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News from the Votemaster      

Giannoulias, Kirk Win in Illinois     Permalink

State treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) won a three-way primary in Illinois yesterday to run for the seat of retiring senator Roland Burris (D-IL). Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) cruised to an easy win in his primary. Both of these results were expected. What is a bit surprising, though, is that the tea partiers didn't go after the moderate Kirk as a RINO. Apparently giving up a real shot at a Senate seat to make an ideological point was a bridge too far.

Dan Seals (D), who twice ran against Kirk and lost for the IL-10 seat, won the primary yesterday to give it a third try. The district is D+6 and with an open seat, this time he might well make it. The Republican candidate will be businessman Bob Dold (R).

Illinois Gubernatorial Primaries Too Close to Call     Permalink

As of 6 A.M. EST, neither party has a gubernatorial candidate in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) is currently leading Comptroller Dan Hynes by about 6000 votes, with 1% of the precincts yet to report and the absentee ballots yet to be counted. The seven-way Republican primary is even closer, with the top vote getter, state senator Bill Brady (R) leading state senator Kirk Dillard (R) by 500 votes. Each of them got barely 20% of the vote. Neither of them is well known or has previously won statewide office, so either Quinn or Hynes will be the favorite, no matter who wins the Republican primary.

Republican Primary in Florida Too Close to Call     Permalink

Speaking of races that are squeakers, the Republican primary in FL-19 yesterday to nominate a candidate to contest the Houe seat vacated in January by Robert Wexler (D), ended up in a virtual tie, with contractor Ed Lynch (R) 42 votes ahead of financial planner Joe Budd (R). The winner--if he is known by then--will face state senator Ted Deutch (D) on April 13. If the loser goes to court and we get into Franken-Coleman mode, it is possible that the Republicans won't have a candidate before the general election. But that is unlikely because the South Florida district is D+15, so Deutch is going to win no matter who the Republican is. This is why no serious Republican entered the race.

Appointed Senators Causing Democrats Headaches     Permalink

As of the beginning of this year, the Democrats had five appointees in the Senate, and all five seats are turning into problems for them. In Massachusetts, they already lost a special election when Scott Brown (R) beat Martha Coakley (D) on Jan. 19. Ironically, it is their own fault. In 2004, the Democratically controlled state legislature took away then Gov. Mitt Romney's power to appoint senators and created special elections to fill Senate vacancies. Last year they gave the governor the power to appoint someone until the special election. If they had left well enough alone in 2004, then after Ted Kennedy's death last August, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) would have appointed a strong candidate to serve until 2012 and there would have been no special election to lose.

Now that the Illinois senate race to replace tainted-appointee Roland Burris (D-IL) has come down to Mark Kirk (R) vs. Alexi Giannoulias (D), Barack Obama's old seat in very blue Illinois has come into play, in no small part due to problems surrounding a bank the Giannoulias family owns. It is expected to be a close battle in November.

In Delaware, after Joe Biden was elected Vice President, Gov. Ruth Minner (D-DE) appointed a placeholder, Ted Kaufman, to keep the seat warm for a potential Senate run by Biden's son, Beau. Now that Beau has decided not to run, the Democrats don't seem to have a candidate and the Republicans have a strong (but elderly) one in long-time representative Mike Castle. Had Minner appointed her ambitious lieutenant governor, John Carney, instead of a seat warmer, they would surely have held the seat.

In Colorado, the appointment of Ken Salazar to the cabinet created a Senate vacancy that Gov. Bill Ritter filled with a total unknown, Michael Bennet, who is now facing a serious challenge from former lieutenant governor Jane Norton. Had Ritter appointed one the sitting members of the House, the seat would probably be safe now.

Finally, even New York is shaping up to be a problem for the Democrats. After much hemming and hawing, Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) appointed then representative Kirsten Gillibrand to the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when she became Secretary of State. This appointment angered many in the state who felt (1) she should wait her turn since there were many more experienced representatives available and (2) she was too conservative. She immediately tackled (2) by switching to more liberal positions on many issues saying that she now representated the whole state, not just a rural upstate district, and should support what the people of the state want.

Still, not everyone is happy with her and it looks like she will now face an extremely bruising primary fight with former representative Harold Ford, Jr., currently the vice chairman of Merrill Lynch. Both Gillibrand and Ford will spend the next few months trying to shake down Wall St. for campaign donations, which does not augur well for banking reform in Congress. Ford is black and far to the right of even where Gillibrand was in the House, so a second front in the primary war will be for the hearts and minds of the state's many black Democrats who will have to choose between a black man who doesn't really support their interests or a white woman who does. What might also happen here is that one or more other representatives who were strongarmed out of the race last year may decide to reenter, leading to free for all. Currently, the Republicans don't have a serious candidate, but the prospect of a bloody Democratic primary might induce Rudy Giuliani to enter the race.

All in all, if the Democrats lose half a dozen Senate seats in November, a large part of it will not be due to the sudden popularity of the Republican Party, but to their own blunders in handling vacancies. The real solution to such problems in the future is to abolish appointees and have special elections for all Senate vacancies, something half a dozen states already have for the Senate and which all states have for the House.

Durbin and Schumer Prepare for a Showdown     Permalink

If majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) loses his relection bid--as seems increasingly like--the Senate Democrats will need to elect a new majority leader, assuming they don't lose their majority. The battle is already quietly shaping up between the majority whip, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the #2 and #3 Senate Democrats, respectively. While Durbin outranks Schumer, that says little about how the Democratic senators would vote if it came to that. In particular, Schumer ran the DSCC for two cycles and 14 sitting senators owe their jobs to him. He could certainly call in that chit. Furthermore, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also owes her appointment to Schumer's persuading Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) to pick her over Caroline Kennedy, If there are about 55 members of the Democratic caucus next year, it would take 28 votes to win and Schumer probably has 15 of those already locked down, plus his own. So he needs to get 12 votes from the remaining 39 senators. His weapon of choice, as well as Durbin's, is donating money to the campaign warchests of other Democrats, in an attempt to buy their allegiance. So far he has given away $210,000 to Durbin's $110,000. If, as the year progresses, it looks more and more likely that Reid's a goner, expect the friendly rivalry between Durbin and Schumer to heat up. Durbin is probably more liberal than Schumer, but Schumer is more aggressive than Durbin. Either one would be likely to challenge the Republicans more than the mild Reid.

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