Senate races

Senate races

Feingold’s PAC endorses Elizabeth Warren

Former Sen. Russ Feingolds (D-Wis.) political action committee, Progressives United, endorsed Democrat Elizabeth Warrens Massachusetts Senate race Tuesday afternoon.

When we launched Progressives United, we knew one of our key missions would be to support progressive candidates that are committed to ending corporate political abuse, Feingold wrote in an email to supporters. Today, Im proud to announce Elizabeth Warren will be the first United States Senate candidate Progressives United will officially endorse and support. Ive known Elizabeth and her husband for years, and she’s exactly the type of person who should be running for office. 

Warren is a top recruit for Democrats who believe she is their best shot at picking off Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the partys top target.

Progressive United is the latest liberal political group to back Warren: She already has endorsements from EMILYs List, which supports pro-abortion-rights Democratic women, and the Progressive Campaign Change Committee. It appears that Warren will be able to coalesce liberals around her campaign and stave off a serious primary challenge from any of the other candidates in the race.

Feingold, a liberal darling who bucked his party on some key issues from the left during his time in Congress, lost his reelection bid last fall but remains popular with the Democratic base. He was courted to run for Wisconsins open Senate seat or for governor, but decided against it this summer.

While Feingold strongly backs Warren, he voted against the financial regulatory overhaul she helped design because he believed it became too watered down to be effective legislation. He hinted at this in his endorsement — and said Warren would also hold fast to her beliefs.

In all my years in the Senate, I always took positions that I believed in, even when my own party tried to stand in the way, he wrote. I know Elizabeth will be exactly the same kind of senator.


NRSC seeks to tie Tester to Washington

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is up with a new Web ad attacking Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for "voting with President Obama 97 percent of the time" and accepting major campaign contributions from lobbyists.

The ad will not run on television and has no money behind it, but shows a likely GOP line of attack against the vulnerable first-term senator, who narrowly won election in 2006.

Tester's strength in the Republican-leaning but populist state is his image as a folksy Montana farmer — his populist rhetoric and attacks on former Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) in 2006 for taking money from corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff helped him win the seat. Burns was later cleared of charges of legal wrongdoing in the Abramoff case.

It's unclear how well Republicans' efforts to tie Tester to Washington will work; Democrats are likely to use the same attack against Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who is running against Tester and has spent more years inside the Beltway than Tester has.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman Matt Canter fired back, attacking Rehberg's record.

"This ad is brought to you by the same people who want to end Medicare in order to protect tax breaks for oil companies, so it's no wonder they want to attack Jon Tester and distort his record of bringing transparency and accountability to the Senate and making responsible decisions for Montana," said Canter. "Politician Dennis Rehberg, who was endorsed just last week by the right-wing shadowy special interest group Citizens United, has done the bidding of special interests for 30 years, voting in favor of his biggest campaign donors--Big Oil and Wall Street--100 percent of the time."

Watch the ad here:

Updated at 11:47 a.m. to include Canter's response.


Poll: Stabenow in a strong position in Michigan

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) leads her most likely Republican opponent by double digits and is within sight of safe territory, according to unreleased crosstabs of a nonpartisan Marketing Resource Group poll obtained by The Hill.

When matched against GOP front-runner and former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), Stabenow leads by 50 percent to 35.

While Hoekstra is less known in the state and his numbers are likely to rise, the 50 percent threshold is the general rule of thumb for whether an incumbent is safe heading into reelection. The poll numbers indicate that while the two-term incumbent could still be vulnerable in the Democratic-leaning state, at this point she is in a fairly strong position to be reelected.

Earlier information released in the poll showed Hoekstra up big in the Republican primary over Detroit charter schools founder Clark Durant, 51 percent to 3. Durant officially entered the GOP race late last week.

In the presidential race, Mitt Romney led the GOP field with 40 percent to Rick Perry's 17, and was tied with President Obama at 44 percent in the general election.

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted from Sept. 14-19 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.


Sharron Angle endorses in New Mexico Senate race

Tea Partier and former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) has endorsed conservative businessman Greg Sowards (R) in a three-way New Mexico primary.

"Greg Sowards is our only opportunity to advance conservatism," Angle wrote in an email to his supporters.

Sowards faces an uphill battle against two top-tier foes. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), a centrist, is considered the front-runner in the race, while Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is running to her right. Washington-based outside conservative groups dislike her voting record but are hesitant to back Sanchez over some more centrist stances he's taken on immigration.

That leaves Sowards, a self-funding candidate who could play spoiler to Sanchez. The race has not been polled recently, but mid-summer polls had Wilson near 50 percent support. If Sowards gains enough traction, he could keep Sanchez from mounting a real challenge to Wilson, giving her the nomination.

Angle, who lost her 2010 bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is a controversial figure for some hard-right stances — and for failing to convert what many Republicans saw as a golden opportunity to beat the Democratic leader.

The Democrats in the New Mexico Senate race are Rep. Martin Heinrich and State Auditor Hector Balderas. The candidates are running to replace the retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).


Tea Party groups split in Nebraska Senate primary

Freedomworks, a deep-pocketed Tea Party group that has promised to get involved in Republican primaries, endorsed Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg (R) over Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) in their primary to challenge Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

"Over the past few months we have been speaking with our members and allies in Nebraska and two things are clear:  they are going to work hard to beat Ben Nelson, and they want Don Stenberg to be their next senator," said Max Pappas, Executive Director of FreedomWorks PAC. 

The group's endorsement splits Tea Party organizational support between the two: Tea Party Express, another Washington, D.C.-based group, has endorsed Bruning.

Bruning was seen as the front-runner early on because he has had the upper hand in fundraising against Stenberg, who is making his fourth run for the Senate. But Nebraska politicos say the race has tightened as Bruning has made a few gaffes including comparing welfare recipients to raccoons.

State Sen. Deb Fischer, a more centrist candidate, is also in the race. Whoever wins the GOP nomination could have a good shot at Nelson in the heavily Republican state.


Bivens becomes first Dem to enter Arizona Senate race

Democrats finally have an official candidate for Senate in Arizona: Don Bivens, a former Arizona Democratic Party chairman, announced a bid Monday for the seat of retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

In a Web video announcing his candidacy, Bivens built on anti-Washington, pro-growth themes that have been dispatched by candidates of both parties during a campaign season characterized by public disdain for incumbent politicians.

"I'm not a politician," Bivens said. "I've spent my entire career in the private sector working with businesses large and small."

Bivens told supporters in the video that the current batch of politicians are preoccupied with "extreme personal ideology" and have neglected to solve real people's problems through hard work. He said he has built his legal career on finding consensus among those with diametrically opposed agendas and seeking out the type of innovative solutions sorely needed in Washington.

Although Democrats see the Senate seat in Arizona as one of their strongest pickup opportunities in 2012, they have held off on running candidates until now, out of deference to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was considering running for the seat before she was shot in the head during a January attack.

Giffords is still recovering, and has not yet made a decision about running for the open Senate seat or running for reelection in the House. A Democratic strategist in southern Arizona told The Hill that Giffords's staff is encouraging any Democrats interested in the Senate seat to enter the race.

While Bivens is the only Democrat to have announced, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona and others are said to be mulling a run. On the GOP side, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is considered the front-runner for the nomination.

A prominent attorney in Phoenix, Bivens is a former president of the State Bar of Arizona and served on the board of a local unit of Planned Parenthood.


Brown calls for US to reevaluate Palestinian relationship

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) called Thursday for the United States to reevaluate diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and foreign aid to Palestinians in an address before the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Brown is the latest in a long list of Republicans who have aimed to shore up Jewish voters over the past week by taking hawkish stances towards the Palestinians and highlighting their avid support for Israel's security.

GOP presidential candidates have been one-upping each other on who can take the hardest line stance on supporting Israel. And on Wednesday, a Senate committee threatened to close the Palestinians' office in Washington and to cut off their aid if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asks the U.N. Security Council to accept an application of membership for Palestine.

"I have been vocally opposed to the Palestinian Authority’s actions," Brown will tell the Jewish group, according to his prepared remarks. "Following this reckless and unilateral action, the United States must reevaluate its diplomatic relationship with the Palestinian Authority."

Brown is headed for what is shaping up to be a heated race to keep the Senate seat he won in a 2010 special election to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who died in 2009.

Republicans have jumped on what they perceive to be an opportunity to make inroads with the Jewish vote since last week's special House election in New York, where Republicans scored an upset victory in part because Orthodox Jewish voters abandoned the Democratic candidate.


NRSC outraises DSCC for August

The National Republican Senatorial Committee outraised the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in August, pulling in $3 million to the DSCC's $2.5 million.

The DSCC has $9.2 million cash on hand and $1.9 million in debt, while the NRSC has $5.2 million cash on hand and no debt.

Overall, the DSCC has outraised the NRSC in the year, $29 million to $27 million.

Interestingly, the party out of power outraised the majority party in the House as well: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brought in $3.6 million last quarter to the National Republican Campaign Committee's $3 million.

Put together, this may indicate both parties struggled from the debt ceiling debate that ran through July in August -- and that donors were more willing to donate to the groups out of power than those in control during that period.


Kaine backs aspects of Obama's tax increases on wealthy Americans

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) supports President Obama's broad outline to pay for his jobs bill including allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for some wealthy Americans, his campaign told The Hill.

"Governor Kaine believes Congress should act quickly to put more Americans back to work. As he's said before, the legislation should be paid for by rolling back tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals and companies who don't need them," said Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine Tuesday evening. "If only George Allen shared that same commitment to paying for legislation when he served in the Senate we would not be facing the debt crisis we are today."

Kaine, who also has served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is running against former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) for Allen's old Senate seat. Both parties have made the race a high priority.


Aide to embattled Sen. McCaskill says she's not avoiding Obama

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said she hopes to join President Obama when he visits St. Louis in October, despite previous reports suggesting the Democratic senator hoped to avoid appearing with Obama in her state, where more than half of voters disapprove of Obama's job performance.

An aide to McCaskill told the St. Louis Beacon that earlier reports claiming she had decided to stay in Washington during the visit were wrong, and that McCaskill will make an effort to join Obama, assuming it won't mean missing any major votes.

Republicans seized on speculation that McCaskill was avoiding being captured on film being chummy with the president for fear his reelection struggles might complicate her own. McCaskill, a fiscally conservative Democrat who took her seat from a Republican in 2006 by a slim margin, is considered one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2012. She was an early supporter of Obama during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Obama is scheduled to travel to St. Louis on Oct. 4, but details of the trip have not been announced.

—This post was updated at 10:00 a.m.