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Leading Off:

OR Ballot: Exciting news! Activists in Oregon have begun a drive to put same-sex marriage legalization on the ballot in the Beaver State for the 2014 elections. What makes this effort unusual is that if it's successful, Oregon would be the first state to overturn a constitutional ban on gay marriage, which voters approved by over 13 points in 2004. But obviously, the landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade, and a recent PPP poll shows sentiment completely reverses, with Oregonians now approving of marriage equality at a 54-40 clip.

In any event, organizers need to first submit 1,000 signatures in order to undergo a preliminary review by the Secretary of State. Once that passes muster, they'll need an additional 116,284 signatures—and remember, Oregon is home to fewer than four million people, so we're talking something like 3 percent of the entire population here (and more than that for registered voters). The push will be spearheaded by a group called Oregon United for Marriage, under the auspices of another organization, Basic Rights Oregon. They will certainly have a lot of work ahead of them in the months to come, as opponents are already gearing up to thwart this effort, but after last year's successes at the ballot box in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, the momentum is firmly on the side of the good guys this time.


GA-Sen: GOP Rep. Tom Price, perhaps the biggest name out there in terms of possible successors to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, says he won't make any decision on a bid for higher office until at least May. (Apparently, the House Budget Committee, of which he is vice chair, has a big deadline then.)

NJ-Sen: All these ethics stories about Dem Sen. Bob Menendez (here's the latest) are giving me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Anyone else?

WV-Sen: Memo to conservatives: Try a little harder the next time you pick a name for one of your front groups. "West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse" doesn't even sound remotely believable and is on par with Dick Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President (aka CREEP) in terms of "names that should have landed on the reject pile." Anyhow, the organization, which mostly seemed to exist to turn former Democratic state AG Darrell McGraw out of office last year (he lost), has now set its sights on the open Senate race. To that end, they've commissioned a poll from Mark Blankenship Enterprises showing Rep. Nick Rahall getting whomped by fellow Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in a hypothetical general election, 55-37.

But here's what doesn't make sense: They also have Rahall winning a theoretical Democratic primary, taking 37 percent to 16 for Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis, 6 for ex-Sen. Carte Goodwin, and 2 for attorney Ralph Baxter. If the idea is to goad Rahall into running a race they're sure he'll lose, then why release the general election numbers? On the other hand, if they want to show Rahall that Moore would stomp him, then why bother with the primary results? I guess asking a group called West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse to make sense is probably too much, though.


FL-Gov: Former Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer, long under scrutiny for his handling of GOP finances, struck a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to charges of theft and money laundering. Greer could face more than three years in prison, but the reason I'm filing this under "FL-Gov" is that Charlie Crist was slated to testify had the matter gone to trial, and Greer had threatened to "personally embarrass" him. Who knows if Greer was full of it, but I'm sure Crist, who is now a Democrat and is reportedly contemplating a bid for his old job, is glad to avoid the courtroom.

PA-Gov: Well this is interesting. Marcel Groen, chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, says that Rep. Allyson Schwartz is "80% of the way in" toward a gubernatorial bid against GOP Gov. Tom Corbett. Schwartz was first mentioned at least as far back as last September, and while she's never made any public statements on the matter, but she hired a top fundraiser in December, suggesting she might be ready to move on to bigger things.

Apparently, one motivating factor was a new poll conducted by the DGA reportedly showing Schwartz as the strongest possible Dem against Corbett—but don't get too excited, since the survey's not public. It definitely exists, though, as PoliticsPA's Keegan Gibson says he spoke with "half a dozen Democratic operatives" who confirmed that the DGA did in fact poll the race and what its results looked like, in broad strokes.

While I've generally been of the feeling that Democrats would put up a good candidate even if our bench isn't terribly high profile (particularly because Corbett's vulnerabilities loom so large), Schwartz would likely be a cut above. She's well-connected in the House, holds a leadership position in the DCCC, and would likely be able to raise money at a prodigious clip. (As an added bonus, her 13th Congressional District seat is safely blue.) So you can bet that the DGA is zealously trying to recruit Schwartz, and I'll be plenty of Pennsylvania Democrats would be quite excited to see her enter the race as well.


CO-06: It looks like former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff may have a clear path to the Democratic nomination: ex-state Rep. Karen Middleton and state Sen. Linda Newell have now both pulled their names from consideration in recent days. Newell endorsed Romanoff but Middleton abstained, saying she'd like to see a woman run. But she and Newell were likely the two most prominent women in the district, and if neither of them is willing to go toe-to-toe with Romanoff, he probably has a direct shot at GOP Rep. Mike Coffman.

Speaking of Coffman, he's now trying to moderate his stance on immigration (remember, Tom Tancredo held this seat immediately before him), but will he really be able to put distance between not just himself and his party, but himself and his past views? That sounds like a tough sell, particularly since his "change of heart" is so manifestly expedient.

IA-01, IA-Gov: Progressive blog Bleeding Heartland reports that state Senate President Pam Jochum will not run for Bruce Braley's open seat in IA-01 but may instead challenge GOP Gov. Terry Branstad next year. (Since Jochum was just re-elected last year to a four-year term, she wouldn't have to give up her seat to do so.) As state legislators are wont to do, Jochum says she won't make a decision until after the current legislative session, which ends in May.

Bleeding Heartland also suggests that Jochum's decision may make it easier for state Sen. Liz Mathis, who isn't ruling out a bid, "to consolidate support in a Democratic primary," which sounds plausible. But as soon as one name exits, another enters: Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston now says that she, too, is considering a run. (Linn is home to Cedar Rapids and is the second-largest county in the state.) Given that IA-01 is a reasonably secure Democratic seat, it's no surprise that plenty of serious politicos are interested.

IA-03: That was fast: Just a few weeks after his name was first floated, investor Mike Sherzan has announced his campaign against GOP Rep. Tom Latham. The DCCC openly acknowledged they considered Sherzan a top recruit, and among other things, he's probably personally quite wealthy. As for whether he has political chops, that remains to be seen.

One thing also worth thinking about is how Sherzan's move might affect Latham's own decision-making process when it comes to Iowa's open Senate seat. Latham has been contemplating a run, and he's the Republican establishment's favored choice. However, several polls have shown fellow Rep. Steve King putting the hurt on him in a hypothetical primary, which has to act as a deterrent. On the other hand, if Latham thinks Sherzan will put up a stiff fight, that might incline him more toward taking a gamble on the Senate. I don't pretend to know the mind of Tom Latham, but I imagine we'll soon find out one way or the other.

IL-02: On Sunday, ex-state Rep. Robin Kelly scored a pair of high-profile endorsements: Chicago-area Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis both formally gave their backing to her campaign, making them the first members of Congress to take sides in the Democratic primary. Both Rush and Davis specifically cited Kelly's stance on guns, with Rush pointedly saying that Kelly does not take "marching orders from the NRA." (Kelly will also be Rush's guest at the State of the Union address on Tuesday night.)

Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg's Independence USA keeps pouring it on. They're out with a brand new TV spot that once again hammers ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson on guns. The ad is backed by a $414K buy, bringing the PAC's total investment in the race to over $1.2 million. (That includes yet another $37K for mail filed on Saturday.)

Another super PAC is also getting into the mix: The progressive group CREDO is deploying what they call a "data-driven field campaign" that will target both Halvorson and state Sen. Toi Hutchinson over their pro-NRA records. (To date, Independence USA has only hit Halvorson.)

And one final note: Thursday is the FEC's filing deadline for pre-primary fundraising reports. As of that date, all candidates must detail how much they've raised and spent between Jan. 1 and Feb. 6. Since Feb. 6, by the way, campaigns have been required to report all large donations within 48 hours. Kelly, who led the pack in fundraising as of Dec. 31, has already filed three such reports, totaling $13K. Halvorson and Hutchinson? Bupkes.

MA-05: It looks like another Democratic state legislator announced for Ed Markey's seat over the weekend—or more accurately, half-announced: state Sen. Will Brownsberger, who told Roll Call that if Markey succeeds in winning this year's Senate special election, "I will run, in turn, for his seat." That contrasts with state Rep. Carl Sciortino, who full-on declared his candidacy on Friday. Personally, I think there's nothing wrong with Sciortino's approach: Should the seat not become open, then there's no race, and no one will care. But if it does open up (as it appears likely to), then someone like Sciortino gets to hit the ground running.

MD-06: Maryland GOP chair Alex Mooney is stepping down from what is obviously one of the worst jobs in America, but in announcing his departure, he also said he wasn't ruling out a run for the state's 6th Congressional District. That's an equally crappy job for a Republican, though: Mooney thought about challenging Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the primary last year, but ultimately had to back off in humiliating fashion. Not that it mattered, however, seeing as Bartlett got smooshed 58-38 by Democrat John Delaney in this now-solidly blue seat, so Mooney can keep dreaming.  

MO-08: Over the weekend, Republican officials in southeast Missouri selected state House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith as their nominee in the special election to replace ex-Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. Ten candidates started the day, but Smith slowly built support over six rounds of voting, ultimately defeating Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, 55 votes to 22. (Kinder, the best-known name in the field, was reportedly hampered by the possibility that his LG post could go to a Democrat if Gov. Jay Nixon were able to name a replacement.) In this dark-red district—as I like to point out, even Todd Akin won here—Smith's nomination is all but tantamount to victory, unless something truly remarkable were to explode here. The general election will be held on June 4.

P.S. As an aside, I'd also note that this decision means the ranks of Republican women in the House will shrink further still. Indeed, the only woman up for consideration, ex-Treasurer Sarah Steelman, dropped out before the voting began.

SC-01: Wealthy businessman Martin Skelly, who entered the Democratic primary with a promise to put $250,000 of his own money into the race, has now bowed out and endorsed the other notable Democrat running, Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Though a victory here (in the special election to replace now-Sen. Tim Scott) would be a huge upset for Dems, this is a positive development: The large GOP field is likely to require a runoff, while Colbert Busch only has a perennial candidate to fend off. If Republicans tear themselves apart while Colbert Busch consolidates support (and pulls in donations thanks to her famous surname), that could make things a lot more interesting.

Other Races:

Special Elections: It looks like we have our first genuinely competitive state legislative special elections of the year, in Minnesota. Johnny Longtorso, as always, with a special guest appearance:

Kentucky HD-52: This is the seat left open by Republican Sara Beth Gregory, who was elected to the State Senate last December. The candidates are Democratic businessman Harvey Shearer and Republican Ken Upchurch, who held the seat prior to Gregory. This is blood-red southern Kentucky, so don't expect an upset.

Minnesota HD-14A & HD-19A: DKEer OGGoldy has provided a thorough look at these two elections, so I would encourage you to read his analysis.

14A is a GOP-held seat, but OGGoldy thinks Dems have a good chance of picking it up. 19A is a Democratic seat that he believes we should also hold. However, there are Independent Party candidates in both races, and since the IP usually hurts Democrats more than Republicans, anything is possible.

Grab Bag:

Campaign Finance: One thing that people tend to leave out when praising Nate Silver is that he's really good at creating tables and charts, to the extent that the graphic often tells the whole story easily and the accompanying text is just icing on the cake. His new article on the likely ineffectiveness of Karl Rove's plan to seize back control of the Republican primary machinery is a good case in point: It contains a chart of all the establishment-vs.-outsider GOP primaries in the last two cycles, including a number of ones I'd already forgotten about.

It also shows there's no relationship between money and success in getting establishmentarians across the finish line, with the outsider winning nearly half the time regardless of the financial gap. A vastly-outspent insurgent can still beat the establishment's pick, though as you can see from the data, it helps greatly if it's a lackluster establishment candidate, a charismatic outsider, or both. (David Jarman)

Senate: Yeah, maybe we should suffer through 2014 before starting to think about the real fun in the Senate, which will be 2016, but here's an interesting consideration that might lead to an inordinate number of Republican open seats that year: the gravitational pull of the presidential race. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, and John Thune are all up for re-election that year, in addition to having presidential designs. The Fix takes a look at how that might shake out: Ohio would allow Portman to run for both at the same time, while Paul, Thune, and Rubio would need to factor in May, June, and August primaries respectively, if they wanted to bail out of the presidential race and try to keep their day jobs. (David Jarman)

Turnout: You probably know that turnout in the 2012 election was down noticeably from 2008, but Michael McDonald (the political scientist, not the Doobie Brother) helps put that in historical context. Indeed, the kind of falloff we saw isn't unusual at all when a president is successfully re-elected—and it was still quite superior to turnout amidst the malaise of the 1970s or the ennui of the 1990s. McDonald also does some helpful slice-and-dice of turnout based on regional and demographic disparities, looking at the effects of Latino growth and Hurricane Sandy. (David Jarman)

WATN?: If you're new to following politics closely, you might not know just how far back Howard Berman and Henry Waxman go. They've been close allies since the late 70s, and National Journal has a great retrospective look at how they took turns assisting each other with their climbs to power in Los Angeles, helped immensely behind-the-scenes by Berman's brother Michael, the mapmaker who was gerrymanderer-in-chief for the Dems for decades. In the end, it was a case of live by the map, die by the map, as California's switch to an independent redistricting commission, in concert with changing demographics, ended Berman's tenure and even pushed Waxman to his closest race in decades. Definitely worth a full read. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Koscadia, PDX Metro, Daily Kos Oregon, and Daily Kos.

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