SSP Daily Digest: 5/12 (Afternoon Edition)

FL-Sen: Charlie Crist went the full-on “I” today; he made a big show of switching his own party registration to “no party affiliation” today, to match having filed as an independent to run for Senate. Free from his Republican shackles, Crist is also following through on plans to call a special legislative session on oil drilling, which could result in Floridians voting on a constitutional amendment to ban offshore drilling in Florida waters. And one final middle-finger to his former Republican allies: after previously saying he was open to refunding money to donors unhappy with his party switch, today he said he wouldn’t be giving any contributions back.

NC-Sen (pdf): PPP’s out with another quick poll of the runoff for the Democratic Senate nomination between Cal Cunningham and Elaine Marshall. It’s a tie, with Cunningham and Marshall both at 36. While this would initially suggest that Cunningham (who finished 2nd) is picking up the bulk of the also-rans’ votes, that’s not the case; Marshall is still leading among liberals and African-Americans, which probably means she’s getting most Kenneth Lewis voters. PPP’s analysis is that Cunningham’s improved standing is a result of an enthusiasm gap between their supporters; Cunningham backers seem likelier to actually show up for the runoff.

NV-Sen: Here’s something we haven’t seen in probably more than a year, which is half a lifetime in politics years: Harry Reid is posting a lead. Now, granted, this is a Democratic poll, although not a Reid internal; it was taken by Dem pollster Fairbanks Maslin on behalf of the New West Project. But still, this shows that the chickens have come home to roost for Sue Lowden, in the wake of her quadrupling-down on her HCR gaffe; she’s now trailing Reid 42-35 (with 5 for Tim Fasano, 3 for Scott Ashjian). Reid is tied with Danny Tarkanian, who isn’t gaffe-tainted (and in fact is now trying to tar and feather Lowden with it in the primary), at 37-37 (with 7 for Fasano and 2 for Ashjian).

UT-Sen: One impure collaborationist down, one to go. With Bob Bennett out, teabagger frenzy is now turning to Orrin Hatch. Mason-Dixon finds Hatch’s 2012 numbers pretty weak, with a 35% re-elect and 51% wanting someone else. And that “someone else” is already making his interest known, more than two years out (probably with an eye toward goading the 78-year-old Hatch into retirement): ambitious freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

WI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Ron Johnson, the teabaggers’ horse in the Wisconsin Senate GOP derby, made it official, filing as a candidate today. He’ll officially launch his bid next Monday.

AL-Gov: Bradley Byrne, the supposed moderate (by Alabama GOP standards) in the race, has had to two-step to the right and defend his creationist cred, after an ad from the “True Republican PAC” attacked him for the unforgivable sin of teaching evolution in schools. Turns out that there’s some tasty Democratic dirty pool behind all this: the True Republican PAC is funded by the state teacher’s union, the Alabama Education Association (who are also Ron Sparks’ biggest financial backer). Their rationale seems to be that they’d rather, Gray Davis-style, torpedo Bradley Byrne in the GOP primary, on the assumption that he’d be the most difficult Republican to beat in the general.

CT-Gov: On the Chris Cillizza hierarchy of endorsements, I think this one falls under the category of “10) Wtf?” State Sen. minority leader John McKinney, who’d considered a gubernatorial run himself, endorsed neither of the GOP frontrunners, but rather the random businessman with the weird name, Oz Griebel. The former head of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce has been polling in the low single digits.

OH-Gov: Lehman Brothers keeps turning into a bigger and bigger albatross around John Kasich’s neck. It turns out that Kasich, while he was head of Lehman’s Columbus office in 2002, tried to convince two state pension funds (OPFPF and OPERS) to invest with the now-imploded investment bank.

OR-Gov: Yet another poll of the primaries in the Oregon gubernatorial race, confirming what’s come into pretty sharp focus lately, that it’ll be a John Kitzhaber/Chris Dudley matchup in November. Local pollster Tim Hibbitts, on behalf of assorted media outlets including Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Portland Tribune, found Kitzhaber beating Bill Bradbury 53-23 on the Dem side. For the GOPers, Dudley leads Allen Alley by a not-overwhelming 33-23, but there’s little time left for Alley to make a move. (John Lim is at 8 and Bill Sizemore is at 6.) They also looked at the Dem primary in the special election for Treasurer, finding a competitive race with lots of undecideds: appointed incumbent (and ex-Multnomah Co. Chair) Ted Wheeler leads state Sen. Rick Metsger 29-24.

WA-Gov: The rumor du jour is that Chris Gregoire is now on the short list to become Solicitor General, assuming Elena Kagan gets promoted to the SCOTUS. Allow me to say: bad idea, if only because it means at least several months of Governor Brad Owen. Under Washington law, though, Owen wouldn’t serve for long, as a special election would be held. The timeline varies, depending on when Gregoire might quit as Governor. If it happens before May 31, a primary would be held, followed by a two-person general in November. If it happens after May 31 but before October 3, it would result in a jungle-style election in November. And if it happens after October 3, we’d be blessed with two full years of Owen. One other major wrinkle: if this looks like it has legs, it may shut the door on a Dino Rossi run for the Senate, as it’s a poorly-kept secret that he’d really prefer another gubernatorial run rather than wasting his third strike on getting pasted by Patty Murray, and this would be the way for him to do it.

NY-29: David Paterson did the unthinkable and called a special election for the 29th. Heh… except he called it for the regularly-scheduled election day in November, so the winner will get to serve for a few weeks in the lame duck session, Snelly Gibr-style. Smart move by the Gov, as it saves Dems from a potentially embarrassing special election on a day when that’s the only story. Instead, the outcome will probably be that Tom Reed gets to start work a few weeks early.

PA-12: Two polls are out today in the 12th, both giving a single-digit lead to Democrat Mark Critz. One poll is a Critz internal, so you’d expect a lead there: Global Strategy Group gives him an 8-point lead of 44-36 (up from 41-38 in mid-April). But the other is from Susquehanna, a pollster who often works for Republican candidates but here is polling on behalf of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (the GOP paper in town). They find Critz up 44-38, and Critz even leads by 19 among “super voters” (who’ve voted in 3 of the last 4 primaries). Interestingly, they find Republican Tim Burns’ woes increasing on two different fronts: he’s also in a “dead heat” with BaseConnect stooge Bill Russell (who got passed over for the special election nod) in the regularly-scheduled GOP primary on the same day. For some reason, specific numbers weren’t available for the GOP primary or the Dem primary, although it says Critz has “a majority” against Ryan Bucchanieri.

SSP Daily Digest: 1/13

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CO-Sen: Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton has finally realized that she might be her own worst enemy. Having reeled off a serious of gaffes and wtf? moments that were captured on tape in recent months (sitting silently while a speaker called Barack Obama a “Muslim,” saying that Obama cares more about terrorists’ rights than protecting the country, and just recently saying that government shouldn’t be involved in health care at all), she’s decided that, rather than stopping saying dumb things, the best approach is to have that nasty Democratic tracker banned from all her appearances.

NY-Sen-B: Ex-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. has gotten a green light of sorts (or at least a shrug of the shoulders) from David Paterson regarding a primary challenge, who said it was “OK” but that he might look for a different state to do it in. A new piece in the NYT today (who seem to have been interested in promoting his candidacy) may do Ford more harm than good, filled with details of helicopter flights and chauffeured cars that help paint him as an out-of-touch Wall Streeter, not exactly a position you want to run from these days (maybe most damning: “He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures. (He described them as treatment for a foot condition.)” Ford also might need to explain to the electorate when he decided that Kirsten Gillibrand was no longer acceptable; it turns out that he gave her $1,000 just seven months ago. Finally, with Ford making clear that he’s going to run against health care reform, and awash in a history of pro-life pronouncements, PPP’s Tom Jensen looks at New York exit polls and finds a way for Ford to get to 25% in the primary, but wonders where that other 75% is going to come from.

PA-Sen: The Joe Sestak candidacy continues to have its desired effect: Arlen Specter just changed his position on the Dawn Johnsen nomination, and will vote for her confirmation, taking it to 60 votes. One possible unintended consequence, though: the more Sestak succeeds at pushing Specter to the left, the less opportunity for differentiating himself in (and thus a basis for winning) the Democratic primary.

TX-Sen, TX-Gov: We have dueling rumors coming out of Texas, regarding Kay Bailey Hutchison. Fox’s El Paso affiliate is reporting that KBH no longer plans to resign her Senate seat, either before or after the Republican gubernatorial primary. However, a spokesperson from the KBH camp is now saying that report is wrong, and she will resign only when the health care and cap-and-trade debates are over.

AZ-Gov: A serious primary challenge just hit Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in the eye, like a big pizza pie. State Treasurer Dean Martin put an end to the speculation and officially announced his candidacy today. (There’s still no report on whether CA-41’s Rep. Jerry Lewis will offer his endorsement, or if their feud is still continuing.) While Martin is the highest-profile GOPer to challenge Brewer so far, he’ll still have to fight his way through a crowd of other anti-Brewers, perhaps most prominently former state party chair John Munger.

CT-Gov: It looks like the Republican gubernatorial field in Connecticut will be limited to Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, rich guy Tom Foley, and now Larry DeNardis, a 71-year-old who most recently was president of the University of New Haven, but served one term in the U.S. House, representing New Haven from 1980 to his defeat in 1982. (Little known bit of trivia: the guy DeNardis defeated in that House race? Joe Lieberman.) State Senate minority leader John McKinney (who previously demurred from a CT-04 run) just reversed course and said he wouldn’t run; state House minority leader Lawrence Cafero, another potential candidate, also recently said ‘no.’

IA-Gov: Here’s an iceberg on the horizon for the seemingly unsinkable Terry Branstad campaign: poor relations with the state’s religious right, coming to a head now with the prominent Iowa Family PAC endorsing rival Bob Vander Plaats and having unkind words for the insufficiently conservative Branstad, whom they won’t endorse for the general even if he is the nominee. (Discussion underway in desmoinesdem‘s diary.)

MA-Gov: A day after PPP polled him as a Democratic fill-in for Deval Patrick in the gubernatorial race, SoS William Galvin said that, no, he wasn’t planning on launching a primary challenge against Patrick. Galvin, who’s been SoS since 1994, instead said he might be interested in moving to AG, assuming Martha Coakley becomes Senator.

SC-Gov: Well, that was kind of anticlimactic. L’affaire Sanford wrapped up today with a quick censure vote of Gov. Mark Sanford that passed the state House by a 102-11 margin.

FL-25: A longer CQ piece on the House landscape in Florida has an interesting tidbit that suggests that former Miami mayor Manny Diaz, who would have been a top-tier contender in the 25th had he run, won’t be running. Diaz has taken a fellowship appointment at Harvard’s JFK School, which would probably preclude a run. After Democrats running strong in all three Cuban-American districts in 2008, it looks like free passes will be handed out this year.

MD-04: All previous indications had been that a primary challenge from the right against Rep. Donna Edwards was a go, but instead Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey had announced he won’t pursue that. He’d also been linked with possible runs for county executive and state Senate, so his next step is uncertain.

NC-08: PPP adds a little information from yesterday’s poll of the 8th, which had freshman Rep. Larry Kissell comfortable against his GOP opposition. The possibility of a primary from the left, from attorney Chris Kouri, has been floated, but Kissell dispatches Kouri easily, 49-15. Only 29% of Democratic respondents in the district want Kissell replaced with someone more progressive, and 27% think Congressional Dems are too liberal vs. 12% who think they’re too conservative, suggesting (in tandem with his general election strength) that his occasional breaks from the party line may be helping more than hurting him.

NH-02: Gonna make you Swett! The long-rumored  candidacy by wealthy Lieberdem Katrina Swett may be finally getting off the ground, as an invitation to a Jan. 31 Swett event says “Come meet our next U.S. Congresswoman!”

OH-02: After looking into the possibility of an independent run against Rep. Jean Schmidt and probably Dem nominee David Krikorian, now Surya Yalimanchili (aka that guy from “The Apprentice”) says he’ll get into the Democratic primary instead, saying that his focus on jobs and economic growth is better served there.

SC-01: After renewed interest in the race following the retirement announcement of GOP Rep. Henry Brown, 2008 candidate Linda Ketner has finally decided against another run. She instead asked her supporters to take a look at Robert Burton, already an announced candidate. On the GOP side, state Sen. Larry Grooms, a frequent Mark Sanford nemesis, cut short his long-shot gubernatorial bid, boxed out by bigger names like Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and AG Henry McMaster. This might presage a run in the still-developing GOP field in the 1st, but he said that’s “unlikely” and he’d rather concentrate on the state Senate.

TX-04: Add one more serious teabagger primary challenge to the ever-growing list, this time a challenge in the super-dark-red 4th to long-time Rep. Ralph Hall. Jerry Ray Hall (no relation, apparently) is throwing $350K of his own money into race in the fast-approaching March primary. It’s unclear what his beef with the conservative other Hall is (he was a Democrat until 2004 – albeit the most conservative one in the House — so that’s probably good enough).

VA-11: Rep. Gerry Connolly (by virtue of his Dem-leaning suburban district) still seems the safest of the three Virginia freshman, but things got harder for him with the entry of another GOP challenger: Fairfax Co. Supervisor Pat Herrity (who narrowly lost the race to become County Chairman after Connolly ascended to the House). Herrity still faces a primary against self-funding Keith Fimian, who lost big-time to Connolly in the open seat race in 2008 and won’t get out of Herrity’s way; Fimian may still be able to beat the better-known Herrity based on his big cash stash.

WA-02: No one has really thought of Rep. Rick Larsen as vulnerable lately, as he dismantled his at-least-somewhat-touted Republican opponents in the last two elections in this D+3 district. Still, a long-time foe has taken a look at the more favorable Republican landscape and decided to take another whack at Larsen. John Koster (a state Rep. at the time) ran against Larsen and lost in 2000, when it was an open seat following Republican Rep. Jack Metcalf’s retirement. Koster has spent most of the decade on the suburban Snohomish County Council (where he’s currently the only Republican).

Election results: A lot happened last night, most notably the upset victory by Democratic state Del. Dave Marsden in Virginia’s state Senate district 37 by 317 votes, good for a pickup and a slightly bigger (22-18) Democratic edge in that chamber – which helps insulate against Bob McDonnell trying to Beshear the Dems back into the minority there. Also in Virginia, businessman Jeff McWaters held dark-red Senate district 8 for the GOP, defeating Democrat Bill Fleming by a 79-21 margin. Two other dark-red legislative districts (both made vacant because of Republican sex scandals) stayed in GOP hands, as California’s AD-72 was held by Chris Norby, 63-31, and Tennessee’s HD-83 was won 67-30 by Mark White. In New Hampshire, the field is now set in a potentially competitive general election to fill SD-16 on Feb. 16 (the swing district was vacated by GOPer Ted Gatsas, elected Manchester mayor). State Rep. David Boutin won the GOP nod; he’ll face off against Dem state Rep. Jeff Goley. Dems can push up to a 15-9 edge with a pickup here.

CT-Gov: Rell Won’t Run For Re-Election; SSP Moves to Tossup

Big news out of the Nutmeg State:

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell says she will not seek re-election next year.

Rell made the announcement in a news conference with reporters Monday at the statehouse in Hartford.

This comes as a surprise, as Rell has had fairly high job approval ratings, although they’d been trending downwards lately, and a recent bit of ethical bad news couldn’t have helped matters. Democrats already in the hunt include Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, 2006 Senate candidate Ned Lamont, and Stamford mayor Dan Malloy. Without a Republican in the field yet, and given the state’s bluish hue, Swing State Project is immediately moving the Connecticut race to “Tossup” (and may move it further in the Democrats’ direction once the field gets better sorted out).

UPDATE: The Hartford Courant sheds a little more light on the possible Republican field. Current Lt. Governor Michael Fedele has apparently already said he would seek the GOP nomination if Rell didn’t, and also says that Rell privately promised her support in such a case. The article also cites state House minority leader Larry Cafero and state Senate minority leader John McKinney (who begged out of a CT-04 run recently) as possible candidates.

RaceTracker Wiki: CT-Gov

SSP Daily Digest: 8/11

FL-Sen: As the angling for a one-and-a-half-year fill-in for Mel Martinez’s Senate seat continues, there’s already been one prominent “no thanks,” from Jeb Bush (not that anyone would expect Charlie Crist to pick him, as there’s been a lot of Crist/Bush friction and Crist wouldn’t want to risk having a placeholder overshadow him). Meanwhile, a likelier pick, 70-year-old former Republican Rep. Clay Shaw (a Gold Coast moderate who served in the House from 1980 to his 2006 defeat) shot his hand up and said “pick me pick me!”

IL-Sen: Chicago Urban League president (and former Rod Blagojevich spokeperson) Cheryle Jackson made her entry into the Democratic senatorial primary field official yesterday. However, the Illinois SEIU chapter, one of the state’s major unions, came out with an Alexi Giannoulias endorsement today, which, given their resources, moves him closer to having a lock on the nod. I’m wondering if they’re announcing in response to Jackson… or to Roland Burris, who keeps popping his head back up.

KS-Sen: Not much change in the GOP Senate primary in Kansas since we last looked. SurveyUSA finds that Rep. Jerry Moran has a 38-32 lead over Rep. Todd Tiahrt, propelled along by a 78-13 edge in the state’s western portion. Moran led by 2 in June and 4 in April.

NY-Sen-B, NY-16: It didn’t register much, at a time when all speculation focused on Rep. Carolyn Maloney, but several months ago Rep. Jose Serrano said he would consider a primary run against Kirsten Gillibrand. Yesterday he made clear that he wouldn’t get in the race (although he still didn’t sound very enthused about Gillibrand), which means that none of her former House colleagues are left planning a primary challenge.

MN-Gov: Add one more second-tier Republican to the huge pile of prospects for the open Minnesota governor’s race: state Senator Mike Jungbauer, a religious rightist from exurban Anoka County, formally kicked off his campaign. He does already have one important endorsement in his corner; he was “called by God” to run.

NJ-Gov: Today’s Quinnipiac poll has a slightly better showing for Jon Corzine, in line with last week’s R2K poll, though it’s far from time to start talking “comeback.” He cuts the lead to 9 points, 51-42, in a two-way poll of likely voters, down from 53-41 in July. More importantly, Corzine trails Chris Christie 46-40 in a three-way that includes independent Chris Daggett (who’s up to 7%). Campaign Diaries observes that the centrist Daggett (a former EPA regional administrator) is probably absorbing a lot of protest votes, keeping Democrats and moderate indies who hate Corzine from going over to Christie. If Corzine wins, he’ll owe Daggett a big ol’ “thank you.”

NY-Gov The NYT reports on growing discomfort by various downballot electeds on the prospect of having David Paterson at the top of the ticket. Both Reps. Michael McMahon and Dan Maffei worry about the effect of Paterson’s low approvals spilling over into their own races. Not to worry: although it’s buried deep in the story, the Times says that powerful local Dems are pushing Paterson to stand down and make way for Andrew Cuomo — and that local bigwigs have been tugging at White House sleeves, hoping they’ll find a nice appointed position for Paterson soon.

CA-10: The John Garamendi camp released an internal poll from Tulchin Research giving Garamendi a sizable edge in the upcoming special election: Garamendi is at 31, Mark DeSaulnier is at 21, Joan Buchanan is at 17, Anthony Woods is at 9, and Republican David Harmer is at 5. There’s a wrinkle with this poll, though (one that didn’t elude the DeSaulnier campaign): it’s a poll only of Democratic and decline-to-state voters, but the primary election is an all-party primary with one pool of votes (although under California law, the top Democrat and Republican will advance, not simply the top 2). In response to our inquiry, the Tulchin crew said that polling Republicans as well just wasn’t cost-effective, especially since there are six Republicans running and therefore there isn’t likely to be much party-line crossing.

In other CA-10 news, Garamendi got another bit of good news: he got the endorsement of both Bill Clinton and Al Gore (he was a deputy Secretary of Interior for part of the Clinton administration). However, a SurveyUSA that only tested favorables for the CA-10 candidates didn’t have good news for much of anyone: Garamendi is at 30/34, DeSaulnier is at 22/23, and Buchanan is at 16/25. Only up-and-comer Woods is in positive (if generally unknown) territory, at 14/13.

CT-04: With presumptive GOP nominee state Senate minority leader John McKinney staying out, not one but two other GOPers got in the race against Democratic freshman Rep. Jim Himes. One was the party’s likely #2 choice, state Senator Dan Debicella; the other is Rob Merkle, a political novice but the wealthy owner of a financial services recruitment firm.

PA-06: Maybe journalist Doug Pike won’t have the Dem primary to himself after all, now that Rep. Jim Gerlach is committed to the gubernatorial race. Bob Roggio, the little-known businessman who almost beat Gerlach in 2008, said he hasn’t “ruled it out.” Also, while there doesn’t seem to be anything tangible, there are indications that state Sen. Andy Dinniman, the Dems’ highest-profile elected official in the pivotal Chester County portion of the district, is “increasingly rumored to be seriously considering” the race.

SSP Daily Digest: 7/30

MO-Sen: This is actually starting to be a theme with Rep. Roy Blunt: he’s willing to go on the record as hating Medicare. An interview this weekend included the comments:  “We’ve had Medicare since 1965, and Medicare has never done anything to make people more healthy.” I think tens of millions of senior citizens might take exception to that.

NC-Sen: SoS Elaine Marshall is “pretty seriously leaning toward” getting into the race against Richard Burr, according to strategist Thomas Mills in CQ (although with no mention of whether or not he was speaking on her behalf or just running his mouth). He says she doesn’t have a firm timeline, but will let us know in late summer or early fall.

TX-Sen/Gov: When the tradmed actually refers to a conversation with a Senator as a “bizarre series of interviews,” you know something’s seriously gone awry. Kay Bailey Hutchison seemed to try to walk back her resignation announcement from yesterday when talking with the Houston Chronicle, but after some more probing, made it sound more like all she wanted was for Rick Perry to get out of the race. Because it’s her turn. Sounds exactly like something someone who’s leading in all the polls would do for her.

In the meantime, Rick Perry said he’d consider moving up the date of the special election to replace KBH, by way of mocking her resignation sort-of-decision, saying that there were too many important things going on in Washington. (Although I’m not sure Texas law would let him do so; it’s pretty clear about the election’s date.) Also, all this dissonance can only help Democratic Houston mayor Bill White in the special election, who got some good news from the FEC yesterday: they issued an advisory opinion saying he can go ahead and additional funds for the special election that technically doesn’t exist yet. (It’s kind of complex; he’s already raised $4 million in his regular 2012 Senate fund, but now he can raise additional money from the same maxed-out donors in the new fund.)

CA-Gov: It’s not just Democratic governors who are taking a hit in approvals. Arnold Schwarzenegger is running at 28% approval and 59% disapproval in California, according to PPIC. (By contrast, Obama is at 65/27 in the state!)

PA-Gov: Rep. Jim Gerlach is making coy reference to an internal poll that shows him losing the GOP primary to AG Tom Corbett, but with “the profile” to win. The poll says Corbett beats Gerlach (and Pat Meehan) 39-11-7 overall, but that Gerlach leads in the Philly area and that he wins when only biographical info is read. (For those not familiar with the concept, the “biographical info” poll question is the internal polling equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.)

UT-Gov/Sen/02: Here’s one more name to take off the Open Seat Watch: Jim Matheson verified that he will run for re-election to his House seat, rather than roll the dice on a Senate bid or a run in the 2010 gubernatorial special election (despite having a conceivable shot against as-yet-to-be-promoted Gary Herbert or whatever other weirdo makes it out of the convention process).

AK-AL: Nice to see that Rep. Don Young isn’t being forgotten, despite the gravitation of all of Alaska’s Democratic talent (ex-state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, State Sen. Hollis French) toward the gubernatorial race. State Rep. Harry Crawford says he’s interested in the race, and has met with the DCCC in DC about it.

CT-04: Here’s a bullet dodged for Democrats, and a miss for the NRCC, who’ve haven’t had too many targets decline them lately: state Senate minority leader John McKinney, a noted environment-minded moderate and son of former Rep. Stewart McKinney, who represented the area prior to Chris Shays, said he won’t run against freshman Rep. Jim Himes. The GOP may look to fellow state Sen. Dan Debicella instead.

HI-01: Another bit of good news on the recruiting front: state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has met in DC with the DCCC about the open seat being left behind by gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie. She’d probably be our best bet at keeping ex-Rep. Ed Case from making a comeback.

IL-07: The first Democratic candidate has filed for the open seat that Danny Davis is likely to leave behind. Darlena Williams-Burnett is the Cook County chief deputy recorder of deeds; she’s married to Chicago alderman Walter Burnett.

MI-07: Although ex-Rep. Tim Walberg is committed to running to regain his seat from freshman Democrat Mark Schauer, it looks like he’ll have some competition in the primary and may not even be the establishment’s choice in the GOP primary. Brian Rooney, an attorney at the right-wing Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, brother of Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, and grandson of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, has been talking to the NRCC about the race.

MN-03: One more recruiting tidbit. This one sounds like it’s far from a sure thing, but state Sen. Terri Bonoff has said she’s “undecided” but taking a MN-03 race “under consideration.” (Bonoff lost the DFL endorsement to Ashwin Madia in MN-03 last year.)

TX-32: I’m not sure why stories involving blimps are just inherently funny, but Rep. Pete Sessions got into a bit of a blimp-related brouhaha. The ardent foe of all things earmark got busted by Politico, of all places, for very slowly and quietly steering a $1.6 million earmark for blimp construction to an Illinois company with no track record of government contracting, let alone blimp making — but it did have one of Sessions’ former aides lobbying for it.

SSP Daily Digest: 6/12

MO-Sen: I’m not sure if Roy Blunt’s task just got easier or harder. Tom Schweich, a law professor and former ambassador, who started exploring the Missouri Senate race and landed some surprisingly hard blows on Blunt, yesterday decided not to run and instead endorsed Blunt. Schweich was a friend of moderate ex-Sen. John Danforth and was understood to be something of a Danforth proxy in the race. So Blunt should be happy to be free of that challenge, right? No, because he’s still likely to face a challenge from former Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who hasn’t formally announced her candidacy but has been stepping up her attacks on Blunt as an unprincipled insider. Without Schweich in there splitting the outsider anti-Blunt vote, Steelman becomes more viable.

FL-Sen: Here’s an endorsement from a key player for Rep. Kendrick Meek: he was endorsed by Miami mayor Manny Diaz, who’s recently been associated with possibly running in FL-25 or for Lt. Gov. next year. Another interesting Meek tidbit that just came out: Meek has gotten more tobacco industry money than anyone else in the 2010 election cycle (more than, say, Jim Bunning or Richard Burr). Meek has close ties with the Tampa-based cigarmaking industry.

OH-Gov: What’s that? An endorsement from a puny mortal like Manny Diaz? Screw that, because John Kasich just got an endorsement from Chuck Norris. (Which is odd, because I thought the fact was that Chuck Norris didn’t endorse politicians; politicians endorse Chuck Norris.) Ted Strickland was reportedly last seen running in terror on the shoulder of I-70, trying to get out of Ohio before sunset.

CA-03: A second credible Dem has gotten into the race against the newly-vulnerable Rep. Dan Lungren in this R+6 district in the Sacramento suburbs. Bill Slaton, director of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (and overseer of the electrial grid for 1.5 million people), filed to enter the race, joining confusingly-named fellow Dem (and Elk Grove city councilor) Gary Davis.

CT-04: The GOP has landed an interesting challenger to go against freshman Rep. Jim Himes: 24-year-old Will Gregory, a “young, fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican” activist who applied for a White House job during the Bush administration and, when asked to name two administration policies he agreed with, couldn’t provide an answer. State Senate minority leader John McKinney also seems likely to get in the race for the GOP and would bring a bit more, um, gravitas.

NY-29: Tom Reed, the mayor of Corning, New York, announced that he won’t run for a second turn but that he was looking at another public service opportunity that he couldn’t be specific about, but that sounded suspiciously like running in the 29th against freshman Rep. Eric Massa.

FL-Ag. Comm.: Ordinarily even we at SSP wouldn’t get so far down into the weeds as to post results of a poll of the GOP primary for the Florida Agriculture Commission race, but the results are too unbelievable to pass up… unbelievably funny, that is. The idea that the guy who used to be #3 on the House leadership ladder would try to demote himself to Florida Agriculture Commissioner is odd enough, but Rep. Adam Putnam is trailing a state Senator, Carey Baker, 26-17, in that race.

NY-St. Senate: As everyone sits and waits to see whether state Senator Hiram Monserrate should stay or go (he’s vacillating on his coup participation, meaning the whole thing turns on him now), two interesting new developments. One is that the coup may lead to ouster of Dem leader Malcolm Smith and his replacement with John Sampson, who apparently has a better relationship with the dissidents. Also, there’s buzz (though nothing confirmed) that Barack Obama himself has been on the phone with not just Monserrate and Pedro Espada, trying to get them back into the fold, but also with Darrel Aubertine (although it’s unclear whether Obama would encourage Aubertine to stay in the Senate as the Dems try to get their narrow edge back or to get into the NY-23 race that Obama opened up for him by promoting John McHugh).

CT-04: GOP Senate Minority Leader May Challenge Himes

Roll Call:

State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R) is considering challenging freshman Rep. Jim Himes (D) in 2010, according to Washington, D.C.-based Republican sources.

If he decides to run, McKinney would enter the race with a name-identification advantage. McKinney’s father, former Rep. Stewart McKinney (R), held the 4th district seat for 17 years until his death in 1987. …

In addition to McKinney, state Senate Deputy Minority Leader Rob Kane (R) has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the seat. Kane could possibly fund some of his own bid – a major plus for the district, which includes part of the most expensive media market in the country, in New York City.

McKinney would be a strong challenger, especially if the gov races goes largely uncontested and Chris Dodd acts as an anvil at the top of our ticket. However, according to SSP’s analysis, Obama surged to a punishing 60-40 margin in this district (Kerry won just 52-46), even though Connecticut was not targeted at the presidential level, making CT-04 tough sledding for any Republican.