Michaud Still Up in Maine; DoJ Moves on Texas

Eliot Cutler

Eliot Cutler

The Maine Education Association commissioned a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll (July 11-16; 400 registered Maine voters) and found Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to be leading the three-way contest for governor. According to the GQR data, Michaud has a 40-31-26 percent advantage over Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Independent attorney Eliot Cutler.

The poll comes on the heels of Gov. LePage being embroiled in a budget controversy, which came to a head in late June. Though the survey gives Michaud a clear lead, Cutler’s strength suggests that the same three-way configuration that elected LePage in 2010 could again present itself. In that election, LePage won a 38-36-19 percent victory over Cutler and Democratic nominee Libby Mitchell, then a state senator.

At this point, Michaud has filed a 2014 gubernatorial exploratory committee, while both Cutler and the governor have made public their intention to run. The Democrats clearly want Cutler out of the race, but there is no suggestion that the Independent will withdraw. Based upon his strong 2010 finish and Maine’s penchant for looking favorably upon independent candidates ā€“ former Gov. Angus King was elected to the Senate in 2012 on the Independent line, for example ā€“ it will be difficult for the Democratic leadership to make it worthwhile for Cutler to exit.

Isolating Michaud and LePage in a secondary GQR ballot test question underscores just how detrimental the Cutler candidacy is to the Maine Democrats. If the Independent attorney were not in the race, GQR scores the race a whopping 61-34 percent in Michaud’s favor.

Right now, Rep. Michaud appears to be in a favorable position to unseat Gov. LePage, even in a three-way scenario, but things can change dramatically with so much time remaining in the campaign cycle. It remains to be seen if these are the kind of numbers that will convince Michaud to relinquish his safe House seat in order to pursue the statewide run.

Texas

Late last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will attempt to invoke pre-clearance authority over the state of Texas using Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. As you know, the US Supreme Court, through the Shelby County (Alabama) ruling late in June, virtually gutted the DoJ’s pre-clearance authority. Section 3, however, basically provides a backdoor opportunity to re-establish federal control, but a court must issue a ruling for the national government to obtain such authority.

A three-judge federal panel in San Antonio continues to preside over the Texas redistricting plans, and Holder intends to ask this body to grant pre-clearance authority through Section 3. The panel, which has not been, heretofore, particularly friendly to the Republican congressional, state Senate, and House maps, will likely be a favorable venue for Holder and DoJ.

At issue is the state’s voter identification law that has now taken effect as a result of the Shelby County decision. Additionally, the Lone Star State political maps also have potential Voting Rights Act problems, meaning there is a chance that alterations will be implemented for the 2014 election. The state Senate plan appears the most stable. The Texas House is likely most vulnerable to major change. The congressional districts most susceptible to re-drawing are those in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex and the seats of representatives Pete Gallego (D-TX-23) and Blake Farenthold (D-TX-27).

The process will consume a large amount of time. The chances are high of seeing the Texas March primary again being moved, as it was in 2012, as well as significant change concerning the state’s political boundaries.

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