Morning Digest: Embattled Rep. Bob Brady could face multiple foes in the 2018 Democratic primary

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

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.

Leading Off

PA-01, PA-06, PA-07: Nonprofit director Omar Woodard, who appears well-connected in the world of Philadelphia Democratic politics, has been considering challenging longtime 1st District Rep. Bob Brady in next year’s primary. At an event last Thursday, Woodard said he expects to announce his decision by early October and that it’s a question of whether he can afford to quit his job while campaigning and raise $1 million.

However, Woodard isn’t the only Democrat who might end up running against Brady. Financial planner Lindy Li also said she will run for the House, but isn’t willing to reveal which district she has chosen yet. Li had planned on running against Republican Rep. Pat Meehan in the 7th District in 2016, but ultimately challenged GOP Rep. Ryan Costello in the suburban 6th District last cycle instead. She raised over $600,000, but dropped out before the primary after her Democratic opponent challenged her ballot nominating petitions as invalid. Li had $181,000 in leftover cash-on-hand at the end of June, and the 26-year-old Princeton graduate would likely be able to raise considerable funds if she runs for House again.

While Brady faces a growing storm over an unfolding scandal relating to allegedly bribing an opponent into dropping out of the 2012 primary, he could benefit from divided opposition allowing him to win renomination with a mere plurality. However, Brady’s spokesperson claims Li told them just last month that she would be supporting him, and it’s possible that Li could end up running for one of the nearby GOP-held suburban seats again instead.

The Philadelphia-based 1st District favored Hillary Clinton in a landslide, meaning the Democratic primary winner will almost certainly prevail next year. However, the heavily gerrymandered 6th and 7th are much more evenly divided seats, having flipped from narrowly voting for Mitt Romney in 2012 to favoring Hillary Clinton by just 48.2-47.6 and 49-47, respectively.

Senate

AL-Sen: The GOP pollster Trafalgar Group is out with a last-minute poll of Tuesday’s GOP primary. They give ex-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore the lead with 38 percent, while appointed Sen. Luther Strange edges Rep. Mo Brooks 24-17 for the second runoff spot. On Friday, Trafalgar released a different poll giving Moore the lead with 35, but showing Strange with a smaller 23-20 advantage against Brooks.

MO-Sen: All eyes are on state Attorney General Josh Hawley as top state and national Republicans are trying to recruit him to run against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and he formed an exploratory committee earlier this month. Now, the hardline conservative Club for Growth has reportedly raised a staggering $10 million for its super PAC to support Hawley’s potential campaign, which will go a long way to helping him secure the GOP nomination if he runs. McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents facing re-election next year and is a prodigious fundraiser herself, meaning this will almost certainly become an expensive contest if she faces Hawley.

Primaries: Tuesday brings us the special election primaries for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat and UT-03, and Jeff Singer gives us a preview of what to watch. In Alabama, ex-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore looks like a good bet to advance to a likely September runoff, but appointed Sen. Luther Strange faces a fight with Rep. Mo Brooks for the second spot. We also have a three-way GOP primary in Utah to replace ex-Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Polls close in Alabama at 8 PM ET, and we’ll be liveblogging the Yellowhammer State’s results at Daily Kos Elections and tweeting as well. Election officials in Utah warn that as many as 15,000 ballots may not be counted for another day or two, so we do not recommend staying up late watching that race.

Gubernatorial

AL-Gov: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey took office four months ago after disgraced ex-Gov. Robert Bentley resigned over a scandal, but she still hasn’t declared whether she’ll run for a full term next year. However, Yellowhammer News recently reported that Ivey has been telling business leaders and key legislators that she will indeed run, although her spokesperson only confirmed that she “is considering her options … and plans to decide [in] the near future.” Several other prominent Republicans are already running.

HI-Gov: Democratic Gov. David Ige may end up with a major primary challenge on his hands next year after Rep. Colleen Hanabusa recently acknowledged she was considering running, and he doesn’t yet have the benefit of a stockpile of campaign funds. Ige had just $250,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of June, although he was also a relatively modest fundraiser in 2014. In that election, Ige ousted Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary by a landslide despite being outspent roughly $5 million to $500,000.

However, with some polls finding the governor with a tepid approval rating, his lack of a well-stocked war chest could help entice potential challengers into mounting a primary campaign in 2018. A few other prominent Democrats besides Hanabusa have also said they’re thinking about running, including Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

OR-Gov: Secretary of State Dennis Richardson last year became the first Republican to win a statewide race in Oregon in over a decade, but his name has already come up as a possible challenger to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in 2018. Richardson recently refused to rule out the prospect, saying that state Rep. Knute Buehler “would make a fine governor,” but that he’s “excited to see who else will be entering the race” and that he’ll “make no promises about the future.” Richardson was the GOP nominee against Democratic then-Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2014 and lost by 50-44 after a last-minute scandal erupted that ended with Kitzhaber’s resignation in early 2015.

Buehler is the only prominent Republican to have already kicked off a campaign, but the Bend Bulletin reports that fellow state Rep. Bill Post also didn’t say no to a bid when asked. Meanwhile, Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer filed the paperwork for an exploratory committee back in June, and she now says she’ll make a decision “soon.”

House

AZ-09: Following a recent report that Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is planning on running for Senate next year, a few names have already come up for potential Democratic candidates to succeed her in in the House if she does seek higher office. Dennis Welch at AZ Family reports that insiders told him former state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell is being recruited to run, though there’s no word from the former Democratic caucus leader himself. Welch also relays that former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said he had spoken with current Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton about the latter’s interest in a House bid, and Stanton reportedly confirmed he would run if the seat opened up, although he still hasn’t clarified things publicly yet.

This suburban Phoenix and Tempe-based seat backed Clinton 55-38, but Obama carried it just 51-47. While Democrats would likely start off favored to hold it without Sinema, the GOP does at least have a credible candidate with retired Navy physician Steve Ferrara, who raised $253,000 from April through June.

CO-07: Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter announced he wouldn’t run for re-election after he dropped out of the gubernatorial contest last month, but unnamed sources told The Denver Post that Perlmutter is being pressured to change course and seek another term in the House. However, several Democrats are already in the running to replace the congressman. State Rep. Brittany Pettersen responded to the news by saying that she’s going to keep campaigning “until I hear otherwise” regarding a Perlmutter re-election bid. State Sen. Dominick Moreno similarly said he’ll stay in the race “until Ed comes to a decision.” Former diplomat Dan Baer also praised Perlmutter and said he’ll continue running “for now,” while state Sen. Andy Kerr didn’t comment, but is close to Perlmutter.

If Perlmutter does decide to seek re-election next year, several of these Democrats seem likely to drop out of the race, since the incumbent has done little to alienate primary voters in a way that would open him up to vulnerability in next year’s election. This suburban Denver-area district favored Clinton 51-39 and will likely favor Democrats even if Perlmutter stays out of the race, though a few noteworthy Republicans have surfaced as possible candidates.

GA-06: On Saturday, at a panel hosted by Daily Kos Elections at the progressive Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, Democrat Jon Ossoff publicly confirmed that he’s “thinking about” a rematch with Republican Rep. Karen Handel, though he didn’t offer any timetable for a decision. Ossoff of course lost a fiery special election 52-48 in Georgia’s historically deep red 6th Congressional District back in June, and he’d face the same difficult odds if he tried again, especially since Handel would be an incumbent, and special election winners rarely lose their next time out.

On the flipside, though, Trump’s extreme volatility make handicapping elections that won’t take place over a year from now even more difficult than usual, and we could very well see Trump even more unpopular than he is today come November of 2018. Georgia Democrats are also planning to seriously contest next year’s open gubernatorial race, which could give Ossoff a turnout boost. But at just 30 years old, he can be choosy about waiting for the right moment to return to electoral politics.

ID-01: State Rep. Luke Malek had previously said he was considering running in the Republican primary to replace outgoing GOP Rep. Raúl Labrador, and he recently filed to run with the FEC. Malek has not yet formally announced that he’s seeking Labrador’s House seat, but he would become the third noteworthy Republican running here if he does, in addition to former Lt. Gov. David Leroy and ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher. This western Idaho district backed Donald Trump by a 64-25 landslide and should remain safely in Republican hands next year.

MA-03: A slew of names have surfaced as potential candidates to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Nikki Tsongas in the Merrimack Valley-based 3rd District, but no major candidates have yet kicked off a campaign. The Lowell Sun reports that Democrat Daniel Koh, who serves as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of staff but is from Andover, is planning to run and trying to figure out when best to step down from his current position since Walsh faces his own re-election race this fall. Koh hasn’t confirmed his interest in the contest yet, but Walsh had previously said he’ll back Koh if he runs.

This seat favored Clinton by a sizable 58-35, but Republicans running statewide have carried it in some races for Senate and governor. On the Republican side, retired Navy pilot Scott Gunderson has been running since March and is close to Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who once chaired the NRCC. Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke appeared to rule out running in recent days, but now says he’s “looking at the district and doing some research.” However, state Rep. Jim Lyons took his name out of contention and said he will seek re-election.

MN-01: John Wayne Austinson, a longtime high school football coach whom one local news report called a “familiar face for many” in the area, had been running for the Democratic nomination for southern Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, but on Sunday he announced that he was suspending his campaign. Several other Democrats are already running in a field that has no obvious front-runner, including former Defense Department official Dan Feehan, former state Sen. Vicki Jensen, businessman Colin Minehart, and attorney Joe Sullivan. This open seat lurched from 50-48 Obama in 2012 to 53-38 Trump last year, and it will likely be one of the top Republican pickup opportunities next year.

NV-03: With Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen vacating her suburban Las Vegas-area 3rd Congressional District to run for Senate, the field of candidates to replace her is beginning to unfold. On the Democratic side, education activist and philanthropist Susie Lee confirmed to the Nevada Independent that she is “in reflection” about whether to run. Lee pursued a campaign in the neighboring 4th District last year, but came in distant third in the primary behind now-Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who nonetheless spoke highly of her campaign skills. Lee is wealthy and could self-fund, while she has reportedly received encouragement to run from former Senate Leader Harry Reid, who still remains influential within Nevada Democratic Party politics.

Meanwhile, Lynda Tache, who is the founder and president of the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation, recently decided to launch her first campaign for elected office by joining the Republican primary. Former Clark County GOP chairman Dave McKeon had also previously filed paperwork to run back in June and has since joined the race. McKeon is also a first-time candidate, but as the son of former southern California Rep. Buck McKeon and ex-chair of the local party, he’s likely well-connected. Tache and McKeon join a Republican primary that already includes state Sen. Scott Hammond and former Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman, while professional golfer Natalie Gulbis has reportedly met with the NRCC and has previously said she is considering it.

This swingy district flipped from 50-49 Obama to 48-47 Trump, and will likely be one of the most fiercely contested of the Democratic-held districts next year.

PA-11: Republican Rep. Lou Barletta will reportedly run for Senate next year, but hasn’t formally declared his intentions yet. However, that isn’t stopping aspiring successors from taking the first steps toward a campaign to replace Barletta in the House, and GOP state Rep. Stephen Bloom recently filed to run with the FEC. Bloom hasn’t issued an official statement regarding his candidacy yet, and may be waiting on Barletta to kick off his Senate race first. This Wyoming Valley and Harrisburg-area district backed Trump 60-36 and should remain safely red.

TN-06: Following Republican Rep. Diane Black’s decision to leave her Middle Tennessee 6th District open and run governor next year, former GOP state Rep. Joe Carr says he’ll announce his future plans after an event to launch his new PAC on Sept. 14. Despite a massive financial disadvantage, Carr lost by a surprisingly close 50-41 in 2014 when he challenged incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Republican primary that year, doing especially well in the territory of Middle Tennessee that’s located in the 6th District.

However, he mounted a campaign against Black for the 6th itself last year and lost in a 64-32 landslide after getting outspent tenfold. Nevertheless, Carr could have a much easier time prevailing without having to face an uncontroversial incumbent and if several other candidates split the rest of the vote, since Tennessee is among the minority of Southern states that does not require primary runoffs if no one attains a majority.  This seat voted 73-24 for Trump and should be an easy Republican hold.