Tag Archives: Jason Altmire

Three States, Three Different Approaches

Pennsylvania

A major political decision announced just yesterday will help a Pennsylvania freshman Republican congressman. In November, businessman Keith Rothfus (R) unseated incumbent Rep. Mark Critz (D) in the newly drawn 12th Congressional District.

Critz was originally paired with then-Rep. Jason Altmire (D) in the one district after PA lost a seat in reapportionment. The sophomore congressman prevailed over Altmire in a close, hard-fought contest, but then Critz went on to lose the general election to Rothfus 48-52 percent, despite President Obama again carrying Pennsylvania.

Since the election, it was assumed that Critz would seek a re-match with congressman Rothfus in an attempt to regain his lost position. Critz, however, has decided on a different political direction. Instead of again running for Congress, the ex-member will now run for lieutenant governor. With the Democrats appearing well positioned to unseat Gov. Tom Corbett (R), riding on a ticket with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee could allow Critz to sail back into office.

In Pennsylvania, candidates for lieutenant governor run independently in the primary but, once nominated, are paired with the gubernatorial nominee on a general election ticket. The leading Democratic gubernatorial contender is Critz’s former congressional colleague, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13). As a political team, the two would strike a balance between the dominant liberal wing of the Democratic Party and its more moderate faction.

Maine

With the polls showing that Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) would defeat Gov. Paul LePage (R) even in a three-way match with Independent attorney Eliot Cutler, the congressman will officially announce his gubernatorial campaign later today. Earlier, Michaud had formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee.

While Michaud’s prospects appear strong in the governor’s contest, the battle for his open House seat could reflect a different complexion. Though the Democrats will be viewed as likely winners early in the race, a strong Republican candidate could become highly competitive in an inland western  Continue reading >

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.

Critz Defeats Altmire in Pennsylvania; Holden Loses

While Mitt Romney was putting the finishing touches on a five-state sweep that will end all doubt about his prospects to become the Republican presidential nominee, Pennsylvania voters also chose statewide nominees and general election candidates from their new congressional districts.

The GOP nominated businessman Tom Smith in the Senate race. Mr. Smith, backed by Pennsylvania Tea Party organizations, invested more than $5 million of his own money in order to advertise heavily throughout the state. The move paid off as he racked up a 40-22-20 percent win over former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, who was the director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Americans for Prosperity, and businessman Steven Welch who enjoyed the support of Gov. Tom Corbett and the state Republican Party establishment. Smith now faces Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) in the general election and will find tough going in challenging the man who unseated then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R) by more than 18 points six years ago.

In the 12th Congressional District race that featured an incumbent pairing between Democrats Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12), the hard-fought campaign culminated in a close victory for Critz. The three-term Altmire had the advantage of already representing just over 63 percent of the new 12th district, versus Critz who saw only 29 percent of his constituency carry over to the new seat. Both candidates were on their way to spending more than $1.5 million for the primary contest.

Considering he began the campaign with with a severe name ID deficit, the 52-48 percent win is an impressive one for Critz and again proves that appealing to the base voter in either party with the fundamental party message is usually successful. Since the new 12th is only a 45 percent Obama district, Republican Keith Rothfus, who held Altmire to a 51-49 percent victory in 2010, certainly will have the opportunity to run a competitive general election campaign against Critz, who may have just positioned himself outside of his new electorate’s mainstream.

In the eastern part of the state, Rep. Tim Holden fell to his Democratic primary challenger. Carrying over just 21 percent of his previous constituency to the new 17th District put Mr. Holden and attorney Matt Cartwright at parity. Raising and spending well over $700,000, the wealthy liberal activist prevailed with an impressive 57-43 percent win, thus bringing the Representative’s 20-year congressional career to an end.

In the open 4th District, all of the real action was in the Republican primary, because the GOP nominee becomes the prohibitive general election favorite in a seat that gave over 55 percent of its votes to John McCain in the 2008 presidential contest. Last night, state Rep. Scott Perry, an Iraq War veteran, swept every county in the new district and scored an overwhelming 54-19-14 percent victory over York County Commissioner Chris Reilly, who enjoyed the public endorsement of Sen. Pat Toomey (R), and attorney Sean Summers, respectively. Perry will now face mechanical engineer Harry Perkinson, who scored 56 percent in the Democratic primary. Mr. Perry will now become the next congressman.

With the Altmire and Holden defeats, 48 House incumbents have either announced their retirements, are running for other offices, resigned their seats, passed away, or have been defeated for renomination. The Holden defeat now brings the grand total of House open seats to 58.

In Today’s PA Primary, Two Incumbents Could Lose

Today’s Pennsylvania primary features two hotly contested Democratic congressional primaries, one of which is sure to cost an incumbent House member his job. In the new 12th District, an incumbent pairing occurs because the state loses a seat in reapportionment. The race features Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire (PA-4) and Mark Critz (PA-12).

The new 12th favors Altmire in terms of people currently represented, 64.3 percent to 28.9 percent for Critz. The campaign has been highly competitive with Altmire trying to appeal to the more fiscally conservative western Pennsylvania primary voter and Critz running a traditional Democratic race that highlights strong support from organized labor and even an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton. Polling favored Altmire early, but recent data suggests his advantage has substantially lessened. Watch for a close contest. The winner will face 2010 GOP congressional nominee Keith Rothfus who held Altmire to a tight 51-49 percent win two years ago. Expect a competitive general election in a district that gave President Obama only 45 percent.

Across the state in the new 17th District that stretches all the way from the Harrisburg suburbs to Scranton, 10-term Rep. Tim Holden (D) is being seriously challenged by attorney Matt Cartwright (D). The latter enjoys strong support from national liberal organizations and is spending over $700,000 on the primary race, including $390,000 he self-contributed or loaned.

The race plays as virtually an open seat contest because Holden currently only represents 21 percent of the new 17th. The strong Democratic nature of the new district makes the congressman vulnerable because of some previous conservative votes he cast while representing a current district that should be electing a Republican. This campaign is a potential upset. Cartwright released an internal poll showing him to be leading, and Holden’s negative campaign ads impugning the challenger suggests that such a result could be accurate.

Tonight will be an interesting one in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania Congressional Candidates Underwhelming

The Pennsylvania candidate filing deadline closed this week (Feb. 14), and the word to describe the new crop of congressional candidates may just be “underwhelming.” It appears that both parties have left opportunities to capture districts on the table.

Surprisingly, just one state legislator throughout the entire Keystone State is running for congress: York County Rep. Scott Perry (R) has declared for the lone open seat, that of retiring Rep. Todd Platts in the 4th CD. This, in a state featuring four freshmen Republicans (Reps. Mike Kelly, PA-3; Pat Meehan, PA-7; Tom Marino, PA-10; and Lou Barletta, PA-11), one Democrat member serving slightly more than a term (Rep. Mark Critz, PA-12) and a Republican who had previously been defeated only to rebound in 2010 (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, PA-8).

No particularly strong Republican challenger stepped forward in the Senate race, where first-term Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr. is seeking re-election. After the last election, with a victory in the governor’s race, the addition of five congressional seats, and converting the state House to majority status, the Republicans had high hopes of bringing down Casey. However, with little in the way of political fire power for the 2012 Senate race, Pennsylvania must go down as the Republicans’ biggest national recruiting disappointment.

But it is the Democrats who appear to have failed at the candidate recruiting game for House races. Against Rep. Mike Kelly, who defeated freshman Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper 56-44 percent less than two years ago, only a college professor, an attorney and a defeated candidate are coming forward to run. That’s not to say one of these men couldn’t transform themselves into a strong contender, but the first impression suggests that Kelly is in the driver’s seat.

A bright spot for the Republicans is Lou Barletta, who knocked off veteran Rep. Paul Kanjorski by a full 10 points in a district where the President notched 57.5% two years earlier; Barletta now sees his seat improve tremendously. Under the new PA-11 lines, Mr. Obama would have scored only 47.7 percent. Two Democrats, a pharmacy wholesale store owner, and a defeated state representative candidate are the only ones to file against the new congressman and former Hazelton mayor.

But District 12 is a Republican recruiting disappointment. With Pennsylvania losing a seat in reapportionment, the GOP legislature combined Democratic incumbents Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into a new 12th District that a Republican could win (Obama: 45.2 percent). After recruitment overtures were turned down by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, and a local county official, the Republicans will have to settle for 2010 nominee, Keith Rothfus, to go against Altmire. Rothfus only lost 49-51 percent in the last go-around, but his campaign was less than stellar. We’ll see if he steps it up this time around.

Finally, though Rep. Charlie Dent’s Allentown-Bethlehem 15th District improves 3.5 points in the Republicans’ favor, the President still gained an outright majority here, registering 52.8 percent. Dent racked up his largest career re-election percentage in 2010 (53-39 percent) against strong competition, John Callahan, the mayor of Bethlehem. This largely explains why the Democrats are fielding only the Lehigh County Democratic chairman and a former congressional aide.

For a place with so many marginal seats, and one that will be a key presidential battleground state, the congressional elections now appear much tamer than originally anticipated. In the current Pennsylvania political world, this ultimately means good news for the Republicans.