Tag Archives: Heath Shuler

NC Run-offs Tomorrow

There are only two federal elections of any kind in July, and tomorrow’s North Carolina run-off vote will decide three GOP nominations. All Tar Heel State Democratic nominees and the other Republican standard bearers were chosen outright in the May 8 primary.

The 8th Congressional District occupies the area east and north of Charlotte on the way to Fayetteville. The post-redistricting NC-8, represented by two-term Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell, moves a net 21 points toward Republicans on the presidential scale. The new draw adds more than 45 percent new territory for Kissell, forcing him to move right in order to survive politically. He was one of five Democrats to vote to repeal Obamacare care last week after opposing previous such attempts. He originally voted against the legislation when it was first passed, and then fought repeal only to reverse course again, so his inconsistency on the subject could become a campaign issue.

Fighting for the Republican nomination are business consultant and former congressional aide Richard Hudson and dentist and ex-Iredell county commissioner Scott Keadle (pronounced Kay-dle). Hudson placed first in the five-candidate Republican primary, capturing 32.1 percent of the vote versus Keadle’s 22.0 percent. Both men are conservatives, but Hudson enjoys North Carolina Republican establishment support, House GOP leadership backing (Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s leadership PAC), and even landed the liberal Charlotte Observer newspaper’s endorsement.

The two candidates are about even in financial resources and each has invested six figures into his own campaign, though Keadle has loaned himself more than three times Hudson’s personal contribution amount. Because of its new partisan configuration, the winner of tomorrow’s run-off will likely become the 8th District’s new congressman.

Perched on the western side of Charlotte and then driving due north half-way to Winston-Salem is the new 9th Congressional District, open because nine-term Rep. Sue Myrick (R) is retiring. The GOP battle here, tantamount to victory in November, is between former state senator Robert Pittenger and Mecklenburg County Commissioner and former sheriff Jim Pendergraph. As in the 8th District, both men are running as conservatives. Myrick has endorsed Pendergraph, but Pittenger, because of a huge $2 million self-donation, has a major financial advantage. Pittenger placed first in the primary of eleven candidates, capturing 32.4 percent of the vote as compared to Pendergraph’s 25.3 percent. Tomorrow’s winner will claim the general election and keep the reliable GOP seat in the Republican column.

Farther to the west in the Asheville area, encompassing the entire western tail of the state, lies the 11th District. This seat, like both the 7th and 8th CDs, was changed heavily to the Republicans’ benefit. Eliminating most of the city of Asheville, with its Democratic voting base, from the 11th is the main reason that three-term Rep. Heath Shuler (D) decided not to seek re-election. Shuler’s chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, is the new Democratic nominee, but the 13-point GOP redistricting adjustment will give tomorrow’s Republican nominee the inside track to victory in November.

The two 11th District run-off participants are businessmen, each in their first political campaign. Real estate investor Mark Meadows, who captured 37.8 percent of the vote and missed winning outright by just over two percentage points (North Carolina’s run-off law requires only 40 percent of the vote to win a partisan nomination as opposed to 50 percent in all other states that use a two-tiered primary system), is favored over Vance Patterson who posted 23.6 percent in the field of nine candidates. Originally, it appeared that local District Attorney Jeff Hunt was the presumed favorite, but he performed poorly and both Meadows and Patterson blew past him to secure their run-off positions.

Through the end of June, Meadows held a healthy fundraising advantage, though about half of his campaign treasury is self-contributed. Patterson is his campaign’s virtual sole source of funds and pledges to donate all of his congressional salary to local western North Carolina charities, if elected. Look for a Mark Meadows victory tomorrow and in November.

Inmate Scores 40% vs. Obama in W.Va.; N.C., Wis. Updates

West Virginia

Perhaps the biggest surprise of last night’s primaries came in West Virginia, where Keith Russell Judd, an inmate in a Beaumont, Texas federal prison currently serving a 17-year sentence, scored a full 40 percent of the vote against President Obama in the West Virginia Democratic primary. This clearly suggests that West Virginia will be a solid Mitt Romney state in the fall.

North Carolina

A lot of action also occurred in the North Carolina primary. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton posted a 45-38 percent victory over former Rep. Bob Etheridge. Dalton will now face 2008 gubernatorial nominee and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) in the general election. Gov. Bev Perdue (D) is retiring after one term.

In open seats, former state Sen. Robert Pittenger and Mecklenberg County Commissioner Jim Pendergraph will square off in a June 26 Republican run-off election for retiring Rep. Sue Myrick’s 9th District. The Charlotte suburban seat will go to eventual GOP nominee in the general election. In the Asheville-based 11th CD, being vacated by the retiring Rep. Heath Shuler (D), two non-elected officials, businessmen Mark Meadows and Vance Patterson will battle each other in the Republican run-off. The winner faces Shuler’s former chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, who won the Democratic nod. Redistricting makes the GOP nominee the general election favorite. Finally, in new District 13, former US Attorney George Holding won the Republican nomination outright and will be the heavy favorite in November.

Turning to challenger primaries, state Sen. David Rouzer won a see-saw Republican primary battle with 2010 nominee Ilario Pantano. He now faces Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre in what will be a highly competitive general election. In Rep. Kissell’s 8th District, a run-off will occur between business consultant and former congressional aide Richard Hudson and ex-Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle. Hudson, a first-time candidate, came within eight points of winning outright. Kissell is highly endangered in the general election.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, Democrats again nominated Milwaukee mayor and former congressman Tom Barrett to face Gov. Scott Walker (R) in a June 5 recall election. Barrett easily defeated Dane County ex-Executive Kathleen Falk by a 58-34 percent count. The Walker-Barrett campaign is a re-match from 2010, when the Republican won 52-46 percent.

Will the Blue Dogs Become Extinct?

The defeat of Pennsylvania Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Tim Holden (D-PA-17) in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary election forced the Blue Dog Coalition to absorb two more hits. Looking ahead to the general election, the already decimated caucus appears to be staring at even more adversity.

In an era when both parties are nominating doctrinaire ideological candidates, the ranks of contenders who describe themselves as moderates are shrinking. Centrist Republicans have grown a bit thanks to the GOP sweep in 2010 but are also poised to decline in this election as 17 of their 54 members are either retiring or facing competitive opponents.

After the 1994 Republican landslide that gave the GOP control of the House for the first time since 1948, the moderate Democrats decided to form their own official House caucus and did so under an unusual name. Because they were inspired by the paintings of Cajun artist George Rodrique, who often pictured animated blue dogs with deep, yellow eyes, and because of the common southern political phrase, “yellow dog Democrats” the group found its identity. A yellow dog Democrat, it is said, is an individual who will vote for a yellow dog before supporting a Republican. Saying that the extreme positions of both parties where “choking them (the moderate Democratic House members) blue,” the “Blue Dog Coalition” came into being.

When 2009 began, the Blue Dog Coalition numbered 54 members. At the end of the 111th Congress, right after the 2010 election, the coalition saw exactly half of its members (27) either retire or fail in their bids for re-election; mostly the latter. With the early 2011 congressional resignation of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36) and congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) following suit at the beginning of 2012, the caucus now numbers 25. Accounting for retirements, primary defeats, and possible general election defeats, the membership could potentially total only 10 at the beginning of the next Congress.

So far, four Blue Dog congressmen – Dan Boren (D-OK-2), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), Mike Ross (D-AR-4) and Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) – have already announced their retirement plans. And, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) is running for the Senate. As mentioned above, Reps. Altmire and Holden already have lost their primaries, meaning that the effective caucus membership eligible to return next year is 18.

But the leakage is likely to continue. An additional eight members face highly competitive re-election fights. For Reps. Joe Baca (D-CA-43), John Barrow (D-GA-12), Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3), Ben Chandler (D-KY-6), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Jim Matheson (D-UT-2), Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) either renomination or re-election is no certainty.

Furthermore, of the 11 candidates the Blue Dog Coalition has so far endorsed, none, today, are favored to win their elections. They are:

  1. AR-4: Clark Hall (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  2. FL-2: Leonard Bembry (D) vs. Rep. Steve Southerland (R) – Underdog
  3. IN-2: Brendan Mullen (D) vs. Jackie Walorski (R) – Underdog
  4. IN-8: Dave Crooks (D) vs. Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) — Underdog
  5. MI-1: Gary McDowell (D) vs. Rep. Dan Benishek (R) – Toss-up
  6. NC-11: Hayden Rogers (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  7. ND-AL: Pam Gulleson (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  8. OH-6: Former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) vs. Rep. Bill Johnson (R) – Toss-up
  9. OK-2: Rob Wallace (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  10. SC-7: Ted Vick (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  11. TX-14: Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) vs. R nominee – Toss-up (at best)

With eight of its members in tough races and no guaranteed winners among the 11 candidates the coalition has officially endorsed, it appears that the Blue Dogs are headed for another difficult political year. Though polling respondents often like to define themselves as “middle of the road” or “moderate,” it is evident from the electoral results that the majority of voters don’t choose in such a manner.

Santorum Exits: What Else Changes?

The surprisingly abrupt suspension of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign will affect more than just the national political contest. While Santorum’s decision effectively crowns Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, several other political contests will also change because of yesterday’s developments.

Looking ahead to contested Republican primaries where a Santorum candidacy would either positively or negatively affect the turnout model in places that vote for president and Congress together, many candidates will now have to re-adjust their own political campaign efforts. The lack of having an active presidential race will clearly alter the voter participation rates in their particular races.

One such contest that comes to mind is the upcoming Indiana Senate campaign where six-term Sen. Richard Lugar is facing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in what is becoming a contentious and hard-fought Republican primary election. Polling shows the race to be within single digits but, among self-identified Republicans, Lugar is clearly in trouble. Under Indiana law, the primary election is open so Independents and Democrats can choose to vote in the Republican primary. Lugar runs stronger with Democrats and Independents so inclined to vote Republican, but it is difficult to gauge at this point in time the overall size of such a pool of voters.

It is probably a bit too early to predict with any certainty just how Santorum’s exit from the presidential campaign will change the Lugar-Mourdock race. One school of thought suggests that the senator might actually benefit because Santorum’s absence now gives the most conservative voter less of a reason to vote. On the other hand, the lower overall turnout will make those most motivated to visit the polls all the more important and influential. The more intense voter tends to support the non-incumbent in these types of electoral situations, thus Lugar’s position becomes tenuous since Mourdock, as the lone GOP challenger, is solely benefiting from all of the anti-incumbent sentiment.

Another race where the lack of a Santorum presidential challenge could make a difference is in the Texas Senate race. There, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who should be the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination outright on May 29, could find his chances of being forced into a July 31 run-off increasing as the rate of turnout drops. Texas has notoriously low primary election participation rates so, as in Indiana, the more motivated voters generate greater influence within a smaller pool. Thus, conservative challenger Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, could benefit from this development.

Cruz’s only chance to wrest the nomination away from Dewhurst is to force him into a run-off election by holding him below 50 percent in the primary. With eight other candidates on the ballot, including former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and former NFL and Southern Methodist University football star Craig James, a lower turnout might make the run-off scenario more plausible.

Many congressional races will be effected, too. With contested Republican primary campaigns in action throughout North Carolina – GOP nomination challenges to Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC-3) and Howard Coble (R-NC-6) and crowded open seat races in the 9th (Rep. Sue Myrick), 11th (Rep. Heath Shuler), and 13th CD’s (Rep. Brad Miller) along with Republican challenger primaries for the right to face incumbents Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) in the general election – the new turnout model could greatly alter all Tar Heel State political outcomes.

The same can be said for the California House races, particularly as the state institutes its new primary system that allows the top two finishers in every campaign, regardless of political party affiliation, to advance to the general election. With Republican voter turnout percentages, now without an active presidential race on their side, probably falling into line with Democratic participation rates, several campaigns – such as Rep. Gary Miller’s 31st District election and the newly created open 41st (Riverside County) and 47th (Long Beach area) districts – will likely change direction. Which way they will move is still unclear.

Much more analysis will come for all of these campaigns as we get closer to their respective election dates. It is clear, however, that politics in a macro sense will drastically change as a result of Santorum conceding the presidential nomination to Romney.

50 Open Seats in Congress

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) yesterday became the 34th sitting House member to announce he won’t seek re-election in the fall, just two days after he said he wouldn’t run in North Carolina’s newly open gubernatorial race. With Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton already jumping into the governor’s campaign to replace outgoing incumbent Bev Perdue as the Democratic nominee, there is some speculation that the state’s number two position might be a suitable political landing spot for the three-term congressman and former NFL football player. Mr. Shuler, however, gave no indication that he would immediately jump into another political contest.

Speculation has been rampant that he would retire ever since the North Carolina redistricting map was passed into law and the US Justice Department granted pre-clearance. With a good chunk of his Asheville Democratic base being transferred to Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R) 10th District, Shuler was actually left with the most Republican-voting congressional district in the state.

Considering his dim prospects for re-election and the fact that he had raised campaign contributions from only two individuals during the entire fourth quarter of 2011, his announcement yesterday seemed anti-climactic.

Along with Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN-5), who earlier in the week said he would not seek a 16th term, the Shuler announcement means that 50 seats are transforming into open races during the current election cycle. One CD, that of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) is vacant due to her resignation. A special election will be held June 12 to determine her replacement for the balance of the term. The others will be filled during the regular election.

Of the 34 members leaving the House at the end of this 112th Congress, 19 are opting for retirement while 15 seek different offices. Eleven of the latter 15 are running for the Senate; two for governor; one for president; and one for mayor of San Diego. Three members, Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), John Olver (D-MA-1), and Steve Austria (R-OH-7), find themselves in post-redistricting predicaments paired with another incumbent of their own party, hence the decision to retire. Since they were placed in a district with another incumbent, no open seat results in these three situations.

Reapportionment and redistricting have created an additional 19 open seats. The grand total of seats featuring no incumbent in 2012 is already 50, a very high number at this point in the election cycle. Of those open seats, nine are from California and six hail from Texas.

The open seats will also drastically change the complexion of the House. Even if no other member decides not to seek re-election, or none are defeated during the succeeding 2012 campaign – an unlikely outcome – a majority of the new House of Representatives will feature men and women who have served three terms or less. In fact, at least 225 members of the 113th Congress will have seniority of no more than six years. Even without the institution of universal term limits, the House is experiencing a rate of turnover that hasn’t been seen in more than a century.