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8:36 AM PT: NY-St. Sen: Winner winner chicken dinner! In a huge reversal of fortune, Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk has unofficially won her race in New York's 46th Senate District and has declared victory with what is currently a 19-vote lead over Republican George Amedore. After a recount and ballot challenges, Amedore led by about 35 votes and was even certified as the winner, but Cece (as she's known) succeeded in getting just enough unopened ballots counted on appeal, and it sounds like Amedore is about to give up the fight.

What's particularly sweet about this win is that SD-46 is actually the new 63rd seat that Republicans controversially added to the new Senate map last year, in an attempt to wring out yet one more gerrymandered district. So picking up a seat deliberately drawn to favor the GOP is just gravy. But perhaps the best comment comes from sacman701, who points out that Tkaczyk's margin of victory (19) is less than the value of her last name in Scrabble (29). But this win is even sweeter than a triple word score!

11:38 AM PT: Of course, Tkaczyk's win, while wonderful in its own right, doesn't actually change anything. While 33 human beings running with (D)s after their names on the ballot won Senate seats in November versus just 30 (R)s, Republicans are firmly in control of the chamber. One conservative Democratic freshman, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, outright caucused with Republicans shortly after winning office, but another five Democrats—members of the so-called "Independent Democratic Conference"—went straight-out renegade and sided with the GOP not for reasons of ideology but simply to accrue power to themselves.

Their leader is Jeff Klein, who now shares the gavel with Republican honcho Dean Skelos, but you should mark the names of his confederates well: Diane Savino, David Carlucci, David Valesky, and Malcolm Smith. This bloc, plus Felder, effectively gives the GOP 36 votes to retain control, but I have a hard time imagining Klein looking good two years from now. This new junta is already off to a poor start: Check out the utter shitshow that devolved during the recent vote on new gun control legislation: No one knew whether Klein or Skelos was actually in charge.

And even if Klein somehow comes out smelling like roses (which would be a first in Albany), he and the entire IDC all deserve primary challenges. I'm not holding out much hope—the original gang of four (minus Smith) all got custom-drawn districts last year thanks to their friends in the GOP—but that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.

11:46 AM PT: MA-Gov: A big development in the nascent Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial primary: Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who likely would have been a front-runner to replace Deval Patrick, has decided against a bid and in fact says he won't seek any statewide office in 2014. Not only will Murray's absence change the contours of whatever field of candidates ultimately emerges, but it also raises the question of what Patrick will do, since he said in response to the news that he would have been "all in" for Murray had he opted to run.

In any event, with Murray gone, that leaves state Treasurer Steve Grossman as the most prominent potential candidate, though he's far from the only name out there. Former Medicare administrator Donald Berwick and state Sen. Dan Wolf are also publicly considering the race, and AG Martha Coakley has refused to answer questions about her intentions. (For an exhaustive list, check Wikipedia.) Clinical research company executive Joseph Avellone is the only declared candidate so far, but he's sure to be joined by others.

11:56 AM PT: AR-Sen: According to an unnamed, unquoted source, The Hotline's Josh Kraushaar reports that GOP Lt. Gov. Mark Darr will announce a statewide bid in April... but for Senate, not governor. Darr was first elected LG two years ago, and scarcely six months later, he was already publicly mooting a gubernatorial bid. But it seems like the Republican establishment is prepared to rally around ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson for that open seat, so Darr—who isn't denying the report—may figure he has a better shot at securing the nomination against Dem Sen. Mark Pryor.

Darr had never run for office prior to 2010, and I don't know how much credit he deserved for winning an open lieutenant governor's seat in Arkansas during a red tidal wave—particularly since he only eked out a two-point victory. Kraushaar also cites nameless local "Republican operatives" who are "skeptical that he'll be able to raise enough money" against Pryor, so he may or may not prove to be a top-tier get for the GOP.

12:04 PM PT: TN-05: This is something I like to see: Politico's Charlie Mahtesian (one of my favorite political analysts) has taken notice of Daily Kos Elections' recent hell-raising about Dem Rep. Jim Cooper's vote against badly-needed federal disaster relief funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Mahtesian also reminds us that Cooper's been notoriously stingy about paying his DCCC dues, and of course, just the other week, he refused to vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. He concludes:

There isn't much hard evidence yet of deep Democratic unrest in his district, but it's worth remembering the progressive Netroots has a capacity for online fundraising that could easily prop up a primary challenger—and no love for the increasingly isolated Blue Dogs.
I agree that we haven't yet seen a local groundswell of movement against Cooper, but entrenched incumbents who grow isolated from political realities have a way of getting surprised by fast-moving events that are beyond their control. Certainly, I don't think Al Wynn ever saw it coming.    And as far as any ability the progressive netroots might have to play a role here, what I think matters much more is whether there's an organic effort from within Cooper's district to get rid of him. If the folks who actually get to vote in Tennessee's 5th rally around someone capable of taking on Cooper, we'll be there to help.

12:09 PM PT: TX-Gov: I never expected San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, just 38 years old and considered a proverbial "rising star" for a decade, to run for governor in 2014, and indeed, he won't: Castro says he'll seek re-election as mayor. He probably would have been the Democratic Party's most attractive candidate, but the odds against him would have been long, and I'm sure he conducted some polling to confirm that. Some day, though, I expect we'll see him try to make what Walt Frazier (if he were a political pundit instead of an NBA color commentator) would call the "quantum leap" to statewide office.

12:18 PM PT: WATN?: A former mayor of New Orleans, under indictment for corruption? Unpossible! But according to federal prosecutors, Democrat Ray Nagin, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2010, allegedly accepted cash bribes (!) from city contractors, and so they've charged him with 21 counts of corruption, including wire fraud, money laundering, and a whole bunch more.

12:27 PM PT: Huh, whaddya know: It turns out Nagin is actually the first NOLA mayor ever to be indicted by a grand jury on charges of corruption.

12:32 PM PT: GA-Sen: Well, I'm usually a fan of them in theory, but sometimes draft movements can backfire. At the very least, a Facebook page designed to inspire conservative state Sen. Barry Loudermilk to run against Sen. Saxby Chambliss in next year's GOP primary inspired local reporter and analyst Jim Galloway to ask Loudermilk if he had any plans to do so. (Getting the news media to take notice of a draft effort is always step one.) But Loudermilk threw cold water on the idea, saying "that is not in any goal that I have"—and noted that "there are only about 70 people" on the Facebook page in question. So yeah, make sure your draft petition has a legit number of signatories before you try pushing your draftee.

12:47 PM PT: GA-12: In a district as conservative as Georgia's 12th, I have to wonder if this effort will actually have the opposite of its intended effect. A group called the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has released a minute-long ad attacking Dem Rep. John Barrow for standing opposed to Barack Obama's new gun safety efforts. The spot splices together footage of news coverage of the Sandy Hook massacre along with clips from a campaign ad Barrow ran last year touting his support for guns. (In his original ad, Barrow is shown handling a pair of weapons that purportedly belonged to family members and concludes: "Ain't nobody gonna take `em away.")

Thing is, the ad is a minute long, which is quite unusual in almost all walks of life outside of infomercials. And predictably, there's no word on the size of the buy. As I say, I'm very skeptical that this or any other attempt would get Barrow to change his mind on guns: If he did, he'd almost certainly never get re-elected, so this may not be money well spent by the CSGV, unless they are playing some sort of deep game I'm not privy to.

12:56 PM PT: Polltopia: Heh. USA Today and Gallup are ending their partnership after 20 years, following Gallup's disastrous performance during the 2012 elections (though of course USA Today isn't offering that as a reason). Aaron Blake takes the opportunity to remind us of another news outlet which also gave Gallup the boot a few years ago:

In 2006, Gallup parted ways with CNN in a pretty messy split. Gallup cited the network's "low ratings," while CNN called the assertion "unprofessional" and "untrue."
USA Today's divorce is publicly a lot cleaner (even if we don't know who initiated the proceedings), but even casual poll watchers know how badly Gallup screwed the pooch last year.

1:16 PM PT (David Jarman): SC-01: If you've been wondering where the Democrats are, in the special election to replace Tim Scott, all of a sudden we've got two of them. Neither one has held office before, but one has money and the other has name rec of sorts. Dem #1 is businessman Martin Skelly; it's unclear whether he has any political connections but he is promising to put $250K of his own money into the run. Dem #2 is Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, an executive at a Charleston-area affiliate of Clemson University. If the name sounds familiar, yes, she's the sister of a famous former resident of the district: Stephen Colbert (though she pronounces the last name with a hard 't'). I can't imagine that he would, but let's wait and see if her brother will be revving his recently-disbanded PAC back up, to help a candidate for real this time.

Oh, and on the Republican side, in case you were wondering how long Mark Sanford could be a candidate before embarrassing himself, the answer appears to be approximately two days. Thursday he rather grandiosely referred to himself as a "wounded warrior" in reference to his self-inflicted peccadilo-related damage, a remark he found himself apologizing for on Friday.

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