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Leading Off:

WV-Sen: In an unsurprising move, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller declared on Friday that will not seek re-election in 2014, though he does intend to finish out his term. Rockefeller is 75 and would have been seeking his sixth term, in a state that's grown increasingly hostile to Democrats; West Virginia went for Mitt Romney 62-36 in the most recent election (making it Obama's fifth-worst state), and the president lost every single county.

But Rockefeller, too, had seemingly moved away from the political mainstream in his home state. Back in June, we took note of some extremely unusual remarks Rockefeller made on the Senate floor, castigating the coal industry for engaging in scare tactics over any attempts to regulate it. At the time, it seemed like a potential signal that Rocky was eyeing the exits—after all, you don't go after Big Coal when you're up against a very competitive race in a state where the demographics are racing away from you.

Whether that speech was a tell or not, GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's early entry into the contest back in November certainly raised the stakes for Rockefeller, given that she's unquestionably the strongest Republican candidate in the state. In response to Capito's move, Rockefeller sounded pretty unenthusiastic about saddling up for still one more race, so Friday's development was not unexpected.

The real question, of course, is what Democrats do next. Despite West Virginia's move to the right, there's still a strong Democratic bench. What's more, given Rockefeller's attacks on coal (as well as his lack of fire in the belly), this could be a rare situation where Dems might be better off with a replacement instead of the incumbent. No matter what, though, you can bet that DSCC chair Michael Bennet has been on the horn with potential recruits all weekend. Here's what some possible names are already saying in response to the news:

• Ex-Sen. Carte Goodwin, who, as an appointee, briefly served out the final months of the late Robert Byrd's term in 2010: Says he "was flattered to be listed."

• Rep. Nick Rahall, who only won re-election in WV-03 last year with 54 percent of the vote: Says the decision "has made it incumbent upon me to recalibrate all my decisions."

• Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis: Says she "will think this through very thoroughly."

• Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2011: Says she hasn't "ruled anything out."

• Ex-state party chair Mike Callaghan, who unsuccessfully ran against Capito in 2006: had said in November "I have an interest in running" should Rockefeller retire.

• State House Speaker Rick Thompson, who also unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2011: Says (via a campaign consultant) that "he's not interested in running."

• Ex-Gov. Bob Wise: Says he "appreciate[s] even being mentioned" but "want[s] to stay involved" with his non-profit efforts on education.

A few other names percolating include ex-Gov. Gaston Caperton, state Sen. Jeff Kessler, and state Treasurer John Perdue, the latter two of whom were both 2011 gubernatorial candidates. A longshot would be current Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, though thanks to a special election, he had to run back-to-back races in 2011 and 2012 and may be ready for a breather.

Meanwhile, GOP Rep. David McKinley, who had previously held the door open to a possible run despite Capito's entrance, says he's still not ruling anything out, while the Senate Conservatives Fund insists that they're "not going to stop looking for a conservative challenger in this race until the primary is over." Er, fellas, it's okay if you quit your scavenger hunt at the filing deadline. Oh, no, wait: write-in!

Undoubtedly we'll hear a lot more on this front in the coming weeks. And note that if Rahall were to jump in, that would create an open seat in his 3rd Congressional District, which would be an extremely tough hold for Democrats given how red it is (it went for Romney 65-33). Capito's House seat is, of course, also open, meaning we could see a lot of action in West Virginia this cycle—and we'll be there to cover it all.

Senate:

AK-Sen: This is an amazing pile of crazy. It starts off here:

Alaska Tea Party favorite Joe Miller wore a bulletproof vest the night he beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to become the Republican Party's 2010 Senate nominee, his former private security guard told The Huffington Post.

"As we're finding out that he's winning, I'm in the bathroom putting a bulletproof vest on the guy," William Fulton said in one of several interviews this week. Describing Miller as "paranoid," Fulton said the underdog conservative was afraid he'd be targeted at election headquarters in Anchorage on that August night. "It was fucking ridiculous."

But it only gets better from there:
Fulton, as it turned out, was a federal informant at the same time he was providing security at events for the Miller campaign. Once members of an Alaska militia were arrested in a plot to kill law enforcement officials in March 2011, Fulton faded from view.
If you like reading about lunatic senatorial candidates, the militia movement, and guns guns guns, this piece is definitely for you.

MA-Sen: Two notable developments in MA-Sen on Friday: First up, the League of Conservation Voters, which proved to be a big force in Senate races this past cycle with some $14 million in outside spending, has just endorsed Rep. Ed Markey in the Democratic primary. They thus become one of the first big-name third party groups to rally around Markey, as much of the Democratic establishment already has.

Relatedly, state Sen. Benjamin Downing, who had been considering a bid, announced that he would not run in the expected special election. Downing lacked name recognition, but he was the only notable potential candidate from the western half of the state, which could have aided him if several Boston-based candidates split the vote. But no one other than Markey has yet taken the plunge, and it would have been an uphill bankshot (woohoo! mixed metaphors!) for Downing even in the best of circumstances. In any event, Markey partisans have to consider this good news, as the field remains clear.

P.S. Markey also nailed down two of Elizabeth Warren's top fundraisers, adding to what's already an area of strength for him.

Gubernatorial:

AR-Gov: Here's a new potential Republican contender for governor: incoming state House Speaker Davy Carter, whose party just won control of the legislature for the first time since 1874. Carter, like many state legislators, held a second job (in this case, with a bank), but he just left that position. Perhaps it's because of the new duties he expects to shoulder as speaker, or perhaps it's because he wants to free himself of any troublesome entanglements should he decide to seek the governor's mansion. Carter was decidedly vague in a statement, saying only that he is "completely focused on the legislative session."

NJ-Gov: I never really thought this was a possibility, so this news is no surprise: Dem Rep. Bill Pascrell has pretty definitively ruled out a challenge to Gov. Chris Christie in this year's gubernatorial contest. Pascrell said he finds the notion "intriguing" but added that he's "not pursuing that position." Cagey language, but it's January and the election is in November, so there's really negative zero time for dicking around. And considering that Pascrell just had to wage a serious battle in last year's redistricting-induced member-vs.-member primary against Steve Rothman, I tend to doubt he's interested in another bruising race so soon.

OH-Gov: While her name had been batted around a little bit in classic Great Mentioner style, ex-Rep. Betty Sutton now confirms that she is "seriously considering" a run against GOP Gov. John Kasich in 2014, though she did not offer a timetable for making a decision. Sutton served three terms in the House before redistricting pushed her into a member-vs.-member race against Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, in a district designed to be as friendly to Renacci as possible.

Sutton lost, 52-48, but in so doing ran several points ahead of the top of the ticket (Romney carried the district 53-45). Considering Obama won Ohio overall 51-48, that's not a bad showing. Still, Sutton doesn't have any name recognition outside of her home turf—but then again, with ex-Gov. Ted Strickland taking a pass on a rematch, none of the other potential Democratic candidates are particularly well-known either.

PA-Gov: I never for a moment imagined that Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane would run for governor in 2014, and what's more, she even pledged she wouldn't during the campaign. Now she's reiterating that promise, though perhaps somewhere down the line, she could prove to be a very attractive candidate for Democrats, particularly since she was the highest vote-getter statewide in Pennsylvania last year.

Meanwhile, it looks like PPP leaked the GOP primary portion of its recent gubernatorial poll to PoliticsPA, which has the scoop. Gov. Tom Corbett has a surprisingly weak 54-31 approval rating among members of his own party, and only 45 percent say they'd like to see him as their nominee, versus 37 percent who say "someone else."

In a hypothetical matchup against Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor, who has openly said he's thinking about going after the incumbent, Corbett prevails 55-11. That might seem pretty good, but Castor's name recognition is negligible—and he also lost the 2004 AG primary to Corbett by just five points. I think a Castor challenge would be very serious business for Corbett.

TX-Gov: Attorney General Greg Abbott's legal career has been less than stellar, but hey, it's not like Gov. Rick Perry is any kind of leading light, right? So it's no surprise that Abbott thinks he can do Perry's job—which is why he's reportedly been telling donors he will indeed run for governor. Abbott's been gearing up for this for a long time, raising scads of money in preparation for a bid: He already has $14.5 million on hand, compared to just $3.4 mil for Perry.

For his part, Perry says he won't announce whether he'll seek another term until after the legislative session ends in June, and the Republican primary isn't until March of 2014. A poll conducted last year for Burnt Orange Report found Perry leading Abbott just 42-35, and I suspect Perry wouldn't fare as well this time as he did when he handily fended off ex-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010.

VA-Gov: Ah, I love it when a state's top law enforcement official advocates breaking the law:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee and a rising national figure on the right, told an Iowa-based radio show Wednesday night that opponents of a federal mandate for contraception coverage should be willing to "go to jail" to fight the law. [...]

Cuccinelli recounted an exchange with his own bishop in which he counseled the cleric to embrace civil disobedience: "My local bishop said, 'Well, you know I told a group I'm ready to go to jail.' And I said, 'Bishop, don't take this personally: You need to go to jail.'"

Virginia's Republican convention, when Cuccinelli expects to be coronated as his party's gubernatorial nominee, is May 17 & 18. Let's just hope GOP power-brokers don't decide he's too toxic to be their standard-bearer before then. Actually, given how epically disastrous their attempts to shove Todd Akin aside were, maybe we should be rooting for just that....

Other Races:

NYC Mayor: EMILY's List is making a rare foray into local politics, endorsing New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the Democratic primary for mayor. It also marks the group's first-ever involvement in an NYC mayoral race, though it's not yet clear what, if any, material support EMILY will offer to Quinn.

Grab Bag:

WATN?: Political observers have long wondered what the Mack family would do if one of them left Congress. I'd seen rumormongers claim that ex-Rep. Mary Bono Mack "doesn't like serving in the House and will move to be with her husband in Florida as soon as she's out of office." I'd also seen rumormongers claim that ex-Rep. Connie Mack "doesn't like serving in the House and will move to be with his wife in California as soon as he's out of office." There never seemed to be any basis for either of these claims, but amusingly, both Macks' political careers are kaput, so will they wind up in the same state together? (Perhaps they'll split the difference: They also own a home in Colorado.) Who knows, but Mary Bono Mack is selling her place in Palm Springs, though she doesn't know where she'll wind up. However, she's quite certain about one thing: "I will never run for office again," she says in a new interview. Wonderful!

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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