With Scott Bland and Daniel Strauss

The following newsletter is an abridged version of Campaign Pro’s Morning Score. For an earlier morning read on exponentially more races — and for a more comprehensive aggregation of the day’s most important campaign news — sign up for Campaign Pro today. (http://www.politicopro.com/proinfo)

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KIHUEN STEPS BACK — “Kihuen will not seek reelection,” by Campaign Pro’s Elena Schneider: “Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) said Saturday that he will not seek reelection after facing accusations about sexual harassment. Kihuen has been under fire after a former campaign staffer and a Nevada lobbyist both accused Kihuen of sexual harassment while he was a Democratic candidate and during his tenure as a state legislator. ‘I want to state clearly again that I deny the allegations in question,’ Kihuen said in a statement. ‘However, the allegations that have surfaced would be a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a reelection campaign. Therefore, it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to complete my term in Congress and not seek reelection.'”

— “… In 2016, Kihuen beat GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy by 4 points, attracting $10 million in outside spending. In early December Hardy told The Nevada Independent that he was considering another run at his old seat. Local Democratic operatives named former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who lost the seat in 2014 and opted against running again in 2016, as a potential candidate. State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, who replaced Kihuen in the state Legislature, is also drawing attention as a possible candidate.” Full story.

— AS ANOTHER ACCUSER STEPS FORWARD — “Woman in D.C. says Congressman Kihuen made unwanted overtures toward her this fall,” by The Nevada Independent’s Michelle Rindels: “A 24-year-old woman who works at a Washington, D.C. firm that did business with Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s campaign said the freshman congressman made unwanted overtures and asked overly personal questions of her this fall while his campaign was a client of her firm.” Full story.

— … IN PA-07 — “Ex-staffers: [State] Sen. Daylin Leach crossed line with sex talk, inappropriate touching,” by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Gambacorta and Angela Couloumbis: “[A]s Emily registered attendees at an [Pennsylvania state Senate Democrats] breakfast in the lobby of the Harrisburg Hilton, Leach approached again. She was wearing a skirt and sitting at a table. She said Leach sat next to her, discussed his history of fighting for women, and suggested he might be able to help her find a job. And then ‘he grabbed my thigh, almost to punctuate his point with a cruel irony,’ said Emily, who spoke on the condition of her last name not being used. … The episode was among the starkest cited by former campaign and legislative staffers and advisers who say Leach, a legislator since 2003, has for years engaged in questionable behavior with young female staffers and volunteers, from highly sexualized jokes and comments to touching they deemed inappropriate. … Leach, 56, who is now running for Congress, declined to be interviewed for this story and did not respond specifically to written questions from the Inquirer and Daily News. Instead, he provided a lengthy statement in which he blamed the accusations on an unnamed political opponent and denied ever inappropriately touching women. He noted that he sometimes does touch people when he is talking to them and that ‘some people subjectively find such touching unpleasant.’” Full story.

— … IN KS-03 — “Kansas [Democrat] Andrea Ramsey, accused of sexual harassment, will drop out of U.S. House race,” by McClatchy’s Lindsay Wise and the Kansas City Star’s Bryan Lowry: “Andrea Ramsey, a Democratic candidate for Congress, will drop out of the race after the Kansas City Star asked her about accusations in a 2005 lawsuit that she sexually harassed and retaliated against a male subordinate who said he had rejected her advances. Multiple sources with knowledge of the case told The Star that the man reached a settlement with LabOne, the company where Ramsey was executive vice president of human resources. Court documents show that the man, Gary Funkhouser, and LabOne agreed to dismiss the case permanently after mediation in 2006. Ramsey, a 56-year-old retired business executive from Leawood, was one of the Democratic candidates vying to challenge Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in 2018.”

— “… ‘In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero tolerance standard,’ Ramsey said in a statement Friday. ‘For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.’” Full story.

THE LONG TAIL — “Wave of misconduct claims reshape 2018 elections,” by Campaign Pro’s Elena Schneider: “[T]he nation’s moment of reckoning on sexual harassment isn’t simply shaking up the upcoming midterm election by forcing candidates and incumbents out of races — it’s also altering the traditional terms of debate. In Florida, where Democrat Mary Barzee Flores is running in a crowded primary to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the former state circuit judge focused her first ad on the issue of sexual misconduct in the workplace. ‘I’ve heard about other candidates who are speaking out and it wouldn’t surprise me if, more and more, women talk about this,’ said Flores, whose ad pointed to a former manager who assaulted her. ‘We’re making it clear that we’re not just going to sweep this stuff under the rug.’” Full story.

ALABAMA AFTERMATH — “Democrats look to Alabama for black turnout tactics,” by Campaign Pro’s Kevin Robillard: “Democratic operatives are closely studying African-American turnout in Alabama for Sen.-elect Doug Jones’ victory last Tuesday, hoping to replicate the spike in the black vote in other states in 2018. … The key, according to interviews with people inside and outside the Jones campaign, was early outreach to black voters and establishing strong relationships with local groups and activists. Senate Majority PAC funded a $2 million turnout operation through BlackPAC … DeJuana Thompson, a former DNC and Obama administration staffer who founded Alabama-centric Woke Vote, one of the groups that worked with BlackPAC, said the local connections were crucial. The group enlisted student captains at every historically black college and university in the state and trained 120 faith group leaders. ‘That really made the difference, People were hearing from their neighbors, their teachers,’ she said. ‘We’re not descending from somewhere. We’re already here.’” Full story.

— “After Alabama loss, Trump has ambitious plans to campaign in 2018 midterms,” by The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer: “Trump’s political aides have met with 116 candidates for office in recent months, according to senior White House officials, seeking to become involved in Senate, House and gubernatorial races — and possibly contested Republican primaries as well. … In coming months, [White House political director Bill] Stepien is planning nearly daily meetings with potential candidates from around the country and aims to give Trump endorsement recommendations by the spring, officials said. The White House is also working with the Republican National Committee to discuss the strongest fundraising opportunities for Trump, they said. Stepien meets with Trump weekly to talk about the 2018 slate, poll numbers, candidates, their issues and their level of agreement with Trump.” Full story.

Days until the 2018 election: 323

Upcoming election dates — Arizona 8th District special primary: Feb. 27. Texas primaries: March 6. Pennsylvania 18th District special election: March 13. Illinois primaries: March 20.

Thanks for joining us! You can email tips to the Campaign Pro team at sbland@politico.com, eschneider@politico.com, krobillard@politico.com, dstrauss@politico.com and mseverns@politico.com.

You can also follow us on Twitter: @politicoscott, @ec_schneider, @politicokevin, @danielstrauss4 and @maggieseverns.

FIRST IN SCORE — HMP attacks House GOP via billboards: House Majority PAC is going after Reps. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) and Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) with billboards in their home districts over the holidays, attacking the GOP tax bill as the “Worst. Gift. Ever,” featuring a shrugging child and red-wrapped presents with the tag, “tax hike.” The billboards — which say Lewis and Bishop “just voted to give you a new tax hike” — will be up for the next several weeks.

FARENTHOLD FALLOUT — “Texas GOP chairman sues secretary of state to get Rep. Farenthold off ballot,” by KXAN’s Andy Jechow: “The chairman of the Texas Republican Party, James Dickey, is suing the Texas secretary of state to get embattled Congressman Blake Farenthold off the March primary ballot. … [A] Texas Republican Party spokesperson said, ‘It basically comes down to the fact that Mr. Farenthold has asked to be removed from the ballot and Chairman Dickey believes that the Republican Party of Texas should be able to do that.’ The congressman tried to withdraw his name from the ballot three days after the Dec. 12 deadline.” Full story.

STAFFING UP — NRSC hires new policy director: Ryan Berger, currently deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Sen. Joni Ernst, will join the NRSC as policy director at the end of the year. Berger rand the policy and debate preparation for Ernst’s 2014 Senate campaign in Iowa. Berger also served as chief legislative and policy adviser to Sen. Bob Corker and former Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa.

PRIMARY CONCERNS — “Progressives hunt down one of the last conservative Democrats,” by POLITICO’s Natasha Korecki in Chicago: “[Rep. Dan] Lipinski, one of the few remaining conservative Democrats in Congress, is under siege from the left, battling for his political life against progressives who are teaming up to replace him with a candidate far more in line with liberal orthodoxy. … He was the only Democrat to co-sponsor the First Amendment Defense Act, which protects those who refuse services to same sex couples, and the only Illinois Democrat to support drug testing those seeking unemployment benefits — a move that has at least some union leaders considering opposing his reelection. … Lipinski pushes back against the characterization that he’s conservative — in fact, he supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary. The congressman notes that he and Sanders both oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Lipinski instead casts himself as a moderate voice in Congress who is willing to find middle ground on issues instead of adding to a polarized debate. ‘There are people who just want me to follow in line and vote however the party says. … We have gotten to a point where everything is black and white. You are either for something in theory or against something in theory, when a lot of these things come down to: What are the details? Let’s try and get the policy right,’ he said. ‘I think my constituents see that is how I’ve always been. … I think that’s a real hunger that a lot of Americans have. I’m not just going to be an automaton.’” Full story.

— “On Trump turf, GOP still seeks North Dakota Senate candidate,” by the Associated Press: “In North Dakota, where Donald Trump won in a landslide last year, Republicans’ lone Senate candidate is a little-known state lawmaker and potato farmer from a remote town closer to the Canadian border than the state capital. While established Republicans and business leaders in other states Trump carried are running to topple Democratic senators, the GOP is struggling to land a big name in North Dakota to run against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2018. … ‘I’m not sure that our party fully grasps or understands the magnitude of a campaign against Heidi Heitkamp,’ said former Gov. Ed Schafer, a Republican. ‘We’re acting like we’re overly confident of a win.’ … The best-known prospect, at-large U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, has been reticent about the Senate, and would-be female challengers to Heitkamp have displayed no interest.” Full story.

THE NEXT SENATOR — “Tough work ahead for Tina Smith — on the Hill and at home,” by the Star Tribune’s J. Patrick Coolican and Jennifer Brooks: “Lt. Gov. Tina Smith’s political connections and savvy quickly united Minnesota’s ideologically and geographically diverse DFL Party behind her as Al Franken’s replacement in the U.S. Senate. Those same attributes will become a main emphasis of attack by Republicans next year. … ‘[T]he very first thing she did was to take orders from Chuck Schumer,’ said [former GOP Sen. Norm] Coleman, now a Washington lobbyist, referring to the U.S. Senate minority leader. Dayton acknowledged discussing the appointment with Schumer, but said the decision was his alone. … What is clear is the exhaustive effort, under heavy time pressure, that a small coterie of Dayton and Smith aides and DFL operatives undertook in the week between Franken’s resignation and Dayton’s announcement. They placed hundreds of calls to allies in Minnesota and across the country, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. They sought advice and gamed out scenarios, then locked down support for Dayton’s pick and orchestrated the rollout.” Full story.

EARLY POLLING DATA — “Bill Schuette leads Gretchen Whitmer by 3 points in 2018 governor’s race, poll shows,” by the Detroit Free Press’ Paul Egan: “Of the 600 active and likely voters polled by EPIC-MRA of Lansing, 38% said they would support Schuette in a head-to-head matchup, while 35% said they would vote for Whitmer. Schuette’s edge is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Bernie Porn, president of EPIC-MRA, said he only tested Schuette and Whitmer because they are the current front-runners by significant margins.” Full story.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I am hearing The Post has a list of 40-50, evenly split between the parties, that have had sexual harassment charges.” — A lobbyist to POLITICO, repeating the latest version of a rumor that’s spread like wildfire around Capitol Hill with little evidence.

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