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• FL-13: At long last: Veteran Republican Rep. Bill Young, who has served the Tampa area in the House since 1971 and has been the subject of retirement speculation for many cycles, has decided to step down at the end of this term. Young, 82 years old, said simply that "it's my time."
What makes Young's departure so intriguing is that he's one of just a handful of Republicans who represent a district Barack Obama won in 2012, in this case by a 50.1 to 48.6 margin. That makes Florida's 13th District the first truly competitive open seat of the 2014 midterms, and you can bet Democrats will fight hard to try to pick it up.
Right now, the only candidate in the race is attorney and former congressional aide Jessica Ehrlich, who ran against Young last year. While Young prevailed 58-42, that actually represented his weakest performance in 20 years. Ehrlich deserves credit for her willingness to take on a longtime office-holder no one else wanted to challenge, but with Young gone, there's a very good chance that better-known Democratic contenders will enter the race. One perhaps slim possibility whose name came up a while back: ex-Gov. Charlie Crist, widely thought to be considering a gubernatorial comeback.
Other potential Democrats include Smith lists Pinellas County Commissioners Ken Welch, Janet Long, and Charlie Justice, who was also the 2010 nominee against Young; and St. Pete City Council candidate Darden Rice. Ex-state Rep. Rick Kriseman, who is running in the St. Petersburg mayoral race this year, is already saying no, while a nameless Democratic official tells Roll Call that a Crist candidacy is "total nonsense."
Republicans, meanwhile, are losing an incumbent who was well-regarded and had successfully carved out a profile as a moderate. Given the state of the modern GOP, the party is likely to nominate someone more conservative, perhaps much more vocally so. The Tampa Bay Times suggests a few possible options, including former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker; former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard; Pinellas County Commissioners Karen Seel and John Morroni; and perhaps even Young's son, Bill Young II, who is just 29. A separate piece mentions state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala; former Young aide David Jolly; and political consultant Nick Zoller.
As you can see from the comparative size of these lists, Republicans have a deeper bench here, and they're going to go all out to hold this seat. So you can be sure that regardless of who steps forward for either side, this is going to be a serious contest. And as always, we'll be tracking it closely from now through Election Day. (David Nir & David Jarman)
• LA-05: Emily Cahn has a full roundup of fundraising reports filed ahead of the Oct. 19 special election to fill ex-Rep. Rodney Alexander's seat. The two Republican leaders, by a wide margin, were state Sen. Neil Riser, the establishment favorite, who raised $561,000 and has $210,000 on hand, and state Rep. Jay Morris, who took in $271,000 but also loaned his campaign $295,000, leaving him with $188,000 in the bank. The rest of the numbers can be found at the link.
• NC-07: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D): $189,000 raised, $524,000 cash-on-hand. Those are weak numbers for a vulnerable Democrat who survived the closest House race in the nation last year.
• AR-Sen: The Club for Growth is also getting in on the act in Arkansas, with a spot slamming Sen. Mark Pryor that deploys one of the same bogus attacks in GOP Rep. Tom Cotton's new ad—this b.s. claim that members of Congress voted themselves some kind of "special deal" regarding the Affordable Care Act.
The whole spot is devoted to Obamacare, actually, saying that Pryor has "gotten even more extreme" by voting against delays in implementing the ACA and voting for "taxes on pacemakers and ultrasound equipment." Republicans must think they have a powerful issue here, but Pryor has stood united with his party on ensuring Obamacare moves forward as planned, so I'm guessing he's reached a different conclusion about the potency of these hits.
• GA-Sen: Rep. Phil Gingrey wants one chance—just one chance!—to tell his enemies, "They may force us to have health insurance, but they'll never take our freedom!"
Gingrey said Republicans were "absolutely" prepared to lose the House to extract concessions on the CR and the debt limit, and he said the White House is "missing the determination of the Republican Party."
"I mean, they seem to think that we will miss this opportunity for a 'Braveheart' moment to do the right thing for the American people and that we'll back down for fear of losing the House and not gaining control of the Senate," Gingrey said.
And Democrats are absolutely prepared to let them lose it, without any concessions at all.
• NJ-Sen: Quinnipiac's second (and likely final) poll of likely voters ahead of next week's special election to fill the late Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat once again finds Democrat Cory Booker with a 12-point lead. In fact, Booker sports the same 53-41 margin over Republican Steve Lonegan that he did three weeks ago.
The question now is whether pollsters showing a spread of about a dozen are right, or whether those who think Booker's edge is much larger are correct. In the Massachusetts Senate special earlier this year, there was a somewhat similar split, with most firms finding a 10-point Democratic edge but some seeing double that margin. In the end, the former group was right.
• NJ-Gov: Rasmussen Reports: Gov. Chris Christie (R): 55, Barbara Buono (D): 34 (Sept.: 58-32 Christie).
• RI-Gov: In addition to the data you'd expect, Brown University's new poll of its home-state gubernatorial race offers one very quirky matchup that has us here at Daily Kos Elections wondering if the pollster is hinting at a possibility we hadn't yet considered.
First, though, the standard stuff. In a hypothetical Democratic primary between Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Raimondo leads 42-34. That's rather different from a Taveras internal last month that gave him a sizable 49-30 edge. And as Matt McDermott of Lake Research notes, the primary sample has more Republicans than Democrats! That surely aids Raimondo, but that just won't happen.
Another odd thing is that Taveras performs much better than Raimondo in a general election matchup with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (who, like the two Democrats, hasn't declared for the race yet). Taveras beats Fung 42-33 while Raimondo is ahead just 38-36. Those numbers could certainly give Taveras an electability argument to take to primary voters, but here's where things get really weird. Brown also tested a four-way general election scenario that included both Taveras and Raimondo, as well as Fung and potential "Moderate Party" nominee Ken Block, who took 6.5 percent in the 2010 governor's race. In this crazy arrangement, Raimondo scores 27, Taveras 21, Fung 19, and Block 9.
But why poll this combination in the first place? Why would Raimondo and Taveras go head-to-head in a November election? The only way this could happen is if Raimondo lost the primary but decided to run as an independent in the general. (I couldn't imagine the vocally progressive Taveras doing so.) Now, Mike Bloomberg may be a huge Raimondo fan, but we haven't seen any reports suggesting she might abandon her party—and since she wants to win a Democratic party, I can't imagine she'd hint at anything of the sort. (Local reporter Ted Nesi says that the idea has come up in the abstract, though.)
So maybe Brown just decided to test a strange and unlikely matchup for the hell of it. At least, I'd hope that's the case.
• VA-Gov: Terry McAuliffe is playing up his cross-party appeal hard in two new 15-second spots. The first once again stars Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, who says that he's "supporting a Democrat for governor for the first time ever." The second features a businessman who says he's "always voted conservative" but that he's backing McAuliffe because "he's a successful businessman." It's a real testament to Ken Cuccinelli that so many Republicans have endorsed a former DNC chair.
And Cuccinelli sure seems stung by this turn of events. In response to the Sessoms ad, he sounded rather like a dingus, making an utterly unsubstantiated claim that McAuliffe and Sessoms had engaged in "a little quid pro quo, maybe." Cuccinelli seems to think that T-Mac "suddenly said that he wants to expand light rail to Virginia Beach" in order to woo Sessoms, but the problem is that the Macker has favored rail expansion for quite some time, and Sessoms said the whole notion that he asked for anything is bull. But if Sessoms likes the Macker because he supports local infrastructure projects important to his city, well, that's just fine, and it called politics, yo.
• CA-25: Veteran GOP Rep. Buck McKeon has represented California's 25th District for over 20 years, and in all that time, he never really faced a competitive general election. But what had long been a comfortably Republican seat has trended sharply toward Democrats in recent years, and redistricting hasn't even really played a role. This shift seemed to catch McKeon unaware, and he beat his Democratic opponent in 2012, podiatrist Lee Rogers, by just a 55-45 margin—by far the smallest of his career.
Rogers is running again this cycle, and though he raised only $374,000 all told last time, he took in $227,000 in the last quarter alone, outraising McKeon. In fact, McKeon, who is 75, has not actually confirmed his re-election plans, and despite last year's scare, you have to wonder if he still hasn't shaken off that rust. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, McKeon claimed that the number of people who'd signed up for insurance under Obamacare was "in the single digits," as in "less than 10." A startled Blitzer called out McKeon, who seems to have been relying on an unverified, anonymous quote provided to the Washington Post a week ago, one day after the exchanges opened.
Now, that's just one flub. But combined with his weak fundraising and the pep in his opponent's step, McKeon may well be leaning toward retirement, as has long been rumored. But whether he stays or he goes, Democrats—who don't have a wide playing field for 2014—should consider this race an opportunity.
• ME-02, CA-21: EMILY's List just endorsed two more House candidates, running in districts at opposite ends of the country. In Maine's open 2nd District, they're backing state Sen. Emily Cain, who faces a competitive Democratic primary, while in California's 21st, they're supporting former congressional aide Amanda Renteria, who is trying to unseat GOP Rep. David Valadao.
• NH-01: Outgoing UNH business school dean Dan Innis, who has been gearing up for a congressional run for a while, has finally made it official. Innis will face ex-Rep. Frank Guinta in the GOP primary for the right to take on Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
• NH-02: Conservative activist Andrew Hemingway is weighing a run against Dem Rep. Annie Kuster, and he sounds like a prototypical Some Dude. But somehow he's also come up with the scratch to run some radio ads that try to blame Kuster for the shutdown, even though he hasn't actually committed to a campaign yet. There's no word on how much he's actually spending, though, so this may well just be a play for some earned media.
• NY-24: Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci says he won't run against freshman Rep. Dan Maffei, meaning Republicans still don't have a candidate in this district. Ex-Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, whom Maffei defeated last year, also recently declined a bid. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney has reportedly been the target of recruitment efforts but it doesn't appear that she's spoken publicly about running.
• Deaths: Former Minnesota Sen. Rod Grams, who had been battling cancer and had recently entered hospice care, died on Tuesday night at the age of 65. Grams, a Republican, served a single term in the Senate, winning an open seat during the 1994 GOP wave. He then lost in 2000 to Democrat Mark Dayton, who is now the state's governor.
• House: PPP has released a second national poll, conducted just a week after their last one, to better judge how the shutdown is playing with voters. Little has changed, though. The Democratic edge on the generic congressional ballot remains the same at 5 points (46-41, versus 45-40 last week), while Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have barely seen their approvals budge.
Congressional Republicans, interestingly, did see a small bounce, from 23-69 to 29-65. That's still awful, of course, but as Tom Jensen notes, the movement comes from "the GOP base embracing the shutdown." That certainly doesn't augur for any kind of softening of the Republican position on the budget and debt ceiling. But the party is still taking the brunt of voters' unhappiness: Respondents blame the shutdown on the GOP by a 48-42 margin, and they blame Congress over Barack Obama 53-43.
P.S. A separate new poll from Democracy Corps (aka Greenberg Quinlan Rosner) on behalf of Women's Voices Women Vote finds a very similar Democratic lead on the generic ballot, 46-42.