Happy Love Day -er- Valentines Day. First off, there are two Special Elections to preview for today, one legislative and one for the NYC Council. The State House special this week is for MN-LD-32B, an R+8 (2012) seat in deep-red northeast Twin Cities exurbs along the Wisconsin border near Lindstrom. The seat is open after the 2016 election was invalidated, due to the prior incumbent’s residency violations. Anne Neu (R), a veteran MNGOP campaign operative, should be a clear favorite over 2014/2016 nominee and former Duluth city councilwoman Laurie Warner (D), especially as this seat likely moved right in 2016. However, Dems are targeting this race with a surprising amount of enthusiasm, and a surprise upset may be possible.
There is also a NYC Council Special for NYC-CD-9, a 60% BVAP, D+44 (2008) district basically coextensive with Central Harlem. NYC Council specials are in a non-partisan winner-take-all format. There are 9 Democrats and 1 Republican running, six of them serious and three with some chance to win. State Sen. Bill Perkins (D) is the clear front-runner, as he has represented the entire area in the Senate for a decade. However, Perkins has had a mavericky streak at times that has left him on mediocre terms with the Harlem machine. Transit union official Marvin Holland (D) looks like Perkins’s most serious competition. Holland has lapped the field (including Perkins) in fundraising and has strong labor support. However, his name recognition is poor and he has alienated some establishment figures with a very aggressive campaign (including trying to get almost all his rivals disqualified over petition technicalities). If Labor gets out the vote for him, Holland could pull the upset over Perkins’s name rec. The other candidate who could upset Perkins is former civil servant Larry-Scott Blackmon (D). Blackmon has surprisingly attracted a considerable amount of establishment support, including an endorsement from the previous council member, but doesn’t have Holland’s labor backing or Perkins’s name recognition. He also has received unflattering headlines for allegedly getting insiders to pull strings to keep him on the ballot in spite of an illegal party name. Thus, he looks like a long-shot. Two other Dems, Athena Moore (D), a staffer for the Manhattan Borough President, and Community Board member Charles Cooper (D), are both running serious campaigns and have a modicum of establishment backing, but look like very long-shots to come out on top. An interesting candidate who won’t win is social worker and businesswoman Dawn Simmons (R). Simmons is a credible candidate who has actually raised the third-most of the field, and received headlines for being endorsed by “Rent is Too Damn High” perennial candidate Jimmy McMillan (RITDH), but her party label (and thus her lack of Dem establishment support) will prevent her from taking more than a few percent here. The other four candidates, realtor Todd Stevens (D), attorney Pierre Gooding (D), businessman Donald Fields (D), and a Some Dude, seem to be non-serious. Overall this still looks like Perkins’s race to lose, as the establishment and anti-Perkins vote is split among enough candidates with low name rec to mean that Perkins’s name rec and machine should get him to a victory. However, that victory will probably be a low plurality one and Holland or Blackmon could pull the upset.
Now the rest of the day’s news….
Natonal Security Adviser: Last Night Mike Flynn resigned as NSA over allegedly lying to Pence about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador. Retired admiral Robert Harward is apparently the front-runner to take over the job.
Treasury/VA: The Senate confirmed Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin and VA Sec. David Shulkin to their posts last night. Linda McMahon (SBA), Mick Mulvaney (OMB), Scott Pruitt (EPA), Wilbur Ross (Commerce), Ryan Zinke (Interior), Ben Carson (HUD), and Rick Perry (Energy) are all considered likely to go through before the end of the week.
MA-Sen: State Rep. Geoff Diehl (R) is considering a run against Sen. and cookbook author Elizabeth Warren (D). Diehl is a staunch conservative who represents a deep-red district by Bay State standards, so he’d likely stand little chance, but he does not have the polarizing image of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling (R), who has some controversial statements and a failed video game company under his belt. Businessman Rick Green (R), who runs a conservative activist group as well, is also considering a run.
TX-Sen: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) is considering a run for the seat of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and will decide in the next 8 weeks. Castro joins fellow Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) in exploring this contest; Democrats may be feeling emboldened to take on Cruz after Hillary did better than expected in the Lone Star State, but the state’s huge size and inelastic nature presents a high hurdle.
GA-6: 8 candidates filed for HHS Secretary Tom Price’s (R) vacated congressional seat in the northern Atlanta suburbs. Four candidates are notable, State Sen. Judson Hill (R), ex-State Sens. Dan Moody (R) and Ron Slotin (D), and former congressional staffer Jon Osoff (D), who has had strong fundraising. Several others are expected to enter as well.
SC-5: Ex-SCGOP chair Chad Connelly (R) will run for the seat of OMB-director designate Mick Mulvaney (R); Connelly joins about a half-dozen other Republicans in the race for the deep-red seat. Connelly’s establishment ties could make him a credible contender and he looks likely to join State Reps. Tommy Pope (R) and Ralph Norman (R) in the first tier of contenders for this seat.
Governor, State & Local:
MA-Gov: 1994 LG nominee Bob Massie (D), a bold progressive netroots favorite, is considering a run against Gov. Charlie Baker (R). Newton Mayor Setti Warren (D) and Gov. Deval Patrick admin official Jay Gonzales (D) have also been exploring bids here.
NJ-Gov: Former Saturday Night Live star Joe Piscopo (R) is doing “due dilligence” on a run for Governor of New Jersey, the clearest indication that the comedian is serious about exploring a bid. Piscopo would join LG Kim Guandagno (R) and State Rep. Jack Ciattarelli (R), along with some minor candidates, in the race for the nomination to succeed toxic Gov. Chris Christie (R). Former ambassador
Jon Corzine Jr. Phil Murphy (D) is considered the likely Dem nominee and the favorite over any GOP contender.
MI-SoS: 2010 nominee and law school dean Jocelyn Benson (D) is considering a second bid for SoS in 2018. Benson would likely be the front-runner for the Dem nod if she ran, as her 2010 campaign was well-regarded by party insiders. State Sen. Mike Kowall (R) and State Rep. Lee Chatfield (R) are considering runs on the GOP side for the seat of termed-out incumbent Ruth Johnson (R).
PA-LG: Ex-State Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R) of Lancaster County is the first candidate to consider a run for LG. Pennsylvania uses the “shotgun wedding” system in which LGs and Governors run separately in the primaries but together in the general, which can create some chaotic LG races in which candidates have no idea who their running mates will be.
St. Petersburg-Mayor: Ex-St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker (R) has flirted with bids for multiple offices over the last couple years, including runs for FL-13, Florida Governor, and Attorney General, but now it looks like he may run for his old job, taking on incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) in this year’s election. Baker, who is well-regarded, would almost certainly be the GOP’s strongest candidate for the mayoral post.