Senate races

Senate races

Connecticut Dem jumps in race for Lieberman seat

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has his first Democratic challenger — former state Secretary Susan Bysiewicz.

The Democrat got an early jump on 2012 Tuesday, announcing her campaign for the seat after enduring a disastrous 2010 cycle.  

"We need a Senator who is 100% focused on helping our state, and Senator Joe Lieberman has been focused on everything but Connecticut," Bysiewicz said in an e-mail announcing her 2012 plans, according to the Connecticut Mirror

The announcement from Bysiewicz places some pressure on other Democrats who have expressed interest in the contest, particularly Connecticut Reps. Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy.

Still, Bysiewicz will have plenty to prove in a Democratic primary, and her entrance into the race certainly won't clear the field. Some Democrats have expressed worry that two failed campaigns in 2010 could hamper Bysiewicz in 2012. 

After mulling a run for governor in 2010, Bysiewicz abruptly decided to run for attorney general instead. That race resulted in disaster after a court ruled that she didn't meet the state's criteria for serving as attorney general, which ended her campaign.

As the Mirror details, management questions also arose toward the end of her tenure as secretary of state. 

Lieberman has not yet announced his 2012 plans, which has some political observers in the state thinking he will opt to not seek another term in 2012. The independent senator would have to again create a party line for his candidacy to get his name back on the ballot next year. 

While unlikely, it's also possible that Lieberman could run under the banner of one of the major parties in 2012. Lieberman told The Ballot Box in December that he has received plenty of encouragement from Democratic colleagues and that he expects to make a final decision on 2012 early this year. 


Dems up in 2012 take aim at China in new bill

In what could be seen as the latest indication China will remain a campaign issue, two Democratic senators up for reelection in 2012 have signed on to legislation aimed at halting currency manipulation.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D) and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) announced Monday they've signed onto the Currency Exchange Oversight Reform Act, designed to push Beijing to change its monetary policy.

"We've got to take action to let the Chinese government know that we're serious," Casey told Pennsylvania reporters, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We're not going to sit back and wait for some engagement to lead to a better result for American workers and the American economy. We've got to take action now."

The legislation, if passed, would direct the Treasury Department to look for "fundamental misalignment" in the value of foreign currencies, and would trigger sanctions if action isn't taken by the foreign government to correct the misalignment. The bill is directed at China, which has been criticized by lawmakers and U.S. business groups for keeping the value of its currency artificially low in order to reduce the cost of its exports to the United States and other countries.
The shift of manufacturing jobs away from states like Pennsylvania and Michigan is a major campaign issue. Both Democrats are expected to face tough challenges in 2012 and could be looking for a favorable issue to run on.


Sen. Bill Nelson gets first GOP challenger

Florida state Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) said Friday he is officially entering the 2012 race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Haridopolos — who has long been expected to run — becomes the first Republican challenger to officially announce his campaign against Nelson, who is high on the GOP's list of vulnerable Democratic senators. 

{mosads}In a phone interview with The Hill, Haridopolos said that he initially decided to run against Nelson after former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) won his race for U.S. Senate in November, and finalized his choice after "talking with leaders across the state and ... having strong support of [those] leaders."

Nelson — a second-term senator — could face an uphill reelection battle in two years. A December poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed him with a low positive rating of 37 percent. But Nelson has polled better than GOP opponents in the past, which could make the race tough for Republicans to win.

Despite his announcement, Haridopolos indicated that he might not officially roll out his campaign until May. The state Senate leader said he was focused on closing Florida's projected $3.6 billion budget gap without raising taxes. 

Asked when he is going to make an announcement, Haridopolos said that he is, "Absolutely focused on my job as leader of the state Senate" and added he would spend the next 120 days keying in on the budget.

Taxes are likely to be a big issue on the campaign trail: Nelson, who opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, voted to temporarily extend them in December after being pressured by potential Republican rivals.

Other Florida GOP heavyweights could also enter the race, including Rep. Connie Mack and former Sen. George LeMieux. Haridopolos said he would continue to meet with people across the state and would focus on his own agenda, rather than who his primary opponents may be.

"Whoever runs, they run. I am going to stay focused on what I can control," he said.


DeMint e-mail indicates he'll play major role in Texas race

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) served notice Friday that he intends to play a major role in deciding who emerges from a sizable pack of GOP Senate contenders in Texas.

In an e-mail to supporters of his Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), DeMint talked up two rumored candidates to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who announced Thursday she will not be seeking reelection in 2012. Both of the candidates are supported by the Tea Party grassroots movement. His e-mail notably talked down state Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is seen by some political observers in the state as the Republican front-runner, should he decide to get in the race.

"Based on media reports following Senator Hutchison's announcement, the Washington establishment appears to be lining up behind Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R)," DeMint wrote in the e-mail. "However, the two candidates we hear about most from conservatives are Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams (R) and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz (R)." 

DeMint continued: "As you may remember, SCF encouraged Texas Governor Rick Perry to appoint Michael Williams to Senator Hutchison's seat when she was expected to resign in the middle of her term. Michael is an outstanding conservative leader and he will be at the very top of our list as we consider candidates for an endorsement in the 2012 election."

Dewhurst put out a statement Thursday he is exploring a run, but he hasn't formally entered the race.

The e-mail read like a sigh of relief from DeMint, who had pledged to not endorse against Republican incumbents in 2012. He said Hutchison's decision to not seek another term offers the party another opportunity "to elect a principled conservative."

Hutchison was likely to face a primary challenge in 2012 if she opted for another term given conservative discontent with her voting record.   

DeMint's e-mail is one that's sure to rankle some in the party establishment, who would rather the South Carolina conservative stay out of contested GOP primaries.

DeMint's PAC endorsed several Tea Party-backed candidates during the 2010 campaign season, backing Republican Senate candidates like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Christine O'Donnell over party establishment favorites.

-Updated at 4:50 p.m.  


North Dakota Republican weighs 2012 challenge to Sen. Conrad

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk (R) said Wednesday that he's weighing a run against Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) in 2012. 

The Republican told supporters in an e-mail, obtained by the AP, that he has formed an exploratory committee and has already received encouragement and pledges of financial support from GOP activists ahead of 2012.  

Kalk is a former Marine who was elected to the state's Public Service Commission in 2008. 

Conrad, who is the only Democrat left in North Dakota's delegation after the 2010 midterm elections, has not yet announced his plans for 2012, and there's speculation he could opt to retire. Conrad is the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

After Democrat Byron Dorgan announced his retirement from the Senate last year, Republican Gov. John Hoeven easily won an open-seat contest to succeed him. Republican Rick Berg also knocked off Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) this past November to capture the state's at-large House seat.

Even without a top-tier candidate in the race, solid victories in 2010 are a big reason Republicans in the state think the seat will be competitive even if Conrad decides to run again.  

Outside groups have already started spending on ads in the state ahead of 2012. The American Future Fund began running radio spots earlier this month hitting Conrad over the size of the deficit. The Democratic group Commonsense Ten responded with its own spots touting Conrad as a "deficit hawk."


Sen. Hatch pushing balanced-budget amendment in Senate

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) penned a letter to their Senate colleagues Tuesday pitching a constitutional balanced-budget amendment.

"The American people are demanding action from Washington to get our fiscal house in order once and for all," part of the letter read. "They don't want any more empty rhetoric or excuses."

Six Senate Republicans have already signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation — Sens. Saxby Chabliss (Ga.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), John Ensign (Nev.), Michael Enzi (Wy.) and David Vitter (La.) — with more expected. 

Along with Hatch, Snowe and Ensign are up for reelection in 2012. Hatch and Snowe are rumored Tea Party targets and Ensign could also face a Republican primary if he opts to seek another term.

Hatch and Cornyn are looking to roll out the balanced budget amendment effort the week the Senate returns.

Republicans in the House, meanwhile, are hopeful there is renewed momentum for a balanced-budget amendment introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). 

One of the measure's co-sponsors in the House is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a rumored primary challenger to Hatch in 2012.