Ballot Box

Air war begins in Kansas first district GOP primary

State Sen. Tim Huelskamp has launched the first TV ad in the Republican primary for Rep. Jerry Moran's (R-Kan.) first district seat.

The ad will be playing district-wide on broadcast and cable starting Tuesday morning, according to the Huelskamp camp. The 30-second spot was produced by The Strategy Group for Media.

Announcer: "Every year they say they won’t raise taxes but taxes keep going up. Tim Huelskamp's different. When he says 'no' to new taxes, he means it. That's why they call him 'Hero of the Taxpayer,' 'Top Friend of Kansas Taxpayers' and 'Taxpayer Champion.' We can count on Tim Huelskmap to fight Pelsosi and Obama in Washington. Huelskamp, Republican for Congress. No new taxes."


Coats taps 14 former Senate colleagues for fundraiser

Former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) is hitting up his former colleagues as he attempts a return to the Senate.

Coats was slated Monday night to hold a fundraiser in Washington headlined by a whopping 14 former senators -- most who have other business in Washington.

The host list for Coats's Monday reception at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse was slated to include former Sens. Spencer Abraham (Mich.), Trent Lott (Miss.), John Ashcroft (Mo.), Connie Mack (Fla.), Norm Coleman (Miss.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), Bob Dole (Kan.), Don Nickles (Okla.), Pete Domenici (N.M.), Rick Santorum (Pa.), Slade Gorton (Wash.), Gordon Smith (Ore.), Tim Hutchinson (Ark.) and John Warner (Va.).

That's two former Senate majority leaders, three former cabinet officials and several other recently departed former senators.

Suggested donations to Coats's Indiana Senate campaign were $2,500 per PAC and $2,400 per person to host, and $1,000 to attend.

UPDATE: Coats's campaign says Lott, Mack, Nickles, Hutchinson and Warner attended.


Top of the ballot: Conway closes gap in Kentucky Democratic primary

TOP OF THE BALLOT TODAY: Conway closes in on Mongiardo in Kentucky Democratic Senate primary; Senate campaign chief sends signals to Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist; Election Day in Florida and Texas; and a new poll in New York state.

Crunch time in Kentucky: Dem primary becomes dead heat

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has closed the gap on Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, and their May 18 Democratic Senate primary is now a dead heat, according to a new SurveyUSA poll of the race.

While the GOP primary remains firmly in Rand Paul’s control, Conway has cut into Mongiardo’s lead and now trails just 35-32 – after trailing 45-27 last month.

Conway’s campaign has questioned Mongiardo’s use of taxpayer money on his travel expenses and housing allowance.

The Republican primary is still a 15-point race, with Paul leading Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson 45-30. The race has remained largely static in recent months, but with just more than one month left to go, it’s starting to become panic time for Team Grayson.

Cornyn nudges Crist on education bill

The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) endorsement of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has turned out to be a liability for the committee and candidate this year, and it’s hard to see what either side has gotten out of the arrangement.

But now, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) is trying to help Crist in another way, by subtly pushing him against vetoing a Florida education bill that the governor has been waffling on.

Cornyn took to his Facebook page to weigh in on the bill, and he comes down squarely in favor of the governor signing it.


Corporate taxes become an issue in Pennsylvania’s special election

National Democrats are attacking Republican House candidate Tim Burns because he was an executive for a healthcare company that deferred taxes on income earned overseas.
The Obama administration wants to repeal deferral, which has long been criticized by some Democrats as a tax loophole that allows companies to shelter income abroad. Critics believe it leads to the out-sourcing of U.S. jobs. Research has shown the practice costs the federal government from $12 billion to $28 billion annually in lost tax revenue because the money is often reinvested abroad and never repatriated.

Burns is running against Democrat Mark Critz in the special election for the late Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa.) seat. The Republicans consider the race a pick-up opportunity, and the fight over taxes and jobs could be a key issue given the economy.


Gingrich still bucking GOP base with endorsements

Five months after Dede Scozzafava, Newt Gingrich continues to endorse candidates who have antagonized the GOP base.

After doing an ad for embattled Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) in March, Gingrich is now backing Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), who is one of eight Republicans who ditched their party on the cap and trade bill last year.

“As someone who has served with Congresswoman Bono Mack, I can say without hesitation that she is exactly the kind of person we need in Congress,” Gingrich wrote in a Palm Springs Desert Sun op-ed this weekend. “Since her election in 1998, Mary Bono Mack has been a fighter for the people of her district and has strong conservative credentials.”

Many conservatives have not been happy with Bono Mack, though. Her cap and trade vote lingers as a sore spot with the right, and she has referred to herself as a “progressive Republican” and a “moderate Republican.”

The endorsements are particularly notable because Gingrich doesn’t frequently lend his endorsement. While potential 2012 candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty have spread the love to dozens of congressional candidates, Gingrich endorsements are fewer and farther-between.

Gingrich acknowledged earlier this year that he “was wrong” to endorse Scozzafava. But that didn’t stop him from backing Bennett, who faces losing his seat to a conservative revolt, and now Bono Mack.

Perhaps he should have a conversation with his fellow speaker at this past weekend’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Santorum continues to take heat – including at the conference – for his endorsement six years ago of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who was then a centrist Republican.

"The Speaker has one goal in 2010: stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine," Gingrich spokesman Joe DeSantis said. "He is doing everything he can towards that goal."


Boozman's first ad focuses on 'Christian upbringing'

Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) is up with his first TV of the Senate campaign, which focuses on his biography and doesn't take any shots at his GOP primary opponents. The four-term congressman is running in a crowded field for the GOP nod.

Announcer: "A Christian upbringing is a lifelong gift. John Boozman treasures that gift and shares it everyday. Taught to study hard and dream big, John Boozman earned a degree, played Razorback football and opened up a small town eye clinic, which became big time success. Family man, cattleman, congressman, John Boozman believes we can achieve any dream. John Boozman for Senate."

The spot is airing in Little Rock, Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas media markets on cable and broadcast, according to the Boozman camp. The Strategy Group for Media, which is based in Ohio and Texas, produced the 30-second ad.


Stupak field starts to take shape with entry of Sheltrown

Another Democrat is entering the race to replace Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

According to the Ogemaw County Herald, state Rep. Joel Sheltrown is trading in his state Senate campaign for a congressional bid:

Following the announcement last Friday that Rep. Bart Stupak would be retiring after 18 years in Congress, State Representative Joel Sheltrown (D-West Branch) announced Monday that he will be seeking election to the 1st Congressional District seat.

Sheltrown told the Herald Monday that when Stupak announced his retirement, he gave a couple of names of people who he felt would be qualified to run for the seat. Sheltrown’s name was on that list.

“Immediately after, I received a call asking me to run,” Sheltrown said.

Sheltrown, who was already involved in a state Senate campaign, said he had to talk to his wife and his strategists before he could make a decision.

“It’s an absolutely huge commitment,” Sheltrown said, adding that he understands that this is the largest district east of the Mississippi. “Once I put all the pieces together and it appeared that the door was open — if a door is open, I’ve never been one to walk up to it and close it.”

Sheltrown joins former Charlevoix County Commissioner Connie Saltonstall in the primary. Saltonstall was endorsed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Organization for Women before Stupak retired, but Democratic leaders may look for a more well-known candidate.

State Rep. Michael Lahti is reportedly also considering a run for the Democratic nod, and state Rep. Gary McDowell has also been mentioned.

On the GOP side, physician Dan Benishek is raising good money, and state House Minority Leader Kevin Elsenheimer is also considering the race.


Crist ad says Rubio known for 'preposterous deal making'

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) blasted his primary opponent in an aggressive new TV spot.

The 30-second ad links Marco Rubio with indicted former state Rep. Ray Sansom (R). It calls them two "career politicians both known for preposterous deal making."

The closing lines hint at more to come. "Marco Rubio, it's not just what we know, it's what we don't know. Yet."

An official in the Rubio camp said they're planning a quick response.

(h/t Saint Petersblog 2.0)


Portman, Boxer report big first quarters

Former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will report large first quarter hauls.

Portman raised $2.35 million in the last three months, mainly from in-state donors, his campaign confirmed to the Ballot Box Monday. The first quarter total brings his cash on hand to $7.6 million.

Democrats Jennifer Brunner and Lee Fisher have yet to release their numbers. Both have trailed Portman in fundraising and will surely have a higher burn rate than the Republican ahead of their May 4 primary.

In California, Boxer has raised $2.4 million since January – her "strongest fundraising quarter yet," according to a release. Boxer now has $8.7 million cash on hand, after banking $1.5 million of her first quarter haul.

Former Rep. Tom Campbell (Calif.) is the only Republican vying to face Boxer who has released his numbers. He raised $1.63 million for his Senate campaign last quarter.