Re­cruit­ing now for 2016 Se­nate races

The GOP seeks strong nom­i­nees in Colorado and Ne­vada to off­set other ex­pected losses.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NA­TION - By Kur­tis Lee

The lat­est bat­tle for con­trol of the Se­nate won’t end un­til Novem­ber 2016, but de­ci­sions made this year in sev­eral key states could go a long way to­ward de­cid­ing the out­come.

In con­tests where open seats can be­won or a vul­ner­a­ble in­cum­bent top­pled, this is when par­ties fo­cus on a sin­gle is­sue: re­cruit­ing can­di­dates.

Cur­rently, Repub­li­cans are search­ing for can­di­dates in two states — Colorado and Ne­vada — where they have hopes of pick­ing up seats.

Democrats lost con­trol of the Se­nate in last year’s midterm elec­tion but have an edge in re­gain­ing con­trol in 2016. They’re set to de­fend 10 seats this time around com­pared with 24 for Repub­li­cans.

Seven of the seats Repub­li­cans must de­fend are in states that Pres­i­dent Obama won twice. In a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, in which turnout will be larger and in­clude more mi­nori­ties and young peo­ple, who tilt Demo­cratic, sev­eral of those races will prob­a­bly be dif­fi­cult for the GOP.

To off­set po­ten­tial losses in blue states— GOP in­cum­bents in Illi­nois and Wis­con­sin are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble — Repub­li­cans hope to pick up Demo­cratic seats in Colorado, where they de­feated in­cum­bent Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, and Ne­vada, where Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid will be re­tir­ing.

But re­cruit­ment prob­lems could limit those ef­forts.

In Colorado, GOP Rep. Mike Coff­man’s re­cent an­nounce­ment that he will not chal­lenge in­cum­bent Demo­cratic Sen. Michael Ben­net has left Repub­li­cans scram­bling.

Coff­man, who hails from a di­verse sub­ur­ban Den­ver district and has won statewide of­fice in the past, is a strong fundraiser and well­known within the state party. Now Repub­li­cans must con­sider sev­eral low­er­pro­file and untested can­di­dates.

The list in­cludes state Sen. Ellen Roberts, who rep­re­sents a ru­ral swath of south­west­ern Colorado, and Coff­man’s wife, Cyn­thia, the state’s at­tor­ney gen­eral.

In 2014, Cyn­thia Coff­man was the top Repub­li­can vote-get­ter of any can­di­date in Colorado, but many of the state’s top strate­gists be­lieve she will run for gov­er­nor in 2018.

Roberts could be as­trong pick for a state that has never elected a fe­male se­na­tor, but her sup­port of abor­tion rights would be a hur­dle to over­come in a GOP pri­mary.

“The big ques­tion is: Can she make it out of a pri­mary where there will cer­tainly be re­ally con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates who ham­mer her on the is­sue?” said Eric Son­der­mann, a Den­ver-based po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.

Roberts said in an in­ter­view that if she de­cides to run, the theme for her can­di­dacy would re­sem­ble a slo­gan used by Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky: a “dif­fer­ent kind of Repub­li­can.”

“We as a party need to find so­lu­tions and bring peo­ple to­gether,” Roberts said, de­scrib­ing her­self as “mod­estly lib­er­tar­ian.”

In Ne­vada, where Reid has held his seat since 1987, Democrats have co­a­lesced around his pro­tege, for­mer state Atty. Gen. Cather­ine Cortez Masto.

Many Repub­li­cans had hoped that Gov. Brian San­doval, who won re­elec­tion last year, would run for the seat. But San­doval said last week hewould not do so.

Repub­li­can of­fi­cials have been try­ing to per­suade Rep. Joe Heck, a re­tired gen­eral, to en­ter the race, al­though he has said he will not run.

Florida Repub­li­cans will look to de­fend the seat of Sen. Marco Ru­bio as he seeks the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. The race, whichis ranked a “pure toss-up” by the non­par­ti­san Rothenberg& Gon­za­les Po­lit­i­cal Re­port, is shap­ing up to have com­pet­i­tive prima--

ries on both sides.

Rep. Patrick Mur­phy rep­re­sents a South Florida district and has been en­dorsed by the Demo­cratic Se­na­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. The en­dorse­ment, how­ever, hasn’t de­terred a chal­lenge from Rep. Alan Grayson, who is no­to­ri­ous for mak­ing con­tro­ver­sial com­ments.

On the GOP side, state Lt. Gov. Car­los Lopez-Can­tera, who is of Cuban and Jewish de­scent, is the fa­vorite of es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans. He’s set to be chal­lenged by tea party fa­vorite Rep. Ron DeSan­tis, whose district is in the north­ern part of the state.

“I firmly be­lieve— firmly — that a Florid­ian will be the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida GOP strate­gist who is work­ing for LopezCan­tera. In ad­di­tion to Ru­bio, for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion.

“That only helps the Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date in Florida, be­cause it bumps up Repub­li­can turnout,” Wilson said.

In Wis­con­sin, the de­ci­sion by for­mer Sen. Russ Fein­gold to seek a re­match with Sen. Ron John­son, who beat him in 2010, has cre­ated a race that both sides will watch closely.

John­son is one of the most con­ser­va­tive mem­bers of the Se­nate, and al­most cer­tainly will have a harder road in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year.

“This is one of the premier races,” said Nathan L. Gon­za­les, ed­i­tor of the Rothenberg& Gon­za­les Po­lit­i­cal Re­port. “And one where both sides have their top re­cruit.”

Joe Koshollek Associated Press

DEMO­CRAT Russ Fein­gold is ready for a re­match after los­ing hisWis­con­sin seat to John­son in 2010.

J. Scott Ap­ple­white Associated Press

REPUB­LI­CAN Ron John­son ofWis­con­sin, one of the most con­ser­va­tive sen­a­tors, is seen as vul­ner­a­ble.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.