• NJ-Sen: Sad news: Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg has died at the age of 89 due to complications from viral pneumonia. Lautenberg, a committed liberal, first won an open Senate seat (the first political office he ever held) in 1982, serving until he rather unwillingly retired in 2000. But he made an unexpected comeback just two years later, when New Jersey's other senator, Bob Torricelli, was himself forced into giving up his re-election bid that year due to scandal.
Prior to entering politics, Lautenberg built a successful payroll processing company that many Americans receive their paychecks from today, A.D.P. It made him a very wealthy man, and he often relied on his own bank account to fund his campaigns. Lautenberg had contemplated seeking one more term next year, and he once again would have been able to rely on his personal fortune, but he ultimately decided in February to retire a second time.
That decision cleared the way for a younger generation of Democratic politicians in the Garden State to try moving up, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was furthest along with a Senate bid. Other possible candidates for Lautenberg's seat next year included Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt; Republicans were not expected to seriously compete for it.
Now, though, GOP Gov. Chris Christie will likely select a temporary replacement, and a special election will apparently be required, though exactly when is already a matter of considerable dispute. Democrats say that an election should take place this November, to coincide with the state's gubernatorial election, while the state Office of Legislative Services just issued an opinion saying that it should happen next year. Regardless, an election for the full six-year term must will still proceed as scheduled for November 2014.
• MA-Sen: The Massachusetts GOP is joining forces with Gabriel Gomez to run a $411,000 ad buy this week, the second time they've done so. They previous collaboration was for a similar sum, bringing their total to $800,000. Whenever you see a state party not known for its free-spending ways shell out large sums, it's always reasonable to ask where the money came from; often, it's from a DC party committee, though in this case, the NRSC isn't commenting, so take that however you wish.
Meanwhile, Dem Rep. Ed Markey is reportedly spending $631,000 on cable and broadcast this week; Politico's anonymous Republican sources say he's spent "$1.8 million to date in the general election," but it's not clear if that figure only applies to advertisements. (I'd guess yes, since there's no way the GOP could track other expenditures.)
My favorite bit from that Politico link, though, may have been hapless NRSC communications director Brad Dayspring trying to explain what exactly it is Republicans think they're doing in Massachusetts... by quoting Sun Tzu:
"Markey has thrown every big gun at Gomez and still leads only by 5-7 points. Sun Tzu once said, 'Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.' I think that's a good campaign strategy as far as specifics on our strategy to win," Dayspring said in an email.Amusingly, Dayspring isn't even on the same page as his boss, Sen. Jerry Moran, who just claimed on Sunday that the race is "someplace between three and six points' difference between the two candidates."
• MI-Sen: It looks like Democrat Gary Peters finally has his first legitimate GOP opponent. Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who served two terms as SoS last decade before getting termed out, says she'll run for Michigan's open Senate seat. Back when Sen. Carl Levin announced his retirement in March, Land said that a Senate bid was "an interest that I've had for some time," which was probably the strongest expression of interest on the part of any Republican, thus making her decision unsurprising. She will nevertheless face a decidedly uphill battle given the Wolverine State's blue tilt.
• NE-Sen: As expected, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn just became the first Republican to enter Nebraska's open Senate race. With term-limited Gov. Dave Heineman declining a bid, many other Republicans are expected to follow Osborn's move, since after Heineman, there aren't any truly dominant names in the NE GOP. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has already declined, though.
• SD-Sen: This is the closest we're going to come to an official pronouncement from U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson on his interest in South Dakota's Senate race. Johnson, being scrupulous almost to a fault regarding Justice Department regulations, said in a new interview that even declaring "I'm not running for office" would constitute a forbidden public "political statement." However, he confirmed that he spoke with attorney Rick Weiland about the contest—and did not dispute Weiland's statement that Johnson told Weiland he would not run in the Democratic primary. It's almost like playing a game of telephone with yourself.
• WV-Sen: Hrm. Relying on unnamed sources, local analyst Hoppy Kercheval is reporting that the candidate local Democrats seemed most excited about to hold West Virginia's open Senate seat, attorney Nick Preservati, will not run. But in response, Preservati wouldn't confirm or deny Kercheval's report and cryptically told the Washington Post: "At this point, we're finalizing our due diligence. I can't comment at this point." I'm really not sure what that means, but it doesn't sound like an outright "no," unless he's trying to coordinate his announcement with that of someone else getting in.
• AZ-Gov: Establishment Democrats continue to rally around former Arizona Board of Regents chair Fred DuVal. His latest endorsement comes from former state party chair Jim Pederson, whom you may also recall from his unsuccessful run against Sen. Jon Kyl in 2006.
• IA-Gov: In response to a report saying that he was gearing up for a gubernatorial bid, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie says that "the rumors of my running for governor at this moment are greatly exaggerated." No Democrats have yet entered the race against GOP Gov. Terry Branstad, though state Sen. Jack Hatch looks likely to do so.
• MD-Gov: In a long-expected move, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has dropped his bid for governor and instead joined Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's ticket as his running-mate, locking in their status as the race's frontrunners. (At their formal announcement, the pair also picked up the endorsement of Rep. Elijah Cummings, the state's second longest-serving member of the House and an important leader in the black community.) Indeed, Brown is the only declared candidate in the Democratic primary so far, and his strongest potential rival, Attorney General Doug Gansler, says he won't make an announcement one way or the other until the fall. (Gansler did confirm he won't seek a third term as AG, though.)
Gansler does have a huge war chest of $5 million, but now Brown and Ulman can pool their separate bank accounts, giving them a total of $3.7 million in campaign funds. With the primary just a year away, it seems like Gansler would be hurting himself by delaying, so perhaps he's having second thoughts. A couple of other potential candidates still lurk at the margins, including state Delegate Heather Mizeur and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, but at this point, it'll be hard to stop the Brown/Ulman duo from securing the Democratic nomination.
As for the general election, that should be a wipeout for Team Blue no matter whom they put forth. A couple of Republicans—Harford County Executive David Craig and state Delegate Ron George—did just announce their intention to get in the race this week, and several more are interested. (Heh, and one of those could apparently be ex-LG and ex-RNC chief Michael Steele, whose disastrous campaign for Senate in 2006 was only eclipsed by his even more disastrous tenure as the GOP's national chair. Remarkably, though, he says he's "looking at" a run.) But Maryland's sharp Democratic lean makes a GOP win here exceptionally unlikely, even with an open seat.
• NE-Gov: Former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook, whom you may remember from his brief run for Senate in 2012, just became the first Democrat to announce a bid for the state's open gubernatorial contest. Last year, Hassebrook was the only Democrat to step up for the Senate seat left open by Ben Nelson's retirement, giving up his regent post to do so (it's an elected position). But at the last possible minute, ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey changed his mind and launched a longshot comeback bid; Hassebrook did the menschy thing and dropped out to avoid a contested primary, but given Kerrey's 16-point loss, Hassebrook may have dodged a bullet. The governor's race will be a tremendously difficult fight for any Democrat, but it probably offers more favorable turf than a federal race would, simply because most of the issues in play will be local rather than national in flavor.
• WA-Gov: Republican ex-AG Rob McKenna has previously sounded pretty "meh" on whether he'd pursue another Washington gubernatorial run, after losing narrowly to Dem Jay Inslee in 2012. However, he's launching a new nonprofit that seems intended to keep his wonky brand alive in the media for the next few years, called Smarter Government Washington. While McKenna isn't saying anything more definitive about an actual rematch, this move strikes PubliCola as telegraphing another run, especially since Dino Rossi did the exact same thing after his 2004 loss to Chris Gregoire in order to prepare for a second go-round in 2008 (not that it helped him). (David Jarman)
• AL-01: Former state Sen. Bradley Byrne will reportedly enter the special election for Rep. Jo Bonner's House seat on Tuesday, a move which would make him the highest-profile Republican in the race so far. (Bradley unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for governor in 2010.) Reporter George Talbot has done an assiduous job keeping his lengthy list of potential candidates up-to-date, so I recommend you keep that hand if you'd like a complete picture of the field. Notable names on the GOP side so far include state Rep. Randy Davis and businessman Dean Young, who finished a distant second to Bonner in last year's primary. Meanwhile, for Democrats, singer Jimmy Buffett's sister Lucy Buffett says she's a no go. Many more folks (mostly Republicans) still have yet to decide, though.
• FL-26: Jesus. This district is just a swamp:
Congressman Joe Garcia's chief of staff abruptly resigned Friday after being implicated in a sophisticated scheme to manipulate last year's primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.What a massive disappointment, particularly since Joe Garcia rode to victory last year by hammering Republican Rep. David Rivera over his own serious ethics issues. (Pathetically, this scheme didn't even come close to working, since all the fraudulent ballot requests were denied as suspicious. It's like robbing a bank and walking out with nothing but a stack of deposit slips.) And even if Joe Garcia didn't know a thing, this kind of mess can taint an elected official regardless—think about how Chris Donovan's primary bid in CT-05 was scuttled last year thanks to a campaign finance scandal that never touched him personally.
Friday afternoon, Garcia said he had asked Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, for his resignation after the chief of staff—also the congressman's top political strategist—took responsibility for the plot. Hours earlier, law enforcement investigators raided the homes of another of Joe Garcia's employees and a former campaign aide in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation into the matter.
"I'm shocked and disappointed about this," Garcia, who said he was unaware of the scheme, told The Miami Herald. "This is something that hit me from left field. Until today, I had no earthly idea this was going on."
Garcia was already going to have a tough re-election bid. This just makes things far, far tougher.
• MD-06: Republican Daniel Bongino, who earned all of 26 percent in last year's Senate race, says that he'll run against freshman Rep. John Delaney in Maryland's 6th Congressional District in 2014. The 6th used to be held by longtime GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, but Democratic redistricting efforts turned the seat blue, and at 55-43 Obama, it would be all but impossible for the GOP to retake this seat (plus Delaney is personally very wealthy).
• NY-04: Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy announced on Monday that she is undergoing treatment for lung cancer. McCarthy, 69, says her doctor has informed her that she is "in good physical health" and that she expects to "return to work after I recover." We wish her the very best.
• TX-23: Former CIA agent Will Hurd, who unsuccessfully sought this seat once before, announced on Monday that he'd challenge freshman Rep. Pete Gallego next year, making him the first prominent Republican to enter the race. Hurd previously lost a 2010 runoff to Quico Canseco by a 53-47 spread; Canseco went on to oust then-Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in the GOP wave that year, only to himself get turned out by Gallego in 2012. Canseco, however, is also thinking about a rematch, and Public Utility Commissioner Rolando Pablos could also run.
• WV-02: The top recruit to hold West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District for Republicans has bowed out. State Delegate Eric Nelson announced on Monday that he would not run for the seat being left open by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is making a bid for Senate. Abby Livingston has a number of other potential GOP names at the link, though, including former Maryland state party chair Alex Mooney, who had been contemplating the race ever since his recent move across the state border and just made it official on Monday as well. Democrats are hoping that with the right candidate, this district (now the bluest in West Virginia, although by no means blue) could potentially be flippable.
• CO Recall: Organizers pushing to recall Democratic state Senate President John Morse over his support for several new gun safety laws say they have submitted over 16,000 signatures to the Secretary of State. They need about 7,200 valid signatures to force the recall, and the SoS's office has 15 days to verify them. Petitions have to be signed by voters actually registered within the districts, as you'd expect, but signers are also allowed to retract their signatures, so if any voters feel they were misled by petition gatherers, they can withdraw their support. (Presumably, Morse's supporters will scan the rolls to see if any Democrats signed and reach out to them to see if they'd like to change their minds.)
Democrats could also short-circuit this entire effort if Morse, who is term-limited, were to resign. The party would then be able to appoint ex-state Rep. Michael Merrifield, who is already planning to run for this seat next year, for the remainder of Morse's term. That would, however, allow the NRA and other recall backers to crow about their "victory," though this option remains an escape hatch if need be. (It would really be a feeble win, though: Merrifield is the former state director for none other than Mayors Against Illegal Guns!)
• NY-St. Sen: Here's something you might enjoy. State Sen. Diane Savino is one of four notorious renegade Democrats who decided to screw over their own party and throw their support to the Senate GOP, giving Republicans control of the chamber even though Democrats won a majority of seats last fall. Now, she's on Facebook complaining about campaign finance reformers using language she could have picked up on any right-wing message board:
I rest my case....the whole Fair Elections is a front for Soros and his buddies at the Working Families Party which used to stand for something, now they just sell themselves to the highest bidder!!Real nice, but here's the kicker:
With friends like who now?
• Special Elections: As Johnny says, it's time for the bi-monthly New Hampshire special:
New Hampshire House, Sullivan-4: This is an open Democratic seat in the second ward of Claremont, which went 59-40 for Obama in 2012. The Democratic nominee is Larry Converse, who ran for the House in 2010 when this was a five-seat district, coming in 8th out of 10 candidates. The Republican is Joe Osgood, who ran for the State Senate in 2012 and lost by a 64-36 margin.Grab Bag:
• Demographics: Pew Research is out with a pile of new data on Hispanic voter participation, which continues to be a mix of good news and bad news. On the plus side, there were more Hispanic voters than ever in 2012 (11.2 million); on the down side, there were also more Hispanic non-voters than ever (12.1 million). That ratio (48 percent) is a little worse than the 50 percent voting ratio in 2008.
Pew also breaks the sample down a number of ways, finding (unsurprisingly) that the highest participation rates come among Hispanics 65 and older (59.9 percent), college-educated Hispanics (70.8 percent), and, among the various ethnicities, among Cuban-Americans (67.2 percent). (Oddly, Central and South Americans still voted at higher rates than Puerto Ricans, the latter of whom are already voter-eligible once living in the continental U.S.)
The real news, though, may be simply how much the share of eligible Hispanic voters increased in those four years (from 19.5 to 23.3 million). Almost all of that growth (3.7 million, out of the 3.8 million increase) came from U.S.-born people turning 18, rather than through naturalizations. (David Jarman)
• Guns: Just as an aside, Mike Bloomberg isn't only targeting (questionable) Senate races in his efforts to get new gun safety regulations passed. His group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is also focusing on state legislatures around the country (with mixed success), according to a new report in the New York Times.
• Polltopia: Perhaps you've already seen this widely-touted long-form piece from BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins, on the open warfare that's erupted within a prominent Republican political advertising and consulting firm, Strategy Group for Media. SGM is an Ohio-based firm that has helped many of the GOP's most hard-right members win office in recent years, and Coppins paints a revealing picture of the strange confluence of fraternity house and prosperity-gospel mega-church in its workplace culture. Indeed, recent efforts by key underlings to stage an "intervention" for its cultish leader, Rex Elsass, turned into a purge of said underlings.
So it's worth a read just for the schadenfreude, but I'm filing it under "Polltopia" because, toward the end, pollster P.J. Wenzel (apparently of Wenzel Strategies, the Ohio-based internal pollster that produced mind-bogglingly bad results last year) appears in an unusual supporting role:
At one point during the intervention, P.J. Wenzel, the Strategy Group's voter contact consultant and an aspiring theologian, raised concerns about the way Elsass used God as a shield against internal criticism of his business decisions.... Wenzel, who had his Bible open for most of the meeting, flipped to a verse about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.Wenzel is revealed as one of the firm insiders subsequently purged by Elsass, so it'll be interesting to see whether the flow of Wenzel polls propping up Tea Party Republicans dries up in this coming cycle. (David Jarman)
• WATN?: It's nice to see ex-Rep. Brad Miller land on his feet—and stay involved in the political arena. Miller, a great friend to the progressive netroots, chose to retire last year rather than face a bruising primary against fellow Rep. David Price, after Republican redistricters merged their two seats. Now, though, he's joining the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow for economic policy, which is right in his wheelhouse.