Latest News – Filing Deadlines
There will be no filing deadlines until May 25, when filing ends in Connecticut. After that will see a rapid succession of filing deadlines: Arizona (May 26), Colorado (May 27), Wyoming (May 28), and Alaska/Massachusetts (June 1). Once those deadlines have passed, the Congressional field will be set in 37 states. The last Congressional filing deadline will be Delaware’s, on July 30.
Latest News – Retirements
In the wake of the May 6 David Obey (D-Wisconsin) retirement, there has been no action on the Congressional retirement front. We are still keeping an eye on the possible retirement of 2006 freshman Michael Arcuri (D-New York), but we may not know anything definitive until July 15, which is the filing deadline for New York.
Latest News – Upcoming Primaries
Primaries held on May 18 will be worth watching, because they involve intraparty fights that political blog POLITICO described as “..the fullest measure yet of the depths of anti incumbent hostility…” Four states will be holding primaries on that day: Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. We are watching the following three intraparty fights:
When 30 year incumbent Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic party last year, it was due to disastrous poll results showing him significantly trailing the same Republican he defeated in 2004 with 51% of the vote. And in that race, his victory was clinched by endorsements from former President Bush and former Senate colleague Rick Santorum.
The problem with Specter’s switch, however, was his reputation as an opportunist, which was bought front and center to the voters when he admitted at the time of the switch that “My change in party will allow me to be re-elected.” So despite the nearly unified support of Washington and Pennsylvania Democrats, his past and present conduct has created a high level of discomfort among rank and file Pennsylvania Democrats that Congressman Joe Sestak has exploited. TV footage showing Senator Specter with George W. Bush and Sarah Palin was the beginning of the playing of the “Republican card.” Then there were the Republican votes Senator Specter has cast over the past 30 years. And his twice referring to a local Democratic group as the “Allegheny County Republicans.”
Senator Specter’s line of defense, in addition to establishment support, has been to reiterate the benefits of his seniority and to argue that he is more electable than his opponent. However, none of these three lines of defense are likely to gather much traction in an anti incumbent year like this one. Though Specter maintained single digit leads in the polls before Sestak “played the Republican card”, recent tracking polls have shown the race a dead heat, with Sestak actually leading in several polls.
Another race that may be worth watching in Pennsylvania: up in Northeast Pennsylvania coal country, 26 year incumbent Paul Kanjorski was narrowly re-elected in 2008 with 52% of the vote in a district that gave Barack Obama 57% of the vote. This year, he has primary opposition from a local county commissioner. In addition to a voting record that has been mostly in line with the wishes of the Democratic leadership, Rep Kanjorski voted for TARP, and has taken some heat with the local Catholic community for his votes for healthcare reform. In the wake of Congressman Mollohan’s defeat in West Virginia, Kanjorski can’t feel entirely safe, and it’s worth noting that he didn’t release the results of a poll he commissioned.
In Arkansas, 12 year Senate Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln’s problem, in the eyes of Democratic activists, is twofold. First, she opposed “card check” legislation sought by organized labor. She also opposed the “public option” as part of healthcare reform, and for these stances, she received opposition from Lt Governor Bill Halter. Though Senator Lincoln has consistently led in the polls, she has remained beneath 50%., and a third candidate in the race may pull enough votes away to put the race into a runoff.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, the initial Republican favorite, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, has the staunch support of fellow Kentuckian and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That support, however, has become a liability in an anti Washington year. His opponent is Rand Paul, an eye doctor who also happens to be the son of Presidential candidate Ron Paul. He also has the attention of conservative groups like the Club for Growth, various Tea Parties, and grassroots conservative groups. Dr Paul currently leads by double digits in the polls (a recent poill showed him up 49-33%); the question is how this political novice with his more libertarian views will fare against significant Democratic opposition this fall.
Latest News – Upcoming Special Elections
While the primaries being held next week will be a yardstick for the strength of anti Washington sentiment amongs primary voters of either party, two vacated Democratic held House seats will also be a barometer of current voter attitudes.
In Southwest Pennsylvania, Democrat Mark Critz and Republican Tim Burns are locked into a tight battle in the only district in America to vote for Democrat John Kerry in 2004 then for Republican John McCain in 2008. While Mark Critz is denying his liberalism and reiterating his opposition to healthcare, he has brought in Vice President Joe Biden to campaign for him. He has also invoked the pork barreling ability of his former boss, the late Congressman John Murtha. Meanwhile, Republican Tim Burns is basing his campaign on opposition to the status quo in general and healthcare reform in particular. Though different polls tell a different story as to who’s ahead, a recent poll showed Burns with a 49-40% lead among those most interested in the election. And President Obama’s unpopularity in the district helps as well. Burns’ problem is that the special election is held on the day as contested statewide Democratic primaries. And the legacy of appropriations brought to the district by the late Rep Murtha is something that may or may not work in the Democrats favor this year in this district.
Over in Hawaii, a “winner take all” mail in election us now in progress and will culminate on May 22 between a Republican against two significant Democratic opponents. One of the Democrats is former Congressman Ed Case, a white male who once represented the other Congressional district and is supported by pillars of the establishment like the Washington Democratic political establishment, the Blue Dog Democrats, and both major newspapers in Honolulu. The other Democrat is Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who is an Asian-American legislator with staunch support of the Hawaii Democratic establishment and local unions. Early on, the Washington Democratic political establishment attempted to get one of the candidates to drop out but were unsuccessful, and have recently pulled out of the special election race because “local Democrats were unable to work out their differences.”
Some of those differences are personal: in 2006, then Rep. Case challenged an incumbent Democratic Senator who was 82 years old at the time. Case lost that race 55-45%, and in the process made an enemy of the state’s other Senator, Daniel Inouye, who not only has 48 years’ seniority, but has significant influence with Hawaii voters and chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Inouye has not only supported Hanaabusa, but has gotten involved personally in the campaign and has held multiple fundraisers for her.
The Democratic infighting has clearly benefitted the lone Republican in the race, Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou, but Djou has attractive qualities of his own and has adequate Republican funding. Djou has over time seen his lead expand in the polls and a recent survey sponsored by Aloha Vote shows Djou in the lead with 40%. More significantly, among the poll respondents who said they have already voted, Djou leads with 45%. As of today, the state elections spokesman has indicated that 35% of voters have turned in their ballots – the deadline is 6PM May 22.
Meanwhile, in upstate New York, the House seat vacated in early March by Democrat Eric Massa has finally had an election date set by its Democratic Governor. The special election, however, will be held in November, so voters going to the polls will be voting twice; once to fill the unexpired term, and once for the full two year term.