• CA-11: Veteran Democratic Rep. George Miller, a tireless advocate for working people and a major supporter of the labor movement, has announced that he'll retire at the end of this year. Miller was one of the last Democrats in Congress elected in the post-Watergate landslide of 1974, and in recent years, he had become a top ally of fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi. Miller simply pointed to his long, 40-year tenure as the reason for his departure. His seat is safely Democratic (it went 68-30 for Barack Obama in 2012), so it's sure to remain blue. But as an outspoken progressive and Pelosi's closest confidant, Miller's shoes will be hard to fill.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier has, however, already said that he'll try to do so, while Assemblywomen Joan Buchanan and Susan Bonilla are also possible candidates. Meanwhile, former Obama Commerce Dept. official Ro Khanna, who is engaged in a quixotic but well-funded challenge to Democratic Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th District, says he's staying put. It would be a strange move, though; if an East Coast-centric analogy helps make sense of things, it might be akin to a candidate from Westchester switching to a race on Long Island, which you'd really never see.
• MI-Sen, -Gov: Republican pollster Harper Polling has a new survey out showing Terri Lynn Land beating Democratic Rep. Gary Peters 44-36 in Michigan's open Senate race, while Gov. Rick Snyder leads Democratic ex-Rep. Mark Schauer 47-35 in the gubernatorial contest. This is Harper's first poll of either race in almost a year, but there are a few wonky things with it. For one, Barack Obama's job approval is at 35-55, considerably lower than his national average—and in state he won by 9 points.
For another, the demographics are favorable to the GOP. There was no 2010 exit polling in Michigan, but in 2012, the electorate had a 10-point Democratic lean, while African Americans comprised 16 percent of all voters and those over 50 made up just about half. In Harper's poll, Democrats have a 5-point edge, blacks are just 8 percent of the sample, and older folks are 60 percent of the total. So just bear this all in mind when interpreting these results.
• MT-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Walsh just earned the endorsement of the SEIU, which has chosen him over ex-Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger in the Democratic primary. But while SEIU is a big name in labor, the union only has a very small presence in Montana, with just 800 members.
• TN-Sen: While Tennessee Democrats have little hope of knocking off GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, at least they're determined to avoid the mistakes it made last cycle, when crypto-conservative weirdo Mark Clayton somehow won the Democratic nomination for Senate and wound up getting disowned by the entire party. That's why attorney Terry Adams is busy consolidating establishment support, with current and past party chairs expressing their support for his candidacy. (One, Bob Tuke, is his treasurer.) Adams doesn't have much money, but it seems like he does plan to run a vigorous race in the primary, giving Tennesseans a real choice in November.
• VA-Sen: A new poll from The Polling Company, a Republican firm, finds former RNC chair Ed Gillespie, who is reportedly gearing up for a Senate bid, losing to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner 51-33. There are also a bazillion matchups with other Republican names, none of whom are actually considering a run. (Bill Kristol?!) For what it's worth, the person who does best is state Sen. Mark Obenshain, the runner-up in last year's race for attorney general; he trails Warner 49-42.
Also, check out the garbage-y questions on the last two pages of the PDF. They're masquerading as message-testing questions (with lines like "Even now, despite the growing backlash to the law, Mark Warner still defends his vote for Obamacare"), but really, they're just axe-grindy attempts to push a public narrative. Sincere attempts to probe an opponent's weaknesses don't look like this, but amusingly, by a 46-45 spread, respondents say that Warner's support of Obamacare makes them more likely to support him!
• GA-Gov, -Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has commissioned a new poll from Abt SRBI of the Georgia governor's race, finding GOP Gov. Nathan Deal leading Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter 47-38. Those are better numbers than most surveys have found for Deal, who sports a 54-24 job approval score. That's wildly different from the 34-41 rating PPP gave him in October.
The AJC poll also has a Senate component, but they only asked about favorables for the top candidates. Everyone's positives are in the 30s, including the lone Democrat, non-profit founder Michelle Nunn, who's at 31-18.
• AZ-02: Former talk radio host Ed Martin has dropped out of the GOP primary in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, giving establishment favorite Martha McSally a clearer shot at the nomination. McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot, does still face businesswoman Shelly Kais for the right to take on Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in November.
• CA-35/31: Last week, we suggested that ex-Rep. Joe Baca might re-target his comeback bid from the 31st District back to the 35th, in the event that Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod opts to run for local office. But Baca would have to actually be running a campaign in the first place, and according to Nathan Gonzales, it doesn't seem like he is, despite declaring his candidacy last year.
Gonzales made dozens of phone calls and sent many emails to find someone—anyone—who would confirm that they're working for Baca. No one would. As Nathan says, we'll know for sure when California's March 7 filing deadline rolls around. This kind of embarrassment, though, is vintage Joe Baca.
• IA-03: State Sen. Brad Zaun, who ran against Rep. Leonard Boswell in the old version of Iowa's 3rd back in 2010, says he'll run again now that the newly reconfigured seat is open. He joins Secretary of State Matt Schultz and former Chuck Grassley chief of staff David Young in the GOP primary.
• LA-06: The race for Louisiana's vacant 6th District seat in the Baton Rouge area has been slow to develop, but The Advocate gives us a good rundown on who's in and who's a maybe. Mitt Romney carried the district 66-32, so all the action is on the Republican side, and like all races in Louisiana, all candidates run on one ballot in the November general. If no one clears 50 percent, the top two candidates will advance to the Dec. 6 runoff regardless of party.
State Sen. Dan Claitor and businessman Paul Dietzel II have been running for a while, though they were recently joined by tax attorney Cassie Felder. While Claitor is the only elected official currently in the race, both Dietzel and Felder are well connected: Dietzel has the backing of Herman Cain and former Reps. Henson Moore and Bob Livingston, while Felder has served on a mayoral blue ribbon commission. Also running are veterans Bob Bell and Norman Clark.
In the maybe column, Focus on the Family chief Tony Perkins, who is also a former state legislator, is still mulling the race; East Baton Rouge Parish School Board President David Tatman says he'll decide in February; and East Baton Rouge Parish Councilman Ryan Heck announced he planned to run back in August but has yet to actually file paperwork. In Louisiana, it's not unusual for candidates to enter the race at the very last minute and since the filing deadline's not until August 22, it could be a long time before the field settles here.
On the Democratic side, only Richard Dean Lieberman is currently running. Eighty-six-year-old governor turned convict turned failed reality TV show star Edwin Edwards is looking
for attention at a run, but I'll believe it when I see it. (Jeff Singer)
• NE-02, -Sen: Prominent local attorney David Domina has now acknowledged that he's considered a bid against GOP Rep. Lee Terry, but while he thinks Terry is vulnerable, he says Terry's opponent "does not need to be me." Instead, Domina sounds likely to pursue a bid for Nebraska's open Senate seat, which was where his political interests originally lay.
Strangely, Domina admits that "[t]he conventional wisdom is that the House seat is winnable whereas the Senate race is daunting, if not impossible." Given that NE-02 is much bluer than the state as a whole, most analysts would agree with this statement, so why doesn't Domina? Does he know something we don't?
• OR-05: Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith, who first said she was considering a run against Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader in October, is now making her bid official. No word yet if Natalie and Blair will endorse, but Mrs. Garrett is expected to manage the campaign.
• PA-08: The United Steelworkers has decided to back Army vet Kevin Strouse in his bid for the Democratic nomination, giving him his sixth labor union endorsement so far. Strouse faces businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton for the right to take on GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick.
• TN-03: Looks like young Weston Wamp done snuck up on us. Wamp, the 26-year-old son of ex-Rep. Zach Wamp, says that he's going to primary GOP Rep. Chuck Fleischmann a second time, something he's apparently been considering since at least November. Wamp finished third in 2012, scoring 29 percent of the vote, while Fleischman prevailed with 39 percent and ice cream magnate Scottie Mayfield took 31. (I mostly remember Wamp for this really bizarre ad where he affected a very deep voice as narrator.) This time, Wamp may believe Fleischman won't be saved by the clown car, since no other candidates are currently running.
• AR-LG: So much for his pledge to stand and fight. GOP Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, after initially striking a defiant stance in the face of almost certain impeachment, now says he'll resign, effective next month. His decision is actually a boon for Republicans, who didn't want Darr and his ethics violations causing them problems on their ticket this November. Ordinarily, a special election would be held to replace Darr, but the legislature may try to leave his seat open until this fall's regularly scheduled elections.
• New Orleans Mayor: Former judge and mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris has an uphill fight to unseat incumbent and fellow Democrat Mitch Landrieu on Feb. 1, but he's raised eyebrows with some quick fundraising. Aided by a personal donation, Bagneris reported having $219,000 on hand as of the end of 2013. Landrieu's $1.2 million warchest easily dwarfs Bagneris' haul, but it's a good start for the challenger.
Landrieu has the backing of President Obama, a good get in a city where Obama won about 80 percent of the vote. Local organizations have also weighed in, with the city's Democratic Party and the Black Organization of Leadership Development both endorsing Bagneris, while the influential Alliance for Good Government is supporting Landrieu. Two other candidates are running, but neither has made much of an impact on the contest. (Jeff Singer)
• SD Mayor: Bleh. SurveyUSA's new poll of next month's special election for mayor in San Diego finds Republican Kevin Faulconer jumping out to a 53-37 lead over Democrat David Alvarez, a fellow city councilman. But just a month ago, it was Alvarez surging, with Faulconer clinging to a 47-46 lead. The last time SUSA showed big movement in this race, prior to the primary, we were skeptical at first. But the firm turned out to be right when Alvarez snuck past nominal Democratic frontrunner Nathan Fletcher in the first round of voting.
But in pre-primary polling, Faulconer nevertheless led Alvarez 51-38. So it's a bit crazy to go from +13 to +1 back to +16, and even UT San Diego, which says there was little campaigning over the holidays, is at a loss to explain this gyration. Perhaps that middle poll was somehow an outlier, possibly due to a temporary primary bounce for Alvarez. On the other hand, Alvarez is winning only 65 percent of Democrats while Faulconer has 84 percent support from Republicans. That seems hinky. It would be nice to see numbers from another pollster, but if not, we'll know the true results on Feb. 11.
• Special Elections: Just one this week. Johnny Longtorso previews:
Arkansas SD-21: This is an open Democratic seat located in Craighead County. The candidates are Democrat Steve Rockwell, manager of his family's publishing company, and Republican John Cooper, who ran for the Arkansas House in 2012 and received 46 percent of the vote.Grab Bag:
• Maps: With the 50th anniversary of LBJ's declaration of the War on Poverty, Pew Research is out with an array of new data about how the face of poverty has changed over the last half century. One of the most striking parts of the story, though, is the map showing how poverty has changed geographically in the intervening years. In 1969, 46 percent of all people in poverty lived in the South, while now southerners make up 41 percent of the total. The Midwest and Northeast's share of poverty has also gone down; all the increase is in the West, where in 1969 15 percent of the impoverished lived, but now 24 percent do.
That probably has something to do with the fact that the West represents a bigger share of the country's overall population now than it did then, but digging a little deeper, it also represents the relationship between poverty and race. Since 1966, poverty among African-Americans (who live disproportionately in the South) has fallen from 42 percent to 27 percent now, while poverty among Hispanics (who live disproportionately in the West) rose from 23 percent in 1972 to 26 percent now. And more importantly, the number of Hispanics in the U.S. quintupled over those 40 years. (David Jarman)