Dem primaries

Dem primaries

Watt backs underdog in N.C. Senate primary

Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) has endorsed attorney Kenneth Lewis in the Democratic primary to face Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

Lewis is an underdog for the Democratic nomination, with former state Sen. Cal Cunningham receiving early support from national Democratic leaders and North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall beginning the race as the best-known candidate.

Watt and Lewis are close, though, and it's not a big surprise that Watt, as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is endorsing the only black candidate in the race.

"What I have observed in Ken Lewis over the years of our friendship is a person with the intellect, integrity and judgment to decide what's right and to do it, knowing when to stand firm and when to compromise to move our country forward beyond gridlock," Watt said.


Lincoln's campaign lashes out at labor for Halter support

Sen. Blanche Lincoln's (D-Ark.) campaign dinged labor groups on Friday for supporting her primary challenger, Ark. Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Lincoln campaign manager Steve Patterson lashed out at labor groups, which quickly got behind Halter this week after he announced a primary bid to unseat the centrist Lincoln.

"If we want to talk about misleading advertising, we might look at Bill's first ad," Patterson told TalkBusiness.  "It puts a football in his hands and highlights his humble roots when in fact, he's a multimillionaire who somehow talked labor unions into paying off a half million dollar campaign debt to himself with the union dues of their members so he can run for higher office."

Lincoln had been seen as a key swing vote on some top priorities of labor in the past year and a half, including stimulus and jobs packages, healthcare reform, and on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or "card check").


Former Sestak aide says low wages 'insane'

A former campaign staffer for Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is speaking out, and it doesn't bode well for Sestak.

Michael Jones writes on his blog that he was paid a stipend that wound up equalling less than $2 per hour for the number of hours he was working. After a month, he says, the campaign asked him to relocate to Philadelphia. He said he asked for a salary and was rejected.

Here is the post, in full:

The Pennsylvania senate race is getting heated, especially after Sen. Arlen Specter lobbed a bomb at challenger Joe Sestak over how much he pays his staffers. Sestak, a congressman from suburban Philadelphia, fought to increase the minimum wage in 2007, yet story after story is coming out about how he paid 10 of his 16 campaign staffers less than the required $7.25 an hour. And I was one of them.

While spending only one month on the campaign, I was paid a total of $550. Hardly enough money for anyone to live on, but I figured it would be a good opportunity to broaden my skills and build my resume while looking for a job. Before accepting the offer, I calculated the hourly wage and found that I would earn $3.18 per hour. What's more, you rarely work just 40 hours per week in a campaign, so in actuality, I was making roughly $1.60 per hour. That's insanity. And it's partly the reason why many good political minds have left his campaign.

After that first month in October, the campaign wanted me to move east to work out of their Philadelphia headquarters. That would be nearly impossible with my life and a house rooted in suburban Pittsburgh. So I countered with a substantial, but fair, salary offer that I thought equaled my level of experience. They flatly rejected it. I flatly quit.

Some say Specter's claim shows he is bankrupt of good policy debates, but I think this argument is very important. How can the Democratic Party nominate a person like Sestak for U.S. Senate when he doesn't even abide by the laws he helped form? I don't have an ax to grind with Sestak, but I would advise him to pay his people what they're worth or expect a blowout in the May primary.

UPDATE: Sestak responds: "Mike is a good guy. We enjoyed working with him, and wish him the very best."


Minnesota primary moved to August

Minnesota is officially moving its primary ahead one month, from Sept. 14 to Aug. 10.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) was set to sign the change into law on Wednsday morning. The change was made in order to give overseas absentee voters enough time to get their ballots in.

The key race in the state this year is the open governor's contest, with vast fields of candidates seeking their party's nomination on either side.

As for congressional races, the move could help Democrats recover earlier from a tough primary to face Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). In that race, state Sen. Tarryl Clark and former University of Minnesota Regent Maureen Reed are both raising big money.


Ford: Dem leaders putting majorities at risk

Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) isn't going without some parting shots.

In a New York Times op-ed explaining his decision not to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a primary, Ford says Democratic leaders just don't get it:

When it was reported two months ago that I was thinking seriously about running for the United States Senate from New York, Democratic Party insiders started their own campaign to bully me out of the race — just as they had done with Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Steve Israel and others.

But as I traveled around New York, I began to understand why the party bosses felt the need to use such heavy-handed tactics: They’re nervous. New Yorkers are clamoring for change. Our political system — so bogged down in partisan fighting — is sapping the morale of New Yorkers and preventing government at every level from fulfilling its duty.

The cruel twist, of course, is that the party bosses who tried to intimidate me so that I wouldn’t even think about running against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who had been appointed to the seat by Gov. David A. Paterson, are the same people responsible for putting Democratic control of the Senate at risk.


Voting for health care legislation that imposes billions in new taxes on New Yorkers and restricts federal financing for abortions is not good for the people of this state. Voting against critical funds necessary to ensure the survival of the financial services industry — the economic backbone of this state — is not good for the people of New York.


Yet the party has been too slow to change. The effects of its lack of flexibility have been clear in a series of worrisome political events: Ted Kennedy’s “safe” Senate seat was lost to a Republican; Evan Bayh of Indiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced they weren’t running for re-election; Senate seats held by Democrats in Wisconsin and Delaware now seem to be in jeopardy; New York’s state government faces even more controversy and challenge.

Read More... to back other Dem primary challangers could become the Democrats' 2010 version of the Tea Party movement.

The liberal advocacy group is providing early backing to Sen. Blanche Lincoln's (D-Ark.) primary challenger and could support other upstart progressive candidates, according to Justin Ruben,'s executive director.

Meanwhile, dozens of Tea Party-backed candidates are vying against traditional Republicans in GOP primaries around the country. Ruben said that frustration with Washington's leadership isn't confined to the right side of the political spectrum.

"There is a huge well of frustration among our members across the country about some Democrats who seem to forget their constituents and remember only their corporate campaign contributors," he said. "I think that frustration is looking for outlets."

Ruben said the group is member-driven and as such the grassroots vote on which candidates to support.

"Where we have a place where you have incumbents who are really not representing their constituents, we think it's great for voters to have a choice. And if our members in that area come forward and say, 'we want to support someone else,' that's typically what's gotten us into the race," he said.

He added, "that presents a ton of opportunities across the country for enterprising candidates."

In the meantime, he called the outpouring of support for Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D-Ark.)  "unprecedented."

More than 90 percent of the groups' 20,000 Arkansas members approved backing Halter's primary challenge, Ruben said. "I think the 92 percent vote tells you that people are quite passionate about this."

Now, the group is encouraging its members to donate to Halter's campaign. "If we want to see a successful primary challenge, we all to have to help out," he said.


White House backing Lincoln

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs assured Monday that the president will be supporting Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in her primary.

Lincoln found out Monday morning that she will face Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for her party's nomination.

"We support Sen. Lincoln as an incumbent senator, yes," Gibbs said when asked if the White House would approach the primary as it has other incumbents.


Boozman: Halter could help Lincoln

Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) says Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's newly launched primary with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) could actually help the incumbent.

Amidst the chaos of filing for the Arkansas Senate race on Monday, Boozman said in a brief interview with The Ballot Box that he was pressing forward as before.

"I don’t know that it really affects my race," he said. "But it certainly has thrown a kink into things. A tough primary forces people to get organized and helps them in that regard."

Boozman said his own newly launched campaign has been going better than he could have anticipated. He's also locked in a primary, with state Sen. Gilbert Baker and a wide field of GOP candidates.

He promised an exciting election year.

"People like you will be writing books about this one," he said.


Liberal bloggers' PAC makes Halter its first endorsement

A political action committee (PAC) launched by liberal bloggers made its first endorsement Monday of a primary challenger to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).

Accountability Now, the PAC founded in 2008 by firedoglake's Jane Hamsher and Salon's Glenn Greenwald to goad incumbent Democrats into maintaining party principles, endorsed Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), who announced on Monday a primary challenge to Lincoln.

"As the head of the Agriculture Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, Blanche Lincoln has stood at the front of the line when it comes to repaying her corporate donors with political favors," Hamsher said in a statement. "Lincoln has personally been the recipient of big ag subsidies, and her continued tenure as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee would mean the death of sustainable agriculture for a generation.  She's the prime target for an accountability campaign."

Democrats have griped over Lincoln's centrist record over the past year, especially on issues like healthcare reform and climate change legislation.

Accountability Now had sought to encourage Halter to get into the race, launching a "Draft Halter" website and campaign earlier this year. Halter's decision to get into the race is arguably the first visible victory for the newly-formed group.

Accountability Now had about $9,649 in cash on hand at the end of 2009, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, though it had disbursed just under $210,000 last year.

"We are delighted that our efforts to draft Bill Halter and organize institutional support for his campaign led to his decision to enter the race," Hamsher added. "We look forward to working with the groups in Accountability Now and the people of Arkansas to support him in this race and to see him sworn in as the next Senator from Arkansas."


Arkansas Lt. Gov. to primary Sen. Lincoln

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter with a shocker this morning: He said he will challenge Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) in a primary this year.

Halter's name seems to come up whenever there is a major office up for election, but in a video on his website, he said he's taking the plunge.

Look for Halter to run more of an anti-Washington campaign, as opposed to going after Lincoln on ideological grounds.

She becomes the fourth incumbent Democratic senator to draw a primary challenge this cycle, joining Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and likely Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).