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Leading Off:

Ohio Fundraising: The Buckeye State's first-in-the-nation congressional primaries are fast approaching on March 6, and that means all federal candidates had to file special pre-primary reports with the FEC, covering all fundraising between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of this year. The numbers for every active campaign are listed in the spreadsheet at the link, but I'd also like to take a closer look at the numbers for the handful of interesting primaries that are about to go down:

OH-02: Oft-challenged-but-never-defeated Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt once again faces some intra-party heat this year, in the form of surgeon and Iraq war vet Brad Wenstrup. Wenstrup caught some attention for his run for Cincinnati mayor in 2009; though he was unsuccessful, his 46% performance (against incumbent Mark Mallory) was considered surprisingly good. In the pre-primary period, Wenstrup took in $79K to Schmidt's $90K, but Schmidt has outraised him almost 3-to-1 overall and leads in cash-on-hand, $262K to $103K. Democrats unfortunately have no one poised to take advantage of any cat fud here, but in this brutally red district, our chances would be slim under the best of circumstances.

OH-03: Republican map-makers willingly sacrificed one of their own (Rep. Steve Austria) to create a deliberate Democratic vote sink centered around the city of Columbus. This means that whoever wins the primary here will almost certainly win the general as well. The four main candidates are ex-Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (who used to serve the old 15th), ex-state Rep. Joyce Beatty, state Rep. Ted Celeste, and Columbus City Council member Priscilla Tyson. That's the same order fundraising went, too, with Kilroy at the head of the pack with $141K, though Beatty was not far behind at $132K and Celeste at $102K. (Tyson trailed with just $37K.) Kilroy has a big cash advantage heading into the stretch run, though: $195K versus $50K for Beatty, her nearest rival.

OH-09: The mother of them all, this race features a redistricting-induced incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchup between Democratic Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur. Relying, I would suspect, on the national network he developed in two runs for president, Kucinich far outraised Kaptur, $362K to $89K in the pre-primary period, and $969K to $367K cycle-to-date. But Kaptur had a lot more money left over after last cycle's campaign, so she still leads in cash-on-hand, $423K to $250K.

P.S. You'll want to bookmark this link: It's a calendar of FEC filing deadlines for all pre-primary (and pre-runoff and pre-convention) fundraising reports.

Senate:

AZ-Sen: Someone must have run over Ann Kirkpatrick's cat backing out of her driveway, but I'm just not sure who. The Democratic ex-Rep., who is seeking to reclaim her seat in AZ-01, has withdrawn her endorsement of former state party chair Don Bivens in the Senate race... but she's not switching to former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, either. Instead, she's staying neutral—which is probably the same gear whoever killed poor Mr. Whiskers accidentally knocked their car into.

FL-Sen: You think you've seen it all, and then you finally see, well, something else. After GOP primary rival George LeMieux zinged Connie Mack (pretty good, I thought) as the "Charlie Sheen of Florida politics" for his history of drunken bar brawls, how did Mack's camp respond? They responded by, pretty much, defending Charlie Sheen! I know you think I must be kidding—hell, even I feel like I have to be kidding—but I'm not. Mack's campaign manager declared that LeMieux's remarks "mock the tragedy of drug and alcohol addiction." Oh yeah, yeah, good luck with that one!

Meanwhile, Mack's also been taking lumps because he and his wife each declare a homestead exemption on property they own, even though married couples ordinarily are only allowed one such tax exemption. Mack and his wife, fellow GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California, claim that they are "financially independent" from one another, which makes the arrangement permissible, but one expert says that only applies to estranged couples—and what's more, an investigation of the Macks' financial disclosure forms does indeed indicate some entanglements. The Lee County Property Appraiser is investigating the matter, but he sounds ready to whitewash it.

Of course, that doesn't mean the issue will recede as a political matter, though it's also interesting to note that it's Mack's own fault that his foibles came to light. He recently stepped up attacks against Dem Sen. Bill Nelson for taking advantage of a tax break available to farmers by allowing a small herd of cattle to graze on some land he owns. Mack's tried to make a big deal of this, but it's boomeranged by focusing attention on his own properties. What's that about people in glass houses not throwing cow pies?

IN-Sen: Unsurprisingly, the Indiana Election Commission turned back a challenge to Sen. Dick Lugar's eligibility to appear on the ballot due to serious questions about his residency status. But seeing as the state AG just reaffirmed a decades-old advisory opinion which says that Lugar is indeed a resident of Indiana (even though he hasn't actually lived there since the `70s), the panel was unlikely to rule any other way.

MI-Sen: This may the best of all worlds: Pete Hoekstra's racist "Debbie Spend-it-now" ad appears to have badly damaged him among the general electorate, but doesn't seem to have harmed him in the GOP primary. EPIC-MRA's latest poll still shows him with a 48-5 lead over Clark Durant, which is actually an improvement from January (PDF), when Hoekstra "only" had 40-3 edge.

MT-Sen: Rasmussen Reports has GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg leading Dem Sen. Jon Tester 47-44 in what appears to be their first poll of the race.

NY-Sen: Just a few weeks after first being touted as a possible challenger to Dem Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, conservative activist Wendy Long is entering the race. Long is best-known for leading the charge against Sonia Sotomayor's appointment to the Supreme Court, something which ought to sink her in the general election with Latinos. But first she'll have to contend with Nassau Comptroller George Maragos for the Republican nomination. Maragos can at least partially self-fund, so a nice destructive primary as a prelude to getting mashed by Gillibrand sounds good to me.

WA-Sen: The Washington Senate race—where Maria Cantwell is running for a third term—is kind of in the grey area between "Likely Dem" and "Safe Dem." And Friday's poll of the race from Public Policy Polling doesn't affect that calculus, as it finds Cantwell slightly cresting 50 and holding double-digit leads. She's at 47/38 approvals, and leads her best-known announced candidate, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, 51-36, and potential candidate and Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant 50-36. The only trendline from their previous poll of the race in May is against Dino Rossi, who has used up his three strikes and hasn't expressed any interest in running anyway; he has 38/50 faves and loses to Cantwell 53-41 (basically unchanged from 53-40 last time). (David Jarman)

Governor:

IN-Gov: Well, as we feared based on initial reports, businessman Jim Wallace was indeed booted off the ballot for failing to file enough valid petitions. The really pathetic part is that he fell just 14 signatures short, though he says he's looking at his legal options. If Wallace is unsuccessful, though, that would leave Rep. Mike Pence as the only candidate in the Republican primary.

NC-Gov: Scratch one more name off the list: Former state Treasurer Richard Moore will not seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

WA-Gov: Well whaddya know. Eliot Spitzer, the I-thought-he-resigned-in-disgrace former governor of New York, is holding a March fundraiser in Manhattan for Rep. Jay Inslee, who is making a gubernatorial bid in Washington state. This is the first time since his inglorious departure that I can recall Spitzer doing an event like this, so either Inslee is desperate, or Spitzer's rehabbed his image enough so that he's now regarded as polite company.

House:

AR-04: God, this is pathetic:

Sen. Gene Jeffress of Louann has said he will run as a Democrat in the 4th District, but has filed no reports indicating he's raised any money for the race, even the filing fee. He also didn't return a call from the [Arkansas] Times seeking to confirm he remained in the race.
We noted Jeffress' failure to file when we did our fourth quarter fundraising roundup, but when you don't even respond to a reporter pinging you to see whether your campaign is still alive? That's incredibly sad. Doesn't Jeffress have to show up at the state capitol at some point for the next legislative session? What's he gonna say to his colleagues?

Well, anyhow, state Democratic Party chair Will Bond says he expects one more candidate to file for this seat, left open by the unexpected retirement of Rep. Mike Ross. According to the article, Ross "has said he's disappointed that more candidates haven't stepped forward," but you know, this situation is largely his fault, and not just because he decided not to seek re-election. Ross is to blame because he only announced his departure after the legislature completed redistricting—and left the 4th a very difficult seat for any Democrat other than Ross to hold. At the same time, they didn't bother to shore up any of Arkansas' other districts, so we could very well wind up with a 4 R, 0 D delegation here next year, unless state Rep. Clark Hall knocks off GOP freshman Rick Crawford in the 1st.

CA-22: The redrawn 22nd is the third-reddest congressional district in California, according to 2008 presidential election returns, and it's home to GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, wingnut par excellence. But even though it would take a rather remarkable turn of events to turn this seat blue, the Fresno County Democratic Party says that former Sunnyvale (pop. 140K) mayor Otto Lee plans to run here. (You can read more about Lee here, where you'll learn that he's a military veteran and was called up for a tour of duty in Iraq in 2009 while still serving on the Sunnyvale city council. He also waged an unsuccessful run for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 2008.) What's so odd about this, though, is not just how difficult a race this would be, but the fact that Sunnyvale is 150 miles (and three congressional districts) away from the 22nd, so Lee would be carpetbagging and leaving his base of support far, far behind.

CA-44: A good catch by Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad: Dem Rep. Laura Richardson's website is touting an endorsement by ex-Rep. Diane Watson—even though Watson says she's supporting Richardson's primary opponent, Rep. Janice Hahn.

FL-16: Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times dives into the long-running Vern Buchanan fundraising saga, a complicated affair which has always been hard to get a handle on, but which Lichtblau explicates adroitly. So whether you're familiar with this story or you're new to it, I highly recommend you read the piece in full. Lichtblau does a good job making the case that "inquiries surrounding Mr. Buchanan appear to be widening," and unearths at least one new fact: that a federal grand jury has been convened, presumably in connection with the ongoing FBI/IRS investigation—something that had previously only been rumored. The piece also points out one salient—and problematic—issue for Republicans: Buchanan is finance chair of the NRCC. If the feds are investigating your chief money guy for campaign finance improprieties, then maybe you don't want him to be your chief money guy anymore.

FL-25: Oy vey. Sometimes I just don't understand why things like this happen. Businesswoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, whom you'll remember from her run against GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in FL-18 in 2008 (minus the "-Goldstein" back then), is accusing state Rep. Luis Garcia of falsely claiming she'd endorsed his bid for Congress against troubled GOP freshman David Rivera. Garcia of course denies the charge, but seriously, wtf?

Well, if you have a particularly good memory (like ndrwmls10), you may recall that last June, Dave Catanese reported that Taddeo-Goldstein was going to launch a her own campaign against Rivera "in the next 30 to 60 days." Obviously that never came to pass, but it also explains why Garcia was so interested in claiming Taddeo-Goldstein's endorsement, and why—if she's still contemplating the race—she wouldn't want to give it. Nevertheless, this is an ugly, unnecessary mess, but it also makes me wonder: Whatever happened to Taddeo-Goldstein's planned bid?

MN-02: Now that Minnesota's brand-new congressional map has moved his home turf of Inver Grove Heights from the 4th Congressional District (represented by fellow Democrat Betty McCollum) to the 2nd (served by Republican John Kline), state Rep. Joe Atkins says that supporters are asking him to take on Kline this fall. It's also worth noting that the 2nd became a bit bluer as well, going from 48% Obama to 50% Obama; as my colleague David Jarman noted when the maps were released the other day: "With the right Democrat, or a John Kline retirement, this could be a real race someday." Atkins may well be that right Democrat, but for now, he hasn't yet made up his mind.

MN-07: In the two decades he's represented this red-leaning seat, Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson has rarely had much of a problem winning re-election; even in 2010, he still won by 17 points. As a consequence, he usually hasn't drawn much in the way of serious challengers, but that might change this year. State Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, who was drawn into the same Senate district as a fellow Republican, says that rather than go ahead with an incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary, she'll run against Peterson instead. But Hoffman's not alone in seeking the GOP nomination: Peterson's opponent from last cycle, Lee Byberg, is also running again.

OH-09: Speaking of Dennis Kucinich, he's finally up with his first media of the race, a radio ad that's airing in Cleveland only, in which he predictably goes full-throttle on his opposition to "Bush's wars," and accuses Marcy Kaptur of voting "to waste half a trillion" on these military misadventures. But it seems that Kucinich made an unforced mistake of his own here, seeing as the ad's announcer intones that "maybe in Toledo politics, facts don't matter." That's not sitting well at the western end of the redrawn 9th, where Kaptur rather rightly says: "Until today, I had never heard of a candidate attacking a community that he claims he wants to represent." No kidding.

For her part, Kaptur is airing an attack ad of her own, and folks who aren't Kucinich fans may feel a tingle of schadenfreude in watching it:

It may not be immediately obvious, but if you're wondering how Kucinich might have amassed a voting record like this (against money for local manufacturing jobs, against money for veterans, against a prescription drug benefit), the answer—as Kucinich himself explains—is that he's voted against a lot of legislation which contained a lot of worthy spending, but also contained money for military operations. But hey, if you want to maintain your purity, then the consequence you face is that a "no" vote is a "no" for all the things inside a particular bill. And considering that Kucinich is going after Kaptur for voting in favor of the very sort of appropriations in these bills he did vote against (i.e., war spending), he really doesn't have much of a leg to stand on.

Other Races:

ME-Init: Good news: Organizers have submitted more than enough signatures to ensure that a voter initiative to legalize same-sex marriage will appear on the ballot this fall.

Grab Bag:

Arizona: PPP is out with their Arizona miscellany. Probably the most interesting number is that there is still little interest in a recall of Gov. Jan Brewer. Even though her job approvals stand at a mediocre 46-47, sentiment runs heavily against a recall, with only 35% in favor and 58% opposed.

CA GOP: There's nothing newsy in this article, but if you're the kind of person who likes reading stories cataloguing just how far the fortunes of the California Republican Party have sunk, then you'll like this story.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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