SSP Daily Digest: 7/17

NH-Sen: You may remember several weeks ago when John Sununu reassured the rabble that Kelly Ayotte was, in fact, a fire-breathing conservative. A recent hire, though, suggests she might be trying to position herself as a New England moderate — she brought aboard Thomas Daffron for her campaign, a former Susan Collins consultant and CoS to William Cohen. Which, again, will only increase the likelihood of a Fred Tausch and/or Ovide Lamontagne challenge from the right.

NY-Sen-B: Harry Reid weighed in on the New York Senate primary, endorsing Kirsten Gillibrand, calling her a “rising star in the Democratic caucus.” Meanwhile, Joe Trippi, who’s been working for the Carolyn Maloney campaign (for which he received $10K in the second quarter), got busted for one of blogging’s cardinal sins when posting at HuffPo: not disclosing a paid relationship with a candidate.

AK-Gov: Sean Parnell isn’t even Governor yet (he takes over on the 26th), and would-be rivals are already sizing him up. The former state House Speaker, John Harris, announced that he’ll run against Parnell in the 2010 GOP primary. Which may seem odd, since Parnell is nowhere near as polarizing as predecessor Sarah Palin… but that may be exactly what’s motivating the more combative Harris, as he may think the inoffensive Parnell is something of a pushover, as seen by Parnell’s inability to close the deal against corrupt Don Young in the 2008 GOP House primary.

MN-Gov: The field keeps growing, as two more Republicans made it official in the last couple days that they’re candidates for the gubernatorial nomination next year: state Senator David Hann and former state Auditor Pat Anderson.

NY-Gov: AG Andrew Cuomo’s mouth may be saying that he’s not running against David Paterson in next year’s gubernatorial primary, but his wallet says otherwise. Cuomo raised $5.1 million in the last six months, which more than doubles up on Paterson, who raised $2.3 million in the same period.

CO-04: The media war over cap-and-trade continues in CO-04 as well as in VA-05; the Environmental Defense Action Fund (paid for by green energy companies) is running a thank-you ad on TV in favor of Rep. Betsy Markey’s cap-and-trade vote. She’s already had a thank-you TV ad from Americans United for Change run in her favor, and been the target of NRCC robocalls as well (but no TV from them, at least yet).

FL-10: More bad PR for Rep. Bill Young, whose bad fundraising quarter suggests he might be looking to cash in his chips. Young had to kill a $4 million earmark for St. Petersburg defense contractor Conax, after Conax was raided by federal agents several days ago. Conax has been a frequent recipient of the largesse of Young, the ranking Republican on Appropriations, to the tune of $28.5 million in earmarks since 2005. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Young received $123,000 in contributions in the last two years from defense contractors for whom he’s seeking earmarks this  year.)

FL-13: With Rep. Vern Buchanan facing big legal questions over sketchy campaign finance practices, Dems need to have someone credible on deck here to capitalize in case Buchanan implodes. Looks like they’ve found a credible challenger: pastor and former Bradenton city councilor James Golden.

MN-06: With local heavyweight state Sen. Tarryl Clark jumping into the Democratic field, 2008 candidate Elwyn Tinklenberg (who came within 3 points of unseating Rep. Michele Bachmann) is making noises that he may go all the way to the primary regardless of what Clark does. In most states, that wouldn’t be the least bit surprising, but remember that Minnesota picks its DFL nominees by nominating endorsing convention prior to the primary and it’s highly unusual to see contested primaries. With former UM regent Maureen Reed clearly also a serious candidate (based on her last fundraising quarter), this looks like it’ll be dramatic.

MS-03: So maybe you were wondering what was happening a year ago when thirty-something GOP rising star Rep. Chip Pickering, who’d been considered a likely successor to Trent Lott’s Senate seat, instead of going for that or even running for re-election, simply dropped out of politics altogether. Well, turns out he was given an ultimatum by his mistress of choosing between her or politics (which, in rural Mississippi, would require continuing his sham marriage to his wife) — and, somewhat unpredictably, he chose the mistress. The kicker? Pickering was, at the time, a resident of the now-infamous C Street townhouse, making him a roommate of John Ensign and ex-roomie of Mark Sanford.

NY-23: Just a reminder, in case you were thinking of running for Congress: today is the deadline for Democratic applicants for the nomination in the open seat race in NY-23 to make their intentions known. Still no word on whether or not state Sen. Darrel Aubertine is planning to take the plunge or not.

OH-AG: We finally have some confirmation about what “statewide” office former Sen. Mike DeWine was planning to run for. It’s been leaked that next week he’ll announce a run for Attorney General (and not Governor). He’ll face Democratic incumbent Richard Cordray, who took over in mid-term from Marc Dann.

MS-03: Could Mike Moore Run?

With the surprise retirement announcement of Republican Rep. Chip Pickering on Thursday, the bulk of the attention has been focused on potential Republican candidates for the seat (see here).  Given that Pickering’s district has a strong Republican lean (R+14.1), such speculation is certainly understandably.  But a Democratic bench does indeed exist in Mississippi’s third, and with the obvious Republican heavyweight, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck (herself a former Democrat), declining the opportunity to run according to the Commercial Dispatch, the field could get a lot more interesting on both sides of the partisan divide.

One such Democratic bench member with ties to the district is none other than former state Attorney General Mike Moore, and currently practices law in Jackson, a city partially located within the 3rd Congressional District.  Moore, who left a stellar record during his time as AG, was considered a likely Democratic candidate for Senate in the event of a Trent Lott or Thad Cochran retirement.  But with Cochran likely to run again, Haley Barbour looking mostly strong in his gubernatorial re-election bid this year, and the AG post safe in the hands of Democrat Jim Hood, Moore could not satisfy his statewide ambitions for at least another four or five years (either for a gubernatorial bid in 2011 or a run at Lott’s Senate seat in 2012, if open).  And while Moore was very popular during his four terms as AG from 1988-2004, the last time that his name was on the ballot was in 1999–a considerably long political hiatus.

If Moore wanted to keep his name recognition alive and well, running for–and more importantly, winning–a rare open Mississippi House seat would certainly help him keep his name in the public consciousness.  So will he do it?  The early answer, delivered via a surrogate, is no:

Former state Attorney General Mike Moore – a Democrat who ran for the U.S. House in 1989 – said he’s not interested in seeking Pickering’s seat, according to Jonathan Compretta, an associate in Moore’s law firm who’s campaign manager for current Attorney General Jim Hood.

Under normal circumstances, that would be that.  But are Mississippi Democrats willing to take that as their final answer?  According to Will Bardwell, the locals are at least putting in the effort to persuade Moore to look seriously at the race:

Word around the campfire is that Democrats are attempting to schedule a meeting with former Attorney General Mike Moore to persuade him to run for Chip Pickering’s congressional seat.

The move would make all the sense in the world for Moore, whose ultimate goal is the U.S. Senate but whose name recognition and political stock have been collecting dust since he left state government in January 2004. A seat in Congress would be an ideal launching pad and would keep Moore’s name recognition fresh while he waits for a Senate seat to open in either 2012 or 2014.

The only drawback is that, as of now, Moore carries no real political baggage, which would inevitably change in a hurry after a few years in the House of Representatives. Still, manageable political baggage may be less of a hurdle in 2012 than nearly a decade of political decay.

So on the one hand, Moore could keep his profile alive by risking controversial votes on issues such as the war in Iraq, abortion, and immigration (assuming he wins), or he could risk facing a bit of a “whodat” factor in future statewide races by not having his name on any ballot in twelve or thirteen years.

If Moore is firm in his “no”, the Democratic bench is not short on other potential recruits, such as former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, and former Reps. Wayne Dowdy and Ronnie Shows (the latter of whom lost badly to Pickering in 2002 when their districts were merged after the 2000 census).  Shows, for his part, seems like a strong possibility to give this district another crack:

Shows said he’s antsy to get back in Congress and might seek the seat again.

“Certainly I’m interested in it, but I got to think about it,” he said today.

“I’m looking at it very strongly. … I miss being there, but I’ve been pretty successful since leaving,” he said.

In any event, with open seats an especially rare occurrence in Mississippi, state Democrats have pledged to field a serious contender for the open seat.  While there’s no doubt it would be an uphill climb, would-be challengers could look to Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor, who won his Mississippi House seat with 65% of the vote in a special election in 1989 less than a year after Michael Dukakis collected an ugly 30% of the district’s vote, for inspiration.

UPDATE: Cotton Mouth offers more possible Democratic and Republican candidates.

MS-03: With Floodgates Open, Pickering Retires (Updated)

According to Roll Call, Republican Rep. Chip Pickering, long considered a potential successor for either Senator Thad Cochran or Trent Lott, has decided to call it quits:

Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) has decided not to run for re-election in 2008, a knowledgeable source confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Pickering’s office did not return requests for comment Thursday. But a second source said Thursday afternoon that Pickering was scheduled to meet with his staff in his Pearl, Miss., district office at 4 p.m. Central time, apparently to discuss his political future.


Several viable candidates are expected to seek the GOP nomination to replace Pickering, including termed-out Mississippi Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, a former Democrat who is scheduled to leave office at the end of this year.

Pickering, only 44 years old, could easily wait another four or six years for a Lott or Cochran retirement.  But perhaps he’s grown tired of waiting after being teased by potential Senate retirements for two cycles in a row.  Or maybe he’s just tired of not raking in the big bucks.  In 2003, Pickering openly mused about leaving Congress in order to take a massive annual paycheck as a telecommunications lobbyist.  It’s possible that Pickering feels, with life in an enduring House minority and no Senate promotion in immediate sight, that now is the time to cash in.

While Democrats held this district for over 100 years before Pickering claimed this open seat in 1996, it has a solid Republican advantage with a PVI of R+14.  Bush twice dominated this district by 64%-35% and 65%-34% margins in 2000 and 2004, respectively.  If there is a glimmer of hope for Democrats, it is that Rep. Gene Taylor, a conservative Democrat, holds a district even redder (R+16, with a 37-point margin of victory for Bush in 2004).  However, it would be a tall order for Democrats to be able to recruit someone with Taylor’s political skills to contest this seat.

To sum it up, we’ve seen three Republican retirements in a week: Hastert, Pryce, and now Pickering.  (Plus the raging rumors surrounding Dave Hobson.)  I wonder how many more surprises are in store for us.

UPDATE: The Clarion-Ledger confirms.  Pickering is outta here!

UPDATE 2: Will it be a retirement or a resignation?  First Read is “getting conflicting signals”, but suggests that “with Pickering heading to work on K Street, he might want to leave Congress before the lobbying/ethics reform legislation is signed into law”.