IN-03: Why I Think Tom Hayhurst Has a Chance

In a series of comments here at SSP, I’ve argued that the IN-03 congressional race is the sleeper race of the 2010 cycle.  In this diary, I’ll expand on these comments and explain in detail why I think Democratic candidate Dr. Tom Hayhurst has a real shot at pulling the upset of 2010 here in Indiana.

Some caveats: no, I don’t expect Hayhurst to win; I’m arguing only that he has a legitimate shot and could win given the right (not entirely unrealistic) set of circumstances.  Also, this diary isn’t intended as a critique of the SSP front-page team, which recently made the decision not to list IN-03 as a potential pickup on the Big Board.  They have excellent reasons for their choice, and their fantastic writing and analysis is what keeps me coming back to SSP more than any other political site on the Net.  Finally, though I live in another district in Indiana (IN-09), I’ve never been to IN-03, nor do I know Hayhurst, Souder, any of the other candidates, or anyone who lives in the district.  Thus, my comments in this diary are based solely on my own analysis and on information I’ve gleaned from the Web.


IN-03 is a mostly rural district in the northeastern corner of the state.  Its largest city is Fort Wayne.  The district has a Cook PVI of R+14; McCain won it 56-43, but Bush won it in 2004 by a vastly larger 68-31.  According to Cook, this is the 64th most Republican district in the country; among Democrats, only Chet Edwards, Walt Minnick, Bobby Bright, and Jim Matheson hold districts more Republican-leaning.

Nevertheless, the district has had a reasonably good electoral history for Democrats recently.  In 2006, Hayhurst held Souder to a 54-46 margin.  In 2008, 28-year-old attorney Michael Montagano performed less successfully against Souder, losing 55-40 (and getting outperformed by Obama in the district).

Obviously, it will take a perfect storm of events for Hayhurst to win this seat.  A victory in a seat like this would require a combination of an impressive Democratic candidate who’s a perfect fit for the district, a very weak Republican candidate, a Democratic fundraising advantage in the race, a divisive Republican primary, and a favorable electoral climate.  As I’ll argue, though, all but the last of these qualities exist in this race.  If the political climate remains as GOP-friendly as is it now, Souder should eke out a win.  If Democrats become more popular as a result of the health care bill and additional legislation, Hayhurst could pull the upset.

A Strong Democratic Candidate

Tom Hayhurst is a 67-year-old retired medical doctor and Democratic activist.  He’s a good fit for the district: an avuncular medical professional who seems like he walked out of a 1950’s movie about small-town America.  (He’s a better fit than, for instance, a young lawyer like Montagano, which is one of the reasons Montagano lost in 2008.)  He’s an avowed centrist whose position on health care has evolved from opposing the House bill to arguing that he can make it more cost-effective in Congress.  Additionally, Hayhurst is talking jobs and advocating strongly for the expansion of passenger rail in Indiana.  He has wide name recognition throughout the district as a result of his previous congressional run.

A description of Hayhurst as a candidate can’t help but include his impressive showing in 2006: 46% of the vote, outperforming the district by six points without a shred of help from the DCCC or elsewhere.  (Granted, DCCC spending didn’t seem to help Montagano in 2008.)  All told, Hayhurst is about the best candidate Dems could field in this district.

A Weak Republican Incumbent

Coupled with Hayhurst’s strength is the weakness of Mark Souder, about the limpest noodle around in Indiana’s congressional delegation (which is saying something, since he’s got competition from Steve Buyer and Dan Burton).  Souder’s known as a weak campaigner and fundraiser, isn’t well-liked by Republicans in his district, and is an all-around weak incumbent.  Some typical criticisms of Souder: he cares more about fantasy sports than he does about his job; he broke a term limits pledge back in 2006; his campaigning skills are so weak that even Rothenberg thinks the NRCC should have cut him loose back in 2008.  Clearly, this is not a guy who’s well-loved or particularly adept at keeping his seat.  In 2008, with NRCC help, he was able to win convincingly against Montagano; but two years earlier, he couldn’t be bothered to campaign seriously against Hayhurst and almost lost the seat as a result.

A Democratic Fundraising Advantage

Wouldn’t it be nice if after just one fundraising quarter (the one that ended three months ago) Hayhurst had more cash-on-hand than Souder did?  Incredibly enough, that’s exactly what happened.  Thanks to anemic fundraising and an incredibly high burn rate, Souder ended up at the end of December with less cash-on-hand than Hayhurst.

Furthermore, this isn’t the first time Hayhurst has outraised Souder; he did the same thing for the entire 2006 campaign, padding the total with $200,000 of his own money (Souder’s numbers here).  The evidence indicates that not only can Hayhurst keep pace with Souder, he can do so for the long haul.

A Bruising Republican Primary

Of course, this would be one thing if Souder could save all his cash for the general election.  However, for the first time in eight years, Souder is facing a bruising three-way primary.  His opponents are rich carpetbagging auto dealer Bob Thomas and former Dan Coats press secretary Phil Troyer, who’s the teabagger favorite.  Troyer’s fundraising has been anemic so far, so the real battle at the moment is between Souder and and the deep-pocketed Thomas.  Both candidates have ads up, and they’re bashing one another just as hard as they can.  Here’s a sample:

A current radio ad for Souder’s re-election campaign even includes name-calling, referring to Thomas as ‘Big Bucks Bob Thomas’ and accuses him of spending “‘half-a-million (dollars) shopping for a seat in congress.” …

“When he says I’m trying to buy this seat, well the fact is, he’s already sold it… to special interests groups in Washington D.C.,” said Thomas.

As they say, ouch.  Souder should be able to prevail against the split field, just as he did in 2002 against a primary challenge from the left.  But Thomas is forcing him to drain his already anemic coffers, while Hayhurst continues to rack up more money.  Additionally, Souder will limp into the general election considerably bloodied by the attacks of his competitors.

An Uncertain National Climate

This brings us to the final criterion required for a Hayhurst upset: a favorable national climate.  Certainly this one isn’t looking likely at the moment.  But the election’s still seven months away, and a lot of things can change in seven months.

The key takeaway: because of the national climate, Souder looks likely for reelection.  However, if the climate shifts so that Democrats lose, say, fifteen seats rather than thirty, Hayhurst has a shot at pulling off the biggest upset of the cycle.  This is definitely one race worth keeping an eye on.

The Indiana Races: A State of the Field

Indiana is where I live now, so I thought I’d do a rundown here too, though I don’t know the politics as well and the results won’t be as interesting as for the Arizona races.  The big story here is a colossal recruiting failure on the part of Republicans in IN-01, IN-02, and IN-08, and a sticky situation for them in IN-09.  As of now, I predict only one competitive race in the entire state in 2010.  Read on for more…

IN-Sen: Evan Bayh is beloved in this state.  I’ve heard liberals and conservatives alike talk about how great he is — it’s the darnedest thing.  Plus, he’s sitting on $12 million, which is what happens when you don’t seriously challenge a guy for twelve years.  State Sen. Martin Stutzman and former Rep. John Hostettler aren’t going to give Bayh much of a scare.  Rep. Mike Pence could pose a stiffer challenge, but it’s not at all clear that he’s going to pull the trigger.  Even if Pence did run, the smart money would still be on Bayh; his iconic status and unbelievable warchest would make him difficult to beat even in the best of electoral climates for Republicans.  Prediction: Likely Dem hold.

IN-01: Exhibit A in the GOP’s recruiting woes saga in this state.  Rep. Pete Visclosky is embroiled in scandal and being investigated by the FBI, and even though it’s a deep-blue district, the Republicans should put up a Joe Cao-like candidate in case Visclosky’s legal troubles worsen.  So far, all they’ve been able to manage is frequent candidate and carpenter Mark Leyva, last seen getting pasted by Visclosky last cycle…and the cycle before…and the one before that…and the one before that.  Yes, Leyva has been the Republican nominee against Visclosky four consecutive times, and is trying for his fifth — a situation roughly analogous to that in IN-09.  Leyva’s best showing was 32% back in 2004, so there’s nothing going on in this district unless someone else steps up.  Prediction: safe Dem hold.

IN-02: Rep. Joe Donnelly is always afraid he’s going to lose this red seat, but he just keeps getting lucky.  The GOP’s infamous recruiting failure here last cycle resulted in their hand-picked candidate, Luke Puckett, nearly losing the primary to a neo-Nazi sympathizer en route to getting steamrolled 67-30 by Donnelly.  Republicans put some muscle into getting a better recruit this time, but the candidate they got, State Rep. Jackie Wilarski, is scarcely better than Puckett.  Given the national climate and the district’s lean, this seat should be the Republicans’ for the taking, but “Wacky Jackie” isn’t going to cut the mustard.  Unless someone else steps up for the Republicans, Donnelly only loses in a 70-seat landslide.  Prediction: likely Dem hold.

IN-03: The Democrats have a better candidate in this race than they have any right to expect given the national mood and the hard-right lean of the district: Tom Hayhurst, a medical doctor and former Fort Wayne City Councilman.  Hayhurst came shockingly close to beating Rep. Mark Souder back in 2006, garnering 46% of the vote despite a complete lack of national Democratic support.  Had he made his second try in a better year for Democrats — for instance, in 2008 — Hayhurst might have had a shot at this seat.  As it is, the national Democrats will have too many incumbents to defend to bother with a long-shot race like this one, and Souder righted his sputtering campaign machine in a convincing 2008 win over 28-year-old attorney Michael Montagano.  Souder has to be heavily favored to win both his primary against former congressional aide Phil Troyer and Paulist Rachel Grubb, and the general election against Hayhurst.  If Grubb or Troyer somehow beat Souder in the primary, however, Hayhurst might have a chance.  Prediction: likely GOP hold.

IN-04: Last cycle, attorney Nels Ackerson briefly posed a serious challenge to Rep. Steve Buyer before completely imploding on the campaign trail.  This year, no one is even bothering to run against the well-funded and effective Buyer.  Prediction: safe GOP hold.

IN-05: In the most conservative district in Indiana, the only question is which of the ten thousand conservative Republicans running — including incumbent Rep. Dan Burton — will be on hand to steamroll cancer physician Nasser Hanna in the general election.  Prediction: safe GOP hold.

IN-06: This district, represented by arch-conservative Rep. Mike Pence, is actually somewhat interesting in that it’s the most moderate district in Indiana currently represented by a Republican — more so than IN-03, which was seriously in play during the past two cycles.  Pence’s personal popularity and influence in Washington has kept it safe for him, but with rumors that he’ll be moving up to Senate or Presidential races soon (either this cycle or next), there would seem to be an opening here for a popular and/or well-funded Democrat.  On the other hand, the complete lack of Dem candidates running for the seat this cycle — exactly zero last time I checked — indicates that this isn’t the year to bank on a pickup here.  Prediction: safe GOP hold.

IN-07: Republicans used to do well in this district because the incumbent, former Rep. Julia Carson, was too ill to campaign.  When her grandson Andre trounced the most popular Republican in the district by 13 points in a 2007 special election, the GOP realized those days were over.  The Republicans aren’t even trying this cycle; college professor Marvin Scott, last seen getting 38% of the vote against Evan Bayh in 2004, won’t pose much of a threat to Carson.  Prediction: safe Dem hold.

IN-08: The “bloody Eighth” stopped being bloody after wildly popular sheriff Brad Ellsworth beat Rep. John Hostettler by 24 points back in 2006.  The Republicans might have a shot at this seat given the national climate, but Ellsworth is so popular that no serious candidate has stepped up thus far.  Hostettler would rather make a kamikaze run against Evan Bayh than face Ellsworth again, and cardiologist Larry Bucshon won’t even make Ellsworth break a sweat.  Prediction: safe Dem hold.

IN-09: This is the main show in Indiana this cycle, and it’s one residents of the district have seen four times before.  Get ready for the fifth installment of Rep. Baron Hill vs. former Rep. Mike Sodrel.  Hill is 3-1 in their previous matchups, including a 20-point pasting of Sodrel in 2008 (all three of the other races were very close).  A new poll, however, shows Sodrel beating Hill by eight points if the election were held today.  I don’t doubt that people in this district are fed up with Hill — his milquetoast campaign style has failed to make him as entrenched as Ellsworth is in the neighboring district — but I really can’t see them voting for Sodrel after they basically told him to take his ball and go home just fourteen months ago.  If Sodrel wins his primary against attorney Todd Young and teabagger Travis Hankins, I’d have to say Hill is favored to win reelection.  It’s just as likely, though, that the establishment candidate Young will beat the more conservative Sodrel, and if that happens, Hill’s toast.  Since Hill wants to run for governor in 2012, he might also decide to bail on this race; in that case, term-limited Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, who’s been trying to build a national profile lately, might run for the seat, but he’s too liberal for the district and would be heavily outgunned by either Sodrel or Young.  On balance, I’d give the slight advantage to the Republicans here.  Prediction: tossup.

Seats in order of likelihood of flipping: IN-09, IN-Sen, IN-02, IN-03, IN-01, IN-07, IN-06, IN-08, IN-05, IN-04.

Predicted outcome: Republicans pick up IN-09, Burton loses to another Republican in IN-04, all other seats stay in the same hands (I’m least sanguine about IN-09, and wouldn’t count Dems out yet).

The Arizona Races: A State of the Field

I’ve followed Arizona politics since I first moved there in 1995.  Though I haven’t lived there full-time in almost a decade, I still read AZ political blogs (like the wonderfully-insidery Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion) regularly and try to keep up with political news there.  Below, I’ve given a rundown of the major Arizona races and added a little analysis, as well as my predictions for November.

AZ-Gov: There are about ten thousand Republicans running for this seat right now, but only three serious candidates: Governor Jan Brewer, State Treasurer Dean Martin, and rich guy/former GOP state party chair John Munger.  (Don’t believe the hype about Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio running; he had a clear shot at the nomination in 2002 and turned it down.)  Brewer is underwater in both primary and general election polling, and is extremely unlikely to survive.  Her handling of the state’s budget crisis seems calculated to anger independents (unhappy with her ineptitude) and Republicans (upset about her attempts to raise the state sales tax) alike.  Munger is an intriguing candidate, in part because of his distance from the hated state legislature, but has stumbled out of the gate.

That leaves Martin, who is one of the stronger candidates the GOP could muster, but who still performs woefully against presumptive Democratic nominee and state Attorney General Terry Goddard.  Goddard is the most popular politician in the state right now, and is trouncing most prospective candidates from both parties by double digits in the polls; Martin gets within eight points, but that’s still a bad place to be when your party controls the Governorship.  The strange thing is that there are candidates who could possibly beat Goddard (Rep. Jeff Flake is the best bet), but they’ve been scared out by Martin’s entrance into the race.  Unless Martin steps it up considerably, look for Goddard to score a rare Dem pickup in November.  Prediction: likely Dem pickup.

AZ-Sen: If John McCain is the nominee here, up-and-coming Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman is the best candidate we’re going to get.  He would run a race similar to Andrew Rice’s in Oklahoma last cycle: raise money, grow his name recognition, but ultimately not pose much of a threat to McCain.  If former Congressman and teabagger darling J.D. Hayworth gets into the Republican primary, however, things get a little more complicated.  Depending on how Hayworth polls against McCain, I could see rich dude, former state party chair, and 2006 Senate nominee Jim Pederson jumping in on the Democratic side.  Pederson would be a strong candidate and could easily support his candidacy with his own cash.  Less likely would be a candidacy by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who would have to recant his prior endorsement of McCain to make the race.  Missing from all these possibilities, however, is any real way for a Dem to beat Hayworth, let alone McCain.  I honestly think even Hayworth would make it very difficult for even Pederson to pose much of a threat in this climate, but we can’t rule out the possibility of a seat switch here.  Prediction: likely GOP hold.

AZ-01: The GOP seriously misfired in their candidate recruiting here, digging up former State Senate Majority Leader Rusty Bowers to oppose Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.  Bowers’ title may sound imposing, but the man hasn’t been in politics in nearly a decade, plus he lives in Phoenix, which is the kiss of death in a rural district that prides itself on its ruralness.  In addition, midterm elections coincide with elections for the Navajo Nation President and Tribal Council, which vastly increases voter turnout on the populous and overwhelmingly-Democratic Nation.  Back in 2002, this turnout boost was good for a poll overperformance of nine points by unknown George Cordova against Rick Renzi.  This district should be winnable for Republicans, but the last time they fielded decent candidates was in the 2002 primary (yes, I know they held the seat for six years after that, but my comment still stands).  Kirkpatrick’s Blue-Doggishness fits the bent of the district, and unless some more solid candidate emerges to primary Bowers, I don’t see her losing.  Prediction: likely Dem hold.

AZ-02: Someday, Democrats will manage to dislodge Focus on the Family-affiliated Rep. Trent Franks from this rapidly bluing but still very red district.  That day will be a beautiful day.  Sadly, that day is not today.  As of now, we don’t even have a candidate, as retiree John Thrasher (whose wife used to be a state rep) isn’t running again.  Prediction: safe GOP hold.

AZ-03: This district just got wild, as John Shadegg’s retirement convinced over half a dozen serious Republican contenders to jump into the race.  How winnable the seat is for businessman John Hulburd, the well-funded Democratic candidate, depends completely on how divisive the Republican primary is and who makes it out alive.  Some of the candidates, like State Rep. Pamela Gorman, are probably unelectable here; others might wipe the floor with Hulburd, but might be so drained by the primary that they don’t run particularly strong campaigns (something similar happened to David Schweikert last cycle in AZ-05).  For now, we have to say that this is a Republican seat in a Republican year, and only in extraordinary circumstances would Hulburd be able to overcome that deficit.  Democratic Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is talking about running here, too, but his DINO status and previous support for virtually all statewide Republicans would make it difficult for him to beat Hulburd in a primary.  Prediction: likely GOP hold.

AZ-04: No one will beat Rep. Ed Pastor.  No one serious ever runs against Ed Pastor.  Ed Pastor is the safest Congressman in Arizona.  Prediction: safe Dem hold.

AZ-05: Former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert is a solid Republican candidate who got completely screwed last cycle.  He won Arizona’s late primary (formerly in September, now changed by federal law to August 31) flat broke and bloodied by state-rep-turned-lobbyist Susan Bitter Smith and three other well-funded candidates.  Still, Schweikert performed well against Rep. Harry Mitchell, and he’s back for a second try in a year much more conducive to Republicans.  This seat was drawn for former Rep. J.D. Hayworth as a safe conservative district, and if Mitchell weren’t a local legend (the guy’s got a 35-foot statue of him in the city of Tempe, I kid you not) we’d lose this in a heartbeat.  As it is, it has to be considered our most vulnerable seat.  One bright spot is that, after vowing to clear the field for Schweikert this time, state Republicans weren’t able to keep rich dude Jim Ward from running against him.  Prediction: tossup.

AZ-06: In 2008, librarian Rebecca Schneider gave Rep. Jeff Flake his first opposition in six years, managing 34% of the vote.  Schneider’s back for a second try, and she’s probably the best we’re ever going to get in this seat.  Flake is the safest Arizona Republican in Congress, but it’s nice to make him get out and actually campaign once in a while.  Prediction: safe GOP hold.

AZ-07: Despite the change in the national mood, this race will play out exactly like it did last time.  And the time before.  The GOP will put up a respectable local candidate who’s not a serious threat to Rep. Raul Grijalva (this time it’s rocket scientist Ruth McClung).  That candidate will lose in the primary to virulent racist Joseph Sweeney.  Grijalva will then paste Sweeney in the general election.  So has it ever been, and so shall it be again.  Prediction: safe Dem hold.

AZ-08: After spending a lot of time trying to build up semi-serious candidate and Iraq vet Jesse Kelly, the GOP has managed to field a very serious candidate in State Sen. and Iraq vet Jonathan Paton.  Paton is widely viewed as one of the few reasonable Republican members of the state legislature, and he is a lot smarter and better-liked than was State Senate President Tim Bee, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ opponent last time.  Nevertheless, he’s still a member of the hated Legislature, and Giffords is still the smartest Democrat in the state.  Paton is probably the most formidable opponent Giffords has ever faced, but if Giffords loses this seat, it’ll be part of a 70-seat landslide.  Prediction: likely Dem hold.

Seats in order of likelihood of flipping: AZ-Gov, AZ-05, AZ-03, AZ-08, AZ-01, AZ-Sen, AZ-07, AZ-02, AZ-06, AZ-04.

Predicted outcome: Dems pick up the Governorship; all other seats stay in the same partisan hands (though I’m least sanguine about AZ-05).

A Guide to the Arizona Primaries

Since Crisitunity has covered some of the remaining competitive House primaries on the front page, I thought I’d do a diary on the Arizona primaries, which are September 2.  Here are profiles of the Congressional races (I used to live in CD-01 and have continued to follow the state’s politics online since I moved):

AZ-01: An open seat (indicted GOP Congressman Rick Renzi is retiring), and the most exciting primary for the Democrats.  State Sen. Ann Kirkpatrick, a moderate, has the cash and the establishment support.  Her expected chief rival from the left, former television news reporter Mary Kim Titla, has absolutely fizzled and can’t seem to raise any money.  Who is giving Kirkpatrick quite a scare is outspoken progressive Flagstaff attorney Howard Shanker.  Though Shanker hasn’t raised as much money as Kirkpatrick (though more than Titla), he’s been endorsed by a fairly impressive list of folks: Progressive Democrats of America, CD-07 Congressman Raul Grijalva, and every single chapter council of the Navajo Nation.

You might ask why the Navajos are backing a white dude from Flagstaff over someone born on a reservation (Kirkpatrick) or an ethnic Native American (Titla).  It’s because Shanker was the attorney who defeated a proposal for snowmaking with reclaimed water on one of the Navajo’s sacred mountains, arguing before the Supreme Court that to do so would violate their tribal sovereignty.

Unfortunately for Shanker, the stars are aligned against him this year.  It’s a well-known secret that the Navajo only turn out to vote in off-year elections, when their tribal president is elected.  In 2002, they propelled political unknown George Cordova to victory over a crowded primary field, but in 2008, it’s unlikely they’ll turn out for Shanker.  Shanker’s also hurt by the fact that there’s another candidate to his left, Kucinich 2008 GLBT Coordinator Jeffrey Brown — whom Shanker unsuccessfully tried to have tossed off the ballot.

For the Republicans, mining lobbyist and 2002 candidate Sydney Hay will be the nominee, though she’s facing an interesting challenge from Tucson Electric Power VP Tom Hansen.  Hansen is a rarity in Republican circles: a bedrock conservative who’s shocking liberal on environmental issues (as in, he wants to phase out gasoline-powered cars altogether over the next 20 years).  If the Republicans had any brains, they’d nominate Hansen, but the smart money’s on Hay.  Either Kirkpatrick or Shanker is favored over Hay, particularly given the fact that there’s a right-leaning independent in the race (he’s a climate-change denier).

AZ-02: This is a rematch between horrific Congressman Trent Franks and retired music teacher John Thrasher (D), whose wife is a State Representative.  Expect the same result as last time: a blowout win by Franks.

AZ-03: One of the hottest races in the country, as hard-fundraising attorney Bob Lord (D) gears up to challenge surprisingly-vulnerable Congressman John Shadegg.  No primaries in this race, as Lord’s strong fundraising scared everybody else out.  Call me a pessimist, but I really can’t see East Valley voters tossing out Shadegg, whose father was Barry Goldwater’s chief of staff.  Then again, I never expected to see Congressman J.D. Hayworth in neighboring CD-05 go down; he’d weathered two stiff challenges in the 1990’s and was considered safe before losing to Harry Mitchell in 2006.  I also never expected to see anyone seriously challenge Shadegg, and Lord has certainly blown me away with his polling and fundraising so far.  In any case, this is the one of all eight races I’m least certain about in terms of predictions.

AZ-04: Another rematch between Congressman Ed Pastor (D) and challenger Don Karg.  Expect the same result as last time — Karg lost in a landslide and didn’t even bother to put up a website.  He’s got one now, but it’s pretty darn pathetic.

AZ-05: Freshman Congressman Harry Mitchell (D) faces a crowded field of top-drawer Republican challengers: former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert, State Reps. Laura Knaperek and Mark Anderson, millionaire Jim Ogsbury, and a late entrant, lobbyist and former State Sen. Susan Bitter Smith.  Nevertheless, Mitchell dodged a bullet when his most fearsome challenger, moderate and beloved Corporation Commissioner (a statewide office) Jeff Hatch-Miller, dropped out for personal reasons.  The field seems to be coalescing around Schweikert and Bitter Smith, though Ogsbury could use his millions to keep it close.  I was really sweating about Hatch-Miller, but I think Mitchell is favored over all of his remaining rivals — the dude has a thirty-five-foot statue of himself in his district that was erected by his beloved constituents (when he was just a State Senator, no less).

AZ-06: We finally managed to find two candidates to run against Congressman Jeff Flake, who’s gone unchallenged the past two cycles — and one of them, trucking company account manager Chris Gramazio (D), seems fairly serious.  (The other candidate is university librarian Rebecca Schneider.)  Nevertheless, the wildly popular Flake should easily dispatch all comers until he decides to either retire or run for higher office.

AZ-07: All that remains to be seen in this heavily Dem district is whom progressive Congressman Raul Grijalva (D) will face in the general election: pastor Gene Chewning, or virulent racist Joseph Sweeney.  Sweeney was the Republicans’ sacrificial lamb in 2006 after defeating the well-funded Mayor of Avondale in the primary, so he’ll probably defeat Chewning as well.  In any case, Grijalva, who’s one of the most liberal Congressmen in the country, will easily win reelection.

AZ-08: Another tight district, as freshman Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords prepares to square off against State Senate President Tim Bee.  No primaries here, and the right-leaning independent who was planning to run dropped out and endorsed Bee.  Bee has a reputation as being somewhat moderate, and he’s well funded, but Giffords is a superstar (albeit a moderate DLC one) and will probably win again.


AZ-01: Kirkpatrick (D) def. Hay (R)

AZ-02: Franks (R) def. Thrasher (D)

AZ-03: Shadegg (R) def. Lord (D)

AZ-04: Pastor (D) def. Karg (R)

AZ-05: Mitchell (D) def. Schweikert (R)

AZ-06: Flake (R) def. Gramazio (D)

AZ-07: Grijalva (D) def. Sweeney (R)

AZ-08: Giffords (D) def. Bee (R)

Net pickup: +1

(Note: I also blog for ProgressiveHistorians.)

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Time to Face Facts on Blogosphere Senate Recruitments

[Cross-posted at Daily Kos and MyDD.]

Jim Webb’s victory tonight is a victory for Virginia’s netroots.  Virginia’s progressive blogosphere was not thrilled with the default candidate emerging earlier this year.  So, spearheaded by Lowell and many others, they drafted a Reagan Republican with a stellar resume to run as a Democrat and propelled him to victory in the primary.

—  Raising Kaine

My, how far we in the activist Netroots have fallen.  With Brad Miller’s refusal to run in the North Carolina Senate race, it’s time to admit that we have a full-fledged blogosphere recruitment disaster on our hands for the 2008 Senate races — and to ask why it happened, and how we can avoid such an event in the future.

Here are the candidate recruitment situations in the Senate races with Republican incumbents or that are open seats:

Alabama: Blogosphere-recruited State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks decided not to run against Sen. Jeff Sessions, citing concerns of a divisive primary against State Sen. Vivian Figures.  Sparks’ decision leaves only Figures, a charismatic liberal but a long-shot to win the general election, in the race.

Alaska: The Democrats’ top choice against scandal-plagued Sen. Ted Stevens, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, is the only major candidate in the race (unless former State Senate Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz gets in).  Unlike the last two election cycles, when former Governor Tony Knowles was heavily recruited by the blogosphere, there hasn’t been a peep from anyone online except to tepidly support the recruitment of Begich.

Colorado: Congressman and Blue Dog Dem Mark Udall locked up this nomination early, with support from Chuck Schumer.  The blogosphere has yet to mention a strong candidate against him (Mike Miles, anyone?)

Georgia: Neither Rand Knight or Dale Cardwell stands much of a chance against Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and the blogosphere has yet to make much noise about either of them, despite both of their solid progressive records.  The blogosphere (and, presumably, Chuck Schumer) also failed to recruit Sen. Max Cleland into a rematch with Chambliss.

Idaho: Former Congressman Larry LaRocco is a solid progressive, but has locked up this nomination against Sen. Mike Crapo without much help from the blogosphere, which is more focused on Congressional candidate Larry Grant.

Kentucky: No one on the Democratic side has yet jumped into this race against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite its high position on the list of blogosphere targets.

Maine: Congressman Tom Allen joined the race against Sen. Susan Collins early and was a joint recruit of the blogosphere and Chuck Schumer.

Minnesota: One could say that talk-show host Al Franken is a blogosphere recruit, but that would belie the fact that many in the blogosphere don’t want him to run.  He faces Schumer recruit Mike Ciresi in what promises to be a hotly-contested primary for the right to face Sen. Norm Coleman.

Mississippi: No one has joined the race against veteran Sen. Thad Cochran, though former Attorney General Mike Moore is considering.

Nebraska: Blogosphere recruit Scott Kleeb is considering the race against Sen. Chuck Hagel in what may be an open seat, but the most likely candidate remains Blue Dog Democrat and rabid Iraq War supporter Bob Kerrey, who is being recruited by Chuck Schumer.

New Hampshire: The blogosphere failed to recruit anyone into the race against Sen. John Sununu, leaving the two leading Democratic candidates as former Congresswoman and Joe Lieberman ally Katrina Swett and the slightly more palatable former Governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is Chuck Schumer’s choice.

New Mexico: No major candidate has yet jumped into the race against surprisingly-vulnerable Sen. Pete Domenici.  Top blogosphere recruit Congressman Tom Udall declined to run.  The blogosphere is now attempting to recruit former U.S. Attorney John Kelly.

North Carolina: A joint push by the blogosphere and Chuck Schumer to recruit Congressman Brad Miller into the race failed last week when Miller announced he wasn’t running.  To date, no one has announced a run against Sen. Liddy Dole.

Oklahoma: In one of the few potential blogosphere success stories, State Sen. Andrew Rice is considering running against Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Oregon: The top two blogosphere recruitments, Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer, both declined to run.  The blogosphere is now stuck with political novice Steve Novick.

South Carolina: No Democrat has stepped up to challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Tennessee: No Democrat has stepped up to challenge Sen. Lamar Alexander, though Michael Ray McWherter, son of a former Governor, is considering.

Texas: Blogosphere recruit State Sen. Rick Noriega is still considering the race against Sen. John Cornyn.

Virginia: The only potential candidate for Sen. John Warner’s seat is former Governor Mark Warner, who is a Schumer recruit.

Wyoming: The only potential candidate for these two Senate seats now held by Sens. Mike Enzi and Jon Barasso is conservative Dem Gov. Dave Freudenthal, definitely not a blogosphere recruit.

You may question my characterizations of some of these races, but let’s look at the situation this way: The top five blogosphere recruits of the cycle (the ones that received national blogosphere attention from Daily Kos, MyDD, and other sites) were Ron Sparks in Alabama, Brad Miller in North Carolina, Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer in Oregon, and Rick Noriega in Texas.  To date, four of these five have declined to run, and the fifth (Noriega) is still considering.

This is a pretty terrible record for blogosphere recruitment this cycle.  In 2006, by way of comparison, the blogosphere was able to singlehandedly recruit Jim Webb and Ned Lamont into their respective Senate races, and then propel them ahead of high-powered Schumer candidates Joe Lieberman and Harris Miller.  We also played a major role in Jon Tester’s defeat of the Schumer-supported John Morrison in Montana.

Where is that blogosphere muscle now?  Why can’t we convince two separate Congressmen in Oregon to run against a badly damaged Senator, or show a statewide officeholder in Alabama that we can help him beat a no-name state senator?  It’s time for us in the blogosphere, both in the state blogs and in the national activist blogs, to examine our priorities and figure out what has gone so horribly wrong in this recruitment cycle.  Is it because we’re too focused on the Presidential race?  Because we’ve simply lost interest in the Senate since taking it over last November?  Whatever the reason, I think we should talk seriously about why we’ve failed so far in this cycle, and about how, or if, we can salvage the situation.  I for one would like to see a Lieberman-proof majority in the Senate after 2008.

2006: The Last Battle

[Cross-posted at Daily Kos, MyDD, Swing State Project, and My Left Wing.]

“You win some.  You lose some.  And then there’s that little known third category.”  – Al Gore –

In 2006, there were nineteen netroots candidates.  Seven of them were elected.  Eight of them lost.  Three (Darcy Burner, Larry Kissell, Gary Trauner) are still locked in tight counts or recounts.  Not a bad record for a list that in 2004 went 0-for-15.

But what we’re liable to forget is that one of our candidates is still out there facing not just a recount, but an actual election — and one in which he has a fighting chance of winning.  With all the euphoria about our smashing victory on November 7th, we should not neglect one of our own in his electoral battle just because the race isn’t essential to our control of Congress.  If we are to be a viable political movement, we need to practice loyalty to our candidates, no matter what the circumstances of their run.

I’m talking, of course, about former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez.

As you may recall, when we last saw Ciro, he had just lost a contentious and hard-fought primary against DINO Congressman Henry Cuellar.  For most candidates, defeat in a primary spells the end of their candidacies for at least one election cycle.  But Ciro was given a chance to rise like a phoenix from the ashes because of a quirk in the Texas districting process.

In August, a federal judge struck down part of Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting plan, arguing that it disadvantaged Hispanics.  The redrawn district map removed Ciro from Cuellar’s district and placed him in a district held by a Republican, Henry Bonilla.  Bonilla’s district, accordingly, was changed from a Republican area into a truly swing district.  Finally, a special election was set for the district: anyone who filed could run on November 7th, but if one candidate failed to win fifty percent outright, the top two candidates would move on to a runoff in December.

Ciro, along with six other candidates, signed up to challenge Bonilla in the new district.  He made some mistakes coming out of the gate, including dropping out and then dropping back in.  After this misstep, most commentators painted the race as finished: Bonilla would stroll to an outright majority on November 7.

But all by himself, with no help from either the national party or the netroots, Ciro managed to hold Bonilla below the magic 50% mark.  The final results (from CNN:

Bonilla (R): 48%
Rodriguez (D): 20%
Uresti (D): 12%
Gilliland (D): 11%
Stephens (I): 3%
Beltran (D): 2%
Bolanos (D): 2%
DeLeon (D): 2%

For the uninitiated, Gilliand, a wealthy Democrat, was supposed to be Ciro’s main competition for the second spot; his anemic totals are a testament to Ciro’s strength in the new district.

In addition to these encouraging numbers, knocking off Bonilla would be an important step in bringing Texas back into the Democratic fold.  BBonilla fashions himself the next Senator from Texas and is backed by heavyweights such as Phil Gramm and former Congressman Tom Loeffler.  Beating such a rising star in Texas Republican politics would serve notice that Democrats are not giving up in Texas any time soon.

I could go on and on, but I’ll let Ciro speak for himself:

Dear Fellow Texans,

Good Afternoon!

I thank the citizens of the 23rd District for their votes and confidence in me. I ask all Democrats and voters of the 23rd to join us to win this December run-offelection, and make history.

It would be my honor and privilege to represent you as Congressman for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. I humbly ask for your support and vote.

As election day is here, I want to ask you to vote and your families vote. I ask you to help get everyone you know to go vote for Ciro D. Rodriguez for Congress. Your support in what is no doubt one of the most critical races of 2006 is important and it can make a difference.

This congressional district stretches from South San Antonio in Bexar County, west to the eastern edge of El Paso County and south along the U.S./Mexico border from El Paso to Eagle Pass. It is home to Big Bend National Park our most pristine wilderness area. It is urban and rural. Its diversity is what makes it beautiful. I feel confident that I have the experience, shared values and background to represent you.

I believe this race matters to you. For 14 years, this district has been represented by an incumbent whose ties to special interests are much stronger than his ties to this district. As a congressman, Henry Bonilla has voted to cut federal college student aid by $12.7 billion, voted to erode worker’s rights and overtime protection. He voted in favor of national budgets resulting in a debt of almost 9 trillion dollars. Gasoline prices are through the roof, but, Bonilla’s friends in the oil industry rake in record profits. However, Bonilla continues to vote to give the energy companies subsidies and tax breaks. He continues to support a war in Iraq with no exit strategy.

Our call to action is the same one that echoes throughout this country: Let’s turn this country around…Enough is enough—let’s bring back America.

As I have visited the counties and cities in the district, my belief that this office belongs to you, the people and not special interests has been strengthened. I have served in Congress for four terms and as past chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. I’ve worked to ensure the delivery of clean safe water to border communities. I have worked and will continue to fight for affordable health care and real prescription drug coverage at lower costs. With your support, I will continue to speak out for more monies to fund student loans and decreasing their interest rates because our future rests with our young people.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I voted against the authorization for the war in Iraq. However, I will continue the fight for all our veterans to get the services they and their families need.

With your help, we can seize this opportunity to unseat this out of touch republican incumbent. Together, we can change the balance of power in a congress that is taking America in the wrong direction. I believe we are at an important crossroads for our country. The battle for the control of congress is a battle for the direction of this country. Times like these call for a change in congress.

Individual supporters such as you—and not special interests—will allow me to join my Democratic colleagues. Please consider sending a contribution of $25.00, $50.00, $100.00, or $250.00 today. Federal law allows contributions to this special election of up to $2100.00 per individual. Make checks payable to: Ciro D. Rodriguez for Congress. Please send your generous contribution to: PO Box 14528, San Antonio, TX 78214 or online at Your personal contribution is critical. Together, we can win this seat and bring America back to the people.


Ciro Rodriguez

How can you help?  Sign up to volunteer for or get e-mails from Ciro.  Donate to his campaign.  And most importantly, don’t let up the pressure.  We should and we CAN win this seat.  Whether we do or not is entirely up to us.