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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Western Roundup - July 4th Recess Edition, Part I

House and Senate Races across the West are beginning to heat up a full sixteen months before election day 2008. Both Rep. Chris van Hollen (D-MD) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been aggressively recruiting candidates across the region, hoping to create competitive contests across the region. Their efforts - and the expanding playing field in an anti-Republican national mood - is validating Dean's fifty-state strategy.

Today's roundup looks at developments in the Pacific Northwest, Nevada, Idaho & Montana.

ALASKA: Big Oil Scandals Greasing the Wheels for Democratic Victories?

Former State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich are each being pursued by the DCCC and DSCC to launch bids against Rep. Don Young & Sen. Ted Stevens, who are viewed as increasingly vulnerable due to ethics lapses and ongoing investigations discussed here last month.

Democrats seem to be seizing this rare opportunity. The DCCC included Young as one of 14 GOP incumbents targeted by campaign ads over the July 4th weekend. Whether its Begich or Berkowitz that opts to take on Young, the D-Trip is letting them know they're serious about investing the resources to win in the Last Frontier.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the two are coordinating their efforts and will announce their plans soon.

Begich, who cannot seek another term as mayor in 2009, and Berkowitz, who gave up his state House seat to run for lieutenant governor with Knowles last year, have discussed their options.
"Ethan and I met (recently)," Begich said. "We talked about what his interests are and kind of what I'm thinking. It's not a decision that I need to make today."

Coordinating Democrats? Now, there's a concept!

Race-tracker wikis: AK-Sen, AK-At Large

WASHINGTON STATE: Puget Progressives Pushing Forward

WA-08: 2006 Dem nominee Darcy Burner has been busy revving up her campaign to unseat Dave "Rubber Stamp" Reichert (she came within 2.5% of ousting him in '06). Likely to face a primary challenge, Burner has been working to recruit support from the netroots (posting over at DailyKos), and launching a new ad "Dave Reichert's Six Month Review" (a creative response to a late campaign ad many credit with providing Reichert the margin of victory in '06).

Burner's early legwork is garnering attention from local bloggers. From the right, they're dismissing Darcy - arguing her strategy to link Reichert to Bush's failed policies (and the Libby Liberation) will be ineffective. Didn't they all say last year the Democrats would be unsuccessful in turning the midterms into a national referendum on the Republican Party? They were wrong then, and their continued party line orthodoxy will result in further defeats. Reichert's seat is in serious jeopardy, IMHO.

Over at the Northwest Progressive Institute blog, they're lining up and urging progressives to support Burner, as she may face a primary challenge, as discussed in an earlier post.

Donate here to help Darcy as she works to turn the Seattle suburbs a deep progressive blue.

WA-07: Score one for the Constitution: On June 28th (before the Libby Liberation) Rep. Jim McDermott became the first congresscritter from the WA delegation to back Kucinich's impeachment articles in the House. Let's hope more members come back from the July 4th recess and have heard an earful from their constituents who've "Had Enough."

Race-Tracker wiki: WA-08

OREGON: Smith Squirms as Schumer Searches

OR-Sen: Gordon Smith, widely perceived to be a top-tier Democratic 2008 target, represents a Dem-leaning state where the electorate long ago grew weary of the Iraq war. Making matters worse for Smith is the voters' green sentiments which don't align with the national GOP's pro-business anti-environmental policies.

DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer has tried to recruit a top-tier challenger from the ranks of the Oregon House delegation has met with a series of 'no thank-yous.' In recent weeks, the media has reported Schumer approaching former Monmouth mayor Paul Evans and House Speaker Jeff Merkley about the DSCC backing their potential candidacies. Radio talk show host Jeff Golden is also rumored to be contemplating a run. He may have some difficulty overcoming the fact he was a cast member in a nudity-filled documentary, The Same River Twice.

While Schumer makes the rounds, a true progressive with a real chance of winning may already be in the race. Steve Novick has raised nearly $200K (a fraction of the amount likely needed to win this seat), has garnered the support of some netroots activists and is building the grassroots movement necessary to topple Smith. For more on Novick's nascent campaign see, "OR-Sen: Time for Mr. Smith to Leave Washington."

Race-tracker wiki: OR-Sen.

MONTANA: Big Sky Republicans Searching for Sanity

The Montana state GOP, once dominant, appears to be disintegrating in the wake of the Schweitzer and Tester Democratic victories.

The 2008 news for Republicans is of the "good news/bad news" variety. The good news is the party does have a declared candidate to take on Democratic Senator Max Baucus. The bad is the challenger is Lunatic Mike Lange and not Rep. Denny Rehberg, who opted out of mounting a challenge.

You may recall Lange, the GOP House majority leader who made national headlines for his obscenity-laced tirade against Gov. Brian Schweitzer, where he told the Democratic governor to stick it up his a$$!

Unless the NRSC can recruit another candidate, it looks like Loony Lange will be the GOP standard bearer in Big Sky country. Gotta be viewed as good news all around for Max Baucus.

Race-tracker wiki: MT-Sen.

NEVADA: The GOP on Defense as NV Turns Purple

NV-02 & NV-03: Both Jon Porter and freshman Rep. Dean Heller have been listed among the GOP's most vulnerable incumbents. That's not my opinion - it's the view held by the National Republican Congressional Committee, who listed both on the ROMP (Regain Our Majority Program) list (h/t to Las Vegas Gleaner) which solicits House GOP colleagues' financial support to assist the weakest links in the GOP corporatist coalition's re-election efforts.

Porter's Vegas-area seat is an evenly divided district (40-40 voter reg split) and his appearance here doesn't come as much of a surprise, especially following his 2006 squeaker - he won by 2 points. This seat is on everyone's radar as a battleground.

The real surprise is the 2nd District. The sprawling, rural district, which encompasses virtually the entire state outside the Vegas metro area, should be a SAFE GOP seat. Heller's lackluster performance has been unimpressive (even to conservatives), he's been targeted by green groups (previously posted here), and local blogs are chronicling Heller's every mistep. The fact this seat might be in play means the GOP is in trouble, deep trouble.

Race Tracker wikis: NV-02, NV-03

IDAHO: Genuine Contests in the Gem State?

Both Senator Larry Craig and Representative Bill Sali are attracting bi-partisan attention, as both are likely to face primary challengers. It remains unclear whether or not Craig will opt to run for re-election, but we do know Democrat Larry LaRocco is laying the foundation for a strong progressive candidacy in this scarlet red state.

LaRocco blogged recently over at DailyKos and is garnering attention with his "Working for the Senate" campaign. Since announcing in April, he's worked a shift as a garbage man and as an assistant in a local nursing home, showing Democrats are the party listening to the concerns of average working class voter.

All signs point to Craig opting to retire in 2008. He simply isn't acting like he wants the job any longer, as he has angered two powerful GOP voting blocs, veterans and anti-immigration groups. For more on the Idaho Senate contest see "ID-Sen: Larry Craig Alienates His Conservative Base."

Race-tracker wiki: ID-Sen.

ID-01: Idaho Republicans describe freshman Rep. Bill Sali as "an absolute idiot. He doesn't have one ounce of empathy in his whole frickin' body and you can put that in the paper."

Larry Grant, who came within 5 points of defeating Sali in '06, threw his hat into the ring on July 2, joining Rand Lewis in the Democratic primary to take on the "embarassment to Idaho" (another quote from Idaho Republicans - for more see Grant's 2006 campaign ad).

The NY Times (via CQPolitics) covered Grant's announcement, pointing to the narrow 2006 margin as evidence this could be a competitive contest. For more details on the 1st District Spud State skirmish see "ID-o1: Dems Salivating Over Ousting Sali."

Again, if the Democrats can make a strong run in Idaho GOP strategists have got to be losing sleep worrying about whether the 2006 debacle was simply a warmup for 2008.

Let's make their nightmares a reality by donating to LaRocco.

Race-tracker wiki: ID-01.

Still to come: New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Hawai'i, Colorado & California

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