Daily Kos Elections

Daily Kos's official elections portal.
  1. Morning Digest: Kris Kobach isn't getting out of the way for Sam Brownback's successor

    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

    KS-Gov: As far back as March, there've been reports that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback would bail on his home state of Kansas before his term expires in early 2019 for a Trump administration position. On Wednesday, those reports came to fruition when the State Department announced that Trump had nominated Brownback to serve as his "ambassador for religious freedom." It's not the most prestigious job, shall we say, but the incredibly unpopular governor is probably just happy to get out of Dodge. The Senate will need to confirm Brownback, however, so Kansas is stuck with him for at least a while longer.

    Campaign Action

    Assuming the Senate (where Brownback served before his disastrous governorship) signs off, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer would take over as governor. Colyer, a close Brownback ally, has not announced if he'll run for governor next year, but he seems to be leaning in that direction. Colyer, who made a fortune as a plastic surgeon, was Brownback's running mate during both his campaigns. But while his personal wealth could boost his future prospects, it's also caused him some trouble. In early 2015, for reasons that were never clear, a grand jury began looking into three loans made to the Brownback-Colyer campaign that added up to $1.5 million. Prosecutors announced that there would be no charges a few months later, but it's possible this matter could come up again.

    A number of other Republicans had already entered the race to succeed Brownback before the ambassadorship news, even though they've known for months that they could wind up facing a Gov. Colyer. The most prominent declared candidate is Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is spearheading Trump's infamous "Election Integrity Commission," and he doesn't seem at all inclined to defer to Colyer. Just after Brownback's nomination was announced, Kobach told the New York Times that while Colyer is "a good guy," he doesn't think his likely promotion "fundamentally changes the dynamic of the 2018 race regardless."

    And while Kansas is a very conservative state, Democrats may nevertheless have an opening here. Brownback's reactionary tax cuts—which the Republican-led legislature just repealed over his veto—have done lasting damage to the state budget and have left Brownback as one of the most unpopular governors in the nation. If Colyer takes over the reins and makes it to the general election, his biggest challenge will be to establish an identity independent of the man he's about to succeed. And if Kansans are still disgusted with the status quo, Colyer may have a very tough time convincing voters that he's not just a continuation of Brownback's tenure.

  2. This Week In Statehouse Action: Bills' and Laws' Excellent Adventures edition

    With old and busted things like the rollback of LGBT rights and voter suppression becoming all the GOP rage lately (and even federal-level Democrats gathering in a small Virginia town that’s changed precious little since my dad’s childhood there in the 1950s-’60s to deliver a new party message), July 2017 is beginning to feel like a one big rift in the space-time continuum.

    But there’s always new hotness to be had in statehouses. And don’t worry—it’ll all make sense. I’m a professional.

    Quantum Leap in the Granite State: On Tuesday, Democrats scored yet another special election victory. Holding a seat—even one as swingy as New Hampshire Senate District 16—isn’t as sexy as flipping one (or two, or four), but the Republican registration advantage, the fact that the seat favored Clinton by under 100 votes and went for both Gov. Sununu and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte just last fall, and the GOP candidate’s name recognition all made this an uphill climb for Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh.

    Campaign Action

    Excellent fact! Cavanaugh’s win on Tuesday marks the first time a Democrat has won a state Senate special election in New Hampshire since 1984.

    • This Democratic special election win was the 21st out of 28 contested specials held since Trump’s election in November in which Democrats over-performed Clinton’s numbers in these same districts. 

    Most triumphant! Check out why Tuesday’s Democratic victory should have Republicans nationwide very, very frightened.

  3. Republicans just lost an extremely winnable special election. Here's why they should be terrified

    As readers of Daily Kos Elections knew within less than two hours of the closing of the polls Tuesday night, Democrats denied the New Hampshire GOP a much-coveted victory in a special election for one of the state’s 24 Senate seats. Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh, a Manchester city alderman, scored an impressive 55-44 victory over David Boutin, who held this very seat for the Republicans from 2010 until his retirement in 2016. That win winnowed the GOP’s margin in the chamber back to a 14-10 advantage.

    Republicans, eager to expand their Senate majority to a far safer 15-9 spread in advance of the 2018 midterms, managed to coax Boutin back into the political arena in the hopes that he could reclaim this seat, which went to the Democrats for the first time in decades last year on the strength of the candidacy of teacher/coach Scott McGilvray. 

    On paper, this is the type of special election that the GOP should have claimed—indeed, it’s noteworthy that WMUR’s John DiStaso has described Cavanaugh’s win as “an upset,”  despite the fact that the race was nominally a “hold” for the Democrats. The district is swingy at the federal level (Romney claimed it by just a point in 2012, while Clinton claimed it by a fraction of a point in 2016). If anything, the 16th district tilts toward the GOP downballot.

    If there was a special election that the Republicans could’ve yanked from the Democrats and offered a Kevin Bacon-esque “Remain calm … all is well!” moment for the red team, this was it. But it didn’t happen, and that should make Republicans very nervous.

  4. Brownback pulls the rip-cord on Kansas, but his successor is stuck with his awful legacy

    As far back as March, there’ve been reports that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback would bail on his home state of Kansas before his term expires in early 2019 for a Trump administration position. On Wednesday, those reports came to fruition when the State Department announced that Trump had nominated Brownback to serve as his “ambassador for religious freedom.” It's not the most prestigious job, shall we say, but the incredibly unpopular governor is probably just happy to get out of dodge. However, the Senate will need to confirm Brownback, so Kansas is stuck with him for at least a while longer.

    Assuming the Senate (where Brownback served before his disastrous governorship) signs off, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer would take over as governor. Colyer, a close Brownback ally, has not announced if he’ll run for governor next year, but he seems to be leaning in that direction. Colyer, who made a fortune as a plastic surgeon, was Brownback's running mate during both his campaigns. But while his personal wealth could boost his future prospects, it’s also caused him some trouble. In early 2015, for reasons that were never clear, a grand jury began looking into three loans made to the Brownback-Colyer campaign that added up to $1.5 million. Prosecutors announced that there would be no charges a few months later, but it's possible this matter could come up again.

    A number of other Republicans had already entered the race to succeed Brownback before the ambassadorship news, even though they've known for months that could wind up facing a Gov. Colyer. The most prominent declared candidate is Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is spearheading Trump's infamous "Election Integrity Commission," and he doesn't seem at all inclined to defer to Colyer. Just after Brownback's nomination was announced, Kobach told the New York Times that while Colyer is "a good guy," he doesn’t think his likely promotion “fundamentally changes the dynamic of the 2018 race regardless."

    And while Kansas is a very conservative state, Democrats may nevertheless have an opening here. Brownback's reactionary tax cuts—which the Republican-led legislature just repealed over his veto—have done lasting damage to the state budget and have left Brownback as one of the most unpopular governors in the nation. If Colyer takes over the reins and makes it to the general election, his biggest challenge will be to establish an identity independent of the man he’s about to succeed. And if Kansans are still disgusted with the status quo, Colyer may have a very tough time convincing voters that he's not just a continuation of Brownback's tenure.

  5. The doctor is OUT: Virginia Democrat takes on physician who's led fight against reproductive rights

    All 100 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates are on the ballot this fall, and Democrats are running in a record-setting 88 of them. Currently, the GOP controls the chamber with a 66-34 majority, and flipping 17 seats in a single cycle would require a tremendous wave, especially in light of the extent to which the state House map has been gerrymandered.

    Goal Thermometer

    But you can’t win if you don’t compete, and Democrats are bringing the fight to the GOP all over the state in a big way. And women are leading the charge: Of the 54 Democratic challengers this cycle, more than half of them are women. One of these women is Debra Rodman, a first-time candidate running in a suburban Richmond seat that Hillary Clinton narrowly won last November.

    Debra Rodman is running in House District 73 against Del. John O’Bannon, a 17-year GOP incumbent who’s only faced one Democratic challenger (in 2009) since a special election in 2000—to replace newly-elected Rep. Eric Cantor, remember him?—placed him in this once safely-Republican seat. Rodman is an anthropology professor at Randolph-Macon College and head of the school’s women’s studies program, where she teaches the next generation about diversity, the struggle for equality, and the impact of policy on people's day-to-day lives. Rodman also advocates for immigrants, children, people in the LGBT community, and other at-risk populations fleeing persecution in their home countries