• Big Money: Former (woohoo!) New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg seems to be shifting gears electorally, since he just gave $2.5 million to the Senate Majority PAC, the chief super PAC devoted to electing Democrats to the Senate. (You can almost think of it as the official unofficial super PAC of the DSCC.) That's a big move for Bloomberg, since last year, he shelled out $350,000 to hector Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor over his vote against expanding background checks for gun buyers. SMP, though, is tasked with ensuring that guys like Pryor remain in office, and they've already spent $100,000 attacking his opponent, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton.
So is Bloomberg, who was elected to office as a Republican, returning to his roots as a Democrat and turning partisan? Will there be more such donations in the future? Bloomberg's being cagey, but, at least with his own mayoral campaigns, he's always gone all-in. Half measures just don't seem like Bloombo's style.
• CA-04: Local news anchor Walt Gray says he's being recruited to run against GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, and while he's not confirming his interest, it does sound like he's keeping the door slightly ajar. The interesting thing is that Gray doesn't have any party affiliation, and he isn't even saying who's encouraging him to run. That's a smart move, since the 4th is a very conservative district—it went 58-40 for Mitt Romney.
But Gray could run as an independent, and given his name recognition (he's been on the air for decades and hosts an annual motorcycle ride for charity), he could certainly make it past the June top-two primary into a one-on-one matchup with McClintock in November. And McClintock himself is a very flawed candidate, an arch-conservative who carpetbagged all the way from Southern California six years ago simply because this seat became open. In fact, McClintock only barely won his first election back in 2008, defeating Democrat Charlie Brown by less than half of a percentage point. (The 4th mostly stayed the same in redistricting.)
Gray would have to run a very careful race to unseat McClintock, since he'd need to peel away a sufficient chunk of Republican voters. And if he were to go the independent route, he'd also need to navigate tricky questions about which party he'd caucus with. (Maybe some Angus King shtick might work.) But California Republicans have had some success shedding their party labels, such as Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, who nearly won a special election for the Assembly last year in a blue district after he became an independent. It would certainly be interesting to watch Gray try.
• CA-36: California Republicans just can't seem to catch a break. Every time they put up a potentially "moderate" face, someone further to the right gets cranky and starts causing trouble. The latest example comes in CA-36, a very swingy district that freshman Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz will have to fight hard to hold this fall. The GOP establishment long ago recruited Assemblyman Brian Nestande, and though his fundraising's been weak, he at least doesn't come off as crazy.
But now former state legislator Ray Haynes (who served in both the Assembly and Senate) says he's considering a bid, because he thinks the 36th "wants a conservative Republican as its representative." And John Hrabe notes, Nestande has a 2012 tax increase vote hanging around his neck, one that forced him to resign as caucus chair. That's instant fodder for a guy like Haynes.
Other House races where the CA GOP faces a similar split, listing the establishment pick first, include CA-07 (Doug Ose vs. Igor Birman); CA-25 (Tony Strickland vs. Steve Knight); CA-26 (Jeff Gorell vs. Rafael Dagnesses); and CA-52 (Carl DeMaio vs. Kirk Jorgensen). In each of these instances, Democrats stand to benefit from a divided Republican Party, especially if it winds up nominating true believers.
• FL-10: Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who had considered a rematch with GOP Rep. Dan Webster in Florida's 10th Congressional District, has instead decided to run for Orange County Mayor, an idea she first publicly broached in October. Demings' move likely takes this seat off the table for Democrats, who don't really have anyone else of similar stature waiting in the wings here.
• FL-13: If you somehow haven't come across it yet, you simply must read this amazing Tampa Bay Times piece that brings the late Rep. Bill Young's secret first family out of the shadows. Yes, you read that right. I won't do the article justice by summarizing it, which is why I'm encouraging you so to click through. But in brief, Young had three children with his first wife, Marian, before divorcing her in 1985 to wed his 26-year-old secretary, Beverly, with whom he'd fathered a child while still married to Marian. (Young was 51 at the time.)
Young somehow kept the affair out of the papers (thanks in part to a quiescent media) and ensured Marian's silence with a lifetime alimony payment of $2,000 a month. He also rarely saw the kids he'd raised with Marian and stopped initiating contact in 1986. Young's first family, it seemed, had disappeared and few knew of its existence. But this all came to light at Young's funeral last fall, when Robert, one of his sons by way of Beverly, acknowledged his half-siblings at the end of his eulogy, admitting he didn't even know their surnames but later saying he "didn't think it was fair that they weren't being noticed."
This, my friends, barely begins to tell the story. Among the many eyebrow-raising details, few things come through more powerfully than what a horrible, horrible human being Bev Young is. My skin crawled to read her nasty comments about her husband's children. One of them, she said, is only speaking up now because he's "trying to get rid of his guilt for being a horrible son." Ugh. Also fascinating: Marian's divorce attorney was one Charles Ehrlich—the father of Young's 2012 opponent, Jessica Ehrlich. It makes you wonder how Young's secret life and caddish behavior never came to light earlier.
Meanwhile, the Republicans hoping to succeed Young have been busy highlighting their own flaws. Lobbyist David Jolly has been trying to fight back against claims that his connection to the district is tenuous, but without a lot of success:
He stresses that he has lived in Pinellas since 2005. (He owns a 950-square-foot condo in Indian Shores that he and his wife bought in 2005 for $340,000. They also own a 1,650-square-foot home in Washington bought in 2007 for $900,000).It makes Jolly look especially feeble since one of the main charges the GOP is eager to trot out against presumptive Democratic nominee Alex Sink is that she's a carpetbagger. Sink, though, is a native of central Florida, which is a hell of a lot closer than D.C. Jolly's also going to have to do better than this when it comes to answering questions about his views on major issues:
Jolly often notes that he serves on an Indian Shores zoning board (not a heavy lift considering that board has not met in three years).
He says he served as Rep. Young's district director for a year. (Actually, it was more like seven months.)
His cellphone number has a Washington area code. Since registering to vote in Pinellas in 2006, county records show he has voted by absentee ballot 10 times and in person three times.
"I would have to examine the details of the Ryan plan," said Jolly, clearly not ready to embrace the sweeping changes to entitlement programs envisioned by the Ryan plans that Rep. Young and the overwhelming majority of other House Republicans supported.Paul Ryan released his infamous budget blueprint four years ago and it's been the subject of endless discussion and criticism in the political arena ever since. I guess Jolly will get to it some day! Lucky for him, though, state Rep. Kathleen Peters, his chief rival for the GOP nomination, get even queasier when asked about tough topics:
Seemingly in contradiction with that reputation for diligence, Peters has at times not offered specific positions related to certain issues she might face in Congress. In several interviews, she has given vague answers on everything from abortion to U.S. House budgets, instead speaking in platitudes about the brokenness of Washington, D.C., and her ability to "get things done."Jolly must be glad, because Peters' cluelessness means she can't attack him over his own intellectual shortcomings. Oh, who am I kidding? Peters is happy to derp off half-cocked:
Peters recently acknowledged she's pro-life but said the issue is not a priority to her campaign. She also said her reluctance to provide concrete opinions on some subjects is easy to explain: She's just not familiar enough with all of them to know precisely what she thinks or how she would vote.
"Although it may sound like I'm being strategic and evasive, I'm not. I'm being honest," she said. "How can I give you an honest, thoughtful answer when it hasn't been vetted by me yet?"
When a reporter asked Peters during the news conference what evidence tied Jolly to profiting from Obamacare, she directed the media to documents handed out by her staff. The documents contained no information proving that Jolly lobbied for the Affordable Health Care Act or any related policies. [...]Hah! Outsourcing your research department to the local press. That's a clever trick! All of this has driven our dear compadre Bev Young absolutely batty. (Okay, even battier.) After Peters sent out an email touting the endorsement of her son, also named Bill Young, she flipped because the From: line read "C.W. Bill Young II." Bev called it "dirty politics," claiming "Billy" never went by C.W. I guess she doesn't follow his Twitter account. But even though Bev has endorsed Jolly (her split with Billy prompted her to say she has "no relationship" with her son—something also contradicted by his tweets), she's so pissed, she's sick, sick of 'em all:
When a reporter asked again what tied Jolly to Obamacare, Peters said, "We would like you to do the follow-up research and find the same thing."
"It's embarrassing. I should have run. I should have run. I should have run, because I would not take this. You would be bleeping out everything that I said, but you know what, at least it would be honest."I'm sure Jolly must have felt great to read that, but hey, Beverly can still run in the regularly scheduled August primary. In the meantime, though, Republican voters will go to the polls in just a week, to select between Jolly, Peters, and a third candidate, tea partier Mark Bircher. According to St. Pete Polls, Jolly's extended his lead to 39-28 over Peters, with Bircher at 18, up from 35-30 in mid-December. That dovetails with the conventional wisdom that Jolly is the favorite, but it's still close enough—and this is just one firm's outlook—that the race is still up in the air.
And if the stumblebum who emerges from Tuesday's primary gets mashed in the March special election, we could very well look forward to a November smackdown between Alex Sink and Bev Young. Now wouldn't that be lovely.
• FL-19: Physician and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel has officially kicked off his campaign to unseat Rep. Trey Radel, who was arrested late last year for cocaine possession and recently took a leave of absence from Congress to undergo substance abuse treatment. Kreegel ran in the crowded GOP primary in 2012, coming in third with 18 percent; Radel wound up prevailing with a hair under 30.
Given Radel's vulnerability, it's no surprise that other Republicans are also looking at the race. State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto hasn't formally launched a bid, but she's already started airing ads to raise her profile in the district. Indeed, Radel hasn't yet said whether he'll seek re-election, but whatever he decides, the fight for the GOP nomination will be a hot one in Florida's 19th.
• PA-06: Immediately after GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach announced his retirement on Monday, observers began suggesting that former state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, could run in the 6th instead, where she lives. McGinty's campaign quickly denied she had any interest, but that's the sort of thing you simply have to do. If McGinty were to publicly consider a switch, she'd make herself look less viable for her statewide bid, since you don't drop down to a lower-profile race if you like your current chances. Notably, I don't believe we've seen any comments from McGinty herself, so I just wouldn't rule out the possibility that she could have a change of heart in the future.
Meanwhile, we're learning a little bit more about the one declared Democrat in the race, businessman Mike Parrish. Parrish actually filed to run for this seat before Gerlach called it quits, and he has a pretty impressive resume: West Point and Wharton grad, Army aviator, and an apparently successful business career since leaving active duty. But he also was a Republican until just last month and has made donations to GOP Gov. Tom Corbett as well as Mitt Romney and John McCain. I always welcome folks who want to join the Democratic Party's big tent, but Parrish's extremely recent and campaign-driven conversion will make it tough for him to win a contested Democratic primary.
And one more Democrat is going on the record to express interest: state Sen. Judy Schwank, who doesn't sound especially gung-ho but says she's "not closing any doors." The same piece from the excellent PoliticsPA also mentions Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell as a possibility, though he just declared a bid for a state House race and hasn't said anything publicly about the Gerlach seat yet.
• VA-10: State Del. Barbara Comstock has become the first Republican to launch a campaign for the seat held by retiring Rep. Frank Wolf. Comstock narrowly survived re-election last fall to her seat in the legislature, but since Virginia conducts its state elections in odd-numbered years, this is a free shot for her.
While Comstock is one of the better-known names available to the GOP, she almost certainly won't have the field to herself. Incendiary state Sen. Dick Black says he's "increasingly likely" to run, and Frederick County Supervisor Richard Shickle says that he, too, is "likely." There are also a number of other candidates considering the race, according to the Washington Post, including attorney Beau Correll; two-time VA-11 loser Keith Fimian; Dels. James LeMunyon and Randall Minchew; and former Prince William County Supervisor John Stirrup.
Local Republicans also haven't decided whether to hold a convention or a primary to select their nominee, but their deadline for choosing is coming up soon, on Jan. 23. A convention would probably favor the likes of Black, much like last year's convention produced E.W. Jackson—an outcome Democrats are rooting for.
Speaking of Democrats, the
lone most prominent declared Democrat so far, Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, just rolled out a huge list of endorsements, including Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and Rep. Jim Moran, in an effort to lock down the nomination. But the Post also reports that Shenandoah University Prof. Karen Kennedy Schultz, who once ran for state Senate, may also be considering a bid. Notably, Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe recently tapped her to serve on his transition committee, so that suggests she may be well-connected.