SSP Daily Digest: 3/30

NY-20: One day left to go in the special election. The district’s most popular politician, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is appearing in GOTV robocalls blanketing the district.

The Times-Union finds that there’s been a flood of money into the race in the last few weeks from Republican third party groups. Of the $1.1 in independent expenditures since last Tuesday, $300K were Democratic, while $800K were Republican.

Also, Libertarian candidate Eric Sundwall, who got kicked off the ballot last week because of a challenge to his petition signatures originated by Republicans, has endorsed Scott Murphy (seemingly more out of spite than out of agreement on the issues). His dozens of supporters may not make a big impact on the election, but it’s yet another news story that’s a black eye for Jim Tedisco.

KY-Sen: Lt. Gov Dan Mongiardo picked up an important endorsement in the Kentucky senate primary: from his boss, Gov. Steve Beshear. (Important in the sense that it would be kind of awkward if he didn’t get that endorsment.)

OH-Sen: Two big endorsements for SoS Jennifer Brunner in the Ohio senate primary: one from a major union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and one from Caroline Kennedy, who hosted a NYC fundraiser for Brunner.

AK-Sen: With the possibility of a Lisa Murkowski/Sarah Palin primary in the 2010 Alaska senate race looming, here are some numbers that might give Palin some pause. A primary against Murkowski wouldn’t be the cakewalk for Palin that some had supposed. Hayes Research didn’t test a head-to-head, but they found that Palin’s approve/disapprove (among all voters, not just GOPers) is 60/35, while Murkowski is even better at 72/21. Palin’s “very negative” is 21%, while Murkowski’s is only 7%.

OR-05: In response to the news that two-time loser Mike Erickson is considering another race, Blue Oregon comes up with a helpful list of somewhat more credible candidates as the GOP tries to dislodge Kurt Schrader before he gets entrenched. Former and current state legislators that get a mention include former majority leader Wayne Scott, as well as Bill Kennemer, Kim Thatcher, Vicki Berger, and Vic Gilliam.

Redistricting: Believe it or not, the state of Ohio is hosting a “redistricting competition” to see who can come up with the best map for the state. Some of the criteria they’re using to judge entrants (like “compactness”) might be anathema to hardcore partisans, but the contest could still be fun nonetheless. The sign-up form is here. (D)

CT-Sen: Looks like Robbie Simmons is going to have some company in the GOP primary for the nod to take on Chris Dodd; state Sen. Sam Caligiuri, the former mayor of Waterbury, is expected to announce his candidacy tomorrow. (J)

SSP Daily Digest: 3/26

NY-20: Lots going on in the Empire State today, as we enter the home stretch. Perhaps most significantly, the GOP finally succeeded in getting Libertarian candidate Eric Sundwall kicked off the ballot, on the grounds that he didn’t have enough valid petition signatures. Siena found Sundwall polling at only 1% (Benenson gave him 4%), but there have been multiple rumored internal polls floating around within the last few days that have it as a 1 or 2-point race, so Sundwall’s votes (which seem likelier to migrate to Jim Tedisco’s column) may make a big difference. (Siena promises a new public poll to be released tomorrow.)

Joe Biden also jumped into the special election, cutting a radio ad touting Murphy and his own sort-of-local ties (he’s a Syracuse Law alum). The NRCC is continuing to work the faux-populist angle, rolling out a new ad criticizing Murphy for being on the board of an Internet company that paid bonuses to workers while losing money. (I assume that company wasn’t receiving hundreds of billions on the government dole, though.)

CA-10: There’s already an internal poll of the race to replace Ellen Tauscher in the East Bay suburbs, commissioned by assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. In a bit of a surprise, Buchanan leads the pack, slightly edging presumptive frontrunner state senator Mark DeSaulnier. Buchanan is at 21, DeSaulnier at 18, with two Republicans, San Ramon mayor Abram Wilson and former assemblyman Guy Houston, at 14 and 13. (It’s polled that way because in a California special, like in CA-32, all candidates run in a multi-party primary, and if no one breaks 50%, the top person from each primary advances to a general, which according to this poll would be Buchanan and Wilson.) Buchanan and DeSaulnier both are waiting for Tauscher’s resignation to announce; it’s not clear whether either of the GOPers will get involved.

NH-01: Manchester mayor Frank Guinta looks pretty serious about taking on Carol Shea-Porter in 2010; he met a second time with the NRCC about the race. He’s still likely to face a primary battle against John Stephen, who barely lost to Jeb Bradley in the 2008 primary and seems to be planning to try again.

OR-05: Buried deep in a CQ article about how the parties are turning more to self-funders is a delightful tidbit about Mike Erickson, last seen getting flattened by Kurt Schrader in the 2008 open seat battle. Despite his last campaign collapsing into a horror show of Cuban junkets and abortion hypocrisy, he’s “actively considering” a third try for the seat in 2010. We could only be so lucky.

CT-05: It’s been telegraphed for a number of weeks, but today it’s official: Justin Bernier, former Rob Simmons aide and former director of Connecticut’s Office of Military Affairs, will be running against Chris Murphy in the 5th. Murphy had little trouble defeating a state senator, David Cappiello, in 2008.

OR-05: Schrader Extends His Lead

SurveyUSA (10/27-28, likely voters, 10/13-14 in parens):

Kurt Schrader (D): 55 (51)

Mike Erickson (R): 31 (38)

(MoE: ±3.9%)

When Darlene Hooley retired, this open seat race in a D+1 district with a GOP registration edge was supposed to be a barnburner. It was… if by ‘barnburner,’ you mean Mike Erickson pouring gasoline all over his own barn and setting it on fire.

While the Democrats fielded one of their strongest possible candidates, Erickson has endured one PR disaster after another, all while watching the district’s GOP registration advantage disappear. Now he’s left watching the continually rising Obama and Merkley wave lift Schrader higher along with them, too. Oh well… he’ll always have Havana.

OR-05: Mike Erickson’s Havana Affair

If the GOP’s chances of winning the open seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley took a big hit with the nomination of scandal-chased Republican businessman Mike Erickson (who was last seen harassing voters at county fairs), it looks like the dream is continuing to unravel further and further by the day.

In the diaries, skywaker9 picks up the scoop from the Oregonian: In his campaign materials, Erickson has been boasting of a heroic “humanitarian trip” that he took to Cuba in 2004, which he describes in detail:

Four years ago I was given an opportunity to make a humanitarian trip to Cuba, providing medical supplies and equipment to the disabled and Cuba’s impoverished. The Cuban American Alliance Education Fund was looking for donors to help raise money and deliver supplies and equipment to Cuba’s less fortunate. I was able to purchase badly needed medical supplies and equipment from the US and bring them to Cuba’s disabled and poverty stricken communities.

The trip also provided me the opportunity to see firsthand just how horrific Castro’s stronghold on the nation had oppressed and mistreated people. The living conditions and healthcare were horrible.

The only problem? A copy of Erickson’s itinerary, obtained by the Oregonian, suggests that the “humanitarian” aspect of the trip was merely a cover for a lavish vacation that centered on luxury hotels, sunny beaches, mojitos, and something called “Comandante Fidel Castro’s Annual Gala Cigar Dinner and Auction”. A sampling of the activities on his agenda during the seven-day trip included:

  • A tour of the Partagas cigar factory and a special reception with the company’s president
  • Rides in “vintage automobiles”
  • Dinner at the exclusive “Club Havana”
  • Dove shooting
  • A classy evening out “at the cock fights”
  • What’s more, the itinerary also indicates that the company sponsoring the trip (“Safari Clubs International”) was willing to provide travelers who could not obtain a humanitarian license to visit Cuba with forged papers indicating that they spent their time in Mexico instead. There’s no telling if Erickson himself was provided with this special treatment, but perhaps the Oregonian’s forthcoming article will shed more light on his totally excellent Cuban adventure.

    Mike Erickson, you’ve just been nailed.

    UPDATE: The full, damning exposé is available here. The best part? Erickson sputtering in his defense: “If that’s not a humanitarian trip, I don’t know what is!” Yes, because no humanitarian trip is complete without a wild and crazy night out at “a Ricky Ricardo-style nightclub with showgirls.”

    Cuba Libre: Republican Mike Erickson (OR-5) and his Cuba Vacation

    I had been hearing rumors from friends who work for the Oregonian that a major story was about to break concerning Mike Erickson.  I do not know if this story is it but it’s a fun one anyways.  Simply put, Mike Erickson claimed that he had taken a trip to Cuba in 2004 as an attempt to work with humanitarian organizations.  Instead, it appears that instead he used it as an excuse to have a good time, smoke a lot of Cuban cigars and have some fun cock fighting.

    Major h/t to the Oregonian for this story:

    Cross-Posted from Loaded Orygun:…

    According to the Oregonian:

    Mike Erickson, Republican candidate for the U.S. House, made a six-day visit to Cuba in 2004 that he described as a “humanitarian trip” to help disabled Cubans oppressed by Fidel Castro. But the visit was actually a vacation that included marlin fishing, nightclub visits and Cuban cigars.

    , Link is above in the intro.

    In a letter released to the Press, Erickson claims that he undertook this trip as a means to bring needed medical supplies to impoverished Cubans and that he observed first hand “just how horrific Castro’s stronghold on the nation had oppressed and mistreated people.”

    Link to the letter here:

    His itinerary tells a far different story, however.  Instead of a humanitarian mission, it appears Erickson went down to Cuba to attend a cigar convention and have a good time living the life of luxury.  In fact, the itinerary seems to indicate that the company which sponsored his trip even provided some in his group (if not Erickson himself) with papers showing they never actually visited Cuba but Mexico.  I don’t know enough about the embargo to know whether this is any sort of problem but it sounds wrong at least.

    Link to the itinerary here:

    What’s Next:

    This is yet another blow to Erickson’s fast-fading chance to win this once thought to be tossup seat in Oregon.  I don’t know this will force Erickson out of the race but he has until August 26 if he wishes to do so, at which point the Republicans can name a replacement.

    Let me know what you think.

    OR-05: Key Endorsement for Schrader

    In the open seat race in OR-05, which several months ago was actually supposed to be hotly contested, one more domino fell in place for Kurt Schrader. And this one’s actually a bit of a surprise: last Thursday, he got the endorsement of the Oregon Farm Bureau, one of the few remaining power bases for state Republicans. This is especially important in the 5th, which is where most of Oregon’s agricultural production is concentrated.

    Republican Mike Erickson is now running without either of two of the most important endorsements a Republican in Oregon can have: the Farm Bureau, and Oregon Right to Life (which instead called for him to drop out after allegations that he previously paid for a girlfriend’s abortion).

    Part of this may have to do with Schrader being a veterinarian and an occasional ally of farmers in the state senate, part of this may have to do with the perception that Erickson was fatally wounded by Kevin Mannix’s last-minute slime-bombing in the primary. But a lot of it seems to simply turn on the Farm Bureau’s acceptance of a near-term future where the Democrats dominate Washington:

    Don Schellenberg, a farm bureau lobbyist, insisted that Erickson’s electability issues didn’t influence the farm bureau. In fact, he even said that the farm bureau thought Schrader could get more done because the Democrats will almost certainly retain control of Congress.

    SSP currently rates this race as Lean Democratic.

    OR-05: Darlene Hooley to Retire

    Uh oh; we finally have a Democratic open seat for 2008 that isn’t an automatic hold. The Oregonian (via Blue Oregon) reports that Darlene Hooley is retiring in OR-05.

    She says:

    Hooley, 68, who spent time in the hospital in November, said health was not a reason for her decision not to seek a seventh term. “I’ve never felt better,” she said in an interview.

    Instead, she said it was the cumulative effect of arduous travel, the relentless demands of fund-raising and 32 years of public service that converged into a decision.

    “At some point in everybody’s life you have to decide, how much longer do I want to do this?” she said.

    “It’s time to move on.”

    OR-05 is a D+1 district. Hooley has represented it since 1996 (when she beat Jim Bunn, one of the more aberrant members of the Class of 94). She’s a New Dem, and somewhat to the right of the Dem caucus’s midpoint with a Progressive Punch score in the low 80s.

    This district has a Democratic tradition, but it currently has a 5,000 registered voter edge for the GOP. The district is a mix of Portland burbs (the more affluent ones lean GOP, the more middle-class ones lean Dem), exurbs (very GOP), Salem (lean Dem), part of Corvallis (very Dem), and rural farm areas (very GOP). It has a rapidly growing Latino population, but they probably aren’t voting much yet. (It’s currently 81% white, 13% Latino. It’s Oregon’s 2nd most affluent district, although that’s certainly skewed upwards by burbs like Lake Oswego and West Linn.)

    Mike Erickson, who ran in 2006, is running again on the GOP side. He held her to about 55-45 in 2006 and can self-finance, so he has the potential to make this a very competitive race.

    PolitickerOR speculates that her chief of staff, Joan Mooney Evans, will leap into the race. Another possibility they mention is new House Majority Leader Dave Hunt. A name that also occurred to me is Jim Hill, who used to represent Salem in the state senate, then was state treasurer, and most recently primaried governor Ted Kulongoski from the left in the 2006 election.

    Bottom line: this will be the Dems’ most difficult open seat to hold, although that’s mostly by virtue of their other open seats being pretty easy. Erickson has an advantage in running a second time, but he’ll be going uphill against another blue tide, and the Dems have a decent bench to pick from here.