Monthly Archives: July 2011

Rep. Kildee’s Retirement Should Not Affect Balance

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI-5)

The number of open 2012 US House campaigns grew to 30 over the weekend. Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI-5), who turns 82 years old in September, announced his retirement, saying he will bring his 36-year congressional career to a close when the current Congress ends. Prior to joining the House of Representatives Mr. Kildee spent 12 years in the Michigan state legislature, meaning he has been an elected public official for 48 consecutive years. He becomes the 18th sitting Representative to announce intentions not to seek re-election. Fifteen of these members are running for a different office. Kildee and Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) and Dan Boren (D-OK-2) are retiring from politics. An additional 12 new seats are created via reapportionment.

Michigan Democrats should easily retain the new 5th district because it was designed as a safe seat for Kildee, anchored in the congressman’s home town of Flint. It’s the third most under-populated seat in the state, however, needing to gain 70,845 people.

The new CD 5 will contain four complete counties, Genesee (Flint), Bay (Bay City, bordering Lake Huron Bay in the Thumb Area of Michigan), Arenac, and Iosco. The district also encompasses parts of Saginaw and Tuscola counties. The 64 percent Obama score in 2008 will remain relatively intact, thus removing it from any practical general election competition. Mr. Kildee’s 53-44 winning percentage in 2010 was down from his average of 71.5 percent over his past 17 congressional elections. The new seat is unlikely to get any closer from a partisan perspective, and will probably remain that way for the balance of the new electoral decade.

The Democrats have many choices to replace the outgoing incumbent, including his nephew, Dan Kildee, who is a former Genesee County Treasurer, County Commissioner, and Flint School Board member. He was a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010 for a short time, but dropped out of the race prior to filing time.

Former Lt. Gov. John Cherry, is from this congressional district and would be a strong candidate should he decide to enter the federal race. He also declined to run for governor even though he appeared to be the consensus Democratic candidate when he decided to discontinue his fledging campaign.

Ex-Rep. Jim Barcia (D-MI-5), hailing from Bay City, served in the House for five terms beginning in 1993. He was redistricted out of his 5th district in the 2001 reapportionment (at that time, Mr. Kildee represented District 9) and proceeded to win election to the state Senate where he served the maximum two four-year terms. The MI-5 Democratic primary base vote is centered in Flint, so any candidate hailing from Bay City has an uphill climb to win the party nomination.

Genesee County Treasurer and former state Sen. Deborah Cherry, sister to the former lieutenant governor, is another potential Democratic congressional candidate. Presumably, the political brother and sister combination would not run against each other in the congressional race, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the two eventually enter the field of contenders.

Republican state Sen. Roger Kahn, also from Saginaw, is the most frequently mentioned GOP potential candidate.

Mr. Kildee’s retirement will not alter the balance of power in the House because the eventual MI-5 Democratic is a virtual lock to win the seat in the general election.
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The House Open Seats

As we approach the midway point in the national redistricting process, it is a good time to check the status of the House open seats. Because reapportionment creates a dozen new seats, the incumbent-less district count is already 29. An average election cycle features about 35 open seats, although the last two elections have broken the 40 mark. Should the proposed maps in California and North Carolina pass, at least three more vacancies will be added to the 2012 total. And if Utah Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) along with Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) run statewide, as they are considering, then three more would be added.

To review, the following are the announced open seats:

AZ-6 Jeff Flake (R) Running for Senate
AZ-9 New Seat
CA-6 Lynn Woolsey (D) Retirement
CA-51 Bob Filner (D) Running for San Diego Mayor
CT-5 Chris Murphy (D) Running for Senate
FL-26 New Seat
FL-27 New Seat
GA-14 New Seat
HI-2 Mazie Hirono (D) Running for Senate
IN-2 Joe Donnelly (D) Running for Senate
IN-6 Mike Pence (R) Running for Governor
MO-2 Todd Akin (R) Running for Senate
MT-AL Denny Rehberg (R) Running for Senate
NV-1 Shelley Berkley (D) Running for Senate
NV-2 Vacant Rep. Dean Heller appointed to Senate
NV-4 New Seat
NM-1 Martin Heinrich (D) Running for Senate
NY-9 Vacant Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned
ND-AL Rick Berg (R) Running for Senate
OK-2 Dan Boren (D) Retirement
SC-7 New Seat
TX-14 Ron Paul (R) Running for President
TX-33 New Seat
TX-34 New Seat
TX-35 New Seat
TX-36 New Seat
UT-4 New Seat
WA-1 Jay Inslee (D) Running for Governor
WA-10 New Seat

Of the 29 open districts, 12 are new seats, nine current incumbents are running for Senate, two are running for governor, another pair are retiring from politics, one is seeking the U.S. Presidency, and one more is running for mayor of San Diego. Two members resigned their seats; one because of being appointed to the Senate; one due to scandal. Nine of the vacating incumbents are Democrats, six are Republicans. The two vacant seats split evenly, one from each party.

Most of the current seats will stay within the designated party control, but at least six (IN-2, Donnelly; MT-AL, Rehberg; NV-2, Vacant – special election Sept. 13; NM-1, Heinrich; OK-2, Boren; and TX-14, Paul) will likely join the competitive ranks.

With already a large number of open seats in the 2012 election cycle, it would not be surprising to see the total number approach 50 before filing closes in each of the states. Should this happen, added to the 97 members currently serving their first term, a full one-third of the House will have two terms of seniority or less in the next Congress.
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Poll Shows Utah’s Hatch Teetering

Public Policy Polling (July 8-10; 732 registered Utah voters) just confirmed the results of another Beehive State poll conducted last month. Both sets of data show six-term Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) facing serious re-election competition for the first time since originally winning his seat back in 1976. In fact, the new PPP data actually shows Hatch trailing Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) by a single point in a hypothetical general election showdown, 44-45 percent.

It was perceived that the senator’s toughest battle would come in the Republican nominating convention should Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) launch an intra-party challenge against him. Earlier polling predicted that Hatch would cruise to the nomination and re-election if he at least secured second ballot position at the convention. Now, the new polls suggest that every phase of his re-election battle is tight.

Neither Matheson nor Chaffetz has said definitively that they will run for the Senate. Matheson, the lone Democratic federal office holder in this most Republican of states, says he will be on the Utah ballot in 2012, but he is not sure for what office. He could certainly seek re-election, though the GOP map drawers will undoubtedly make his already strongly conservative district even more Republican. He confirms considering running for Senate, while also not ruling out challenging GOP Gov. Gary Herbert. Chaffetz, too, is undecided about whether to run. Unlike Matheson, he likely will receive a safe seat in redistricting, meaning the two-term congressman’s political risk might be greater than his Democratic colleague. A Matheson-Chaffetz race was also tested and the Democrat led that pairing by an even greater 47-42 percent margin. The 2012 Utah Senate race must now be considered officially competitive.
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Ron Paul Won’t Seek Re-election

Presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX-14) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to the House in 2012 regardless of how his long-shot presidential campaign turns out. Mr. Paul was originally elected to the House of Representatives in April 1976, winning a special election from his southeastern Texas suburban/rural combination seat. He then went on to lose the regular election later that year to Democrat Bob Gammage, as Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter carried Texas against President Gerald Ford. Two years later, Mr. Paul defeated Rep. Gammage and held onto the seat until 1984, when he vacated it to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. He returned to the House in 1996 from the Victoria-anchored seat, just southwest of his previous district. He defeated Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Greg Laughlin in the latter’s first primary election as a member of the GOP. Mr. Paul has held the seat ever since.

The new redistricting plan took large portions of Rep. Paul’s current 14th district and moved it to the new 27th CD, thus giving freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) more Republican territory. This takes the new 14th closer to Houston and changes the rural complexion of the seat, making it more suburban and Democratic, though it still should elect a Republican in virtually every election. With the Victoria portion of the seat now removed, the new 14th encompasses part of Paul’s home county of Brazoria, then moves further northward to gain parts of Galveston and Jefferson Counties (Beaumont), a region that has never been particularly kind to Republicans. In an open seat situation, Democrats chances of winning improve.

Since Mr. Paul is announcing his plans long before the December filing deadline, Republicans will have every opportunity to find a candidate that has appeal across the political spectrum. The new 14th district, even as a 2012 open seat, is still decidedly Republican, though competitive, but the eventual GOP nominee will get a bump in a region where President Obama is not likely to perform well.
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Hahn Wins in California’s 36th CD Special Election

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) won the special election for the right to succeed resigned Rep. Jane Harman (D) last night, though the margin suggests a potentially tough battle next year for the full term in a different Palos Verdes Peninsula-anchored district. Hahn scored a 55-45 percent victory over Republican businessman Craig Huey, a rather uninspiring win for a Democrat in a seat that gave 64 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2008 and saw only one national Republican candidate, George W. Bush in 2004, even reach the 40 percent plateau for a presidential election.

Mr. Huey, for his part, out-performed all expectations from the very start of this campaign. Barely qualifying for the special general under California’s new “top-two” election law – the two highest vote-getters in a primary election, regardless of political party affiliation advance to the final vote – Huey ran a better campaign than expected and is relatively well-positioned for a regular election campaign in the post-redistricting seat.

The California Citizens Commission on Redistricting crafted a proposed district for the South Bay region in Los Angeles County that is more favorable for the Republicans, even though the Democrats should continue to win here. The new district, as drawn but not yet adopted, is about 10 points more Republican than the current 2001 version. Since Huey came within 10 points of beating Ms. Hahn in the overwhelmingly Democratic seat, he has to be considered as a legitimate threat to unseat her in the more competitive district next year, assuming he again becomes a candidate.

The turnout for the special election was 76,221 voters, or 21.9 percent of those registered to vote. That number is expected to grow as California normally receives a large number of mail-in votes that will be counted post-election. The new House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two vacancies. The next two special elections in NV-2 and NY-9 will both occur Sept. 13.
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