State by State

Illinois

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D) endorsed scientist Bill Foster for retiring Rep. Dennis Hastert’s (R) seat on Tuesday, adding to the Democrat’s growing support among political figures in the state.

Foster is facing two opponents in the Democratic primary but has emerged as a favorite through his fundraising and institutional support. He is also able to self-fund in an expensive media market.

“[Foster’s] diverse background, understanding of the community and commitment to changing the course of this country make him the best choice for voters in the 14th district,” Durbin said.

Foster has also garnered the support of state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.), along with about two dozen Nobel Prize winners.

Attorney Jotham Stein, 2006 nominee John Laesch and businessman Joe Serra are also running for the Democratic nod. The primary was recently set for Feb. 5, with the nominees meeting March 8.

— Aaron Blake




Louisiana

State Treasurer John Kennedy (R) has looked the part of likely GOP nominee against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), but another statewide GOP official is reportedly still considering the race.

Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (R), whose name came up during early speculation about Landrieu opponents, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he is still weighing a run, although he must first recover from a serious auto accident in August.

Kennedy, a former Democrat, switched parties before running for reelection in November, and last week he officially joined the Senate race, as many had expected. Karl Rove, a former adviser to President Bush, was part of the effort to recruit Kennedy.

Dardenne served 15 years as a state senator until winning a September 2006 special election to become secretary of state. He was reelected handily in November.

— A.B.




Nebraska

Businessman Tony Raimondo officially switched his party registration to Democrat on Tuesday in preparation for a possible run at the seat of retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel (R).

Raimondo abandoned an exploratory bid for the GOP nomination after former governor and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (R) joined the field, and he has recently been in talks with state and national Democrats about filling their void in the race instead.

He said the party switch does not seal the deal, and he is still weighing his options, according to local reports.

Former congressional candidate Scott Kleeb is also weighing a run on the Democratic side.

—A.B.




Ohio

Two local lawmakers are jumping into the Democratic primary for the seat of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) this week, crowding the field and likely helping the presidential candidate retain his seat.

North Olmsted Mayor Thomas O’Grady has said he will launch his campaign on Thursday, and Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman joined the race earlier this week, according to media reports.

Kucinich was already facing opposition from a pair of lesser-known political activists, including 2006 opponent Barbara Anne Ferris and anti-war activist Rosemary Palmer.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer also reported that Kucinich has informed county party officials that he will seek reelection.

— A.B.



Texas

Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) successfully pushed two bills to the House floor Wednesday with support from “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh.

Walsh spoke at a press conference Wednesday in support of the bills.

One bill would reauthorize the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and double its funding; the other would increase penalties for Internet service providers who host child pornography and ramp up law enforcement resources.

Lampson, founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children Caucus, has been active on the issue since the abduction and murder of a young girl in his district 11 years ago.

Lampson has been a top target of the National Republican Congressional Committee since taking former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R) heavily conservative district in 2006. He defeated write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R), 52-42, after a court ruled the GOP could not replace DeLay on the ballot following his resignation from the House.

In October, Lampson reported having raised $870,000 for his reelection bid, with $680,000 cash on hand.

Pete Olson, a former chief of staff to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), has emerged as an early front-runner and reported raising $170,000, with $180,000 cash on hand, but he will face a crowded primary.

— Chris Good