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.
● CA-50: On Wednesday, former GOP Rep. Darrell Issa announced that he was forming an exploratory committee for a possible bid for California's 50th Congressional District, an inland San Diego County seat that borders the 49th District he represented until January.
The 50th District is held by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is still running for re-election even though he's scheduled to stand trial in January on corruption charges. The candidate filing deadline is in December, and if Hunter goes forward with his plans to seek a seventh term, he won't be able to take his name off the ballot later no matter how his trial goes.
If Issa, who spent years at the top of Roll Call's list of wealthiest members of Congress, runs, he'll be in for a crowded race in this 55-40 Trump seat. A number of other Republicans are challenging Hunter, and the most prominent among them is former conservative radio host Carl DeMaio. Like Issa, DeMaio has a history of running for office in other parts of San Diego County: The former San Diego city councilman narrowly lost a 2012 contest for mayor (none of the city of San Diego is located in the 50th District), and he also lost a tight race in the neighboring 52nd District two years later to Democratic Rep. Scott Peters.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who lost a competitive race to Hunter last year, is also in. All the candidates will run on one ballot in the March top-two primary, and the two contenders with the most votes will advance to the general election.
If Issa does run and win, there will be plenty of people from both parties who won't be happy at all to see him back in Congress. Issa was first elected to the House in 2000, and he earned the ire of progressives across the nation in 2003 when he bankrolled the successful effort to recall California Gov. Gray Davis. Issa had planned to run in the crowded recall campaign himself, but after Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped in and sucked up the oxygen on the GOP side, Issa tearfully announced he wouldn't join the race.
But while Issa may not have wanted to stick around in Congress, he made the most of his post by using his position as chair of the House Oversight Committee—and millions in taxpayer dollars—to launch bogus investigation after bogus investigation against the Obama administration (chief among them the interminable Benghazi probe), bragging he wanted "seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks." Issa's rap sheet in fact goes on for days—click here for the full readout.
Democrats didn't hide their joy when Issa, who had only narrowly won re-election in 2016 in his once-safely red 49th District, decided to retire in 2018 rather than go through another tough race. Issa reportedly considered running in the more conservative 50th District just weeks later, but that campaign didn't end up happening.
Issa's inquisitions delighted his fellow GOP members of Congress, but the man himself left something to be desired. In September, Donald Trump nominated Issa to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, but the Senate still has not confirmed him. And in June, when The Hill broke the news that he was mulling a run for the 50th District, they added that some GOP House members believed he had "rubbed colleagues the wrong way."
One unnamed member sounded particularly pissed at Issa for wanting to come back to Congress after abandoning the 49th District, which Democrat Mike Levin flipped last year. This member declared, "Issa had his time here," and added, "[Y]eah, we know California is a challenging political environment, but I don't think there's been a lot of calls made to have him come back."
Whatever is animating Issa's desire to return to the chamber he just left, it doesn't seem to be issues. Roll Call's Emily Kopp notes that, while Issa's new website contains the announcement about his new exploratory committee, the issues sections read "placeholder for 1st issues title" and "placeholder for 2nd issues title," with plenty of dummy text underneath. By Thursday afternoon, the issues page simply read "PAGE NOT FOUND." The donate section is up and running, though.
● GA-Sen-B: A few Georgia Democrats are showing some interest in running in the 2020 special election to succeed GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who announced this week that he would resign at the end of 2019 for health reasons. All the candidates will compete in an all-party primary in November of 2020, and if no one takes a majority of the vote, the two candidates with the most votes would advance to a January runoff.
Politico asked Jason Carter, who was the party's 2014 gubernatorial nominee, if he was considering, and he replied, "I think anybody would think about it." Carter, who is a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, gave up his state Senate seat that year to challenge GOP Gov. Nathan Deal in what quickly became an expensive and closely-watched contest. However, the GOP wave helped propel Deal to a 53-45 win.
An unnamed strategist close to 2014 Senate nominee Michelle Nunn also tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she's considering. Nunn, who is the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, currently heads the Atlanta-based humanitarian group CARE. Nunn competed in an expensive open seat race against Republican David Perdue in a very difficult year for her party, and she lost by the same 53-45 margin as Carter.
The paper also reports that DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston has been speaking to national Democrats about this race. Boston and three other Atlanta-area district attorneys made news earlier this year when they announced that they would not prosecute women who violate the new state law that outlaws abortion after just six weeks, which is before many women know they're pregnant. DeKalb County gave Hillary Clinton more votes than any other county in Georgia in the 2016 general election except for neighboring Fulton County, so Boston would have a good geographic base of support if she did well at home.
The AJC also writes that businessman Matt Lieberman, the son of former Connecticut for Lieberman Sen. Joe Lieberman, is considering competing in the special election. The paper reported back in mid-July that Lieberman was thinking about challenging GOP Sen. David Perdue in the state's regularly scheduled race, but he has not said anything over the following month-and-a-half.
The AJC, the Wall Street Journal, and Politico also mentioned plenty of prospects, but there's no word on any of their interests. They include:
- Former Rep. John Barrow
- State Rep. Scott Holcomb
- State Sen. Jen Jordan
- Rep. Lucy McBath
- Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
- DeKalb County Chief Executive and 2010 nominee Michael Thurmond
- State Sen. and state party chair Nikema Williams
- Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates
Jordan said no to challenging Perdue back in April, while Thurmond said earlier in the summer that he wasn't looking to run against the incumbent, which may not have been quite a no. Yates also said last year she didn't want to run for office, and a party strategist admitted this week that getting her for the special might be a "pipe dream." There's also no indication right now that Barrow, who announced in April that he'd run for the state Supreme Court, is looking to switch races.
● KS-Sen: This week, Manhattan Mayor Pro Tem Usha Reddi announced that she would seek the Democratic nod for this open seat. Reddi, who immigrated to the United States from India when she was 8, would be the first woman of color to represent Kansas in the Senate, as well as the first Hindu to ever serve in the chamber.
Reddi's announcement comes about a month after she concluded her criminal case against her father, Venkata Yeleti. Reddi went to police in Virginia last year and provided them with emails and recordings of calls where Yeleti admitted to raping her when they lived in the state in the 1970s. Yeleti pleaded guilty in July, and Reddi publicly discussed the abuse for the first time soon afterwards. She said, "I came forward because I am the openly admitting survivor of sexual assault and rape who had it come to justice with my dad, but every time I talk to a different leader or woman they've had similar experiences."
● KY-Sen: Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones formed an exploratory committee on Thursday for a possible bid for the Democratic nomination to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Jones said he'll decide whether to run after the Nov. 5 state elections.
● LA-Gov: The RGA's Right Direction PAC is out with a new TV spot blaming Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards for job losses.
● CA-49: While former GOP Rep. Darrell Issa is considering running for the neighboring 50th District (see our CA-50 item), he's still taking sides in the top-two primary for his old seat. Last week, Issa endorsed San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott, who took all of 3% of the vote in last year's top-two primary.
● MI-06: GOP Rep. Fred Upton recently told the local radio station WSJM that he'd decide whether he'd seek an 18th term "in the upcoming couple of months." There's been plenty of speculation that Upton could retire from this competitive seat, but the congressman doesn't sound like he's leaning towards calling it quits. Upton told the station, "If we had decided that we're not going to be running, I wouldn't be getting up at 5, 6 in the morning, covering the counties like we have, and keeping the schedule that we have, that's for sure."
● WI-07: While Democratic state Sen. Janet Bewley said Monday that she was unlikely to run in the upcoming special election to succeed departing GOP Rep. Sean Duffy, she sounded a little more interested later in the week. Bewley told the local radio station WSAU, "To broaden my lens, to open it up to include looking at Congress isn't impossible; it just isn't what I had planned on doing." She added, "I'm listening to people, I'm hearing what they have to say. I'm not seeking it actively. I didn't go 'yahoo, now I can run for Congress' or anything."
● Special Elections: There's one special election in Georgia on tap for Tuesday:
GA-HD-71: This is a Republican district located in the southern portion of the Atlanta metro area, based in the Peachtree City area. This seat became vacant after former state Rep. David Stover resigned in June, citing the classic desire to spend more time with his family.
However, it's possible Stover actually quit to spend more time with his queen. Shortly after winning re-election, Stover was accused of living not in Georgia but rather in the country she was once a colony of: the United Kingdom. According to a complaint filed with the state House Ethics committee, Stover's official address was in fact a UPS Store, and he missed a third of the votes that took place during the 2017-2018 legislative session.
There are four candidates in the race, one Democrat and three Republicans. The Republican candidates are Army veteran Phillip Singleton, teacher Marcy Sakrison, and nonprofit director Nina Blackwelder. Librarian Jill Prouty is the lone Democrat on the ballot.
In a rarity for legislative special elections, we actually have some polling data for this race. GOP firm Rosetta Stone Communications conducted a survey that found Sakrison leading the race with 30%, with Singleton narrowly edging Prouty for second place by a 22-20 spread. Blackwelder was fourth with 10% while 18% were undecided. We don't know who commissioned this poll, but unsurprisingly, Sarkison has touted her lead in the survey on social media. If no candidate takes a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will move on to a runoff on Oct. 1.
While it's interesting to have a data point for this contest, legislative special elections are particularly difficult to poll, owing to their low turnout and lack of voter awareness. Additionally, this survey only meets the bare minimum of 300 respondents that Daily Kos Elections requires in order to write up a poll.
While this district is situated in the greater Atlanta area, a region where Democrats have recently met with increased success, it's not the sort of suburban seat that offers the party any promise, as it backed Donald Trump 74-22.
● Nashville, TN Mayor: The Tennessee Laborers' PAC, which is supporting Metro Councilor John Cooper in the Sept. 12 general election, is out with a poll from the Democratic firm GBAO that gives him a huge 58-32 lead over Mayor David Briley. Cooper edged Briley 35-25 in the early August nonpartisan primary, and the councilor quickly released his own poll giving himself a 59-26 lead.