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Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 7/31 (July 31, 2015, 09:00 AM)

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Morning Digest: A new poll gives Jack Conway a small edge in Kentucky (July 31, 2015, 08:00 AM)

Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway
Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway has a 3-point edge in SurveyUSA's new poll
Leading Off:

? KY-Gov: Kentucky's gubernatorial race is only a little more than three months away, but there's been a dearth of polling here so far. But SurveyUSA comes to our rescue and finds a tight race, with Democrat Jack Conway posting a 45-42 lead against Republican Matt Bevin. SurveyUSA's last poll from mid-May gave Conway a stronger 48-37 edge, but it's not too surprising to see a shift now that the ugly Republican primary is over.

When independent Drew Curtis is added to the mix, Conway's lead increases to 43-38, with Curtis taking 5. Curtis, the founder of the website Fark, leans to the left, but so far he seems to be attracting more conservatives who may just not be sold on Bevin yet. Curtis is still collecting signatures, and we should know around mid-August if he'll make the general election ballot.

We've only seen one other independent poll since the May GOP primary, a late June PPP survey that gave Bevin a 38-35 edge. One important difference between the two polls is outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's approval rating: PPP gave him a good but not great 43-35 score, while SurveyUSA gives him a much better 51-33 mark. PPP usually gives elected officials lower ratings than other pollsters, so there may be nothing else to this. However, Conway will definitely benefit if more conservative voters see Beshear's tenure as a success and are willing to pull the lever for another Democrat.


A new poll gives Democrat Jack Conway a small lead in Kentucky's gubernatorial showdown (July 30, 2015, 06:43 PM)

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway
Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway
Kentucky's gubernatorial race is only a little more than three months away, but there's been a dearth of polling here so far. But SurveyUSA comes to our rescue and finds a tight race, with Democrat Jack Conway posting a 45-42 lead against Republican Matt Bevin. SurveyUSA's last poll from mid-May gave Conway a stronger 48-37 edge, but it's not too surprising to see a shift now that the ugly Republican primary is over.

When independent Drew Curtis is added to the mix, Conway's lead increases to 43-38, with Curtis only taking 5. Curtis, the founded of the website Fark, leans to the left, but so far he seems to be attracting more conservatives who may just not be sold on Bevin yet. Curtis is still collecting signatures, and we should know around mid-August if he'll make the general election ballot.

We've only seen one other independent poll since the May GOP primary, a late June PPP survey that gave Bevin a 38-35 edge. One important difference between the two surveys is outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's approval rating: PPP gave him a good but not great 43-35 score, while SurveyUSA gives him a much better 51-33 mark. PPP usually gives elected officials lower ratings than other pollsters so there may be nothing else to this. However, Conway will definitely benefit if more conservative voters see Beshear's tenure as a success and are willing to pull the lever for another Democrat.


What happens to Chaka Fattah's seat now that he's been indicted? (July 30, 2015, 06:11 PM)

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) speaks at BrainTech Israel 2013
Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah
Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah insists he'll seek re-election despite being indicted for corruption charges, but no one's really sure who will make it to the 2016 ballot. If Fattah ends up resigning after being convicted (which is perhaps the most likely outcome), Democratic ward leaders, led by neighboring Rep. and Philadelphia Democratic Party head Bob Brady, would choose the party's nominee for a special election. The Democratic candidate would have absolutely no trouble winning PA-02, which voted for Obama by a 90-9 margin, and the new representative would not be easy to unseat in a primary.

As Roll Call's Emily Cahn points out, serious prospective Democratic candidates are unlikely to risk angering the Philadelphia Democratic establishment by kicking off their campaigns anytime soon. But it's also quite possible that Fattah doesn't end up resigning before the April primary. Over at Philadelphia Magazine, Holly Otterbein games out some potential scenarios.

If Fattah decides to retire rather than resign, we could see a crazy primary, and there really are no shortage of potential candidates. Some familiar names include outgoing Mayor Michael Nutter, Council President Darrell Clarke, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, and District Attorney Seth Williams. When the Philadelphia Inquirer asked Nutter and Williams about their plans, they each deflected the question, which is exactly what they should be doing right now if they have any interest in succeeding Fattah.

But if Fattah seeks re-election with an indictment (but not a conviction) over his head, there's a good chance he could actually win renomination. Fattah does have plenty of allies left who wouldn't oppose him, and some other possible rivals like Williams and Clarke could need to resign from their current positions if they wanted to run. However, Fattah only has a measly $24,000 on hand, and it's possible that someone will decide to take him on. Fattah could also defy the odds and win in court, which would likely ensure his re-election.


To retake the Pennsylvania legislature, Democrats first must regain the state Supreme Court (July 30, 2015, 11:29 AM)

Wikimedia Commons photo of the Pennsylvania state capitol building taken by Ad Meskens
Pennsylvania state capitol building, photo by Ad Meskens
When we think of important elections in America, typically the list starts with the president, then Congress, governors, etc., while judicial elections are a lower priority for voters. Foreign election observers might even be shocked we elect judges at all, a system that Europeans and our own federal government have largely eschewed. So it may come as a surprise to learn just how important this November's three state Supreme Court races are in Pennsylvania.

These elections are critical not just because Democrats might retake a majority on the high court for the first time in years: They will determine how easy it will be for either party to win the legislature during the next decade. Whichever party controls the court appoints a tie-breaking member to the redistricting commission and most recently, that has been a Republican who voted for partisan gerrymanders. In 2012, that system led to Republicans winning the legislature despite losing the popular vote because they had drawn the maps. The new maps were used for the first time during the 2014 red wave, and Republicans won their largest majorities in generations even though Democrats decisively unseated unpopular GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf now faces many obstacles from legislative Republicans and this will continue for his entire time in office barring an unforeseeable Democratic wave. Even though President Obama won the Keystone State 52 to 47, Mitt Romney carried 111 of the 203 state House seats and 27 of the 50 state Senate districts. As long as a Republican state Supreme Court keeps the tie-breaking vote for redistricting, Team Red will keep doing everything they can to preserve their majorities in this light blue state.

Our political system is broken when low-turnout, partisan, judicial elections will determine not only the composition of the state's highest court, but which of the two major parties gets to rig the state legislative election process for 10 years. If we care about advancing progressive policies in Pennsylvania, a state without any ballot initiative process, we absolutely must regain both chambers of the legislature. That task will be tremendously easier under Democratic-drawn maps than Republican-drawn ones, which is why the first step is to retake the state Supreme Court.

Head below the fold for more details about the six candidates running this year, the impact of a potential ballot referendum on judicial retirement age, and how Philadelphia's mayoral race might affect the court races.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 7/30 (July 30, 2015, 09:00 AM)

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Morning Digest: As bad polls roll in for Mark Kirk, a top GOP fundraiser wants him to quit the race (July 30, 2015, 08:00 AM)

GOP Sen. Mark Kirk
Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk
Leading Off:

? IL-Sen: PPP's first Illinois poll of the cycle finds GOP Sen. Mark Kirk in a dire position. He currently trails his top Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, by a 42-38 margin and sporting a plug-ugly 25-42 job approval rating. That's down from a 28-32 score back in February (that survey did not include any general election numbers), leading Tom Jensen to conclude that Kirk's astonishing and seemingly endless series of verbal debacles has harmed him with voters.

It'd be nice to believe that, though generally speaking, few normal people are paying attention to this kind of thing so far out (15 months!) from Election Day. Still, these numbers do suck for the incumbent, and here's another reason: Kirk still only takes 38 percent of the vote against Duckworth's little-known primary opponent, Andrea Zopp, who manages just 29 percent. (Duckworth leads Zopp 59-10 for the Democratic nomination.) And here's the crazy thing: Kirk's performance against Duckworth is actually better than in the only other poll we've seen this year, an Ogden & Fry survey last month that had him trailing 44-27!

But like we asked last time, is this poll too good to be true? Maybe, but it's hard to see how it is. On the presidential side, Hillary Clinton leads by anywhere from 48-39 (over Jeb Bush) to 51-33 (against Donald Trump). If anything, that might seem soft, but bear in mind that Barack Obama's election results in the Land of Lincoln were inflated thanks to his favorite son status. John Kerry carried Illinois by "only" 10 points, and a Feb. 2008 poll pitting Clinton against John McCain (the only legitimate one of the entire race, as it happens) found her ahead 48-37.

And it's not just PPP who thinks Kirk is in trouble. Ron Gudwitz, a top Republican fundraiser in Illinois, just publicly called on Kirk to step aside, saying his big mouth has been damaging the party and could cause "collateral damage" to other GOP candidates. Gudwitz, who was finance chair for Gov. Bruce Rauner's successful campaign last year, later tried to "retract" the remarks because he didn't "want to take the heat" he immediately started getting?after all, Republicans don't really have a better option than Kirk. But no incumbent facing a difficult re-election wants this kinds of headache?or this kind of polling result.


Wall Street to anti-gay Republican congressman: Get bent (July 29, 2015, 06:46 PM)

Rep. Scott Garret (R-NJ)
New Jersey GOP Rep. Scott Garrett
According to Bloomberg Politics, GOP Rep. Scott Garrett is actually paying a price for his retrograde views on gays: Major Wall Street donors, including Goldman Sachs, have reportedly stopped giving to the congressman, and the so-called "Big Four" accounting firms cancelled a fundraiser that had been planned on his behalf.

As chair of a Financial Services subcommittee that oversees capital markets, Garrett had grown accustomed to heavy-duty corporate support over the years. Indeed, says Bloomberg, Garrett's position is known as the "ATM" because it "almost guarantees endless streams of cash from the financial firms that have business before the panel." (Yay for democracy!) But he made headlines (the bad kind) a few weeks ago when he insisted that he hadn't paid his dues to the NRCC because the committee supports gay candidates. In 2015, that ain't a good look, even for the GOP.

And not only has this hurt Garrett, it's also helped his Democratic opponent, Microsoft executive Josh Gottheimer. Steve Elmendorf, a top Democratic lobbyist, decided to host a high-dollar fundraiser in DC this week for Gottheimer, who's already shown he can rake in the bucks. If Garret's bigotry-fueled parsimony turns out, at long last, to lead to his undoing, it won't be a moment too soon.


One Iowa Democrat used to be a Republican. The other said he was pro-life. Now they're fighting. (July 29, 2015, 05:23 PM)

Iowa Democrat Pat Murphy
2014 IA-01 Democratic nominee Pat Murphy
As we expected, the Democratic primary in Iowa's 1st Congressional District has already turned negative. EMILY's List, which is backing Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon, kicked things off shortly before former state House Speaker Pat Murphy launched his campaign a week ago, saying Murphy wanted to "restrict women's access to health care." Murphy disputed the accusations, which centered on his record over a decade ago, when he described himself as "pro-life" and earned a 100 percent rating he earned from the Iowa Right to Life Committee. However, when he ran for Congress last year, he received endorsements from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

EMILY ratcheted up the firefight on Wednesday, sending out an "annotated" version of a fact-sheet Murphy had previously issued about his stance on reproductive freedom. Next to Murphy's own bullet points like "Murphy votes to prevent insurers from denying contraceptive coverage," EMILY's penciled in things like "listed as an 'All Star Pro-Life Democrat.'"

Murphy's response was so predictable that, in fact, we predicted it. His campaign released a bunch of documentation testifying to his Democratic bona fides over the last 25 years: political donations he's made, candidates he's voted for, and even a copy of his original voter registration form from 1977 with the box checked for "Democrat." While that might not sound like scintillating stuff, Murphy's trying to contrast himself to Vernon, who switched parties back in 2009 when she was reportedly considering a mayoral bid (she never ran).

While it's dismaying as a partisan to see two Democrats blast each other to pieces when there's a Republican who needs unseating (Rep. Rod Blum), it will at least be interesting to see which attack has more resonance: "You used to be a Republican" versus "You said you were pro-life." In neither case, though, are the charges particularly recent. Vernon, as noted, changed sides six year ago, while the newest quote EMILY unearthed to ding Murphy dates back to 2007. So it's certainly possible voters won't really care at all.


How not to clarify your plans about whether you're running for Senate (July 29, 2015, 04:31 PM)

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)
GOP Rep. Ted Yoho
Just a day after the right-wing Sunshine State News reported that GOP Rep. Ted Yoho was considering a Senate bid, the congressman himself clarified matters on C-SPAN. Actually, no, wait, he didn't. He just said a bunch of conflicting things:
Yoho: "I have no intention to run for the Senate." [...]

Yoho: "It is ruled out." [...]

Host: "The story says, 'looking at entering the race but is far from making a final decision.'"

Yoho: "Real far."

Host: "Okay, so it's done?you're not gonna do it."

Yoho: "It's done."

"Ruled out" and "it's done" sound like definite "nos," but "no intention" and "real far" from making a decision are definitely not "nos." Whatever, people change their minds all the time. If Yoho wants to be crystal clear about his plans, he can issue a clarification. If he doesn't, then we will still continue to view him as a possible Senate candidate.

And given how unsettled the Republican field is, that only makes sense. A new survey from St. Pete Polls confirms what we've seen elsewhere, finding Rep. David Jolly as the only contender in double digits in the five-man field (with just 10 percent); over 60 percent of GOP voters are undecided. If Yoho does indeed wind up with a new district that removes his rural base and would make it difficult for him to win renomination, as Matthew Isbell has theorized, then the Senate race might look a lot more appealing.


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