Tag Archives: Bill Owens

The Early Targets

Even this early in an election cycle, some obvious 2014 targets are evident. In the Senate, majority Democrats must protect 20 seats versus 13 for Republicans. The GOP will need to convert six Democratic states in order to re-capture the majority for the first time since 2006.

In the House, it’s much too early to tell how the cycle will even begin to unfold, but the 2012 winners who scored at or below 50 percent normally find themselves in vulnerable situations two years later. There are 20 winners who scored a bare majority or less in their win last month.

Here’s how we see things lining up:

The Senate

Already, there appear to be four potential toss-up campaigns on the horizon at the very beginning of the election cycle.

Two states already have announced challengers to Democratic incumbents that many believe are headed for retirement despite the senators themselves saying they are planning a re-election campaign.

West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) officially announced that she will challenge five-term Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in the next election. With West Virginia now trending deep red and Rockefeller launching verbal attacks against the state’s dominant coal industry, this race must be cast as an early toss-up. Should Rockefeller — who will be 77 years old at the time of the next election — not seek another term, Capito will be considered the early favorite.

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) also has announced that he will run for the Senate in 2014. He will challenge three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D). Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL), who was just re-elected to a second term, also has not ruled out a Senate run, meaning that she would first have to challenge Rounds in the Republican primary. Publicly, she is not closing the door on any 2014 option. A Johnson-Rounds campaign would also have to be rated as an early toss-up. The senator would be favored against Rep. Noem.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) stands for a second term after defeating veteran Sen. Ted Stevens (R) by a slim 48-47 percent count in 2008. Stevens was fighting a Justice Department legal onslaught that fell apart on the prosecutors but only after Stevens had already lost to Begich. As you know, the senator was later killed in an airplane crash. This campaign will be interesting. A strong challenger such as Gov. Sean Parnell (R), could make this a very tight campaign.

Considering that North Carolina was only one of two states that switched from supporting Pres. Barack Obama in 2008 to Mitt Romney last month, freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D) will seek a second term and be rated in a toss-up campaign from Day One. There is no clear challenger on the horizon, but whomever the Republicans choose will be a serious contender.

The 2014 election cycle will be a long one, but count on these four Senate races grabbing a major share of the political attention for the next two years.

The House

Here’s a look at the 20 winners in 2012 who are right at or a bit below the 50 percent mark who could be vulnerable:

Below 50 percent

  • Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) – 47% (open seat)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) – 48% (open seat)
  • John Tierney (D-MA-6) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Maffei (D-NY-24) – 48% (challenger)
  • Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) – 49% (open seat)
  • Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) – 49% (incumbent)
  • Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2) – 49% (open seat)
  • Jim Matheson (D-UT-4) – 49% (incumbent)

At 50%

  • Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) – (incumbent)
  • Scott Peters (D-CA-52) – (challenger)
  • * Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) – (challenger)
  • Dan Schneider (D-IL-10) – (challenger)
  • Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – (incumbent)
  • Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) – (open seat)
  • Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) – (challenger)
  • Annie Kuster (D-NH-2) – (challenger)
  • Bill Owens (D-NY-21) – (incumbent)
  • Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) – (incumbent)
  • * Pete Gallego (D-TX-23) – (challenger)

* Italics: Seat will likely be re-drawn in 2013 redistricting.

Rounding Out the House

Though not covered as extensively as the presidential battle and most Senatorial campaigns, the 435 US House races also figure prominently in next Tuesday’s ballots. While little drama exists concerning these campaigns from an aggregate context, it is still likely that as many as 80+ non-incumbents could win seats for the first time. There are 62 open seats, and easily another 18 to 30 House members could lose their seats.

The current partisan makeup of the House of Representatives is 240 Republicans and 190 Democrats, with five vacancies, three from Democratic seats and two Republican. Today, our House race handicapping chart shows that 229 congressional districts are “safe,” “likely” or “leaning” for the Republican candidate, and 180 districts are “safe”, “likely”, or “leaning” for the Democratic standard bearer, with 26 “tossup” districts that both parties have some chance of winning. In order for the Democrats to re-capture the majority lost two years ago, they would need a net gain of 25 seats from their current level just to reach the bare minimum of 218. With this numerical obstacle standing before them, and in order for the minority party to regain power, they would need a “wave” election, something that has little chance of occurring.

Recent examples of wave elections are the Republican sweep of 2010 and Democratic waves of 2006 and ’08 that drastically changed the composition of the House. Historically, wave elections are driven by the party with a substantial and unparalleled lead going into Election Day. The GOP netted 63 seats in the 2010 midterm election and conversely, Democrats won 31 seats in 2006, followed by another 25 two years later. If campaign historical trends are a true future indicator, as best detected by polling, then 2012 will not be a wave election. As the cycle progressed we have seen a good deal of movement in many races that began as clearly favoring one party or the other. Two contrasting swing races from the west and east are Washington state’s 1st Congressional District and the fast-emerging NY-21.

The Evergreen State has produced a top swing-seat battle in the new 1st Congressional District that was redrawn in a more competitive fashion as part of a deal among the members of the bi-partisan Washington State Redistricting Commission. In exchange for making the previously Democratic 1st District politically marginal and shoring up Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler in the new 3rd District, incumbent Rick Larsen (D) received a safe new 2nd District and the state’s additional seat, the 10th District gained in the national reapportionment formula, was made a Democratic safe haven.

In March of this year, Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-1) announced his resignation from the House in order to fully focus on his gubernatorial campaign. His vacancy was quickly flooded with interest and, after a hotly contested Democratic primary, former Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene (D) and Snohomish County councilman and ex-state Rep. John Koster (R) won the right to face off against each other in what polling continues to show is a close match-up.

In this key swing seat, a significant amount of money has been spent by outside groups including both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Recently an independent Survey USA poll (Oct. 19-21; 610 likely WA-1 voters) found DelBene leading Koster by three points, 47-44 percent. The new poll, compared to a previous S-USA study conducted five weeks prior, found that DelBene has increased five points in support, while Koster has lost two points. The results also determined that DelBene has a greater advantage with self-described moderates and independents.

Turning to the St. Lawrence Seaway region along the Canadian border on the north and Lake Champlain to the east is the new NY-21 District and Republican Matt Doheny could be moving into upset position. Lagging behind for most of the race, Doheny has emerged as a serious threat at precisely the right time. Two different polls forecast a closing race. Incumbent Bill Owens released his own data (Global Strategy Group; Oct. 21-23; 403 likely NY-21 voters) staking him to a 47-40 percent lead. But, another independent survey detected a much different result. Siena College (Oct. 29-30; 629 likely NY-21 voters) found the race to be much closer. According to the Siena data, Doheny is up by just one percentage point, 44-43 percent. Clearly, this campaign is very much alive turning into the final weekend.

While a good deal of uncertainty still remains in precisely predicting the composition of the new Congress, it is likely that Republicans will maintain control with their current margin potentially in tact.

Sullivan Loses in Okla.; Other Incumbents Fare Well

The big story of yesterday’s Oklahoma primary voting is the defeat of six-term Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK-1), who fell to military reserve pilot Jim Bridenstine by a substantial 54-46 percent margin. Sullivan becomes the fourth non-paired incumbent to fail in a renomination bid during this election cycle. Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), Tim Holden (D-PA-17), and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) are the other three.

In the open 2nd District of Oklahoma, both parties will feature Aug. 28 run-off elections. The Republicans will battle between businessman Markwayne Mullin (42 percent) and state Rep. George Faught (23 percent). Democrats will likely have a close contest between former district attorney Rob Wallace (46 percent) and Tulsa County Farm Bureau President Wayne Herriman (42 percent). Rep. Dan Boren (D) is retiring. This may be the Republican’s best conversion opportunity in the country.

Turning to South Carolina, the general election candidates are now set in the Palmetto State’s new 7th District. Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice was a strong 56-44 percent winner over former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer in the Republican primary. Rice is a prohibitive favorite now in the general election. In the run-off campaign that lasted just four official days after the Horry County court ruled that the Democrats must hold a secondary vote, former Georgia state Rep. Gloria Tinubu easily beat back attorney Preston Brittain, 73-27 percent. The run-off was challenged because votes for a withdrawn candidate were not originally included in the final tally.

In Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch, as expected, was an easy 67-33 percent winner in his Republican primary battle with former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Hatch will now cruise to re-election to a seventh term in November.

Another incumbent turned back a serious primary challenge with ease. Three-term Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5) repelled self-funding opponent Robert Blaha by a strong 62-38 percent margin despite the challenger spending more than $720,000 of his own money. Lamborn, who has had trouble solidifying what should be a safe Colorado Springs district, appears to be building the kind of strength one would expect to see from a now veteran incumbent.

Finally, in New York, a series of primaries produced no surprises. Embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13), challenged by four Democrats, again survived the onslaught but with only 45 percent of the vote. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat was his closest challenger with 40 percent; former Clinton Administration official and 2010 congressional candidate Clyde Williams only recorded 10 percent of the vote.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D) was a 58-31 percent winner over New York City Councilman Erik Dilan. Velazquez will now represent the new 7th District, which contains 71.2 percent of her current constituency. Neighboring Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9) was an easy winner in her primary with a huge 88 percent of the vote.

Elsewhere in the state, two individuals won open-seat New York City races that effectively punches their ticket to Congress. State Assemblywoman Grace Meng was an easy Democratic primary winner and will succeed retiring Rep. Gary Ackerman in the new 6th District. In Brooklyn, Democratic state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will replace retiring Rep. Ed Towns in the new 8th District.

New York City attorney Sean Mahoney won the right to challenge freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) in the new 18th District. Mahoney won despite the district being anchored in Westchester County. As expected, Rep. Bill Owens (D) will defend his marginal district against 2010 nominee Matt Doheny (R). And, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins (R) will face Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in a new district that heavily favors the Republicans.

Finally, in the US Senate race, conservative Wendy Long easily defeated New York City Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9), who had no legitimate chance of remaining in the House post-redistricting. Long, also officially carrying the Conservative Party line, will face Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) in a long shot November challenge effort.

New York, New York

Now that it is apparent that the three-judge panel’s congressional map for New York will in all likelihood be instituted for the 2012 congressional elections, action is happening in all four corners of the state.

First, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5), after basically having the field cleared for him in the new 6th District, surprisingly announced last night that he will not seek re-election. Ackerman was first elected to the House in 1982 after serving one term in the NY Senate. He becomes the 42nd member not to be standing for re-election. One of those, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), was defeated in her primary. Including the Schmidt seat and the two vacant US House positions, those of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) and the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ-10), the open seat count rises to 55.

The Ackerman retirement decision is a surprise for several reasons. First, it is incredulous that he waited until after redistricting was complete to make his intentions known when such knowledge would have made the legislators’ and court’s task easier in collapsing a seat, particularly since the Queens/Long Island area was targeted for district reduction. Second, GOP Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) had already announced that he would launch a long-shot senatorial campaign rather than oppose Ackerman in the new, and highly Democratic, 6th District. Third, sate Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D), who had been planning to challenge Turner, said he would not run for Congress when the Republican and Ackerman were paired, and publicly endorsed his Democratic colleague for re-election. Now, with all of this breaking his way, Ackerman calls it quits.

But, it’s possible that Turner may soon be back. A very late entry into the Senate race, the congressman, like all of the other candidates, must garner 25 percent of the delegate vote at the New York state Republican Convention beginning today in Rochester. Attorney Wendy Long, who also is getting the Conservative Party ballot line, is estimated to be around the 23 percent mark; Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos appears to have more than 28 percent in delegate commitments. But, Turner, just entering the convention race, is barely over 8 percent, a long way from the minimum 25 percent needed for primary ballot placement. Should he not make the statewide ballot, Turner could pivot back into what is now, at least temporarily, an open 6th District seat.

In Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY-3) Nassau-Suffolk County seat, now labeled District 2 and much more Democratic than his current CD, opposition party leaders are attempting to recruit a strong candidate. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice appears to be the party’s first choice.

Upstate, the collapsing of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s (D) 22nd District has sent several candidates who were running for what they thought was an open seat scrambling to other districts.

Leslie Danks Burke, the Ithaca Town Democratic Party chair will now challenge freshman Rep. Tom Reed in the new 23rd District. The same is true for Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa. The seat is more Democratic than Reed’s current 29th CD, but he begins the race as a strong favorite for re-election.

Democrat Wall Street attorney Sean Maloney, who was originally looking at challenging freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) in the Finger Lakes district will now run against freshman Nan Hayworth (R) in the Westchester County CD. For his part, Gibson will run in the new more Democratic 19th District. Matt Doheny, the 2010 nominee against Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23) will opt for a re-match in the new 21st District, which will be more to the Republican’s liking if he can get the incumbent into a one-on-one battle. In the Buffalo area, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26), who was placed in a heavily Republican 27th District and speculation became rampant that she might challenge Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) in the new Buffalo center city district, says she will fight it out in the new 27th.

Expect much more to come next week when the GOP state convention ends and the Senate field of candidates is set.

Turner Win Endangers Upstate NY Democrats

Representative-elect Bob Turner’s (R-NY-9) special election victory in Anthony Weiner’s vacated Queens/Brooklyn congressional district carries greater ramifications for the New York Democratic Party than merely losing a seat that was theirs for the taking. With the Empire State losing two districts in reapportionment, the Turner victory will now likely put at least one upstate Democrat on the political hot seat.

In New York, as in most other states, redistricting is handled through the normal state legislative process. Democrats control two of the three levers of political power here: the Governor’s office and the state Assembly. Republicans have a small majority in the state Senate. This gives both parties a seat at the redistricting table and will send the map to court unless the political leaders can reach a compromise.

Since losing representation is nothing new for this delegation, the traditional method of deciding which seats to collapse is to divide them evenly between the two political parties. Such will likely be the 2012 outcome, too, even though the Democrats have a 21-8 majority in the current NY congressional lineup.

Typically those in power collapse the least senior members’ seats. It is clear that the Democrats will want to collapse Turner’s 9th District, because it is fertile territory that can be used to shore up their other districts. All 29 seats are under-populated, hence the reason the state is dropping two more seats. Thus, if Mr. Turner, the newest freshman, is to see his 9th CD divided among the others in the city, the map drawers will then be looking upstate to collapse a Democratic district. Before, it was assumed that the Democratic loss would come in the city and an upstate Republican would likely be drawn out. Because of Turner’s surprise victory this past Tuesday, it is likely that the tables have turned.

If you look at the population numbers for each of New York’s 29 seats, the district needing the greatest influx of people is that of 82-year-old congressional veteran Louise Slaughter (D). Her 28th District is 105,869 individuals under zero-deviation quota. The district boundaries stretch from Niagara Falls to Rochester and many people believe its configuration resembles a set of headphones. The adjacent district, Rep. Brian Higgins’ (D) 27th District, which encompasses Buffalo and travels southwest along the Lake Erie coastline to the Pennsylvania border, needs an additional 88,436 people and is the state’s second-most under-populated seat. Clearly, the simple mathematics suggests that a pairing of these two sparse seats is a distinct possibility.

Keeping within the practice of “last in; first out,” then freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26) could also become a target. Ms. Hochul won a special election earlier this year after Rep. Christopher Lee (R) resigned. Her seat stretches between Buffalo and Rochester but contains no portion of either city. It is always easier to collapse a district that lies in the middle of a region rather than one in a corner, and the 26th certainly fits this criteria.

A more intriguing option for the Democrats, however, might be to sacrifice Rep. Bill Owens in the 23rd District. In what should still be a Republican seat, the GOP badly bungled the 2010 special election and the succeeding general vote to elect the novice Democratic politician. Since the 23rd is high on the national GOP’s conversion target list, collapsing this particular seat would almost serve the same purpose as taking another Republican district away. The worst case Democratic scenario would be to sacrifice another member and then lose the Owens seat, too. Giving up the 23rd might mitigate their losses and become the safe play.

Other elimination possibilities are the districts of Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22) and Nita Lowey (D-NY-18). Both are down approximately 40,000 in population, and each member is over 70 years of age and has considered retirement possibilities. If either of the two decides not to seek re-election, then the choice of which district to collapse becomes easy.

Expect New York to be one of the last states to finish its redistricting process, meaning it will end well into next year. At that time we will finally learn who wins and loses the game of political “Russian Roulette.”