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.
● VA-02, VA-Sen: Former GOP Rep. Scott Taylor announced Monday that he was ending his longshot bid against Virginia Sen. Mark Warner to instead seek a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, and he immediately launched a misogynist attack against the incumbent.
Taylor, who like Luria is a Navy veteran, said he decided to run after the congresswoman voted to impeach Donald Trump. Taylor then said of Luria and several other freshmen Democrats, "These girls that have national security backgrounds, they came out before there was any bit of evidence whatsoever, and they did so to create political cover for moderates to allow [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi to move forward." Luria quickly fired back. "Yes, I am a girl. I may wear heels now, but I wore steel-toed boots for 20 years in the Navy," she retorted. "It's 2020—girls can do anything."
Before Taylor can focus on taking on Luria, though, he needs to win the June GOP primary against Navy veteran and 2010 candidate Ben Loyola. Loyola earned an endorsement last month from former Rep. Scott Rigell, who defeated him 40-27 a decade ago and retired in 2016.
The 2nd District, which includes Virginia Beach and nearby areas, backed Trump 49-45, but Luria unseated Taylor 51-49 in an expensive race in the 2018 midterms. During that campaign, Taylor's staff was exposed for forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown (who was booted off the ballot by a judge), and Democrats ran ads slamming Taylor's campaign for its skullduggery.
While Taylor's staff acknowledged the congressman knew of his team's plans to aide Brown, Taylor has always denied any knowledge of his aides' wrongdoing. Last cycle, Taylor dismissed the entire matter as a "nothing burger" and defended his staffers' involvement in helping Brown with the least sincere of declarations: "That's democracy."
However, Taylor belatedly struck a more contrite note in his announcement. "I was devastated to learn about wrongdoing on the team," he said. "But in the end, I'm responsible for it, and I think some voters held me accountable for it." In May, the special prosecutor who indicted a Taylor staffer for falsifying signatures said that the scandal "is still a subject of investigation," and the Washington Post reported Monday that that remains the case.
● GA-Sen-A: Jon Ossoff (D): $1 million raised
● KY-Sen: Amy McGrath (D): $6.2 million raised, $9.1 million cash-on-hand
● MA-Sen: Ed Markey (D-inc): $1.4 million raised, $4.4 million cash-on-hand; Joe Kennedy III (D): $2.4 million raised, $5.5 million cash-on-hand
● SC-Sen: Jaime Harrison (D): $3.5 million raised, $4.6 million cash-on-hand
● AZ-06: Hiral Tipirneni (D): $455,000 raised, $905,000 cash-on-hand
● CA-22: Phil Arballo (D): $700,000 raised
● CA-25: Christy Smith (D): $840,000 raised; Cenk Uygur (D): $796,000 raised, $690,000 on hand.
● CO-03: James Iacino (D): $289,000 raised
● IA-02: Rita Hart (D): $330,000 raised, $640,000 cash-on-hand
● MA-04: Jake Auchincloss (D): $609,000 raised
● MI-08: Elissa Slotkin (D-inc): $1.27 million raised, $2.8 million cash on hand
● MI-11: Haley Stevens (D-inc): $550,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
● MN-01: Dan Feehan (D): $785,000 raised, $635,000 cash-on-hand
● NY-17: Mondaire Jones (D): $270,000 raised
● OH-04: Jeffrey Sites (D): $155,000 raised (in eight weeks)
● AL-Sen: GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne uses his second TV spot for the March primary to attack the patriotism of some of the Trump era's favorite targets: former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, and the rest of "the Squad," all of whom are people of color. There is no word on the size of the buy.
● CO-Sen: Last week, former Gov. John Hickenlooper's team told Colorado Politics that he would both collect signatures and compete at the April 18 state Democratic convention in order to get on the June primary ballot. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is the only other well-funded Democrat running to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, said he would only go with the convention route, though.
As we've written before, Colorado allows candidates to reach the primary in one of two ways: either by winning the support of at least 30% of the delegates at their party's biennial convention (also known locally as an "assembly") or by collecting enough signatures to appear on the June ballot, regardless of what happens at the convention. Campaigns can opt to try both methods, but doing so still doesn't offer a guarantee: If a candidate takes less than 10% of the vote at the convention, then their campaign is over no matter how many signatures they turn in.
Candidates who want to successfully petition their way onto the ballot for U.S. Senate or governor must collect 1,500 valid signatures in each of Colorado's seven congressional districts from registered members of their political party. (Contenders for other statewide office, such as attorney general, need 1,000 per district.) That's a time-consuming undertaking that can become quite expensive: According to Colorado Politics, Democratic consultants estimate that this could cost between $400,000 and $450,000 this year.
● GA-Sen-B: GOP Rep. Doug Collins reiterated over the weekend that he was still considering challenging appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in this November's all-party primary. Collins said that he was focused on helping Donald Trump in the impeachment process, but would make his decision "soon after."
● KY-Sen: State Rep. Charles Booker announced over the weekend that he would seek the Democratic nod to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Booker, who would be Kentucky's first black U.S. senator, quickly portrayed himself as a progressive alternative to 2018 House nominee Amy McGrath in the May primary.
● WV-Gov: Former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher is out with a mid-December survey of the May GOP primary from WPA Intelligence that shows him making gains since August but still trailing Gov. Jim Justice. The new survey finds the incumbent leading Thrasher 38-30, while former Del. Mike Folk is a distant third with 6%. In August, WPA gave Justice a larger 38-23 edge, with Folk at 11%.
● FL-03: Clay County Commissioner Gavin Rollins, who served in East Africa as an intelligence officer, announced Monday that he was joining the August GOP primary for this reliably red open seat.
Rollins was in the news in late November when he introduced a resolution to declare Clay County a sanctuary county … for the 2nd Amendment. Four other Florida counties have already declared themselves 2nd Amendment sanctuaries and said that they won't enforce any gun safety laws passed by another legislative body.
● FL-19: On Monday, state Rep. Byron Donalds joined the crowded GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Francis Rooney in this safely red seat in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area. Donalds lives outside the seat in GOP Rep. Mario Diaz Balart's 25th District, though he says, "Although my physical address is what it is … literally the congressional line is just four miles that way." However, almost all of Donalds' 80th State House seat is also in Diaz Balart's district, and he represents less than 1% of Rooney's constituents in the legislature.
Donalds first ran for this seat in 2012 and took fifth place in the primary with 14% of the vote. Donalds successfully ran for the state House four years later, and when he took his seat in early 2017 he was the only African American Republican in the whole legislature. Donalds broke with the party leadership in 2018 by opposing then-Gov. Rick Scott's successful drive to raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 after the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, a vote Donalds emphasized in his campaign kickoff.
● IL-03: Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski recently signed on to a legal brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade "and, if appropriate, overrule" it, prompting Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to call for his political career to come to an end. "I support a big tent but there's no room under the flaps for anyone who is actively seeking to deny women control over our bodies," she wrote on Twitter. "Time to leave @danlipinski."
Lightfoot made her comments Saturday in sharing a tweet from Daily Kos Elections that called attention to Lipinski's involvement with the brief, which was signed by over 200 Republican members of Congress. While Lightfoot did not specifically endorse either of Lipinski's March primary opponents, the tweet she amplified included a fundraising ask for the congressman's top rival, businesswoman Marie Newman. Lightfoot's political director explained the following day, "The mayor is still making decisions in the 2020 primary, but she felt compelled to speak out and defend the rights of women."
● KS-02: On Monday, Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla announced that she would challenge freshman GOP Rep. Steve Watkins, a move that gives Democrats a notable candidate in a difficult district.
In her announcement video, De La Isla described how she "lived in poverty, was homeless, survived domestic violence, and beat cancer while struggling to pay the bills." De La Isla went on to win a seat on the Topeka City Council and was elected mayor in 2017 by a 501-vote margin, a victory that made her the first Latina to lead Kansas' capital city.
This seat backed Trump by a wide 56-37 margin, though Watkins only won his first term two years later by a 48-47 margin against 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis. Watkins, who has faced a number of bad headlines over the last few months, faces a primary challenge in August against state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, while De La Isla is the only serious candidate currently seeking the Democratic nod.
● MI-05: Last week, former GOP state Rep. Tim Kelly filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential bid against Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. This seat, which includes Flint, Saginaw, and Bay City, shifted from 61-38 Obama to 50-45 Clinton, but it moved back to the left last cycle. According to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer carried it 57-40 in the gubernatorial contest while Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow won 55-43 here.
Kelly also has the ugly distinction of being too toxic for the Trump administration. Kelly was picked for a post requiring Senate confirmation at the U.S. Department of Education in 2017, but Education Week reported later that year that his nomination was yanked after posts from his blog surfaced that attacked Muslims and Head Start parents, as well as the idea that there was “bias against women in the sciences.”
Kelly responded to his nomination being withdrawn by insisting it was a mutual decision with the administration. “Look, I'm a conservative Republican with opinions,” he said, adding, “Sometimes they don't match those of the left.”
● NC-11: Iraq War veteran Dan Driscoll, a Republican we hadn't previously mentioned, reports bringing in $100,000 from Dec. 20 through the end of the year. Driscoll is one of several candidates competing in the March primary to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Mark Meadows in this 57-40 Trump seat in Appalachian North Carolina.
● NJ-02: Mental health advocate Amy Kennedy announced Monday that she would join the June Democratic primary to take on Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew. Kennedy is the wife of former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy and the daughter-in-law of the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, and she could benefit from the family's many national political connections. Kennedy is also the daughter of Jerry Savell, a local politician who served as an Atlantic County freeholder.
● NY-19: Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro didn't quite rule out taking on freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado on Friday, but he doesn't sound eager to run for this competitive seat. Molinaro told Spectrum News, "I am focused on the work before us here in Dutchess County," and continued, "I am focused on serving out my third term as county executive and I'm focused and very dedicated to a family that deserves to have their husband and dad around."
When Molinaro was asked about attempts to recruit him for Congress, though, he didn't outright say no to the idea. Instead, Molinaro said, "I have every intention of serving out what I expect will be my 12 years as county executive," adding, "You never know what's going to come your way, but my intention is to serve out the four years as county executive."
Trump carried this Hudson Valley seat 51-44, but Republicans haven't managed to land a strong candidate against Delgado yet. New York's candidate filing deadline is in early April.
● TN-01: Former Kingsport Mayor John Clark quickly entered the race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Phil Roe in this safely red East Tennessee seat, and several of his fellow Republicans are also eyeing the August primary. Clark, whom The Tennessean describes as wealthy, was elected mayor in 2015 and decided to step down last year.
Another former local leader, ex-Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden, didn’t quite announce he was in, but he said he “intends” to run. State Rep. David Hawk said Friday that he would consider over the next two weeks, while former state Rep. Charles Allen, who left office in 1994, said he would make up his mind over the "next few weeks."
State Reps. Jeremy Faison, Timothy Hill, and Bud Hulsey also expressed interest, as did state Sen. Jon Lundberg. Lundberg sounds reluctant to run, though, saying, “I feel very good, frankly, about what we've done and what I've been able to do in Tennessee at the state level.” The NBC affiliate WCYB also reports that state Sen. Rusty Crowe is considering, though there’s no quote from him. The Associated Press also mentions pharmacist Diana Harshbarger as a possibility, but there’s no word on her interest.
A number of Republicans have already said no as well:
- Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock
- Former Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge
- Former state Rep. Jason Mumpower
- Former state Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner David Purkey
- Former state House Speaker Ron Ramsey
- State Rep. Micah Van Huss
The Bristol Herald Courier also writes that state Rep. John Crawford and Kingsport Chamber of Commerce head Miles Burdine each say they have “no plans” to run, though there’s no quote from either of them.
● TN-05: Former public defender Keeda Haynes announced this week that she would challenge longtime Rep. Jim Cooper, who is one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus, in the August primary for this reliable blue seat. Haynes would be the first African American to represent Tennessee in Congress since Harold Ford Jr. left office following his narrow defeat in the 2006 Senate race. She joins local activist Justin Jones and a few other contenders in the contest.
Haynes was the subject of a detailed 2016 profile in the Nashville Scene that described how she became a public defender after completing a five-year prison sentence for allegedly being part of a conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a charge she's consistently denied. Haynes left the public defender's office last month, and this appears to be her first run for office.
Local progressives have talked for months about taking on Cooper, and there was talk last year about local labor activist Odessa Kelly running. However, Kelly recently took her name out of contention, and there don't appear to be any other notable potential candidates still considering.
Cooper has consistently opposed Nancy Pelosi in speakership elections and voted with the Trump administration nearly 40% of the time during the last Congress, but he's never had trouble winning renomination at home. Cooper is also the brother of Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who was elected last year in a 69-30 landslide.
● Texas: Candidate filing closed in Texas last month, and between the #Texodus and shifting political winds, elections in the Lone Star State are competitive as never before this year. In fact, we're keeping close tabs on no fewer than 17 different House races in Texas, some in districts that haven't lit up most radar screens in a long time. To help you keep track of all the action, we've put together a cheat-sheet for every seat with a potentially interesting primary, general, or both.
Our data includes each seat's 2016 and 2012 presidential results as well as results from the 2018 Senate and House races. Additionally, we provide a geographic description of each district, a list of the notable candidates running there, and a breakdown of each district's citizen age voting population by race. We're highlighting CVAP figures here because they can vary widely compared to racial statistics for each district's total population: Many residents are noncitizens or children who are unable to vote, so CVAP more closely approximates the likely electorate.
● TX-11: Midland City Councilman J.Ross Lacy is out with his first TV spot ahead of the March GOP primary for this safely open seat. Lacy tells the audience, "I've always been proud to call Texas home. But we defend what's ours, so when we say 'come and take it,' we ain't bluffing." Lacy then pledges to be a Trump ally who "won't apologize for hard work for our conservative values." There is no word on the size of the buy, though Lacy's team says it's running on Fox districtwide.
● WA-10: Former state Rep. Kristine Reeves announced Monday that she would enter the August top-two primary for this reliably blue open seat. Reeves joins former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, a fellow Democrat, in the contest to succeed retiring Rep. Denny Heck. If either Reeves or Strickland won, they would be the first African American to represent Washington in Congress.
Reeves was elected to the legislature in 2016 by narrowly unseating a Republican incumbent, a victory that made her the first black woman to win a seat in the chamber in 18 years, and she resigned last month to prepare her congressional bid. Reeves lives just a few blocks outside of the 10th District in the neighboring 9th District, but almost none of her old legislative seat is located in Heck's constituency.
● Deaths: Former Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Republican who served two stints in Congress representing a competitive district based around Bucks County, died Monday at the age of 56 after what his family described as “a long and arduous battle with melanoma.” Fitzpatrick is the brother of current Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who was elected to succeed him in 2016.
Mike Fitzpatrick was appointed to a seat on the Bucks County Board of Commissioners in 1995 after two unsuccessful state House bids earlier in the decade, and he got the chance to run for Congress in 2004 when GOP Rep. Jim Greenwood decided to retire after the primary. Party leaders chose Fitzpatrick as the party’s new nominee in what was then numbered the 8th District, and he won the seat in November by a 55-43 margin even as John Kerry was narrowly carrying the constituency 51-48.
Fitzpatrick had a much more difficult general election two years later against Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy. Fitzpatrick looked like the favorite for most of the campaign, but the Democratic wave helped propel Murphy to a 50.3-49.7 upset victory. Fitzpatrick sought a rematch in 2010, though, and this time, the environment very much favored the GOP. Fitzpatrick unseated Murphy 54-46, and he won his final two campaigns with 57% and 61% of the vote, respectively.
Fitzpatrick pledged to serve only three consecutive terms, and despite the GOP’s best attempts to change his mind, he kept his promise in 2016 by retiring. However, Team Red recruited his brother, retired FBI agent Brian Fitzpatrick, who wound up holding the seat.