• MI-Sen: You can't say we didn't see this one coming: Veteran Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who has served in the Senate since 1979, has announced that he will retire rather than seek a seventh term:
This decision was extremely difficult because I love representing the people of Michigan in the U.S. Senate and fighting for the things that I believe are important to them.Levin goes on to outline those issues in the rest of his statement: cracking down on tax avoidance schemes, making sure Michigan's "manufacturing renaissance" continues, shedding light on secret money used in political campaigns, and ensuring our military readiness. Policy aside, there is, of course, the matter of politics. Levin originally said he'd decide in February but in pushing off that decision, he sounded decidedly unenthused, and who could blame him? Had Levin run again, he would have been a lock, but now the landscape has changed.
As Barbara and I struggled with the question of whether I should run again, we focused on our belief that our country is at a crossroads that will determine our economic health and security for decades to come. We decided that I can best serve my state and nation by concentrating in the next two years on the challenging issues before us that I am in a position to help address; in other words, by doing my job without the distraction of campaigning for re-election.
So the question, as always, is who might try to succeed him. Republicans chased fool's gold last year in the Wolverine State, as ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra's dismal, racist campaign utterly floundered against Dem Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Will try they again? They don't have much of a bench, as evidenced by the fact that they turned to, well, Hoekstra last year. Rep. Candice Miller would be an upgrade, but the odds will be against the GOP just thanks to Michigan's demographics. And Rep. Justin Amash would be simply hilarious.
As for Democrats, the same names that have circulated for the governor's race will likely get talked about a bunch now for Senate, too: Rep. Gary Peters, ex-Rep. Mark Schauer and state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer top the list. Other possibilities could include 2010 gubernatorial nominee Virg Bernero, Andy Dillon (whom Bernero beat in the primary), and 2010 secretary of state nominee Jocelyn Benson. (Ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm left office pretty unpopular, and she's also been living in California for a few years.) More names will undoubtedly emerge on both sides in short order.
Ultimately, what was a safe Democratic seat is now probably in the "Likely D" category or perhaps a bit more competitive depending on how GOP recruitment goes, but we will, of course, keep track of all further developments here closely.
• MA-Sen: The University of Massachusetts Lowell has conducted a new poll of the Bay State's special Senate election on behalf of the right-wing Boston Herald, and this time, we have numbers for both the Democratic primary and the general election as well. As per usual, Rep. Ed Markey is well ahead of fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch for the Democratic nod, 50 to 21, though the sample size is quite small (309) and the horserace matchups follow a couple of axe-grindy "issue" questions about things like whether the cost of the special is a "waste of taxpayer money," which is a methodologically unsound move. (You pretty much always want to do your ballot tests before you start asking about other things.)
As for the D vs. R head-to-heads, both Markey and Lynch have considerable leads over all three Republicans:
Gabriel Gomez: 47-28 45-27
Michael Sullivan: 47-30 45-28
Dan Winslow: 49-26 48-24
The entire GOP field is unknown, which explains the large spreads, but Markey in particular is already pretty close to 50 percent. No one wants a repeat of 2010 (well, no Democrat does), so staying vigilant, working hard, and keeping your boot on Republican necks is as important as ever, but Democrats start off with a wide advantage.
• CT-Gov: It seems like every Republican in Connecticut is interested in running for governor next year, so little surprise that yet another name has surfaced: Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, who says a bid is under "consideration." Lauretti also contemplated a run for Congress last year in the 4th District but never pulled the trigger.
• ME-Gov: Good to see that DGA chair and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is already putting independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler on notice. Shumlin didn't mince words in telling the AP on Wednesday that "[a] vote for Eliot Cutler is a vote for Paul LePage," the Republican incumbent. Cutler of course says he's undeterred, but I suspect this is a signal that Democrats plan to pile-drive him as necessary on their way to beating LePage.
• PA-Gov: Conservative pollster Harper Polling has some new Pennsylvania primary numbers, of the kitchen sink variety. Ex-Rep. Joe Sestak leads the Democratic side with 20 percent, while Rep. Allyson Schwartz is just a hair behind at 19. State Treasurer Rob McCord is far back at 7, and a trio of others take 3 or less apiece. Obviously the field won't shape up like this—indeed, if Schwartz gets in, she might have the contest to herself—and right now, it's just a test of name rec. Therefore, it's little surprise that Sestak, who ran a high-profile Senate race just a couple of years ago, is out in front.
The GOP numbers may be a bit more interesting. Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor has been weighing a challenge to Gov. Tom Corbett, expressing the usual conservative dissatisfaction with your typical Republican office-holder. Corbett seems pretty secure, though, leading Castor 49-21. However, both primaries seem to have very small samples, perhaps only around 300 or even less, given that the full poll canvassed just 622 statewide respondents overall.
• CA-07: I guess the floodgates are really opening here: State Sen. Ted Gaines says he's "seriously considering" a run against freshman Dem Ami Bera, making him the third notable Republican to do so in recent weeks. Gaines contemplated a congressional bid back in 2008 as well, back when GOP Rep. John Doolittle looked like dead man walking and local Republicans were hoping for a replacement. But Gaines decided against a primary challenge, and Doolittle wound up retiring anyway.
• IL-11: One of the most dominant Democratic victories over a GOP incumbent in 2012 was courtesy Rep. Bill Foster, who ousted Judy Biggert in resounding fashion. Sure, Foster got a lot of help through redistricting, but he absolutely crushed Biggert by a 58-42 margin, in a race many (DKE included) had pegged as a tossup. Indeed, Foster's not even on the DCCC's "Frontline" list of vulnerable members, especially since Obama also took a shade under 58 percent here, just behind Foster's performance. So sure, the GOP can try to give him a run for his money next year, and indeed, state Rep. Darlene Senger says she's "considering it." But this is one seriously tough row to hoe, and I suspect Republicans are going to wind up wondering why they even bothered.
• MN-02: There's no proper link to this one, it seems, since it appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune's "Morning Hot Dish" newsletter but not on their Hot Dish Politics blog. It's worth taking note of nevertheless: Nonprofit founder Sona Mehring says she's looking at a run against veteran GOP Rep. John Kline. Mehring (who rates her own Wikipedia page) is the founder and CEO of CaringBridge, a company which helps ill people connect with friends and family on the Internet.
Kline is a savvy operator, but he received his stiffest challenge in well over a decade last year from former state Rep. Mike Obermueller, thanks in part to redistricting making the 2nd a touch bluer. Obermueller, however, got a late start (again, thanks in part to redistricting, and also to a contested nomination) and fell short 54-46. It'll be tough to unseat Kline, but a well-funded candidate who gets in the race early could give him a serious scare. MN-02 was almost perfectly tied on the presidential level, with Obama taking 49.1 percent of the vote to 49.0 for Romney, so this is definitely the kind of district Dems have to compete hard in.
• PA-13: I guess it's been a while since there's been a solidly blue open House seat in Pennsylvania (and there just aren't that many of `em, period, thanks to the GOP's gerrymander), so interest in Allyson Schwartz's district, should she run for governor, is understandably high. PoliticsPA therefore adds another three names to the list of potential Democratic successors: Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green (whose father and grandfather both served in Congress), state Rep. Mark Cohen (a very liberal voice who used to make frequent contributions to Daily Kos as a rank-and-file user), and attorney Jared Solomon (who once worked as a staffer for ex-Rep. Joe Sestak).
• Seattle Mayor: SurveyUSA has what appears to be the first public poll of Seattle's 2013 mayoral race, a race where incumbent Mike McGinn has sported poor approvals most of his term, but whose weakness has attracted a raft of strong opponents... and who might just get saved (temporarily) by virtue of the clown car. In a poll of the nonpartisan, top-two primary (which won't happen until August), McGinn is at 26, followed by ex-city councilor Peter Steinbrueck at 18, city councilor Tim Burgess at 9, city councilor Bruce Harrell and state Sen. Ed Murray at 8 apiece, and gadfly Kate Martin at 6.
There's an alternate version which includes ex-county executive Ron Sims, who has made noises but hasn't taken any steps toward running; this may spur some interest, as it has Sims and McGinn tied at 15, followed by Burgess 10, Murray 9, Steinbrueck 7, Harrell 5, and Martin 3. With or without Sims involved, though, the bad news for McGinn is that even if he finishes first in the top-two, he'll still have to face someone else in the general, and the anti-McGinn votes are likely to coalesce around whoever that someone else is. (David Jarman)
• Census: The Census Bureau seems to be heavily focused this week on commuting, with a variety of new releases on that topic, including this one on county-to-county commutes (PDF). While there are some astonishing commutes at the margins here (you've gotta wonder about the 573 poor saps who commute from Kings County, NY, to New London County, CT), maybe the most interesting numbers here may have to do with the heavy growth in the last decade in "reverse commutes," which are becoming as commonplace as old-school suburb-to-city commutes.
For instance, there are now more people commuting from Los Angeles County to Orange County than from Orange to Los Angeles, and almost as many commuting from Cook County to DuPage County in Illinois than the other way. That may have a lot to do with our improving political fortunes in post-war inner-ring suburbs, as they transform from monocultural bedroom communities to diverse commercial nodes in their own right. (David Jarman)