9:13 AM PT: MN-06: Democrat Jim Graves has sounded interested in a rematch against Michele Bachmann for a while now, and on Thursday, he officially launched his second attempt to unseat her. Though Minnesota's 6th District is very red turf (Mitt Romney won here 57-42), Bachmann's big mouth and peripatetic presidential campaign made things very close, with Graves losing by just 2 percent. This time around, Graves may be helped by the lack of a presidential race at the top of the ticket, and if Bachmann keeps shooting her own feet off, he has a real chance to defeat her.
9:27 AM PT: NY-23: Democrats have their first candidate in the race to defeat GOP Rep. Tom Reed, Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson. Last year, Reed was nearly upset by the unheralded Nate Shinagawa, who lost by just 4 percent. What's more, the current iteration of the 23rd, home to the liberal college town of Ithaca, is some very swingy turf: Mitt Romney carried the district by just over 1 percent. Like Robertson, Shinagawa is also a Tompkins legislator, and he's serving as her campaign chair. Shinagawa received virtually no outside help last cycle, but if Robertson can prove she has chops, Reed could be very vulnerable.
10:37 AM PT: NYC Public Advocate: Why am I linking to a story on a downballot race for local office in New York City? Because it's from the excellent Alex Pareene, and more importantly, it's about our old friend Reshma Saujani. Back in 2010, Saujani, then a hedge fund attorney, ran against Rep. Carolyn Maloney from the right in the Democratic primary, on an explicitly pro-bankster platform. (Sample quotes: "Instead of browbeating Wall Street, I want to invite them to help create jobs" and "We need to extend a hand rather than a fist" to Wall Street.) Despite raising a good bit of money from those living in the 1 percent bubble who imagined this was a winning message, Saujani was destroyed, 81-19.
Since then, as Pareene outlines in detail, the whitewash began in earnest. Saujani, realizing her finance background and her embrace of Wall Street was a liability, not an asset, has tried to erase all mention of her past. (Actually, she began disavowing her support from the financial community while still running against Maloney.) She wiped all references to her Wall Street days from Wikipedia (a violation of the site's rules) and presents herself only as a founder of a nonprofit that helps girls get involved in science and technology. And yet, of course, 20 percent of the money she's raised in her bid for public advocate has come from finance types.
I didn't like Saujani back then and was a vocal critic—this is, after all, my home district. And I still don't like Saujani now. Pareene's candor about her echoes my own feelings:
I am going to be honest: While I do think the story of a finance-connected Democrat doing her best to wipe her entire career from the record in order to win a primary says something quite interesting about the state of the party in 2013, and the economic policy fault lines that could eventually break apart the Obama coalition, I am primarily writing about Reshma Saujani because it brings me joy to remember the awfulness and hilarity of her 2010 campaign, in which she waged a very expensive and doomed primary challenge against Representative Carolyn Maloney.Really, though, you should read Pareene's very entertaining piece in full. And for my part, well, I look forward to voting against Saujani once again this September.
11:36 AM PT: MD-Gov: Here's a new potential name in Maryland's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger is considering a run next year, when incumbent Martin O'Malley will be termed out. Ruppersberger, who represents the Baltimore-area MD-02 (and served as Baltimore County Executive in the '90s) would be the first real Baltimore-based candidate in the field. Current Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, state Delegate Heather Mizeur, and state AG Doug Gansler all hail from the D.C. suburbs, while Howard County Executive Ken Ulman governs a county split between the Washington and Baltimore spheres of influence. The D.C. 'burbs tend to hold more sway in Maryland Democratic politics nowadays, but Ruppersberger could easily pull it out should multiple D.C.-oriented candidates split the vote.
And while the race has informally been underway for some time (with O'Malley a lame duck, would-be successors have been maneuvering since at least last year), it's about to see its first official entrant, since Brown just announced plans to kick off his campaign on May 10. (jeffmd & David Nir)
11:55 AM PT: CA-36: As expected, Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande will run against freshman Rep. Raul Ruiz, who beat Mary Bono Mack in an upset last year. Nestande, who once served as Bono Mack's chief of staff, is term limited and cannot seek re-election to his current post. Given his background, he's a legitimate recruit for the GOP and should give Ruiz a serious challenge. The 36th narrowly went for Obama, 51-48, but demographic trends here, particularly among Latinos, seem to be favoring Democrats. A big issue for Ruiz, though, is how much falloff there will be in turnout in a midterm year.
1:11 PM PT: Kentucky: PPP is out with their usual batch of miscellany for this week's state of choice, Kentucky. As you'd expect, gay marriage is not popular in the Bluegrass State (27 percent support, 65 oppose), but a majority does support legal recognition for same-sex couples (in other words, marriage or civil unions) by a 52-44 spread. Also interesting: 72 percent of Kentuckians consider themselves southerners while 22 percent do not, but there's absolutely no variation between Democrats and Republicans on this question.
2:51 PM PT: AZ-Gov: Former Arizona Board of Regents President Fred DuVal, the only declared Democrat so far in Arizona's gubernatorial race, keeps racking up the endorsements. On Thursday, he announced the support of three former governors, Raul Castro, Rose Mofford, and Bruce Babbitt, as well as that of Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Interesting trivia note: Castro, who served from 1975-77 before being tapped by Jimmy Carter as ambassador to Argentina, is the oldest living former governor in the country, at the age of 96.
3:10 PM PT: NC-Sen: I don't think Rep. Patrick McHenry ever even said he was considering a run for Senate; his only connection to the race, in fact, seemed to be PPP's willingness occasionally to insert him into their monthly North Carolina poll, but then again, they've done that with just about every Tarheel Republican you can name. So it's no surprise that McHenry's saying no to a possible promotion and will instead seek re-election to the House.
3:33 PM PT: OR-02: The ramifications of NRCC chief Greg Walden's decision to lambaste President Obama's proposed budget over cuts to Social Security have been pretty far-reaching, and the implications are still being felt. First and foremost, Walden (who would have been much smarter to just keep his mouth shut) helpfully previewed the assault Democrats can expect if they vote for Obama's plan by lambasting them for "trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors." As my colleague Jed Lewison put it, Walden's "premature attack" could perversely "mak[e] sure the Democratic Party stands up for Social Security" because (duh) who the hell wants to be on the receiving end of the inevitable negative ads?
Walden's created a real headache for his own party, though, since many Republicans actually like the idea of cutting entitlements. (John Boehner, for instance, says he "disagrees" with Walden—though he refused to say whether he'd "call on Republicans next year to not attack Democrats" over the issue, which means he won't.) But Walden's also created a headache for himself, since at least one conservative group that's professionally dedicated to destroying the social safety net is really up in arms.
Now, who knows if anything will even come of it, but the Club for Growth is claiming they want to find someone to challenge Walden in the GOP primary. On the other hand, Grover Norquist thinks that Obama's desire to implement this change to Social Security, known as "chained CPI," is actually a stealth tax increase (it's complicated, and this ain't no policy newsletter), so there may well be a split on the rabble-rousing right on this issue, and perhaps, as well, on how Walden should be dealt with.
3:59 PM PT: VA-Gov: I've been reading a lot about this brewing Star Scientific scandal down in Virginia, trying to get a handle on what it all means and how it might play in this year's gubernatorial election. There are a number of facets to it, and I won't try to recount them all (though this is a good backgrounder), but suffice it to say that Star Scientific is a former tobacco company turned nutritional supplement maker that has, through their CEO, Jonnie Williams, forged some very cozy relationships with top Virginia officials. In particular, Williams has lavished gifts on AG Ken Cuccinelli and Gov. Bob McDonnell, both Republicans. Williams even paid the $15,000 catering tab for the wedding of McDonnell's daughter two years ago, something McDonnell failed to disclose as required by law.
Cuccinelli has also received five figures' worth of gifts from Williams, but even more notably, he, too, failed to disclose his ownership of over $10,000 worth of Star Scientific stock—at the same time as his office was defending the state against a lawsuit brought by the company over a tax dispute. After being exposed, Cuccinelli was forced to recuse himself from the case and hire a private law firm to handle the matter instead.
However, most of the negative ink surrounding Williams and Star has focused on McDonnell, who can't run for another term. Cuccinelli, the man who's looking to succeed McDonnell, has therefore decided to throw him under the luxury motor coach, calling on the state to adopt stricter reporting requirements for gifts to public officials and their families. (McDonnell has tried to wriggle out of his predicament by saying the payment of the food bill was a gift for his daughter, who isn't obligated to report gifts, even though he signed the contract with the caterer.)
On one level, this isn't too surprising: Cuccinelli's shown a great willingness to run roughshod over McDonnell in the past. But the Star Scientific saga only seems to be heating up, and there's a good chance there's more left to learn. So Cuccinelli might well try to make McDonnell the fall guy here, but is he absolutely sure there are no other shoes to drop? Even if he is, the longer this story stays in the papers, the worse it is for him, and Cuccinelli just helped give it at least one extra day of life.
4:35 PM PT: Some more 1Q Fundraising numbers:
• AR-Sen: Sen. Mark Pryor (D): $1.9 mil raised, $3.4 mil cash-on-hand
• HI-Sen: Sen. Brian Schatz (D): $1.1 mil raised, $1 mil cash-on-hand
• LA-Sen: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D): $1.2 mil raised, $3.5 mil cash-on-hand
• MN-Sen: Sen. Al Franken (D): $2 mil raised
• TX-Sen: Sen. John Cornyn (R): $1.9 mil raised, $4.2 mil cash-on-hand
• AZ-09: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D): $330K raised
• IL-10: Rep. Brad Schneider (D): $390K raised
• NY-11: Domenic Recchia (D): $412K raised, $407K cash-on-hand (in five weeks, though note that Recchia had a sizable war chest of funds he'd raised for an abandoned bid for city office; while he couldn't transfer these directly to his federal account, he was able to return the money and ask his donors to re-give to his congressional campaign)