Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Nevada Republicans Choose Amodei; Angle Waits in the Wings

Nevada's congressional districts.

The Nevada State Supreme Court will eventually decide if the Republican Party’s action taken this weekend has meaning. The GOP officials held a nominating convention on Saturday to choose a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District special election tentatively scheduled for September 13th.

In what constituted little surprise, former state party chairman Mark Amodei, who spent 12 years as a state legislator and briefly ran for US Senate in 2010, was selected as the Republican congressional nominee by the voting members. He easily defeated state Sen. Greg Brower and former Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold on the first ballot.

But, the nomination may become irrelevant. Soon after Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) was appointed to replace resigned Sen. John Ensign (R), Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that the special election process would be conducted as an open one-election contest in which all individuals desiring to run would qualify for the ballot. The Nevada Republican Party sued to overturn Miller’s decision, arguing that the ambiguous state election code pertaining to special election process – this is the first federal special election in Nevada’s history – actually allows the political parties to choose their own nominees. A lower court judge agreed with the Republican argument, hence the necessity for the state Supreme Court to become involved. The high court’s only action so far is to say that they may need more time to decide and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Sept. 13 election date schedule may have to be postponed.

The Nevada Democratic Party has yet to make any move vis-a-vis the special election and now find themselves facing a key decision. Officially backing Secretary of State Miller’s “battle royal” election format concept, the party may now be forced to caucus and nominate a candidate so that Amodei and the Republicans don’t gain a major advantage should the high court uphold the lower court ruling. If the Democrats do convene, state Treasurer Kate Marshall, already an announced congressional candidate, is the prohibitive favorite to receive the official party nod.

But the uncertainty for Amodei, in particular, won’t end with the Supreme Court ruling or even the special election itself. Sharron Angle, the former state assemblywoman who became the GOP 2010 Senatorial nominee only to lose to Majority Leader Harry Reid in the general election, was originally a candidate in the special election but has since withdrawn. She has the luxury of simply waiting for the regular election in the newly drawn seat to run either against a brand new Republican incumbent, now most likely Amodei should the GOP hold the seat in September or whenever the special is actually held, or a Democrat in what should be a Republican-leaning seat under the new redistricting plan.

Nevada’s congressional districts will change significantly because, as the fastest growing state in the nation, a new fourth district will be created as the result of reapportionment. Though the Democratic legislature and Republican governor drew to a stalemate over redistricting, meaning a court will now draw the final map, it is pretty clear that the city of Las Vegas will have two seats, rural Clark County (Las Vegas) and the central part of the state will occupy one, and the northern sector, the heart of the district in question, will comprise the new NV-2. The current district must shed 161,424 people, which is 24% above the new state CD population target of 675,138 individuals.

The winner of the special election will represent the current 2nd congressional district for the remainder of this Congress but will run for re-election in a seat that is considerably different. The area sure to be removed from the new 2nd is the central and southern portion of the seat. Currently, NV-2 encompasses all or part of the state’s 17 counties. The places going to other districts are largely areas where Ms. Angle did not perform as strongly.

Sharron Angle choosing not to participate in the special election is a sound political decision from her perspective. Should she decide to run in the regular election, which is likely, she can continue to amass campaign resources – her ability to do so is an advantage over every other candidate – and can challenge a short-term incumbent, either Republican or Democrat, in a new district that will likely be more to her liking particularly in the GOP primary.

The 2nd district political saga may prove to be the “great unknown” of the 2011-12 election cycle. What we can expect, however, is non-stop political action from here all the way to the next regular general election.
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Pennsylvania’s Q-Poll Reveals Pedestrian Obama Numbers

The new Quinnipiac University poll of the Pennsylvania electorate was just released and it shows President Obama with a discernible but not overwhelming lead over both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and favorite son ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R) within the Keystone State. The survey was commissioned over the June 7-12 period of 1,277 registered Pennsylvania voters. All of the interviews were conducted via telephone, both land line and cell. The Republican primary questions were asked of 523 self-identified GOP voters.

Against Romney, President Obama scores a 47-40 percent advantage, reasonably good but not outstanding for a sitting president heading into re-election in a state he previously carried. In 2008, the president carried Pennsylvania with a 54-44 percent margin. This poll also shows the president dipping below majority support, which is never a good sign. The state’s former two-term senator, Mr. Santorum, fares slightly worse than Romney before his previous constituents. Obama would top the former Pennsylvania senator and congressman 49-38 percent. These types of numbers in his home state confirm that Santorum is not a top tier national candidate.

In the Republican primary, it is Romney with the lead over both the former senator and ex-vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Mr. Romney tallies 21 percent to Santorum’s 16 percent, and Palin’s 11 percent. Businessman Herman Cain is fourth with 8 percent, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) next with 6 percent, and all other candidates have 5 percent or less.
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The Weiner Scandal Winner: Rep. Joe Crowley

The Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) sexting scandal could be paying long-term benefits for a neighboring Borough of Queens congressman. Because New York is losing two seats in reapportionment, Rep. Weiner’s once personal, now very public, exploits have made his 9th Congressional District (CD) the No. 1 target in New York for collapsing. Of the state’s 29 CD’s, all of which will require more population in the 2011 redistricting process (which is the fundamental reason for the delegation losing two seats), five of the top 10 under-populated districts reside in New York City.

The current scenario favors neighboring Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY-7), because his Queens/Bronx seat is becoming more heavily minority. This make him potentially vulnerable to a primary challenge from a Hispanic Democrat in the ensuing decade, thus he will want more territory from Queens and less from The Bronx in his new district. Since approximately 70% of Weiner’s district encompasses Queens’ territory, it is easy to combine pieces from both NY-7 and NY-9 into a seat totally within the Borough of Queens.

Of the five CD’s that contain all or part of Queens, Rep. Gregory Meeks’ 6th district is the only seat fully contained within the borough. Adding another Queens-specific CD is at least one of the arguments Mr. Crowley’s personal lobbyist will make in Albany when he attempts to secure a favorable district for the seven-term congressional veteran. Three NY Representatives — Crowley, Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) — each have hired a personal lobbyist to make specific redistricting arguments to the governing powers in the legislature.

But, what if Weiner resigns? Crowley has that covered, too. In New York, as we have seen in the four other special congressional elections held in the state during the past election cycle, the local county chairmen are the people who choose mid-cycle election nominees. Who is the Borough of Queens Democratic chairman? None other than Rep. Joe Crowley. So, should Weiner resign, it is Crowley who will virtually decide the identity of the next congressman, meaning he will choose someone who won’t run for a full term, making it a virtual certainty that the current 9th district will be one of the disappearing seats.

The other collapsed district will likely come from upstate. The Buffalo/Rochester area seats, numbered 28 (Rep. Louise Slaughter) and 27 (Higgins) need to gain the greatest number of people. Chances are the upstate loss will come from the Republicans.

With a late September primary, New York is typically one of the last states to complete its redistricting process, so the final lines will not be known until well into next year. Since Democrats control the governor’s office and the state Assembly, and Republicans hold the state Senate, the chances of redistricting ending in a legislative deadlock are high — meaning a court-drawn map likely will be the eventual solution.

Regardless of who draws the map, it is relatively clear that one of the lost seats will come from New York City and the other from upstate, with the Long Island districts all moving west, closer to New York City.

While the Weiner scandal is destroying the congressman’s career within the House, its timing is also poor from his personal political perspective. While he may stay in office to finish the current term, Weiner’s long-term congressional career prospects, because of the reapportionment and redistricting scenario described above, are highly unfavorable.
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California’s Redistricting Plan

With the release of the long-awaited 53-seat California map and, considering its impact upon national redistricting, we devote this entire report to the Golden State’s new plan. Since this is the first time the state’s maps were drawn by a commission, California was viewed as a redistricting wild card. The results certainly lived up to expectations.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) released the first drafts for the congressional delegation, state Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization last Friday. With analytical data now available, the federal map’s partisan complexion is becoming clearer.

Generally, the Commission is getting good reviews for doing what was tasked. When adopted by the voting public, the CCRC was supposed to draw maps that adhered to all applicable laws, respected communities of interest more than incumbent protection, and made the districts as compact as possible by breaking the fewest numbers of county lines. It appears the Commission receives high marks for their first effort. The maps may be changed through public hearing and comments until July 7. Final adoption is scheduled on or before August 15. The first draft was unanimously passed 14-0.

After studying the map more closely, possible because the Meridian Pacific company released political data to coincide with the new district lines, it appears that the proposal is a bit less friendly to the Democrats than originally surmised. Though it is possible that the Dems could gain as many as three seats from the Republicans, it’s just as possible that they could lose a net of two districts. (Current Delegation: 34D-19R)

In all, it appears that 37 incumbents will have safe seats; 22 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Thirteen members, 10 Democrats and three Republicans, have some political problems either from being paired or placed in a district that is not favorable to their political party, or is highly marginal with no particular advantage to either side. Three additional seats (Reps. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3); Adam Schiff (D-CA-29); Susan Davis (D-CA-53) are borderline, meaning the current incumbent probably wins comfortably in 2012 but, as the decade progresses, their region could become much more competitive. The plan also created two open seats; one in Los Angeles and the other in Riverside.

The congressional draft features 11 sets of incumbent pairings, including a Central Valley district that contains the homes of three current incumbents. In only three of the 11 pairings, however, will it be likely that a sitting member does not return to the House.

Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) finds his current district split six ways, and though his home is placed in the same district as that of Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-32) in the East San Gabriel-Covina district, his best chance to win re-election probably lies in the seat labeled “Ontario.” The CRCC has not yet numbered the districts, preferring to name them by geographic regions. The Ontario seat contains only about 30 percent of Mr. Dreier’s current district, and is much more Democratic. Already state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D), who represents much of this area in the legislature, has said she will run for Congress in this seat. So, Mr. Dreier will have a severe challenge, made even more difficult with President Obama on the ticket in 2012.

Veteran Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA-28) and Brad Sherman (D-CA-27) are paired in the West San Fernando Valley district. Sherman has 51 percent of the new territory versus just 19 percent for Berman. Sixty-one percent of Berman’s current seat lies in the East San Fernando Valley district, but this new open seat is 68 percent Hispanic, and Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas (D) has already said he will run here. Sherman would also have the option of challenging Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) in the East Ventura district, which is a very marginal seat for both sides. It is probable that either Sherman or Berman will not return, and very possibly both. Gallegly is also seriously endangered in his new district.

The final incumbent-damaging pairing is in the East Los Angeles seat as Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) find themselves sharing the newly configured district. Neither has a good option of moving to an incumbent-less seat so, unless one retires, the two will square-off in the next Democratic primary.

All of the other pairings, including the three-way among Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), Jeff Denham (D-CA-19), and Jim Costa (D-CA-20) give the incumbents an opportunity to hop to a nearby district, thus avoiding challenging another incumbent. In this particular instance, however, both Cardoza and Costa could face serious Republican opposition, while Denham looks to have a seat that he can easily win.

Other incumbents likely to have a difficult time securing re-election are Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Gary Miller (R-CA-42), and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47). Though all can survive, they will almost certainly face very tough opposition in a weaker district. The current 36th CD, now headed to special election in July, is also a marginal seat under the new map. The district is labeled “Palos Verdes-Beach Cities.” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn is expected to hold the seat for the Democrats, but she can expect competition in the regular election should she win next month.

This PDF spreadsheet details all 53 districts, with their new label and racial and political data. The political numbers come from the 2010 election and features the governor’s race, won by Democrat Jerry Brown 54-41 percent, and the extremely close attorney general’s contest where Democrat Kamala Harris was victorious by less than one percentage point.

  • Congressional Redistricting Now Completed:
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana *
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • (*Must obtain Justice Dept. pre-clearance)

New Hampshire Debate: One More Enters

At the Republican presidential candidate debate last night in Manchester, N.H., Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) made it known that she will become an official presidential candidate. Previously, she was only in the exploratory stage. She joins a field that now includes Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (PA), and businessman Herman Cain. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is also a candidate, but was not invited to participate in the New Hampshire debate sponsored by CNN and the Manchester Union Leader newspaper.

Notable about this particular debate, which broke no new campaign ground with the exception of the Bachmann announcement, was who didn’t attend. The biggest potential name still not yet in the race is, of course, former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Also, don’t forget former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who could become a factor later in the race. A new poll already places him second in New Hampshire, though about 30 points behind Romney. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is another potential late entrant who may have the ability to catch fire and vault into the top tier. And, former Obama Ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is also likely to become a candidate but chose not to participate in the New Hampshire debate.

All totaled, the entire field could soon expand to 12 if all of the aforementioned individuals actually become candidates. Though this national political race has been slow to begin, the action will soon become hot and heavy.
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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