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.
● TX State House: On Monday, Republican state Rep. Jonathan Stickland announced that he would not seek re-election to Texas' state House next year, but the news has implications well beyond his seat. Not only could Stickland’s retirement point to a path for Democrats to retake the chamber for the first time since 2002, but doing so could spell an end to GOP gerrymandering in the second-largest state in the country.
A conservative hardliner, Stickland only won re-election by a 50-47 margin last year over Democrat Steve Riddell as GOP Sen. Ted Cruz carried his Fort Worth-area 92nd District by a similar 51-48 spread. That makes Stickland’s seat a top pickup target next year for Democrats, who need to flip nine seats to win the 150-member Texas House, and Riddell has already said he’ll run again.
And this district is emblematic of many others. The Texas Legislative Council has calculated that Democrat Beto O'Rourke won a majority of seats in the House—76 in total—meaning, coincidentally, that exactly nine Republicans hold districts that voted blue in 2018's Senate race. That’s a huge improvement from 2016, when Hillary Clinton carried just 65 seats. What’s more, another eight Republicans sit in districts where, as in Stickland’s, Cruz only won by 4 points or less. These are the seats that offer Democrats a roadmap to a majority.
Stickland's near-loss was a result of the tidal wave that hit Texas in 2018, which saw Democrats gain 12 seats in the state House: After a series of easy victories, Stickland ran into the reality that diversifying and highly educated suburban districts such as his had veered sharply to the left in reaction to Donald Trump and would no longer reflexively tolerate his extreme views. With demographics continuing to shift, resulting in people of color and college-educated white voters making up an increasing share of the electorate, Texas’ once-red suburbs will be fiercely contested in 2020.
Lone Star Democrats will go all-in on the House next year, both because the state Senate is safely red and because if they can win the lower chamber, they’ll be able to block all the diabolical legislation the GOP can currently pass with no resistance. That includes everything from bills to strip abortion rights to another Republican gerrymander of Texas’ congressional map.
Redistricting is particularly consequential: If Democrats can force a deadlock, a court would step in to draw new lines, which would be guaranteed to be fairer than anything the GOP would come up with and would likely see Democrats and Latinos win several more seats. (Republicans would, however, still retain control over legislative redistricting under the state constitution.)
Of course, Republicans know they’re finally vulnerable, and fighting across a battleground as big as Texas is an expensive proposition. But the demographics—and the data—should give Texas Democrats a reason for optimism they haven’t enjoyed in quite some time.
● MA-Sen: Attorney Scott Lang, who left office as mayor of New Bedford in 2012, recently told the News Service he was considering challenging Sen. Ed Markey in the Democratic primary and would likely decide over the next few months. Lang is a self-described centrist, and he's taken issue with Markey for championing the Green New Deal. Markey already faces a primary challenge from labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, while business executive Steve Pemberton also formed an exploratory committee a few weeks ago.
● ME-Sen: On Monday, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination against GOP Sen. Susan Collins. Gideon has represented the Freeport area in the legislature since 2012, and she became speaker in late 2016. Gideon, whose father immigrated from India and whose mother immigrated from Armenia, would be the first person of color elected to Congress from Maine.
Gideon joins 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet in the primary to take on Collins, who has decisively won re-election three times. Collins won't be easy to defeat, but the eventual Democratic nominee will have one big asset. Collins infuriated progressives across the country when she became the decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and several organizations, including Daily Kos, quickly raised around $4 million that will go to whomever wins the 2020 primary to take on the senator. That's about as much as the $3.8 million that Collins had available at the end of March, though the senator shouldn't have trouble bringing in more.
However, recent polls disagree quite a bit on how popular Collins remains in this competitive state post-Kavanaugh. Morning Consult gave the senator a 52-39 approval rating during the first quarter of 2019, while a March survey from Pan Atlantic Research gave Collins a 62-37 score. A late May poll from Critical Insights, though, showed Collins slightly underwater at 41-42. Collins has been very popular throughout her four terms, but if Critical Insights is closer to the mark than the other two firms, she may finally be in for a tough re-election contest.
● MT-Sen, MT-Gov: Democrat Michael Punke, a former ambassador to the World Trade Organization, announced Sunday that he wouldn't run for office this cycle. Punke's decision almost certainly guarantees that the number of senators or governors who wrote the source material for the movie that broke Leonardo DiCaprio's 22-year Oscar drought will remain at zero.
● NH-Sen: On Monday, retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc announced that he would seek the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Bolduc served in the Special Forces during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and he was one of the horse-riding soldiers whose experience was depicted in the recent movie "12 Strong." Bolduc has also been a vocal advocate for other veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bolduc is the first notable Republican to challenge Shaheen, but he's unlikely to be the last. Former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien has been flirting with a bid for a while, and he has a "major announcement" set for July 23 that GOP sources tell WMUR will be his campaign kickoff. Attorney Bryant "Corky" Messner, who is an Army Rangers veteran, is also considering a bid.
Shaheen is arguably Team Red's top Senate target after Alabama's Doug Jones, and she can't take anything for granted in this very competitive swing state. However, Shaheen managed to win 51.5-48.2 during the 2014 GOP wave (albeit against carpetbagging former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown), so she's hardly a pushover. Morning Consult also gave Shaheen a strong 53-32 approval rating during the first quarter of 2019, though there isn't much other recent data about her standing in the Granite State.
● TX-Sen: On Friday, Democratic state Sen. Royce West publicly acknowledged his interest in this race for the first time. West, who would be Texas' first black U.S. senator, told the Texas Tribune that he has met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and will have a "decision whether to run next month."
West was first elected to his safely blue seat in 1992, and he doesn't appear to have faced a competitive primary since then. West's district takes up about half of the city of Dallas, which could give him a good local base of support.
● GA-07: Teacher Lisa Noël Babbage has joined the crowded GOP primary for this competitive open seat. Babbage has served on the state Republican Party's State Committee, and she currently is the treasurer of the Gwinnett County GOP.
Babbage also has been an ardent supporter of the new state law that outlaws abortion after just six weeks. She argued earlier this month, "Now we have no choice but to contend with those who are coming from other countries because our population is dwindling," and continued, "And now we have a huddled mass of immigrants that are illegally coming to our back door. But guess what Lady Liberty says—those huddled masses yearning to breathe free? They're in the wombs of American women."
● IA-02: Over the weekend, Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley announced he was ending his campaign for the GOP nod. Kedley's departure leaves the GOP without any candidate in this competitive open seat, though former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling said last month that he was very likely to run.
On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Rita Hart received an endorsement from EMILY's List on Monday.
● IN-05: The National Journal's Alex Clearfield reports that GOP state Sen. Victoria Spartz is considering running for this open seat, though she has yet to say anything publicly. Spartz's Senate seat is located entirely in the 5th Congressional District, but she's never had to face the voters before. In mid-2017, local party officials chose Spartz to fill a vacancy in the Senate (Indiana does not hold special elections for the legislature) for a term that doesn't expire until the end of next year.
● NY-01: Wealthy businessman Perry Gershon launched his second bid for this eastern Long Island seat a few months after he lost the general election to GOP incumbent Lee Zeldin 51-47, and he may have some Democratic primary opposition before too long. Nancy Goroff still says she's "exploring" a bid, but Newsday's Rick Brand notes that she recently took an 18-month leave of office from her job as head of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University. Goroff said back in April that her decision would come in July, and Brand writes that she's "expected to announce her candidacy by mid-July."
Newsday noted a few months ago that Goroff may be able to self-fund: She's been a big donor to Democratic causes, and her ex-husband, whom she recently divorced, used to work at Renaissance Technologies, one of the most profitable hedge funds of all time. EMILY's List also said in April that Goroff had been in touch with them.
Brand also reports that attorney Jack Harrington "expressed strong interest in running" in a meeting with the Suffolk County party chair earlier this month. Harrington lost a 2017 bid for Brookhaven supervisor to Republican incumbent Edward Romaine 62-38, and he recently returned from his deployment to Afghanistan with the Naval Reserves.
This seat has long been very competitive turf, but it swung from 50-49 Obama all the way to 55-42 Trump. However, according to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo carried the 1st District by a 49.1-48.6 margin last year, so it's hardly assured that Trump will do so well here in 2020. Zeldin has always been an ardent Trump ally, so if there's a local backlash against the White House, he could be in for a tough fight.
● NY-02: On Friday, VoteVets endorsed Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon's campaign to take on longtime GOP Rep. Pete King. Gordon, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 with the Army Reserves, currently faces no serious opposition in the Democratic primary.
● UT-04: GOP Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie told the Daily Herald over the weekend that, while he still wasn't ruling out a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, a congressional campaign is very unlikely.
● Queens County, NY District Attorney: New York City Councilman Rory Lancman announced Friday that he was dropping out of the June 25 Democratic primary and backing Queens County Borough President Melinda Katz. Katz, who has the support of plenty of prominent New York establishment figures and groups, faces five opponents on Tuesday including public defender Tiffany Cabán, who picked up several prominent endorsements just ahead of Election Day.