Tag Archives: Larry Kissell

Analyzing the North Carolina Run-off Elections

Yesterday’s North Carolina congressional run-off elections concluded with three districts producing Republican nominees, all with strong chances of winning the general election in November.

In the 8th District, occupying the area to the north and east of Charlotte and around Fayetteville, business consultant and former congressional aide Richard Hudson won a landslide 64-36 percent win over dentist and ex-Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle. Only 16,078 votes were cast in the secondary election, just under 4 percent of the entire universe of registered voters. It was a decisive win for Hudson, who built a coalition comprised of conservatives, Washington insiders, and North Carolina establishment individuals and entities. Some national conservative organizations, such as the Club for Growth, supported Keadle’s unsuccessful candidacy.

Hudson now challenges two-term Rep. Larry Kissell (D) in a district that has been radically re-configured. With the new 8th being 21 points better for Republicans based upon the Obama-McCain 2008 presidential election scale, and Kissell only currently representing 54 percent of the new territory, it is arguable that Hudson is now the favorite here even against the incumbent. Republican map architects designed this seat to be one of the best GOP conversion opportunities in the country, and Hudson is proving worthy of the task of unseating an incumbent. We will hear much more from this campaign in the coming weeks.

To the west, encompassing most of Charlotte proper and stretching northward more than half-way toward Winston-Salem, the 9th District also has a new Republican nominee. For all intents and purposes, last night’s vote actually selected the new congressman here because this seat trends safe Republican. With Rep. Sue Myrick (R) retiring after nine terms, 11 candidates ran in the original primary and the field whittled down to former state Sen. Robert Pittenger
and Mecklenburg County Commissioner and ex-sheriff Jim Pendergraph. As was the case in the primary, the result ended in relatively close fashion.

Mr. Pittenger, who spent more than $2 million of his own money and was the self-proclaimed most conservative candidate in the race, clinched a 53-47 percent win last night. The former state senator is now the prohibitive favorite to defeat Democratic Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts in the general election.

The new 9th went for John McCain in 2008 by a 54-45 percent count, one point under the margin from the current 9th CD. Three-quarters of the territory remains constant in the new district. More than 35,000 people voted, the largest congressional turnout in the state. Though Pendergraph took Mecklenburg County by a 51-49 percent margin, Pittenger’s strong performance in Iredell (70-30 percent) and Union (57-43 percent) counties was enough to offset him losing the most populous area.

Moving to far western North Carolina, in the Asheville area seat being vacated by retiring three-term Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, businessman Mark Meadows becomes the 2012 Republican nominee for the new 11th Congressional District. He swamped entrepreneur Vance Patterson 76-24 percent in a run-off race that was never close. Almost 23,000 votes were cast in this run-off, the second highest of the three congressional contests decided last evening.

Meadows will now face Democratic nominee Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s chief of staff. The Republican businessman has the inside track to victory in the general election because the post-redistricting 11th has swung hard toward the GOP. On the Obama-McCain scale, the new NC-11 is now the most Republican district in the state, moving a net 13 partisan points.

Because North Carolina figures to be the Republicans’ best state countrywide during these elections, and will neutralize a similar Democratic performance in Illinois, it is likely that all three men nominated last night will win their respective general elections. So, despite a statewide voter turnout of only 3.58 percent, this North Carolina run-off election will prove significant when painting the 2012 national political picture.

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.

Primary Preview: North Carolina

The House races dominate tomorrow’s North Carolina primary election from a national perspective, but the Democratic gubernatorial vote is one of the main turnout drivers for the state’s voters.

  • Governor: Incumbent Bev Perdue (D) is retiring after one term, upon deciding that her lagging approval numbers relegated her to an underdog re-election position. This sets up a Democratic primary largely between Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and former Rep. Bob Etheridge. The main question is whether one of these two men will secure the 40 percent-plus one vote necessary to avoid a June 26 run-off. Regardless of the outcome tomorrow or next month, the eventual Democrat nominee will begin the general election as a decided underdog to ex-Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory, who will cruise to outright victory in the Republican primary.
  • NC-1: The new 1st CD, an African-American majority district, is again safe for five-term Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D).
  • NC-2: Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) was a surprise winner in 2010 against then-Rep. Etheridge, and now stands for re-election in a much more favorable Republican district. This seat soars from a 47 percent McCain score to one that voted 56 percent Republican in 2008. The new 2nd should be safe for Ellmers despite her gaining 70 percent new territory.
  • NC-3: The new 3rd, now encompassing much more of the North Carolina coast than the current NC-3 and about a quarter new in configuration, is another safe Republican district. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R), who strays further from the House Republican leadership than any other GOP congressman, could be vulnerable to a primary challenge … but not this year.
  • NC-4: Originally, this seat was drawn as a Democratic pairing between Rep. David Price (D) and Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC-13). After saying he would run against Price, it became obvious that Miller felt he was in an inferior political position in the new 4th and he decided to withdraw. The lack of primary opposition means Price will easily win re-election.
  • NC-5: Although she picks up almost 30 percent new territory, the new Winston-Salem anchored 5th District is again secure for Rep. Virginia Foxx (R).
  • NC-6: Eighty-one year-old Rep. Howard Coble (R), originally elected in 1984, is again headed for re-election. The seat performed at a 56 percent McCain rate, but is 57 percent new territory for Coble. Two locally well-known candidates are challenging Coble in the GOP primary, but they have raised little money and have negative personal opinion polling scores. Coble should have little trouble securing renomination and will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election.
  • NC-7: Redistricting was not kind to moderate Rep. Mike McIntyre (D), another vulnerable member of the Blue Dog Coalition. Thirty-six percent of the Wilmington-based 7th District is new to McIntyre, and the Republican complexion grows from 52 percent McCain to 58 percent McCain. Tomorrow, McIntyre will know if he will face 2010 GOP nominee Ilario Pantano or state Sen. David Rowser. One of the two will likely win the primary outright tomorrow night and quickly enter into a toss-up race with the eight-term congressman.
  • NC-8: Two-term Rep. Larry Kissell (D) is one of the biggest redistricting victims and will likely go into the general election as the underdog. The district flips from 53 percent Obama to 57 percent McCain and loses most its African-American voters and their exceedingly loyal Democratic voting patterns. The Republican primary, among five candidates, is likely to advance to a run-off probably between former congressional aide Richard Hudson and ex-Iredell County commissioner Scott Keadle.
  • NC-9: Rep. Sue Myrick (R) retirement sets up an 11-way Republican primary for the new NC-9, which will be a safe Republican seat. Count on a run-off here with the winner becoming the new congressman.
  • NC-10: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R) takes on almost half a district in new territory, and because of this the GOP will likely win the 11th District.
  • NC-11: The western NC seat is another redistricting casualty, as Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D) seat now becomes the most Republican Tar Heel State district. This is the reason the three-term, 40-year-old congressman has opted for retirement. Eight Republican candidates are in this race, and another run-off is likely here. Democrats are not going down without a fight, though, quite possibly in the person of Shuler chief-of-staff Hayden Rogers.
  • NC-12: The 12th is possibly the most famous of Voting Rights Act seats after enduring legal challenges in every decade since it was created. Rep. Mel Watt (D) will continue to win here as long as he stays in the game.
  • NC-13: Everything changes about the 13th District – from its location to voting preferences. Previously a safe Democratic seat under Rep. Brad Miller (D), the new 13th will send a Republican to Washington likely for the entire ensuing decade. The GOP race is between former US Attorney George Holding, and Wake County Commissioner and ex-Raleigh mayor Paul Coble. There is a good chance one of these two wins outright tomorrow night, which is likely his ticket to Washington, DC. The general election appears non-competitive.

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.