Monthly Archives: May 2011

Canadian Election Results: A Clear Conservative Victory

The neighboring Canadian election attracted little in the way of American media attention during its short campaign cycle, — in fact much less than the 2010 British vote. But when the votes were counted Monday night, the ruling Conservative Party had scored an impressive victory. The final tally also handed the once dominant Liberal Party its worst defeat in modern history.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party attained the majority government they had sought while campaigning across Canada for the past month. Harper’s party won a total of 167 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, 12 more than the 155 needed to secure majority status. The Conservative Party has now bested the opposition in three consecutive elections since 2006, but yesterday’s vote gave Harper his first outright Parliamentary majority. The victory brought the party full circle from its disastrous 1993 defeat under then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell who nearly drove the Progressive Conservative Party, as it was then known, to extinction, as they lost all but two seats.

For the first time in Canadian history, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), led by career politician Jack Layton, will be the official opposition to Harper’s government. The NDP managed to capture 102 seats in yesterday’s election, an all-time high for this particular party. The new opposition owes much of its electoral success to the collapse of Liberal Party support and the effervescent performance of leader Layton in the nationally televised pre-election debates. The Layton phenomenon was similar to that of Britain’s Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg during the 2010 elections in the United Kingdom. Clegg, like Layton in Canada, captured the electorate’s attention, but the Canadian was actually able to transform his political juggernaut into seats in Parliament. Despite finishing a close third in the British national popular vote, Clegg’s Liberal Democrats won only 57 of 650 seats.

The NDP now supplants the Liberal Party, which has either been the governing entity or official opposition since Canada’s confederation in 1867. Michael Ignatieff, the former Harvard professor-turned Liberal Party leader, led the Liberals to their worst defeat ever losing 43 seats, including his own Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding in Toronto. The Liberal Party now holds just 34 seats in the House, having been decimated in the party’s stronghold, the Province of Ontario. Ignatieff struck a defiant and slightly bitter tone in the hours after his defeat and originally did not rule out remaining as the Liberal leader even though many party regulars demanded his ouster. However, later in the day he finally did resign and said he was leaving Canadian politics with his head held high.

The Bloc Quebecois was almost a non-factor in yesterday’s election, losing all but four of the 47 seats they held in the last Parliament. The 43 seat decline matches the size of the Liberal Party’s demise. Gilles Duceppe, resigned as the Bloc’s leader immediately after the result became clear including the loss of his own Laurier-Sainte Marie riding, previously a Bloc stronghold.

The Green Party won its first and only seat in the Canada’s House of Commons yesterday as Elizabeth May was victorious in the British Columbia riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Mr. Harper will now be asked by the Governor General to form a new government with a Conservative majority. He already has five years of experience as Canada’s Prime Minister, but with fairly weak center-left opposition. It will be interesting to see how the House responds to an energetic but more radically liberal opposition as his foil, and how relations change with the Obama Administration in the U.S.
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Special Election Open to All in Nevada’s 2nd District

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D), after conferring with legal personnel in Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D) office, ruled that the state’s special election law does not give exclusive candidate nomination authority to the state political central committees, as at least the Republican Party had contended. Rather, Miller said in a news conference yesterday, the process will be open to all potential candidates.

With Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) scheduling the NV-2 special election for Sept. 13 after appointing Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) to succeed Sen. John Ensign (R), who officially leaves office today, the Nevada congressional replacement system becomes similar to that of Hawaii – that is, all candidates will appear on the same ballot in one winner-take-all election. This will be the first special congressional election in Nevada’s history, hence the confusion over the law. The race will be conducted under the 2001 Nevada congressional map. The winner will serve what will be the final 15 months of the unexpired term in the current Congress.

The ruling has two clear winners. Sharron Angle, the 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee and former NV-2 candidate (who lost the 2006 GOP primary to Heller by 421 votes), will now likely run in the special election. It was clear that the state Republican Party would not have chosen her as the official party standard bearer, if they had the power to choose a nominee. The Democratic Party benefits under this ruling because coalescing Democratic votes around one strong candidate, like state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who confirms she is running, could allow them to steal the seat with a small plurality since majority Republicans are likely to split their votes among many candidates. This possibility is exacerbated with Angle in the race. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and state Republican chair Mark Amodei are other potential GOP candidates.

The Nevada Republican Party is threatening a lawsuit over Miller’s ruling, but it will be difficult for them to prevail in court. It is hard to see how a judge will overturn an administrative decision that opens an electoral process to all people. The filing period is scheduled for May 23-25. Miller says all legal challenges must be decided by July 15 for his office to have the necessary time to conduct the Sept. 13 election.
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Special Election Tightens in NY’s 26th

The Republicans have had a poor run in upstate New York special elections during the past election cycle, and the new one being held later this month (May 24th) has just returned closer-than-expected results in the first public poll. Siena College (April 26-27; 484 likely NY-26 special election voters), located north of Albany, NY, and which conducts political polling on a regular basis, shows Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin with only a 5-point lead over Democratic nominee Kathy Hochul (36-31% percent. But, the bigger story is the performance of Independent Jack Davis who captures 23 percent. Davis is running under the misleading party label that he simply lists as “Tea.”

Jack Davis is a wealthy businessman who has run for Congress three times as a Democrat. He started campaigning in 2004 when he held incumbent Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY-26) to a 49-39 percent win. He tried again in 2006 and scored his best performance, coming within four points of Reynolds, 48-52 percent, and hastening the congressman’s decision not to seek re-election in 2008. With a contested Democratic Party fight for the open seat primary, Davis lost badly in a multi-candidate race to attorney Alice Kryzan, who subsequently failed in the general election as businessman Christopher Lee won the seat.

It may be Davis’ victory in the courtroom that best defines his political career, however. The frequent candidate challenged the so-called “millionaires’ amendment” in the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, and was victorious in removing the provision from the federal statute. The millionaires’ amendment allowed a candidate to raise contributions in amounts triple the federal individual limits if a congressional race opponent spent $350,000 of his or her own money. Davis, a multi-millionaire who has spent a total of $7.43 million in personal funds over his three campaigns, argued that such an amendment is unconstitutional. The courts agreed.

Now in a special election after Rep. Lee resigned to avoid making public a personal scandal and knowing that he would never be chosen by Democratic Party leaders as their nominee, Davis entered the race via petition signature as an Independent. In New York, an Independent can describe themselves with a label on the ballot, and Davis chose the word “Tea.” Obviously, this was done to make him an attractive option to Tea Party voters, a group that could make a difference in a special election for this district. His move is disingenuous, however, since Davis has run from the left in his previous campaigns.

Vowing to avoid the divisiveness that cost the party dearly in the previous special elections, the Republicans and Conservatives both endorsed Assemblywoman Corwin even before Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) officially scheduled the special election. But now Davis is apparently causing another dicey three-way race.

Can Jack Davis confuse enough voters with his “Tea” label to bring Jane Corwin down? While his better-than-expected showing in the first poll is certainly a nuisance to, and will undoubtedly cause a strategy shift for Corwin, enough time remains to dispel his candidacy and unite the right-of-center base. Assemblywoman Corwin is still in the driver’s seat for the May 24th special election and she remains the favorite to hold this seat in the Republican column.
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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.