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.

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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.”

Upset City in NY’s 9th CD?

The special election to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY-9) congressional vacancy in New York City will be held tomorrow and the latest poll from the Siena College Research Institute (Aug. 6-8; 886 likely NY-9 special election voters) suggests a possible Republican upset in this heavily Democratic district.

According to the Siena survey, Republican Bob Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, leads Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin 50-44 percent. This is on the heels of a Magellan Strategies study (Sept. 1; 2,055 likely NY-9 voters via automated telephone calls) giving Turner a 45-40 percent advantage. Furthermore, within the last 10 days, McLaughlin Associates showed the race to be tied at 42 percent, prompting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to counter with their own Global Strategy Group (GSG) survey (Aug. 30-31; 400 likely NY-9 voters), which posted Weprin to a 47-39 percent lead. The high error factor (4.9 percent) for a poll with a large congressional district sample suggests that the GSG results may be from the “educated” ballot test, meaning that people were given further information about the candidates after the respondents made their initial candidate preference selection.

An upset in a New York irregular election would be nothing new. In the past two years, three special elections have been held in the state, each producing a winner different from the early projected favorite. The one special election where the favored candidate won, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-29), was held concurrently with the 2010 general election. The others, all in Republican seats, elected Reps. Scott Murphy (D-NY-20), who was subsequently defeated in the succeeding regular election, Bill Owens (D-NY-23), and Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26).

As in all special elections, turnout will be the determining factor. With a superior Democratic Party operation in the city, Weprin certainly has a chance to win regardless of the late polling results. If the Democrats are motivated to turn out, then Weprin can survive. If they are not inclined to do so in sufficient numbers, then we could see a GOP upset.

Should Turner win this seat, the Republicans will likely sweep the two congressional special elections being held tomorrow. The other, in Nevada’s 2nd district, will likely elect Republican Mark Amodei. Winning the New York seat, however, will almost assuredly have national ramifications and won’t make any Democrat, including President Obama, feel overly secure.
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Democrats Convert Seat in New York’s 26th

Democratic/Working Families Party nominee Kathy Hochul, who began as little more than a sacrificial lamb in what should be a relatively safe Republican district, won the special election last night to succeed former Rep. Christopher Lee (R). Mr. Lee resigned the seat earlier in the year to avoid publicizing an impending personal scandal. Ms. Hochul, the Erie County clerk, defeated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin who held the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party ballot lines, along with Independent Jack Davis. Hochul’s margin was 47-43-9% against Corwin and Davis, respectively.

Turnout appeared to be low, especially in comparison to the previous upstate specials that broke 35 percent in voter participation. Approximately 115,000 people cast ballots, not counting what are likely several thousand yet-to-be-tabulated absentee votes. The turnout rate was hovering around 28 percent.

The two most recent pollsters called the race accurately. The closing surveys, one from Siena College and the other Public Policy Polling, showed Hochul holding four- and six-point leads, respectively, during the weekend directly preceding the election. The final margin, as revealed above, was four points.

The result allows the Democrats to extend their strong performances in special elections and adds to the commensurate Republican woes, particularly in multi-candidate upstate New York contests. The Hochul victory represents the third such favorable Democratic result in the last four New York special elections, even though the Republicans were favored at the beginning of each race.

The focal point of the campaign became Independent Jack Davis who labeled himself with the word “Tea.” New York election law allows qualifying Independents to describe themselves in a similar manner to party designation labels for the major candidates. Davis, however, was not a Tea Party member. He previously ran for Congress three times as a liberal Democrat. The Davis candidacy sparked confusion and controversy, thus causing Republican nominee Corwin to make unforced errors that ultimately cost her the seat. At one point, Davis was polling within just a few points of Hochul and Corwin, topping out at 23 percent. Then, both the Democrats and Republicans unloaded on Davis, ultimately costing him two-thirds of his potential support.

Aligned with the Conservative and Independence parties in a seat drawn for the GOP, this special election should have gone the Republicans’ way. Again, as had been the case in what proved to be a disastrous 23rd district contest (Rep. Bill Owens) two different times for Republicans, a minor party candidate cut against the GOP nominee and cost them the seat.

Total spending among the contenders broke $7 million, but the three candidates themselves contributed over $5 million of that total. Davis is a multi-millionaire who has traditionally self-funded his campaigns. He spent more than $2.6 million for this special election. Corwin dumped a similar amount into her campaign.

Outside entity spending was interesting. According to the latest OpenSecrets.org analysis, $1.99 million, in addition to the candidates’ cumulative total, was injected by independent organizations. A great deal of those expenditures, better than $755,000 worth, were targeted in opposition to Davis. More than $541,000 went against Hochul, and an additional $471,000 targeted Corwin. Both major party candidates also received positive independent expenditures, but those totaled less than $150,000 apiece.

The count in the House is now 241 Republicans and 193 Democrats with one vacancy. The open California 36th district will be filled on July 12th. Democrat Janice Hahn is a heavy favorite in that campaign. The New York delegation will now head into redistricting, where the state loses two seats in reapportionment, with 22 Democrats and seven Republicans.

Democrats will attempt to frame this election as a referendum on Medicare, as they continually attacked Corwin for saying she would support the controversial Ryan budget plan. The Republican never effectively countered the attack. The bigger issue, however, was the repeated Corwin mistakes that once again allowed a New York Republican seat to slip through the GOP’s fingers. In a special election, when turnout is always down and sometimes not reflective of a district’s voting patterns, the candidate running the more competent campaign generally wins. Clearly, Ms. Hochul was the superior campaigner in NY-26 during this battle.
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Democrats Announce First Frontline Group

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made public their first list of 15 Frontline candidates, those they believe will need the most help to win re-election in 2012. Redistricting, however, will have much to say about the fortune of these members and many others.

The list begins with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8), still recovering from the senseless and tragic shooting that put her life in grave danger. Remember, however, that she won by just 1.5 percentage points over Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly in November, which puts Giffords’ re-election status as unclear. Some even still mention her as a potential Senate candidate. Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is clear: Giffords’ 8th district will change. The Arizona Redistricting Commission is charged with drawing new seats, and it is quite possible the members will craft a compromise to give Giffords a safe Tucson-based seat, should she be able to run, while the new Arizona congressional district would then become more Republican. Too much uncertainty exists to make an accurate contemporary prediction.

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is in a similar political situation to that of Giffords. A new statewide redistricting commission will also draw the California districts. Right now, without the state even having its census block numbers yet, it is virtually impossible to gauge how McNerney will fare as population changes in the Bay Area appear significant. Another in an unknown situation is Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3), where the Hawkeye State is the only one in the country not to allow political considerations, or even the incumbent’s residence, to affect how the map is drawn.

The two New Yorkers listed, Reps. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) and Bill Owens (D-NY-23) are also both in temporary limbo as is almost everyone in the Empire State. Slated now to lose two seats to apportionment, it remains to be seen what legislative compromise, or court action, will eliminate which seats. It is unlikely that Bishop can be collapsed because he occupies the far eastern end of Long Island, and being in a corner is always a plus when enduring redistricting.

The members currently viewed as vulnerable who are more than likely to benefit from redistricting are Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN-1) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11). Since Minnesota did not lose a seat in apportionment and they have split government, expect an incumbent-oriented map. Therefore, Walz’s seat should improve for him. With Republicans having an 8-3 advantage in Virginia, expect the Democratic districts, like Connolly’s 11th, to get stronger.

Though there is a slight unknown factor for Reps. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5) because of their state government’s also being under split control, it is probable that both get equivalent or better districts than they respectively represent today.

The remaining six Frontline members all have serious redistricting problems, as Republicans hold the pen in their states:

  • Both Reps. Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) are likely to face very adverse constituencies under the new North Carolina map.
  • Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-9) is expected to be paired with veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-12) because Michigan loses a seat. Under this scenario the new Peters-Levin district would be heavily Democratic, but the two would be forced to duel each other in a primary battle.
  • A similar situation could occur in Pennsylvania where Reps. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) and Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) could find themselves fighting for one district. Like Michigan, Pennsylvania will lose one seat.
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3), another razor-thin election survivor, could find himself as the odd-man-out in Missouri’s delegation reduction. His district and that of neighboring Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) are the two least populated in the state. Clay is likely to survive because the Republican legislature and Democratic Governor are unlikely to collapse an African-American district and will want to protect St. Louis city as the dominant population center in one seat.
  • Finally, with Utah gaining a seat, will the Republican legislature and governor concede a seat to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2), or draw a pie-shaped map emanating from Salt Lake City? The latter option would give the GOP good odds to defeat Matheson and win all four districts. But, it’s too early to tell what might happen.

With redistricting having such a major factor upon virtually all states, it is very difficult to accurately determine political vulnerability until the new maps are set. Thus, the Frontline member group composition will likely change drastically between now and Election Day 2012.
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Republicans Nominate Corwin in NY-26

The local Republican chairmen from the seven upstate New York counties comprising the 26th congressional district, as expected, officially chose Assemblywoman Jane Corwin to be their nominee for the upcoming special election that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) eventually will call. The seat is vacant due to the scandal-tainted resignation of former Rep. Christopher Lee (R). Democrats have yet to name their consensus candidate.

Under New York election law, the governor has rather wide latitude to schedule special elections, but the vote must occur between 30 and 40 days once the call is made. The time lapse between resignation and scheduling allows the parties to choose their nominees via party caucus rather than a primary vote. Because of this situation only the seven county chairman from each party have any say in the nomination process for this particular election.

Upstate New York is no stranger to recent special congressional elections. Since the 2008 general election, two specials have been held and a third was made concurrent with the regular 2010 election. In early 2009, Democrat Scott Murphy won a 50.1-49.6% victory over Republican Jim Tedisco in the 20th district. Kirsten Gillibrand had vacated the seat to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate. Murphy then went on to lose the 2010 general election to current Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY-20) by a rather large 53-44% count.

In late 2009, Democrat Bill Owens, in a race that attracted a great deal of national attention, upset Conservative Doug Hoffman after GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava dropped out of the special race the weekend before the final vote and endorsed her major party opponent. Hoffman, running again on the Conservative Party line in the regular election, siphoned away enough votes to allow Owens to slip past Republican Matt Doheny to win a full term in NY-23. The seat was originally vacated because President Obama appointed GOP Rep. John McHugh as Army Secretary. When Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY-29) resigned in scandal, then-Gov. David Paterson simply refused to hold the special election early because it was clear his party was going to lose the seat. Last November, Corning Mayor Tom Reed easily converted the seat for the GOP.

Now, with Rep. Lee abruptly resigning due to a new scandal, yet another special election will be conducted. The seat should remain safely in Republican hands since the 26th district is one of the few New York congressional districts with a solid GOP history. John McCain defeated Pres. Obama here 52-46%, making the 26th only the fourth of 29 NY seats to so choose the Republican. Former Pres. George W. Bush racked up 55-43% and 51-44% margins here in 2004 and 2000 respectively. Ex-Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) had a close 52-48% call in 2006, but the seat has never fallen to the Democrats. Rep. Lee won 46-34% in 2008, and then posted a huge 68-24% landslide this past November.

With numbers like that, Assemblywoman Corwin should normally be regarded as the big favorite in a special election, but such may not be the case. Once again, a minor party candidate could conceivably tip the balance of power to the eventual Democratic nominee if enough conservative voters fail to support Corwin.

The chances of this happening are less than in the NY-23 melee of last year. Corwin claims the New York State Conservative Party has rated her the second-most conservative member in the Assembly, and she has won the party line in both of her legislative elections. Therefore, it is unlikely that the NYCP will abandon her now, which is the key to the Republicans winning. Under New York election law, candidates can gain votes from multiple party ballot lines.

Though certain Tea Party groups expressed displeasure with the Corwin selection, it will be difficult for them to qualify a candidate for the special election ballot because none of the Tea Party organizations are officially recognized New York political parties. Since the Green Party gubernatorial candidate did attract more than 50,000 votes in the last general election, however, they will qualify for an official ballot line now and in 2012. This could cause trouble for some future Democratic nominees if they are not sufficiently liberal on environmental issues.

Once the Democrats have a nominee, Gov. Cuomo will call the election and Ms. Corwin will likely win. At that point, she will immediately be forced to worry about redistricting, as the state loses two seats in apportionment and it is unclear which four of the existing 29 members will be paired against each other.

Our rating of the early NY-26 special election is “Likely Republican.”
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What’s Next in New York and Arizona?

The surprise resignation of Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY-26) will soon set off yet another special congressional election in New York. The 26th district, stretching from the Buffalo suburbs to the outlying Rochester area, is strongly Republican. With a new, short-term incumbent, however, the district stands a chance of being collapsed in the 2012 redistricting plan, since the state loses two congressional seats in reapportionment. Therefore, redistricting is certainly a factor for the potential candidates assessing their special election chances and prospects for a long tenure in the House. Republicans will have the advantage in this short-term contest.

Previously, when then-Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY-20) was appointed to the Senate, a special election was held to choose a replacement for the House seat. Democrat Scott Murphy prevailed, but current Rep. Chris Gibson (R) subsequently defeated him in November. Rep. John McHugh’s (R-NY-23) appointment as Army Secretary led to a divisive special election allowing Democrat Bill Owens to slip through a three-way contest to capture the normally Republican seat. Owens went on to win a full term last November in similar fashion.

The major political parties will caucus and select a nominee; thus, there will be no primary election. Early reports suggest that Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is already beginning to assemble a campaign operation. Among Democrats, Erie County legislator Kathy Konst has the potential of quickly becoming a consensus candidate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has a wide time frame in which to schedule the vote but once he does, the election will be held just 30-40 days from his official call.

In Arizona, Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R) announcement yesterday that he will not seek a fourth term sets the state’s political apparatus in motion. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) previously indicated interest in making a statewide bid should Kyl retire. The five-term Representative is a nationally known budget hawk, and has a strong following in the state. He has over $627,000 in the bank according to his year-end financial statement. The only other veteran Republican congressman in the Arizona delegation, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is more likely to remain in the House.

For the Democrats, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ-8) name is already surfacing, but the congresswoman, recovering from a senseless assassination attempt, is not currently in a position to run a grueling statewide campaign. Had it not been for the tragic Tucson shooting that injured her and killed six others, Rep. Giffords would very likely have joined the field of Senate candidates and been among the favorites to capture not only the Democratic nomination, but possibly the seat itself. Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is also being mentioned as a person having interest in running. But recent polling indicates that her stint in Washington has cost her dearly among her former constituents.

Turning to other potential Senate candidates, former Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ-3) is saying he might have interest in such a race. Former Attorney General Grant Woods, known as a liberal Republican, is another mentioned as a potential candidate. Ex-Democratic Party state chairman and 2006 Senatorial nominee Jim Pederson will also find his name prominently on a list of potential office seekers. Former state Treasurer Dean Martin (R), who briefly challenged Gov. Jan Brewer in the Republican primary, is another GOP possibility.

This race will be hard-fought, as the state is rife with controversial issues and the voting base becomes ever more marginal and competitive. Republicans will start out with an advantage, but this race will be one to watch throughout the 2012 election cycle.
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Hoffman Bows Out; NY Now Highly Competitive

The Republicans may have climbed at least one step closer to their goal of regaining control of the House of Representatives yesterday when Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman ended his congressional campaign in New York (upstate NY-23 district). In the 2010 primary, Hoffman came close to winning the GOP nomination after securing the Conservative Party nomination, but was nipped at the end by wealthy businessman Matt Doheny.

Right after the mid-September primary, Hoffman said he would pursue a full-fledged campaign to attempt to win the seat solely on the Conservative Party ballot line, but with polls showing that the three-way contest would almost assuredly re-elect Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY), Hoffman decided to end his campaign and endorsed Doheny. If the Republicans/Conservatives now unite behind Doheny, who also carries the Independence Party line, this race will go from a clear Democratic advantage to a toss-up if not all the way to Lean R. Owens is now in serious trouble because the seat historically votes Republican.