- FL-13, Sen: Could we see a Rep. Charlie Crist in the 115th Congress? The former governor initially showed little interest in challenging Republican Rep. David Jolly in what is currently a very swingy seat, but that was before the Florida Supreme Court ordered the GOP-led legislature to redraw the state’s congressional map. It’s pretty much a certainty that the court won’t accept a new map that doesn’t move several heavily Democratic areas into this seat, and Florida mapping expert Matthew Isbell estimates that the likely changes will take Obama’s percentage of the vote in FL-13 from 50 to 54 percent. (See our FL Redistricting item below for more.) Crist lives in one of the St. Petersburg neighborhoods that’s likely to wind up in Jolly’s new seat, and Politico’s Marc Caputo reports that he’s considering running here. Crist hasn’t such much publicly, only telling the Tampa Bay Times that he’s been getting plenty of phone calls about it and that he “misses public service.” But Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch confirms that Crist has reached out to him about a possible congressional bid. However, Caputo tells us that Crist is pretty cautious after losing his last two statewide campaigns, and he doesn’t want to run unless he feels it’s a “sure thing.” But even if this district changes, there’s no guarantee that he’ll have a clear shot at the Democratic nomination. Former Obama Administration official Eric Lynn has been raising real money for his campaign against Jolly, and his campaign consultant is making it clear he’s not just going to step aside. A few other Democrats are publicly considering this contest but they sound less than thrilled at the idea of facing Crist, who has proven to be popular in Pinellas County no matter which party label he’s run under. While state Rep. Dwight Dudley says that he’s still interested in running regardless of what Crist does, he admits that the former governor’s decision will influence him. Welch says he’d support a Crist campaign, but would consider this race if he stays out. There are undoubtedly several other local Democrats who are now privately thinking about a bid and watching Crist’s moves closely. But there are two Tampa Bay Democrats we probably won’t see on the 2016 ballot. Alex Sink, who narrowly lost the 2014 special election to Jolly, confirms she’s not trying again. Sink is enthusiastic about Crist though, whom she calls a “perfect candidate” for this seat and a “terrific representative.” Sink briefly thought about running against Crist in last year’s gubernatorial primary, so that’s high praise indeed! Ex-Tampa Councilor Mary Mulhern announced that she would run a few weeks ago, but she sounds very reluctant to now. Mulhern didn’t outright say no, but she says she’s only likely to try for it if other major Democrats stay out. And Pinellas County Democrats may not have Dave Jolly to kick around for much longer. The congressman sounded pretty meh about a Senate run before Thursday, but Caputo reports he’s now seriously considering it. Jolly would enter a crowded GOP primary and his relatively moderate social views (Jolly is one of the few congressional Republicans to back same-sex marriage) may not serve him well, but he could decide it’s better than going through a challenging re-election campaign. There are several local Republicans who could try and succeed Jolly if he does bail, and ex-St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker would likely be atop the NRCC’s wish list. But Baker turned down a bid in 2013 and he may be reluctant to run for a tougher version of this district.
- AZ-Sen: GOP state Sen. Kelli Ward formed an exploratory committee a few months ago to prepare for a primary campaign against Sen. John McCain, and she will announce her “future plans” on Tuesday. Well-funded conservative groups are decidedly unenthusiastic about Ward, who made a name for herself when she held a hearing on the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory last year. But Rep. Matt Salmon, their preferred candidate, sounds unlikely to run, and no other credible Republicans have shown any real interest in tangling with McCain.
- FL-Sen: Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has announced that he will undergo surgery on Monday to remove prostate cancer. Nelson says the cancer was caught early, and it won’t affect his plans to run for re-election in 2018.
- IN-Sen: Republican Rep. Todd Young will announce his 2016 plans on July 18, but there’s no real suspense about what he’ll say. Young raised a hefty $1 million over the last three months, far more than he’d need if he wanted to run for re-election in his safe House seat.
- OH-Sen: Cincinnati Councilor P.G. Sittenfeld was able to haul in $700,000 when he was the only Democrat challenging Republican incumbent Rob Portman, but his fundraising plunged after ex-Gov. Ted Strickland jumped into the contest. Sittenfeld announced on Friday that he’s raised only $272,000 over the last three months, far behind Strickland’s unincredible $1 million during the same period. Sittenfeld has $725,000 on hand and he’s repeatedly made it clear that he’s going to forge ahead with his bid even as polls show him getting nuked in both the primary and in a hypothetical matchup with Portman.
- LA-Gov: Another day, another poll showing Republican Sen. David Vitter and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards looking like the clear favorites to advance to the November runoff. Republican pollster Triumph Campaigns tells us that Vitter and Edwards take 31 and 30 percent respectively, far ahead of Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle’s 14 and GOP Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne’s 11. The poll was done before independent Russel Honore announced that he wouldn’t run, which is just as well since he takes just 8. The good news for Angelle is that he is definitely picking up support. A March Triumph survey gave him just 7 percent, and other recent polls have shown him making gains. But Angelle is the only candidate who has been running television ads and he’s still nowhere close to taking a second place runoff spot. It’s certainly not going to get any easier for him once he doesn’t have the airwaves to himself.
- IA-01: Cedar Rapids Councilor Monica Vernon is continuing to consolidate Democratic establishment support for her bid against Republican freshman Rod Blum. Longtime state Attorney General Tom Miller and state Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald (the only two Democrats who currently hold statewide office) are the latest to endorse Vernon, joining neighboring Rep. Dave Loebsack and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in her corner. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Gary Kroeger is also running here and 2014 nominee Pat Murphy is reportedly in, though Murphy has refused to confirm his plans.
- MD-04: Howard University political science chair Alvin Thornton has opened a campaign committee for this safely blue suburban D.C. seat, though he has yet to announce anything. Thornton would join a crowded Democratic field, but he does sound like he has some political connections: Thornton chaired the 2001 committee helped create the state’s school funding guidelines. (Hat-tip Politics1)
- MI-09: Democratic Rep. Sander Levin will be 85 on Election Day, but he’s put to rest any speculation that he’ll retire next year. Obama easily carried this suburban Detroit seat and Levin should face no credible primary opposition.
- NJ-05: Democrats always salivate at the thought of unseating conservative Republican Scott Garrett in this Romney 51-48 seat, though they’ve never gotten close to beating him. But Josh Gottheimer, a former advisor to both Clintons, looks like he’ll be Team Blue’s strongest contender to date. Gottheimer is still officially only exploring a bid but that didn’t stop him from bringing in a strong $412,000 during the last three months, and he has $585,000 on hand. This entire North Jersey seat is located in the ultra-expensive New York City media market so Gottheimer is going to need a lot more cash if he’s going to upset Garrett, but this is a very good start.
- NY-24: Democrat Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University professor who is best known for his work advocating for Social Security, has filed to run against freshman Republican John Katko, though he has yet to announce. Obama won this Upstate New York seat 57-41 but Katko unseated Dan Maffei 60-40 last year, a very impressive result against a scandal-free incumbent even in a GOP wave year. Operatives from both parties told Roll Call last month that they think Kingson may be too liberal for this area, but no other Democrats have made any noises about running here yet. (Hat-tip Greg Giroux)
- FL Redistricting:
Now that the Florida Supreme Court has stuck down the Sunshine State’s GOP-drawn congressional map, it’s anyone’s guess what the 2016 landscape will look like. Assuming a federal court doesn’t interfere, the Republican legislature will have until mid-October to submit a new map for the state Supreme Court’s approval. Team Red is going to need to make real changes, but they’re going to do whatever they can to minimize their losses. Over at SaintPetersBlog, Matthew Isbell visualizes what the new seats may look like. The most likely losers are Republican Rep. David Jolly and Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham, who both won expensive 2014 contests. The GOP made sure several heavily Democratic St. Petersburg neighborhoods were placed in the safely blue 14th District to safeguard Jolly’s competitive 13th District. The court called the legislature out on this in their decision, arguing that this was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution. Obama won the current FL-13 with only 50 percent of the vote, but Isbell estimates that the president took 54 percent in a new version of the seat that includes those areas. But if the GOP is forced to weaken Jolly, they’re going to exact revenge on Graham in North Florida. The court ordered Democrat Corrine Brown’s FL-05 to be dramatically redrawn: Brown’s current seat packs in African American communities from Jacksonville to Orlando, which helps make the surrounding districts more Republican. The court wants a new seat that stretches from east to west, and the changes could weaken at least one Central Florida Republican. But the GOP is likely to use this opportunity to dismantle Graham’s competitive seat by moving heavily Democratic Tallahassee into the new 5th. Isbell visualizes a new FL-02 in the above map and calculates that it would have given Obama only 35 percent of the vote, making it unwinnable even for a formidable Democrat like Graham. Graham could try to run against Brown in the primary for the dramatically redrawn but still safely blue FL-05. But the new FL-05 will still be predominantly African American, which could give Brown the edge (Graham is white and Brown is black). Graham also has a relatively moderate voting record, which Brown would no doubt exploit. Isbell draws maps for several other new seats, and we could see other dramatic changes. But as Isbell cautions, this is all very hypothetical and there’s no telling exactly what the legislature will do and what the court will approve. But unless a federal court intervenes and preserves the current congressional map, Florida’s House members aren’t going to be sleeping easy for a while.