Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Weekend House Happenings

Much House political action occurred over the weekend while the debt-limit debate was grabbing so much attention. The release of the amended California redistricting map clarifies several Golden State political situations, assuming these new congressional boundaries are officially adopted Aug. 15 (we will have a full analysis of the substantial changes in the California map as part of tomorrow’s Redistricting Report). We also witnessed developments in Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

Now that the California map is becoming more entrenched, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) announced that he will seek re-election in the new 9th district, formerly referred to as the San Joaquin Valley district. While he represents some of this district today, his political base is on the Bay Area side of his current region. This territory now finds itself in Rep. Pete Stark’s (D-CA-13) new 15th district. Thus, McNerney could either primary Stark in a district more familiar to him, or be the sole incumbent in the San Joaquin Valley seat. He chose the latter. President Obama broke 57 percent in this district, so the general election outcome will clearly favor the Democrats. Mr. McNerney is vulnerable in the Democratic primary, thus making his re-nomination less than certain.

In the previous map, Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) were paired with no adjacent escape district. That has now changed, as the map amendments give both their own districts. Becerra is placed in the new 34th; Roybal-Allard in the new 40th. Newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36) now finds herself as the odd-member-out. Hahn has only bad choices in that she will almost assuredly find herself pitted against another incumbent. The most logical move for her is to run in new District 44, but that seat is only 10 percent Anglo and she will likely have to face Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) who is moving over from the Long Beach Port district (now the 47th).

Texas, the big winner in reapportionment by gaining four seats, also saw some congressional action over this past weekend. Former railroad commissioner Michael Williams (R), who left his position to run for the Senate, may make yet another course change. Originally abandoning his Senate bid to run for the new Parker/Tarrant Counties 33rd district, he now says he may move a bit to the south and run in new District 25. Former Secretary of State Roger Williams also dropped out of the Senate race and into House District 33 and his campaign war chest is robust. Michael Williams, should he make this second move, would find himself challenging area state legislators for the congressional nomination. It will be a safe Republican seat in the general election.

Turning to the Beaumont area, former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 & 22) originally said he was thinking of launching a comeback in the new District 14, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), because there is a large amount of overlap between this seat and the one he formerly represented from 1997-2005. He then went on to clarify that he is also thinking about new District 36, which is not a direct overlay, but resembles a horseshoe that travels around his previous district. Republicans have a plurality of support in both seats.

In North Carolina, responding to the new redistricting plan that made Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D-NC-11) seat the most Republican in the state, the congressman made it clear over the weekend that he will run for re-election. Speculation was rampant that Shuler could become the athletic director at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, particularly after he received such a politically unfavorable congressional district. Rep. Shuler’s press secretary released a statement saying the congressman never wanted, nor was ever approached about, the AD slot at the University and he is unequivocal in his desire to run for Congress next year. The statement did not say he would run in new District 11, however. There has been further speculation that he could challenge Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) because much of Shuler’s Asheville Democratic base now resides in the 10th district. Ironically, McHenry’s district is slightly more Democratic than Shuler’s. In either place, Mr. Shuler faces a very difficult re-election campaign.

Finally, former Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1) made a statement over the weekend that he will likely run for his old seat in 2012 regardless of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s (D-HI-1) intentions. The freshman congresswoman is still a potential Senate candidate but is more likely to seek re-election. After his defeat in 2010, Djou said he would never run for another political office. He is also mentioned as a potential Senate candidate if former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) does not run.
___________________________________________________
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 PR***@pe*******************.com.

Senate Financials Tell Interesting Stories

The second quarter US Senate financial disclosure summaries are now available and in almost all cases, the incumbents have prepared adequately for their re-election campaigns. Obviously, the size of the state dictates the money range needed to run a viable effort, so the benchmark cash on hand figures differ greatly. All in-cycle incumbents have more than $1.5 million in assets with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who possesses $1.279 million. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) has the most money in the bank, $9.628 million. The next closest cash on hand figure is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) $6.057 million.

The only incumbent with less cash on hand than a challenger is Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) has $2.476 million in her campaign account versus Heller’s $2.272 million. The comparison is a bit unfair, however, because Heller is an appointed incumbent, replacing the resigned Sen. John Ensign (R). Therefore, his Senate incumbency is short-lived and should not be measured comparably to the other in-cycle full-term Senators.

The Senate incumbents having the strongest fundraising cycle to date are Scott Brown ($3.739 million), Bill Nelson ($3.695 million), and Democrat New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ($3.581 million). The strongest open seat/challenger fundraisers are Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who still has yet to announce his Senate candidacy, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), who is seeking retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) open seat, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) challenging one-term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Mandel raised $2.339 million, Murphy $2.012 million, and Rehberg $1.964 million.

The fundraising and resource components provide some idea as to how competitive some of the projected close races might become. Sen. Nelson, for example, continues to prove he is in solid shape by every measuring instrument. His $6.057 million cash on hand is more than seven times as great as his closest financial opponent, GOP former interim Sen. George LeMieux. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), commonly viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election, raised only $111,000 more than Attorney General Jon Bruning, but leads his chief Republican opponent $2.916 million to $1.265 million in the cash on hand category.

The competitive race that is proving to be the closest, at least in resources, is the Nevada Senate race. There Rep. Berkley shows $2.476 million compared with Sen. Heller’s $2.272 million cash on hand. This race could turn out to be the most hotly contested in the country. Nevada is a tight swing state, both candidates are equally well-known, and they both possess the same quantity of campaign resources. With turnout expected to be high in the presidential election year, the final wave will likely decide this campaign. The same can be said for the Virginia Senate race. There, former Sen. George Allen (R) has raised $2.615 million with $1.649 million on hand. Tim Kaine, the former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, has raised a similar, but smaller, $2.266 million but has slightly more in the bank, $1.875 million.

As we know, finance tells only part of any political story, but no one denies that the dollar count is a highly important factor of any campaign effort.

Below is a link to a PDF spreadsheet containing the relevant financial numbers for all 33 Senate races being contested in 2012. The only state not recording any figures is Wisconsin. Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, and no one has yet formally declared their candidacy for the open seat.

Candidate Financials: Senate Financial Disclosure – 2nd Qtr 2011
___________________________________________________
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 PR***@pe*******************.com.

Michigan’s Sen. Stabenow Unfazed

Last week the big news emanating from Michigan was that former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) had changed his mind about entering the Senate race and will challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year, after all. Public Policy Polling immediately decided to survey Wolverine State voters to see what effect the Hoekstra candidacy will have on the race.

At least in the preliminary stages, the answer is: very little.

Stabenow has consistently enjoyed double-digit leads against all potential Republican candidates, but none have Hoekstra’s qualifications. According to PPP (July 21-24; 593 registered Michigan voters) Sen. Stabenow enjoys a 50-41 percent lead over the former congressman and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, not quite double-digits, but far beyond the margin of error.

The PPP poll is also reporting that neither candidate has particularly strong approval ratings. The senator scored only a 46:40 percent favorable to unfavorable, weak for an incumbent but much better than the EPIC-MRA poll (July 9-11; 600 registered Michigan voters) where she recorded a poor 38:51 percent rating. Hoekstra’s personal image proved weak on the latest survey, scoring only a 31:30 percent positive to negative response.

The Republicans had hoped to put the Michigan Senate race into serious play after their strong 2010 success in the state, and still might, but their challenge effort is off to a slow start. The GOP will now put all their eggs in Mr. Hoekstra’s basket in hopes that he can quickly position himself into upset range. This race merits a “watch” rating.
___________________________________________________
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 PR***@pe*******************.com.

Indiana Poll Shows Indiana’s Lugar Trailing in Primary

A new small-sample poll (July 23-24; 500 likely Indiana GOP primary voters) forecasts six-term Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar (R) to be trailing his Republican primary opponent for the first time. According to Basswood Research, conducting the survey for the Club for Growth (which claims not to be currently endorsing anyone in this race but cannot be considered favorable toward Sen. Lugar), state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) has a 34-32 percent lead over the incumbent with a huge 34 percent responding as undecided.

The poll also asked their respondents to answer the following question: “Would you say the following statement is true or untrue? Richard Lugar has done some good things for Indiana, but after 35 years in Washington, it’s time for a change.” In a most troubling result for the Senator, 69 percent of the Republican polling sample answered “True.”

Mourdock has only raised money in the $300,000 range for the campaign, but independent expenditure and issue advocacy groups like the Club for Growth will bring added resources to the Lugar challenge. A poll that shows the incumbent polling only at 32 percent, regardless of the opponent’s level of support, is a sure sign of serious political weakness.

Democrats have their own credible candidate in the person of Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). Should the Republican primary turn ugly and Lugar or Mourdock win a close and divisive nomination, Donnelly could be well-positioned to pick up the pieces and snatch the seat away from the Republicans in the general election.

Much will happen here in the remaining ten months before the Indiana primary.
___________________________________________________
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 PR***@pe*******************.com.

Poll Showed Constituents Turning Against Rep. Wu

Oregon Congressional Districts (govtrack.us)

Oregon Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1), the embattled federal politician who has been accused of having mental illness and now of sexually harassing an 18-year-old girl, has succumbed to public pressure and will resign from the House, he announced yesterday.

Several prominent Portland area Democrats had already announced their intentions to challenge the congressman and had initiated campaign operations. Despite facing multiple candidates in an electoral situation with no run-off, usually a favorable situation for even a highly vulnerable incumbent, Wu appeared headed for defeat next year. Now with the House Ethics Committee beginning an investigation into his latest controversy, Wu decided to end his congressional career. He says he will leave office after the current debt ceiling votes are complete.

Survey USA reported the findings of their most recent poll (500 OR-1 registered voters), which was conducted Monday. The results showed super majorities turning on Wu. His favorability ratio is an abysmal 10:73 percent; 75 percent believe he should leave office; and 70 percent say he would not be an effective congressman even if he were to continue in office.

Oregon’s 1st Congressional District covers the northwestern corner of the state, encompassing four complete counties and part of Multnomah, which houses the major city of Portland. The district gave President Obama 61 percent of its votes in 2008. Democratic presidential nominees Al Gore (2000) and John Kerry (2004) carried the region with more modest 50-44 and 55-44 percent margins, respectively. The new Oregon redistricting plan keeps most of OR-1 in tact.

A special election will be called to fill the remainder of Wu’s final term. Prior to the resignation announcement, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Rep. Brad Witt, and businessman Stephan Brodhead were all announced Democratic candidates. It is presumed the trio will run in the special election, along with several more individuals. Democrats will hold the seat.
___________________________________________________
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 PR***@pe*******************.com.

Ross, Wu to Retire

Two more Democratic House members announced they will not seek re-election in 2012, but for very different reasons.

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4), first elected in 2000 and whose eyes are set on a gubernatorial run in 2014, announced yesterday that he will end his congressional career when the current term concludes. The 4th district was made more competitive in redistricting, so not seeking re-election and possibly risking a closer result than in 2010 (Ross’ margin over Republican Beth Anne Rankin was 57-40 percent) will not weaken his standing in the gubernatorial contest. Already, several Democratic and Republican state and local office holders are expressing interest in running for the new open seat. The succeeding campaign will likely be highly competitive.

In Oregon, Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1) who had been the subject of news stories questioning his mental health and now facing an ethics probe of sexual harassment accusations says he won’t seek re-election in 2012. It was clear that Mr. Wu is in a weakened political state, but the large number of Democrats publicly contemplating filing against him could have allowed him to slip through with a small plurality of support since the anti-Wu voters would be split. Expect many Democratic candidates to file in this new open seat.

The Democrats will retain the district as it is unlikely to become competitive even in an incumbent-less race.
___________________________________________________
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 PR***@pe*******************.com.

Second Quarter House Financial Reports Show Interesting Developments

The 2nd quarter Federal Election Commission financial reports are now available for public inspection and, after a thorough analysis of the numbers, we find some interesting points.

A total of 255 House candidates exceeded $250,000 in gross receipts for the 2012 election cycle, through June 30, as reported after July 15. Only 25 of those individuals, however, are non-incumbents. This is a low number of challengers and open seat contestants to have currently reached the quarter-million-dollar mark. This is largely explained by highlighting the fact that 2011 is a redistricting year and most of the states have not yet completed the re-map process for the ensuing decade. Therefore, 2012 races will invariably evolve as late-developing campaigns, since many state legislative leaders — Florida being the most important example — have already publicly stated that they will not even begin their redistricting consideration until early next year.

Of the 96 members of the 2010 freshmen class, 92 of whom had not previously served in the House, 54 broke the $250,000 mark in finances raised. Three individuals included in the spreadsheet linked below report participated in 2011 special elections. Three more of the listed candidates are competing in new districts, created via reapportionment and redistricting (two in Texas; one in Washington state), even though the seat has either not yet been drawn or awaits approval from the Justice Department.

The four largest fundraisers who are not members of party leadership, nor major committee chairmen, nor running for President are representatives Allen West (R-FL-22), collecting $2.076 million ($1.266 cash on hand); Tom Latham (R-IA-3), $1.003 million ($1.471 million CoH); Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12), $1.039 million ($1.481 CoH); and Diane Black (R-TN-6), $1.224 million raised ($325,987 cash on hand).

Mr. West will face a difficult re-election in a marginal district that is not yet drawn. Mr. Latham is paired with fellow Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) in what looks to be a very tough contest for both men. Mr. Tiberi has a difficult redistricting process to deal with, as Ohio loses two congressional seats and his current district is expected to radically change. Finally, Ms. Black, who should have clear political sailing ahead for the foreseeable future, raises copious amounts of money through direct mail, thus explaining her high number of gross receipts but low cash-on-hand ratio.

That aforementioned spreadsheet listing of the candidates’ financial summaries is linked after this paragraph (a PDF document). Any incumbent or candidate not reaching $250,000 in receipts is excluded. Those incumbents who have announced they will not be seeking re-election, inclusive of those running for higher office, are also not listed in this accounting of House members and candidates.

LINK: House Financials 2nd Qtr 2011

NOTE: If spreadsheet is not viewable, please send an email note to: ji******@pr******.com. We will then send you an Excel spreadsheet containing the data.
___________________________________________________
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 PR***@pe*******************.com.