The Progressive Fix

The Permanent Campaign: Labor Day Brain Food

Since we’re more than a week away from the final batch of primaries on September 9 (with the exception, of course, of Louisiana’s November 4 “jungle primary”), and it’s a long holiday weekend for most people, it’s probably a good time to suggest some bigger-picture brain food for political junkies.

One raging argument this year is over the existence or non-existence of a pro-GOP “wave” or “tsunami” like the one that struck four years ago.  Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball crew marshal the evidence against any big late pro-GOP drama here. But Sean Trende counters here, though I think his definition of “wave” as simply a strong election day is a bit circular given the extraordinary Senate landscape Republicans enjoy this year.  Everybody agrees it remains too early to say much of anything for sure.

One more suggested reading: earlier this week I took a quick look at the often-ignored gubernatorial landscape. The relatively low overlap between Senate and gubernatorial battlegrounds could be significant on election day.




The Permanent Campaign: Business As Usual

Best as I can tell, there were no significant upsets in yesterday’s primaries in Florida, Oklahoma and Arizona.  GOP fears that scandal-plagued former Rep. David Rivera might win in FL-26 did not materialize.  Republican front-runners Steve Russell (OK-05) and Wendy Rogers (AZ-09) won the House primaries they were supposed to win (Rogers will face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in a competitive general election).

The one big statewide race yesterday, the GOP gubernatorial primary in AZ, proved to be anticlimactic as the True Conservative favorite, state treasurer Doug Doucey, easily brushed aside former Mesa mayor Steve Smith (who was endorsed by outgoing Gov. Jan Brewer) and GoDaddy exec Christine Jones after a nasty and expensive campaign.  In heavily blue AZ-07, a national progressive favorite, Ruben Gallego, will succeed retiring Rep. Ed Pastor.  And in the closest and in some respects most interesting race, to choose a challenger for Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in competitive AZ-01, the state and national Establishment favorite, state House Speaker Andy Tobin, required massive last-minute money infusions and a divided and gaffe-ridden field of wild right-wing opponents to barely survive with 36% of the vote.  Go figure.

The next primaries are a set of four on September 9.  That’s it until November 4, when Louisiana has its Jungle Primary while the rest of us are holding a general election.


The Permanent Campaign: Duel in the Hazy Sun

There are primaries in Arizona and Florida today, and runoffs in Oklahoma.  We’ll have full results tomorrow, but for preview purposes, two races in Arizona stand out: the GOP gubernatorial primary, and a GOP House primary in highly competitive AZ-01.

The race to succeed Jan Brewer and face Democrat Fred DuVal in November has become nasty and expensive.  Front-runner and apparent constitutional conservative favorite Doug Ducey, the state treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery exec, has enlisted the heavy-handed assistance of several shadowy Koch-affiliated groups who are running big negative ad campaigns against GoDaddy exec Christine Jones and former Mesa mayor Scott Smith.  The ads accuse Jones of being an admirer of Hillary Clinton and therefore a disrespector of the transformational importance of Benghazi!, and accuse Smith of favoring incumbent Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion (Brewer did endorse him).  Jones’ friends at GoDaddy have responded with nasty ads attacking Doucey, and everybody’s flirting with general election danger on the border and immigration issues.  Doucey remains the favorite, but anything could happen.

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s shaky hold on AZ-01 has strengthened after a very poor showing so far by Republicans competing to face her.  Front-runner and AZ House speaker Andy Tobin was supposed to run away with this race, but has struggled with fundraising and recently drew ridicule for suggesting Central Americans crossing the border could be carrying the Ebola virus.  He’s getting some last-minute outside help from the U.S. Chamber and Mitt Romney. His toughest opponent, believe it or not, is probably state rep. Adam Kwasman, who appeared down and out after massive negative publicity for an interview in which he confused a busload of local kids going to a YMCA camp with border refugees.  Kwasman is the favorite, however, of nativist and birther icon Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Self-funding rancher Gary Kiehne, who claims 99% of mass murders are by Democrats, fills out the dubious field.


The Permanent Campaign: GOPers Get What They Wanted in Alaska

The results didn’t precisely meet expectations, because 2010 GOP Senate nominee Joe Miller was expected to run third behind Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.  But still, the Alaska Senate nominee that all the Beltway Republicans (including the Club for Growth) wanted, former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, won the primary with 40% of the vote (versus 32% for Miller and 25% for Treadwell).  His opponent, Sen. Mark Begich, already has a head start in attempting to undermine Sullivan via some pre-primary negative ads.

In another important Alaska result, it appears an underfunded ballot initiative aimed at overturning a recent tax cut for oil companies was narrowly defeated.  It would have returned tax rates to those that Sarah Palin campaigned on and implemented in her brief tenure as governor.

Meanwhile, as expected (but by a much larger margin that most figured), Republicans seized control of the Virginia Senate in a special election in GOP-trending SW VA.

Next week’s major primaries are in Arizona and Florida.






The Permanent Campaign: North To Alaska

There will remain eight state primaries this year after today, but none involving competitive Senate seats (unless you count Louisiana, which has the first stage of its Top Two primary on November 4).  So the last chance for a GOP Senate upset–the big discussion point throughout the primaries–is in Alaska today.

It would be judged an upset if Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell beat former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan for the right to take on incumbent Sen. Mark Begich.  But that’s mainly a matter of money and general electability rather than ideology.  The bigger and ideologically significant upset would be another win by former House Speaker Joe Miller, who’s been running a poorly financed third in the race in the wake of his general election loss in 2010 to a write-in campaign from incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (whom Miller had beaten in the GOP primary).  It’s very unlikely to happen.

The other nationally prominent race today is actually a state senate special election in VA that will determine control of the chamber.  It’s a historically Democratic district, but also one that’s been trending heavily Republican in presidential contests.  So Republican state delegate Ben Chafin is a solid favorite over Democrat Mike Hymes.  This is the district recently abandoned by Democrat Phil Puckett in very suspicious circumstances (a cushy state job for him–which he was then forced to quit–and a judicial confirmation for his daughter).

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, as expected, Sen. Dean Schatz held onto–and actually increased–his victory margin over Rep. Collen Hanabusa in a special Senate Democratic primary.  No final word yet as to whether Hanabusa will challenge the results on grounds that elections were arbitrarily held in some places on primary day but not in others.  But it looks good for Schatz.




The Permanent Campaign: A Quiet Three-Primary Tuesday and Confusion in Hawaii

Yesterday’s primaries in Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin occurred without a great deal of drama, with front-runners mostly cruising.  In the Nutmeg State, Tom Foley beat John McKinney 55/45 to earn a rematch with Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy. In MN, it was a bit dicier for state GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, who held off three major challengers with only 30%; he’ll now face Gov. Mark Dayton.  The one barnburner was the GOP primary in WI-06, where fire-breathing conservative state senator Glenn Grothman very narrowly (214 votes) edged Joe Leibham, which if it holds should give Democrats at least some hope of winning a seat Republican Tom Petri held for 36 years.

But there was more drama in Hawaii, where the Democratic Senate nomination most thought appointed incumbent Brian Schatz had more-or-less won is still in some doubt. You may recall that two precincts on the Big Island didn’t have balloting on primary day due to flooding. Election officials originally announced a three-week mail ballot process for the precincts, but then decided on a full live vote this coming Friday.  Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who trailed Schatz by just over 1700 votes with all the other precincts reporting (and who had little hope of making that up in the precincts that haven’t voted) is now talking about suing to stop Friday’s balloting due to continuing storm damage issues, and is also threatening to go to court to challenge the results because other storm-effected precincts voted “irregularly.” So Hawaii could join Mississippi as a state with a Senate primary under legal challenge.

The Permanent Campaign: Three Low-Profile Primaries

If all you had to go by was national media, you might not know there are three primaries being held today, in Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

CT’s marquee race is the GOP primary for governor, where former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley is seeking a rematch with Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy, who is generally deemed vulnerable. Foley’s being challenged by state senate Republican leader John McKinney, whose exploitation of a gaffe by the front-runner could be undermined by his own past support for gun regulation.

There’s another relatively non-ideological GOP gubernatorial primary in MN, where the usually-influential state party endorsement went to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who’s stirred some intraparty controversy by refusing to sign a no-tax-increase pledge.  Three other candidates are in the race; the one to watch is probably self-funder Scott Honour, who’s calling for a major reduction in the state budget.

In WI, eighteen-term incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Petri is retiring, and two conventionally conservative candidates are seeking to overcome wild man ideologue and state senator Glenn Grothman for the GOP nomination in what has normally been a safe Republican district.

The Permanent Campaign: One Storm Over, Others Still on Radar

In forecasting Saturday’s Hawaii Democratic primary on Friday, I noted the state was being hit by one tropical storm with a hurricane still approaching. As it turns out, Tropical Storm Iselle weakened at landfall and wrought less damage than expected, while Hurricane Julio missed Hawaii entirely.

The stormy gubernatorial primary ended shortly after polls closed, with Gov. Neil Abercrombie losing by better than a two-to-one margin to state senator David Ige.The incumbent suffered from chronically low approval ratings, turmoil in the legislature, conflict with unions, and controversy over his choice of his Lt. Gov., Brian Schatz, to succeed Dan Inouye despite the iconic senator deathbed request that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (a fellow Japanese-American; Schatz is white) get the nod.  It was all too much for Abercrombie. But Ige must now face another storm in the general election, with former Democrat (and former Honolulu mayor) Mufi Hannemann running as an indie, giving Republican former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona the lead in at least one early poll.

Meanwhile, it looks as though Schatz will probably survive his primary with Hanabusa, but it won’t be official for a while.  He led by just over 1600 votes with all but two precincts counted, but these were Big Island precincts where flooding largely prevented Election Day voting. Voters there are being allowed three more weeks to send in mail ballots.  But the math seems to decisively favor the incumbent, creating a victory for the president and many liberal and environmental groups, and a setback for Emily’s List.  Schatz is not expected to have any trouble in November.

The Permanent Campaign: Cross-Currents in TN, Big Storms in HI

Yesterday’s primary in Tennessee produced a real mixed bag of results. In the only race most national pundits noticed, Sen. Lamar Alexander beat right-wing challenger by a healthy but hardly overwhelming 50-41 margin.  But an equally big deal was the resounding defeat of a partisan effort financed by Americans Prosperity and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to remove three Supreme Court Justices accused vaguely of “liberalism.”  And in a contrast to Alexander’s win, one of the rare Republican candidates (especially in the South) who campaigned on making the GOP more moderate and open to bipartisanship, Weston Wamp, narrowly lost a challenge to fire-breathing conservative Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who said he had no interest in talking to “ultra-liberal leftists.”

In an interesting test of ideology versus credibility, another fire-breather, Rep. Steve DesJarlais, basically tied his well-funded challenger Jim Tracy (provisional ballots and a recount will determine the winner, though the incumbent led by 35 votes with all precincts reporting) despite massive publicity about DesJarlais’ alleged sexual and professional indiscretions, including encouragement of abortions by a wife and a lover.

Tomorrow’s Hawaii Democratic primary promises to be even stormier, and only partially because of the weather (Tropic Storm Iselle is currently battering the islands, and Hurricane Julio could arrive on Sunday).  In a tangle of ideology and race, appointed Sen. Brian Schatz is in a close battle with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Japanese-American whom Japanese-American icon Daniel Inouye clearly wanted to serve as his successor.  Schatz, who is white, is being supported by many liberal and environmental groups, and by the president, who has a lot of clout here. Hanabusa is considered more moderate, and both she and Inouye backed Hillary Clinton in 2008 over Obama.  Whoever wins will be a heavy favorite in the general election.

Meanwhile, the man who appointed Schatz, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (another white progressive and Obama ally), is in real trouble against state senator David Ige (another Japanese-American).  Whoever wins will have a tough three-way general election to navigate.  There’s also a seven-candidate Democratic primary to succeed Hanabusa in her House seat.

It’s anybody’s guess how the weather will affect turnout patterns, but it’s not a great environment for GOTV.

We’ll talk about the results on Monday.

The Permanent Campaign: Close Races But Few Cigars For Challengers

Last night’s primaries in KS, MI, MO and WA had some drama but not many upsets.  In the Sunflower State, Sen. Pat Roberts dispatched damaged Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf by a comfortable but not overwhelming 48/41 margin; this is widely being described as a missed opportunity for conservative insurgents.  Tea Party House incumbents Tim Hueselkamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of MI had some nervous moments but won (Amash defied the usual party-healing conventions and denounced his opponent and his campaign as “despicable”).  Another hard-core conservative, KS Rep. Mike Pompeo, pummeled his predecessor, Todd Tiahrt.  KS Gov. Sam Brownback showed why he’s in trouble in November with a pallid 63-37 win over a challenger with zero money.

The one House incumbent who lost, MI Republican Kerry Bentivolio, was widely regarded as an accidental congressman; no one was surprised by the outcome.  In one of several open-seat primaries, there could be a recount in MI-14, where Roy Hobbes barely edged Brenda Lawrence in the race to succeed Rep. Gary Peters in a deep blue district.

Out in WA, the perils of the “top two” system were illustrated again as two Republicans will advance to the general election in the district being vacated by Rep. Doc Hastings.  But Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene got lucky as wealthy GOPer and tech exec Pedro Celis does not appear to have made the cut.

There were no statewide or competitive primaries in MO, but a controversial “Right to Farm” ballot initiative aimed at killing regulations seems to have very narrowly passed.

I wrote up an analysis of the Senate GOP primary cycle so far over at TPMCafe if you’re interested.

Friday we’ll be back with results and analysis of tomorrow’s Tennessee primary (the most interesting race may involve a highly partisan GOP effort to remove three State Supreme Court Justices), and a forecast for Saturday’s Hawaii primary, where two scary weather events–a hurricane and a tropical storm–are overshadowing unusually vicious Democratic contests for Senator and Governor.