NC-Sen (D): They take a long time to get around to their runoffs in North Carolina, but we're finally here. The marquee contest pits Secretary of State Elaine Marshall against former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. Marshall led 36-27 in the first round, with 17% going to third-place finisher Ken Lewis, who endorsed Marshall a few weeks after the primary. As evidenced by Lewis's backing, Marshall seems to have rallied the black political community to her side, while Cunningham still retains the support of the DC establishment (DSCC chair Bob Menendez's PAC recently gave him $5,000). The only public poll of this race was from PPP, which showed things tied at 36. However, that survey was taken just after the primary, at the beginning of May, and it's hard to say how things may have changed since then. But if Marshall can consolidate Lewis's vote (see Jeff's maps here), she ought to be in good position to win.
NC-08 (R): It's hard out there for a nutter - really, it is. There's so much competition these days - from Rand Paul, from Sharron Angle, even from Vaughn Ward. But Tim D'Annunzio's tried his best. In fact, he's tried everything, from claiming he knows where the Ark of the Covenant lies buried (Arizona) to suing his opponent, former TV sportscaster Harold Johnson (for defamation). The entire Republican establishment from chimpan-a to chimpan-z has rushed to get behind Johnson, but he's only raised about $363K. Meanwhile D'Annunzio has been flushing money like a smack addict (which he once was), to the tune $1.3 million. In a recent survey, PPP nonetheless had Johnson leading 49-39, but we can - nay, we must - still root for Timmy D!
SC-Gov (R): Despite some misgivings from elements of the SC GOP establishment (including the Chamber of Commerce), it appears that state Rep. Nikki Haley is the smart money bet to win the Republican gubernatorial run-off against Congressman Gresham Barrett. Haley came oh-so-close to an outright victory in the first round of voting, scoring 49% to Barrett's 22%. Third-place finisher Henry McMaster, the state's attorney general, threw his support to Haley while Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer backed Barrett. It's been mostly smooth sailing for Haley in the runoff, though, and an internal poll released by her campaign a week and a half ago gave her a commanding lead over Barrett. (J)
SC-01(R): The run-off for the nod to replace GOP Rep. Henry "Smokey" Brown in the House of Representatives is coming down to African-American state Rep. Tim Scott and attorney Paul Thurmond, the son of Strom. Scott has a lot going for him, including the support of the NRCC and other Washington power-players who are exited by the prospect of finally electing another black Republican to the House. Scott also has the muscle of the Club for Growth behind him, so it would probably be a serious upset if Thurmond, who won only 16% of the vote to Scott's 31% in the first round, prevailed. (J)
SC-03(R): Businessman Richard Cash, who finished with a surprisingly strong 25% in the first round, and Laurens County State Rep. Jeff Duncan (who received 23%) are squaring off to replace outgoing would-be governor Gresham Barrett. The pair have split the endorsements of some also-rans, Duncan earning the support of 5th place finisher Neal Collins and Cash that of 6th place's Mike Vasovski. Third and fourth place finishers Rex Rice (who was widely expected to make the runoff) and Joe Grimaud haven't endorsed either. Duncan is the institutional candidate, but both are somewhat teabaggish. Regrettably, regardless of who wins, he will likely be the next Congressman from this R+17 district. (JMD)
SC-04(R): Bob Inglis version 2.0, and his rare voice of rationality in the House GOP caucus, seem to be going the way of Windows 3.1. His 28% tally in the first round against Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy (who received 39%) and assorted teabaggery is the weakest of any House incumbent so far. Though none have made endorsements, Inglis' other opponents in the first round, seem to be more in line ideologically with Gowdy. Given this, and despite a late endorsement from Stephen Colbert, we can likely chalk this one up to America Glenn Beck 1, Sanity 0. (JMD)
UT-Sen(R): With three-term incumbent Bob Bennett having been unceremoniously retired at the GOP convention, Utah Republicans are deciding between the two insurgents who beat Bennett, former Utah County GOP chair Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee, the former counsel to ex-Gov. Jon Huntsman. Bridgewater may have the mantle of "establishment" thrust upon him, thanks to the endorsement of Bennett, and correspondingly, while Lee is running with the conglomerated FreedomWorks/Club for Growth/Jim DeMint/RedState axis backing him -- but, as Ed Kilgore points out, that doesn't really make Bridgewater appreciably any less ultra-conservative than Lee. Bridgewater leads the most recent public poll of the race, 42-33, but Lee is out with his own internal giving him the lead. (C)
UT-02(D): Rep. Jim Matheson shouldn't have trouble winning tonight's Democratic primary against activist and teacher Claudia Wright; it's more a question of by what margin? It was something of a surprise when Matheson got forced into a primary at the Democratic state convention, but (like the flipside of the GOP convention) that's dominated by the activist base, some of whom seem eager to punish Matheson over his 'no' vote on health care reform. A number of other anti-HCR Blue Doggish Dems (Heath Shuler, Tim Holden, Larry Kissell) in red districts have been held in the 65% region by no-namers in their primaries; the one poll of this primary, giving Matheson a 52-33 lead, suggests a similar outcome here. (C)
CA SD-15: There's one other race to watch tonight: the special election to fill the 15th Senate district in California, left vacant by Republican Abel Maldonado's ascension to Lt. Governor. If there's one good place left in California for a Democratic legislative pickup, this is it. It's a D+5 district on California's Central Coast, where Democratic former Assemblyman John Laird faces off against GOP Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee. Don't forget, though, under California's unusual special election system, this probably isn't the decisive night. There are also an independent and Libertarian on the ballot, and if nobody clears the 50% hurdle, there's a runoff on August 17. (C)
AL-Gov(D): Rep. Artur Davis has led Ag. Comm'r Ron Sparks in the money race and all polling that's been made public to date. But a lot of Alabama Democrats - and especially the black political establishment - are unhappy with Davis's conservative voting record, especially his vote against healthcare reform. This has led to persistent rumors that Davis is "in trouble," and Sparks (who just scored an endorsement from ex-Gov. Don Siegelman) even claimed to have an internal showing the race tied. But he declined to share so much as a one-page polling memo - and if he's right, quite a few other pollsters are wrong. (Though Nate Silver notes that polls of Southern Democratic primaries have, in recent years, been off by wider margins than in other regions.) We've seen some surprising primaries on the congressional level involving reps who've voted against HCR, but no one has yet paid the ultimate price for it. If Davis is the first, it would be a very big deal indeed. Note that there's no possibility of a runoff, since Davis and Sparks are the only two candidates on the ballot. (D)
AL-Gov(R): With seven candidates in a crowded field, this race is certain to be resolved in the runoff to be held on July 13th. Bradley Byrne has been considered the front-runner and is the choice of most establishment Republicans. However, as the moderate amongst his primary foes, Byrne has come under heavy criticism as opponents question his commitment to conservative causes. Interestingly, traditional Democratic interests in the state have spent heavily against Byrne in the primary. Tim James, son of former Gov. Fob James, is likely Byrne's strongest adversary and has gained national attention with a series of controversial ads. While Byrne and James will most likely face each other again in July, Roy Moore of Ten Commandments fame still has a chance to snag a ticket to the runoff. (T)
AL-Ag. Comm'r(R): This is it. The big one. The eyes of the nation, and indeed, the world, will fall upon the Republican primary for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries of Alabama. Dale Peterson, a farmer, a businessman, a cop, a Marine in Vietnam, and an usher in a movie theater one summer will be battling for the GOP nod for this most prestigious office. Little needs to be said about Peterson's opponents, Dorman Grace and John McMillan, other than the fact that it's clear that they don't give a rip about Alabama! The winner of this primary will face Democrat Glen Zorn, a current assistant Agriculture Commissioner and former mayor of Florala.
AL-AG(R): One of the most vulnerable incumbents anywhere is Alabama's Republican Attorney General Troy King. This isn't a clear-cut establishment vs. movement primary, though; if anything, the state's GOP legal establishment has soured on the erratic King and is backing his challenger Luther Strange. Polls give a large edge to Strange, who counts Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby and even Gov. Bob Riley -- the man who first appointed King to the position -- among his backers. (C)
AL-02(R): Four Republicans are on the ballot for the right to challenge frosh Dem Rep. Bobby Bright. Montgomery city councilor Martha Roby is the NRCC-crowned establishment favorite, and the only candidate in the field to raise significant money. Teabagging businessman Rick "The Barber" Barber, an owner of several "billiards facilities" in the area, is next in line, followed by State Board of Education member Stephanie Bell. If Bell ever looked like a threat to Roby, her late entry (in March) and her weak fundraising (just $26K) seem to suggest her chances of making it to a runoff are weak. Former Marine John "Beau" McKinney rounds out the field. Back in February, Bright's campaign released an internal poll showing him in surprisingly strong shape, but it'll be interesting to see how he fares once this race becomes engaged.
AL-05(D): After Ron Sparks declined to switch over from the gubernatorial race, four Democrats got into the contest here: attorney and former state Board of Education member Taze Shepard (who also happens to be the grandson of the late Sen. John Sparkman); political consultant Steve Raby, a longtime chief-of-staff to Sen. Howell Heflin (the guy who succeeded Sparkman); attorney and former Air Force JAG officer Mitchell Howie; and physicist David Maker. The race is largely between Shepard and Raby, who have hit each other with negative TV ads in recent weeks: Shepard has attacked Raby for being a "lobbyist," while Raby fired back that Shepard mismanaged the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (home of Space Camp) during his tenure as a commissioner overseeing the center. Though Shepard leads in the money department, he's mostly been self-financed. Meanwhile, Raby has secured a good bit of establishment backing, including an endorsement from former Rep. Ronnie Flippo, who held this seat from 1977 to 1991. An internal poll for Shepard had him up 20-14 over Raby, but with 58% undecided. A runoff seems likely here. (D)
AL-05(R): Democrats everywhere will be watching this race closely to see if turncoat Rep. Parker Griffith gets teabagged to death in the wake of his party switch. He faces two rivals in the primary: Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks and businessman Les Phillip. Though Phillip has raised considerably more money than Brooks, his burn rate marks him as a client/victim of BMW Direct. Consequently, most of the "true conservatives" who are unhappy with Griffith's attempt to bogart their nomination have rallied around Brooks, who has even been the target of a Griffith attack ad - not something you usually see from an incumbent. There's a good chance we'll see a runoff here between these two. (D)
AL-06(R): Spencer Bachus isn't what you'd normally think of as vulnerable; he's a conservative Republican in one of the reddest districts in the nation, in Birmingham's suburbs. However, establishment GOPers like Bachus have reason to worry this year because of the GOP's restive base. He in particular may have a target on his back as ranking House Republican on Financial Services, and as an architect of TARP. Bachus faces teabagger Stan Cooke; leaving nothing to chance, he's already spent $680K on his primary. (C)
AL-07(D): The Democratic primary in the race to replace Rep. Artur Davis is the only election which matters in this 72% Obama district. The three chief contenders are: state Rep. Earl Hilliard, Jr., the son of the guy Davis primaried out of this seat in 2002, Earl Hilliard, Sr.; Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot; and securities lawyer Terri Sewell. Hilliard and Smoot until recently had the edge in name recognition, but only Sewell, who began as an unknown, has had the money to air TV ads. While early internal polling showed this to be a race between Hilliard and Smoot, Sewell's spending has almost certainly had an impact, and her own poll had the race a three-way tie a couple of weeks ago. A runoff seems almost certain here. (D)
MS-01(R): For a while there, it looked like former FOX News talking head Angela McGlowan posed a threat to the NRCC's favorite candidate in the race against twice-elected Dem Rep. Travis Childers, Tupelo-area state Sen. Alan Nunnelee. But her campaign has fizzled, bringing in only $85,000 for the primary compared to nearly $650,000 for Nunnelee. However, a Democratic 527 called "Citizens for Security and Strength" recently entered the fray, spending money on mail and robocalls against Nunnelee in the hopes of aiding Henry Ross, the teabagging former mayor of Eupora. Ross hasn't raised much money either (just $127K), but it'll be interesting if his outsider message (and the Dem attacks) will stick.
MS-04(R): In a year like this, you've gotta keep an eye on old dogs in deep red districts like this one. Republicans have mostly nominated driftwood against Democrat Gene Taylor in the past decade despite his district's comically insane R+20 Cook PVI. However, it looks like Taylor will have to actually exert himself this year, as Republicans have fielded a bona fide elected official, state Rep. Steven Palazzo, to run against him. Palazzo will first have to get past businessman Joe Tegerdine, though, and the race has already gotten a bit testy, with Palazzo charging that Tegerdine works for a Chinese corporation, and Tegerdine jabbing Palazzo for being too scared and/or lazy to show up to any debates.
NM-Gov(R): The Republican field in New Mexico was left in a sort of second-tier disarray when ex-Rep. Heather Wilson decided to pass on the race. Polling shows the two main contestants here to be Susana Martinez -- the Dona Ana County DA, who despite a Sarah Palin endorsement is polling competitively with certain Dem nomineee Lt. Gov. Diane Denish -- and Allen Weh, the former state party chair and bit player in the US Attorneys firing scandal, who's financing his run mostly out of pocket. Pete Domenici Jr. had been expected to be competitive but foundered after offering no rationale for his campaign other than his lineage. Janice Arnold-Jones and Doug Turner round out the field. (C)
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)
The primary season gets underway in earnest this week, with contests in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio tomorrow. Additionally, Utah's state GOP convention is on Saturday. Also note that North Carolina has a top-two run-off (scheduled for June 22nd) for any races where the leading candidate fails to clear 40% in the first round. (For a complete primary & run-off calendar, click here.) Below is a roundup of some of the key races to watch for:
IN-Sen(R): This may well be the most interesting primary on Tuesday. It's a true ground zero face-off between the establishment and the teabaggers. In one corner is Dan Coats, who couldn't get more bougie if he tried. Not only is he a former Senator, he's spent the last decade as a Washington lobbyist for a host of unsavory clients. In the other corner... well, there are two corners. One is occupied by certified nutball ex-Rep. John Hostettler, who is as allergic to raising money as he is to sanity. The latter quality has endeared him to the base, but the former is a big obstacle to, well, winning. Which leaves state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, who has been eating a good portion of Hostettler's lunch - among other things, he's secured the endorsement of Jim DeMint, the patron saint of hopeless right-wing primary candidates. There's been precious little polling of the race, but what we've seen indeed suggests that Stutzman and Hostettler are splitting the crazies, which could allow Coats to sneak through with a very underwhelming vote total. This is one of those races where it's just hard for a Democrat to say who we'd be better off with as our opponent - they're all great! (David)
IN-02(R): Most people have assumed that state Rep. Jackie Walorski - "Wacky Jackie" to those who know her best - will be the GOP's nominee in the 2nd, as she was the NRCC's prize pick and she's well-known (as a former local TV news reporter and a member of GOP leadership in the state House). She still faces a challenge from Jack Jordan, the president of the Bremen school board. Despite a long stint as an executive at local pharma company Eli Lilly, Jordan seems to be working the angry average-guy angle, and if there's a year to be doing that, it's this year. (Crisitunity)
IN-03(R): Republican incumbent Mark Souder, a notorious under-performer in this deeply Republican district, may finally be running out of rope. A recent SUSA poll only gave Souder a 35-29 edge over auto dealer Bob Thomas, with attorney and former Dan Coats staffer Phil Troyer gobbling up nearly 20%. One way or the other, though, Souder's time in Congress is rapidly coming to a close -- he recently told Brian Howey that he's strongly inclined to retire in 2012 if he survives this dogfight. The winner of this pie fight gets to face '06 Democratic nominee Tom Hayhurst, a physician and former Fort Wayne city councilor. (James)
IN-04(R): With incumbent Republican Steve Buyer making this term his last in this deeply Republican suburban donut district, the GOP primary is where it's at. Secretary of State Todd Rokita may think he has control of the two turntables and the microphone in this race, but state Sen. Brandt Hershman has been raising a respectable sum of cash - and has Buyer's endorsement. State Sen. Mike Young is also in the mix, but his fundraising is barely existent. (J)
IN-05(R): If there was ever a year to give GOP Rep. Dan Burton's ass the boot, it's this one. After winning a surprisingly close primary contest against former Marion County Coroner John McGoff, four viable Republicans have stepped up to challenge Burton this year - including McGoff again. Joining them are state Rep. Mike Murphy, ex-state Rep. Luke Messer, and former Dan Quayle/Dan Coats staffer Brose McVey. With a field chopped up in so many ways, Burton just may survive. (J)
IN-08(R): Republicans were caught off guard in this district after Democrats managed to beam up incumbent Rep. Brad Ellsworth to the Senate race, and they lack a well-known name to take advantage of this open seat. However, NRCC-types like surgeon Larry Buschon, who has managed to bank a decent amount of coin for his bid. However, he'll have to fight through a field crowded with seven other candidates, including teabagger fave Kristi Risk. The theory swirling around the tubes is that, since this district is ground zero for John Hostettler nut-wing Republicans, Hoss's Senate campaign may excite enough 'baggers to threaten Buschon. It'd be surprisng if this one plays out that way, though. (J)
IN-09(R): Douchebag ex-Rep. Mike Sodrel is making his fifth crack at this seat, but he's facing somewhat stiff competition in the primary from attorney Todd Young, who seems to be the favorite of an establishment tired of the retread Sodrel. Also waiting in the wings is teabagger Travis Hankins, who has raised enough scrilla to keep himself in the game. (J)
NC-Sen(D): North Carolina Democrats will head to the polls to give either Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, ex-state Sen. Cal Cunningham, and attorney Ken Lewis the right to take on anonymous frosh GOP Sen. Richard Burr in November. One of these candidates will need to break the 40% barrier in order to avoid a June runoff. While no one has polled close to that marker yet, local boy Tom Jensen is betting that one of Cunningham (the man with the money) or Marshall (the name you know) will cross that barrier. (J)
NC-08(R): Republicans have been licking their chops over the chance to dethrone Larry Kissell after just one term in the House, but their field of candidates is decidedly second-tier. Businessman Tim d'Annunzio has spent nearly $1 million, making him something of a favorite - but he's also racked up a long list of unflatteringincidents on the campaign trail that suggest his campaign, though well-funded, is completely unhinged. D'Annuzio will face ex-sportscaster Harold Johnson, retired Army Col. Lou Huddleston, and engineer Hal Jordan in the primary. It wouldn't be a shock to see this one go to a runoff. (J)
NC-11(R): This one may not rank very highly on the GOP's target list, but Republicans have a number of warm bodies in the race against sophomore Dem Rep. Heath Shuler, in case things get interesting. Businessman Jeff Miller and ophthalmologist Dan Eichenbaum have both spent over $100K on their campaigns as of mid-April, while Hendersonville Mayor Greg Newman is running on spare change and a pocketful of dreams. (J)
OH-Sen(D): Two Democrats are fighting for the right to take on Republican Rob Portman, the former congressman and Bush budget director: Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Fisher, who's enjoyed a sizable fundraising edge as well as support from the DSCC, has seen his lead expand a good deal in recent public polling. Turnout will probably be low, which always increases unpredictability, so it may not be quite a done deal - but Fisher is looking pretty good. (D)
OH-02(D): The choice for Dems is between Surya Yalamanchili, a former star of the reality show "Apprentice," and novelty playing-cards mogul David Krikorian, who took 18% as an independent in 2008. "Chili," as he is known, has not raised very much but appears to have consolidated the support of much of the local establishment (including endorsements from the past two Dem nominees in the district, Vic Wulsin and Paul Hackett). Meanwhile, Krikorian (a self-described "Reagan conservative") seems to have ticked a few people off and apparently mocked his opponent's name at a recent campaign event. Not pretty. (D)
OH-02(R): Jean Schmidt, who hasn't been in Congress all that long, has faced serious primary challenges in both of her re-election campaigns, escaping by just 5% in 2006 and a somewhat more respectable 18% in 2008. Part of the reason Schmidt survived both times is because of the split field facing her. The same is true this year. Warren County commissioner Mike Kilburn is probably Schmidt's most legitimate challenger, but Some Dudes Debbi Alsfelder and Tim Martz are also in the race. Kilburn has only raised $30K, though, while Schmidt has spent more than $400 grand. Still, with anti-incumbent sentiment running as high as it has in ages, and with Schmidt being Schmidt, I suppose you never know. (D)
OH-16(R): Businessman and former smalltown mayor Jim Renacci is the NRCC's favorite here, and he's raised over half a million to date (plus he's given himself a $120K loan). But he's facing a challenge from his right in the form of Matt Miller, a former Ashland County Commissioner. Miller is no run-of-the-mill teabagger. In 2006, he pulled in 42% of the vote against incumbent Rep. Ralph Regula (who was running what would be his last race). And in 2008, with the seat open, Miller came within 5 points of snatching the nomination from establishment-preferred state Sen. Kirk Schuring. Against this history, Renacci has already spent $500K to Miller's tiny $24K. An upset is a definite possibility here. The winner takes on freshman Rep. John Boccierri. (D)
OH-18(R): In a somewhat similar scenario, state Sen. Bob Gibbs is the GOP bigs' favorite to challenge sophomore Rep. Zack Space. Classically, this means that Gibbs is hated by the teabag set, and he faces some real opposition, especially given his un-awesome fundraising. Fred Dailey, the 2008 nominee who got splattered by Space 60-40, is running, and he's been howling loudly about the alleged "favoritism" the establishment has shown toward Gibbs. The other notable candidate is Jeanette Moll, who lost to Dailey in the primary last cycle and has run radio ads attacking Gibbs as a tax-increasing libruhl. Both this race and the contest in the 16th CD ought to provide an interesting read on how big the split really is between the grassroots and the powers-that-be in the Republican Party. (D)
UT-Sen(R): Saturday is D-Day for Bob Bennett, who seems poised to become the first incumbent member of the Senate to fall this year. Oddly, though, the voters may not even get to take the chance to take their anger out on him, because he may not be able to make it out of the state Republican convention onto the primary ballot. In fact, Bennett would probably prefer that the broader population of primary voters, rather than the right-wing activists who dominate the convention, decide his fate. That's because a variety ofpolls ofconvention delegates suggest that Bennett will be hard pressed to even make it to the final round of balloting (where Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater seem to poll better). And even if Bennett somehow does make it to the final round against Lee, Lee is likely to consolidate all the anti-Bennett votes and clear the 60% mark needed to nail down the GOP nomination without a primary. Bennett is by no means a moderate, but he's guilty of occasionally trying to legislate in conjunction with Democrats, which in this climate means he's likely to get his walking papers. (C)
Primary season continues tomorrow in Texas, which is the second state in the nation (after Illinois) to conduct its primaries. Texas also has a top-two run-off (scheduled for April 13th) for any races where the leading candidate fails to clear 50% in the first round. (For a complete primary & run-off calendar, click here.) Below is a roundup of some of the key races to watch for:
TX-Gov(R): A race that started out with so much potential for wingnut-on-wingnut violence has turned into an utter disappointment. Generally disliked incumbent Gov. Rick Perry has found a way to make the teabaggers love him, and the once-formidable Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison already looks defeated. The only question at this point is recently ex-truther Debra Medina combines with KBH to take enough of the vote to force a run-off. For maximum possible damage, root for Medina to finish second.
TX-Gov(D): Former Houston Mayor Bill White ought to be able to clean up without a problem here. His opponent, hair-care impresario Farouk Shami, has proven to be an utter embarrassment, dabbling (much like Medina) in trutherism. An ideal outcome for Dems would be White clearing 50% while Republicans have to slug it out in a second round.
TX-04(R): Rep. Ralph Hall has drawn about as many primary challengers as he has years in his bones - a trillion. And some of them have real money. Telecom exec and teabagger Steve Clark, who nearly duelled Hall in 2004 before he switched to the GOP, has dumped in $300K of his own gold bullion. Some Dude Jerry Ray Hall (no relation) had also promised to toss in a similar sum, but he's never clocked in on the FEC website. Will all this money sloshing around lead to a split vote, or will the unimaginably crusty Hall get toppled? He was a lousy Dem when he was one, but I still wouldn't mind seeing this turncoat get turned out.
TX-18(D): Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee faces a primary challenge from Houston city councilman Jarvis Johnson, but it's hard to see Johnson as much of a threat - he filed at the last minute and raised less than $30K, while Jackson Lee has half a mil in the bank. (Another candidate, attorney Sean Roberts, never seemed to even file with the FEC.) SJL got the cistomary endorsement from President Obama, which Charles Kuffner interprets as a sign of strength - why would Obama stick his neck out if she were unlikely to cruise? In any event, once this primary is over, Rep. Jackson Lee needs to make a sizable contribution to the DCCC.
TX-23(D): We put Rep. Ciro Rodriguez on our House Open Seat Watch because he lost a primary as a sitting representative once before, and he drew a challenge this year once again, from lawyer & Iraq vet Miguel Ortiz. However, Ortiz has raised little money, and his FEC reports are a mess.
TX-23(R): Ciro Rodriguez may not exactly be a formidable force in politics - but neither, it seems is, Francisco "Quico" Canseco. Canseco, a wealthy businessman, spent almost a million of his own money on the GOP primary in 2008, yet lost in an upset to former Bexar Co. Comm'r Lyle Larson (who in turn lost to Rodriguez in the general). Nonetheless, Canseco is back for another shot, and yet again, he's facing an upstart - this time former CIA agent William Hurd. Canseco is spending far less of his own money; he's chipped in about $57K while raising only $220K overall. Hurd has pulled in $152K. Canseco may have "loser" stamped on him (he lost a 2004 GOP primary in TX-28 as well), but Ciro may prefer to face off against Hurd rather than Quico's millions.
Other races of interest include the Dem primaries for Lieut. Gov. (former Travis Co. DA Ronnie Earle vs. union leader Linda Chavez-Thompson) and Ag. Comm'r (2006 nominee Hank Gilbert vs. permanent pain-in-the-ass Kinky Friedman). There are also several Republican primaries for seats on the Texas Board of Education (the all-important curriculum-setter and textbook-buyer) between lunatics and moderates. And though we've highlighted only one such race, 11 out of 20 TX GOP House incumbents have drawn primary challenges, so keep an eye out for any unusually weak results.
UPDATE: Two other GOP House primaries you might want to keep an eye on: in TX-32, Pete Sessions faces David Smith, an accountant who was one of the first anywhere to announce a Tea Party-powered challenge to a Republican incumbent. Smith's fundraising never really caught up with his initial splash, though. And in TX-17, there's a primary for the unenviable task of taking on Chet Edwards. Bill Flores is the guy with the money; Rob Curnock is the guy with the grassroots, and he was the 2008 candidate so he can claim dibsies.
As always, if you know of any other interesting races, please let us know in comments.
REMINDER TO TEXANS: ATTEND YOUR PRECINCT CONVENTION!
Remember in 2008 how we had a primary and a caucus? Well it happens again tomorrow. Your precinct convention (aka caucus) has no bearing on the election results but it does help determine who will go to the state convention as a delegate. I made it to Austin 2 years ago and intend to go to Corpus Christi this year. If you want to go to the state convention, you must get selected as a delegate at your precinct convention and then be selected as a delegate again at your county convention to be held on Sat., March 20th.
State Convention will be June 25-26, 2010.
IF YOU WANT TO BE A DELEGATE, SHOW UP AT YOUR PRECINCT ELECTION DAY VOTING LOCATION AT 7:15 P.M. ON ELECTION DAY MARCH 2ND.
The 2010 primary season kicks off on Tuesday in Illinois. In 2008, the state moved its presidential primary to the new super-early "Super Tuesday," and also moved its regular primaries, which used to be in March, up as well. They haven't been moved back for the midterm elections, so Illinois gets play New Hampshire and host the "first-in-the-nation" primaries this year. (For a complete, sortable calendar of 2010 primaries, click here.) Below is a roundup of some of the key races to watch for:
IL-Sen (D): Democrats have a three-way race to nominate a successor to Barack Obama (well, technically, to Roland Burris's mausoleum). State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias leads in the polls, but his numbers are only in the 30s. It's possible that a late surge by former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman (or, somewhat less likely, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson) could up-end this race. Giannoulias is getting pounded for his family's involvement in a failed bank - a particularly toxic piece of baggage in this environment. A recent Rasmussen poll had him up 31-23 over Hoffman (Jackson was back at 13), so an upset is within the realm of possibility.
IL-Sen (R): The Republican contest is, sadly, much less interesting. "Moderate" Rep. Mark Kirk compiled a voting record over the years which ought to enrage any full-blooded teabagger, but he successfully pirouetted to his right during the primary. This seems to have kept real estate developer and wingnut Patrick Hughes from gaining any traction - polls show Kirk cruising. The real question at this point is whether Kirk's rightward shift will come back to haunt him in the general.
IL-Gov (D): Last summer, when state Comptroller Dan Hynes decided to challenge incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in the primary, it seemed like a weird choice. Quinn had just ascended to office in the wake of Rod Blagojevich's impeachment and seemed pretty popular. And as the year chugged along, polls kept showing Quinn with healthy leads. But Hynes turned the volume way up over the last couple of months, going sharply negative on Quinn on a range of issues, including crime. Now polls have the race a tossup, though Hynes is almost certainly peaking at the right time and could very well knock off a sitting governor. That'll be one hell of a long lame-duck period. Ouch.
IL-Gov (R): The GOP nomination is truly up for grabs - at least four guys probably have a legit shot at the nod (take a look at the crazy Pollster.com graph). Former state AG Jim Ryan was the early favorite, but he seemed to be relying heavily on name recognition. That's given former state GOP chair Andy McKenna a chance to raise his profile via a massive TV ad campaign, and it looks like he may have the late mo'. Kirk Dillard and Billy Brady probably have a chance to sneak through as well.
IL-08 (R): Six different Republicans are vying to challenge Dem Rep. Melissa Bean. Despite the seemingly favorable environment for GOPers, no one of any stature wound up getting into this race, probably because of how handily Bean dispatched well-funded opponents in both 2006 and 2008. With any luck, this won't be a race to watch come November.
IL-10 (D): Mark Kirk's swingy suburban Chicago district is the only open seat in Illinois this cycle (so far), and it's attracted a lot of interest on both sides. Marketing consultant Dan Seals, the Dem nominee in 2006 and 2008, has the edge in name rec, but he lost to Kirk twice, in back-to-back strong Dem cycles. Rep. Julie Hamos might therefore have an opening, if 10th District Dems want to give a new face a shot. In a possible sign of Seals fatigue, Hamos has outraised him 2-to-1 (a mil to about half a mil). Still, the only released poll of this race was a Seals internal which gave him a 50-point lead. Don't scoff: He won his last primary, against the well-funded Jay Footlik, by about 60 points.
IL-10 (R): The race to be the next Mark Kirk has come down to state Rep. Beth Coulson, businessman Bob Dold and another businessman, Dick Green. (I love that super-vague epithet, "businessman.") Coulson's moderate profile seemed to make her a good fit to inherit Kirk's mantle, but Dold has raised a lot of money and seems to be exciting conservatives. Green has also spent a lot, but it's mostly been his own campaign cash. There haven't been any polls of this race, so to me the question is whether Coulson will get Scozzafava'ed, or will Green and Dold split the winger vote and let her escape? We'll see soon enough.
IL-11 (R): Iraq veteran Adam Kinzinger was annointed by the establishment early on as the favorite to take on freshmen Dem Rep. Debbie Halvorson, and that predictably means outsider conservatives have been gunning for him. Still, his opponents in the primary are a joke - Kinzinger's raised some $400K, his nearest competitor, $1K. I'll be curious about his final tally at the polls, though, just to see how warmly (or coldly) the teabaggers really do feel about him.
IL-14 (R): The Republicans are hard at work smashing each other on the head in the battle to take on Dem Rep. Bill Foster. Foster, as you'll recall, snatched this seat in a special election two years ago. It was held by none other than former Republican Speaker of the House Denny Haster, whose son Ethan is one of two contenders trying to win this district back for the GOP. The other is state Sen. Randy Hultgren, who is more or less running as "not-Hastert" (several other candidates dropped out in favor of Hultgren so that the anti-Hastert vote would not get split). The campaign has turned extremely nasty: Hultgren was recently forced to launch an apologetic robocall after he sent out a mailer accusing Hastert of supporting human trafficking. Dems are hoping for a repeat of 2008, where a vicious GOP primary ultimately helped Foster at the polls. (This year, though, there's a lot more time for wounds to heal before the general.)
There are, of course, plenty of other primaries at all levels taking place in Illinois on Tuesday. If you know of any other interesting races, please let us know in comments.