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Leading Off:

WATN?: Some of you may recall Charlie Justice, the former Florida state senator who was highly touted as a recruit against GOP Rep. Bill Young in 2010 but ran a total dud of a campaign and quickly faded off the radar. Well, remarkably, he's back! Despite getting badly outspent, Justice won a seat on the Pinellas County Commission last month, knocking off a Republican incumbent. So how did he do it? Let's just say his opponent was very worried about getting robbed of her precious bodily essences:

Like Janet Long, the Democratic candidate for District 1, Justice's campaign has received a boost from Pinellas dentists, many of whom are irate over the commission's 4-3 vote last year to stop adding fluoride to the drinking water. Bostock voted with the majority; Justice has promised to bring back fluoridation as one of the first acts of his tenure. In conversations and speeches, he routinely says that Bostock's record, particularly on fluoride, is too conservative for a commission that has historically been dominated by moderate Republicans.
Nice to see the good guys win, for once: Justice and Long have both already been sworn in, and the commission has already reinstated fluoridation. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake for Commissioner—he's what what you might call a water man!


HI-Sen: Ever since the news emerged that the late Sen. Dan Inouye sent a deathbed missive to Gov. Neil Abercrombie asking him to select Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his replacement, I've wondered if there was any way Abercrombie could deny Inouye his dying wish. I really couldn't conceive of a scenario, but two writers for Honolulu Civil Beat, Nick Grube and Chad Blair, offer a take which suggests that Abercrombie could indeed go in a different direction. Grube and Blair opine that the fact that Inouye wrote his letter at all "suggests he worried Abercrombie isn’t keen on Hanabusa." Moreover, one local professor points out that "if Abercrombie wants to say there’s a new sheriff in town, there would be nothing more dramatic than denying the senator’s deathbed wish."

And it's not entirely speculative, either. Relying on unnamed sources, the authors write:

Abercrombie is said by several close to him to prefer other candidates over Hanabusa. They include Blake Oshiro, his deputy chief of staff, Brian Schatz, his lieutenant governor—even Ed Case, with whom he served with in Congress. Case, 60, announced Sunday he was applying for the job.
Oh god! Not Ed Case! In any event, this brief flurry of speculation will hopefully be over soon: CBS News reports that Abercrombie will announce his pick on Wednesday.

ID-Sen: Uh, so this happened. Wonkette's take is probably the funniest. So far, though, unlike the last Republican who was arrested for drunk driving in Alexandria, VA, there are no reports that Sen. Mike Crapo has a secret second family. Yet.

MA-Sen: Here's one prominent name who says he won't run in the special to replace John Kerry—should Kerry secure nomination as Secretary of State: Ted Kennedy, Jr., son of the late senator. There was always one obvious problem with a bid by Kennedy, a healthcare attorney: He doesn't actually live in Massachusetts. Kennedy explains: "Although I have a strong desire to serve in public office, I consider Connecticut to be my home, and I hope to have the honor to serve at another point in my future."

MT-Sen: Well, if you want to sift through some annoyingly thin tea leaves about why Dem Sen. Max Baucus might possibly retire rather than seek re-election in 2014, there's this story about a we're-supposed-to-think-this-is-unusual level of staff turnover in his campaign office and on the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs. I'm not gonna get worked up over this, but DKE's Arjun Jaikumar says it's "as good a time to play Great Mentioner as any," so why not? Arjun:

Baucus, who's 71, might quit, I guess; he's been in politics or government service basically since he graduated from law school, he's been in Congress since 1974, and he's never made a ton of money, so maybe he wants to be rich.

Republicans probably start with outgoing Rep. Denny Rehberg and incoming Rep. Steve Daines. People are pissed at Rehberg for losing a winnable race, so he might be out of favor recruiting wise, but he has nothing else to do and the race would be easier without Sen. Jon Tester (even if Baucus sticks around). Baucus also beat him in 1996, by about the same margin, so maybe Rehberg's just yesterday's news. Daines just got elected, but he has plenty of money to start with. AG-elect Tim Fox got a huge amount of support from right wing organizations (for a downballot race), so they probably want him to fill his term as AG so he can do some damage. If he runs and wins, incoming Dem Gov. Steve Bullock would get to appoint a successor.

For Democrats, if Baucus retires: LG-elect John Walsh, who was Bullock's running mate; SoS Linda McCulloch; State Auditor Monica Lindeen; and Sup't of Public Instruction Denise Juneau. I assume outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer isn't interested, though he ran for Senate in 2000 and did quite well.

Grab Bag:

FreedomWorks: This is starting to get a bit outside of our scope, but we've been following the drama over at conservative activist/grifter group FreedomWorks out of the corner of our eye (egged on by a little light schadenfreude). Now David Corn has an even more in-depth exploration of what exactly caused things to go so awry over there: The organization's public face, Dick Armey, had tried to make it sound like he quit because he was disgusted with FreedomWorks' president, but unsurprisingly, Corn's digging reveals that the acrimony goes both ways. From the lede graf:

Immediately, media reports disclosed that Armey had been concerned that Matt Kibbe, the group's president, had used FreedomWorks resources to promote a book he had written (which was released in June) and that Armey himself had received an $8 million payout from a FreedomWorks board member to ease his departure. But internal documents obtained by Mother Jones show that the bitter war inside FreedomWorks has also resulted in allegations of staff wrongdoing (prompting an investigation by lawyers) and counter-allegations that Armey and his allies tried to turn FreedomWorks into a partisan outfit backing establishment Republicans over tea party insurgents.
Much more dirt at the link.

Passings: Attorney Bill McBride, who ran for governor of Florida in 2002, has died at the age of 67 of a heart attack. McBride ran against then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who handily won a second term 56-43. (And I'm pretty sure McBride was the first out-of-state candidate I ever donated to, mostly because I wanted to screw over anyone named "Bush.") McBride was also the husband of former state CFO Alex Sink, who herself ran for governor in 2010.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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