• CA-26: Ugh. This is terrible news: Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, the clear Democratic front-runner in the open 26th District, dropped out of the race over the weekend. Why? Because, in the Ventura County Star's words, "his heart remains in serving local government." Uh, seriously? Bennett didn't remember that he loooved local government so so much when he got into the race back in November? That is just a b.s. excuse. Bennett also apparently was concerned that a split Democratic field would mean two Republicans would wind up advancing to the general election via the top-two primary system, something almost unimaginable, especially given the low profile of the other Dems in the race. So yeah, b.s.
As for those remaining Democrats, there are three of them, and each is trying to make their case: businessman David Cruz Thayne, Moorpark Councilman David Pollock, and Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner Jess Herrera. But in the fourth quarter, Pollock raised just $26K and Thayne $27K, while Herrera hasn't filed any reports yet. Given the state of the field, a couple of other bigger players are now considering (or re-considering). Assemblywoman Julia Brownley says she's "taking a very serious look" and former Ventura Mayor Richard Francis, who weighed a bid last year, is re-evaluating the situation.
On the GOP side, state Sen. Tony Strickland appears to be the establishment choice, though Ventura County Supervisor is also in the race. Neither has filed any fundraising reports yet. If you have our California cheat sheet handy, you know that this district went for Obama by a 56-41 margin in 2008, but it was almost evenly split in statewide races last cycle. While we aren't likely to have a year as bad as 2010, this seat is winnable for Republicans if they have a strong candidate and we have a weak one. By our math, it would count as a pickup if we win, meaning it's a crucial seat toward taking back control of the House, so we'll need to step up our recruitment.
• HI-Sen: If you dig in the archives you can find a poll in the open seat Hawaii Senate race to support whatever narrative you'd like, but a new survey by local pollster Ward Research shows Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono firmly in control, leading Ed Case in the primary and Linda Lingle in the general, both by 20 points. Click through for our full writeup at Daily Kos Elections. (David Jarman)
• IN-Sen: The memo describing Republican Sen. Dick Lugar's new poll is the most bare-bones, poorly produced one-pager I think I've ever seen. It looks like it was photocopied at Kinko's as an afterthought by a guy who just got finished pasting together some ransom notes. Click through to see what I mean—and note the cut-off letterhead. What's more, it doesn't even fill up a single page, despite some liberal quadruple-spacing in the header that would even make a desperate college student blush. And what makes this even better is that, as Dave Catanese points out, Lugar just switched pollsters, from American Viewpoint to National Research. At least he knows his new firm isn't wasting money!
Anyhow, Lugar claims he has a 55-30 lead over Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the GOP primary, which is pretty similar to the 45-31 mark his old pollster had him at last July. Numbers from the Club for Growth and Dem Rep. Joe Donnelly (who is running for Senate) paint a different picture, however, suggesting the race is neck-and-neck. (Even though a lot of the numbers are old, no one's really spent enough to move the needle much here.) I'll be curious to see if Mourdock responds with a poll of his own, though.
While we're on the topic, Mourdock is out with a new ad in which he speaks directly to the camera to attack Lugar on earmarks. I dunno if the whole John McCain-esque, let's-dig-up-some-goofy-sounding-line-items thing still carries a lot of resonance (Mourdock says Lugar supported a "teapot museum"), but then again, I'm not exactly your typical GOP primary voter. I think the ad is decent (though I'm not sure about the peppy, tinny music that arrives at the end, which sounds like something that would accompany the closing credits of an `80s sitcom), though there's no word on how much Mourdock is spending to put it on the air. Anyhow, have a look yourself at the link or below:
Lugar's also gotten a world of crap for this ill-considered attempt at pushback:
"It's just like the United States military. If you're a military personnel and you're in defense of this country and service to this country and you're overseas, you keep your last place of residence," said Lugar spokesman David Willkie to WISH-TV.I'm imagining some World War II newsreel-style footage where Dick Lugar is sharing a foxhole with Kelly Ayotte and Ron Johnson and I'm thinking, yeah, being a senator is just like serving in the military.
• NE-Sen, NE-Gov: As expected, Dem state Sen. Steve Lathrop announced on Monday that he won't run for the open U.S. Senate seat. That leaves University of Nebraska Board of Regents member Chuck Hassebrook as the only declared Democrat. Nebraska has an unusual (in fact, I think unique) candidate filing system whereby incumbents must declare their intentions by Feb. 15, but non-officeholders have until March 1. So we may yet see more people enter, though any current elected officials only have a couple more days to do so.
Lathrop isn't disappearing from the statewide scene, though: He says he's interested in running for governor in 2014, when the seat will be open. The last Democrat who won a gubernatorial race in Nebraska? None other than retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, who somehow managed to rack up an amazing 73% to win re-election in 1994, of all years, after defeating Republican incumbent Kay Orr in a squeaker in 1990.
• NH-Gov: John Stephen, the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee who gave Gov. John Lynch a good scare, says he won't take a second shot at the governor's mansion now that the seat is open.
• AZ-02, AZ-08: Though the Democratic field cleared easily for former Gabby Giffords aide Ron Barber in the special election, the same thing isn't happening for the general election in the fall. State Sen. Paula Aboud, who replaced Giffords in the Senate when Giffords resigned to run for Congress in 2006, says she'll run in the August Democratic primary for the redrawn AZ-02. State Rep. Matt Heinz also seems likely to follow suit, which means that if Barber wins the June special, he'll likely have a real race on his hands to retain the nomination.
(As an aside, that leads me to an interesting trivia question: Who was the last person to win a special election but lose in the subsequent regularly scheduled primary? The answer, courtesy of commenter RBH: Alton Waldon, who won the NY-06 special in 1986 but lost the Democratic primary that fall to Floyd Flake.)
In the meantime, though, not only is Barber locking down broad support from members of his own party, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik—a Republican—is also endorsing him, and what's more, Kozachik is even calling for all other candidates from both parties to stand down and let Barber fill out Giffords' term unopposed! Obviously, that's not going to happen, but it does make you wonder how much of an appetite the GOP will have for contesting the special (and the unusual emotional tug Barber's candidacy will create), as opposed to focusing its resources on the general.
• California (PDF): The California Democratic Party held its annual convention this past weekend, and the main news comes out of several congressional districts where the party either did or did not choose to formally endorse a particular candidate. (The full list is at the link.) From a practical point of view, the advantages that this official declaration of support carries aren't huge, though you do get included on party mailings and get listed on the ballot as the endorsed candidate. But perhaps as important if not moreso, it demonstrates who has juice with the party's most dedicated activists. In any event, the next four items below all relate to the convention endorsement process.
• CA-30: It's a little hard to know what to make of the fact that California Dems failed to endorse in the titanic 30th District battle between Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman. Sherman secured 55% of the vote, but that was short of the 60% he needed to secure the party's backing, and what's more, the fight is on turf that ought to be more favorable to him. Berman brought up that fact at the convention and directly took a shot at Sherman:
"Do you find it slightly pathetic that a guy who represents twice as much of the (newly drawn) district, started with $2 million more in cash on hand, finds it necessary this early in the campaign to spend all his time attacking and distorting his opponent's record? Maybe a little insecurity here?"I actually find that sort of quote a bit whiny, but Berman's not wrong about who represents more of the new 30th.
• CA-35: In more California endorsement news, Rep. Joe Baca secured the Democratic Party's backing by just a single vote—and only after he contested the eligibility of certain delegates, following a round of balloting in which he was rejected... also by just one vote. (Incumbents seeking re-election only need to get 50% to secure the party's endorsement, not the usual 60%.) Baca's chief opponent in the primary, state Sen. Gloria Negrete McCleod, was unable to avail herself of party rules which allow her to ask that an endorsement be rescinded by a two-thirds vote of the full convention because the dispute wasn't adjudicated until after the deadline for doing so had passed. In any event, the fact that Baca doesn't have sufficient pull to gain the formal support of the Democratic Party can't be good news for him—but it likely is good news for progressives, who would be better off with Negrete McLeod in Congress.
• CA-44: This seems like as sure a sign as any that Rep. Laura Richardson's days in Congress are numbered: The California Democratic Party officially endorsed Rep. Janice Hahn by a huge margin in this incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary, with 79% of delegates giving Hahn the thumbs-up. But the fact that activists overwhelmingly favor Hahn, even against another sitting member of the House, is quite telling. Thanks to her considerable ethical baggage, though, it's no surprise to see that Richardson has few friends left.
• CA-51: Here's one other important outcome from the California Democratic party's endorsement process over the weekend, in the San Diego seat that's being left open by Rep. Bob Filner's mayoral run. The party opted for state Sen. Juan Vargas, over the woman who preceded him in SD-40, Denise Moreno Ducheny. Although it's a much lower profile race than, say, -erman vs. -erman in CA-30's primary, there's a more clear-cut sense here of who's more progressive (and it's not Vargas). Vargas is usually thought of as being part of the "business Dem" wing of California's Democratic Party; while most of his voting record passes muster, he's not always there on key votes. (This is particularly true where the insurance industry is concerned, a very recent case in point being his decision a few weeks ago to abstain in the state Senate's vote on single-payer health care in California (which failed to become law only by two votes). Vargas has also ruffled a lot of feathers with his repeat primary challenges of the strongly progressive Filner, although those races seemed to be mostly about identity politics and a personal animosity between the two that seems to go well beyond just-business. (David Jarman)
• FL-18: Now this could be a pretty fun primary. GOP Rep. Allen West, as you know, fled north up the Florida coast to the new 18th CD in order to avoid certain defeat after his district was made bluer by the state legislature's redistricting legislation. After Tom Rooney agreed to run elsewhere, it looked like West would have this seat all to himself, but that may no longer be the case.
Robert Crowder, a five-term Sheriff of Martin County, says that he's considering a primary challenge to West, and expects to have a decision "soon"—possibly as early as this week. Now, you might think that this could be a bad thing for Team Blue, given that West's brand of crazy is exactly what we want to run against in November. However, Crowder has some glaring weaknesses that West could exploit in a Republican primary: namely, he endorsed and appeared in an ad on behalf of Democrat Alex Sink in her gubernatorial campaign against crumb-bum Republican Rick Scott. If West clobbers Crowder over his lack of Republican loyalty, it's exactly the sort of attack that will give him a lot of traction in a primary, but won't play as well in a district that supported Obama over McCain by a 51-48 margin.
As for the Democratic primary, businessman Patrick Murphy currently has the race to himself, but local beat reporter Eve Samples writes that St. Lucie Dems are considering fielding a candidate of their own. However, there appear to be no obvious contenders: A trio of potential candidates, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara, St. Lucie County Commissioner Christ Craft, and ex-Commissioner Doug Coward, have all pulled their names from consideration. (James L)
• IL-10: Activist Ilya Sheyman is up with his first ad, which also makes him the first candidate in the Democratic primary to hit the airwaves. As you'd expect, Sheyman touts his credentials as a progressive, though he also mentions that his family came to the U.S. as "Jewish refugees." No word on the size of the buy, though Sheyman had about $200K on hand as of the end of last year. You can watch the ad at the link or below:
• MI-03: Trevor Thomas, who, as the Washington Blade puts it, "headed communications for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network during the victorious effort to end the military’s anti-gay ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy," became the first Democrat to enter the race against GOP freshman Justin Amash. What surprises me is that no Republican has yet decided to primary Amash, a recalcitrant dystopian who can typically be found jabbing nettles into John Boehner's buttocks.
• NC-09, NC-08: In the wake of Rep. Sue Myrick's retirement announcement, insurance executive Daniel Barry says he's switching from the
11th District race (now also open because of Rep. Heath Shuler's retirement) 8th District race (again Dem Rep. Larry Kissell) to the 9th, where he actually lives. That makes Barry at least the third Republican to join the primary: Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Pendergraph and real estate broker Michael Shaffer are already running, and I'd expect the field to only grow from here, at least on the GOP side.
Democrats, though, are likely to be less interested in this seat, given how red it is, and one potential candidate, Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon, has already said he won't run. But it looks like Dems have indeed scored a legit recruit in the form of Jennifer Roberts, a county commissioner in populous Mecklenburg County who says she'll make a bid. This is the bluest part of the district, though: Mecklenburg went for Obama, 62-37, and it's also split between the 9th and 12th CDs.
• NM-01: Well yuck. Usually when it's time for a Clinton Alert!, I'm pretty excited, or at least pleased. Not in this case, though. The Big Dog is, sadly, endorsing conservaDem Marty Chavez in the Democratic primary for the open 1st District House seat, and also sending out a fundraising email. Blech. As you can probably guess, Chavez was a supporter of (and superdelegate for) Hillary Clinton in 2008, something which usually explains who Bill is supporting and why.
• OH-09: At least Dennis Kucinich is always good for the lolz. At a recent debate with fellow Dem Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Special K tried this one on for size:
In the hourlong back-and-forth this morning, Kucinich was forced to defend his flirtation with running for a new House seat in Washington state, including multiple visits to the West Coast for speeches and events.Is Kucinich really trying to prevail on a Clintonian technicality? Here's what he did say:
“At no time, did I ever state I was leaving the area,” Kucinich responded. “I’ve never said that, and any claim to the contrary is fictional.”
“My district appears to be on the block, so I am looking at options, and I am not limiting those options to Ohio,” Mr. Kucinich said.• PA-12: Well this sure is interesting. Both Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz occupy turf at the right-ward end of the Democratic caucus (albeit in somewhat different spots), and whichever one of them survives the primary still needs to retain appeal to conservative voters in this 54% McCain district. But first... you gotta survive the primary, and Critz evidently thinks that trying to carve out some territory to Altmire's left is what he needs to do to make it to the playoffs. Check this out from a recent fundraising email:
“While I don’t always vote with the Democratic leadership, I am a proud Democrat and I am not afraid to say it. Jason Altmire voted with the Republican leadership 53% of the time in 2011 and never misses an opportunity to go on Fox News to bash the Democratic Party. I have never been on Fox News and I never will.”Altmire's people say Critz is fudging the voting numbers, but I think the Fox News hit is a much more solid blow and one that can't be refuted or muddied quite so easily. I'll be curious to see what Altmire's next move is: whether he tries to respond in kind, or whether he concedes the liberal vote to Critz and concentrates on his geographic advantage. (Altmire represents more than twice as much of the new 12th as Critz does.)
• NY-St. Sen: This is a pretty crazy story. According to one version of events—his own—Republican state Sen. Mark Grisanti tried to break up a heated argument after a black-tie gala at an Indian casino—and then got assaulted, along with his wife, for his efforts. But several witnesses paint a different picture, saying Grisanti "escalated a situation that seemed to be calming" and supposedly socked another guy and his wife. New York political news site City & State says that a cellphone video of the brawl is forthcoming, so I guess we'll have a better sense of who's telling the truth then. (And why mention all this? Grisanti is a recent party-switcher who won an almost impossible upset in a deep blue district last cycle, and who is now the target of desperate GOP efforts to give him a winnable seat this year.)
• Special Elections: There are a couple of state legislative special elections on Tuesday night, and as always, Johnny Longtorso tells you what you need to know:
Oklahoma SD-46: Seat left vacant by Democrat Andrew Rice's resignation, the Democrat is State Rep. Al McAffrey, the Republican is attorney Jason Reese. For some reason this is being run under the new district lines. It's in Oklahoma City.Grab Bag:
Oklahoma HD-01: Seat left vacant by the death of freshman Rep. Rusty Farley. Democrat is high school principal Curtis McDaniel, Republican is bed and breakfast owner Joe Silk. This one is being run under the old district lines; it's basically all but a small slice of McCurtain County (in the southeast corner of the state). It's one of those ancestrally-Democratic areas; the seat was held by a Democrat until 2010, and in the primary for this special election, the total Democratic vote was four times higher than the total Republican vote.
• AZ Recall: Arizona Republicans, smarting over last year's recall of state Senate President Russell Pearce, are proposing to change the rules for recalls. Pearce lost in a single non-partisan election, where Democrats and independents were able to unite with disaffected Republicans and elect another Republican, Jerry Lewis, in Pearce's stead. The GOP obviously wasn't happy about being on the wrong end of this coalition-of-convenience and wants to require closed partisan primaries in any future recalls, much like the system used in Wisconsin.
• Indiana (PDF): Friday was the filing deadline in Indiana, and you can see a complete list of all the candidates who've gotten their names on the ballot at the link, though there were no last-minute surprises to speak of. You can also view all this information in a more handy format at the constantly-updated Race Tracker Wiki. (And if you see something that isn't up-to-date over there, sign up for an account and start inputting data yourself!)
• New York: Democratic Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver just introduced legislation that would move New York's state and local primaries to June 26, the same date a judge ordered that New York's federal primaries must take place in order to comply with federal law regarding the timing of sending absentee ballots to overseas voters. Republicans, though, are opposed, which means that the state could wind up holding three separate (and costly) primaries in a single year: a presidential one on April 24, a federal one in June, and a state one on Sept. 11.
• CT Redistricting: No surprise at all: On Friday, the Connecticut Supreme Court adopted the new congressional map drawn by special master Nathan Persily, turning back GOP objections. This is a good win for Democrats, since the new lines, which are barely changed from the existing ones, preserve our ability to maintain a 5-0 hold on the state's delegation.
• FL Redistricting: In addition to passing its new congressional plans, Florida's legislature also enacted new legislative maps last week. They actually don't need to be signed by Gov. Rick Scott, but instead, the AG must send them within 15 days to the state supreme court for automatic review (which is exactly what Republican Pam Bondi did on Friday). Here's what happens next, under the Fair Districts amendments: The court (which has scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 29) has 30 days to issue a ruling on the new maps as to whether they pass muster under the amendments. If they find any problems with them, then the governor has to call a special session of the legislature to re-draw the lines. If the lege fails to come up with new plans, or if they do so but the revised proposals still fail to satisfy the high court, then the judges themselves must implement new maps of their own. Click the link for the exact timing on each of these steps if you're interested.
• KY Redistricting, KY-06: Ryan Alessi has some preliminary Obama-McCain numbers for the new congressional districts (as well as results from the close 2008 Senate race between Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger, Bruce Lunsford). In the all-important 6th CD, home of Rep. Ben Chandler (the guy Dems were trying to protect), Barack Obama would have done about 1.5% better under the redrawn lines. That's still hardly awesome (Obama got 43% there in 2008), but that ought to be just enough to help Chandler. You can click through the link to see all the other numbers.
• NM Redistricting (PDF): Just tying up a couple of loose ends on the redistricting front. As you'll recall, late in December, the judge hearing New Mexico's redistricting case adopted a new congressional map, known as the "Joint Plan" or "Egolf Executive." At that point, the way things typically work, parties are allowed to file objections, if any, before the judge enters a final order. It doesn't appear that there were any objections, though, and the judge (James Hall) filed his final order on Jan. 17, which you can read at the first link. It also looks as though no one appealed Hall's congressional ruling (though his state House decision was appealed), which means New Mexico is set on the congressional front.
• NY Redistricting: The New York World has another great interactive map, this time showing how the Senate would fare under the proposed new lines if every vote cast in senatorial races in 2010 remained unchanged in 2012; that would yield a 34-29 edge for Republicans. Of course, plenty of seats were uncontested last cycle, so it's not a perfect measure, but it gives you a pretty good sense of what this map does. You can click through to see the estimated D/R vote in each new seat at the link.
• TX Redistricting: A ton of alternative compromise maps are now being proposed in the San Antonio case by different parties, and as usual, Michael Li has links to them all.
• WA Redistricting: In Washington, each decade, the state's new redistricting plans automatically become law under Art. 2, Sec. 43 of the state constitution "by the end of the thirtieth day of the first session convened after the commission has submitted its plan to the legislature." That day was Feb. 7, so Washington is good to go.