Other races

Other races

Top of the ballot: Gillibrand won't face Pataki

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) gets a big pass when a top GOP contender declines to challenge her, the immigration debate continues to sizzle in Arizona and Democrats easily hold Rep. Robert Wexler's (D) Florida House seat.

Free pass

As it turns out, Gillibrand won't face a challenge by former Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.). Pataki passed on running against the freshman Democratic senator and will instead create a national organization dedicated to "building support to repeal the recently enacted health-care overhaul," he told the Wall Street Journal.

The environment gets tougher for McCain

The Arizona state House passed on a party-line vote Tuesday what's being called the toughest anti-illegal immigration measure in the country, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill passed the state Senate earlier this year and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is expected to sign the measure into law. SB 1070, as it's known, makes it a misdemeanor -- as opposed to a violation of federal law -- to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also mandates police officers determine a person's immigration status if they suspect he's in the country illegally. Police groups were divided on the bill.

The move comes as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was trying to shift the focus in the Senate GOP primary back to former Rep. J.D. Hayworth's (R-Ariz.) ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The McCain camp is pointing to the self-imposed April 15 deadline the Hayworth camp set to release the donor list from his legal trust.

Election day after

Florida state Sen. Ted Deutch (D) beat Republican contractor Ed Lynch by 25 points to hold former Rep. Robert Wexler's seat for the Democrats.

Meanwhile, businessman Bill Flores defeated 2008 nominee Rob Curnock in the Texas runoff for the GOP nod to face Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas). Democrats had been happily pointing to Flores's spotty voting record but it appears not to have made a difference to voters.

Other updates

Retiring Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) endorsed his former chief of staff, Rob Woodall, as the man to replace him in Congress, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Woodall faces state Rep. Clay Cox (R) and several others in the July GOP primary.


Tea Party forms new group to hit back at critics

The Tea Party is preparing to push back against its media critics.

The conservative grassroots movement announced the formation of the National Tea Party Federation Thursday in Minnesota.

"The Federation will allow us to work together, pool resources and allow faster responses to the media spin," Judson Phillips, who heads the Tennessee-based group Tea Party Nation, said in a statement. "There are other benefits from this federation for those involved in the tea party movement and we will be announcing them soon."

Phillips said it took the Tea Party too long to respond to the recent accusations of "racism" and "violence" against the group. "We will see it again and next time the National Tea Party Federation will respond in a timely fashion," he said.

Phillips insisted the new group wasn't a move toward forming a third party.

The new group will "build the brand equity of the Tea Party movement at the local and regional level," Phillips said.


Top of the ballot: Crist looks independent, Hawaii Dem touts 1st quarter cash

Speculation continues about whether Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will run as an independent. Hawaii is shaping into a competitive three-way race -- House candidate Colleen Hanabusa (D) announced Thursday she raised almost $500,000 last quarter. And Ohio voters are switching parties.

NY-23 all over again

Florida observers are speculating that Crist's veto this week of a bill that would have loosened state campaign finance laws indicates he plans to run as an independent.

Republican legislators wanted to again allow the use of so-called leadership funds, which Florida banned in 1989. Crist said there was no reason to lift that ban.

"While I commend the sponsors of this bill for their effort to bring more transparency and accountability in their attempt to revive leadership funds, I reject the notion that affiliated party committees, or leadership funds, will benefit our state," Crist wrote in his veto.

The move prompted swift condemnaton -- from Republicans. "The governor is 100 percent wrong," Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R) told reporters.

With polls showing Marco Rubio with a significant lead and the former Florida House Speaker hauling in an impressive $3.6 million last quarter, Crist may be setting himself up to run as an independent. Or so the thinking goes.

Under Florida law, Crist must declare whether he's running for the Republican nod or as an independent by the end of April.

Hanabusa's haul

The state Senate president brought in an impressive $450,000 last quarter, her campaign said Thursday. It's even more impressive with reports suggesting that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is quietly supporting former Rep. Ed Case (D).

Back to Ohio

Ohio Democrats are switching to register as Republicans, according to a Columbus Dispatch report.

In Cuyahoga County, the paper reported that the "number of Democrats switching to the GOP outnumbered Republicans becoming Democrats by nearly 7 to 1 as of Tuesday." During the 2008 primary, nearly five times as many Republicans switched to become Democrats in Cuyahoga, the state's largest county. Statewide totals weren't available and Democrats still have a large registration advantage. But it's a troubling sign in year when the environment is expected to favor the GOP.

Other updates

Aaron Blake is making the trek to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans Thursday. There are some notable absences from this year's event – Mitt Romney being one of them. But the conference, which is dubbed the "most prominent GOP gathering" after the party's convention, will still feature Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) among others. Embattled RNC Chairman Michael Steele -- whom Palin defended Wednesday -- will also be there.

Check back for updates from Aaron throughout the next three days.

Update: Pawlenty pulled out of the SRLC and will not be speaking at the event. He is, however, still listed on the website.


Top of the ballot: Reid defends 'cornhusker kickback'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) launched his reelection campaign Monday in his hometown of Searchlight, Nev. The Republican National Committee remains in the news for the wrong reasons and former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) has hired a Democrat to help with his political comeback.

Reid defends Washington sausage making

In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that aired Monday night, Reid defended the deal to provide additional Medicaid funds for Nebraska that became known as the "cornhusker kickback."

Reid: "Ben Nelson is an honorable, a really good senator that represents his state extremely well. And Ben Nelson and I worked on a number of issues. We worked on the Medicaid issue. He's a former governor of the state and understands it very well. I knew if I got this for Nebraska I would have it for everybody, and that's what happened. And I'm totally comfortable with that."

Meanwhile, Reid kicked off his formal reelection campaign with a three-day bus tour beginning in his hometown of Searchlight, Nev. And, with polls showing him in a tough race, he told a crowd in Las Vegas Monday, "I know what close elections are and this is going to be a close election."

When will it end?

The RNC rushed out statements of praise Monday night for new chief of staff Mike Leavitt, including one from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), with whom Leavitt worked in 2008. "I applaud Chairman Steele for his choice," McDonnell said.

It remains to be seen if Ken McKay's resignation was the last of the bloodletting from the reimbursement scandal. But to say the committee needs to move past this is an understatement.

Ehrlich goes bipartisan

The former Republican governor of Maryland has hired Baltimore TV reporter Andy Barth to be his campaign press secretary. Barth ran for a House seat in 2006 as a Democrat and is registered to vote as a Dem in Columbia, Md., according to the Baltimore Sun. Barth said he signed on because "the chance to be involved in government is exciting."

Bob Ehrlich is set to launch his bid for a rematch against Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Wednesday. 

Other updates

Get ready to be bombarded with political advertising online. The Hill's Kim Hart writes, consultants are advising campaigns to spend at least 10 percent of their budgets on Internet advertising this cycle.

By comparison, President Obama spent 4 percent of his budget online during the 2008 campaign and in 2004, the average online political ad spending for campaigns was 0.8 percent.


Top of the ballot: Whitman leads in Calif., Reid challenger dubbed 'Palin of Neveda'

New polling in California shows Meg Whitman as a favorite for the GOP gubenatorial nomination while Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) holds a strong lead over a generic Republican candidate; and a Harry Reid challenger is dubbed the Sarah Palin of Nevada.

Whitman not just California Dreaming

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) investment into her California gubenatorial campaign has paid off. She's ahead of Democratic candidate Jerry Brown 44-41 in a new Los Angeles Times/USC poll. And it appears she won't have trouble getting through the June primary -- she leads fellow Republican Steve Poizner by 40-points. As of the end of March, Whitman had self-funded $39 million to her campaign.

For the GOP nod to face Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the same survey showed former Rep. Tom Campbell with a slim lead over Carly Fiorina, 29 to 25 percent, while state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore polled 9 percent.

Meanwhile, Boxer holds a 14-point lead over a generic Republican, according to the March 23-30 survey.

New York's gubernatorial race is about to get more interesting

Buffalo developer Carl Paladino is set to announce his run for governor Monday. But preempting that announcement is a story from the New York Daily News about how he fathered a child during an extramarital affair a decade ago. Paladino has three grown children with his wife, Cathy.

"The Paladinos consider this a private family matter and ask all media to respect their privacy," said Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo.

Paladino wants to win a spot on the Conservative and Republican ballots.

Guns and ammo

A Las Vegas Sun profile of casino executive Sue Lowden (R) calls her Nevada's answer to Sarah Palin. 

That said, Lowden, who's running for the GOP nod to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), continues to pick up endorsements, such as one over the weekend from the UNLV College Republicans. Moreover, it turns out one of her main primary rivals, investment banker John Chachas (R), donated to President Obama in 2007. That won't help with a GOP base angry at Washington.

Other updates

Ann McLane Kuster (D), a House candidate in New Hampshire's 2nd district, reported raising $285,000 last quarter. Her campaign is trumpeting the donor support she's getting in-state. One of Kuster's main rivals, Katrina Swett, has yet to report her first quarter numbers. 

Updated at 10:05 a.m.


Sen. Menendez: immigration reform a 'political equation' when it comes to Latin voters

Immigration reform will be part of the "political equation" for Democrats as they work to maintain the support of Latino voters, said Bob Menendez (N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Latinos believe reforming the country's immigration system is the "civil rights issue of their time," Menendez told the Newark Star-Ledger editorial board Wednesday.

"I think it's a real challenge at the end of the day not to seek progress on it and not to have progress on it," he said. "I think it has a political equation."

He said Latino Americans identity with the issue regardless of their immigration status.

"All of us who are U.S. citizens, all of us who are permanent residents, all of us who wear the uniform of the United States, when we hear the debates on immigration … to hear some senators saying, 'those people, those people,'" he said. "I've heard along the way what that means, 'those people.'

“So for Latinos, when they hear 'those people,' when they hear the immigration debate, when they hear how it's phrased, they view that issue beyond the undocumented brothers and sisters they have, they view it about themselves and their standing in the society," Menendez said.


Report: Sessions held funder at questionable locale

Maybe this won't be such a bad cycle for the Democrats after all.

With the RNC reimbursement scandal still reverberating, a story out Wednesday touches on GOP fundraising at a questionable locale in Las Vegas.

From U.S. News and World Report's Paul Bedard:

What they've turned up is a couple of fundraisers held by Texas Rep. Pete Sessions a while back. He currently runs the National Republican Congressional Committee, the top fundraising and candidate recruitment operation for House Republicans.

A House aide called the fundraisers old news and events that happened before Sessions took his leadership position.

At worst, one of the fundraisers, held in 2007, was at a Vegas burlesque club, Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce. FEC papers show Pete PAC spent $5,378 at the burlesque club, which also that year hosted porn-star Jenna Jameson's 33rd birthday party.

Our old pal Mary Ann Akers who writes the Sleuth column for the Washington Post's website also wrote about another more low key event at a racy Vegas club called Tao held in February 2009.

Is there a theme here? Democrats snicker yes and plan to make it a campaign issue in the fall.


Nevada GOP chief quits

The chairman of the Republican Party of Nevada tendered his resignation Tuesday citing "business and family reasons."

Chris Comfort's decision had been anticipated but it still leaves the party without a chairman during a crucial Senate primary and while the Tea Party movement is siphoning energy and resources away from state parties.

Nevada Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Sherry Dilley, in a statement: "Dr. Chris Comfort has informed the Nevada Republican Party Executive Committee that he has resigned his position as chairman, effective immediately, due to business and family reasons. We respect his decision and wish him the best. The Nevada Republican Party appreciates his time and service."

The party's website has already been updated to reflect the change.


Erik Brown has links to top Calif. Republicans

The GOP consultant at the center of the Republican National Committee's reimbursement scandal has ties to several California House members, which may complicate some in the party's attempt to vilify him.

Erik Brown, the businessman who spent $1,946.25 at an L.A. bondage club, is repaying the money.

But on Tuesday, California Senate candidate Chuck DeVore (R) tried to downplay the relationship he had with his former consultant. His campaign called it "brief and straightforward."

DeVore had contracted Brown's Dynamic Marketing, Inc (DMI) to print campaign materials, it said in a release, but insisted the relationship was dead and buried. "There is no present relationship with DMI," DeVore's camp said.

But state and federal records show DeVore has spent more than $70,000 with Brown's company, dating back several years. That's hardly insignificant. Moreover, Brown served on the board of the Orange County Young Republicans -- a group that DeVore has courted.

While DeVore tries to distance himself from Brown, a Federal Election Commission search shows that Brown has donated to several California House members. This cycle, he's given to Reps. Ken Calvert (R) and John Campbell (R). In the past, he's also donated to the Orange County Republican Party and a state-level GOP PAC.


Blagojevich not ruling out another run for office

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was removed from office early last year after he was arrested on federal corruption charges, is not ruling out another run for political office.

Blagojevich was ousted after his arrest, which rested in part on allegations that he attempted to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat, but said that he'd like to hold office despite the fact he is set to go on trial in June.

{mosads}“I believe in great comebacks," he said on Fox Business Network on Friday after he was asked about running for office again. "Yes, I’m not ruling myself out as someone who is going to come back and be the guy I was before."

But if he wants to launch another campaign, he would likely have to do so in another state. The Illinois State Senate's unanimous vote to remove him from office included a provision that bars the ex-governor from ever holding office in the state again. 

In the meantime, Blagojevich, who is also known for his outsize personality, is a contestant on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice."

Cross-posted to the Briefing Room