Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 36 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. During the past week significant action occurred only in Minnesota, but the state Supreme Court ruling ended the process by adopting a final map.

Here’s an update of where things stand with the states followed by a briefing on the action in Minnesota:

Congressional Redistricting Now Completed (36):

Alabama Idaho Michigan Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Illinois Minnesota Oklahoma Washington
Arizona Indiana Mississippi Oregon West Virginia
California Iowa Missouri Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Colorado Louisiana Nebraska Rhode Island
Connecticut Maine Nevada South Carolina
Georgia Maryland New Jersey Tennessee
Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico Utah

Plans Awaiting Governor’s Signature (1):
Kentucky

Court Maps to be Drawn (1):
Texas

Completed Plans; Litigation Underway (2):
Florida
North Carolina

Legislative Action Underway (3):
Kansas
New Hampshire
New York

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a new set of congressional districts that will likely stand for the next 10 years. The state holds the 435th seat in the House, since they missed losing a district by only 13,000 people under the 2010 reapportionment formula calculations. As you can see when looking at the two Minneapolis-St. Paul seat statistics (Districts 4 and 5), the majority of the state’s population loss comes from its twin cities. Conversely, the growth is found in the two suburban Republican seats, CDs 2 and 6. Therefore, the Minnesota individual congressional district population target is a low 662,991.

As a result of continuing to maintain eight districts, the high court adopted a “least change” map, as you can see from the following statistics:
MN-1 – Rep Tim Walz-D: 9.97% new territory; needed to gain 18,204 people
MN-2 – Rep. John Kline-R: 13.44% new territory; needed to shed 69,524
MN-3 – Rep Erik Paulsen-R: 8.95% new territory; needed to gain 12,806 people
MN-4 – Rep. Betty McCollum-D: 17.46% new turf; needed to gain 48,367
MN-5 – Rep. Keith Ellison-D: 7.02% new territory; needed to gain 46,509
MN-6 – Rep. Michele Bachmann-R: 5.23% new turf; needed to shed 95,487
MN-7 – Rep. Collin Peterson-D: 6.05% new turf; needed to gain 37,479 people
MN-8 – Rep. Chip Cravaack-R: 0.40% new territory; needed to gain 2,649

All of the MN districts changed very little in partisan terms, too. Arguably, the big winner was Rep. Michele Bachmann, as her 6th District sees a net gain of four Republican percentage points. She retains 94.8% of her current district but, unfortunately, she lives in the 5.23% of the district that went to another seat. Her home now resides in Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th District. Under federal law congressional candidates are not required to live in their districts hence, Ms. Bachmann has already announced for re-election in the new 6th.

With the map remaining in about the same position as it was during the last decade, we can again expect to see a Minnesota political playing field that is open to competition in potentially five of its eight seats. Should Rep. Peterson retire or run for a different office, then an open MN-7 seat would become a potential GOP conversion opportunity.

Is Kerrey In After All?

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), who hasn’t lived in Nebraska since leaving office in early 2001, may be reconsidering the decision he made two weeks ago to jettison a political comeback attempt in the Cornhusker State. Kerrey is reportedly now telling Democratic leaders that he has changed his mind and will enter the race as a candidate for the Senate. The former Senator served two terms from 1989 through 2001. Prior to his service in Washington, Mr. Kerrey logged one term as Nebraska’s governor. In 1992, he ran an ill-fated campaign for president.

The Kerrey decision may be more than simple equivocation, however. This could be a well-planned and shrewd move. Under Nebraska’s candidate filing law, current office holders must file for re-election or another office by Feb. 15 during this particular election cycle. Non-office holders have until March 1. The unique law allowed Kerrey the luxury of standing back to see what popular Gov. Dave Heineman (R) actually decided about his own Senatorial candidacy. Heineman never appeared serious about running for federal office, but he also failed to publicly close the door on a bid. Polling showed that the governor would be the strongest candidate in either party.

With Heineman out and no strong Democrat on the horizon, the way is clear for Kerrey to return to political action. Should he run, he will face either Attorney General Jon Bruning or state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the general election. Even against Kerrey, the Republicans still might have a slight edge. With Sen. Ben Nelson (D) retiring, the GOP is in prime conversion position as President Obama, at the top of the ticket, is not projected to run strong here. The Nebraska seat is critical for both parties in terms of winning majority status.

Super Tuesday: Ohio Races

Super Tuesday marks not only an important day for the Republican presidential campaign, but also kicks off the 2012 congressional elections. Ohio holds its statewide vote on that date, making it the earliest congressional vote in the nation. Originally Texas also was scheduled for March 6, but legal wrangling over redistricting has postponed that primary to much later in the year.

Of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, a trio of Ohio US House primary contests will, for all intents and purposes, elect new members for the 113th Congress next week:

OH-2: The Schmidt Challenge

In the Cincinnati-anchored 2nd District, four-term Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) faces surgeon Brad Wenstrup and two other minor Republican candidates. Wenstrup challenged Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory in 2009 and managed to score 46 percent of the citywide vote. He has not been particularly aggressive in this race against Rep. Schmidt, however, raising slightly under $245,000 for his primary challenge according to the pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing that was due Feb. 15. As revealed in the report, he had only $103,000 left to spend for the final drive. Schmidt, on the other hand, had raised just under $600,000 for the race.

Though Wenstrup has an apparent base in the eastern part of Cincinnati, an area he carried in the mayoral race and which is part of the new OH-2 congressional district, he has little presence in the six rural southwestern Ohio counties that comprise the remainder of the seat. Though Schmidt has never fully solidified her hold on the 2nd District since her original 2005 special election victory when she replaced Sen. Rob Portman (R) as he departed Congress to become President George W. Bush’s US trade ambassador and then budget director, she should comfortably turn back the Wenstrup challenge.

OH-3: Will Kilroy Return?

Turning to the new 3rd District in Columbus, former one-term Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) is attempting to return to Congress in this newly created, heavily Democratic district. In the 2001 redistricting plan, there was no planned Democratic seat in the Columbus area, an odd situation for a major city that has, as the state capital, a large government employee population and hosts a major university (Ohio State). As a result, two seats that were originally intended for Republican incumbents were becoming highly competitive. The 2011 Republican redistricting plan to concede a new open Columbus seat to the Democrats allows the GOP to protect both the 12th (Rep. Pat Tiberi) and the 15th CDs (Rep. Steve Stivers) for the ensuing decade.

Such being the case, next Tuesday’s election will choose the new 3rd District member. Kilroy is being challenged by former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, now in an administration position at Ohio State, and state Rep. Ted Celeste, the brother of former Gov. Richard Celeste.

Kilroy released an early poll giving her a huge lead, but Beatty countered last week saying her internal Public Policy Polling survey places her just one point behind the former congresswoman 34-35 percent. Beatty did not release the actual PPP study, however, so it is difficult to determine its methodology and questionnaire. Celeste is a distant third in all scenarios.

Ms. Beatty, an African-American in a district where blacks account for more than 28 percent of the population and a much greater percentage in a Democratic primary, is a substantial candidate and a threat to derail Kilroy’s comeback attempt. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, himself once mentioned as a possible candidate for this congressional seat, has endorsed Beatty, which may prove important in terms of turning out the primary vote.

OH-9: Kaptur vs. Kucinich

The new 9th District, which stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along the Lake Erie shoreline, features a Democratic paired-incumbent contest between Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich.

Kaptur represents at least 100,000 additional constituents in the new 9th than does Kucinich. While keeping the larger Cuyahoga communities of Parma (population 77,274) and Lakewood (50,251), Kucinich loses North Olmstead (31,053), Westlake (30,331), and Garfield Heights (27,479). Kaptur, on the other hand, retains her entire Toledo (316,238 inhabitants) base. She also keeps Ottawa and Erie Counties, as well.

Though Kucinich has raised more money during the current election cycle than did Kaptur ($965,000 to $370,000), she has a very large cash-on-hand advantage, due to her many years of service on the important appropriations committee.

Endorsements favor Kaptur. Never representing any part of the Cleveland metropolitan area, the congresswoman has won the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper endorsement. This is likely due more to Kucinich’s unpopularity than Kaptur’s positive image but, regardless, this is an important endorsement in a Democratic primary. She also receives public support from Republican former senator and governor George Voinovich. This carries some weight, even in a Democratic primary, because Voinovich was the Mayor of Cleveland before running statewide. His imprimatur provides her one more Cleveland credential. Conversely, Kucinich has been endorsed by the Cuyahoga Democratic Club, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, singer Willie Nelson, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4), thus indicating the flavor of the campaign.

Kucinich also is drawing flack about his foray into running from another state. When the national reapportionment was announced and it became known just how poorly Ohio fared, Kucinich, knowing that his seat would become a redistricting casualty, stated that he would not run against another incumbent and actually started searching for open seats in Washington and Hawaii. He said he had done well in those two states during his presidential campaign, and thus had a base of support in each place. This bizarre idea quickly faded, and he “returned” to Cleveland to challenge another Democratic incumbent, after all. But the locals haven’t forgotten.

Now, in his first advertisement of the campaign, a radio ad running only in Cleveland, Kucinich actually attacks “Toledo politics” inferring that the city is corrupt – the place that is now the largest community in his new district.

With the March 6th primary election fast approaching, there is nothing to suggest that anything other than a convincing Kaptur victory will result. Considering Kucinich was only able to muster 50.32 percent of the 2008 Democratic primary vote against four opponents in his own CD-10, it becomes evident that even his Cuyahoga base is weak. It is already becoming clear that Dennis Kucinich will become the first incumbent electoral casualty of the 2012 election season.

Wisconsin Poll: Good for Obama, Bad for Baldwin

The Marquette Law School polled voters on the presidential race and upcoming open US Senate contest in what will be a pivotal 2012 political state. The survey (Feb. 16-19; 716 likely Wisconsin voters) finds President Obama faring well in at least one of several Great Lakes states that could foretell the final national election result.

According to the Marquette survey, Obama would lead former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who does best among the Republican contenders, by a 51-40 percent margin. He enjoys a 53-38 percent edge over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and even larger spreads when paired with ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (56-33 percent) and Rep. Ron Paul (52-36 percent).

Zeroing in on the Republican primary, it is Santorum who has a big lead in a state that will likely matter greatly in the GOP nomination contest (primary: April 3). The Pennsylvanian leads Romney 34-18 percent. Rep. Paul attracts 17 percent support and Gingrich 12 percent. Since the state has same-day voter registration and an open primary, all Wisconsinites will have the opportunity to participate in the Republican selection process. In sampling those who self-identify as Republicans, Santorum’s lead over Romney is even greater. Among this group, support for Santorum more than doubles over that for Romney, 44-20 percent.

Turning to the Senate race, the news is not overly good for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), who is the consensus Democratic candidate. Though Baldwin actually leads two of the three announced Republican candidates (she slips past former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) 44-40 percent and enjoys a bigger edge, 45-37 percent, over state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald) her level of consistent support in all scenarios suggests a stagnant candidacy. When paired with former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, she trails. The former Wisconsin chief executive holds a 48-42 percent lead over Ms. Baldwin.

Notice that in all instances, even against Mr. Fitzgerald who has a low statewide name ID and fares the worst of all GOP candidates on the ballot test, the congresswoman falls within the same 42-45 percent support range. Opposing an extremely well-known Republican, but one with relatively high unfavorable ratings (Thompson), she scores 42 percent. Against an opponent with a hard name ID factor of less than 50 percent (Fitzgerald), she moves only to 45 percent. Paired with a former congressman and statewide candidate (Neumann) who hasn’t been on a general election ballot since 1998, she notches just 44 percent.

Her static performance against a rather diverse group of Republican candidates suggests that she may have an early support ceiling far below what will be necessary to win a general election.

Adding the recall election for Gov. Scott Walker (R) that will occur sometime between April and June, depending upon the resolution of several legal challenges to the presidential and senatorial contests, Wisconsin promises to be the hottest political state in the Union this year. How Wisconsin goes, so could the country.

Bachmann’s New District: Good News and Bad News

The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a least-change map of the state’s eight congressional districts this week, and in doing so dealt Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) – who, of course, came to fame in the presidential race – some very good news sprinkled with a little bit of bad.

The good news is that her 6th Congressional District, which needed to shed a whopping 96,487 people (this in a state that came within 15,000 individuals of losing a congressional district) becomes four points more Republican on the Obama 2008 scale, and she already represents 94.8 percent of the new seat. The bad news is that her home is in the 5.2 percent of the previous territory not included within the new CD. Therefore, she is technically paired with liberal Rep. Betty McCollum (D) in the new 4th District. This is a minor problem for Bachmann as federal law does not require a member of Congress, or candidate, to reside in the district in which they represent or seek election, and she has already publicly laid claim to the new 6th.

Though Minnesota has a primary, its strong party convention system generally designates the partisan nominees. Assuming Ms. Bachmann is in good standing with the 6th District state convention delegates, she should have little trouble in winning re-nomination. Since John McCain carried the new district by a 55-43 percent margin, she will be the odds-on favorite to rather easily secure a fourth term in November.

The Super Tuesday Scorecard

It’s quite possible that Super Tuesday, designed to give one presidential candidate a boost toward the eventual party nomination, may not be particularly definitive in 2012.

Initial polling has been published, or trends are clear, in nine of the 13 states hosting caucuses or primaries on or before Super Tuesday; the preliminary information suggests that the race will move toward the next group of states in close fashion.

Currently, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds definitive leads over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Ohio (66 delegates – 42-24 percent, Rasmussen Reports, Feb. 15), Oklahoma (40 delegates – 39-23 percent, The Sooner Poll, Feb. 8-16) and Washington (53 delegates – 38-27 percent, Public Policy Polling, Feb. 16-19). He also has a close lead in Michigan (30 delegates – 38-34 percent, Rasmussen, Feb. 20). The grand total of delegates apportioned in the aforementioned Santorum states is 189.

Romney has no published polling data for the states where he commands a definitive advantage with the exception of Virginia, but the outcomes are unquestioned. He will win his home state of Massachusetts (41 delegates), along with Vermont (17 delegates) and Virginia (49 delegates). He has a close lead in Arizona (29 delegates – 36-33 percent, PPP, Feb. 17-19).

The Old Dominion is becoming more important than originally projected. Christopher Newport University conducted a poll of Virginia Republican primary voters (Feb. 4-13) and found Romney leading Rep. Ron Paul 53-23 percent. Remember, only Romney and Paul qualified for the Virginia ballot, meaning one of the candidates will win a majority of the vote – almost assuredly Romney. Breaking 50 percent is important because under Virginia delegate apportionment rules, any candidate receiving a majority of the vote receives unanimous support from all 49 delegates. Therefore, the inability of Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to recruit enough petition signatures to participate in the Virginia primary will cost them dearly.

Adding the delegate contingents from the aforementioned Romney states produces an aggregate count of 136.

Georgia is now becoming extremely interesting. With the delegate penalty sanction assessed to Florida for its defiance of Republican National Committee rules, the Peach State now becomes the fourth-largest contingent with 76 delegates. According to a survey from the Atlanta-based Insider Advantage (Feb. 20), Gingrich leads his GOP opponents with 26 percent, but he is followed closely by Romney and Santorum with 24 and 23 percent, respectively. Therefore, it is clear that Georgia is anyone’s game. But, if the vote stays this evenly divided, the candidates will likely split the pool of delegates almost evenly, thereby giving no one a clear upper hand.

There is no available polling for Tennessee (47 delegates), or the caucus states of Alaska (27 delegates), Idaho (32 delegates) and North Dakota (28 delegates). Combined, states total 134 delegates – so far unaccounted for. The aggregate number of delegates contained in the universe of Super Tuesday and Super Tuesday cusp states is 535, or 23.4 percent of the entire Republican National Convention delegate universe.

It is reasonable to expect momentum to shift toward one candidate should either Santorum or Romney sweep the pre-Super Tuesday states of Michigan, Arizona, and Washington. If this happens, then Super Tuesday itself could become definitive after all.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 35 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, less significant action is occurring. During the past week, however, action occurred in the following five states:

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the Florida congressional map legislation, and the legal wrangling has already begun. Several lawsuits were filed. The Florida Supreme Court has approval authority over the process, so the court must determine if the legislature and governor enacted a legal plan. The unique problem with the Florida map concerns the wide criteria differences between the voter initiative passed in 2010 and the Voting Rights Act. The two measures appear to conflict in certain areas. The legal procedure will take some time and the plan just enacted will likely undergo at least some change. Still, this new 27-seat map will almost assuredly be the footprint for the final plan.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4D-4R) – The state court with redistricting jurisdiction, having to take action because the legislature and governor failed to agree upon congressional and legislative plans, is scheduled to unveil the final map later today. The big question concerns how freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) will fare since he represents a seat designed for Democrats. The other point of interest concerns Rep. Michele Bachmann’s 6th District now that she has exited the presidential race and announced her intention to seek re-election. More on this to come when the court makes their map public.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – A federal court judge has assembled a three-judge panel to begin redistricting consideration. The legislature has so far failed to produce any map, and a serious deadlock between the Democratic Assembly and the Republican state Senate remains unbroken. The map is difficult to draw from a partisan perspective. The greatest population loss is in the upstate Buffalo area, where Democrats must not only try to protect two veteran members, Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-27), but also must find a way to strengthen freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul’s (D-NY-26) seat that was won in a special election last year.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) – Though the congressional map has been enacted, a court has struck down the state legislative maps. It now appears that the April 24 primary, including the vote for president, could be endangered. If new legislative maps are not completed in time, this primary, too, may have to be moved to a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – As time passes and it appears there is no agreement in sight between Texas Democrats and Republicans on a new congressional map, the prospects of moving the primary to May 29 increases. Originally, the nominating vote was scheduled for March 6, and then moved to April 3 because of delays in configuring a legally acceptable final map. The May 29 date means the Texas run-off election will move to sometime in July or possibly August. It also remains to be decided if the state will hold two primaries, one for the presidential, statewide and possibly county races, and another for all elections involving districts. The expense of holding the two separate votes will likely be the key reason that keeps the primary unified.