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Leading Off:

CA-26: Assemblywoman Julia Brownley to the rescue! After Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett left Democrats in the lurch by unexpectedly dropping out of the race (for no discernably good reason) a week ago, Brownley's name was mentioned as a possible replacement—something we badly needed in this swingish but very winnable district that's key to Democratic chances of retaking the House. Fortunately, Brownley didn't waste much time and has now entered the contest, complete with endorsements from many well-known local elected officials, including Bennett.

Brownley has a reputation as a strong fundraiser, though while she probably vaults instantly to frontrunner status, she doesn't have the Democratic primary field to herself. Indeed, one of the less-prominent hopefuls, businessman David Cruz Thayne, is already attacking Brownley as a carpetbagger and too liberal for the district. The carpetbagger charge is pretty ridic, though, since Brownley already represents much of Ventura County, which is the anchor of this congressional seat, in the Assembly. (For what it's worth, Thayne's only raised $64K so far.)

Incidentally, after Bennett bailed but before Brownley got in, some activists tried once again to push Rep. Brad Sherman to seek re-election in the 26th. But Sherman said no, and that he plans to continue his run in the 30th, where he faces fellow Rep. Howard Berman in the Democratic primary.

Senate:

AZ-Sen: Pretty snooze-a-riffic Republican Senate primary numbers from PPP:

Jeff Flake's at 56% to 7% for Wil Cardon, 5% for Bryan Hackbarth, 1% each for Douglas McKee and Clair Van Steenwyk, and 0% for John Lyon.
In November, it was 53-7 Flake, so unless Cardon plows a few mil of his own money into this race and starts carpet-bombing Flake, this is going to remain a pretty boring affair.

MN-Sen: One more brave Republican looks set to step in front of the Amy Klobuchar steamroller. (She sports some of the highest approvals of any Senator, and has been leading her announced opponents by more than 20 points in all polls.) Pete Hegseth is the former executive director of Vets for Freedom; he hasn't held elective office before, but he still brings some residual name rec to the table from frequent talking-head appearances on Fox News. (Though ex-state Rep. Dan Severson, the likeliest GOP nominee, shouldn't lack for name rec himself, since he lost the statewide SoS race in 2010.) (David Jarman)

MO-Sen: After having been on the wrong end of a lot of Crossroads spending, Claire McCaskill is taking advantage of her large monetary advantage over her Republican opponents to do some radio advertising. She's up with two re-introductory spots (no word on the size of the buy). (David Jarman)

VA-Sen (PDF): A new poll from Christopher Newport University has Republican ex-Sen. George Allen leaning Democratic ex-Gov. Tim Kaine 42-40 in Virginia's open-seat Senate race. CNU had those numbers reversed back in October. Eagle-eyed commenter rdw72777 points out that the poll was actually conducted by a different academic institution, Muhlenberg College, but that it was "designed and analyzed" by CNU and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Gubernatorial:

MO-Gov: The fact that Bob McDonnell, head of the RGA in addition to his day job as Virginia governor, didn't publicly take sides in the Republican gubernatorial primary at the Missouri GOP's "Lincoln Days" gathering isn't that newsworthy. However, McDonnell's professed neutrality on Saturday night isn't how things played out in a private meeting with activists earlier that same day, when he told the group that he'd support businessman Dave Spence "100%." That created some howls of dismay from the crowd, many of whom were supporters of tea partier Bill Randles, who seems to have risen out of "Some Dude" territory simply by virtue of the crappiness of his Republican primary opposition. McDonnell quickly recanted, saying that he'd back the nominee, apparently unaware that establishment-backed Spence faced any opposition in the primary (despite the fact that Randles actually led Spence in the most recent PPP poll of the GOP primary). (David Jarman)

WI-Gov: I've grown pretty weary of trying to read the Tom Barrett tea leaves: Will Milwaukee's Democratic mayor, who ran for governor in 2010, enter the gubernatorial recall race or won't he? But this is actually the most interesting development in some time, because it comes straight from the horse's mouth: In an interview over the weekend, Barrett said he was "seriously considering" the contest and added that "I think that this governor has done so much damage to this state, I want him to be gone from this job." To me, that sounds like someone who wants to give it another go.

Already running are former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk of Madison and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, though I wonder if either would drop out if Barrett got in. I suspect Falk wouldn't, because labor is a big fan of hers (AFSCME just endorsed her, as it happens) and at least some unions don't have very warm feelings toward Barrett. Vinehout, though, does not have much of a profile, so I suspect what must already be a difficult fundraising situation would only get harder with a Barrett entry.

House:

AZ-04: Circling back around to the Paul Babeu story, it actually seems like there haven't been a whole lot of developments since the news first exploded over the weekend. As you know, Babeu is a deeply conservative, anti-immigration sheriff running for Congress in Arizona, and as we've all learned, one of Babeu's former lovers, a Mexican man named Jose, told the Phoenix New Times that Babeu threatened him with deportation if he failed to keep their relationship secret. Babeu immediately denied the allegations, though to distract from the real issue—his alleged abuse of power—he announced that he is gay.

I have to wonder if this smokescreen has worked, at least to some extent. In a remarkable piece at the Hotline headlined "Babeu is Gay and Fiercely Conservative," Fawn Johnson managed to write ten paragraphs about Babeu's sexuality and ideology without once mentioning Jose's claims. (In a similar vein, Politico's initial writeup didn't even say that Babeu is a Republican!)

But will Babeu's deflection really succeed even in the short run? Interestingly, Babeu's two primary opponents, Rep. Paul Gosar and state Sen. Ron Gould are taking very different tacks in response. Gould doesn't seem to care about the allegations regarding Jose but is saying flat-out that Babeu's sexuality is a disqualifier:

Gould said he believed Babeu's posting of pictures on what the lawmaker called a "homosexual hookup website" were a "Congressman Weiner type of moment."

"The real issue here is the poor judgment of a government official, posting those kinds of photos on a public website," Gould said. "I think that shows a lack of good judgment."

He also said he believes Babeu's sexual orientation would hurt him in the district. Gould sponsored Arizona's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, an amendment he said drew extremely strong support in the rural counties he and Babeu seek to represent.

Gosar, meanwhile, is completely ignoring Babeu's sexuality and is instead trying to tie Babeu's alleged behavior toward Jose into a larger narrative about his respect—or lack thereof—for the rule of law:
"This is about an abuse of power, a misuse of public trust, and the continued use of official resources for personal and political gain," said Congressman Gosar, on accusations that Babeu threatened his former Mexican boyfriend with deportation.

Gosar went on to note that "Babeu clearly believes that public funds, provided by hardworking taxpayers, are unlimited and interchangeable with campaign resources.  First, his campaign sent it’s news releases to the county website, where they remained posted for months. Last week, it was discovered that, while his office is over budget, he spent $35,000 on self promotional collectable coins and Centennial celebration badges. Today, in light of these new accusations, he hosted a campaign press conference, in uniform at the sheriff’s office, with sheriffs office employees, campaign staff and campaign volunteers intermingled.  It is as though he believes the rule of law does not apply to him."

So far, though, the only tangible fallout is that Babeu has stepped down as a campaign co-chair for Mitt Romney—an unfortunate bit of timing for the Romney campaign, with the Arizona primary just a week away. And at least some erstwhile allies, like Sen. John McCain and, moreso, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, are going a bit wobbly in their support for Babeu. But other local backers are standing firm, and on Facebook, Babeu certainly doesn't sound ready to quit.

But a story like this just doesn't go away overnight. We will undoubtedly hear more in the coming days and weeks, and we'll be all over any developments as they happen.

CT-05: In Connecticut, Democratic town committees play an important role in the nominating process because their members constitute delegates to the district-level conventions, where they vote on which candidates (if any) to endorse. Connecticut's conventions aren't strictly binding, like in Utah, but if you win your party's endorsement (with 50%+1 of the delegate vote), you get the top ballot line in the primary—and if you fail to get 15%, you need to petition your way on to the primary ballot. So the conventions can be a good barometer of establishment support, and a poor showing can induce an office-seeker to make an early exit from the race, since there isn't a whole lot of time to gather petitions afterward.

I mention all this as background because State House Speaker Chris Donovan just secured the unanimous endorsement of the New Britain DTC, the second-largest in the 5th Congressional District, which is good for about 10% of the total delegates at the convention. In addition to New Britain, Donovan has four other DTCs already in his corner, and a rough whip count shows him with the delegate lead among Democratic candidates so far and, it appears, an automatic spot on the ballot. One thing which hasn't really come up in the campaign yet, though, is whether the various players will forge on to the primary if they fail to make the 15% convention threshold, though I suspect we'll be hearing more about that soon, since the convention is May 14.

HI-02: A Ward Research poll for a couple of local media organizations (Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser) shows a big lead for former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for this open House seat, 65-20 over Honolulu city councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard. That's similar to the 57-14 edge Hannemann had over Gabbard in his own poll from a couple of weeks ago. The Ward survey, though, apparently didn't include two other candidates, Esther Kiaaina and Bob Marx (or they were left out of the article), and the poll is also oddly described as being "statewide." So either it included a whole lot of people who won't even get to vote in this race, or we're looking at a partial sample from that Ward Senate poll we wrote about last week (or the writeup is sloppy).

NC-11: Physician Dan Eichenbaum is dropping out of the crowded GOP primary in the open 11th District (the seat Dem Rep. Heath Shuler is giving up), citing difficulties in fundraising and a lack of ideological differences between himself and the other candidates.

NC-12: About a week and a half after suggesting he might not seek re-election this fall, veteran Dem Rep. Mel Watt has made up his mind and will indeed appear on the ballot for an 11th term.

Other Races:

Special Elections: We've got one special on Tuesday night, in the super-sized New Hampshire state House. Here's Johnny:

New Hampshire House, Hillsborough-10: An open Dem seat in Manchester's Ward 3, the candidates are former State Rep. and former Alderman Peter Sullivan for the Democrats, and '10 nominee Muni Savyon for the Republicans (he came in sixth place out of six candidates). This one should be an easy Dem hold; Ward 3 elected a 3 Dem delegation in '06, '08, and '10, and went 65-33 for Obama in 2008 and 59-39 Lynch in 2010.
Redistricting Roundup:

MN Redistricting: After a long, long wait—the legislature and governor deadlocked on redistricting in May of last year—the Minnesota Supreme Court will finally unveil new congressional and legislative maps for the state on Tuesday. We'll post `em here just as soon as we see `em.

OH Redistricting: Here's another big redistricting fail on the part of Ohio Democrats: Because they waited over three months after new legislative maps were approved to file a lawsuit challenging them, and because this year's election season is already well underway, the state supreme court just ruled that any decision it makes about the new lines won't apply until 2014. There's no telling as yet if the Dems' actual claims have merit (as per usual, they're saying too many communities have been split), but if they do and the court orders the maps to be redrawn, we'll still miss a huge opportunity to run under revised lines this fall, when, thanks to Barack Obama, our turnout will likely be the best it ever will be. Sigh.

In more positive news, though, a new group called Voters First Ohio is trying to get a measure on the ballot this November that would establish an independent redistricting commission for the state. What's more, if successful, we wouldn't have to wait a decade for the law to take effect: new lines would have to be drawn right away, for the 2014 cycle. However, don't get your hopes up just yet: A referendum in 2005 to create a redistricting commission got destroyed, 70-30. However, it was part of a package of four separate measures, collectively known as "Reform Ohio Now," which all went down to defeat—and what's more, the redistricting proposal was kind of weird, since it required the panel to pick plans based purely on how they performed under a very particular mathematical formula. (Good luck trying to describe that sort of thing to voters.) So hopefully this time around, the idea will be marketed better.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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