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West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
West Virginia Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
Leading Off:

WV-03: Democrats finally lost this conservative southern West Virginia seat last year, with Republican Evan Jenkins unseating longtime Democratic incumbent Nick Rahall 55-45. Romney won this seat 65-33 and it's hard to see Team Blue recapturing this ancestrally Democratic seat anytime soon, but the party is reaching out to one of the few politicians who might have a shot here. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who is termed-out next year, confirms that he's been approached, and that he hasn't made "any final decisions on anything yet."

It's rare for someone to go from the governor's mansion to the House, but it's not unheard of. Mike Castle of Delaware and Bill Janklow of South Dakota successfully ran for their state's lone House seats as they were being termed-out. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford also returned to Congress about two years after leaving Columbia, though few politicians are going to try emulating his career path. Still, it's often hard enough to convince former or soon-to-be-former governors to run for the Senate, where they're forced to go from being their state's top dog to becoming just one member of a 100-person chamber: Becoming a freshman House member is an even less appealing prospect.

Still, if the DCCC can land Tomblin, he'd be a good get. Tomblin carried the 3rd 54-42 during his 2012 re-election campaign, quite a bit better than his 50-46 statewide win. Tomblin will be 65 on Election Day, so he'd have some time to amass seniority if he sticks around. There are still several Democratic legislators in coal country so the DCCC has some backup options if Tomblin says no. But it won't be easy for anyone to beat the well-funded Jenkins, and there's little doubt that Tomblin would be the best candidate they can get.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) waves to the audience before speaking at the opening of the 2015 National Action Network Convention in New York City April 8, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTR4WJBW
Bernie Sanders
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who describes himself as a democratic socialist and caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, confirmed on Thursday Wednesday that he'll run for president as a Democrat. In an interview with the Associated Press, Sanders offered an explicitly populist, progressive message:
"What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels," Sanders told the AP.

"This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans. ... You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires."

Sanders is the second prominent Democrat to officially announce a campaign, following former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders insists that he's not running merely in the hopes of pushing Clinton to the left or raising awareness for liberal issues, but national primary polls show him averaging just 6 percent; Clinton is at 61.
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8:57 AM PT (Jeff Singer): UT-Sen: Just days after former Romney aide Alex Dunn began talking about challenging Republican Sen. Mike Lee for renomination, Dunn has ruled out a campaign. Lee's enemies in the GOP will probably continue to search for someone to face him, but it's unclear who else might be interested. While the tea partying Lee may be vulnerable if a well-funded opponent jumps in, he's been working hard to make nice with his former detractors, and there's little sign that GOP primary voters are actually want to dump him.

9:08 AM PT (Jeff Singer): KY-Gov: As the May 19 GOP primary draws near, it's no surprise that the ads are really beginning to fly. Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity and Prosperity has a new spot for state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, where they tout him as the only candidate who has successfully stood up to Obama. While there's no word of the size of the buy, the group has spent $620,000 in the last month.

Former Louisville Councilor Hal Heiner, who is the frontrunner according to some stale polling, also gets some air support. Citizens for a Sound Government goes after Comer, accusing him on voting to increase his own pension. The ad features a clip of Comer spending several seconds stammering when asked to explain his 2005 vote, before finally responding "that was a... clearly a bad vote." We also have a copy of a commercial for tea partying businessman Matt Bevin that was briefly pulled from YouTube, but I can't promise that it's worth the wait.

9:36 AM PT (Jeff Singer): WV-03: Democrats finally lost this conservative southern West Virginia seat last year, with Republican Evan Jenkins unseating longtime Democratic incumbent Nick Rahall 55-45. Romney won this seat 65-33 and it's hard to see Team Blue recapturing this ancestrally Democratic seat anytime soon, but the DCCC is reaching out to one of the few politicians who might have a shot here. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who is termed-out next year, confirms that he's been approached, and that he hasn't made "any final decisions on anything yet."

It's rare for someone to go from being a governor to a House member, but it's not unheard of. Mike Castle of Delaware and Bill Janklow of South Dakota successfully ran for their state's sole House seats as they were being termed-out. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford also returned to Congress about two years after leaving the governor's mansion, though few politicians are going to try emulating Sanford's career path. Still, it's often hard enough to convince former or soon-to-be-former governors to run for the Senate, where they're forced to go from being their state's top dog to becoming just one member of a 100-person chamber: Becoming a freshman House member is an even less appealing prospect.

Still, if the DCCC can land Tomblin, he'd be a good get. Tomblin carried the 3rd 54-42 during his 2012 re-election campaign, quite a bit better than his 50-46 statewide win. Tomblin will be 65 on Election Day, so he'd have some time to amass seniority if he sticks around. There are still several Democratic legislators in coal country so the DCCC has some backup options if Tomblin says no, but it won't be easy for anyone to beat the well-funded Jenkins, and there's little doubt that Tomblin would be the best candidate they can get.

9:42 AM PT: United Kingdom: Our friends across the pond are holding parliamentary elections next week, and after a century of predictability, it looks like British politics are on the verge of some major changes. Whether you follow the UK closely or you're new to the country's political goings-on, you'll want to read community member David Beard's excellent new guide to the 2015 elections. He explains exactly how we've gotten to the present day, when small parties are set to influence the ultimate outcome in ways they haven't before. But the key question—whether Labour will be able to wrest power from the Conservatives—won't get resolved until May 7, so click on through for everything you need to know ahead of Election Day.

10:04 AM PT (Jeff Singer): WV-02: Pharmacy owner Ken Reed lost last year's open seat primary to Alex Mooney by a 36-22 margin, and he sounds ready to take another swing at the freshman Republican. Reed has begun fundraising, and says "[i]f we hit certain marks we’re good to go." Reed self-funded much of his 2014 bid and out-spent Mooney in the final weeks of the contest, so he might have the resources to make an impact. Still, it's going to be incredibly tough for Reed to actually unseat Mooney, who has stayed out of trouble during his first few months in Congress. While Mooney's decision to carpetbag from Maryland almost cost him the general election, that issue probably won't have the same resonance now that he's the incumbent.

10:15 AM PT (Jeff Singer): WV-01: Republican Rep. David McKinney hasn't had much trouble winning re-election in this northern West Virginia seat, but one local Democrat looks ready to face him. Mike Manypenny, who served three therms in the state House before losing his seat 54-46 in last year's GOP wave, has opened a campaign account, though he hasn't announced that he's in yet. McKinley is mulling a bid for governor and Democrats would have a better shot at an open seat. Still, Romney won this seat 62-36, and Team Blue has taken a huge beating here downballot in recent cycles.

10:21 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso briefs us on the outcome of the year's first special election for the 400-person New Hampshire House.

New Hampshire House, Rockingham 13: Republican Dennis Green won this seat, defeating Democrat Carol Croteau by a 60-40 margin. At 57-41 Romney, this is one of the most Republican state House districts in New Hampshire.
We already have another special scheduled in the Granite State for mid-May, and given how massive the state House is, we can probably expect a few more before the year ends.

10:27 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-08: Former Obama administration aide William Jawando recently formed a committee to run for this safely blue suburban Washington seat, and on Tuesday he announced that he's in. Jawando came close to winning a Democratic primary for state House last year and he sounds well-connected enough to raise the type of money he'll need to advertise in the expensive Washington media market. Jawando joins Del. Kumar Barve and state Sen. Jamie Raskin in the Democratic primary, but plenty of other candidates are contemplating campaigns here.

10:57 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Deaths: On Wednesday, former Illinois Democratic Gov. Dan Walker died at the age of 92. Walker served in the governor's mansion from 1973 to 1977, and in the Duluth Federal Prison Camp from 1987 to 1989.

Walker defeated then-Lt. Gov. and future Sen. Paul Simon in the 1972 Democratic primary, and unseated Republican incumbent Richard Ogilvie that November. But Walker's populist politics brought him into conflict with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and the legislature blocked much of his agenda. Walker lost renomination in 1976 to a Daley-backed candidate, and his 1982 comeback bid also ended in the primary.

Unlike his successors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, it wasn't Walker's political dealings that landed him in prison. Federal regulators seized his savings loan association and accused him of "unsafe and unsound" practices. Walker plead guilty to fraud, misapplication, and perjury, and was sentenced to seven years in jail, though he served less than 18 months.

12:33 PM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-07: Rep. Elijah Cummings has been exploring a Senate bid for a while, but until now we haven't heard much from his possible successors. However, Roll Call tells us that Howard County Councilman Calvin Ball is thinking about running for this safely blue seat if Cummings tries for a promotion.

Howard County only makes up about 22 percent of this seat, while half the population lives in Baltimore City, so Ball probably wouldn't start out with too much name recognition. But if Cummings leaves, there are no shortage of Democrats who could run here, so it's really impossible to handicap a hypothetical contest at this point.

2:10 PM PT: Iowa: PPP tossed in some district-level job favorability questions for each of the Hawkeye State's four members of the House in their latest Iowa poll, the numbers are at least somewhat optimistic for Democrats. In the 1st District, GOP Rep. Rod Blum sits at a 31-31 rating, while in the 3rd, Rep. David Young, another freshman Republican, is under water at 24-35. The 1st is the bluer of the two seats, so in a way it's more heartening that the weaker GOPer is in the tougher seat. (Note, though, that the 3rd had the smallest sample, around 255.)

In the 4th District, meanwhile, polarizing Republican Rep. Steve King manages an even 41-41 rating, and in the 2nd, Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack earns the only positive score, 44-35. Forget about GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, though. He has a strong 53-32 job approval rating, making him the most popular politician in the state, and Democrats have barely discussed the idea of challenging him seriously.

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West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
Outgoing Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
Democrats finally lost this conservative southern West Virginia seat last year, with Republican Evan Jenkins unseating longtime Democratic incumbent Nick Rahall 55-45. Romney won this seat 65-33 and it's hard to see Team Blue recapturing this ancestrally Democratic seat anytime soon, but the party is reaching out to one of the few politicians who might have a shot here. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who is termed-out next year, confirms that he's been approached, and that he hasn't made "any final decisions on anything yet."

It's rare for someone to go from being a governor to a House member, but it's not unheard of. Mike Castle of Delaware and Bill Janklow of South Dakota successfully ran for their state's sole House seats as they were being termed-out. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford also returned to Congress about two years after leaving the governor's mansion, though few politicians are going to try emulating Sanford's career path. Still, it's often hard enough to convince former or soon-to-be-former governors to run for the Senate, where they're forced to go from being their state's top dog to becoming just one member of a 100-person chamber: Becoming a freshman House member is an even less appealing prospect.

Still, if the DCCC can land Tomblin, he'd be a good get. Tomblin carried the 3rd 54-42 during his 2012 re-election campaign, quite a bit better than his 50-46 statewide win. Tomblin will be 65 on Election Day, so he'd have some time to amass seniority if he sticks around. There are still several Democratic legislators in coal country so the DCCC has some backup options if Tomblin says no, but it won't be easy for anyone to beat the well-funded Jenkins, and there's little doubt that Tomblin would be the best candidate they can get.

Discuss
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron gives a speech during an election campaign visit to a business in London, Britain April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTX1AMIM
British Prime Minister David Cameron
For over a hundred years, British politics has largely functioned as a three-party system consisting of the Conservative Party (or Tories), the Labour Party, and the Liberal Democrats (who were known as just the Liberals before a 1988 merger with the Social Democrats). But that system looks set to at least partially collapse, pushing Britain toward a fractious multi-party system more commonly seen in continental Europe. How did the United Kingdom get here? What does it mean for the country's politics and elections? And most importantly, who is going to be prime minister after the May 7 elections?

How We Got Here

Coalition Government and the fall of the Liberal Democrats

In 2010, U.K. citizens voted out the incumbent Labour government that had served for the past 13 years under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but they failed to give the Tories the majority they needed to form a government on their own. This was due to the Liberal Democrats, who won 23 percent of the vote and 57 seats, their highest vote percentage since 1983. More broadly, many interpreted the results to mean that the electorate was still reluctant to return the Conservatives to power after the exceptional depths in unpopularity the party reached in the 1990s.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who had led the Tories since 2005 and pulled them toward the center over strenuous objections by Conservative backbenchers, managed to become much more popular than his own party and remains so today. It's widely believed that he didn't mind being forced in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, as he had good relations with their leader, Nick Clegg, and it also offered a ready-made explanation (or excuse) as to why Cameron couldn't enact unpopular Conservative policy planks.

The coalition government's most controversial actions over the past five years have been what Cameron once called the "Age of Austerity," i.e. significant spending cuts meant to reduce the deficit, which had increased in the wake of the 2008 worldwide financial crises. After years of pain (frequently decried as unnecessary and wrong-headed by economist Paul Krugman), the coalition eventually did reduce the deficit, and Britain's economy is growing again after stalling out in 2012 during the worst of the austerity measures.

Moving forward to today, many voters have left the Lib Dems, particularly from the left-wing of the party that's unhappy with the coalition. Essentially, the average voter either supports the government, in which case they will vote Tory, or opposes it, in which case they will vote Labour. Any remaining reasons to vote Liberal Democrat in order for them to continue as a junior coalition partner are unclear.

In fact, this phenomenon started affecting the party almost as soon as the coalition was formed, with the Liberal Democrats falling to under 10 percent of the vote in polls within a year of the 2010 election. They've stayed there ever since. The party's main problem is a lack of an identifiable issue that separates them from both major parties, like the UK Independence Party (UKIP) or the Scottish National Party (SNP), on which there will be more below.

While the Tories and especially Labour and other leftist parties have gained voters from the Lib Dems, both main parties are also facing a surge in left-wing and right-wing parties taking voters on the edges.

Head below the fold for much more on the rapidly changing British landscape, including a look ahead at what we can expect on Election Day.

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David Vitter addresses a small group of people (May 22, 2012)
Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter
Leading Off:

LA-Sen, Gov: While Republican Sen. David Vitter has looked like the clear favorite to win this year's gubernatorial contest for a long time, it's anyone's guess who he'd appoint to his Senate seat. Rep. John Fleming has publicly been jockeying for the job and even says he'll run for the seat next year if he doesn't get picked. And while Rep. Charles Boustany and state Treasurer and 2008 Senate nominee John Kennedy have said little about their 2016 aspirations, sources close to them tell the National Journal's Andrea Drusch that they each very much want the job.

Both Boustany and Kennedy are already laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 Senate run. In the last three months, Boustany raised $650,000, far more than an entrenched incumbent in a safely red House seat needs. Boustany has also endorsed Vitter and is campaigning for him in South Louisiana, an area rival GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle needs to do well in.

Kennedy hasn't endorsed Vitter yet, though it's probably only a matter of time before he does. But Kennedy has hired GOP ad maker Fred Davis (creator of such hits as Debbie Spend It Now and Demon Sheep) to work on his 2015 re-election campaign. Kennedy doesn't have any notable foes on the horizon, but he can use his $3.5 million war chest (which can't be transferred to a federal race) to boost his name recognition. A longtime aide to Kennedy has also formed a super PAC that can spend in a congressional contest.

For his part, Fleming endorsed Vitter early, and while his recent fundraising hasn't been as hefty as Boustany's, he still holds a larger warchest. Drusch also tells us that the North Louisiana congressman is building up grassroots support for next year.

Vitter himself has given no hints about whom he's thinking of appointing, which is no surprise. Vitter can only benefit if his suitors enthusiastically stump for him with the hope of winning his approval. Vitter's allies say that the most important factor in his choice will be if the candidate can hold onto the seat, which suggests he's leaning against appointing a caretaker who would retire after a year. But it's quite possible that Vitter will pick someone outside this trio.

It's also far from clear if any of these candidates will run in 2016 regardless of whom Vitter chooses. Going up against the governor and the NRSC won't be easy, and Fleming and Boustany would be sacrificing their House seats. While Kennedy won't need to give up his post as treasurer, a second defeat for Senate could kill any hopes he has at moving up the ladder. There's also a chance that Vitter loses the gubernatorial race and destroys everyone's calculations. Like all of the would-be senators, we'll just need to watch and see how things unfold.

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Rep. Elise Stefanik (R)
Elise Stefanik
On Tuesday, the DCCC launched a goofy little website targeting vulnerable House GOP freshmen, pairing them with pop songs from ostensible one-hit wonders (these guys are "one-term wonders," you see?). It's the kind of roster we'd just as soon skip over, but for one notable absence. The D-Trip has included every first-term Republican in a blue or swing seat, ranging from Will Hurd in TX-23 (50-48 Romney) to Bob Dold! in IL-10 (58-41 Obama), except for Elise Stefanik in upstate New York's 21st Congressional District.

So what gives? Obama carried this seat by a 52-46 margin, and Democrats held it (admittedly thanks to a fair bit of luck) until 2014, ever since picking it up in a 2009 special election. Yes, Stefanik won by a fat 21-point margin, but she only took 55 percent: A Green Party candidate peeled away 11 points from the hapless Democrat. What's more, with Hillary Clinton extremely likely to be the party's presidential nominee, you have a very popular former senator from New York heading the top of the ticket—a perfect recipe for knocking off Stefanik.

It therefore makes no sense to be leaving her off preliminary target lists. Even if you think somehow that Stefanik is unbeatable, party committees are always engaged in boosterism, as well they should be. And in any event, Stefanik is not unbeatable. With Democrats in a 30-seat hole, NY-21 is on any reasonable path back to the majority. Here's hoping this was just an oversight.

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NV-03, 04: We recently mentioned that wealthy Democrat Susie Lee has been considering runs for both the swingy NV-03 and the Democratic-leaning NV-04, as well as the state Senate. While Lee hasn't committed to anything, she only mentioned NV-03 in a recent statement, so she seems to be leaning strongly towards that seat. Lee would face a very tough fight against Republican Rep. Joe Heck in NV-03, though he may instead run for Senate. (Jeff Singer)

8:43 AM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-Gov: Campaign finance reports were due Monday for the period covering Jan. 1 to April 17 and unsurprisingly, Republican Sen. David Vitter continues to dominate the money race. Vitter brought in $1.1 million since the beginning of the year, and he has $4.2 million in the bank. Vitter's allied super PAC The Fund for Louisiana's Future raised $677,000, and holds $3.6 million cash-on-hand.

By contrast, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne raised $521,000 and has $1.9 million on hand. Dardenne's allies recently set up a PAC to help him called "Now or Never PAC," but it has not filed a fundraising report yet. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, the third notable Republican in the contest, hauled in $642,000 and has $1.2 million on hand. Finally, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, who has the Democratic field to himself, raised $230,000 and has $894,000 on hand.

9:19 AM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-LG, AG: Campaign finance reports were also due for Louisiana's other statewide contests, giving us an early look at where things stand in two of this year's major contests.

Democrats had some hopes that East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden could put the open lieutenant governor race on the map. However, Holden's fundraising is incredibly weak, with him only brining in $15,000 since the beginning of the year, and holding just $32,000 cash-on-hand. It certainly doesn't help that in March, Holden was accused of sexual harassment.

On the GOP side, Jefferson Parish President John Young raised $348,000 and has a solid $2 million on hand. Former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who lost the 2011 race to fellow Republican Jay Dardenne 53-47, brought in $127,000 and has $1.1 million in the bank. The final GOP candidate, state Sen. Elbert Guillory (a former Democrat who is running his first race as a Republican), has yet to file his report. At the end of 2014 Guillory had less than $2,000 on hand so unless he's been raising money like there's no tomorrow, Guillory is going to be seriously outgunned in the Oct. 24 jungle primary.

Attorney General and noted Elvis impersonator Buddy Caldwell (a former Democrat who joined the GOP shortly before winning a second term in 2011) got some good news earlier this month when he learned that state Treasurer John Kennedy won't be running against him, but he's far from out of danger. Jeff Landry, a tea party-friendly candidate who served one term in the House before becoming a redistricting casualty in 2012, has continued to lap Caldwell financially.

Since the beginning of the year, Landry has out-raised Caldwell $792,000 to $369,000 and holds a $1.3 million to $617,000 cash-on-hand edge. A third Republican, little-known attorney Martin Maley, only has $66,000 in the bank. No Democrats are running yet, though races tend to develop late in Louisiana and we have a while before the Sept. 10 filing deadline.

10:09 AM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-Sen, Gov: While Republican Sen. David Vitter has looked like the clear favorite to win this year's gubernatorial contest for a long time, it's anyone's guess who he'd appoint to his Senate seat. Rep. John Fleming has publicly been jockeying for the job and even says he'll run for the seat next year if he doesn't get picked. And while Rep. Charles Boustany and state Treasurer and 2008 Senate nominee John Kennedy have said little about their 2016 aspirations, sources close to them tell the National Journal's Andrea Drusch that they each very much want the job.

Both Boustany and Kennedy are already laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 Senate run. In the last three months, Boustany raised $650,000, far more than an entrenched incumbent in a safely red House seat needs. Boustany has also endorsed Vitter and is campaigning for him in South Louisiana, an area rival GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle needs to do well in.

Kennedy hasn't endorsed Vitter yet, though it's probably only a matter of time before he does. But Kennedy has hired GOP ad maker Fred Davis (creator of such hits as Debbie Spend It Now and Demon Sheep) to work on his 2015 re-election campaign. Kennedy doesn't have any notable foes on the horizon, but he can use his $3.5 million war chest (which can't be transferred to a federal race) to boost his name recognition. A longtime aide to Kennedy has also formed a super PAC that can spend in a congressional contest.

For his part, Fleming endorsed Vitter early, and while his recent fundraising hasn't been as hefty as Boustany's, he still holds a larger warchest. Drusch also tells us that the North Louisiana congressman is building up grassroots support for next year.

Vitter himself has given no hints about who he's thinking of appointing, which is no surprise. Vitter can only benefit if his suitors enthusiastically stump for him with the hope of winning his approval. Vitter's allies say the most important factor in his choice will be if the candidate can hold onto the seat, which suggests he's leaning against appointing a caretaker who would retire after a year. But it's quite possible that Vitter will look to someone else to fill this seat.

It's also far from clear if any of these candidates will run in 2016 regardless of who Vitter chooses. Going up against the governor and the NRSC won't be easy, and Fleming and Boustany would be sacrificing their House seats. While Kennedy won't need to give up his post as treasurer, a second defeat for Senate could kill any hopes he has at moving up the ladder. There's also a chance that Vitter loses the gubernatorial race and destroys everyone's calculations. Like all of the would-be senators, we'll just need to watch and see how things unfold.

12:35 PM PT: NY-21: On Tuesday, the DCCC released a goofy little website targeting vulnerable House GOP freshmen, pairing them with pop songs from ostensible one-hit wonders (these guys are "one-term wonders," you see?). It's the kind of roster we'd just as soon skip over, but for one notable absence. The D-Trip has included every first-term Republican in a blue or swing seat, ranging from Will Hurd in TX-23 (50-48 Romney) to Bob Dold! in IL-10 (58-41 Obama), except for Elise Stefanik in upstate New York's 21st Congressional District.

So what gives? Obama carried this seat by a 52-46 margin, and Democrats held it (admittedly thanks to a fair bit of luck) until 2014, ever since picking it up in a 2009 special election. Yes, Stefanik won by a fat 21-point margin, but she only took 55 percent: A Green Party candidate peeled away 11 points from the hapless Democrat. What's more, with Hillary Clinton extremely likely to be the party's presidential nominee, you have a very popular former senator from New York heading the top of the ticket—a perfect recipe for knocking off Stefanik.

It therefore makes no sense to be leaving her off preliminary target lists. Even if you think somehow that Stefanik is unbeatable, party committees are always engaged in boosterism, as well they should be. And in any event, Stefanik is not unbeatable. With Democrats in a 30-seat hole, NY-21 is on any reasonable path back to the majority. Here's hoping this was just an oversight.

12:55 PM PT: NC-Sen, Gov: A new Elon University poll finds Republican Gov. Pat McCrory edging his likely Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Roy Cooper, by a narrow 45-43 margin—no surprise there, given all the earlier numbers we've seen. But on the Senate said, Elon puts Republican incumbent Richard Burr up just 44-43 on ex-Sen Kay Hagan, which is way, way more optimistic than what PPP's seen (50-38 Burr earlier this month). There are no answers here, only questions.

1:35 PM PT (Jeff Singer): Great Mentioner: It's been about a month since Republican Sen. Dan Coats announced his retirement, but the contest to succeed him has been slow to take shape. However, plenty of Republicans are still eyeing his seat, and a few Democrats are contemplating bids in conservative Indiana. We take a look at both parties' emerging fields in our new Daily Kos Great Mentioner piece.

2:35 PM PT: NH-Gov: Republican businessman Walt Havenstein, who fell 5 points short of unseating Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan last year, says he won't try again in 2016. (New Hampshire, you'll recall, elects governors to two-year terms.) Havenstein started off as a longshot but ultimately lost by a closer-than-expected 52-47 margin, though he was aided by the GOP wave. With presidential turnout ahead, Republicans will face a tougher electorate, but they may have a shot at an open seat if Hassan runs for Senate. Havenstein refused to comment on whether he was leaving the state for Texas, which is amusing, since questions about his residency dogged him in his gubernatorial campaign.

2:50 PM PT (Jeff Singer): MS-Gov: Sometimes, the biggest surprise is that a poll actually exists rather than what it says. Mason-Dixon takes a look at this year's gubernatorial match and finds Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is about as safe as we thought he was. Bryant leads lawyer Vickie Slater 61-30, and physician Valerie Short 63-28, while posting a 72-20 approval rating.

2:57 PM PT (Jeff Singer): KY-Gov: Former Louisville Councilor Hal Heiner's newest spot stars his wife and daughter saying some generic nice things about how he's such a caring conservative. GOP primary rival Matt Bevin also has a new spot, but for some reason his camp yanked it from Youtube. Luckily, Kevin Wheatley of cn|2 gives us a synopsis about the Ad You Can Not See: Bevin touts his political independence, and hits Common Core. Intense stuff, I know.

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U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) speaks at the 2010 meeting of the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington November 15, 2010. Bayh discussed the three occasions of bi-partisan cooperation of the U.S. Senate -- agreeing on the rules of impeachment trial
An Evan Bayh comeback would give Democrats a great shot at a pickup, but there's no guarantee it will happen
Potential candidates are constantly getting "mentioned" for higher office, but who's doing all that work? Why, the Great Mentioner, of course. In this new ongoing series, Daily Kos channels the Great Mentioner and catalogs all the notable candidates who might run in 2016's most important races.

Indiana Sen. Dan Coats never seemed thrilled about the prospect of serving another term in the Senate, and his late March retirement announcement didn't surprise many people. Still, the contest to succeed him as been slow to develop. Only one Republican is running so far, but several others are interested in jumping in. Democrats know that they won't have an easy time winning in this conservative state, but several are mulling bids.

Eric Holcomb, Coats' ex-chief of staff and a former head of the state Republican Party, kicked off his bid for this seat just days after his boss finalized his departure. Holcomb starts out with little name recognition with primary voters, but he's very well-connected, and though Coats didn't formally endorse him, he offered a very friendly pat on the head. Holcomb is particularly close to former Gov. Mitch Daniels and his political network, which could pay dividends in a primary. Coats bailed shortly before the end of the first fundraising quarter, and Holcomb reported collecting $125,000 in his first week on the trail. If he were to keep up that pace over a full quarter, he'd take in an impressive haul, but as things stand, those numbers are going to intimidate any of his potential rivals.

And just who are those folks? Find out below the fold.

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Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, laughs during a news conference to announce details of a newly renovated Madison Square Garden in New York, October 24, 2013. Over a billion dollars was spent on the three year, top-to-bottom renovation.  REUTERS/Carlo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Leading Off:

NY-Gov: This would certainly be epic: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who's used his post to actively litigate on behalf of liberal causes, apparently has not ruled out a primary challenge to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018, according to reporter Ken Lovett. Unnamed sources "close to" Schneiderman say he's giving "serious consideration" to a bid and is "laying the groundwork" for a run should Cuomo retire, but Lovett acknowledges it's "not clear" whether Schneiderman would take Cuomo on directly. That means Schneiderman's people are leaving his intentions deliberately ambiguous, which is interesting in its own right.

Cuomo, meanwhile, just indicated that he's inclined to seek a third term, but he has to say that, lest he look like a lame duck just months after getting sworn in a second time. And if he still harbors delusions of becoming president some day, he also probably has to run and win at least one more time. The soonest he can seek the White House is 2020, but if Hillary Clinton wins next year, that pushes Cuomo out to 2024, (he'd be 67). If he eschews a third term, he'd be out of politics for half a dozen years by that point, so he has to stay in the game if he wants a promotion.

But Schneiderman could very well upend any such plans. Law professor Zephyr Teachout, despite having no name recognition, little money, and scarcely any time, threw a real scare into Cuomo in last year's primary and rode a wave of progressive disgust that held the governor to just 63 percent statewide. Schneiderman would offer a great contrast as a populist crusader to the anti-union, pro-one percenter Cuomo, and he'd be more than capable of finishing the job.

Schneiderman predictably backed off Lovett's obvious between-the-lines hints, but he also was far from Shermanesque in disavowing his interest:

"Being able take on powerful interests in order to protect New Yorkers is the greatest job I've ever had and my plan for 2018 is to run for re-election. I am not thinking about or planning to run for Governor, and I have no interest in challenging an incumbent Democratic governor who shares my views on virtually every issue."
As Al Swearengen once put it, announcing your plans is a good way to hear god laugh, so Schneiderman is just doing that thing smart politicians do when they resist courting any divine chortling.

He'd also probably have the inside track for the Democratic nomination in an open seat race, too. Lovett mentions a trio of other possibilities: Teachout; Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner; and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. (A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says any notion she's interested is "categorically false.") None of these candidates have a profile as prominent as Schneiderman's, nor would they be able to match his fundraising ability. But whether he knocks off Cuomo or succeeds him without a primary fight, Schneiderman would finally be the progressive governor that dark blue New York deserves.

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PA-09: Wealthy businessman Tom Smith has acknowledged that he's considering challenging Rep. Bill Shuster in the GOP primary. Shuster only took 53 percent in his 2014 primary against two weak foes. Lately, the incumbent has been on the defensive after it emerged that he helped fast-track a bill favored by an airline lobbyist he's been dating. (Jeff Singer)

7:16 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Special Elections: Ah, spring. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and New Hampshire holds its first special of the year. Johnny Longtorso gives us the rundown:

New Hampshire House, Rockingham 13: This is an open Republican seat located in the towns of Hampstead and Kingston in the southeast of the state. The candidates are Democrat Carol Croteau and Republican Dennis Green, both of whom ran for this seat in 2014. Croteau came in fifth out of eight in the general election (for four seats), while Green came in last place out of five candidates in the Republican primary. At 57-41 Romney, this is one of the most Republican state House districts in New Hampshire.

9:00 AM PT (Jeff Singer): UT-Sen: Tea party-dipped Sen. Mike Lee has plenty of enemies in the GOP, who remain angry with him for his role in the 2013 government shutdown, but they've struggled to find a credible candidate to challenge him for renomination. Still, wealthy businessman Spencer Zwick, a former aide to Mitt Romney, has continued his search (though the Boston-based Zwick won't be running himself) and is now touting Alex Dunn. Dunn, who also used to work for Romney and now runs his own company, has acknowledged his interest, saying, "I've been having discussions with a group of people who are encouraging me to run for Senate."

Even if Dunn gets in, it's not going to be easy to unseat Lee, especially from the left. Lee has been working hard to turn his former skeptics into supporters, and he's won over some of the wealthy people who were planning to finance his eventual opponent. It's also far from clear if Lee is going to need to face a primary or if he can win renomination at the GOP party convention, where the delegates tend to be even more conservative. Utah recently passed a new law that allows candidates to bypass the convention and move straight to the primary, but the Utah Republican Party is suing to stop it from being implemented. Lee's not out of the woods, but Dunn is going to need a lot to go right if he's going to deny him renomination.

9:20 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NH-Gov: Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, a member of the powerful Granite State Republican family, has been touted for higher office for a long time, and it seems that he's decided 2016 will be his year. Sununu confirms he's seriously looking at a gubernatorial campaign, and says that Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan's plans will have "no bearing" on his decision. Sununu also just turned over most of his duties running Waterville Valley Resort in order to give himself "more day-to-day flexibility to do a lot more things politically."

Hassan is being recruited to run for U.S. Senate and if she leaves Concord, it would set off a competitive race to succeed her. WMUR's John DiStaso mentions state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, businessman Fred Tausch, and 2014 nominee Walt Havenstein as potential GOP candidates in a Hassan-free contest. On the Democratic side, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern is named as a likely competitor. Fellow Executive Councilor Chris Pappas and state Sen. Donna Soucy are also name-dropped, though Pappas may run for Congress instead. A recent PPP survey gave Hassan a 52-35 lead over Sununu in a hypothetical gubernatorial contest, but found that an open seat race would start out as a tossup regardless of which candidates both parties nominated.

9:48 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Columbus Mayor: City Council President Andrew Ginther has looked like the favorite for a while to succeed retiring Mayor Michael Coleman in this November's contest, and his fundraising haul only underscores his advantage.

Ginther, who has Coleman's support, brought in a hefty $611,000 since February, far ahead of Franklin County Sheriff and fellow Democrat Zach Scott's $198,000. Republicans initially expressed some optimism that they could take this seat but their candidate, former Columbus School Board President Terry Boyd, brought in just $5,300, trailing even Democratic Some Dude James Ragland. All four candidates will face off in the May 5 non-partisan primary, with the top-two vote-getters advancing to the fall.

10:11 AM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-01: Former Del. Mike Smigiel has talked about running for this safely red Eastern Shore seat whether or not incumbent and fellow Republican Andy Harris jumps into the Senate race, and he appears to be gearing up for a campaign.

Smigiel has opened a campaign committee and is already asking for pledges: While he hasn't said that he's in, he's planning a "special announcement" for June 10. In a sign that Smigiel is truly a force to be reckoned with, his request for money was in all-caps, WHICH DOESN'T LOOK STUPID AT ALL! The libertarian oriented-Smigiel won't have an easy time unseating Harris, who hasn't done much to offend primary voters. However, in the unlikely event that Harris leaves and we have a crowded GOP field, someone like Smigiel could conceivably slip through and secure the precious.

10:27 AM PT (Jeff Singer): FL-02: The GOP is hoping to unseat freshman Gwen Graham next year before she can become entrenched in this 52-47 Romney North Florida seat (or perhaps worse, emerge as a dangerous Democratic statewide contender). No one has shown much of an appetite to challenge Graham, who proved to be a very tough campaigner in 2014, but that might be about to change. Sunshine State News reports that Pete Williams, who has occupied a variety of important posts in state government, is meeting with the NRCC and talking to campaign consultants.

Williams came very close to unseating longtime State Attorney Willie Meggs in heavily Democratic Leon County in territory that makes up much of FL-02 in 2012. Williams held Meggs to a 55-45 win in heavily Democratic Leon County (Obama won it 61-38) and the GOP would love to have a candidate who could blunt the Team Blue's edge there. But as Matthew Isbell points out, Meggs came close to losing due to her his weakness with African American voters, while Graham actually outperformed Obama with this demographic. If he runs, Williams should give the GOP a credible candidate, but Graham is no pushover.

10:42 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Great Mentioner: Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence has been looking vulnerable ever since the firestorm over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Team Blue is looking to put this seat in play. However, no one has stepped up yet, and many Hoosier Democrats some reservations about the most likely candidate, 2012 nominee John Gregg. In our new Daily Kos Great Mentioner piece, we take a look at the emerging Democratic field to face the damaged but still formidable Pence.

10:49 AM PT (David Jarman): Philadephia mayor: We've seen several polls with ex-city councilor Jim Kenney holding onto a tiny lead in the Democratic primary field in Philadelphia's open mayoral race, including one last week where he led state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams by 1.  Two more polls released over the weekend, however, show Kenney starting to put a little more distance between himself and his rivals. Both are internal polls, though; we have yet to see a poll of this race from a truly neutral party.

One poll is directly from the Kenney campaign, issued by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. They find Kenney at 30, Williams at 26, and ex-District Attorney Lynne Abraham at 17, with 17 percent undecided and the other minor players in the low single digits. The other is from Forward Philadelphia, a pro-Kenney PAC partly bankrolled by the American Federation of Teachers. That poll, by Hart Research, is even more optimistic, with Kenney at 33, Williams at 24, Abraham at 18, and 19 undecided.

11:20 AM PT: NY-Gov: This would certainly be epic: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who's used his post to actively litigate on behalf of liberal causes, apparently has not ruled out a primary challenge to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018, according to reporter Ken Lovett. Unnamed sources "close to" Schneiderman say he's giving "serious consideration" to a bid and is "laying the groundwork" for a run should Cuomo retire, but Lovett acknowledges it's "not clear" whether Schneiderman would take Cuomo on directly. That means Schneiderman's people are leaving his intentions deliberately ambiguous, which is interesting in its own right.

Cuomo, meanwhile, just indicated that he's inclined to seek a third term, but he has to say that, lest he look like a lame duck just months after getting sworn in a second time. And if he still harbors delusions of becoming president some day, he also probably has to run and win at least one more time. The soonest he can seek the White House is 2020, but if Hillary Clinton wins next year, that pushes Cuomo out to 2024, (he'd be 67). If he eschews a third term, he'd be out of politics for half a dozen years by that point, so he has to stay in the game if he wants a promotion.

But Schneiderman could very well upend any such plans. Law professor Zephyr Teachout, despite having no name recognition, little money, and scarcely any time, threw a real scare into Cuomo in last year's primary and rode a wave of progressive digust that held the governor to just 63 percent statewide. Schneiderman would offer a great contrast as a populist crusader to the anti-union, pro-one percenter Cuomo, and he'd be more than capable of finishing the job.

He'd also probably have the inside track for the Democratic nomination in an open seat race, too. Lovett mentions a trio of other possibilities: Teachout; Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner; and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. (A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says any notion she's interested is "categorically false.") None of these candidates have a profile as prominent as Schneiderman's, nor would they be able to match his fundraising ability. But whether he knocks off Cuomo or succeeds him without a primary fight, Schneiderman would finally be the progressive governor that dark blue New York deserves.

11:44 AM PT: NY-Gov: Schneiderman predictably backed off Lovett's obvious between-the-lines hints, but he also was far from Shermanesque in disavowing his interest:

"Being able take on powerful interests in order to protect New Yorkers is the greatest job I've ever had and my plan for 2018 is to run for re-election. I am not thinking about or planning to run for Governor, and I have no interest in challenging an incumbent Democratic governor who shares my views on virtually every issue."
As Al Swearengen once put it, announcing your plans is a good way to hear god laugh, so Schneiderman is just doing that thing smart politicians do when they resist courting any divine chortling.

12:14 PM PT: CA-24: Democrat Laura Capps, the daughter of retiring Rep. Lois Capps, announced on Monday that she would not seek to succeed her mother in the House, saying she doesn't want to put a "cross-country commute" between her and her young son. That's actually good news for her party, though, since it makes it less likely that the two Democrats already running, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, will split the vote in next year's top-two primary and allow the two Republicans in the race—Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and 2014 candidate Justin Fareed—to advance to the general election. Achadjian is unquestionably the GOP's preferred choice, but as of now, Carbajal probably has the inside track to hold this light blue seat for the Democrats.

12:19 PM PT: P.S. Had she run and won, the younger Capps would have been the first daughter to succeed her mother in Congress. Some daughters have succeeded fathers and some sons have succeeded mothers, but we've yet to see an entirely female succeession.

12:30 PM PT (David Jarman): Philadelphia mayor: Lynne Abraham is also out with her first TV ad of the campaign, despite the fact that only three weeks remain until the primary; it's about getting more funding from Harrisburg for public schools. Abraham's problem, according to the recent polls, though isn't a lack of name recognition (which ads could fix); the problem is that, thanks to her decades at DA, she has higher name rec than Kenney or Williams, but also significantly higher negatives.

12:32 PM PT (Jeff Singer): OR-Gov: Well, here's someone we never expected to hear from again! Republican Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken said on Monday that he's "exploring a race for governor," and he's already changed the name of his PAC to "Sid Leiken for Governor." A few Republicans are looking at running against newly-elevated Democratic Gov. Kate Brown next year and while none of them look like giant killers, they at least don't have Leiken's rather embarrassing baggage.

During the 2010 cycle, Leiken, the the mayor of Springfield, ran against Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio. While Leiken started out as a top GOP recruit in a long-neglected swing seat, his campaign soon ran into trouble after $2,000 that went to a fictional polling firm. The money in fact was funneled to a business owned by his mother, and the scandal destroyed his reputation as a top-tier candidate. Leiken tearfully apologized for the "error in judgment" in an August press conference, but he never was able to put the episode behind him, and he exited the race in March.

Maybe Leiken can put this matter behind him, but it's very unlikely state Republicans are going to be eager to embrace him after how his last major campaign went. The Oregon GOP bench isn't big and beggars can't be choosers, but even they can probably do better than Sid Leiken.

1:12 PM PT (Jeff Singer): CA-Sen: Over the weekend, former GOP state party chair Tom Del Beccaro announced that he would run for this open Senate seat. Del Beccaro's chances in the general are not good in this blue state, but he might still be an improvement over Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, the only other announced Republican contender.

While Chavez may have entered the contest with the hope of turning a respectable statewide performance into a springboard for other things, he's brought in a shockingly low amount of money. Even weirder, he's continued to raise money for his Assembly account. Chavez says the money will go to other Assembly candidates and that he's going to focus on the Senate now. A third Republican, former state party chair Duf Sundheim, formed an exploratory committee a while ago; Attorney General Kamala Harris still has the Democratic field to herself.

1:40 PM PT (Jeff Singer): CA-46, Sen: In theory, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez in on the verge of announcing whether or not she will run for Senate (Sanchez said she'd announce her decision last week: Apparently, politicians don't always tell the truth). The Orange County Register takes a look at who might run to succeed her if she goes statewide and unsurprisingly, most of the action is on the Democratic side in this Obama 61-36 seat.

The most likely contender sounds like ex-state Sen. Lou Correa, who recently lost a tight race for the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Correa says if Sanchez goes, he'd "look at it very carefully." Correa's old seat makes up 78 percent of CA-46, so he wouldn't struggle for name recognition if he got in.

A few other possible candidates didn't rule anything out, but didn't sound incredibly likely to go for it. Former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who badly lost a race to succeed Correa last year, said that he's "primarily focused on working locally with the college district and building my public affairs practice." Republican state Sen. Janet Nguyen, who beat Solorio, says that while she's been approached, she's also focusing on her current job.

But one name we can eliminate is ex-Assemblyman and 2010 GOP nominee Van Tran, who said that "even if Ronald Reagan runs for the current Sanchez seat as it is drawn today, he would lose." The article notes that Democratic Assemblyman Tom Umberg is unlikely to run, but former Republican Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle might be interested. The local blog Liberal OC also mentioned some possible candidates and we'll likely see plenty of other names if this seat opens up.

1:51 PM PT (Jeff Singer): LA-Gov: Democratic New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu never seemed particularly likely to jump into this year's gubernatorial contest, but he finally ruled out a campaign on Monday. State Rep. John Bel Edwards has had the Democratic side to himself, and no one else has shown much interest in running for Team Blue.

1:58 PM PT (Jeff Singer): MD-08: It looks like one of the many potential Democratic candidates looking at this safely blue Beltway seat is about to get in. William Jawando, a former Obama Administration official who narrowly lost a primary for state House, has formed a campaign committee, though he has yet to announce anything yet. (Hat-Tip: Greg Giroux).

2:06 PM PT: FL-18: Two Palm Beach County commissioners, Priscilla Taylor and Melissa McKinlay, are potential successors Rep. Patrick Murphy in the House, and according to a new report in the Palm Beach Post, both have recently met with the DCCC and EMILY's List. McKinlay is still weighing a bid while Taylor jumped in shortly after Murphy launched his Senate campaign, a move that reportedly stunned and even upset many local Democrats; we'll see if it affects her standing with D.C. insiders, too. Plenty of Republicans are also looking at the race, but so far, only one, Martin County school board member Rebecca Negron, has entered.

2:27 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NV-03, 04: Communities in Schools of Nevada Board President Susie Lee has been reportedly considering a bid against freshman Republican Cresent Hardy in the Democratic-leaning 4th District, but the DCCC has other plans for her. The Las Vegas Sun reports that national Democrats are trying to persuade the wealthy and well-connected Lee to challenge Republican incumbent Joe Heck in the much more competitive 3rd District instead. Lee is also being recruited by Silver State Democrats to run in a swingy state Senate seat that's critical to the party's hopes of retaking the chamber. Lee acknowledged that she's looking at running for office next year, but she didn't indicate what job she's leaning toward.


Discuss
My name is Sid Leiken, commissioner of commissioners:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Well, here's someone we never expected to hear from again! Republican Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken said on Monday that he's "exploring a race for governor," and he's already changed the name of his PAC to "Sid Leiken for Governor." A few Republicans are looking at running against newly-elevated Democratic Gov. Kate Brown next year and while none of them look like giant killers, they at least don't have Leiken's rather embarrassing baggage.

During the 2010 cycle, Leiken, the mayor of Springfield, ran against Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio. While Leiken started out as a top GOP recruit in a long-neglected swing seat, his campaign soon ran into trouble after $2,000 that went to a fictional polling firm. The money in fact was funneled to a business owned by his mother, and the scandal destroyed his reputation as a top-tier candidate. Leiken tearfully apologized for the "error in judgment" in an August press conference, but he never was able to put the episode behind him, and he exited the race in March.

Maybe Leiken can put this matter behind him, but it's very unlikely state Republicans are going to be eager to embrace him after how his last major campaign went. The Oregon GOP bench isn't big and beggars can't be choosers, but even they can probably do better than Sid Leiken.

Discuss
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