The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.
● ME-Gov: Republican Paul LePage, the former Maine governor who once proclaimed himself “Donald Trump before Donald Trump,” announced Friday that he’d run to regain his old post from Democratic incumbent Janet Mills in 2022. LePage told WGAN host Matt Gagnon that he “unequivocally” planned to campaign, adding, “If I’m breathing, I’m running.”
LePage spent eight years leading an ardently conservative administration in this Democratic-leaning state, but he was best known for his many racist and misogynistic pronouncements. Among many other things, the governor claimed in 2016 that the state’s opioid epidemic was caused by “[t]hese are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty. … They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home.” LePage continued, “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we’ve got to deal with down the road.”
LePage not only angrily declared in response to the outcry that he was not a racist, he, in the words of the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips, “appeared to threaten a state lawmaker’s life for making that charge (even though the lawmaker denied making the charge to begin with).” Public records were later released that showed that most drug arrests in Maine involved white suspects.
LePage moved to Florida and registered to vote there the day he left office in January of 2019, saying, “I’m going to retire and go to Florida. I’m done with politics. I’ve done my eight years. It’s time for somebody else.” That hiatus didn’t last long, though, and LePage soon began talking about going back to Maine and challenging Mills.
The former governor returned to the Pine Tree State this year, and he’s spent the last several months attacking Mills’ efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. In May, LePage led a protest against Mills’ emergency measures, and he called her a “dictator” in his Friday interview.
● FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Florida Democrats just emerged from a dispiriting election cycle, but they’re hoping to turn things around in 2022 by taking down Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis. There are plenty of potential candidates for either office, though there’s no early primary frontrunner yet at this early stage.
The Miami Herald recently wrote that Reps. Ted Deutch, Val Demings, and Stephanie Murphy have been mentioned as possible Rubio opponents. Deutch put out a statement in response where he only talked about his work in the House and did not allude to the Senate race, so he’s not saying no. Murphy’s team also did not mention Rubio in their answer, though they mentioned that as “an immigrant and refugee who fled communism, she is deeply concerned about the future of the Democratic Party in Florida and plans to spend the next few months helping the party build a winning statewide strategy for the future.”
A few potential gubernatorial candidates have been more direct, though no one has committed to anything. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, who narrowly lost the 2018 primary to then-Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, told the Orlando Sentinel this month that she was still deciding if she’d try again. State Rep. Anna Eskamani, whom the paper called “one of the faces of the party’s younger, progressive wing,” also said she was interested in the top job.
The Herald also said that Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is the only Democrat in statewide office, and state Sen. Jason Pizzo are both “known to be” considering a run at DeSantis. Pizzo released a statement that did not address the contest directly, but said of the 2020 cycle, “I’ve seen a lot of finger-pointing, a lot of changes people want made, a lot of calling-out culture going on, but no definitive plan on the rebuild and reconstruction yet.” One politico who has said no, though, is wealthy left-leaning attorney John Morgan, who talked about running as an independent in 2018 but stayed out of the race.
The Herald adds that state Sen. Lauren Book and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber have been mentioned as “wildcards” for either race, though there’s no word yet if either is interested.
Finally there’s Rep. Charlie Crist, whose decision to run commercials in the days after he was re-elected has observers wondering if the former Republican governor is interested in another statewide run. The Democratic congressman didn’t address the speculation directly, saying instead of his ads thanking voters for re-electing him, “I know there’s skeptics in this business and some people see what they want to see. What I’m trying to do is let the people know that I’m grateful to them and I believe our government should be of the people by the people and for the people.”
● OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Ohio has become tough turf for Democrats over the last few years (Joe Biden is the first presidential nominee to win the White House without the Buckeye State’s electoral votes since JFK in 1960), but several politicians are considering bids against either Sen. Rob Portman or Gov. Mike DeWine.
About a week before the election, Buzzfeed mentioned Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who was the party’s 2018 nominee against Rep. Steve Chabot, and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley as possible Senate contenders. Pureval, who would go on to be decisively re-elected, only said at the time, “This isn’t about me, or about politics, or about who’s going to run for something two years from now … This is really about holding Rob Portman accountable for the decisions he makes.”
Whaley, for her part, told the Columbus Dispatch days after the election that she wasn’t ruling out a run for either Senate or governor, though she added, “I’m trying to figure out where I can best serve. … Frankly, that might be to stay as mayor of Dayton.” Whaley ran for governor in 2017 but she dropped out early the next year and endorsed the party’s eventual nominee, Richard Cordray.
The paper also mentions Rep. Tim Ryan, who has spent over a decade talking about running for statewide office but never going for it, as a possible Senate contender. Ryan’s calculations may be different this cycle, though, if Republicans leave him with a hostile seat in redistricting.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who cannot seek re-election next year because of term limits, has spent months talking about running against DeWine. Cranley said in February, “I am exploring a run for governor because Ohio is falling behind and must do better,” and he’s continued to be mentioned as a possible candidate since then.
● CA-Gov: Back in September, 2018 GOP nominee John Cox set up an exploratory committee for a potential rematch with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Cox lost 62-38 two years ago, though, and he’s unlikely to be the top choice of many Republican leaders.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who will leave office next month, is always getting touted as a possible Republican candidate, and this year is no different. Faulconer spent months in 2017 sending confusing signals about his interest in the past before ultimately not running, and he hasn’t said anything publicly about a 2022 run.
● CT-Gov: House Minority Leader Themis Klarides decided not to seek re-election this year, but the CT Post writes that she “hasn’t denied rumors” that she’s interested in seeking the Republican nod to challenge Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.
Sacred Heart University political science professor Gary Rose also mentioned two businessmen who ran in 2018, Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman, as possible GOP contenders, though there’s no word yet from either of them. Stefanowski (who still tweets from his “@bobforgovernor” account), beat Stemerman in a five-way primary before losing to Lamont 49-46.
● GA-Gov: The Daily Beast reported on Thursday that allies of 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost a flawed election run by her Republican opponent, say that they expect her to seek a rematch with Gov. Brian Kemp. Abrams’ spokesperson said in response, “Leader Abrams has made no decisions about her political future and is solely focused on electing Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock on January 5.”
● HI-Gov: Gov. David Ige will be termed out in 2022, and at least two fellow Democrats have been laying the groundwork to succeed him for a while.
Neither Lt. Gov. Josh Green nor outgoing Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who is himself leaving office early next year due to term limits, have announced they’re in, but each man expressed interest last year. Both of them also filed paperwork in 2019 to raise money to benefit a possible gubernatorial bid, with Caldwell holding a virtual fundraiser just last month.
There are also numerous other Democrats in this very blue state who could be interested. Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who lost the 2018 primary for lieutenant governor to Green by a narrow 31-29, said in August of 2019, “I am still very much dedicated to public service, and I am exploring all possible options, including looking at governor in 2022.”
● MD-Gov: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan cannot seek a third term, and Democrats are hoping to retake the top job in this blue state in 2022.
The Democratic primary kicked off all the way back in January when state Comptroller Peter Franchot announced. However, Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz wrote last month that he wasn’t sure if Franchot would proceed following the surprise departure of Len Foxwell, the comptroller’s longtime “political brain.”
Rep. Anthony Brown, who lost to Hogan in a 2014 upset, said back in June that he was considering another try. Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King also recently attracted attention when he launched a well-funded state progressive group, and he acknowledged in October that he wasn’t ruling out running.
Former state Attorney General Doug Gansler, who badly lost the 2014 primary to Brown, didn’t rule it out a second run back in August, while Kurtz wrote at the time that wealthy Rep. David Trone “has kept in touch with a variety of party activists, his exploration has undeniably been limited in recent months by the pandemic.” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has been getting a lot of chatter as a possible candidate as well, though Kurtz wrote over the summer that she and Brown are unlikely to run against each other.
The list of potential Republican candidates is shorter. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who was Hogan’s running mate for both his campaigns, acknowledged in July of 2019 that he was thinking about running to succeed his boss, and he continues to get mentioned as a possible GOP candidate.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman also said in August that he’d think about running for governor, as well as comptroller or Congress, depending on what happened with redistricting. State Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz also has been name-dropped as a potential contender.
● NE-Gov: On Tuesday, wealthy agribusinessman Charles Herbster filed paperwork to seek the GOP nod, though he told the Lincoln Journal Star‘s Don Walton that he wouldn’t be talking about his intentions for this open seat race that week. Walton writes that Herbster, who chaired Donald Trump’s agriculture and rural advisory committee, is also close with former Gov. Dave Heineman.
Herbster also entered the race to succeed Heineman in 2013, but he announced six weeks later that he was dropping out because of his wife’s health. Herbster ended up donating an eye-popping $860,000 to a fellow candidate, state Sen. Beau McCoy, who finished third in the following year’s primary against now-Gov. Pete Ricketts.
● OR-Gov: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is termed-out in 2022 in an office that her party has held since the 1986 elections. One fellow Democrat who has already gotten some attention as a possible contender is state Treasurer Tobias Read, who was re-elected 53-41 this month. Reed’s Republican opponent, Jeff Gudman, accused him during that campaign of wanting to use the treasurer’s post as a springboard for higher office; Reed said in response, “There’s so many things in the world that I can’t rule out and can’t control. … I don’t want to make promises.”
● RI-Gov: Gov. Gina Raimondo cannot seek a third term in 2022, and there are a number of fellow Democrats who may run to succeed her.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, who is also termed out in two years as leader of the state’s largest city, expressed interest last year in a gubernatorial bid. Elorza recently switched fundraising teams, and his outgoing consultant explained, “Mayor Elorza wanted a full-time finance director as he continues to evaluate his plans for the future.” The Boston Globe’s Dan McGowan also wrote that three other term-limited Democrats, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, state Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, are each “expected” to run for the top job.
The GOP bench is far smaller, though we may hear again from a familiar name. Allan Fung, who will leave office as mayor of Cranston mayor early next month, doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly about another run, but WPRI’s Ned Nesi wrote that his party’s success in this month’s mayoral contest could help him “make a case to fellow Republicans that he deserves a third swing at the governor’s office in 2022.” Fung lost the 2014 open seat race to Raimondo only 41-36 with the late Moderate Party candidate Robert Healey taking 21%, but she won their 2018 rematch by a wide 53-37 margin.
● WI-Gov, WI-Sen: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers unseated Republican Scott Walker in a tight 2018 contest, and he’s likely to be a top GOP target in 2022.
Walker himself said last year that he wouldn’t seek a rematch, though he’s touted his old running mate, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, as a strong potential candidate. Kleefisch herself said in January that she was thinking about another run for office, and the Wisconsin State Journal wrote last month that she was “almost certain to launch a 2022 bid for governor.”
Another big name who has gotten some buzz is Sen. Ron Johnson, who is also up for re-election in two years. Johnson said in May of last year that he wasn’t ruling out a bid for either governor or the Senate, though he doesn’t appear to have said anything about a possible run against Evers since then. When Johnson was asked in October about 2022 he said, “I haven’t made the decision whether I’m going to run or not so right now I’m not worrying about anybody else announcing.”
Businessman Kevin Nicholson, though, said last month, “I’ll be running for U.S. Senate or for governor in 2022,” but not against Johnson. Nicholson said he’d run for the Senate if RoJo didn’t, in which case he’d take on Evers. Nicholson ran for the state’s other Senate seat in 2018 and benefiting from over $10 million in spending from groups supported by billionaire megadonor Richard Uihlein. Nicholson, though, had trouble explaining away his long history as a Democrat, and he lost the primary to state Sen. Leah Vukmir 49-43; Vukmir went on to lose that fall to Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin.
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow also said last month that he was thinking about a gubernatorial run. State Sen. Chris Kapenga also expressed interest in November of 2019, and his colleagues just picked him to be the new Senate president.
● CA State Senate: While California Democrats have lost at least one of the Orange County congressional districts they flipped in 2018, Team Blue ousted two Republican state senators representing this ancestrally red county. Those wins give Democrats at least 31 of the 40 seats in the upper chamber, with Republicans holding small leads in two others; if Democrats pull ahead in one additional race, they’d equal the party’s all-time high that was set in1883.
One of Team Blue’s two pickups came in Senate District 29, where Democrat Josh Newman beat Republican incumbent Ling Ling Chang 51-49 two years after the GOP successfully recalled him from office. Newman had defeated Chang in a tight 2016 contest to represent this seat, which includes Fullerton and Yorba Linda in Orange County and small portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Republicans, though, quickly launched a campaign to oust him after he provided the crucial vote for a gas-tax increase in order to fund a $52 billion transportation plan.
In June of 2018, voters recalled Newman by a 58-42 margin, and they chose Chang as his replacement for the remaining two-and-a-half years of his term. That development briefly cost Democrats the two-thirds majority in the Senate that they needed to pass tax increases and put constitutional amendments on the ballot without Republicans support, but they regained their supermajority that fall. Newman also soon launched a campaign to regain the seat from Chang, which he did on Nov. 3.
Elsewhere in Orange County, Democrat Dave Min defeated Republican state Sen. John Moorlach 51-49 to flip Senate District 37, which is home to Irvine as well as most of Huntington Beach and the city of Orange. This seat has been safely red turf for decades, and Democrats didn’t even have a candidate on the ballot in the 2015 special election that Moorlach ultimately won; Moorlach prevailed 57-43 the following year even as Hillary Clinton was carrying his seat 50-44.
But Min, who narrowly lost the 2018 top-two primary for the 45th Congressional District to now-Rep. Katie Porter, proved to be a tough opponent, and he decisively outraised Moorlach on his way to a close victory.