Maybe we can't quite call it the "Super Tuesday" of congressional primary days, but based on the gravity of some of the races that will be decided this week, it wouldn't be far off the mark. Two Democratic incumbent Senators are embroiled in stiff primary fights, and the outcome of both party primaries in Kentucky's Senate race will weigh heavily on the competitiveness of that seat in November. All told, there are 28 elections worth watching today (by our count), with the promise of run-offs in Arkansas on June 8 if no candidate achieves a majority of the vote in their respective races. Also on tap for the weekend is the special election to replace Dem Rep. Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii's 1st District, which is shaping up to be a disaster of Abercrombie's making.
AR-Sen(D): Polling seems to indicate that the odds of Bill Halter coming out ahead of two-term incumbent Blanche Lincoln as falling somewhere between slim and none, but the presence of Paulist weirdo D.C. Morrison on the Democratic ticket may draw enough votes away from Lincoln to force a runoff in June. Outside groups have already spent millions on this race; labor has lined solidly behind Halter while Chamber of Commerce-types have funneled significant resources behind Lincoln, telling you everything you need to know about the ideological fault lines of this primary battle. If a runoff becomes a reality, expect this race to find yet another gear.
AR-Sen(R): Again, first place isn't at all in question here. GOP Rep. John Boozman's superior name recognition has given him a big edge on the other seven dwarves of the GOP field. What is at stake, though, is whether or not Boozman (like Lincoln) can avoid a resource-draining runoff, and if not, which Republican contender will advance to the next round along with him. Boozman has stayed close to the 50% mark in recent polling, with ex-state Sen. Jim Holt (the GOP's '04 nominee against Lincoln) and state Sen. Gilbert Baker clawing for second place.
AR-01(D): With Marion Berry hitting the exits, four Dems have lined up to replace him, making a runoff a safe bet. Ex-state Sen. Tim Wooldridge, a pretty conservative dude who lost a runoff for Lt. Governor in 2006 to Bill Halter, is seen as the front-runner -- a notion confirmed by the lone poll we've seen of this race. However, Berry's ex-Chief of Staff, Chad Causey, leads the money race, and state Sen. Steve Bryles has raised six figures, too. State Rep. David Cook, who is probably the most liberal choice in this race (he favors the public option, according to his campaign site) is also the least well-funded, pulling in just $54,000 through the end of April.
AR-01(R): Republicans made a lot of noise about stealing Berry's seat after he announced his retirement decision, but that sense of optimism didn't result in an upgrade in terms of candidate recruitment. Radio broadcaster Rick Crawford started his race off slowly, but has begun to pick up the pace after Berry hit the exits, and that may be enough to make this a very competitive contest in November. The only candidate to join him the Republican primary is Princella Smith, a former aide to future ex-Rep. Joe Cao. Smith has proven to be something of a dud, only raising $67K for her primary against Crawford.
AR-02(D): The primary to replace retiring Rep. Rick Snyder is a pretty interesting one, with state House Speaker Robbie Wills seemingly leading the way in terms of November electability and insider connections, and state Sen. Joyce Elliott enjoying the support of the district's liberal base. Snyder's former Chief of Staff, David Boling, is also in the race and has raised nearly as much as Wills, so his presence can't be overlooked, either. The Dem field is rounded out by former Clinton School of Public Service programming director Patrick Kennedy and assistant Attorney General John Adams, both of whom have not raised much money are not expected to win a significant share of the vote.
AR-02(R): Rove acolyte and ex-US Attorney Tim Griffin is expected to win this primary pretty easily, seeing as how he's been out-raising Little Rock restaurateur Scott Wallace by a 6-to-1 margin. Wallace, however, tied Griffin at 20-20 in an early April poll of the race, and enjoys the backing of Mike Huckabee.
AR-03(R): Good luck sorting through this orgy of teabaggery. A whopping eight Republicans are duking it out for the right to succeed John Boozman in the House, pretty much guaranteeing that this sucker is going to a runoff in June. That early April Talk Business poll suggested that we're looking at a three-way race between state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, Rogers Mayor Steve Womack, and the aptly-named ex-state Sen. Gunner DeLay, but ex-DEA official Steve Lowry, businessman Kurt Maddox, and ex-state Rep. Doug Matayo could also compete.
HI-01(Special): There's not a whole lot that need be said about this crazy-ass jungle election, where Republican Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou looks poised to steal this seat. He of course faces off against state Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa and ex-Rep. Ed Case, who used to represent the state's other CD. The one final point I do want to make is that I blame this all on Neil Abercrombie. Had he not resigned unexpectedly, we'd never have wound up on this situation. I can appreciate that campaigning for the governorship of Hawaii when you are needed in D.C. can be quite a tiring task, especially for a septuagenarian. But Abercrombie knew he wanted to run long ago. He should either have stuck out his term, or not have stood for re-election in 2008. (DavidNYC)
KY-Sen(D): The Big One. While the tradmed seems to neglect this race in favor of seemingly shinier objects like Arlen Specter's primary in Pennsylvania or Rand Paul's surprising strength among Kentucky Republicans, the Democratic primary is the true race to watch out of Kentucky tonight. 2004 nominee and current Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo had enjoyed a consistent and seemingly impenetrable lead against state AG Jack Conway, the candidate with less baggage to exploit in the general election. However, recent polls have suggested that Conway is coming on strong in the home stretch of this campaign, perhaps making the race a dead heat. Research 2000 had Conway pulling within three points while SUSA only had Conway down by one. This one should be tight.
KY-Sen(R): This one shouldn't be tight. You know things are bad when Trey Grayson is whining like a DUMBocrat about Fox News' apparent preferential treatment of Rand Paul. Despite the best efforts of Mitch McConnell and Dick Cheney, it looks like the teabaggers are poised to make a major victory tonight, as Paul leads by 18 points in the latest poll of this race. A Paul win today will make this a fascinating race in the fall -- one that could potentially yield some major GOP headaches.
KY-03(R): Republicans are truly leaving no stone unturned in their quest to take back the House, and have a couple of warm bodies to take on two-term Dem Rep. John Yarmuth. Jeffrey Reetz, some guy who owns 25 Pizza Hut franchises, is facing off against Air Force vet Todd Lally. Both of these guys have raised six figures for their campaigns.
KY-06(R): After rocking his GOP opponent by 30 points in 2008, Ben Chandler has attracted a pack of mouth-breathers this time around, two of whom are somewhat well-funded. Attorney Andy Barr has been in the race the longest, and has raised over $400K. Retired coal executive Mike Templeman is his chief competition, while four other Republicans have only managed to raise chump change for the primary and are expected to be non-factors tonight.
OR-Gov(D): The main story on May 18 in Oregon may be the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, as there's been little activity that would qualify as volcanic in either party's open seat gubernatorial primary. The Democratic primary has been a low-key and civil contest between two long-time friends, former Governor John Kitzhaber (termed out after two terms in 2002, but angling for a return) and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Bradbury has big endorsers in his corner (Al Gore, Howard Dean) and gotten local progressives revved up by running to Kitzhaber's left, but polling gives a wide edge to Kitz. (Crisitunity)
OR-Gov(R): After bigger names like Greg Walden and Jason Atkinson passed, the question in the GOP primary was whether anybody other than Allen Alley, a former high-tech CEO who lost the 2008 Treasurer race, was going to show up at all. Eventually Chris Dudley, a former Portland Trail Blazers center from the 1990s, showed up and immediately assumed front-runner status simply by virtue of name rec and money. Most polling has given a lead to Dudley, but Alley seems to be closing in on him, thanks in part to Dudley's (very large) empty-suit-ishness. Both are from the moderate end of the GOP; the more conservative options, ex-state Sen. John Lim and anti-tax initiative grifter Bill Sizemore, are there mostly to provide comic relief. (C)
OR-01(R): Sports industry consultant Rob Cornilles seems to have piqued the NRCC's interest, as they've touted him as the man to take down Democratic Rep. David Wu in this D+8 suburban district. Before he can tackle Wu, though, he has to survive the GOP primary. Stephan Brodhead attracted some attention with his large bankroll, but SurveyUSA's poll of the primary indicates the main rival to Cornilles is teabagging mortgage broker John Kuzmanich. (C)
OR-05(R): Similarly, the NRCC has its favorite pony in the 5th: state Rep. Scott Bruun, a moderate from the wealthy suburban portion of this somewhat rural district. There was some brief hubbub that Bruun was vulnerable to a challenge from Tea Party-aligned retired businessman Fred Thompson (no, not that Fred Thompson), but SurveyUSA recently found that Bruun is on track to nail down the nomination. (C)
PA-Sen(D): The big kahuna. For a long time, a lot of observers (myself included) wondered when - or even if - Rep. Joe Sestak would go on the attack against the party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. Well, Sestak's certainly proved all the doubters very wrong. Polls are as tight as can be, and while he may not pull it off in the end, Sestak seems to have timed things perfectly. This should be quite the barnburner. (D)
PA-Gov(D): A funny thing happened on the way to the primary: After a year of desultory polling showing pretty much all candidates in the teens and single digits, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato completely pulled away from the pack. According to Pollster's trendlines, Jack Wagner, Anthony Williams, and Joe Hoeffel are all still mired in nowheresville, so unless a lot of polling is very wrong, Onorato will be the Dem gubernatorial nominee. (D)
PA-03(R): There's a crowded field to take on freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, but only two dudes have shown serious scratch - and both because they're self-funders: retired businessman Paul Huber, who raised $200K and loaned himself another $300K, and auto dealer and ex-city councilman Mike Kelly, who lent himself $165K on top of $80K in individual contributions. Other wannabes include Cochranton insurance agent Steven Fisher, teabagger Clayton Grabb, physician Martha Moore, and Some Dude Ed Franz, who have all raised about $30K or less. Both Huber and Kelly have been on the air with TV advertisements. A big question is whether Huber's fundraising edge will outweigh the fact that he was a registered Democrat for 33 years - and only switched parties in 2008. (D)
PA-04 (R): When Bush-era US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan (one of the names that kept cropping up in the US Attorney firings scandal) got into the race, Beltway pundits seemed to think the GOP primary would be a mere formality for her before posing a strong challenge to Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire in this R+6 district in Pittsburgh's suburbs. They didn't count on one thing: Buchanan's apparentineptitude at jumping from legal practice to electoral politics. We don't have any polls to go by, but her anti-establishment opponent, attorney Keith Rothfus has outraised her and is certainly making fewer unforced errors. (C)
PA-06(D): This race pits an SSP fave, physician and veteran Manan Trivedi, against someone we simply aren't very fond of, newspaper publisher Doug Pike. But putting aside our personal preferences, what's going to happen here? It's hard to say, especially since we haven't seen any polls. Pike, thanks to massive donations from himself totaling more than a million dollars, has a big money edge. He's also gotten his share of labor endorsements, though Trivedi has scored some of his own, as well as the backing of some key county committees. I'm rooting for Trivedi, to be sure, but I think he has an uphill fight against Pike's bucks. (D)
PA-10(R): Here's another district where the GOP thought a former US Attorney would be just what the doctor ordered, and they didn't quite get what they thought. Tom Marino was their hyped pick for the race, but questions about Marino's relationship with sketchy developer Louis DeNaples have loomed large over his campaign. Marino's fundraising has been subpar as well; what is likely to help him pull it out in the primary is that his anti-establishment opposition is split, with Snyder Co. Commissioner Malcolm Derk his most prominent foe. (C)
PA-11(D): Even though there's a long-long-time Democratic incumbent here, Rep. Paul Kanjorski, the primary is on the Democratic side, rather than for the GOP (where 2008 opponent Lou Barletta is on tap for a rematch). Up-and-coming Lackawanna Co. Commissioner Corey O'Brien is taking on Kanjorski. While he has only a fraction of Kanjorski's money, he's trying to outhustle the crusty Kanjorski on the ground, and also making electability arguments about the incumbent, who barely beat Barletta in the much-more favorable 2008. Without any polling, it's hard to guess whether we're looking at a WV-01-style unplanned retirement for Kanjorski. (C)
PA-12(Special): This, by rights, should be the main event tonight, as it's the only Democrat vs. Republican matchup anywhere. It has all the makings of a dead heat, not only in terms of polling (most recently a 1-point lead for Republican Tim Burns over Democrat Mark Critz, according to PPP), but also the lay of the land. It's an historically Democratic district with a huge registration advantage, but it's trending in the Republican direction as district's aged population gets its marching orders from Fox News instead of the union hall now. Much has been made of how this R+1 district was the nation's only one to go from backing Kerry in 2004 to McCain in 2008. Critz's close ties to John Murtha, and the fact that the special coincides with the hotly contested Democratic Senate primary, may help Dems win the day, though. (C)
PA-12(D/R): The regularly scheduled primary elections in the 12th for November are also on the same day as the special. While it's likely that, whatever the special election outcome, Mark Critz and Tim Burns will be facing each other again in the general, that's not guaranteed. Critz is likely to beat Ryan Bucchanieri on the Dem side, but Burns is facing a tough challenge from Bill Russell and leading only narrowly according to a recent Susquehanna poll. Russell, who was passed over by the state party for the nomination, was the 2008 candidate; he's best known as frontman for direct-mail scammers BaseConnect, and as such, has had enough money for TV ads. Could we see a Neil Abercrombie-type result where Burns wins a special and loses a primary on the same day? (C)
PA-17(D/R): Most observers expect November to be a matchup of long-time incumbent Democratic Rep. Tim Holden, and top-tier-ish GOP recruit state Sen. David Argall. Both, however, have primaries to get through first. Holden faces Democratic activist Sheila Dow-Ford, who's attacking him over his anti-HCR vote. Meanwhile, Argall (vulnerable over the issue of legislative pay raises) is barely keeping his head above water against fractured opposition, led by veteran Frank Ryan, who's had some surprising fundraising success. (C)
PA-19(R): This has the potential to be a surprise: Rep. Todd Platts is an unusually moderate Republican given the R+12 lean of this rural district, and he's also painted a target on his own back by publicly expressing interest on getting out of that job and moving over to head the Government Accountability Office instead. Opponent Mike Smeltzer is hoping to use that as a basis for giving Platts a good teabagging. (C)