Dem primaries

Dem primaries

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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Hildebrand primary threat doesn't sway Herseth Sandlin

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's (D-S.D.) office says she will vote 'no' on the health care bill, even as former top Obama aide Steve Hildebrand threatens her with a primary challenge.

Her office office said she will not bow to pressure.

"There's been pretty constant and strong pressure here for a while. We feel it every day," deputy chief of staff Russ Levsen told the Rapid City Journal. "That's part of being in the majority and being one of 39 House Democrats to vote against the health care bill last November."

Hildebrand has threatened to primary Herseth Sandlin if her vote sinks the bill or comes close to it. It looks like the vote will be close either way, so the ball's in his court now.

Hildebrand did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Arkansas AFL-CIO says Lincoln 'turned her back' on workers

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has "turned her back" on working voters in Arkansas, the head of the state AFL-CIO said Wednesday.

Responding to a new ad from the senator in which she condemns labor groups, the AFL-CIO fired back at the senator for having taken money from groups representing workers, only to turn around and attack those groups.

“Lincoln has ignored the interests of working people in Arkansas too many times.  It's easy for her to try to paint opponents as outsiders, but working class voters in Arkansas can see as well as anybody that she has turned her back on us," Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes said in a statement.

{mosads}Labor groups have backed state Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a Democratic primary challenge to Lincoln after she'd backed off support for elements of healthcare reform, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or "card check"), and other top priorities by labor.

The senator, who's expected to face a tough GOP challenger this fall as well, lashed out at unions supporting Halter in a new ad, saying, "I'm not working for them; I work for you."

The AFL-CIO is quick to not that while it's true that Arkansans might not typically be huge union supporters, the group felt they couldn't let Lincoln's remarks go unchallenged.

“Only someone who has become a career politician in Washington DC could spend ten years asking for our support, take hundreds of thousands of dollars from blue collar workers, then turn around and attack us as ‘outsiders’ because we wouldn’t help her this time around," Hughes responded Wednesday. "That’s not the values people in Arkansas believe in.”

The AFL-CIO hopes to paint Lincoln as a consummate "flip-flopping" Washington politician, pointing to their own occasional donations and endorsements to Lincoln despite an inconsistent career record on issues the union has deemed important.

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Romanoff takes caucuses

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) fell to former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in Tuesday night's precinct caucuses, raising new hope for Romanoff's campaign in their primary.

National Democrats, who are supporting Bennet, worked hard to lower expectations in advance of the caucuses, which basically function like straw poll of activists. In the end, Romanoff's 51-42 victory was substantial but not overwhelming.

Another establishment favorite could be headed for a loss on the GOP side, with former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton falling narrowly to Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

This post has been updated. AP is reporting that Buck has beat Norton, but official results from the state GOP show him leading her 37.86 percent to 37.74 percent with 6 percent of precincts still to come.

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