Tag Archives: Jerry McNerney

Ricky Gill (left) / Rep. Scott DesJarlais

House Surprises

Surprising trends: Ricky Gill (left) / Rep. Scott DesJarlais

With only 18 days remaining in the current election cycle, changing House races are putting strategists and campaign experts in a state of flux. In certain places we have seen significant change and major surges from unexpected candidates. Below we review two Red and Blue examples of potential seat changes that political experts originally did not forecast, but which have suddenly become key races to watch.

Initially considered a long shot, Ricky Gill, the 25-year-old Lodi, Calif., resident challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9), has proven his viability. Gill’s parents, immigrants from India and Uganda, are both obstetricians who also own a vineyard and an RV park in the local community. Gill has raised $2.3 million during the campaign, while Rep. McNerney, who has served almost six years in Congress, raised just under $2 million. Gill has approximately $1.1 million left to run his campaign, which is about $108,000 more than the Democratic incumbent according to campaign disclosure statements for the period ending Sept. 30th.

His impressive fundraising made him a star candidate within the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the party responded by financing a media advertising and robo-call program to help Gill gain the offensive against McNerney.

Given the district’s Democratic tilt (56 percent Obama ’08), Gill was originally not expected to fare particularly well. With a surge of fundraising power, youthful candor, and strong GOP establishment backing, the young challenger has made the battle with McNerney a neck-and neck race.

Moving to a very red district in middle Tennessee, freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais dodged a major redistricting bullet when the state senator who helped design the new seat that spread 65 percent of the congressman’s district into other areas, failed to challenge him. However, DesJarlais now finds himself dealing with another set of problems.

Campaigning as a family values pro-life candidate, DesJarlais has now been accused of having an extra-marital affair and subsequently encouraging his mistress to have an abortion — before discovering that she was not pregnant. Obviously the scandal has caused DesJarlais immediate political problems, and even though Mitt Romney is likely to rack up percentages exceeding 60+ percent in CD-4, DesJarlais is starting to feel pressure from Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart. In fact, a new post-scandal revelation poll just released earlier this week (Myers Research & Strategic Services; Oct. 14-15; 400 TN-4 likely voters) reveals only a five-point spread between the two candidates, with DesJarlais leading 49-44 percent. We can expect to see a quick influx of Democratic money moving into this district as they attempt to steal this strongly Republican seat.

The parties are also likely to trade a pair of scandal-tainted seats on the eastern seaboard. The respective parties appear to have conceded the FL-26 seat to Democrat Joe Garcia as he battles freshman Rep. David Rivera (R). Allegations of financial scandal never materialized, but charges that the Florida congressman attempted to funnel money to a straw man Democratic primary candidate have come to light and, with his associate who was apparently managing this straw man candidate’s campaign who then fled when the FBI wanted to question her, has turned the 26th District race into a circus. All Garcia needs to do his remain quiet and he will claim victory on Nov. 6.

In New England, the tax fraud conviction and jail sentence of Rep. John Tierney’s (D-MA-6) wife will almost assuredly now cost the congressman his seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has already cancelled more than $600,000 of television advertising, and Tierney himself withdrew over $300,000 of this own ad time. This is a clear signal that Republican
Richard Tisei’s poll showing him leading by a substantial margin (50-33 percent) is likely accurate.

With three weeks to go until Election Day, other races could also develop.

The Battle for California

The 17 California House races are showing varying levels of competition, and the US Chamber of Commerce just laid down the gauntlet to help Republican candidates in 10 of the districts. The Chamber publicly disclosed they will spend upwards of $3.3 million just in the 10 Golden State districts. Among the group are three GOP incumbents, Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), and Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52). These ads feature a positive message.

In three others, Democratic incumbents are hit with negative ads. They are Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA-3), Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9), and Lois Capps (D-CA-24).

Three new open seats are in the next group: CA-26 (Tony Strickland-R vs. Julia Brownley-D), CA-41 (John Tavaglione-R vs. Mark Takano-D) and CA-47 (Gary DeLong-R vs. Alan Lowenthal-D).

Finally, another Republican incumbent, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-7), also is receiving help but the ads in his Sacramento County district focus negative attention on his Democratic opponent, physician and 2010 congressional nominee Ami Bera.

All of the political ads begin with Darlene Miller, owner of the 2008 US Chamber Small Business of the Year, talking about the necessity of understanding which candidate to support. The graphics and voice-over then transition into the individual message for the particular district. The most creative of the ads may be their spot against Jose Hernandez, Rep. Denham’s Democratic opponent and former NASA astronaut whose own ads highlight his career exploring space. Based upon his announced support for Obamacare, the tag line asks “Jose, what planet are you on?”

Expect more outside organization media buys to now surface from all sides of the ideological spectrum.

Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part I

Though it is still difficult to forecast the complete US House political picture next year, mostly because redistricting is only about half finished, we already see that more than 40 sitting members will draw serious competition in either the 2012 primary or general election.

Below is a list of 22 incumbents who will be in competitive campaigns next year from states where redistricting is complete. The second half of the overall group will be featured in our Wednesday report.

AR-1 – Rick Crawford (R) – Redistricting added more Democrats to what already was a highly Democratic seat. Crawford will be in a toss-up situation.

CA-3 – John Garamendi (D) – The new 3rd district could conceivably elect a Republican. Watch for a serious GOP challenge to Rep. Garamendi, who is serving his first full term.

CA-9 – Jerry McNerney (D) – Potential challenges in both the Democratic primary and general election await Mr. McNerney, who has chosen to run in a seat that doesn’t include his Bay Area political base.

CA-10 – Jeff Denham (R) – Though Rep. Denham will be the heavy favorite in this new district, it is not as Republican as his current CA-19.

CA-16 – Dennis Cardoza (D)/Jim Costa (D) – The redistricting commission greatly altered the Fresno area. Rep. Costa announced for CA-16 even though his home is in the new 21st, which is much more Republican. Rumors persist that Cardoza may retire.

CA-24 – Lois Capps (D) – The new Santa Barbara seat is a 50/50 district now, so former lieutenant governor and state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R) is a very strong challenger here.

CA-25/26 – Elton Gallegly (R) – Rep. Gallegly can either run against fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) or in the new marginal 26th district (Ventura County). Keep a retirement watch on Gallegly who even announced such before the 2008 election, only to change his mind.

CA-30 – Brad Sherman (D)/Howard Berman (D) – This will be a tough primary and general election for the two veteran Democratic congressmen. One will not return to the next Congress.

CA-31 – Joe Baca (D) – Rep. Baca does not like his new, and more competitive, 31st district and may hop over to the more Democratic 35th CD, created as an open seat.

CA-32 – David Dreier (R) – Congressman Dreier’s current 26th district seat was broken up into six different parts. He will not run in District 32, as this seat is highly Democratic. Most of his options are poor. If Elton Gallegly does not run in District 26, then that seat is a possibility for Dreier. He could also swing down into District 31 if Rep. Baca moves to CA-35.

CA-38/47 – Linda Sanchez (D) – There is a good possibility that Rep. Sanchez will face strong primary opposition either from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA-38) in the new 38th district, where both of their homes reside, or in the Long Beach-based new 47th district. There, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) has already said he will run. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) is also a potential candidate. This seat is also in play for the Republicans. Former Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R-CA-36), is saying that he, too, will run here next year.

CA-39 – Ed Royce (R)/Gary Miller (R) – This is a Republican pairing. The winner retains the seat for the GOP, but one of the two will not return. Most of the territory currently belongs to Royce, who has to be regarded as the favorite in this new configuration.

CA-44 – Janice Hahn (D) – Newly elected Rep. Hahn will likely draw a challenge from fellow Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) and state Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D). The seat is heavily minority, so facing either a strong African-American or Hispanic opponent in the general election could doom Hahn’s re-election chances.

CA-52 – Brian Bilbray (R) – Rep. Bilbray was paired with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) in new district 49, but will run in the new 52nd. The seat should elect a Republican, but the Democrats are competitive. Former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D) has already announced her candidacy.

GA-12 – John Barrow (D) – Assuming the current Georgia redistricting map passes the Georgia Senate and is signed by Gov. Nathan Deal (R), Rep. Barrow will find himself in a much more competitive district. The new 12th will go from a mid-50s Obama district to one in the mid-40s. The African-American population drops precipitously, as well.

IL-8/14 – Joe Walsh (R)/Randy Hultgren (R) – Another Republican pairing. Rep. Walsh’s current 8th district was eviscerated in redistricting. His best chance at winning re-election to a second term is to challenge fellow GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in new District 14. A child support payment scandal surrounding Walsh puts Hultgren in the early favorite’s position.

IL-10 – Bob Dold (R) – Redistricting makes the marginal 10th even more Democratic. Freshman Rep. Dold has already announced he will run for re-election here.

IL-11 – Adam Kinzinger (R)/Judy Biggert (R) – Rep. Kinzinger, like Mr. Dreier in California, saw his current district split multiple ways. He will have several choices of where to seek re-election. New district 11 is certainly one of his options, but none are particularly appealing unless Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) decides to retire. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) could also seek re-election here, though the new 11th is much more Democratic than her current seat. Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14) has already announced his candidacy in this newly configured seat as has a strong chance to convert it to the Democratic column, particularly with President Obama leading the ticket.

IL-13 – Tim Johnson (R) – Originally paired with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) in the new 15th District, Rep. Johnson has chosen to seek re-election in the marginal 13th District. He can expect serious general election competition.

IL-17 – Bobby Schilling (R) – Though redistricting brought the seat back toward Schilling’s base in the Quad Cities region, the new 17th will be even more Democratic than the previous district. Several strong Dem challengers are already running. Schilling finds himself in a toss-up situation, at best.
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Weekend House Happenings

Much House political action occurred over the weekend while the debt-limit debate was grabbing so much attention. The release of the amended California redistricting map clarifies several Golden State political situations, assuming these new congressional boundaries are officially adopted Aug. 15 (we will have a full analysis of the substantial changes in the California map as part of tomorrow’s Redistricting Report). We also witnessed developments in Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

Now that the California map is becoming more entrenched, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) announced that he will seek re-election in the new 9th district, formerly referred to as the San Joaquin Valley district. While he represents some of this district today, his political base is on the Bay Area side of his current region. This territory now finds itself in Rep. Pete Stark’s (D-CA-13) new 15th district. Thus, McNerney could either primary Stark in a district more familiar to him, or be the sole incumbent in the San Joaquin Valley seat. He chose the latter. President Obama broke 57 percent in this district, so the general election outcome will clearly favor the Democrats. Mr. McNerney is vulnerable in the Democratic primary, thus making his re-nomination less than certain.

In the previous map, Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) were paired with no adjacent escape district. That has now changed, as the map amendments give both their own districts. Becerra is placed in the new 34th; Roybal-Allard in the new 40th. Newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36) now finds herself as the odd-member-out. Hahn has only bad choices in that she will almost assuredly find herself pitted against another incumbent. The most logical move for her is to run in new District 44, but that seat is only 10 percent Anglo and she will likely have to face Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) who is moving over from the Long Beach Port district (now the 47th).

Texas, the big winner in reapportionment by gaining four seats, also saw some congressional action over this past weekend. Former railroad commissioner Michael Williams (R), who left his position to run for the Senate, may make yet another course change. Originally abandoning his Senate bid to run for the new Parker/Tarrant Counties 33rd district, he now says he may move a bit to the south and run in new District 25. Former Secretary of State Roger Williams also dropped out of the Senate race and into House District 33 and his campaign war chest is robust. Michael Williams, should he make this second move, would find himself challenging area state legislators for the congressional nomination. It will be a safe Republican seat in the general election.

Turning to the Beaumont area, former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 & 22) originally said he was thinking of launching a comeback in the new District 14, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), because there is a large amount of overlap between this seat and the one he formerly represented from 1997-2005. He then went on to clarify that he is also thinking about new District 36, which is not a direct overlay, but resembles a horseshoe that travels around his previous district. Republicans have a plurality of support in both seats.

In North Carolina, responding to the new redistricting plan that made Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D-NC-11) seat the most Republican in the state, the congressman made it clear over the weekend that he will run for re-election. Speculation was rampant that Shuler could become the athletic director at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, particularly after he received such a politically unfavorable congressional district. Rep. Shuler’s press secretary released a statement saying the congressman never wanted, nor was ever approached about, the AD slot at the University and he is unequivocal in his desire to run for Congress next year. The statement did not say he would run in new District 11, however. There has been further speculation that he could challenge Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) because much of Shuler’s Asheville Democratic base now resides in the 10th district. Ironically, McHenry’s district is slightly more Democratic than Shuler’s. In either place, Mr. Shuler faces a very difficult re-election campaign.

Finally, former Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1) made a statement over the weekend that he will likely run for his old seat in 2012 regardless of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s (D-HI-1) intentions. The freshman congresswoman is still a potential Senate candidate but is more likely to seek re-election. After his defeat in 2010, Djou said he would never run for another political office. He is also mentioned as a potential Senate candidate if former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) does not run.
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The California Citizens Redistricting Commission

The newly formed California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) has almost completed its work. The 14-member bi-partisan group released the new congressional map in compliance with their stated duties on June 10, and it appears they have accomplished most of their key objectives. Currently, the congressional plan is published and available for public comment. Changes may be made before July 7; final passage must come before August 15. The Commission appears to be on time to meet the published schedule.

The CCRC was created through a vote of the people via ballot initiative. The purpose of the body is to take legislative and congressional redistricting power away from the state legislature in order to make the process less political and ostensibly more responsive to the public. The commission was also tasked with drawing districts more in line with community interests, without regard to the political fortunes of the current incumbents.

It appears the commission, comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four Independents (each map must receive four Democratic votes, four Republican, and three Independent tallies – the specific congressional map in question actually earned the support of all 14 members), accomplished their objectives, at least in terms of creating compact, community specific districts and generating more political competition.

Most of the incumbents are not happy with the map. Of the state’s 53 incumbent representatives, 27 are actually paired with a fellow incumbent – that is, their places of residence are in the same district as another congressman. In fact, one seat in the Central Valley near Fresno, now has three incumbents. The vast majority of these members have another district in which to run, but many do face serious political situations.

The following is a list of the California incumbents who face a potentially precarious road to re-election in 2012:

  • Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D) – With her new district now stretching from her Marin County base all the way to the Oregon border along the California coast, Ms. Woolsey is reportedly set to announce her retirement early next week.
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) – Will have a choice of opposing Rep. Pete Stark (D) in a Bay Area seat, or running in the San Joaquin Valley seat, far from his political base, but a solidly Democratic seat. He could face significant primary opposition.
  • Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D) – One of the trio of members placed in the same district, Rep. Cardoza does have a neighboring seat in which to run, but it is a more marginal seat than his current 18th district. He becomes more vulnerable to a Republican challenger.
  • Rep. Jim Costa (D) – Fresh from a highly competitive 2010 election in which he survived in a close tally, Rep. Costa finds his new seat to be even more marginal. A strong Republican candidate has the potential to give Costa a serious run.
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D) – The new Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo district becomes a 50/50 seat for Democrats and Republicans. Capps currently has a safe Democratic coastal seat. A strong Republican candidate will have a chance to win here.
  • Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) – Currently placed in the same seat with fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon, Mr. Gallegly will also have the opportunity to run in a marginal district labeled “East Ventura.” Gallegly is a retirement candidate.
  • Rep. David Dreier (R) – The House Rules Committee chairman may have the most difficult political situation of any California incumbent. His current 26th district is now spread among six new seats. All of his options are difficult. He could possibly survive in the new Ontario district, but will already face stiff opposition from state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D).
  • Rep. Brad Sherman (D) – Will likely face another incumbent either in the Democratic primary or the general election. His choices are challenging Rep. Howard Berman in the West San Fernando Valley seat or running against Gallegly in East Ventura. Even if Gallegly were to retire, the East Ventura seat is so marginal that it is difficult for both sides to win consistently, so Sherman would not be guaranteed victory even as the sole incumbent running.
  • Rep. Howard Berman (D) – Could face Rep. Sherman in the Democratic primary. The new West San Fernando Valley seat is 51 percent of Sherman’s current territory versus just 19 percent of Mr. Berman’s.
  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (D) / Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard – This is a legitimate pairing, as neither member can easily move to a new district. Both will have to run for the “East Los Angeles” seat and it appears obvious that one of the two will not return to the next Congress.
  • CA-36 Special Election Winner – Should Democrat Janice Hahn win the July special election, as expected, she will find herself in more Republican district in which to seek re-election. The Democrats should hold the seat, but it will be more competitive.
  • Rep. Laura Richardson (D) – Paired with Rep. Linda Sanchez (D) in the Long Beach Port seat. Ms. Richardson, however, can slip over to the Hawthorne-Gardena district, but will face a serious Democratic primary challenge from state Assemblywoman Isadore Hall.
  • Rep. Linda Sanchez (D) – Paired with Rep. Richardson, but will likely only face state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) in a serious Democratic primary battle for the Long Beach Port seat.
  • Rep. Ed Royce (R) – Receives a less Republican district, but one he can win, at least early in the decade. Could move to the Orange County South district, but that would mean challenging fellow Rep. John Campbell (R) in a Republican primary.
  • Rep. Gary Miller (R) – Sees his safe Republican seat become a likely Democratic district. Rep. Miller has few good options. He could possibly move into the Ed Royce district should the veteran Congressman move south. But, even here Miller would be potentially vulnerable in both a Republican primary and the general election.
  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) – Currently paired with Rep. John Campbell (R). If Royce does move into the Orange County South district, Rep. Rohrabacher could find himself in a Republican primary battle with Campbell in the Orange County Coastal seat.
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) – This Orange County seat is another one that gets more competitive under the new map. Rep. Sanchez could find herself in a highly competitive general election campaign.
  • Rep. John Campbell (R) – Again, if Rep. Royce moves south, then Mr. Campbell will have a choice of facing him in a Republican primary campaign, or Rep. Rohrabacher in a similar situation but in a different district.

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California’s Redistricting Plan

With the release of the long-awaited 53-seat California map and, considering its impact upon national redistricting, we devote this entire report to the Golden State’s new plan. Since this is the first time the state’s maps were drawn by a commission, California was viewed as a redistricting wild card. The results certainly lived up to expectations.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) released the first drafts for the congressional delegation, state Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization last Friday. With analytical data now available, the federal map’s partisan complexion is becoming clearer.

Generally, the Commission is getting good reviews for doing what was tasked. When adopted by the voting public, the CCRC was supposed to draw maps that adhered to all applicable laws, respected communities of interest more than incumbent protection, and made the districts as compact as possible by breaking the fewest numbers of county lines. It appears the Commission receives high marks for their first effort. The maps may be changed through public hearing and comments until July 7. Final adoption is scheduled on or before August 15. The first draft was unanimously passed 14-0.

After studying the map more closely, possible because the Meridian Pacific company released political data to coincide with the new district lines, it appears that the proposal is a bit less friendly to the Democrats than originally surmised. Though it is possible that the Dems could gain as many as three seats from the Republicans, it’s just as possible that they could lose a net of two districts. (Current Delegation: 34D-19R)

In all, it appears that 37 incumbents will have safe seats; 22 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Thirteen members, 10 Democrats and three Republicans, have some political problems either from being paired or placed in a district that is not favorable to their political party, or is highly marginal with no particular advantage to either side. Three additional seats (Reps. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3); Adam Schiff (D-CA-29); Susan Davis (D-CA-53) are borderline, meaning the current incumbent probably wins comfortably in 2012 but, as the decade progresses, their region could become much more competitive. The plan also created two open seats; one in Los Angeles and the other in Riverside.

The congressional draft features 11 sets of incumbent pairings, including a Central Valley district that contains the homes of three current incumbents. In only three of the 11 pairings, however, will it be likely that a sitting member does not return to the House.

Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) finds his current district split six ways, and though his home is placed in the same district as that of Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-32) in the East San Gabriel-Covina district, his best chance to win re-election probably lies in the seat labeled “Ontario.” The CRCC has not yet numbered the districts, preferring to name them by geographic regions. The Ontario seat contains only about 30 percent of Mr. Dreier’s current district, and is much more Democratic. Already state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D), who represents much of this area in the legislature, has said she will run for Congress in this seat. So, Mr. Dreier will have a severe challenge, made even more difficult with President Obama on the ticket in 2012.

Veteran Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA-28) and Brad Sherman (D-CA-27) are paired in the West San Fernando Valley district. Sherman has 51 percent of the new territory versus just 19 percent for Berman. Sixty-one percent of Berman’s current seat lies in the East San Fernando Valley district, but this new open seat is 68 percent Hispanic, and Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas (D) has already said he will run here. Sherman would also have the option of challenging Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) in the East Ventura district, which is a very marginal seat for both sides. It is probable that either Sherman or Berman will not return, and very possibly both. Gallegly is also seriously endangered in his new district.

The final incumbent-damaging pairing is in the East Los Angeles seat as Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) find themselves sharing the newly configured district. Neither has a good option of moving to an incumbent-less seat so, unless one retires, the two will square-off in the next Democratic primary.

All of the other pairings, including the three-way among Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), Jeff Denham (D-CA-19), and Jim Costa (D-CA-20) give the incumbents an opportunity to hop to a nearby district, thus avoiding challenging another incumbent. In this particular instance, however, both Cardoza and Costa could face serious Republican opposition, while Denham looks to have a seat that he can easily win.

Other incumbents likely to have a difficult time securing re-election are Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Gary Miller (R-CA-42), and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47). Though all can survive, they will almost certainly face very tough opposition in a weaker district. The current 36th CD, now headed to special election in July, is also a marginal seat under the new map. The district is labeled “Palos Verdes-Beach Cities.” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn is expected to hold the seat for the Democrats, but she can expect competition in the regular election should she win next month.

This PDF spreadsheet details all 53 districts, with their new label and racial and political data. The political numbers come from the 2010 election and features the governor’s race, won by Democrat Jerry Brown 54-41 percent, and the extremely close attorney general’s contest where Democrat Kamala Harris was victorious by less than one percentage point.

  • Congressional Redistricting Now Completed:
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana *
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • (*Must obtain Justice Dept. pre-clearance)

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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