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.
● MA-Sen, VT-Sen: Among the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, both Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders hail from states where GOP governors could appoint a Republican replacement to the Senate and cost Democrats a key vote during the critical first months of a potential Sanders or Warren presidency.
However, there are two ways to lessen this risk dramatically, and Stephen Wolf has detailed in a new post how Democrats could use their veto-proof legislative majorities to change the law to require that any temporary appointment come from a shortlist given to the governor by the departing senator's party committee. That would ensure that a Democrat holds onto the seat until a special election takes place (assuming some provision is made for Sanders to designate a party).
Alternately, Warren or Sanders could resign early, likely by June, to ensure that the special election to replace them coincides with the November general election. Doing so would mean that the election for their replacement would almost certainly be a Democrat given that Trump is expected to lose big in both states, and any elected Democratic replacement would be ready to serve by day one of the next presidential term.
● IA-Sen: Joni Ernst (R-inc): $1.7 million raised, $4.9 million cash-on-hand
● MT-Sen: Steve Daines (R-inc): $1.4 million raised, $5 million cash-on-hand
● IN-Gov: Woody Myers (D): $173,000 raised (in six months)
● FL-03: Kat Cammack (R): $100,000 raised (in two weeks)
● FL-16: Margaret Good (D): $360,000 raised
● IL-14: Jim Oberweis (R): $124,000 raised, additional $600,000 self-funded, $1.07 million cash-on-hand
● IN-01: Thomas McDermott (D): $170,000 raised (in two months); Jim Harper (D): $80,000 raised (in six weeks); Frank Mrvan (D): $54,000 raised (in two months)
● MI-07: Gretchen Driskell (D): $133,000 raised, additional $50,000 self-funded, $154,000 cash-on-hand.
● OH-14: David Joyce (R-inc): $410,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
● SC-Sen: Former Georgia state Rep. Gloria Tinubu dropped out of the Democratic primary on Wednesday and endorsed former state party chair Jaime Harrison. Harrison, who has the support of national Democrats, was already the heavy favorite to win the primary to take on GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.
● AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced Wednesday that she would take a leave of absence from the House "to treat my alcohol dependence." Kirkpatrick added, "I am taking this important step forward with the full expectation and desire to return to work stronger and healthier and to continue serving my beloved Arizona," so it sounds like she plans to seek re-election this year.
● CA-25: This week, former GOP Rep. Steve Knight picked up an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. On the other side, the Los Angeles County Labor Federation threw its support behind Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith.
● MN-02: Former state Rep. Regina Barr announced Wednesday that she would seek the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig. Barr said that she would compete for the 2nd District GOP's party endorsement and would end her campaign if someone else won it.
Barr is the first GOP candidate who has held elected office in this district, though her tenure was short. In 2016, Barr narrowly flipped an open seat in the legislature in 2016 even as Hillary Clinton was carrying her seat 50-42, but she lost re-election two years later by a 54-46 spread.
● NY-02: Former GOP Rep. Rick Lazio said this week that he would not run for this open House seat.
● NY-19: While Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro didn't quite rule out a congressional bid earlier this month, he definitively said no on Tuesday. While state Republicans had encouraged Molinaro to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, he told the Poughkeepsie Journal that running so soon after being re-elected would have been "disingenuous to the residents and unfair to my family."
Republicans don't have any strong candidates for this competitive Hudson Valley seat, though one notable name is publicly expressing interest in running. Businessman Bartle Bull, who is a co-founder of the Iraq-based investment firm Northern Gulf Partners and the former editor of the British magazine Prospect and the Middle East Monitor, told the paper he was considering and would provide "more information for you in coming weeks." A GOP source recently told Chronogram Magazine that Bull said he could self-fund $500,000.
● PA-16: Ron DiNicola, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee for this seat, announced this week that he would not seek a rematch against GOP Rep. Mike Kelly.
● TX-12: Rep. Kay Granger uses her first TV spot ahead of the March GOP primary to remind viewers that she has Donald Trump's endorsement.
● TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar declares that he fights for veterans in his newest 15-second TV spot for the March Democratic primary,
● UT-01: Republican Kerry Gibson announced Tuesday that he was resigning as commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and launching a bid for this safely red open seat. Gibson joins a crowded June primary field that includes Morgan County Councilor Tina Cannon; Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd; Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson; and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt.
Gibson served as a state representative from 2005 to 2010, and he made a name for himself during his last year by sponsoring a successful resolution declaring that "climate alarmists' carbon dioxide-related global warming hypothesis is unable to account for the current downturn in global temperatures." He soon after became a commissioner in Weber County, which makes up a third of this seat.
Gibson was named deputy director of the state Department of Natural Resources in 2017, but his appointment was delayed for five months while the Ogden Police Department launched an investigation into allegations that he'd misused public resources on his family dairy farm. Gibson argued that unnamed political enemies were to blame for the probe, and the Davis County attorney announced in 2018 that he would not charge Gibson.
Gibson soon assumed his state post, and he was later named head of the state agriculture department. Gibson has also spent the last few years trying to prevent the release of documents related to the old investigation against him, and the Standard-Examiner writes that the state Supreme Court will "take up some of the legal questions in the tussle."
● UT-04: Utah Clean Air Partnership executive director Thom Carter told the Deseret News that he would decide by the end of next week whether he'd seek the GOP nod to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams. Utah Policy recently reported that the NRCC was trying to recruit Carter for this contest.
● WA-10: Democrat Phil Gardner, who resigned as retiring Rep. Denny Heck's district director last week, announced Wednesday that he would run to succeed his old boss. Gardner joins two fellow Democrats, former state Rep. Kristine Reeves and former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland in the August top-two primary for this reliably blue seat. If he won, Gardner would be the first member of Congress born in the 1990s.
● WI-07: The anti-tax Club for Growth has endorsed state Sen. Tom Tiffany in next month's special GOP primary.
● Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's five special elections.
AR-HD-34: The Democratic primary in this safely blue Little Rock seat is heading to a runoff after none of the four candidates captured a majority. Former Little Rock School Board member Joy Springer came out ahead of nonprofit director Ryan Davis 43-34, and they will face each other in the Feb. 11 runoff. Lee Miller and H. Otis Taylor rounded out the voting with 16% and 7%, respectively.
No Republicans filed for this seat, so the Democratic primary winner will be virtually guaranteed to win this seat. However, the winner between Springer and Davis will be on the ballot on March 3 against independent candidate Roderick Talley.
CT-HD-48: Democrat Brian Smith defeated Republican Mark DeCaprio 52-48 to hold this seat for his party. Smith's win is welcome news for Democrats in a district that went from 56-42 Obama to 48-46 Clinton.
CT-HD-132: Republican Brian Farnen defeated Democrat Jennifer Leeper 51-49, a margin of just 79 votes. Democrats had hoped to flip this 57-39 Clinton seat but, as we've noted, Connecticut special elections have been notoriously difficult for the party in the past.
The results of these elections keep the makeup of the Connecticut State House at 90-51 in favor of Democrats, with one seat vacant.
KY-SD-38: Republican Mike Nemes turned back Democrat Andrew Bailey 64-36 to keep this seat in GOP hands. While this was still a sizable win for Republicans, Bailey was able to improve on Hillary Clinton's 67-28 margin of defeat in this district by 12 percentage points.
Republicans have a 29-9 advantage in this chamber.
PA-SD-48: Republican Dave Arnold was victorious over Democrat Michael Schroeder by a 65-35 spread in this deep red district. Arnold's showing was slightly stronger than Donald Trump's 61-35 win here in 2016.
This chamber returns to full strength with Republicans in control 28-21 (with one independent who caucuses with Republicans).
● Baltimore, MD Mayor: On behalf of FOX45 News, the local firm Gonzales Research is out with a late December poll of the April Democratic primary for mayor. Note that this survey does not include former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller, who entered the contest after this survey concluded:
Former state prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah: 18
City Council President Brandon Scott: 18
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon: 16
Mayor Jack Young: 15
Former police spokesman T.J. Smith: 11
State Sen. Mary Washington: 8
It only takes a plurality of the vote to win the Democratic nod. The winner should have no trouble in the November general election in this very blue city.
● San Diego, CA Mayor: GOP City Councilman Scott Sherman is out with the first poll we've seen since he entered the race last month, and it finds Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria well positioned to advance past the nonpartisan primary in March. The Competitive Edge Research survey shows Gloria in first place with 30%, while Sherman and Democratic City Councilwoman Barbara Bry are tied 12-12 for the second spot in the November general election.