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Leading Off:

NM-Sen, NM-01: New Mexico Democrats held what they call their pre-primary convention on Saturday, where delegates vote to choose which candidates will get an automatic spot on the ballot. Anyone who scores more than 20% earns a ticket, though you can petition your way on if you fail to hit that threshold. (However, says the New Mexico Telegram, no one has ever won a primary that way.)

In NM-Sen, the first of the two marquee races, Rep. Martin Heinrich scored 55% of the delegate vote, compared to 45% for Auditor Hector Balderas, a tally which the Telegram calls "smaller than expected." Meanwhile, in the race for NM-01, all three candidates made it on to the ballot as well: State Sen. Eric Griego, a progressive favorite, had the most support, with 41%, while former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez scored 33% and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham took 26%. Matthew Reichbach points out another bonus for winners: They get to appear first on the ballot.

Senate:

AZ-Sen: Former state party chair Don Bivens is out with the first ad of the Democratic primary, a spot in which he goes directly after GOP Rep. Jeff Flake for his anti-choice views and includes footage of Rush Limbaugh infamously calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut." Though Bivens doesn't address Richard Carmona, his rival for the Dem nomination, there also seems to be a subtext to this ad, as Josh Lederman suggests—namely, that Bivens is trying to run to the left of Carmona, who was surgeon general under George W. Bush. You can watch the ad at the link or below:

CA-Sen: How sad is the Republican field in the California Senate race this year? With the filing deadline now passed, the state party made a formal endorsement over the weekend, and they had to pick Elizabeth Emken, who's never held office before and whose lone political experience was finishing in last place in the four-way Republican primary in Dem-held CA-11 in 2010. I suppose the idea here is that Emken a) isn't Orly Taitz, who's the best-known Republican in the race, and b) may have at least some access to well-heeled donors, as a bigwig at charitable nonprofit Autism Speaks. (Because, y'know, nothing says "I'm an autism advocate!" than being the standard-bearer for a political party that's in favor of cuts to public school special ed programs and against forcing health insurers to cover conditions like autism.) (David Jarman)

FL-Sen: Well, this story apparently isn't going away. A month ago, the Miami Herald ran an extensive piece on GOP Rep. Connie Mack's ugly history of drunken bar brawls when he was younger, something which inspired primary rival George LeMieux to dub him the "Charlie Sheen of Florida politics." Now the AP takes an even closer look, relying on deposition testimony Mack provided when he sued one of the people he tangled with, former Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant:

A younger Connie Mack IV explained two road rage incidents, an arrest at a Jacksonville bar and a bar fight with a Major League Baseball star the same way: He was minding his own business, sober and trouble found him. [...]

"So you were just again the unlucky guy in the wrong place at the wrong time?" a lawyer asked him during a deposition after Mack answered questions about each of the altercations. "I guess so," Mack responded.

If so, it was an incredible string of bad luck.

Indeed. It's no surprise, of course, that Mack was a spoiled rich kid who always blamed his misfortune on others—I'm sure he was accustomed to always having people fix his mistakes, just like George W. Bush. But the AP really takes Mack to the woodshed here, summarizing in damning detail how self-serving Mack's excuse-making was for each of the four violent incidents in question. They also point out that Mack's testimony differs (what a shock) from statements offered by other witnesses two at least two of the altercations. Mack's gone in to clamshell mode on this one, refusing to answer any questions. But it's looking more and more like that won't be a viable longer-term strategy.

MA-Sen: If GOP Sen. Scott Brown wins re-election, it'll be because of stuff like this. In the prior digest, we noted that his campaign was recently forced to make a donation to charity pursuant to his agreement with Elizabeth Warren to try to keep third-party spending out of the race, because a some random PAC paid for web ads in support of Brown. Now, David Kravitz at Blue Mass Group shows just how much Brown is turning this to his advantage: He's airing a new radio ad touting his contribution to Autism Speaks, the charity selected by Warren. (You can listen at the link.) So as Kravitz points out, Brown gets to look doubly like a good guy, both for sticking to the pledge and for donating to a worthy charitable cause. Almost seems like he couldn't have planned it better himself....

ME-Sen: This little quote from last week seems like a pretty clear tell from independent ex-Gov. Angus King about where he knows he'll end up if he gets elected to the Senate:

"This year, seeing the likely alternatives, I think the president should be re-elected," King told The Associated Press.
So while I'm sure the GOP would accept just about anyone into their caucus if control of the Senate were deadlocked and King's support would give them the majority, it's pretty hard to see how Republicans would roll out the welcome mat for a guy cheering on Obama under any other circumstances. Of course, Angus can't help being Angus—he likes his burger both ways:
But King, a former Democrat, hastened to point out that in the past he's also supported Republicans, including George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential race. He said, "I call 'em as I see 'em."
And what, the rest of us don't "call `em as we see `em"? I'd love for that idiotic phrase to be permanently retired from politics. Anyway, if King tries to keep up this two-faced shtick, he could wind up alienating enough Democrats that he splits the left-leaning vote with whomever is on the Dem ticket (there almost certainly will be someone) and handing the race to the Republican nominee. His high strong favorability ratings aren't a magical coat of armor which can protect him from the realities of the campaign trail.

But it seems like we're going to be treated to these Angus-isms from here to eternity. Here's yet another example: During a recent interview with a Bangor TV station, when asked about who he'd caucus with in the Senate, he said, "I have not made up my mind whatsoever. A lot will depend on what the numbers are and depend upon what the actual circumstances are. My judgment's going to be based on, what would make me most effective on behalf of Maine." What numbers is he talking about? Is that a way of holding the door open to caucusing with the Republicans, if they come out of the November election with a majority? (David Nir & David Jarman)

NY-Sen, NY-05/06: Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports that state GOP chair Ed Cox is (through backchannels, it seems) supposedly pushing Rep. Bob Turner to run for Senate. That would be a hopeless endeavor for Turner, but on the flipside, his district was utterly dismantled in the proposed new court-drawn map, leaving him with almost nowhere to run. Even on that front, he's already changing his tune: Initially, Turner said he'd run in whatever district he lives, but that placed him in the absurdly blue 5th CD (home of Dem Rep. Gregory Meeks). Now a spokesman says Turner will run "to represent as many of his current voters in Brooklyn and Queens"—as many as possible, I suppose? That would place him up against Dem Rep. Gary Ackerman in the 6th, where 46% of Turner's constituents would wind up. But that's a 63% Obama seat....

Speaking of the Senate race, it's easy to see why Republicans are praying for a better alternative—even if it's only slightly better. City & State writes up a new oppo hit (churned out by Sen Kirsten Gillibrand's office, I presume) on conservative activist Wendy Long, who in the 1980s and `90s was affiliated with the notoriously racist and antisemitic Dartmouth Review. Though I was just a kid at the time, I definitely remember this incident:

Yet no controversy echoed as loudly as when it ran a quotation from Adolf Hitler on Yom Kippur.

In October 1990, the Hanover, N.H.-based college erupted after the Review included the quote from Hitler’s biography Mein Kampf in its masthead on the first day of the Jewish day of atonement. The quote included the sentence, "By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord’s work."

Hundreds of students turned out the following week to protest the paper. And when it came time for the Review to issue an apology, it turned to trustee Wendy Long.

Long – then known by her maiden name Wendy Stone – appeared at a combative press conference with fellow trustee [Dinesh] D’Souza to address the incident. Long and D’Souza apologized, but ultimately blamed it on "a criminal act of sabotage."

That was just the worst among many ultra-offensive pieces of crap the Review churned out—City & State has more at the link. Truly an abomination of a publication, and yet another albatross for Long, who also led the charge against Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

One final related note: New York's Independence Party, which backed Gillibrand in 2010, is once again giving her their ballot line this fall.

VA-Sen: Here's the thing: Forming a super PAC (or any other kind of campaign entity) is easy—it just takes a little paperwork. And now that candidate-specific super PACs have started to become commonplace, news that someone is putting one together is just not a particularly big deal. We need to see cash on the barrelhead before we start taking any new super PAC seriously. So former RGA executive director Paul Bennecke says he's creating just such a PAC to support the candidacy of Republican Senate hopeful George Allen and has a goal of raising $2 to $3 mil. I could believe that someone with Bennecke's background is capable of doing so, but let's see some fundraising reports first.

VT-Sen: For Republicans in Vermont, landing a former state legislator who once nearly unseated an incumbent Democratic congressman would seem like a pretty good get, especially given how much of a longshot any race against independent Sen. Bernie Sanders would be. But the problem with John MacGovern is that he did all of this in Massachusetts—over two decades ago. Indeed, since moving to Vermont, MacGovern has tried and failed to run for the legislature multiple times, and he's not going to be any more successful against Sanders. But given the state of the VT GOP, he's still probably the best they can hope for.

Gubernatorial:

NH-Gov: Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas announced late last week that he would not run for governor, leaving the Republican field to attorney Ovide Lamontagne and activist Kevin Smith. I think this just leaves businessman Steve Kenda as the only remaining name we're waiting to hear from on the GOP side.

WA-Gov: We mentioned last week that Republican AG Rob McKenna got hosed by Republican legislative shenanigans that forced the legislature into special session, keeping McKenna (as a state elected official) precluded from raising money for another month. Well, he didn't get that hosed; apparently, he made sure all his wealthy donors got that message, because they came through for him in that three-day window between the regular and special sessions. Thanks to pent-up supply, he racked up nearly $250K in that short period. (David Jarman)

House:

FL-06: Sadly, this will probably only help Rep. Cliff Stearns in the Republican primary. Newly-unearthed video from a February town hall features him offering this quote:

All I can tell you is that the general consensus is that he has produced a birth certificate. The question is, is it legitimate? That’s where we stand now. I’ve seen a copy of it on television. But you know the Governor of Hawaii couldn’t get what he felt was an original of the birth certificate. He tried to do it and gave up on it. So I think what Obama’s showing is a facsimile, but I think that debate probably is not enough, shall we say, just to impeach him.
The "governor of Hawaii" crap is, of course, just that: crap.

ID-02: Idaho was one of three states whose filing deadline passed on Friday, and you can find a full list of candidates here (PDF). Most interesting is that a Democratic state senator, Nicole LeFavour, has decided to run for Congress against GOP Rep. Mike Simpson in the 2nd District. LeFavour, the state's only openly gay legislator, had decided some time ago not to seek re-election to the Senate, so this latest move came as an unexpected surprise. LeFavour would need more than one miracle to unseat Simpson in this 61-37 McCain district, but this is a pretty commendable way of taking one for the team.

Meanwhile, one of our favorite independent candidates is running in ID-01: Pro-Life! If you could use some high-larity in your life today, I strongly encourage you to click the link for a "Short Chronology of Pro-Life’s Life" (aka Marvin Thomas Richardson, who legally changed his name to "Pro-Life" several years ago). Sample excerpt: "1982- Divorced by Jean Benson because Pro-Life was too politically incorrect and that was embarrassing for a peer pressure oriented woman." Much more like this if you click through.

IL-02: It really seems like no major players are all that interested in seeing Debbie Halvorson back in Congress, even though her Democratic primary opponent, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., still faces a serious ethics investigation and also attempted some belated sabotage against the new Dem-passed congressional map. The latest to join Team JJJ is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, following on the heels of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (I initially mis-typed that as "hells," which is actually probably more accurate: "Hell, Jesse Jackson wants me to fucking endorse him?" – Rahm)

MS-01: Aaron Blake reminds us that freshman GOP Rep. Alan Nunnelee is facing a primary challenge from former Eupora mayor Henry Ross. Ross has raised very little, but he's apparently putting most of his kitty—$40K worth—into airing this television ad, which even by the standards of Republican primaries is a bit over the top. Ross accuses Nunnelee of voting seven times "to fund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood's abortion clinics." Ross is basically counting every time Nunnelee voted in favor of a budget resolution to provide funding for the entire federal government as a vote for Planned Parenthood—talk about dystopian!

Blake notes that Nunnelee isn't snoozing: He's spent over $100K to run no fewer than three separate ads of his own. If you want to get a good glimpse deep down the rabbit hole of the wingnut mind, I suggest you check out this spot in particular, in which Nunnelee decides that "effect of Obamacare" has been to make businesses "afraid to hire because they don't know what the rules are gonna be."

P.S. The Mississippi and Alabama congressional primaries are both tonight, so be sure to check in for our liveblog when poll close at 8pm Eastern.

NC-07: Ilario Pantano, who lost by about eight points to Blue Dog Dem Mike McIntyre in 2010, leads his establishment GOP rival, state Sen. David Rouzer (who had the district customized to fit him by the GOP-controlled state legislature), by a wide margin in a poll of the Republican primary. The poll, by the sketchy Wenzel Strategies on behalf of Citizens United, gives Pantano a 47-23 lead. (If you're thinking that number seems vaguely familiar, you're right; in late January, Pantano posted a lead of 48-21 in a Conquest Communications poll taken for his campaign.) Both surveys, however, were conspicuously silent on how Pantano fares against McIntyre in the general. The primary is on May 8. (David Jarman)

NC-10: I just really don't know what to do with this one....

NJ-09: I don't even really feel like writing about this, but if you wanna read about the latest chapter in how the Steve Rothman-Bill Pascrell Democratic primary is getting even uglier, The Hill's Josh Lederman will bring you up to speed.

NJ-10: Buried in this long piece looking at the possibility that Newark City Council President Donald Payne, Jr. might try to succeed his late father of the same name in Congress is mention of the fact that Newark councilman Ron Rice did in fact go ahead and create a federal campaign committee (PDF) earlier this month. Rice had been gearing up for a challenge to the elder Payne in the Democratic primary for quite some time but hadn't yet pulled the trigger; obviously Payne's death precluded him from making any formal announcement. Anyhow, the full piece is also worth a read: Though the younger Payne seems like the obvious choice, there are hints he may not be interested in going to D.C. Same with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, the other oft-mentioned name, since her current post is a very powerful one. If both defer, that could, rather unexpectedly, make Rice the frontrunner.

NY-13: State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who has reportedly been considering a run for Congress for some time, says he's forming an exploratory committee to look at a possible bid. Espaillat may still be holding out hope that the courts (or legislature) will create a new Hispanic seat in northern Manhattan and the Bronx, but he might also issue a challenge to Rep. Charlie Rangel in the Democratic primary in the proposed 13th District (the successor to the old 15th).

TX-19: GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer has unexpectedly drawn a primary challenge from former Lubbock County Republican Party Chairman Chris Winn, though as Enrique Rangel at the awesomely-named Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports, no one can quite figure out why Winn is doing this. Winn has promised a press conference this week to explain his decision, though, so I guess we'll see. Still, he doesn't have a lot of time to make his case to voters, seeing as the primary is in May.

UT-04: The Democrat on the receiving end of the NRCC's video press release of the day, this time, is Jim Matheson. It ties Matheson to Barack Obama, not a surprising strategy considering that Matheson has the reddest district of any current House Dem. (He's switching from UT-02 to new UT-04 in November, which doesn't offer him much improvement.) The size of the buy is a bit of a joke, though: $10,000, which earns them one-and-a-half weeks of targeted cable buys in the large Salt Lake City media market. (David Jarman)

WA-01, WA-Gov: Just a quick note: Dem Rep. Jay Inslee, who announced he'd resign from Congress to focus on his run for governor, says his departure is effective March 20.

WA-06: Good news for Democrats: Jan Angel, the only Republican state legislator who holds office anywhere inside the territory of the 6th Congressional District, says she won't run for retiring Rep. Norm Dicks' seat. However, Angel, a state rep, could seek the state Senate seat of Derek Kilmer, the only announced candidate for Dicks' district so far.

Relatedly, the Pierce County Democratic Party endorsed Kilmer over the weekend, which suggests that none of the big names from the Tacoma part of the district, like Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland or retiring state Auditor Brian Sonntag, are going to get in. That would mean Kilmer only needs to worry about one of the rural DINOs at this point as Dem opposition. (Kilmer lives in Gig Harbor, which is in Pierce Co., though he represents only a small fragment of Pierce; most of his legislative district is located in Kitsap Co.) (David Jarman)

Other Races:

PA-AG: I wonder if this could be a problem in a close general election, in the Pennsylvania Attorney General's race (where netroots fave ex-Rep. Patrick Murphy is the likeliest Dem nominee). After Murphy filed a petition challenge against Don Bailey's late-breaking candidacy, Bailey pulled an about-face and decided to run as an indie instead. That seems to make Murphy's primary route easier (since Bailey was the only SW PA candidate, while Murphy splits eastern PA with Kathleen Kane), but his general route harder (since Bailey splits the Dem vote). Of course, Bailey, despite being an ex-Rep. and ex-state Auditor, is such a has-been (he hasn't held office since the 1980s) that he might not be much a factor anyway. (David Jarman)

WI Recall: Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board ruled on Monday that recall elections must go forward for four Republican state senators targeted by Democrats, but the dates are uncertain. The GAB wants to schedule the elections for May 8; if more than one candidate from either party runs, that would turn into the primary and the general would then be held on June 5. The board still hasn't scheduled the gubernatorial recall, either, though, and they want to consolidate everything on the same day—but that would require obtaining an extension from a judge something Democrats have opposed.

Grab Bag:

60 Plus: The conservative front group known as the 60 Plus Association is recycling a minute-long ad they first trotted out last November against Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, featuring 77-year-old singer Pat Boone telling a bunch of lies about healthcare reform. This time, reports The Fix, they're spending $3.5 million to re-air the spot, against Brown and four other Democratic senators: Jon Tester (MT), Claire McCaskill (MO), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Bill Nelson (FL).

California: Though California's filing deadline technically passed on Friday, there's a little quirk in the law which says that if an incumbent fails to file, the deadline gets extended until March 14 (this Wednesday). So we'll have to wait a couple more days before we have the complete and final list.

OH-Init: I unfortunately don't think this would have been an especially good use of our limited resources, but in any event, it looks like it won't matter either way. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has ruled that a proposed referendum aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage failed to clear an initial hurdle (he ruled that organizers failed to properly describe the measure) and thus backers cannot begin gathering the necessary 385K signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Polltopia: I don't look to Politico for validation of my beliefs—what progressive does?—but seeing them acknowledge a reality we've all long grasped is nevertheless a welcome sight:

Two other polls released Friday, neither considered very reliable, showed drastically different results.

Republican polling firm Rasmussen found Romney leading by 8 percentage points in Mississippi while American Research Group found Gingrich leading by 4 percentage points in Mississippi. (Emphasis added.)

That's a two-fer on Rasmussen!

Texas: Candidate filing in Texas is, for whatever reason, handled at the state party level, so to see who qualified for the ballot by last Friday's deadline, you need to check out separate websites for the Democrats and Republicans. Katherine Haenschen at Burnt Orange Report has promised a complete run-down of the key names, so we'll link her up as soon as she hits "Post."

Voter Suppression: Good news: The Department of Justice has refused to grant preclearance to Texas' new voter ID law, saying that the law would have a disproportionate effect on Hispanic voters. This isn't the last word, though: The case is also proceeding in federal court, where judges might take a different view of things than the DoJ.

Redistricting Roundup:

NY Redistricting: The chutzpah is strong with this one. The New York legislature released new legislative maps late on Sunday night... only, not really. All they put out was a textual description of the so-called "metes and bounds" of the revised lines, with no actual maps. Indeed, only late in the day on Monday did an actual state Senate map emerge—and only because Democrats were finally able to produce one, rather than the Republicans, who actually drew the map. How freaking ridiculous is that?

Anyhow, you can see the complete abomination in this large PDF; an inset of New York City is below:

March 11, 2012 NY Senate map (NYC)
If it looks just as awful as the original version, that's because it is. You'll struggle to find any changes at all to this extreme GOP gerrymander. Yet despite this, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had long threatened to veto maps produced by the legislature, has now done a complete 180 and is praising this disaster:
They consulted with my people in redoing the lines. .... The lines are far from perfect but I believe they made progress on the lines.
And yet he's getting nothing out of this. Cuomo's willing to sacrifice everything in favor of a constitutional amendment to create a bogus redistricting commission that won't even go into effect for a decade. What's more, he's also trashing the courts—and lying about what they did on the congressional front. Politicker's Colin Campbell busts him:
"First of all, the magistrate’s lines were remarkably like the lines that she was given. I’d bet you that they were 98% the same," he contended. "So it’s not like the court is going to start with a blank piece of paper and rewrite the lines. The lines were tweaked by the magistrate, but they were basically the Assembly and the Senate lines for the Congress."

People following the redistricting process might raise their eyebrows at Mr. Cuomo’s remarks here. The court’s map appeared much closer to the "Unity Map" submitted by a coalition of advocacy groups than the competing proposals from the Democratic Assembly and Republican Senate.

So why the rush? Because the court which just redrew the state's congressional lines has a status conference planned for Thursday; if there's been no action on legislative lines by then, they've signaled their willingness to go ahead and draw those, too. The legislature is desperate to beat them to the punch, but if Cuomo signs this, he's consigning himself to joker status for all time.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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