- KY-Gov: Kentucky’s gubernatorial race is only a little more than three months away, but there’s been a dearth of polling here so far. But SurveyUSA comes to our rescue and finds a tight race, with Democrat Jack Conway posting a 45-42 lead against Republican Matt Bevin. SurveyUSA’s last poll from mid-May gave Conway a stronger 48-37 edge, but it’s not too surprising to see a shift now that the ugly Republican primary is over. When independent Drew Curtis is added to the mix, Conway’s lead increases to 43-38, with Curtis taking 5. Curtis, the founder of the website Fark, leans to the left, but so far he seems to be attracting more conservatives who may just not be sold on Bevin yet. Curtis is still collecting signatures, and we should know around mid-August if he’ll make the general election ballot. We’ve only seen one other independent poll since the May GOP primary, a late June PPP survey that gave Bevin a 38-35 edge. One important difference between the two polls is outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s approval rating: PPP gave him a good but not great 43-35 score, while SurveyUSA gives him a much better 51-33 mark. PPP usually gives elected officials lower ratings than other pollsters, so there may be nothing else to this. However, Conway will definitely benefit if more conservative voters see Beshear’s tenure as a success and are willing to pull the lever for another Democrat.
- CA-Sen: Rep. Xavier Becerra, the last notable California Democrat still considering a bid for Senate, has unsurprisingly said no. Becerra had raised very little money this year, and, more importantly, he’s the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, with good prospects for advancement. (At age 57, he could stick around long enough become speaker one day.) That leaves state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez to duke it out on the Democratic side, though Harris has led in fundraising, endorsements, and polling. Republicans won’t be able to contest this seat in a meaningful way barring a Chicxulub-level event.
- FL-Sen, 01: This is a genuine shocker. Veteran GOP Rep. Jeff Miller, who had done just about everything there is to do in order to get ready for a statewide campaign short of a formal announcement, has decided not to run for Senate after all. Miller had amped up his fundraising and begun staffing up, but recently he promised he wouldn’t declare his plans until “after August.” We thought it was traditional gamesmanship from a pol who’d made up his mind but, for whatever reason, wasn’t yet ready to dive in, and it may well have been, because something evidently happened to alter Miller’s timetable so dramatically. The possibilities for speculation are endless, but Miller’s own explanation—that as chair of the Veterans Affairs committee, he wants to continue his efforts “to reform the toxic culture within the VA”—is unsatisfying. Indeed, Miller’s chairmanship will expire after this Congress, thanks to the Republican Party’s self-imposed term limits, so he’d be moving on soon regardless. We’ll probably never know what actually went down, but regardless, the GOP primary is still a total tossup, featuring a handful of candidates with low name recognition and a ton of undecided voters. To the extent Miller’s demurral helps anyone, it might boost Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who wants to claim the establishment mantle, but it’s just too early to say. It’s also worth noting that in his statement, Miller did not say anything about seeking re-election. One prominent local Republican, state Sen. Greg Evers, had already said he’d run to replace Miller if the congressman opted for a Senate bid, and another, state Sen. Don Gaetz, sounded likely to do the same. They may yet get their chance in this safely red seat which, because it’s nestled into the far end of the Florida Panhandle, is unlikely to change much if at all during redistricting.
- IL-Sen: So no, obviously, GOP Sen. Mark Kirk isn’t going to drop his bid for re-election, despite the wishes of a top Republican donor who’s frustrated watching as Kirk continues to make stupid and offensive comments on the campaign trail. But D.C. Republicans apparently recognize that Kirk’s problem is indeed serious, though they don’t seem to be getting through to the senator. We say that because they’re evidently trying to use the papers to dislodge Kirk’s foot from his own mouth:
At the national level, officials with the NRSC have offered Kirk one bit of advice: Stay out of the media so much. “It’s got to be a more controlled setting when he speaks publicly,” said one Republican political operative familiar with Kirk and the NRSC’s strategy who was not authorized to speak publicly. “I don’t think it takes away from anything that he’s trying to do. But he’s got to be less in the media. Everything should be about making your point and that’s that.”
Sort of like baby-proofing a home, it is possible to gaffe-proof a campaign, if you have an incredibly disciplined operation and a candidate willing to follow orders. A good example of this came last year in the Texas governor’s race, when Republican Greg Abbott, a notorious goofball, managed to really screw up only once, thanks to aggressive intervention by his handlers. But it’s hard to impose this kind of regime on a U.S. senator, especially one like Kirk, who’s had a penchant for spewing bullshit his whole career. Can the NRSC really embarrass him into silence with blind quotes in the press? That seems like a quack cure at best.
- IN-Sen: For just the second time this cycle, the powerful Club for Growth—which might be best thought of as the establishment wing of the tea party—has endorsed a candidate in a competitive GOP Senate primary. On Thursday, they gave their backing to Rep. Marlin Stutzman in Indiana; a few months ago, they also got behind Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida. The Club’s move makes sense: Stutzman has long practiced their brand of politics, earning a 93 percent lifetime rating on the group’s scorecard. By contrast, gripes the Club, Stutzman’s best-funded Republican opponent, Rep. Todd Young, has an “anemic” 68 percent score. Stutzman’s not the only one who will be pleased at this development: Democrats will be, too. Stutzman is by far the most extreme candidate in the race, and he’s the likeliest to repeat Richard Mourdock’s follies. That would give Team Blue an opening despite Indiana’s Republican propensities, but ex-Rep. Baron Hill, the only Democrat running, will have to step it up considerably on the fundraising front to be able to take advantage of such an opportunity.
- MD-Sen: While Baltimore pols—chiefly Reps. Elijah Cummings and Dutch Ruppersberger—keep waiting and waiting in the wings, Rep. Chris Van Hollen keeps snacking on their lake trout. Van Hollen’s earned a number of endorsements from prominent Baltimore County figures, and he just added his first from Baltimore city: Del. Maggie McIntosh, who chairs the state House Appropriations Committee. The Baltimore Sun describes her as one of the most powerful women in Maryland politics and suggests her decision might open the floodgates for other leaders to follow suit.
- NC-Sen: After striking out all cycle long, Democrats have finally found someone who might—just might—be interested in taking on GOP Sen. Richard Burr next year. State Rep. Duane Hall says he’s forming an exploratory committee but cautions that he’s “not running for anything” just yet. Hall does seem to understand the parameters of the race, saying that Burr can be unseated “in a year with a strong presidential candidate.” Basically, in other words, Hall would need a year like 2008, when a powerful force at the top of the ticket helped an otherwise unknown state legislator (Kay Hagan) upset an incumbent Republican senator. The odds are long, but they’re not zero, and it’s good that Hall grasps that.
- PA-Sen: It gets late early around here—and it seems to get late earlier and earlier every cycle. By that we mean that serious television ad spending has already cranked up in several key Senate races around the country, when we’re still 15 months out from Election Day. Mostly it’s been from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and it probably can’t be sustained straight through November of 2016. But here’s another big buy, also on behalf of a Republican senator, this time from the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans of America. The spot features a Navy vet (interestingly, a woman) praising Pat Toomey for his work on behalf of veterans. Politico says CVA is spending $1.5 million on the ad.
- OR-Gov: Gov. Kate Brown further cemented her position in next year’s Democratic primary on Thursday with EMILY’s List announcing their endorsement of her. While a couple of notable names have indicated some possible interest in challenging Brown for the nomination, no one has actually stepped forward. Brown, who had been Oregon’s secretary of state, was elevated to her post earlier this year when Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned, forcing a special election next year. That bollixed up the plans of guys like state Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who’d been expecting an open-seat race in 2018, when Kitzhaber (for the second time in his career) would have been term-limited. Wheeler’s indicated he’s leaning toward a run for mayor of Portland instead, which is probably the wiser choice.
- AZ-02: Former state Rep. Matt Heinz, who filed FEC paperwork the other day, has formally launched his campaign for Congress. He joins state Rep. Victoria Steele in the Democratic primary. The two are vying to unseat freshman GOP Rep. Martha McSally, who won the closest House race in the nation last year.
- IL-08: State Sen. Tom Cullerton, one of three prominent Democrats who’d been seeking to succeed Rep. Tammy Duckworth in the House, announced on Thursday that he’s dropping out and will run for re-election instead. Cullerton entered the race looking like a player, earning endorsements from VoteVets and the Teamsters, but he got absolutely crushed in second-quarter fundraising by Raja Krishnamoorthi (who lost to Duckworth in the 2012 Democratic primary). Cullerton’s move leaves just fellow state Sen. Mike Noland in the race against Raja (he’s often just a first name-only kinda guy), but Noland’s quarterly haul was even weaker—barely a tenth of Raja’s $621,000 take. That could leave an opening for another candidate. Roll Call‘s Eli Yokley reports that some nameless operatives think EMILY’s List could try to recruit a woman, such as Villa Park Mayor Deb Bullwinkel or Jenny Burke, who lost a state House race last year. But Illinois holds an early primary (March 15), so any would-be hopefuls don’t have much time to waste. And it’s likely no one’s been preparing in any way, since Yokley says that a “source close to Cullerton” said his departure “surprised everybody.” (Cullerton had just visited D.C. and had a fundraiser scheduled with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.) So for now, Krishnamoorthi remains in command, and likely will continue to do so.
- ME-02: Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, whose brother John represented this seat for four terms in the 1990s before getting elected governor in 2002, has launched a campaign of his own for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Baldacci had considered a run last cycle and even released polling from PPP that showed him leading in the Democratic primary, but ultimately, he decided against it, saying he was too busy with his law practice. Evidently things are different this time for Baldacci, as is the kind of contest he can expect. Though she lost a disappointing race to Republican Bruce Poliquin last year, national Democrats quickly united behind Emily Cain for a rematch. But was that confidence misplaced? Cain raised a very soft $152,000 last quarter while Poliquin has been crushing it, taking in more than $1.1 million so far this year. Money isn’t everything, of course, but perhaps Baldacci senses an opening here. Those old poll numbers notwithstanding, though, it won’t be a wide one. The DCCC openly recruited Cain to run again, and she also earned an endorsement (for the second time) from EMILY’s List, so she has powerful friends. Hopefully, though, the primary will stay clean and allow Democrats to readily come together against Poliquin once they’ve picked a nominee.
- PA-02: Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah insists he’ll seek re-election despite being indicted on charges of corruption, but no one’s really sure who will make it to the 2016 ballot. If Fattah ends up resigning after being convicted (which is perhaps the most likely outcome), Democratic ward leaders, led by neighboring Rep. and Philadelphia Democratic Party head Bob Brady, would choose the party’s nominee for a special election. The Democratic candidate would have absolutely no trouble winning this 90-9 Obama seat, and the new representative would not be easy to unseat in a primary. As Roll Call‘s Emily Cahn points out, serious prospective Democratic candidates are unlikely to risk angering the Philadelphia Democratic establishment by kicking off their campaigns anytime soon. But it’s also quite possible that Fattah doesn’t end up resigning before the April primary. Over at Philadelphia Magazine, Holly Otterbein games out some potential scenarios. If Fattah decides to retire rather than resign, we could see a crazy primary, and there really are no shortage of potential candidates. Some familiar names include outgoing Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, and District Attorney Seth Williams. When the Philadelphia Inquirer asked Nutter and Williams about their plans, they each deflected the question, which is exactly what they should be doing right now if they have any interest in succeeding Fattah. But if Fattah seeks re-election with an indictment (but not a conviction) over his head, there’s a good chance he could actually win renomination. Fattah does have plenty of allies left who wouldn’t oppose him, and some other possible rivals like Williams and Clarke could need to resign from their current positions if they wanted to run. However, Fattah only has a measly $24,000 on hand, and it’s possible that someone will decide to take him on. Fattah could also defy the odds and win in court, which would likely ensure him re-election.
- PA State Supreme Court: The GOP currently holds strong majorities in both chambers of the Pennsylvania legislature, and they’re likely to keep them under the current map. Democrats can secure a favorable map for the 2022 round of redistricting, but they’ll need to win at least two of the three state Supreme Court seats up this November to do it. State legislative lines are drawn by a commission, and the state Supreme Court appoints the tie-breaking member. Last time, the GOP-led court picked someone who voted in favor of a GOP gerrymander: If Democrats want to prevent this from happening again, they’ll need to flip the court in November. In a new post, Stephen Wolf explains why control of redistricting is likely to be decided this year, and fills us in on who the candidates are.
- Demographics: Maybe the biggest story about demographics in the United States today is the rapidly diversifying suburbs; it’s one of the recurring themes in William Frey’s recent book Diversity Explosion. CityLab has broken out some of the details from Frey’s work in a new article; of particular interest is a map that brings a little more nuance to the issue of suburban growth. If you look at the map, you’ll see that a plurality of metro areas, especially in the Midwest, still conform to the old paradigm of net white gains in the suburbs but white losses in the cities. In the nation’s fastest-growing places, like Florida, the Carolinas, and the Northwest, you’ll see that enough white residents are moving there that there are net white gains in both the suburbs and the cities. California and the Northeast, however, show the opposite trend, as they rapidly diversify statewide: white losses in both the cities and the suburbs. The oddest result—but perhaps the wave of the future—is limited to four places, where there were white gains in the city but white losses in the suburbs. Two of them make a lot of sense: Miami and Washington D.C., cities which are rapidly gentrifying and which see a lot of middle-class non-white growth in the suburbs. The other two seem to be Greensboro and Bakersfield … I’ll leave you to puzzle out why that’s happening there. A different and less-data-driven, but also interesting, CityLab article seems at first glance to contradict this: it’s titled “White Flight Never Ended,” which wouldn’t seem to fit with the idea of increasingly-diverse suburbs. However, if you read a little deeper, it dovetails nicely; the places that white residents are white-flighting away from, increasingly, tends to be those very same rapidly-diversifying inner-ring suburbs, instead of the cities. (The article focuses on the well-known example of Ferguson, Missouri, which went from 25 percent to 67 percent black in the 1990-2010 period … but a much more populous example might be Gwinnett County, Georgia.) Lower-income and older whites tend to move further out to the exurban fringe, while younger and better-educated whites are leading the way back to the cities. There are limits to the latter trend, though, of millennials being at the vanguard of new waves of gentrification; Pew Research is out with a new study that shows that rates of young adults living independently aren’t going up even as their unemployment rates fall toward pre-recession levels (suggesting that the real problem is rental rates/sales prices, not unemployment). Four percent more young adults live with their parents now than they did in 2007 (22 percent then, 26 percent now).