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Leading Off:

AL & MS Primaries: Incumbents won all around in the Alabama and Mississippi congressional primaries last night, but not all victories are created equal. Some were quite sizable: In MS-02, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson absolutely demolished former Greenville mayor Heather McTeer, 87-13, and in AL-05, Rep. Mo Brooks handily turned back turncoat chump Parker Griffith in the GOP primary, 70-30.

But several other Republican representatives escaped much more narrowly. Reps. Alan Nunnelee (MS-01), Jo Bonner (AL-01), and Spencer Bachus (AL-06) all managed around just 57-58% apiece. Some people will take the mistaken view that "anti-incumbent sentiment" is only a meaningful force if a given incumbent loses. But soft primary wins in the 50s against considerably weaker opponents (as was the case in all three races here) should not be ignored as a portent. While these guys may have survived, the next batch of incumbents may not be so lucky.


AZ-Sen: Not a surprise, but that Don Bivens ad attacking GOP Rep. Jeff Flake & Rush Limbaugh was reportedly backed by just a puny $7,000 buy. As long as there's politics, there will be video press releases.

MD-Sen: Maryland's primary is fast approaching on April 3, and Sen. Ben Cardin is leaving nothing to chance, even though his challenger for the Democratic nomination, state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, hasn't even filed a single fundraising report. Nevertheless, Cardin is going on the air with what is reportedly a "six-figure" ad buy, backing a spot that mostly features African American faces and is narrated by a young black girl. (You can watch it at the link.) Muse is black and has explicitly made his race a focus of his campaign; when he first launched his bid, he offered this explanation for why he was running: "There is something to be said about the fact that we don’t have an African American serving in the United States Senate."

Muse has also run decidedly to Cardin's right: He spoke at an anti-gay marriage rally earlier this year, while Cardin has come out in favor of including pro-marriage equality language in the Democratic Party's national platform.

ME-Sen: That Angus King interview with WLBZ-TV we mentioned in the previous digest actually contained a few more good quotes that we missed the first time around:

Former Maine Gov. Angus King (I) has made no deal with Democrats and will seek to avoid caucusing with either party if elected to the Senate, he said in an interview where he called himself "the two parties' worst nightmare." [...]

"The whole notion of what I'm trying to do here is get down there and shake things up," King said. "If I said I'm going to caucus with the Democrats or caucus with the Republicans, I'd be giving the game away."

King said he had made no decisions and hadn't discussed the matter with either Pingree or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He said if at all possible, he won't caucus with either party.

"If the numbers work out in such a way that it would be beneficial to Maine, that's the basis upon which I'm going to make the decision," he said.

Great, now King's the Freddy Krueger of politics? Groan.

ND-Sen: These franking scandals—you know, where a member of Congress abuses the budget he's given to send mailers to constituents about his official duties, but which perform double-duty as campaign literature paid for by taxpayers—are sort of the common cold of the political world. (Well, we already used that metaphor to describe tax liens the other week. So let's say strep throat.) But in this case, the swelling in the pharynx is a bit larger than usual: GOP Rep. Rick Berg, who is running for Senate, has spent $190K on mailings, a huge number for a small state like North Dakota and also a full 15% of his $1.2 million budget. Even with figures like this, though, it's rare for the condition to grow much worse, so I wouldn't bet on this story having much staying power.

NE-Sen: Democrat Bob Kerrey is already going up on the air in Nebraska, reportedly for about $100K, according to Dave Catanese. There are two ads, both of which are available on Kerrey's extremely minimalist website. One touts his willingness to "work with both parties" and finishes with him saying "it's good to be back"; the other begins with a couple declaring, "Welcome home, Bob!" and runs through his connections to and service on behalf of the  state. Clearly Kerrey's polling says he has to confront his long sojourn in New York City head-on, to inoculate himself against charges that he's gone libruhl and to re-establish his cornhusker bonafides. It's almost like you're reading the first page of Kerrey's long checklist of "things I need to do in order to have a prayer here."

Meanwhile, Karl Rove's American Crossroads is moving through its checklist of "things we're going to do to make sure Kerrey has no prayer here." Mostly, though, it's a pretty short list: keep on bringing up the fact that Kerrey spent ten years living in NYC and told the world that the "longer I live here, the further to the left I get on healthcare." That's just one of two damaging quotes featured in Crossroads' new $80K radio ad buy (and one they've used before); in the other, Kerrey says he won't talk about whatever deal he allegedly cut with Harry Reid in exchange for running for his old seat. (For what it's worth, Reid's denied that any such agreement exists.) Kerrey truly must be an oppo researcher's dream.

NY-Sen: Oh man. You really can follow politics just for the lulz and seldom be disappointed—though this is unusually good, and I swear it's not some early April Fool's stunt. GOP Rep. Bob Turner, who of course just won a special election last September to replace Anthony Weiner and then saw his district dismantled in a new court-drawn congressional map, has announced that he'll run for Senate against the well-nigh unbeatable Kirsten Gillibrand.

This comes just a day after his name was first floated for this bizarre race, which features a tragi-comic Republican field of Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, conservative activist Wendy Long, and hedge fund manager Joe Carvin. It also comes after repeated promises by Turner to seek re-election to the House. What's even more ridiculous, though, is that he had another, much better escape hatch, since Turner's fellow Republicans are proposing to redraw Democrat Joe Addabbo's 15th state Senate district in a way that should have been very appealing to him. Oh well, no one repeat that too loudly, because this Senate contest ought to be quite fun!

Indeed, the fun began before yesterday even let out. Conservative Party chair Mike Long says that his party is unlikely to support Turner and instead strongly prefers conservative activist Wendy Long. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Turner's chief Democratic backer in last year's NY-09 special, ex-NYC mayor Ed Koch, says that he, too, isn't getting behind Turner. Ah, nothing like being stuck hopelessly in the middle in a race where even if you win, you lose.

WA-Sen: There had been occasional percolations of rumors of Port of Seattle Commissioner (and George Lucas lookalike) Bill Bryant getting in to the Senate race, but on Monday Bryant confirmed that he won't run. Bryant, as befits his status as an official who's elected by all of King County, is quite moderate, meaning he'd have little likelihood of getting past more conservative state Sen. Michael Baumgartner in the primary. That leaves Baumgartner (and perennial candidate Art Coday) as Maria Cantwell's only challengers, as former Bloomberg Asia news anchor Phillip Yin seems to have disappeared from the map after announcing his run last September. (David Jarman)


NH-Gov: Ovide Lamontagne's makeover—from Tea Party-fueled insurgent outsider to acceptable establishment choice—is now all but complete. The final trim-and-blowout comes courtesy of Rep. Charlie Bass, who is very much the picture of the classic Republican insider and just gave Lamontagne his endorsement. (Bass is a longtime faux-moderate whose father represented the same seat and whose grandfather was governor 100 years ago.) But this just means that Lamontagne now has to deal with a pesky outsider himself: conservative activist Kevin Smith, who hopefully will play the same role in this race that Lamontagne did in the 2010 Senate contest, albeit just a little more successfully.


FL-03: Ah, the perils of a three-way primary. After Clay County Clerk Jimmie Jett accused Rep. Cliff Stearns of trying to bribe him out of the race—and alleged that the FBI was investigating the matter—Stearns predictably denied all of Jett's claims and, in standard fashion, tried to frame the issue as a classic political smear perpetrated by a rival. At the very least, in a normal race, Stearns might be able to partially defuse the matter by turning it into a he-said/he-said debate.

But now state Sen. Steve Oelrich, the other legitimate contender in the GOP primary, is also making hay of Jett's accusations, sending out a fundraising blast excoriating Stearns and moaning that he's "tired of seeing the rampant corruption in Congress." With a somewhat more neutral third party ready and willing to make use of Jett's claims, it's going to be a lot harder for Stearns to make them go away.

IL-02: Back in January, ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson released one of those rare internals showing her trailing, but with an "if everything goes right" clause that, as per usual, claimed she had a "path to victory." Well, everything definitely hasn't gone right, because all of the usual metrics—fundraising, endorsements, polls—since then have tilted decidedly toward her opponent in the Democratic primary, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. The latest is a new JJJ internal from Lake Research, which shows him increasing his lead to a monster 59-23, up from 44-30 in December. If those numbers are accurate, that would represent a rather remarkable downward trend for Halvorson, who has been on the receiving end of several negative ads. With just a week left, this race simply isn't looking very competitive.

IL-10: Businessman Brad Schneider is out with a new negative TV ad attacking activist Ilya Sheyman, claiming he's "funded by out-of-state special interests." Amusingly, Schneider doesn't identify those "interests" by name, probably because having the support of a bunch of progressive organizations is typically a positive thing in a Democratic primary. As per usual, there's no word on the size of the buy, though Roll Call previously reported that Schneider's first ad was backed by just $20K a week, a pittance in Chicago. In any event, you can watch the ad at the link or below:

IL-13: With a week to go before the primary, physician David Gill is now on the air with a radio ad touting his progressive credentials. You can listen at the link.

IL-16: There's nothing newsy here, but The Hill's Cameron Joseph takes a good, long look at the bitter fractures that have emerged in the incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary between Republican Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger. There's so much juicy infighting here that I'm really sad this race will be over in just a week!

MD-06: I guess I didn't realize that the United Auto Workers had much of a presence in Maryland's 6th Congressional District, but they say they have 1,400 members there, and—more importantly—they're endorsing state Sen. Rob Garagiola in the Democratic primary. Interestingly, in Garagiola's press release, a UAW official specifically takes a swipe at Garagiola's main opponent, financier John Delaney, something you don't usually see in this kind of announcement.

MI-07: Here's a huge potential get for Democrats: Ex-Rep. Joe Schwarz confirmed a report that came out earlier on Tuesday which said the DCCC is trying to recruit him to run against Rep. Tim Walberg, the proto-teabagger who defeated him in the GOP primary in 2006. Yep, you read that right: The D-Trip is hoping to get Schwarz to switch parties—and knowing Schwarz, it's not impossible to imagine. Schwarz is certainly too liberal for today's Republican Party: He only narrowly won the GOP nomination in a crowded 2004 primary, and of course his various apostasies were why the Club for Growth used Walberg to target him just two years later.

But ideology is not the only reason Schwarz might take the bait: He's simply the kind of guy who'd want to exact revenge on Walberg, or at least seriously fuck with him. Indeed, in 2008, he endorsed Democrat Mark Schauer, who defeated Walberg that year (only to lose to him a cycle later). The biggest problem, though, is that Schwarz's home base of Battle Creek was moved out of the 7th—a move actually designed to keep Schauer from running again, since he lives there, too. He's also 74 years old, but that may be something of a positive, seeing as he truly has nothing to lose here and would probably relish the thought of tearing Walberg to shreds.

In any event, Schwarz says he's considering the possibility, though as you'd imagine, he also says he's "not certain" if he'll do it. However, Schwarz did say he thinks he's "the strongest candidate" to take on Walberg and has promised to decide "in the next few weeks." Here's hoping he jumps in—Congressman, the water is just fine on our side of the aisle!

MT-AL, MT-Gov: Montana's filing deadline passed on Monday. Of note: Seven Democrats and three Republicans submitted paperwork to run in the state's open at-large House seat. Also, in the governor's race, as expected, a Some Dude ticket filed on the Democratic side at the last minute, which means that AG Steve Bullock will be able to raise money for both the primary and the general election, just like his Republican opposition. (If you're interested, there's also a full list of legislative filings here.)

NC-08: Republican John Whitley is out with another ad, this time relying on his credentials as a neurosurgeon to attack "Obamacare" as a "monstrosity." Amusingly, he claims he's read the legislation cover-to-cover.

NJ-05: Passaic County Freeholder Terry Duffy never sounded all that excited about a run against GOP Rep. Scott Garrett, saying at various points that he was ready to defer to not one but two stronger candidates (Harry Carson and Jim McQueeny). So I can't say I'm surprised that he's dropping out, even though both of those alternatives decided not to make the race. In any event, Duffy's departure leaves Democrats with Teaneck deputy mayor Adam Gussen and Marine Corps. vet Jason Castle still in the contest.

NJ-09: Rep. Steve Rothman is trying to change the subject away from the crap that's dominated this race (namely, his decision to seek re-election in this district and not in the 5th CD) with the aim of trying to out-progressive his rival for the Democratic nomination, fellow Rep. Bill Pascrell. It takes a while to get to the meat in this Bergen Record piece, but about halfway through, you'll hit Rothman's litany of issues where he says he's to Pascrell's left: abortion (he opposed a parental notification bill that Pascrell supported); the Wall Street bailout (Rothman: nay, Pascrell: aye); and immigration (Rothman claims Pascrell voted in favor of a border fence). Pascrell doesn't offer much of a response (except to once again try to claim that Rothman "ran from a fight"), though as the Record notes, Rothman did recently fund a letter sent to Republican Jews (signed by 15 synagogue presidents) which encouraged them to switch parties to vote for him in the Democratic primary.

NY-02: This would be an absolutely game-changing recruit: According to Celeste Katz at the Daily News, DCCC chair Steve Israel is trying to recruit Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice to run against GOP Rep. Peter King. King's 2nd CD (the old 3rd) would get considerably bluer under the proposed new map, going from 52-47 McCain to 51-48 Obama, a net change of eight points. On top of that, Rice is a strong campaigner and good fundraiser; if you recognize her name, you probably remember her from her 2010 run for state attorney general, where she lost the Democratic nomination by two points to state Sen. Eric Schneiderman (who went on to win the whole thing). King is no pushover, of course—and as Katz points out, he has $2 million in his campaign coffers. But this has the makings of an epic race should Rice get in.

NY-27, NY-26: I wasn't even aware that this notion had been broached, but in case you were concerned that Dem Rep. Kathy Hochul might try to primary fellow Dem Rep. Brian Higgins in the much-safer proposed 26th CD rather than seek re-election in the now-decidedly-redder 27th CD, don't worry. Hochul says she has no plans to run anywhere but the 27th.

OH-02: This is pretty remarkable: Not only was soon-to-be-former Rep. Jean Schmidt in Washington, DC, rather than on the campaign, on the very day of last week's primary—already an extremely clueless move—but she was meeting with none other than the ambassador for Turkey and representatives of the Turkish-American Council. That's especially notable because her too-close relationship with Turkish interests got her in trouble with the House Ethics Committee, who ordered her to repay half a million dollars' worth of legal fees that the very same Turkish-American Council tried to give her for free. What's more, the guy who beat her in the Republican primary, Brad Wenstrup, made a big issue out of this serious lapse on the campaign trail. All this reminds me that even though I'll miss Schmidt's big mouth and penchant for gaffes, it'll be good to have one of Congress's chief apologists for the Turkish genocide against Armenia gone next year.

OR-04: This is a weird story reminiscent of the Francis M. Powers vs. Francis H. Powers episode in NY-13 back in 2008: Republican Art Robinson is seeking a rematch with Dem Rep. Peter DeFazio... and his son Matthew is challenging DeFazio in the Democratic primary. Before you start wondering about the Oedipal aspects to this, it's definitely a put-up job: The younger Robinson only recently changed his party affiliation from R to D. And have no fear: Both Robinsons are exceedingly unlikely to prevail.

PA-12: PoliticsPA reports that both Dem Reps. Mark Critz and Jason Altmire are going on the air, each for about $150K. Altmire has two spots—one biographical, and the other an attempt to showcase his Democratic bona fides, however slim they might be. Critz, meanwhile, touts his efforts to save a coal mine (and with it 700 jobs), but as Gibson notes, unfortunately for Critz, the mine is no longer located in the district. In any event, you can watch all the ads at the link.

SD-AL: Here's a trivia question: Who is the oldest living candidate to appear on a major party's national ticket? The answer: former U.S. Sen. George McGovern who of course was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972. Yet despite his 89 years of age, McGovern has taken the time to endorse former Tim Johnson staffer Matt Varilek for Congress. Varilek faces a race against Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth in the Democratic primary for the right to take on freshman GOPer Kristi Noem in November.

WA-06: Maria Cantwell's campaign manager is leaving her re-election campaign in order to go work for state Sen. Derek Kilmer and his bid to succeed retiring Norm Dicks. I'm not sure if that's a reflection on recent turnover—her chief-of-staff has also left—at Cantwell's office, which seems to be National Journal's Beltway-insider spin on it, or on Kilmer's increasingly good odds in the WA-06 race and general up-and-coming-ness, though.

"Increasingly good," in part, is due to state Sen. Jim Hargrove, who just announced that he wouldn't run here, leaving Kilmer the only declared Dem after more than a week. (Hargrove, though more conservative than Kilmer, is a longtime force in this area; he's been the state Senator from the Port Angeles-area LD-24 for 20 years.) (David Jarman)

Grab Bag:

California: We mentioned yesterday that the California GOP was stuck taking Elizabeth Emken to the dance in the Senate race, but they also issued a whole bunch of endorsements at the House and legislative level over the weekend too. In most cases, the House endorsements were no-brainers (either for the incumbent, or for the sacrificial lamb), but a few in the state's few competitive districts are worth discussion. Maybe most notably, they endorsed a Long Beach city councilor, Gary DeLong, over an ex-Rep. Steve Kuykendall, in Dem-leaning, but open, CA-47. (DeLong has his own money, and Kuykendall hasn't been in office for a decade and is pretty moderate, so that probably explains that.) They also picked sides in CA-31, where they went with the carpetbagging Rep. Gary Miller over state Sen. Bob Dutton.

Most of the races where they didn't endorse weren't surprises either (like the solid-GOP open seats in CA-01 and CA-08, where there are multiple credible candidates, or in CA-03, where there are two decent candidates vying to take on John Garamendi). One, though, is: Dem Rep. Lois Capps' CA-24, where ex-Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado didn't gain the GOP endorsement vs. Chris Mitchum, who's managed to consolidate party support after several other candidates backed out. That's pretty telling that the state GOP is unenthused with the moderate Maldonado, since they gave their backing to Rep. Brian Bilbray in CA-52 in a similar situation; Bilbray faces John Stahl, who not only has teabagger backing but his own money. (Bilbray, by the way, is sporting a pretty tepid 35/39 favorable in a new SurveyUSA poll of the race... which was approvals only, no head-to-heads.) (David Jarman)

Texas: As promised, Katherine Haenschen has a super-comprehensive roundup of the candidate filings for all 36 congressional races in Texas. She's even got a homebrew "heat index" that rates races according to how hot she expects them to be, ranging from "green bell pepper" up through "habanero" and "pepper spray" (with "peppermint patty" for the duds). Tremendous work, and a great post to bookmark for future reference.

WATN?: Dem ex-Rep. Lincoln Davis, who represented TN-08 for four terms before getting badly turfed in 2010, is back in the news, with a lawsuit alleging the state improperly purged thousands of registered voters from the voter rolls. Why is Davis suing? Turns out it's personal: He had his own voter registration cancelled, albeit under complex circumstances.

Redistricting Roundup:

FL Redistricting: As it did before, the Florida House plans to defer to their brethren in the Senate, who will have a free hand to redraw their own map, since that the state's highest court has ordered them to do so. More interesting, though, is the description of the serious cat fud that's been flying in the upper chamber. Indeed, says the Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas, referring to the recently-concluded regular legislative session: "In the last week of session, it seemed as if Senate leaders couldn't round up 21 votes for anything controversial, raising doubts about how easy it will be to pass a new map that doesn't protect all the incumbents."

And that's really the nub: The court cuffed the Senate on the ear for improperly trying to protect incumbents, and now an already-fractious body will somehow have to round up a majority in favor of a plan that will undoubtedly shove a few penguins off the iceberg. This could be more fun than we anticipated—and if the Senate can't get its act together, then the court will draw a new map for them.

NH Redistricting: At long last, we finally have some action on congressional redistricting in New Hampshire—and the lengthy delay is made all the more absurd by the fact that the plan just passed by a state House committee moves all of 250 people from NH-02 to NH-01 (leaving a deviation of just two people). As boring as this is, there was actually a bit of an interesting backstory here. Rep. Charlie Bass, who sits in the slightly bluer 2nd District, had wanted to snag some redder turf from the 1st District in order to shore himself up. Of course, that would have meant hurting fellow Republican Frank Guinta, this being very much a zero-sum game. So this stand-pat map, assuming it gets signed into law, constitutes a win for Guinta. Given that Bass appears to be the mover vulnerable of the two, though, Republicans may regret this decision. (Hat-tip: William Tucker)

NY Redistricting, NY-08/09: Late on Monday night, the magistrate judge charged with drafting a new congressional map for New York State issued her final "report and recommendation" to the three-judge panel hearing the case. You can find the entire ruling, including maps, the report from the court's technical expert, and all other attachments at the link, but the PDF you'll be most interested in is this one. These maps show the changes made between the first draft and this version—there were only three, and two of them were very minimal.

One was quite important, though: The magistrate restored the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill to the proposed new 8th District from the 9th. That's key because these areas constitute the home turf of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who is challenging Rep. Ed Towns in the Democratic primary in the 8th. In the original plan, Jeffries' base was moved into Dem Rep. Yvette Clarke's 9th, which would have seriously undermined his chances against Towns. But now things are back to the way they once were.

Meanwhile, on the legislative side, CUNY, which has done the work of angels during this dismal redistricting season in New York, has updated their interactive maps. Now you can compare the newest state legislative proposals published on Sunday night with the first set of plans that were released last month.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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