Senate races

Senate races

Sen. McCaskill pays cybersquatter $4K for domain name

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) recently paid a cybersquatter $4,000 for the rights to, which now redirects to her campaign website.  

The St. Louis Dispatch caught the expense listed on McCaskill's latest campaign finance report. A Missouri-based graphic designer owned the domain name, according to the paper.   

In her 2006 race, McCaskill utilized the domain name  

If recent history serves as a guide, McCaskill's campaign may have gotten off fairly cheap. Squatting on the domain names of political candidates has become a lucrative hobby for some, and URLs often end up in enemy hands. 

This past election cycle, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Arizona Republican Ben Quayle and former Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) all found URLs utilizing their full names controlled by the opposing party. 

Last year, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) purchased for an undisclosed amount, according to The New York Times.  


Lugar challenger: There's no one with greater respect for Sen. Lugar

Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) told a group of Republicans over the weekend that he intends to challenge Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) in a GOP primary, but that he'll do it respectfully.  

Mourdock said of the longtime senator, who has earned the scorn of Tea Party groups for his Senate voting record: "There's no one in the state of Indiana that has a greater respect for Sen. Lugar. He is an honorable man and has served us all honorably." 

Still, Mourdock hopes to defeat him next year, telling Republicans he plans an announcement on Feb. 22, which will be followed by a tour of the state to officially kick off his campaign.  

It's an early signal that Mourdock will tread carefully in his challenge to Lugar, recognizing that despite the fervor among Tea Party activists in the state to oust him, the longtime senator is among the state's most popular elected officials. 

On Friday, a local GOP official in Indiana said he intends to back Mourdock's bid against Lugar. The state's 6th district GOP chairman, Ted Ogle, told The Ballot Box that his decision comes with "deep respect for Sen. Lugar," but "there's a real feeling we need something new."  

Mourdock backers are wary of drawing the ire of potential Lugar allies within the state's political establishment, particularly Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). The governor and rumored 2012 presidential candidate has a longstanding relationship with Lugar — Daniels formerly served as his chief of staff in Washington.   

"As Republicans, we believe in the free market. We believe in competition in the marketplace and competition in the market of ideas," Mourdock said Saturday. "The competition in Republicanism is equally important. And so I look forward to that type of debate and having that type of competition of ideas expressed during the primary season of 2012."

Last week, Lugar touted his early fundraising numbers, vowing to be ready for a Tea Party-backed challenge. 


Sarah Steelman pens 'thank-you' note to Reagan

Republicans across the country are celebrating Ronald Reagan's political legacy in conjunction with the 40th president's 100th birthday on Sunday and Missouri Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) is no exception.

In an e-mail to supporters Saturday, Steeleman recalled seeing Reagan campaign in Springfield, Mo. 35 years ago, when he was running for the GOP presidential nomination. "I was 18. I felt like I was a part of history -- a part of something that mattered," she wrote.

Steelman subsequently volunteered on Reagan's presidential campaign four years later, when he won the GOP nod and defeated President Jimmy Carter. He went on to serve two terms as president.

"I convinced five of my friends from Mizzou to drive to Iowa to work for you at the Iowa Caucuses. Thank goodness we were there because we were the only volunteers," Steelman wrote. "We worked hard for you. It was the only time I ever got close enough to you to shake your hand.

"Thank you President Reagan – I still adore you."


Indiana GOP official set to back Sen. Lugar challenger

A local Republican Party official in Indiana says State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) has informed him of plans to challenge longtime Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and that he intends to back his effort in the GOP primary. 

The state party's 6th District GOP Chairman, Ted Ogle, sent an email to local Republicans Friday, informing them that he'll endorse Mourdock and that the state treasurer is expected to announce his challenge Feb. 22. Ogle's email was first reported Friday afternoon by The Washington Post.    

Ogle told The Ballot Box he spoke with Mourdock Friday morning and was informed of his plans, adding that his decision to back the primary challenge comes "with deep respect for Senator Lugar."

"There's a real feeling that we need something new and that undercurrent is very strong," Ogle said, who chairs the GOP organization in Rep. Mike Pence's (R-Ind.) congressional district.  

Earlier this week, Lugar touted his early fundraising numbers in an interview with The Ballot Box and said he's fully prepared for a Tea Party-backed challenger. 

"I'm having fundraisers, not every day, but I would just say this is a good deal more preparation than any other candidate in Indiana has made." 

Lugar is sitting on a warchest of $2.3 million and he says it's growing by the week. He's already held a handful of fundraisers in the new year, including one last week that netted him close to $400K for his reelection bid. 


Bob Kerrey: 'Gut' says Sen. Nelson runs again

One of Sen. Ben Nelson's top allies believes the Nebraska Democrat is planning to seek reelection next year.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) said his "gut" tells him Nelson will run again, despite his dismal fourth-quarter fundraising numbers pointing to a possible exit. Nelson raised only $80,000 in the last quarter of 2010, although he has $1.4 million banked for his reelection.

"He appears to really be enjoying the job," Kerrey told the website, citing Nelson's work on the Armed Services and Appropriations committees.

"My gut is that he's going to run," Kerrey said. "It'd be a big loss to Nebraska if he didn't run."

Nelson is considered vulnerable, in part, because of his vote for the Democrats' healthcare reform bill and the negotiations over the so-called "Cornhusker Kickback," which included $100 million in additional Medicaid funding for the state. It was eventually removed from the bill.

"I think the healthcare vote was very traumatic for him personally," said Kerrey, before adding: "I think it helped him. It's given him the kind of moment that galvanized the spirit.

"He did something that was really good for Nebraska. 'Cornhusker Kickback?' That looked like a touchdown to me. I thought it was a really good move on his part. Unfortunately it didn't hold."


Ex-Rep. Simmons to decide on Senate run in March

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) will decide whether to make another Senate run in March. 

Simmons, who lost out on his party's nomination for retiring Sen. Chris Dodd's (D-Conn.) seat this past cycle to former World Wrestling CEO Linda McMahon, said in an interview with a Connecticut TV station that he's still weighing his options.  

During a taping of "Face the State with Dennis House," set to air this Sunday in Connecticut, Simmons was critical of the state's current GOP Chairman Chris Healy, suggesting the state party needs new leadership. 

In the aftermath of his loss to McMahon at the party's state convention last cycle, Simmons has been critical of GOP leadership at the both the state and national level, suggesting party leaders should have been more forceful in backing him throughout the process. 

In a recent interview with The Ballot Box, Simmons also laced into his former rival McMahon, making it clear he doesn't think another McMahon Senate run would give his party the best shot of winning the seat of retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). 

"Are we looking for a candidate who has actually won races, a person who's committed to public service?" asked Simmons. "Or are we still looking for a multi-millionaire?" 

Two Democrats are already in the race for Lieberman's seat: Rep. Chris Murphy and former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz.


Virginia Republican raises $100K in bid for Webb's Senate seat

Virginia Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke has raised just over $100,000 for her 2012 Senate bid since entering the race in December. 

It's a good start for Radtke, who raised the cash in just three weeks, according to her spokesman. Radtke faces a strong fundraiser in former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) in the GOP primary. 

Allen jumped into the race in late January, so he has yet to file a fundraising report. 

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) hasn't yet announced his 2012 plans and has said he won't kick his fundraising into high gear until he makes an official decision. Still, his end-of-the-year numbers didn't ease the minds of some Democrats worried Webb will opt against running again next year. 

He raised just $12,000 during the final three months of 2010 and reported $444,000 cash on hand. 

The Republican primary for Webb's seat could be a crowded one, placing an added emphasis on early fundraising totals. The chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Corey Stewart, is expected to get in the race, and Virginia Del. Bob Marshall is weighing a bid. 

Radtke recently told The Ballot Box that no matter how large the primary field is, she fully expects Tea Party activists to unite behind one George Allen alternative ahead of the primary. 


Rep. Graves won't challenge Sen. McCaskill

Missouri Rep. Sam Graves (R) passed on challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) next year.

Graves thanked his supporters and called it an "agonizing decision." 

"I believe it is a winnable race for me. However, I also believe that I can have a greater impact on federal policy in the next six years as a Chairman in the House. I am the first chairman in the history of the sixth congressional district and there is much I still want to accomplish in Washington," he said in statement Thursday. "I love representing the Sixth District because I understand it in and out."

Graves declined to endorse a candidate for the GOP nomination.

"It is important to me that Republicans nominate the best possible candidate in 2012. For that reason, I intend to let the field fully form before I issue any endorsement," he said.

Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and attorney Ed Martin are the only declared candidates in the GOP field.

In January, Graves told The Ballot Box he was "looking at" running against McCaskill in 2012.

"I certainly wouldn't want to close the door on it. It's something that I look at and kind of evaluate and we'll see what happens," he said in an interview. "There's a great opportunity to take back that Senate seat."

But he noted a myriad of factors were on his mind, including whether to leave his position as chairman of the House Small Business Committee.

"There's some things that I really want to accomplish there," he said.

House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) applauded Graves' decision.

"I am glad Sam has decided to continue his service in the House," said Boehner.

--Updated at 5:48 p.m.