MA-Sen: Coakley Leads Primary Pack, Mihos Won’t Get In

Rasmussen (9/8, likely Democratic voters):

Martha Coakley (D): 38

Stephen Lynch (D): 11

Ed Markey (D): 10

Michael Capuano (D): 7

John Tierney (D): 3

Some other candidate: 5

Not sure: 25

(MoE: ±4%)

Rasmussen acts quickly to get a look at the Democratic primary field in the Massachusetts Senate race, now that it’s clear that heavyweights Joe Kennedy II and Marty Meehan won’t be running. AG Martha Coakley, the only statewide official and the only woman in the race, has a big edge. She leads four Boston-area House members — each of whom represents 1/10th of the state, and most of whom pull in about 1/10th of the respondents.

Lots of other developments in the Bay State today. First and foremost, rumors were flying earlier today that Christy Mihos, the Independent-turned-Republican former convenience store czar and Turnpike Authority board member who’s currently running for Governor, would switch over to the Senate race, giving the GOP a top-tier candidate (albeit still a long shot for a federal office, in this dark-blue state). However, Mihos a few hours ago confirmed that he’s staying in the Governor’s race, where polls have shown him competitive.

Politico also rounds up a number of other odds and ends. One more Democrat is getting into the mix: Alan Khazei, the wealthy founder of City Year, a community service program for 20somethings. He has the potential to self-fund and might be able to tap into the youth vote. Martha Coakley, not exactly in a surprise, is getting EMILY’s List’s endorsement, which well help a lot with her fundraising (her one big disadvantage is she starts almost from scratch on money, while the House members all have huge stockpiles).

Finally, the Massachusetts legislature is poised to move on the legislation needed to create a temporary interim appointment until the special election can be held. Reportedly, legislation may be on the floor by day’s end. One other name has surfaced for the temporary appointment: Paul Kirk, former DNC chair and current head of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

SSP Daily Digest: 9/2

AR-Sen: To few people’s surprise, Blanche Lincoln folded faster than Superman on laundry day on the public option issue when faced with a non-ridiculous challenge from the right. Still, her erstwhile GOP rival, Gilbert Baker, may not be quite as problem-free as the Beltway media have touted him as; ArkDem provides some essential local color in the diaries.

CO-Sen: This isn’t going to endear the NRSC to the Colorado rank-and-filers (and even the party establishment, like state party head Dickwad Hams Dick Wadhams) any more: they just got caught building websites for former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. This may help fuel whatever fire is suddenly burning under Weld Co. DA Ken Buck.

MA-Sen: After contrasting reports yesterday about whether ex-Rep. Marty Meehan might or wouldn’t run for Senate, Politics magazine got him on the record saying that he “hadn’t ruled it out” but that he was absorbed in his university chancellor job and that he’d defer to either Vicky or Joe Kennedy. No word on what happens to his $4 million if he doesn’t run.

NY-Gov: The Eliot Spitzer boomlet lasted about one day before he laughed it off, but a quickie SurveyUSA poll verified that he’s still got some political mojo left. 15% of New Yorkers said they’d still vote for him no matter what office, 47% said they might, depending on the office, and only 39% said no way. He also won against David Paterson on the curiously worded question of “who’s better qualified” to be Governor, 41-24, although Rudy Giuliani wins the same question against Spitzer, 59-25.

OR-Gov: As we reported yesterday, ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber made it official this morning: he’s in the race. Former SoS Bill Bradbury, who’s already in the Dem primary, now says he will be announcing something on Sept. 17 (he’d previously alluded to staying in even if Kitzhaber got in, but we’ll have to see what he says now that it’s happened). Meanwhile, SurveyUSA has another snap poll, this time of the favorables of the race’s announced players so far: Kitzhaber has a fave of 33/26, Bradbury is at 21/20, and moderate Republican Allen Alley (the 2008 Treasurer candidate, and a former deputy CoS to Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski) is at a woeful 8/10.

VT-Gov: Two other names for potential GOP gubernatorial candidates have surfaced, in addition to Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. One is Mark Snelling, who’s never held office before but benefits from a prominent family name (he’s the son of ex-Gov. Richard Snelling and ex-Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling). Another possibility is former Auditor Randy Brock who served one term, 2004-2006, before losing re-election.

CA-24: Marta Jorgensen, a nurse who held Rep. Elton Gallegly to 56% in 2008, said she’s back for another try in 2010. Gallegly, frequent retirement speculation target, hasn’t formally announced he’s running but informally said he’ll run again.

IL-14: Another GOPer is taking a look at the race against Bill Foster, joining Ethan Hastert and Mark Vargas. Bill Cross is a former member of the Aurora City Council and owns two hardware stores in the district.

KS-03: Rep. Dennis Moore has proven pretty entrenched in his light-red district in the Kansas City suburbs, repelling state Sen. Nick Jordan in 2008 without much trouble. Still, he’s drawn another credible challenge for 2010, from GOP former state Rep. Patricia Lightner.

LA-03: One more name to add to the seemingly endless pile of possible candidates in the open seat in the 3rd: Craig Webre, sheriff of Lafourche Parish (popu. 90,000). The article is strangely unclear about what party he’d be running for — Webre is registered as a Republican, but Democrat Reggie Dupre (the former state Senator whose resignation triggered last week’s successful special election in SD-20) was advising Webre and was the article’s source — although considering how porous party lines can be in Louisiana, that seems typical. Dupre, who just took over as Terrebonne Parish levee director, confirmed that he himself wouldn’t run.

VA-02, 05, 11: The trio of Virginia freshmen (Tom Perriello, Glenn Nye, and Gerry Connolly) have banded together in a joint fundraising committee. Connolly has to be seen as less vulnerable than the other two, but still needs resources for a potentially expensive rematch against Keith Fimian.

CA-Lt. Gov: With the now very-high likelihood that John Garamendi will be heading to Washington DC in a few months, the question arises of who Arnold Schwarzenegger will replace him with. Sorta-moderate state Sen. Abel Maldonado gets the most press; his appointment would open up a Senate seat in a Dem-leaning area that could get Senate Dems closer to that magic 2/3s mark. Assemblyman (and former minority leader) Mike Villines is another possibility; another idea is giving the job to ex-Rep. Tom Campbell in order to pry him out of the Governor’s race. Schwarzenegger is mavericky enough he might appoint a Democrat, too; one name mentioned is former Assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg, who has occasionally cooperated with the Governator.

Seattle Mayor: The mayor’s race in Seattle, between two unknowns (Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan) who won the primary after incumbent Greg Nickels KO’d himself, briefly threatened to get much more interesting when prominent state Sen. Ed Murray started exploring running as a write-in, sensing an opening for someone who actually knows what the hell he’s doing. Although he could have counted on a lot of both labor and real estate developer support, he decided against it yesterday, aware of the extreme technical difficulty in mounting a successful write-in campaign on weeks’ notice. Murray instead remains the most-talked-about successor to Rep. Jim McDermott, although it seems like he could be waiting another decade for that seat to open up.

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.

SSP Daily Digest: 8/31

CO-Sen: That was fast… two days after saying he was probably going to drop out of the Colorado Senate race, now Weld County DA Ken Buck is likely to stay in the race. Apparently there has been enough conservative discontent over the seeming annointment by the NRSC and state party of former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton as the nominee that Buck may feel he can ride that backlash to primary victory. (Norton may well be conservative herself, but she’s such a blank slate that there’s no way to tell, and at any rate, conservative activists aren’t taking kindly to DC meddling this year, as we’ve seen in the Missouri and New Hampshire races.)

FL-Sen: Too cute by half? Charlie Crist’s appointment of his ex-Chief of Staff, George LeMieux, to the Senate is getting panned by many of the major newspaper editorial boards in the state. (J)

IA-Sen: Big Bruce Braley boffo boomlet busts! The sophomore Representative confirmed that, despite a sudden flurry of speculation, he’ll stay where he is, and not run against Chuck Grassley for the Senate. Former state legislators Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen are already in the race.

IL-Sen: Here’s another Senate race where the GOP rabble is getting restive about one candidate getting the establishment stamp of approval. There are eight other candidates besides Mark Kirk, and religious right ultra-conservatives are trying to coalesce behind one, with Hinsdale real estate developer Patrick Hughes seeming to get the most mention. The most notable name in the anti-Kirk camp? Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, who’s 85 and still going strong. The article does mention that there have been several other Senate primaries in Illinois where a conservative upstart beat the establishment moderate, most notably Al Salvi’s upset of Bob Kustra in the open seat race of 1996.

KY-Sen: You better believe it’s on. Rand Paul’s backers are gearing up for another Moneybomb!, this time cleverly scheduled for the same day (Sep. 23) as Trey Grayson’s big DC fundraiser where he’ll be feted by 23 Republican Senators.

LA-Sen: David Vitter seems like he has an endless supply of horse’s heads to put in the beds of potential GOP primary opponents. This time, former Lt. General and Katrina recovery hero Russel Honore backed down within a few days of his rumored interest appearing, much the same as with Suzanne Terrell and John Cooksey.

MA-Sen: There was a brief flurry of speculation that Vicki Kennedy, Ted Kennedy’s widow, would be the placeholder short-term appointee to his seat (assuming Massachusetts Dems followed through on changing state law regarding appointment), pushed along by Sens. Dodd and Hatch. However, it now appears she’s not interested in the interim appointment (or running in the special). Meanwhile, the many contenders among the Massachusetts House delegation are watching what ex-Rep. Joe Kennedy II does; Ed Markey and Michael Capuano, for instance, both sound eager to run in the special election but will defer to a member of the Kennedy family.

NV-Sen: There’s the old expression about not picking fights with people who buy ink by the barrel, but Harry Reid and the Las Vegas Review-Journal are getting into a little pissing match. Reid told the LVRJ that “I hope you go out of business.” The LVRJ’s publisher shot back, calling him a “bully” and decrying his “creepy tactic.” (I expect a Reid press release saying something about rubber and glue is forthcoming.)

AL-Gov: The specific details seem few and far between, but Ben Smith leaks some tidbits about an AL-Gov poll commissioned by the Alabama Education Association (the state’s teacher’s union, naturally a pro-Democratic organization). It’s good news for Rep. Artur Davis, who leads all GOPers in the race, ranging from ex-judge Roy Moore by 6 to Treasurer Kay Ivey by 12. Davis also leads Ag Commissioner Ron Sparks by 30 in the Dem primary, and has a 3-to-1 favorable ratio.

NJ-Gov: The Jon Corzine camp is out with a hard-hitting new TV spot, nailing Chris Christie over his undisclosed loan to carpool buddy Michele Brown. Also, unsurprisingly but critical to his survival, Corzine got the SEIU‘s endorsement last Friday.

PA-Gov: Scranton mayor Chris Doherty has been casting a wide net as he looks for a step up, considering the Lt. Gov. spot and a PA-11 primary challenge against Paul Kanjorski, but now he may be considering the big enchilada: a run for Governor. With the two Dem frontrunners both anti-abortion Pittsburgh-area Dems (Allegheny Co. Exec Dan Onorato and state Auditor Jack Wagner), there’s may be an opening for someone pro-choice from the East (which is something ex-Rep. Joe Hoeffel is also considering).

VA-Gov: Republican AG Bob McDonnell’s attempts to position himself as a moderate in the Virginia Governor’s race hit a big snag this weekend, as the Washington Post took a look at the master’s thesis he wrote while a 34-year old graduate student at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. McDonnell railed against feminists, working mothers, contraceptive use by married couples, cohabitators, homosexuals, and fornicators. McDonnell protests rather weakly that his views have “changed” since he wrote the thesis.

CA-10: SurveyUSA is out with their final poll of the special election to replace Ellen Tauscher, and finds little movement in the past two weeks. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D) leads with 25%, followed by Republican David Harmer with 20%. The other two major Dems in the race, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, are at 16% and 12%, respectively. (J)

MO-04: Retiring GOP Sen. Kit Bond seems displeased that national Republicans are trying to knock off veteran Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton next year. In an interview during a recent Cardinals game, Bond said that “it’s very very important for us to have a man like Ike Skelton” in Congress. (J)

Data: The Office of the House Clerk has released its biennial summary of the 2008 presidential & congressional elections (PDF). The document contains official results for every federal race in the nation, all in one place. (D)

MA-Sen: What’s Next

Having had some time to let the passing of Ted Kennedy sink in, speculation inevitably turns to who succeeds him (and when). There hasn’t been an open Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1984, so there’s a backlog of long-time Representatives with huge bank accounts all trying to crash the door at the same time… and with a mid-term special election meaning no one would have to give up a safe seat to run, expect a lot of people running.

While Massachusetts currently has a system where there is no gubernatorial appointment but rather a mid-term special election (a result of a legislative change passed in 2004 to prevent Mitt Romney from appointing a Republican successor to John Kerry), there is now a push to update the law to a system more like what is done in Texas: a short-term appointment until the special election can be held. This was suggested by Kennedy himself in a letter released a week prior to his death (which met some initial resistance last week), but with Democrats painfully aware that Kennedy’s absence leaves Senate Democrats at 59 and at least one vote short on a health care reform cloture vote, momentum is building for a quick post-Labor Day vote that would change the law again to allow for the short-term appointment. Governor Deval Patrick said on MSNBC that he would sign such a bill, and state House Speaker Robert DeLeo has given it his tacit approval.

Roll Call suggests that, if this passes, the short-term appointee is unlikely to be someone who would contest the special election. They point to former Governor (and Presidential candidate) Michael Dukakis as a likely appointee; he has already given assurances that he will not run in the special.

The next question is: what’s the timetable on the special election? It doesn’t seem like any changes to the law regarding interim appointment will involve changes to the special election timetable. The Hill calculates:

The special election must be held between 145 and 160 days after the vacancy occurs. Since Kennedy died late Tuesday, that puts the window between Jan. 17 and Feb. 1. Holding the race on a Tuesday, a traditional Election Day, would mean Jan. 18, Jan. 25 or Feb. 1.

So who runs, among the Democrats, in the special? Speculation centers on as many as five of the state’s ten Democratic House members, and two former House members as well.

Rep. District Age CoH
Ed Markey MA-07 63 $2.89 mil
Richard Neal MA-02 60 $2.5 mil
Stephen Lynch MA-09 54 $1.39 mil
John Tierney MA-06 57 $1.29 mil
Michael Capuano MA-08 57 $1.2 mil
Martin Meehan was MA-05 52 $4.8 mil
Joe Kennedy II was MA-08 56 $1.7 mil

One high-profile House member who has already indicated that he won’t run is Barney Frank. The 69-year-old Frank is at the pinnacle of his power as House Financial Services Chair. Ed Markey is a something of a question mark; he’s also one of the most powerful House members, as a 33-year veteran and chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, making it less likely he’d be willing to give up his gavel… but there’s also no question he’s been stockpiling money for this very contingency for many years.

The remaining members of the House delegation are 72-year-old John Olver (considered a likely retiree soon), 68-year-old Bill Delahunt, 63-year-old Niki Tsongas (who just got to the House), and 49-year-old Jim McGovern. McGovern, based in Worcester’s MA-03, is sitting only only $536K, which apparently isn’t enough for prognosticators to consider him a likely candidate.

Former Reps Meehan and Kennedy are also question marks. Meehan has by far the most money of anyone, and has been sitting on it in miserly fashion since leaving the House to become chancellor of UMass-Lowell. Although he’s reportedly happily ensconced in his new job, his hunger for a Senate seat while still in the House was palpable, and the fact that he’s still hoarding his cash is a red flag. Kennedy has a huge intangible advantage, perhaps a field-clearing one, in that, well, he’s a Kennedy, and there’s understandable sentiment about keeping at least one Kennedy in the Senate. Kennedy, however, has been out of office for a while, and a subsequent ugly divorce and controversy of Venezuelan oil deals may cast a bit of a shadow over him. (Plus, more generally, the Kennedy name may not have the iconic power it used to, as seen in the Caroline Kennedy and Chris Kennedy flameouts this year, as well as the 2002 loss of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.)

There are two other non-House, female candidates who could make the race. One is Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, who hasn’t held office but could be a sentimental favorite; however, indications are that she isn’t interested in running (although she could be another possible short-term appointee). The other is AG Martha Coakley, who has had her eye on the Senate seat for some time, polling the race several times. While she doesn’t have a big stash of federal dollars like the other candidates (she has only $144K), she would bring something of a demographic advantage to the race by being the only woman, as well as the only statewide official. Coakley has been quick to hit cable TV in the last couple days.

There must be some Republicans to run, right? What passes for GOP top talent in the Bay State (Christy Mihos, Charlie Baker) is already looking at the Governor’s race, where they’ve been historically more successful and where Patrick is unpopular. That leaves former Lt. Gov. (and 2006 gubernatorial loser) Kerry Healey, former US Attorney Michael Sullivan, former Ambassador Chris Egan, state Senator Scott Brown, former Justice Dept. official Wayne Budd, and businessman David Sukoff as GOPers who’ve been mentioned. Former Bush CoS Andy Card, and Jim Ogonowski, who ran well in the MA-05 special election, are reportedly not interested.

There’s one other name being floated: former Governor Mitt Romney. To most observers, that’s comical, considering that Romney a) is busy running for President, and won’t want to get involved in the relatively small ball time-suck of the Senate, and b) didn’t run for re-election as Massachusetts Governor because he would have had his ass handed to him, after veering to the right in order to prep for his Prez run and repeatedly dissing his own state while doing so. US News’s delusional Peter Roff still sounds hopeful, saying that the fact that being in the Senate would help Romney prove his conservative bona fides — but offering no evidence for Romney’s electability in Massachusetts other than his 100% name ID.

Meanwhile, there’s one other entirely separate game of musical chairs: Senate committee assignments. Kennedy was chair of Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (or HELP), one of the two key Senate committees on health care reform. The acting chair of HELP while Kennedy was out has been Chris Dodd, who has been doing double-duty while also chairing Banking. The ball’s basically in Dodd’s court now: whether he wants to switch full-time to HELP, or go back to Banking. This actually impacts his re-election strategy, interestingly: does he go to HELP, and focus on building accomplishments there in order to distract from lingering dissatisfaction (not necessarily deserved, but either way, the perception is there, especially regarding the AIG bonuses) from his tenure at Banking? Or does he go back to Banking in order to show his constituents he’s focused on cleaning up the mess there? (State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, one of his minor GOP contenders, is already jumping on Dodd over possibly moving to HELP.)

So, if Dodd moves to HELP, that means Tim Johnson of South Dakota takes over Banking. However, the moderate Johnson is still slowed by his brain hemmorhage from several years past, and has been a low-key participant since then; he might defer to the 3rd in line, the much more liberal Jack Reed of Rhode Island, which would certainly improve our chances of robust re-regulation of Wall Street in the coming year.

On the other hand, if Dodd stays at Banking, Tom Harkin is 2nd in line at HELP. While Harkin certainly has had a stake in such issues, he may prefer to remain as chair of Agriculture, the defining issue in his state of Iowa. Either way, we’d then likely get the only female committee chair: if Harkin stays at Agriculture, 3rd in line to chair HELP would be Barbara Mikulski. If Harkin moves to HELP, the Ag order then goes Patrick Leahy (chair of Judiciary), Kent Conrad (chair of Budget), and Max Baucus (chair of Finance). It’s hard to see any of them wanting to give up those gavels, so next in line to lead Agriculture would be Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln — which might give her something valuable to honk her horn about as she faces a potentially difficult re-election.

UPDATE (James L.): This shouldn’t be considered a surprise to anyone with their head properly screwed on, but Mittens says that he won’t run for Teddy’s seat.