Monthly Archives: May 2011

Who Knows in New York’s 26th?

Tomorrow is Election Day in New York’s 26th district and the latest Siena College poll (May 18-20; 639 likely New York-26 voters) tells us that either Democrat Kathy Hochul or Republican Jane Corwin can win. Independent Jack Davis, who has become the focal point of the controversial campaign, has fallen out of contention. The seat came open upon the resignation of Rep. Christopher Lee (R) in order to avoid impending public scandal. Siena College, located just north of Albany, NY, has a history of conducting political polls, particularly in New York State.

According to the data, Hochul leads 32-28-12 percent over Corwin and Davis, respectively. This represents quite a change, particularly for the Independent, from Siena’s last poll. In late April (April 26-27), Corwin held a 36-31 percent lead over Hochul, with Davis polling at 23 percent. The new results show Hochul holding strong with the Democratic base (gaining one point overall) and Corwin dropping eight percentage points, while Davis loses half of his support. In April, 90 percent of the respondents had decided upon a candidate but in this latest survey only 72 percent did so, meaning a full 18% of the two groups making up the pair of diverse sampling universes drifted into the undecided column. Because of the conflicting and confusing messages coming from the candidates during the past month, such a result is not surprising.

This campaign has been one of the oddest in recent memory because both Hochul and Corwin employed virtually the same strategy in dealing with Davis. Both feature him in their negative ads, always portraying him as being in the same camp with their major party opponent. The idea was to align Davis with their most serious competitor in order to steer ideological partisans from both parties toward the Independent, in addition to solidifying their own bases. Thus, voters were seeing double-barreled negative messages about Davis over his seemingly paradoxical philosophical association with each candidate.

Jack Davis, 78, is a multi-millionaire businessman who has run for Congress three times before, all as a Democrat. Previously campaigning from the ideological left, Davis adopted the “Tea” label in his Independent special election bid and is trying to cast himself as being a conservative budget hawk. He attacks both parties as entities that have lost the American people’s confidence. Davis, through his 2006 legal challenge, negated the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that allowed political opponents to raise triple the individual contribution limit if another candidate spent more than $350,000 of his or her own money. The Supreme Court cemented the ruling in 2008.

This special election should have been easily in Assemblywoman Corwin’s column. It is a marginally safe Republican seat and with her earning the Conservative and Independence Party endorsements, the race appeared to be the upstate legislator’s to lose. But a series of gaffes, including having her Assembly chief of staff accost Davis on camera about the latter lacking the “courage” to debate, derailed her campaign. The stunt badly backfired and the Corwin campaign, despite a sizable funding advantage, came unglued and lost the upper hand. Hochul has consistently maintained the Democratic base support and run the more competent campaign. In a close three-way race, these two factors could be enough to steal victory.

The Siena poll shows that both Hochul and Corwin are keeping their party bases, but the former is performing better. The Erie County Clerk gets 76 percent of Democrats compared to 66 percent of Republicans for Corwin. Independents are breaking toward Hochul by a 44-36 percent rate.

Predicting special elections and low turnout voting is extremely difficult, so this poll basically suggests that either Hochul or Corwin can win tomorrow. Turnout is likely to be high, in special election terms, if the two 2009 upstate NY elections are any indication. Both the 20th and 23rd districts turned out just over 161,000 voters when the people filled those respective vacancies. These numbers represent about 35 percent of the registered voters in those particular districts.

The recent New York special congressional elections have been debacles for the Republicans and tomorrow’s election could follow that same pattern. Whichever party can best get their voters to the polls will win. Tomorrow night tells the tale.
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Bowen Concedes in Calif.; Surprise Ruling in Nevada; Hirono for Senate in Hawaii

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) conceded her fate yesterday in the special congressional election, offering her congratulations to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) and businessman Craig Huey (R) for advancing to the general election. Hahn placed first and clinched position No. 1 for the July 12 special general, but the second and final slot was in doubt as absentee ballot counting continued. Huey surprised everyone by nipping Bowen by just over 200 votes on election night, but more than 10,000 absentee ballots had not been tabulated. Once the post-election counting began, and Huey actually increased his margin over Bowen to more than 700 votes, the Secretary of State announced her concession.

This is a surprise result. Most believed that Hahn and Bowen would advance to the special general and be in a close contest. Under California’s new election law, as approved by voters in a 2010 ballot initiative, the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the general election.

The 36th congressional special election — held after Rep. Jane Harman (D) resigned to accept a position with an international relations think tank — was the first test of the new election law in a federal campaign. But even under this new structure, a Democrat and a Republican will face each other in a one-on-one general election. Because of the heavy Democratic nature of this district, Councilwoman Hahn, previously defeated for this congressional seat in 1998 and then later for lieutenant governor, becomes the prohibitive favorite to win in July.

Nevada’s 2nd:

A Nevada state judge yesterday sided with a state Republican Party legal motion and over-turned Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller’s directive that the Sept. 13 special election in the 2nd congressional district be held in an open jungle ballot format. The judge accepted the GOP argument that the respective state parties have the power to nominate their own standard bearers in a special election. The Democrats will likely appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, a panel more likely to be favorable toward their position. The action was a bit of a surprise because the judge removed the people’s’ ability to choose candidates and put it in the hands of the state political party organizations. Under the ruling, the parties would have until June 30th to nominate their candidates. The original filing deadline for the jungle, winner-take-all, election was May 25th.

The ruling will have a great effect upon 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle who has a strong chance of winning in the jungle election format, but is unlikely to secure the Republican nomination from a panel of state party officials. Democrats believe the jungle ballot approach favors them if they can unite behind one strong candidate and the Republicans remain split. So far, though, more than one strong Democrat is in the race. Much more will happen, and quickly, to finally determine how this election will be conducted.

Hawaii Senate

Across the Pacific Ocean in the 50th state of Hawaii, two-term Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) announced that she will run for the Senate next year. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring. Hirono has high approval ratings and will certainly be a strong candidate in both the Democratic primary and general elections. In fact, a new Ward Research poll (May 4-10; 614 registered Hawaii voters) shows Hirono in the strongest position of any Democrat if former Gov. Linda Lingle becomes the Republican nominee. Hirono would defeat Lingle 57-35 percent according to the data. Former Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) is already a Senatorial candidate. Other potential Democratic contenders are Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), ex-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. Because Lingle loses to all of the aforementioned in hypothetical pairings, the Democrats are the early favorites to hold the open seat in next year’s general election.
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It’s Not Over in California’s 36th

The 36th special congressional primary appeared to have placed Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) and businessman Chris Huey (R) in the July 12th general election, but we now discover that all the votes have yet to be counted. In fact, approximately 10,000 absentee ballots remain to be tabulated. The outstanding votes are certainly enough to propel third place finisher, Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), past Huey and into the final run-off position. California recently changed its election law to allow the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, to qualify for the general election.

Several post-election analyses were suggesting that Huey making the run-off, if it stands, is a major upset but the actual statistics don’t support such a conclusion. In aggregate, the Democrats received 56.7 percent of the vote versus the total Republican 40.9 percent tally. Last November, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) carried the 36th with a 56-41 percent margin over GOP nominee Meg Whitman, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) matched the previous Democratic total (56%) in her race against businesswoman Carly Fiorina. Therefore, last night’s results actually reflect a normal partisan division for this Los Angeles Harbor area district.

Regardless of the final outcome, the Democrats are in the driver’s seat to win in July, most likely in the person of Ms. Hahn.
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Upset City in California’s 36th CD

The late west coast special congressional election ended surprisingly last night. While it appeared that California’s new election law allowing the top two finishers to advance to the general election, regardless of political party, would favor the local Democrats in Rep. Jane Harman’s (D) vacated seat, it didn’t, as Secretary of State Debra Bowen was nipped for second place by conservative businessman Craig Huey. The Republican will move onto the July 12 special general election against first-place finisher Janice Hahn (D), a Los Angeles City Council member.

In all, 16 candidates were on the ballot. Below is the order of finish for the top vote-getters:

Janice Hahn (D) …………. 13,137 ……….. 24.7%
Craig Huey (R) ………….. 11,648 ………… 21.9%

Debra Bowen (D) ……….. 11,442 ……….. 21.5%
Marcy Winograd (D) …….. 5,066 ……….. 9.5%
Mike Gin (R) ……………….. 4,145 …………. 7.8%

It was assumed that Bowen, the Secretary of State and former state senator and assembly member from the Los Angeles harbor area would battle Hahn in the general election. Though Huey snatched second place, the district did perform as one would expect from a partisan context. The Democratic candidates received a cumulative 56.7 percent, while the Republicans garnered an aggregate 40.9 percent. Total turnout was a very low 53,266, for a TO percentage of 15.3 percent.

Hahn becomes a big favorite for the special general election, and then we’ll see what happens to the region in redistricting.

Senate Candidates Coming Forward

The political situation surrounding three U.S. Senate states became clearer yesterday. With Friday’s announcement from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) saying he would not seek a fourth term next year, the Wisconsin political merry-go-round immediately began circling and an old familiar face came forward.

After House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) decided to remain in his current position, former Gov. Tommy Thompson began making it known that he is interested in running for the open seat. Thompson served four terms as governor from 1987 to 2001 and then became Pres. George W. Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. He made an ill-fated run for the presidency in 2008, failing to even get out of the starting blocks. The 69-year-old Thompson’s entry would be a bit of a surprise, since he considered running statewide several times after leaving the state house and then repeatedly stated his disinclination to initiate another political campaign.

Should he get back into the game in 2012, Mr. Thompson may draw serious primary opposition. Former Reps. Mark Green (R-WI-8) and Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), who have both previously lost statewide campaigns, have not ruled out running for the Senate. The state legislature’s brother tandem of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald have also been mentioned as potential Senate contenders.

Wisconsin Democrats will have a strong field of potential candidates from which to choose. Leading the group is former Sen. Russ Feingold who was defeated for re-election in 2010. Before Sen. Kohl announced his retirement, Feingold said he was not considering running in 2012 even if the Senate seat were to open. Now that Kohl is stepping aside, Feingold has a real decision to make. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) and former Milwaukee mayor and congressman Tom Barrett, who lost to Gov. Scott Walker in November, are both potential candidates. Regardless of who ultimately chooses to run, this open seat contest is likely to become 2012’s premier Senate race.

In Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) has finally indicated that he will run for the Senate, ending weeks of speculation. Since two Republicans have already announced they are running for his congressional seat, as if it were already open, Akin’s Senate announcement seems anticlimactic. He enters a primary against former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman of Springfield and possibly healthcare company CEO John Brunner from St. Louis. Steelman has the potential of becoming a strong candidate, so an Akin nomination should not be considered a foregone conclusion.

The winner of the Missouri Republican Senatorial primary will face vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), seeking her first re-election to the post she originally won in 2006. Missouri’s recent voting history plus her failure to pay property taxes on an airplane that her husband partially owns has brought this race into the toss-up zone. Missouri was the closest state in the 2008 presidential campaign as John McCain slipped past Pres. Obama by just 3,903 votes. It was only the second time since 1900 that Missouri failed to side with the winner in the presidential contest. Last election, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO-7) scored an impressive 13-point victory over Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D), sister of current Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3). Hence, the last two elections may signal that Missouri voters are moving decidedly to the right.

The open North Dakota seat also saw its first major entry. Freshman Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND-AL) announced via video on Monday that he will run for the retiring Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D) open seat. Berg should coast to the Republican nomination and becomes the prohibitive favorite to convert the seat for his party in the general election. Public Utilities Commissioner Brian Kalk had already announced for the Republican Senatorial nomination, but he is expected to drop down to the open House race. Most of the North Dakota political action will now center around Berg’s vacated at-large House district.
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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.