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2009/2010: Kirk's the front-runner?

ILLINOIS: Roll Call's Toeplitz sees shades of 1992 in the Illinois Democratic Senate primary: "Although state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is still considered the frontrunner in the February primary, the official entrance of Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson and former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman last week ensures a competitive primary for Democrats. The race also has striking similarities to the 1992 Democratic primary for the same Senate seat. In that race, Carol Moseley Braun came from behind to defeat then-Sen. Alan Dixon with 38 percent of the vote. A third Democrat, Al Hofeld, ran millions of dollars in negative advertisements against Dixon that backfired and helped to grease the way for Braun's victory."

MASSACHUSETTS: "The state Senate approved a bill yesterday that would let Governor Deval Patrick appoint an interim successor to Edward M. Kennedy, paving the way for the appointment of a new US senator as early as tomorrow and providing Democrats in Washington the potential 60th vote they have been seeking to pass a health care overhaul," the Boston Globe writes. "The state Senate approved the measure by a 24-to-16 vote, just five days after the House had voted 95 to 58 to change Massachusetts election law and allow the appointment of an interim US senator. Both chambers are planning to give a final procedural endorsement to the measure and to send it to the governor's desk today; the only potential hurdle is that Republicans are contemplating a last-ditch legal challenge in an effort to derail the legislation."

The New York Times says that Paul Kirk -- not Mike Dukakis -- might have the inside track to getting this interim appointment. "[S]enior Democrats in Washington said Tuesday that Paul G. Kirk Jr., a former aide to Mr. Kennedy and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was a likely choice. The Democrats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believed that Michael S. Dukakis, the former governor and 1988 presidential nominee, said to be under consideration, was out of the running and would not be named. Other possibilities include Evelyn Murphy, a former lieutenant governor; and Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School."

The Boston Globe's Lehigh thinks Rep. Michael Capuano had the best launch of the candidates running in the special election for Kennedy's seat. "Capuano gave a shrewd speech, too, portraying himself as a liberal fighter in the Ted Kennedy tradition, a claim he buttressed by citing his votes and voice against the Iraq war and the Patriot Act as well as his consistent support for a robust public health care option. In the Q&A, Capuano contrasted his outspokenness with Coakley's caution… To be sure, this wasn't a stunningly graceful dive - more like a Capuanian cannonball. Still, his forceful, attention-getting B-plus event made it clear Capuano is a candidate to be reckoned with."

NEW YORK: In NY-23, "one day after attorney Bill Owens became the first candidate to go on the air in the special election to replace former Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), the National Republican Congressional Committee returned fire with new radio and TV spots attacking the Democrat. The 30-second TV ad attempts to tie Owens to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), before touting Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) as a better alternative."

VIRGINIA: At last week's debate in front of Northern Virginia business leaders, Republican nominee Bob McDonnell brandished an empty sheet of paper that he said represented opponent Creigh Deeds' transportation plan: "Not a thing on it." Today in a Washington Post op-ed, Deeds lays out a plan, advocating for high-speed rail, using bus rapid transport, and encouraging telecommuting to reduce rush-hour traffic. "All funding options are on the table except taking money from education and other obligations met by Virginia's general fund," Deeds wrote, adding, "I'll sign a bipartisan bill with a dedicated funding mechanism for transportation -- even if it includes new taxes."  
Both gubernatorial nominees "wooed the all-important African-American vote at a candidate's forum" at historically black Virginia Union University in Richmond last night. Both answered the same ten questions about felons' voting rights, abortion and urban issues, "while avoiding attacking each other." The Washington Post's Anita Kumar adds: "in case you were wondering, [former VA Gov.] Doug Wilder did not show up to hear Deeds and McDonnell speak as he contemplates who may endorse." Several weeks ago, President Obama called Wilder to "[make] clear that he would like the former Democratic governor to get off the fence and endorse Democrat Creigh Deeds."