Rep. Paulsen unlikely to struggle in MN-03
As 2008 came to a close, Democrats were expected to mount a top-tier challenge against freshman Rep. Erik Paulsen, one of 2008’s unlikeliest Republican victors since he won a district Obama carried. Paulsen’s victory was partly due to the lackluster campaign of Democratic nominee Ashwin Madia, one of the many failed House candidates who confirmed that having served in the Iraq War is not enough to be elected. Madia had secured the DFL’s endorsement at the party’s convention over state Senator Terri Bonoff, whom Democrats were hoping would run again in 2010 but who announced this week she would do no such thing.
Two Democrats are still seeking the DFL’s nomination: psychiatrist Maureen Hackett, who might not need the DCCC’s attention since he appears to be self-funding, and Minnesota PTA President Jim Meffert. Things could get interesting in Democrats right their ship nationally, but as of now Bonoff’s move leaves Republicans with one less seat of their own to worry about.
Interestingly, Bonoff voiced interest in running in 2012, after redistricting. Not only could that yield significant change because Minnesota might see its number of seat change (it looks unlikely at this point, but not impossible), but if Democrats pick-up the Governor’s Mansion this year they would be able to draw a favorable map. Given that he represents an Obama district in which more Democratic precincts can easily be added, Paulsen would surely be the party’s main target.
AR-01 sees little activity since Berry’s retirement
While Democrats recently met some recruitment success in AR-02, they are still searching for their flag-bearer in the other Arkansas open seat they must defend. In recent days, two Democrats announced they would not run - the first of which was Democrats’ strongest potential candidate, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. The move was entirely expected (McDaniel has been eying the Governor’s Mansion, which he’ll probably run for in 2014 when Mike Beebe is term-limited), but the DCCC is probably nonetheless disappointed. Another Democrat also bowed out of the race: state Sen. Robert Thompson.
One Democrat who is preparing to run is Chad Causey, Berry’s chief of staff. I doubt this is going to get Democrats that excited. While congressional staffers sometimes pull off victories of their own, it is tough to see Democrats hold AR-01 if they cannot nominate a candidate whom voters have already grown to know and be comfortable with; otherwise, how can they resist Arkansans’ increasing comfort with shedding their loyalty to the Democratic Party?
That said, the party has such a deep bench in the state that they still have many elected officials who could run, including state Senators Steve Byrles, Paul Bookout, Tim Wooldridge, Kevin Smith as well as a number of state representatives. Furthermore, the Republican side has been just as curiously inactive: Radio owner Rick Crawford was already in the race when Berry retired and no other Republican has joined him since then, though a couple of state legislators have yet to rule out doing so. I would argue that this is one district in which the quality of the GOP nominee is less important than the quality of the Democratic nominee, however.
Gutierrez drops out in FL-8
For months, Republicans struggled to recruit a credible nominee against Rep. Alan Grayson but in recent months a number of candidates have emerged to challenge the outspoken progressive, namely state Rep. Kurt Kelly and businessman Bruce O’Donoghue, who appears to be the NRCC’s preferred candidate because he might be willing to self-fund a campaign. (Note that Grayson is one of the biggest self-funders in Congress, so spending could quickly skyrocket.)
O’Donoghue and Kelly’s entry allowed the GOP establishment to marginalize 28-year old developer Armando Gutierrez, whom for a time in the fall had come to look as the party’s probable nominee. Thanks to his family’s connections to Southern Florida’s political establishment, Gutierrez had received the endorsements of at least 2 House members and numerous state legislators, but his lack of familiarity with the Orlando area (he had just moved to the region from Southern Florida a few weeks before he entered the race) led to NRCC concerns that they were endangering what they view as one of their top opportunities of the cycle.
Yet, Gutierrez announced this week that he was dropping out, explaining that he was now more interested in trying to bring a baseball team to Orlando. “I feel I can do more for the Central Florida economy by bringing a baseball team to the community than I can as a Member of Congress,” he said. This development leaves Kelly, O’Donoghue pitted against attorney Todd Long and Tea Party activist Patricia Sullivan in what will be one of Florida’s many highly contested GOP primaries: Given that these fights will not be settled until late August, might this help Democrats?
The question applies not just to FL-8 but also to the Senate race, where the summer battle ought to be brutal, and to FL-24, where the Republican field might be getting even more crowded soon. With Winter Park City Commissioner Karen Diebel and state Rep. Sandy Adams headlining the GOP primary for now, the NRCC has nonetheless been looking for an alternative because of their preference for someone who can afford buying himself a congressional seat: Craig Miller, the CEO of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, is now reportedly planning to run and use his deep pockets to finance his challenge to Kosmas. That should also make for a rough primary.