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Leading Off:

NE-Sen: No way! Way? Aaron Blake says that former Dem Sen. Bob Kerrey, who said three weeks ago that he wouldn't seek his old seat, is changing his mind and will run for Senate, "according to a senior Democratic aide." Kerrey has been notoriously flakey about potential runs for office over the last decade, so I'm gonna believe it only when I see it. Indeed, Paul Johnson, a Democratic consultant and one-time campaign manager for Bob Kerrey, says that while his boss is reconsidering his earlier decision not to run for Senate, reports that Kerrey's made up his and will indeed go for it "are not true."

But if Kerrey does go for it, could this have actually been the play all along? Recall that Nebraska has a very unusual—I believe unique—filing system. Incumbents must file by Feb. 15, regardless of whether they're seeking re-election or running for some different office. Non-incumbents, however, have until March 1 to file—non-incumbents like Bob Kerrey, for instance. Why does this matter? Because the Republican that Democrats most feared might run, Gov. Dave Heineman, made a lot of noise but ultimately didn't wind up joining the race. Kerrey's original announcement came on Feb. 7; had he gotten in, Heineman may have felt increased pressure to run himself. But by "declining" when he did, Kerrey could lull Heineman into not running... and then pull a switcheroo after the 15th. This would be some pretty good trickery if so.

Senate:

HI-Sen, HI-02: Hawaii's teacher's union—the Hawaii State Teachers Association—has offered endorsements in the two big Dem primaries this year. They're backing Rep. Mazie Hirono over ex-Rep. Ed Case in the Senate primary (no surprise there), and in the 2nd congressional district, they favor ex-Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann over Honolulu city councilor Tulsi Gabbard. (David Jarman)

MO-Sen: Another good ad from Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill, this time about her support for veterans (hat-tip: itskevin):

ND-Sen: Once highly-touted ex-AG Heidi Heitkamp got into the race for the Dems here, it looked like the only previously announced Democratic candidate, former college professor Tom Potter, didn't have much of a point in being in the race other than as a speed bump for Heitkamp. At any rate, Potter—not to be confused with state Sen. Tracy Potter, who badly lost the 2010 Senate race against John Hoeven (or Portland, OR's ex-mayor Tom Potter)—has now ended his bid. (David Jarman)

NM-Sen: OMG, the sky is falling! Heather Wilson is leading in the polls, 81 to 10! Aaaaughgh! Wait... what's that? That's in the Republican primary, and, post-dropout by John Sanchez, that's against her remaining tea-flavored barely-above-Some Dude opposition, Greg Sowards? And it's her own internal poll, by Public Opinion Strategies? Oh... well... carry on. (David Jarman)

Gubernatorial:

MI-Gov: When it comes time to take on freshman Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in 2014, columnist Tim Skubick suggests two names: Senate Democratic Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and 2010 Democratic SoS nominee Jocelyn Benson. (He also notes that 2010 gubernatorial nominee Virg Bernero hasn't ruled it out either.) Click the link for more background on both women.

VA-Gov: I doubt this'll have legs (it's probably something every Virginia governor wants—but also doesn't really want to broach publicly), but Gov. Bob McDonnell is making some noises about wanting to change Virginia's one-term-and-you're-done policy about Governors, citing continuity problems. Many southern states used to have this rule, but Virginia is the only one left. McDonnell now has a Republican legislature to work with, but—aware that there will probably be a Dem governor again at some point in the future—they still might not be eager to give away leverage to the executive branch that way. (David Jarman)

WI-Gov: Wisconsin Democrats are up with their first ad attacking Gov. Scott Walker, and, well, they don't pull any rhetorical punches:

Comparing Walker to Nixon... hoo boy. That's a pretty high bar—for the comparison to stick, Walker would have had to commit impeachable offenses—and it also might turn off people who find the comparison too over-the-top. I just hope the WI Dems' polling backs up this line of attack.

Anyhow, while we're on the topic, retiring Dem Sen. Herb Kohl says he has "no plans" to run for governor in the recall, though I guess that sort of statement suggests he's still holding out the possibility of being drafted into the race. The gubernatorial recall, incidentally, seems like almost a sure thing, since Walker has now decided not to challenge the validity of the one million signatures that were filed to trigger the election. (Challenges are still moving forward against the state Senate petitions.) And finally, Joshua Spivak of the Recall Elections blog has another good backgrounder on the race.

House:

AZ-02: While it looks like former district director Ron Barber will have the Democratic side of the special election to replace Gabrielle Giffords all to himself, he'll have to prepare for a real primary for the regularly-scheduled election (that is, if he even wants to seek a full term, which he hasn't confirmed). Democratic state Rep. Steve Farley, who'd briefly considered running in the special election as well, will soon announce his bid for the November race. (David Jarman)

AZ-04: There were a couple of details tucked away on page two of this Politico story about how Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has been "weathering the storm" of recent allegations and revelations so far. But that may not last. For one, the guy Babeu is trying to unseat, Rep. Paul Gosar, is stepping up his attacks:

But on Thursday, Gosar sharpened the knife, calling it "incomprehensible that Babeu is attempting to take the position of victim to garner national sympathy."

"Claims by Babeu that in his three-year relationship he never questioned the legal immigration status of his partner further demonstrate the lack of judgment needed to represent the people of Arizona," Gosar said in a statement.

And for another, there's this:
New Times is also reporting that Babeu’s former partner, José Orozco, will soon release "additional evidence of threats he received from Babeu’s camp."
We may not have to wait very long, because another big shoe has already dropped. I'd heard bits and pieces about this story, but mostly via strange emails and impossible-to-verify message boards. Now, though, Arizona's ABC15 has the goods. Before Babeu moved to Arizona and became sheriff, he was the headmaster of an extremely troubled private boarding school in Massachusetts called the DeSisto School. The allegations about what went on at DeSisto, which ABC15 gathered via previously unreleased reports and interviews with former students, are just horrifying and can't be summarized:
One of the punishments was being "sheeted".

Nielsen told us about her experience of being forced to strip down and wear nothing but a sheet in front of her peers.

"That’s how I spent my 16th birthday," said Nielsen. "It was just miserable."

The state documents obtained by ABC15 also reveal students "strip searched" each other and "routinely took group showers"... "leading to sexual abuse."

There's quite a bit more at the link, and Holli Nielsen, the former student quoted above, says Babeu "was certainly aware" of what went on during his watch. Even more stunning, several students (including Nielsen), as well as Babeu's own sister Lucy, claim that Babeu brought one of his students home to live with him and had a sexual relationship with him. (Incidentally, this is the same sister Babeu recently tried to claim was "mentally ill.") Babeu refused to be interviewed for the story and only supplied a statement that didn't respond to any of these allegations. (P.S. The DeSisto School was thankfully shut down by the state in 2004.)

AZ-08: The filing deadline for the Arizona 8th CD special election was on Monday at 5pm local time, and six candidates wound up filing. They include one Democrat (former Gabby Giffords staffer Ron Barber) and four Republicans (state Sen. Frank Antenori, sports broadcaster Dave Sitton, 2010 nominee Jesse Kelly, and former Air Force combat pilot Martha McSally). A Green Party candidate named Charlie Manolakis also filed, but he only submitted 13 signatures (apparently that was enough, formally speaking), so I wonder if his petitions might get challenged.

AZ-09: Former state party chair Andrei Cherny, the most recent entrant into the Democratic primary for Arizona's new 9th CD, says he's already raised $200K in just his first two weeks on the campaign trail. And by the way, some background on Cherny: He was a big DLC guy and a founder of No Labels. Yuck.

CA-08: Here's an interesting new addition to the field in the open (because of Jerry Lewis's retirement) but strongly-Republican 8th district in California's high desert: former Republican state Assemblyman Anthony Adams. He was left on the outs with the state's GOP base after he voted for temporary tax increases and in fact warded off a recall attempt in 2009. And now he's running as "no party preference" rather than as a Republican, something possible under California's new Top 2 primary system. Although there's no indication he'd caucus with the Dems if elected, if no credible Dem shows up here (given the district, it's unlikely one wil), he could very well net a trip to the general election. Of course, a win in November against a more-conservative candidate may not be especially likely. (In the interest of thoroughness, this is the first press article I've seen to mention one other Republican candidate: Minuteman activist Greg Imus, who's actually been in the race for a while but hasn't had any fundraising success.) (David Jarman)

CA-16: Even though he barely survived in 2010 (and in a slightly bluer district, no less), Republicans have come up empty so far in terms of a challenger to Dem Rep. Jim Costa. Former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson, who had declined back in November but was lately reconsidering, is sticking with his earlier decision and won't run.

FL-13: Democratic attorney Jessica Ehrlich, about whom we've heard just snippets of information, is formally launching a campaign for Florida's redrawn 13th CD, which would put her on a collision course with the institution known as Bill Young... unless, of course, Young decides to retire. The 21-term Republican dinosaur hasn't yet announced his plans, though he's actually been raising money, something he barely ever does in odd-numbered years. As for Ehrlich, she's a 38-year-old former Capitol Hill aide who used to work for south Florida GOP Rep. Clay Shaw, but more recently worked for Mass. Dem Rep. Stephen Lynch. The Tampa Bay Times also adds that her late father, Charles Ehrlich, was a prominent local attorney and philanthropist.

MA-09: Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter, who's been formally considering the race since January, is pulling the trigger on a primary challenge to freshman Dem Rep. Bill Keating. While Keating may be vulnerable due to his short tenure and the fact that about 40% of the district is new to him, I have to imagine this will be an uphill fight for Sutter.

NY-11: Attorney Sylvia Kinard, who used to be married to former NYC comptroller Bill Thompson, says she plans to run against Rep. Yvette Clarke in the Democratic primary. Clarke first won this seat when it became open in 2006 with a tiny 31% plurality in the primary; prior to that, she served on the New York City Council, in a seat she inherited from her mother, Una Clarke. As Politicker's David Freedlander says, Clarke's largely had a "quiet" congressional career, and with redistricting afoot, she may be vulnerable to a challenge.

NY-13: Another brutal story for embattled GOP freshman Mike Grimm, only this time, it's from the New York Daily News, rather than the New York Times. If you're pressed for time, just check out the News's cover, but I can't summarize it any better than they do:

Staten Island  Rep. Michael Grimm urged a federal judge to spare a New York-based developer with three bribery-related convictions from serving a day in prison, the Daily News has learned.

Grimm sought leniency for Thomas Kontogiannis in 2008, before Grimm entered Congress as a Republican and after he had left a career as an FBI agent. Kontogiannis then faced sentencing on his third conviction—for helping funnel $1 million in bribe money to former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham (R-Calif).

In a three-page letter, Grimm asked California Federal Judge Lawrence Burns to "be as lenient as the law will allow and your conscience accepts, granting him a noncustodial sentence." Burns sentenced Kontogiannis to eight years.

Kontogiannis, better known as "Tommy K," was a notorious figure in the unbelievably salacious Duke Cunningham bribery saga—and if you're not familiar with that whole episode, I strongly suggest you catch up via Wikipedia. But I also encourage you in equally strong terms to read the entire NYDN story. One amazing detail comes on the second page, regarding a passage from Grimm's letter:
Referring to Kontogiannis, Grimm added: "For the first time since I know him, he understands the gravity of his transgressions, and, more importantly, has learned a newfound respect for the latter of the law." He told the judge that Kontogiannis "no longer needs to be deterred from committing any future crimes."
Last year, Kontogiannis—still incarcerated thanks to the Cunningham affair—pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud banks and was sentence to an additional 12 years in prison (to run concurrently with his existing sentence). What a judge of character.

OH-03: Last week, Dave Catanese had a bare-bones mention of a new Democratic primary poll for former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty; fortunately, we now have the full memo. In the survey from Public Policy Polling, ex-Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy leads with 35, but Beatty is right on her tail with 34, while state Rep. Ted Celeste is far behind at 15 and Columbus city councilmember Priscilla Tyson is at just 6. The only other polling we've seen of the race is a January internal from Kilroy, which had her up 48-14 over Beatty (with Celeste in second place at 17).

The primary is just a week away, though, and things could still change quite a bit, since both Beatty and Kilroy are now on the air (hat-tip: ndrwmls10). Kilroy's spot is interesting, considering she's touting her support for healthcare reform and President Obama in general—something I can't imagine she was eager to do in 2010. Now that she's running in a much bluer district, though, it's a different story:

Beatty, meanwhile, hits a much more partisan tone, going after the "Tea Party" and also touting an endorsement from Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who appears on-screen at the end:
PA-12: Over the weekend, Rep. Jason Altmire got the endorsement of the Westmoreland County Democratic party. That's important to the extent that it's, geographically, the county in the middle of this long, thin district, and the one that neither Dem candidate has a claim on in this primary battle that's more about parochial turf than it is about ideology—so it's something of the tipping point. (Altmire, who's from the northern suburbs of Allegheny Co., easily won that county's endorsement, and when Mark Critz, who's from Johnstown, wins the Cambria Co. endorsement on Thursday, that will be no surprise either.)

At this point, though, Altmire has a bigger fish to fry though, in the form of a serious challenge to the validity of his petition signatures, which, if successful, would end the game immediately (barring a write-in gambit). PoliticsPA asked an election law expert on whether the challenge will succeed, and he said it's likelier than not that Altmire will remain on the ballot... but that it could mean a long journey through the appellate courts along the way, to have the requirement that signature gatherers reside in the district be struck down. (Pennsylvania law seems to conflict with federal court cases, all of which have struck down residency requirements for signature gatherers.) (David Jarman)

TN-09: Yet another mook is lining up for a hopeless challenge to Dem Rep. Steve Cohen, but this time, he's on the Republican side: Wealthy radiologist and radio station owner (I guess he liked professions with "radio" in the name) George Flinn apparently wants to run for Congress... again. If the name rings a bell, it's because he spent $3 million of his own money in a wildly expensive GOP primary last cycle, only to come in third with just 24% against agribusiness kingpin/gospel singer Stephen Fincher, who scored 48%. Flinn was moved into Cohen's turf thanks to redistricting, though any sane Republican surely wouldn't want to run in a majority-black district that gave north of 70% of its vote to Barack Obama. So you have my diagnosis, but hey, if Flinn wants to blow his money on a hopeless effort, that's cash he isn't giving to fellow Republicans in more winnable seats.

VA-05, VA-10: It looks as though retired Brig. Gen. John Douglass is changing races. Douglass had been running against veteran Republican Rep. Frank Wolf in the 10th Congressional District, but apparently his home (or at least his farm) was redistricted into the 5th, represented by freshman Robert Hurt. Though the 10th, on paper, is slightly bluer, the 5th might actually be a better bet, since Wolf has long managed to entrench himself to an almost uncanny degree. Reports aren't entirely clear on whether Douglass has formally gone through with the switch, but 5th District Democrats are reportedly trying to recruit someone new, so they must think it's a done deal.

Other Races:

NV-St. Sen: Another interesting turn of events in Democratic efforts to retain control of the Nevada state Senate. Freshman Republican Elizabeth Halseth abruptly resigned earlier this month, saying she was leaving the state to pursue employment opportunities because, she claims, she's been "regularly demonized by selfish partisans and a handful of reckless bloggers with personal agendas of salacious, unfounded personal attacks on me." (Related or not, last fall, she accused her husband of trying to, in newspaper-speak, "force her to have sex," which I believe actually means "rape.")

In any event, Halseth was unexpectedly swept into office in 2010, defeating an incumbent in the primary was caught on tape apparently trying to bribe the ex-wife of a friend who had been convicted of raping his former wife's 16-year-old sister (god, I wish I were making this up), then riding the wave to defeat Democratic businessman Benny Yerushalmi in the fall. But even though her seat ordinarily would not be up until 2014, it's now likely that, to fill the vacancy, it'll be on the ballot this year. What's more, the seat became bluer in redistricting, so it'll be an excellent pickup opportunity for Dems.

OR-St. House: A down-in-the-weeds story from the Oregon legislature, but another nice example of taking one for the team: a former statewide elected official, ex-Labor Commissioner Mary Wendy Roberts (one of the many members of the Roberts dynasty in Oregon politics), is strongly considering coming out of political retirement at a lower level, to do us the favor of bouncing the Blue Doggish Mike Schaufler in the Dem primary in swingy HD-48. (David Jarman)

Special Elections: Two specials on Tuesday, courtesy Johnny Longtorso:

Michigan HD-29: Open Dem seat in Pontiac. The Democrat is Oakland County Commissioner Tim Greimel; the Republican is teacher Bob Gray. (Gray, incidentally, defeated the awesomely-named Major Guy in the Republican primary.) This is a safe seat (79-20 Obama), so the Republican Presidential primary won't have any effect on the race.

Michigan HD-51: This is the seat where Republican Rep. Paul Scott was recalled last November. Democrats chose teacher/union leader Steven Losey, while Republicans picked Genesee County Commissioner Joseph Graves. There's also a Green running, tax professional Cary Neuville-Justice. This will be a tough seat for Democrats to pick up; it's a Republican-leaning seat in southern Genesee County, though it went for Obama by a 52-46 margin. The Republican Presidential primary will be a boon to Graves, along with Neuville-Justice siphoning off a few votes from the left.

Grab Bag:

Campaign Finance: The tendency by both the liberal netroots and the legacy media to oversell Citizens United as the root of all evil, and totally miss the importance of SpeechNow as the real crux of the rise of the super PACs (as an inevitable perverse outgrowth of Buckley), has always been a pet peeve of mine. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one to feel that way; here's an excellent article by Wendy Kaminer at the Atlantic that explains all that in layman's terms. (David Jarman)

Redistricting Roundup:

CA Redistricting: Despite some earlier analysis that suggested the numbers weren't quite there for them, Republicans did wind up having enough signatures in the end and got their referendum to overturn the new state Senate redistricting plan qualified for the ballot this November. But the cupboard is absolutely bare: The CA GOP has almost nothing left in the bank, and even the Republican caucus in the Senate, which helped bankroll the referendum in the first place, says it has no plans to fund an advertising campaign in favor of it.

KY Redistricting: The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's ruling that threw out the state's new legislative maps on the grounds they split too many counties, which means that elections will go forward this fall using decade-old lines, unless lawmakers pass new plans in time. (Given the population deviations the old maps surely entail, I could also see a federal lawsuit on one person, one vote grounds throwing a further wrench into the works, though such an attempt did not succeed in a very similar situation in Pennsylvania.) In any event, this is a win for House Republicans, who wanted to undo the Democratic gerrymander of their chamber, and for Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein, who had been deliberately targeted by Senate Republicans in a particularly baroque manner. I also wonder if using the old Senate maps will give Dems any better shot at picking up seats there.

NY Redistricting: Though he was born a few decades too late to have been a Cold War-era Soviet analyst for the CIA, Politicker's Colin Campbell puts his Kremlinology skills to good use in compiling—and deconstructing—Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's inscrutable and ever-changing statements on redistricting. As Colin's slideshow demonstrates, it's been a pretty remarkable climb-down for the governor, who last June flat-out said he would "veto lines that are not drawn by an independent commission." Now Cuomo is pretending like because the legislature never did authorize an independent commission, he can somehow no longer veto the outrageous new lines lawmakers have proposed, faux-moping that "I just lost." Whatever, dude. Cuomo's super-strident veto threats never really made a lot of sense to begin with, but now that he's backed off, he just looks like a complete phony who went back on his word.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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