The past week was dominated by an avalanche of open seats, most of which concern congressmen who were not expected to retire. Diane Watson, Patrick Kennedy, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Vern Ehlers announced they would not seek re-election and Marco Diaz-Balart made a move for his brother’s district that opened up his own seat. Meanwhile, Jack Murtha’s death will lead to a special election that will probably be held in early May.
A fifth state saw its filing deadline pass this week: New Mexico. The main attraction is the open Governor’s race, in which there were no last minute surprises. On the Democratic side, actor Val Kilmer and state Senate Majority Michael Sanchez let the filing deadline pass without making a move, leaving Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish in control. On the Republican side, no one joined state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, Dona Ana County DA Susana Martinez and Pete Domenici Jr. Over on House races, all three Democratic representatives are seeking re-election, with Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) the most endangered since Steve Pearce is seeking his old seat back. In NM-01, Rep. Martin Heinrich’s probable opponent is Jon Barela, a former vice chairman of the state GOP who will need the environment to be truly dismal for Democrats to pull off an upset.
In Washington, Republicans have yet to convince Rob McKenna, Rob Reichert or Dino Rossi to challenge Senator Patty Murray but they did get a credible candidate in the race this week: Don Benton, who has served in the state Senate since 1996. While Benton is only 52, he seems to have had a higher profile ten years ago: In 1998, he mounted a challenge to Rep. Brian Baird (who is retiring this year) and in 2000 he became chairman of the state Republican Party, though a rocky tenure led to his ouster within 8 months; also, he seems determined to emphasize conservative themes and embrace the Tea Party label, which should prove risky in a state that has trended increasingly Democratic over the entire decade (i.e. not just in 2008).
Yet, Benton’s entry is significant as it once again demonstrates the GOP’s rising confidence. In normal circumstances, Murray would likely crush Benton but if the electorate grows even more hostile to Democrats than it has for now, even a relatively low-profile state legislator can upset a seemingly solid incumbent. (While it seems hard to compare Elizabeth Dole and Patty Murray, Dole would have far tougher for Hagan to beat in most other cycles.) There is for now little reason for the DSCC to be alarmed, but the NRSC does have an eye on this state and Benton could still make life difficult for the incumbent.
In Nevada, we are getting a clearer picture of what the GOP’s Senate primary will look like. After seeing his prospects crushed by an indictment, Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki found himself back in contention when the charges were dropped; but he announced this week he would not jump in. On the one hand, the months of bad publicity due to his indictement surely damaged his standing (Rasmussen recently found him running weakest); on the other, he was a rare Republican with an imposing profile. The GOP field now contains at least 5 candidates with a credible shot at the nomination (Lowden, Tarkanian, Amodei, Angle, Chachas), which makes the primary wildly unpredictable; that’s always a dangerous place for a party to be, as we saw recently in Illinois’s gubernatorial primary.
A twist: A “Tea Party” group has qualified as a official party in Nevada, which will allow them to field a candidate on the November ballot; that candidate will likely be a man named Jon Ashjian. While Democrats will hope this takes some conservative votes away from the GOP, there is no evidence this will have any importance on the general election, but it still merits mentioning.
In Connecticut, week after week the gubernatorial field looks to be in as much flux. On the Republican side, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton had joined the race last week and this week, it was Newington Mayor Jeffrey Wright’s turn. I see that I had missed Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh’s entry in the race, so we now have at least five Republicans in the race. On the Democratic side, former Speaker James Amann’s decision to drop out appeared to open the way to a clearer opposition between Dan Malloy and Ned Lamont, but then we learned that Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura is preparing to jump in. The state’s fifth biggest city, Waterbury has about 110,000 inhabitants; Jarjura could certainly be a major player in the primary.
|New open seats||Debra Watson (D, CA-33)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25): will run for FL-21, leave FL-25 open
Vern Ehlers (R, MI-02)
Patrick Kennedy (D, RI-01)
Jack Murtha (D, PA-12)
|Will not retire||No one|
|Added to retirement watch||No one|
|NV-Sen, GOP||Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki will not run
retired Navy commander Kirk Lippold will run
|NY-Sen, GOP/indie||Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman added|
|OR-Sen, GOP||Kareem Hamdy is running|
|SC-Sen, Dem||attorney Chad McGowan dropped out|
|WA-Sen, GOP||state Sen. Don Benton announced run
Chris Widener is running
chiropractor Sean Salazar is running
enery trader Craig Williams is running
physician Arthur Coday Jr. is running
Rod Rieger is running
Third, updates to gubernatorial races:
|CT-Gov, Dem||former Speaker Jim Amann dropped out
Waterbury Mayor Michael J. Jarjura announced run
|CT-Gov, GOP||Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh is running
Newington Mayor Jeffrey Wright announced run
|MI-Gov, Dem||Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is running
former Treasurer Bob Bowman is running
UM regent Denise Ilitch will not run
|NM-Gov, Dem||state Senator Michael S. Sanchez will not run|
|PA-Gov, Dem||state Senator Anthony Williams added|