Dem primaries

Dem primaries

Obama endorses congressman who said Guam may 'capsize'

President Obama is endorsing the congressman who drew headlines recently for suggesting the island of Guam might "tip over and capsize."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Obama has endorsed Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who drew plenty of ridicule recently for this comment at a hearing.

Johnson has been battling Hepatitis C, which has made his speech slow and caused him to lose a lot of weight. But he has said he will press forward with serving in Congress.

At the same time, he has drawn primary challenges from former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes.

The endorsement of a black lawmaker in a majority-black district is a rare one for Obama. In 2008, he drew some heat from African-Americans for backing white Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) over a black state senator in Barrow's primary. That led black lawmakers facing their own primaries to wonder why he wasn't helping them.

The Johnson endorsement could set a precedent for other black lawmakers seeking the president's help this year.

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Brunner gets some tough press in Ohio Senate primary

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has barely raised any money and is running behind Lee Fisher in the Ohio Democratic Senate primary. And now she's getting some bad press, too.

Brunner is enduring a series of hits on her candidacy roughly two weeks before her May 4 primary with Lt. Gov. Fisher.

On Wednesday, the Columbus Post-Dispatch revealed that she had been incorrectly listing employees and their salaries on her campaign finance reports (this is Ohio’s top elections' official we are talking about). And today, an alternative newspaper in Ohio reports that Brunner, in the late 1980s, represented a strip club in a court dispute over its liquor license.

Brunner defended her representation of the Crazy Horse Saloon by saying that its Constitutional rights had been infringed upon. The club was fighting a ballot proposition that effectively took its license away, and Brunner successfully argued that voters didn’t have the right to take away the license.

“I was starting my business at the time, I had three small children to support, and I was working solely on my own,” Brunner told the paper.

Despite Brunner’s justification, the story provides opponents with a ready-made campaign commercial if they need to use it. And the same goes for the FEC disclosure problems.

Fisher is the favorite, especially given that he banked $1.8 million at the end of March, while Brunner banked less than $80,000. But Democratic leaders are hoping he doesn’t have to deplete those funds before he gets to a general election matchup with former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has $7.6 million in the bank.

Job No. 1 is, of course, winning the primary at all.

Fisher has in recent days focused his public attacks on Portman. But he said on a conference call Wednesday that he is taking Brunner very seriously.

“I think that the primary is very competitive,” he said. “I continue to be focused on the issues that I think are as relevant in the primary as they are in the general election.”

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Report: Rep. Lynch could face primary challenge from labor official

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), himself a former local union president, could be facing a primary challenge from a labor official from the Bay State.

The Boston Globe reported Monday that Mac D'Alessandro, a regional political director for the large service worker's union SEIU, is seriously weighing a run against the sixth term lawmaker, who was the only Massachusetts Democrat to vote against the Democrats' healthcare bill last month.

Here is more from the Globe:

D’Alessandro, who has worked for the Service Employees International Union for nine years, downplayed the role that Lynch’s health care vote played in his decision to jump into the race, saying instead that he wants to bring a different voice to Capitol Hill.

“This is a personal decision for me, as a constituent, as someone who has progressive values,’’ he said. “This isn’t part of me being recruited, no, this is my wanting a stronger voice for the district, for my family and the other families.’’

Asked if he would have voted in favor of Obama’s health care reform bill, he said, “Absolutely.’’

“I’m going to be on the side of consumers and workers, and not on the side of health insurance companies and big banks,’’ he said.

But for now, he said, he is focused on getting on the ballot. “We’ll have more to say once we do that,’’ he said.

State Democratic Party chairman John Walsh welcomed the announcement of a potential new candidate for the state’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes parts of Boston and extends south of the city into Norfolk, Plymouth, and Bristol counties.

“I think it’s a sign of a healthy party that there’s a discussion and a debate,’’ Walsh said.

D'Alessandro has until May 4 to collect the 2,000 signatures necessary to appear on the ballot. Lynch already faces two opponents already, one a Republican and the other an independent.

Some liberal activists have encouraged primary challengers to run against Democrats who voted against the healthcare bill, another sign that the massive $940 billion new law will play a major role in the fall midterm elections.

Walsh told the Globe that the challlenge would be an “uphill fight’’ for D’Alessandro, but said its result is not a foregone conclusion.

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Specter gets big labor endorsement

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) earned a key endorsement from the Pennsylvania chapter of AFL-CIO in his bid for a sixth term.

The union was a key backer for Specter during his 2004 reelection campaign, when he was still a Republican. On Tuesday, it again backed him over a primary opponent -- Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).

Specter tweeted Tuesday from his verified account @SenArlenSpecter:

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, PA AFL-CIO. I'm proud to have your endorsement and support."

The former Republican has already received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Poll numbers show the incumbent leading by a wide margin in the May 18 primary. Sestak has failed to build name recognition across the state at this point, but he had about $5 million in the bank at the end of the year.

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R), the likely Republican nominee, is running neck-and-neck with Specter in the general election.

Cross-posted to the Twitter Room

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Plain-Dealer backs Fisher over Brunner

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer is endorsing early in the Ohio Democratic Senate primary, and it's choice is Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.

The paper praises Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for fighting the party establishment in the race, but says Fisher would be a superior senator. It also finds fault with some of Brunner's work in her current post:

But Brunner's preference for quick decisions and her disdain for nuance and second thoughts are also her undoing. As secretary of state, she made some good calls: Dissolving Cuyahoga County's dysfunctional elections board leaps to mind. And she made some terrible calls, including an egregious decision to reject thousands of GOP absentee ballot requests on a technicality. Although she now says the job taught her to collaborate, Brunner's style tends to be tough and top-down. She needlessly alienated some local elections officials and experts and still leaves the impression that she'd cross a busy street to argue with a Republican.

As much as Brunner's contentiousness may excite the Democratic base, it's unlikely to change the ugly tone in Washington. In the end, she and Fisher would compile very similar voting records, but Fisher's smooth, seasoned approach seems more likely to build the alliances and strike the pragmatic compromises that successful legislating requires

Fisher is a heavy favorite to win the May 4 primary, given the establishment support and the fact that Brunner has struggled to raise basically any money. She remains within striking distance in the polls, though.

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Clark wins Democratic endorsement to face Bachmann

Minnesota state Sen. Tarryl Clark has won the state Democratic party endorsement to face Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

Clark was expected to win the backing and has rounded up much of the establishment support from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. But Dr. Maureen Reed is raising good money and has said she will run against Clark in the August primary.

Whoever wins that primary is expected to be a top Democratic hope for a takeover in November.

Bachmann was reelected in 2008 with plenty of help from a third-party candidate. She was held to less than 50 percent of the vote, but she defeated Democrat El Tinklenberg 46-43.

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NARAL considers other primaries vs. incumbents

NARAL Pro-Choice America, which endorsed Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) primary challenger Wednesday, is considering backing other primary challengers around the country.

NARAL joined Planned Parenthood in backing former Charlevoix County Commissioner Connie Saltonstall in her weeks-old primary challenge to Stupak, an anti-abortion rights Democrat who inflamed party activists by holding out for abortion language in the recently passed healthcare bill.

But the group isn't done yet. Asked whether other Democrats who joined with Stupak or opposed the bill should be concerned, NARAL political director Elizabeth Shipp said, "Definitely."

I asked if NARAL was eyeing anyone specifically.

"Yes, but none that I'm ready to talk about yet," Shipp said.

One logical choice would be Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), a Democrat with a mixed abortion rights record who represents a heavily African-American district. Barrow easily dispatched state Sen. Regina Thomas last cycle, thanks to some help from President Obama, but recently the black community has bristled at his healthcare vote.

Thomas is running again, but now attention has shifted to Lester Jackson, another African-American state senator.

The district is 44 percent black, meaning a concerted effort against Barrow could pay dividends in the primary.

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Waiting for Sestak

The Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania remains wide open, but Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) has gained virtually no traction with eight weeks to go, according to a new poll.

The latest Franklin and Marshall poll shows Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) well under 50 percent, at 32 percent. But Sestak has barely climbed out of the single digits, taking just 12 percent of the vote.

Franklin and Marshall tends to have high numbers of undecideds, but Sestak should still be registering more than 12 percent if he wants to make it a competitive primary. At this point, he doesn't appear to have made a compelling case as an alternative to Specter. The good news, is, he has a little less than two months. The bad news is, he has a little less than two months.

Sestak hasn't made much headway in any poll that regularly tests the race. He has run a (notoriously) lean campaign, and even though he had $5 million in the bank, he doesn't seem to have used much of it so far.

There's an opening with Specter in the primary, but as we've seen May 18 Senate primaries take off in other states (Arkansas and Kentucky), the Pennsylvania race has thus far been a pretty one-sided contest.

It will be interesting to see what Sestak has planned.

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