Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Wisconsin Rep. Baldwin Announces Senate Bid

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2)

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2)

As expected, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) formally announced her bid for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat yesterday. The congresswoman has been preparing a statewide bid for months, but only kicked her fledging operation into high gear when former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) decided not to become a candidate. Vacating the safely Democratic 2nd district means that 41 seats are now open due to an incumbent announcing he or she will not seek re-election, or because reapportionment or redistricting creates an incumbent-less district.

The Wisconsin campaign has been slow-moving. Incumbent Sen. Herb Kohl (D) announced back on May 13 that he would not seek a fourth term next year, yet official candidate announcements began only last week. Rep. Baldwin now becomes the third person to enter the field of contenders. On the Republican side, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald both say they are in the race. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is expected to soon join the Republican contestants. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) and ex-Congressman Steve Kagen (D-WI-8) are potential Democratic nomination opponents to Ms. Baldwin.

The Wisconsin Senate race is likely to be one of the closest statewide political contests in the nation next year. The outcome could well decide the Senate majority, as projections suggest that both parties will likely be at parity after the next election. Currently, the Democrats hold a 53-47 spread. Republicans are already likely to gain two seats – North Dakota open and Nebraska – thus bringing the party division to 51D-49R. Missouri (Sen. Claire McCaskill), Virginia (open – Sen. Jim Webb retiring), and Montana (Sen. Jon Tester) are all toss-up Democratic seats in addition to Wisconsin. All other races remaining constant, the Republicans would have to win two of the latter four to take the majority; Democrats would have to hold three of four to retain power.
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Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part II

In concluding our two-part series about House members who will face serious 2012 re-election challenges, below we list 22 more competitive incumbents from states where redistricting has been completed or which is pending but clear.

IN-8 – Larry Bucshon (R) – In attempting to gain a 7R-2D advantage for the delegation, the 8th district of freshman Rep. Bucshon was weakened, from the Republican perspective. Expect competition here, but the new incumbent remains the favorite.

IA-3 – Leonard Boswell (D) / Tom Latham (R) – In the only intra-party pairing of the new election cycle so far, veteran Reps. Boswell and Latham square-off in a marginal district. Mr. Boswell represents more of the new district, but the voting patterns tilt a touch toward Mr. Latham. This race begins as a pure toss-up.

IA-4 – Steve King (R) – The new western-based 4th district is mostly comprised of Rep. King’s current 5th district and part of Mr. Latham’s old 4th. Christie Vilsack (D), wife of former Gov. Tom Vilsack who serves as President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, already has announced her intention to challenge Rep. King. This will be a competitive race because of Vilsack’s fundraising capability. However, King begins with the decided advantage.

LA-3 – Jeff Landry (R) / Charles Boustany (R) – Louisiana’s loss of a congressional seat pits freshman Rep. Jeff Landry against veteran Charles Boustany in a Republican primary battle. The winner retains the seat. Boustany is the early favorite.

MI-9 – Sander Levin (D) / Gary Peters (D) – Michigan’s loss of a district pairs 15-term Rep. Levin against two-term Rep. Peters. Levin, who will be 80 at the time of the next election, is a retirement possibility. Peters has also tested the waters to run for Oakland County Executive. The winner of this primary battle, should it occur, holds the seat.

MO-2 – Russ Carnahan (D) – The loss of a seat in Missouri has forced Rep. Carnahan either to challenge Rep. Lacy Clay in the 1st district Democratic primary or try to survive in the neighboring Republican 2nd district seat, in open status because Rep. Todd Akin is running for the Senate. Carnahan is competitive here, but will be the underdog.

NH-2 – Charlie Bass (R) – The 2nd district is now more like Vermont than New Hampshire in terms of voting patterns. This means the seat is decidedly Democratic. Rep. Bass regained the position he lost in 2006, but by just one percentage point over Democratic lobbyist Anne McLane Kuster. Redistricting must move only 254 people between the two districts, so Bass’s hopes for a more Republican seat are gone. This is a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

NY-25 – Ann Marie Buerkle (R) – Though redistricting won’t be completed well into next year, we can count on a competitive race in this Syracuse-based district. Chances are the city will remain intact, meaning it will anchor a seat in the Upstate region. Former Rep. Dan Maffei (D), the man Ms. Buerkle unseated in 2010, has already announced his intention to run again next year.

NC-3 – Rep. Walter Jones (R) – Though Rep. Jones has a safe Republican seat in which to run for re-election, the district has vast new territory for him. Already, retired New Bern Police Chief Frank Palumbo (R) has announced a GOP primary challenge to Mr. Jones. Others could follow suit.

NC-4 – David Price (D) / Brad Miller (D) – The Republican redistricting plan placed two Democratic incumbents in a seat that now stretches from Raleigh to Fayetteville. This will be a difficult primary as each man represents about one-third of this new district. The winner retains the seat for the Democrats.

NC-7 – Mike McIntyre (D) – Redistricting also threw Rep. McIntyre into a difficult district. This will be a top Republican conversion target. Both 2010 GOP nominee Ilario Pantano and state Sen. David Rouzer (R) have announced their intentions to run.

NC-8 – Larry Kissell (D) – Rep. Kissell loses a great number of Democratic votes in this new redistricting plan, making him a tempting GOP target. Three local officials, including one who isn’t from the district, have announced for the seat. Expect more candidates to soon enter the fray.

NC-11 – Heath Shuler (D) – Rep. Shuler may have received the most difficult draw of all, as he now represents the most Republican congressional district in North Carolina. Local District Attorney Jeff Hunt and several local officials already are officially running.

OR-4 – Peter DeFazio (D) – The seat became a touch more Republican in redistricting and Rep. DeFazio raised eyebrows with his comment earlier this week that he is thinking about retirement. Could be competitive in an open situation. Republican Art Robinson, who received 44% of the vote against DeFazio in 2010, is running again.

RI-1 – David Cicilline (D) – Negative stories about Rep. Cicilline’s financial management of Providence when he was mayor has made the freshman congressman potentially vulnerable. Two strong Republican candidates, including 2010 nominee John Loughlin and former state police chief Brendan Doherty, are running. Chances appear high that Cicilline could draw Democratic primary opposition, too.

TN-3 – Charles Fleischmann (R) – Though redistricting is not yet finalized in Tennessee, freshman Rep. Fleischmann in the Chattanooga-based seat will likely face primary opposition. Robin Smith, the local county Republican Party chair who lost to Fleischmann by less than 1,500 votes in 2010, is considering a re-match.

TN-4 – Scott DesJarlais (R) – Mr. DesJarlais, who unseated then-Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) by more than 30,000 votes last November, could see a GOP primary challenge from state Sen. Bill Ketron (R). Sen. Ketron is on the legislative committee in charge of redistricting, which presumably allows him to draw the 4th district to his liking.

TN-8 – Stephen Fincher (R) – Though redistricting is not completed, the 8th district, by virtue of its geographic location in the northwest corner of the state, will likely be competitive in 2012. Mr. Fincher is the first modern-day Republican congressman from this region.

TX-35 – Lloyd Doggett (D) – If the Texas map survives its legal challenges, Rep. Doggett will face a stiff Democratic primary battle in the new 35th District that includes parts of Austin and San Antonio. Already, state Rep. Juan Castro (D), twin brother to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), has announced he will challenge Doggett.

UT-2 – Jim Matheson (D) – Redistricting will likely put Rep. Matheson in another strongly Republican seat. He already represents the most Republican district held by a Democratic member. Matheson is also a potential statewide candidate. The Republicans will win the seat if he vacates.

WV-1 – David McKinley (R) – Redistricting kept the 1st district largely intact, which is a seat Mr. McKinley can hold, despite it being in Democratic hands for generations before 2010. Ex-Rep. Alan Mollohan, who was defeated in the Democratic primary after 14 terms in office, is a possible candidate in 2012. The Democrats will field a strong challenger here, and this race will be competitive.

WI-7 – Sean Duffy (R) – Mr. Duffy won a seat that was in former Rep. David Obey’s (D) hands for more than 40 years. The district gained Republicans in the re-draw, but Rep. Duffy can expect a stiff re-election challenge from a strong Democrat.

In these two reports (go to our Part I report) we already have isolated 44 incumbents who will face a competitive re-election challenge in either the primary or the general election. Keep in mind that no less than 13 major states still have not completed their redistricting, including Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Add in at least 26 more open seats and it is conceivable that as many as 90-100 House seats could be contested as the 2012 election hits its stride.
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Interesting Wisconsin Senate Numbers

Now that ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) has made his decision not to enter the 2012 open US Senate race in Wisconsin with Sen. Herb Kohl (D) retiring, the real campaign will now get underway. In particular, potential Democratic candidates were deferring to Feingold and holding back officially announcing their own campaigns in order to determine if the former senator would again enter the electoral fray. Now that he is officially out of the race, we can expect a series of people to soon announce for the seat.

In anticipation of the building candidate field from both parties in what will be a highly competitive campaign, Public Policy Polling released the results of their latest Wisconsin survey that handicaps the field in both party primaries.

For the Republicans, all eyes are on the 69-year-old former governor, Tommy Thompson, who was elected to four consecutive terms beginning in 1986. He left midway through his final term to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration. Though he still has not officially announced his Senatorial campaign, Mr. Thompson has openly talked about getting into the race. He is likely to be opposed by former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), who was first elected to the House for two terms in 1994 and ’96 before challenging and losing to Sen. Feingold in 1998, 48-51 percent.

On the Republican side of the ledger, PPP (Aug. 12-14; 362 “usual” Wisconsin GOP primary voters) tried a different approach, actually asking voters a “push” question after they indicated which candidate they would support. Predicting some of the attack points Neumann, and even the Democrats, will likely use against Thompson, the study produced interesting results.

In the straight ballot test question, Thompson leads Neumann 47-39 percent. The former governor’s personal approval rating among the Republican respondents is 74:17 percent positive to negative. Neumann’s is a sound 43:14 percent.

When PPP asked their loaded push question against Thompson, however, the results sharply turned. The question posed to the respondents was:

While Tommy Thompson was governor, he more than doubled state spending and increased government bureaucracy. Then he endorsed Obamacare, President Obama’s $1-trillion-dollar government takeover of health care. Given this information, would you vote for Mark Neumann or Tommy Thompson if the primary for Senate was today?

After hearing this question, Thompson dropped almost half of his previous support, from 47 percent all the way down to 26 percent. Neumann shot up from 39 percent to 59 percent. Thompson will have to respond hard to neutralize what are sure to be negative attacks of this type in both the primary and general elections.

Looking at the Democrats, the three most likely candidates are Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), who will likely announce within days, Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3), who is not necessarily going to enter the race, and defeated Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI-8).

When PPP tested these names before 387 “usual” Wisconsin Democratic primary voters, Ms. Baldwin captured the decided advantage, leading 37-21-15 percent over Kind and Kagen, respectively. If Kind does not become a candidate, Baldwin then enjoys a 48-19 percent edge over Mr. Kagen.

Regardless of the outcome of both primaries, the Wisconsin Senate race will be one of the most hard-fought political battles in the 2012 election. The outcome of this race could conceivably decide which party will control the Senate majority in the next Congress.
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Feingold is a No-Go in Wisconsin

Defeated Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who lost his seat to Republican Ron Johnson last November, officially closed the door Friday on an imminent return to elective politics during this current election cycle.

With Sen. Herb Kohl (D) saying he will not seek re-election in 2012, all eyes in both parties turned toward Feingold, since he is the most logical Democrat to attempt to keep the seat in his party’s column. Early polling was suggesting that the former senator would defeat all potential Republicans and Democrats if he were to enter the field of candidates. Though Feingold said in his public statement that he may again seek elective office, he will not do so in 2012. Instead, he wants to continue in his teaching duties at Marquette University and chairing the issue advocacy group that he founded, Progressives United.

The Wisconsin open seat Senate race has been unique because of the lack of early activity among potential candidates. The others reportedly considering the race, particularly among Democrats, seemed paralyzed as they waited for Mr. Feingold to make a decision; most unusual for a political figure who only months ago lost a major election when in the incumbent’s position.

With the former senator now out of the 2012 race, expect the candidate announcements to soon be forthcoming. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) is now a virtual sure entrant. Though she hasn’t committed to the statewide race in deference to Feingold, she has been actively raising money in her congressional account, which is transferable to a Senate race because both are federal campaigns. Through June 30th, Ms. Baldwin raised over $601,000 but has more than $1.1 million in the bank.

Polling suggests that Rep. Baldwin assumes the position of early leader for her party’s nomination. Back in July, Magellan Strategies (July 12-13; 627 Wisconsin Democratic primary voters) gave the Madison congresswoman a 41-19 percent lead over 3rd District Rep. Ron Kind, and a 45-21 percent advantage over defeated 8th District Rep. Steve Kagen.

But the recent Public Policy Polling survey (Aug. 12-14; 830 registered Wisconsin voters) tells a much different story as it relates to the general election. Upon Sen. Kohl’s announcement, former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, now 69 years old, said immediately that he was serious about entering the race as a candidate. Former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) who lost 48-51 percent to Sen. Feingold in 1998, also said he would likely hop into the race. Neumann had even been actively considering a challenge to Kohl. The latest PPP data actually shows both Republicans to have slight leads over the potential Democratic field, in what now has to be considered a top GOP conversion opportunity.

According to the Public Policy Polling data, Thompson would lead Baldwin 50-42 percent and Neumann would enjoy a 44-40 percent edge over the congresswoman. If Kind were to win the Democratic nomination, Thompson would lead him 48-41 percent, while Neumann clings to a 43-40 percent margin. Should Kagen rise to the top of the Democratic field, he too would trail both Republicans. In the latter case, Thompson is up 49-41 percent; Neumann 45-38 percent.

The Wisconsin electorate, possibly because of the negativity surrounding the state’s public employee labor unrest and subsequent recall elections, view all of the potential candidates unfavorably, with the exception of Thompson. Former Sen. Feingold was also in positive numbers.

Thompson scores a 44:42 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Feingold did better than anyone else tested, but even his numbers weren’t overwhelming. He posted 49:43 percent.

All others are in an upside down position. Neumann registers 25:27 percent; Baldwin, a similar 26:28 percent. Rep. Kind is down 18:26 percent, while Kagen has the worst numbers by far, 12:23 percent.

In what will likely become a similar Wisconsin story in the presidential race, expect this Senate campaign to be difficult, hard-fought, and close. Though the action has been slow to start, it will soon become fast and furious. The Wisconsin Senate will likely be in the toss-up category all the way to the November 2012 Election Day and could very well be the deciding state in determining which party assumes the US Senate majority in the next Congress.
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The Democrats Win in Wisconsin – Round II

The second stage of the Wisconsin state Senate recall elections was held last night, and the challenged Democratic incumbents held both contested seats. State senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch won their respective recall elections with 55 percent and 58 percent of the vote, respectively.

The Holperin victory was the more impressive of the two since his northern Wisconsin district is far more conservative than Wirch’s Racine/Kenosha seat. The 12th state Senate district gave Supreme Court Justice Bob Prosser (R) a solid victory in his hotly contested re-election battle held earlier this year. In 2010, Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker easily carried the region with both scoring victory percentages in the high-50s. But the string of GOP victories did not carry over to the recall election.

In the Wirch race, SD-22, the result was much easier to predict. This region is solidly Democratic and polling never indicated that Sen. Wirch was in serious trouble.

Now that all eight recalls have been run, six incumbents held their seats. The only two senators to lose, both last week, are Republicans Dan Kapanke, who represented a strong Democratic seat, and scandal-tainted Randy Hopper. The Republicans retain control of the Senate chamber, however, but with a much smaller 17-16 margin.

In the end, the Democrats boycotting their duties and running away to Illinois did not hurt them, since none were recalled. On the other hand, the Republicans, led by Gov. Walker, made fundamental change in the state’s public employee collective bargaining structure and then took the Democrats/unions hardest retaliatory punch and survived.

It will be interesting to see if the entire controversial process brings about any further national ramifications.
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GOP Survives Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Last night, Badger State voters went to the polls to decide the controversial Wisconsin recall elections in six state Senate districts. All featured Republican incumbents defending their seats. Next Tuesday, two Democratic incumbents will face the voters.

Democrats were successful in defeating two of the GOP incumbents but, overall, the results did not accomplish what the union organizers who gathered the necessary petitions to force a vote had desired. At the beginning of the evening, the Senate party division was 19R-14D. With the two Democratic victories, the worst case scenario for the GOP after the completion of all recall voting will be 17R-16D. Since only Democratic incumbents are before the voters on August 16th, the Republicans can only increase their majority or remain clinging to a one-seat advantage.

Turnout was predictably high. In most cases the numbers reached approximately 80 percent of what appear to be normal general election voter participation levels. This helped the GOP win two-thirds of the contests. Low turnout elections are normally won by the side that is most driven to turnout. Since the unions and Democrats were forcing the recalls to protest GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature’s actions to curtail the public employee union benefits and organizing rights, it was they who should have been more energized. The districts were largely Republican, but President Obama did win all eight of the jurisdictions back in 2008. So, it is conceivable the Democrats could have done better.

The two seats they won were rather expected. Sen. Dan Kapanke (R), who represents a southwestern Wisconsin seat including the city of Lacrosse, suffered the biggest defeat, losing 45-55 percent to Democrat Jennifer Schilling. Kapanke, you may remember, challenged Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) in their 2010 congressional race, losing 46-50 percent – a better result than he received last night in trying to defend his own position. Of the seats facing recall, this 32nd district was by far the most Democratic. The President received 61 percent here in 2008. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) who unseated then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2010, scored only 49 percent here. Walker posted 42 percent. In the other post-general election political race, the hotly contested 2011 battle for a key state Supreme Court seat, Republican incumbent Judge David Prosser, who won statewide, failed to carry the 32nd district. He registered only 44 percent. Last night’s recall here produced the biggest Democratic victory of the night, but in this type of district, such a result was largely expected.

The other Democratic victory featured a scandal-tainted Republican incumbent in the 18th district. Sen. Randy Hopper was the subject of controversy regarding an extra-marital affair and a messy divorce while the labor unrest in the state capitol was occurring. He lost his Senate seat last night by a tight 49-51 percent margin to Democrat Jessica King. Both new Senators will have to defend their seats in the 2012 general election, as that is the normal election time for the two even-numbered districts. Wisconsin state Senators receive four-year terms. The elections are staggered so that half of the seats stand for election every two years. The odd-numbers run with the governor; evens with the President. The 18th district is much more Republican than the previously mentioned 32nd district. Obama posted 51 percent in 2008. The 2010-11 District 18 results gave Sen. Johnson 59 percent, Gov. Walker 57 percent; and Judge Prosser 53 percent.

The Republican incumbents carried their districts last night with victory margins of 60 percent (Sen. Rob Cowles in District 2), 58 percent (Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in District 10), 54 percent (Sen. Alberta Darling in District 8), and 52 percent (Sen. Luther Olsen in District 14). Of these, the Harsdorf victory is the most impressive, as the Republican numbers were not as strong as in the other districts. Judge Prosser, for example, failed to carry this seat in 2011, scoring 48 percent of the vote.

Though the GOP lost two seats in the recall process, they appear to have survived all of the post-budget crisis action in relatively good shape. In the face of superior labor union and Democratic Party political organizing, they turned back the Supreme Court challenge and held onto the state Senate majority after enacting the controversial public employee union legislation that rocked the state capitol with nationally covered protests and featured the Democrats failing to report to the Senate for weeks. All of this in a state that routinely elects Democrats to positions of power. Wisconsin will clearly be a major battleground state for the coming 2012 election.
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Senate Financials Tell Interesting Stories

The second quarter US Senate financial disclosure summaries are now available and in almost all cases, the incumbents have prepared adequately for their re-election campaigns. Obviously, the size of the state dictates the money range needed to run a viable effort, so the benchmark cash on hand figures differ greatly. All in-cycle incumbents have more than $1.5 million in assets with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who possesses $1.279 million. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) has the most money in the bank, $9.628 million. The next closest cash on hand figure is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) $6.057 million.

The only incumbent with less cash on hand than a challenger is Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) has $2.476 million in her campaign account versus Heller’s $2.272 million. The comparison is a bit unfair, however, because Heller is an appointed incumbent, replacing the resigned Sen. John Ensign (R). Therefore, his Senate incumbency is short-lived and should not be measured comparably to the other in-cycle full-term Senators.

The Senate incumbents having the strongest fundraising cycle to date are Scott Brown ($3.739 million), Bill Nelson ($3.695 million), and Democrat New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ($3.581 million). The strongest open seat/challenger fundraisers are Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who still has yet to announce his Senate candidacy, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), who is seeking retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) open seat, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) challenging one-term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Mandel raised $2.339 million, Murphy $2.012 million, and Rehberg $1.964 million.

The fundraising and resource components provide some idea as to how competitive some of the projected close races might become. Sen. Nelson, for example, continues to prove he is in solid shape by every measuring instrument. His $6.057 million cash on hand is more than seven times as great as his closest financial opponent, GOP former interim Sen. George LeMieux. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), commonly viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election, raised only $111,000 more than Attorney General Jon Bruning, but leads his chief Republican opponent $2.916 million to $1.265 million in the cash on hand category.

The competitive race that is proving to be the closest, at least in resources, is the Nevada Senate race. There Rep. Berkley shows $2.476 million compared with Sen. Heller’s $2.272 million cash on hand. This race could turn out to be the most hotly contested in the country. Nevada is a tight swing state, both candidates are equally well-known, and they both possess the same quantity of campaign resources. With turnout expected to be high in the presidential election year, the final wave will likely decide this campaign. The same can be said for the Virginia Senate race. There, former Sen. George Allen (R) has raised $2.615 million with $1.649 million on hand. Tim Kaine, the former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, has raised a similar, but smaller, $2.266 million but has slightly more in the bank, $1.875 million.

As we know, finance tells only part of any political story, but no one denies that the dollar count is a highly important factor of any campaign effort.

Below is a link to a PDF spreadsheet containing the relevant financial numbers for all 33 Senate races being contested in 2012. The only state not recording any figures is Wisconsin. Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, and no one has yet formally declared their candidacy for the open seat.

Candidate Financials: Senate Financial Disclosure – 2nd Qtr 2011
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