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Morning Digest: We’re calculating 2018 results by congressional district, starting with Oklahoma

Leading Off

Governor-by-CD: With the 2018 midterms behind us, Daily Kos Elections has now started calculating the results of the Senate and gubernatorial elections broken down by congressional district. We’re beginning in Oklahoma, which hosted an unusually competitive race for governor. As with past cycles, we’ll be releasing data after states certify their final results. You can find each state’s certification deadlines at Ballotpedia, and you can also find our complete set of data from this and previous cycles at Daily Kos.

Campaign Action

While Democrats hoped that outgoing Republican Gov. Mary Fallin’s horrific approval numbers would give them an opening in this very red state, Republican Kevin Stitt ended up defeating Democrat Drew Edmondson by a 54-42 margin statewide and carried four of the state’s five congressional districts. That was a big drop for Team Red from Donald Trump’s 65-29 victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but it still was hardly a cliffhanger.

Edmondson’s one district-level win came in the Oklahoma City-based 5th District, which he carried 53-44 in a victory that likely had some important local implications down the ballot. That same night, Democrat Kendra Horn unseated GOP Rep. Steve Russell 51-49, a massive upset in a seat that had backed Trump 53-40. This was also the first time that Democrats had won a congressional race in Oklahoma since 2010, when Rep. Dan Boren won his final term in the 2nd District.

While Fallin wasn’t enough to sink Stitt statewide, she seems to have done Russell some serious damage. Horn made education one of the centerpieces of her campaign—a major GOP weakness, since budget cuts under Fallin had led to four-day school weeks and a teachers strike. In addition, Mike Bloomberg’s Independence USA super PAC went up with a six-figure TV buy attacking Russell in the final week of the race, hitting him for voting with Fallin to underfund schools while he served in the legislature. It seems to have been an effective line of attack.

Unfortunately for Team Blue, though, Oklahoma’s other four seats stayed reliably red. Stitt’s weakest performance among this group was in the 1st District in the Tulsa area, which he still carried 53-44. This was a big drop from Trump’s 61-33 victory, but still not good enough for Edmondson, and Republican Kevin Hern likewise had no trouble winning an open-seat race 59-41 here. Stitt also won GOP Rep. Tom Cole’s 4th District, which includes some of the Oklahoma City suburbs and the south-central part of the state, by a similar 53-43 margin. Trump took it 66-28 in 2016, and Cole won re-election 63-33 this year.

Over in Boren’s old 2nd District, Stitt won 60-37; Trump carried it 73-23 two years earlier. This seat, which includes the Little Dixie region in the southeastern part of the state, used to back local Democrats in down-ballot races even as it supported Republican presidential candidates. However, Stitt’s big win here is yet another indication that it’s become fully Republican across the board. Finally, Stitt’s largest win was in the rural 3rd District, which he took 63-34; Trump won it 74-21.

Tuesday Calls

NY-22: With nearly all ballots now counted, Democrat Anthony Brindisi defeated Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney on Tuesday. Brindisi’s lead stands at 4,002 votes, greater than the 1,881 absentee ballots remaining, all in Oneida County. Brindisi’s victory marks the 40th seat to flip from red to blue in the 2018 midterms, netting Democrats 38 total pickups.

UT-04: On Monday evening, Democrat Ben McAdams declared victory over GOP Rep. Mia Love. Love has not conceded yet, and she had suggested she would wait for the final votes to be canvassed on Tuesday, but those numbers had her trailing by 694 votes, just slightly outside of the 673 margin she would have needed to be within to request a recount. The state will certify its results on Nov. 26.

UT Redistricting: Proponents behind a redistricting reform ballot initiative declared victory as the end of ballot counting on Tuesday showed Utah’s Proposition 4 holding a 50.3-49.7 lead, a 0.7-point margin that’s outside the 0.25-point threshold required for a recount. This measure creates a bipartisan advisory commission appointed by the governor and legislative majority and minority leaders, and it also implements nonpartisan criteria that apply to any map regardless of whether the legislature accepts the commission’s proposals or passes its own.

Nevertheless, one major wrinkle is the measure is only statutory, meaning the lopsidedly Republican legislature could simply repeal it. However, Utah doesn’t let voters initiate constitutional amendments, and Democrats stand practically no chance of flipping either legislative chamber or the governor’s office in 2020 in such a dark-red state, meaning they don’t have any better options than hoping a sufficient number of GOP legislators fear potential public backlash over such a naked power grab enough that they will leave the law in place.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Can you lose a race for the Senate but still win a seat in the Senate? You can, if you’re Martha McSally. Unnamed GOP sources say that Mitch McConnell is pushing Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint McSally, who just lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, to the seat currently held by Jon Kyl, who was chosen to replace John McCain after he died.

Kyl, of course, still holds that seat, but ever since Ducey tapped him, speculation has abounded that Kyl would act as just the briefest of placeholders. In fact, it was Kyl himself who fueled that speculation when, right after he was selected in September, he said he was committed to serving only through January. Since then, though, Kyl hasn’t sounded quite so eager to depart the Senate, where he was a member from 1995 until 2013.

Shortly after Election Day, in fact, Kyl seemed to suggest he might finish out his abbreviated term, which runs through 2020. Now CNN reports that Kyl has made a decision, but Kyl himself says he won’t make an announcement “any time soon.” (For what it’s worth, Kyl has praised McSally but says he doesn’t “want to try to influence” Ducey’s decision should a second vacancy arise.)

It’s obvious, though, why McConnell would like to see McSally installed before the 2020 special election for the final two years of McCain’s term: He thinks a dose of incumbency would give her a leg up in a race Democrats are certain to contest fiercely. Of course, it might do the exact opposite, by forcing McSally to take votes in the Senate that could later be used against her, just as her vote to repeal Obamacare proved to be a massive liability on the campaign trail this year.

MS-Sen-B: Republicans reportedly are anxious about Tuesday’s special election for the Senate in Mississippi, and the New York Times writes that a private GOP poll from last week found Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith leading Democrat Mike Espy by just 5 points. This story follows a Washington Post report saying that Republican internals have found that the footage of Hyde-Smith expressing her eagerness to witness a public lynching has done her damage, so much so that her lead over Democrat Mike Espy “has narrowed significantly in recent days.”

However, we still don’t have any public polls here. It’s also worth noting that Team Red seems to have settled into a pattern of lowering expectations ahead of closely watched special elections: If they win, they can just go back to crowing that Trump is awesome and everything is going great; if they lose, they can try to put all the blame on their supposedly awful candidate (without ever acknowledging that their party produces awful candidates with regularity). It’s therefore always possible that Republicans are going with their instincts and doing the same thing we’ve seen time and again, even in contests they’ve ended up winning.

Still, if Republicans actually are worried that Hyde-Smith’s apparent nostalgia for Mississippi’s ugly Jim Crow-era past is alienating voters in this red state, they’ve just gotten another reason to be unhappy. On Monday, a 2014 Facebook post surfaced of Hyde-Smith visiting the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, featuring photos of her sporting a Confederate soldier’s hat and a Civil War-era rifle, with the caption, “Mississippi history at its best!” At least one prominent company has decided that it doesn’t want to be associated with Hyde-Smith after all of this: On Tuesday, Walmart announced it was withdrawing its support and requesting a refund of the $2,000 donation its PAC had made on Sunday.

Hyde-Smith could have used the money, since Espy narrowly outraised her $370,000 to $362,000 since the runoff began on Nov. 6. However, Hyde-Smith is getting some new help from the Trump-inspired super PAC America First Action, which has launched a $280,000 buy that includes TV, radio, and digital ads as well as mailers. Both the NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund have also each spent over $1 million to save Hyde-Smith, while the Senate Majority PAC has put in $490,000 to boost Espy.

TX-Sen: A new report from CNBC suggests that Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke might in fact be interested in running for Senate again in 2020, contradicting a story in the Texas Tribune a day earlier that indicated the opposite.

According to CNBC, an unnamed “person who recently spoke to the congressman” says that O’Rourke “has told some of his closest associates that all options are on the table, including a run for president and possibly another campaign for Senate,” against GOP Sen. John Cornyn. The Tribune, by contrast, reported that O’Rourke “has not expressed interest in challenging Cornyn, according to his inner circle.”

Early in any election cycle, sifting through these sorts of conflicting tea leaves about the intentions of prominent candidates is just part of the process for any analyst. But Texas Democrats will want O’Rourke, who hasn’t specified any sort of timetable, to make a decision sooner rather than later. That’s because if he delays, that could freeze the field, meaning other candidates will be less likely to get in or, if they do, will probably have a harder time raising money as donors wait to see what O’Rourke does. Beating Cornyn will be very difficult, so any contender will want as much time as possible to do so.

House

CA-10: Republican Rep. Jeff Denham just lost to Democrat Josh Harder by a 52-48 margin, and he doesn’t sound at all eager to wage a comeback. Denham tells McClatchy that he hasn’t ruled out running for office again, but says he’s “looking forward to giving up long plane rides to and from Washington” and is “moving on.” That’s probably for the best, since in the same interview, Denham blamed his loss on … the fact that people voted.

Yes, he specifically said he suffered because of California’s same-day voter registration system, as well as a law that encourages 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register when they get their driver’s licenses. Like Republicans everywhere, Denham believes his chances are best when the electorate is smallest. In California, at least, he won’t ever get that satisfaction.

CA-39: It’s only been a few days since Republican Young Kim conceded defeat to Democrat Gil Cisneros, but one very prominent local Republican is publicly encouraging her to try again. Retiring GOP Rep. Ed Royce, whom Kim used to work for, told McClatchy that he hoped she’d seek a rematch with Cisneros in 2020. Kim has not yet said anything about her interest in another campaign.

CA-45: Mimi Walters had no idea she was headed for a loss, even after Election Day, which might explain why she filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC for a 2020 campaign on Nov. 8, just two days after the election—but a week before she knew she’d lost to Democrat Katie Porter. It’s therefore likely that this filing was just another bit of hubris rather than a sign Walters is planning on a comeback, though it’s certainly possible she’ll try.

This is also a good occasion for a reminder that simply filing paperwork with election officials does not necessarily mean someone is going to run for office. It’s a necessary step, but not a sufficient one. It can in fact signal that a potential candidate will one day turn into an actual candidate, but at Daily Kos Elections, we don’t regard such filings as definitive. Last year, for instance, former Texas Rep. Pete Gallego filed with the FEC but ultimately decided not to wage a comeback bid. We therefore only classify candidates as running when they issue an unambiguous statement that they’re in fact doing so.

GA-07: Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who’s currently locked in the tightest House race in the nation, formally requested a recount of her race against GOP Rep. Rob Woodall on Tuesday. Bourdeaux currently trails by 419 votes, a margin of 0.14 percent—well within the 1 percent margin needed to seek a recount. Bourdeaux’s campaign is specifically asking for a manual recount, though the law appears to be silent on whether one is possible, and says they expect the recount to take place on Wednesday.

Programming Note: The Daily Kos Elections team will be taking a Thanksgiving break. The next Live Digest will be on Monday, and the Morning Digest will be back on Tuesday. Have a good holiday!

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