SSP Daily Digest: 3/2

FL-Sen: A group of Holocaust survivors – now very elderly, of course – plan to protest Sen. Bill Nelson’s fundraiser with Barack Obama this week. The survivors say that Nelson promised to push legislation which would allow them to directly sue insurance companies who have withheld payments on life insurance policies sold before World War II. Nelson claims he only promised to hold a hearing on such a bill (which has been introduced in the House in the past).

MA-Sen: I really have to believe Deval Patrick just shot his mouth off in that National Journal interview, and has probably earned himself a few glares from would-be Democratic challengers to Sen. Scott Brown the next time they see him. Now Alan Khazei, whom Patrick said was “for sure” in the race, is – like Newton Mayor Setti Warren – saying that he’s merely “looking at it carefully” but hasn’t made a decision yet. Meanwhile, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll tells the Boston Phoenix that she is at least several weeks away from a decision, and that a Warren entry wouldn’t impact her.

And speaking of another Warren, some top Republicans have been saying kinder things about Elizabeth Warren’s chances of becoming the permanent director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. Of course, House Financial Services chair Spencer Bachus doesn’t get a vote, but he thinks that “the Senate may approve” a Warren nomination (if one were to be made). If this came to pass, it would almost certainly remove Warren from any possibility of running for the senate.

ND-Sen, ND-AL:  Freshman Rep. Rick Berg hasn’t ruled out a run for Kent Conrad’s now-open senate seat, and Eric Cantor seems to think he might make the leap. The House’s no. 2 Republican said of Berg: ” “I’m trying to convince him to make sure he stays in the House right now.”

NM-Sen: From the horse’s mouth – which is where I prefer to get my news: Dem state Auditor Hector Balderas confirmed reports that he is looking at Jeff Bingaman’s open senate seat, saying he’s been talking to the DSCC and is “strongly considering entering” the race.

VA-Sen: Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (god that is a mouthful) sounds like he’s dialing himself out of any possible senate run. He says he’s going to seek re-election to his current post this fall, and will “possibly” make a decision on whether to seek Jim Webb’s open seat “early next year.” He’s seriously going to enter a competitive primary against Felix Allen no earlier than January of 2012? Shah.

NC-Gov: Tom Jensen tells me something I always love to hear: an establishment Republican might have tea-related problems. In particular, PPP’s latest poll has 43% of GOPers saying they’d prefer someone more conservative than former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, while 29% firmly support him. Of course, I think probably 20% of Republicans would say they want someone more conservative than Republican Jesus. But McCrory does have something of a libruhl track record (like I’ve said, it’s hard to be a super-conservative mayor), including support for socialist, freedom-destroying light rail for his hometown. Tom points out that McCrory won his 2008 primary with less than 50% of the vote “against a weak field” – but this time around, no one’s really emerged from the woodwork to challenge him. Yet.

WI-Gov: Tom also has the rest of the goods on PPP’s WI-Gov poll, which consistently shows small pro-labor margins on a variety of unions vs. Walker questions (and larger margins on questions of general collective bargaining rights). On the question of recall, it’s an exact 48-48 split.

AZ-06: We missed the news a couple of weeks ago that former GOP state senate majority leader Chuck Gray said he was entering the race to succeed Jeff Flake (who of course is running to succeed Jon Kyl). One other Republican name considering the race is the current Speaker of the state House, Kirk Adams.

CA-36: AFSCME’s California political arm, called “California PEOPLE,” is endorsing Janice Hahn, making them the latest in a string of labor unions to do so. Meanwhile, Debra Bowen tweeted that she could fit into her daughter’s jeans.

IL-01: Roll Call takes a detailed look at the personal finances of Rep. Bobby Rush, who has been the defendant in nearly two dozen mostly debt-related lawsuits since the 1980s – and who has somewhat questionably left off all of these cases and debts from the financial disclosure forms he’s obligated to file as a member of Congress. While this isn’t the first time the media has examined Rush’s finances, this strikes me as the sort of thing that could make the incumbent vulnerable to a primary challenge, especially since his district will have to take on a bunch of new territory to compensate for population loss.

NY-10: The New York Observer offers an interesting profile of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who hasn’t ruled out a primary challenge to Rep. Ed Towns (D), and who apparently has been ramping up his political activity of late.

OR-01: Steny Hoyer (still the no. 2 Dem in the House) says it’s “premature” to talk about a David Wu resignation. But surely he wants this problem to go away, right? Also of note, The Hill observes that Wu only had $7,500 in campaign cash at the start of the year, versus $61K in debt. Can’t imagine he’s finding a lot of willing donors these days.

PA-04: PA state Dem chair Jim Burn says he thinks Rep. Jason Altmire could face a primary challenge from the left next year, but admits he hasn’t heard of any actual, you know, names being circulated. Anyhow, who even knows what this district will look like.

Las Vegas Mayor: Jon Ralston has obtained a poll taken for a group of realtors showing Carolyn Goodman (I) at 30%, Larry Brown (D) at 17%, and Chris Giuchigliani (D) at 11%, with other candidates in the single digits. Note that this poll asked a TON of issue-y questions before finally getting to the horserace in Q15. Also, as Ralston pointed out on the Tweeter, this poll was taken a few weeks ago, before the TV air wars were joined.

Census: Couple of cool census-related mapping widgets. The Journal Star of Nebraska lets you drill down to see population change by county for each state where data’s been released so far. The Chicago Tribune offers a Google Maps-based interface which lets you drill down to see individual census blocks across the entire state of Illinois.

Crossroads: Announcing fundraising goals is easy, which is why I usually don’t remark on them. But when Crossroads GPS/American Crossroads, the satanic spawn of Karl Rove, says it plans to raise $120 million to destroy America, I pay attention – and I worry, because they probably really, really mean it.

Votes: There’ve been a couple of interesting votes with Republican outliers in the House recently. One was the stopgap spending bill that cut $4 billion in spending over the next two weeks; six Republicans defected on that one, including freshman teabagger Justin Amash, Michele Bachmann, and a few other true believers. (Walter Jones was probably the exception there.) On the flipside, seven GOPers voted against denying funding for Planned Parenthood – click the link for the list.

On the same topic, Politico has an interesting-looking vote study out on the GOP freshman, seeing how often they vote together as a group. Unfortunately, as per usual with the likes of Politico and similar organizations, I can’t see that they’ve posted the full list anywhere – they just offer a few tidbits. (Why go to all that trouble if you don’t even want to share all your numbers?) Anyhow, the aforementioned Justin Amash, who I guess really wants to take teabagging to new heights, has voted against his class more often than anyone else, 30% of the time. But the next three guys on the list are all semi-moderate New Yorkers – Chris Gibson, Mike Grimm, and Richard Hanna.

WATN?: Sometimes I just need to channel my inner Holden Caulfield and declare: what a phony. After flatly saying the one thing he wouldn’t be doing after retiring from the senate was lobbying, ex-Sen. Chris Dodd just took a job as… a lobbyist, for everyone’s second-favorite intellectual property goliath, the MPAA. (I’m gonna assume the RIAA is still first.) Anyhow, check out the amusing Twitter hashtag #ChrisDoddMovies for some lulz.

Polltopia: Go tell PPP where to poll. Don’t let the Paultards win!

Redistricting: A Columbia Law School class is trying to create “an internet depository for nonpartisan congressional maps for the entire country.” I thought the SSP diaries section already was one! Anyhow, click the link if you are interested in submitting your work.

NJ-12: I have seen the last, best hope of mankind, and his name is Rush Holt. In a major blow against Skynet Watson, the rocket scientist-turned-congressman defeated the Jeopardy-playing robot by a score of $8,600 to $6,200. The losing contestant, Rep. Jim Himes, was seen being turned into fuel to power the Matrix.

SSP Daily Digest: 9/1

MA-Sen: Now we know the dates for the special election to fill the seat left behind by Ted Kennedy. Deval Patrick set the dates as Dec. 8 for the primary (which will be the real focus in this dark blue state) and Jan. 19 for the general. Meanwhile, while many possible contenders are waiting to see what Joe Kennedy II does, it looks like AG Martha Coakley (who has been sizing up a Senate run for years) isn’t wasting any time. One of her representatives picked up filing papers today.

FL-Sen: It shouldn’t be a surprise that Marco Rubio didn’t like Charlie Crist’s pick of George LeMieux as interim Senator, since approximately nobody liked it. Rubio takes to NRO to say he would have picked conservative Orlando-area state Sen. Dan Webster instead (who could still surface as a candidate in FL-08).

IL-Sen: Cheryle Jackson, president of Chicago’s Urban League, hasn’t gotten much attention yet in the Democratic primary. However, she just got several noteworthy endorsements, from Rep. Bobby Rush and the Cook County Democratic Women Organization.

NC-Sen: Maybe Rep. Bob Etheridge is moving toward a Senate run after all? He just launched a blistering salvo toward Richard Burr over health care reform in a DNC conference call today, attacking Burr’s “Patients Choice Act” counterproposal. Etheridge wouldn’t say anything about his intentions for 2010, though.

NY-Sen-B: Somehow the New York Post got the ball rolling on the idea of an Eliot Spitzer comeback, either with a run for Comptroller or even Kirsten Gillibrand’s Senate seat. Spitzer quickly acted today to dispel the idea.

SC-Sen: Democrats are back to the drawing board on a challenger for Jim DeMint. State Sen. Bradley Hutto had sounded very interested, but announced over the weekend that he won’t run. Lawyer and former Fritz Holling aide Ashley Cooper is about the only other credible name on tap.

NJ-Gov: The police department of Lambertville, NJ – the town where Chris Christie got seemingly preferential treatment after he was pulled over for speeding back in 2005 – says that their director is “no longer returning media calls.” Sketchy, huh? Christie’s varying tales about what exactly happened at that stop aren’t helping him, either. He’s now claiming that his identity as US Attorney only came up during the incident because the tow-truck driver recognized him. Shah, right. (D)

SC-Gov: Seems like Mark Sanford’s up to his 10th or 11th life already. After rumors that the legislature was ready to do a special session to impeach him, now the state GOP is saying it’s not ready to issue an ultimatum letter threatning impeachment (although they throw the door open to any lawmakers wanting to draft the legislation individually).

MO-04: It’s not unusual for a challenger to have nice things he said about an incumbent thrown back in his face. But this is kind of an extreme case: GOP state Sen. Bill Stouffer, chasing 33-year Rep. Ike Skelton in the 4th, has not only called Skelton “an outstanding advocate for the people of west-central Missouri and the state as a whole” but said it while sponsoring legislation to name a bridge after Skelton.

NY-19: Republican Assemblyman Greg Ball continues to impress, well, at least Pete Sessions; he just got named to the “On the Radar” part of the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program. He’s running against sophomore Rep. John Hall in this R+3 district.

NY-23: Looks like Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman is gaining some traction, seeing as Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava has started attacking him in the press. This could bode well for Democrat Bill Owens – back in 2004, in a state Senate race in the same part of New York, Dem David Valesky snuck through with a narrow win after a Conservative candidate helped split the right-wing vote in the district. (D)

WI-05: Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Wisconsin’s Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who has been diagnosed with treatable, early stage prostate cancer.

The Other New Senator in the 111th Congress

There’s going to be a healthy amount of turnover in the Senate; even if the Democrats don’t pick up any seats in 2008 (OK, OK, you can stop laughing now), there will still be at least five new faces because of the retirements of Warner, Allard, Domenici, Hagel, and Craig. However, there’s also going to be at least a sixth new face in the Senate, because, barring something really weird happening, either Barack Obama or John McCain is going to be the next President in January, opening up one more seat to be filled by appointment until 2010 (the next general election, but also when Obama and McCain’s terms would end anyway). Unlike the rest of the Senate races, that’s one race we can’t handicap, because we have no idea who the candidates are, and there’s going to be only one voter: either Rod Blagojevich or Janet Napolitano.

This is in the news today because Robert Novak is alleging that Nancy Pelosi has been talking up Rahm Emanuel as the replacement senator. (This being Novak, the safe response might be to assume the exact opposite of what he’s saying. Just consider it a conversation starter.) He described Pelosi as “enthusiastic about Emanuel’s elevation to the Senate.” (Although she might be most enthusiastic about getting one-half of the Hoyer/Emanuel tag-team off her back.)

It seems unlikely to me that Blagojevich would pick Emanuel, though, because Emanuel doesn’t help Blagojevich with either of his competing needs: the pressure to appoint another African-American so that number of black senators doesn’t drop back down to 0, and the desire to move his strongest intra-party competition to Washington and out of his hair. (It also might seem a demotion for Emanuel, who is at the #4 slot in the House as Conference chair, and given his age, a likely candidate for Speaker in the 2020s.)

Probably the most frequently mentioned African-American contender for the position is Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Jackson is young (41), he’s progressive (near the top of the House, with a Progressive Punch score of about 99), he’s been an effective Obama surrogate, he’d leave behind as safely-Democratic a House seat as can be imagined, and he has name recognition.

Other mentioned African-American contenders include Rep. Bobby Rush (who’s been in IL-01 for many years and is 62), Sec. of State Jesse White (a well-liked longtime fixture in Illinois politics, but 76 years old), State Senate President Emil Jones (who’s a key Blagojevich ally in the legislature, but who’s 72), and State Senator James Claybourne (who’s only 44, but unlike these other contenders, not a Chicagoan (he’s from Belleville, next to E. St. Louis) – and with Dick Durbin already senator, a second Downstate senator is unlikely). One other possibility I saw mentioned was giving Carol Mosely-Braun her old seat back, although given her inability to hold the seat in the first place, that doesn’t seem likely.

The other camp consists of people Blagojevich might like to deport from Illinois by promoting them: Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Comptroller Dan Hynes. It’s unclear whether Blagojevich intends to run for a third term in 2010 (he’s eligible to do so, although given his ethical problems and low approval ratings, it seems he’s likely to head for the exits at that point), but if he does, he’s likely to face primary opposition from one or both of them. And even if he doesn’t run, these two have oversight of his activities and have been constant thorns in his side (and, with one of them in Washington, could then be replaced with one of his own appointees).

Whether or not Blagojevich is an obstacle, either Madigan or Hynes is likely to be the next governor of Illinois. Madigan is 41; Hynes is 39. They’re both well-connected to Illinois machine politics (Madigan’s dad is state house speaker Michael Madigan; Hynes’s dad is former Cook County assessor Thomas Hynes.) One consideration is that Hynes has shown more desire to go to Washington rather than aiming for governor; Hynes ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2004, finishing second to Obama in the primary.

Finally, there are several other names who get mentioned but don’t fit into either category: Rep. Jan Schakowsky from IL-09 (she’s also one of the most progressive members of the House and wields a fair amount of leadership clout there, but she’s 64 and has some ethical baggage associated with fraud charges against her husband Robert Creamer), and Illinois Veterans Affairs Dept. Director Tammy Duckworth of IL-06 fame (she brings diversity and Iraq War vet status to the table, but has never actually won an election before). And it can’t be discounted entirely that Blagojevich might appoint himself, since a Senate seat would give him a new career without term limits… although he’d face the same electoral liabilities in 2010 facing Senate re-election as if he were running again for governor.

Turning to Arizona, some of you might be licking your chops, anticipating another Democratic senator, appointed by Janet Napolitano, as the consolation prize in the event of a McCain victory, but that’s not the case. Arizona is one of several states (along with Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, and Wyoming) where the appointed interim senator must be of the same party as the departing senator.

This becomes an interesting strategic decision for Napolitano, though: does she take the easy way out and appoint the Republican who’s at the top of the queue? That would most likely be Jan Brewer, who is Secretary of State and, since Arizona has no Lt. Governor, the state’s #2 person. However, it could be one of the current representatives, most likely John Shadegg, who has more seniority and a higher profile than Trent Franks or Jeff Flake.

Does she appoint the Republican who, ideologically, is likely to suck the least (moderate ex-Rep. Jim Kolbe, who was in AZ-08 for many years, comes to mind), who would be vulnerable to a right-wing primary effort but difficult in a general election?

Or does she try to game the system by appointing the Republican who would provide two years of dislikable right-wing insanity and then an easy opponent in the 2010 general election (when, not coincidentally, Napolitano herself would be term-limited and looking for a new job)? That could be ex-Rep. and professional loudmouth J.D. Hayworth, or, for maximum comedic effect, former State Rep. Randy Graf. (It still probably wouldn’t include current Rep. Rick Renzi, who’s likely to consider 2009 a good year if it involves staying out of prison.)

Related posts:

Whom Might Blagojevich Appoint? (from August 2007)