The congressman in fact attended an event in his district on Thursday where he showed no obvious sign that anything was amiss. Watkins even said at one point, "Media, I'm sure you have questions. We'll do an interview." After his address, though, the Capital-Journal says that the congressman was speaking to a constituent when he "placed his cellphone to his ear and abruptly left the Boiler Room Brewhaus through a side door." Two reporters spotted the congressman entering his waiting car and shouted questions to him about the rumors of his imminent departure, but he ignored them and "smirked as the vehicle pulled away."
The 2nd District, which includes Topeka and nearby rural areas, backed Donald Trump 56-37. However, it hosted a very tight race last year, thanks both to the strength of the Democratic candidate, former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, and the weakness of Watkins. Watkins presented himself on the campaign trail as an adventurer who had built up a defense contracting company called VIAP, but multiple media reports exposed him as a serial liar.
Among many other things, senior officials at VIAP said they didn't even remember Watkins. The candidate ended up admitting that, despite what he'd said many times about his business career, he'd never actually owned or expanded VIAP, but he went back to lying about the same topic weeks later as though nothing had ever happened. About a week before Election Day, a woman also publicly accused Watkins of making "unwanted sexual advances" against her 12 years earlier. Watkins ended up defeating Davis in a very expensive contest, but only by a 48-47 margin.
● CO-Sen: On Friday, the DSCC endorsed former Gov. John Hickenlooper in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, a move that came a day after he entered the race. In an unusually low-key move, the DSCC didn't send out a formal press release on Hickenlooper's behalf, but they provided a written statement saying they were "proud to support him ..."
So far, none of Hickenlooper's intra-party rivals have deferred to the former governor. If history is any guide, many of the candidates will use this opportunity to declare that they're not Washington's "hand-picked" candidate and campaign accordingly.
Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff was quick to make this argument on Friday, tweeting, "When I represented CO on the DNC, our party didn't take sides in primaries. The @dscc has no qualms at all—they recruited a candidate to fight the #GreenNewDeal & #MedicareForAll, and now they're doubling down on their investment." Romanoff concluded, "We can bend to Washington's will—or break them."
However, Democratic Senate candidates haven't had much success in past cycles trying to make an opponent's DSCC endorsement a liability. And with so many well-funded candidates running in Colorado, it will be difficult for anyone to consolidate primary voters who are skeptical of Hickenlooper or national Democrats.
● KY-Sen: State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, who lost a competitive Democratic primary for governor in May, said on Thursday that he would decide whether to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after this November's elections. The Courier-Journal also reports that sports radio host Matt Jones is "expected" to make up his mind by the end of August. Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath, meanwhile, is spending what her campaign says is $375,000 for a new TV ad well ahead of next year's primary.
● MA-Sen: On Tuesday, the League of Conservation Voters endorsed Democratic Sen. Ed Markey for renomination.
● NH-Sen: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the Washington Examiner that he planned to wait and see how much money his would-be GOP primary rivals raise in the third quarter of 2019 before he decides whether to run himself.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc and former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien both announced they would run earlier in the summer, while attorney Bryant "Corky" Messner has opened a fundraising committee; their first fundraising reports are due Oct. 15. Lewandowski said, "If they don't have those resources, it's going to propel me into the race."
● UT-Gov: Wealthy businessman Jeff Burningham has been fundraising since January for his undeclared campaign for the GOP nod, and Utah Policy wrote Friday that he's expected to announce he's running "in the coming weeks."
● WA-Gov: GOP state Rep. Drew Stokesbary expressed interest in running here back in April, and the Tacoma News Tribune says he's still considering now that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has ended his presidential campaign and decided to seek a third term. Republicans haven't controlled this seat since John Spellman left office in 1985, and Stokesbary was born on the very final day of his term.
● IL-14: Catalina Lauf, who worked in the Trump administration's Commerce Department, announced Tuesday that she would seek the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. Lauf, who is 26 and whose mother emigrated from Guatemala, portrayed herself as the conservative answer to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
A number of Republicans are eyeing this seat, but state Rep. Allen Skillicorn has decided to run for re-election instead. Skillicorn will announce his 2020 plans on Sept. 30, and he's soliciting donations for his state fundraising account rather than for a federal campaign. Skillicorn's congressional flirtations may have given him an unnecessary headache, though, since he recently picked up a primary challenge from McHenry County Board member Carolyn Schofield, who said the incumbent's "indecision" about what to run for showed he wasn't focused on his constituents.
● IN-05: Former state Department of Workforce Development director Steve Braun set up a fundraising committee with the FEC on Friday, and the Indianapolis Business Journal writes that he's expected to announce his bid for the GOP nod after Labor Day. Braun ran for the neighboring 4th District last year and self-funded $830,000, but he lost the primary to now-Rep. Jim Baird 37-29. Braun's brother, Mike Braun, had a much better primary day, and he's now Indiana's junior U.S. senator.
● MA-06: On Friday, Rep. Seth Moulton ended his long-shot Democratic presidential primary bid and confirmed that he'd seek a fourth term in Massachusetts' reliably blue 6th Congressional District. Moulton may be in for a rough homecoming, though, since women's health advocate Jamie Zahlaway Belsito and Salem City Councillor Lisa Peterson both announced earlier this summer that they would challenge him in the September 2020 primary. A number of other Democrats have previously expressed interest in taking on Moulton, though a large field would likely help him by splitting the anti-incumbent vote.
Moulton angered progressives across the nation late last year when he led an unsuccessful campaign to keep Nancy Pelosi from returning to the speaker's chair, and both of his opponents are betting that his quixotic presidential campaign damaged him at home. Belsito and Peterson both launched their campaigns by taking the congressman to task for failing to make his constituents his top priority. Belsito also went after Moulton for criticizing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was one of his many White House rivals.
Moulton has more than a year to try to convince primary voters in this North Shore seat that he really is focused on them, but he still might not be done trying to earn himself a promotion. CNN writes that Moulton's aides hope that he'll be in line for a prominent job in the next Democratic administration such as secretary of veterans affairs or even secretary of defense or ambassador to the United Nations.
● NC-09: Democrat Dan McCready is going up with an ad defending himself from the many GOP attacks on his business career. McCready tells the audience, "After I got home from Iraq, I started a solar business. I work with business leaders and with both parties in Raleigh to protect bipartisan tax relief and created a whole new industry here in North Carolina." The NRCC, unsurprisingly, is also going up with yet another spot labeling him "McGready."
Meanwhile, McCready's allies at House Majority Forward are up with a commercial highlighting his service in the Marines in Iraq. The narrator declares, "Coming home, McCreedy could have worked for a big company, but instead started a small business bringing 700 good paying jobs to North Carolina." The group previously said they were spending $500,000 on their TV campaign. The League of Conservation Voters is also spending $250,000 on a digital and mail campaign to aid McCready.
● NV-03: Former wrestler Dan Rodimer, who had a brief stint with World Wrestling Entertainment in the mid-2000s under the ring name "Dan Rodman," announced Thursday that he would seek the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. This seat, which includes Las Vegas' southern suburbs, very narrowly backed both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, but Lee won last year by a wide 52-43 margin.
Rodimer ran in the primary for a competitive state Senate seat last year, and his platform included a pledge to repeal the 2015 tax increase passed by then-GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Republican legislature to fund the state's public education system. Rodimer also opposed sanctuary cities, declaring, "We are a country of laws and we need to enforce those laws."
However, as the Nevada Independent reported at the time, Rodimer himself got in trouble with the law back in 2010. According to the police report, Rodimer threatened another man at a Florida Waffle House, grabbed him by the neck, and threw him "into a chair and onto the floor." The victim told the cops, "He then proceeded to say that he liked to 'F–k' people up and was egging me on to fight him." Rodimer pleaded guilty to battery and completed an anger management course, and the charges were subsequently dropped. Rodimer said of the incident last year, "Yes, I pushed a bully."
Rodimer gave his legislative campaign $150,000 of his own money, which allowed him to outraise former state Assemblywoman Valerie Weber $200,000 to $102,000. Rodimer also attracted attention from Fox News, which profiled him about a month before the primary. Weber, though, beat him by a narrow 40-38 margin, though she went on to lose a close general election. Rodimer kicked off his new congressional campaign with another Fox appearance.
● Indianapolis, IN Mayor: Indy Politics has commissioned a survey of this November's mayoral contest from the GOP firm Mason Strategies, and they give Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett a huge 55-27 lead over GOP state Sen. Jim Merritt. This is the first poll we've seen of this race.
● Deaths: Conservative megadonor David Koch, who along with his brother Charles has been one of the biggest forces in GOP campaigns this decade, died Friday at the age of 79.
The multi-billionaire Koch family has long been involved in right-wing politics: Fred Koch, the founder of Koch Industries and the father of David and Charles, was also a founding member of the anti-communist far-right John Birch Society. In 1980, David Koch ran for office for the first and only time when he became the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate, but the ticket took just 1% of the nationwide popular vote. Four years later, he founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, a political organization that promoted his business-friendly views within the GOP.
The group ended up splintering in 2004, and Koch's half became Americans for Prosperity. But it was only in 2010, after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted campaign finance laws with their Citizens United decision, that the Koch brothers and AFP became some of the most important players in American politics, including being at the forefront of funding climate-change denial efforts to protect their fossil fuel business interests from environmental regulations.
The Koch brothers and their wealthy allies poured untold millions into AFP, Freedom Partners, and other conservative groups, which in turn spent heavily on outside spending to aid Republican congressional candidates. In 2012 alone, 17 groups in the Koch's network raised $407 million. Democratic campaigns tried to make the Kochs and dark money a major issue in both the 2010 and 2014 elections, but both those cycles still were disasters for Team Blue.
Despite their wide reach, the Kochs still lost some important intra-party battles. David Koch publicly supported then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's presidential bid, but Walker dropped out in the fall of 2015. The brothers also had a tense relationship with Donald Trump that continued after he reached the White House. While David Koch reportedly attended Trump's election night party, Trump by 2018 was tweeting that their network was "a total joke in real Republican circles." Charles Koch said earlier this year that he wouldn't spend to help Trump win re-election, though he still would aid other GOP candidates.
While the Koch brothers were usually talked about as a unit, biographer Daniel Schulman wrote that it was Charles Koch who was the dominant partner in their political and business interests. But David Koch, unlike his introverted brother, was happy to socialize with politicians and reporters, and he was interviewed by Barbara Walters in 2014. Last year, though, Koch Industries announced that David Koch was stepping aside from business and politics because of his health.
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