AL GOV: State Sen. Bill Hightower (R) told supporters on Wednesday that he has qualified for the primary ballot. (Hotline reporting)
CA GOV: University of California Regent Richard Blum, the husband of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D), at a recent meeting on tuition hikes “turned on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), an ex-officio regent, and complained that while he opposed tuition hikes, he did not lobby Sacramento for more money. Newsom replied: ‘You are picking on me. Here’s what I’m going to do: Not take the bait.’ He later said that regents’ mistrust of each other was a ‘festering wound’ causing bigger problems than uneasy relations with Sacramento.” (Los Angeles Times)
GA GOV: “In the 48 hours after” Sen. Doug Jones’s (D-AL) win, former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) “saw a surge of Twitter followers and brought in $50,000 in low-dollar donations from 1,500 people, according to a spokeswoman.” (OZY)
“A now-deleted Instagram video posted by” former state Rep. Stacey Evans’s (D) “campaign has sparked backlash because it ended by fading from her face to Martin Luther King Jr.’s image. The video was shot by the gubernatorial candidate’s campaign aides last week as she visited Ebenezer Baptist Church on MLK Day.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
“The effort to retire Georgia’s aging, electronic voting machines got a boost Wednesday from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) … who said the legislature must act ‘in haste’ to setup a new paper ballot system.” Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) responded by accusing Cagle of joining “leading liberal conspiracy theorists like Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, and the ACLU in attacking Georgia’s voting rolls, processes, and the citizens across the state.” (WABE)
HI GOV: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) endorsed Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) over Gov. David Ige (D) on Wednesday, saying “Hanabusa offers the strong leadership that Hawaii ‘so desperately needs.’”
Hanabusa “noted that this is only the second time that Gabbard, a three-term congresswoman, has made a primary endorsement. The other time made national news, when Gabbard bucked party leadership to campaign for the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). … While it’s not clear whether Gabbard’s progressive credentials will influence Hawaii voters to cast their lot with Hanabusa, it’s worth recalling that Sanders creamed [Hillary] Clinton in the Democratic Party’s Hawaii presidential preference poll in 2016.” (Honolulu Civil Beat)
ID GOV: Singer Cher endorsed state Rep. Paulette Jordan (D) on Wednesday, saying she believes Idaho would be “WELL SERVED” by Jordan, “a thoughtful, Caring,Intelligent,Woman.” She said the two met at the Las Vegas Women’s March. (Twitter)
“Jordan drew immense cheers at Sunday’s Las Vegas women’s march when she announced she was running to be not only Idaho’s first female governor, but also the first Native American woman to be governor in any state.” (AP)
KS GOV: Term-limited Gov. Sam Brownback (R) will resign effective Jan. 31 at 3 p.m. to serve as ambassador at-large for international religious freedom. (Twitter)
The Senate voted 50-49, with the help of a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence, on Wednesday to confirm Brownback’s nomination to be the ambassadorship. (Hotline reporting)
“Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), a Johnson County surgeon, will officially succeed Brownback after performing many of the governor’s key duties in recent months, including selecting Cabinet appointees and playing a major role in crafting the governor’s budget proposal.”
Colyer: “We want Kansans to know that they’re going to have somebody who is going to listen to them. … I’ll be working very closely with the Legislature and a lot of folks. You’ll just see a lot of energy and a little different approach.” (Kansas City Star)
OK GOV: Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett (R) “is running precisely on making the rest of the state look like his city.”
Cornett: “As state politics and national politics get more and more partisan, people are starting to look at local government as the last level where things really get done, and governing takes precedence over politics.” (Politico)
SC GOV: “Gov. Henry McMaster’s (R) first State of the State served as an unofficial launch of the 2018 gubernatorial race, as the Republican governor seeking his first full term took familiar GOP stances on topics ranging from cutting taxes to boosting law enforcement. … Standing behind McMaster at the podium was one of his GOP rivals, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant. Giving the Democratic response was state Rep. James Smith, who’s seeking his party’s nomination. Smith’s primary opponent, Phil Noble, live-streamed his own rebuttal. And McMaster’s top challenger in the money race, former state agency head Catherine Templeton (R), tweeted her own criticism.” (Charleston Post & Courier)
TN GOV: The Tennessee Pipe Trades endorsed former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean (D) on Monday, his campaign announced Thursday. (release)
TX GOV: The Texas Alliance For Life PAC endorsed Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday. (release)
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"White House chief of staff John Kelly has tapped Chris Liddell, a senior White House aide and former executive at Microsoft and General Motors, as his deputy." Prior to his appointment, Kelly had just one deputy: "Joe Hagin, who focuses on the day-to-day operations" in the White House. "Up until now, the White House had not named a deputy chief of staff for policy, though several aides, including [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen, had informally played that role."
The Supreme Court on Monday "rejected a plea to undertake a historic reassessment of the constitutionality of the death penalty nationwide. The court denied certiorari in Hidalgo v. Arizona, which challenged the constitutionality of that state’s death penalty statute but also attacked capital punishment generally 'in light of contemporary standards of decency.'" The Court did not act on another case, Evans v. Mississippi, which would have prompted a broader review of the death penalty. "Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued a separate statement agreeing that the Hidalgo case should be denied because the record in the case was not fully developed, but hoping a future case would be a better platform for reviewing capital punishment."
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman begins his two-week visit to the U.S. this week, meeting with "political and business leaders in Washington, New York, Silicon Valley and elsewhere" in an effort to shore up financial support for his government and rehabilitate its image abroad. "The crown prince employed a similar public relations strategy on a three-day visit to the UK," where he met with "an array of British business and defense leaders." Bin Salman has been widely criticized for his alleged political chicanery in the Gulf, and for Saudi Arabia's devastating air campaign in neighboring Yemen.
A fourth package bomb injured two people in Austin on Sunday evening, "which the police chief says was caused by a tripwire and showed 'a different level of skill' than the package bombs used in the three prior attacks." The police are still searching for the perpetrator, and have warned residents to not pick up or approach suspicious packages. Previous explosions, which the police believe are connected, have killed two and wounded several others.
White House Lawyer Ty Cobb said that President Trump not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Speculation swirled after Trump attacked the investigation on Twitter, and called out Mueller directly for the first time. “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration," Cobb said, "...the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller." Several members of Congress, "including some top Republicans, warned Trump to not even think about terminating Mueller."