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.
● NE-Gov: The Omaha World-Herald's Aaron Sanderford reports that Sen. Deb Fischer is giving "serious thought" to entering the 2022 primary to succeed her fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts. Fischer, whose Senate seat is not up again until 2024, has not publicly said anything yet about a potential bid. And as we'll discuss later, Sanderford lists a number of other Republicans as possible contenders, including Rep. Don Bacon of the swingy 2nd District.
Plenty of governors have attempted to reach the Senate, but there's a big reason why it's much more uncommon for members of the upper chamber to try the opposite career switch. While many states, including Nebraska, have term limits that will eventually force their chief executives out of the governor's office, senators can stay in office for decades as long as voters keep re-electing them. And while some states do allow their governors to seek term after term in office, few have ever enjoyed anything like the longevity that many senators become accustomed to.
Still, some senators do like the idea of leading their state rather than continuing on as just one member of a 100-person body, and a number of them have considered coming home to run for governor over the last several years, either publicly or privately, though some have appeared more interested than others.
Most opted not to campaign for governor, however, with a few recent exceptions. Sam Brownback was elected to lead Kansas 2010, the same year that his fellow Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison, saw her own campaign for governor of Texas come to an end in the primary. (Minnesota Democrat Mark Dayton also prevailed in 2010, though he had left the Senate four years before.) The only sitting senator since then to seek their state's governorship is Louisiana Republican David Vitter, who lost to Democrat John Bel Edwards in a 2015 upset; Vitter, like Hutchison, ended up retiring from the Senate soon afterwards.
Sanderford writes that many Nebraska Republicans expect that the primary field will "narrow" if Fischer ends up running, but for now, a number of others are considering. Both agribusinessman Charles Herbster, who was at the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom have been publicly talking about getting in for a while; neither has committed to a bid, though Sanderford says each is likely to get in.
The story also identifies another familiar name, Rep. Don Bacon, as one of the prospective candidates who is "[s]eriously considering, not yet decided," though there's no other information about Bacon's interest.
House Republicans may be reluctant to lose Bacon, who successfully held the Omaha-based 2nd District 51-46 even as Joe Biden was carrying the seat 52-46, though GOP mapmakers may get the chance to make this seat a whole lot redder. Sanderford also points out that, while the congressman successfully portrayed himself as a moderate in order to win over crossover support, that image could prove to be a big problem in a statewide primary.
Sanderford reports that a number of other Republicans are "seriously considering":
- Lt. Gov. Mike Foley
- State Sen. Mike Flood
- State Senate Speaker Mike Hilgers
- Former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Greg Ibach
- State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan
- Conservative talk show host Dave Nabity
- University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen
- State Chamber of Commerce President Bryan Slone
Sanderford adds that many observers expect Flood, Foley, and Hilgers to sit the race out, though they haven't said no yet. He also mentions Rep. Jeff Fartenberry … err, Jeff Fortenberry, and state Sen. John Stinner as Republicans "[r]umored but unlikely to run." Sanderford further identifies former Gov. Dave Heineman, Rep. Adrian Smith, and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert as Republicans who aren't seeking to succeed Ricketts.
Nebraska Democrats haven't won this office since Democrat Ben Nelson's landslide 1994 re-election victory, and unsurprisingly, the list of potential candidates is much smaller. 2018 nominee Bob Krist, who lost to Ricketts 59-41, announced in 2019 that he'd run again, but he doesn't appear to have said anything new about his 2022 plans in a while; the former state senator also doesn't seem to have an active website, nor has he updated his social media accounts in years. Krist, though, did make news last year by endorsing Bacon.
Sanderford identifies a few Democrats as mentioned but unlikely to get in: Omaha Public Power District board member Sara Howard; state party chair Jane Kleeb; and state Sen. Steve Lathrop.
● GA-Sen, GA-Gov: Unnamed sources close to former Republican Rep. Doug Collins say that they believe he's leaning towards taking on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock over a primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp. They add that, if he decides to run for the Senate again, they think he'll need to decide no later than early April. While Collins' camp publicly said last week that he was considering both races, they haven't indicated which one he prefers.
● OH-Sen: The Associated Press reports that Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce is considering seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate. Boyce, who would be Ohio's first Black senator, was appointed to fill a vacancy as state treasurer in 2008, but he lost his bid for a full term 55-41 against Josh Mandel during the GOP wave two years later. Mandel, who was Team Red's nominee for Senate in 2012, is also considering another try next year.
The AP writes that another Democrat, Rep. Joyce Beatty, is considering a bid too. Beatty didn't rule out a bid last week right after GOP Sen. Rob Portman announced his departure. One Democrat who won't be running, though, is former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who tweeted Wednesday that he'd decided to sit this contest out.
● PA-Sen: On Tuesday, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler did not rule out a bid to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Pat Toomey. When KDKA's Jon Delano directly asked the congressman if he might run for the Senate, the congressman replied, "I don't take any options off the table, but I'm very happy in the House."
Several other Republicans are also thinking about running for this open seat, but some of them look a whole lot more likely to prevail in a primary than others. One of those in the less likely column is business and political consultant Craig Snyder, who told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday that he was considering getting in.
Snyder founded a PAC in 2016 to support Hillary Clinton, and he's remained ardently anti-Trump since then. He did serve as chief of staff to a Republican senator in the 1990s, which could be an asset … if that senator weren't the late Arlen Specter, a moderate who joined the Democratic Party in 2009.
A much more Trumpy Republican, 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos, also told the paper this week that he expected to decide on his own Senate plans in mid-March. Bartos, a real estate developer whom the Inquirer describes as "a longtime fund-raiser with ties to Pennsylvania's Republican establishment," originally ran for the state's other Senate seat in 2017, but he ultimately switched races.
● FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Al Lawson on Tuesday played down a recent report from Florida Politics saying that he was considering a bid for governor, though he didn't quite close the door on the idea. "It was quite a surprise," Lawson said of the story before adding, "I haven't been thinking about it and it is not on my radar."
Florida Politics' A.G. Gancarski also wrote afterwards, "Despite his begging off, a key adviser of his volunteered the case Tuesday that Lawson could run, was thinking about running and had a path in what could be a very deep field." Gancarski, though, acknowledged, "Time will tell whether Lawson's adviser was floating a trial balloon or freelancing some ideas."
● LA-05: The state Republican Party over the weekend endorsed University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow, who is running in the March 20 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow. Eight other Republicans are competing in this very red northeast Louisiana seat, but none of them appear to have the name recognition or resources needed to put up a serious fight.
● NY-01: Two Democrats recently told Newsday that they would not be challenging Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin: John Feal, who is a prominent advocate for fellow Sept. 11 first responders, and attorney Chris Murray.
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: Independent Mary Norwood announced this week that she'd run to return to the City Council this year rather than seek a rematch against Democratic incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms, who beat her in a close 2017 race that Norwood has never accepted as legitimate. City Council President Felicia Moore, though, recently launched a campaign against Bottoms in the November nonpartisan contest.
● Boston, MA Mayor: The Boston City Council voted 12-0 on Wednesday in favor of a home rule petition that would avert a special election this year in the event that Mayor Marty Walsh resigns before March 5 to become U.S. secretary of labor. Walsh has not committed to signing the legislation, though one Council member said, "I know the mayor's already said that he's going to support the Council." The petition must also be approved by the state legislature and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, though it would also be a surprise if they rejected it.
No matter what, the regularly scheduled race for a full four-year term will take place this fall. City Council President Kim Janey would become acting mayor following Walsh's departure, and she has not yet said if she'd run in her own right.
● San Antonio, TX Mayor: Former conservative City Councilman Greg Brockhouse has scheduled an announcement for Saturday, and there's almost no question that he'll use it to launch a second bid against Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Nirenberg, a progressive independent, won a second term in 2019 by beating Brockhouse by a narrow 51-49 margin. (San Antonio is the largest city in America to elect its mayors to terms lasting for two years rather than four.)
● Seattle, WA Mayor: Seattle City Council President Lorena González announced Wednesday that she was entering the race to succeed her fellow Democrat, retiring Mayor Jenny Durkan. González, who is the Council's first Latina member and would be the first woman of color to hold this post, also looks like the frontrunner at this early point. González is close to labor and local immigration advocates, and she won 71-29 the last time her citywide City Council seat was on the ballot in 2017.
González's most prominent opponent in the August top-two primary appears to be Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Colleen Echohawk, whom PubliCola's Erica Barnett writes is "a frequent ally of Durkan's." González, by contrast, has led the City Council that Barnett says "has frequently passed policy or budget legislation, only to see it vetoed or ignored by the mayor and departments." Echohawk, who is a member of both the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake, would also be the first woman of color to lead Washington's largest city.
There's still time for others to get in before the May filing deadline, though. Barnett reports that former City Councilman Bruce Harrell, who is a moderate by the standards of this very blue city, is "said is leaning toward getting in," though he hasn't said anything publicly. Harrell took third in 2013 and served as interim mayor for a week after incumbent Ed Murray resigned in disgrace in 2017.
Another potential contender is former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, a Democrat who took fourth place in the 2017 primary with 13% of the vote. Farrell did not rule out another try after Durkan announced her departure in December, and Barnett reports that she's still considering and meeting with labor groups.
● St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: The Republican firm InsiderAdvantage, surveying on behalf of FOX 13 Tampa Bay, is out with the first poll we've seen of the August nonpartisan primary, and unsurprisingly, 67% of respondents are undecided this far from Election Day. Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch has a small 12-8 edge over former state Rep. Wengay Newton while a third Democrat, City Councilwoman Darden Rice, is at 7%. Republican City Councilman Robert Blackmon, who has not said if he'll run, takes fourth with 6%.
The filing deadline is June 18 for the Aug. 24 nonpartisan primary. If no one wins a majority of the vote, the two contenders with the most support will advance to a Nov. 2 general election.