Senate races

Senate races

Webb enters the fray for Kaine in Virginia Senate race

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb wasn't interested in another term in the Senate, but he's growing increasingly active in helping the Democrats retain his seat.

altThe one-term Democrat, who announced in February he wouldn't run again in 2012, sent a fundraising plea to supporters Monday on behalf of former Gov. Tim Kaine, who is expected to be the Democratic Senate nominee next year. 

"In 2006, you joined me in our long-shot campaign to recapture this seat from the United States Senate and to bring affirmative, bold leadership to the challenges facing our nation," Webb wrote, asking for his supporters to now "harness that same spirit and determination" in supporting Kaine. 

It was the first email Webb has sent on Kaine's behalf, and is one part of his stepped up involvement in what's expected to be a competitive race, the senator's camp told The Ballot Box.

Kaine is expected for face former Sen. George Allen (R) in the general.

In the note, Webb billed Kaine, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, as someone committed to working across the aisle with Republicans. 

"Overcoming the pettiness and partisanship that are so common in Washington is vitally important during these difficult times, and it is one of the reasons I am so proud to support Tim Kaine for Senate in 2012," Webb wrote.

The note included a photo (at right) of the two men in a friendly half-embrace. The image clicked through to the donation page of Born Fighting, Webb's political action committee.

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GOP regains fundraising edge as Dem Senate retirements mount

The National Republican Senatorial Committee won the April fundraising battle, pulling in $3.43 million last month. The Republicans' haul bested their Democratic rivals by some $600,000. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which outraised the NRSC in the first quarter, brought in $2.8 million in April and now has some $6 million cash on hand and $4.3 million in debt. 

The NRSC has less money in the bank, but is less in the red. It's carrying only $1 million in debt, down from $2.75 million in March. But the NRSC had only $1.38 million banked at the end of last month.

Overall, the Republicans are ahead in fundraising, having brought in $14.65 million this cycle compared with $14.52 million for the Democrats. 

But the DSCC noted that nearly every incumbent senator up for reelection has raised over $1 million in the first quarter of 2011.

The Democrats are defending 23 seats this cycle, of which six (not counting Connecticut) are open-seat races. Republicans, who need a net gain of four seats if President Obama wins reelection, are defending 10.

"Given the expanding Senate map and the increasing number of Democrat retirements, including most recently in Wisconsin, it's more important than ever for Senate Republicans to be on solid financial footing," Rob Jesmer, the NRSC's executive director, said in a statement. 

"Fortunately, the NRSC's fundraising is almost 60 percent ahead of where we were at this point in the last presidential cycle."

--Updatd at 7:34 p.m.

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Club for Growth urges Wisconsin Republicans to reject Thompson

The Club for Growth is taking aim at former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), labeling the likely Senate candidate a "big-government pro-tax Republican." 

In a scathing statement released Wednesday, just a day after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) decided against a 2012 Senate bid, the Club urged Wisconsin Republicans to "recruit a pro-growth conservative" to run for the seat of retiring Democrat Sen. Herb Kohl next year. 

"Tommy Thompson raised taxes as Governor, supported ObamaCare, and now he wants to run for the United States Senate? April Fools was weeks ago," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement. "Wisconsin Republicans should recruit a pro-growth conservative to run, not recall some big-government pro-tax Republican whose time has come and gone. Club members are watching Wisconsin’s Senate race closely."

Thompson is currently traveling in Japan and a spokesman said Wednesday he isn't reachable for comment.

Should he run, Thompson will likely face opposition from conservatives, sure to highlight his posture during the healthcare reform debate. Back in 2009, Thompson praised the Senate Finance Committee's efforts on health reform in a joint statement with former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.).  

Thompson had told party officials in Wisconsin he would run for the GOP Senate nomination should Ryan pass on a bid, but he has yet to make a formal announcement.

In 2010, Thompson was considered such a strong contender against former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) spoke to him about running. But despite poll numbers showing he'd be competitive, Thompson opted not to run against Feingold, who was subsequently defeated by Sen. Ron Johnson (R).

-- Updated at 4:50 p.m.

-- Sean J. Miller contributed to this report.

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Steelman blasts Rep. Akin for backing 'weak-kneed budget compromise'

In her opening salvo of the Senate primary, Missouri Republican Sarah Steelman took aim at Rep. Todd Akin for supporting "the weak-kneed budget compromise between the House Republicans and President Obama."

The agreement, which was finalized in April after weeks of partisan sparring and rhetorical drama, funds the government through the end of September and cuts $78.5 billion compared to Obama's proposed but never enacted fiscal 2011 budget.

Steelman has sided with some conservatives who say that figure falls short of the $100 billion the GOP promised to cut in its "Pledge to America" during the 2010 midterm elections.

"I would have demanded that the Republican Party honor its campaign commitment and exact the full $100 billion in cuts ($62 billion prorated)," the former state treasurer said in a statement Wednesday. "Akin's failure to do so showed the House Republicans to be toothless dragons as we battle over the debt limit.

"The House should be proactive and use their leverage to vote on current cuts combined with systemic changes in the budgeting process."

Government spending is expected to be a major issue in the Missouri Senate race, which Akin officially joined Tuesday.

The congressman is currently on a statewide announcement tour.

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Rep. Ryan passes on Senate run

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) will not run for Senate in 2012.

"I am grateful for the tremendous outpouring of encouragement that I have received from my friends and supporters since Sen. Kohl announced he would not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate," he said in a statement Tuesday. "I believe continuing to serve as chairman of the House Budget Committee allows me to have a greater impact in averting this debt-fueled economic crisis than if I were to run for the United States Senate."

The seven-term congressman was considered a top contender for the open seat and would have had a clear path to the GOP nomination, sources said.

But Ryan faced a dilemma: run for the Senate and potentially vault into a GOP majority in the upper chamber, or stay put and keep climbing the House leadership ladder. 

Ryan, who is chairman of the Budget Committee, opted to remain in the House, where he is expected to eventually rise to become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

"House Republicans have taken bold steps forward in tackling our fiscal and economic challenges -- we have led, where others have not. I want to keep building on this progress and therefore, I will seek to continue serving my employers of Wisconsin’s 1st District as their representative in the House," Ryan said.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D) announced Friday he wouldn’t seek a fifth term next year, opening one of the state’s Senate seats for the first time in more than two decades.

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