Ballot Box

Arkansas Republican hampered by old debt

Arkansas House candidate Rick Crawford (R) is being dogged by a 1994 bankruptcy that has emerged as a niggling issue in the race to succeed Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.), who's retiring.

Crawford had indicated that he paid back all of the $12,611.67 debt that was legally dissolved by his bankruptcy, but told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "there is no way I can prove it."

Crawford faces former Berry staffer Chad Causey (D) for the seat.

The Democrat-Gazette subsequently asked him to sign privacy waivers that would allow reporters to confirm whether he had repaid his creditors. Crawford declined and also refused to release the billing records, receipts or a copy of his bankruptcy filing.

"Everything that's in the public realm is there for discernment and debate, but anything outside of the public record is not," Jonah Shumate, Crawford's campaign manager, told the paper. "It's not about proving it; it's about what's on the public record is the public record. That's just where we're going to be on this."

The Causey camp noted there were discrepancies in Crawford's account of his money troubles.

"While the story concerning our opponent's bankruptcy is changing every day, our focus remains the same: creating jobs here in Arkansas, bringing back fiscal responsibility, and getting America back on track," said Candace Martin, Causey's spokesman.

Meanwhile, Crawford has tried to his financial troubles into a positive. 

"In some small way, if my personal experience can help us avoid that type of experience for the country, then I think that experience [bankruptcy] is important and relevant to my campaign," he said.

Crawford, a top prospect of the National Republican Congressional Committee, had previously made government spending an issue in the campaign. 

A Republican strategist insisted the bankruptcy issue would blow over. The strategist noted that Crawford was in his 20s at the time of the bankruptcy and is now a successful small business owner. 

An official with the Causey camp said they're waiting on Crawford's next move before deciding whether to push the issue.

--Updated at 5:15 p.m.


McConnell optimistic about November, warns Dems about Bush attack line

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sat down with The Hill on Monday and said he was "optimistic" about Republican chances in November, and warned Democrats there is a "statute of limitations" on how long they can run against former President George W. Bush.

McConnell said "if the election were today, we'd have a good day. The president's approval rating is well below 50 and has been for a month or so. The party generic ballot — 'Would you be more likely to vote Republican or Democrat?' — is very good. … I'm reluctant to kind of project the future. But we're optimistic. We're optimistic that it will be a good day on Nov. 2 and restore some balance to the government."

He wouldn't predict how many seats his party might pick up, but he did scoff at one of the Democrats' main attack angles this election cycle: that returning Republicans to power would mark a return to the Bush-era policies.

"The Democrats would like to have a 'do-over' of the '06 and '08 elections," he said. "There's a statute of limitations on how long you can run against President Bush. They've been in office 18 months now."

He also noted that the voters "know who's in charge. They know who's in the White House. They know the president has a big majority in the House and a big majority in the Senate, and they've focused fully on what's happened in the last year and a half. And it is naïve of our friends on the other side to assume they can run again the '06 and '08 elections. This is going to be about the present, not the past. And about the record of this administration, not the previous administration."

McConnell also has a competitive Senate race in his own state, where Republican candidate Rand Paul is running to keep retiring Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) seat. Paul won the nomination largely on the support of the Tea Party, which has become a presence in many primaries this year.

McConnell called the group a "positive" factor.

"With regard to the Tea Party factor, I think it's been positive," he said. "These are citizens who feel like we're losing the country, and the issues that they seem to be most concerned about are the issues that Republicans are most concerned about. And one thing I would point out is that the issues that are driving the Tea Party are the same issues that are driving surveys and driving independents in our direction."

The Senate Republican leader also predicted President Obama would become a "born-again moderate" after the election.

"If there is a mid-course correction in November, I think the president will become a born-again moderate," McConnell said.


Palin wades into GOP primary in Maryland governor's race

It's Sarah Palin against the establishment, again. This time the former Alaska governor is trying to unsettle Maryland's Republican primary for governor.

Palin endorsed businessman Brian Murphy on Wednesday in his long-shot bid against former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). 

"Brian is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment commonsense conservative and a firm believer in the free market and the cause for energy independence," Palin wrote in a one-paragraph endorsement on her Facebook page Wednesday morning. 

Palin also touted Murphy's private sector experience as a former energy company executive. "He knows how to incentivize industry to get our economy moving again," she wrote. 

It's a primary that by most accounts isn't considered competitive and even with Palin's endorsement, Murphy has an uphill climb against Ehrlich who is already focusing on a rematch with Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). O'Malley defeated Ehrlich in 2006. 

Still, Maryland-based pollster Patrick Gonzales says while he doesn't have any statewide numbers on Palin's popularity, she is "very popular among Republican primary voters" in a handful of state assembly districts he has polled. 

Ehrlich is the runaway favorite in the Republican primary and has already received support from the Republican National Committee, where his former Lt. Gov., Michael Steele is chairman. 

In early May, the RNC actually found a way around its own rules preventing the committee from pouring money into a Republican primary contest. The rule can apparently be waived with permission from the state party chair and two national committee members from the state.  

Fundraising numbers are due in mid-August and Ehrlich is in need of a strong showing to inspire confidence that he can raise the cash needed to compete with O'Malley on the airways. O'Malley launched his first TV ad of the campaign in mid-July. 


Kentucky Democrats reconcile ahead of Fancy Farm

Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D) gave a lukewarm endorsement Wednesday to the man who defeated him in the Kentucky Senate primary.

Mongiardo had been tight-lipped about his support for Attorney General Jack Conway since losing to him in May.

Speculation about Mongiardo's intentions was mounting ahead of the Fancy Farm Picnic this Saturday. The event is the unofficial beginning of the campaign season in Kentucky and is as well attended as the Ames straw poll in Iowa.

But he issued a statement saying he would not be attending the event and would back his party's nominee.

"Some have speculated whether or not I would support our party's … nominee Jack Conway," Mongiardo said. "Let me be clear. While I am an independent Kentucky Democrat who, like many Kentuckians, don't always agree with the policies advocated by the politicians in Washington, I strongly believe in our Party’s core Democratic principles."

He continued, "I am announcing my support for Democratic candidates on
the ticket this fall —from our U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway to down ballot candidates across the Commonwelath [sic]."


Robin Carnahan also celebrates a birthday — with a fundraising e-mail

Wednesday isn't just President Obama's 49th birthday. It's also Missouri Senate candidate Robin Carnahan's (D) 49th birthday.

Carnahan won the Democratic nomination in a landslide Tuesday night and, if that wasn't enough of a birthday present, her mother sent out a fundraising e-mail for her Wednesday.

In the message to supporters, former Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.) says Republicans gave Carnahan a gift too — by choosing Rep. Roy Blunt as their nominee.

"I'm sure you're aware of Congressman Blunt's reputation for being the ultimate Washington insider — a loyal advocate for big oil, big banks, and big corporations.  And his role as bagman for disgraced former Majority Leader Tom DeLay helped him become the #1 recipient of lobbyists' money in the entire Congress!" Jean Carnahan writes.

The e-mail asks for a $49 contribution to help the campaign "reach their 49,000th contribution during [Robin Carnahan's] 49th birthday this week."


House candidates borrow kids, pets for the campaign

At least two Republican House candidates this cycle have taken heat from their opponents for using other people's children in their campaign advertising.

Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder and Arizona Republican Ben Quayle are both childless but have appeared with borrowed families — including pets — during their primary campaigns.

Yoder won the 3rd district GOP nod Tuesday to face Democrat Stephene Moore. Quayle is running in the Republican primary for retiring Rep. John Shadegg's (R-Ariz.) seat.



Simmons gains on McMahon ahead of Connecticut Senate primary

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) has cut into Republican primary opponent Linda McMahon's lead with less than a week to go before the Aug. 10 primary.

But there's still no sign McMahon is paying any attention to the recently revived Simmons campaign.

New numbers from Quinnipiac still have McMahon leading Simmons by a solid margin. She is ahead 47 percent to 30. But that's down from the 52-25 percent lead she held in mid-July.

Even as Simmons gains slightly, the new poll shows McMahon continues to inch closer to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D), who now leads McMahon 50 percent to 40.

In mid-July, Blumenthal led 54-37 percent.

On the Republican side, it remains to be seen whether the bizarre resurgence for Simmons will push him to further increase his campaign activity in the final week.

In late July, Simmons made a large ad buy that he said was aimed at simply reminding voters his name will still appear on the Aug. 10 primary ballot. But just a week later, Simmons declared himself a candidate again at a debate with businessman Peter Schiff. That was followed by an e-mail to supporters and the launch of another TV ad that took a shot at McMahon's self-funding.

Back in May, Simmons suspended his campaign after he was unable to secure his party's endorsement at the state convention.

Simmons has not held a fundraiser or rehired any campaign staff since declaring himself back in the primary.

The McMahon campaign doesn't appear worried. In a release this morning, the campaign touted McMahon's gains among independent voters in the new Q-poll, while making no mention of Simmons.

McMahon is now slightly ahead of Blumenthal among independent voters — McMahon gets 46 percent of independents to Blumenthal's 44.


Obama joins Sen. Bennet's 'tele-town hall'

President Obama joined Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in a "tele-town hall" meeting Tuesday night, which was a last-minute add to the president's schedule.

Obama told listeners to ignore the negative ads against Bennet and vote for him next Tuesday, according to the pool report.

The president was supporting his chosen candidate in the race. Bennet is facing former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) in the Democratic primary. Both candidates have released ads attacking one another.

Obama praised Bennet on the call.

"Michael has been as good of a senator as I expected him to be," the president said. He added: "I know there have been a lot of negative ads running against Michael in the last few weeks, which is sort of politics as usual. But when he came to Washington, he came to get things done and not just play the usual political games."

Romanoff released an ad trying tie to Bennet's voting record to campaign donations from the oil and banking industries. And Bennet has an ad pointing out that while Romanoff's campaign has not accepted political action committee money, Romanoff had run a PAC for 10 years.

The Senate primary pits Obama and former President Clinton against one another. Last month, Clinton endorsed Romanoff and penned a fundraising e-mail for him even though the White House had already weighed in on behalf of Bennet.

Obama was in Colorado in February to fundraise for Bennet.

Bennet is trying to avoid becoming the latest sitting senator to lose a primary. Earlier this year, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) lost his primary challenge to Rep. Joe Sestak. And, in Utah, Sen. Bob Bennett (R) lost out on his party's endorsement at the state convention.

The White House has a mixed record in Senate primaries this campaign season. It backed Specter in Pennsylvania and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) in Arkansas, where the incumbent barely survived a primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

— Shane D'Aprile contributed to this post.


GOP House primaries in Michigan remain too close to call

The Republican primary races in Michigan's 1st and 2nd congressional districts remained too close to call on Wednesday morning.

A handful of votes separate the GOP front-runners in the 1st district, while several hundred votes separate the top challengers in the 2nd.

Republican physician Dan Benishek leads state Sen. Jason Allen (R) by a total of 12 votes, virtually ensuring a recount.

Meanwhile, in the 2nd district, 660 votes separate former state Rep. Bill Huizenga and former football player Jay Riemersma.

Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) retirement from his 1st district seat in April gave Republicans hope of picking up his long-held seat.

But, in the end, the crowded field trailed Benishek and Allen. Benishek raised over $440,000, much of it during the healthcare debate that featured Stupak front and center. Stupak announced his retirement after supporting the landmark reform legislation.

In the GOP primary, Allen perceived Benishek was vulnerable for his support of the Fair Tax and spent the last week of the campaign hitting him on the proposal as well as on social issues.

Don Hopper, meanwhile, bled into Benishek’s support from the Tea Party groups. The winner faces state Rep. Gary McDowell (D), who ran unopposed on the Democratic side. It’s expected to be a difficult race for both parties.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra's (R-Mich.) campaign for governor prompted a run of conservative candidates into the 2nd district primary. Riemersma, a former NFL and University of Michigan tight end, was considered the front-runner during the primary.

State Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R), Huizenga (R) and businessman Bill Cooper (R) rounded out the top of the field. But Riemersma considerably outraised his opponents in addition to dropping more than $200,000 of his own fortune into his campaign.

On the Democratic side, it was a two-way race between college Professor Fred Johnson and Lake County Commissioner Nicolete McClure.

The GOP campaign turned heated when Huizenga filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging Riemersma illegally coordinated strategy with a federally regulated political action committee (PAC) run by former GOP national committeeman Charles Yob and his son, political operative John Yob.

The PAC paid for radio ads attacking Huizenga and Kuipers, according to the complaint.

Riemersma denied the charge.