AZ-01: DCCC Prepping Special Campaign Fund

The DCCC is not sitting around waiting for Rick Renzi to resign. According to the Washington Post, they have established a special election fund for the eventual nominee.

Readying for a special election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has opened a special election fund to collect cash that would benefit the party’s eventual nominee. If a vacancy occurs, the Democratic special election nominee would benefit from an immediate cash infusion from this fund. The DCCC began raising money yesterday for the effort.

“Rick Renzi’s seat was a target before his family business was raided by the FBI. It’s even more so now. If and when there is special election, the Democratic candidate will have the support needed to win,” said Jennifer Crider, a DCCC spokeswoman.

I’ll wait until I see a resignation. But if and when it happens, I will be ready to do my part.

LA-GOV: FACT CHECK: Blanco WILL NOT Run for Reelection

Originally posted at Daily Kingfish

Diaries have surfaced at national blogs such as Swing State Project, Blue Sunbelt and Daily Kos claiming Kathleen Babineaux Blanco might run for reelection.  According to Blanco, she will not run for reelection.  I quote from her speech today before the state legislature:

Last month, I announced that I would not run for Governor again. In spite of the media speculation, let me announce one more time that I believe there’s life after politics, and I’m going to have one! I hope my decision allows us to focus on what’s best for Louisiana and not on election-year politics.

One can listen to the audio of the speech at the courtesy of We Saw That at this address.

LA-GOV: Blanco May Run

If there is any truth to this, then the Louisiana Democratic Party is more screwed than I previously thought.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco would not deny she is considering re-entering the governor’s race when questioned by TV reporters Thursday at the Governor’s Mansion.

“This is Louisiana and lots of exciting things can happen between now and the election,” Blanco said when asked if she was reconsidering.

Marie Centanni, Blanco’s spokeswoman, said later, “The governor is certainly enjoying her current status and she expects it to stay the same.”

We don’t need this. If you’re in, you’re in, if you drop out, you should stay out for the good of the party. Perhaps she is exacting some kind of revenge on the party for pushing her out. Regardless, someone needs to straighten her out.

LA-GOV: Reading Walter Boasso (D-Arabi), Reading a Southern Republican’s Party Switch

First posted at Daily Kingfish, a Louisiana political blog started by two SSP members from Louisiana.

This election cycle could not be more frustrating and confusing, and I hope I am the only one who is already exhausted.  But at least our state Party has not stacked the deck in favor of one candidate who has a vague campaign message full of platitudes with no solutions and no unifying theme, unless an identity suspended in quotation marks, “Bobby,” constitutes a theme.  To me it appears to be a floating signifier, a mere vocalization that refers to no mental concepts and to no objects that exist in the tangible world.  Republican bloggers must be really bored with the rehashed and revisited rhetoric of 2003 with all the same tropes of Democratic corruption and all the same idle crowing about the wonderful ideas ready to spring from the intelligent mind of “Bobby,” as if he were a modern day Zeus.  How many times can a blogger type, “It is not who you know; it is what you know?”  How many times can one beg readers “not to vote for ideology but for competence?”  How many times does one have to avoid discussing the legislative record of someone who mindlessly voted for the national GOP’s disastrous policies 97% of the time?  How many times can one use the same sheet of toilet paper? 

Because Ryan has already penned a diary on Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, I will deal with the rhetoric surrounding the latest Democratic candidate to announce: Walter Boasso, former Republican but now Democratic state Senator from Arabi, St. Bernard Parish.

Louisiana politics is never boring, and this cycle will be no exception.  So the Southern Strategy is ready to enter phase 4 and swallow Louisiana once and for all.  Democrats, the LCRM claims, will lose seats or be pressured to switch parties, and “Bobby” will be rewarded with a Republican majority in the state House on the day of his coronation, a ceremony to be funded with the precious budget surplus the Republicans ostensibly want to protect.  Republican realignment, we are told, is dawning over the horizon.  But how does this square with the novelty of a Republican state Senator in a Deep South state switching to the Democratic Party?  Boasso’s move is somewhat anomalous, and if one chooses to think about this phenomenon historically, it may signal the obsolescence of the 40 year effort of the Republican Party to colonize the South.  And Boasso may be in good hands.  For on the other end of the South, we have a new Democratic US Senator in Virginia named Jim Webb, who switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party last year, when he won his Senate race by a nailbiting 7,000 votes.

So Boasso’s switch may have a broader significance lost on those who are focused on the empirical and on the partisan and not on the historical.  Do not expect LSU – Shreveport Political Science Professor Jeffery Sadow to engage in such an abstract mode of thinking, for that may require some thought and effort.  But to return to the point of this essay, will Boasso exploit it?  Will Boasso use his party switch to his advantage and to the advantage of the Louisiana Democratic Party?  Is his switch a harbinger for something much larger than himself? 

According to Boasso,

[T]oday I have rejoined the Democratic Party because [sic] I believe that running as a Democrat will give me the best opportunity to push an agenda for change and reform.  The people of Louisiana, regardless of party affiliation, are in search of a leader, and are [sic] eager to stand side by side with someone willing to challenge the establishment and reform our state.

An interesting transvaluation of Republican tropes: reform, change and leadership are now in the purview of the Democratic Party, and the values of the silent majority are to be found underneath the Democratic umbrella, not the dysfunctional, slipshod apparatus brandished by the Republicans.  And state Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington is right there in Boasso’s big tent.  Responding to a question about Boasso’s party switch, Whittington quips, “The more the merrier.”  Boasso continues:

The political deal makers have run this state for too long at the expense of so many of our people who need affordable healthcare, quality education and the opportunity to secure a good paying job.  I will not be silenced by the status quo or by those unwilling to embrace a new direction for our state.  The challenges are too large and [sic] we have no time to waste.

Now this is a powerful paragraph.  Corruption and cronyism are placed squarely on the lap of the Republican Party, as are inflexibility, the status quo and useless dilatory tactics, a coded phrase that can be translated to mean inefficient government that enjoys wasting time. 

These are the words of a fighter, and Boasso is not taking any prisoners.  This must have grated on state Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere’s nerves.  And Villere’s response?

Some politicians switch parties because of philosophy and principle. … Walter has made it clear that he is just the opposite. He’s switching because he hasn’t been successful as a Republican candidate.

This is a petty response more befitting a schoolyard bully than a Party Chairman who locked a credible candidate named Walter Boasso out of the political process.   Actually, it does befit Roger Villere, for he is a schoolyard bully.  But if Villere desires to discuss principle and philosophy, let us discuss the many southern Democrats who switched to the Republican Party during the last three decades of the twentieth century as a result of their opposition to Civil Rights legislation.  Let us discuss the southern Republican Party’s use of coded and overt racism to increase white, Republican turnout in close elections.  Let us discuss the southern Republican Party’s roots in figures such as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. And let us discuss some of its more recent incarnations, George “Macaca” Allen, David Duke and LSU – Shreveport Professor Jeffrey Sadow, who claims Boasso “is even more off the reservation than Campbell.”  If Boasso is the opposite of those who adhere to racist principles and philosophies, I am more than ready to embrace his candidacy.

But notice what else Boasso mentions in this paragraph:  Boasso switched to the Democratic Party, as Boasso hopes to address the problems of healthcare, education and un(der)employment.  This is not your typical Republican menu of wedge issues with “family values,” guns and tax breaks as your main entrĂ©es and a gratuitous jab at the Landrieus as the lagniappe; this to me reads as the domestic agenda of a Democratic candidate.  Although I am still awaiting the specifics, I am impressed with what I see thus far.

Do you believe Boasso will propose a Democratic social agenda?  How many of his positions do you believe he will modify?  And how do you believe the Democratic Party should handle Boasso’s switch?  Should Chris Whittington make this into a world historical event, or should he allow Roger Villere to frame it as so much political prostitution?  And how should Boasso explain his decision to switch parties?  Should he mention President Bush’s approval ratings?  Should he mention Iraq?  Should he mention the disaster that was the 109th Congress?  Should he discuss how Jindal was one of the reasons the 109th Congress is named the “do nothing” Congress?  And should he mention Jindal’s failure to “get it done” for Louisiana? 

Feel free to quote from other news sources in the comments thread.  And be sure to read Jeffrey Sadow’s insane meditation on Boasso’s switch.  Sadow is so unglued, leather restraints cannot hold him back. 


NE-Sen: Hagel’s In

I’ve held off on making this call for a while now, but I feel comfortable saying it now. Chuck Hagel is running for reelection:

We figured out about a couple weeks ago here at UNO Dems that Lee Terry was running for reelection, and not the Senate. It wasn’t until Thursday that we figured out why. We’re ready to say with a great level of confidence that Chuck Hagel is running for reelection, and that Jon Bruning will challenge him for the nomination.

Bruning’s announcement that he wasn’t going to wait for Hagel was sign number one. Sign number two was Bruning’s polling information that showed him leading Hagel by 9 points, and Hagel’s push back in the press. For the last week, there’s been a stealth war going on between the two candidates, with Hagel’s people silently leaking a 23 year-old Jon Bruning’s Daily Nebraskan columns from around 1992, where he voiced support for gay rights, a woman’s right to choose, gun control, and endorsed Bill Clinton for President and Gerry Finnegan for Congress. Fred Thompson has been openly courting Nebraska’s House delegation.

But the two items that seal it, came in the last two days. First, Chuck Hagel’s scheduled May 18 fundraiser, a high-dollar event hosted by Governor Dave Heineman and several high-profile Omaha business leaders. Second, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to appear at that fundraiser. Certainly, McConnell would not be appearing at a Hagel fundraiser unless he was given assurances that Hagel was running for reelection and not for President.

Now, what does this mean? Unfortunately, it probably means we can count out our top tier of candidates. Mike Fahey is happy with his job as mayor, and has already said he won’t challenge Hagel. Bob Kerrey has basically endorsed Hagel for Senate. And Scott Kleeb, who has a bright future in the Democratic Party, isn’t about to jeopardize it on a challenge of a sitting U.S. Senator when there’s an absolute embarrassment of a Congressman representing his district.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Republican civil war that’s sure to come might just provide Democrats in this state an opportunity to make some permanent gains. Between the national climate and the disillusionment of Republicans, we might see some defection of moderate Republican voters should Hagel fall victim to Bruning’s challenge. Hagel’s going to have the backing of the NRSC, virtually every elected Republican in the state, and all but a few prominent Nebraska businessmen (Mid-America Energy CEO David Sokol is a prominent backer of Jon Bruning). But don’t underestimate Republican hatred of Hagel. It’ll be an interesting race to say the least. Stay tuned.

Weekly Open Thread: What Races Are You Interested In?

In the white room, with black curtains, near the station,
Black roof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings,
Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes.
Dawn light smiles on you leaving, my contentment.

Weekend Discussion Items (James L.):

  • PA-06: From “The West Wing” to Congress?  Apparently, Melissa Fitzgerald, who played C.J.’s assistant Carol in the TV series, is considering a challenge to Republican Jim Gerlach. (H/T: Adam B)
  • OK-Sen: During a recent campaign event with Dick Cheney, Sen. Jim Inhofe unleashed the denial of all denials (emphasis added):

    Inhofe, speaking to the press before Cheney’s arrival, lambasted Democrats for Thursday’s Senate vote to begin withdrawal from Iraq by Oct. 1 and the press for “mischaracterizing” the reasons for U.S. involvement.

    “The whole idea of weapons of mass destruction was never the issue, yet they keep trying to bring this up,” Inhofe said.

    When asked why Gen. Colin Powell, then U.S. secretary of state, told the United Nations in 2003 that such weapons posed an imminent danger, Inhofe replied: “I can’t answer that. In fact, I’ve never been one of the real strong fans of General Powell.”

    Pressed for an explanation, Inhofe said weapons of mass destruction were “incidental” to the decision to invade Iraq.

    “The media made that the issue because they knew Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction. So we knew that they were there. But that was incidental to the fact we were going after terrorist camps.”

    If this is what Republicans and braying idiot pundits call “serious people” on the issue of national security and foreign policy, the lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum. (H/T: Senate 2008 Guru)

  • AZ-01: Embattled Republican Rick Renzi  is hanging tight, at least for the time being.  How long do you give him?

Ohio: Ripe With Opportunities?

The plethora of opportunities for House Democratic challengers in Ohio next year is a topic that both CQ Politics and MyDD’s Jon Singer looked at recently. Between both sources, we can identify no fewer than seven potential offensive targets for Democrats this cycle. The following chart lists each possible targeted district by its PVI, the incumbent’s margin of victory in 2006, and the Kerry/Bush and Gore/Bush margins in 2004 and 2000, respectively:

CD Incumbent PVI ’06 Margin Kerry ’04 Bush ’04 Gore ’00 Bush ’00
OH-01 Chabot R+0.5 4 49 51 46 51
OH-02 Schmidt R+13.1 1 36 64 34 63
OH-03 Turner R+2.9 17 46 54 45 52
OH-12 Tiberi R+0.7 15 49 51 46 52
OH-14 LaTourette R+2.2 18 47 53 44 52
OH-15 Pryce R+1.1 <1 50 50 44 52
OH-16 Regula R+3.6 17 46 54 42 53

With the exception of the 3rd, these districts have been trending more Democratic on the Presidential level since 2000. Despite shrewd gerrymandering by Ohio Republicans, with the right challengers, each of these seats could come into play.

  • OH-01: The DCCC thinks it has their man to finish what John Cranley started in his challenge to Republican Steve Chabot in 2006. State Rep. and Minority Whip Steve Driehaus, “a Democrat with a history of winning over Republican voters”, has thrown his hat in the ring. On the one hand, Driehaus has a suburban political base that can help wear down Chabot in his strongest territories. On the other hand, Driehaus may lack the broader name recognition of Cranley, who was an at-large councilor in Cincinnati. On balance, though, Driehaus’ resume looks good, and he should prove to be another credible challenger.
  • OH-02: No doubt about it; Jean Schmidt is a political time bomb set to go off every six months or so with another bizarre comment about bringing nuclear waste into her district or deriding the outrage over the Walter Reed scandal as “overblown” criticism. Jean Schmidt could very well be the worst politician of the decade, which is the only reason why Team Blue has a shot at winning this R+13 district. 2006 candidate Vic Wulsin is game for a rematch, and while it doesn’t seem to take much to incite Schmidt into inflicting another wound on herself, the Democratic nominee in this district will have to deal with running against the Presidential headwind of a solidly Republican district. A tough challenge, to be sure, but Schmidt is destined to underperform, especially if she gets another primary challenge.
  • OH-03: This Dayton-based district was represented by Democrat Tony P. Hall from 1978-2002, but has since been occupied by Republican Mike Turner. Whatever hope Democrats had in sparking an upset last year unfortunately went down in flames after the Democratic nominee, Stephanie Studebaker, was arrested in a domestic dispute just three months before election day. Prosecutor Dick Chema was the last-minute replacement, and perhaps unsurprisingly fell short by roughly 17 points. Given that this district’s Republican lean is less than heavy, a well-organized challenger with a good profile could perhaps do to Turner what Democrat Jason Altmire did to “rising star” Republican Melissa Hart in Pennsylvania last year, who held a similarly Republican-leaning seat with a long history of voting for Congressional Democrats.
  • OH-12: Republican Pat Tiberi convincingly repelled Swing State Project hero and near-octogenarian Bob Shamansky by a 15-point margin last November, but he did have to empty his $3 million war chest to do it. Tiberi shouldn’t be able to escape 2008 with a free pass, especially in a trending Democratic district like this one.
  • OH-14: Democrats have an eager challenger to Republican Steve LaTourette: William O’Neill, a judge on the 11th District Court of Appeals in Ohio. O’Neill’s recent claim to fame was winning 41% of the vote for the Ohio Supreme Court on a $1 budget in 2006, in principled opposition to the mixing of campaign contributions and judicial service. However, O’Neill claims he won’t be nearly as stingy in his campaign against LaTourette. He intends to raise $1 million for the race, and will resign from the bench on June 15th and has already been in contact with the DCCC, according to comments attributed to him on the Buckeye State Blog. LaTourette, despite some family values hypocrisy and a district trending more Democratic on the Presidential level, has yet to face a top-shelf challenge this decade (no, Capri Cafaro doesn’t count). If Judge O’Neill can bring the noize, this might be another unexpected defense for Republicans next year.
  • OH-15: After watching the disappointments of Lois Murphy and Diane Farrell in their four-year campaigns last cycle, I’ve become rather skeptical of the viability of most House rematches, barring special circumstances like scandal (e.g. Pombo/McNerney), and major strategic reorientation (e.g. Hodes/Bass, Boyda/Ryun). But Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy ran a strong challenge against Deborah Pryce last year, which is why I’m somewhat ambivalent about the brewing primary battle between her and fellow Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks. Pryce could be on unstable ground in 2008, but we’ll need to sort out our side of the fence first.
  • OH-16: At age 82, Republican Ralph Regula is ripe for retirement. But even if this seat doesn’t open up, Democrats plan on making an aggressive challenge after the no-profile, no-money Democrat Thomas Shaw scored a surprising 41.6% against the 34-year incumbent. According to the Buckeye State Blog, State Senator John Boccieri, an officer in the Air Force Reserve and a veteran of four tours in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, is strongly considering a bid for this seat. With a strong electoral track record and an excellent profile, Boccieri could prove to be a top-tier Democratic recruitment in the next cycle.

Seven districts, seven pressure points. Democrats probably won’t win all of them, or even many of them, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be wise to push on all of these targets hard to keep Congressional Republicans focused on putting out as many brushfires as possible.

Race Tracker: Ohio

AZ-01: Republicans Tell Renzi to Get Out (0 / 0)

Get ready, everyone, Renzi is on his way out

U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., could soon step down in the wake of a federal investigation into his involvement in a federal land swap deal and FBI raids of an insurance agency owned by his wife.

His resignation could come as early as Friday or soon after, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Top Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, have been meeting to discuss what they will do if Renzi resigns and his rural congressional seat opens up.

Republican leaders also are starting to encourage Renzi to resign, saying a prolonged investigation will hurt the party’s chances of holding onto his Arizona seat, according to knowledgeable sources.

AZ-01: Renzi Acknowledges He May Resign

On Tuesday, we learned that embattled Republican Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona requested to be cut from the House Republican ROMP (“Regain Our Majority Program”) fund in the wake of an exposed federal investigation into Renzi’s role in a land-swap deal and an FBI raid on his wife’s insurance business.  If that wasn’t enough to set off the early-retirement alarm bells, Renzi is acknowledging that he may resign soon, according to the Business Journal of Phoenix and the East Valley Tribune:

Rep. Rick Renzi. R-Ariz., is “looking at” the prospect of resigning his office in response to an FBI public-corruption investigation.

On Tuesday, he told The Hill, a newspaper that covers the Washington political scene, that he was considering leaving office.

He has denied any wrongdoing, but has stepped down, at least temporarily, from his three committee assignments.

Renzi’s district, with a PVI of R+2.2, went for Bush by a margin of 8 points in 2004 and 5 points in 2000, and it’s known for having a largely middle of the road political identity.

It’s time to ramp up for either a special election, a 2008 open seat, or an aggressive challenge against a damaged incumbent (a scenario that’s looking less and less likely).  Who might we run here?  In any event, it’s going to be an all-out brawl.

(H/T to RandyMI)

UPDATE: RandySF (lots of Randys have been on top of this story, it seems) brings us word that Republican leaders are urging Renzi to resign:

Top Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, have been meeting to discuss what they will do if Renzi resigns and his rural congressional seat opens up.

Republican leaders also are starting to encourage Renzi to resign, saying a prolonged investigation will hurt the party’s chances of holding onto his Arizona seat, according to knowledgeable sources.

Democrats also are preparing for a Renzi exit. Cottonwood attorney Jim Ledbetter is among those being recruited by party leadership to run for Renzi’s seat in a possible special election.

More on Ledbetter:

Ledbetter is a conservative Democrat, favoring gun rights and a federal ban on some late-term abortions. He said it would be best for the district if Renzi stepped down soon.

Ledbetter said Thursday he is traveling to Washington to meet with Democratic congressional and campaign leaders. He said he already has spoken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Adam Schiff of California about a possible run for Renzi’s seat.

Renzi’s district has a slight Democratic voter registration edge, but it is rural and socially conservative and has gone for the GOP in recent years. It includes Casa Grande, Flagstaff, Sedona, Payson and Prescott.

Other possible Democratic candidates include former Casa Grande Mayor Bob Mitchell, Arizona Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Pete Rios, Arizona Sen. Rebecca Rios, state Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens, former Phoenix TV reporter Mary Kim Titla, consultant Fred DuVal and shopping center developer Jim Pederson.

Possible GOP successors to Renzi include former Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett, Arizona Rep. Bill Konopnicki, and rancher and Republican booster Steve Pierce.

David is right on the money.  This will become a must-win race if we want to maintain our momentum.  I don’t know enough about Ledbetter or the other names to have any insight on who would be the best candidate to wave the Democratic banner.  Simon has her own baggage, but she did make a very respectable run at Renzi last November, losing by 8 points.  I’m somewhat underwhelmed with Jim Pederson; his Senate campaign did attempt to hit Kyl hard, but he fell for a few bad frames (e.g. “I won’t cut and run!”).  I’d be curious to see how well Pederson performed in the 1st District.

Race Tracker: AZ-01