RI-01: Prominent candidates seek Kennedy’s seat
Patrick Kennedy’s retirement is sure not causing recruitment headaches for Democrats, as two major candidates have already entered the race: Providence Mayor David Cicilline, who was expected to run for Governor but chose not to do so, and state Democratic Party chairman William Lynch. A number of other Democrats could still enter the race, for instance Reps. Edwin Pacheco and Jon Brien (here’s a full rundown), but Cicilline and Lynch will surely not complain that Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts (another politician who unexpectedly passed on the Governor’s race) stuck to her plan of seeking re-election rather than running for Kennedy’s seat.
Cicilline has a progressive reputation; while I am not sure about Lynch’s ideological profile, his brother (Attorney General Patrick Lynch) is running for Governor as the liberal alternative to centrist Treasurer Frank Caprio so it would be somewhat confusing if William campaigned to Cicilline’s right. Note that Cicilline would be a more dominant candidate if all of Providence was contained in the district, but Rhode Island’s largest city is divided between RI-01 and RI-02; if he prevailed, Cicilline would be the third person elected to Congress as an openly gay politician.
Of course, winning the Democratic primary will not be enough as the GOP is hoping state Rep. John Loughlin can be competitive despite the district’s red lean. But the biggest wild card remains Buddy Cianci, the former Mayor of Providence who recently spent four years in federal prison and who as been mentioned as an independent candidate. While I was not sure whether to take the possibility seriously at first, Cianci himself said he is considering the race. While his conviction for racketeering would be too much for any politician to overcome, Cianci probably kept enough residue support from his 25 years as mayor to be a player in a 3-way race. While Cianci would probably draw more votes from Loughlin (he was a Republican in his first decade as Mayor, though he quit the party in 1982) but he could also put victory within his reach by lowering the share of the vote the GOP nominee needs.
NH-02: As expected, Charlie Bass is running
Charlie Bass’s decision to seek his former House seat won’t come as a surprise, but he had left enough bizarre hedges to his previous statements of interest that Democrats might have been still hoping he would end up not running. In 2006, Bass lost in an upset against Democrat Paul Hodes, who is now his party’s probable Senate nominee. While NH-02 is the more Democratic of New Hampshire’s two seats (it gave John Kerry a 5% victory and Barack Obama a 13% triumph), this open seat is very dangerous territory for Democrats since New Hampshire is the type of state in which independents’ partisan swings have big consequences (as we saw in 2006, as few other states were submerged by such a large blue wave).
As a 12-year congressman with a relatively moderate profile (he led a GOP rebellion against Tom DeLay in 2005, he is pro-choice, he chaired the Main Street Partnership), Bass should make the most of the year’s GOP bent; a UNH poll released last week found him handily leading Democratic candidates. Yet, his moderate credentials could also mean trouble in the GOP primary: The party’s 2008 nominee, radio talk show host Jennifer Horn, is also running and she is known as more of a conservative. Bass is certainly worried enough that he is moving to embrace Tea Partiers: “As far as the tea party movement is concerned I love em. God bless every single one of them,” he said last week. “Because you know what their agenda is exactly the same is mine. They want a new environment in Washington.”
The Bass-Horn primary will not be the district’s only ideologically loaded contest, as Democratic voters will have to choose between attorney Ann McLane Kuster and Katrina Swett, a former Lieberman ally who lost to Bass in 2002. Emily’s List has endorsed Kuster, which should guarantee she can be competitive against the well-funded Swett, who has money left over from her short-lived Senate campaign in 2008. I am somewhat surprised that more Democrats have not entered the race, since the party does have a deeper bench of elected officials than Kuster and Swett’s front-running status would indicate.
Democrats have yet to give up on KS-03; GOP might do so in DE-AL
With Kansas Democrats are suddenly enjoying an unexpected streak of good recruitment news in the two statewide races (more on that later), they aren’t quite ready to give up KS-03, a district that might be tough to hold but that did vote for Barack Obama in 2008. While Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon’s exit was a big blow to the party’s prospect, Democrats are now hoping to recruit either state Senator Kelly Kultala or the retiring incumbent’s wife Stephene Moore. (While the Kansas City Star is reporting she is interested, that would be a surprise since it would mean the current congressman would be back on the campaign trail and still in D.C. rather than retired.) KS-03 remains one of the GOP’s top opportunities, but it is not quite as far gone as LA-03 and TN-06, which Democrats appear to have all but given up.
One district that could soon join the ranks of uncontested open seats is DE-AL, left open by GOP Rep. Mike Castle. Not that this district isn’t already considered likely to switch to Democrats, but it looks like the NRCC will also cross the district off its list now that businessman Anthony Wedo has dropped out. Why was the GOP so high on Wedo and not on businessman Fred Cullis, who is running? The reason seems to be all about money: Wedo would have self-funded his campaign while Cullis doesn’t seem likely to do so.