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Schatz Defeats Hanabusa for Democratic Senate Nomination in Hawaii

Incumbent senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) has defeated Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) for the Democratic nomination for the Senate race in November. Schatz was the lieutenant governor when Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) appointed him to fill the seat of the late senator Daniel Inouye. The appointment set off all kinds of bells in this multicultural state in which Japanese Americans are 23% of the population but have a much higher turnout rate than other ethnic groups. On his deathbed, Sen. Inouye wrote Abercrombie a letter asking him to nominate Hanabusa, like him, a Japanese American, to the seat. Abercrombie ignored him and chose his own lieutenant governor, Schatz (who is Jewish) instead and Hanabusa immediately decided to challenge Schatz in a primary. The primary was held last Saturday and after the votes were counted, Schatz held a lead of 1635 votes.

However, due to a huge tropical storm, two precincts were forced to close because the access roads had been badly damaged. State election officials first thought of sending out absentee ballots to the voters in the affected precincts, but later changed their minds and decided to have an in person election yesterday. Hanabusa went to court to block this plan but on Thursday, a judge ruled against her. The election was held yesterday and Schatz maintained his small lead after all the votes were counted. In November, Schatz will face James "Duke" Aiona (R), the lieutenant governor under Linda Lingle from 2002 to 2010. As an incumbent Democrat is one of the bluest states in the country, Schatz is the overwhelming favorite to retain his Senate seat.

Gov. Rick Perry Indicted for Abusing His Office

Yesterday a grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry for abusing his office and trying to coerce a state official into dropping an investigation of corruption in his administration. Politely asking the official in charge of prosecuting corruption in Texas, the Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, to drop a case is perfectly legal. Threatening to veto the budget for her unit unless she resigns is not. The indictment has two counts, one for abuse of office and one for trying to coerce a government official.

There is a long history of bad blood between the Travis County district attorney's office and the governor. The Texas capital is in Austin, a highly Democratic city in part due to the sprawling University of Texas campus there, so the district attorney for its county (Travis) is in charge of corruption in state government (generally controlled by Republicans in recent decades). Republicans are saying the charges against Perry are a partisan witch hunt. Democrats are saying that everyone has to obey the law, even the governor.

Since Perry is retiring at the end of his term in January, one might wonder what all the fuss is about. The answer can be summarized in one number: 2016. Perry was planning to run for President again, despite his disastrous 2012 campaign. He became a national laughingstock during one of the debates in 2012 when he said that as President he would eliminate three wasteful government departments, but when asked which ones, he was able to name only two of them. In politics image is everything, and the combination of being thought a fool and a corrupt one at that, basically ends his 2016 campaign right now, no matter what the jury ultimately rules.

2016 Presidential Race Already in Full Swing Under the Radar

While most of the attention of the pundits has been on the 2014 Senate races, make no mistake, the 2016 presidential campaign is fully underway already. Another leading Republican contender, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) might well be taken out this fall or early next year. He has two potential problems that are the subjects of multiple investigations. First, somebody ordered three lanes of the George Washington Bridge to be closed on the first day of school last year. Nobody seems to know who gave the order or why. There have been allegations that the closing was done to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, the town on the New Jersey side of the bridge for refusing to endorse Christie's reelection. The bridge connects two states, New Jersey and New York, and interfering with interstate commerce is a federal crime. The New Jersey state legislature and a U.S. attorney are investigating the matter. If it turns out Christie's office hatched this plan, he is finished as a 2016 contender.

In addition, Christie has been accused of diverting funds from the Port Authority to rebuild roads in New Jersey. This is illegal since the Port Authority's task is to maintain the links between the states (and the area airports), not to maintain access roads to the bridges and tunnels. If Christie is found to be involved in this, he is certainly out in 2016 and potentially could be impeached and/or indicted.

Finally, a third potential 2016 Republican candidate, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) also has legal problems. He is under investigation for illegally coordinating his campaign with outside conservative groups supporting him. Under the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, outside political groups can spend as much money as they want on a campaign, but they are forbidden from coordinating with the candidate. The investigation of this case could potential sink Walker's presidential ambitions.

On the other hand, the campaign of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) appears to be picking up steam. He just completed a three-day tour of Iowa and he is actually doing the things that were called for in the RNC's autopsy of the 2012 election, namely reaching out to people other than old white conservative men in the South. He wants to attract young people to the GOP, so he recently spoke at the University of California at Berkeley, not known as a hotbed of conservative activity. But his view that small governments (which he supports) have better things to do that arrest young people for using marijuana struck a chord there. After the recent riots in Ferguson, MO, Paul has called for the demilitarization of the police (English translation: hello there, black voters, I agree that police brutality is serious problem).

Paul might be a strong general election candidate, hut he will face a bruising primary season because he deviates from party orthodoxy on too many issues. He could face a bitter battle with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), for example.

If Perry, Christie, and Walker are all taken out by their legal problems, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush declines to run for President (and neither his mother nor his Mexican-born wife seem keen on the idea), Paul could easily become the favorite. His only problem might be having to give up his Senate seat to run because he is up for reelection in 2016 and Kentucky law forbids people from running for two offices at the same time.

On the Democratic side, if Hillary Clinton decides to run--and all signs indicate that she will--she will be unstoppable. Her recent book tour has already lasted more than 7 weeks and is largely indistinguishable for a campaign trip except for the lack of "Hillary 2016" banners. It is designed not only to expose her to voters (oops, make that readers) and also to show everyone that at age 66 she still has the stamina to travel around the country and campaign (oops, promote her book) day and night nonstop. Every poll taken on the Democratic nomination for President shows her with massive leads over Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren, and every other potential rival. Nevertheless, it is awfully early to think that Clinton vs. Paul is a sure thing.

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