CO-Gov: Ex-Sen. Ken Salazar announced on Thursday that he would not seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat next year. If Salazar had gotten in, the former secretary of the interior would likely have scared off many other Democratic candidates. However, the longtime political insider could have been vulnerable in a primary, so it’s unlikely he would have cleared the field.
Right now, the only two declared Democratic contenders are ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston and businessman Noel Ginsburg, but that may change very soon. Rep. Ed Perlmutter has been talking about getting in, and ColoradoPolitics reports that he’s planning to announce he’s running for governor as early as the end of the month, and that Salazar will likely back him. Perlmutter did not announce anything on Thursday, but he says the “chances are very good” he’ll run. If Perlmutter launches a statewide campaign, it will open up his suburban Denver House seat, which Clinton carried 51-39.
Two other Colorado Democrats, ex-state Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Rep. Jared Polis, also started talking about running after Salazar’s announcement. Kennedy, who completed a stint as Denver’s chief financial officer and deputy mayor last year, has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for a while, but she’d been quiet about her plans. But on Thursday, shortly after Salazar’s announcement, Kennedy confirmed she was interested, and she says she’ll decide in April. Kennedy was elected state treasurer in 2006 and narrowly lost four years later to Republican Walker Stapleton, who is also a potential gubernatorial candidate.
Polis is also not saying no, but he seems to be in less of a hurry to decide. Polis told the Denver Post on Thursday that he hasn’t “ruled anything out and I’m not going to be rushed into a premature decision by today’s news.” Polis’ Boulder-area seat backed Clinton 56-35, and it should be safe without him. Polis, who would be the first openly gay man elected governor of any state, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and he can certainly do plenty of self-funding if he wanted to.
ColoradoPolitics also reports that Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Executive Director Joe Neguse, whose name we hadn’t heard in connection to this race, is rumored to be considering; Neguse lost the 2014 general election for secretary of state 47-45. Neguse was reportedly encouraged to run after a different Salazar, state Rep. and prominent Bernie Sanders backer Joe Salazar, announced he wouldn’t run. State Sen. Michael Merrifield and state Rep. Steve Lebsock also talked about running over the last few months.
• AL-Gov: There are plenty of Republicans eyeing this seat next year, but not surprisingly, only a few Democrats have talked about running in this very red state. However, it sounds like one of the people we speculated would run as a Republican is actually a Democrat. Mark Johnston, who recently finished a 26-year stint as the executive director of the large Episcopalian-affiliated Camp McDowell, a large camp associated with the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, has expressed interest in seeking the governorship, though he didn’t say what party he’d run with. However, the Daily Mountain Eagle identifies Johnston as a Democrat, and in a recent interview with Bham Now, Johnston sure didn’t sound like a Republican.
While Johnston did not say what his party affiliation was, he notably referred to the Republicans in the third person, declaring that if he becomes governor, he “will work with Republicans because I want to.” Bham Now also identified Johnston as “a leader in Alabama’s conservation and nature education communities for decades,” which is also not exactly something you can say about many Republicans. (Hat-tip terjeanderson.)
A few other candidates have made noises about running as Democrats. State House Minority Leader Craig Ford expressed interest back in October, while ex-state Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb and 2014 nominee and ex-Rep. Parker Griffith, a Democrat-turned Republican-turned independent-turned Democrat, have also talked about getting in. Plenty of Democrats would love for Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox to run, but he’s given no indication that he’s interested. It’s going to be incredibly tough for any Democrat to win next year, but it’s possible Team Blue will have an opening if they can run as an antidote to state GOP corruption.
• CO-Gov: Only two GOP candidates, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter and wealthy businessman Victor Mitchell, who served a single term in the state House nearly a decade ago, are in so far. However, Gaiter doesn’t seem to have much major support, while Mitchell, who has spoken out against Trump, is a self-described “longshot, outsider candidate.” However, other Republicans are likely to join them in the race. Several months ago, we heard DaVita Healthcare Partners chief executive Kent Thiry mentioned as a possible candidate, and ColoradoPolitics reports he’s “said to be considering.” DaVita was the second-largest kidney dialysis company in the world in 2012, and Thiry is known for some very memorable showmanship, including once zip-lining into a major company event. Thiry is wealthy and can presumably afford to self-fund if he gets in.
State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has been looking at a bid, and she told the Colorado Independent last month that she’s asking questions about what a run would look like. Coffman has filed to seek re-election, but she can certainly change course if she wants. Suburban Denver District Attorney George Brauchler, who is best known for prosecuting the 2012 Aurora theater shooter, has been considering for a while, and Western Slope state Sen. Ray Scott has also expressed interest. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a member of the Bush family, has been publicly coy, but he seems to be working to make connections for a run.
• GA-Gov: House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams is reportedly planning to run for the Democratic nomination next year, and 2014 nominee and ex-state Sen. Jason Carter has expressed interest in another bid. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that state Rep. Stacey Evans is “seriously” considering, though Evans has yet to say anything publicly. Evans, who is known for trying to restore funding cuts to the HOPE scholarship program, is a Carter ally, and the two are unlikely to run against each other. Ex-Gov. Roy Barnes, who says he’ll back Carter if he runs again, is also close to Evans.
• IA-Gov: On Thursday, Democratic state Rep. Todd Prichard filed paperwork to raise money for a potential gubernatorial campaign, though he still says he’s only considering getting in. Prichard would start out with very little name recognition, but Iowa Democratic leaders are reportedly excited about him. As Iowa Starting Line noted in a February profile, Prichard is an Iraq War veteran who has a rural and working class background, and he may be able to connect with voters who backed Trump last year.
Ex-Department of Natural Resources head Rich Leopold is the only Democrat who has declared he’s in, and other candidates are eyeing this race. Ex-state party head Andy McGuire reportedly has been planning to run for a while, but she hasn’t said anything publicly. On the GOP side, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will likely be governor soon after incumbent Terry Branstad is confirmed as ambassador to China. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett has talked about challenging Reynolds in the primary, but he doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to get in. Last month, Corbett promised a “surprise” at the end of his state of the city address, but instead of a gubernatorial announcement, that surprise was him singing a musical tribute to Cedar Rapids. Yes, really.
• MD-Gov: Yet another Democrat is considering taking on GOP Gov. Larry Hogan next year. Jim Shea, a wealthy and prominent Baltimore attorney, says he’s formed an exploratory committee, and plans to decide by the summer. Shea tied Hogan to Trump, arguing that the governor hasn’t stood up to him and “real leadership” is needed. Shea served as chair of the University of Maryland Board of Regents and the Baltimore Sun describes him as “well known in legal and Democratic circles,” though unknown to most of the public.
Maryland is a very blue state, but Hogan has posted strong approval ratings during the first half of his term. However, a recent Abt-SRBI poll for the Washington Post and the University of Maryland raised some eyebrows and underscored the dangers Trump could pose to the governor. The survey gave Hogan a 65-17 approval rating, but found him leading a generic Democrat just 39-36. Of course, this is one poll against an unnamed Democrat, and a Goucher poll from last month found a very different result: Hogan posted a 63-17 approval, and led “another candidate” 57-33.
Hogan would be far from the first governor to lose in large part thanks to the president’s unpopularity. Perhaps most infamously, Texas Democratic Gov. Ann Richards had strong approval ratings in 1994, but she still lost to future-painter George W. Bush 53-46. Maryland rarely elects Republicans statewide, and because so many residents work for the federal government, Trump’s proposed and implemented cuts may have an even larger effect in the state than almost anywhere else, which could cause Hogan problems. A number of other Maryland Democrats are talking about getting in and challenging the popular incumbent, but no one has kicked off a campaign yet.
• NM-Gov, NM-Sen: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has had the Democratic gubernatorial primary to herself for months, but she finally drew an opponent this week. State Sen. Joe Cervantes, who is personally wealthy, tells Joe Monahan that he’ll run to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Susana Martinez. Monahan describes Cervantes, who hails from the Las Cruces area, as a moderate who will run to the right of Lujan Grisham. However, Monahan also says that former Univision Jeff Apodaca is “expected” to run soon, and the two will likely “be vying for much of the same Dem vote.” State Attorney General Hector Balderas is also flirting with a bid, and Monahan expects a decision “sooner rather than later;” businessman and 2014 candidate Alan Webber and Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales are also considering.
New Mexico has become a reliably blue state in federal elections, but Martinez decisively won in 2010 and 2014. However, Martinez may end up being more of a liability than an asset for her party next year. A recent Public Policy Polling survey for the liberal group ProgressNowNM gave the governor a 42 percent approval rating, while 56 percent rated her as “not so good” or “poor”. Back in October, SurveyUSA found Martinez underwater with a 36-49 approval rating, while a Research & Polling Inc. survey for the Albuquerque Journal gave her a meh 42-44.
A few Republicans have talked about getting in. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez has expressed interest before, and he said this week that, he’ll serve the state “[w]hether it’s as governor or a U.S. Senator or whatever role that I feel makes the biggest difference for New Mexico families.” However, Sanchez said that he’d wait until the state’s budget situation is resolved first. This is also the first time we’ve heard him talk about challenging Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich, who doesn’t appear to be particularly vulnerable. However, Sanchez’s electoral history isn’t very good. Sanchez ran for governor in 2002 and got crushed by Democrat Bill Richardson 55-39. Sanchez did become lieutenant governor in 2010 but he soon launched a Senate bid that went nowhere, and he dropped out long before the primary.
Other potential GOP candidates have been quiet about their plans recently. Rep. Steve Pearce, who badly lost the 2008 Senate race, talked about running last November, but he’s said little since then. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry didn’t rule out a bid in January, though he also didn’t say no to a Senate run or to seeking Lujan Grisham’s open House seat. Berry decisively won re-election in 2013 in Democratic-leaning Albuquerque, and he may be the best candidate the GOP could get.
• OH-Gov: A few days ago, WVXU wrote that Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is “expected to announce any day now” that she will seek the Democratic nod. Whaley has yet to declare she’s in publicly, but Politico reports that she’s telling county party chairs that she’s running.
• CA-32: Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano will be almost 82 on Election Day, and local Democrats are getting ready to run in case the incumbent doesn’t. A little while ago, Mary Ann Lutz, a former Napolitano staffer and an ex-mayor of Monrovia, said she was preparing to run, but she made it clear she wouldn’t challenge her old boss. El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero also recently filed to run for Congress, but he told Politico that his campaign also would only happen if Napolitano retires. Quintero says that “the best information I have is that she’s running for reelection.” But as Politico points out, Quintero and Napolitano have the same consultant, so he may know more about her plans than he lets on. This Los Angeles-area seat backed Clinton 67-28.
• CA-50: On Thursday, the U.S. House Committee on Ethics announced they would defer an investigation of GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter for allegedly using campaign money for his own uses… because the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation.
Hunter, who represents a heavily Republican seat in the San Diego suburbs, has attracted a string of bad headlines over the last year as he’s been questioned over where his campaign money has gone. In April, the FEC noted that Hunter’s campaign paid for video games from the site Steam 68 separate times, racking up a total bill of $1,302. The congressman’s office argued that his son had used his credit card for one game and that additional charges resulted when Hunter tried to cancel purchases. But over the next several months, the public learned that the Hunter campaign had reimbursed $62,000 in expenses for other charges, including tuition to his children’s private school, oral surgery, a hotel in Italy, and $600 to fly one of the congressman’s children’s pet rabbit on a plane.
Even with all of Hunter’s problems, his seat is likely to stay red without much trouble regardless of what happens to him. While Democrats have made gains in the San Diego area, this district backed Trump 55-40. Hunter has represented this area since 2009, and his father, Duncan Hunter Sr., served in the House from 1981 until he retired to wage a forgettable presidential bid in 2008. Voters may be inclined to give the Hunter family the benefit of the doubt but if things get worse for the congressman legally, Congress may be Duncan Hunter-free for the first time since the Carter administration.
• FL-07: National Republicans were working hard to convince state Rep. Bob Cortes to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, but he announced on Thursday that he would stay in the state House. Murphy unseated longtime Republican Rep. John Mica, who ran an almost non-existent campaign, 51.5-48.5 as Clinton was carrying this suburban Orlando seat 51-44. Republicans will likely target Murphy, but it’s unclear who they’ll field. State Sen. David Simmons has talked about running here, but he also expressed interest in doing other things.
• GA-06: Wealthy GOP ex-state Sen. Dan Moody is out with his second TV spot, where the narrator credits “Dan Moody and his fellow Republicans” for saving Georgia’s economy during the Great Recession. The narrator also says that then-Gov. Sonny Perdue named Moody “legislator of the year.”
• MI-01: Retired Marine Lt. Col. Matt Morgan, whom Politico says “worked in two presidential administrations and the office of the secretary of defense,” recently expressed interest in challenging GOP freshman Rep. Jack Bergman, a retired Marine lieutenant general. Morgan has filed with the FEC, and while he says he’s still considering whether to run, he adds, “I’m a Marine. Once I get something in my teeth it’s hard to get it out.” This seat, which includes the Upper Peninsula, swung from 54-45 Romney to 58-37 Trump, and while outside groups spent heavily here last year, Bergman won 55-40.
• MN-07: Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson consistently flirts with retiring, and he hasn’t committed to seeking another term in 2018. However, while Peterson tells the National Journal that while he hasn’t decided what to do next year, he’s “actually having fun—so, might hang around.” Peterson’s rural seat went from a tough 54-44 Romney to a brutal 62-31 Trump and Team Blue would have an incredibly difficult time holding it without him, something Peterson acknowledges.
• NV-04: Last cycle, Democrat Ruben Kihuen unseated freshman Republican Cresent Hardy 49-45, about the same as Clinton’s 49-45 margin in this suburban Las Vegas seat. Hardy didn’t rule out a rematch last December, though he doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly since then. GOP state Sen. Scott Hammond is expressing interest in running, and he tells Politico that he’s “putting together a committee” to see if a bid is possible. However, Hammond sounds unlikely to run if Hardy does, saying that he’s “also waiting to hear back from Cresent on this.” Kihuen has left the door open to running for statewide office next year, though there’s no indication he’s planning to leave the House so soon.
• SC-05: State House Speaker Pro Temp Tommy Pope has launched the first TV ad of the crowded special election for this reliably red Rock Hill-area seat. Pope stands in the woods and tells the audience that “a lot’s changed since I was a police officer.” A small flat screen TV (which Pope has situated against a tree like any normal person would) flashes scary images of what Pope characterizes as “rampant illegal immigration, terrorism at home, [and] violence against the police.” Pope then touts his time as an officer and prosecutor and pledges to toughen up America. There is no word on the size of the buy. The GOP primary will be May 2, and there will be a May 16 runoff in the likely event no one takes a majority.
• Census: The Census Bureau has released its annual Population Estimate numbers for the period spanning July 2015-June 2016, and unsurprisingly, it shows continued stagnation or decline in northeastern and Midwestern cities, paired with growth in the west and south. Maricopa County, Arizona (the home of Phoenix) is the biggest gainer during that period, with a numeric gain of 81,360. Several slightly-less-populous counties gained at faster rates, percentage-wise, including Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas; 2.20 percent growth), and Orange County, Florida (Orlando; 2.30).
There were even higher growth rates in smaller-population counties; the leader last year, surprisingly, was San Juan County, Utah (a county in the state’s southeast corner with a majority Native American population), growing 7.56 percent. Other big gainers were Hays and Comal Counties, Texas, in the corridor between San Antonio and Austin, and Sumter County, Florida, where the mega-retirement community of the Villages is located. (The Villages MSA was also the fastest-growing metropolitan area, if you switch to MSAs from counties.)
The biggest numeric decline was Cook County, Illinois (where Chicago is; with a loss of 21,324), followed by Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit) and Baltimore City, Maryland. One other noteworthy trend is that the rapid growth in North Dakota’s oil patch has totally flattened out in the last year; after having the largest population gains, percentage-wise, of anywhere in the U.S. for several years, those counties are now losing overall population.
Demographer Jed Kolko also did some excellent slice-and-dice of the new numbers based on density, and what he found mirrors other recent findings that after a brief acceleration during the early 2010s, big-city growth is tapering off in favor of a return to more suburbanization, with particular growth in the “large-metro lower-density suburbs,” which most people tend to call the “exurbs.” That has probably to do with both historically low gas prices, which make longer commutes more feasible again, as well as disproportionately-skyrocketing real estate prices within the boundaries of most major cities.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.
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