• NE-Sen: After enduring a Hamlet act for the ages, Democrats—amazingly enough—have landed their man. Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, on the eve of the filing deadline, changed his mind and decided that he would indeed seek his old Senate seat. So much ink has been spilled on this race and this candidate that there isn't much more to say, beyond the fact that this move undoubtedly gives Team Blue a much better chance of holding this seat than we had a day earlier—but it'll still be a very difficult race no matter what.
Also, the path isn't entirely clear for Kerrey: University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook says he plans to stay in the Democratic primary regardless of Kerrey's decision.
• ME-Sen, ME-01, ME-02: GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe's shocking decision not to seek re-election has set off a miniature thermonuclear explosion in Maine politics, and tracking the ensuing carnage has been a challenge, to say the least. Here's what we can tell you for sure: The filing deadline is fast approaching on March 15, and candidates for Senate must submit 2,000 signatures to appear on the ballot. (Those running for the House must submit 1,000.) That may not sound like a lot, but as Bob Tyrer, a longtime chief-of-staff to former Republican Sen. Bill Cohen, explains, each signature must be "validated by the town clerk of the signer’s town before they can be filed with the Secretary of State." That makes for a labor-intensive petition drive in a very short period of time.
That also explains why so many potential office-seekers are preparing for possible bids, even if they aren't certain yet whether they'll pull the trigger. In local parlance, they've been "taking out papers" from the Secretary of State's office, and the state's two most prominent Democrats have indeed already done so: 1st CD Rep. Chellie Pingree and 2nd CD Rep. Mike Michaud. Those maneuvers have in turn set off their own avalanches, with candidates now also scrambling to take out papers for both Pingree's and Michaud's House seats. (This includes some of the lesser-known names who were already running for Senate but clearly sense a better opportunity by dropping down a notch.) One other well-known Dem, two-term ex-Gov. John Baldacci, also pulled papers for the Senate contest, though given his unpopularity when he left office, he definitely ranks a notch below the two congressmembers.
So here's a look at the playing field for all three potentially open federal seats in Maine—but we warn you: it's a fast-moving situation and this list is subject to change at any moment.
• Ex-Gov. John Baldacci (D): Taken out papersNote that independents like King and Cutler have until June 1 to file petitions, so they can take more time to decide, but they need to submit twice as many signatures (4,000).
• Rep. Mike Michaud (D): Taken out papers
• Rep. Chellie Pingree (D): Taken out papers
• '10 Gov primary loser (and former Susan Collins CoS) Steve Abbott (R): sources say "maybe"
• Ex-Ambassador and '02 gubernatorial nominee Peter Cianchette (R): source says "Gov. LePage... would support... if he were to run"
• '10 Gov primary loser (and rich guy/co-owner of Boston Red Sox) Les Otten: "no indications... he's interested"
• State Treasurer (and '10 Gov primary loser) Bruce Poliquin (R): sources say "likely to very likely"
• State Senate President Kevin Raye (R): "I am assessing" (currently running for ME-02)
• Secretary of State Charlie Summers (R): among "names currently being circulated"
• '10 Gov independent candidate Eliot Cutler (I): A year ago (before Snowe retirement) said a run was "unlikely... no desire to live in Washington" (more interested in ME-Gov '14)
• Ex-Gov. Angus King (I): "giving it serious consideration"
• State Sen. Phil Bartlett (R)ME-02:
• State Sen. Jon Courtney (R)
• State Senator Cynthia Dill (D) (currently running for Senate)
• Ex-SoS Mark Gartley (R)
• State Rep. Jon Hinck (D) (currently running for Senate)
• Ex-SoS David Lemoine (D)
• Ex-state Sen. Bruce Bryant (D)• NJ-Sen: It's the second poll this week showing a big lead for Dem Sen. Bob Menendez over state Sen. Joe Kyrillos: Quinnipiac has Menendez up 49-34, which I believe is the first time they've tested the two men head-to-head. (A Rutgers-Eagleton survey the other day had Menendez on top 44-22.) Quinnipiac also notes that the incumbent's job approval rating is his best ever, 48-31.
• State House Minority Leader Emily Cain (D)
• Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman (R)
• NY-Sen: My headline for this story: "Hedge Fund Manager Decides to Light Money on Fire." Joe Carvin, who in addition to his Wall Street gig is also the supervisor for the town of Rye (in Westchester), says he plans to join the GOP Senate field and will spend $1 mil of his own money on the race. Amazingly, that makes him the third Republican to run, along with attorney Wendy Long and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. Good luck to all of yous!
• WI-Sen: Public Policy Polling just rolled out the Senate portion of its Wisconsin sample; we'll have a full post about it soon, but for now, suffice it to say that they show a closer race than that Marquette Law School poll from a few days ago. PPP sees Dem Tammy Baldwin leading GOPer Tommy Thompson 46-45, with bigger leads against the more conservative Republicans in the field. (David Jarman)
• WI-Sen: Check out the awful makeup job on Republican ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is out with his first ad of the Senate race. Tell me it doesn't look like he's wearing lipstick:
• NH-Gov: Republican ex-Rep. and current state Sen. Jeb Bradley was on a lot of gubernatorial shortlists when four-term Dem New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch announced his retirement, but he declined last September and how now offered his endorsement to Ovide Lamontagne, the '10 Senate primary loser who wasted no time after his loss in pivoting to a Gov race. Another pivot for Lamontagne is that, despite his having been the tea-flavored insurgent in last cycle's campaign, he now seems to have leveraged his way back into being the establishment candidate, with Kevin Smith now playing the insurgent role. With Bradley, John Stephen, and John Sununu, Jr. out, the only "establishment" GOPer left who we haven't heard from is Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas, though rich guy Steve Kenda is also still exploring. (David Jarman)
• UT-Gov: It's official: We've got a Democrat running for Governor in Utah. Obviously that's a heavy lift for any Dem, but our guy looks to have a strong resume: retired Major General Peter Cooke, the former head of the Salt Lake City-based 96th Readiness Command. (He'd expressed interest several months ago, but only formally kicked off his campaign Wednesday.) Given the state's lean, he starts as definite underdog, though he might have an opening if incumbent Republican Gov. Gary Herbert (a "moderate" by Utah's out-of-whack standards) gets Bennett-ized at the state nominating convention by his several more-conservative primary rivals. (David Jarman)
• CA-25: Rep. Buck McKeon already warded off the specter of a big primary challenge with fellow Republican member Elton Gallegly (who retired instead, thanks to redistricting), but he'll still face a fight in the GOP primary. His new opponent seems to have a Some Dude resume, but may be one cut above that thanks to what we'll call "inherited name rec"—Catherine Wright has the same name as her mother, who represented much of this turf in the state Senate in the 1980s. (Though that begs the question: how many people in this fast-growing exurban district lived here 30 years ago, let alone remember their state legislator from then?) (David Jarman)
• CA-26: Republican Ventura Co. Commissioner Linda Parks will be doffing her GOP label and running as "no party preference" in the Top 2 primary in this district. That's not really a surprise, as she's staked out a moderate or at least unpredictable reputation on the county commission, and state Sen. Tony Strickland looms large as the top Republican option here. The question is whether this'll help her squeak into the #2 ticket out of the primary, a real possibility since there are a number of credible Democrats running here and dividing the Dem vote (though Assemblywoman Julia Brownley seems to have consolidated the establishment Dem backing). (David Jarman)
• IL-16: The GOP primary between two members—old Don Manzullo and young Adam Kinzinger—gets hyped in the Beltway press as one of the nastiest House primaries of the cycle, and here's some local color from Illinois' Capitol Fax blog on how they're roughing each other up. (Not that it matters in terms of November; this is a GOP vote sink without a strong Dem candidate to pick up the mess—or in fact any Democratic candidate at all.) Manzullo's also running a TV ad making the case that he's the conservative one of the two, though no word on the size of the buy, nor do we know where the ad's running. (I can't imagine he can afford to run it in the Chicago market, so it might be Rockford-only, or a targeted cable buy.)
• MI-03 ($): Subscription-only tipsheet MIRS reports that former state Rep. Steve Pestka is considering a challenge to Republican freshman Justin Amash. Pestka hasn't held office for a decade (he made an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate in 2002), but he subsequently served as a local judge for a number of years. Pestka wouldn't be the only Democrat in the race—gay rights activist Trevor Thomas is already running—but Pestka's more conservative profile is almost sure to be a better fit for this seat in the general election. Don't be fooled by those Obama numbers: Though MI-03 was almost 50-50 in 2008, that represented an enormous swing from prior years, which Bush won by roughly 20% both times. (Those are pre-redistricting numbers, but the lines didn't change enormously.)
• OH-09, WA-01: It just won't go away... Dennis Kucinich, or at least his spokesperson (when cornered by Politico), wouldn't entirely shut the door on the possibility of Special K beaming down to a different district in case he loses his primary election next Tuesday—a distinct likelihood, as he's up against fellow Dem Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a new district that contains more of her turf. Could Kucinich head back to Washington's open 1st district, where he notoriously put out feelers last year? Washington's filing deadline is May 18, so, yes, he'd have plenty of time to decide. (And, yes, we predicted something like this back in July.)
In fact, over half (36) the states have filing deadlines that follow the Ohio primary, so why limit himself to Washington? I hear Maine might be having a couple open seats this year, and they might be particularly receptive to his brand of wackiness. In fact, if he wanted to weigh his options until August 17, he could still run in Louisiana. (Geaux Kucinich!)
While we're on the topic of weird ideas, the weirdest super PAC ever, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, is riding to Kucinich's rescue with a new ad attacking Kaptur (hitting her over the common cold of political scandals: late property tax payments). It's not for peanuts, either: a $116K district-wide buy. You can watch the ad at the link or below:
• PA-01: Going up against the Bob Brady machine in Philadelphia always seemed like a fool's errand, so it was never quite clear what former judge Jimmie Moore was up to—except perhaps for the possibility that he was hoping to peel away African American voters in the Democratic primary in this heavily black district. But regardless of what his aims were, Moore's no more: He's pulled the plug on his bid. The fix appears to be in, though: Check out the weird "joint statement" he and Brady put out at the link, full of statements like: "Congressman Robert A. Brady praised Judge Moore for his noble and selfless decision to withdraw his candidacy." Who are they trying to fool?
• Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso:
Michigan HD-29: Easy Dem hold; Tim Greimel defeated Republican Bob Gray by a 77-23 margin.Makes you wonder if all that effort to recall Paul Scott in HD-51 last November was really worth it, since he was just replaced by another Republican.
Michigan HD-51: Republicans had a fairly easy time here; Joseph Graves defeated Democrat Steven Losey by a 53-42 margin. Green Cary Neuville-Justice picked up 4% of the vote.
• FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over the state's new legislative maps on Wednesday, per the new Fair Districts amendments, but there's already been some wrangling among the justices over how broad a review to conduct. The court's conservative justices almost want to wish away the new amendments, saying any inquiry into the plans' compliance with the law should be "extremely limited"—and they didn't even want to force lawmakers to cough up a list of their home addresses, to be able to judge whether incumbents were protected under the new lines. Fortunately, the conservatives were over-ruled on that issue, but on others, they've carried the day, which makes me very skeptical that the whole Fair Districts effort will mean much in the end. Click the link for the full background—definitely an interesting read.
• NY Redistricting: By the time you wake up and read this, all the parties in New York's congressional redistricting case should have filed their proposed new maps with the court, and you'll be able to find all of them at the link. (The deadline was midnight Wednesday, and based on my personal experience, I know lawyers love to keep working until the very last second and file at 11:59. Oh, how I don't miss that.) What's really cool is that the three-judge panel hearing the case has also specifically requested input from the public, and you can find instructions on how to submit your own map (plus the upload form) at this link. The deadline is soon, though: Friday, March 2. So hop to it!