In a major but unsurprising blow to Senate Democrats, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced that he would not challenge Senator Judd Gregg in 2010.
Lynch’s comments rule out a Senate run, but they cannot even reassure Democrats worried about Lynch leaving New Hampshire’s governorship open since Lynch left the door open to not even running for re-election next year. “I can tell you that although I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 2010, I’m not going to run for the United States Senate,” he said.
Lynch was the DSCC’s dream candidate. He is popular, recognizable and with enough stature to guarantee Gregg a competitive race. In fact, he just got re-elected with more than 70% of the vote (New Hampshire Governors serve two year terms, which is why Lynch is also up for re-election in 2010).
Yet, Democrats should not lose too much sleep over his decision since Lynch was not expected to jump in the Senate race. Furthermore, they still have two potential contenders who could make the race interesting: Rep. Paul Hodes and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter might not be as strong as Lynch, but they would certainly have a clear shot at the incumbent. As I reported in mid-December, both are positioning themselves for a statewide run.
Meanwhile, the biggest question of the year continues to be whether there will be a special Senate election in Texas.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has been eying the Governor’s mansion for years, and she finally formed an explanatory committee this past December. She is looking certain to run in the gubernatorial race: she has already moved her children out of Washington and into a Dallas school, and she has said “I have made the decision; I’m now in the stage of planning.”
That much would not have worried Republicans. Hutchison is not up for re-election in 2010, so she could jump in the gubernatorial race while remaining in the Senate. If she were to become Governor, Republicans would not have to worry about her seat until 2011 - a long time from now.
But it is an open secret that Hutchison is considering resigning from the Senate in order to devote herself to the gubernatorial race. This would spark a special election, potentially allowing Democrats to get their 60th seat. In fact, Hutchison’s resignation has become so expected that prominent politicians from both parties (former state Comptroller John Sharp, Houston Mayor Bill White, Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams) have already announced their candidacies!
Yet, Politico is now reporting that Hutchison is reconsidering her plans due to the pressure of her Senate colleagues. Besides quoting veiled Republican threats (“I cannot imagine that … Sen. Hutchison would abandon her seat to pursue her own ambitions and even risk giving Democrats a supermajority in the Senate”), the article quotes Hutchison herself, finding her more equivocating than usual. The Senator refused to say whether she would resign “very late this year” or if she would “stay for two years.”
The special election’s timing would depend on the date of Hutchison’s resignation. If she quits the chamber before September 28th, a special election would be held in November; if she leaves after September 28th, a special election would be held in May 2010. At the very least, the latter timing would give the GOP more time to recover from the toxic environment they are currently plunged in and it would provide them hope to exploit any Obama gives them over the next year.
But the GOP’s desire would obviously be for Hutchison to stay in the Senate until she is elected as Governor. After all, Hutchison faces a very difficult race since she is challenging a Republican incumbent in the party’s primary! The Senate GOP would be very frustrated if Hutchison were to resign her seat next winter only to fail in the primary against Rick Perry a few months later.