Senate races

Senate races

GOP chairman angers Michigan Senate contenders

Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak appears to have angered several potential challengers to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) with his recent comments about the field.

In an interview this week, Schostak said there were some "strong names" considering running, but none was "head and shoulders" above the rest.

Republican Randy Hekman, a former county judge, is the only Republican candidate to announce for Senate. Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, former state GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis and former Rep. Pete Hoekstra are all mulling bids.

Schostak predicted a top contender would emerge.

"I expect that will happen, but I don't know who it is. They haven't met with me yet, if they're out there," he said. "Doesn't it mean there won't be a primary, though.

"I would think by early summer we should have two or three in the race that are, you know, contenders," he told the Detroit News. 

Hoekstra, who ran for governor last cycle but lost in the primary, took issue with the chairman's comments.

“I thought Schostak’s comments were unfortunate," the former congressman told the Grand Rapids Press. Hoekstra also said he would decide in the next two weeks if he's going to run for the GOP nod.

Meanwhile, Land also weighed in on the chairman's comments. "Basically, what he is saying is he doesn't like us, which is a pretty rude thing for the state party chairman to say," she said.

Stu Sandler, the interim executive director of the state GOP, insisted the potential field includes some "strong candidates," but admitted Schostak could have been more precise with his comments. 

Schostak also told the News that none of the GOP members of Congress appeared interested in challenging Stabenow. 

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Lugar challenger hypes Indiana race, criticizes senator as missing in action

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock says his primary challenge to longtime Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) will become the pre-eminent conservative-versus-establishment match of the 2012 primary season.

"Given those who are up for reelection next year, I think you may see a lot of money flow into this race," Mourdock told The Hill on Monday. "You have [Sen.] Olympia Snowe in Maine, who I don't see getting much of a conservative challenge. You have [Sen.] Orrin Hatch in Utah, which has a convention system, making money less important. That leaves my race."

Despite the institutional advantages for Lugar — sky-high name ID and deep pockets — Mourdock will announce he’s raised between $125,000 and $150,000 during the first month of his campaign and has already lined up the backing of dozens of party officials throughout the state.

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Ret. Gen. Franks picks horse in Texas Senate race

Texas Senate candidate Michael Williams (R) has tapped retired Gen. Tommy Franks for a top position with his campaign.

Franks, who campaigned for President George W. Bush in 2004, said he felt compelled not just to support Williams, but serve as national chairman of his bid to succeed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

"As a retired military man, I don't often get involved in political campaigns. But I decided that there's a race going on in Texas right now that’s so important that I just couldn't stand on the sidelines," Franks said in an endorsement video released by the Williams camp.

While Franks isn't as politically active as, say, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, he's no stranger to the verbal jousting of a tough campaign. During the 2004 presidential race, Franks defended Bush's handling of the war in Afghanistan from criticism by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). He's also no stranger to controversy.

Franks was CENTCOM commander at the outset of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Journalist Thomas Ricks and others criticized Franks for his handling of the post-invasion situation in Iraq that spurred the development of a bloody insurgency. He retired from the Army in the summer of 2003, shortly after the onset of the American occupation. 

The short endorsement video features photos of Franks in his four-star Army uniform and of him receiving the Medal of Freedom from Bush in 2004. 

Williams and Franks both attended the Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas, the general noted in the video. "I know that [Williams] loves our country just as much as I do. I've spent a lifetime serving America," Franks said. "And I know it takes leaders like Michael Williams to make the right, conservative decisions." 

Williams faces former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, former solicitor general Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Roger Williams and Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones for the GOP nod. Other candidates are expected to join the race later this year.

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Obama hosting education town hall with Hispanics

President Obama will talk education with a Hispanic audience Monday, an effort that could help his party nullify the GOP's appeal to the fast-growing minority group on the issue.

Obama is participating in a "conversation" with Hispanic students, parents and teachers at a Washington high school. The early morning event is hosted by Univision and will be broadcast on the Spanish-language TV network later in the day.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Juan Sepulveda, the director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, held a conference call with reporters on Friday to preview the event.

The White House's move comes as census data shows Hispanics now represent one-sixth of the U.S. population. Democrats have been winning the battle for their votes, but Republican strategists believe the GOP has an opening on the issue of education through its support of school choice programs.

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Sen. McCaskill admits to 'tough week'

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) admitted to having a tough week.

The first-term senator has come under fire for not paying all the property taxes on a plane she co-owns with her husband, wealthy businessman Joseph Shepard, and other investors.

"Tough week. Important to keep my problems in perspective. Gonna continue to be upfront and keep working. Will blog more later," she tweeted Friday.

McCaskill has said consistently she wasn't attempting to avoid paying taxes.

"I made a huge mistake in assuming it had been taken care of," she told a St. Louis radio station Friday morning. "I know I just assumed that somebody who had responsibility for this in my husband's organization had taken care of it."

She added: "I should never had made those assumptions. And I'm paying a very high price for it, as I should."

The senator, an advocate for government ethics and transparency, has agreed to pay more than $287,000 in overdue property taxes from 2007 to 2010 on the plane.

She will likely have to pay close to an additional $40,000 to St. Louis County to cover interest and penalties related to her failure to pay personal property taxes.

McCaskill, a top GOP target in 2012, has been hammered by Republicans since the news broke. She has been doing media interviews all week with Missouri news outlets to talk about the issue.

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GOP could face immigration issue in NM Senate primary

New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) said he has the "political courage" to tackle immigration reform, despite the controversial nature of the issue for many GOP primary voters.

"I think what we're lacking in the U.S. Senate are people who are willing to have the political courage to take on the issue of immigration reform," said Sanchez, who is mulling a run for the Republican Senate nomination. "Coming from a border state, being an Hispanic, I think provides a great perspective [on] it.

"I've always considered myself to be somebody who's taken on those tough issues," he added. "I'm not afraid of the critique that may come with it."

Sanchez also has the experience of running a roofing company, which he says gives him additional perspective on the issue.

But that almost became a political liability during the lieutenant governor race last fall. New Mexico Democrats noted that Sanchez's company, Right-Way Roofing, was found to have employed 10 illegal workers in the late 1990s.

Sanchez’s camp notes that his company dismissed the employees immediately after they were found to be undocumented, and had been praised by federal officials for its scrutiny of new hires.

During an interview, Sanchez pointed out that he joined Gov. Susana Martinez (R) in pushing a bill that would have denied driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. The legislation failed, but Sanchez noted it as an example of his willingness to crack down on illegal immigrants.

"We should be enforcing the laws that are on the books right now," said Sanchez. "But it doesn't end there."

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Rep. Mack poised to enter Florida Senate race

Florida Rep. Connie Mack (R) is expected to announce his intention to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) at an event Friday in Ft. Myers.

Mack is set to make his announcement on the steps of the old Lee County courthouse at 10 a.m., according to a release. His remarks will be on "the 2012 race for the United States Senate in Florida against liberal incumbent Senator Bill Nelson."

If Mack does announce a run, as expected, the four-term congressman will be attempting to follow in his father's footsteps.

His father, also named Connie Mack, served two terms in the upper chamber in 1980s after holding the same 14th district House seat for three terms. The elder Mack also announced his first run for Senate at the old Lee County courthouse.

Mack will face some stiff competition for the GOP nod. Florida's state Senate President Mike Haridopolos has already been raising money for his bid, and former Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) is also in talks with campaign staff. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) is also thought to be mulling a run.

Still, Mack is expected to be a strong contender, in part, because of his fundraising ability. He started 2011 with just more than $400,000 in the bank and no debt, according to his last Federal Election Commission report.

Meanwhile, Nelson is getting help from national Democrats. Vice President Joe Biden was in Florida for two fundraising events benefiting the senator on Wednesday.

Mack's decision to jump into the Senate race will likely touch off an intense primary battle for his House seat. Republican Chauncey Goss, the son of former Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), said recently that he'd "seriously" consider running for the seat if it opened up.

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Potential Senate primary rival blasts ex-N.M. Rep. Wilson as 'moderate-type'

New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez dismissed his potential rival for the GOP Senate nomination as a centrist has-been who would be unable to excite Republican voters.

Sanchez was in Washington Thursday for the National Lieutenant Governors Association's winter meeting as he explores a possible Senate bid.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) announced last month he wouldn't seek reelection in 2012, prompting several candidates to surge into the GOP primary for the open seat. The field now includes former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), businessman and former congressional candidate Greg Sowards and Bill English. 

Sanchez, who has yet to declare his intentions, said Wilson's time has passed.  

"I think Heather served honorably," he said in an interview. "But if we consider the choices that were made by former establishment candidates, I think it's clear the choices will be very easy for the people of New Mexico.

"Do they want a return back to the days of moderate-type leaders [whose] conservative compasses [weren’t] pointed in the right direction? Or are they looking for somebody who doesn't have to reinvent himself?" he said. "I think the choice for U.S. Senate is abundantly clear."

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