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.
● FL-15: On Monday, Democrats landed a top-shelf recruit, state Rep. Adam Hattersley, to take on scandal-tarred Republican Rep. Ross Spano in Florida's 15th Congressional District, located in the Tampa suburbs.
As a consequence of Hattersley's entrance, Democrat Andrew Learned, who'd run for this seat last year and had been making a second bid, dropped out of the race and offered Hattersley his "unequivocal support," noting that the two are fellow veterans (both served in the Navy, and Hattersley earned a Bronze Star in Iraq). Learned will instead reportedly announce a bid for Hattersley's seat in the state House, which, it turns out, used to be represented by none other than Ross Spano.
Hattersley won that district (the 59th) when Spano left it open to run for Congress last year by a 51.5 to 48.5 margin, narrowly outperforming both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who, respectively, lost and won it by less than a point. It'll be difficult turf to defend as Democrats make a play for the state House next year, but the 15th District is considerably redder.
In fact, it went for Donald Trump by a 53-43 margin, and the closest statewide performance by Democrats in 2018 was a 53-47 loss by Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat to prevail in a race for state office last year. But Democrats nevertheless have reason for optimism.
For starters, almost all of the 59th House District is located within the 15th Congressional District. That gives Hattersley a base of support that's already familiar with him since he currently represents about 21% of the district he's now seeking.
The more important factor, though, is Spano himself. Late last year, before he was even sworn in as a member of Congress, Spano admitted he might have violated federal election law by taking personal loans worth $180,000 from two friends and then loaning his campaign $170,000. That's a serious problem, because if you loan money to a congressional candidate with the intent of helping their campaign, you have to adhere to the same laws that limit direction contributions, which in 2018 capped donations at just $2,700 per person.
And it's not an issue Spano can really rectify. Since his admission, Spano took out a $250,000 bank loan to repay his buddies for their questionable financial aid, but if the Federal Elections Commission rules that those personal "loans" were in fact illegal donations in excess of federal maximums, that'll be a major black mark.
Not only would it bring down even more ugly headlines, it would likely come with a sizable fine, as former New Hampshire Rep. Frank Guinta experienced in a similar situation four years ago. It would also taint Spano's not-particularly dominant 53-47 victory over Democrat Kristen Carlson in last year's race.
But Spano has only managed to make matters worse for himself. For one, he still hasn't managed to report the terms of his bank loan to the FEC, as campaign finance regulations require. For another, he hasn't reported receiving the bank loan or repaying the potentially illegal contributions to his campaign; instead, his FEC reports still identify his campaign loans as coming from the "personal funds" of one Vincent Ross Spano—exactly as they did back in December.
No matter how he tries to clean up his financial mess, though, there will always be a major ethical question dogging him. One of Spano's fairy godloaners, businessman Cary Carreno, gave Spano $110,000 and then, as Politico put it, became "a sort of employment agent for the congressman-elect" last fall. Carreno helped interview job applicants for Spano's congressional office and even fired the campaign's treasurer, who claims she didn't know of the dodgy loans.
One potential hire told Politico that Carreno's involvement with hiring was "really weird," while an unnamed aide in another congressional office said that it was a "red flag" that had prompted gossip and led to Spano getting branded a "a less-than-desirable boss." He's also looking like a less-than-desirable congressman, all the more so now that voters have a credible alternative in Hattersley.
● KS-Sen: On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that a Senate run was "off the table," but we'd be surprised if this newest declaration ends Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's quest to recruit him. Back in February, Pompeo said that he'd "ruled out" running only to open the door open again a month later like nothing had happened.
● KY-Sen: VoteVets endorsed 2018 House candidate Amy McGrath on Monday for the Democratic nomination to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
● MA-Sen: Politico reports that there's a mysterious poll in the field testing Rep. Joe Kennedy III in a hypothetical Democratic primary against Sen. Ed Markey, and the congressman's team is refusing to say if they have anything to do with it. Kennedy's spokesperson, Emily Kaufman, declared, "Congressman Kennedy is running for re-election in the House, as he has said many times." However, when Politico inquired further if Kennedy paid for the poll, Kaufman would not comment.
This isn't the first time that Kennedy has refused to close the door on a potential bid against Markey when given the chance. Back in late November, the congressman was asked about this race and he replied that he was a "strong supporter" of Markey "and I expect that not only will he run for re-election, but I expect that he will win it." That seemed definitive until he was pushed if he'd ever challenge a fellow Democrat in a primary, Kennedy would not say no. Instead, he declared that "in this business, I guess you never say never," adding, "I have a hard time understanding what those circumstances would be that would lead me to do that."
We don't know if those circumstances have changed over the ensuing eight months, but at the very least, Kennedy is once again declining to take his name out of contention when given the chance. Markey currently faces a primary against labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan and business executive Steve Pemberton.
● TN-Sen: GOP Rep. David Kustoff announced Friday that he would not run for Tennessee's open Senate seat.
● KY-Gov: On Monday, veteran GOP state Sen. Dan Seum crossed party lines and endorsed Democrat Andy Beshear over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Seum, who represents part of Louisville and suburban Bullitt County, was originally elected to the legislature as a Democrat in the 1980s, but he's hardly been a moderate during his time in office. Seum and another senator gave Team Red control of the upper chamber for the first time ever in 1999 by switching parties, and he was a member of the GOP's Senate leadership until this year.
Seum has also largely supported Bevin's agenda, and he continued to support his pension bills as recently as this month. However, the senator made it clear Monday how little he liked his fellow Republican, declaring, "Today, we have a governor who has failed miserably in the pension issue and has spent the last year running around the state insulting everyone, including the four teachers in my family."
● NC-Gov: GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest's campaign reports raising $1.3 million during the first six months of 2019 and having $1 million in the bank at the end of June. Another GOP candidate, state Rep. Holly Grange, only entered the race in July, so we'll need to wait a while to see if she'll have the resources to run a credible campaign. Forest and Grange are competing to take on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who hauled in $4.5 million during the first half of the year and had $5.6 million on-hand.
● PR-Gov: Justice Minister Wanda Vázquez announced on Sunday that she did not want to succeed Ricardo Rosselló as governor when he resigns on Friday. Normally, Puerto Rico’s secretary of state would be the first in line to become governor, but Luis Rivera Marin resigned from that very post earlier this month because of his own role in the chat scandal that took down Rosselló. Vázquez said over the weekend that she hoped that Rosselló will nominate a new secretary of state before he departs, and that this new person will be governor instead of her. The legislature would need to confirm any new secretary of state.
Vázquez had made a number of enemies during her time in politics, and the protestors who pressured Rosselló to quit didn’t sound at all willing to accept her as his successor. However, it’s now anyone’s guess who will be governor once Rosselló’s resignation takes effect on Friday evening.
There’s even a chance that Vázquez will take the post after all. Her office clarified on Monday that the justice minister was simply saying that she didn’t want to become an elected official, and her spokesperson added, “She is a believer and follower of the law and the Constitution,” and, “It is what the Constitution says, and she will do what the Constitution says.” It’s possible that Vázquez could serve as governor long enough to nominate a secretary of state and see them be confirmed by the legislature, then resign and let this person become governor. However, her team didn’t address this idea as of Monday.
If Vázquez decided to refuse the governorship, the next person in the line of succession is Education Secretary Eligio Hernández, who has been at his post since April. Normally, the commonwealth’s treasury secretary would have precedence over the education secretary. However, Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés is only 31, while the constitution requires the governor to be at least 35.
● AL-02: A few Republicans have already expressed interest in running to succeed Rep. Martha Roby in this safely red seat, but they don’t have too long to decide before the Nov. 8 filing deadline. There’s also one other consideration for Roby’s would-be successors: Alabama may lose a seat in the 2022 round of redistricting, so whoever wins Alabama’s 2nd may be out of a job before too long.
State Sen. Clyde Chambliss said Friday that he would spend the weekend considering, and he insisted that he had “no hesitation” about redistricting. Former state Rep. Perry Hooper also said that he was eyeing this seat and would be meeting with top congressional GOP leaders. Hooper was an early Donald Trump supporter in the 2016 presidential primaries, and he was co-chair of his state campaign. Wealthy businessman Jeff Coleman, who can reportedly self-fund, also says he’s “prayerfully considering” a bid.
A number of other Republicans are also reportedly considering, but we haven’t heard anything directly from them:
- State Rep. Will Dismukes
- 2016 candidate Becky Gerritson
- Former Alabama Attorney General Troy King
- 2018 candidate and former state Rep. Barry Moore
Meanwhile, state Sen. Donnie Chesteen and state Rep. Wes Allen have both said no to running.
● CA-15: On Monday, Hayward City Councilor Aisha Wahab announced that she was suspending her campaign for this safely blue Bay Area seat, and it doesn't sound like she has any intention of getting back in. Wahab had kicked off her bid in the spring to succeed Rep. Eric Swalwell, a fellow Democrat who had decided to run for president. However, Wahab said at the time that she would reevaluate her plans if Swalwell ended his longshot White House bid and ran for a fifth term, and that's exactly what happened this month. With Wahab out of the race, Swalwell doesn't face any serious opposition for re-election.
● KS-03: Former National Down Syndrome Society head Sara Hart Weir announced that she would challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids on Monday, making her the first notable Republican to enter the race for this competitive suburban Kansas City seat. The National Journal wrote back in May that national GOP leaders were trying to recruit Weir. However, former state party chair Amanda Adkins is also considering running here.
Before she took over as head of the National Down Syndrome Society seven years ago, Weir worked as a lobbyist for the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. Immediately after Weir announced her bid, the DCCC launched online ads calling her a "Big Pharma Lobbyist," which could foreshadow the strategy they'd use against her in a general election.
This district was reliably red turf at the start of the decade, and it backed Mitt Romney 54-44. However, Hillary Clinton took the seat 47-46 in 2016, and two years later, Davids unseated GOP incumbent Kevin Yoder 54-44. Davids is a strong fundraiser, and she hauled in $511,000 for the second quarter of 2019 and ended June with $750,000 in the bank.
● ME-02: 2018 GOP Senate nominee Eric Brakey said over the weekend that he expects "to make a final decision shortly" about whether or not to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, though he only plans to announce what he's doing in mid-September.
Brakey, who added that he's raised $100,000 since he formed an exploratory committee in early July, said that he's willing to take on former Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a primary if they both run. That's quite different from what Brakey said two months ago when he said of the former congressman, "I have respect for him and certainly, I don't think either of us would want to run against each other." Poliquin, who is still smarting from his narrow defeat last year, reportedly is considering seeking a comeback.
● MI-13: On behalf of the local political tip-sheet MIRS, Target-Insyght is out with a poll that finds freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib in good shape in two hypothetical Democratic primary matchups. They give Tlaib a 56-19 lead over Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in a possible rematch. In a three-way contest, Tlaib leads Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon 51-23 while Jones takes 8%.
This is the first time we've heard Napoleon mentioned as a potential candidate for this safely blue Detroit seat this cycle, and there's no word on his interest. However, there's been plenty of chatter that Jones could run again, and she declined to comment about her plans earlier this month. Last year, Tlaib narrowly beat Jones 31-30 in the six-way primary for the full term. However, there were only four candidates on the ballot in the special election primary, and in that race, it was Jones who beat Tlaib 38-36. Jones ended up serving in Congress during the lame-duck session from November until Tlaib was sworn in for a full term in January.
● NJ-03: The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein reports that former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs is considering challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. Gibbs, who reportedly met with the NRCC, has not said anything publicly, but Burlington County Republican Chairman Sean Earlen touted her as a strong potential candidate.
Gibbs ran for re-election last year, and her prospects seemed to dramatically improve in September when Democratic foe George Youngkin suspended his campaign after the news broke that he'd been arrested in 2006 on a domestic violence charge against his ex-wife, and that a different woman had also accused him of stalking her in 2004 and 2006. It was too late to get Youngkin off the ballot, and the county's Democratic chair declared, "George will not appear on any of our literature or our website or any campaign material at all."
However, despite all this, Youngkin narrowly unseated Gibbs in November; Youngkin ended up serving one day and then resigned. GOP leaders may not be holding that ignoble defeat against Gibbs, though. Wildstein writes, "She was widely viewed as a casualty of the blue wave that dominated the 2018 midterm elections for Democrats, rather than a rejection of Gibbs."
This coastal South Jersey seat backed Donald Trump 51-45, but Kim unseated GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur 50-49 last year. This district may be the most expensive in the nation to advertise in: About 57% of the 3rd is in the pricey Philadelphia media market, while the balance is in the very expensive New York City market. Kim raised $572,000 during the second quarter, and he had $970,000 in the bank at the end of June.
● NJ-05: On Monday, Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich announced that she would challenge Rep. Josh Gottheimer in the Democratic primary.
Gottheimer has been one of the more prominent moderates in the Democratic caucus ever since he flipped this 49-48 Trump seat in 2016, and Kreibich declared that she was a former supporter who has become disillusioned with the incumbent. Kreibich argued, "He's got one of the most pro-Trump records of any House Democrat in Washington, and when he comes home he refuses to explain his votes, hiding behind his position as a leader of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus."
Kreibich will be in for a very tough race against Gottheimer next year. Gottheimer has a well-deserved reputation for being a strong fundraiser, and he hauled in another $844,000 during the second quarter and ended June with a $5.68 million war chest. On Monday, Gottheimer also unveiled endorsements from all four of the district's county chairs, and in the Garden State, that's no small deal. It's not just because Jersey is one of the last bastions of old-school machine politics but because candidates endorsed by local parties receive favorable placement on primary ballots.
● NJ-10: Stephen Green, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor and former NAACP youth director, announced over the weekend that he would challenge Rep. Donald Payne in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat. Green, who is 27, told BuzzFeed's Darren Sands that he believed Congress needed more young and progressive leadership. Green cited the success of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her allies in "the squad" and argued, "It's the sense that the nation relies on courageous leadership. People want to know who's going to go to bat and fight for us."
In his capacity as NAACP youth director, Green organized a voter registration campaign with Chance the Rapper during the 2016 election, and Sands writes that he's been a "fixture" at a number of prominent protests since Donald Trump's victory. Sands adds that Green, whom he characterizes as a "dynamic orator," secured a major speaking slot this March at a ceremony attended by Hillary Clinton and Sen. Cory Booker that commemorated the Selma to Montgomery march.
Payne was elected in 2012 to this seat, which includes parts of Newark and Jersey City, to succeed his late father, 12-term Rep. Donald Payne Sr. The younger Payne won the regular primary for this seat with 60% of the vote that year (he did even better in the special election primary that same day), and he hasn't faced any serious opposition since then. However, Payne had just $92,000 in the bank at the end of June, so a well-connected primary foe could end up outraising him.
● NV-04: Businesswoman Lisa Song Sutton announced Monday that she would seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford. Sutton became Miss Nevada United States in 2014 (not to be confused with Miss Nevada, a title that's awarded in a separate pageant), and she went on to start several businesses in the Las Vegas area. This seat, which includes the northern Las Vegas area, backed Clinton 50-45.
● NY-03: DNC member Robert Zimmerman announced over the weekend that he'd decided against challenging Rep. Tom Suozzi in the Democratic primary.
● NY-27: Attorney and Fox News contributor Beth Parlato announced this week that she would challenge indicted Rep. Chris Collins in the GOP primary for this conservative suburban Buffalo seat.
Parlato is also a leader in the national social conservative organizations Moms for America and Concerned Women for America, and she's argued that these connections will help her raise money. In a recent speech before one group, Parlato declared, "There's a war on against families and I believe our children are being indoctrinated and being insensitized [sic]," and went on to launch a transphobic attack when she claimed, "Gender is not a decision; gender is a fact."
The only other notable Republican in the primary is state Sen. Chris Jacobs, who raised $446,000 during his opening quarter and self-funded an additional $325,000, which left him with a $748,000 war chest at the end of June. Collins says he'll decide whether to seek re-election at the end of this year before he goes on trial for insider trading in February, and he raised just $11,000 during the quarter. However, Collins self-funded another $500,000, and he had $665,000 to spend.
A few other Republicans are eyeing this seat, and the Buffalo News' Robert McCarthy reported on Saturday that state Sen. Robert Ortt is expected to announce "soon." However, the big name that everyone's watching is Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia. Bellavia sounded unlikely to run last week but didn't rule it out, and McCarthy writes, "The influential chairs of county organizations as well as many donors are now expected to remain uncommitted as long as Bellavia remains a potential candidate."
Parlato said Monday that she would run regardless of what Bellavia does, but not everyone's willing to face him. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw has shown plenty of interest in running if his longtime-ally Collins isn't on the ballot, but he recently said, "There is no question David deserves the benefit of a clear shot at the nomination if he wants it."
● OH-01: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Jason Williams writes that a number of Republicans are hoping that longtime Rep. Steve Chabot will decide to retire from this 51-45 Trump seat. So far, though, Chabot's campaign denies that he's looking to go anywhere.
Unnamed party insiders tell Williams they were disappointed when Chabot failed to become the top Republican on the powerful Judiciary Committee late last year. Chabot's fundraising has also not impressed anyone: The incumbent only hauled in $192,000 during the second quarter of 2019 and ended June with $381,000 to spend, which Williams interprets as a sign "that Greater Cincinnati Republican donors may be ready for a change."
Chabot skeptics are also looking ahead to the 2022 round of redistricting, when this seat may become much bluer thanks to 2018 redistricting reform. Williams writes that some Republicans would prefer for Chabot to leave now so they can elect someone new next year who would be better able to defend the new district the following cycle.
However, Chabot himself doesn’t sound like he wants to call it a career. Williams writes, "Speculation about Chabot's retirement is nothing new, and he seems to double down on wanting to stay in office the more people talk about it," and that may indeed be happening again. Chabot's campaign said a few days ago, "Someone who is holding 60 town halls this year to hear thoughts and concerns isn't even thinking about retiring." Ohio's candidate filing deadline is in December, so we won't need to wait too long to learn what Chabot will do.
Chabot won re-election last year just 51-47, and Air Force veteran Nikki Foster and former healthcare executive Kate Schroder are both seeking the Democratic nod to take him down. However, while there was some talk that Jill Schiller, who was Team Blue's 2018 nominee in the neighboring 2nd District, could run here, she's announced that she'll run for Hamilton County treasurer.
● TX-22: Former Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson tweeted on Friday that he was interested in running to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Pete Olson in a seat that has been drifting to the left in recent years. Lampson wrote, "I've received quite a bit of encouragement from former constituents of mine to run again. Serving for 10 years in congress and being able to make a difference in the lives of others was the honor of my life," and concluded, "There are great candidates running, and I have a lot to consider."
Lampson, who will be 75 on Election Day, has a long career in Texas politics. He was first elected to Congress in 1996, and he lost his seat in 2004 after the GOP, led by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, gerrymandered his seat along with many others.
Lampson soon launched a campaign against DeLay, who was under indictment at the time, in a previous version of the 22nd District. The Democrat got very lucky when DeLay announced in April of 2006 that he was both dropping out of the race and resigning from Congress, a move that left the GOP without a candidate on the ballot. Republicans ended up running a write-in campaign for Houston City Councilor Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to save a seat that George W. Bush had carried 64-36, but Lampson beat her 52-42.
However, Lampson had a tougher race in 2008. Olson defeated Sekula-Gibbs in the GOP primary runoff and unseated Lampson 52-46, a win that coincided with John McCain's 58-41 victory here. Lampson ran for the new and open 14th District in 2012, but he lost the general election to Republican Randy Weber 53-45 (Mitt Romney carried the seat 58-38 that same day). Lampson ran for office again last year against Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, a former Democrat who switched parties in 2015 while in office, but he lost 50.6-49.4.
● TX-32: On Monday, retired Navy SEAL Floyd McLendon, who works as an executive aide to state Attorney General Ken Paxton, became the first notable Republican to announce a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Colin Allred.
McLendon made sure to hit all the national GOP's buzzwords in his announcement by inveighing against New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Green New Deal, and "socialist ideals," as well as "open borders, infanticide, and a government takeover of the free market." That would have been a safe strategy for the GOP here in past years, but this suburban Dallas district hasn't been so open to conservative rhetoric recently. The seat swung from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton, and Beto O'Rourke beat GOP Sen. Ted Cruz here 55-44.
McLendon may also face a familiar Republican in the primary before too long. Former Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost this seat to Allred 52-46 last year, recently told the Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers, "There will be an opportunity for me to make a decision in mid-September." When Sessions was told about McLendon's upcoming announcement he replied, "Good for him," and asked, "Has he moved into the district yet?" Sessions ran an underwhelming campaign last cycle and Jeffers writes that some of his old allies say that they've told him not to run again. However, Sessions doesn't sound inclined to listen.
A few other Republicans are eyeing this seat, though state Rep. Angie Chen Button has decided to run for re-election rather than campaign against Allred. However, Jeffers writes that former state Sen. Don Huffines told him two weeks ago that he was considering. Huffines showed some interest in challenging Sessions in the primary back in 2015, but he decided to stay out. However, Huffines would meet the same fate as Sessions two years later. Huffines ran for re-election in a seat that had swung from 57-42 Romney to 50-45 Clinton, and he lost 54-46.
This is another race where the GOP will be going up against a strong freshman Democrat. Allred raised $591,000 for the last quarter and had $975,000 in the bank at the end of June.
● UT-01, UT-Gov: On Monday, GOP Rep. Rob Bishop announced that he would stick with his plans to retire from this safely red northern Utah seat. Bishop said nearly two years ago that this would be his last term, but he said a few weeks ago that he was reconsidering. So far, no notable Republicans have entered the race for his still-open seat.
We may still see Bishop's name on the ballot next year, though, since he also said Monday that he was still considering running for governor. The congressman didn't give us much of a clue which way he was leaning, though. He instead declared, "I am not going to run for governor because I am bored or want a job," and added that he only wanted to be governor if he thought he could make a difference.
● International Digest: In a lurch further right, the Conservative Party has chosen Boris Johnson as the United Kingdom's new prime minister. Johnson's ascent raises the chance that the U.K. won't reach a Brexit deal before the deadline to leave the European Union, risking an economic crisis, but with the right-wing governing coalition only holding a slim working majority, early elections appear likely. Meanwhile, the center-left made gains in Scandinavia, the opposition scored a key mayoral victory in Turkey's largest city, and Moldova saw an unlikely alliance of pro-EU and pro-Russian parties oust its ruling oligarch. Check out these stories and more in the July edition of the International Elections Digest.