Senate & House Challenger News Round-up

We've been a bit focused on the presidential election lately (ya think?), so I wanted to get us up to speed on some developments happening on the senate and house fronts.

  • VA-Sen: Mark Warner is still killing Jim Gilmore in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll (500 LVs, Feb. 19, MOE +/- 4.5%) out of Virginia. This is a remarkably stable race (January results in parentheses.)

    Warner 57 (53)
    Gilmore37 (38)
  • MN-Sen: Al Franken has taken a slight lead in the potential senate showdown against incumbent Norm Coleman in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll (500 LVs, Feb. 16, MOE +/- 4.5%) out of Minnesota (Nov. results in parentheses.)

    Franken 49 (42)
    Coleman 46 (49)

    Franken's primary opponent, Mike Ciresi, loses to Coleman by 2 points in the same poll, indicating that Franken has the leg up in the primary.

  • TX-Sen: Rick Noriega, our people-powered challenger to Bush hack John Cornyn has released his first ad of the cycle.

  • KY-Sen/NE-Sen: Lt. Col. Andrew Horne is out of the Kentucky senate race just as Scott Kleeb appears poised to jump into the Nebraska race.
  • IL-14: The special election to take over Dennis Hastert's old seat will be held on March 8th. Scientist and businessman Bill Foster won a tight primary to become the Democratic nominee and Barack Obama has already cut an ad for him. Guess what Foster's campaign slogan is: "Democrat For Change."
  • CA-12 Speaking of special elections, the primary to determine who will be the Democratic nominee in CA-12 to replace the late Tom Lantos in the House is on April 8. Former State Senator Jackie Speier had already announced her intention to run for Lantos's seat once Lantos announced he would not be seeking another term last month; Lantos even endorsed her. But now famed Stanford Law professor and reform advocate Larry Lessig has formed an exploratory committee to consider running against Speier (he must decide for sure by Monday.) At his website, Lessig has posted a long but compelling video about the sort of change he wants to make to Congress.

  • CA-26: Recently we got the great news that Russ Warner, who's challenging David Dreier in this Southern California district, will no longer have a primary challenger. As David Dayen says in his excellent California House round-up at calitics:

    PVI #: R+4.  % Dem. turnout: 50.6.  I get bullish on this race more and more.  First of all, Hoyt Hilsman dropped out of the race, clearing the field for Russ Warner.  Warner, who has raised over $400,000 in his campaign, can now commit that entirely to the general election.  David Dreier has completely lost sight of this district and he's facing his first real challenger basically since he was elected in 1980.  Now, it's not smooth sailing; Dreier has $2 million dollars in the bank.  But look at that Democratic turnout on February 5.  That excitement gap will continue at the top of the ticket, and Russ Warner needs to ride the wave.

Plenty more where that came from, no doubt, share some more congressional challenger developments in the comments...

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Would Our 2008 Democratic Senate Challengers Have Stood With Dodd?

Rick Noriega, who is challenging John Cornyn for the senate seat from Texas next year, released this statement in support of Chris Dodd's efforts today:

"On Christmas morning 2004, outside of Kabul,  Afghanistan, my buddies and I drove to our base camp to use the computers. We wanted to be with our kids when they woke up that Christmas. To get there  we drove through a near ambush--anytime we drove on the Jalalabad Road, it was risky, and we had an incident on our way.

That Christmas morning, I suspect the government listened to our conversations. They occurred between two countries; Afghanistan and the US. They probably didn't realize the difference in tone in my voice as I spoke to my wife and children that morning as my heart raced still from our encounter on the road. My wife did.  

I fought to defend our country and our constitution in Afghanistan. I fought for the right to privacy for every Texan. Mr. Cornyn must now stand up for the privacy of every Texan and American too. We as a nation cannot grant anyone sweeping amnesty if they violated the law.

Americans understand the need for safety and the need for intelligence gathering. What they will not accept is an abuse of power, of crossing the line on American's privacy.

I would join Sen. Dodd in opposition to any retroactive provisions that allow a "get out of jail card" for violating the Constitution. If Mr. Cornyn had ever had the opportunity to have his Christmas conversation listened to by the government, on a day that he feared for his life in a convoy on Jalalabad Road, he would do the same."


In our quest for not only more Democrats, but better ones, I'd be interested to hear where all of our senate hopefuls stand on telecom retroactive immunity and whether they would have had Chris Dodd's back today were they already in the senate.

Update [2007-12-18 0:47:19 by Todd Beeton]:Jeff Merkley, who hopes to face off against Gordon Smith in Oregon next year, released a supportive statement as well:

“Senator Dodd, Senator Wyden and the Democrats did the right thing today by delaying action on the FISA overhaul. Only a handful of Senators have been given access to the classified information necessary to make an informed decision on the bill.

“Senator Wyden needs a partner in the U.S. Senate – someone who will stand up with him on issues that are so vital to the American people. Once again, while Senator Wyden is in the trenches fighting to protect our rights, Gordon Smith supported amnesty for telecom giants who turned over the private records of law abiding Americans.

“It is the sworn duty of the President and Members of Congress to uphold the constitution of the United States, including the right to privacy guaranteed by the fourth amendment. If the telecom companies violated the privacy of Americans, we must have a full public airing of the facts.

“It isn’t clear to most members of Congress, much less the American public, why exactly these telecom companies deserve immunity. Did they break the law? Did they help the President spy on Americans? And why should Congress give them a free pass if they violated the constitutional guarantee of privacy for ordinary Americans?

“Those questions absolutely must be answered by this administration before Congress acts on the FISA overhaul.”

For more on Senator Wyden's leadership on the floor of the senate today, read dday's dailyKos diary.

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TX-Sen: John Cornyn Fares Poorly in Statewide Poll

Bumped from the diaries -- Jonathan

Disclaimer: I work for Democrat Rick Noriega's Senate campaign but believe the results of this poll indicate the opportunity any Democrat would have in defeating Republican John Cornyn in 2008.

I'd like to announce some really great (and even surprising) poll results regarding the Texas Senate race here in Texas. The following poll was conducted a couple weeks ago by Lake Research, a highly regarded polling firm. Analysis of each major point will be below the section.

The survey was conducted among 500 registered voters in Texas who are likely to vote in the 2008 General Election.  The survey was conducted November 13-18, 2007. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

1. Opinion of John Cornyn

40% favorable
22% unfavorable
24% no opinion
14% never heard of him

Cornyn has been a statewide elected official since 1990- he's been a Supreme Court Justice, Attorney General, and Senator. Given all that, only 62% of Texans know enough of Cornyn to have an opinion of him. That's pretty shocking but verifies the rumors I heard earlier this year from other polls that said about a 1/3 of the state has no idea who he is. So even though Rick Noriega, like most Texas Democrats, is not well known by the general electorate yet, Sen. Cornyn does not enjoy as large of an name ID advantage as we might think.

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Rick Noriega Makes it Official

A few hours ago Rick Noriega filed the paperwork necessary at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters here in Austin in his efforts to take on Sen. John Cornyn as a Democratic candidate for change here in Texas.

"It's time that we quit having show horses and that we have work horses for the people of the state of Texas," Noriega told an enthusiastic group at the Democratic Party headquarters.

Party chairman Boyd Richie said he wasn't endorsing Noriega in the primary, but spoke beside him at his news conference and called it "an exciting day."

In launching his campaign he spoke to some of the principal reasons for why he's running.

Noriega, a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard who spent 14 months in Afghanistan, said he supports firm timetables for withdrawing troops from Iraq. He said the war -- which he insists on calling "an occupation" -- has been mismanaged. He said he wants to tie funding for the Iraq war to a "logistically reasonable" timetable for withdrawal that includes the safe removal of troops and equipment.

"When we are at war, America wins wars. We are in an occupation of a country currently," Noriega said. "The American people are tired of being misled and misinformed, and not one more drop of blood of one of my brethren is going to bring a political resolution in that region."

I've included his prepared remarks for his announcement below the fold but I want to highlight two paragraphs from it that really put this campaign into perspective.

We enter this campaign under no illusions.  Few people today, if asked, recognize the name Rick Noriega.  But when you go beyond the superficial questions, you'll find that millions share what our campaign stands for.  This campaign is not about making my name a household name.  It's not about a Democrat versus a Republican.  It's not about two people, Rick Noriega versus John Cornyn. As we prepare to spend the next 11 months traveling this state, we plan to talk about who this campaign is really for.  This campaign is for the moms, dads, and grandparents who are caring for the children of troops who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over and over again.  It's for our veterans who have served our country, but return home and carry on without adequate medical care, or health insurance for their children.  And it's for the countless Texas families who work hard, yet find that health insurance, and college, and housing remain just out of reach.

For them, we can no longer call this an Exploratory Campaign.  This is a mission to reclaim our United States Senate seat.  This is a mission to restore true Texas values.  There will be those who sit back and judge from the sidelines.  But week-by-week, month-by-month, they will be outnumbered by the regular Texans who are ready to reclaim America's global standing, Texas' true values, and the United States Senate seat that belongs not to the politicians, but to the people.

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Republican Primary Ankle Biters

(On a personal note to the MyDD community, it's good to be back after an extended hiatus.  Travels and personal life in general kept me away for a spell, but I'm back every Sunday.  You will notice a change in format, though. Instead of the weekly recaps, which you can just get on a daily basis over at Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races, I will be putting out columns and other original content in my Sunday post here.  I hope you enjoy, and I very much look forward to your comments!  I hope you've had a fun, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving break.)

There is much debate over whether primaries help or hurt the eventual nominee toward winning the general election.  I'm typically of the opinion that, for the purposes of practical political benefit (small-d democratic ideals aside), primaries are only helpful in two cases: first, when the primary opponents need to raise their name identification; and, second, when the primary combatants are completely civil and avoid character attacks on each other, instead jointly turning their offensive aim toward the opposing Party.  That's why the MN-Sen Dem primary is good for Democrats, the NM-Sen GOP primary is bad for Republicans, and the TX-Sen Dem primary could have been good for Democrats.

That said, when there is an incumbent running for re-election or a clear presumptive nominee running for an open seat, an upstart primary opponent can hurt the favorite by forcing the the favorite to deplete financial resources and by testing lines of attack against the expected nominee.  In the 2008 cycle, we see a number of Senate races with such upstart primary opponents, or "ankle biters," challenging Republican incumbents or presumptive nominees.  While it is less than likely that any of these candidates will win their respective primaries in an upset, some of these candidates should be closely followed as they may offer insight into the Achilles' heels of the eventual Republican nominees.  Also, in the case that any of them gain noticeable traction, these upstart "ankle biters" may force the eventual Republican nominees to spend some significant cash.

Much more below the fold.

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