Tag Archives: Christie Vilsack

Senate Politics Already Hot

Massachusetts

Considering yesterday’s confirmation of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) as Secretary of State, expect Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to name an interim replacement this week. He previously indicated that he intends to appoint a caretaker who will serve only until voters choose a new senator in the June 25 special general election and through the succeeding post-election certification period.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) is the only announced special election candidate from either political party, but Boston Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8) is expected to join the race before week’s end. Democratic Party leaders have worked hard to give Markey an unimpeded march to the nomination, but a Lynch candidacy means that there will be a significant Democratic primary to be decided in an April 30th election.

Little definitive action is yet occurring on the Republican side, but the party’s nominee likely will be either former Sen. Scott Brown, ex-Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, or former state senator and 6th District congressional candidate Richard Tisei. Ex-Gov. Bill Weld is unlikely to enter the contest. Should Brown decide to run he will almost assuredly have an unopposed primary, thus providing him an opportunity to build Continue reading >

The Big June 5th Primary is Fast Approaching

Next Tuesday, six states go to the polls to nominate Senate and House candidates, and possibly recall a governor. On Monday, we’ll cover all of the hot California races. Today, we look at the other states voting on June 5.

Iowa: In a state promising to be a hotbed of presidential campaign activity in the general election, two, and possibly three, House seats will also be highly competitive. The contenders in Districts 3 and 4 are already set. District 3, anchored in Des Moines and Council Bluffs, will feature a general election incumbent pairing between veteran representatives Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) and Tom Latham (R-IA-4). The new 3rd is very marginal, and this will be a close race. But Tuesday’s primary carries no drama for either man. To the northwest is new District 4, featuring Rep. Steve King (R-IA-5) defending his position against Christie Vilsack (D), the state’s former First Lady. The seat leans Republican, so King is favored, but, as in District 3, Tuesday’s vote is already well-defined.

In the southeastern 2nd District, Rep. David Loebsack (D) faces Davenport state Sen. Joe Seng. Loebsack should hold, but he loses his Cedar Rapids power base to District 1 and adds Davenport, a city he has not previously represented but one in which Seng has served in local government as well as the state legislature. The 2nd has the chance of becoming moderately competitive in the general election particularly if Seng pulls a big upset over the incumbent on Tuesday.

Montana: A gubernatorial primary is underway for the state’s at-large open seat. Attorney General Steve Bullock is the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary. Former Rep. Rick Hill (R-MT-AL) is attempting a political comeback in this race after being out of office for 12 years. The Senate competitors are already set: Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL). In the open House race, former lieutenant governor nominee Steve Daines has the inside track to the Republican nomination, while the Democrats are in a battle among seven candidates led by state Sen. Kim Gillian and state Rep. Franke Wilmer.

New Jersey: The races here are quiet except for the 9th District Democratic pairing between representatives Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8). This race has been hotly contested for weeks and turned nasty on several occasions. Most believe Rothman has the slight advantage, particularly with official party endorsements in two of the district’s three counties. Pascrell needs a larger than normal turnout in Passaic County to snatch a close win. Surprisingly, the mayor of the district’s largest city, Paterson, has endorsed Rothman as has a member of the city council. These endorsements sting Pascrell because he was a former Paterson mayor before being elected to Congress. The representative does have former president Bill Clinton’s public support. A wild finish is guaranteed here.

New Mexico: In the Senate campaign, it appears that Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and ex-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) are headed for their respective party nominations. This will be a highly competitive general election. In Heinrich’s open House race, a tight Democratic primary is evolving. Polls show state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County commissioner and former congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham to be in a virtual tie, with former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez trailing the duo. There is no run-off election in New Mexico, so this race will likely being decided on Tuesday by only a handful of votes. Republicans will nominate former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. The eventual Democratic nominee has the inside track for the fall election.

South Dakota: Little in the way of contests are occurring in South Dakota. There is no Senate race this year, and freshman Rep. Kristi Noem (R) is positioning herself for a second term. For the Democrats, Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth and former congressional aide Matt Varilek vie for the right to challenge Noem. Though South Dakota does feature a run-off, the two-way race guarantees that Democratic voters will choose a nominee on Tuesday night. Noem will be a big favorite in the general election.

Wisconsin: Finally, the long-awaited recall election for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will be decided next Tuesday. Momentum had been swinging Walker’s way and he still seems to have more energy behind his candidacy than does Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his Democratic opponent. At least one survey, however, the Lake Research poll taken for the Democratic Party, shows the race to be a tie. All others give Walker a slight lead. The race will turn on the rate of voter participation and both sides are gearing up for a major effort. The result here could be a harbinger for the general election, certainly in Wisconsin, but possibly nationwide, too. Arguably, this race will have the greatest effect on national politics of any June 5 campaign.

The plethora of California congressional races will be covered in our Monday report.

Republican-Held CDs: A Vulnerability Analysis

The House Majority PAC, run by a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee political director who served under then-chairman Rahm Emanuel, released the findings of Public Policy Polling vulnerability surveys for eight Republican-held congressional seats (all conducted during the Jan. 18-23 period). It is not known in exactly how many districts the PAC polled, but these eight will undoubtedly be competitive and obviously fare the best for Democrats among those tested.

Though the release was done in the context of making the GOP incumbents look as vulnerable as possible, looking beyond the numbers and overlaying the new district lines tells, perhaps, a different story in many of these targeted CDs.

The eight are:

• CO-3: Rep. Scott Tipton (R), 46% vs. Sal Pace (D), 39% – The 3rd District of Colorado is commonly described as the Western Slope seat. The region encompasses the mountainous western part of the state but comes east along the state’s southern border to capture the Democratic city and county of Pueblo. Because the split-control Colorado legislature was unable to produce a new congressional map, the subsequent de novo court map kept the integrity of the district intact and made the swing seat lean just one more point toward the Democrats. Sal Pace is the state House minority leader and expected to be a strong challenger. Scott Tipton is a freshman who defeated three-term Democratic Rep. John Salazar in the last election 50-46 percent. This is expected to be a close race, but since the Republican presidential nominee usually carries this region, Tipton might get a point or two bump. At this point, a 46-39 percent spread for numbers released by a Democratic Super PAC are not too bad for the incumbent Republican in a district that traditionally features tight congressional contests.

• IL-8: Rep. Joe Walsh, 35% (R) vs. Generic D, 49% – The two Democratic contenders in this new district are former US Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth and ex-Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi. The generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have a strong chance of unseating freshman Rep. Joe Walsh here, in a Democratic redraw that was designed to do just that. Walsh’s decision to run in the new 8th instead of facing a GOP incumbent pairing with fellow freshman Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) is highly questionable. Despite House Republican leadership promising to raise Walsh millions of dollars if he were to run in the 8th District, the demographic and political numbers paint an unpleasant picture regarding the freshman’s chances. Expect the Democratic nominee, likely Duckworth, to romp in the general election. The PPP generic poll has a high probability of being accurate.

• IA-4: Rep. Steve King (R), 49% vs. Christie Vilsack (D), 43% – Rep. Steve King’s 5th District, now labeled #4, is quite different under the new redistricting design, as the state lost a seat in reapportionment. Instead of occupying the entire western side of Iowa from north to south, the new 4th CD keeps only his north-central western base and now travels as far east as Mason City, Charles City, and New Hampton. The seat is generally Republican, but King has drawn a challenge from Christie Vilsack (D), wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. She will have all the campaign resources she needs to run a competitive race. Since Vilsack likely has higher name ID throughout the entire district than does Rep. King, a 49-43 percent spread in the congressman’s favor is not particularly bad news for he and the GOP.

• MD-6: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 42% – One of the biggest redistricting victims in the United States is 85-year old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). He has seen his district go from a 58 percent McCain performance to a 56 percent Obama number with the addition of more highly Democratic precincts in Montgomery County. Under the new district lines, Rep. Bartlett is a clear underdog in the general election, assuming he survives an eight-person Republican primary. Considering the drastic nature of the redraw, pulling dead even in what is now a decidedly Democratic district is actually a surprisingly good showing for the GOP incumbent.

• MI-1: Rep. Dan Benishek (R), 41% vs. Gary McDowell (D), 46% – Rep. Benishek is trailing by five in a new district that is slightly more Republican than the one in which he defeated then-state Rep. Gary McDowell (D) 52-41 percent in 2010; and that is a sign of trouble. Though the seat was held by Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak for 18 years, the voting history of northern Michigan is hospitable to Republicans. Therefore, a poll showing Benishek already trailing McDowell, who just announced he was going to run again in September, should be a cause for concern among Benishek and the northern Michigan Republican party.

• OH-6: Rep. Bill Johnson (R), 42% vs. Charlie Wilson (D), 41% – Though Ohio loses two congressional districts, the configuration of the 6th District that hugs the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders all the way from East Liverpool and Steubenville down to and through Scioto County stays virtually intact under the new Buckeye State map. The seat juts west on I-70 at Cambridge in order to pick up some new Republican voters to give Johnson some help. The freshman congressman’s opponent is former two-term Rep. Charlie Wilson, who Johnson defeated 50-45 percent in 2010. A one-point polling margin is what one would expect in this district featuring two well-known candidates at such an early point in the election cycle. The new OH-6 race is likely to remain close all the way to Election Day.

• OH-7: Rep. Bob Gibbs (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 43% – The new 7th District is a radical redraw from the current 18th CD that elected freshman Rep. Bob Gibbs. Instead of stretching south from the central part of the state, the new 7th moves north to grab the city of Canton, sweeps around new District 16 in a horseshoe-shaped fashion to pick up the city of Ashland on the west, and then travels north all the way to Lake Erie. The new district should elect a Republican, but Gibbs is unfamiliar to a large number of voters. The fact that he is virtually dead-even on the generic ballot question is not particularly bad news for the new congressman. Once he becomes better known throughout the entire new district, and is paired with a live Democratic candidate instead of a party label, his ballot test numbers should dramatically improve.

• OH-16: Rep. Jim Renacci (R), 46% vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D), 46% – The 16th District doesn’t much resemble either GOP Rep. Renacci’s current 16th CD, nor Rep. Sutton’s 13th District. Renacci represents a greater proportion of the new district, but it only slightly leans Republican. Therefore, it is not particularly surprising that the two candidates are starting on even footing. This is another race that will be hard-fought. Because Sutton’s political base was split among several districts, forcing her to begin again from scratch, she faces the more difficult path to re-election. OH-16 is one of just three districts in the nation so far that features an inter-party incumbent pairing. The other two are CA-32, with Reps. Grace Napolitano (D) and David Dreier (R) facing off – though it is highly unlikely that the Republican will run here – and IA-3, with Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) lining up against each other.

Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part II

In concluding our two-part series about House members who will face serious 2012 re-election challenges, below we list 22 more competitive incumbents from states where redistricting has been completed or which is pending but clear.

IN-8 – Larry Bucshon (R) – In attempting to gain a 7R-2D advantage for the delegation, the 8th district of freshman Rep. Bucshon was weakened, from the Republican perspective. Expect competition here, but the new incumbent remains the favorite.

IA-3 – Leonard Boswell (D) / Tom Latham (R) – In the only intra-party pairing of the new election cycle so far, veteran Reps. Boswell and Latham square-off in a marginal district. Mr. Boswell represents more of the new district, but the voting patterns tilt a touch toward Mr. Latham. This race begins as a pure toss-up.

IA-4 – Steve King (R) – The new western-based 4th district is mostly comprised of Rep. King’s current 5th district and part of Mr. Latham’s old 4th. Christie Vilsack (D), wife of former Gov. Tom Vilsack who serves as President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, already has announced her intention to challenge Rep. King. This will be a competitive race because of Vilsack’s fundraising capability. However, King begins with the decided advantage.

LA-3 – Jeff Landry (R) / Charles Boustany (R) – Louisiana’s loss of a congressional seat pits freshman Rep. Jeff Landry against veteran Charles Boustany in a Republican primary battle. The winner retains the seat. Boustany is the early favorite.

MI-9 – Sander Levin (D) / Gary Peters (D) – Michigan’s loss of a district pairs 15-term Rep. Levin against two-term Rep. Peters. Levin, who will be 80 at the time of the next election, is a retirement possibility. Peters has also tested the waters to run for Oakland County Executive. The winner of this primary battle, should it occur, holds the seat.

MO-2 – Russ Carnahan (D) – The loss of a seat in Missouri has forced Rep. Carnahan either to challenge Rep. Lacy Clay in the 1st district Democratic primary or try to survive in the neighboring Republican 2nd district seat, in open status because Rep. Todd Akin is running for the Senate. Carnahan is competitive here, but will be the underdog.

NH-2 – Charlie Bass (R) – The 2nd district is now more like Vermont than New Hampshire in terms of voting patterns. This means the seat is decidedly Democratic. Rep. Bass regained the position he lost in 2006, but by just one percentage point over Democratic lobbyist Anne McLane Kuster. Redistricting must move only 254 people between the two districts, so Bass’s hopes for a more Republican seat are gone. This is a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

NY-25 – Ann Marie Buerkle (R) – Though redistricting won’t be completed well into next year, we can count on a competitive race in this Syracuse-based district. Chances are the city will remain intact, meaning it will anchor a seat in the Upstate region. Former Rep. Dan Maffei (D), the man Ms. Buerkle unseated in 2010, has already announced his intention to run again next year.

NC-3 – Rep. Walter Jones (R) – Though Rep. Jones has a safe Republican seat in which to run for re-election, the district has vast new territory for him. Already, retired New Bern Police Chief Frank Palumbo (R) has announced a GOP primary challenge to Mr. Jones. Others could follow suit.

NC-4 – David Price (D) / Brad Miller (D) – The Republican redistricting plan placed two Democratic incumbents in a seat that now stretches from Raleigh to Fayetteville. This will be a difficult primary as each man represents about one-third of this new district. The winner retains the seat for the Democrats.

NC-7 – Mike McIntyre (D) – Redistricting also threw Rep. McIntyre into a difficult district. This will be a top Republican conversion target. Both 2010 GOP nominee Ilario Pantano and state Sen. David Rouzer (R) have announced their intentions to run.

NC-8 – Larry Kissell (D) – Rep. Kissell loses a great number of Democratic votes in this new redistricting plan, making him a tempting GOP target. Three local officials, including one who isn’t from the district, have announced for the seat. Expect more candidates to soon enter the fray.

NC-11 – Heath Shuler (D) – Rep. Shuler may have received the most difficult draw of all, as he now represents the most Republican congressional district in North Carolina. Local District Attorney Jeff Hunt and several local officials already are officially running.

OR-4 – Peter DeFazio (D) – The seat became a touch more Republican in redistricting and Rep. DeFazio raised eyebrows with his comment earlier this week that he is thinking about retirement. Could be competitive in an open situation. Republican Art Robinson, who received 44% of the vote against DeFazio in 2010, is running again.

RI-1 – David Cicilline (D) – Negative stories about Rep. Cicilline’s financial management of Providence when he was mayor has made the freshman congressman potentially vulnerable. Two strong Republican candidates, including 2010 nominee John Loughlin and former state police chief Brendan Doherty, are running. Chances appear high that Cicilline could draw Democratic primary opposition, too.

TN-3 – Charles Fleischmann (R) – Though redistricting is not yet finalized in Tennessee, freshman Rep. Fleischmann in the Chattanooga-based seat will likely face primary opposition. Robin Smith, the local county Republican Party chair who lost to Fleischmann by less than 1,500 votes in 2010, is considering a re-match.

TN-4 – Scott DesJarlais (R) – Mr. DesJarlais, who unseated then-Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) by more than 30,000 votes last November, could see a GOP primary challenge from state Sen. Bill Ketron (R). Sen. Ketron is on the legislative committee in charge of redistricting, which presumably allows him to draw the 4th district to his liking.

TN-8 – Stephen Fincher (R) – Though redistricting is not completed, the 8th district, by virtue of its geographic location in the northwest corner of the state, will likely be competitive in 2012. Mr. Fincher is the first modern-day Republican congressman from this region.

TX-35 – Lloyd Doggett (D) – If the Texas map survives its legal challenges, Rep. Doggett will face a stiff Democratic primary battle in the new 35th District that includes parts of Austin and San Antonio. Already, state Rep. Juan Castro (D), twin brother to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), has announced he will challenge Doggett.

UT-2 – Jim Matheson (D) – Redistricting will likely put Rep. Matheson in another strongly Republican seat. He already represents the most Republican district held by a Democratic member. Matheson is also a potential statewide candidate. The Republicans will win the seat if he vacates.

WV-1 – David McKinley (R) – Redistricting kept the 1st district largely intact, which is a seat Mr. McKinley can hold, despite it being in Democratic hands for generations before 2010. Ex-Rep. Alan Mollohan, who was defeated in the Democratic primary after 14 terms in office, is a possible candidate in 2012. The Democrats will field a strong challenger here, and this race will be competitive.

WI-7 – Sean Duffy (R) – Mr. Duffy won a seat that was in former Rep. David Obey’s (D) hands for more than 40 years. The district gained Republicans in the re-draw, but Rep. Duffy can expect a stiff re-election challenge from a strong Democrat.

In these two reports (go to our Part I report) we already have isolated 44 incumbents who will face a competitive re-election challenge in either the primary or the general election. Keep in mind that no less than 13 major states still have not completed their redistricting, including Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Add in at least 26 more open seats and it is conceivable that as many as 90-100 House seats could be contested as the 2012 election hits its stride.
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Latham will Challenge Boswell in Iowa

Current Iowa congressional districts.

The new Iowa congressional lines have yet to be officially approved but Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-4), whose district is apparently being collapsed in reapportionment, already has made his electoral decision for 2012. In an email announcement to supporters this past Friday, Mr. Latham said he will challenge Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) next year. On paper, the vast majority of Latham’s current seat is in the new 4th CD that map drawers combined with fellow GOP Rep. Steve King’s 5th district; signs pointed to an intra-party face-off. That Latham chose to run against Boswell, even though just three counties carry over from his current district, certainly provides the best move for the Republican Party.

Iowa chooses to redistrict by empowering a legislative committee staff to construct new districts via a mathematical formula without regard to incumbency. Their 2011 work product has resulted in the pairing not only of Latham with now Boswell, but also Democratic members Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) and David Loebsack (D-IA-2), whose homes were placed together in the new 1st district. Loebsack, despite his Linn County (Cedar Rapids) power base being added to IA-1, says he will run in the new 2nd, which has the majority of his current territory.

Latham’s move against Boswell makes sense from several perspectives. First, as previously mentioned, it greatly helps the Republican Party, because a divisive primary is avoided. Second, Latham conceding the GOP nomination in the new northwestern 4th district to King also helps the party prepare for the general election there because this new seat is not as solidly Republican as his (King’s) current 5th district. Third, in the person of Rep. Latham, the Iowa Republican Party now has its strongest possible candidate against Boswell who has been weakened in several close elections but never succumbed to defeat.

Another Latham advantage will be his huge campaign war chest. The asset is more important in a general election than for a primary battle opposite King because spending is less for a nomination battle and the latter has a strong Tea Party grassroots network that can independently turn out its own vote.

The new IA-3 is the Des Moines-Council Bluffs seat. Polk (Des Moines) is the largest county in the district and the biggest population center in Iowa, housing 429,439 people. It is the only county that remains from the current 3rd. Boswell’s present district begins in Polk County and stretches to the northeast. The new 3rd also launches from Polk but stretches to the southwest, all the way to the Nebraska border.

Historically, the 3rd has been a politically marginal district. Former President George W. Bush carried the region in 2004 by just a few votes over John Kerry, but Pres. Barack Obama rebounded to score a much higher 54-44 percent win over John McCain four years later. The new 3rd district becomes even tighter, as it skews approximately three more points in the Republicans’ favor. Obama carried the new configuration 52-46 percent, while Bush would have scored an identical percentage and margin of victory back in ’04. The shift should definitely play to Latham’s favor in 2012.

Rep. Boswell, first elected in 1996, is 77 years old and has had previous health issues. Long speculated about as a potential retirement prospect, the congressman confirmed even before the redistricting process began that he would be a candidate for re-election. He’s averaged 54.2 percent of the vote over eight terms, but hit just 50 percent in 2010. Changing the voting pattern and geography of the district to give the GOP a small boost means the race will begin as a pure toss-up.

Though King dodges a bullet by not having to face Latham, he may not yet be out of the woods. Christie Vilsack, wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Governor Tom Vilsack, has been saying she will run for Congress in 2012. Because of redistricting it was not clear who she might oppose, especially since the family home is in Rep. Loebsack’s 2nd district. Word is now forthcoming that Mrs. Vilsack is seriously considering hopping into the new 4th district, at the opposite end of the state, to challenge King.

While the new 3rd becomes more Republican in redistricting, the new 4th gets slightly more Democratic. King’s current 5th district gave McCain a 54-44 percent victory, and George W. Bush notched a more impressive 60-39 percent win in 2004. The new 4th brings these numbers closer together. McCain’s performance in the just-configured northwest region was 50 percent as compared to Pres. Obama’s 48 percent. Bush would have carried the seat 55-44 percent. King would be favored against Mrs. Vilsack, but the race certainly has the potential of becoming highly competitive.

Now that redistricting is virtually settled, it is clear that 2012 will feature a very active congressional election cycle in the Hawkeye State.
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