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Ellison’s Election Tip Sheet

Ellison Barber election tip sheet
• June 27, 2014 12:00 pm

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ALASKA: SENATE

In five years, Sen. Mark Begich (D., Alaska) has not received a roll-call vote on a single amendment he brought to the floor.

The Hill reports:

Republicans have attacked Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.), and other endangered Democrats for voting their party line consistently or lacking the power to force their leadership to take a vote on a controversial amendment.

Begich, who was elected in 2008, has never received a roll-call vote on an amendment he’s offered on the Senate floor. The last time Pryor got a roll-call vote on one of his amendments was in March 2010.

Former Sen. Olympia Snowe, a centrist Republican from Maine who served in the chamber from 1995 to 2013, called the inability of Begich and Pryor to get votes in the past four years "shocking."

The article contends that a significant part of the problem is "because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D., Nev.) tight grip on amendments."

Okay, but will voters see that as an adequate excuse?

Sen. Begich has been in office for five years and has not been able to get a roll-call vote when his party controls the Senate. That is ridiculous for a host of reasons, some of which can be blamed on external forces, but not all of them.

It seems Begich either has no clout or say within his party or that he is in such complete lock step with them that he does not care enough to challenge the status quo.

Begich took office in January of 2009, and as of January 2014, Newsmax notes, he has "missed 3 percent of roll-call votes—nearly twice the 1.7 percent average of currently serving senators, according to data from govtrack.us."

When you look at that attendance record and Begich’s inability to conjure a roll-call vote, it doesn’t look good and seems inept.

KENTUCKY: SENATE

Alison Lundergan Grimes is up in a recent poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP).

The Hill summarized the results:

Grimes leads McConnell 48 percent-46 percent among voters leaning toward one of the two candidates, according to a survey released Thursday by Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP).

Breaking down that division of support, 41 percent said they feel strongly they would vote for Grimes if the election were held today, 5 percent had a weak feeling they’d vote for her and 2 percent leaned toward Grimes. […]

Among independents, 56 percent said they would likely vote for Grimes, while 30 percent said they would back McConnell.

PPP is a left-leaning polling company, but this poll is certainly not something to be dismissed. McConnell easily defeated his primary challenger, but he still faces a serious threat in Grimes.

Republicans are trying to pick up 6 seats, and they really can’t afford to lose any. Grimes is a strong candidate and it would be a mistake to underestimate her.

Over half of voters said they would be "more likely" to vote for a candidate that "wants to stop President Obama from waging a war on coal." In that regard, as I’ve previously noted, Grimes has had a couple of flubs, coming under criticism when she did not "defend Kentucky’s coal industry" while attending a fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

COLORADO: SENATE

Sen. Mark Udall met with an environmentalist group earlier this week.

The Washington Free Beacon writes:

Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.) held a meeting in his Washington office on Wednesday with his second biggest donor, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), an environmentalist group that strongly opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking efforts in his home state. […]

The LCV has been open about their positions, which include stopping Keystone and allowing communities to ban fracking and prohibit it on public lands due to "public health impacts." A study, financed in part by environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, undercut concerns about the process, finding that fracking produces only small amounts of small amounts of methane emissions.

The LCV is Udall’s second biggest donor; he has received $138,387 from the group over his career and $36,906 so far this cycle. The LCV spent $15 million aiding Democratic candidates in 2012, and is spending $1 million on anti-Gardner ads this cycle.

This is probably not the best ally for Udall. The majority of Americans approve of the pipeline, and thus far Udall has not taken an official position on the pipeline. The Denver Post editorial board criticized this noting, "It would be helpful to know Udall's position before, not after, the Obama administration officially rules on Keystone."

It would probably be wise to be accountable to your constituents first and tell them where you stand instead of meeting with an environmentalist group, which has made their position clear, behind closed doors.