• AK-Sen: The excellent ads supporting Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's re-election bid keep coming, though the latest is not from Begich himself but rather Put Alaska First, a super PAC supporting him. (PAF, by the way, is chiefly funded by the Senate Majority PAC.) Simply put, this is how Democrats in red states—or really, Democrats anywhere—should be running on Obamacare:
In the ad, born-and-raised Alaskan Lisa Keller—"a mother, a runner, a breast cancer survivor"—jogs through a snowbound Anchorage, explaining she was "lucky" because she "beat cancer." "But," she continues, "the insurance companies still denied me health insurance, just because of a pre-existing condition." However, she adds, "I now have health insurance again, because of Mark Begich. Because he fought the insurance companies so that we no longer have to."
You can't offer a message simpler and more heartening than that. This is precisely the kind of sympathetic story that Americans for Prosperity wished it could tell, except this one happens to be completely true and gets to the very core of what's best about the Affordable Care Act. You want to run on repealing Obamacare? You're literally running on repealing Lisa Keller's health insurance. The stakes couldn't be clearer.
• GA-Sen: After defending his remarks for a week, wealthy businessman David Perdue finally apologized to former Secretary of State Karen Handel for sneering that she was a mere "high school graduate" who didn't belong in the GOP primary for Senate. Handel formally accepted the apology, but she's most definitely not letting go.
Instead, she's running a good-humored a radio ad dinging Perdue for his comments, and in a statement, she says that "the apology is not owed to me—it is owed to the many other Georgians he demeaned." In an amusingly candid response, Perdue's campaign acknowledged the apology won't do much, saying: "There is certainly no expectation for her to change campaign tactics."
Handel's also up with her first TV ad, which features clips of Sarah Palin praising her in a speech at a recent campaign stop.
• NC-Sen: Baptist pastor Mark Harris, who is seeking the GOP nomination for Senate, is up with his first ad of the race. It's a positive spot in which he recites various conservative nostrums (government too big, taxes too high, Obamacare too actual) and is backed by a reported $300,000 buy.
Also, American Crossroads is touting a poll from Voter/Consumer Research that has state House Speaker Thom Tillis in the lead with 27, while physician Greg Brannon takes 16 and Harris 10. Those numbers sound plausible, but field dates and sample size were not provided.
• NH-Sen: A new UNH poll finds Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen leading Scott Brown 45-39, a couple of points closer than the 8-point edge PPP just saw for her. What's odd, though, is that while PPP has Shaheen holding steady (and Brown's favorables trickling steadily downward), UNH's prior survey in January had Brown trailing by 10 points, 47-37, even though neither candidate's popularity ratings have budged since then. UNH often features hard-to-explain gyrations, though.
Meanwhile, Brown is out with his first TV ad of the race. The narrator explains that Brown "has almost 300,000 miles on his truck"—but how many of those were added in Massachusetts? Almost admitting how recent a transplant he is, the narrator continues: "Over the last few weeks, it's taken him all across New Hampshire, listening and learning." Did Brown really have to schlep all around the state to learn that people want "more good jobs"?
• AZ-Gov: A mystery 501(c)(4) out of Iowa called the Legacy Foundation Action Fund is trying to give Mesa Mayor Scott Smith a political purple nurple with a flight of TV and radio ads linking him to Barack Obama. Smith, a Republican with something of a moderate/iconoclastic streak, is seeking the GOP nomination for governor. He's also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a group whose various alleged positions are slammed in the advertisements, including support for Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and gun safety laws.
Smith, of course, is unhappy about the ads, and he's accusing state Treasurer Doug Ducey, a gubernatorial rival, of being behind them. The evidence is thin, though, not least because the Legacy Foundation does not have to disclose its donors, and Ducey denies the charge. But Fred DuVal, the likely Democratic nominee, has to like this development, as polling has shown Smith would be his toughest opponent—plus a messy GOP primary can only help.
• MD-Gov: The Democratic primary for governor in Maryland has just taken a slightly negative turn, at least in terms of paid media. State Attorney General Doug Gansler, who trails Lt. Gov Anthony Brown in all the polls, has decided to jab the frontrunner with radio and TV ads about the state's botched health insurance exchange rollout. The TV spot is very mild while the one for radio is sharper, but neither mention Brown by name. However, he was responsible for overseeing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, so these criticisms are aimed at him. Gansler will probably start making that connection more explicitly in future ads.
• MA-06: The bad news for Rep. John Tierney is that the Emerson College Polling Society finds him tied at 44 with Republican challenger Richard Tisei. The good news is that he's at least on track to earn a shot at a rematch: Tierney swamps his two Democratic primary rivals, taking 64 percent while Iraq vet Seth Moulton and attorney Marisa DeFranco each earn 10. That's very similar to a recent DCCC poll that had Tierney beating Moulton 64-17 (DeFranco wasn't tested).
• NC-06: A new poll of the GOP primary for North Carolina's open 6th Congressional District, taken by Tel Opinion Research on behalf of a group called Keep Conservatives United, finds Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. leading the pack with 29 percent, while his nearest opponents take just 4. However, 54 percent remain undecided.
• NY-04: Normally, as you know, we aggregate fundraising numbers in a separate section at the top of the Digest, unless we encounter something truly remarkable. I think this counts: Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is hoping to succeed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in Congress, somehow raised $1.47 million in the first quarter and has $1.3 million in cash-on-hand. Wow. Rice faces Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams in the Democratic primary, but he may want to seriously consider an exit strategy at this point. (A run for state Senate might not be a bad idea.) And if Republicans have ever seriously thought about contesting this seat, they probably want to think again.
• NY-21: Former George W. Bush White House aide Elise Stefanik just secured the Conservative Party's ballot line for the November general election, giving her a potential boost if she's the GOP nominee. But her rival for the Republican nod, businessman Matt Doheny, has already locked up the Independence Party's support. This means that no matter what happens in the June primary, Doheny and Stefanik will both appear on the ballot in the fall, as there's no practical way for whoever loses the GOP nomination to have his or her name removed from any minor party lines. Democrats, meanwhile, have united around filmmaker Aaron Woolf to hold this swingy open seat.
• TX-04: The Senate Conservatives Fund, which has been endorsing quite a few House candidates lately, has jumped on board the John Ratcliffe bandwagon. Ratcliffe already has the support of the Club for Growth (and the ne'er-do-wells at Now or Never PAC) in his bid to unseat Rep. Ralph Hall in next month's GOP runoff.
• WI-06: When ultra-conservative state Sen. Glenn Grothman announced a primary challenge to Rep. Tom Petri a week ago, we opined that an upset was definitely possible. That's no longer the case, though ... because Petri, a 35-year veteran, will retire at the end of this term—perhaps because he was worried about getting out-hustled on his right flank, or perhaps because he just didn't feel like fighting.
But whether or not Grothman helped cause Petri's departure, he almost certainly won't have the field to himself, especially since at least a couple of other Republicans (state Rep. Duey Stroebel and former Scott Walker campaign treasurer John Hiller) were reportedly considering bids even before this latest development. And state Sen. Joe Leibham immediately said he'd think about the race, too.
Unfortunately for Democrats, this opening probably doesn't present a pickup opportunity, as Wisconsin's 6th went for Mitt Romney by a 53-46 margin in 2012. However, the party does actually have a bit of a bench here, and Grothman is just crazy enough—he recently proposed legislation to eliminate weekends—that if he's the GOP nominee, things could get a little bit interesting.
• WI State Senate: Whoa. Republican Mike Ellis, the president Wisconsin's state Senate, has dropped his bid for re-election after James O'Keefe (!) published a secretly recorded video of Ellis talking about illegally funding a PAC to attack his Democratic challenger. It's a remarkable fall from grace for the 73-year-old incumbent, and Republicans will now have to scramble to find a replacement.
That's because the Democratic opponent that Ellis was looking to hobble is a strong recruit, state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber. Barack Obama carried the 19th District—albeit by one hundredth of a percentage point—and Democrats had regarded it as a top pickup prospect even before Ellis decided to call it quits. Now this race will become an even bigger priority for Team Blue.
And yes, it's super strange that O'Keefe decided to target a Republican for once. Also, though I truly hesitate to say this, this may be the first time he's put together a video that wasn't total bollocks, at least judging by Ellis' response. The world is a very weird place.
• WATN?: John Rowland already spent 10 months in prison serving out a federal corruption conviction, so what's another 50—years, that is? That's how long Rowland, a former Republican governor of Connecticut, could find himself in the clink on new charges that he conspired to hide his involvement in two different congressional campaigns over the past two of election cycles.
One of those candidates, Lisa Wilson-Foley (who unsuccessfully ran in the GOP primary for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District in 2012) already pleaded guilty to the scheme last month, along with her husband Brian. The two admitted to funneling cash to Rowland through Brian Foley's nursing home chain and could face a year in behind bars under their plea agreement.
Rowland is also accused of trying to set up a similar arrangement with 2010 candidate Mark Greenberg, creating a comically named sham entity called "The Animal Center." Greenberg, who sought the same seat Wilson-Foley later did, rebuffed Rowland, and when you get a look at the kinds of entreaties Rowland was sending him, it's not hard to understand why:
In May 2010, according to the indictment, Rowland stepped up pressure on Greenberg to hire him, sending an email: "I'm not as unpopular as your campaign manager would lead you to believe !! especiaily , [sic] in the 5tr district. I can get you elected .... Ifyou are interested[.]"Amazing that the Foleys were so much dumber.