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CA-31: It seems like Tuesday turned out to be a pretty good day for the DCCC. A number of House recruits kicked off campaigns (or announced plans to do so), probably because they wanted to wait until after the March 31 FEC reporting deadline—and because they had the good sense not to launch on April Fools'. First up is Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who actually crumbed the play in last year's top-two primary, finishing third and allowing two Republicans to face off in the November general election, thanks to a host of minor Dems splitting the left-leaning vote. Democrats seem content, though, to write that off as a freak occurrence, the byproduct of a new and occasionally unpredictable electoral system put in place thanks to a voter referendum in 2010.

I'm sure Aguilar will work hard not to let that happen again as he pursues a second attempt to unseat GOP Rep. Gary Miller. In one key respect, this seat is the very lowest-hanging blueberry there is: Thanks to the aforementioned top-two screwup, Miller wound up winning in a district Obama carried by a 57-41 margin. That makes this the bluest seat occupied by a Republican anywhere in the country. And while Miller has tried to moderate his profile recently, according to Progressive Punch, he has an incredibly conservative record going back to 1999. (Worth noting: Miller would not confirm that he's running for re-election.)

So this is an absolute must-win seat for Democrats, but it looks like Aguilar may not have the field to himself. The National Journal's Kevin Brennan reports that attorney Eloise Reyes is also considering the race. Brennan describes her as someone "active in Democratic politics for years" (and who actually supported Aguilar last cycle), but she doesn't seem to have much of a profile when you Google her and appears to be a solo practitioner.

Reyes says she's not worried about a repeat of what happened last year because she doesn't think another Republican will challenge Miller, but we saw plenty of "dirty tricks" in 2012 where one strong candidate propped up a weakling in order to engineer the general election to their liking. In any event, Reyes has apparently has met with EMILY's List and sounds very eager to run, so let's hope that Democrats can avoid another debacle. (And also, this is a very good illustration of why the top-two system is so awful, since it creates a disincentive for candidates to seek office. California needs to seriously reconsider what it's done here.)


IL-Sen: A second Republican senator now says he supports marriage equality, Illinois's Mark Kirk. For Kirk, there may be electoral considerations at play, seeing as he'll next have to go before voters in a very blue state in a presidential year, and same-sex marriage ought to be legal in the Land of Lincoln pretty soon. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, who had absolutely no excuse for not supporting marriage rights for all Americans, is also finally on board—after, I should note, the much more socially conservative Bob Casey did the same a day earlier.

LA-Sen: GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy will reportedly kick off his bid for the Senate on Wednesday, according to an unnamed AP source "associated with the Cassidy campaign." (It sounds like this was a deliberate leak from the Cassidy camp.) Cassidy had long been touted as the choice of establishment Republicans but remained silent about his intentions, allowing others, such as fellow Rep. John Fleming, to siphon up media attention. But Cassidy just announced a pretty solid $500K fundraising haul earlier this week and would now be the first candidate in the race to unseat Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

And for what it's worth, he actually put up some of the worst numbers against Landrieu (losing 50 to 40) in an early PPP test of a variety of different candidates. But his name recognition is low, something that will undoubtedly change. One important thing to note, though, is that Louisiana conducts an all-party "jungle" primary in November; if no single candidates clears the 50 percent mark, then the top two vote-getters advance to a December runoff. Landrieu actually won her first two elections this way, so while Cassidy would undoubtedly like to clear the field by jumping in early, he may yet have to face a serious GOP pileup.

MA-Sen: The League of Conservation voters is out with another poll of the Massachusetts Senate special Democratic primary, which is fast approaching on April 30. The LCV is back to using PPP, and once again, they find Rep. Ed Markey beating Rep. Stephen Lynch, this time by a 49-32 margin. That's a bit of an improvement for Markey from the last PPP/LCV survey, taken in mid-February, where he was up 43-28. Markey's favorability rating has also bounced upward, to 67-18 from 58-18, perhaps as a result of his television advertising. Lynch is also on the air and he, too, has seen his numbers get better, but he's well behind Markey at 44-30 (up from 36-29).

While we've seen a range of different margins between the two candidates, one thing has never changed: Markey has led every poll. I'm really wondering how Lynch can change that calculus with just a month left.


AR-Gov: Well, I'm not a fan of tea leaf-reading in general, but occasionally you get a very fragrant whiff of Darjeeling that you just can't ignore. A couple of weeks ago, Democratic ex-Rep. Mike Ross responded to rumors that he might run for governor despite previously saying no, declaring that he would "reconsider" his decision. Now he's gone and resigned from the plum energy lobbying gig he only just accepted in January, in order to pursue "public service." I can't imagine that doesn't presage a bid for office, but we'll see soon enough.

PA-Gov: Businessman Tom Wolf, who almost ran for governor in 2010 but ultimately decided against it, is taking the plunge this time and joining the Democratic primary field. He's the second candidate to enter the race, along with former state environmental chief John Hanger, but has barely registered in the polls—including his own (from GQR), released to coincide with his announcement.

Wolf in fact might have set a new record for "worst showing in your own internal," taking just 3 percent, though clearly his intention is to point out that even in a kitchen sink scenario, there are still a ton of undecided (45 percent). The front-runners, as you'd expect, are ex-Rep. Joe Sestak (21) and Rep. Allyson Schwartz (16), with Treasurer Rob McCord at 7. That's a little bit different from a recent GSG poll for EMILY's List that had Schwartz at 18 and Sestak at 15 when every possible candidate is tested, but one thing's the same: Wolf was at a mere 2 percent in that survey, too.


CA-17: Sigh. Just what we need: an expensive Dem-vs.-Dem battle, launched for no discernable reason other than personal interest, while we're desperately trying to take back at least 17 seats from Republicans in order to regain control of the House. So yeah, former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna has decided to formally go ahead with his campaign against veteran Rep. Mike Honda, who by all accounts is well liked, deeply respected, and impeccably progressive. And why is Khanna running? In his own words (emphases and typos in original):

When I talk to people in Silicon Valley and throughout the Bay Area, there is an incredible frustration with Congress. People feel that Congress is disconnected from their lives – that there's too much partisanship, too much attention to special interests, and they're not getting the job done. The old politics are just not working.

We do things differently in the Bay Area. We have a sense of competition – but its not divisive to the point of grinding things to a halt. We respect tradition – but we bring a new approach and innovative ideas.

If there is any hope of getting Congress to work again so we can solve the important problems facing our communities, we need to bring Silicon Valley thinking to Washington. We need leaders with fresh ideas who aren't beholden to the old politics – and who will reach across the aisle to find common ground to create jobs and grow our economy.

I'm not sure you can get much more vapid than that. Generic "frustration with Congress" and a warmed-over version of the old Republican saw about "running government like a business." The problem in Washington isn't "partisanship"—it's the GOP. I mean, seriously. Let's take Khanna at his word. If he were to defeat Honda, exactly what would change in DC? Does he think his own victory would be more meaningful than Nancy Pelosi becoming House speaker again?

Anyhow, Khanna has quite the task ahead of him. A recent Honda internal poll gave the incumbent a 57-5 lead, and every Democratic bigwig from President Obama on down has endorsed him. Because of California's top-two primary system, Khanna would almost certainly have to try to make it to a second round in November and unseat Honda then. This is a very liberal district, though (it went 72-26 for Obama), so there's not a lot to be gained by maneuvering to Honda's right, even if that's what Khanna's aiming to do with his "pox on both" routine. But Honda might be smart to help prop up a Republican in the primary, as there might just be enough votes to secure a general election spot for a GOP candidate and box Khanna out completely.

Still, this is a race I'm not looking forward to in the least. Khanna raised over a million bucks last cycle, when it looked like he might try taking on ex-Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th. (He'd have had support for that move, given Stark's cantankerous personality and predilection for lying about his opponents. It's also why Stark's not in Congress anymore, defeated by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell.) But Khanna never pulled the trigger, so he still has that huge cash pile lying around. Honda hasn't had a competitive race in some time, but I'm sure he'll be no slouch when it comes to fundraising. So we'll see a lot of money spent on a race where the winner will either be a Democrat... or a Democrat. Again, sigh.

CA-26: As expected, former state Sen. Tony Strickland has launched his bid for a rematch against the woman who defeated him last fall, freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley. Strickland was a top recruit for the GOP last cycle but fell short, 53-47. And he's running on challenging turf, seeing as Obama carried this district 54-44. Of course, Brownley won't have presidential turnout helping her next time, but California isn't getting any redder.

FL-02: And here's another good recruiting score for the blue team: Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and senator Bob Graham, has formally launched a bid against sophomore GOP Rep. Steve Southerland. Graham only appeared on the radar recently, with the local press describing her as a DCCC target just a couple of months ago. She had been talked up for a different seat back in 2006 but this is her first time actually running for office. Graham is currently an official in the Leon County school system, and while she sports a very famous name, she insists, as you'd expect, that "I love my dad and I'm very proud of him, but I am running this campaign as Gwen Graham."

There's a wrinkle here, though: Former state Sen. Al Lawson, who has unsuccessfully run here twice before, says he's thinking about a third bid and will decide by June. Lawson nearly unseated then-Rep. Allen Boyd in the 2010 primary, then last year won the Democratic nomination over establishment favorite Leonard Bembry. Lawson was a weak fundraiser, though, and only managed to keep things close against Southerland (he lost 53-47) thanks to an infusion of outside cash from the D-Trip and the House Majority PAC. But he could well prove hard for Graham to beat, seeing how Lawson easily dispatched Bembry, 55-26, thanks to his local profile and probably also because many primary voters are black, as is Lawson. Bembry, though, didn't manage to raise much either, a problem Graham hopefully won't have.

MN-02: It looks like Democrats may have another contested nomination battle in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District. Sona Mehring, whose name first came up just a month ago, announced that she's resigning from her post as CEO of the nonprofit CaringBridge in order to run against GOP Rep. John Kline. She'll apparently have company, though, in the former of 2012 nominee Mike Obermueller, who told the Star Tribune that he'll "likely" make a formal announcement this week.

PA-13: State Sen. Daylin Leach just became the first Democrat to formally announce that he's running for Rep. Allyson Schwartz's House seat, even though she hasn't made her expected bid for governor official yet. But Schwartz's aims seem pretty clear, so Leach is probably smart to get a jump on things—and in the worst-case scenario, he'd simply step aside and no one will care one way or the other. (Indeed, two other candidates have already filed paperwork with the FEC, former Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel and physician Valerie Arkoosh, though they haven't otherwise declared their candidacies.)

In any event, though the field will probably take a while to develop, Leach is likely to emerge as the most visibly progressive option in this safely Democratic seat. He's long been a proponent of same-sex marriage and marijuana reform and has also been an outspoken critic of Pennsylvania's new voter ID laws. You can watch his welcome video here, in which he says he's "proud" to be known as his state's "liberal lion."

Other Races:

NYC Mayor: So insane: Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith and Republican New York City Councilman Dan Halloran were arrested (!) on Tuesday for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to bribe local Republicans so that they'd let Smith appear on their ballot line in the NYC mayoral race this fall, something he'd need their permission to do. (Several other GOP officials were apprehended as well.) Obviously the whole thing is hare-brained and insane. Why Smith ever wanted to run for mayor as a Republican is just baffling, but what's truly sad is that he was elected by his colleagues as Senate Majority Leader in 2009—meaning that, as New York Times reporter Dan Hakim noted, three of the last five people to hold that post "have been indicted for corruption or are in jail." (Democrat Pedro Espada and Republican Joe Bruno are the other two.)

Much more pathetically, Smith recently joined with state Sen. Jeff Klein's band of renegade Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, to hand control of the Senate to Republicans, even though Democrats nominally won a majority of seats in the chamber last November. Strictly speaking, Klein and the GOP have enough votes to retain control even without Smith, but it's hard to get a blacker eye than this. A few months ago, after Klein had cemented his deal with Republican leader Dean Skelos, I said that I had "a hard time imagining Klein looking good two years from now." Seems like that schedule has moved up.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    Get the Daily Kos Elections Digest in your inbox every weekday. Sign up here.

    by David Nir on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:00:10 AM PDT

  •  Amazing that no one (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aquarius40, Vatexia, Odysseus, Gygaxian, wdrath

    has yet done an in-depth diary on the Malcolm Smith debacle (and unfortunately I don't have time to do it today).

    I often try to explain to envious red-state Kossacks that things can go terribly awry even when Democrats are in a position of overwhelming power, as they are here in NY, and this is the textbook example. Human beings are flawed creatures, and corruption is always a possibility.

    I hope this leads to some sort of housecleaning, and possibly even induces Klein to go back to caucusing with his own party, though a couple of his allies really are Republicans but run as Dems because they couldn't get elected otherwise. I doubt that they would go back to the Dem caucus without very severe pressure; one in particular, Felder, would be more likely to switch parties IMO.

    But whatever happens going forward, no tears for Smith whatsoever. He was incompetent as Majority Leader, and the fact that he got elected tells you more about the rest of the State Senate than it does about him.

    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

    by sidnora on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:42:28 AM PDT

    •  Simcha (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      isn't an IDC member, he straight-up caucuses with the Republicans even though he's got a D next to his name.  As for the rest of them, they all represent Democratic districts.  Savino is from the Democratic part of Staten Island and has parts of Brooklyn, Klein is the Bronx including heavily liberal Riverdale, and Carlucci and Valesky's districts actually became more Democratic in redistricting (surprise, given their deals with the GOP).  Valesky is pretty moderate and Klein is somewhat pro business, pro-charter, and pro-landlord, but I wouldn't call any of them Republicans.  They all have no reason to be caucusing outside the Democratic conference.

      Fact are stubborn things. -John Adams

      by circlesnshadows on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 08:20:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why did Simcha run as a D? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Why did Simcha run as a Democrat in the first place? And under which party or parties (NY Fusion voting) is he likely to run under in 2014?

        As for the others, which are likely to get primaried and/or move to being an R?

        •  The incumbent he defeated (0+ / 0-)

          was a Republican. I think he simply took whichever party designation would get him a ballot line, and relied on his rep in the district to take care to the rest.

          "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

          by sidnora on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 09:00:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  a caution on MA Senate primary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Christopher Walker

    this is going to be a low-turnout primary for a special election.  The name of the game will be ground game.  And here we are in somewhat uncharted territory.

    Markey has the support of teachers, AFSCME and SEIU.  But teachers will be heavily involved with school and probably not a significant factor in turning out others.  Realistically, that means it is going to heavily depend upon SEIU.

    Against that, Lynch has most of the other labor support, including some making major commitments, such as the Firefighters.  It does not hurt that he was president of the local of the IronWorkers, who very much want him in the Senate.

    I do not think you are going to see much support for Markey from the Senate Democratic caucus, beyond what has already happened.  Labor plays hardball, and this one is important to many of them.

    That said, I would still make Markey the favorite, but do not at all think it out of reach for Lynch, despite the polling data.

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 06:37:10 AM PDT

  •  Hey, what (0+ / 0-)

    about CO - 6?  

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 06:43:52 AM PDT

  •  I think Californians are crazy. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But so is the rest of the country.  The plurality victory technique is idiotic.  For those who claim that instant runoff voting wouldn't make a difference (and I have seen that asserted in comments here), I offer Exhibit 1; CA-31.  I very much doubt that Gary Miller would be in Congress without the foolishness of the plurality voting system.

    However, I don't see IRV happening unless it's a grass roots effort.  The political class has too much to lose.  The results in CA-31 can be interpreted as "just vote for whoever we put up;  see what happens when you let outsiders in?".  Whereas IRV would mean a plethora of candidates would not adversely affect the result.

    For now, I think the Democrats in CA-31 would be wise to hold their own primary (using IRV), separate and distinct from the official government process, to identify a consensus Democratic candidate.  Then all Democratic voters could be notified of the winner.  If they had any brains at all, they would then vote for that person in the official nonparty primary.

    I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

    by tle on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 06:55:31 AM PDT

    •  good diagnosis, bad prescription (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You're right that Gary Miller's win is a failure of democracy, but IRV isn't the best fix. Aside from being impossible to count at the precinct level, IRV can prematurely eliminate candidates, especially compromise  candidates, as happened to the Democrat in Burlington, VT's 2007 IRV election. With the three-rank IRV now used in several cities, this same problem -- two Republicans in the last round in a Democratic district -- is still possible, though about 3x less likely.

      A better, and much simpler solution is Approval Voting. If you just count "overvotes" instead of throwing them away, a generic Dem voter could approve all serious Dem candidates, and that would stop the top two from being both R's in a D district. In fact, there's a good chance they'd both be D's. Politicians might not like having more-competitive final rounds, but it would be good for democracy and voter power.

      Senate rules which prevent any reform of the filibuster are unconstitutional. Therefore, we can rein in the filibuster tomorrow with 51 votes.

      by homunq on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 08:28:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Have the Democrats hold a special primary? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      How exactly would that work? The party fund an election?

      I'm in CA-31. You have to remember that the Dems are bankrupt in this county. They fell so far behind in their rent on the party office space that they got evicted.

      Short story - funding of anything like you suggest is out of the question.

      Or are you suggesting that the Central Committee just vote to choose a consensus candidate? They do that already. In fact, they did that in the last election. That didn't stop the other minor candidates from running anyway. The sad thing is that some of those minor candidates were actually good candidates. They just should have run for different things.

      I think they only answer is to muddle through until the state comes to its senses and changes the law. Through referendum, if that is what is required.

      Hopefully ...... soon, Mom. My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

      by pucklady on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 09:04:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Approval Voting (0+ / 0-)

      Instant Runoff Voting is the worst of the five commonly proposed alternative voting methods, according to Bayesian regret calculations.

      Approval Voting is a far better system.

      Clay Shentrup
      Co-founder, The Center for Election Science

  •  IDC and Savino (0+ / 0-)

    If the IDC band ends up breaking up, wonder what does to Diane Savino's thoughts of running for NY-11? If she isn't going to caucus with the party to given them a majority is there any loss in her pursuing another office.

  •  Mike Obermueller announced today... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Christopher Walker

    ...that he's running in MN-02...

  •  Hey Mr. Khanna... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gygaxian, askew, dzog, GayHillbilly, abgin, R30A

    you wanna do something helpful?  Move east and challenge Jeff Denham in CA-10, or southeast and challenge David Valadao in CA-21.  But this battle with Honda is just plain STUPID.

    •  I'm sure he'll lose. (0+ / 0-)

      But it's a waste of money for both Democrats. I still think Jose Hernandez could take out Jeff Denham in a rematch, given a better executed campaign, and with CA-10 getting bluer by the year. Still, if Khanna hears the call to service so loudly, he has an array of carpetbagging options across the state. I can think of no reason any Democrat in Honda's district would decide to so much as give Khanna the time of day, under the circumstances. Did he just decide to pull the trigger out of spite?


      "God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

      by dzog on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 11:23:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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