Best I can tell, there are five 2010 U.S. Senate races that still don't have a Democratic candidate.
|State||Republican Incumbent||Filing Deadline|
|Alaska||Lisa Murkowski||June 1|
|Georgia||Johnny Isakson||April 30|
|Idaho||Mike Crapo||March 19|
|Oklahoma||Tom Coburn||June 9|
|South Dakota||John Thune||March 30|
Much more below the fold.
It should be unacceptable to not run a candidate. For Party building and grassroots organizing, for holding the Republican incumbent accountable, and for the rare occasion when we catch lightning in a bottle, there should not be a race for U.S. Senate that doesn't feature a Democratic option on the ballot.
Of the five, the soonest deadlines are Idaho (March 19 - this Friday!) and South Dakota (March 30 - two weeks from today). While no race should go unchallenged, these two would be among our most uphill of challenges. In 2008, of course a very Democratic-friendly year, the Democratic nominee in Idaho, a former Congressman, could only achieve 34% on Election Day. (Note that Idaho is, technically, not without a Democratic candidate. Attorney William Bryk has said that he will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Idaho. The one hang-up: he lives in Brooklyn, New York. He simply believes that no race should go unchallenged and doesn't think that the Idaho Democratic Party will field a candidate. Though Idaho law states that a candidate need only be a resident of the state by the day of the general election, obviously no out-of-state candidate will be taken seriously.) Further, John Thune enjoys significant popularity in South Dakota, without any recent murmurs of Democratic challengers. While seemingly unlikely at this point, I hope Democratic candidates of some substance emerge in these two states.
The next two deadlines on the list - Georgia (April 30) and Alaska (June 1) - would be the most unforgivable of the five if Democrats were unable to find credible challengers. Georgia is a state where Democrats can surprise Republican incumbents. Recall the 2008 election in which Democrat Jim Martin entered the race relatively late, won a crowded primary, and forced incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss to a run-off by holding him under 50% on Election Day. On top of that, the 2010 Republican incumbent, freshman backbencher Johnny Isakson, has poor approval numbers. Public Policy Polling recently put Isakson's numbers at 36% approve, 38% disapprove. Less than a year ago, a hypothetical match-up by Research 2000 between Isakson and Democratic former Governor Roy Barnes showed a statistical dead heat. Isakson can be beaten. Georgia has Democrats strong enough to take on and defeat Isakson. Currently, the Democratic primary for Governor is crowded, though former Governor Barnes has comfortably led the pack. Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker has been running second to Barnes in the primary pack. Also in the Democratic scrum is David Poythress. Poythress hasn't been able to get traction with primary voters to climb out of single digits in any poll, but he brings with him an outstanding resume of service to Georgia: an Air Force veteran, a former Georgia Secretary of State, a former State Labor Commissioner, and a former Adjutant General leading Georgia's National Guard, having been elected statewide multiple times and appointed to office by Governors of both Parties. If either Baker or Poythress switched gears from a gubernatorial bid to a Senate bid, either could sew up the nomination and offer Isakson an extremely tough race. Baker is running strongly enough in some primary polls that it would be unlikely that he'd switch gears; but, Poythress - again, unable to climb out of single digits in the Democratic primary against Barnes and Baker - might be more amenable to a switch from a likely-fruitless gubernatorial bid to a high profile, winnable Senate campaign.
In Alaska, incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski apparently enjoys higher approval among her constituents than Isakson does among his. Nevertheless, Murkowski is beatable. In recent years, the Alaska Republican Party has become synonymous with corruption. The blowback from this Alaska GOP Culture of Corruption culminated with the 2008 dethroning of Ted Stevens. And Murkowski herself has been touched by considerable controversy of her own. You may recall that she started off on the wrong foot when she won her job courtesy of nepotism. Her dad, Frank, appointed her to his old seat when he became Governor. (Thanks in part to this nepotism, Frank was himself kicked out of office courtesy of a primary loss to small town Mayor Sarah Palin.) Since then, Murkowski dipped her toe into the Alaska GOP Corruption pool when she took part in a sweetheart land deal, purchasing prime property at well below market value from, of all people, one of Ted Stevens' corporate cronies - only selling back the land at the discount price for which she received it once the media caught wind of the shenanigans. Murkowski's shady dealings earned her a spot in the 2007 edition (in PDF) of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's annual "most corrupt members of Congress" list. Alaska Dems have about two and a half months to secure a credible challenger. Please share your thoughts on a potential strong recruit in the comments.
Finally, Oklahoma (June 9), like Idaho earlier on this list, had a 2008 Democratic Senate nominee who enjoyed substantial charisma and a solid message, but was unable to crack 40%. No doubt, Oklahoma would be a similarly uphill race for any Democrat. Even popular Democratic Governor Brad Henry trailed Republican incumbent Tom Coburn by double digits in a 2009 hypothetical match-up by Public Policy Polling. Still, as always, not finding any Democratic candidate of substance to run is political malpractice.
Of the five U.S. Senate races still seeking a credible Democratic candidate, two are not only potentially competitive but truly winnable with the right candidate. Your thoughts? Do you have a preferred candidate in Georgia or Alaska (or the other three states)? Do you have a preferred course of action - a movement to urge/persuade/beg David Poythress to switch races or a draft effort in Alaska? Share in the comments!