Senate races

Senate races

Brown to cut $35,000 charity check after oil group breaks pledge

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has agreed to cut a $34,545 check to charity after an oil lobby ran ads attacking his challenger, Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

It's the second time Brown has coughed up campaign cash to satisfy the pledge he signed with Warren to bar outside groups from spending in the race. In early March, Brown donated $1,000 to the Autism Consortium after a conservative political action committee broke the pledge.

The groundbreaking agreement struck between Warren and Brown in January stipulates that any candidate who benefits from an outside group's ad must donate half the cost of the ad to the charity of his or her opponent's choice. Although neither campaign can control what outside groups spend, the idea is to create a disincentive for those groups to hurt their preferred candidate.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil-and-gas lobby group, last week launched radio ads in Massachusetts supporting Brown's position on maintaining tax breaks for large oil companies. Because the ad was an issue ad — it never explicitly encouraged people to vote for Brown — it was an open question as to whether it would fall under the jurisdiction of the pledge.


Sherrod Brown, Josh Mandel bicker over campaign trackers

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) are sparring over when and where campaign trackers should be allowed to gather opposition research.

It’s the latest round of bickering in a swing-state Senate race that has been increasingly focused on petty process issues over serious policy discussions.


Vets group to spend $200,000 to boost McCaskill

The veterans advocacy group will spend $200,000 on an ad touting Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) work on behalf of veterans, as she fights for a second term in the Senate.

The ad will air for two weeks in the St. Louis and Kansas City media markets, and the group said it was considering extending the buy.

VoteVets spent $15 million on political activity in the previous cycle, but the McCaskill ad is its first of the 2012 cycle. The group says it represents more than 100,000 veterans and their families and supporters.

The 30-second spot shows a combat scene as seen through a scope, then features Iraq veterans describing how the return home has been difficult. The veterans laud McCaskill’s efforts to ensure proper services for veterans and to preserve funding for Veterans Affairs hospitals, including one in Columbia, Mo.

“Claire McCaskill’s got our back,” says one veteran.

“And senator, we’ve got yours,” says another.

{mosads}The first-term Democrat is facing tough opposition in her reelection bid in a conservative-leaning state where the public has soured on President Obama. Republicans and GOP-aligned outside groups have made McCaskill a top target for 2012, spending millions of dollars to air attack ads.

But McCaskill has raised huge chunks of cash too, and has positioned herself as a centrist who occasionally diverges from her party on key issues. She has also showcased her advocacy for constituency groups such as veterans, hosting a forum last week in St. Louis to listen to their concerns and working to strengthen education benefits and prevent base closures.

The Hill rates this race a toss-up.

Watch the ad:


Coburn, Johnson back John Brunner for McCaskill seat

Businessman John Brunner picked up support on Thursday from two prominent GOP figures, with Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) endorsing his bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Brunner, who has not held elected office, is running behind former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.) in the GOP primary.

“John Brunner is the one candidate in this race who has the much-needed real-world experience in balancing budgets and controlling spending while simultaneously building a successful company and creating over 1,000 new jobs,” said Coburn, who called Brunner uniquely qualified to oppose bloated government policies.

Johnson related Brunner’s fight to his own electoral narrative and said Brunner would be “the second job-creating manufacturer” in the Senate, if elected.

“I know from personal experience that defeating an incumbent Democrat senator is hard work,” Johnson said in a statement. “But I also know that just like the voters of Wisconsin did with me in 2010, Missouri voters are ready to send someone to Washington, D.C., who understands that government doesn't create jobs, government creates debt.”

The Hill rates this race as a toss-up.


Giuliani will endorse Tommy Thompson Thursday; Dems 'thank' him for healthcare position

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) will be endorsed by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) Thursday, The Hill has learned.

Giuliani will attend two campaign fundraisers in Milwaukee with Thompson on Thursday. It's unclear if the well-known centrist will help Thompson politically — but his fundraising prowess will won't hurt. Both events start at $50 to attend and range up to $1,000 for two seats at the head table.

The two are old allies: Thompson endorsed Giuliani's presidential campaign in 2007 after he dropped his own bid.

While Giuliani's support could help, some others seeking to "thank" him might have other goals.  The Wisconsin Democratic Party is out with a tongue-in-cheek web video "thanking" him for his alleged support of President Obama's health care reforms.

"Tommy, without your support for the individual mandate and President Obama, the Affordable Care Act would not be possible," Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate says in the video before presenting a large card. "Thanks again, Tommy, for your support of President Obama and the individual mandate — the linchpin of the Affordable Care Act."

The former Wisconsin governor likely gives Republicans their best shot at the state's open Senate seat, but he faces a potentially tough primary against former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.), Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R) and businessman Eric Hovde (R). Many national conservative groups are backing Neumann in the race and have hammered Thompson as too centrist on healthcare and other issues.

Democrats have been happy to add fuel to that fire, and their "thanking" Thompson on this issue shows they'd prefer to face any other candidate.

"The Democrats are in full crisis mode with yet another poll released today showing Tommy Thompson beating Tammy Baldwin," Thompson spokesman Darrin Schmitz responded. "Thompson opposed Obamacare and the mandate, and a stunt that falsely portrays the former governor's position cannot hide the fact that Tammy Baldwin's liberal tax and spend agenda has created record debt and is destroying jobs in America.” "

Thompson praised early versions of the healthcare reform bill but criticized the final bill before it passed.

Watch the Democrats' video:

This post was updated at 5:32 p.m.


Democrat Bivens drops out of Arizona Senate primary, clearing way for Carmona

Don Bivens dropped out of the Democratic primary for Arizona’s open Senate seat Wednesday, buckling to Senate Democrats who saw former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona as their best contender for the open seat.

A former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, Bivens was the first Democrat to declare a bid for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) seat and was fast out of the gate, raking in big bucks in the first months of his campaign.

But Bivens was big-footed in November by Carmona, who was personally courted by President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other top Democrats.

“The continuing head-to-head competition of our Democratic primary is draining resources that we will need as a party to win the U.S. Senate race in November,” Bivens said in announcing his withdrawal.

Kyl’s seat is at the top of Senate Democrats’ list of seats they hope to flip in November as they work to stave off a Senate takeover by Republicans, who need to capture four seats to regain the majority (if Obama wins reelection).


GOP candidates for Snowe seat to face 9 forums

The Republican candidates for retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) seat will face a series of nine debates between April 5 and the June 12 primary, the Maine Republican Party announced.

The events, being dubbed “candidate forums,” will be scattered around the state. All six Republicans running in the primary have been invited: Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, state Attorney General William Schneider, state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, former state Sen. Rick Bennett, state Sen. Debra Plowman and businessman Scott D’Amboise.

Four Democrats are running in their party’s primary for the open seat. But all eyes are on Angus King, Maine’s former Independent governor, whom polling suggests leads the field of candidates seeking to replace Snowe.