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Leading Off:

UT-Sen: In case you missed it over the weekend, the state parties held their nominating conventions in Utah. The marquee event was the Utah Senate race, where various hardcore conservatives were hoping to send insufficiently right-wing Orrin Hatch down the same road as Bob Bennett in 2010 (who finished third at convention, ending his career then and there). Hatch was much better prepared than Bennett, though, and going into Saturday the real question wasn't whether he'd survive the convention but whether he'd clear the 60% needed to win the nomination outright and avoid a primary.

In the end, he didn't, despite most polls showing he would: he got 59.2%, forcing him into a primary with second-place finisher ex-state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Hatch remains the favorite here, given that the June 26 primary is a broader, less doctrinaire slice of the population. We hadn't given much thought to who his Democratic opponent would be, but the name less familiar to the netroots (though probably more familiar to Dems on the ground in Utah) won: former state Sen. Scott Howell won the nomination outright against tech businessman (and 2006 Senate race loser) Pete Ashdown.


FL-Sen: That was certainly a brief flirtation. After seeing his name everywhere in the last week being touted as a potential savior to the Florida Republicans in the Senate race to replace Rep. Connie Mack's stumbling campaign (wait a second... wasn't Mack supposed to be the savior saving the GOP from George LeMieux's stumbling campaign, at least as of last fall?), over the weekend state CFO Jeff Atwater said "no" to the Senate race. (A separate article also mentions, for the first time, state House speaker Dean Cannon and "a wealthy no-name" also declining in the last week to step in and intervene.) It may have been a tough choice for Atwater, seeing as how this may be his best chance to move up; he's apparently more interested in succeeding Rick Scott as Governor but may be boxed out of the 2018 primary by AG Pam Bondi and Ag Comm. Adam Putnam.

IN-Sen: Last week came word that long-time Sen. Richard Lugar was calling in all his chits (like John McCain and Mitch McConnell) for help in a fast-approaching and potentially career-ending Republican Senate primary. Well, here's an ad featuring one of those establishment friends, and more importantly, one that Hoosiers actually seem to like, if his approvals are any indication: Gov. Mitch Daniels. Daniels echoes a refrain that Lugar has already made though, seemingly not to much effect: that it's special interest groups like the Club for Growth who are trying to orchestrate Lugar, not real Indianans. No word on the size of the buy other than it's a continuation of current (saturation-level) spending.

MA-Sen: Elizabeth Warren's campaign is out with a new ad; it's a basic warm-fuzzy, dust-off-the-childhood photos bio spot. Looks like the goal here is to up her "likeability" factor, as that realm of the intangible, combined with Republican incumbent Scott Brown's every-guy-appeal, seems to be what's partly holding her back from opening up much of a lead in the very-much-a-tossup Senate race. If you're wondering where your Warren contributions are going to, Roll Call reports the buy is a sizable $770K for two weeks.
NE-Sen: Republican primary frontrunner Jon Bruning was on the receiving end of not one but two articles in the local newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, that leave him looking something less than squeaky-clean. One is an in-depth look at Bruning's finances (he's declined to release tax returns, but it's an investigative piece pulled together out of lots of other public records), wondering how he's managed to turn into a multi-millionaire on a rather humdrum five-figure public servant's salary as the state's AG.

Nothing illegal leaps out, but there's a lot of passive investment in things put together by well-connected friends that, in some cases concerning state-regulated industries, skirt the boundaries of conflict of interest. More specifically, they have a sidebar on his former co-ownership of a Botox spa, Devenu Medical Rejuvenation Center, and the conflicts that arose there, especially when the center's doctor was disciplined for illegally dispensing Valium and then entered into a settlement agreement with Bruning's AG office.

NM-Sen: Elizabeth Warren's not the only Dem Senate candidate out this week with a bio spot touting hardscrabble-upbringing bona fides. Rep. Martin Heinrich is also out with an ad about learning the dignity of work and using that to fight for jobs. NM Telegram reports that the size of the buy is $72K (a deceptively small buy, as New Mexico is a cheap media state). The ad doesn't seem to be on YouTube yet, but it's available at the link.

TX-Sen: You might be forgiven if you'd forgotten that there was a third wheel in the Republican Senate primary in Texas, where most of the air war has been fought between the frontrunner, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and his opponent from the right, ex-Solicitor General Ted Cruz. That third wheel is former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and in an effort to correct that imbalance, he's out with a new ad, running statewide (but apparently only on cable); the ad focuses on Leppert's private sector background. The ad mostly takes digs at Cruz and Dewhurst but throws in some Obama-bashing at the end; the ad's available at the link.


NC-Gov: Ex-Rep. Bob Etheridge, one of the two leading Dem candidates for Governor, is out with his first TV ad, and, interestingly, it doesn't say anything about him being an ex-Rep. Instead, it's focused on education, and accordingly, on his pre-Congress job as the state's schools superintendent. No word on the size of the buy other than it's "comparable" in size to the previous ad by his main opponent, Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, and running in three unspecified media markets.

UT-Gov: There had been some smoke signals earlier in the year that incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert might be in more trouble at the state convention than Orrin Hatch; a "moderate" by Utah's distorted standards, he had angered the nativist base with his immigration stances. In the end, though, Herbert had an even easier time of it than did Hatch. Herbert won the nomination outright, clearing the 60% bar on the second ballot. Ex-state Rep. (and 2010 UT-02 loser) Morgan Philpot finished second. Herbert will face Democratic retired Major General Peter Cooke in November.

WI-Gov: Here's a nice, punchy ad from the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, taking the fight right to Scott Walker's job-creation record. Wisconsin was in last place among the 50 states last year in job creation (losing 12K jobs), and they hit Walker hard with that in advance of the June 5 recall election. National Journal is reporting that the size of the buy is $500K, with that money originating from the Democratic Governors' Association.


AK-AL: The FBI released hundreds of pages of documents from its 2005 investigation of Republican Rep. Don Young, which focused mainly on steering $10 million to a Florida road project on behalf of a campaign supporter. That investigation ended without any charges being filed, but there's plenty here to besmirch what parts of Young's reputation remain unsmirched, including allegations that Young routinely used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses while home in Alaska.

FL-14: One of the most-clearly-doomed runs for the House from a basically-solid Republican candidate that we've seen this cycle seems to be over: Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe has decided to end his bid against incumbent Dem Kathy Castor, citing the impossibility of winning such a heavily Democratic district (65% Obama under the new lines). Apparently he got in the race hoping the Tampa area would be un-gerrymandered, creating an opportunity for him, but instead the old lines basically held, leaving only Castor's Dem vote sink and a bunch of districts with GOP incumbents. He seems to have stuck around for a while to see if litigation would undo the map, but we're close enough to the ground at this point that he hit his reserve chute.

FL-22: Lois Frankel seemed to have a good fundraising groove going when she was running against Allen West in the pre-redistricting period, seeing as how he's one of those lightning-rod targets where the cash flows in both for and against. Well, West may have moved on to friendlier turf in the new 18th, leaving Frankel the probable favorite in a Dem-leaning open seat, but Frankel is still running against him, at least rhetorically, in her latest fundraising appeals. She's calling former state Rep. and new GOP opponent Adam Hasner "radical Tea Partier Allen West's hand-picked replacement" and also fundraising off West's "78 Communists" claim.

FL-26: Unfortunately, this is mostly water under the bridge at this point since state prosecutors didn't wind up charging him with anything, but the details from their investigation into the wild world of Republican Rep. David Rivera are out and they're worth a read. Most interestingly, he seems to have managed to make a living just off his campaign contributions for a decade while in the state legislature, by moving money around through a variety of accounts, held together with a lot of back-dated records.

If you're wondering how that isn't transparently illegal, it's because he's managed to steer narrowly clear of the law by declaring nearly everything he's done in his life as a campaign expense, and taking advantage of state laws that don't place limitations on use of campaign funds raised for members of the state party's committee (something he was, in addition to a legislator). The FBI and IRS (which, of course, are not parts of the thoroughly Republican-controlled Florida state government) are still investigating Rivera, so he may yet get called to account, though.

GA-04 (or WATN?): Wow, look who's back! Ex-Rep. Cynthia McKinney, loose-cannonish enough to get primaried out on two separate occasions by two separate Dems, is going to make another try at getting back her old seat in the Atlanta suburbs. Interestingly, though, she's sticking with her Green Party moniker (she was the Green presidential nominee in 2008), rather than taking on Rep. Hank Johnson in the Dem primary, where one would expect her to have a better chance. If you're suddenly having visions of a Republican exploiting the Dem/Green split to ride to unexpected victory, well, don't; it's a 73% Obama district. Not only would the Republican be hard-pressed to finish anything but third, but also don't forget that Georgia uses general election runoffs if nobody clears 50%, so a GOPer would badly lose a head-to-head against either Johnson or McKinney. First, though, she has until Aug. 4 to round up 18,860 signatures to get on the ballot.

IL-13: Now here's something you don't see everyday: a former Miss America would like to be considered for the GOP nomination in the 13th (where the county parties will be responsible for picking out a new candidate, thanks to Tim Johnson's after-the-primary retirement). 32-year-old Erika Harold was Miss America 2003, though she followed that up by going to Harvard Law and working as an associate at Chicago's most prominent law firm. (She was born in Urbana, which seems to be the main hook connecting her to the downstate district.)

KY-04: Maybe a few big-name endorsements will help bring a little clarity to the currently-cluttered Republican primary race to replace the retiring Rep. Geoff Davis. The outgoing Davis endorsed state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington at her campaign kickoff event on Monday; so too did ex-Sen. Jim Bunning, from whom we haven't heard much of anything since his 2010 retirement.

MA-09: The Republicans are about to get a former elected official to go up against Rep. William Keating in the Cape Cod-area 9th, though it's probably not one that has Keating shaking in his boots. It's Adam Chaprales, a former selectman from the town of Sandwich (popu. 21K), who says he's "strongly considering." Here's a bit of trivia: Sandwich is second-largest of the few (maybe two dozen) municipalities in Massachusetts that actually went for George Bush over John Kerry in 2004. At any rate, while the district was competitive in 2010 when it was an open seat, it's pretty solidly Dem (an improved 58% Obama under the new lines), and the GOP would need someone higher up the food chain than Chaprales to put this one on the map.

MI-07: Pardon us while we pound our heads on the desk for a little while... after excited-sounding tweets from his camp last week that former moderate GOP Rep. Joe Schwarz was going to have an important announcement on Monday night, now it turns out that his public appearance won't have anything to do with launching a potential campaign  as a Democrat against Republican Rep. Tim Walberg. It sounds like he still hasn't made up his mind, and there's no mention of another timetable at this point.

MN-01: Utah wasn't the only convention action over the weekend; in fact, the most exciting (or probably most boring, actually) convention action was happening at the GOP convention for Minnesota's 1st district, where the Republicans went 23 deadlocked ballots in trying to decide between state Sen. Mike Parry and former state Rep. (and Michele Bachmann-allied social con) Allen Quist. In the end, they simply gave up, and will try again during the week. Both Parry and Quist have said they'll abide by the convention results and won't plow ahead to the primary, so this is for all the marbles.

NY-06: The 1199 SEIU healthcare workers' union is one of the biggest of enchiladas in New York City's union landscape, and they issued a whole slew of endorsements in contested Dem primaries today. Maybe most notably, they also endorsed state Asm. Rory Lancman in the 6th (who's gotten most of the union endorsements so far, it seems). They're also backing Charlie Rangel in NY-13, Nydia Velazquez in NY-07, Hakeem Jeffries in NY-08, Yvette Clarke in NY-09, and Sean Patrick Maloney up in NY-18.

NY-22: All we have is a tweet from Friday to go on, but this is potentially big news if true: the Conservative Party apparently declined to cross-endorse moderate-ish Republican Rep. Richard Hanna (recently seen encouraging woman voters to donate to the Dems). What happens next could make a difference in Dems' hopes of retaking this district; if the Cons just shrug off the race, nothing really changes, but if they run someone else to Hanna's right on their ballot line, that could shave off a few points from Hanna's total and maybe tip a close race.

PA-17: I'm not sure if Democratic Rep. Tim Holden sat on this endorsement until close to the election for maximum impact on fence-sitters, or if he's just been scrambling around in a last-minute panic calling in chits and managed to score a big one. Either way, Holden rolled out backing from one of the state's biggest names, ex-Gov. Ed Rendell.

PA-18: I think pretty much everyone has written off the GOP primary race in the 18th, where Evan Feinberg never got past the initial touting phase in terms of mounting an effective challenge to incumbent Rep. Tim Murphy. And here's the level of lameness Feinberg has been reduced to: his closing argument (airing only on Pittsburgh's sports radio talk station) seems to base its argument around the possibility that the Cleveland-raised Murphy may be some sort of sleeper-cell Browns supporter.

TX-16: Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who's facing a potentially interesting primary challenge from an Anglo opponent, El Paso city councilor Beto O'Rourke (who claims Campaign for Primary Accountability backing, though they haven't put down any money here yet), is getting his own Super PAC assistance. He's the beneficiary of an ad from the Latino-oriented The American Worker PAC, who are putting out a radio ad on Reyes' behalf. I haven't heard of them before, but they seem to have big plans, planning to spend at least $1 million per race on races in seven different states.

TX-35: Smart Media Group is reporting a pretty large media buy from Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett in the San Antonio media market, for $115K. That may be his first-ever foray into the San Antonio market, but that makes sense, as instead of an Austin-specific district he now finds himself in a wormlike Hispanic-majority district containing parts of Austin and San Antonio, and where his main primary opponent, Bexar County Assessor Sylvia Romo, is San Antonio-based. (And with millions of cash on hand stockpiled for just such an eventuality, now's definitely the time to use it.)

UT-02, UT-04: Most of the drama at the GOP convention seemed reserved for the House races instead, as this seemed to be where delegates scratched their anti-establishment itches instead. The one poll of convention delegates at the House level had shown likely primaries in the two races where there's no Republican incumbent (the open 2nd and Dem-held 4th), but in each case the more outsiderish candidate won outright at convention. In the 2nd, that was author and veteran Chris Stewart, who defeated, among many others, former state House speaker David Clark. And in the 4th, that was Saratoga Springs mayor Mia Love, who defeated former state Rep. Carl Wimmer (for whom the seat was seemingly created).

If Love wins in November, she'll be the first African-American Republican woman elected to the House. First, though, she'll need to get past Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson, who moved over here to the more favorable 4th from the 2nd. Unlike 2010, where he had faced a strong challenge from the left, this time Matheson was unopposed for the Dem nod. Also, the Dems put up better-than-usual seeming contenders in both the 2nd and the 3rd, as apparently the scrambling of the district lines makes these feel like slightly-less-uphill fights. Former state Rep. Jay Seegmiller won the nomination in the 2nd, and Salt Lake City councilor Soren Simonsen won the nomination in the 3rd (where he'll incumbent GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, renominated without a fight).

Also worth noting, the Republican convention contests in the 2nd and 4th both seem to have concluded with abundant hurt feelings. In the 2nd, there were allegations aplenty of a last-minute attempt by Dave Clark to rope all the also-rans into launching negative attacks against Chris Stewart (which, judging by Stewart's convincing victory, failed abysmally). And in the 4th, outgoing AG Mark Shurtleff really stepped in it, making a last-minute pitch for delegates to pick establishment pick Carl Wimmer instead of "a novelty." (The "novelty," of course, was the Haitian-American Mia Love.) That was beyond the pale enough that it elicited boos even from a crowd of Utah Republicans.

VA-05 (or WATN?): OK, here's something of a mirror image of that Cynthia McKinney story, featuring a loose-cannonish right-wing former GOP House member. However, this one takes a different path: instead of trying to get his old seat back, ex-Rep. Virgil Goode is taking McKinney's 2008 route, running for President, under a hopeless third-party banner. He's going to be seeking the nomination of the far-right Constitution Party, which, if he gets the nod, would give the Constitution Party certainly their highest-profile candidate ever. (Another consideration: his candidacy might shave off half-a-point from Mitt Romney's total... probably not a game-changer, but it could flip some EVs.)

Grab Bag:

Demographics: The Pew Hispanic Center is out with a fascinating new study that ought to (well, it won't, but it ought to) take the wind out of a few xenophobic sails: net migration from Mexico has dwindled down to zero, perhaps even a net negative. 1.4 million Mexicans moved from Mexico to the U.S. in the period 2005-2010, while 1.4 million Mexicans (and their U.S.-born kids in some instances) moved from the U.S. to Mexico. Apprehensions along the border have dropped 70% in that period, suggesting that fewer people are trying to make the trip. Turns out that the solution was right under the Republicans' noses all along: just make the American economy worse and the Mexican economy better.

Florida: PPP finally emptied out the wheelbarrow on their Florida miscellany from last week's sample. The Trayvon Martin shooting gets top billing here, with pluralities both thinking that the "Stand Your Ground" law at issue should stay in place, but that George Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder anyway. They also find someone who rivals Rick Scott's popularity levels in Florida: Fidel Castro, who's at 4/86 favorables.

FL-??: Granted, it's a contribution from a large law firm (Morgan & Morgan) where he works, not a personal contribution, but it's 50,000 more reasons why it's looking likelier that Charlie Crist may be a Democratic candidate for, well, something in the future. His firm just gave $50K to Obama-backing Super PAC Priorities USA.

Minnesota: If you're having a bad day, at least take solace in the fact that you're not the Minnesota state Republican party. They're facing an eviction hearing from their headquarters one block from the state capitol. See, there's a slight problem here, in that they haven't paid their rent. For eight months. (Recent federal disclosures have revealed that they owe a cumulative $1 million to vendors, including $107K to their landlord, Hub Properties.)

PA-AG: Kathleen Kane may have had some success pushing the argument that ex-Rep. Patrick Murphy isn't a suitable AG candidate because he has no courtroom experience in Pennsylvania, if the lead she's holding in an unanswered internal poll of the Democratic AG primary is any indication. However, Murphy's closing ad takes Kane's own record down a peg or 2,976, pointing out that her claim of having tried 3,000 cases is actually more like around 24. (She claims there's still a kernel of truth there in that she's "handled" 25 cases a month over 12 years, but any lawyer knows the difference between "handling" a case and actually trying it.) The ad can be seen at the link.

Special elections: Courtesy of legislative expert Johnny Longtorso, we've got previews for the special elections Tuesday in the Keystone State (that will coincide with the regularly-scheduled primaries):

HD-22 - (Open D) Cuts across Pittsburgh into some of the southern suburbs, 58-41 Obama.

Candidates: consultant and confessed thief Martin Schmotzer (D), Bank of New York Mellon employee Chris Cratsley (R)

HD-134 - (Open R) Stretches south from the Allentown suburbs into eastern Berks County, 50-48 Obama.

Candidates: '10 nominee Patrick Slattery (D) (he got 32% then), erstwhile government employee (who wants to cut government spending) Ryan Mackenzie (R)

HD-153 - (Open D) Located in Abington, in southeastern Montgomery County, 65-34 Obama.

Candidates: college professor Madeleine Dean (D), attorney Nicholas Mattiacci (R)

HD-169 - (Open R) A chunk of the very northeastern end of Philadelphia, 53-46 Obama.

Candidates: former PA Deputy Labor Secretary Ed Neilson (D), former PA House Speaker Denny O'Brien aide Dave Kralle (R)

HD-186 - (Open D) A majority-black section of southern Philadelphia, 94-6 Obama.

Candidates: former State Rep. Harold James (D), "scientific research"-type-person Barbara Hankinson (R)

James was in the House for 20 years before losing a primary to Kenyatta Johnson in 2008. Johnson served all of three years before getting elected to the Philadelphia City Council. Kind of a dick move, isn't it?

HD-197 - (Open D) A majority-black section of centralish Philadelphia, 96-4 Obama.

Candidates: Democratic Party ward leader Gary Williams (D), some dude Steve Crum (R), former State Sen., convicted felon, and '11 mayoral candidate Milton Street (I)

This race is insane. Seriously, read this read this and it'll make your head spin.

Redistricting Roundup:

Arizona redistricting: It's five months late, but now we've gotten a full explanation out of the Arizona Supreme Court as to why they reinstated Colleen Mathis as head of the Arizona Redistricting Commission. (They reinstated her as part of a Nov. 17 order, but without any explanation.) The court's opinion says that they could find no violation of state open-meeting laws by Mathis that rose to the level of gross misconduct. They also said that Gov. Jan Brewer's other claim, that the map wasn't regarding constitutional criteria, was premature because the map hadn't been finalized and that, at any rate, the proper response to concerns with the map would be a lawsuit to stop implementation of the map rather than sacking Mathis.

NY-13: The New York Times has an interesting look back at the history of the Harlem-based congressional seat (which has had only two occupants, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Charlie Rangel, since its creation in the 1940s). The really interesting stuff, though, is buried toward the end, with some dirt on the local establishment's attempts to save the district during the most recent redistricting (which all came to naught when a court wound up drawing the map, leaving Rangel with a seat that's 55% Hispanic and vulnerable to a challenge from state Sen. Adriano Espaillat).

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 05:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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