• Recruitment: Far too often, people take potshots at campaign committees and their leaders for supposedly doing a bad job recruiting candidates. But it's a wrong-headed complaint, because we don't know what goes on behind closed doors, and as Nathan Gonzales elaborates in a thoughtful new piece, recruiters are dealing with real human beings who have lives—and problems—of their own. Nathan asked operatives in both parties for some examples of attempts to woo candidates that fell short for reasons beyond their control. Here's his sampling (with names withheld):
• Potential candidate's father has Alzheimer's and decided to move in with her.As Nathan says, "Until party strategists obtain the abilities to heal the sick and cause children to age more rapidly, there is no amount of polling or promises that will get some potential recruits to run for Congress." And without those magic powers, there's simply nothing recruiters could have done in any of the above situations, and countless more. So just bear that in mind the next time you encounter someone who insists that Steve Israel's to blame for Democratic recruiting difficulties. He's working as hard as he can. Just sometimes—a lot of the time—real life intervenes.
• Potential candidate's wife "wasn't up to it."
• Potential candidate has young children and she didn't want to be away from them so often.
• Potential candidate's wife is a two-time breast cancer survivor whose health didn't allow the margin for a top-tier race.
• AK-Sen: Even though Alaska and its congressional representatives tend to be quite friendly toward resource extraction industries, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich has come out against the development of a copper and gold deposit in Bristol Bay known as Pebble Mine, following an EPA report that said the mine would pose serious risk to salmon fisheries in the bay. In response, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association is running an ad that sings the virtues of Alaska fishermen while praising Begich for "taking a good, honest look at the science" and thanking him for his stance.
VoteVets, interestingly enough, is also getting it on the action. Their ad (backed by a reported $25,000 buy) features an Iraq vet turned fisherman who opposes Pebble Mine as well. The spot doesn't mention Begich, but it does give him added cover, and it also frames the mine as being in the interest of a "foreign company" (Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian firm). And you know who else didn't want the mine? The late Sen. Ted Stevens.
• TX-Sen: Looks like Steve Stockman has pulled a D.B. Cooper, only without all the cash. A new report from the AP has the Republican congressman—who of course is trying to unseat Sen. John Cornyn in the primary—making Waldo look as conspicuous as Dumbo:
• "Stockman has made just one major public appearance in Texas— chastising Cornyn as too liberal before about 50 tea party activists at a north Dallas church Jan. 14. That followed his skipping a scheduled appearance before a larger tea party group in Bedford, near Fort Worth."In fact, says the AP, the only time anyone's laid eyes on Stockman recently was when he took a House-sponsored trip to Egypt! This vanishing act is reminiscent of ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s disappearance in 2012, and Stockman's political career isn't headed in a much better direction than JJJ's.
• "Stockman has missed 17 straight House votes since Jan. 9— including one on the $1.1 trillion omnibus federal spending package he promised on Twitter to vote against."
• "Stockman's staff won't say where he is. They have ignored more than six weeks of emails, telephone messages and social media posts from The Associated Press and other news outlets."
• AZ-Gov: Given his likelihood of success, this might be better filed under "Where Are They Now?," but Frank Riggs is back in the news. When was Frank Riggs in the news for the first time, you might be asking? He's the representative who held CA-01 for three terms in the 1990s, in what was the last gasp of Republicanism for California's now-very-blue North Coast.
After losing California's GOP Senate primary in 1998, Riggs moved to Arizona in 2002, where he gave some thought to running for governor in 2006 but found he couldn't, because he needed to have lived there for at least five years. The political itch is a persistent ailment, though, and now Riggs is poised to join the crowded Republican field in this year's gubernatorial contest, though he starts out at a serious name recognition deficit compared with Secretary of State Ken Bennett and state Treasurer Doug Ducey. (David Jarman)
• MI-14: Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence just declared her entry into the Democratic primary for Rep. Gary Peters' open seat, a day after a Lake Research poll came out showing her with a wide lead. It's not clear who paid for the survey, but seeing as it was conducted all the way back in November, it's likely from Lawrence herself, especially since she has a 37-6 lead over state Rep. Rudy Hobbs. State Sen. Bert Johnson takes 5, ex-state Rep. LaMar Lemmons is at 3, and state Sen. Vince Gregory earns just 1 percent support.
• VA-08: State Del. Patrick Hope has become the first Democrat to announce a campaign for the seat held by retiring Rep. Jim Moran. Del. Charniele Herring, who is also chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, says she's entering the race, too. Herring (no relation to newly elected Attorney General Mark Herring) will step down as chair to focus on her bid. And businessman Bruce Shuttlesworth, who tried to primary Moran last cycle, also says he'll run again, but a bazillion other Democrats are still contemplating bids in this safely blue district.
• VA-10: Ugh, terrible news! State Sen. Dick Black (aka the Paul Broun of Northern Virginia) has unexpectedly dropped out of the race for Virginia's open 10th District. Democrats were gleeful at the prospect of the incendiary Black causing serious problems for Del. Barbara Comstock in the fight for the GOP nomination, and since there was a good chance Black could have wound up the nominee himself, he'd have made this seat much more difficult for Republicans to hold.
Black claims that Republican leaders in the Senate pressured him to stay because the chamber is split 20-20, but I'm skeptical, especially since Black wouldn't have to give up his seat for a year, Democrats already control the chamber thanks to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam's tiebreaking vote, and the GOP would be favored to hold Black's 51-48 Romney district anyway.
But, alas, he's gone. Comstock may not have the Republican field to herself, though. Frederick County Board Chair Richard Shickle has said that he'll run, and there are still several other names floating out there.
• IN Ballot: So Brian Bosma, the Republican state House speaker in Indiana, managed to force that anti-same sex marriage constitutional amendment through his chamber, though he employed a slightly different shenanigan than the one he was contemplating last week. Instead of replacing stubborn fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, he simply moved the bill to a more conservative panel, the Elections Committee. There, the amendment passed easily on Wednesday, with all nine Republicans voting for it and three Democrats voting against (one was absent).
Now the amendment will move to the House floor, but because it also purports to ban civil unions, some legislators are contemplating changes. If they do that, though, they risk going back to square zero, because a constitutional amendment can only appear on the ballot if it's passed by two consecutive legislatures. Trying to push this off to 2016 would be very dicey indeed, but there's certainly no guarantee that Republicans will meet with success even if they forge ahead this year.
• Demographics: Data vizier (if that isn't an official job title somewhere yet, it should be) Adam Carstens is out with a number of state-level maps that look simple but, using 2013 Census data, actually tell a lot about how the various states are growing (or stagnating). Carstens breaks growth down into two categories: growth from immigration (and, from there, domestic and international immigration), and growth from births. Utah and Texas (with lots of Mormons and Latinos, respectively) seem to lead the way with births as a percentage of a state's population, while the Dakotas (with their energy boom) are among the tops for domestic immigration, percentage-wise.
Florida and the large states in the northeast lead the way for international immigration; in fact, that seems to be the main thing propelling Florida's growth, since it's one of the states with the lowest "natural increase" (probably due to how many old people retire there). Carstens also includes deaths, percentage-wise, as a counterpoint, and unsurprisingly, old and white states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia are among the leaders in that category. (David Jarman)