Senate races

Senate races

Mourdock: Lugar attack 'pretty pathetic'

Sen. Dick Lugar's (R-Ind.) primary challenger said Tuesday that the longtime senator is increasingly "estranged" from the Indiana GOP, calling a Monday attack from Lugar's camp "pretty pathetic."  

Lugar is facing a challenge from the right next year in the form of Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), who Lugar's campaign compared to failed GOP Senate candidates Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell on Monday.

In a letter to Indiana Republicans, Lugar's political director said the litany of GOP county chairmen in the state backing Mourdock have been "duped into participating in the same failed scheme that resulted in Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle and cost us two crucial Senate seats in 2010."

O'Donnell and Angle both defeated more centrist Republicans in primaries in Delaware and Nevada last year. They both lost their general election contests.

In an interview Tuesday, Mourdock told The Ballot Box the letter was met with "the white hot anger of a thousand suns" by many of the local party officials who have endorsed Mourdock's bid.

"They're pissed," Mourdock said Tuesday, adding that he has spoken to several about the letter since Monday afternoon. "It's quite an insult to suggest that they're capable of being duped. I would say it's pretty pathetic." 

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NRSC hosting Heller fundraiser

National Republicans are quickly readying to help Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) fill his campaign coffers ahead of 2012. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee will host a fundraiser for Heller on Wednesday at its offices in Washington just two days after Heller was officially sworn in.  

According to an invitation for the event posted by the Sunlight Foundation, among the sponsors are former Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) and Boeing's political action committee.

Prices for the event range from $500 to $5,000.    

Heller was sworn in Monday to fill the vacant seat of former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who resigned on May 3. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) officially appointed Heller, who had already entered the 2012 Senate race, late last month.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will host a fundraiser this month for Heller's likley opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). Reid is headlining a breakfast reception for Berkley in Washington on May 26.

At the end of the first quarter, Berkley held a slight fundraising edge on Heller, who raised $671,000 during the first three months of the year and reported $1.4 million cash on hand.

Berkley raised $695,000 during the first quarter and reported $1.6 million in the bank.

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Lugar camp urges Republicans to abandon Mourdock

Sen. Dick Lugar's (R-Ind.) campaign said Monday that State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) would meet the same electoral fate in 2012 that Republicans Sharron Angle and Christie O'Donnell did last November should he win the Senate nomination.

Lugar is facing a tough primary challenge from the right in the form of Mourdock and has generated significant opposition from Tea Party groups, but his campaign is betting that Rep. Joe Donnelly's (D-Ind.) entry into the race will wake primary voters up to the electability argument.   

In a letter to Indiana Republicans on Monday, Lugar's political director warned them not to be "duped into participating in the same failed scheme that resulted in Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle and cost us two crucial Senate seats in 2010."

O'Donnell and Angle both defeated more centrist Republicans in primaries in Delaware and Nevada last year. They both lost their general election contests.

National Democrats see an opening in 2012 should Lugar lose the GOP primary to Mourdock and have successfully recruited Donnelly into the race. Donnelly made his candidacy official Monday and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly touted the race a "great pickup opportunity."

"Common wisdom says that Dick Lugar would easily win a general election in 2012 with a recent poll showing that he is the most popular public official in the state of Indiana," Lugar political director David Willkie argued in the letter. 

Willkie directly slammed the dozens of Republican County Chairmen in Indiana who have endorsed Mourdock.

"If the Republican parties in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado had taken the Reagan 'big tent' approach, we would have already repealed Obamacare," Willkie continued. "I encourage all Republican leaders to rally around the Dick Lugar flag now; you have been led down a wrong path and it's time to come home."  

Mourdock's campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Lugar touted the strength of his early fundraising efforts in an interview with CNN's John King set to air Monday night. Lugar is sitting on a $3 million campaign war chest.

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Another Dem jumps into race against Sen. Scott Brown

Newton Mayor Setti Warren (D) announced his Senate bid Monday, taking direct aim at Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in a lengthy announcement video posted on his campaign website.

"I'm probably about as well known as Scott Brown was at this point two years ago," said Warren, an Iraq war veteran and the state's first popularly elected black mayor. 

Warren calls Brown "an honorable man," in the video, but says "he has not been the independent voice in the Senate that so many expected him to be."

Warren is the third Democrat to get in the race against Brown, joining businessman Alan Khazei and activist Robert Massie. 

National Democrats have pegged Brown as their top Senate target in 2012, but the race against him still lacks a high-profile candidate. Brown is also sitting on a campaign war chest of more than $8 million. 

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Dem Senate chief: Donnelly Senate bid makes Indiana a 'great pickup opportunity'

Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) officially launched his Senate bid on Monday.

The three-term congressman made the announcement in a video posted on his campaign website. "I want to make sure that the voices of hardworking Hoosiers are heard in the U.S. Senate," he said.

He also noted he wants to fight against GOP "proposals to privatize" Social Security. "They also want to privatize Medicare, which is just plain wrong," he said.

His candidacy was given immediate backing by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which called the race a "great pickup opportunity." 

"With Joe Donnelly in the race, Indiana will be a great pickup opportunity for Democrats next year," Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who chairs the DSCC, said in a statement. "He is a strong candidate who knows how to beat the odds and win tough campaigns."

Donnelly isn't expected to face a primary. Meanwhile incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is facing a stiff challenge from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R).

Lugar is a top Tea Party target and Democrats have said they see a chance to win the seat if Lugar loses in the primary.

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Missouri GOP split on challenger for Sen. McCaskill

Missouri Republicans may have a competitive Senate primary on their hands.

A new poll shows Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) in a dead heat with former Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R). Akin hasn't yet declared whether he'll pursue a bid for the GOP nomination to face Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). But if he decides to run, he may have the edge.

In a new survey by Public Policy Polling, Akin took 29 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Steelman. Rounding out the field, there was 9 percent for attorney Ed Martin and 6 percent for Republican John Brunner.

The Democratic-leaning firm surveyed 400 Missouri GOP primary voters from April 28 to May 1. The margin of error for the survey was plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Perhaps more troubling for Steelman, the latest campaign finance reports show Akin has $910,000 in his congressional account, while the former treasurer had $193,528 banked and Martin had $158,858 saved for the primary.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Democratic Party predicted a bloody primary on the GOP side.

"Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman will have to wage an expensive and vicious primary to get their party's nomination in this Senate race, while Claire McCaskill continues to work effectively on behalf of Missouri's families," Caitlin Legacki said in a statement.

--Updated at 4:10 p.m. May 7

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George Allen has a new tracker

Former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), whose comments directed at a Democratic Party tracker helped derail his 2006 Senate race, already has a new man following his every move on the campaign trail.

From the Virginia Politics blog of the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

George Allen has a new shadow, and his name is Alan. Alan Piracha.

Piracha, 23, is working as a tracker for the Democratic Party of Virginia, following Allen, a Republican U.S. senate candidate, around the state, videotaping his appearances.

Piracha also appears to be of foreign descent, with his surname a common one in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This is only noteworthy given the infamous “macaca” moment of 2006, when Allen, on his way to losing his U.S. Senate seat to Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., singled out an Indian-American tracker working for Webb and twice called him “macaca,” regarded by many as a racial slur.

Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy said Piracha’s extraction was absolutely not a consideration when he was chosen as Allen’s tracker.

“That couldn’t have been further from the thought process,” Coy said.

Allen faces a potentially competitive Republican primary, but he starts a heavy favorite.

He likely will face former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine in next year's general election for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

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Rep. Giffords has edge in potential Arizona Senate bid

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) would start a Senate campaign with a significant lead over the likely Republican nominee.

Giffords remains in rehabilitation after being shot in the head in January, but some of her colleagues have hinted she may soon recover from the injury and mount a bid. If she does run, the congresswoman would start with a seven-point lead over Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), according to a survey by Public Policy Polling.

Giffords would also lead other potential GOP Senate nominees. Giffords has a 54-36 advantage over Sarah Palin, who has generated some buzz as a possible candidate. The Democrat also enjoys a 57-31 lead over former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.).

Meanwhile, Flake has a better chance if Giffords doesn't run. He's tied with former Attorney General Terry Goddard, and leads Rep. Ed Pastor 46-34 and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon by a margin of 47 percent to 33 percent.

The Democratic-leaning firm surveyed 623 Arizona voters from April 28 to May 1. The margin of error on the survey was 3.9 percent.

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