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October 1, 2014

Posts in "Alaska Senate"

October 1, 2014

Pat Roberts Ranks Among Most Vulnerable Senators

Pat Roberts Ranks Among Most Vulnerable Senators

Hagan is a North Carolina Democrat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While the structure of the competitive Senate map has finally solidified, plenty of uncertainties remain as the two parties enter the final month of the midterm elections.

The most glaring question mark and startling development over the past several weeks is in Kansas, where Republican Sen. Pat Roberts now ranks fourth on Roll Call’s monthly list of the most vulnerable senators (read the September edition here). This is a state that last elected a Democratic senator in 1932, but ballot maneuverings and Roberts’ own missteps have placed him in the company of the cycle’s most endangered incumbents.

The GOP needs six seats to win the majority, and the party can get halfway there by picking up open seats in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana, where retirements hindered Democrats’ ability to hold their ground. Democrats have better odds in the other open seats, with Iowa still hosting one of the most competitive races in the country and Democrats continuing to hold the edge in Michigan.

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., remains a top target for Republicans. But Democrats are pummeling Republican nominee Thom Tillis on the air, and Hagan is the only red-state Democrat whose positioning has clearly improved in recent months.

The competitiveness of the Senate race in Kansas took most people by surprise, including, it seems, Roberts. The senator entered the general election with a limited political apparatus and less motivation to campaign following his contested primary. That all changed last month, when the Democratic nominee withdrew from the race and Republican efforts to reverse the move failed.

That left independent Greg Orman, who is still an unknown quantity. As Orman introduces himself to the electorate, Republicans’ opposition research on him is still just starting to trickle out. Roberts has brought in a new campaign team, a steady stream of GOP heavyweights is filing through the state to help him out, and at least one outside group has started spending for him on the airwaves.

In a state as Republican as Kansas, that could be enough to save the day. But for now, Roberts is firmly among the 10 Most Vulnerable Senators, ranked below in order of vulnerability:  Full story

September 15, 2014

Democrats Have a Plan to Overcome Obama in Red States

Democrats Have a Plan to Overcome Obama in Red States

Hagan is a North Carolina Democrat seeking re-election this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As national analysts say the odds are increasingly against them, Democratic senators and senior operatives remain optimistic the party’s most vulnerable incumbents can survive stiff re-election challenges, even in red states where the president’s popularity is sunk.

With his national approval ratings mired in the low 40s seven weeks out from the Nov. 4 elections, Senate Democrats are well aware of the anchor President Barack Obama is proving to be in the midterms. It’s clear party strategists have had to tailor their red-state strategies around that reality on a map already tilted against them, with three principles at the crux of Democrats’ path to defend seats in GOP-leaning and solidly Republican states where the majority will be won or lost.

As Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil outlined in an interview last week with CQ Roll Call, it’s imperative for Democrats in these states to remind voters why they supported the incumbent in the first place, to over-perform generic Democratic numbers and continue to fund persuasion efforts — along with getting out the vote — through Election Day.

“The president’s ratings are a factor in our elections, but they are not the only factor in our elections,” Cecil said, noting the tens of millions of dollars being spent on advertising and the DSCC’s field campaign efforts. Full story

September 1, 2014

The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

Roll Call ranks Landrieu as the most vulnerable senator. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There is a new chart-topper in Roll Call’s latest monthly ranking of the 10 most vulnerable senators.

Montana’s appointed Sen. John Walsh was by far the most endangered incumbent in the chamber at the time of the previous installment in early August, but his decision last month to not seek a full term opened the top slot to a couple other worthy contenders.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is still in a perilous political position, but Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu has leapfrogged him on the list to become the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbent. Full story

August 20, 2014

Super PAC Greets Sullivan Win With Attack Ad

Super PAC Greets Sullivan Win With Attack Ad

Begich-friendly super PAC has a TV ad against Sullivan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Alaska’s newly minted Republican Senate nominee will awake the morning after his primary victory to a negative TV ad from a Democratic super PAC.

Put Alaska First, a group formed to support Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, launched an ad Wednesday against Republican Dan Sullivan targeting his lack of Alaska roots and using a controversial mining project in the state as a wedge issue.

“There’s two things you need to know about Dan Sullivan,” a Dillingham, Alaska, resident says in the ad, which is airing statewide on broadcast and cable. “He’s not from Alaska, and he supports the Pebble Mine.” Full story

Alaska Primary: Dan Sullivan Will Face Mark Begich

Alaska Primary: Dan Sullivan Will Face Mark Begich

Sullivan won the GOP primary Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Alaska Republicans have finally picked a nominee to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle.

Dan Sullivan, a former appointed state attorney general and commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources, defeated three other Republicans in the primary Tuesday to earn a spot in the general election.

Sullivan ran as the most qualified of the group to defeat Begich. His nomination has been the expected outcome for months, but the general-election race couldn’t start in earnest until Sullivan dispensed with his Republican foes.

Sullivan led with 40 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race early Wednesday morning with 80 percent of precincts reporting. He was followed by 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller with 32 percent, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell with 25 percent and a fourth candidate, John Jaramillo, with 3 percent.

Sullivan, an Ohio-born attorney, is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves and was an assistant secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration. He resigned his natural resources post a year ago to run for office, and now he’s emerging from a late primary to take on an incumbent lauded by operatives in both parties as a skilled politician.

Full story

August 4, 2014

Top 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

Top 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

In 2014 Senate races, Pryor is one of the most vulnerable Democrats. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Three months before Election Day, it’s clear some senators may not return to Congress after the midterms — and that’s mostly good news for Republicans.

The GOP’s path to the Senate majority includes a mix of open seats and targeted Democratic incumbents. The two most vulnerable seats are in South Dakota and West Virginia, where Democratic senators are retiring. Republicans also have opportunities in open seats in Iowa and, to a lesser degree, Michigan.

But even if they are victorious in those states, the GOP must defeat at least two incumbents to reach the net six seats needed for control.

Luckily for Republicans, Democrats make up the vast majority of endangered senators seeking re-election. The GOP has a lengthy catalog of states where it has an opportunity to win, though there is a wide gap betweenthe  No. 1 and No. 10 most vulnerable senators — who are ordered by most likely to lose.

Roll Call’s “10 Most Vulnerable Senators” list will be updated monthly ahead of the Nov. 4 elections. For now, here is where the incumbents stand: Full story

July 25, 2014

Alaska Republican Super PAC Launches Another Ad

Alaska Republican Super PAC Launches Another Ad

Dan Sullivan is getting some outside help. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A super PAC supporting Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan is launching a radio ad Friday taking aim at his two leading Senate race opponents.

The 60-second ad from Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values, backed by an $80,000 buy and running statewide, mentions Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Sullivan’s top opponent in the Aug. 19 primary, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

The ad lands on the airwaves on the heels of an accompanying TV ad from the group. Both label Sullivan a true Alaskan — one of the leading attacks against the native Ohioan — and state he is the only Republican who can defeat Begich. Full story

June 25, 2014

Club for Growth Stumbles With Mississippi Senate Loss (Video)

Club for Growth Stumbles With Mississippi Senate Loss (Video)

The Club for Growth worked against Sen. Thad Cochran, who won Tuesday's runoff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Club for Growth, a perpetual thorn in the side of many Republican operatives, took a hit Tuesday in Mississippi, where Sen. Thad Cochran survived a primary challenge despite a significant investment from the anti-tax group.

The Club for Growth’s super PAC arm spent $2.4 million against Cochran, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s a significant chunk of the $3.8 million it’s expended so far this cycle against Republicans.

What’s more, the defeat of state Sen. Chris McDaniel means the club has now failed to topple arguably its top two GOP incumbent targets of the midterm cycle — Cochran and Rep. Mike Simpson. The club spent nearly $500,000 for Bryan Smith, who lost his May 20 challenge to the Idaho Republican.

Full story

June 9, 2014

FreedomWorks Might Help Candidates They Opposed in 2014 Primaries

FreedomWorks Might Help Candidates They Opposed in 2014 Primaries

Freedomworks did not endorse Tillis, left, in the primary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

FreedomWorks, a tea party-affiliated group that backed primary challengers to two GOP incumbents this cycle, is weighing whether to spend money to help the nominees they previously opposed.

The group, known for targeting Republican incumbents and establishment favorites with ground-game assistance for conservative candidates, is more closely tied with the tea party than the Republican Party.

But as FreedomWorks looks to the general election fights ahead, and with Republicans needing a six-seat net gain to win the Senate majority, the group is open to aiding candidates like North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — both of whom it actively worked against earlier this year.

“We’ve decided that Harry Reid’s not our friend,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in an interview Thursday. “Shockingly.” Full story

June 6, 2014

Alaska Republican Sees Advantage as First-Time Candidate (Video)

Alaska Republican Sees Advantage as First Time Candidate (Video)

Sullivan visited Roll Call in Washington, D.C., June 4. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The candidate: Dan Sullivan, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve; formerly commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, state attorney general and George W. Bush appointee.
The member: Sullivan is running in the Republican primary to challenge first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.
The state: Begich, just the seventh senator in Alaska history, in 2008 became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alaska since 1974. In 2012, President Barack Obama improved his performance from 2008, but still took just 41 percent. The race is rated Tossup/Tilts Democrat by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
The candidate’s team: Hans Kaiser of Moore Information (polling); FP1 Strategies (media); Arena Communications (direct mail); Michael Dubke of the Black Rock Group (general consultant); Ben Sparks (campaign manager).

Full story

May 13, 2014

Begich Could Benefit From a Ballot Initiative Bounce

Begich Could Benefit From a Ballot Initiative Bounce

Begich is seeking re-election in Alaska. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is all of a sudden the likely beneficiary of a legislative blunder that may send more voters to the polls this fall.

Begich’s midterm electorate is expected to expand as a result of the Republican-controlled state Legislature’s failure to gavel out by its April 20 deadline, an error — or conscious decision, depending on whom you ask — that has been the talk of Alaska political circles for the past few weeks. It automatically shifted to the general election three ballot initiatives on marijuana, the minimum wage and the environment — issues that could draw to the polls voters more likely to also support the Democratic incumbent.

Winning re-election in Alaska, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1, is more than a base-turnout game for Begich. It will also require the first-term senator to persuade enough independents and Republicans to support him over his GOP opposition.

Begich was elected in 2008, just days after Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted in federal court on corruption charges, helping boost the then-Anchorage mayor to a winning margin of less than 4,000 votes. Democrats in the state see the ballot initiative moves as similarly beneficial.

“No Democrat in Alaska wins by much statewide,” said state Senate Minority Leader Hollis French, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor. “You need some miracle to win, and this might be just enough of that final boost to carry over the line.” Full story

May 12, 2014

Sullivan Touts Military Service in Latest TV Ad

Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan released his latest TV ad on Monday, a 30-second spot highlighting his military service and pushing the message that the state “needs a fighter again.”

The 30-second spot, running on broadcast stations, never mentions Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. But the incumbent’s photo is briefly plastered on screen alongside President Barack Obama.

“As a Marine, I learned that talk is cheap and results are what matter. But that’s not how they operate in Washington,” Sullivan says as the two Democrats’ photos appear. Full story

April 22, 2014

Senator Rides Snowmachine Across Arctic in Latest Ad

Senator Rides Snowmachine Across Arctic in Latest Ad

Begich is seeking re-election in Alaska. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich hops back on a snowmachine in his latest TV ad, cruising across a frozen Arctic Ocean to highlight his efforts over the last five years to win approval for oil drilling.

It’s the fourth ad from the first-term Democrat, who’s stressing his Alaska roots and priorities as he runs in one of the most competitive races of the cycle. The spot is airing in Anchorage and Fairbanks on both broadcast and cable stations, according to the campaign.

“I’m Mark Begich — I fought for five years to get the permits so we could drill under this ice,” Begich says in the ad. “And we won. I approved this message because sooner or later, Washington’ll figure out that I don’t take no for an answer.” Full story

March 20, 2014

Mark Begich Debuts TV Ad Starring Late Father in Alaska

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is launching a 60-second biographical TV ad on Thursday, highlighting his long ties to the state as Republicans attempt to tether him to Washington in his re-election race.

The first-term Democrat faces a highly competitive campaign that’s already seen attack ads fired from both sides. The new spot, his second one so far, was designed to cut through the negative ad barrage and emphasize Begich’s work for Alaska interests.

Full story

March 12, 2014

Club for Growth PAC Backs GOP Candidate in Alaska

Club for Growth PAC Backs GOP Candidate in Alaska

Chocola is the president of the Club for Growth. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Club for Growth’s political action arm announced Wednesday that it is supporting Dan Sullivan in the Republican Senate primary in Alaska.

Sullivan, a former state attorney general and Natural Resources commissioner, is one of three Republicans vying for the nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, a top target of national Republicans.

In recent cycles, the club sometimes backed primary challengers to GOP incumbents and upstarts whom national Republicans do not always view as the best candidate for the race. But that’s not the case here.

Full story

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