• NJ-12: Ah, bummer. Democratic Rep. Rush Holt, one of the most thoughtful members of Congress, has decided to retire after eight terms in office. Holt was first elected in 1998, defeating freshman GOP Rep. Michael Pappas, then barely survived his first re-election campaign two years later by just 651 votes. His seat was soon shored up in redistricting, though, and he continued to win handily, aside from a somewhat closer call during the Republican wave of 2010.
Before running for Congress, Holt had been the assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, and supporters gleefully slapped on bumper stickers that read "My Congressman IS a Rocket Scientist." True to form, Holt also demonstrated that he was the last, best hope of humankind, as he defeated IBM's Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer Watson in a match in 2011.
Last year, Holt, an outspoken progressive, ran in the Democratic primary for the special election to fill the late Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat. However, he never really stood a chance against the eventual winner, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and finished a disappointing third with just 17 percent. Evidently, it was either up or out for Holt, who spoke of a "a certain level of dysfunction" in Congress as prompting his departure.
The 12th District, located in central Jersey, will stay in Democratic hands, as it went for Barack Obama 67-32 in 2012. But unlike in the vacant 1st District, where the Democratic machine immediately coronated a successor to ex-Rep. Rob Andrews, we're much more likely to see a competitive primary here.
Indeed, State Sen. Linda Greenstein immediately said she'd run for Holt's seat, citing the fact that no women represent New Jersey in Congress. But Assembly members Reed Gusciora, Upendra Chivukula, and Bonnie Watson Coleman all quickly expressed interest as well, as did Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. And Roll Call's Abby Livingston is in full-blown Great Mentioner mode, citing a number of other possibilities, including Assembly members Linda Stender, Daniel Benson, Wayne DeAngelo, and Jerry Green; state Sens. Shirley Turner; and former Edison Mayor Jun Choi. (Stender and Chivukula have both run in the neighboring 7th District in the past.)
• IA-Sen: Republican businessman Mark Jacobs is out with a new internal of the GOP Senate primary from Hill Research. As you'd expect (since it's his own poll), Jacobs is in the lead with 22 percent, while state Sen. Joni Ernst is at 11, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker takes 8, and radio host Sam Clovis brings up the rear with 6. Notably, Jacobs tested general election matchups with Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley but declined to make them public.
• KS-Sen: Gotta credit Milton Wolf for having some pep to his step. Some enterprising staffer snapped a pic of GOP Sen. Pat Roberts' vanity plates, which read "PR-USS." Yeah, that's short for "Pat Roberts, U.S. Senator"—incredibly lame, except the real problem is that this initialism is emblazoned on a set of Virginia license plates. As Wolf puts it, Roberts seems to be saying he's the Old Dominion's third senator. I bet Mark Warner and Tim Kaine would be pretty surprised to hear this.
• MS-Sen: It's a strange comment from a Republican senator facing a primary challenge from the right, but it's also pretty indicative that Thad Cochran doesn't really know what he's dealing with here. Said Cochran during a recent campaign stop: "The Tea Party is something I don't really know a lot about." I have a feeling that state Sen. Chris McDaniel is going to teach him.
• AR-Gov: A DGA front group called Jobs and Opportunity is up with a new compare-and-contrast ad in the Arkansas governor's race. The narrator hits Republican Asa Hutchinson for wanting to "hide the fact that his lobbying firm made millions from corporations pushing the Wall Street and Detroit bailouts—even a stimulus bill." (Ah, a Democrat running against Detroit. Welcome to Arkansas.) Ross, meanwhile, is described as "one of the most independent members of Congress" as the camera pans across his family holding hands to say grace before mealtime. There's no word on the size of the buy.
• IL-Gov: When your campaign has to deny rumors you're dropping out of the race, that's a bad sign. When your campaign admits you're cancelling your TV ad reservations with just weeks to go before Election Day, that's even worse. When you do both at once? Hoo boy. But that's where state Treasurer Dan Rutherford finds himself in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit that was recently filed against him, with the GOP primary fast approaching on March 18. A Rutherford spokesman claims it's a "strategic decision" in light of "outside involvement" on Rutherford's behalf, but no one seems to have seen these supposed third-party ads. I'm sure the cavalry is just around the corner.
• LA-Gov: PPP has another batch of early numbers on Louisiana's 2015 gubernatorial race, but they're best as an illustration of why polling this far out means so little. Last summer, PPP actually found New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu beating Republican Sen. David Vitter 45-42. Now, all of a sudden, it's Vitter 50, Landrieu 37, despite the fact that Landrieu just completed a successful re-election bid. So it'll be some time before we get a solid read on this race, especially since Landrieu hasn't even said if he'll run.
• MD-Gov: A new Washington Post poll of Maryland's Democratic primary for governor from Abt SRBI has results so similar to a survey released a day earlier by the Baltimore Sun that you might have mistaken them for one another. The WaPo finds Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown leading Attorney General Doug Gansler 34-15, with Del. Heather Mizeur back at 8. The Sun, at the same time, had the race 35-14-10. Doesn't get much more similar than that!
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. John Delaney, who recently hinted that he might join the contest, has now filed for re-election. That presumably takes him out of the running, though Maryland's filing deadline is not until Tuesday, so he could still change his mind.
• CA-15: Uh, say what? State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, who has run a strangely invisible campaign against Rep. Eric Swalwell, a fellow Democrat, recently announced that state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier had endorsed her challenge. But DeSaulnier, who is the consensus pick to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th, says he doesn't recall doing so. Corbett says that DeSaulnier signed an endorsement card eight months ago, but he can be forgiven for forgetting, since almost no one could even tell Corbett was actually in the race that long ago. DeSaulnier adds that this screw-up may be his fault, but says that he's friends with both candidates, so either he'll have to withdraw his support from Corbett or issue a dual endorsement.
Also, memo to candidates and their staffers: Take a cell phone photo of every endorsement card you sign, right after you sign it. This isn't the first botched endorsement we've ever encountered, but there are easy ways to avoid them in the future.
• CA-33: Former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel has released a new internal from the Benenson Strategy Group that shows her on top in the race for California's open 33rd District, but definitely not dominant. Greuel leads state Sen. Ted Lieu 29 to 21, while Republican Elan Carr takes 19. Independents Marianne Williamson and Brent Roske trail with 7 and 1 percent respectively. (Radio host Matt Miller, another Democrat who just entered the race, was not included.) At the very least, Greuel's numbers suggest a serious dogfight for second place in June's top-two primary, though let's see if Lieu responds with a poll of his own.
• CA-35: As nameless observers speculated a month ago, Democratic Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod will not seek re-election to Congress but will instead run for a newly open seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. Negrete McLeod was a surprise winner in 2012, beating Rep. Joe Baca in a Dem-vs.-Dem general election thanks to a last-minute infusion of cash from former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's political operation.
But apparently she was never particularly interested in serving in Washington, D.C., and if she's victorious this fall, she'll get to stay close to home. It's also worth noting that San Bernardino County supervisors have 400,000 constituents apiece and make $150,000 a year, so it's not nearly the step down to nobodyhood that some Beltway types are making it out to be.
Baca, meanwhile, has been pursuing a desultory comeback in the neighboring 31st District, where two other better-equipped Democrats are already running, but he says he won't switch back to the 35th. Regardless, this seat will stay in Democratic hands, as it went 67-31 for Barack Obama in 2012. One strong contender would be state Sen. Norma Torres, who considered a bid last cycle but never made the leap.
P.S. Fuck Joe Baca:
"Look at what we wound up with: Some bimbo who decided not to run again. ... Here we go again now with another New Yorker trying to tell us who's going to be the representative of the 31st. It's up to the people to decide."And of course Baca later apologized (and made some lame excuse for his unacceptable choice of words). But this isn't the first time he's been accused of using hateful language toward female members of Congress. Can't wait to be rid of this guy.
• CO-03: Just following up on a recent item: Pueblo County Commissioner Buffie McFadyen has indeed decided to run against GOP Rep. Scott Tipton, as she'd been expected to. McFadyen previously served eight years in the state House before winning a seat on the commission in 2012.
• FL-13: American Crossroads has a new ad going after Democrat Alex Sink, but the attacks are all familiar (Sink mismanaged the state's pension fund, enriched herself as a banker in the private sector, and once used a state plane for personal purposes). The only difference is that this time, a bunch of seniors deliver these jabs, but they're certainly not all just reg'lar folks. One of them is Connie Deneault, who ran for the state House in 2010 as a Republican. The size of the buy is reportedly $357,000.
Overall, outside spending on the race has now hit $4.3 million, with GOP groups far out-stripping their Democratic counterparts, $2.8 million to $1.5 million. But keep in mind that Sink had widely outraised Republican David Jolly according to the last set of fundraising reports, and Jolly had to spend almost everything winning the January primary, so the overall spending gap isn't quite so large.
• VA-08: The comically long list of contenders in the Democratic primary for Virginia's open 8th Congressional District just got longer still—by two names. Liberal talk-radio host Mark Levine and Virginia Tech urban affairs Prof. Derek Hyra have both joined the field. That makes 11 total candidates so far, including a number of elected officials.
• WA-04: Two more Republicans have joined the field to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings in Washington's reddest House district. One is a name you may remember from 2010: Clint Didier, a long-ago NFL star turned rancher turned tea party activist, who was the hard-right alternative to Dino Rossi in the 2010 Senate race but didn't get much traction. The other is state Sen. Sharon Brown, who represents Kennewick. She's never appeared before voters and has only been in office for a year, though, after being appointed in the wake of Jerome Delvin's resignation to become a Benton County Commissioner.
The Yakima Herald also does some further Great Mentioning, and they suggest Delvin as a potential contestant, too. Two other names that they hit who haven't surfaced anywhere else are Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck and Dan Newhouse, the former director of the state Dept. of Agriculture (an appointed position). (David Jarman)
• Fundraising: On Thursday night at midnight Eastern, the first pre-primary fundraising reports of the cycle will be due at the FEC. These reports, which stretch from the end of the prior reporting period (so in this case, Jan. 1) until 20 days before a primary or convention, are due 12 days before the election in question. So candidates in Texas, which has the first primary of the year on March 4, have to file reports this week. To keep track of all the pre-primary filing deadlines, we've put together this handy calendar that you can bookmark.