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AZ-Sen: On Friday, former state Attorney General Grant Woods announced that he would not seek the Democratic nomination in next year’s special election. Woods, a longtime Republican who joined the Democratic Party last year, has been mulling a bid for months, but he said that “[i]n this stage of my life, my ambition is not to be United States senator,” and that he didn’t want to spend the next year trying to prove he was “liberal enough for the far-left wing of the Democratic party.” Rep. Ruben Gallego and former astronaut and gun safety activist Mark Kelly are still eyeing bids against appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally.
AZ-01: While Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s spokesperson said last month that he couldn’t say if his boss would run again, O’Halleran announced on Thursday that he would seek a third term in this competitive northern Arizona seat. O’Halleran, who previously served in the state legislature as a Republican, faces a primary challenge from former Flagstaff City Councilor Eva Putzova. The GOP will also want to target this district, which both Romney and Trump narrowly carried.
UT-04: Freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams will likely be a top GOP target in this conservative seat in the Salt Lake City area, but we haven't heard any notable Republicans publicly express interest in challenging him yet. However, Utah Policy writes that at least three local politicians are “said to be eyeing” a campaign: state Sen. Dan McCay; state Rep. Kim Coleman; and former West Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord.
As Daily Kos’ Carolyn Fiddler recently wrote in our newest edition of This Week in Statehouse Action, McCay currently is pushing a bill that would effectively give the legislature the power to choose a U.S. senator in the event of a vacancy. McCay is no fan of the 17th Amendment, which requires that voters elect U.S. senators to six year terms. He pitched his bill as a way to bring Utah more into line with the system the Founding Fathers envisioned where all senators would be appointed by their state’s legislature.
GA-07: The 7th District Republican Party recently told the Gwinnett Daily Post reports that state Sen. Renee Unterman recently met with its chair about a possible run for this competitive open seat, and that Unterman said she’d look at creating an exploratory committee. However, just weeks ago, Unterman admitted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she had actually considered joining the Democratic Party.
Unterman said she agreed with Team Blue “on a lot of social issues,” which reporter Jim Galloway said meant health care and the environment. However, Unterman also declared she was “a gun-toter. I’m a hunter. I’m a fisherman. I’m pro-life. I’ve carried every single abortion bill that’s gone through the Senate.” For now, at least, Unterman remains a Republican, but one very much on the outs with her party’s leadership.
Unterman was an ally of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who made her chair of the powerful Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Unterman backed Cagle to the hilt during his unsuccessful primary campaign for governor last year, and a spokesperson for Brian Kemp infamously dubbed her “mentally unstable” during the race.
Unterman says she’s made up with now-Gov. Kemp, but that may not exactly be the case. Last month, Unterman lost her chairmanship, as well as a prominent leadership post on the Appropriations Committee. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out that, of the three people who control the Senate assignments committee, one of them is Kemp’s floor leader while the other his his brother-in-law.
Unterman, who is one of just two Republican women in the chamber, blasted how “a ranking female with 20 years experience in there is taken off the team for obviously no reason that I know about that no one will express,” though she said later she was probably demoted because of policy disputes. Unterman also startled her colleagues last month when she revealed she’d been sexually harassed over the previous few weeks, something she revealed after the Senate voted to shorten the window to file a harassment complaint against one of its members.
GA-07: On the Democratic side, 2018 nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux announced endorsements on Friday from Rep. Hank Johnson, who represents the neighboring 4th District, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, and Jon Ossoff, who ran a high-profile race in the neighboring 6th District in 2017.
MS-Gov: Virginia politicians aren't the only ones to find racist incidents or associations in their pasts suddenly coming back to haunt them this month, and on Friday, HuffPost reported that Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves "was a member of a college fraternity that was known for pro-Confederate displays and run-ins with black students." Reeves was in the Kappa Alpha fraternity at Millsaps College in the mid-1990s, during which time the fraternity's yearbook page had pictures of members wearing blackface and another where they were dressed in Confederate regalia in front of the Battle Flag.
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It's unclear if Reeves was in any of those offensive pictures, but the fraternity and its members reportedly had a lengthy reputation for racism. This isn't the first time Reeves has generated controversy over possible racist associations, and HuffPost furthermore notes that he spoke at a 2013 event for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization that that claims the Civil War wasn't about slavery (For context, Mississippi's declaration of secession literally said it was over slavery).
Reeves is the frontrunner in the GOP primary for governor, and that makes him a favorite to win this year's elections in such a red state. It's unclear just how damaging these revelations may prove to be be in such a conservative state, which is arguably the most racially polarized in the entire country. However, Democrats have their strongest possible candidate with state Attorney General Jim Hood, and what few polls exist show a potentially competitive general election.
While Reeves is the frontrunner in the GOP primary, he could have more company in that race. Indeed, state Sen Chris McDaniel has refused to clarify what office he will seek as the March 1 filing deadline approaches, saying "everything is on the table" in regard to a run for governor, another statewide office, or re-election to the state Senate. McDaniel is an ultraconservative thorn in the side of the party establishment with his own ties to neo-Confederate groups. He came very close to winning the 2014 Senate nomination over longtime GOP Sen. Thad Cochran, but he came in a distant third with 16 percent in the nonpartisan all-party primary in 2018's Senate special election.
Tucson, AZ Mayor: On Wednesday, developer Randi Dorman announced that she was joining the Aug. 27 Democratic primary to succeed retiring Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
Dorman has been behind a number of notable projects, including an effort to remake an old ice factory into residential lofts, which became known as the Ice House Lofts. She’s also served as head of the Downtown Tucson Partnership development district. Dorman joins City Councilor Regina Romero and former state Sen. Steve Farley, who lost last year’s primary for governor, on the Democratic side. So far, no notable Republicans have stepped up.
Jacksonville, FL Mayor: On Friday, GOP Mayor Lenny Curry picked up an endorsement from Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat who represents almost half of Jacksonville. Curry’s main opponent in the March 19 nonpartisan primary is City Councilor Anna Brosche, a fellow Republican who has been trying to win over Democratic voters.
VA-Gov: On Friday, a second woman publicly accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault.
An attorney for a woman named Meredith Watson put out a statement saying that in 2000, when Watson and Fairfax were classmates at Duke University, Fairfax raped her in a “premeditated and aggressive” attack. The release also says that Watson’s legal team has statements “from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her.”
One of those classmates, Kaneedreck Adams, already spoke with the Washington Post and says that Watson came to her crying to say that Fairfax had raped her in the spring of 2000. “She said she couldn’t speak, but she was trying to get up and he kept pushing her down,” recounted Adams, who says Watson told her the attack took place at a fraternity house. Watson herself also called for Fairfax, a Democrat, to resign. Fairfax responded by calling the story part of a “smear campaign” and insisting he would not leave office.
Wilson’s statement comes just days after Vanessa Tyson, a political science professor in California, released her own account detailing her allegations against Fairfax. Tyson said that at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Fairfax “forced me to perform oral sex on him” even as she was crying and gagging. Fairfax says that their sexual encounter was consensual. On Friday, just before Watson released her statement, five people told the New York Times that Tyson had informed them over the last two years that she had been raped at the 2004 DNC, and three said that she had identified Fairfax as the perpetrator.
Virginia Democrats had generally been circumspect in their approach to Tyson’s charges, with the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, for instance, calling for an investigation. However, attitudes may be changing thanks to Watson’s testimony, as former Gov. Terry McAuliffe quickly issued a statement calling on Fairfax to step down.
Fairfax is first in line to become governor should Gov. Ralph Northam leave office. However, Northam is still digging in despite near-universal calls from fellow Democrats to resign in the week since a racist photograph from his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced. Northam reportedly has told his staff he’s not going anywhere, even as a new poll from Democratic polling firm Civiqs, commissioned by Daily Kos, shows that Virginia voters want him to leave office by a wide 60-24 margin.
Deaths: Former Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who holds the record for the longest service in Congress, died Thursday at the age of 92. Daily Kos Elections has put together an obituary on his long life, his influential career, and of course, his tweets.
Dingell was perhaps best known for his time as House Energy and Commerce Committee from 1981 until the GOP took the House in 1995. During this time he was one of the most powerful chairs in history, and his committee ended up handling 40 percent of all House bills. Dingell informed agencies they were under investigation through what became known as “Dingell-grams.
Dingell also faced two tough primaries after he was thrown into the same district as a fellow Democratic House member. In 1964 he went through a tough contest against John Lesinski, the only Northern congressman in the Democratic Party to oppose the Civil Rights Act. Lesinski represented most of the new district and didn’t hesitate to try and use racist fear-mongering to beat Dingell, but it wasn’t enough. Dingell was safe until 2002 when he took on Rep. Lynn Rivers, who was backed by Nancy Pelosi. Dingell won, but his frayed relationship with Pelosi would have serious consequences for his career.
You can find out more about Dingell’s long and important career, as well as some of his best tweets (we’re with him when it comes to Kardashians and super-long phone chargers) in our obituary.