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Daily Kos Elections open thread: 12/22 (December 22, 2014, 09:00 AM)

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Daily Kos Elections will be going on a modified schedule for the final two weeks of the year. We'll be back to publishing the Digest regularly in 2015. In the meantime, we'll be posting a daily open thread, and we may post news updates occasionally. Happy holidays!

2014 candidates versus the expectations game (December 21, 2014, 07:29 PM)

Final Senate Race Ratings
The 2014 election is, thankfully, in the books and fading in the rearview mirror. For the truly devoted elections nerds, though, the work's just beginning, slicing and dicing the results to see what happened, and where our strengths and weaknesses are. For starters, let's take a look at how the various candidates did individually, and how those candidates did when compared to the expectations that were set for them.

While Daily Kos Elections experimented this year with a quantitative predictive model (which turned out well, narrowly beating all the other models), we also stuck with our tried-and-true qualitative race ratings that we've used every cycle since 2008, using the same "Likely/Lean/Tossup" framework that anyone who follows along with the Charlie Cooks and Larry Sabatos of the world is familiar with. So here's our chance to look back at how those predictions (the final version of which you can see here) panned out.

Most races, of course, are entirely predictable from the very start; they're in a very red or very blue state or congressional district, with an entrenched incumbent and a little-known, underfunded opponent. So that means that by cycle's end, there are usually only a dozen or so Senate races, and under 100 House races, where there's any doubt whatsoever about the result; as for true tossups, those are only a small fraction of the total.

This exercise doesn't just help us know how we did, but also gives us some targeting information for the 2016 elections (and help us as we start thinking about 2016 ratings). It can help us pinpoint Republicans who were supposed to be safe but barely squeaked by, who might have some previously unknown glass jaw that we might exploit next time. It can also help us find which Democrats are at risk of underperforming again.

We'll look at the individual races over the fold, starting with the Senate:

Daily Kos Elections open thread: 12/19 (December 19, 2014, 09:00 AM)

Daily Kos Elections Open Tread Banner
Daily Kos Elections will be going on a modified schedule for the final two weeks of the year. We'll be back to publishing the Digest regularly in 2015. In the meantime, we'll be posting a daily open thread, and we may post news updates occasionally. Happy holidays!

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Blake Farenthold's problems may only be just beginning (December 19, 2014, 08:00 AM)

Texas Republican Blake Farenthold
Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold
Leading Off:

? TX-27: On Tuesday, the news broke that Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold's former communications director was suing her former boss for sexual harassment. It also doesn't help Farenthold's situation that we just learned that he owned the domain name "" for well over a decade (It's unclear if former Rep. Ben Quayle ever got the chance to guest-blog). Furthermore, on Thursday a collection of some of Farenthold's online writings from 2006 to 2010 were unearthed and they do nothing to help his reputation. Farenthold's travails don't look like they'll be going away anytime soon, and local Republicans are talking about a primary challenge.

According to The Texas Tribune, Debra Medina is being mentioned as a potential contender. The tea partier placed third in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, and she made news for showing some 9/11 truther tendencies. Earlier this year Medina ran for comptroller but again took a distant third. So far Medina is defending Farenthold, tweeting, "Remember innocent until proven guilty though even the accusation taints the office." She's unlikely to be the only name we hear though: Romney won this Corpus Christi-based seat 61-38, and there's no shortage of Republican office holders in the area.

Farenthold has actually been very lucky to avoid any real intra-party opposition up till now. The congressman was a virtual unknown in 2010 when he won a Democratic-held seat in a low-turnout fluke, and under normal circumstances he would have quickly faced a real challenge (see Bentivolio, Kerry). However, while a few serious Republicans talked about primarying him in 2012, it never happened. Farenthold's district was dramatically redrawn late in 2011, and evidently no one felt that they had enough time to organize a campaign. Farenthold easily won renomination in 2012 and 2014, and he looked likely to keep his accidental seat as long as he wanted it. But unless this story disappears, Farenthold's luck may finally have run out.

Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 12/18 (December 18, 2014, 09:00 AM)

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8:50 AM PT (Jeff Singer): KY-Sen: We recently highlighted Republican Sen. Rand Paul's daring attempt to run for president and for re-election at the same time, even though it's against Kentucky law. Paul probably wasn't counting on Democratic Secretary of State Alison Grimes to make things easy for him, so he won't be disappointed to hear that Grimes will challenge the senator in court if he tries appearing on the same ballot twice.

Paul's legislative allies tried to change the law earlier this year but were blocked by the Democratic state House. Speaker Greg Stumbo memorably declared, "Our position is that a man who can't decide which office to run for isn't fit for either office," and he isn't going to budge. Paul worked hard to flip the chamber in November but fell short despite the red landslide, so he can't count on the law changing in time to help him. Paul may try replacing the May Republican primary with a March caucus, which would keep his name from appearing on the same ballot twice. But it also sounds like Paul is preparing to take this to court. Either way, this matter is far from over.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Republicans secure their final 2014 pickup (December 18, 2014, 08:00 AM)

Republican Rep.-elect Martha McSally
Leading Off:

? AZ-02: The writing has been on the wall for a long time here, but on Wednesday Republicans officially got their final pickup of the 2014 election cycle. Last month, Republican Martha McSally held a 161-vote lead over Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, a margin so small that it triggered an automatic recount. It was very unlikely that McSally would lose her lead and she didn't, and she actually gained six votes when the final results were announced. Barber conceded later that day.

The Tucson-area 2nd District backed Romney 50-48, and it's exactly the type of seat Democrats need to hold to have any shot at a House majority anytime soon. It's very likely that the DCCC will play hard here in 2016, though it's far too early to know who might step up against McSally. Barber himself kept things incredibly close in a horrific environment, and he definitely deserves credit for it. And in a way, he and McSally are both winners. But in another more accurate way, McSally is the winner.


? NH-Sen: National Democrats are looking to give Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte a real challenge, and Gov. Maggie Hassan is at the top of their wish lists. When Hassan's office was recently asked about her 2016 intentions, her press secretary didn't rule anything out. That's thin, but it's a lot further than the DSCC ever got with former Gov. John Lynch, whom they tried to recruit in 2008 and 2010.

Speaking of Lynch, Roll Call reports that his name is getting some mention among Democrats. Lynch was a popular governor and he'd be a formidable candidate, but so far there doesn't seem to be any indication that he's any more interested in a Senate bid this time than he has been in the past. If Hassan declines to run, Rep. Annie Kuster is likely to get a lot of attention. But if Hassan does make the leap for Senate, there's also been some talk of Kuster running to succeed her as governor. For her part Kuster isn't closing the door on anything, saying she's not thinking about 2016 yet.

? PA-Sen: It's no secret that the Pennsylvania Democratic establishment does not have a good relationship with 2010 nominee and likely 2016 candidate Joe Sestak, and is shopping around for someone to oppose him in the primary. So far they've come up empty though, with a number of potential candidates declining to take on the former congressman. Cameron Joseph of The Hill reports that Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro is still the go-to guy for the No Sestaks Club, but he looks more likely than not to stay where he is.

Joseph drops two new potential Democratic names: Allegheny County Commissioner Rich Fitzgerald, and U.S. Attorney David Hickton. There's also some talk of a self-funding candidate coming out of the woodwork to take on Sestak. But so far this is all just speculation, with neither Fitzgerald nor Hickton giving any sign that they're interested. It's early, but right now it looks likely that we'll get a rematch between Sestak and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.


? IN-Gov: Republican state Sen. Jim Merritt recently announced that he would not run in next year's election for mayor of Indianapolis, but we may not have seen the last of him. Merritt says he is interested in running for governor someday, possibly as soon as 2016 if Republican Gov. Mike Pence forgoes re-election to run for president. Pence himself has flirted with the idea, but it's very unclear whether he'll actually go for it. If this seat does become open, there will be no shortage of ambitious Hoosier Republicans who could step up.

? KY-Gov: Kentucky Democrats have been seriously talking about Secretary of State and 2014 Senate nominee Alison Grimes running for governor next year, and in her first-post election interview Grimes did not rule it out.

Grimes also has the option to run for re-election in 2015, and plenty of state Democrats would rather see her do that than take on primary frontrunner Attorney General Jack Conway. There's also some speculation that Grimes could run for attorney general instead but she would need to get past fellow Democrat Andy Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear. The filing deadline is Jan. 29, so Grimes doesn't have much time to decide on her 2015 plans.

Other Races:

? Austin Mayor: On Tuesday, voters in the nation's 11th largest city went back to the polls in the final major election of 2014. The polls suggested an easy win for attorney Steve Adler over fellow Democrat and Councilmember Mike Martinez and that's exactly what happened, with Adler prevailing by a 67-33 margin. The race came at a time when Austin began a new city council system. In the past six councilors were elected citywide, but now the city is divided into 10 single-member seats. Martinez argued that Austin needed an experienced leader more than ever, while the better-funded Adler emphasized change.

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Taniel, and Dreaminonempty.

Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 12/17 (December 17, 2014, 09:00 AM)

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Bipartisan-sounding redistricting advances in Ohio (December 17, 2014, 08:00 AM)

Ohio State Senate by current membership (map by Stephen Wolf)

Leading Off:

? OH Redistricting: On Friday, the Ohio Senate passed a law that would change how the state handles legislative redistricting from now on. The state House is expected to easily pass it soon as well. The law will not need Republican Gov. John Kasich's signature, and will instead head to the November 2015 ballot.

Under current state law a panel consisting of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and a lawmaker from each party draws up legislative lines. Only a simple majority is currently needed to pass a 10-year redistricting plan. The new proposal would add an extra Democrat and an extra Republican to the panel, and would require at least two votes from the minority party to pass the redistricting plan for the entire decade. If those votes aren't found, then a majority can only pass it for four years.

Sounds great, right? However, if the next time the commission meets they can't get enough bipartisan support for the second map... well, nothing really happens. The commission can just pass their new map with majority support, and it will remain in place for the final six years of the decade.

There are some protections in place to reduce gerrymandering, such as limiting how much communities may be divided. But it's hard to see this as inaugurating a new era of bipartisan redistricting. It's also quite possible it won't pass next November: Voters have rejected changes to the process three times over the last three decades. Note that this will not apply to congressional lines, where the state legislature will still pass a plan and the governor will be able to sign or veto it.

Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 12/16 (December 16, 2014, 09:00 AM)

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Kathleen Kane takes herself out of the running for Senate (December 16, 2014, 08:00 AM)

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane
Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane
Leading Off:

? PA-Sen: How quickly Kathleen Kane's star has fallen. In 2012, she scored a resounding victory as the first Democrat to win a race for attorney general since Pennsylvania made it an elected position in the early 1980s, pulling in more votes than any other statewide candidate. As a woman with a law-and-order profile, she had "rising star" written all over her?except it turned out to be written in disappearing ink.

That's because Kane, a former prosecutor, is now on the wrong end of an investigation herself. A grand jury has been looking into whether Kane's office improperly leaked information from another grand jury to undermine a former deputy attorney general who worked for her Republican predecessor (none other than outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett) and has frequently been critical of Kane. Kane has insisted she's done nothing wrong, but the ongoing revelations stemming from this inquiry have been ugly and damaging.

In fact, they've hurt her enough that she's now taken herself out of the running as a possible challenger to Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016. Instead, she announced over the weekend that she'll seek a second term as attorney general, but the headlines she earned were not positive: "Kane vows to fight for her office" read one and "Kathleen Kane, facing grand jury investigation, announces 2016 re-election bid" read another. It's possible Kane can turn things around for herself, but at this point, Republicans are probably quite eager to target her and win back the AG post.


? CA-Sen: Here's a new name to add to the giant bucket of Democrats that'll get poured over California's Senate race if Barbara Boxer decides to retire (as she reportedly might): Los Angeles-area Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who says that "nothing is off the table" when it comes to a potential bid. That's a tune she's whistled before, though. Sanchez was reportedly interested in replacing Boxer back in 2010, too (though Boxer wound up running for another term), and long ago, she considered a run for governor that same year as well.

? IL-Sen: Rep. Bill Foster, who'd be one of the strongest Democratic challengers to Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016, has offered his first comments on the record about the race, though all he's doing at this point is not ruling out a run ("At this point I am just focused on getting the end of year business done"). Columnist Lynn Sweet previously claimed that Foster was "very, very interested" in a bid, though that statement was completely unsourced.

? UT-Sen: As we wrote recently, a new law may change the way Utah nominates candidates for office by requiring Democrats and Republicans to allow anyone to petition their way on to the primary ballot. Under current rules, only hopefuls who earn at least 40 percent of the vote at party conventions are permitted to advance to the primary.

The state GOP is trying to block the law in court, but if they're unsuccessful, the person at greatest risk may be Sen. Mike Lee. Lee is an incendiary ally of Firebreather in Chief Ted Cruz, and even if he has to deal with primary voters instead of convention-goers, he'll still be heavily favored?he's signaled his conservative tribal belonging loud and clear. But Lee may yet be concerned, since he only narrowly defeated Tim Bridgewater in the 2010 primary, 51-49, after the two succeeded in keeping Sen. Bob Bennett below the 40 percent mark at the convention. (Bridgewater also beat him 57-43 among delegates.)

That probably explains why the Club for Growth, which loves itself some Mike Lee, has put out some polling from Basswood Research showing the incumbent with gaudy favorables among a hypothetical Republican primary electorate. Lee has a 76-11 score, compared with a 72-23 rating for fellow Sen. Orrin Hatch, who faced a primary himself in 2012 but stared his challenger down quite handily. Those are some strong numbers, but presumably the Club wouldn't even bother putting them out unless there were rumblings of a possible challenge in some corners.

Other Races:

? Houston Mayor: We recently took a look at next year's open seat race for America's fourth largest city, and Theodore Schleifer of the Houston Chronicle gives us more information about where things stand.

Right now, Democratic state Rep. Sylvester Turner looks like the frontrunner, holding a critical base of support among the city's African American electorate. However, with so many other contenders running or seriously considering jumping in, this looks like it will be a very unpredictable contest. Fellow Democrat and Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is contemplating a campaign, and he would emerge as a formidable contender. However, Garcia would need to resign from office to run, and he would likely be replaced with a Republican. The entire article is very worth reading for an early look at this contest.

Grab Bag:

? Oglala Lakota County, SD: It's not often that counties get renamed, but when they do, there's usually an interesting story behind the decision. Shannon County, South Dakota had the distinction of being the most heavily Indian county in the entire nation, but the county's very name was an insult in and of itself, since it was named after Peter Shannon, a 19th century judge who was instrumental in seizing lands from the Sioux.

Shannon's history was not well-known, but after a local leader uncovered and publicized his back story, Democratic state Rep. Kevin Killer succeeded in putting a measure on the ballot to change the jurisdiction's name to Oglala Lakota County. Over 80 percent of voters approved the change last month, which will take effect soon.

? Radio: Jeff Singer was a guest on this Sunday's edition of The Kudzu Vine, discussing the aftermath of the 2014 elections, the future of the Democratic Party in the South, as well as 2015's gubernatorial contests. You can listen to the show here. A big thanks as always to hosts David McLaughlin and Catherine Smith!

? Votes: A few days ago, we discussed how the "cromnibus" vote wasn't a party-line vote, but it wasn't an establishment-vs.-outsider vote either (or a "second dimension" vote, if you're into the jargon associated with the DW-Nominate vote aggregation system); it was more of a left-and-right-flanks against the middle vote. Keith Poole's VoteView blog finally graphed the cromnibus vote on Monday, and they seem to agree. If it were a strict party-line vote, the cutline would be horizontal, but if it were a "second dimension" vote like the Amash amendments to the NSA, it'd be a vertical cutline. Instead, here we have a diagonal cutline, reflecting how it's kind of a hybrid between the two.

If you're into really hair-splitting major votes like this, there's a terrific new tool called VoteCruncher that does all that for you. No more combing the roll call list by hand for Ds and Rs, or progressives and Blue Dogs, or southerners and northeasterners, or even by committee membership (important, because Appropriators tend to vote differently than everybody else): they do all that for you in the crosstabs. Each vote comes with graphics for the geographical and ideological breakdown of each vote, with the "ideology bar" providing a great at-a-glance summary of what a vote looks like.

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir and Jeff Singer, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Taniel, and Dreaminonempty.

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