Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A look at the 2008 Senate races, Part 2

Yesterday, I revealed Part 1 of my look at the 2008 Senate races in the Tier III and non-race categories. Today, let's look at Tier II, the races that are itching to become Tier I races but aren't there quite yet for whatever reason, and a special category that I'll call Tier I-A.

Tier I-A

Due to recent incumbent retirements, these two seats are just itching to jump to Tier I status, but have yet to have a named challenger, though in both cases many people are assuming certain powerhouse names will declare. But until they actually do, I can’t put them in the top tier just yet. And if they end up not declaring, these will drop to Tier II or even III. Counting down towards the top tier....

9. Nebraska: Chuck Hagel (R) has announced his retirement, and now all eyes turn to former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey (D) to see if he will challenge for this open seat. If he enters, this jumps up to become a top-tier race. Current Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (R), who was also a former Governor of Nebraska, may enter this race too. If both do, then it will be an epic battle of two giants in Nebraska politics. Already, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) is in the race, originally planning to primary Hagel if need be. If Kerrey does not enter the race, then Omaha mayor Mike Fahey (D) is the next choice for the Democrats.

8. Virginia: Virginia icon John Warner (R) recently announced he would be retiring rather than seek another re-election. Just about everybody seems certain enough that former Governor Mark Warner (D) will jump into this race. If he does, this automatically becomes a top-tier race. Warner left the governorship with a whopping 80% approval rating. On the GOP side, Rep. Tom Davis and former Governor Jim Gilmore, who dropped out of the presidential race, seem to be likely entries to replace John Warner. This has the potential to turn into a very nasty primary, which would only serve to help Mark Warner even more. Gilmore was known as the governor who helped drive the state into near-bankruptcy with his car tax cut, and Warner as the one who fixed the problem when he took over for Gilmore. So if they were to face each other in the general, well, that would be quite interesting.

Update: And just on cue, Rasmussen Reports released a new poll showing Mark Warner would CRUSH Jim Gilmore by a 54%-34% margin, and Tom Davis by a 57%-30% margin.

Tier II

Alaska: Ted Stevens (R) is always a candidate for retirement, being 84 years old right now, but says he will seek a sixth term. Stevens is also now under FBI investigation for his connection with Veco Corp., where several executives have already pled guilty to bribing his son Ben, who was the former state senate president. Democrats feel either former Governor Tony Knowles or Anchorage mayor Mark Begich would be their top contenders for this seat. I put this in Tier II because the seat may at least change hands, if not parties.

Kentucky: Even though Mitch McConnell (R) became the Senate Minority Leader, he is a top target of the Democrats. Right now, the focus in Kentucky is on the Governor’s race, where incumbent Ernie Fletcher (R) is in serious trouble of being voted out of office in a landslide to Steve Beshear (D). Should that happen, it will only encourage Kentucky Democrats even more to take on McConnell. McConnell has seen his disapproval rise over the past year, and now Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo (D) has formed an exploratory committee to challenge him. The grassroots seem to prefer Lt. Col. Andrew Horne (D), a Marine who has served in both the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War.

New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg (D) said he’s running again, but his age is always a concern, as he is already 83 years old right now. But no top-tier challenger has yet stepped up to challenge him.

North Carolina: Elizabeth Dole (R) dodged a bullet when Governor Mike Easley, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits, said he would not run for her Senate seat. Good news for her, as a January poll had showed him beating her. However, North Carolina’s Public Policy Polling showed Dole only beating state rep. Grier Martin (D) by a 43%-37% margin, and it’s looking more like Martin will jump in the race. Again, any incumbent not polling above 50% in a head-to-head matchup is in trouble. But until Martin formally declares, this stays in Tier II.

South Carolina: This race is in Tier II because Lindsey Graham (R) may actually be primaried out of his own party, for his support of Bush’s immigration plan. The natives are restless. A party switch is much less likely, but a different senator serving in this seat come 2009 is a distinct possibility.

Texas: John Cornyn (R) should be safe, but the recent defection of one of the most influential Hispanic Republicans in the country, Houston businessman Massey Villareal, to the Rick Noriega (D) camp, signals perhaps a change in the Latino community in Texas. They already kicked out the only Mexican-American Republican in Congress last December when Henry Bonilla (R) lost his re-election bid to Ciro Rodriguez (D). The analysis showed that Latinos that had reliably voted for Bonilla in the past abandoned him in mass droves. In Maverick County, Bonilla got 59% of the vote there in 2004, and lost that county by a whopping 86%-14% in 2006, mostly because of the immigration issue, and his support for building a fence along the border. The same may be happening now to Cornyn. Also in the race is wealthy trial attorney Mikal Watts (D). Party activists feel Noriega has a much better chance at knocking off Cornyn than Watts would. Noriega is a Lt. Col. in the Texas National Guard, and served in Afghanistan after 9/11.


Anonymous said...

speaking of KY- Draft Horne

Texas Democratic Party Activist said...

Texas Democratic Party activists DO NOT "feel Noriega has a much better chance at knocking off Cornyn."

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga recruited Noriega. DailyKos is great, but Markos isn't from Texas, doesn't know Texas voters, and does not qualify as a Texas Democratic Party activist. Texas bloggers have followed Markos's lead, but those bloggers aren't the county chairman and precinct chairs who are the party activists.

Party activists outside of Noriega's home town have a lot of questions for Noriega.

For example, here in Texas the immigration debate is flipped from the way it is in some states. In other states, it is the Republicans who want to shut down immigration and the Democrats who want more liberal immigration laws. In Texas, big business LOVES immigration because undocumented workers drive down wages and have no enforceable rights in the workplace.

Noriega is long been the pro-immigration darling of Texas big business. In fact, the biggest, nastiest Republican on the planet (the same guy who paid over a million dollars to fund the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry) is Noriega's single biggest financial backer.

I promise you, real Texas Democratic Party activists have not forgotten this!

Kyle said...

Speaking on TN, how about a Draft Gore movement. ;-)

boadicea said...

Texas Democratic Party activists have two strong candidates, so there is a split.

Personally, as one of the folks from Texas who drafted Rick into the Senate race back in march, (to head off another nasty rumor being perpetrated by Watts Bots, that Noriega somehow orchestrated his own draft movement a la John Sharp), I can tell you that Markos did NOT draft Rick Noriega-though he is enthusiastic about Rick, and we welcome his and the other national netroots support.

Because this is a Texas race with a national reach, and Rick Noriega is the best candidate to turn Junior John

Nice false clarity on the immigration debate, btw. Care to cite a source or two for that?

And as for Bob Perry's money, folks have been awfully excited about those checks-assuming that there were some votes Perry wanted for them. However, none of these excitable types have indicated what votes they think Perry got from Rick Noriega.

As Mikal Watts isn't shy about telling his opponents that his money buys influence, I suppose it's understandable that these Watts supporters assume everyone is for sale.

Rick's attitude, from his very first race has been a bit different when the question of influence has come up.

(From a the Houston Chronicle, 3/7/98, sorry, no link available):"If you're going to take this job, you better have the ability to tell people `no,' " Noriega said. "And I think that much like these community folks, these . . . organizations sought candidates that best suited the district."

So, if Bob Perry wants to contribute to the election of a legislator who votes my interests, then I say "thank you, and well done. Enjoy the good karma. You need it."

Texas Democratic Party Activist said...

Let me make a few quick points.

1. While I understand the inclination to congratulate yourself "as one of the folks from Texas who drafted Rick into the Senate race back in march," Markos at DailyKos, Karl-Thomas at BurntOrange, and Richard Morrison were already recruiting Noriega months before March. More to the point, if Noriega is so gung ho, why did he need to be drafted? God save us from "reluctant politicians" who need to be approached on bended knee before they'll accept the crown.

2. You want a source for Noriega being pro-immigration? Sure … but if you want a source for the Pope being pro-Catholic, you're going to have to do your own research. How ‘bout when Noriega’s BFF Kos posted "Immigration is clearly going to be a big issue in Texas, where … Noriega is now picking up the support of prominent Republican Latinos on the strength of his pro-immigration stance." How ‘bout Noriega’s sponsorship of HB 1403 which entitled students who don’t have legal resident status to pay in-state tuition at Texas colleges and to receive state financial aid. Noriega’s BFF Morrison considers this bill one of Noriega’s most significant legislative accomplishments "making Texas the first state in the country to provide in-state tuition rates and financial assistance for certain immigrant children" who do not have legal resident status.

3. You want to know about Noriega as the waterboy for big business cronyism in Texas? Maybe you want to read "Rate of Exchange, What might $1.5 million get you in the Texas Legislature?" from the March 12, 2004, edition of the Texas Observer and "Ending Pay to Play" from the October 8, 2004 edition of the Texas Observer. Then check out who benefited from the legislation and cross reference the list of companies that benefited from the legislation with a list of companies who have been Noriega’s biggest financial supporters. When you finish, you can make a list of all the legislation that Noriega has authored, sponsored, co-sponsored, or even voted for which increases the regulation of Texas homebuilders who are Noriega’s number one financial supporters and who (coincidentally?) have the most favorable laws applicable to any homebuilders anywhere in the nation (it’s a short list – in fact, it’s a blank page).

BruinKid said...

So being pro-immigration is now a bad thing in Texas? Like I wrote in the original post, Latinos in TX-23 didn't seem to take to that.

Texas Democratic Party Activist said...

Texas Democrats have open minds (and open borders) with respect to immigration, but Texas Republicans (excluding the chamber of commerce zombies who see immigrants as easily exploitable workers) are very xenophobic about immigration. Unfortunately, Texas independents are more like Texas Republicans on this issue. Here's some polling:

"Sixty-four percent of respondents said the United States allows too many legal immigrants into the country... The poll also found that 80 percent of Texans surveyed agreed that the United States should toughen restrictions on visas for foreign students. Eighty-two percent said there should be tougher restrictions on visas for other visitors to this country."

Immigration is a deadly issue for Democrats hoping to expand past our base (partly because we get very poor levels of turnout among Hispanic communities and partly because some Hispanic voters in Texas would vote pro-immigration but they are one-issue anti-choice Catholics and sometimes vote for an anti-immigration candidate who is also anti-choice).

CapitolAnnex said...

Texas Democratic Party Activist said:

"Noriega is long been the pro-immigration darling of Texas big business. In fact, the biggest, nastiest Republican on the planet (the same guy who paid over a million dollars to fund the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry) is Noriega's single biggest financial backer."

You've got the wrong Noriega there. The Texas Observer reported that the Perry's were the single largest contributor to Rick's wife, Melissa. I'd have to go back through Rep. Noriega's reports, but I don't think that the funds he was give by Perry make Perry his biggest donor.

Regardless of that, Rick Noriega has voted against Bob Perry at every turn. On example is here. Amendment 77 (by Coleman) to HB 1, 80th Texas Legislature, Record Vote 237, Tex. Hse. Jrnl., 80th Tx. Leg. Page 1324-1325. On the motion to table, Noriega voted "Nay." (95 Yeas, 49 Nays, 3 Present, not voting.)

CapitolAnnex said...

Texas Democratic Party Activist said:

"Markos Moulitsas Zuniga recruited Noriega. DailyKos is great, but Markos isn't from Texas, doesn't know Texas voters, and does not qualify as a Texas Democratic Party activist. Texas bloggers have followed Markos's lead, but those bloggers aren't the county chairman and precinct chairs who are the party activists."

This is a gross misinterpretation of the facts. Do you think that someone like Kos would do something like that without taking his cues from the Texas Netroots? There were many people in the Texas Netroots who were working to draft Rick Noriega. As happens with things like that, word leaked out. While the writer of that post indeed makes it sound like it was a top-down movement, it was not.

I can assure you that the Texas Netroots does not cotton to being told who our candidates are by anyone, Kos included.

Texas Democratic Party Activist said...


Let's not lose sight of the facts.

I said: "the biggest, nastiest Republican on the planet (the same guy who paid over a million dollars to fund the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry) is Noriega's single biggest financial backer."

You responded: "You've got the wrong Noriega there. The Texas Observer reported that the Perry's were the single largest contributor to Rick's wife, Melissa."

You're partly right and mostly wrong.

You are correct that the Texas Observer (and the Houston Chronicle, for that matter) reported that Bob Perry was Melissa Noriega's biggest financial backer.

However, you miss the point that Bob Perry is also Rick Noriega's biggest financial backer (in addition to all of the money that Perry gave Melissa) according to FollowTheMoney.Org.

Now, let's discuss Noriega being recruited by Markos (who I am in no way criticizing -- I'm just pointing out that he's not from Texas which is not crime or at least not a felony crime).

You say "Do you think that someone like Kos would do something like that without taking his cues from the Texas Netroots?"

Let's try to remember back to March. Do there statements ring a bell?

"vince makes another excellent point. where is this noise about a draft movement coming from? because it sure as fuck isn't coming from the texroots or from grassroots activists who live in texas."

"I agree that the perception of having our choice forced on us from outside may be a bit too humbling. Further, I am not 100% sure I agree with Kos's 'draft' effort. Although I would love to draft Gore for Prez, I do not see a draft being ideal for Texas unless the potential candidate has the spirit and heart to make a good run."

"i have yet to hear of any draft movement organically springing up around noriega here in texas. if it exists and nobodty in the texroots knows about it, then i would bet it's consultant-driven and not organic. just to be clear, i have no gripe w/noriega and think it'd be great if he ran, but this noise about a draft is crap."

"It's accurate to say in my opinion, that nobody in the TexRoots knew about it. It was not made public."

That last comment is from you, right?

Here's an excerpt from your own website for god's sake!:

"The Texas Netroots Will Not Be Dictated To ... Oh, really? A full-fledge draft effort is going to be launched in Texas? ... neither will the Texas “netroots” be dictated to by anyone-be that the world’s most famous political blogger ... My gripe is not at all with Rep. Rick Noriega (D-Houston), who is the candidate it appears Kos is trying to annoint. It’s that anyone besides Texas bloggers are trying to annoint anyone as "the" netroots candidate for U.S. Senate from this state in 2008."

Let's be clear about this point: I know that you and Anna subsequently got some further communication that made you reevaluate your comments which I quoted above. And I further know that you and Anna reevaluated your statements after you got those further communications.

But you need to know this: I and every block walker, precinct chair, and home town party activist did not get the inside scoop that you and Anna got so we feel currently feel the same outrage that you and Anna felt back in March.

I'm telling you that LOTS of Texas Democrats feel like Noriega is being forced down our throats by by a small group of bloggers who have taken it upon themselves to crown a nominee, and we don't like it. I'm sure that Noriega is not a bad guy but the way he's being sold is putting him on bad footing with a lot of people who mistrust this process where we were neither included nor even consulted int he process.

If you doubt that this insult is real, go back and re-read your own words from March, and maybe you'll remember how excluded you felt, and maybe then you'll understand how excluded many, many Democrats now feel.

Libby's Blog said...

This yellow dog democratic activist (for well over thirty years, thank you) hitched her pony to the Noriega wagon for a number of reasons. Markos, though I highly respect him and am an avid reader of Daily Kos among other progressive blogs, had nothing to do with my decision. My decision was made independently and was done so after much reflection about where our state and country are, where both need to go and who can get us there. I can tell you that I felt both thrilled and gratified to learn our party had not one, but two strong candidates. It means I have a choice because Cornyn obviously is and was never a choice for me.

Any Republican or Republican Lite candidate is out of the question as a force of the profound change required to get both our state and country back on track. The GOP’s record of incompetence, corruption and failure, and its blatant contempt for our constitutional rights is obvious. And one has to merely replay old news clips from CNN to witness the Republican Party’s small if not zero government hard at work during Katrina.

Given the overall big picture and the destructive impact one-party rule has visited upon us, it seems silly to snort and puff about so-called campaign donations from this person or that one. Everyone knows campaigns take a lot of money and donors like to spread their money around. The charges about Mr. Perry’s potentially small donations to Democrats are irrelevant in my book because I know Mr. Noriega won’t do Mr. Perry’s bidding. Besides, everyone in Texas knows that Mr. Perry is the gift that keeps giving millions to the Republican Party, especially the Texas Republicans including Tom Delay’s infamous Texans For A Permanent Republican Majority effort. And of course Perry has funded organizations committed to undermining Democrats, too, as we all well know.

As far as illegal immigration is concerned, as someone mentioned above, big business here loves and thrives on it here because it allows them to pay slave wages to desperate people who have no protection whatsoever. We all know that the GOP loves big business, too. Resolving the conflict among all involved including big business, its minions in the GOP, the xenophobes and the legal immigrants is such a net free high wire act that Senator Cornyn speaks out of both sides of his mouth about it. “No border wall in south Texas!” he shouts from the roof tops. And yet he voted to fund one. Another Republican with bi-polar moments I suppose….

The fact of the matter is, the solution to illegal migration , especially in Texas, will require a lot of thinking outside of the box. Someone will have to break down the walls of resistance and obstacles put forth by all of the groups with vested interest in both the “open borders” concept and those who support a border wall.

As far as I am concerned, Mr. Noriega is the candidate who possesses the strength of character, moral courage and the iron willpower required to pull off a workable compromise and a potential solution.

No one is “crowning the guy” and no one is shoving anyone down anyone’s throat here. I am appalled a fellow Democrat would use such vehement language about a strong candidate with proven and outstanding leadership qualities.

boadicea said...

TDPA, so let's get this straight-two of the three you mentioned by name are Texans.

So your big scoop is that some activists, bloggers and former candidates for office talked about a potential candidate for office, and how to support him. But that not everyone blogging in Texas knew about the conversation.

Quelle scandale!!!

You should stop before you make yourself even more ridiculous.

Rick's primary opponent laid out a check to his campaign of literally millions of dollars when he formed his exploratory committee in an attempt to clear the field of opposition. Now THAT'S a candidate being forced down the throat of Texas Dems.

Texas Democratic Party Activist said...

boadicea -

When you are trying to correct someone and use the phrase "let's get this straight," you ought to bother to get your facts straight.

I enjoy DailyKos and BurntOrange, and I have no gripe whatsoever with either of them, but neither Markos nor Karl Thomas lives in Texas.

You and Nate Wilcox brag that you started the "draft Noriega" scheme in March, but the effort of Markos and Karl Thomas predate yours.

Let me ask you this: did Vince and Anna not have the reaction that someone other than the TexRoots or the grassroots in Texas had selected Noriega to "anoint" (Vince's word from back in March, not mine) without widespread input?

I'm not asking you to post your answer or to respond in any way. I'm suggesting that you should ask yourself this question if you want to understand the resentment of your campaign tactics and if you want to adjust you attitude to help rather than hurt the campaign.

Next, think back to March and try and recall if you told Vince or Anna anything to cause them to re-evaluate their feeling that some select group of bloggers (which didn't include them but apparently included Markos) hand picked Noriega to push in Texas.

Did you tell me or anyone besides Vince and Anna who was involved in hand picking Noriega and what criteria you used to select him and who else you may have considered and on what grounds you chose Noriega over the other people you considered?

Do you not see how this has the feel of a smoky back-room deal to anyone who isn't in your clique?

This isn't my "big scoop" as you call it. This is my reason for feeling that the whole process where Noriega was hand picked and promoted has an inorganic and anti-democratic (small "d") feel about it. When you say "You should stop before you make yourself even more ridiculous," do you really think that is helping Noriega's campaign (after all, you were quoted in the Houston Chronicle as a leader of the "draft Noriega" plan, and the lack of transparency within that plan is what rubs people the wrong way)?

I'm not supporting Watts or Noriega at this point (unlike you, I don't have inside information about the candidates, who have not released any position papers yet, so I'll just have to wait until they release their position papers). But there is one final issue you raise that I'd like to address. You say that "Rick's primary opponent laid out a check to his campaign of literally millions of dollars when he formed his exploratory committee in an attempt to clear the field of opposition." Where the hell to you get that from? Watts pledged his own money (3 million for the primary and 7 million for the general election) plus he's raised more than a million from others.

Where do you get the idea that this was some plan "to clear the field of opposition" and not a plan to win the election? And how come it's OK for Noriega to sell his personal property in Austin to fund his campaign, but it's not for Watts to spend his personal funds?

I urge you to re-read your posts in this discussion and ask yourself if they are calculated to draw people into the Noriega campaign who have objective reasons to feel skeptical about the candidate selection process. I feel they are calculated to reach the opposite result.

boadicea said...

TDPA, you're not really as full of that parochial bullshit as you're pretending right?

My facts are just fine. KT is a Texan, wherever his current residence might be.

Perhaps you need to supply your bona fides, if you're going to set yourself up as the arbiter of who can and cannot display an interest in Texas political races. Are you a resident of Texas currently? Because you're sounding an awful lot like someone I've talked to recently who isn't though he's late of Texas, and certainly retains an understandable interest in what's happening in Texas politics.

If you're going to set up some arbitrary standard of purity, better be sure you can meet it. IJS.

Markos is someone who's hardly a carpetbagger trying to dictate to the extremely prickly Texas netroots.

He and other national bloggers have helped raise funds for other Texas candidates before, such as Morrison against Delay, and Ciro Rodriguez against Bonilla. (I'm assuming you don't have a problem with that, right?)

You're trying to make something good-national attention to a Senate race in Texas-into something undesirable.

And I do not believe you're as neutral as you say. Your axe is too prominently displayed, and your defense of Mikal Watts too spirited.

BTW, Mikal's entitled to spend his money any legal way he wants. But if he wants to be a United States Senator, he needs to bring something more than pseudo-Republican talking points and a fat wallet.

I'm still waiting for some blogger to actually come up with a posting or diary that actually supports Mikal outright, instead of just dropping oppo everywhere they see Rick Noriega's name mentioned.

Care to take a pass?