Updated 12:42 a.m. | Montana Sen. Max Baucus has decided to retire instead of seek re-election next year, a sudden move that caught many colleagues and state Democrats off guard.
Democratic sources confirmed the news to CQ Roll Call on Tuesday morning — after which Baucus told reporters he was working to spread word to his staff.
“I’ve got people I’ve got to talk to first before I talk to the press, and that includes my staff,” he said. “I’m going to talk to my staff right now. And phone calls I’ve got to make. We’ll be talking later today.”
The Senate Finance chairman was considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up in 2014 and Republicans had made clear they would heavily target the race. Baucus has served in the Senate since 1979 and has not faced difficult races in recent years.
Now that Baucus is exiting after this congress, Roll Call contributing editor Stuart Rothenberg rates this race as a Tossup in the Rothenberg Report.
Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer will be at the top of Democrats’ wish list as the candidate in the open-seat race. A Democratic source indicated the ex-governor is leaning toward running.
Hagan is the latest Senate Democrat to come out in favor of gay marriage rights. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The Supreme Court’s focus this week on gay marriage has put Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2014 under a microscope, with no shortage of media outlets asking their offices about evolving views on the issue.
With the court taking up the constitutionality of a portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which restricted the federal definition of marriage to opposite sex couples, several Democratic senators have determined in recent days that now is the time to make public revised or clarified stands on the marriage issue. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who is up for re-election in 2014, became the latest Democrat to announce her support for gay marriage Wednesday morning in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer.
Baucus will acquire his second Republican challenger this week. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
A second Republican challenger to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., will officially announce his candidacy Thursday.
State Rep. Champ Edmunds will formally enter the race to challenge the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee at a press conference at Bitterroot Motors in Missoula at 2:30 p.m. ET, according to a release.
The National Rifle Association will target several senators up for re-election in 2014, including Pryor. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The National Rifle Association will launch a print advertising campaign targeting mostly Democratic senators up for re-election in 2014, according to sources close to the group.
On Thursday, full-page ads are scheduled to run in local newspapers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia. They will be supplemented by digital advertising in these states and 10 others, including Alaska, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire and South Dakota.
Additionally, the group has scheduled full-page ads to run Feb. 25 in regional editions of USA Today, reaching parts of 15 states.
The campaign is estimated to cost north of $375,000, sources said. Full story
Stapleton, a financial adviser, finished second last year in the seven-candidate Republican primary for governor. In 2012, Republicans lost both the governor’s race and the party’s challenge to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, disappointments for the GOP in a state the party carried handily at the presidential level.
Baucus, 71, is one of six Democrats in the Senate seeking re-election in a state the president lost. Still, Tester held off a strong challenge from then-Rep. Denny Rehberg last year, and Baucus was sitting on a $3.6 million war chest as he began the 2014 cycle.
Stapleton is a Naval Academy graduate and served two terms in the state Senate, including stints as minority leader and chairman of the Legislative Campaign Committee.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus raised $3.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2012. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., will kick off his re-election bid with $3.6 million in the bank, according to a copy of his fundraising report obtained by CQ Roll Call.
The Senate Finance Committee chairman raised $610,000 during the final three months of last year. His year-end report, which will be filed on the Jan. 31 deadline, showed he spent $121,500 during the same period.
Baucus’ big number comes as welcome news for Democrats, who face a difficult map in 2014. The six-term senator represents one of seven seats up this cycle in a state that the president lost.
Former Rep. Denny Rehberg (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Rep. Denny Rehberg told the Billings Gazette last week that he will not run for office again.
After six terms in the House, the Montana Republican lost his challenge to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in November. It was Rehberg’s second Senate defeat, after challenging Democratic Sen. Max Baucus in 1996.
“I made the determination before [the 2012 race] that it would be up or out,” Rehberg said in an interview with the newspaper. “As it turned out, it was out.”
Baucus is up for re-election again this cycle and is definitely running. Tester survived by 4 points in the 2012 election, despite a 13-point victory in the state by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Roll Call’s initial Senate ratings outlook projects a potentially bullish cycle for Republicans, with an opportunity to recapture the majority for the first time in eight years.
But that’s exactly how things looked two years before the 2012 elections, when Democrats surprised many with victories in Missouri and North Dakota on their way to picking up two seats. So the challenge for the GOP and incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas is to capitalize on their opportunities.
That and how voters feel about President Barack Obama in 2014 could determine how the parties fare at the ballot box less than two years from now. Democrats won their current majority in 2006, in the second midterm election under President George W. Bush.
Republicans are hoping Obama’s second midterm is similarly kind to them, if not equal to the president’s 2010 midterm shellacking, when the GOP won seven seats (and control of the House) despite beginning the cycle as the underdog.
Updated 11:23 a.m. | The Associated Press this morning declared Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) the winner of his re-election race against Rep. Denny Rehberg (R).
The win means Democrats are guaranteed to have a larger majority in the Senate next year, with at least 54 seats. The open-seat race in North Dakota has still not been called, but Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is currently leading by nearly 3,000 votes over Republican Rep. Rick Berg. If Heitkamp wins, Democrats would have their majority expanded by two seats.
“Jon Tester knows his state like the back of his hand, and he is exactly the type of quality leader we need in the US Senate,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) said in a statement. “Montanans saw right through the millions in attack ads from Karl Rove and others.”
With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Tester led Rehberg by about 18,000 votes. Montanans also had a third choice in the race. Libertarian candidate Dan Cox took more than 6 percent of the vote, much of that likely from voters who otherwise would have supported Rehberg.
“Senator Tester and I share an abiding love for Montana and America, a value which transcends political party or disagreements on matters of policy,” Rehberg said in a statement. “I congratulate Jon on his victory in this hard-fought campaign.”
Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) led by 4 points in his bid for re-election with two-thirds of precincts fully reporting early Wednesday morning, but enough votes remained outstanding that the race was too close to call.
Tester led with 49 percent, while his Republican challenger, Rep. Denny Rehberg, had 45 percent. Libertarian candidate Dan Cox appeared to be giving Tester a significant boost by taking more than 6 percent of the vote. Full story
The Republican-affiliated sister groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS will begin a massive $10.5 million Senate ad blitz today and Wednesday, blanketing competitive Senate races, including those in Maine, Montana and New Mexico, with hard-hitting attack ads.
Sen. Jon Tester (above) is in a tossup race with Rep. Denny Rehberg. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The Montana Senate race is expected to be among the closest in the country, and both parties are looking for any edge possible.
Democrats hope to gain some traction with the release of an investigative report into the 2009 boat crash that injured Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), who is now challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D).
A district judge on Wednesday issued an order for the records to be released as early as today, as soon as the court’s clerk redacts the personal information of others involved in the crash. Former state Sen. Greg Barkus was convicted of criminal endangerment for driving the boat after a night of drinking, which ended with a crash on the shores of Flathead Lake that left all five on board injured. Full story
Another day, another bunch of negative ads. Here is what cut through the clutter today.
This ad from a group called “America Shining” uses old B-movie footage against Rep. Ed Royce (R) and in support of Navy veteran Jay Chen (D). It may look like it was made by a film student, but it’ll catch your eye. We were unable to track down contact info for the group behind the ad. But the latest Federal Election Commission postings show that the organization has purchased about $5,000 of television time. This Orange County district is solid GOP territory, and as part of the Los Angeles media market, it’s expensive to advertise in.
Sen. Jon Tester’s (D) new TV ad, running statewide behind a $125,000 buy, features a retired firefighter disparaging Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) for suing the city of Billings over a fire on his property. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hit Rehberg on the same topic in its own ad released today.
Sen. Jon Tester’s longtime family friend happens to be Jeff Ament, bassist for Pearl Jam, who played their lone nonfestival show of the year Sunday in Missoula to benefit the Democrat’s re-election campaign.
According to the Missoulian newspaper, Tester and Ament rallied hundreds on the University of Montana campus in the afternoon before attending a pre-show fundraising reception. The band also performed on Tester’s behalf in 2005 during his successful challenge to Republican incumbent Conrad Burns.
The Tester campaign released a picture of the Senator with the band and a succinct statement from the Senator: “Rock on. And go vote.”
The Pearl Jam show came two days after GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg’s campaign released a blistering television ad against Tester. The ad paints a picture of Tester not living up to the promises he made during the 2006 campaign, specifically tying Tester to forthcoming environmental regulations that forced the mothballing of a coal-fired power plant in Billings.
Meanwhile, the League of Conservation Voters on Friday released a Global Strategy Group poll that found Tester ahead with 44 percent, Rehberg with 42 percent and Libertarian Dan Cox with 7 percent. The poll was conducted Sept. 23-25 of 606 likely voters with a 4-point margin of error.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The juggernaut GOP-affiliated group Crossroads GPS began airing a new ad here in Florida today knocking two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) for his vote in favor of Obama’s signature health care law.
“Florida seniors are facing a health care crisis: only 14 physicians to every 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries,” a female narrator says. “But in Washington, Bill Nelson’s been voting for the new health care law, which cuts Medicare spending by $700 billion; puts unelected bureaucrats between Florida’s 3 million Medicare recipients and the care they need, hurting Florida seniors.”
“Tell Senator Nelson, it’s time to repeal,” she says.
The ad is backed by a $2.4 million buy on broadcast and cable TV in Florida. It’s part of the group’s wider push of spots, launched today against Democratic Senate candidates, that also includes ads in Montana, New Mexico and Ohio.
See the Montana ad, hitting Sen. Jon Tester (D) here:
See the New Mexico ad, dinging Rep. Martin Heinrich, the Democratic nominee for Senate, here:
See the Ohio ad knocking Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) here: