Giannoulias, Kirk Win in Illinois
State treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) won a three-way primary in Illinois yesterday
to run for the seat of retiring senator Roland Burris (D-IL). Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
cruised to an easy win in his primary. Both of these results were expected.
What is a bit surprising, though, is that the tea partiers
didn't go after
the moderate Kirk as a RINO.
Apparently giving up a real shot at a Senate seat to make an ideological point was a
bridge too far.
Dan Seals (D), who twice ran against Kirk and lost for the IL-10 seat, won the primary
yesterday to give it a third try. The district is D+6 and with an open seat, this time he
might well make it. The Republican candidate will be businessman Bob Dold (R).
Illinois Gubernatorial Primaries Too Close to Call
As of 6 A.M. EST, neither party has a gubernatorial candidate in Illinois.
Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) is currently
Comptroller Dan Hynes by about 6000 votes, with 1% of the precincts yet to report
and the absentee ballots yet to be counted. The seven-way Republican primary is even closer,
with the top vote getter, state senator Bill Brady (R) leading state senator Kirk Dillard (R)
by 500 votes. Each of them got barely 20% of the vote. Neither of them is well known or has
previously won statewide office, so either Quinn or Hynes will be the favorite, no matter
who wins the Republican primary.
Republican Primary in Florida Too Close to Call
Speaking of races that are squeakers, the Republican primary in FL-19 yesterday
to nominate a candidate to contest the Houe seat vacated in January by Robert Wexler (D),
ended up in a virtual tie, with contractor Ed Lynch (R) 42 votes
of financial planner Joe Budd (R). The winner--if he is known by then--will face state
senator Ted Deutch (D) on April 13. If the loser goes to court and we get into
Franken-Coleman mode, it is possible that the Republicans won't have a candidate before
the general election. But that is unlikely because the South Florida district is D+15, so
Deutch is going to win no matter who the Republican is. This is why no serious Republican
entered the race.
Appointed Senators Causing Democrats Headaches
As of the beginning of this year, the Democrats had five appointees in the Senate, and
all five seats are turning into problems for them. In Massachusetts, they
already lost a special election when Scott Brown (R) beat Martha Coakley (D) on Jan. 19.
Ironically, it is their own fault. In 2004, the Democratically controlled state legislature
took away then Gov. Mitt Romney's power to appoint senators and created special elections
to fill Senate vacancies. Last year they gave the governor the power to appoint someone
until the special election. If they had left well enough alone in 2004, then after Ted
Kennedy's death last August, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) would have appointed a strong
candidate to serve until 2012 and there would have been no special election to lose.
Now that the Illinois senate race to replace tainted-appointee Roland Burris (D-IL) has come down
to Mark Kirk (R) vs. Alexi Giannoulias (D), Barack Obama's old seat in very blue Illinois
has come into play, in no small part due to problems surrounding a bank the Giannoulias
family owns. It is expected to be a close battle in November.
In Delaware, after Joe Biden was elected Vice President, Gov. Ruth Minner (D-DE)
appointed a placeholder, Ted Kaufman, to keep the seat warm for a potential Senate run
by Biden's son, Beau. Now that Beau has decided not to run, the Democrats don't seem to
have a candidate and the Republicans have a strong (but elderly) one in long-time
representative Mike Castle. Had Minner appointed her ambitious lieutenant governor, John Carney,
instead of a seat warmer, they would surely have held the seat.
In Colorado, the appointment of Ken Salazar to the cabinet created a Senate vacancy that
Gov. Bill Ritter filled with a total unknown, Michael Bennet, who is now facing a serious
challenge from former lieutenant governor Jane Norton. Had Ritter appointed one the sitting
members of the House, the seat would probably be safe now.
Finally, even New York is shaping up to be a problem for the Democrats. After much
hemming and hawing, Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) appointed then representative Kirsten
Gillibrand to the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when she became Secretary of State.
This appointment angered many in the state who felt (1) she should wait her turn since
there were many more experienced representatives available and (2) she was too conservative.
She immediately tackled (2) by switching to more liberal positions on many issues saying
that she now representated the whole state, not just a rural upstate district, and
should support what the people of the state want.
Still, not everyone is happy with her
and it looks like she will now face an
primary fight with former
representative Harold Ford, Jr., currently the vice chairman of Merrill Lynch. Both
Gillibrand and Ford will spend the next few months trying to shake down Wall St. for
campaign donations, which does not augur well for banking reform in Congress. Ford is
black and far to the right of even where Gillibrand was in the House, so a second front
in the primary war will be for the hearts and minds of the state's many black Democrats
who will have to choose between a black man who doesn't really support their interests
or a white woman who does. What might also happen here is that one or more other
representatives who were strongarmed out of the race last year may decide to reenter,
leading to free for all. Currently, the Republicans don't have a serious candidate, but
the prospect of a bloody Democratic primary might induce Rudy Giuliani to enter the race.
All in all, if the Democrats lose half a dozen Senate seats in November, a large part
of it will not be due to the sudden popularity of the Republican Party, but to their
own blunders in handling vacancies. The real solution to such problems in the future is
to abolish appointees and have special elections for all Senate vacancies, something
half a dozen states already have for the Senate and which all states have for the House.
Durbin and Schumer Prepare for a Showdown
If majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) loses his relection bid--as seems increasingly like--the
Senate Democrats will need to elect a new majority leader, assuming they don't lose their
majority. The battle is already quietly
between the majority whip, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and vice chairman of the Democratic
Conference, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the #2 and #3 Senate Democrats, respectively.
While Durbin outranks Schumer, that says little about how the Democratic senators would
vote if it came to that. In particular, Schumer ran the DSCC for two cycles and 14 sitting
senators owe their jobs to him. He could certainly call in that chit. Furthermore,
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also owes her appointment to Schumer's persuading
Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) to pick her over Caroline Kennedy, If there are about 55
members of the Democratic caucus next year, it would take 28 votes to win and Schumer
probably has 15 of those already locked down, plus his own. So he needs to get 12 votes from the
remaining 39 senators. His weapon of choice, as well as Durbin's, is donating money to the
campaign warchests of other Democrats, in an attempt to buy their allegiance. So far
he has given away $210,000 to Durbin's $110,000. If, as the year progresses, it looks
more and more likely that Reid's a goner, expect the friendly rivalry between Durbin and
Schumer to heat up. Durbin is probably more liberal than Schumer, but Schumer is more
aggressive than Durbin. Either one would be likely to challenge the Republicans more
than the mild Reid.
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