Monthly Archives: May 2011

Former Illinois Rep. Foster Coming Back

The “send” button had been barely pushed releasing the new Illinois congressional district map, and former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14), defeated in 2010 for re-election by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R), 45-51 percent, says he will run again next year in the newly created 11th district. No present incumbent currently resides in the proposed IL-11 and the inclusion of the city of Aurora gives Foster a base in the new territory. The seat is designed as a Democratic gain.

From Aurora, a western Chicago suburb, the new district meanders eastward to pick up the city of Naperville and then darts even further east, closer to south Chicago. It then juts south all the way to annex the city of Joliet. The current 11th, represented by freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, is spilt into no less than eight districts.

Mr. Foster, however, will not likely win the new 11th without a fight. Wealthy insurance executive John Atkinson (D), who had already signaled his intention to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3) because he believes the Congressman does not work closely enough with President Obama, now finds his home in the new open seat. Atkinson did not give a firm indication of where he might run, but clearly the Democratic legislative leaders want to avoid the intra-party challenge.

The current Illinois delegation count stands at 11R-8D. In losing a seat in reapportionment, early analyses show that Democrats could come away with a maximum 13-5 split under the new lines, as most of the Republican incumbents find themselves placed in districts with a GOP colleague or more. The map is expected to sail through the legislature and be signed by Gov. Patrick Quinn (D).
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The Angle-less Special Election in Nevada’s 2nd

Nevada's congressional districts. The 2nd extends north over the entire remainder of the state.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed conservative who upset the Republican establishment with her GOP Senatorial primary win last year, abruptly announced that she will not file as a candidate for the Sept. 13 special congressional election in Nevada’s 2nd district. Expressing displeasure toward the electoral system chosen for the early fall vote, Angle said the technical procedures are “…an illegitimate process that disenfranchises the electorate.”

Originally, Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that the special election would be open to all, and decided in just one voting contest. Termed a “ballot royal,” Miller copied the system used in Hawaii that features no nomination process. All candidates would have equal access to the special general ballot and the person receiving the most votes, regardless of percentage, wins the seat.

Miller made this ruling for several reasons. Primarily, it is the system that best gives his Democratic Party a chance of capturing the seat. Angle would have been strong within this format because of her solid political base, but so would a unified Democratic Party solidifying behind one candidate. If the Republicans split their votes among several contenders, the analysis showed, the Democrats, limiting their candidates to just state Treasurer Kate Marshall, could successfully steal the Republican-leaning seat.

Republicans objected to Miller’s dictate, saying he wrongly interpreted state election law. The parties themselves, the GOP argued, should be allowed to choose their nominees in caucus, similar to New York’s law, and have just two major party candidates on the ballot. Last week, a lower court judge ruled in favor of the GOP lawsuit saying that Miller’s decision was “unreasonable and absurd.” The Secretary of State and the Democratic Party are appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Candidates were originally to have filed earlier in the week (May 25th), but the judicial ruling forced Miller to extend the candidate declaration deadline all the way through June 30th. The state high court will likely make a ruling before the deadline expires.

It is obvious that Angle believes the Supreme Court will uphold the lower court ruling and allow the state party central committees to choose the special election nominees. She also knows she is not the choice of the Nevada Republican establishment. In her statement, Ms. Angle said she would consider running for public office again and did not eliminate the possibility of competing for the 2nd district in the regular cycle.

Though NV-2 will have a new incumbent before the 2012 general election, it is likely the new 2nd will be more to Angle’s liking. The current configuration in the three-seat state map allows the 2nd to touch all of Nevada’s 17 counties including dominant Clark, home to the city of Las Vegas.

Though the state’s new four-seat congressional map is in limbo today, the basic design seems clear. The Democratic legislature passed a map that had a similar look to the Republicans’ draw, but a far different partisan complexion and it led to a Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) veto. Though further effort was made up until legislative adjournment, the map will end up in court and judges will develop the final blueprint. Since the legislative intent clearly makes two Las Vegas city districts, one rural Clark County seat that stretches to the central part of the state, and a final district, the 2nd, that contains only the northern half of the state with its population anchors of Reno and Carson City, such will likely be the final map’s basis. In the two Democratic maps and one Republican, each used this same fundamental design.

This version will play right into Angle’s hands and may be what’s driving her decision to sit out the special election. Though she will face an incumbent in either the 2012 primary or the general vote, the district will be much different than the one electing the new congressman. So, it is very possible Ms. Angle will come roaring back in the regular cycle.

Republicans should win the seat, but after their party’s recent debacle in the NY-26 special election, it’s clear that anything can happen in these low turnout, irregular electoral contests.
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Draft Rick Perry?

A surprising group of people have formed a presidential draft committee for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Though the Republican four-term chief executive has said he is not running for president, five California Republican state legislators think he should. The group, led by northern California Assemblyman Dan Logue and four of his colleagues, say they want Perry to run because of his strong job creation record. Logue and a delegation of Golden State legislators recently traveled to Austin to meet with Perry and others to determine why Texas is adding employment and California is hemorrhaging business opportunities. The draft committee founders believe the Perry policies that have led to 165,000 new Texas jobs being created during the past three years, while California has lost a commensurate 1.2 million positions, is the type of leadership the country needs nationally.

A “Perry for President” campaign, even starting at this late date, could potentially become serious. With no candidate now being able to lay claim to the important southern states, a southwestern governor with a strong, conservative record such as Mr. Perry would have marked potential. Rick Perry may be yet another individual to watch as the presidential sweepstakes now begin to take shape in earnest.
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Democrats Convert Seat in New York’s 26th

Democratic/Working Families Party nominee Kathy Hochul, who began as little more than a sacrificial lamb in what should be a relatively safe Republican district, won the special election last night to succeed former Rep. Christopher Lee (R). Mr. Lee resigned the seat earlier in the year to avoid publicizing an impending personal scandal. Ms. Hochul, the Erie County clerk, defeated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin who held the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party ballot lines, along with Independent Jack Davis. Hochul’s margin was 47-43-9% against Corwin and Davis, respectively.

Turnout appeared to be low, especially in comparison to the previous upstate specials that broke 35 percent in voter participation. Approximately 115,000 people cast ballots, not counting what are likely several thousand yet-to-be-tabulated absentee votes. The turnout rate was hovering around 28 percent.

The two most recent pollsters called the race accurately. The closing surveys, one from Siena College and the other Public Policy Polling, showed Hochul holding four- and six-point leads, respectively, during the weekend directly preceding the election. The final margin, as revealed above, was four points.

The result allows the Democrats to extend their strong performances in special elections and adds to the commensurate Republican woes, particularly in multi-candidate upstate New York contests. The Hochul victory represents the third such favorable Democratic result in the last four New York special elections, even though the Republicans were favored at the beginning of each race.

The focal point of the campaign became Independent Jack Davis who labeled himself with the word “Tea.” New York election law allows qualifying Independents to describe themselves in a similar manner to party designation labels for the major candidates. Davis, however, was not a Tea Party member. He previously ran for Congress three times as a liberal Democrat. The Davis candidacy sparked confusion and controversy, thus causing Republican nominee Corwin to make unforced errors that ultimately cost her the seat. At one point, Davis was polling within just a few points of Hochul and Corwin, topping out at 23 percent. Then, both the Democrats and Republicans unloaded on Davis, ultimately costing him two-thirds of his potential support.

Aligned with the Conservative and Independence parties in a seat drawn for the GOP, this special election should have gone the Republicans’ way. Again, as had been the case in what proved to be a disastrous 23rd district contest (Rep. Bill Owens) two different times for Republicans, a minor party candidate cut against the GOP nominee and cost them the seat.

Total spending among the contenders broke $7 million, but the three candidates themselves contributed over $5 million of that total. Davis is a multi-millionaire who has traditionally self-funded his campaigns. He spent more than $2.6 million for this special election. Corwin dumped a similar amount into her campaign.

Outside entity spending was interesting. According to the latest OpenSecrets.org analysis, $1.99 million, in addition to the candidates’ cumulative total, was injected by independent organizations. A great deal of those expenditures, better than $755,000 worth, were targeted in opposition to Davis. More than $541,000 went against Hochul, and an additional $471,000 targeted Corwin. Both major party candidates also received positive independent expenditures, but those totaled less than $150,000 apiece.

The count in the House is now 241 Republicans and 193 Democrats with one vacancy. The open California 36th district will be filled on July 12th. Democrat Janice Hahn is a heavy favorite in that campaign. The New York delegation will now head into redistricting, where the state loses two seats in reapportionment, with 22 Democrats and seven Republicans.

Democrats will attempt to frame this election as a referendum on Medicare, as they continually attacked Corwin for saying she would support the controversial Ryan budget plan. The Republican never effectively countered the attack. The bigger issue, however, was the repeated Corwin mistakes that once again allowed a New York Republican seat to slip through the GOP’s fingers. In a special election, when turnout is always down and sometimes not reflective of a district’s voting patterns, the candidate running the more competent campaign generally wins. Clearly, Ms. Hochul was the superior campaigner in NY-26 during this battle.
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A Wide-Open Republican Presidential Field

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ announcement over the weekend that he would not seek the presidency means the Republican nomination is completely up for grabs. Though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a substantial lead in the New Hampshire primary according to a new CNN/WMUR-TV poll (784 New Hampshire adults, 347 Republicans), the same data shows that 87 percent of those sampled have not definitely decided who they will support for president. In the south, the heart of the Republican nomination voter base, no remaining candidate has the inside track to winning the critical South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia primaries, among others.

With southern favorites like ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and presumably former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin all out of the race, does this open the door for others such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Both have made recent comments suggesting that they could enter the race. Giuliani would jump-start his campaign with a strong New Hampshire strategy, where Perry would be attractive to the base conservative voter, particularly those residing in the south. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, now an official candidate, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), a likely one, could hurt each other in neighboring Iowa, since they may negate what could be each other’s regional advantage in the first-in-the-nation caucus. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who usually polls toward the end of the top tier of candidates, has stumbled out of the gate with a series of early gaffes.

This Republican primary is shaping up to become the most wide open race we’ve seen in the modern political era.
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