Senate races

Senate races

Dem decides against Nebraska Senate run

Nebraska state Sen. Steve Lathrop (D) won't run for the U.S. Senate, he announced Monday morning.

"I appreciate the encouragement I have received over the past several weeks from Nebraskans throughout the state. I gave this decision serious thought and based it on discussions with my family and on how I can best serve the people of Nebraska," said Lathrop in a statement. "After much consideration, I have decided to continue to focus on finding solutions to the problems facing our state such as: balanced tax relief, child welfare reform, protecting our most vulnerable citizens, and job creation."

Democrats have scrambled to find a candidate to run for the seat since Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced his retirement. They hoped to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) into the race, but he announced last week that he wouldn't run.

The only serious Democrat in the race is University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook, who is expected to officially announce his campaign on Tuesday. He faces a steep uphill race against the eventual winner of the GOP primary in the heavily Republican state.

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Poll: Hirono dominant in Hawaii

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) holds a strong lead over both her primary and general-election challengers, according to a new poll from Ward Research.

Hirono leads former Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) by 56 percent to 36 percent in the primary, and leads former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) in the general election by 57 percent to 37 percent, according to the nonpartisan poll.

Both Case and Hirono have already been on television running advertisements. Hirono is the favorite of the Democratic establishment both in Hawaii and in Washington: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing her over Case, and most of Hawaii's Democratic officials are either privately or publicly in her corner. Case angered many of them when he nearly beat Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) in a 2006 primary.

Lingle has been bringing in a ton of money and Republicans hope she can make this a competitive race. But if the poll is correct, Hirono starts off the race as the prohibitive favorite.

The poll included 771 registered voters with an oversample of 599 Democrats, and was conducted from Jan. 26 to Feb. 5. The margin of error for the primary ballot test is plus or minus four percentage points, while the margin of error for the general election is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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Dems land a recruit in Nebraska Senate race

Democrats finally have a candidate running to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.): University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook will jump into the race on Tuesday, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

Hassebrook was not Democrats' first choice: After Nelson announced his retirement they tried to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) to run, but he decided against it.

State Sen. Steve Lathrop (D), another possible candidate, is expected to make a decision soon about the race. The filing deadline for candidates who currently hold office is this Wednesday.

On the Republican side are state Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Rep. Deb Fischer. Whoever wins the GOP primary will be the heavy favorite in this race.

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Sheyman up with first ad in Illinois

Democrat Ilya Sheyman is up with the first ad of the Democratic primary to take on freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) in a Democratic-leaning district outside of Chicago.

The ad paints Sheyman as the only true liberal in the primary race.

"There's no one definition of the American dream," says Sheyman, who mentions that his family were Jewish refugees from Russia and promises to defend Social Security and Medicare and "pass the jobs bill."

Sheyman, a Democratic activist in his late 20s, has received the backing of many liberal groups, including endorsements from the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, MoveOn.org and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's Democracy for America, a group he used to work for.

He faces off against businessman Brad Schneider and Air Force reservist John Tree. Sheyman has led in fundraising.

The three are vying to take on Dold in a district made more Democratic by redistricting. But Democrats have failed for a decade to win the seat despite its Democratic leaning at the national level: it was held by now-Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for years, and Dold won the seat last election during the election's Republican wave.

Watch the ad here:

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Rep. Rehberg ups the ante on Montana outside-spending ban

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) upped the ante on his opponent, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), expanding a proposed agreement to ban outside money in their race.

Tester sent Rehberg a letter on Wednesday calling for a ban on most forms of outside spending in the campaign, including from super-PACs, interest groups and the state parties. Rehberg's counter-offer expands that to include a ban on all donations from political action committees and lobbyists — as well as anyone not living in Montana.

{mosads}Rehberg sent a letter ripping Tester for his "newfound concern" about the issue, and pointed out that outside groups had spent heavily to help Tester win his election in 2006. 

"Because your concern is so newfound, you will understand if Montanans are rightly skeptical about its authenticity," Rehberg writes, describing Tester's "nascent concern [as] a self-serving political ploy."

Rehberg then blasts Tester for being the "number one recipient of lobbyist contributions in the entire United States Congress this election cycle."

Tester's offered agreement would have given him an edge in the race because of his strong cash on hand advantage and Rehberg's weak fundraising so far. Rehberg's calls for a return of lobbyist contributions would give him a relative edge in the race.

Tester's campaign responded quickly. "Jon is reviewing Congressman Rehberg's response, which reads like the attack ads we're trying to keep out of this race," Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy emailed The Hill. "The bottom line is that he rejected Jon’s simple proposal to give Montanans the transparency and accountability they deserve.  Saying no to transparency and accountability comes as no surprise from Congressman Rehberg, who just got caught hiding tens of thousands of dollars he took from out-of-state lobbyists."

The two campaigns seem happy to take potshots at each other for now, and it is unclear if they will be able to reach an agreement. But a similar scenario played out in Massachusetts, with Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Democrat Elizabeth Warren scoring political points off each other on the issue. The two eventually came to an enforceable agreement by which they are now both legally bound.

The state has seen a high level of third-party spending. Outside groups have already spent more than $1 million on television and radio ads — which is a lot of money in the small state.

This post was updated at 7:36 p.m.

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Republican gets clear shot at New Mexico Senate nomination

Former Rep. Heather Wilson's (R-N.M.) Senate campaign got a big boost in New Mexico when her main primary rival dropped out.

New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R), who was running to the right of the centrist former congresswoman, announced Wednesday that he would drop his bid. His move leaves her with only nominal primary competition and gives Republicans a better chance at the seat, which is held by retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

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Hoekstra's primary foe attacks 'demeaning' ad

Clark Durant, the well-connected conservative who is challenging former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) in the state's Senate GOP primary, is going on the attack just days after Hoekstra launched a controversial TV ad that featured an Asian actress speaking in broken English that has been criticized by some as racist.

The two are vying to run against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Durant held a Thursday morning press conference with Washtenaw County Commissioner Alicia Ping, an Asian-American Republican who switched her support from Hoekstra to Durant over the ad. She'd previously blasted Hoekstra's ad as "offensive and racist."

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Lugar's foes on left and right hit him for living in Washington

Indiana Democrats gave Fox News a detailed list of Sen. Dick Lugar's (R-Ind.) travel accounts on Wednesday, slamming him for spending taxpayer dollars on hotels since he doesn't have a home in the state.

The papers suggest that Lugar's time in the state has been limited to less than a year over the last two decades, which the Lugar campaign says is completely false."[Lugar] spends a quarter of the year, every year in the state," Lugar spokesman David Wilkie told Fox, and pointed out that Lugar still owns a farm in Indiana and has spent 89 days in the state in the last year.

National Democrats pounced on the story. "If there were still any doubts about how badly Dick Lugar has turned his back on Indiana, this report removes them entirely," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Shripal Shah. "It's bad enough that Dick Lugar has completely neglected Indiana since coming to Washington decades ago, but it's even worse for him to make tax payers pay for him to sporadically visit the state at his own convenience."

Lugar's primary challenger, Tea Party favorite and Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), has been hitting him on the issue for some time.

Lugar will be the heavy favorite over Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) if he wins his primary, but while he has a major cash advantage over Mourdock, whose campaign has struggled with organization, he could face a tough primary race.

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Tester asks Rehberg for outside group ceasefire in Montana

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) sent a letter to Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) Wednesday afternoon requesting a ceasefire on outside groups' spending in the race.

The proposed agreement is similar to one already agreed to in Massachusetts between Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Democrat Elizabeth Warren. It would force a campaign to donate to charity the amount of money spent on an ad by a third-party group, and includes a ban on super-PACs, issue advocacy groups, the state Democratic and Republican parties, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"This is certainly an interesting proposal by Senator Tester," Rehberg Campaign Manager Erik Iverson responded. "We are going to give it a close look and we will respond in due course."

The deal would likely be advantageous to Tester, who has a large cash on hand advantage over Rehberg. Keeping the DSCC, NRSC and state parties out of the race is also an unusual move: Incumbents are often better-funded, and challengers are often buttressed by spending from their parties on their behalf.

The state has seen a high level of third-party spending — as Tester points out in the letter, outside groups have already spent more than $1 million on television and radio ads, which is a lot of money in the small state.

This post was updated at 6:10 p.m.

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