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: Wealthy businessman Tom Smith has acknowledged that he's considering challenging
Rep. Bill Shuster in the GOP primary. Shuster only took 53 percent in his 2014 primary against two weak foes. Lately, the incumbent has been on the defensive after it emerged that he helped fast-track a bill
favored by an airline lobbyist he's been dating. (Jeff Singer)
7:16 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Special Elections: Ah, spring. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and New Hampshire holds its first special of the year. Johnny Longtorso gives us the rundown:
New Hampshire House, Rockingham 13: This is an open Republican seat located in the towns of Hampstead and Kingston in the southeast of the state. The candidates are Democrat Carol Croteau and Republican Dennis Green, both of whom ran for this seat in 2014. Croteau came in fifth out of eight in the general election (for four seats), while Green came in last place out of five candidates in the Republican primary. At 57-41 Romney, this is one of the most Republican state House districts in New Hampshire.
9:00 AM PT (Jeff Singer): UT-Sen: Tea party-dipped Sen. Mike Lee has plenty of enemies in the GOP, who remain angry with him for his role in the 2013 government shutdown, but they've struggled to find a credible candidate to challenge him for renomination. Still, wealthy businessman Spencer Zwick, a former aide to Mitt Romney, has continued his search (though the Boston-based Zwick won't be running himself) and is now touting Alex Dunn. Dunn, who also used to work for Romney and now runs his own company, has acknowledged his interest, saying, "I've been having discussions with a group of people who are encouraging me to run for Senate."
Even if Dunn gets in, it's not going to be easy to unseat Lee, especially from the left. Lee has been working hard to turn his former skeptics into supporters, and he's won over some of the wealthy people who were planning to finance his eventual opponent. It's also far from clear if Lee is going to need to face a primary or if he can win renomination at the GOP party convention, where the delegates tend to be even more conservative. Utah recently passed a new law that allows candidates to bypass the convention and move straight to the primary, but the Utah Republican Party is suing to stop it from being implemented. Lee's not out of the woods, but Dunn is going to need a lot to go right if he's going to deny him renomination.
9:20 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NH-Gov: Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, a member of the powerful Granite State Republican family, has been touted for higher office for a long time, and it seems that he's decided 2016 will be his year. Sununu confirms he's seriously looking at a gubernatorial campaign, and says that Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan's plans will have "no bearing" on his decision. Sununu also just turned over most of his duties running Waterville Valley Resort in order to give himself "more day-to-day flexibility to do a lot more things politically."
Hassan is being recruited to run for U.S. Senate and if she leaves Concord, it would set off a competitive race to succeed her. WMUR's John DiStaso mentions state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, businessman Fred Tausch, and 2014 nominee Walt Havenstein as potential GOP candidates in a Hassan-free contest. On the Democratic side, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern is named as a likely competitor. Fellow Executive Councilor Chris Pappas and state Sen. Donna Soucy are also name-dropped, though Pappas may run for Congress instead. A recent PPP survey gave Hassan a 52-35 lead over Sununu in a hypothetical gubernatorial contest, but found that an open seat race would start out as a tossup regardless of which candidates both parties nominated.
9:48 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Columbus Mayor: City Council President Andrew Ginther has looked like the favorite for a while to succeed retiring Mayor Michael Coleman in this November's contest, and his fundraising haul only underscores his advantage.
Ginther, who has Coleman's support, brought in a hefty $611,000 since February, far ahead of Franklin County Sheriff and fellow Democrat Zach Scott's $198,000. Republicans initially expressed some optimism that they could take this seat but their candidate, former Columbus School Board President Terry Boyd, brought in just $5,300, trailing even Democratic Some Dude James Ragland. All four candidates will face off in the May 5 non-partisan primary, with the top-two vote-getters advancing to the fall.
10:11 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-01: Former Del. Mike Smigiel has talked about running for this safely red Eastern Shore seat whether or not incumbent and fellow Republican Andy Harris jumps into the Senate race, and he appears to be gearing up for a campaign.
Smigiel has opened a campaign committee and is already asking for pledges: While he hasn't said that he's in, he's planning a "special announcement" for June 10. In a sign that Smigiel is truly a force to be reckoned with, his request for money was in all-caps, WHICH DOESN'T LOOK STUPID AT ALL! The libertarian oriented-Smigiel won't have an easy time unseating Harris, who hasn't done much to offend primary voters. However, in the unlikely event that Harris leaves and we have a crowded GOP field, someone like Smigiel could conceivably slip through and secure the precious.
10:27 AM PT (Jeff Singer): FL-02: The GOP is hoping to unseat freshman Gwen Graham next year before she can become entrenched in this 52-47 Romney North Florida seat (or perhaps worse, emerge as a dangerous Democratic statewide contender). No one has shown much of an appetite to challenge Graham, who proved to be a very tough campaigner in 2014, but that might be about to change. Sunshine State News reports that Pete Williams, who has occupied a variety of important posts in state government, is meeting with the NRCC and talking to campaign consultants.
Williams came very close to unseating longtime State Attorney Willie Meggs
in heavily Democratic Leon County in territory that makes up much of FL-02 in 2012. Williams held Meggs to a 55-45 win in heavily Democratic Leon County (Obama won it 61-38) and the GOP would love to have a candidate who could blunt the Team Blue's edge there. But as Matthew Isbell points out, Meggs came close to losing due to her his weakness with African American voters, while Graham actually outperformed Obama with this demographic. If he runs, Williams should give the GOP a credible candidate, but Graham is no pushover.
10:42 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Great Mentioner: Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence has been looking vulnerable ever since the firestorm over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Team Blue is looking to put this seat in play. However, no one has stepped up yet, and many Hoosier Democrats some reservations about the most likely candidate, 2012 nominee John Gregg. In our new Daily Kos Great Mentioner piece, we take a look at the emerging Democratic field to face the damaged but still formidable Pence.
10:49 AM PT (David Jarman): Philadephia mayor: We've seen several polls with ex-city councilor Jim Kenney holding onto a tiny lead in the Democratic primary field in Philadelphia's open mayoral race, including one last week where he led state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams by 1. Two more polls released over the weekend, however, show Kenney starting to put a little more distance between himself and his rivals. Both are internal polls, though; we have yet to see a poll of this race from a truly neutral party.
One poll is directly from the Kenney campaign, issued by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. They find Kenney at 30, Williams at 26, and ex-District Attorney Lynne Abraham at 17, with 17 percent undecided and the other minor players in the low single digits. The other is from Forward Philadelphia, a pro-Kenney PAC partly bankrolled by the American Federation of Teachers. That poll, by Hart Research, is even more optimistic, with Kenney at 33, Williams at 24, Abraham at 18, and 19 undecided.
11:20 AM PT: NY-Gov: This would certainly be epic: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who's used his post to actively litigate on behalf of liberal causes, apparently has not ruled out a primary challenge to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018, according to reporter Ken Lovett. Unnamed sources "close to" Schneiderman say he's giving "serious consideration" to a bid and is "laying the groundwork" for a run should Cuomo retire, but Lovett acknowledges it's "not clear" whether Schneiderman would take Cuomo on directly. That means Schneiderman's people are leaving his intentions deliberately ambiguous, which is interesting in its own right.
Cuomo, meanwhile, just indicated that he's inclined to seek a third term, but he has to say that, lest he look like a lame duck just months after getting sworn in a second time. And if he still harbors delusions of becoming president some day, he also probably has to run and win at least one more time. The soonest he can seek the White House is 2020, but if Hillary Clinton wins next year, that pushes Cuomo out to 2024, (he'd be 67). If he eschews a third term, he'd be out of politics for half a dozen years by that point, so he has to stay in the game if he wants a promotion.
But Schneiderman could very well upend any such plans. Law professor Zephyr Teachout, despite having no name recognition, little money, and scarcely any time, threw a real scare into Cuomo in last year's primary and rode a wave of progressive digust that held the governor to just 63 percent statewide. Schneiderman would offer a great contrast as a populist crusader to the anti-union, pro-one percenter Cuomo, and he'd be more than capable of finishing the job.
He'd also probably have the inside track for the Democratic nomination in an open seat race, too. Lovett mentions a trio of other possibilities: Teachout; Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner; and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. (A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says any notion she's interested is "categorically false.") None of these candidates have a profile as prominent as Schneiderman's, nor would they be able to match his fundraising ability. But whether he knocks off Cuomo or succeeds him without a primary fight, Schneiderman would finally be the progressive governor that dark blue New York deserves.
11:44 AM PT: NY-Gov: Schneiderman predictably backed off Lovett's obvious between-the-lines hints, but he also was far from Shermanesque in disavowing his interest:
"Being able take on powerful interests in order to protect New Yorkers is the greatest job I've ever had and my plan for 2018 is to run for re-election. I am not thinking about or planning to run for Governor, and I have no interest in challenging an incumbent Democratic governor who shares my views on virtually every issue."
As Al Swearengen once put it, announcing your plans is a good way to hear god laugh, so Schneiderman is just doing that thing smart politicians do when they resist courting any divine chortling.
12:14 PM PT: CA-24: Democrat Laura Capps, the daughter of retiring Rep. Lois Capps, announced on Monday that she would not seek to succeed her mother in the House, saying she doesn't want to put a "cross-country commute" between her and her young son. That's actually good news for her party, though, since it makes it less likely that the two Democrats already running, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, will split the vote in next year's top-two primary and allow the two Republicans in the race—Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and 2014 candidate Justin Fareed—to advance to the general election. Achadjian is unquestionably the GOP's preferred choice, but as of now, Carbajal probably has the inside track to hold this light blue seat for the Democrats.
12:19 PM PT: P.S. Had she run and won, the younger Capps would have been the first daughter to succeed her mother in Congress. Some daughters have succeeded fathers and some sons have succeeded mothers, but we've yet to see an entirely female succeession.
12:30 PM PT (David Jarman): Philadelphia mayor: Lynne Abraham is also out with her first TV ad of the campaign, despite the fact that only three weeks remain until the primary; it's about getting more funding from Harrisburg for public schools. Abraham's problem, according to the recent polls, though isn't a lack of name recognition (which ads could fix); the problem is that, thanks to her decades at DA, she has higher name rec than Kenney or Williams, but also significantly higher negatives.
12:32 PM PT (Jeff Singer): OR-Gov: Well, here's someone we never expected to hear from again! Republican Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken said on Monday that he's "exploring a race for governor," and he's already changed the name of his PAC to "Sid Leiken for Governor." A few Republicans are looking at running against newly-elevated Democratic Gov. Kate Brown next year and while none of them look like giant killers, they at least don't have Leiken's rather embarrassing baggage.
During the 2010 cycle, Leiken, the the mayor of Springfield, ran against Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio. While Leiken started out as a top GOP recruit in a long-neglected swing seat, his campaign soon ran into trouble after $2,000 that went to a fictional polling firm. The money in fact was funneled to a business owned by his mother, and the scandal destroyed his reputation as a top-tier candidate. Leiken tearfully apologized for the "error in judgment" in an August press conference, but he never was able to put the episode behind him, and he exited the race in March.
Maybe Leiken can put this matter behind him, but it's very unlikely state Republicans are going to be eager to embrace him after how his last major campaign went. The Oregon GOP bench isn't big and beggars can't be choosers, but even they can probably do better than Sid Leiken.
1:12 PM PT (Jeff Singer): CA-Sen: Over the weekend, former GOP state party chair Tom Del Beccaro announced that he would run for this open Senate seat. Del Beccaro's chances in the general are not good in this blue state, but he might still be an improvement over Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, the only other announced Republican contender.
While Chavez may have entered the contest with the hope of turning a respectable statewide performance into a springboard for other things, he's brought in a shockingly low amount of money. Even weirder, he's continued to raise money for his Assembly account. Chavez says the money will go to other Assembly candidates and that he's going to focus on the Senate now. A third Republican, former state party chair Duf Sundheim, formed an exploratory committee a while ago; Attorney General Kamala Harris still has the Democratic field to herself.
1:40 PM PT (Jeff Singer): CA-46, Sen: In theory, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez in on the verge of announcing whether or not she will run for Senate (Sanchez said she'd announce her decision last week: Apparently, politicians don't always tell the truth). The Orange County Register takes a look at who might run to succeed her if she goes statewide and unsurprisingly, most of the action is on the Democratic side in this Obama 61-36 seat.
The most likely contender sounds like ex-state Sen. Lou Correa, who recently lost a tight race for the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Correa says if Sanchez goes, he'd "look at it very carefully." Correa's old seat makes up 78 percent of CA-46, so he wouldn't struggle for name recognition if he got in.
A few other possible candidates didn't rule anything out, but didn't sound incredibly likely to go for it. Former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who badly lost a race to succeed Correa last year, said that he's "primarily focused on working locally with the college district and building my public affairs practice." Republican state Sen. Janet Nguyen, who beat Solorio, says that while she's been approached, she's also focusing on her current job.
But one name we can eliminate is ex-Assemblyman and 2010 GOP nominee Van Tran, who said that "even if Ronald Reagan runs for the current Sanchez seat as it is drawn today, he would lose." The article notes that Democratic Assemblyman Tom Umberg is unlikely to run, but former Republican Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle might be interested. The local blog Liberal OC also mentioned some possible candidates and we'll likely see plenty of other names if this seat opens up.
1:51 PM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-Gov: Democratic New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu never seemed particularly likely to jump into this year's gubernatorial contest, but he finally ruled out a campaign on Monday. State Rep. John Bel Edwards has had the Democratic side to himself, and no one else has shown much interest in running for Team Blue.
1:58 PM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-08: It looks like one of the many potential Democratic candidates looking at this safely blue Beltway seat is about to get in. William Jawando, a former Obama Administration official who narrowly lost a primary for state House, has formed a campaign committee, though he has yet to announce anything yet. (Hat-Tip: Greg Giroux).
2:06 PM PT: FL-18: Two Palm Beach County commissioners, Priscilla Taylor and Melissa McKinlay, are potential successors Rep. Patrick Murphy in the House, and according to a new report in the Palm Beach Post, both have recently met with the DCCC and EMILY's List. McKinlay is still weighing a bid while Taylor jumped in shortly after Murphy launched his Senate campaign, a move that reportedly stunned and even upset many local Democrats; we'll see if it affects her standing with D.C. insiders, too. Plenty of Republicans are also looking at the race, but so far, only one, Martin County school board member Rebecca Negron, has entered.
2:27 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NV-03, 04: Communities in Schools of Nevada Board President Susie Lee has been reportedly considering a bid against freshman Republican Cresent Hardy in the Democratic-leaning 4th District, but the DCCC has other plans for her. The Las Vegas Sun reports that national Democrats are trying to persuade the wealthy and well-connected Lee to challenge Republican incumbent Joe Heck in the much more competitive 3rd District instead. Lee is also being recruited by Silver State Democrats to run in a swingy state Senate seat that's critical to the party's hopes of retaking the chamber. Lee acknowledged that she's looking at running for office next year, but she didn't indicate what job she's leaning toward.