Welcome back to the most magical time of the season! The deadline for House and Senate candidates to file their quarterly fundraising reports (covering the period from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 of 2019) is Jan. 31, but it's common for campaigns to leak their numbers early to generate some press. (Deadlines vary by state for gubernatorial contenders and often aren't quarterly.)
And as we always urge campaigns every quarter, if you want to get attention for your most recent fundraising haul, issue a release now. Don't wait until the reporting deadline at the end of the month, when everyone's numbers come out at once.
● WV-Gov: Ben Salango (D): $875,000 raised (in 69 days), $806,000 cash-on-hand
● FL-04: Donna Deegan (D): $204,000 raised
● AL-Sen: The GOP firm JMC Analytics is out with a poll testing Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in hypothetical general election matchups against all the notable Republican primary candidates, and they find him trailing in three of the five matchups:
- 47-33 vs. 2017 nominee Roy Moore
- 40-34 vs. state Rep. Arnold Mooney
- 40-44 vs. Rep. Bradley Byrne
- 41-46 vs. former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
- 40-47 vs. former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville
This survey, which JMC says they conducted independently, is the first poll we've seen testing Jones in a general election matchup in this very red state.
JMC also says that this was the first poll they've done where they reached a portion of their respondents by text message. While new, other pollsters have also deployed this technique, including the well-known Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.
● KS-Sen: State Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced just before Christmas that he would stay out of the August Republican primary for this open seat.
Around that same time, GOP Rep. Roger Marshall launched what the National Journal characterizes as a six-figure TV and digital buy. The ad features clips of Donald Trump thanking him and calling the congressman "a great friend," as well as footage of Marshall talking about his opposition to impeachment.
● KY-Sen: Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker formed an exploratory committee back in November, and he has a "special announcement" planned for Sunday.
● MI-Sen: The Democratic group Majority Forward announced just before Christmas that they were starting a "significant six-figure" TV and digital buy in support of Sen. Gary Peters. Their ad praises Peters' record on health care and extols him for "holding drug companies accountable for out-of-control costs."
● NC-Sen: On Dec. 24, VoteVets launched a $400,000 TV buy in support of former state Sen. Cal Cunningham in the March Democratic primary.
On the other side, GOP Sen. Thom Tillis canceled his planned ad buy for early 2020. Tillis bought airtime last year when he faced an intra-party challenge from wealthy businessman Garland Tucker, but Tucker dropped out in December and no strong primary candidates ended up running in his stead.
● NH-Sen: The Corey Hotline rang for the final time on New Years Eve when former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski announced that he would not seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Lewandowski tweeted that, while he was focused on helping Donald Trump win re-election, he was “certain [he] would have won" the Senate race. In unrelated news, while Daily Kos Elections has decided not to field a BMX Freestyle team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, we are certain we would have won a gold medal or ten.
However, while Lewandowski didn't end up competing, his months-long flirtation already appears to have harmed his three would-be GOP primary foes. Attorney Corky Messner, retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, and former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien each failed to raise so much as $250,000 from donors during the third quarter of 2019 (though Messner self-funded $1 million), and multiple unnamed Republicans told WMUR in October that these lackluster hauls were the result of GOP contributors waiting to see what Lewandowski would do.
We’re waiting to see the fourth quarter reports, but since Lewandowski only decided to make his plans clear on the final day of the fundraising period, all of these candidates had just hours to take advantage of his absence from the race.
● NJ-Gov, VA-Gov: It's 2020, and that means only one thing: It's time to talk about the 2021 races for governor!
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's first term in New Jersey still has another two years to go, but Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick told Politico this week that he's "absolutely" considering seeking the GOP nod to challenge the incumbent.
New Jersey has generally become a very tough state for Team Red, but Bramnick has one big recent electoral success to point to. Last year, Bramnick and fellow GOP incumbent Nancy Muñoz narrowly won an expensive campaign to hold a historically Republican district in North Jersey that had swung from 52-47 Romney to 53-43 Clinton despite the presence of two pro-Trump independents on the ballot.
Down in Virginia, meanwhile, political observers have long speculated that Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney could run to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, and Stoney did not say no to the prospect in a recent interview. The mayor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he planned to run for re-election this year, but when asked if he'd ruled out a 2021 statewide bid, Stoney responded, "You know what? 2021 is so far away right now. My only focus right now is running for mayor." Stoney continued, "We'll cross that bridge when we get there, but like I said, I've got the best job in the commonwealth of Virginia."
P.S. While anyone following U.S. politics today has spent most, if not all, of their lives in the era of the permanent campaign, even we have some limits here at Daily Kos Elections. Our practice is to only talk about a race when it's no more than two years off, so we won't be saying much about the 2022 midterms until after Election Day this fall.
However, we do make an exception when a notable contender announces a campaign ahead of this time frame. In Arkansas, for instance, we took note when Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced in August of last year that he'd seek the GOP nod in 2022 to succeed term-limited incumbent Asa Hutchinson. These sorts of very early campaign kickoffs are quite rare, though, so for now, you'll have to content yourselves with news about 2020 … and 2021.
● UT-Gov: Former state GOP chair Thomas Wright announced Thursday that he would run for governor this year. He has never held elected office before, but Utah Policy wrote back in April that Wright, who runs a real estate company, can contribute "significant personal resources" towards his campaign. Wright is the son of the late Bob Wright, whose 1980 defeat against Democratic incumbent Scott Matheson gives him the distinction of being the last Republican nominee to lose a race for governor of Utah.
The June GOP primary already includes businessman Jeff Burningham, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton, and Jon Huntsman, who is a former governor and ex-ambassador to Russia, and the field could get even larger soon. Fox13 reports that former state House Speaker Greg Hughes will announce he's in next week, while Rep. Rob Bishop reaffirmed just before the holidays that he would say in January whether or not he'd run for governor.
While Bishop hasn't made it clear yet if he'll try to succeed retiring Gov. Gary Herbert, he's already departing from his would-be rivals in one big way. Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot by turning in 28,000 valid signatures or by taking enough support at the party convention to advance, though candidates have the option to try both methods. Bishop said last month that he would only compete at the convention if he got in and planned to forgo the signature-gathering route, but he may be the only candidate to try this approach.
Burningham, Cox, Winder Newton, and Wright have each told state election officials that they intend to gather signatures, and while we haven't heard from Huntsman yet, it's very unlikely the former governor would leave his fate in the hands of the anti-establishment delegates who dominate GOP conventions. At least Winder Newton and Wright have said that they also planned to compete at the convention.
● FL-03: Former Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase said just before Christmas that he was considering seeking the GOP nod for this open seat. Chase was one of three finalists vying for an appointment from then-Gov. Rick Scott for a spot on the Florida Public Service Commission in 2016, but the gig went to another contender. Chase left the City Commission the following year due to term limits.
● GA-05: Democratic Rep. John Lewis announced in late December that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The civil rights legend said that he plans to remain in Congress as he undergoes treatment.
● GA-07: While former Sen. Max Cleland said last year that he was supporting 2018 Democratic nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux's second campaign for this competitive seat, he announced this week that he was now backing state Sen. Zahra Karinshak instead. Cleland explained why he had shifted his endorsement by telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Karinshak is a military veteran who has the kind of wisdom and skills badly needed in Congress," and, "There's no question in my mind that makes her more electable."
● GA-14: This week, Air Force veteran and 2018 White House Fellow Clayton Fuller became the second Republican to enter the race for this safely red open seat. Fuller, who previously worked as a prosecutor in Georgia's Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, joins wealthy construction company owner Marjorie Greene in the March primary. A number of other Republicans are still considering, but state Sen. Jeff Mullis and Paulding County school board member Jason Anavitarte have each taken their name out of the running.
● KS-02: The Wichita Eagle reported last month that freshman GOP Rep. Steve Watkins has paid $25,000 to a prominent campaign finance law firm since December of 2018, an amount the paper characterized as "strikingly high for a non-election year." Two unnamed sources told the paper that the congressman's legal bills were related to an FEC probe, but there aren't any other details. Watkins faces a challenge in the August primary from state Treasurer Jake LaTurner.
● MN-02: The GOP still hasn't landed a serious candidate to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, but Minnesota Morning Take reports that former state Rep. Regina Barr is considering. Barr narrowly flipped a 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.
Minnesota Morning Take also reports that veteran Tyler Kistner is preparing to file to run against Craig, though there's no other information about him. The tip-sheet also says that Erika Cashin, a fellow veteran who works for Comcast in human resources, is also thinking about getting in. We haven't yet heard anything publicly from Barr, Kistner, or Cashin about their interest in this competitive seat in the Twin Cities suburbs.
● NJ-02: Wealthy GOP businessman David Richter is still challenging Rep. Jeff Van Drew even though the incumbent has now joined the Republican Party, but he's learning the hard way how tough it is to go up against a Trump-backed candidate in a primary. Politico reports that his top consultants and most of his campaign staffers quit after Van Drew's defection last month so that they wouldn't antagonize the NRCC.
● NJ-03: Former Hainesport Mayor Tony Porto announced Thursday that he would run in the June GOP primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. Porto served on the Township Committee for this community of 6,000 from 2006 until 2018, and his campaign says that his colleagues picked him to serve as mayor twice.
● NY-02: Assemblyman Mike LiPetri announced Wednesday that he would compete in the June GOP primary for this competitive open seat in central Long Island. LiPetri joins Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota and Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt in the primary, and a few other Republicans are still considering. However, state Sen. Phil Boyle announced Thursday that he'd be staying out of the contest.
LiPetri was elected to the state legislature last year at the age of 28 when he successfully challenged Democratic incumbent Christine Pellegrino. Pellegrino had pulled off a shocking win in a 2017 special election for a Massapequa-based district that had supported Donald Trump 60-37, a victory that Newsday said made her the first Democrat to ever win the seat. However, LiPetri took the constituency back for Team Red when he unseated Pellegrino 56-44.
● UT-04: This week, former GOP Rep. Mia Love told the Deseret News that she wasn't eager to seek a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, but that she might run if she didn't feel any of Team Red's candidates could beat the incumbent. Utah's filing deadline is in mid-March, though Love said she would decide this month.
Love, who now works as a CNN commentator, also sounded reluctant to try to reclaim her old seat over the summer, and the former congresswoman named a few politicians at the time that she said she'd like to see get in instead. One of those people was state Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, who entered the race in August and quickly outraised the entire GOP field. However, Hemmert abruptly dropped out last month, and no other notable contenders have joined the race since then.
Love remains unimpressed with the current field, saying of them, "I don't see anything." However, while she went on to say that she "can't allow" McAdams to have "an easy race," she seems downright apathetic about the idea of getting her old job back. She told the Deseret News, "I think the House of Representatives is not as well-suited for somebody who really wants to focus on getting certain policies done" like immigration. Love added, "If I ever did anything, I might think about the Senate race," though she said she wasn't interested in challenging either Sens. Mike Lee or Mitt Romney in a future election cycle.