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8:27 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NY State Assembly: Tuesday brings us one of the strangest special elections we've ever seen. Johnny Longtorso gives us the rundown:
New York AD-43: This is an open Democratic seat in Brooklyn, taking in parts of Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Obama won this seat 93-7 but there's no Democratic nominee for this election, and it's a bit of an odd story as to why.
Guillermo Philpotts, a perennial candidate who ran for the State Senate in 2014 and finished third in the Democratic primary with a whopping 5 percent of the vote, was chosen as the nominee for the special election. Why was Philpotts selected over a more legitimate candidate? Apparently he managed to put his allies onto the local committee (there were ten members on the committee, and three of those had the same surname).
However, despite this cunning political move, Philpotts is apparently weaker on the administrative side of things, because he failed to file a certificate of nomination with the Board of Elections. Philpotts was thrown off the ballot, and the Democrats had no official nominee in the district.
That leaves us a four-way race. Shirley Patterson, a former school board member and Democratic district leader who lost the nomination to Philpotts, is on the Independence Party line. Diana Richardson, a former State Senate constituent affairs director, has the Green and Working Families lines.
Geoffrey Davis has his own "Love Yourself" ballot line. Davis is also a Democratic district leader for this district and the brother of the late Councilman James E. Davis. Davis ran for the council seat after his brother was killed by a political opponent in 2003, but he lost to none other than current New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. Finally, Menachem Raitport is on the Republican and Conservative lines. Raitport ran for this seat in 2014 and got just 4 percent, so the GOP can't expect an upset even in this chaotic field. But it's anyone's guess as to which of the other three will prevail here.
9:50 AM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-Gov, Sen: After only recently ruling out his own bid gubernatorial bid, GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy is endorsing Sen. David Vitter. Kennedy is hoping that if Vitter becomes governor, he'll appoint Kennedy to his Senate seat, so this move comes as no surprise. However, Reps. John Fleming and Charles Boustany are also competing for Vitter's love, and there's no guarantee Vitter would choose any of these three men if he becomes governor.
While Vitter is the clear favorite to win this fall's gubernatorial race, he wouldn't be the first frontrunner to falter. The senator's chances of losing would increase if either Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne or Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle edges out Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in the October jungle primary for the second runoff spot. While even a conservative Democrat like Edwards would have a very difficult time beating Vitter in this red state, Angelle or especially the relatively moderate Dardenne would have an easier time peeling off enough Republican voters to upset Vitter. Right now, polls indicate that a Vitter-Edwards runoff is the most likely outcome, but it's still too early to be sure.
If Vitter somehow loses, it's not clear if he'll turn around and run for re-election to the Senate in 2016. When asked, Vitter only said, "I’m not really focused on that right now. I’m only focused on this race for governor," which is pretty much what you'd expect him to say at this stage.
10:08 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MO-Gov: Yet another Republican is taking a look at this open seat race. State Sen. Bob Dixon's name has been floated, and he did not deny his interest. Dixon told that PoliticMo that he'll "have something to say to all Missourians soon," though he didn't give much information beyond that. Dixon, who hails from Springfield, has a relatively good relationship with labor, which could help in a general. But Dixon only starts with $102,000 cash-on-hand, and he'll need a lot more for what's expected to be a crowded and expensive primary.
10:35 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-08: The Democratic primary for this safely blue seat is about to get very crowded. Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez kicked off her campaign over the weekend, and she could stand out as the only Hispanic contender. However, Gutierrez has a reputation as a weak fundraiser, something that could hold her back in a seat located in the expensive Washington media market. Gutierrez does acknowledge her distaste for raising money, but says she is prepared to step it up. At 75, Gutierrez would be one of the oldest freshmen House members ever, though she wouldn't overtake Illinois Democrat James Bowler, who was elected in 1953 at the age of 78.
Gutierrez joins Del. Kumar Barve, state Sen. Jamie Raskin, and former Obama Administration aide Will Jawando in the primary, and it sounds like they're about to get more company. Former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin says she's "very close right now," and is expecting to announce in mid-May. Kathleen Matthews, an executive at Marriott and the wife of MSNBC talking head Chris Mathews, also sounds ready to jump in. Matthews tells Bethesda Magazine that sometime in the near future she "will be announcing my departure from Marriott to start up a campaign."
Dels. Ariana Kelly and Jeff Waldstreicher are also publicly mulling a bid. Bethesda Magazine tells us that Waldstreicher, a labor ally, is expected to finalize his plans by the end of the month. Waldstreicher and Gutierrez represent the same territory in the legislature (many Maryland state House seats elect three members), so they could cause problems for each other if they're both in. Kelly didn't offer a timeline for when she'll decide, though she acknowledged she "wouldn’t be the frontrunner in the field." But Kelly's Bethesda-based seat has a big cluster of primary voters, which could help her in a crowded race.
12:17 PM PT (Jeff Singer): Anchorage Mayor: Tuesday's runoff in Alaska's largest city has turned an incredibly nasty affair. Over the last week, the contest has revolved around whether Democrat Ethan Berkowitz once seriously said that fathers should be able to marry their sons, a sentence I never thought I'd ever write.
Here's the background on this bizarre matter. Anchorage Baptist Temple pastor Jerry Prevo claimed that Berkowitz supported father-son marriages on his radio show in October. Berkowitz's Republican rival Amy Demboski was asked about the matter on a radio show and rather than denounce it, she said it "would be interesting to hear" the recording. The station did not keep a copy of the show, but finally, Berkowitz's conservative co-host Bernadette Wilson came forth and announced that Berkowitz had seriously said that an incestous marriage would be justified during a debate about same-sex marriage. However, the station manager says that Berkowitz was clearly making the remarks out of frustration as "hyperbole."
Berkowitz first refused to dignify the accusations, and he's now saying that Wilson remembers the show wrong, and that he of course does "not support fathers and sons marrying." The matter has dominated the last week of the race and even popped up at a debate, where Demboski once again said that she thinks Berkowitz actually supports incest.
The entire situation has been ugly and has led third-place primary finisher Andrew Halcro to make a last-minute Berkowitz endorsement. But it's anyone's guess how this voters will interpret this whole mess. To complicate things further, Demboski has been denying accusations that she lied under oath during her divorce almost 20 years ago. The good news for Anchorage is that this nasty election is about to be over.
12:42 PM PT: FL-Sen: On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee offered its endorsement to Rep. Patrick Murphy, making him the third candidate to earn the group's formal backing this year. The committee also joins a long list of Murphy supporters, including several members of Congress, approximately half the Democrats in the state legislature, and ex-Gov. Charlie Crist.
The move might be aimed at dissuading Rep. Alan Grayson from pursuing a Senate bid of his own, but the wealthy Grayson, who has a big donor list and can also self-fund, isn't likely to be deterred by such a development. Indeed, his only response was to scoff:
"Florida Democratic voters choose our party nominee, not out-of-touch party bosses sipping cognac in a smoke-filled room in Washington, D.C."
D.C.'s had a smoke-free workplace law in effect for almost a decade
, so this Tammany-esque imagery is probably as alien to average folks as rotary phones and 8-tracks. Be that as it may, despite his characteristic brashness, Grayson is proceeding cautiously. He went on Fox News Radio on Friday to tell Alan Colmes he'll decide whether to run
"in the next 30 days," and he recently informed Roll Call
that he's "doing the kind of due diligence that one does before announcing, looking at polls, things like that."
So while Grayson may profess not to care about what the DSCC thinks, he evidently does care—somewhat surprisingly—about what the polling says. But there's a lot polls can't tell you, particularly because both Murphy and Grayson have limited name recognition, and that's where historical knowledge, pattern recognition, and intuition all come in. Most strategists believe the centrist Murphy would make the stronger general election candidate, while many progressive activists are convinced the outspoken Grayson would motivate voters better. It's clear which side the DSCC comes down on.
But more worrisome than the possibility that Democrats might put forward the weaker of two candidates is the prospect of a nasty primary sapping resources from the eventual nominee and damaging his reputation, making it that much harder for the party to pick up this open seat. Grayson has already publicly sniped at Murphy, so the idea that we might see a clean fight focused on the issues doesn't seem especially likely. That's why Murphy and the DSCC are still hoping that Grayson will stay out. Grayson has said he'll "probably" run, but who knows? Maybe he won't like what his polls have to say after all.
1:18 PM PT (Jeff Singer): IN-Sen: Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman did surprisingly well in the 2010 primary for this seat back when he was just a little-known state senator, and he sounds ready to give it another shot. Stutzman will make a "major announcement"on Saturday May 9, though he didn't say much beyond that. It sounds like he's in, though he wouldn't be the first would-be Senate candidate to pull the rug out from under us: Who knows, maybe his major announcement is that he's running for re-election, or introducing the American Free Freedom Act.
Right now, Eric Holcomb, a former state party head and former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Dan Coats, has the primary field to himself. A battle between the establishment friendly Holcomb and tea partying Stutzman would definitely be fun to watch, though other Republicans are eyeing the seat.
1:26 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NH-Sen: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A little while ago, Granite State tea party chieftain Ovide Lamontagne, who most recently served as the GOP's 2012 gubernatorial nominee, refused to rule out a primary campaign against Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Lamontagne's chances weren't good, but he could have forced Ayotte to waste resources and lurch to the right. Alas, a "source with knowledge of Lamontagne’s thinking" tells the Boston Globe that Lamontagne’s not interested. We haven't heard from Lamontagne himself but he'd probably be publicly contradicting the story if it weren't true.
1:39 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NY-01: Freshman Republican Lee Zeldin has just picked up his first credible Democratic opponent on this swingy eastern Long Island seat. Suffolk Planning Commission Chairman David Calone, a venture capitalist, quietly opened up a campaign committee a few weeks ago, and he tells the local publication innovateli that he's looking forwards to the campaign. Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and former Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko are also looking at this seat, though they haven't said much about their plans.
Obama carried this seat by a 0.5 margin, and both sides will need to spend a ton of money to advertise in the New York media market. Long Island has been quite friendly to Republican incumbents, and ousting Zeldin won't be easy. Still, Democrat Tim Bishop held this seat for 12 years (albeit often by narrow margins) until questions about his ethics and the GOP wave dealt him a 54-46 defeat. If Team Blue is going to get this seat back, they probably need to do it in 2016 before Zeldin can become entrenched.
2:04 PM PT (Jeff Singer): Philadelphia Mayor: With only about two weeks to go before the May 19 Democratic primary, allies of state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams are seriously stepping up their advertising presence. American Cities, a super PAC funded by wealthy people who share Williams support for charter schools and other elements of Michelle Rhee-esque education reform, has gone from spending $500,000 a week on ads to $800,000. Their new spot features a construction worker praising Williams for his work on the Diversity Apprenticeship Program, which he credits for changing his life.
American Cities has spent $3.2 million to date, while Williams' campaign has been off the air since mid-April. By contrast, two labor-funded groups backing primary co-frontrunner ex-Councilor Jim Kenney have spent $1.2 million so far. But Kenney has a new spot of his own, which is part of a $300,000 one-week buy. The ad features state Rep. Dwight Evans and Councilor Marian Tasco, two prominent Northwest Philadelphia African American politicians, portraying Kenney (who is white) as a compassionate man who is willing to do the hard things.
Ex-District Attorney Lynn Abraham doesn't have any major outside backers, and she's needed to make do with what she has. The Abraham campaign, which recently unveiled their first ad, says they'll be spending $175,000 for each of the next two weeks, and $200,000 for the final week of the contest.
2:07 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NY-01: Hat/Tip to BluntDiplomat for the Calone news.
2:14 PM PT: NY State Senate: We're having a party and everyone's indicted! On Monday, federal agents arrested Republican state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam on charges of extortion, fraud, and soliciting bribes. The criminal complaint is sadly comical, as the younger Skelos embarrassingly tried to avoid detection like a two-bit thug from The Wire, thinking he could avoid the authorities by using "burners" and FaceTime.
The arrests also mean that Skelos is the third Senate majority leader in a row (more or less, if you don't count Pedro Espada) to face corruption charges; Democrat Malcolm Smith and Republican Joe Bruno did as well (though Bruno's conviction was later tossed on appeal). It's very hard to keep track of all New York's scumbag lawmakers, though, so Lohud.com has very helpfully assembled this database of villainy, detailing which legislators have faced ethical or legal accusations since 2000. Including Skelos, the count is up to a stomach-churning 39 over the last decade-and-a-half.