Tag Archives: Joe Heck

House Polls: Developing Trends

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2016 — A number of important House polls have already come into the public domain this week and, together, they provide us some clues about what we can expect in November.

New surveys across the country from east to west, beginning in New Jersey and New York, then traveling through Iowa, and into Nevada and California provide some good news for certain Democratic challengers, but not nearly enough to make a sizable dent in the 59-seat Republican majority.

For the Democrats to make any credible run at the GOP majority, they must score multiple seat gains in New York, Florida, and California, plus taking back what should be Democratic seats in Iowa and Nevada.

Their run against seven-term incumbent Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) appears to be gaining serious legs. The Democrats are pounding Garrett for his social issue views, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) finds itself in a difficult position about whether to help an incumbent who withheld his own party dues because the committee supports gay candidates.

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House Re-Set

Completing our two-part series examining the congressional political picture (the July 8 Political Update covered the Senate outlook), today we look at the House.

Currently, 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats comprise the body’s membership. Three seats are slated to soon become vacant: Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) will be sworn into the Senate upon official certification of his late June special election victory; Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1) announced his resignation effective in mid-August to accept a position at the University of Alabama; and Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC-12), should he be confirmed, will become the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency thus leaving the House at an undetermined date.

In contrast to the 2012 cycle when 62 seats were open, at this point only 14 members have announced their retirements, accepted new positions, or are running for a different office. Three others: representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL-2), Mark Sanford (R-SC-1), and Jason Smith (R-MO-8), have won special elections since the current 113th Congress began making a grand total of 17 seats that have opened, or will open, since the 2012 general election. Of the fourteen currently projected open seats, eight are Republican held and six Democratic.

Toss-Ups

Attributable to a tight national redistricting model, only eight seats are now in this column. Six of those belong to Democrats (representatives Ron Barber (AZ-2), Scott Peters [CA-52), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Joe Garcia (FL-26), Mike McIntyre (NC-7), and Jim Matheson (UT-4)], while only two are Republican-held [representatives Gary Miller (CA-31) and Mike Coffman (CO-6)]. Therefore, the GOP is in a slightly better position to gain a small number of seats.

The Leans

Both parties have just about an equal number of “lean” seats. Majority Republicans have 18 of their members or open seats rated as Lean Republican, while  Continue reading >

The Early Targets

Even this early in an election cycle, some obvious 2014 targets are evident. In the Senate, majority Democrats must protect 20 seats versus 13 for Republicans. The GOP will need to convert six Democratic states in order to re-capture the majority for the first time since 2006.

In the House, it’s much too early to tell how the cycle will even begin to unfold, but the 2012 winners who scored at or below 50 percent normally find themselves in vulnerable situations two years later. There are 20 winners who scored a bare majority or less in their win last month.

Here’s how we see things lining up:

The Senate

Already, there appear to be four potential toss-up campaigns on the horizon at the very beginning of the election cycle.

Two states already have announced challengers to Democratic incumbents that many believe are headed for retirement despite the senators themselves saying they are planning a re-election campaign.

West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) officially announced that she will challenge five-term Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in the next election. With West Virginia now trending deep red and Rockefeller launching verbal attacks against the state’s dominant coal industry, this race must be cast as an early toss-up. Should Rockefeller — who will be 77 years old at the time of the next election — not seek another term, Capito will be considered the early favorite.

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) also has announced that he will run for the Senate in 2014. He will challenge three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D). Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL), who was just re-elected to a second term, also has not ruled out a Senate run, meaning that she would first have to challenge Rounds in the Republican primary. Publicly, she is not closing the door on any 2014 option. A Johnson-Rounds campaign would also have to be rated as an early toss-up. The senator would be favored against Rep. Noem.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) stands for a second term after defeating veteran Sen. Ted Stevens (R) by a slim 48-47 percent count in 2008. Stevens was fighting a Justice Department legal onslaught that fell apart on the prosecutors but only after Stevens had already lost to Begich. As you know, the senator was later killed in an airplane crash. This campaign will be interesting. A strong challenger such as Gov. Sean Parnell (R), could make this a very tight campaign.

Considering that North Carolina was only one of two states that switched from supporting Pres. Barack Obama in 2008 to Mitt Romney last month, freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D) will seek a second term and be rated in a toss-up campaign from Day One. There is no clear challenger on the horizon, but whomever the Republicans choose will be a serious contender.

The 2014 election cycle will be a long one, but count on these four Senate races grabbing a major share of the political attention for the next two years.

The House

Here’s a look at the 20 winners in 2012 who are right at or a bit below the 50 percent mark who could be vulnerable:

Below 50 percent

  • Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) – 47% (open seat)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) – 48% (open seat)
  • John Tierney (D-MA-6) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Maffei (D-NY-24) – 48% (challenger)
  • Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) – 49% (open seat)
  • Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) – 49% (incumbent)
  • Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2) – 49% (open seat)
  • Jim Matheson (D-UT-4) – 49% (incumbent)

At 50%

  • Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) – (incumbent)
  • Scott Peters (D-CA-52) – (challenger)
  • * Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) – (challenger)
  • Dan Schneider (D-IL-10) – (challenger)
  • Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – (incumbent)
  • Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) – (open seat)
  • Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) – (challenger)
  • Annie Kuster (D-NH-2) – (challenger)
  • Bill Owens (D-NY-21) – (incumbent)
  • Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) – (incumbent)
  • * Pete Gallego (D-TX-23) – (challenger)

* Italics: Seat will likely be re-drawn in 2013 redistricting.

House: IE Money Flying

The American left and right, including their respective major party organizations, are again spending abundantly in certain House races as we enter the final week of the campaign. In fact, according to new Federal Election Commission independent expenditure (IE) filings just made public, the two sides (House party organizations coupled with outside group spending) have combined to spend $26.4 million during just the Oct. 27-29 period. Of this total, Republican/conservative groups have spent a tick under $14 million, while the Democrats and liberal organizations have spent $12.5 million. Remember, all of these expenditures cover only a three-day period.

The top two races receiving monetary attention in this critical time frame are in New Hampshire, where Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1-R) is defending the seat he won from ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) in 2010. In just the past three days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has laid down $1.037 million on Shea-Porter’s behalf, mostly for media expenditures on negative ads against Rep. Guinta. Countering that number is the American Action Network, which dropped $637,000 to fund either positive Guinta or negative Shea-Porter ads.

The top Republican recipient is Illinois Rep. Judy Biggert who is having a difficult time in a radically redistricted seat that Democratic leaders designed to defeat her. She opposes former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his 14th District seat in 2010. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent $837,000 on Biggert’s behalf, while the DCCC countered with $743,000 to help Foster.

At least one other incumbent race is seeing combined party and group spending exceed seven figures for this short period. Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) has witnessed the NRCC and the American Action Network (AAN) combine to spend more than $1 million in his heavily Democratic district. Another such CD is the open IL-13 seat that Rep. Tim Johnson (R) is vacating. Republicans and the AAN dropped more than $850,000 here for Rodney Davis as compared to the DCCC’s $329,000 to help their nominee, Dr. David Gill.

The AAN spent more than $500,000 apiece in California (Rep. Jeff Denham, R-CA-10) and Nevada (Rep. Joe Heck, R-NV-3), in addition to the Guinta and Cravaack races, while the House Majority Fund dropped major six-figure expenditures to help New York Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) hold his Long Island CD and over $400,000 to help Connecticut Democrat Elizabeth Esty fend off a strong challenge from Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback in the seat that Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) is vacating to run for the Senate.

A couple of surprise protects are popping up late for both sides. Democrats, particularly when seeing almost $1 million go toward independent expenditures in Michigan’s 1st CD that contains the state’s Upper Peninsula, believe they have a strong chance to unseat freshman Rep. Dan Benishek. Another strong sleeper campaign might be found in the Orlando area, as the DCCC is dropping more than $427,000 in order to help elect former police chief Val Demings over freshman Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) in Florida.

Democrats are surprisingly spending copiously in Arizona and New York to fend off what they see are serious threats to freshman Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) and two-term Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-21).

Republicans believe they have a great closing shot to maintain the new 1st District in Arizona, and to defeating Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) who won a brutal primary battle against fellow Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), only to find himself in a relatively strong Republican seat.

No surprise that the IL-17 contest between freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) and local East Moline official Cheri Bustos (D) is hotly contested, as is the inter-party pairing in Ohio between Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16). Both of these campaigns are considered toss-ups.

Of the top 10 races where Democrats are spending, three are to protect incumbents. On the Republican board, five of their top 10 expenditure races are for individuals already serving in the House.

Update: House Review – Part II

We trust everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Resuming our coverage of the post-redistricting states as it relates to congressional maps, we analyze the remaining 13 states that have completed their drawing process for 2012. Legal action in some states could ultimately change the maps, but odds are strong that the 25 states with plans already adopted through their legislative and/or court processes will stand at least through the next election. To look over Part I of our two-part series, please go to this link: House Review – Part I.

Massachusetts

Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-MA-4) district becomes a bit more Republican, and it appears to be gathering serious general election competition between the two parties now with Frank’s impending retirement announcement at this writing. In a district that looked like the D’s would easily prevail next November with a Frank re-election, things now appear to be not so certain. More on that in another upcoming separate post.

The loss of a district in reapportionment prompted the retirement of Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1). And with Frank joining him in retirement, only eight of the 10 current incumbents are seeking re-election; and all now have a single-member district in which to run. New Districts 1 and 2 are combined into a large western Massachusetts seat covering the Springfield-Chicopee metro area and stretching to the New York border through Pittsfield and Amherst. The new 1st District is safely Democratic, but Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2) is getting a primary challenge from former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo, currently a Berkshire County local official.

Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) has decided to run in the new 9th District, despite his Quincy metro area political base being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s new 8th District. Keating will probably be tested in the Democratic primary, but the eventual winner of that contest holds the seat in the general election.

Michigan

Republicans are in total control of the Michigan redistricting process, so it is no surprise that the Democrats will absorb the loss of a seat from reapportionment. The map pairs veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MA-12) with sophomore Gary Peters (D-MI-9) in a new, safely Democratic 9th District but the latter has chosen an alternative course to re-election. Instead of challenging Rep. Levin, Mr. Peters has announced his intention to run in the new majority black 14th District. Freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13) is seeking re-election here, so this seat will host the pairing instead of District 9. Since Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is also in the race, Peters believes that the African-American vote will be split between she and Rep. Clarke. Therefore, he has the potential of building a white voter coalition large enough to win a primary with a small plurality, since the state has no run-off procedure. This strategy is a long shot, and Clarke has to be rated as the early favorite.

The new 11th District of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) continues in a competitive mode. He can expect serious competition in both the primary and general elections of 2012. If the Democrats do well nationally, then the 11th District could be in play. Odds are, however, the partisan swing is likely to be R+1 due only to the collapsed Democratic seat.

Missouri

As in Michigan and Massachusetts, the Missouri Democrats will also lose a seat because of reapportionment. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) has had his 3rd District split several ways, forcing him to seek re-election in the open 2nd District now that Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is running for the Senate. MO-2 is a Republican seat, but less so than in the previous draw. Carnahan will have strong general election opposition and is a clear underdog, especially if the top of the 2012 ticket goes Republican. All other incumbents appear to command strong re-election position. The partisan swing is likely to be R+1, with the GOP holding the 2nd District and all other incumbents retaining their new seats.

Nebraska

The Cornhusker State holds all three of its districts for the ensuing decade, and all should remain in the Republican column. Rep. Lee Terry’s (R) NE-2 District, which was becoming more competitive, was strengthened for him somewhat in the new draw. Expect no change in the 3R-0D delegation.

Nevada

The state gained one seat in reapportionment and the legislative process deadlocked, forcing a Nevada court to draw a de novo map. The result should produce one solid Democratic seat – Las Vegas-based District 1 that will be open and features a comeback attempt from defeated Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-3) – one likely Republican seat – District 2 of newly elected Rep. Mark Amodei (R), but he may face a serious primary against 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle – and two marginal seats. Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) 3rd District, in Nevada’s southern tail, will continue to see general election competition. The same is likely true for new District 4, which will encompass the northern part of Clark County and travel up through the center of the state. The likely result is a 2R-2D split, with Republicans holding the Amodei and Heck seats, and Democrats claiming the two open seats. Democrats should be in better position as the decade progresses, assuming demographic trends remain similar to present patterns. A 3D-1R split is also possible for 2012 if the Democrats do well in the presidential race and a sweep atmosphere occurs.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State is the Republican counter to the Democrats’ strength in Illinois. The Dem gains likely to be realized in the Land of Lincoln will largely be neutralized here, as the GOP could gain as many as four seats. Reps. David Price (D-NC-4) and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) are paired in a new 4th District that now stretches from Raleigh south to Fayetteville. The winner of this tough intra-party campaign holds the seat in the general election. The new 13th District, now an open seat contest, will heavily favor the eventual Republican nominee. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), and Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) are all seriously endangered and each could lose. The final swing here could be R+3 to R+4.

Oklahoma

The state adopted a map that changes very little among the five congressional districts. District 2, now open because Rep. Dan Boren (D) is not seeking re-election, becomes a strong GOP conversion opportunity. All other incumbents are safe. Because of the open seat, the preliminary projected outcome is R+1.

Oregon

Coming relatively close to gaining a new seat in reapportionment but falling just short, Oregon returns with its five districts for the ensuing decade. The new map changes little, so expect a 4D-1R split to continue for the foreseeable future. The 1st District, now in special election (January 31st) due to Rep. David Wu’s (D) resignation, will likely remain in Democratic hands in the person of state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici who has already won the special primary election. Expect no partisan change here.

South Carolina

Reapportionment adds a new 7th District to the Palmetto State delegation. The new seat is anchored in the Myrtle Beach/Horry County area and then comes south toward Charleston. The GOP controls the state’s entire political process and drew a 6R-1D map that the Department of Justice recently pre-cleared. All five current Republican members, four of whom are freshmen, should have safe seats as does the lone South Carolina Democrat, House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6). The Republican nomination process, in all likelihood, will choose the new 7th District congressman. Because of the addition of the new seat, expect a partisan swing of R+1.

Texas

The Republicans’ inability to produce a legally sound 36-District map will now cost the party at least three seats. The draw produced from the legislative process would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats, a gain of three Republicans and one Democrat from the current 23R-9D delegation split. With the new, just unveiled court map, which we will detail in tomorrow’s PRIsm Redistricting Report, a 23R-13D result is possible. Democrats will now likely win three of the four new seats and Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) is in an even more precarious position for re-election. The districts of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) become more Democratic and could become competitive, but likely in elections beyond 2012 as demographics continue to evolve. If Canseco wins, a distinct possibility next year as the national elections will undoubtedly favor the Republicans in Texas, the delegation count will be 24R-12D, a gain of three Democratic seats, while the GOP increases one. If the Democrats successfully unseat the freshman Canseco, the split will likely result in a net gain of four Democratic seats.

Utah

The Beehive State also gains an additional district from reapportionment and the Republicans have a chance of sweeping the state. The new map could yield a 4R-0D result, but Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) has proven he can survive in strongly Republican districts. If he decides to run for governor, however, a GOP sweep becomes much more realistic. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) get safe seats. Districts 2 and 4 should also elect Republican candidates, but Matheson’s presence in one of those seats could change such an outcome. Expect at least a 3R-1D split for a minimum gain of one Republican seat; two, if they can finally defeat Matheson or he vacates to run statewide. At this point, the congressman has ruled out a challenge to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), but has not closed the door to opposing Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

West Virginia

The legislative process produced a no-change map that basically keeps the current seats intact. The 1st District is still marginal, so expect freshman Rep. David McKinley (R) to have major competition in his re-election battle. The voter history patterns still suggest a Republican victory, however, so it is likely to remain in the toss-up category. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) retains the basic outline of her seat, which she has made relatively solid for herself despite the region’s Democratic overtones. New District 3 remains safe for Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3). The 1st District campaign will decide if the state breaks 2R-1D or 2D-1R.

Wisconsin

Republicans control the process here, too, and drew a map that locks in their 5R-3D majority, possibly for the entire decade. Realistically, this is the best the GOP can do in the Badger State. Expect all incumbents to retain their seats. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) is vacating her Madison-anchored seat to run for the Senate, but her replacement will be determined in the Democratic primary. Rep. Ron Kind’s (D) 3rd District becomes more Democratic so as to produce a more Republican seat for freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-7). The adjoining districts traded segments of voters to strengthen each for the respective incumbents. This is particularly important for Duffy as he is the first Republican to represent northwest Wisconsin in more than 40 years.

Our Rundown of 23 Former Congressmen and Congresswomen Who May Run Again

At this point, early in the 2012 election cycle, nine former members of Congress have announced that they will run again next year. An additional 14 confirm they are considering mounting another congressional campaign effort, but have not yet made a final decision.

Those who have announced their candidacy are highlighted in blue. The names in italics are possible candidates:

Arizona
Ann Kirkpatrick (D) – AZ-1 challenger (Rep. Paul Gosar); one term; elected 2008
Matt Salmon (R) – AZ-6 open seat; three terms in AZ-1; elected 1994

Florida
Alan Grayson (D) – FL-8 challenger (Rep. Dan Webster), or new seat that could be drawn in the Orlando area; one term; elected 2008

Georgia
Jim Marshall (D) – GA-8 challenger (Rep. Austin Scott); four terms; elected 2002; possible candidate

Illinois
Bill Foster (D) – IL-11 open seat; two terms in IL-14; elected early 2008

Indiana
David McIntosh (R) – IN-5 primary challenger (Rep. Dan Burton); three terms in IN-2; elected 1994

Michigan
Jim Barcia (D) – MI-5 open seat; five terms; elected 1992; possible candidate
Mark Schauer (D) – MI-7 challenger (Rep. Tim Walberg); one term; elected 2008; possible candidate

Minnesota
Rick Nolan (D) – MN-8 challenger (Rep. Chip Cravaack); three terms; elected 1974

Nevada
Dina Titus (D) – NV-3 challenger (Rep. Joe Heck) or new seat; one term; elected 2008. Though not announcing for a particular district until after redistricting is completed, ex-Rep. Titus is running for Congress; she recently resigned her position with the Civil Rights Commission to return to Nevada to begin assembling a campaign.

New Hampshire
Carol Shea-Porter (D) – NH-1 challenger (Rep. Frank Guinta); two terms; elected 2006

New York
Mike McMahon (D) – NY-13 challenger (Rep. Michael Grimm); one term; elected 2008; possible candidate
Scott Murphy (D) – NY-20 challenger (Rep. Chris Gibson); one term; elected 2009; possible candidate
Michael Arcuri (D) – NY-24 challenger (Rep. Richard Hanna); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate

Ohio
Charlie Wilson (D) – OH-6 challenger (Rep. Bill Johnson); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate
Jim Traficant (I) – OH-17 (will draw a different number since Ohio loses two seats) challenger (Rep. Tim Ryan); nine terms; elected 1984; possible candidate
Zack Space (D) – OH-18 (will draw a different number since Ohio loses two seats) challenger (Rep. Bob Gibbs); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate

Pennsylvania
Kathy Dahlkemper (D) – PA-3 challenger (Rep. Mike Kelly); one term; elected 2008; possible candidate

Texas
Nick Lampson (D) – TX-14 open seat; four terms TX-9; one term TX-22; elected 1996 (TX-9); elected 2006 (TX-22); possible candidate
Steve Stockman (R) – TX-14 open seat; one term TX-9; elected 1994; possible candidate
Ciro Rodriguez (D) – TX-23 challenger (Rep. Quico Canseco); four terms TX-28; two terms TX-23; elected 1996 (TX-28); elected 2006 (TX-23)

West Virginia
Alan Mollohan (D) – WV-1 challenger (Rep. David McKinley); 14 terms; elected 1982; possible candidate

Wisconsin
Steve Kagen (D) – WI-8 challenger (Rep. Reid Ribble); two terms; elected 2006; possible candidate
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Nevada Sen. Ensign to Resign; Heller Likely to be Appointed

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), rocked with a sex and blackmail scandal that made winning re-election impossible, announced that he will resign his seat effective May 3rd. This will give newly elected Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) the opportunity of appointing a successor to serve until the next regular election in November 2012. All indications suggest that Sandoval will appoint Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) as the interim senator. The congressman has already announced his intention to run for the open seat and has become the virtual consensus Republican candidate. Sandoval endorsed Heller for the seat long before it became known that Ensign would not serve the balance of his term.

Appointing Heller would give him incumbency advantage for the 17 months prior to the election. This will undoubtedly help him raise money; though, as a consensus candidate in a competitive U.S. Senate race, money would likely not have been an obstacle. One key difference, however: Upon appointment, Heller will be treated as an incumbent by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, thus making their involvement much easier than if the race happens to evolve into a contested primary. The party and institutional financial backing should give Heller an added boost in the general election as he will square-off with Las Vegas Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1). Last week Berkley made official her entry into the Senate race.

Nevada, the fastest growing U.S. state during the past decade (35 percent growth over the 10-year period; the national average was 9.7 percent) is a changing region. Previously, a place that leaned more Republican than Democrat, Nevada is now the quintessential swing state. While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was re-elected 50-45 percent in a very difficult campaign, Sandoval was simultaneously out-distancing Reid’s son, Rory, in the governor’s race, 53-42 percent. Freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-3) was also turned out of office by current Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3) in the seat that has become the most over-populated congressional district in the nation, housing over one million inhabitants. The strong growth rate awarded the state a new congressional seat, the third consecutive decade such as happened. In 2008, Pres. Obama carried the state over John McCain by a lopsided 55-43 percent mark. Four years earlier, then-President Bush outpaced John Kerry here 50-48 percent.

Thus, the stage is set for another close election, and an incumbency advantage for Heller could be just the impetus he needs to cross the political finish line first.

But, appointing Mr. Heller could cause further controversy at the U.S. House level. Heller actually vacating his congressional seat to finish Ensign’s term, means a special election will be held in NV-2 later this year. Sharron Angle, the Tea Party activist who won the GOP Senate nomination but came up short against Sen. Reid, has already announced that she will run for the open seat in 2012. A special election would hasten the political clock and she will undoubtedly enter the early contest, with a strong chance of winning a split primary. In 2006, when Heller was first elected, Angle only lost the Republican primary to him by 421 votes (39.5 – 39.3 percent). In a crowded field of candidates, which will likely occur, securing a base of +35 percent likely means winning the nomination, and she has previously done better in this very territory. The 2nd district touches a small part of Clark County (Las Vegas), and then occupies the rest of the state, including Angle’s power base of Washoe County (Reno).

In a way, the special election might actually hinder Angle’s chances of winning the primary. In a redrawn 2nd district, the seat will likely lose it’s Clark County portion, a place where Angle performed 11 percentage points under Heller in 2006. But, the special election will occur in the current 2nd district. Originally drawn as a safe Republican seat, the 2nd has become marginal. In fact, Heller only scored a 50-45 percent win over Nevada Democratic Party chair Jill Derby in ’06, followed with a closer-than-expected 52-41 percent victory two years later against the same opponent. Derby may again become a candidate, and could be strong in a special general election particularly if Angle wins the Republican nomination.

It appears evident that Nevadans are headed for another lively and potentially bitter election cycle yet again, and one that will almost assuredly begin early.
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Calif. Special Election Called; Ron Klein, Dean Heller In

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has called the special election to replace former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36) who resigned at the end of February. The “jungle” primary will be held on May 17 with the general election, if necessary, on July 12. This will be the first test of California’s new election law that allows members of the same party to square-off in a general election. Before, the top vote-getter from each party qualified for the main election. In a special vote, a run-off election is only required if no candidate receives an absolute majority.

In the CA-36 situation, the run-off is a virtual certainty. The two top Democrats, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, are the favorites to qualify for the special general. Republicans are fielding several candidates, but Hahn and Bowen have the name familiarity to punch through a crowded field. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so it would be surprising to see anyone but the two most well-known Dems qualify for the run-off election. The nation’s other special congressional election, with nominees chosen by party caucus, is in NY-26, and will be held May 24. Republicans, in the person of Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, are likely to hold this position.

In Florida, it appears that defeated Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL-22) will not seek a re-match with Rep. Allen West (R), as reports are surfacing that Klein will soon announce the acceptance of a lobbying firm position. Klein was first elected in 2006, defeating then-Rep. E. Clay Shaw (R). He was subsequently re-elected in 2008, beating West, but went down 46-54% in the re-match. This south Florida district will be drastically reconfigured in redistricting. The GOP map drawers will need to give West an influx of Republicans since his seat is marginal. It is the only congressional district held by a Republican in both 2004 and 2000, in which President George W. Bush did not perform better. It’s long, craggy north to south design from West Palm Beach into greater Broward County will likely be re-set into a more traditional layout.

In Nevada, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) made official his plan to run for Sen. John Ensign’s (R) open seat. Heller will be the favorite for the Republican nomination. No Democrat has yet stepped forward to announce his or her candidacy, but Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will make her decision about a Senate race by early summer. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller are waiting for the congresswoman to make a decision, but could find themselves entering the race. With Nevada becoming an ever more marginal state and Pres. Obama on the general election ballot in a place he carried 55-43% in 2008, the eventual Democratic nominee will be highly competitive.

Heller vacating the 2nd district, currently a decidedly Republican district that touches all 17 of the state’s counties, will mean a free-for-all occurs in the succeeding primary. Already GOP state chairman Mark Amodei, a former state senator who briefly ran for US Senate in early 2010 before dropping out, says he will run for Congress. Sharron Angle, who became the GOP Senatorial nominee against Majority Leader Harry Reid because of strong Tea Party support, could run here, or against Heller statewide. Angle lost a close congressional primary to Heller back in 2006 before running for Senate in 2010. Depending upon the shape of the re-draw, former Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV-3) is also someone who could jump into such a crowded primary with the ability to do well.

Democrats could find themselves in a similar position if Berkley vacates the safe, Las Vegas-based 1st district. Expect a major Democratic primary there if she decides to run statewide, which could be one reason Masto and Miller are both waiting to see what she does. If districts 1 and 2 are open, and with the state gaining a 4th district, Nevada could see three open seat congressional campaigns next year. Adding the fact that Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) 3rd district already has over 1 million inhabitants, the entire Nevada congressional map could easily be re-crafted.

The Silver State is very important in national redistricting and could become even more if the multiple vacancies actually occur.
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House Freshmen Debt

While all the talk in Washington is about fiscal responsibility, the new House freshman class seems to command better standing than many other past first-term groups when comparing their public policy rhetoric to campaign practices.

Looking at the 2010 campaign finance statistics, 158 of 435 winning candidates ended their electoral cycle carrying some amount of campaign debt, slightly more than 1/3 of all victorious candidates, according to the year-end financial disclosure reports as published by the Federal Election Commission. Ninety-three are from veteran member campaigns, meaning much of their debt may be from previous election cycles.

Of the 63 freshmen carrying debt, not including members with a break in service or those elected in post-2008 special elections, the great preponderance are Republicans (56R-7D), mostly because GOP candidates won so many more races. Of the pure freshmen in the current 112th Congress, 87 are Republican compared to just nine Democrats.

Only two freshmen have over $1 million in campaign debt. Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) is showing the highest amount of red ink, but 52% of the $1.146 million is owed to himself in the form of a candidate loan. The second member to carry a seven-figured debt is Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-6). Her total is $1.046 million, but the entire amount is owed to herself.

Just five new members are carrying more than $500,000 in debt. They are:
• Bill Flores (R-TX-17) – $739,872
• David McKinley (R-WV-1) – $670,000
• Bill Hanna (R-NY-24) – $536,515
• David Schweikert (R-AZ-5) – $523,000
• Nan Hayworth (R-NY-19) – $504,902

A dozen first-term members hold debts of between $200,000 and $499,999. They are:
• Justin Amash (R-MI-3) – $408,200
• Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) – $382,720
• Scott Rigell (R-VA-2) – $378,000
• Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) – $375,222
• Joe Walsh (R-IL-8) – $361,740
• Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) – $338,529
• Lou Barletta (R-PA-11) – $258,495
• Chuck Fleishmann (R-TN-3) – $250,000
• Cedric Richmond (D-LA-2) – $236,826
• Tim Griffin (R-AR-2) – $232,897
• Tim Mulvaney (R-SC-5) – $210,000
• Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – $203,000

An additional 13 are between $100,000 and $199,999 in the red:
• Reid Ribble (R-WI-8) – $173,009
• Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-4) – $163,406
• Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) – $158,687
• Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – $157,000
• Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) – $156,643
• Rick Berg (R-ND-AL) – $154,250
• Frederica Wilson (D-FL-17) – $154,750
• Bob Dold (R-IL-10) – $143,609
• David Rivera (R-FL-25) – $137,474
• Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) – $121,959
• David Cicilline (D-RI-1) – $120,000
• Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) – $103,062
• Sandy Adams (R-FL-24) – $100,850

An additional 31 freshmen members have debt, but all are below $100,000 in dollars owed, and 24 have no debt at all.

It appears that the vast majority of freshmen will be debt-free and in strong financial position when the first quarter reporting period draws to an end on March 31. Maintaining such a status is crucial when preparing for the all-important first re-election campaign.

The rise of the independent organizations that put millions of dollars into specific, candidate-related political messages may be largely responsible for reducing not only candidate campaign spending to some degree, but also the individual members’ campaign debts. The final year-end financial figures are just one more indication that the world of campaign finance continues to evolve in new and very different ways. These results again underscore the fundamental changes in free expression that the Citizens’ United Supreme Court ruling has brought to the political marketplace.
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Rory for Congress?

The official 2010 apportionment is only two weeks old and, in at least one state, jockeying for position to win a new district already is beginning. This, despite the fact that the new seat’s boundaries won’t be determined for months. Defeated gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid, a Clark County commissioner and son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, says he’s interested in running for Nevada’s new 4th congressional district, even though he doesn’t know where it will be.

Since their fastest-in-the-nation 35.1% population growth rate earned the Silver State another seat, legislators are now tasked with drawing a new four-district map. Both state legislative chambers are in Democratic control (although their state Senate margin is just one vote, 11-10), but the new governor, Brian Sandoval, who stomped Reid 53-42% back in November, also must approve the new map. A stalemate would force the process to court for final resolution.

The Nevada redistricting fight is interesting. Right now, both Democrats and Republicans each have one safe seat, while the marginal 3rd district currently rests in GOP Rep-elect Joe Heck’s hands after he defeated one-term incumbent Dina Titus (D) by 1,748 votes last November.

Republicans clearly will want to secure the 3rd district and make the new 4th marginal. The Democrats might settle for each party taking two safe seats. A three-judge panel may have different thoughts altogether, so expect the political fireworks to soon be as illuminating as those commonly seen on the Las Vegas strip.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.