It’s a sunny day, and I’ve got tons of little errands to run, but I just wanted to post a few additional comments on 45th LD Sen. Bill Finkbeiner’s announcement that he would not run for reelection, and Rep. Toby Nixon’s announcement that he would vacate his seat in an attempt to replace him.
Big picture, the state GOP was already in a world of hurt, and this now gives them two more open seats to defend. Ouch. The Republicans now have three open Senate seats, with Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer the odds on favorite to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Oke in the 27th, and both the 45th and 47th having a history of electing Democrats.
Changing demographics continue to chip away at Republican support in suburban districts. Combine this with a spate of retirements and the current political climate, and the Democrats have a good shot at expanding their majority in the House and capturing a comfortable working majority in the State Senate for the first time since 1992.
Back to Finkbeiner, I’m sure there were a lot of personal and political reasons for his retirement. His vote in favor of the anti-discrimination bill couldn’t have helped him with the most active segment of the Republican base — the right wing — and no doubt it is time for him to pursue other interests.
But Democratic challenger Eric Oemig deserves at least some of the credit for pushing him out of the race. Finkbeiner’s heart just didn’t seem to be in it, and on top of all his other problems he was now facing a tough challenge from a strong candidate who was willing to spend his personal wealth to stay dollar competitive. Had Finkbeiner faced only token opposition, I’m guessing inertia might have kept him in the race, but you gotta think the prospect of all that fundraising and campaigning factored into his decision. Which proves once again that when Dems put up legitimate challengers, even against relatively strong incumbents… good things can happen.
And how do the Senate Dems thank Oemig for his help? By trying to replace him with another candidate with greater name ID, of course.
Both current Rep. Larry Springer and former Rep. (and failed candidate for SOS and state party chair) Laura Ruderman are being urged to step in… and to be fair, the political calculus is defensible. Last I heard, neither seemed all that willing to jump in, but either would present Nixon with a strong challenge.
While Nixon is good on some issues (labor and the environment come to mind) he is completely out of step with the district on social issues like the anti-discrimination bill and reproductive rights. He has also been a bit of an obstructionist on transportation issues, and a downright frothing partisan on election reform. Oemig, Ruderman and Springer are all more closely matched to the district than Nixon, but the latter two have already proven they can win office.
My personal choice would be for Springer to run for the Senate against Nixon, and for Oemig to move to one of the two House seats that would now be open. This gives the Dems a more experienced candidate gunning for the Senate, while Oemig might be unbeatable going for the House.
A first time candidate like Oemig unbeatable? Well, the Republicans will have a tough enough time recruiting two strong House candidates at this late stage, and Oemig’s personal wealth will surely scare off potential opponents assured of being substantially outspent. If I were a GOP hopeful, I’d go for the other seat, and thus chances are, Oemig would draw the weaker of the two opponents.
Of course, all this is speculation. Neither party has yet to recruit new candidates, and when we last spoke Oemig said he was still running for the Senate. But Finkbeiner’s sudden retirement certainly leaves the GOP in a much weaker position.
Which brings up an interesting question: why did Finkbeiner wait so long to announce his intentions, knowing that it would put his party in such difficult circumstances?
Only Finkbeiner can answer that question, but one can’t help but wonder if it was a symbolic, parting gesture to a party with which he never really seemed to fully fit in.