and she won 49-47.
Tauscher kept her moderate reputation, and she won her next two campaigns by margins of 53-43 and 53-44, respectively. In 2002, the Democratic-led state government passed a new congressional map that was intended to shore up incumbents from both parties, but Tauscher was hardly happy with her new and considerably more Democratic seat. Instead, Tauscher argued that state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton was trying to endanger her in a Democratic primary to punish her for refusing to back Nancy Pelosi in the race for Democratic whip.
However, that threat never came to pass. Tauscher never faced any primary opposition in her final four campaigns, and she also didn’t have any trouble in the general election. In 2009, Barack Obama successfully nominated her to become undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, where she worked with Hillary Clinton. Tauscher was succeeded in a special election by Democrat John Garamendi, who still serves in Congress.