Less than 24 hours after North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad announced he will not run again in 2012, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman—who won his last term as an Independent but votes with Democrats to organize the Senate—followed suit.
Over two weeks ago, during the Republican National Committee meeting in Maryland that elected Reince Priebus national chairman, I spoke at length about just this scenario with Connecticut State GOP Chairman Chris Healy.
“In contrast to ’06, Joe Lieberman has no place to go this time,” Healy told me. “If he runs as a Democrat, he’s going to get some strong competition from the left—say, from [former Secretary of State] Susan Bysiewicz or either of two Democratic House members, Chris Murphy [5th District] or Joe Courtney [2nd District].”
Six years ago, Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to left-wing anti-Iraq War candidate Ned Lamont, a cable TV magnate, only to then run as an independent and defeat both Lamont and Republican Alan Schlesinger.
As for the 70-year-old Lieberman’s repeating his independent triumph of ’06, Healy shook his head vigorously. “No, that only worked because we had an underfunded nominee so it was easy for Republicans, in and out of Connecticut, to contribute to Joe.” At least three prominent California conservative GOPers sent maximum donations to Lieberman based on his support for U.S. action in Iraq: GOP National Committeeman Shawn Steel, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and 1992 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Bruce Herschensohn.
Healy promised, “We will be running a strong, well-funded candidate next time. You can go to the bank on it!”
As to my question about Lieberman’s running as a Republican, Healy dismissed this as “fantasy” and said that in spite of occasional maverick signs such as his opposition to the public option in healthcare or supporting McCain, “our senior senator [lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 16.15%] pretty much votes the Obama line—healthcare, stimulus money, bailouts, you name it.
Healy was an excellent prophet. Bysiewicz and three term Rep. Murphy will enter the Democratic race. Because she called Democrat Dan Malloy the winner of the disputed Connecticut race for governor last year before all the votes were counted, Bysiewicz is regarded by state Republicans in much the same antagonistic way Florida Democrats regarded that state’s Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the dispute over Florida’s electoral votes in 2000. Bysiewicz also suffered a political black eye in 2010 when the state supreme court ruled she could not run for attorney general because she was not actively practicing law.
Murphy (lifetime ACU rating: 1.33%), opposed, using vitriolic terms, the compromise that extended the ’01 and ’03 tax cuts that President Obama accepted and both Connecticut Democratic senators supported.
As for Republicans, much of the early talk centers on wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon who, using mainly all her own resources, last year, waged a strong, but losing Senate race against Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Despite widespread media criticism, McMahon won high marks as a campaigner and debater and is by far the best-known possible GOP contender. But businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, finally counted out for in that disputed 2010 race for governor, could also rebound and run for the Senate. Also mentioned is former Rep. (2000–06) Rob Simmons (lifetime ACU rating: 55%.)
About the only sure thing in the new picture for the Connecticut Senate race is that Republicans will have a well-known and well-funded candidate, and that is a radical change from six years ago when Joe Lieberman won his last term.
New Slate At RNC
Although the election of former Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus as chairman of the Republican national Committee in place of Michael Steele, dominated news from the RNC meeting, there were several other unexpected and rather dramatic developments.
Along with Priebus, the 168-member RNC chose new officers for all of the other three national positions. In a contest that was a genuine cliff-hanger, Florida National Committeewoman Sharon Day unseated incumbent Jan Larimer of Wyoming for the RNC’s No. 2 office of co-chairman. Although there was some nervousness about her being appointed Broward County commissioner by former moderate Gov. Charles Crist, (who switched from Republican to independent to run for the Senate last year), Day insisted she was a conservative and edged out one-time Wyoming First Lady Larimer by two votes.
Another incumbent officer who lost was RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen, who quit the race after placing third on the first ballot. On the second ballot, District of Columbia National Committeeman Tony Parker defeated California State Chairman Ron Nehring by a comfortable margin.
Pullen, who had long been at odds with Steele, was hurt by the fact that he had stepped down as Arizona state chairman and would thus not have been a member of the RNC while serving as its top financial officer. Moreover, the distance from Washington for Westerners Pullen and Nehring at a time when the party has a record $20 million debt was also a factor in their loss to Parker, whose home, as he emphasized to me before the vote, “is seven Metro stops from our national headquarters.”
In the only contest in which there was no incumbent running, Illinois Committeewoman Demetra Delmonte, a conservative stalwart was elected party secretary. The wife of a Peoria-area orthodontist, Delmonte has been part of the right-of-center caucus within the RNC that clashed with Chairman Steele and backed a resolution to always call the Democrats “Socialist.” A conservative stalwart in Illinois party battles, Delmonte will get national exposure at the 2012 convention when she calls the role of states.
Remembering An “Overcomer”
Most of the reports about the death of former conservative GOP Rep. Howard Pollock of Alaska on January 14 focused on his career as a pioneer in achieving statehood for Alaska, a two-term congressman and later president of the National Rifle Association.
But there was another side to Pollock, who was 90 at the time of his death, that said as much about him as his political career. While in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy in 1944, onetime collegiate boxer Pollock had an accident with a hand grenade that took off his right hand. Like Harold Russell in the film The Best Years of His Life, Pollock recovered and soon mastered a metal prosthesis.
Pollock and his wife then drove up the newly completed Alaska Highway and settled in the territory. Earning a law degree from the University of Houston, Pollock threw himself into the statehood movement. After Alaska joined the union, Pollock won a seat in the state legislature and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 1962. Four years later, running as an opponent of the Johnson Administration’s big-spending domestic agenda and in favor of victory in Vietnam, Pollock unseated Democratic Rep. Ralph Rivers to become Alaska’s first Republican in Congress.
In 1970, he lost the Republican primary for governor to incumbent Keith Miller. After serving as deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and in several other government posts, Pollock became president of the National Rifle association in 1985. Always outspoken, NRA President Pollock made headlines in 1986 when he was asked if he thought arch-liberal Rep. Howard Wolpe (D.-Mich.), whom he was campaigning to defeat, was a Communist.
“Ask him!” he shot back.
For many, it was hard to believe Pollock had lost a hand, as he competed in the World Slam shooting match, jetted around the world to go on safaris, fished for marlin in the Virgin Islands, and earned a black belt in taekwondo at age 75.
To those who stared at his prosthesis, Pollock always put them at ease by saying, “Just call me Captain Hook!”