Like we said in this morning’s Roundup, VP Mike Pence swore in two brand-new United State senators yesterday, both Democrats. Doug Jones, who beat Judge Roy Moore, fan of the Ten Commandments and (allegedly) little girls and no fan of gay people, was sworn in with his gay son looking on. Pence also swore in the temporary replacement for Minnesota’s Al Franken, Tina Smith’s arrival in brings the number of women in the U.S. Senate to an all-time high; ironic since she replaces an accused sexual harasser in Franken. Luckily Pence had lots of people around for that one, because as you know he can’t be alone with a woman. Cooties, ya know.
All in all probably not a fun day for Pence, who presides over the Senate when a tie-breaking vote is needed, and whose boss the President laid his own reputation, such as it is, on the line for Judge Roy Moore. So, 2018 is officially here. New Jersey’s senior senator, fresh from his not-quite-acquittal mistrial is up this year, along with all of NJ’s House members. Here’s where things stand:
Yesterday, 2 new senators, both Dems: Doug Jones replaces now-AG Jeff Sessions, a Dem winning a full term replacing a Republican; the first Dem to win a Senate seat in Alabama in a quarter century. The last Alabama Democratic senator was Sen. Howell Heflin; Jones worked for him after law school and wore a pair of the late Heflin’s cufflinks during the ceremony. Tina Smith, of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to replace fellow Democrat Franken. She stands for re-election in just 10 months. Minnesota Dems are clearing the field for her re-election; Republicans look to pin hopes on former gov Tim Pawlenty, a fundraising juggernaut, to oppose Smith – they’ll run hard to capture that seat. So, the GOP advantage now narrows: 51 R, 49 D.
November 6, 2018: 34 of the Senate’s 100 seats are up. Democrats have to defend 26 seats – including Senate’s two Independents, who both caucus with the Dems. Bernie Sanders, potential 2020 White House contender, is rated Solid/Safe by Cook’s (and all others); the most popular politician in America. In Maine, Donald Trump wants Chris Christie pal Gov. Paul LePage to run against Independent Angus King. Republicans only have to defend 8 seats in November. Three GOP seats are open, pending retirements from Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake, and Bob Corker. And GOP’s both John McCain and Thad Cochran may be forced to retire this year for health reasons. More on the Senate here.
New Jersey in November – Menendez: New Jersey’s senior senator has been in the Senate for 12 years, and before that the House for 13 years, with stints in both houses of the NJ Legislature and mayor of Union City before that. Bob Menendez is an institution. But he’s a New Jersey institution; and for the past 3 years has been operating under an ethics cloud. Indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges, he had to give up his chairmanship of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee (during which he took a hard line on Cuba and Iran, differing with Obama, and often aligning with AIPAC on behalf of Israel). He maintained his innocence throughout the 3 years, as his longtime friend was convicted. For Menendez, it ended in mistrial; but that hardly lifted the public’s suspicions. If convicted, they wanted him gone – overwhelmingly. He’s still defiant, but no doubt not exactly clear. Menendez wants his old job as top Dem at Foreign Relations back (Ben Cardin is current Ranking Member), but there’s a hitch. Menendez is still under investigation; the Senate Ethics Committee resumed their investigation when his trial ended. And though lots of Dems want that too for him too, how do they restore Menendez and keep talking about Trump’s many ethical, uh, challenges. It’s a problem.
So – Does Menendez get re-elected? A guy named Michael Starr Hopkins made a big splash when he posted his intention to challenge Menendez in the Democratic Primary in The Hill last month. But let’s face it, right now New Jersey is a machine state and Menendez knows how to work the levers of that machine. Assuming he remains a candidate, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t the nominee. Now, Republicans haven’t elected a NJ senator since Clifford Case in 1972. And they’re not exactly rushing in to take down Menendez. There may be shoes yet to fall. Dem List offers this evaluation, with Menendez’ seat Safe/Likely Dem:
National: Like clockwork, every 2 years all 435 seats in the House are up; it’s a permanent campaign for these people and a record number of them want out: 39 House members are exiting – resignations, retirements or plans to vacate to run for another office – 25 of those are Republicans, only 14 Dems. That helps, but it’s still going to be work. If we can unite – Hillarys and Bernies, establishment types and progressives, and if we can shift a top-down, machine party into something fueled more from the ground-up, state & county parties operating with more input from elected local county committee people and less dictated by county chairs, if we #DemEnter people can offer the #DemExit people a reason to return, 2018 could be an absolutely joyous political year.
In the House, GOP holds the majority: 241 Republicans to 194 Democrats (3 vacancies). Control is 218 seats. Democrats need to win 24 seats to regain the House, control we haven’t had since 2010, the year the Tea Party ate the GOP. I like this analysis in WaPo last month for a couple reasons; I’m a glass-half-empy person when it comes to 2018 because that’s how I keep my fight up. Don’t talk to me about a blue wave; I live in a target district, and I’m ready to fight uphill. Other reason I like the WaPo piece is how clearly it lays out the job the Democrats have – 3 ways to win, some combination of those likely needed. Plus, the graphs are glorious.
In New Jersey: All 12 NJ House members are obviously up, but the New Jersey hot zones emerged early:
CD11 (Frelinghuysen) (Cook PVI R+3): Honestly, it’s like the guy has a death wish for his time in the House. You CD11 people can tell me whether that’s just mind-numbing arrogance (Rodney’s a legacy, his family goes back to the American Revolution in NJ Politics) or whether he’s been so safe for so long that he’s just sloppy. Let’s recap, shall we? Went after an activist’s job, avoids town halls so hard that locals now haul a life-sized flat Rodney cartoon into the room and hold town halls without him, and voted for the House budget resolution that targeted the deduction for state and local taxes which hit New Jerseyans so hard. As chair of House Appropriations, he’s the most powerful member of the delegation, either party. Maybe it’s gone to his head. All 4 county chairs in the district have endorsed Mikie Sherrill, who has no electoral history, but as a former federal prosecutor, Naval Academy graduate and Navy Pilot is a walking feature story. in November, Cook Political Report shifted its district rating from Lean Republican to Toss Up.
CD7 (Lance) (Cook PVI R+3): Now, Leonard Lance is a guy who does not have a death wish when it comes to his continued longevity in Congress. Where Rodney avoids town halls, Lance has done four, all of them when anger toward Trump (with whom he allies) was beginning to spill over. Erect of bearing, generally soft-spoken and genteel, Lance is still coasting on the reputation he built representing Hunterdon in the New Jersey legislature, a maverick prepared to challenge his own party. Since arriving in Washington, he’s shifted hard-right, but knows he’s got a target on his back: Lance presides over one of just 23 districts where the Republican won but so did Hillary Clinton, and he’s a master at playing it safe. Dude’s got skills. Nevertheless, there are 7 Democrats vying for the shot to replace him. Disclosure: A member of my household is Political Director for one of them, Goutam Jois.
CD2 (LoBiondo – not running) (Cook PVI R+1): ‘Milquetoast conservative’ Frank LoBiondo,71, is getting out, leaving the only open seat so far this year. He already had a Democratic challenger, retired teacher Tanzie Youngblood, and now Sean Thom is also running. But nanoseconds after LoBiondo’s announcement, George Norcross declared his endorsement of DINO Jeff Van Drew. Norcross, Democratic fundraiser tied to both Donald Trump and Chris Christie, is the owner/operator of the South Jersey Democrats who protected and nurtured Christie. He has already installed his little brother Don as CD1’s congressman, and would like to extend that to the CD2 chunk of South Jersey. That would leave CD2 repped by a DINO with an awful record, which is exactly the kind of candidate DCCC likes to recruit and so they did. But here’s the thing: CD2 is just an R+1 district; there is zero reason for the argument that only a DINO can win there; a compelling and viable progressive can win there.
CD3 (MacArthur) (Cook PVI R+2): Tom MacArthur, one of the richest members of Congress, voted for the Trump tax bill that specifically screws so many New Jerseyans. And he put his name right on a key component of the Republicans’ attempt to kill Obamacare (which he heard about from constituents bigly). He doesn’t miss an opportunity to cozy up to the Trumps. Democrats running against him include a former National Security Council staffer who advised Obama on Iraq, Andy Kim. Also running are attorney/funeral director Rich Dennison and Fred LaVergne, who ran unsuccessfully (59-38) against MacArthur in 2016.
What race has got you all hot ’n bothered, Blue Jersey?