Friday, April 20, 2018


By Dominique Paul Noth

Meet the candidates nationwide in your emails and snail mail begging for money – not just through many political or party groups but more often in personalized notes from themselves or famous supporters. 

Among the liberal senators facing ferocious
GOP money attacks are Sherrod Brown . . .
As a journalist I sign into multiple campaigns of both parties to keep track of what is happening. This year the Democrats have made it much easier for all of us, since so many are sending missives laced with money hunger, deadline pleas, matching fund opportunities, desperation or even “where have you been?” panic. (Like “Why haven’t we heard from you, insert name?)

Sensing a momentous wave, candidates around the country have intensified reaching out.

. . . and Elizabeth Warren  . . . 
  One result is that the money sent Democratic candidates is bulging and so are the number of women candidates.  It’s all still second place to the GOP, but it is making more contests competitive and even making an  earlier impact than the Republicans.

Act Blue, an internet service that candidates use to make sending money easy, is already closing in on its 2016 results – seven months ahead of the election!

. . . and Wisconsin's own Tammy Baldwin . . .
Big progressive donors are being stretched to the max and so are the little donors who remain the bulk of the Democratic party giving and voting. For state parties, this is a mixed blessing, as they reluctantly confess.

Great if there’s a nationwide sweep but it comes at some cost to local election fund-raising. 

. . . but so are moderates like Claire McCaskill.
It may be unfair that the average citizen is being asked to give till it hurts, but how else to combat  the superior dark money offered on the GOP side from  such billionaires as the Kochs and the Mercers, an Addison demanding genuflection, an Uihlein here, a Hendricks there – just add your favorite villain. 

The Democrats cannot hope to match this outlay, so they need to pile up $25 donations across the land to reflect the reality of growing support. So it may be a good dilemma for local candidates who feel money for them is drying up from the national blitz –at least everyone is working in the same direction when it comes to turnout. 

The problem for many folks on fixed income or little discretionary money is – where do you put the dough and how much to how many?  Most progressives I know of are investing more than they sensibly can afford, but feel it is vital for the country.  But there are some races where “give till it hurts” causes moral pain, particularly in D.C. Senate and House races which once limited fund-raising to the state you live in. 

Not counting the two independents who vote with the Democrats – King and Sanders seem in good shape – there are 23 Democratic Senate seats facing renewal or replacement in November – and only eight Republican ones. Nine GOP if you include the Mississippi seat of retiring Thad Cochran, which requires a November election to complete his term until 2020.

Mississippi is usually unthinkable -- Democrats have not won a Senate race there since 1982 -- but the Democrats are making inroads in House elections and the senate picture is still shaping up.  Wyoming’s John Barrasso and Mississippi’s other senator, Roger Wicker, didn’t seem much threatened . . . until a few weeks ago. 

Arizona's Krysten Sinema
But the Republicans willingly leaving are certainly threatened seats -- Jeff Flake most notably in Arizona where Rep. Krysten Sinema is running an ardent campaign using the internet and even Bob Corker as Tennessee voters weigh the horror of Rep. Marsha Blackburn replacing him, rather than Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former governor far better liked and in some polls leading

Blackburn’s hard blond FOX persona is so frightening that Corker even toyed with un-retiring rather than see her run.

Nevada's Jackie Rosen
While still uphill, buoyant Rep. Jackie Rosen is mounting a strong challenge to Republican Dean Heller in Nevada and, amazingly, Rep. Beto O’Rourke has subdued his opponent’s insults in Texas by out-raising Ted Cruz, a race the internet seems eager to keep hot.  

But Mitt Romney seems a shoo-in replacement for retiring Orrin Hatch in Utah, keeping that seat Republican. And Deb Fischer seemed a shoo-in until Democratic activist Jane Raybould and others started hitting her on issues important in Nebraska – health care and her support for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

But the real Senate threats – and the real push for money – involve nearly two dozen sitting Democrats, many facing those outrageous amounts of third party money hard to trace.

Several  races the Republicans won’t much bother with – New Mexico’s quiet and popular senator Martin Heinrich, Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, Delaware’s Tom Casper, Washington State’s Maria Cantwell, even Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and  Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, Virginia’s Tim Kaine, and Maryland’s Ben Cardin despite a bizarre primary challenge from Chelsea Manning.

But everyone else, especially the most liberal Democrats, are burning up the web with pleas to combat the millions pouring in against them. 

Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin is heavily pounded by GOP money which doesn’t seem to care who she faces (two Republicans, each with their own billionaire in their hip pockets, are trying to knock each other off before the August primary).  

Also pounded by the right are Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and Florida’s slightly more moderate Bill Nelson who now faces Florida’s well-heeled governor, Rick Scott.

Challenged by outside money are New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Connecticut’s Chris Murphy in states they should normally have a comfortable lead in.

In two cases, New Jersey’s Bob Menendez and California’s Diane Feinstein – the challenge may come from Democrats on the left, somewhat curious in the Feinstein case, where the arguments against her float dangerously close to ageism.

But there are Democrats desperate for campaign money that progressive Democrats raise questions about.  

These are the blue dogs whether they accept the name or not, likely to vote with the Republicans on some issues such as a tax bill and yet stand unblinking with fellow Democrats on issues like Obama healthcare. They look strong for the Democrats in reddish states when compared with their opponents.  But without weighing those opponents, what is a poor donor to do when email solicitations arrive from West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly? (In my experience, Casey has been less present on the Internet push than the others.)

The donor instincts are not just about differences of kind in a “big tent party”  -- which should and do exist regionally -- but in worrying about how these Democrats will vote  for six years into the future, and how hard they will work to reverse Trump’s mistakes should their party  gain the majority. 

These are the four that trouble me most.  But while also moderate in their votes, I have a great deal more sympathy and belief in Montana’s Jon Tester (who is fighting Illinois billionaire money from Richard Uihlein supporting his opponent) and particularly Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, whose fighting spirit is admirable and whose ideas are thought-provoking. Given their general control of Missouri, the Republicans are coming after her hardcore – she is considered the most threatened Democratic senate incumbent, though Baldwin might give her an argument. Even Democrats who don’t always agree with her are rallying to her support.

Last time, Republican backwardness on sex helped her win against Todd Atkins – can lightning strike twice?  This time her opponent is state attorney general Josh Hawley, who has been stymied in straightening out his own state GOP.  That stems from his governor, Eric Greitens  who admits to an extramarital affair, is battling blackmail and criminal charges and yet refuses to resign, accusing his opposition of  “a political witch hunt.” Talk about a Trump echo chamber.

Hawley had hoped Greitens would quit to put felony and blackmail charges behind him – and also behind Hawley early in his campaign against McCaskill.  His ineffectiveness has become a campaign issue. McCaskill may get another reprieve through self-imposed Republican folly.
[Editor's note May 31: Greitens did quit, which may be bad news for McCaskill.] 

Hiral Tipirneni is fighting from behind to win
an April 24 special election in Arizona.
As if the Senate elections weren’t busy enough, social media users have been badgered by innumerable House campaigns.  An Arizona House candidate facing a special election April 24, Hiral Tipirneni, is soliciting campaign letters from embattled senate Democrats like Gillibrand while Heitkamp has provided endorsing emails for California Rep candidate Brian Forde, a former Obama adviser.

Miami Beach’s David Richardson, hungry to replace retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has also flooded Facebook, causing Midwest confusion among people who have never heard of him.  Similarly South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham hopes you will directly help him knock Mark Sanford back to Argentina.

Likewise, South Carolina’s Archie Parnell running against GOP gun toting Ralph Norman has launched his own direct Facebook campaign while Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos is directly soliciting Democrats in border states for her threatened 17th District in a former Trump region. 

Emily’s List is in your email pushing 36 (!) House pro-choice women including Iowa’s Cindy Axne, Florida’s Mary Flores, Washington State’s Kim Schrier, California’s Mai Khanh Tran and Illinois’ Lauren Underwood (many of whom would flip red seats to blue) plus female candidates for governorships.  Even attorney generals in other states have gotten into the internet act.

On and on down every ballot, including those you can’t vote in, the money wheel spins across the US.  Will it tap your savings?

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.  

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