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Leading Off:

IA-St. Sen.: This is really outrageous. Democratic state Sen. Swati Dandekar just accepted an appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. Democrats control the Senate by a 26-24 margin, which means that if we lose the special election for Dandekar's seat, the chamber will be thrown into a tie, with Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds breaking deadlocked votes. Yes, I'm aware that governors on our side (like Steve Beshear) have often done similar things, but that doesn't mean I feel anything but contempt for Republican legislators who jump ship and bitter scorn for Democrats who do so.

What makes this even worse is that this district (the old 18th, in which the special will be held) has a narrow GOP registration edge, as Bleeding Heartland points out, so it's an extreme threat to flip. Iowa Democrats have created a website called "Keep the Majority" to organize efforts to hold this seat, and we're going to need all the help we can get. With the Iowa House firmly in GOP hands, the Senate is the only bulwark we have against wild Republican extremism in the Hawkeye State.

Senate:

AZ-Sen: Rep. Jeff Flake just endorsed Mitt Romney… and ordinarily, for this kind of thing, I'd say "who cares?" But it's sort of an odd choice, since it seems like the type of move which could come back to haunt Flake if a true movement conservative opponent (like businessman Will Cardon) gains any traction in the GOP primary. Flake could have just kept his mouth shut, right? I guess with Arizona staging a relatively early primary, he's looking to make some friends.

CA-Sen: Could lawyer, dentist, and Birther Queen Orly Taitz add "cat fud purveyor" to her resume? Everyone's favorite dead-ender nutbag says she's thinking about running for Senate next year. Sadly, she didn't provide much lulz in her abysmal run for California Secretary of State last year, but I'm hoping her freak flag will really fly if she jumps into the high-profile Senate race.

CT-Sen: By all means, please do! Joe Lieberman hasn't yet made up his mind, but says he might endorse Republican ex-Rep. Chris Shays next year. If Chris Shays wants to campaign on being anointed as Joe Lieberman's designated successor, I'm all for it!

Relatedly, Republican Linda McMahon will officially announce her campaign today at 10:30am.

PA-Sen, PA-07: I was surprised as anyone when freshman Rep. Pat Meehan's name showed up in a news story about possible GOP Senate candidates a week or so ago, but now the Delaware County Daily Times suggests that he's being recruited for real. The story is still the same, though: Meehan is refusing to rule it out, but isn't saying anything that indicates he's at all interested.

Gubernatorial:

NC-Gov: In some recent interviews Democratic state Rep. Bill Faison had refused to rule out a primary challenge to Gov. Bev Perdue — even though Perdue's poll numbers are on the rebound for the first time since, well, forever. They're still not great, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if Faison decided to get in, even though he claims his first priority is winning back the state House. (He also doesn't hesitate to take a bit of a jab at Perdue.)

NH-Gov: Another one for the "no surprise" pile: Republican attorney Ovide Lamontagne formally announced his bid for the open governor's seat yesterday, after offering various indications that he'd do so for months. Lamontagne very nearly captured the GOP Senate nomination last year, coming just one point short against the more moderate-seeming Kelly Ayotte, who had backing from the local establishment as well as the national party. With a little more time, Lamontagne — who had been written off for dead — could have pulled off the upset. Regardless, it was a far better showing than his prior gubernatorial run in 1996, when he lost to now-Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by a 57-40 spread. Ovide won't be the only teabagger in the field, though, since activist Kevin Smith is also likely to get in. Should be an interesting race.

WV-Gov: Dem Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has a new ad out touting his job creation efforts, including landing a Macy's distribution center in the state's eastern panhandle. Also, Tomblin's predecessor, now-Sen. Joe Manchin, recorded a robocall on his successor's behalf.

House:

CA-15: A good catch by Greg Giroux: State Sen. Majority Leader Ellen Corbett has filed to run in the new 15th CD, a district that's currently home to fellow Democrat Pete Stark. Stark, age 79, has already said he'd seek a 20th term here, so this move would set up a pretty serious Dem-on-Dem battle. But maybe Corbett is hoping Stark will change his mind: She very quietly filed paperwork with the FEC and doesn't appear to have made any kind of announcement. So this could be just some sort of signal flare.

CA-26: Around these parts, Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly rather famously botched an attempted retirement in 2006. You'd think quitting would be easy, but not in this case. To recap for newcomers, Gallegly tried to step down after the candidate filing deadline, citing poor health. But it turned out that had he done so, the GOP wouldn't have been able to appoint a replacement, thus insta-gifting this seat to the Democrats. So Gallegly stayed on, and decided his health had miraculously recovered. But on account of this debacle, he's earned a permanent spot on our retirement watchlists.

Now the speculation is cranking up again, since Gallegly's home got shifted into a district that really belongs to fellow GOPer Buck McKeon (the 25th). That gives Gallegly two real options: Run in the incumbent-less but very swingish 26th, or hang up his spurs. And so far, he isn't saying what he plans to do. The first linked article has an in-depth overview of the race and points to one possible tea leaf: Gallegly has over $800K cash-on-hand, a rather serious sum. A lot of folks, though, seem to think he'll bail. But I loved this final line from Ventura County Dem chair Richard Carter best of all: "Regardless of what he decides, he's going to retire."

CA-36: Physician Raul Ruiz (whom we mentioned as a likely candidate in the previous digest) made his entry into the Democratic field official over the weekend. Ruiz is a political newcomer but has won praise in the area for his efforts to expand healthcare to the poor and uninsured. He probably won't have the field to himself, though: Assemblyman Manuel Perez, who is described as a friend of Ruiz's, is also very interested in running and is still considering the race. Either man would be the first Latino to face off against GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack in what is now a heavily (but by no means majority) Hispanic district.

IL-08 (via email): Rep. Danny Davis became the first member of Illinois's U.S. House delegation to endorse in the heavy-duty Democratic primary in the new 8th CD, backing Raja Krishnamoorthi over Tammy Duckworth. The state's senior senator, Dick Durbin, previously gave his support to Duckworth.

IN-05: If this were 1991, I'd be leading off posts with "Quayle Alert!" just like we do when Joe Biden comes to town. But it's not twenty years ago, so Dan Quayle doesn't get the Drudge siren… but I will note the Indiana native is co-hosting a DC fundraiser for ex-Rep. David McIntosh, along with Fred Thompson. McIntosh, you'll recall, is trying to unseat fellow GOPer Dan Burton in a primary, but the field is crowded.

LA-04: Gahah! (That was the choking laughter I involuntarily emitted when I first saw what I'm about to show you.) Every time I hope someone's gone the full Heineman, they usually fall a little bit short. Not this time:

"By the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over."

— Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), in an interview on MSNBC, on why as a small business owner he can't afford a tax increase.

NC-08: Doctors who've never run for office before are often tricky to assess. They might be family practitioners with modest practices and known only to their patients, or they could be community healthcare activists with lots of political connections, or they might even own a group of private medical offices and have the money to self-fund a race. In other words, they might or might not be a Some Dude, and without more information, there's no way to tell. So until we learn more, I can't really say what category neurosurgeon John Whitley falls into. I can tell you, though, that he's joining the GOP field to take on Dem Rep. Larry Kissell.

OH-11, OH-16, OH-03, OH-10: Sabrina Eaton's overview in the Cleveland Plain Dealer has some interesting information about several races. The proposed new Cleveland-to-Akron district numbered OH-11 looks like Rep. Marcia Fudge's natural turf, but there are hints of a possible challenge in the Democratic primary. One name that's emerged is state Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland, but several others hail from Akron, including state Rep. Vernon Sykes, City Council President Marco Sommerville, Councilwoman Linda Omobien, and Councilman Mike Williams.

Meanwhile, Dem Rep. Betty Sutton was nominally drawn into the new 16th CD, but her territory was shattered across several new districts: the 16th, 13th, 11th, and 7th. While no one expects her to run against fellow Democrats Tim Ryan or the aforementioned Fudge, some folks Eaton spoke with think Sutton could run against Jim Renacci in the 16th or Bob Gibbs in the 7th. Both are freshman Republicans, but both of those districts were drawn to favor the GOP.

Down in the new Columbus-based (and very blue) 3rd CD, Eaton mentions two new names as possibilities: state Sen. Charleta Tavares and Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther. And finally, in the new 10th District, Republican incumbents Mike Turner and Steve Austria both say they will seek this seat. I'd still like to hear the story of why these two were singled out for pain by the Ohio legislature.

OR-01: EMILY's List is saying they "recommend" Suzanne Bonamici in the Democratic primary for the special election for ex-Rep. David Wu's seat. While undoubtedly Bonamici checks off all three of EMILY's boxes (☑ woman, ☑ Democrat, ☑ pro-choice), I've seen no indication she's more progressive than either of the two men she's facing in the Democratic primary, Brad Witt and Brad Avakian (both of whom are also pro-choice). That sort of judgment isn't part of EMILY's mission, so it's important to bear that in mind.

Other Races:

NY-St. Sen.: The on-again, off-again game of trying to woo GOP state Sen. Mark Grisanti back to the Democratic fold seems to be on… again. Grisanti, who first ran for the heavily blue 60th Senate District in 2008 as a Democrat, then improbably won in 2010 as a Republican, says "all options are open" regarding his future. Previously he'd said he wouldn't switch parties, but I can't see how he could possibly win re-election unless he gets some very favorable gifts through redistricting. The linked article also notes that in order to change sides, Grisanti "must be officially registered with a party by Oct. 14 in order to run on that party's line in 2012." If Grisanti did jump ship, he'd put the Senate into a 32-32 deadlock, with ties potentially broken by Dem Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.

Special Elections: There are three state legislative special elections tonight, Johnny Longtorso never stops:

Georgia HD-43: Nothing much happening here; it's a blood-red seat in northern Cobb County, having gone 2-1 for McCain, and only Republicans are running (five, to be exact). Amusingly, one of them is named Roy Barnes.

Massachusetts House, Bristol-12: This is an open Democratic seat that seems to stretch from New Bedford to Middleboro. The candidates are Democrat Roger Brunelle, a commercial/industrial painter, and Republican Keiko Orrall, a teacher.

New Hampshire House, Hillsborough-3: In what seems to be a monthly event, there's a special election for a formerly Republican-held seat in the New Hampshire House. The candidates are former state Rep. Peter Leishman, a Democrat, and retired life insurance agent David Simpson, a Republican. The district elected 3 Democrats and 1 Republican in '06 and '08, and 4 Republicans in '10. It's fairly Dem-friendly, having gone 54-45 Obama in '08 and 53-45 Lynch in '10.

Grab Bag:

California: The LA Times has more on the Kinde Durkee story, focusing on the fact that so many campaigns ignored so many red flags for so long. Terrifyingly, Durkee had access to over 400 campaign accounts for years, as Amanda Becker notes in Roll Call, her clients received hundreds of letters from regulatory authorities over the years inquiring about irregularities. Even more disturbing, prosecutors say that Durkee admitted "that she had been misappropriating her clients' money for years, and that forms she filed with the state were false."

Passings: Former Illinois Sen. Charles Percy passed away late last week at the age of 91. They certainly don't make Republicans like him anymore. As the Chicago Tribune put it:

Percy, a moderate Republican, entered the Senate in 1966 after defeating one liberal icon, the late Paul Douglas. But he was ousted by the state's voters when they elected another Democratic icon, the late Paul Simon, in 1984.

Percy was an ardent opponent of the Vietnam War, a supporter of international nuclear non-proliferation, a backer of federal consumer protection efforts and tougher enforcement of laws against drug abuse. He also was the first senator to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Watergate, the political dirty tricks scandal that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency.

And for the crime of supporting Nelson Rockefeller for president in 1968, Percy wound up on Nixon's infamous "enemies list." Any enemy of Dick Nixon can't have been too bad a dude.

Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Corbett sounds pretty positive about Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi's plan to award Pennsylvania's electoral votes by congressional district, rather than the current winner-take-all system. Says Corbett of his fellow Republican's idea:

"I believe Sen. Pileggi's bill has strong merit; it is more representative of Pennsylvania than the present system, but I'm keeping an open mind."

WATN?: Longtime SC-05 Dem Rep. John Spratt, who lost in last year's red tide, was tapped by President Obama to serve as co-chairman of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, a US-Canadian defense advisory panel.

Redistricting Roundup:

AZ Redistricting: This is interesting. Knowledgeable redistricting watchers are familiar with the map of northeastern Arizona, where an extremely unusual carve-out places the Hopi Reservation in the 2nd CD, even though it's surrounded entirely by the much larger Navajo Reservation, which sits in the 1st. This very odd bit of mapmaking is the result of a request by the Hopis a decade ago for different congressional representation from the Navajos, with whom they were at odds.

Now, though, it sounds like the Hopi are ready to set aside their differences and rejoin the Navajos in a single district. Meanwhile, the Navajos are circulating plans to create a heavily Indian district which would give them the chance to send Arizona's first Native American to Congress. These proposals are referenced in the linked article, but unfortunately there are no maps. I'm really curious to see how they'd do it, because Indians only make up 4.6% of the state's population; even if you could put them all in one district (which is obviously impossible), that would only lead to a seat that's about 40% native. What's more, there are only 7,000 people living on the Hopi Reservation, which is only 1% of the total population for a new congressional district, so the new rapprochement doesn't change the calculus a whole lot.

NY Redistricting: New York state Senate Republicans are definitely not short on chutzpah. In a desperate gamble to retain their majority, they are reportedly looking to add a 63rd seat to the 62-member chamber, one that would be safely red, of course. Colin Campbell posts a memo from Senate Dems, who say that drawing an additional seat would violate the state constitution. This all could just be a ploy, though, to try to make an outrageously gerrymandered 62-seat map look "reasonable" by comparison to some nakedly partisan 63-seat plan.

TX Redistricting (PDF): The Department of Justice just filed its answer (a formal legal response) in the DC court hearing the state of Texas' arguments that its new redistricting maps should be granted preclearance. The DoJ agrees with Texas that its state Senate and State Board of Education (SBOE) maps pass muster, but they think that preclearance should be denied for the state House and Congressional maps. As is usually the case with these sorts of preliminary filings, the answer doesn't contain a whole lot more information beyond flat statements to this effect. So we won't really have a sense of the DoJ's substantive arguments for a little while yet.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed this quote Shira Toeplitz wrangled out of an anonymous Republican operative, groaning about how his side's own expert witness scored a few own-goals in their redistricting case in San Antonio (see last item here for background):

"The state's expert witness turned a rock-solid legal argument into a question when there are already so many other questions," the GOP operative bemoaned. "Because of the way the [state] attorney general handled the case, there's no question that Republican Members are extremely nervous about the potential outcome and ruling on this case. Nervous is an understatement."

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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