• SD Mayor: I was initially very skeptical of SurveyUSA's last poll of the San Diego special election for mayor that's taking place on Tuesday. The numbers showed a hard-to-believe surge for Republican Kevin Faulconer and a comparable decline for Democratic frontrunner Nathan Fletcher, but now SUSA's newest poll keeps heading even further in that direction. Faulconer now takes 40 percent, with Fletcher at 24—just a step ahead of fellow Democrat David Alvarez, who's at 22. Two weeks ago, Faulconer was at 41, but Fletcher at least had a 28-17 edge on Alvarez. (Assuming Faulconer can't crack 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff, likely in February.)
So, if these polls are accurate, what's going on here? Faulconer, preferring to face Alvarez in the second round, has gone negative on Fletcher, attacking him over his attendance record in the Assembly, where he used to serve. The labor unions backing Alvarez, meanwhile, have hammered Fletcher—who in the last two years went from Republican to independent to Democrat—as an "opportunist." Both sides have spent heavily.
The middle, it turns out, is not a comfortable place to be, so despite coming into the race with strong name recognition thanks to his third-place finish in the mayoral primary last year, Fletcher is getting squeezed from the left and right. And it may wind up allowing Alvarez to serve as the Democratic standard-bearer in the runoff. We'll find out tonight.
• HI-Sen: This is definitely strange. Buried in a general piece about the 2014 Senate playing field, Politico's James Hohmann claims that Republican ex-Rep. Charles Djou is "likely" enter the Hawaii Senate race "after the holidays." Hohmann doesn't mention any sources for this piece of information, named or unnamed, and it's definitely news to us. The only time we mentioned Djou all year was back in April, when Hawaii News Now reported (again, without sourcing) that he was "expected" to run for the state's open 1st District congressional seat. So I'd like to see something a lot firmer—preferably from the horse's mouth—before reaching any conclusions about what Djou has planned, if anything.
• MT-Sen: This falls into the "well, obviously" category, but anyhow, Gov. Steve Bullock has endorsed his lieutenant governor, John Walsh, in the Democratic primary for Montana's open Senate seat. Walsh faces a fight with his predecessor, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, for the party's nomination, though with Bullock's backing, he's now locked up support from much of the establishment.
• HI-Gov: So far, state Sen. David Ige looks like nothing but a massive underdog to Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary, and he probably only rises above Some Dude status because he holds elective office. But now he's managed to score the backing of two former governors, Ben Cayetano and George Ariyoshi, both of whom seem to be unhappy with Abercrombie over local issues, like concessions to unions and urban development. Still, Ige has a long way to go before he becomes a threat to the well-financed Abercrombie.
• IL-Gov: It sure would be nice to see a poll of Illinois' gubernatorial general election, but there hasn't been one in over a year. In fact, according to Wikipedia, there's only been one ever, from PPP. Instead, we have to content ourselves with occasional tests of the GOP primary from the likes of conservative pollster We Ask America. State Sen. Bill Brady leads with 25 percent, while Treasurer Dan Rutherford takes 18, state Sen. Kirk Dillard 14, and free-spending zillionaire businessman Bruce Rauner is at 11. In August, it was Brady 21, Rutherford 17, Rauner 14, and Dillard 10. And Election Day isn't that far off: Illinois holds the second-earliest primaries in the nation next year, on March 18.
• MD-Gov: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown has cemented his support from Maryland's Democratic establishment with the endorsement of Sen. Ben Cardin. With Cardin on board, Brown now has the backing of the state's governor, both senators, and four of seven Democratic members of the House, not to mention a bajillion local elected officials as well. His chief rival in the gubernatorial primary, state AG Doug Gansler, once again whinged about the establishment rallying around Brown, so does that mean he'd turn down Cardin's help had it been offered?
• NM-Gov: It's sort of surprising how many Democrats are running for governor in New Mexico, given that incumbent Republican Susan Martinez doesn't seem all that vulnerable. Lawrence Rael, a former official in the federal Department of Agriculture, says he's entering the race, meaning he'll join Attorney General Gary King, state Sens. Linda Lopez and Howie Morales, and Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber in the primary.
• NY-Gov: Siena has had a lot of misses of late, but I'm going to guess that their new poll showing Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo crushing a trio of potential Republican candidates next year probably isn't too far off the mark. Cuomo smashes state GOP chair Ed Cox (62-25), Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (63-24), and 2010 opponent Carl Paladino (65-24) with equal aplomb.
• CA-24: Buried at the end of this article on local politics is the news that Santa Barbara City Councilmember Dale Francisco has created a campaign committee to "explore" a run against Democratic Rep. Lois Capps. (He did in fact file paperwork with the FEC earlier this month.) Francisco is described in the piece as "socially conservative" but a "serious preservationist." The 24th is a relatively light blue district, at 54-43 Obama, but after defeating former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado last year, Capps hasn't drawn any serious challengers yet, and it remains to be seen whether Francisco qualifies as such.
• FL-13: This is utterly gross. Peter Schorsch, who runs the prominent Florida political site St. Petersblog, has been busted for demanding that pols purchase advertising space in exchange for positive coverage—or the removal of negative posts. Here's a particularly vile example:
Three accusers provided documentation and one, Michael Pinson, offered a notarized contract signed by Schorsch. [...]With the upcoming special election in the St. Pete-based 13th Congressional District, Schorsch's writing was likely to get plenty of attention. Now it still will, but for all the wrong reasons: Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says his department is going to look into the matter. So just be extra-skeptical of anything you see that originates from Schorsch.
Pinson, who was mentioned for an open Pinellas congressional seat, said he didn't pay Schorsch, and the attacks continued. Just three months later, in a Twitter exchange with someone Schorsch seemed to believe Pinson knew, Schorsch said this: "Tell Michael I said hi. Just think for 5K he could've made all of this go away. Wait till u see 'The Douchebag Returns' story."
• ID-02: Rep. Mike Simpson is definitely cleaning up on the "establishment Republicans that tea partiers despise" endorsement front. First, he got help from John Boehner; now, Mitt Romney has come to his aid with a fundraising email. Simpson faces a primary from Club for Growth-backed attorney Bryan Smith.
• NC-06: Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. will reportedly join the race to replace retiring Rep. Howard Coble on Wednesday. Berger's entry would be unsurprising, as he's long been rumored to be interested in Coble's seat. Three other Republicans are already running, though, and more are likely to get in, given that this district is safely red.
• NJ-07: Businessman David Larsen has attempted to unseat GOP Rep. Leonard Lance in the last two primaries, but his prior failures aren't stopping him from trying a third time. Lance turned back Larsen 56-31 in 2010 and 61-39 in 2012.
• NY-21: The House Ethics Committee has dropped its investigation into Democratic Rep. Bill Owens over a privately funded trip to Taiwan he took two years ago. The panel determined that the junket did in fact constitute an improper gift but declined to sanction Owens because he had already repaid the cost. (Owens' GOP opponent last year, Matt Doheny, made an issue of the trip in campaign ads.) The committee is also ending a review of a similar trip taken by Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois.
• Special Elections: There are four legislative specials coming up on Tuesday, and Johnny Longtorso, as usual, has a backgrounder on all of them:
California AD-45: This is a runoff for an open Democratic seat in the San Fernando Valley. The candidates are Democrat Matt Dababneh and Republican Susan Shelley. In the first round, Democrats accounted for 62 percent of the votes cast, while Republican candidates pulled in 36 percent, which lines up closely with the 2012 results: Obama won the district 63-34.One detail to add regarding Wisconsin's AD-21 is that the district is very close to the median point in the Assembly, going by Obama-Romney results. If Dems want a majority in the chamber anytime soon, this is the type of district they need to be winning in. Also, check back in at Daily Kos Elections at 6 PM ET Tuesday evening for our elections open thread.
Iowa SD-13: This is an open Republican seat located south of Des Moines, consisting of all of Madison County and nearly all of Warren County. The district went 51-47 Romney in 2012. The candidates are former State Rep. Mark Davitt, a Democrat, and State Rep. Julian Garrett, a Republican.
Wisconsin AD-21: This is an open Republican seat located in the southern suburbs of Milwaukee. The candidates are Democrat Elizabeth Coppola, a member of the Milwaukee County Social Development Commission, and Republican Jessie Rodriguez, a "school choice advocate." The district went 51-48 for Romney and 51-47 for Tommy Thompson in 2012.
Wisconsin AD-69: This is also an open Republican seat, located in Clark, Marathon, and Wood Counties. The candidates are Democrat Kenneth Slezak, a retired small business owner, Republican Bob Kulp, owner of several construction businesses, and independent Tim Swiggum, a former mayor of Owen who ran for this district twice before as a Democrat, losing 64-36 in 2006 and 59-41 in 2008. This district went for Romney by a 55-44 margin and for Tommy Thompson by a 52-44 margin.
• VA-AG: Here's a disturbing reminder. If Mark Obenshain remains behind after the expected recount in the Virginia attorney general's race, he could still contest the election in the state legislature, which is dominated by his fellow Republicans. (Both houses sit in a joint session, meaning Republicans would badly outnumber Democrats.) As Adam Serwer explains, Obenshain wouldn't actually need to prove that any irregularities affected the outcome; rather, he would only have to demonstrate "specific allegations which, if proven true, would have a probable impact on the outcome of the election."
And since partisan GOP elected officials would be acting as both judge and jury, election law expert Joshua Douglas rightly notes, "There's no rules here, besides outside political forces and public scrutiny." Yes, Republicans could face a backlash if they overturn a victory for Democrat Mark Herring, but they may very well be willing to take that risk, since it would give them the AG's office and thwart a Democratic sweep of Virginia's statewide offices.
• VA State House: Good riddance: Delegate Onzlee Ware, one of two Democrats who expressed a willingness to go along with a shameful Republican re-redistricting scheme back in January, is leaving the state House, despite winning re-election earlier this month. (The plan later crashed and burned after a massive public outcry.) The other wayward Dem, Delegate Rosalyn Dance, narrowly survived a primary challenge earlier this year from Air Force vet Evandra Thompson, who sounds likely to try again in 2015.
• VA State Senate: In a party-run primary over the weekend, Delegate Lynwood Lewis secured the Democratic nomination in the upcoming special election to replace state Sen. Ralph Northam, who was elected lieutenant governor last month. In unofficial results, Lewis took 55 percent of the vote, versus 26 for former Delegate Paula Miller and 19 for Andria McClellan, Northam's campaign treasurer. Republicans will pick their candidate on Thursday. The 6th District, which stretches from Norfolk out to Virginia's Eastern Shore, went for Obama 57-42 in 2012. The special had not yet been scheduled.
• Washington: With the election now two weeks ago, that means things are finally rattling to a conclusion in notoriously slow-counting King County, Washington. That Seattle city council race is finally resolved; long-time incumbent Richard Conlin conceded to openly Socialist challenger Kshama Sawant, who leads by 1,640 votes. (If you're wondering what exactly that means to her, Salon has an extensive interview with Sawant.) Meanwhile, the $15 minimum wage initiative in SeaTac isn't called, with a 46-vote lead with an unknown number of ballots left to count; either way, everyone thinks it'll be headed for a recount. (David Jarman)
• WI State Senate: State Sen. John Lehman, the only Democrat to successfully win any of the 2012 batch of Wisconsin recalls, has decided to run for lieutenant governor rather than seek re-election. The reason is simple: During redistricting, Republicans avenged their loss by converting Lehman's 21st District from a 55-43 Obama seat to one that went for Romney 55-44.
• Ideology: At first glance, an interactive graphic that plots House party unity against DW-Nominate ideology scores over the years doesn't sound too noteworthy; by definition (at least in a two party system), they're going to correlate. However, if you fiddle around with the slider, you get a much better sense of how much polarization there has been in the House, most of the time. In fact, while we're goaded by certain pundits into thinking that stark polarization is some tragic new development, it's really been the default setting since the Civil War.
By looking at which periods had a lot of members below 50 percent party unity, you can see that, actually, the period between the early 60s and the early 90s (with lots of Boll Weevil/Blue Dogs and Rockefeller Republicans) was something of an anomaly, and things have reverted more to the norm as Big Sort dynamics kick in and ticket-splitting dies down. (What's different these days, however, is that the red and blue clouds are positioned notably further apart, on the DW/N axis.)
There are a few other neat anomalies worth spotting, like the New Deal years, where the Dem cloud becomes very diffuse. That's because even though there was a wide spectrum of DW/N scores within the Democratic Party (largely by virtue of how huge it had gotten at that point), for a few brief years, party unity was still high even among the most conservative members. (David Jarman)
• Maps: We've been talking a bunch about cartograms lately, so here are a couple of cool new ones for two ballot measures that just went before voters earlier this month, from former Obama campaign analytics staffer Amos Budde. The first shows the results for New Jersey's measure to hike the minimum wage and tying future increases to inflation (which passed, 61-39); what's most notable is that New Jersey still looks like New Jersey, thanks to the state's relatively uniform population density.
But the second, featuring Washington's measure to require labeling for genetically modified foods, is crazy-nuts:
It's those two factors, Budde says—accurately showing population density with cartograms, and accurately showing depth of support via a graded color scheme—that makes these kinds of maps so useful. Give that much of the nation's population, and most Democrats, live in dense urban areas, I'd even call them essential for a proper understanding of elections. So just bear that in mind the next time you see a map with a giant sea of red. Odds are, there's a lot more blue than you think.