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Leading Off:

NV-St. Sen: This is an absolutely amazing story, and I'll tell you right now that Nevada state Sen. Sheila Leslie is my new hero. Democrats hold an incredibly slim 11-10 edge in the Senate, and they face a number of very competitive races this year which could hand control to the Republicans. Leslie wasn't among that number; her district is the safest in Northern Nevada. But in a move of stunning selflessness, she chose to resign her seat and run against Republican state Sen. Greg Brower in a much tougher district, where she bought a house more than a year ago.

The new seat, now numbered SD-15, is evenly split by voter registration, though Barack Obama won 57% here and Harry Reid took 54%, plus Leslie represented part of it when she served in the Assembly. It's also worth pointing out that Brower was appointed to his current post, and while he, too, once was an Assemblyman, he was defeated by none other than Sharron Angle a decade ago after the last round of redistricting drew their seats together. So I'd say Leslie definitely has a shot, and if nothing else, she's already won the "Team Player of the Year" award.

Intro

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Senate:

FL-Sen: I only mention this because I myself was unaware until recently that GOP Rep. Connie Mack's main business experience before entering politics was working as a special events coordinator for none other than Hooters. It's the kind of thing that will always be good for a laugh, so maybe Mack should have thought twice before accepting $2,000 last quarter from Ed Droste, the founder of Hooters.

MI-Sen: The eleventy-seventh poll of the Michigan Republican Senate primary (by the Glengariff Group) once again shows Pete Hoekstra with a commanding 50-5 lead over Clark Durant. Given how badly he damaged himself last week with his racist "Debbie Spend-it-now" ad, Democrats ought to be happy to see Hoekstra get the nomination.

MO-Sen: I'm pretty skeptical about whether this will work: Crossroads GPS is spending some $65K on radio ads attacking Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill for her support for President Obama's contraception insurance coverage compromise, but the fact is that everyone except for Republican extremists in Congress and the Conference of Bishops is on board with this plan. Republican Senate hopeful Sarah Steelman is also out with a TV ad (with really weaksauce production values) trying to make hay of the same issue. I suspect she'll have better luck with it in the GOP primary, though.

Gubernatorial:

NC-Gov: Dem Rep. Brad Miller, who had been considering a run for the gubernatorial seat that unexpectedly became open the same day he announced his retirement from Congress, will not join the race. Says Miller: “Although my determination to hold elective office appears now to be in remission, I may seek elective office again."

WA-Gov: Republican AG and gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is taking the business of not-dancing-with-them-that-brung-you to a whole new level. In response to questions about which of the top-of-the-ticket lead weights he'd caucus for on March 3, McKenna isn't just punting on the question by protesting that "it's personal" or something along those lines. Instead, he's now simply saying that he isn't even going to bother with voting in the GOP presidential caucus at all. So much for that whole "participating in democracy" thing.

Also, that same PubliCola link has the latest developments in Snohomish County Exec—and one-time Democratic rising star—Aaron Reardon's having-an-affair-on-the-county's-dime troubles, making him look much less likely to appear as the Dems' gubernatorial nominee in 2016 or 2020. (David Jarman)

WI-Gov: Is this a sign that Democrat Tom Barrett may run in the gubernatorial recall election? Next month, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is keynoting a fundraiser for Barrett, who is running for re-election as mayor of Milwaukee but is virtually unopposed for the job. So why go to the trouble of raising all this dough unless it's going to be put to good use in a competitive race? Meanwhile, EMILY's List endorsed former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, one of two announced Democrats so far, in the recall.

House:

AZ-05: Ex-Rep. Matt Salmon, who is attempting a comeback bid after being out of Congress for a decade, is touting a new internal poll from GOP pollster Arizona Opinions showing him with a big 43-14 lead over former state House Speaker Kirk Adams, his chief primary opponent. Salmon didn't exactly raise a ton of money last quarter—$152K—but it was triple what Adams took in (just $51K).

CA-03: Dem Rep. John Garamendi is out with a positive introductory-type spot, a move that makes sense since almost 80% of the constituents of the redrawn 3rd District are new to him. Interestingly, as The Hotline's Shane Goldmacher points out, Garamendi is re-using footage from an ad he aired when he ran for Lt. Gov. in 2006, featuring him on horseback, among other things. No word on the size of the buy, though you can view both ads, old and new, at the link.

CA-09: The NRCC is out with another one of its micro ad buys, this time a whopping $6K on a spot trying to blame Jerry McNerney for Solyndra. Is that really the best they've got?

CO-06: Well, this is certainly unexpected. Wealthy physician Perry Haney, who had already plowed a bunch of his own money into the race, is dropping out of the Democratic primary for the right to take on GOP Rep. Mike Coffman. Haney cited concerns about managing his medical practice as his reason for leaving the case but said that an FEC complaint that Republicans recently filed against him had nothing to do with his departure. Who knows if the business excuse is true, but I actually believe him on the FEC front—has anyone every bailed on a race just because someone filed a complaint?

Anyhow, rather remarkably, this leaves state Rep. Joe Miklosi all alone on the Democratic side. Miklosi is well-liked by progressives but hasn't raised a ton of money and doesn't seem like much of an establishment insider; despite this, he's now warded off three other big players (Haney, state Senate President Brandon Shaffer, and state Senate Majority Leader John Morse) from seeking the Democratic nomination here. Well, now it's time to just win, baby.

FL-22: Senate race drop-out Adam Hasner just picked up the backing of ex-Gov. Jeb Bush, and ordinarily, that's just a dog-bites-man story—I mean, you expect one Republican to endorse another. But the important detail here is that Hasner may face a primary from Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, so this is clearly a warning shot fired in LaMarca's direction. Given how unappealing the redrawn 22nd is for a Republican, I suspect that Hasner was promised all kinds of establishment support (and a clear primary) as part of a deal to quit the Senate contest to make way for Rep. Connie Mack. I just hope LaMarca (who says he'll decide by next Friday) isn't frightened off!

IL-10: Businessman Brad Schneider has released a poll of the Democratic primary from Normington Petts, showing him in the lead at 29, with activist Ilya Sheyman back at 14, businessman John Tree at 4 and attorney Vivek Bavda at 2. The only other poll of the contest was a PPP survey conducted for the PCCC in early January which had Sheyman at 23 and Schneider at 21. But with the primary now little over a month away, the race has changed since then. Schneider's memo makes several references to "direct communication" with voters (i.e., mail), which is probably a better use of resources than the money Sheyman recently put toward a TV ad. A response from Sheyman (at the bottom of the link) says they're stepping up their own mail program but doesn't mention any contradictory poll numbers.

MA-04: No surprise at all, but now it's official: Prosecutor Joseph P. Kennedy III, son of ex-Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and grandson of Bobby Kennedy, will indeed run for Rep. Barney Frank's open House seat. Kennedy had created an exploratory committee last month, but since that time a number of developments made it quite clear that he intended to follow through on a bid. (For instance, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO endorsed him just the other day.) A recent UMass-Lowell poll showed Kennedy absolutely obliterating one of his potential Republican opponents, Sean Bielat, by a 60-28 margin. With any luck, things will stay that way from now until election day.

MD-06: Looks like we have some dueling internals in the Democratic primary. Financier John Delaney is touting a survey from Garin-Hart-Yang showing him tied at twenty apiece with state Sen. Rob Garagiola. Delaney claims his numbers have him moving up a bit from his last survey in November. Meanwhile, Garagiola has his own poll from Anzalone Liszt (PDF), but annoyingly, it doesn't include actual toplines—it just says that "Garagiola starts with a 10-point lead." It's also worth noting that the poll was taken in late January, before Delaney went on the air with a TV buy. (Garagiola isn't on the air yet.)

Meanwhile, Garagiola picked upa nice endorsement the other day: AFSCME Maryland gave him their backing, which follows similar moves by the SEIU and the National Education Assocation (NEA).

NC-06, NC-12: Guilford County Commissioner Billy Yow, who said last month that he was considering a challenge to Rep. Howard Coble in the GOP primary, will indeed join the race. As we noted when we first wrote about Yow's renewed interest in the race, there are a lot of reasons to think Coble will be particularly vulnerable this year, so I wouldn't be surprised if other Republicans got into the race.

Incidentally, the same article notes that another Guilford commissioner, Skip Alston, also won't seek re-election to his current post. Alston, though, is a Democrat, and he could be a possible successor to Rep. Mel Watt in the 12th, if Watt chooses not to seek another term. We're still waiting on Watt to decide, and it's not clear whether Alston knows something about Watt's plans. On the one hand, Alston says that he's looked at higher office but those positions are not available "at this moment"; on the other, he adds that the " time is going to come when those positions will be available." I guess we'll know soon enough.

NY-13: Wow, this New York Times article about GOP freshman Mike Grimm's business dealings is just a litany of sleaze—and this is on top of the brewing campaign finance scandal the NYT busted into the open just the other week. The story is hard to summarize, given just how many shady connections Grimm forged, but most center around his questionable business dealings with a corrupt former FBI agent who worked with Grimm when they were both at the FBI and who later served 18 months in prison for stealing $2 million from Texans' electricity bills. (That sounds like some kind of Superman III crime, doesn't it?) But you really need to click through and read the entire piece for yourself.

PA-17: Well, that's pretty flaky. Luzerne County councilman Stephen Urban began circulating petitions last month but said he wasn't sure whether he'd actually jump into the Democratic primary, where Blue Dog Rep. Tim Holden is already contending with a primary challenge from the left from attorney Matt Cartwright in this re-drawn (and bluer) district. A week later, Urban made up his mind and declared he was in. But the filing deadline came and went earlier this week, and only Holden and Cartwright actually filed—Urban's name is nowhere to be seen on the candidate list. Whatever!

RI-01: For a while there last year, it seemed like a whole host of Democrats were ready to primary freshman Rep. David Cicilline, who endured a huge spate of bad news related to his fiscal stewardship of Providence, the city where he'd served as mayor before winning a seat in Congress in 2010. But we haven't heard anything from any potential challengers in quite a while—except when they're informing us that they're not running. The latest is former state party chair Bill Lynch, who also ran for this seat last cycle but says he won't try again. Last month, Lynch's brother, former state AG Patrick Lynch, also said he won't get in. That largely leaves conservative businessman Anthony Gemma (who once upon a time said he was "95%" in) and former state Rep. David Segal, both of whom also sought this seat two years ago, as possible contenders, but like I say, they've both been quite for some time.

Other Races:

MT-St. Sen: This would be one of the weirdest elections of the cycle if these two guys faced off in November:

A local state Senate race keeps collecting candidates, with the unlikely addition Wednesday of a former Republican who said that he is running as a Democrat so he can change the "would-be communists" from within.

Michael Comstock filed this week to run as a Democrat in Senate District 34 - despite a campaign website that features common GOP talking points and is critical of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. The announcement follows news that Kurt Bushnell, an active union political leader and supporter of Democrats, is seeking the GOP nomination in the conservative district.

Grab Bag:

ACU: The American Conservative Union is launching a radio ad campaign to help a whole bunch of Republicans, but given that we're only talking "several hundred thousand dollars" split 17 ways, that's not really the kind buy that's going to have a major impact. But anyhow, you can get a full list of the candidates ACU is supporting at the link.

Polltopia: Charles Franklin has a good essay on the continued refusal of many traditional media outlets to acknowledge automated polling, and how weird a bind it's putting them in. I was particularly struck by how awkward Chuck Todd sounded here:

But if you tuned in to The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd this morning (Feb 15), you didn’t see this chart. You instead heard Todd report on an OHIO poll from Quinnipiac showing Santorum leading Romney 36-29. And then you heard Todd say “Ohio, Michigan, there’s a lot of similarity there.” OK. But what of the data represented in the above chart about Michigan, the critical current topic? Todd continued, saying “We haven’t seen some great polling out of Michigan yet that we are willing to quote, that meets NBC News standards, but its clear Santorum is on the move. We are seeing it nationally. We are seeing it there.”
Of course, if the tradmed wants to keep ignoring firms like PPP, it'll only make places which are open to discussing all pollsters even more popular—and I won't complain about that.

WATN? (PDF): Well whaddya know! Former Republican Rep. Virgil Goode, who represented VA-05 before getting turned out in 2008 by Democrat Tom Perriello, has filed a new FEC committee... to run for president! He lists his party as "CON," which I'm guessing either stands for "Conservative" or "Constitution"—if you're familiar with his career, you know Goode has a history of party switching, so maybe he's planning a third-party run. Fun! Also, if you've never actually heard Goode's speaking voice, I strongly suggest you check it out. It's quite a treat.

Redistricting Roundup:

FL Redistricting: As expected, Gov. Rick Scott signed Florida's new congressional map into law on Thursday. Two lawsuits have already been filed challenging the plans. And in related news, this is some serious chutzpah:

A House committee passed a bill along party lines Thursday that would shield legislators and their staffs from ever being required to testify or produce public records when they get sued.

The Republican-controlled Legislature’s proposal to grant itself what’s called “absolute privilege” in any civil suit or legal proceeding emerged for the first time Wednesday....

Would such a bill, particularly an after-the-fact one like this, even pass constitutional muster? Sadly, it very well may—but there are other issues. Via email, Prof. Justin Levitt (the mastermind behind Loyola Law School's indispensible All About Redistricting site) tells me:
As a rule binding state courts (including the Florida Supreme Court that will take first crack at reviewing state legislative plans), it seems (broad brush) permissible under the federal constitution. There are serious questions, though, about whether it'd be preempted by the new Amendments 5 and 6 of the state constitution, which prohibit drawing lines to favor or disfavor a party or incumbent; there's at least a good argument that this amendment preempts an attempt to confine the inquiry to circumstantial evidence only. And either way around, I think it's unlikely to be valid as an evidentiary rule for federal court... but then again, the federal courts wouldn't tend to weigh in on the meaning of Amendments 5 and 6.

The general upshot—it raises quite serious (state) constitutional issues with respect to the forum where the battle will really be highest-stakes. And I've not heard of any comparable analog. But at the end of the day, it'll likely depend on a Florida court's construction of Amendments 5 and 6, in an opinion that could reasonably go either way.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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