Road To 60 Challengers At Netroots Nation

Bumped - Todd

One of the things I've been extremely impressed by about this year's Netroots Nation is the diversity of candidates who are here and the access we have to them. I've been here for less than 24 hours and I've already met three of our five Road To 60 senate challengers: Mark Begich running for senate in Alaska, Rick Noriega running here in Texas, and Jim Slattery running for senate in Kansas. Our intention with creating our Road To 60 list was to support red state challengers that represent the firewall between Democrats winning 6-8 seats and winning 8-11 seats for a true (i.e. Lieberman-less) 60 seat Democratic majority. We knew that by picking red state challengers  we may be sacrificing some ideological purity (i.e. "better Democrats") in favor of pure numbers ("more Democrats") but the environment that we find ourselves in in 2008 it was a trade-off well worth making. But here we are in Austin where three out of our five endorsed challengers are mixing with progressive bloggers, making the distinct calculus that even in their red states, speaking to the crazy basement-dwelling partisan bloggers is more asset than liability. Will they get some pushback from being here? Probably, in fact Rick Noriega already is. From Noriega's dailykos diary up right now:

Like last year, I've met hundreds of activists from across the country who are concerned about the direction our country has taken under George W. Bush and John Cornyn's failed leadership. So I'm not sure what John Cornyn was talking about yesterday when his campaign sent out a fundraising email attacking our community, saying that "Rick Noriega and his far left-wing blogger cronies are out of touch with Texas values."

Classic. The reason Cornyn feels the need to attack Noriega is that, as Rick told me when I met him this morning, 6 years ago in July of 2002, John Cornyn began pulling away from Ron Kirk, the Democrat running against him. Not so this year. It's telling that not only is Rick Noriega not hiding from his association with us but he is boasting about it at dailykos.

You can reward good behavior over at our Road To 60 ActBlue page.

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KS-Sen: Roberts Gets Worried

There are those who might argue that former Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery has no shot of taking down incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts out in Kansas, a state that hasn't sent a Democrat to the United States Senate in more than 70 years. But among those in the group who think that this race already has the real potential to be competitive is an interesting name: Pat Roberts. Here's Roberts' latest ad:

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is airing the first negative television ad in his re-election campaign against Democratic opponent Jim Slattery.

The 30-second spot began running today in the Wichita and Topeka markets. It criticizes Slattery for earning millions working as a Washington lobbyist.


Slattery spokeswoman Abbie Hodgson says Roberts must be worried if he is starting negative attacks even before the Aug. 5 primary.

Hodgson is entirely correct: Incumbent Senators don't go negative unless they think they need to, and they certainly don't go negative this early unless they are genuinely concerned about their reelection hopes. These actions significantly undercut the internal polling released by the Roberts campaign showing their candidate up 20 points and instead suggest that Rasmussen polling showing Roberts' lead to be in the single digits may not be so far off.

If you want to help get Slattery's back, though, head over to the MyDD Road to 60 Act Blue page, of which he is a beneficiary, and show your support for his campaign today.

Update [2008-7-14 13:27:8 by Jonathan Singer]: Via release, the Kansas Democratic Party today released an FEC complaint against the Roberts campaign:

Today, the Kansas Democratic Party filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Roberts for U.S. Senate. Roberts' latest negative ad does not meet the "Stand By Your Ad" requirements set by the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

"It appears as if Pat Roberts was attempting to dodge responsibility for making personal attacks against his opponent, something he pledged he would not do," said Kansas Democratic Party Executive Director Mike Gaughan.

"Sen. Roberts is trying to have it both ways, but his attempt at pulling the wool over the eyes of Kansas voters puts him in direct violation of the very campaign laws designed to protect us from these deceptive political attacks."

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KS-Sen: Slattery Raises $500k in Second Quarter

There are a lot of reasons to believe that former Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery has a real opportunity to make this year's Kansas Senate race a competitive one, aiming to become the first Democrat to win a Senate election in the state since 1932. Now you can add another.

Slattery holds about $600,000 in his campaign treasury, while Roberts is sitting on $3.1 million despite outlays for 17 days of ads.

The latest financial balance sheets reflect Roberts' ability to raise $850,000 in the second quarter of this year, which is significantly more than Slattery's estimate of $500,000.

The $500,000 raised during the second quarter (with a little help from the Road to 60 page) comes on top of the $288,000 Slattery raised during the first 12 days of his campaign in late March.

Most of the reports on these numbers make it seem that they constitute bad news for Slattery and good news for the incumbent Pat Roberts. Indeed, Roberts now sits on more than six times more money in the bank than Slattery. However, Kansas is not an expensive state to campaign in, and even a couple million dollars -- which Slattery should be able to bring in (note that this was only his first full fundraising quarter) -- can saturate the entire state in television ads for the better part of a month. And the latest nonpartisan polling on the race, courtesy of Rasmussen Reports, puts Roberts up by just a single-digit margin -- and under 50 percent to boot -- with the distance between the two candidates shrinking rather than growing.

This isn't going to be the Democrats first or second or even fifth pick-up in the Senate this cycle (if we have one or two or five pick-ups). But it is one of the races that could be key to hitting the magical 60 mark in the Senate. And given the numbers on the race, as well as the general demographics in the state, it's looking like there really is an shot at things coming together for Slattery to become the first Democratic Senator from Kansas in 70 years.

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Road to 60: Jim Slattery for Kansas

Earlier today Josh first introduced MyDD's "Road to 60" list for 2008, which is already drawing some attention. To begin the profiles of the candidates initially selected for the list, I would like to present former Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery, a man who aspires to become the first Democratic Senator from Kansas in 70 years.

This fall, Slattery will be pitted against Republican incumbent Pat Roberts, an arch conservative perhaps best known among these parts for spending years as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee obstructing a key report on pre-Iraq War intelligence. Roberts' voting record is truly abysmal, his vote being key to Senate Republicans' strategy of setting the record for filibusters in a Congress. Among some of the more noxious votes of Roberts: repeatedly voting against health care for veterans including mental health (PTSD); voting against allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices; voting against increasing mileage standards for cars (CAFE) while voting in favor of tax cuts for oil companies... the list goes on. It's little wonder, then, that more Kansans disapprove of the job that Roberts is doing as Senator than at any other point in the last three years.

While Roberts has been, and if reelected would continue to be, a key cog in the GOP obstruction racket, Slattery would be an important vote for the Democratic majority in the Senate, one that would help break Republican filibusters. Slattery would not likely be the most progressive member of the Democratic caucus in the Senate; however, judging by his track record, he would likely be more progressive than not and, above all, a loyal Democrat. For starters here's Matt Stoller, with whom Slattery met last week (along with others from the Netroots including myself), on some of Slattery's positions in and out of Congress:

He was well-versed and passionate around progressive issues and told me he supported network neutrality (Google's definition where tiering is allowable but content discrimination is not).  What impressed me was Slattery's record in Congress; he helped author the Clean Air Act and fought against Reagan's ploy to send military aid to the Contras in the 1980s.

Also, take a look at the 1993 vote on the Clinton budget when Slattery was still in the House of Representatives, a vote I think is very instructive. It was this vote that helped put in place the policies that led to a balanced budget and, some might argue, helped spur some of the economic prosperity enjoyed during the Clinton administration. A significant portion of the Democratic caucus in the House -- nearly 15 percent, in fact -- voted against the budget. Despite this trend and the political price he could have potentially faced, Slattery voted in favor of the Clinton budget, helping the measure attract 219 votes, and thus get passed into law. This was no easy vote. Many other red state members voted against the measure, as did others who like Slattery were running for higher office in 1994. Yet when push came to shove on the 1993 Clinton budget vote, Slattery was willing to stand with his party.

Slattery's contribution record in recent years also indicated the extent to which he has been supportive of the Democratic Party since leaving office in 1995. Over the past several years, Slattery has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic cause, backing not only incumbents and Democratic committees but also challengers and open seat race candidates alike.

But even moving beyond the type of Senator Slattery would be if elected -- and I do think he would be a good one for Kansas -- a Slattery victory would be important on a number of levels. For one, no Democrat since 1932 has won a Senate election in Kansas. That's right, 1932; Slattery would be the first Democrat in nearly eight decades to win a Senate election in Kansas. There is little symbolically that could top that.

And Slattery has a real shot at victory. During the first 12 days of his campaign, Slattery raised a whopping $288,000 -- not yet enough to reach financial parity with Roberts, but a great start nonetheless. What's more, the trend out of Kansas is looking better and better, with voters in the state increasingly willing to vote Democratic. Most recently in 2006, popular Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius won reelection easily and the Democratic slate for the House of Representatives won a more than respectable 49.6 percentage share of the statewide two-party congressional vote.

The polling on the race confirms that this has a real potential to be competitive. Recent surveys have shown Roberts struggling to get 50 percent of the vote in a head-to-head match-up against Slattery -- which is remarkable in and of itself considering the Democrats' track record in Senate elections in the state. The latest nonpartisan poll on the race from Rasmussen Reports shows Roberts up by just a 48 percent to 39 percent margin -- a single-digit spread.

Don't just take my word on the competitiveness of the Roberts-Slattery race. This weekend The Topeka Capital Journal reported under the headline "Slattery making gains in race" that "momentum [...] may be swinging toward the Democratic challenger."

The last point I will make on this race is this: Regardless of whether Slattery wins (and I do think he has a real shot at victory), his running of a competitive race greatly increases the likelihood of the Democrats ending up with 60 seats (or close to it) come January. Every dollar the Democrats spend spreads the GOP thinner and thinner by forcing Republicans to invest time in money in races they would otherwise spend on the more watched races from the more traditionally swing states. With the National Republican Senatorial Committee holding just 56 percent of the cash-on-hand of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Republicans will really have to ask themselves whether they can really afford to try to defend a seat in a state like New Hampshire or Colorado, where they already trail, when if they don't invest in a state like Kansas they could end up losing the seat as well.

So if you want to help the Democrats build a 60-seat majority for the next Congress, one that is significantly less susceptible to Republican filibusters on a whole host of important issues (including judicial nominations -- don't think for a second that they wouldn't try to obstruct a replacement for some of the more progressive members of the Supreme Court if Obama were elected this fall regardless of their posturing on the topic in recent years), head over to the "Road to 60" page today and make a contribution for Jim Slattery for Senate. Even $5, $10, or $25 could make a difference, so make your voice heard today.

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KS-Sen: On the Path to 60 Votes

Two more polls and two more indications that Republican Senator Pat Roberts is vulnerable. Roberts is perhaps best known in this community for having slow-played reports on pre-Iraq War intelligence as head of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate.

Democratic polling released last week by the campaign of former Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery, shows Roberts up just 48 percent to 36 percent in a head-to-head matchup -- the exact same margin as was found in the last two independent polls on the race. Now Rasmussen Reports has released new numbers out of Kansas, and they look even better for Slattery's chances:

Pat Roberts (R): 48 percent
Jim Slattery (D): 39 percent

This race isn't quite there yet -- but it is definitely on its way. At this juncture, Kansas is one of the stops -- perhaps even the last one -- on the way to the Democrats securing a 60-seat majority, making it one to keep a real eye on. What's more, it's the type of race that helps break the Republicans' backs and tear down their 41-seat firewall in the Senate, as every additional race they are forced to dump money in takes money away from more even more endangered seats elsewhere. So this is very exciting stuff.

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