Daily Kos Morning Digest: This Republican-turned-independent is now running for Congress as a Democrat

Reposted from Daily Kos Elections by Jeff Singer

Arizona Democrat Tom O'Halleran

Arizona Democrat Tom O’Halleran

Leading Off: AZ-01: Former state Sen. Tom O’Halleran served in the legislature for eight years as a Republican until a conservative challenger narrowly knocked him out in a 2008 primary. He then made a comeback bid last year as an independent in a different district, and nearly unseated the Republican incumbent, taking 48 percent of the vote (no Democrat was on the ballot). Now O’Halleran’s joined the Democratic Party and will run for Congress in Arizona’s 1st District, which is open due to Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s Senate bid.

That makes him the first Democrat to officially dive in, though state Sen. Barbara McGuire recently formed an exploratory committee, and several others are considering bids. Given O’Halleran’s Charlie Crist-ian migration to the left, he might struggle to win a Democratic primary, but Roll Call‘s Eli Yokley notes that former state Democratic Party executive director DJ Quinlan is running O’Halleran’s campaign, and Quinlan’s seal of approval may help his new boss earn some establishment support.

The Republican field is also unsettled, with two declared candidates, rancher Gary Kiehne and former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, plus a whole host of others who are still looking. One of them, interestingly enough, is state Sen. Steve Pierce, the conservative who denied O’Halleran renomination back in 2008. It certainly would be compelling to see the two square off once again, this time as members of different parties.

Senate:

AR-Sen: Conner Eldridge, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, is supposedly considering a challenge to freshman GOP Sen. John Boozman next year, but as Jay Barth rightly wonders in the Arkansas Times, would such a bid even be worth it? Arkansas is a firmly red state these days, and Boozman simply hasn’t pissed anyone off. In short, it’s all but impossible to see a path to victory.

Eldridge, who at 37 is the youngest U.S. attorney in the country, will probably find his current gig coming to an end once a new president is in the White House, but there are plenty of things he can do with his life. One option might be to run for the House instead: Though his turf as USA covers the extremely Republican western half of the state, he’s from the 1st District, which could be winnable by a Democrat in the right circumstances.

MD-Sen: Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich was one of googolplex Republicans considering a presidential bid, but he ultimately decided there was no way he could beat out the likes of Jim Gilmore for his party’s nomination. However, could he still seek out Maryland’s open Senate seat? Ehrlich’s only offering a classic not-a-no response to the question, saying only that he “has no plans” to run (in the words of the AP).

He’d be faintly nuts to try, though: After winning the governorship in an upset in 2002, Ehrlich got turfed out by Martin O’Malley in 2006, then bombed in a comeback bid four years later despite the 2010 GOP wave. What’s more, the Old Line State hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since Charles Mathias won his last election in 1980—and in any event, Mathias was quite liberal. Ehrlich is not.

NH, OH, WI-Sen: NARAL is running new TV ads slamming a trio of Republican senators—Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin—for their recent votes to defund Planned Parenthood. It’ll be interesting to see if this issue is still playing a real role on the campaign trail come this time next year, but since there’s no word on the size of the buy, NARAL may just be seeking a press hit (for now).

PA-Sen: As expected, Katie McGinty, who recently stepped down as Gov. Tom Wolf’s chief of staff, has entered the Democratic primary for Senate. There she’ll face off against ex-Rep. Joe Sestak, the party’s 2010 nominee. Both are vying to take on GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, who narrowly beat Sestak five years ago….

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