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Leading Off:

NJ-Gov: Well, it looks like it's going to be state Sen. Barbara Buono for the Dems. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who contemplated a run for governor but never seemed particularly interested, announced on Monday that he would not enter the race. Meanwhile, PolitickerNJ reports (according to unnamed sources) that Rep. Bill Pascrell won't run either, though Pascrell has messed with us repeatedly on this score before.

And finally, Rep. Frank Pallone endorsed Buono on Monday as well. While Pallone is apparently interested in the Senate race and not the governor's mansion (the deliciously named Drumthwacket), I suspect he might have held off on lending his support to Buono if it looked like any other major players were about to enter the contest. But it really does appear we're at the end of the line.

On that note, I encourage you to read another great Steve Kornacki piece, this one titled: "Exit everyman: How the Jersey Democratic bosses destroyed Dick Codey and unleashed Chris Christie." Kornacki's lede wastes no time:

They won't say it publicly, but there is fear, genuine fear, among New Jersey Democrats that this year's gubernatorial election will produce a Republican landslide not seen since the Tom Kean-era, threatening Democratic control of the legislature and key county offices.
These fears have percolated up a little bit recently in other reports, but Kornacki gives them their fullest airing. But as you can see based on the fascinating thesis expounded in the headline—obsessed with Jon Corzine's cash, New Jersey Dems shoved the much more likeable Codey aside, setting up Corzine's fateful loss to Christie in 2009—it sounds like Dems at least partly have themselves to blame for this state of affairs.


CO-Sen: Second-term Rep. Cory Gardner may be at the top of GOP wishlists to take on freshman Sen. Mark Udall, but when asked if he plans to run, Gardner recently said: "I have no timetable, I'm not in a hurry to decide." What's more, Abby Livingston adds that local Republicans don't think he'll do it, citing his quick rise in the House leadership, and they're fretting that they might really be left with no one to challenge Udall. There are other possibilities—ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez, state Attorney General John Suthers, and state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, for example—but just the other day, another candidate (Rep. Mike Coffman) said no, and the picture isn't looking particularly bright for the GOP.

GA-Sen: Following GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss's retirement announcement on Friday, the Great Mentioner has, predictably, kicked into high gear. In addition to the big list we worked up over the weekend, Roll Call suggests a new trio of GOP names: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and state Attorney General Sam Olens. And plugged-in local analyst Jim Galloway suggests one more Republican: Sonny Perdue.

Meanwhile, former Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall has taken himself out of the running, though the same piece suggests that ex-Gov. Roy Barnes could make a go of it. However, Barnes just had the misfortunate to attempt a comeback as governor in 2010—right candidate, wrong year—and I'd be surprised if he were ready to saddle up again, especially since he's now 64.

IA-Sen: Dem Rep. Bruce Braley had long been tagged as a likely successor to Sen. Tom Harkin, so it's no surprise that he's potentially interested in a bid to replace the state's retiring junior senator. Braley said in a statement on Sunday that he "will carefully weigh a possible candidacy" but didn't offer a timetable. He also (quite recently) refused to rule out a gubernatorial bid, but this open seat is an infinitely more attractive option.

Meanwhile, on the Great Mentioner front, the Des Moines Register also suggests former Govs. Chet Culver and Tom Vilsack, as well as former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, could run. Culver has also been weighing a run for governor, but his father, John Culver, served one term in the Senate back in the `70s, before losing to Chuck Grassley. Tom Vilsack just committed to another four years as Agriculture Secretary in the Obama administration, so it might be awkward for him to wriggle out of that, while his wife lost a bruising campaign for House in Iowa's 4th Congressional District just last year.

As for the GOP, in addition to Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King, other possibilities include Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, former state party chair Matt Strawn, and state Ag. Sec'y Bill Northey. Reynolds isn't ruling it out, but her boss, Gov. Terry Branstad, quickly put the kibosh on any notion that he himself might run. State Sen. Brad Zaun is also looking at the race, though he might prefer to run for Latham's House seat if Latham makes a bid. (Zaun, you may recall, unsuccessfully ran against then-Rep. Leonard Boswell in the old 3rd District in 2010; Latham beat Boswell in the new version of the 3rd last year.)

And as far as downballot reshuffling goes, well, it could get pretty intense. In a piece published a few days before Harkin's retirement announcement, the DMR offered a ton of speculation about candidates in both parties who could run for various House seats (including Latham's and Braley's), as well as gubernatorial possibilities as well. But we'll hold off on going nuts over this stuff unless and until folks higher up the food chain start making announcements. Until then, well, life's too short!

KY-Sen: Does it really count as a ratfuck if you tell everyone what you're doing? A new report in Politico says that Democrats are telling tea party forces in Kentucky that they'll open their wallets to help conservatives knock off GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell in a primary. Of course, we'll see if anything actually happens. No potential candidates have stepped forward (and several have declined), and you can't beat something with nothing. What's more, tea partiers have proven themselves to be impotent on the campaign trail when not backed by large sums of outside money, usually from the likes of the Club for Growth. Of course, if Dems want to play the role of the CfG here, I'm all for it, but maybe we shouldn't go around announcing our intentions so loudly.

Meanwhile, McConnell has some ugly new re-elect numbers, according to a poll taken for the Louisville-based Courier-Journal by SurveyUSA. Part of it is the way the question is framed: Respondents were asked whether they plan to vote for McConnell "no matter who runs against him," against McConnell (same conditions), or whether "I will need to see who runs against McConnell before I know how I will vote." Only 17 percent said they were definitely pro-Mitch, while 34 percent said anti- and 44 percent said they wanted to wait and see. I sort of don't like that phrasing because there's too much social pressure to pick door no. 3 (I mean, what kind of partisan hack are you, right???), but I still wouldn't like those numbers if I were McC.

MA-Sen: While I thought Gov. Deval Patrick was waiting to announce the dates of a Senate special election until after John Kerry was confirmed as Secretary of State, the Massachusetts Secretary of State, William Galvin, has gone ahead and scheduled them (apparently in consultation with Patrick). The primary will take place April 30, and the general will be conducted on June 25.


LA-Gov: Weird—but I've seen weirder. GOP Sen. David Vitter has set up some new fundraising vehicles, including both a federal super PAC and a state-level organization. The former isn't especially interesting, since it would merely be of help to him if he chose to run for re-election in 2016. But the latter is a bit more intriguing, since Vitter may be prepping for a gubernatorial bid in 2015, when Bobby Jindal is term-limited out. Gov. David Vitter. An amazing thought.

NE-Gov: Respectable—if he follows through: GOP state Sen. Charlie Janssen only first started publicly mooting a run for governor last month but says he doesn't want to drag things out. So he's promising a decision by the end of February. I hope Janssen keeps his word, and it'd be nice if all politicians adopted reasonable, public timetables instead of keeping people guessing.

NY-Gov: Heh. I almost forgot that Republicans need to find a candidate to get manslaughtered by Andrew Cuomo in next year's gubernatorial election. Obviously, they won't get anyone worth a damn, in large part because they have no one worth a damn, but one guy who's maybe worth a quarter-damn is saying no anyway. That would be freshman Rep. Chris Collins, who barely knocked off Democrat Kathy Hochul last year in a district baldly gerrymandered to be much redder by federal judges who acted as willing scribes for Common Cause. Collins, though, has a ton of personal wealth and would at least be attractive to the GOP for that reason alone. But no dice—he's not dumb enough to give up a safe seat in Congress for a suicide mission.

PA-Gov: Once upon a time (two short years ago), we learned about an obscure candidate in South Florida who had the amusingly common name of Patrick Murphy—and we promptly dubbed him "no, not that" Patrick Murphy to distinguish him from the former Pennsylvania congressman and netroots hero with the same moniker. But "that" Patrick Murphy (whom we still love, don't get me wrong) subsequently lost a primary for state attorney general, while "not that" Patrick Murphy shocked the world by unseating Allen West in a difficult district and now sits in Congress himself. So it may be time to swap epithets, or come up with new nickname, though Pennsylvania's Patrick Murphy (PPM?) will probably take a break from the political scene for a while. Indeed, he says he's "absolutely not" running for governor next year. But don't worry, PPM: We're eagerly awaiting your next move, whenever it comes.

SC-Gov: While there may be enough Republican discontent to fuel a primary challenge to freshman Gov. Nikki Haley, I tend to think that's unlikely. So it's unsurprising to me that state Treasurer Curtis Loftis, who was first elected just a couple of years ago, says he won't challenge Haley and will instead seek re-election in 2014.


CO-06: The DCCC is hard at work recruiting in Colorado's 6th, where GOP Rep. Mike Coffman lucked his way to a win last year in this 52-47 Obama district. We'd already heard about their efforts to woo former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff; now it turns out that they've also met with another local politico, ex-state Rep. Karen Middleton, about a possible run as well. Middleton is speaking openly about her interest, though she hasn't offered a timetable for a decision. Though in a new interview, she said: "I feel like having a woman in this race is really important," pointing out that only one member of Colorado's current congressional delegation is a woman.

P.S. Since leaving the legislature in 2010, Middleton has run the group Emerge America, which is dedicated to encouraging women to run for office. Interestingly, this is the same organization that another possible Democratic House recruit—Erin Bilbray-Kohn in NV-03—has also been involved with. (And see our related item just below.)

NV-03: After meeting with the DCCC, activist and DNC committee member Erin Bilbray-Kohn is now publicly confirming she's interested in running against sophomore GOP Rep. Joe Heck—and in fact says she's leaning "toward doing it." (The linked article adds she "might" make up her mind "in another month or so.") One thing stood out to me, though: Following initial reports that Democrats were recruiting Bilbray-Kohn, Republicans predictably sent out an email trashing her as a Harry Reid pawn. But according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Bilbray-Kohn said she was surprised at the warning shot." Surprised? Really? I hope that's a mischaracterization.

NY-24: Sometimes a former congressman who loses a bid for re-election is the strongest possible candidate to try to win that same seat back. Take, for example, Dem Rep. Dan Maffei, who did just that in November after getting beaten in 2010. Sometimes, though, the exact opposite is the case. Take, for example, GOP ex-Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, whom Maffei turfed out last year to retake his seat. After winning a surprise squeaker in a wave year, then winding up in a much bluer district, Buerkle's only response was to amp up her extreme conservatism, which helped Maffei ice her by five points, even as a Green Party spoiler took a whopping 8 percent.

Anyhow, I'm amused at the notion that Buerkle is considering a comeback, since she almost certainly is incapable of any kind of makeover. And seeing as Obama's actually expanded his margin in 2012, to a hefty 57-41, I doubt this seat is going to make any serious GOP target lists.

VA-10, VA-St. Sen: Hahahah. So we all know that former Democrat, former congressman, and former Alabama native Artur Davis last year started floating the possibility of making a comeback bid for the House—in Virginia, as a Republican. Initially, Artur, who has reinvented himself as a concern troll for the Democratic Party, had eyed a matchup against Dem Rep. Gerry Connolly in the 11th. But as part of their new gerrymander, the Virginia GOP packed that district to make surrounding seats safer for their own party, turning the 11th safely blue. So now, instead, Davis is reportedly eyeing a run in the adjacent 10th, but supposedly says he would not pull the trigger unless the current GOP incumbent, Frank Wolf, decides to retire.

In a further bit of amusing chutzpah (and patheticness), Davis is also said to be looking at a run for state Senate, which is a pretty amazing climb-down for someone who was a top DCCC official just a few short years ago and even ran for governor in 2010. What makes this so tragicomic, though, is that Davis's shot might come only if the GOP goes through with its underhanded mid-decade redistricting effort—an effort that only became possible because Republicans took advantage of the absence of a black senator who was celebrating the inauguration of the nation's first black president, on Martin Luther King Day, which may all run afoul of the Voting Rights Act anyway, which of course was originally passed to protect the rights of black voters. So, yeah.

And speaking of douchenozzles, get a load of GOP state Sen. Emmett Hanger. A key change in the new Republican map involves mashing up one Democratic district and one Republican district (to make neighboring seats redder, just as described above with the congressional lines), and the lucky GOP victim was Hanger... who nevertheless went along with his political immolation and voted in favor of the plan. I suppose you can grudgingly admire a guy for falling on his sword for the good of his party, but not this schmuck:

Hanger said he was troubled by how he and his fellow Republicans pushed through their proposal — by waiting for a day when a Democratic senator in the evenly-split chamber was absent.

As it turned out, that happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when a civil rights attorney, Sen. Henry Marsh, was absent to attend the inauguration.

While Hanger said that bothered him, he still voted with his caucus against a Democratic motion to hold the bill until a day when all senators were present.

Why? "I have asked myself that question," Hanger said.

So this piece of work supported a map that would force him to run against a Democratic senator (2009 gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds, as it happens), even though he thought the way in which the legislation was brought to a vote was troubling. Yeah, keep asking yourself that question, bub.

Other Races:

NYC Mayor: The New York City mayoral race features a weird combination of absolutely certainty over who the candidates in the Democratic primary are, combined with the fact that basically no one has formally announced—or has even been willing to talk about their aims on the record. That changed on Saturday, when Public Advocate Bill de Blasio at long last launched his campaign (not counting 2009 nominee Bill Thompson's brief statement a few years ago that he'd run a second time). But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Comptroller John Liu still haven't made their bids official, and Thompson hasn't held a formal kickoff. Everyone was probably waiting until after last year's presidential election, but yo, that was three months ago.

P.S. De Blas was joined in his announcement by his wife and his 15-year-old son Dante, who himself made what was apparently a good speech—and also drew raves for his "stupendous Afro." Click through, because the kid can seriously rock it. Dante 4 Council, 2021!

Special Elections: A Texas state Senate special election nearly snuck past us, on account of it being held on a Saturday. But Johnny, as ever, has the results:

Texas SD-06: This is an open Democratic seat in Houston where the previous incumbent, Mario Gallegos died before Election Day last year, necessitating a do-over. Eight candidates ran—four Democrats, two Republicans, a Green, and an independent—but six of them might as well not have bothered, because Saturday's open primary was a battle between former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who won 45 percent and 42 percent, respectively. A distant, distant third was Republican R. W. Bray, who ran for this seat in 2012 and pulled in 29 percent; this time he only managed 6 percent. Garcia and Alvarado will go to a runoff sometime in the next month or so.
Senate seats in Texas are a big deal: There are only 31 members in the chamber, which makes senatorial districts larger that congressional districts, a rare phenomenon. And in a state as populous as Texas, that means each senator represents a lot of people.

Grab Bag:

Demographics: Here's a cool animated GIF of demographic changes in Chicago, on a ward-by-ward level, over the last hundred years.

House: Here's some fascinating historical data that speaks to the increased polarization of the House, courtesy of Larry Sabato: there are only 25 "crossover districts" this year in the House (either ones that went R at the presidential level but elected a D Representative, or vice versa), with 9 Dems in Romney districts and 16 GOPers in Obama districts. That contrasts with 83 crossover districts in 2008, 111 in 1996, and 196 in 1984!

There are any number of moving parts in this decline: more skillful gerrymandering, (thanks to better computing power and better data-gathering) and increasing mobility leading to increasing self-sorting (liberals gravitating toward cities, conservatives white-flighting out of cities and suburbs to the exurbs or staying put in rural areas) are two of the biggies. But more than anything, to me, this seems to point to a slow but steady decline in split-ticket voting. When Democrats used to be able to routinely elect conservative Dixiecrats in dozens of red districts, that easily kept them in power, but as that trend has fallen off in the last couple decades, it's made it a lot harder for Team Blue to hold the House. That's illustrated in this Monkey Cage scatterplot of the Democrats' House popular vote versus the number of seats actually won:

Scatterplot of national House vote vs. share of House seats won
You can see how the last decade's results are all the negative outliers on the curve. That's not to absolve gerrymandering from its role in helping cement the GOP majority, but it's more the icing on the cake. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Jan 29, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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