The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
• AZ-02: Shortly after 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick recently formed an exploratory committee to run in the 2nd District, former state Rep. Matt Heinz released a PPP survey that shows him besting the former congresswoman by 40-30 in a hypothetical Democratic primary next year while state Rep. Randy Friese takes just 6 percent. These numbers are part of an early May survey from which Heinz had released the general election numbers last month. That portion of the poll showed both Kirkpatrick and Heinz narrowly defeating GOP Rep. Martha McSally by 48-44 in this 50-45 Clinton seat, which is located in Tucson.
Heinz argues that he leads in the Democratic primary despite having just 64 percent name recognition compared to 75 percent for Kirkpatrick, but this month-old poll doesn’t exactly seem that intimidating at this early stage in the race. If anything, it demonstrates that this contest is still wide open and that Heinz isn’t guaranteed to win the nomination a second time in a row. While Heinz does lead the former congresswoman, this survey also shows that voters are open to nominating her even though she switched districts, and Kirkpatrick could have a much easier time raising money than Heinz thanks to her existing national donor network.
The survey notably did not appear to include former Army assistant secretary Mary Matiella or former state Rep. Bruce Wheeler, who unlike Kirkpatrick have already formally joined the race in the weeks since the poll was taken. Furthermore, Friese has seemed more interested in considering a Senate bid than running for the House seat, but other Democrats could be thinking about joining this race after McSally’s cavalier approach to passing Trumpcare has helped make her look vulnerable.
• MO-Sen: Following a report last Wednesday that influential Missouri Republican mega-donor Sam Fox was trying to lock up donor support for his potential candidacy, GOP state Attorney General Josh Hawley once again refused to rule out running and now says he has “no idea” when he’ll make a decision. Hawley only won his current position last fall. But major state Republicans have already tried to lure him into the race in a snub to Rep. Ann Wagner, who similarly hasn’t ruled it out but is seen as an almost certain candidate. Wagner is a prodigious fundraiser, and regardless of Fox’s efforts to secure donor backing for Hawley, a primary between the two Republicans could quickly become an expensive ordeal.
• CA-Gov: Republicans landed their first prominent elected official in 2018’s gubernatorial race on Thursday when Assemblyman Travis Allen launched his campaign. But they still face daunting odds in this deep-blue state. Allen is known as an outspoken conservative and his record could make him a poor fit for this progressive state. For instance, he recently opposed a new Democrat-backed law that treats child prostitutes as victims of sex trafficking rather than criminal offenders by falsely claiming Democrats legalized child prostitution.
Allen’s first challenge, however, will be even making it past California’s top-two primary. Venture capitalist John Cox is the only other noteworthy Republican in the race, and he has already put $3 million into his campaign, but that only goes so far in this absurdly expensive state. Both Republicans could struggle to get their names out there when much better-known Democrats like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have so far dominated the polls. GOP ex-Assemblyman David Hadley previously formed an exploratory committee while he considers the race, but each additional Republican candidate running increases the chance of splitting the GOP vote and sending two Democrats to the general election.
• ID-Gov: Boise School Board member and businessman A.J. Balukoff has previously said he was considering mounting a second campaign for governor next year after he was the unsuccessful 2014 Democratic nominee. Balukoff now says he will likely decide this fall whether to run again. After self-funding more than $3 million, Balukoff lost by a relatively respectable 54-39 margin in 2014 despite taking on an incumbent in one of the most Republican states in the country during a strongly GOP year. Democrats still face daunting odds even without having to face term-limited GOP Gov. Butch Otter, but Balukoff could at least mount a serious campaign that gives Team Blue a chance to pull off an upset.
• KS-Gov, KS-03: Ally Mutnick from National Journal recently reported on the lay of the land in Kansas for next year’s elections and gives us a few new tidbits about potential gubernatorial candidates. Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt previously hadn’t ruled out seeking the governor’s office, but Mutnick relays that unnamed GOP operatives say Schmidt is likely to just run for re-election instead.
Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder also hadn’t ruled out running for governor before, and Mutnick details that “a source familiar with Yoder’s thinking” indicated there’s a 50-50 chance on whether he jumps into the race, with a decision likely sometime this summer. Yoder’s suburban Kansas City-area 3rd District could become instantly competitive if he runs for governor after the historically red seat flipped from 54-44 Romney to 47-46 Clinton.
Kansas’ open-seat race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Sam Brownback in 2018 has already drawn intense attention from Republicans. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, businessman Wink Hartman, and ex-state Sen Jim Barnett, who was Team Red’s 2006 nominee, have already joined the Republican primary. Furthermore, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has said before that he’s considering it and is seen as a likely candidate.
• MD-Gov: The Democratic field to take on GOP Gov. Larry Hogan grew larger on Thursday when attorney Jim Shea made his campaign official. Although Shea lacks widespread name recognition among the general public, the Baltimore Sun called him “well known in legal and Democratic circles,” and he previously served as chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. Shea says he has already raised more than $1 million while his campaign was in the exploratory phase, and he could consequently be a formidable player in what’s shaping up to become a crowded Democratic primary.
Shea joins a Democratic field that includes Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, state Sen. Richard Madaleno, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross. Also considering the race are Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Rep. John Delaney, the latter of whom recently said he will reveal his plans in late July.
• NV-Gov: Amid Thursday’s news of Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak’s entry into Nevada’s 2018 gubernatorial race, fellow Democratic Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani also recently said that she’s “seriously considering” it, but is in “no rush” to decide. Giunchigliani is a former longtime Assembly member who previously ran for Las Vegas mayor in 2011, but lost the nonpartisan runoff 61-39 to independent now-Mayor Carolyn Goodman.
Both Sisolak and Giunchigliani serve on the seven-member commission for Nevada’s largest county, which covers Las Vegas and more than two-thirds of the state’s residents, making it a relatively high-profile launching pad for a governor’s race. Few other Democrats have publicly expressed interest in running, but multi-millionaire businessman Stephen Cloobeck has reportedly been thinking about it and could bring substantial self-funding to the contest.
• FL-07: Republican state Rep. Mike Miller was recently reported to be interested in challenging first-term Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy next year, and on Thursday he confirmed that he was “strongly considering” running. Miller won his second term 53-47 last year even as his downtown Orlando district lurched from a narrow Obama win to a Clinton 53-41 edge, according to Florida political data expert Matthew Isbell. Consequently, he could be a strong candidate in this historically Republican-leaning congressional seat in Orlando and its suburbs, which swung from a razor-thin Obama win to a 51-44 Clinton victory.
Meanwhile, Republican Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has been rumored to be a possible candidate for higher office when she faces term limits next year. Jacobs refused to rule out a bid for the 7th District on Friday, but sounded somewhat more interested in running for the open state chief financial officer position next year instead. GOP state Sen. David Simmons has previously said he was “98 percent” likely to run, and other candidates might be looking at challenging the potentially vulnerable Murphy too.
• GA-07: Republicans heavily gerrymandered Georgia’s 7th District in Atlanta’s northeastern suburbs to protect GOP Rep. Rob Woodall following his initial 2010 election. However, after the seat representing a diversifying and well-educated electorate zoomed from a 60-38 Romney victory in 2012 to just a 51-45 Trump edge last year, some Democrats are optimistic that Woodall could be vulnerable.
Attorney Steve Reilly recently announced his candidacy for the 7th, joining test-prep company founder David Kim in the Democratic primary. Reilly was Team Blue’s 2012 nominee and received the same 38 percent as Obama did, but he raised little money that year. It’s unclear if he has the campaign skills needed for a tough race, but he was previously a local party chairman and could have some valuable connections.
• NH-02: Republican former state Rep. Jim Lawrence held Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster to a surprisingly soft 50-45 victory in 2016 despite raising little money, and he’s now not ruling out another bid against the three-term congresswoman next year in this 49-46 Clinton western New Hampshire district. However, Lawrence might find a 2018 bid even tougher now that there’s an unpopular Republican in the White House, given New Hampshire’s notorious habit of large swings against the president’s party in midterms. Nevertheless, Lawrence might not have the GOP primary to himself if he runs, since state Rep. Joe Negron said he was considering the race earlier in June.
• NM-01: While it turns out that former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez had been reportedly considering joining the Democratic primary for this open Albuquerque seat, we can likely cross him off the list of potential candidates since he just recently joined a new law firm, which augurs against turning around and mounting a campaign next year. The 52-36 Clinton 1st District already has several noteworthy Democrats running, including: former state party chair Deb Haaland, Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, retired University of New Mexico law school dean Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, ex-deputy Bernalillo County assessor Damian Lara, and Edgewood Mayor Pro Tem John Abrams.
• UT-03: Republican state Rep. Chris Herrod earned the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund on Friday following his recent victory at the party convention for the special election in this dark-red Provo-area seat. SCF’s endorsement could help him solidify the support of the party base ahead of the Aug. 15 primary, where Herrod faces Provo Mayor John Curtis and consultant Tanner Ainge.
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