• VA-08: For the third day in a row this week, a House Democrat has announced his retirement. This time it's veteran Rep. Jim Moran, who represents Virginia's 8th Congressional District, centered in Arlington and Alexandria—just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Moran had served in Congress for over two decades and as mayor of Alexandria before that; he said, simply, that "it's time to close this chapter of my life and move on to the next challenge."
Fortunately for Democrats, the 8th is solidly blue. It went for Barack Obama by a 68-31 margin in 2012 and Terry McAuliffe carried it by a similar 68-27 spread in last year's gubernatorial race. So this seat isn't going anywhere, though interest among local Democrats is sure to be high: Northern Virginia has trended sharply Democratic in recent years, and the last time the 8th was open was in 1972.
Moran, though, actually had trouble keeping up with NoVA's blueward shift, which may seem somewhat surprising since he was often viewed as an outspoken partisan. However, based on his voting record, Moran was notably less liberal than you'd expect for a district as blue as his became. Moran also occasionally said some very stupid and regrettable things (like the time he declared: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this"), so progressives have a shot at landing an upgrade here.
Indeed, the list of possible replacements for Moran is long—incredibly long. The Washington Post mentions former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley, state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, Fairfax Supervisor Jeff McKay, and state Dels. Charniele Herring, Rob Krupicka, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, Mark Sickles, and Scott Surovell. Roll Call adds even more: Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada, 2013 attorney general candidate Aneesh Chopra, and Del. Bob Brink. Whew! Could be a massive primary.
• NC-Sen: We've taken note of many of the various ad buys that Americans for Prosperity has launched attacking Democrats over Obamacare, but the New York Times has a good overview of AFP's entire campaign, as well as a chart showing how many spots each of their top targets has weathered. At the top of the list, by far, is Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who's been slammed with an amazing 3,535 ads since last June. (Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is a distant second, at 1,424.) We alluded to this in our writeup of PPP's new Tarheel poll in the previous Digest, but this withering assault probably speaks directly to the decline in Hagan's numbers.
• NH-Sen, -Gov: If you've been dismissive of Scott Brown's chances of defeating Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen because of the flagrant carpetbagging such a race would involve, you might want to reconsider. PPP's new New Hampshire poll shows Brown closer to Shaheen than he or anyone else has ever been. Here's how Shaheen fares against the potential Republican field (with September trendlines in parentheses):
• 46-43 vs. Scott Brown (48-44)No, it's not a huge shift from last time, but when PPP first tested this matchup last April, Shaheen led 52-41. That's a pretty serious erosion for the incumbent, and while she'd still have the edge even if Brown did challenge her, Shaheen would have a serious battle on her hands. To hang on to their most vulnerable seats, Democrats had to hope that senators in safer states—like Shaheen or Colorado's Mark Udall—would largely cruise to re-election, rather than divert precious resources from tougher contests. It's starting to look like that won't be the case.
• 48-34 vs. Bob Smith (50-32)
• 49-33 vs. Jim Rubens (50-33)
• 47-30 vs. Karen Testerman (50-31)
Fortunately, at least Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan seems to be in the clear, as President Obama's woes haven't trickled down to the statehouse in the same way. Hassan sports a strong 52-27 job approval rating (compared to 44-43 for Shaheen and just 41-53 for the president), and she handily beats all the Republicans PPP stacked up against her:
• 51-31 vs. Bill BinnieIt's also worth noting that none of these Republicans has actually declared a bid yet.
• 50-27 vs. Chuck Morse
• 50-26 vs. George Lambert
• 51-25 vs. Andrew Hemingway
• AR-Gov: Democratic ex-Rep. Mike Ross is airing a new ad of the "introduce yourself to voters" variety. The spot mentions his Arkansas roots, his A+ rating from the NRA, and his willingness to "stand up to his own party." It also once again links him to term-limited Gov. Mike Beebe, who previously cut an ad for Ross.
• OH-Gov: Hah! It sure had been nice, not having to put up with Dennis Kucinich on a regular basis, ever since his forced retirement a couple of years ago. But of course that guy could never truly go away, and so now Special K is back—and refusing to rule out a bid for governor. The whole notion is so ridiculous, considering that Ohio Democrats have long since rallied around Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, and also because we're talking about Kucinich, who would be unelectable statewide. (In a June 2012 PPP poll, Kucinich performed by far the worst of any potential Democrat at the time.) He could, however, do damage to Fitz in a primary, so I wish I could say that I hope Kucinich has more sense than that, but again ... Kucinich.
• TX-Gov: State Sen. Wendy Davis is the underdog in her bid to become Texas' next governor, but not only did she just pull in an incredibly impressive fundraising performance, she beat her moneybags opponent, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott! In the second half of 2013, Davis hauled in a monster $12.2 million, mostly in small-dollar donations—and note that she only entered the race in October. Abbott, meanwhile, pulled in $11.5 million in the same timeframe, leaving him with a $27 million war chest. Davis hasn't released her cash-on-hand figures, though she'll undoubtedly be far behind her opponent. Still, this is a great start, and while having lots of dough certainly isn't sufficient, it's definitely necessary.
(And if you're wondering why Davis has three separate fundraising committee, Kath Haenschen at Burnt Orange Report has a very helpful explainer.)
• CA-03, -11: Maybe John Garamendi reads the Digest. Shortly after aggressively floating the notion that he might seek re-election in the safer (and now open) 11th District, Garamendi declared he'll actually remain in the 3rd. That avoids a messy fight with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, a fellow Democrat, and it also minimizes the risk that the swingy 3rd could fall into Republican hands.
• CA-25: Politico is reporting that GOP Rep. Buck McKeon won't seek re-election, according to unnamed sources, and is "expected" to make a formal announcement later this week. This would be incredibly unsurprising.
• CA-17: This nominally grassroots effort to kneecap Ro Khanna was openly coordinated with Rep. Mike Honda's campaign, but it's still pretty good. A trio of local donors who gave four figures apiece to Khanna last cycle when, they say, he claimed he was preparing for a congressional bid only if Pete Stark retired, are asking for their money back now that Khanna's trying to unseat Honda. Like a lot of other Democrats, they're huge Honda fans, and to maximize pressure on Khanna, they shared their email to Khanna with the press.
Khanna's refusing to return the contributions, though, and his campaign's justification is not especially coherent: "Ro has received support from many people who contributed to Congressman Honda in the past. We're not aware that any of them have requested to be reimbursed by the Honda campaign, nor would we expect the Honda campaign to honor such a request." So a hypothetical non-existent group of people is not unhappy, therefore we won't do anything about an actual group of people who are unhappy. Makes sense to me!
• CA-31: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who is vying to be the Democratic standard-bearer against GOP Rep. Gary Miller, just earned the endorsement of the local affiliate of the AFL-CIO, which claims a pretty giant 289,000 members in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.
• FL-13: As the polls, money, and conventional wisdom all predicted, lobbyist David Jolly prevailed in Tuesday night's Republican primary in the special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young, defeating state Rep. Kathleen Peters 45-31. (Tea partier Mark Bircher finished third with 24 percent.) Jolly will now face Democrat Alex Sink on March 11, and both candidates are already out with new TV ads.
Jolly's spot is cheaply produced, perhaps reflecting his depleted campaign coffers. In it, his head bounces around in front of a green screened image of the Florida waterfront, while he pledges to repeal Obamacare and support "stronger borders, not amnesty" when it comes to immigration. Sink's is much higher quality, featuring some well-edited and light-hearted banter with her father about her virtues: Pops grudgingly comes around to the idea that the stubbornness his daughter inherited from him will help her get things done in Washington.
It's very reminiscent of an ad that Massachusetts Democrat Carl Sciortino ran in a special election last year that went viral and helped propel Sciortino to a better-than-expected finish in the primary. Sink's spot doesn't have quite the same je ne sais quoi, but it definitely works. (According to Nathan Gonzales, Sink is spending $180,000 to air her ad while Jolly is spending $51,000 for his, both for week-long runs.)
• FL-26: A conservative Hispanic group called the LIBRE Initiative is running another ad against Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, once again on Obamacare. This one features a young "South Florida physician" who says she's "concerned about the impact of Obamacare on our community" and goes on to trash the law. This doctor, though, is not just a radiologist. Grazie Christie also happens to be a contributor to Fox News Latino. LIBRE claims to have spent $700,000 to air both ads.
• MI-03: The Club for Growth is airing a new set of TV and radio ads attacking businessman Brian Ellis, who is running against the Club's golden boy, Rep. Justin Amash, in the GOP primary. In their TV spot, the Club hammers Ellis for raising taxes while a member of the East Grand Rapids school board, and it also tries to tie him to former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who left office very unpopular. The buy is reportedly for six figures.
• NY-06: Former New York City Comptroller John Liu, who's coming off a disastrous bid for mayor last year, is refusing to deny rumors that he wants to run against freshman Rep. Grace Meng in this June's Democratic primary. Liu has a tremendously energetic core base of supporters, but he's tainted by scandal and Meng's done nothing to warrant a primary challenge, so it's hard to see why Liu thinks he'd succeed.
• NY-21: Two Democrats are expressing interest in running for New York's newly open 21st District: ex-Rep. Scott Murphy and Assemblywoman Addie Russell. Murphy would be particularly intriguing, as he won a very difficult special election in 2009 in the old NY-20, a district redder than the one he's currently looking at. (Thanks to redistricting, Murphy now lives in the 21st.)
Capital New York also reports that D.C. Republicans may be hoping for an upgrade from the current establishment choice, former George W. Bush aide Elise Stefanik. Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan confirms that the NRCC called her, and that she's considering the race. Meanwhile, 2010 and 2012 GOP nominee Matt Doheny is also apparently sniffing around, but he hasn't said anything publicly.
• PA-06: Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello just became the first Republican to announce for Pennsylvania's open 6th Congressional District. Several other Republicans are still considering bids, though, including former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, businessman Patrick Collins, and state Sen. John Rafferty, according to PoliticsPA. Among Democrats, businessman Mike Parrish is already running, while a bunch more are looking at the contest: state Rep. Mark Rozzi, 2010 and 2012 nominee Manan Trivedi, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, and state Sen. Andy Dinniman.
• Special Elections: From Johnny:
Arkansas SD-21: Democrats came up far short in their attempt to hold this seat: Republican John Cooper defeated Democrat Steve Rockwell by a 57-43 margin.With results like these, Democratic hopes of retaking the Arkansas state House look pretty dim.
• Congress: This is a very cool interactive map, from infographic specialist Marjorie Roswell, showing every congressional committee's membership, by district (for the House) and state (for the Senate). You just selection the committee you're interested in from a pair of pull-down menus and voila, a list of members appears on the side and the map gets colored in appropriately. Try it out—you'll like it.
• Votes: The House's vote on Wednesday on the omnibus budget didn't offer a lot of surprises; it passed 359-67, with the nays coming from 64 Republicans and three Democrats. In short, the dystopian caucus voted "no" and everybody else voted "yes."
A few hardliners (Dan Benishek, Tim Walberg) with credible opponents went "aye," as did, oddly Ted Yoho (who made a promising splash in the crazy end of the pool on first arriving in the House but has settled into anonymity lately). However, Mike Coffman—a guy who seems to have one foot in each of the establishment and tea party camps, but at any rate is the House's most endangered non-Gary Miller Republican—continues to tempt fate, with a "no" vote.
On the other hand, a few GOP establishmentarians with something to prove voted "no," including newly-elected Bradley Byrne, who seems to be still getting settled and trying to ward off a primary, and Tom Cotton and Steve Daines, who are still in the rev-up-the-base phases of their Senate races. On the Democratic side, Mike McIntyre still voted against even though he's freed up by not running for re-election. The only other Democratic noes were Raul Grijalva and Rush Holt, obviously from the left. (David Jarman)