Senate races

Senate races

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.


Nevada GOP files ethics complaint against Berkley

The Nevada Republican Party filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee on Tuesday, seeking to keep alive the story that Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), who is running for Senate, might have acted improperly when she advocated for a kidney transplant center her husband had ties to.

It's unclear whether the complaint will go anywhere — the entire state delegation worked together on the issue, including her 2012 Senate opponent, then-Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). But move shows that Republicans are likely to hammer her on the issue during the race, which is expected to be close in the swing state.

The Las Vegas Sun's Jon Ralston first reported on the complaint.

"Congresswoman Berkley’s personal intervention, advocacy, and efforts on behalf of the UMC kidney transplant program resulted in direct financial benefit to herself," said state GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian. "Congresswoman Berkley’s long history of advocating, intervening, and sponsoring legislation for federal funding and support that benefits her husband, while her husband funnels her campaign contributions, also has resulted in direct pecuniary benefits to herself (indeed, a double-whammy)."

Democrats hit back with a web ad attacking Heller as a pawn for oil companies for having a fundraiser with BP officials a week before he voted to extend tax breaks for oil companies.

"Given Dean Heller's track record of siding with Big Oil days after taking their money, the Nevada Republicans' stunt should be seen for what it is: blatantly political and shockingly hypocritical," said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson. "The facts are clear: Big Oil's CEOs are getting what they paid for in Dean Heller’s pay-to-play scheme to protect taxpayer giveaways to oil companies.  However, considering who he replaced in the Senate, it seems only fitting that Dean Heller would continue his predecessor’s record of cheating on Nevadans."

Berkley's potential conflict of interest was first raised by a front-page story in the The New York Times last month.

Updated at 10:39 p.m. to include Democrats' response.


Log Cabin Republicans to honor Scott Brown

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) will speak to Log Cabin Republicans and receive the organizations Spirit of Lincoln award Tuesday, a day that also marks the end of the longstanding ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

The group, which represents gay and lesbian Republicans, is honoring Brown for his vote to end Dont Ask, Dont Tell, although the group said the timing of the dinner is coincidental. Although President Obama certified the repeal in July, it took two months to go into effect.

{mosads}When a soldier answers the call to serve and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight, Brown will say, according to his prepared remarks. What matters is whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.

Brown, who has served in the National Guard for more than three decades, will tell Log Cabin Republicans he entered the Senate in 2010 with an open mind on the issue, and after reviewing a Pentagon assessment that found a repeal would not adversely affect troop readiness, he decided to support a repeal.

The issue of gay rights is a delicate one for Brown, a Republican representing one of the most Democratic-leaning and socially progressive states in the nation. Brown appears headed for a serious reelection challenge in 2012, and has carefully avoided alienating either Massachusetts Democrats or national Republicans.

That caution is evident in Browns remarks to Log Cabin Republicans, where he will stop far short of calling out his fellow Republicans, almost all of whom voted to keep the ban in place.

I have found that there are good people on both sides of every issue and, even though we may come out on different sides sometimes, there are plenty of topics where we can find common ground, Brown will say.

Brown has not always been the darling of gay rights groups, and Democrats have seized the issue as a way to make the case that Brown is out of sync with Massachusetts residents on social issues.

Gay rights groups called Brown to task in July for refusing to participate in the It Gets Better video series, where prominent public figures offer support to gay teenagers in an attempt to cut down on suicide and depression.

Brown, the only Republican in Massachusetts’s 12-member congressional delegation, was also the only member of the delegation not to appear in the video.


Rep. Berkley gets ‘dishonorable mention’ from ethics watchdog

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) earned a "dishonorable mention" on Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington's annual "most corrupt members of Congress" list, a fact that could hurt her Senate campaign against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

CREW, a left-leaning group that monitors collusion of money in politics, did not include her in its top 14 "most corrupt" list, but added her to its secondary category. This comes after The New York Times ran a front-page story that questioned whether she had improperly helped her husband, who is a kidney surgeon.

"The line between political cause and personal financial gain is fuzzy for Rep. Shelley Berkley," the report says. "The congresswoman vocally advocates for Washington policies that financially benefit her kidney surgeon husband. In turn, she has become a major recipient of campaign donations from those in the kidney care industry."

Democrats think Heller, who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year, is one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans, Berkley is within striking distance in the swing state. A Republican poll released yesterday had her trailing Heller by six points. But in a close race, ethics charges from reputable sources could come back to haunt her.

Berkley defended her record.

"In every decision I have made, I have put the health of Nevadans first and that is why I have sought to make quality care available to veterans and to patients suffering from cancer, diabetes, autism, heart disease, kidney disease, and other illnesses," she said in a statement.

—Updated at 3:25 p.m. to include Berkley's statement.


Dems on the attack as McMahon jumps into Senate race

Democrats in Connecticut and Washington on Tuesday went on the attack against former wrestling executive Linda McMahon (R), the day the 2010 Senate candidate was set to announce a second bid for Senate in Connecticut.

Formerly the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, McMahon will compete for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) seat. McMahon is scheduled to announce her candidacy Tuesday at an event at a factory in Southington, Conn.

McMahon lost in 2010 to now-Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) by about 7 points, despite investing millions of her own money in the race.

"Even last year, when voters everywhere were electing Republicans, Connecticut voters said they didn’t need a greedy CEO like McMahon who made her fortune by putting her own profits before the health and safety of her workers and marketing sex and violence to children," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter. "Nothing has changed about McMahon since voters resoundingly rejected her candidacy last year and she shouldn’t be surprised when it happens again this time around.”

In a statement flagging her Tuesday announcement, McMahon seemed to preemptively push back on Democrats' expected line of attack, calling herself a job creator and not a politician.

"We need to send to Washington people who know how the economy works, who know how job creators think, who have created jobs and who have had to deal with the real-world consequences of the taxes and regulations Congress passes," said McMahon, according to the Hartford Courant. "You don't fix the problems in Washington by sending back the same people who created them."

Connecticut Democrats sought to tie McMahon to negative impressions of the wrestling industry, claiming she put profits ahead of employee safety and benefited from the violence and degradation of women.

“Connecticut voters are smarter than Linda McMahon gives them credit for, and they’re not interested in her hollow claims that she’s not a 'politician,' " said Connecticut Democratic Party spokeswoman Jacie Falkowski.

McMahon in entering a crowded primary contest that includes former Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), attorney Brian K. Hill and Vernon Mayor Jason McCoy (R). On the Democratic side, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is competing with former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D) and state Rep. William Tong (D).

A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed McMahon beating Shays 50-35, but losing in a match-up with Murphy or Bysiewicz.


Hoekstra predicts half million dollars for quarter

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra's (R-Mich.) campaign said they are "cautiously optimistic" that he can raise between $400,000 and $500,000 in the first quarter of his campaign to defeat Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a solid but not overwhelming number for the Republican front-runner.

The numbers were included in a strategy memo leaked to The Hill and other outlets.

Hoekstra has been known as a weak fundraiser in the past, and a half million dollar haul would help change that image. But it will be hard for him to catch up to Stabenow, who has $4 million in the bank for her reelection.

His focus right now is on squeezing out primary challenger Clark Durant, who helped found a series of Christian charter schools in Detroit. Hoekstra has succeeded to some extent by securing the endorsements of most of the state's legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder, who he ran against for the 2010 gubernatorial nomination.

The memo acknowledged Hoekstra's past fundraising issues but sought to minimize them. "As everyone has always said, Pete Hoekstra has historically not been known for breaking fundraising records," write top strategists John Yob, Fred Davis and Ed Goeas. "Pete's strength has always been driven from support from within the grassroots base of the party and conservatives across the state."

The numbers may be the floor estimate; campaigns like to set fundraising expectations low so when they break them, they can crow about the final figures.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee criticized Hoekstra's memo leak. "In a shameless attempt to lower expectations, Hoekstra’s team is putting out artificially low numbers and relying on talking points that are just flat out wrong," said DSCC Spokesman Shripal Shah. "Angered by Hoekstra’s support for the Wall St. bailout and bonuses for bailed out CEOs, grassroots Republicans in Michigan rejected Hoekstra’s candidacy for Governor last year and Hoekstra could barely raise over a million bucks for his statewide run."

Updated at 11:40 a.m. to include Shah's statement.