Senate races

Senate races

Maine’s GOP state treasurer to run for Snowe seat

Maine state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin (R) will join the quickly expanding field of candidates vying for retiring Sen. Olympia Snowes (R-Maine) seat, a GOP source close to Poliquin told The Hill.

With the filing deadline less than two weeks away, potential candidates from both parties have been rushing to the Maine secretary of states office to start the paperwork, but few have fully committed to a run.

He’s building the team and already collecting signatures, the source said of Poliquin. No doubt that he’s the heavy candidate here, as he’s the only one of those who have picked up petitions that can self-fund and give his campaign an immediate boost.

Poliquin also has connections to Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) and strong support from the Tea Party.

But Poliquin, a former gubernatorial candidate, is also under scrutiny about whether his private business activity interferes with his work as treasurer. The state House of Representatives voted unanimously on Thursday to send the issue to the state’s top court to determine whether Poliquin’s business activities violate a section of the state Constitution that bars the treasurer from engaging in trade or commerce.

Four Democrats, on Republican and an independent had already been in the race before Snowe, a heavy favorite to win reelection, announced Tuesday that she will not seek reelection. A long list of others have publicly expressed interest in the seat in the days since.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Michael Michaud (Maine) said Thursday he had decided against a bid, but Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine) is still considering, has taken out papers and has liberal groups attempting to draft her into the race.


Kerrey hit with attack ad on third day in campaign

The front-running Republican in the race to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) didn't waste any time before going on the offense against former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who jumped into the race on Wednesday.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) launched a statewide television ad dubbing Kerrey a "New York liberal" and a big-government spender. Bruning's campaign said it would spend an initial $70,000 to air the ad on cable and broadcast outlets.

"On issues, Jon Bruning and Bob Kerrey are as far apart as Nebraska and New York City," the narrator says, contrasting Bruning's positions with Kerrey's votes for earmarks and against a balanced-budget amendment.

New York City is shaping up to play a prominent role in Nebraska's Senate race, as Republicans try to paint Kerrey as a carpetbagger whose politics are tainted by the liberal Northeast, where Kerrey has lived for the past decade as president of The New School in Manhattan.


Vulnerable senators stick with their parties on Blunt contraception vote

Most vulnerable Senate incumbents stuck with their parties in Thursday’s vote on a controversial amendment to weaken the healthcare law’s contraception mandate.

Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) both voted against killing Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment, which would have let any employers opt out of healthcare coverage mandates, including the contraception mandate, if it violated their religious or moral beliefs.

Most vulnerable Democrats also stuck with their party. Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.) voted to toss out the amendment.

Two of the three Democrats who voted against getting rid of the amendment are up for reelection next year. Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), both anti-abortion rights Democrats, are heavily favored in their races.

The issue has been a hot one in many Senate contests.

Republicans have been running ads slamming McCaskill for agreeing with Obama on the issue, forcing her to respond in kind, while former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) has been hammering at former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) on social issues and has criticized him for not taking a stand on the bill.

Some women’s groups have called the measure Blunt-Brown to associate it with the Republican from Massachusetts, who is considered the most vulnerable Republican senator up for reelection this year.

The White House policy requires employers to include contraception in their employees’ health plans. It exempts churches and houses of worship.

Religious-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals would not have to directly cover birth control in their healthcare plans, but their employees could still obtain it, without a copay, from the firm's insurance provider.

Two retiring senators also split from their party: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted with the Republicans, while Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voted with the Democrats.


Tommy Thompson releases first TV ad as poll shows him strong

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) released his first television ad of the cycle, a spot attacking President Obama, on the same day a new poll showed him dominating his primary rivals and within one point of Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in a general-election matchup.

Thompson almost doubles up the support for his primary opponents, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.) and Wisconsin state Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Thompson is at 39 percent in the poll, conducted by the Democratic Public Policy Polling, while Neumann and Fitzgerald each are at 22 percent.

Top conservative and Tea Party groups including The Club for Growth,'s Erick Erickson and Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund have  endorsed Neumann, and many conservatives have issues with Thompson. But Neumann is also disliked by some Wisconsin conservatives because of lingering tensions from his primary against now-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who is close to Fitzgerald. The poll indicates the two are splitting the anti-Thompson vote, which could hand him a primary win.

Thompson is widely believed to be Republicans' best shot at winning the race, a perception the poll confirms.


Liberal group launches effort to draft Rep. Pingree into race to replace Snowe

Hours after Maine Sen. Olympia Snow (R) unexpectedly announced Tuesday that she would retire, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal PAC, launched an effort to recruit Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) for the race to replace her.

Snowe's reelection had been considered a sure thing, but without the popular senator in the race, Democratic prospects for overtaking the seat increased dramatically.

Pingree left the door open to seeking the Senate seat Tuesday in a statement applauding Snowe's service in the Senate.

"This upcoming election is critical to the future of our working families around the country, and in the coming days I will carefully consider how I can best serve the people of Maine," Pingree said.

PCCC promotes liberal candidates for Congress and launched a similar effort to recruit Democrat Elizabeth Warren into the Senate race in Massachusetts and has raised money on her behalf.

"Chellie Pingree took on corporate money in politics as the head of Common Cause and then helped lead the fight for public funding of campaigns in Congress," PCCC's co-founders wrote in an email to supporters. "She also worked hand-in-hand with us in the fight for a public health insurance option."


Dem candidate's video pushes back on Kerrey rumblings

Chuck Hassebrook, the Democrat who entered Nebraska's Senate race after former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) said he wasn't running, released a video Tuesday pushing back on reports that Kerrey had changed his mind.

A University of Nebraska regent, Hassebrook resigned from his post in February in order to run for Senate after Kerrey said he had decided not to run. But on Monday, word leaked that Kerrey was reconsidering and informing top Democrats that he might be getting in. 

"Two weeks ago I announced my race for the United States Senate from here in Lyons," Hassebrook said in his video. "I've dedicated my life to my state, to its people. I've raised my kids here in a town of 850 people."

Hassebrooks's references to announcing his campaign in the state and raising a family in Nebraska appeared to take a swipe at Kerrey, who Republicans had dubbed a carpetbagger because he has moved from Nebraska to New York, where he headed New School in Manhattan.

"Any Nebraskan is welcome to get in this race, and I know that with your help, I will have the resources I need to win in May, and again in November," Hassebrook said.