State by state


Connecticut

Connecticut’s three House Republicans — Christopher Shays, Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons — were among 14 GOP members who voted against the $50 billion in spending curbs that exposed fractures in party leadership over the past several weeks.


The three centrists all face viable reelection challengers who are certain to use the budget-reconciliation votes in campaign messaging. But Shays’s Democratic foe, Westport Selectwoman Diane Farrell, is focusing for now on another recent GOP setback, the labor-health and human services (HHS) conference report that went down to defeat after 22 Republicans defected to vote no with the Democrats.

Johnson and Simmons were among those voting against the labor-HHS spending bill, which included cuts to No Child Left Behind and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while Shays voted with most of his party. Farrell’s campaign released a list of “lowlights” from the labor-HHS bill, accompanied by a statement calling the conference report “wrongheaded” and “mean-spirited.”

“Every time he votes, Chris makes clear that his priorities are the same as the Republican leaders, and [President] George W. Bush’s,” Farrell said.
— Elana Schor

Florida
Several leading Republicans who had bowed out of the Senate race in Florida are taking a second look, with last week’s Quinippiac University poll showing Rep. Katherine Harris (R) trailing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by 24 points and her campaign manager leaving.

Florida Speaker Allan Bense, Reps. Dave Weldon and Ginny Brown-Waite and former Senate contender Daniel Webster are all said to be considering bids, a Republican source familiar with Florida political circles said.

Bense, who had said he would not run, raised some eyebrows earlier this month when he issued a statement praising the president’s selection of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Republicans had avoided getting into the race because polls had shown Harris easily beating all of them in mock match-ups. But those same polls also showed Harris doing the worst of all prominent Republicans against Nelson, who is in his first term.
— Peter Savodnik

Maryland
By jumping into the race to succeed retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Joshua Rales, a multimillionaire resident of Bethesda, Md., could thwart the conventional wisdom that the race is Rep. Ben Cardin or Kweisi Mfume’s to lose.

Rales plans to announce his candidacy in January and has budgeted $7 million of his fortune for the race, said his campaign manager, Robin Rorapaugh.

Rales has hired top Democratic media consultant David Doak, who has worked for Sarbanes, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Rales also tapped pollster Paul Maslin, who worked for Howard Dean in 2004.

Allan Lichtman, an American University history professor, and Lisa Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist, are also running.
— Jonathan E. Kaplan

Michigan
The Rev. Keith Butler has been knocked out of first place in the GOP Senate primary by county sheriff and former state lawmaker Mike Bouchard, according to a new Republican poll to be released today.

The Strategic Vision survey, largely conducted over the weekend, shows that 23 percent of Republican voters back Bouchard; 19 percent, Butler; and 17 percent another pastor, Jerry Zandstra.

“Bouchard enters the race as the front-runner at this moment, taking a large portion of Butler’s support,” Strategic Vision CEO David E. Johnson said. “Zandstra’s support is more committed to their candidate, and Bouchard’s entry into the race did not affect his standing, as it did Butler’s. The question is where will the undecided voters go.”

Republicans have privately complained that Butler, who is also a former Detroit city councilman, cannot beat Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), even as they have endorsed the candidate. Other prominent Republicans earlier bowed out of the race, including Domino’s Pizza CEO Dave Brandon.

Bouchard had said his health would prevent him from running. But when he launched his Senate bid this month, he said he had fully recovered. He did not elaborate on his medical condition or what had troubled him in the first place.
— Peter Savodnik

Washington
The two Democrats vying to take on freshman Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) have new ammunition to work with in the wake of the House’s contentious debate over budget reconciliation, which Reichert voted against before he voted in favor.

Reichert was the only Republican to oppose the rule providing for consideration of the spending-cut package, which he ultimately voted to support. Opposing the rule is considered a strategic mistake for any member of the majority, but Reichert said he cast his vote to put his leadership on notice that he was displeased with the bill’s cuts to child-support enforcement.

“It was making a statement … I’m serious about this,” Reichert said. “Part of what I’m doing is working with leadership to make sure [the cuts] are taken out in conference.” The Senate’s budget reconciliation bill does not touch child support funding.

Despite his seemingly contradictory votes, Reichert said he would vote in favor of the budget-reconciliation conference report when it comes back to the House floor, possibly next month, unless it contains a provision opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
— Elana Schor

Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-Wash.) GOP challenger, Mike McGavick, is close to the $1 million mark in fundraising, according to his campaign manager, Ian Goodhew.

McGavick, however, still has a long way to go to reach Cantwell’s $3.8 million. On Nov. 29, McGavick’s supporters plan to hold another fundraising luncheon. Since late October, when McGavick announced his official run, he has had at least eight fundraising lunches, Goodhew said.

His “longtime friends” are hosting the Nov. 29 event, and participants are not required to donate. “If people are inclined to contribute, the merrier,” said Goodhew.

Even though Cantwell and McGavick could turn out to be bitter opponents, they are on the same page when it comes to limiting oil-tanker traffic in Puget Sound. Cantwell has threatened to filibuster legislation introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Commerce Committee, that would overturn 28-year-old protections. The Alaska senator’s proposal would allow BP’s Cherry Point refinery in Whatcom County to become a massive export terminal for giant oil tankers, increasing the company’s profits and giving little to Washington state in return, Cantwell argued.

McGavick, who was in Washington last week, met with Stevens on short notice to discuss the issue and to tell him that the idea is a nonstarter, according to Goodhew. At the same time, McGavick wanted to talk to Stevens about gas prices. In the end, McGavick and Stevens hope to achieve the same goal, decreasing the cost of gas, Goodhew said.
— Roxana Tiron