Senate races

Senate races

Another Warren challenger pulls out of Mass. Senate race

Alan Khazei (D) is ending his second bid for the Senate in Massachusetts, according to multiple reports, removing yet another obstacle for Democratic front-runner Elizabeth Warren.

Khazei told the Boston Globe that Warren's entrance had made fundraising and media outreach more difficult and shifted the race's dynamics.

Khazei becomes the third Democratic primary candidate to call it quits since Warren entered the race in September. Newton Mayor Setti Warren (of no relation to Elizabeth Warren) and Bob Massie both cited the momentum behind Warren in explaining their decision to pull out of the race.

Earlier Wednesday, Setti Warren announced he would endorse Elizabeth Warren.

While three other Democrats remain in the race, none are expected to pose a major challenge to Warren as she works to secure the nomination to take on Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Khazei, an entrepreneur, had been considered the likely Democratic nominee until Warren entered the race. He also competed in the Senate primary in 2010, but lost to state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who in turn lost to Brown.

Khazei is expected to formally announce his withdrawal on Thursday.

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Poll: Dead heat in Nevada Senate race

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) has erased Sen. Dean Heller's (R-Nev.) lead over her in the Senate race in Nevada, a new poll showed.

Berkley and Heller are now tied at 45 percent in a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released Wednesday. In July, Heller was beating Berkley by 3 points.

Heller is running for his first regular term in the Senate after being appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.) to the seat left open when former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) resigned.

Berkley's climb comes primarily from consolidating the vote within her party. Three months ago, Berkley took only 75 percent of the Democratic vote; she now captures 82 percent.

Democratic firm PPP polled 500 Nevada voters between Oct. 20-23 using automated telephone interviews. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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Dems hit GOP Senate hopefuls for protecting oil tax breaks

Democrats see pay dirt in Republican ties to highly profitable oil companies, and are working to tie GOP Senate candidates to efforts to protect their tax breaks.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is targeting five candidates for supporting taxpayer funded subsidies for big oil companies while also advocating for cuts to entitlement programs that benefit the middle class.

The attacks come amid reports this week that the major oil companies will post massive profits for the third quarter, boosted by high oil prices. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate and economic conditions for most Americans are still in a slump.

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Sold: McCaskill's private plane

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has sold the private plane she and her husband co-owned, hoping to put an end to what has become the favorite attack line of her opponents.

McCaskill's congressional office said the plane was sold for $1.9 million to an air ambulance group. McCaskill took a loss on the plane's sale.

“Claire said she would sell the plane and did. True to her word as always," McCaskill spokesman Trevor Kincaid said.

The saga over the airplane dates back to the beginning of the year, when McCaskill was accused of using congressional funds to pay for a trip on the airplane that had a political purpose. The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed the complaint, but McCaskill announced she was reimbursing the government about $300,000 for back taxes she had failed to pay on the plane.

Calling the tax issue a substantial yet unintentional mistake, McCaskill vowed in April to "sell the damn plane."

Republicans seized on the gaffe as a symbol that McCaskill was out of touch with constituents, launching a mocking "Air Claire" ad campaign and arguing she had undercut her own claim to be an ethics leader.

Although McCaskill is fighting a difficult reelection campaign in a state that has soured on President Obama and Democrats, the airplane fiasco does not seem to have hurt her significantly with Missouri voters. She has maintained a small lead in the polls against all of the Republicans vying to unseat her in 2012.

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Kevin Coughlin drops out of Senate race in Ohio

Kevin Coughlin (R), a former state senator in Ohio, has dropped out of the Senate race, according to a termination report Coughlin's campaign filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

The withdrawal means Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel will have an even easier time securing the GOP nomination for his Senate bid against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Mandel has been the front-runner in the Republican race, and has narrowed Brown's lead over him to 8 points, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Friday. That poll also showed Brown 11 points ahead of Coughlin, but most voters still did not know who Coughlin was.

According to the FEC filing, Coughlin's campaign won't have to reimburse a number of companies, including direct mail fundraising firm HSP Direct, because of a "no-risk" component to the contract that leaves the firm responsible for losses if the candidate decided not to proceed with the campaign.

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Mourdock nabs FreedomWorks nod in Indiana Senate primary

FreedomWorks PAC, the well-funded Tea Party organization chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), has endorsed Richard Mourdock in his primary battle with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).

The endorsement adds another voice to the conservative push to unseat an incumbent Republican for being too centrist and supporting Democratic spending initiatives. Lugar has served in Congress for more than three decades, but has attracted Republican challengers due to his support for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and other votes.

“Over the past few months we have been speaking with our Indiana members and allies, including those affiliated with the Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate," said the PAC's executive director, Max Pappas. "Two things are clear: they want Richard Mourdock to be their Senator and they are going to do the hard work necessary to make it happen."

Mourdock, who serves as Indiana's state treasurer, also has presidential candidate Herman Cain and conservative group Citizens United behind his primary challenge against Lugar.

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Tommy Thompson's younger brother dies

Ed Thompson, the younger brother of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), died on Saturday.

Ed Thompson, 66, was the former mayor of Tomah, Wis., and a Libertarian candidate for governor in 2002. He was running as a Republican candidate for the Wisconsin state Senate when he announced in 2010 that he was fighting pancreatic cancer. He lost to Kathleen Vinehout, a Democrat.

His brother, Tommy Thompson, is expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2012, although he has not officially declared his candidacy. Tommy Thompson served a four-year term as governor and also served as President George W. Bush's secretary of health.

"I loved Ed and I will miss him," his brother said, according to Wisconsin Radio Network. "The past months have been both extremely difficult and special to me in terms of the time and moments we spent together."

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Dean Heller: Nevada Senate race won't be easy

Republicans have a difficult but manageable challenge in 2012 to hold on to his Senate seat, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) told GOP activists Friday.

"It is not going to be easy," he said, noting that Nevada is a purple state. "I'm very, very confident, going forward that we can be successful in this campaign, but it is going to be a campaign of ideas."

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