The press, Donald, Hillary and Bernie has made everyone forget about these other important races

There is no room in the news cycle for any news. It is all Presidential politics all the time. Mostly it is about Donald Trump and whether or not he is too extreme or too vulgar to win. Then the second story is about whether or not Bernie will be a unifier after Hillary squeaks to victory.

What could possibly be bigger than Trump’s latest insult or ignorant riff? Bigger than the delegate countdown with Bernie closing ground but Hillary holding the lead with the finish line in her sight? This is what we see from the bridge, scanning the political horizon and fixating on those headlines, listening to pundits and operatives and surrogates and former contenders. After all, we are talking about the leader of the free world here.

Of course the Presidency is important, but control of the Congress matters a whole lot to the safe passage of our Ship of State. Below the surface, in the murky depths they call the “down-ticket,” is a matter much larger than the Captains of Chat would have us believe. How about 469 other contests that will be decided on November 8: 34 Senate seats and 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The Legislative Branch is poised for (a) a major overhaul or (b) a return to the channel-clogging traditions of the past few years.

Democratic control of the Senate is a matter of adding five seats. Three Dems are retiring: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski and Harry Reid. Dan Coates, the Indiana Republican, is retiring, along with “Little” Marco Rubio. Headline Senate names on both sides of the aisle are up for re-election: Chuck Schumer, Pat Leahy, John McCain and Rand Paul.

A lot of these races ought to get more attention than they do. Kamala Harris, California’s first African-American, Asian-American female attorney general is in a primary fight with Blue Dog Democrat Loretta Sanchez. Three Republicans round out the original field of 34 candidates for Boxer’s seat.

Maryland’s Republican powerhouse Kathy Szeliga will seek to replace powerhouse Mikulski in a battle with Chris Van Hollen, who has whipped his opponents by double-digit margins in seven elections. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is looking to replace Republican Ron Johnson, who replaced him in 2010. In Illinois, combat vet Rep. Tammy Duckworth goes against GOP incumbent Mark Kirk.

And then there’s the House of Representatives. It will take a gain of 30 Democratic seats to flip control in the House. There are 45 vacancies up for grabs – 18 Democrats are retiring, 27 Republicans. Professional pollsters and analysts have identified 22 districts where races are mostly or possibly a tossup.

Here’s just one district where the story might get interesting: CD 1 in New York State. The incumbent is Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Trump endorser the morning after he became the “presumptive nominee.” Zeldin is unambiguous about where he stands: “This President has done enough damage with his foreign policy, this visit to Hiroshima [is wrong] unless one believes weakness is strength.” He’s called for reducing restrictions on buying and having guns and opposed Federal funding for abortions. In short, he’s standing in the doorway and blocking up the halls.

In the primary, two Democrats are contending for the chance to knock Zeldin out of office. Anna Throne-Holst has endorsements from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, six Democratic members of the New York House delegation, Emily’s List and more. Dave Calone has 23 endorsements and a solid ground game and fundraising operation.

New York’s primary is June 28. Throne-Holst or Calone will win the opportunity to slug it out with Zeldin who has assured everyone that the Trump Train runs right through Eastern Long Island. Right or wrong, it’s the kind of race that boils and bubbles along beneath the surface, out of the gaze of media moguls and their presenters.

So why does it matter if we stay glued to the Trump-Clinton-Sanders drama? On election night someone at a local station will tell us who won these House and Senate races, and isn’t that enough?

No, and I’ll stretch the metaphor a bit more. If we keep squinting at the Presidential and ignoring the Congressional, we might run smack into a big blob of new and returning obstructionists who will make life miserable for Hillary or Bernie (assuming one of them wins). And if Trump wins, (a) heads up Canada, folks say they’re moving there, and (b) unless Democrats add some firepower to their standing in Congress, Trump and his Train can truly run all over progressive gains of the past several years.

Look below the surface. That’s where the Big Ice is floating, waiting.


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