Monthly Archives: July 2011

Senate Financials Tell Interesting Stories

The second quarter US Senate financial disclosure summaries are now available and in almost all cases, the incumbents have prepared adequately for their re-election campaigns. Obviously, the size of the state dictates the money range needed to run a viable effort, so the benchmark cash on hand figures differ greatly. All in-cycle incumbents have more than $1.5 million in assets with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who possesses $1.279 million. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) has the most money in the bank, $9.628 million. The next closest cash on hand figure is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) $6.057 million.

The only incumbent with less cash on hand than a challenger is Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) has $2.476 million in her campaign account versus Heller’s $2.272 million. The comparison is a bit unfair, however, because Heller is an appointed incumbent, replacing the resigned Sen. John Ensign (R). Therefore, his Senate incumbency is short-lived and should not be measured comparably to the other in-cycle full-term Senators.

The Senate incumbents having the strongest fundraising cycle to date are Scott Brown ($3.739 million), Bill Nelson ($3.695 million), and Democrat New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ($3.581 million). The strongest open seat/challenger fundraisers are Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who still has yet to announce his Senate candidacy, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), who is seeking retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) open seat, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) challenging one-term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Mandel raised $2.339 million, Murphy $2.012 million, and Rehberg $1.964 million.

The fundraising and resource components provide some idea as to how competitive some of the projected close races might become. Sen. Nelson, for example, continues to prove he is in solid shape by every measuring instrument. His $6.057 million cash on hand is more than seven times as great as his closest financial opponent, GOP former interim Sen. George LeMieux. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), commonly viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election, raised only $111,000 more than Attorney General Jon Bruning, but leads his chief Republican opponent $2.916 million to $1.265 million in the cash on hand category.

The competitive race that is proving to be the closest, at least in resources, is the Nevada Senate race. There Rep. Berkley shows $2.476 million compared with Sen. Heller’s $2.272 million cash on hand. This race could turn out to be the most hotly contested in the country. Nevada is a tight swing state, both candidates are equally well-known, and they both possess the same quantity of campaign resources. With turnout expected to be high in the presidential election year, the final wave will likely decide this campaign. The same can be said for the Virginia Senate race. There, former Sen. George Allen (R) has raised $2.615 million with $1.649 million on hand. Tim Kaine, the former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, has raised a similar, but smaller, $2.266 million but has slightly more in the bank, $1.875 million.

As we know, finance tells only part of any political story, but no one denies that the dollar count is a highly important factor of any campaign effort.

Below is a link to a PDF spreadsheet containing the relevant financial numbers for all 33 Senate races being contested in 2012. The only state not recording any figures is Wisconsin. Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, and no one has yet formally declared their candidacy for the open seat.

Candidate Financials: Senate Financial Disclosure – 2nd Qtr 2011
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Michigan’s Sen. Stabenow Unfazed

Last week the big news emanating from Michigan was that former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) had changed his mind about entering the Senate race and will challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year, after all. Public Policy Polling immediately decided to survey Wolverine State voters to see what effect the Hoekstra candidacy will have on the race.

At least in the preliminary stages, the answer is: very little.

Stabenow has consistently enjoyed double-digit leads against all potential Republican candidates, but none have Hoekstra’s qualifications. According to PPP (July 21-24; 593 registered Michigan voters) Sen. Stabenow enjoys a 50-41 percent lead over the former congressman and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, not quite double-digits, but far beyond the margin of error.

The PPP poll is also reporting that neither candidate has particularly strong approval ratings. The senator scored only a 46:40 percent favorable to unfavorable, weak for an incumbent but much better than the EPIC-MRA poll (July 9-11; 600 registered Michigan voters) where she recorded a poor 38:51 percent rating. Hoekstra’s personal image proved weak on the latest survey, scoring only a 31:30 percent positive to negative response.

The Republicans had hoped to put the Michigan Senate race into serious play after their strong 2010 success in the state, and still might, but their challenge effort is off to a slow start. The GOP will now put all their eggs in Mr. Hoekstra’s basket in hopes that he can quickly position himself into upset range. This race merits a “watch” rating.
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Indiana Poll Shows Indiana’s Lugar Trailing in Primary

A new small-sample poll (July 23-24; 500 likely Indiana GOP primary voters) forecasts six-term Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar (R) to be trailing his Republican primary opponent for the first time. According to Basswood Research, conducting the survey for the Club for Growth (which claims not to be currently endorsing anyone in this race but cannot be considered favorable toward Sen. Lugar), state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) has a 34-32 percent lead over the incumbent with a huge 34 percent responding as undecided.

The poll also asked their respondents to answer the following question: “Would you say the following statement is true or untrue? Richard Lugar has done some good things for Indiana, but after 35 years in Washington, it’s time for a change.” In a most troubling result for the Senator, 69 percent of the Republican polling sample answered “True.”

Mourdock has only raised money in the $300,000 range for the campaign, but independent expenditure and issue advocacy groups like the Club for Growth will bring added resources to the Lugar challenge. A poll that shows the incumbent polling only at 32 percent, regardless of the opponent’s level of support, is a sure sign of serious political weakness.

Democrats have their own credible candidate in the person of Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). Should the Republican primary turn ugly and Lugar or Mourdock win a close and divisive nomination, Donnelly could be well-positioned to pick up the pieces and snatch the seat away from the Republicans in the general election.

Much will happen here in the remaining ten months before the Indiana primary.
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Poll Showed Constituents Turning Against Rep. Wu

Oregon Congressional Districts (govtrack.us)

Oregon Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1), the embattled federal politician who has been accused of having mental illness and now of sexually harassing an 18-year-old girl, has succumbed to public pressure and will resign from the House, he announced yesterday.

Several prominent Portland area Democrats had already announced their intentions to challenge the congressman and had initiated campaign operations. Despite facing multiple candidates in an electoral situation with no run-off, usually a favorable situation for even a highly vulnerable incumbent, Wu appeared headed for defeat next year. Now with the House Ethics Committee beginning an investigation into his latest controversy, Wu decided to end his congressional career. He says he will leave office after the current debt ceiling votes are complete.

Survey USA reported the findings of their most recent poll (500 OR-1 registered voters), which was conducted Monday. The results showed super majorities turning on Wu. His favorability ratio is an abysmal 10:73 percent; 75 percent believe he should leave office; and 70 percent say he would not be an effective congressman even if he were to continue in office.

Oregon’s 1st Congressional District covers the northwestern corner of the state, encompassing four complete counties and part of Multnomah, which houses the major city of Portland. The district gave President Obama 61 percent of its votes in 2008. Democratic presidential nominees Al Gore (2000) and John Kerry (2004) carried the region with more modest 50-44 and 55-44 percent margins, respectively. The new Oregon redistricting plan keeps most of OR-1 in tact.

A special election will be called to fill the remainder of Wu’s final term. Prior to the resignation announcement, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Rep. Brad Witt, and businessman Stephan Brodhead were all announced Democratic candidates. It is presumed the trio will run in the special election, along with several more individuals. Democrats will hold the seat.
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Ross, Wu to Retire

Two more Democratic House members announced they will not seek re-election in 2012, but for very different reasons.

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4), first elected in 2000 and whose eyes are set on a gubernatorial run in 2014, announced yesterday that he will end his congressional career when the current term concludes. The 4th district was made more competitive in redistricting, so not seeking re-election and possibly risking a closer result than in 2010 (Ross’ margin over Republican Beth Anne Rankin was 57-40 percent) will not weaken his standing in the gubernatorial contest. Already, several Democratic and Republican state and local office holders are expressing interest in running for the new open seat. The succeeding campaign will likely be highly competitive.

In Oregon, Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1) who had been the subject of news stories questioning his mental health and now facing an ethics probe of sexual harassment accusations says he won’t seek re-election in 2012. It was clear that Mr. Wu is in a weakened political state, but the large number of Democrats publicly contemplating filing against him could have allowed him to slip through with a small plurality of support since the anti-Wu voters would be split. Expect many Democratic candidates to file in this new open seat.

The Democrats will retain the district as it is unlikely to become competitive even in an incumbent-less race.
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Second Quarter House Financial Reports Show Interesting Developments

The 2nd quarter Federal Election Commission financial reports are now available for public inspection and, after a thorough analysis of the numbers, we find some interesting points.

A total of 255 House candidates exceeded $250,000 in gross receipts for the 2012 election cycle, through June 30, as reported after July 15. Only 25 of those individuals, however, are non-incumbents. This is a low number of challengers and open seat contestants to have currently reached the quarter-million-dollar mark. This is largely explained by highlighting the fact that 2011 is a redistricting year and most of the states have not yet completed the re-map process for the ensuing decade. Therefore, 2012 races will invariably evolve as late-developing campaigns, since many state legislative leaders — Florida being the most important example — have already publicly stated that they will not even begin their redistricting consideration until early next year.

Of the 96 members of the 2010 freshmen class, 92 of whom had not previously served in the House, 54 broke the $250,000 mark in finances raised. Three individuals included in the spreadsheet linked below report participated in 2011 special elections. Three more of the listed candidates are competing in new districts, created via reapportionment and redistricting (two in Texas; one in Washington state), even though the seat has either not yet been drawn or awaits approval from the Justice Department.

The four largest fundraisers who are not members of party leadership, nor major committee chairmen, nor running for President are representatives Allen West (R-FL-22), collecting $2.076 million ($1.266 cash on hand); Tom Latham (R-IA-3), $1.003 million ($1.471 million CoH); Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12), $1.039 million ($1.481 CoH); and Diane Black (R-TN-6), $1.224 million raised ($325,987 cash on hand).

Mr. West will face a difficult re-election in a marginal district that is not yet drawn. Mr. Latham is paired with fellow Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) in what looks to be a very tough contest for both men. Mr. Tiberi has a difficult redistricting process to deal with, as Ohio loses two congressional seats and his current district is expected to radically change. Finally, Ms. Black, who should have clear political sailing ahead for the foreseeable future, raises copious amounts of money through direct mail, thus explaining her high number of gross receipts but low cash-on-hand ratio.

That aforementioned spreadsheet listing of the candidates’ financial summaries is linked after this paragraph (a PDF document). Any incumbent or candidate not reaching $250,000 in receipts is excluded. Those incumbents who have announced they will not be seeking re-election, inclusive of those running for higher office, are also not listed in this accounting of House members and candidates.

LINK: House Financials 2nd Qtr 2011

NOTE: If spreadsheet is not viewable, please send an email note to: jimellis@prism-us.com. We will then send you an Excel spreadsheet containing the data.
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Our Rundown of 23 Former Congressmen and Congresswomen Who May Run Again

At this point, early in the 2012 election cycle, nine former members of Congress have announced that they will run again next year. An additional 14 confirm they are considering mounting another congressional campaign effort, but have not yet made a final decision.

Those who have announced their candidacy are highlighted in blue. The names in italics are possible candidates:

Arizona
Ann Kirkpatrick (D) – AZ-1 challenger (Rep. Paul Gosar); one term; elected 2008
Matt Salmon (R) – AZ-6 open seat; three terms in AZ-1; elected 1994

Florida
Alan Grayson (D) – FL-8 challenger (Rep. Dan Webster), or new seat that could be drawn in the Orlando area; one term; elected 2008

Georgia
Jim Marshall (D) – GA-8 challenger (Rep. Austin Scott); four terms; elected 2002; possible candidate

Illinois
Bill Foster (D) – IL-11 open seat; two terms in IL-14; elected early 2008

Indiana
David McIntosh (R) – IN-5 primary challenger (Rep. Dan Burton); three terms in IN-2; elected 1994

Michigan
Jim Barcia (D) – MI-5 open seat; five terms; elected 1992; possible candidate
Mark Schauer (D) – MI-7 challenger (Rep. Tim Walberg); one term; elected 2008; possible candidate

Minnesota
Rick Nolan (D) – MN-8 challenger (Rep. Chip Cravaack); three terms; elected 1974

Nevada
Dina Titus (D) – NV-3 challenger (Rep. Joe Heck) or new seat; one term; elected 2008. Though not announcing for a particular district until after redistricting is completed, ex-Rep. Titus is running for Congress; she recently resigned her position with the Civil Rights Commission to return to Nevada to begin assembling a campaign.

New Hampshire
Carol Shea-Porter (D) – NH-1 challenger (Rep. Frank Guinta); two terms; elected 2006

New York
Mike McMahon (D) – NY-13 challenger (Rep. Michael Grimm); one term; elected 2008; possible candidate
Scott Murphy (D) – NY-20 challenger (Rep. Chris Gibson); one term; elected 2009; possible candidate
Michael Arcuri (D) – NY-24 challenger (Rep. Richard Hanna); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate

Ohio
Charlie Wilson (D) – OH-6 challenger (Rep. Bill Johnson); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate
Jim Traficant (I) – OH-17 (will draw a different number since Ohio loses two seats) challenger (Rep. Tim Ryan); nine terms; elected 1984; possible candidate
Zack Space (D) – OH-18 (will draw a different number since Ohio loses two seats) challenger (Rep. Bob Gibbs); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate

Pennsylvania
Kathy Dahlkemper (D) – PA-3 challenger (Rep. Mike Kelly); one term; elected 2008; possible candidate

Texas
Nick Lampson (D) – TX-14 open seat; four terms TX-9; one term TX-22; elected 1996 (TX-9); elected 2006 (TX-22); possible candidate
Steve Stockman (R) – TX-14 open seat; one term TX-9; elected 1994; possible candidate
Ciro Rodriguez (D) – TX-23 challenger (Rep. Quico Canseco); four terms TX-28; two terms TX-23; elected 1996 (TX-28); elected 2006 (TX-23)

West Virginia
Alan Mollohan (D) – WV-1 challenger (Rep. David McKinley); 14 terms; elected 1982; possible candidate

Wisconsin
Steve Kagen (D) – WI-8 challenger (Rep. Reid Ribble); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate
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Michigan’s Hoekstra Changes Course; He Will Run

Former Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) abruptly changed his political course yesterday and now says he will challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year for her Senate seat. Previously, the ex-congressman who lost the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010, had removed himself from consideration as a potential candidate. Up to this point, the Michigan Senate race had been a recruitment disappointment for Republicans because they had not drafted a top tier challenger against Stabenow. Earlier in the year the Senator appeared to be vulnerable, mostly as a carry-over from the Republicans’ record showing in the 2010 Michigan elections.

Hoekstra is undoubtedly encouraged by a new EPIC-MRA Michigan poll that showed poor job approval numbers for Ms. Stabenow. According to their July 9-11 poll (600 Michigan registered voters), only 38 percent of those sampled approve of the job she is doing in the US Senate, versus 51 percent who disapprove. This is down from the 41:43 percent ratio she received from the firm’s May poll. Even though Stabenow’s numbers are poor, they are not as bad as President Obama’s 39:60 percent rating and Gov. Rick Snyder’s 34:57 percent. The President has taken a nose dive in popularity since the May poll, dropping a net of 20 points, when his ratio registered 49:50 percent. Mr. Snyder’s ratings, on the other hand, have actually improved over the past eight weeks when his EPIC-MRA positive to negative job approval score was 27:60 percent.
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Is the Republican Field Already Narrowing?

Public Policy Polling (July 15-17; 730 US self-identified Republican voters) just released the results from their latest national political poll and though the 730 sample size is exceedingly low for a nationwide survey — thus raising the error factor considerably — the overall conclusions are plausible.

Capturing the sense that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) is surging into the top tier of the Republican presidential field of candidates, the PPP actually places her in first position at 21 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 20 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, included for the first time in a major national poll, places a respectable third with 12 percent. Retired businessman Herman Cain is next, attracting 11 percent.

The poll results are particularly good news for Bachmann and Perry. The data provides evidence of Bachmann’s upward mobility, just as political commentators, campaign professionals, and rank and file activists alike had previously professed. But, the question surrounding her fledging effort is: can she sustain this pace and momentum? Now favored to carry the upcoming Iowa Straw Poll event (Aug. 13), which is actually a major fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party since candidates pay thousands of dollars to participate, Bachmann could well be on the way to positioning herself to win the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses come February.

Gov. Perry, scoring in double-digits his first time out of the gate, is impressive and the numbers are a clear signal that he will be a serious candidate should he ultimately decide to run. Perry’s greatest asset is his record as the nation’s senior governor. Leading the rest of America in job creation, Texas continues to defy the poor domestic economic trends. In a campaign year where jobs will be the top issue upon which the general election candidates will run, Perry clearly has established his economic legitimacy. He has few deficiencies with which to contend, thus making him a strong potential opponent for President Obama.

The PPP poll again reveals some weakness for Romney. Commonly viewed as the front-runner in the race, this is the third poll that places him behind Bachmann and the first one to do so nationally. The other two state surveys that produced similar results, both Public Policy Polling studies, were in Iowa and New Mexico. Romney also has another glaring weakness. Regarding the healthcare issue during his tenure as governor, he instituted a quasi government run healthcare system for Massachusetts. According to the PPP study, only 17 percent of the respondents say they would be willing to vote for a candidate who supported a state-run healthcare program. By contrast, 66 percent said they are not willing to do so. Additionally, the fact that he again fails to break 20 percent in a survey continually reveals his low ceiling among the Republican electorate.

The second quarter financial reports for the presidential candidates are now public, and though most of the candidates had previously announced their dollar figures, it is again important to review the financial landscape.

The following link goes to a spreadsheet displaying all of the pertinent numbers: Presidential Financials 2nd Qtr 2011.
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Florida Republican Senate Contender Exits Race

Florida state Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) ended his brief US Senate campaign yesterday via video message. Telling supporters he cannot effectively balance his duties as Senate president with the time requirements of becoming a statewide candidate, Mr. Haridopolos said he would rededicate himself “to finishing the job you sent me to do here in Florida.” He further said he would finish his current term in the state Senate and not seek any electoral post in 2012. Haridopolos was a strong fundraiser in the first quarter of 2011, bringing in over $2.5 million. But, in the second quarter, during which the legislative session ended, his financial receipts total dropped precipitously to about $900,000.

Without Sen. Haridopolos in the race, the Republican field dwindles to former interim US Senator George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. With a filing deadline of June 22, 2012, there is still more than enough time for other credible candidates to join the race. Originally, two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was thought to be vulnerable and a Republican target, but the lack of a strong consensus GOP candidate emerging has strengthened the Democrat and bolstered his re-election prospects. Until something more significant happens in this race, Sen. Nelson becomes the prohibitive favorite for 2012.
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Rep. Kildee’s Retirement Should Not Affect Balance

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI-5)

The number of open 2012 US House campaigns grew to 30 over the weekend. Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI-5), who turns 82 years old in September, announced his retirement, saying he will bring his 36-year congressional career to a close when the current Congress ends. Prior to joining the House of Representatives Mr. Kildee spent 12 years in the Michigan state legislature, meaning he has been an elected public official for 48 consecutive years. He becomes the 18th sitting Representative to announce intentions not to seek re-election. Fifteen of these members are running for a different office. Kildee and Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) and Dan Boren (D-OK-2) are retiring from politics. An additional 12 new seats are created via reapportionment.

Michigan Democrats should easily retain the new 5th district because it was designed as a safe seat for Kildee, anchored in the congressman’s home town of Flint. It’s the third most under-populated seat in the state, however, needing to gain 70,845 people.

The new CD 5 will contain four complete counties, Genesee (Flint), Bay (Bay City, bordering Lake Huron Bay in the Thumb Area of Michigan), Arenac, and Iosco. The district also encompasses parts of Saginaw and Tuscola counties. The 64 percent Obama score in 2008 will remain relatively intact, thus removing it from any practical general election competition. Mr. Kildee’s 53-44 winning percentage in 2010 was down from his average of 71.5 percent over his past 17 congressional elections. The new seat is unlikely to get any closer from a partisan perspective, and will probably remain that way for the balance of the new electoral decade.

The Democrats have many choices to replace the outgoing incumbent, including his nephew, Dan Kildee, who is a former Genesee County Treasurer, County Commissioner, and Flint School Board member. He was a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010 for a short time, but dropped out of the race prior to filing time.

Former Lt. Gov. John Cherry, is from this congressional district and would be a strong candidate should he decide to enter the federal race. He also declined to run for governor even though he appeared to be the consensus Democratic candidate when he decided to discontinue his fledging campaign.

Ex-Rep. Jim Barcia (D-MI-5), hailing from Bay City, served in the House for five terms beginning in 1993. He was redistricted out of his 5th district in the 2001 reapportionment (at that time, Mr. Kildee represented District 9) and proceeded to win election to the state Senate where he served the maximum two four-year terms. The MI-5 Democratic primary base vote is centered in Flint, so any candidate hailing from Bay City has an uphill climb to win the party nomination.

Genesee County Treasurer and former state Sen. Deborah Cherry, sister to the former lieutenant governor, is another potential Democratic congressional candidate. Presumably, the political brother and sister combination would not run against each other in the congressional race, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the two eventually enter the field of contenders.

Republican state Sen. Roger Kahn, also from Saginaw, is the most frequently mentioned GOP potential candidate.

Mr. Kildee’s retirement will not alter the balance of power in the House because the eventual MI-5 Democratic is a virtual lock to win the seat in the general election.
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The House Open Seats

As we approach the midway point in the national redistricting process, it is a good time to check the status of the House open seats. Because reapportionment creates a dozen new seats, the incumbent-less district count is already 29. An average election cycle features about 35 open seats, although the last two elections have broken the 40 mark. Should the proposed maps in California and North Carolina pass, at least three more vacancies will be added to the 2012 total. And if Utah Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) along with Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) run statewide, as they are considering, then three more would be added.

To review, the following are the announced open seats:

AZ-6 Jeff Flake (R) Running for Senate
AZ-9 New Seat
CA-6 Lynn Woolsey (D) Retirement
CA-51 Bob Filner (D) Running for San Diego Mayor
CT-5 Chris Murphy (D) Running for Senate
FL-26 New Seat
FL-27 New Seat
GA-14 New Seat
HI-2 Mazie Hirono (D) Running for Senate
IN-2 Joe Donnelly (D) Running for Senate
IN-6 Mike Pence (R) Running for Governor
MO-2 Todd Akin (R) Running for Senate
MT-AL Denny Rehberg (R) Running for Senate
NV-1 Shelley Berkley (D) Running for Senate
NV-2 Vacant Rep. Dean Heller appointed to Senate
NV-4 New Seat
NM-1 Martin Heinrich (D) Running for Senate
NY-9 Vacant Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned
ND-AL Rick Berg (R) Running for Senate
OK-2 Dan Boren (D) Retirement
SC-7 New Seat
TX-14 Ron Paul (R) Running for President
TX-33 New Seat
TX-34 New Seat
TX-35 New Seat
TX-36 New Seat
UT-4 New Seat
WA-1 Jay Inslee (D) Running for Governor
WA-10 New Seat

Of the 29 open districts, 12 are new seats, nine current incumbents are running for Senate, two are running for governor, another pair are retiring from politics, one is seeking the U.S. Presidency, and one more is running for mayor of San Diego. Two members resigned their seats; one because of being appointed to the Senate; one due to scandal. Nine of the vacating incumbents are Democrats, six are Republicans. The two vacant seats split evenly, one from each party.

Most of the current seats will stay within the designated party control, but at least six (IN-2, Donnelly; MT-AL, Rehberg; NV-2, Vacant – special election Sept. 13; NM-1, Heinrich; OK-2, Boren; and TX-14, Paul) will likely join the competitive ranks.

With already a large number of open seats in the 2012 election cycle, it would not be surprising to see the total number approach 50 before filing closes in each of the states. Should this happen, added to the 97 members currently serving their first term, a full one-third of the House will have two terms of seniority or less in the next Congress.
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Poll Shows Utah’s Hatch Teetering

Public Policy Polling (July 8-10; 732 registered Utah voters) just confirmed the results of another Beehive State poll conducted last month. Both sets of data show six-term Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) facing serious re-election competition for the first time since originally winning his seat back in 1976. In fact, the new PPP data actually shows Hatch trailing Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) by a single point in a hypothetical general election showdown, 44-45 percent.

It was perceived that the senator’s toughest battle would come in the Republican nominating convention should Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) launch an intra-party challenge against him. Earlier polling predicted that Hatch would cruise to the nomination and re-election if he at least secured second ballot position at the convention. Now, the new polls suggest that every phase of his re-election battle is tight.

Neither Matheson nor Chaffetz has said definitively that they will run for the Senate. Matheson, the lone Democratic federal office holder in this most Republican of states, says he will be on the Utah ballot in 2012, but he is not sure for what office. He could certainly seek re-election, though the GOP map drawers will undoubtedly make his already strongly conservative district even more Republican. He confirms considering running for Senate, while also not ruling out challenging GOP Gov. Gary Herbert. Chaffetz, too, is undecided about whether to run. Unlike Matheson, he likely will receive a safe seat in redistricting, meaning the two-term congressman’s political risk might be greater than his Democratic colleague. A Matheson-Chaffetz race was also tested and the Democrat led that pairing by an even greater 47-42 percent margin. The 2012 Utah Senate race must now be considered officially competitive.
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Ron Paul Won’t Seek Re-election

Presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX-14) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to the House in 2012 regardless of how his long-shot presidential campaign turns out. Mr. Paul was originally elected to the House of Representatives in April 1976, winning a special election from his southeastern Texas suburban/rural combination seat. He then went on to lose the regular election later that year to Democrat Bob Gammage, as Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter carried Texas against President Gerald Ford. Two years later, Mr. Paul defeated Rep. Gammage and held onto the seat until 1984, when he vacated it to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. He returned to the House in 1996 from the Victoria-anchored seat, just southwest of his previous district. He defeated Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Greg Laughlin in the latter’s first primary election as a member of the GOP. Mr. Paul has held the seat ever since.

The new redistricting plan took large portions of Rep. Paul’s current 14th district and moved it to the new 27th CD, thus giving freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) more Republican territory. This takes the new 14th closer to Houston and changes the rural complexion of the seat, making it more suburban and Democratic, though it still should elect a Republican in virtually every election. With the Victoria portion of the seat now removed, the new 14th encompasses part of Paul’s home county of Brazoria, then moves further northward to gain parts of Galveston and Jefferson Counties (Beaumont), a region that has never been particularly kind to Republicans. In an open seat situation, Democrats chances of winning improve.

Since Mr. Paul is announcing his plans long before the December filing deadline, Republicans will have every opportunity to find a candidate that has appeal across the political spectrum. The new 14th district, even as a 2012 open seat, is still decidedly Republican, though competitive, but the eventual GOP nominee will get a bump in a region where President Obama is not likely to perform well.
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Hahn Wins in California’s 36th CD Special Election

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) won the special election for the right to succeed resigned Rep. Jane Harman (D) last night, though the margin suggests a potentially tough battle next year for the full term in a different Palos Verdes Peninsula-anchored district. Hahn scored a 55-45 percent victory over Republican businessman Craig Huey, a rather uninspiring win for a Democrat in a seat that gave 64 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2008 and saw only one national Republican candidate, George W. Bush in 2004, even reach the 40 percent plateau for a presidential election.

Mr. Huey, for his part, out-performed all expectations from the very start of this campaign. Barely qualifying for the special general under California’s new “top-two” election law – the two highest vote-getters in a primary election, regardless of political party affiliation advance to the final vote – Huey ran a better campaign than expected and is relatively well-positioned for a regular election campaign in the post-redistricting seat.

The California Citizens Commission on Redistricting crafted a proposed district for the South Bay region in Los Angeles County that is more favorable for the Republicans, even though the Democrats should continue to win here. The new district, as drawn but not yet adopted, is about 10 points more Republican than the current 2001 version. Since Huey came within 10 points of beating Ms. Hahn in the overwhelmingly Democratic seat, he has to be considered as a legitimate threat to unseat her in the more competitive district next year, assuming he again becomes a candidate.

The turnout for the special election was 76,221 voters, or 21.9 percent of those registered to vote. That number is expected to grow as California normally receives a large number of mail-in votes that will be counted post-election. The new House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two vacancies. The next two special elections in NV-2 and NY-9 will both occur Sept. 13.
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