Category Archives: Election Analysis

Potential California Candidate Pairing Snapshots

Now that the California redistricting map is law, we can examine the various incumbent pairings and potential pairings that could exist. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission clearly did not pay heed to incumbency, since a huge number of sitting incumbents were placed in districts with a colleague.

District 4: Dan Lungren/Tom McClintock – Since the map was finalized Aug. 15, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) indicated that he may hop over into the new District 4 to challenge Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4) in the Republican primary rather than stand for re-election in new District 7, where his home was placed. This would be a curious move, since District 7, which contains the majority of Lungren’s current territory, could certainly elect a Republican but likely would be at least moderately competitive throughout the decade.

New District 4, which begins in South Lake Tahoe and travels south down the Nevada border all the way to Yosemite National Park, is comprised of a preponderance of McClintock’s current CD. The fact that Lungren would even suggest such a move indicates he likely feels more comfortable doing battle against a Republican than facing a Democrat in a competitive general election, especially when winning the 2012 battle against McClintock would likely yield a safe seat until 2022. The new CA primary law that qualifies the two top vote-getters into the general election regardless of party means that the pair would likely face each other in both June and November, adding yet another caveat to the northern California political picture.

It is probable that Lungren will stay in District 7, because he would be a decided underdog to McClintock in District 4. The fact that Lungren would suggest taking on his Republican colleague in this configuration is quite surprising, however.

District 16: Dennis Cardoza/Jim Costa – This is another surprising situation. The commission map was not particularly kind to the Central Valley incumbents. Technically, three sitting members, Cardoza (D-CA-18), Costa (D-CA-20), and Republican Jeff Denham (R-CA-19) were all placed in new District 16. Each, however, has an adjacent seat in which to run. Denham will choose the new District 10, which is more competitive than his current district, but still one that he can win.

Since the map was enacted this past Monday, retirement rumors began swirling around Cardoza, suggesting that he would rather leave the House than run against his friend and fellow Democrat, Costa. The new 21st district, however, is a place where Costa could run – in fact, in contains the bulk of his current CD – but apparently the congressman does not want to face another close general election in a seat that is even more Republican. Costa only squeaked through in the last election 51-49%. Should Cardoza retire and thereby leave the new 16th district to Costa, the latter would become the favorite, though competition from a Republican is still a real possibility. This is another curious situation that has yet to be resolved. The GOP has a chance to gain at least one seat, probably the 21st, in this region.

District 25: Buck McKeon/Elton Gallegly – This is yet another situation where it appears a member would rather face a competitive primary than go hard against a candidate from the other party. The homes of Reps. McKeon (R-CA-25) and Gallegly (R-CA-24) were both placed in new District 25, which is comprised largely of McKeon’s current district. Gallegly also could run in the new Ventura County-based 26th district, which is a 50/50 D-R seat that only slightly tilts Republican.

Reports from the Gallegly camp, however, indicate he is looking more favorably at challenging McKeon than running in the marginal district, even though he would be the lone incumbent in the latter and currently represents a large portion of the territory. Based upon the draw in the new 25th, it is hard to classify Gallegly as anything but a decided underdog to McKeon, which makes it surprising to see him suggest he might take that option. Gallegly retiring, as he almost did two terms ago, is also a distinct possibility.

District 30: Brad Sherman/Howard Berman – The San Fernando Valley will see a major pairing as the area’s two veteran Democratic members will square-off. This is another of the California situations that could witness a major battle between the two in the qualifying primary and then in the general election, as the most likely scenario points to both Democrats moving into November under the state’s new election law. Sherman already represents about 50% of the new 30th District, as compared to Berman’s 20%, and he begins with more than $3.6 million in the bank, but that doesn’t guarantee victory. Berman is the more experienced campaigner and should command greater internal party support than Sherman. This race could turn into an epic political battle.

One other possibility, however, is for Sherman to hop over into the marginal 26th district. Particularly if Rep. Gallegly chooses to bypass the district, the 26th might become attractive to Sherman, if he thinks he can’t beat Berman. But, Sherman represents only a sliver of the current 26th, and he would be vulnerable to a Republican challenge. Thus, he has two difficult options.

District 38: Grace Napolitano/Linda Sanchez – The commission map drawers were also not kind to Rep. Linda Sanchez (R-CA-39). Regardless of where she chooses to run, she is likely to face a Democratic incumbent. Her home is placed in new District 38, but this seat is predominantly composed of Rep. Grace Napolitano’s current 38th CD. Napolitano has already announced her intention to seek re-election in the new 38th, thus forcing Sanchez into a difficult decision. She must either challenge Napolitano where she will be a decided underdog, or run in another seat. Her most likely option would be new District 47, the Long Beach seat, but she will face both state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) and probably a significant Republican challenger. It is possible that Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) could move here, too.

District 39: Ed Royce/Gary Miller – Something’s got to give in Orange County. The now-official map places the homes of Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) and Gary Miller (R-CA-42) in new District 39, a seat that largely favors Royce in terms of current territory. Royce could choose to move south and challenge Rep. John Campbell (R-CA-48) in new CD 45, but this would still subject him to a pairing with a Republican incumbent. For his part, Miller says he won’t run against Royce or any other incumbent, meaning he could be headed toward retirement. If Royce does move into CD 45, then Campbell would be forced into a pairing either against the former or moving into new District 48 to take on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46). In any event, among the quartet of Orange County Republican congressmen – Royce, Miller, Campbell and Rohrabacher – expect one of them not to return.

District 44: Janice Hahn/Laura Richardson – The situation involving the minority-weighted new 44th District is also surprising. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36), who just won her seat in a July special election, has already announced she will seek re-election in the heavily Hispanic 44th District rather than face Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA-30) in the district that contains the bulk of her current seat. In this Compton-Culver City-South Gate CD, Hahn will have a white population that tallies only 9 percent, meaning she is vulnerable to a challenge from a minority office holder such as Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D), who has already announced his intention to run for Congress, and probably Rep. Laura Richardson, since she currently represents a large portion of the territory.

The new primary law cuts poorly for Hahn. She very well may be able to qualify for the general election by at least placing second in June, but in November she will be one-on-one against either a black or Hispanic opponent. In this situation, particularly since she currently represents such a small portion of the 44th, she becomes a decided underdog.

California is likely to dominate the 2012 US House picture because as many as 20 seats could become competitive either in the primary or general election, and in many cases, both. Watch in the coming days for even further developments.
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The Democrats Win in Wisconsin – Round II

The second stage of the Wisconsin state Senate recall elections was held last night, and the challenged Democratic incumbents held both contested seats. State senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch won their respective recall elections with 55 percent and 58 percent of the vote, respectively.

The Holperin victory was the more impressive of the two since his northern Wisconsin district is far more conservative than Wirch’s Racine/Kenosha seat. The 12th state Senate district gave Supreme Court Justice Bob Prosser (R) a solid victory in his hotly contested re-election battle held earlier this year. In 2010, Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker easily carried the region with both scoring victory percentages in the high-50s. But the string of GOP victories did not carry over to the recall election.

In the Wirch race, SD-22, the result was much easier to predict. This region is solidly Democratic and polling never indicated that Sen. Wirch was in serious trouble.

Now that all eight recalls have been run, six incumbents held their seats. The only two senators to lose, both last week, are Republicans Dan Kapanke, who represented a strong Democratic seat, and scandal-tainted Randy Hopper. The Republicans retain control of the Senate chamber, however, but with a much smaller 17-16 margin.

In the end, the Democrats boycotting their duties and running away to Illinois did not hurt them, since none were recalled. On the other hand, the Republicans, led by Gov. Walker, made fundamental change in the state’s public employee collective bargaining structure and then took the Democrats/unions hardest retaliatory punch and survived.

It will be interesting to see if the entire controversial process brings about any further national ramifications.
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GOP Survives Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Last night, Badger State voters went to the polls to decide the controversial Wisconsin recall elections in six state Senate districts. All featured Republican incumbents defending their seats. Next Tuesday, two Democratic incumbents will face the voters.

Democrats were successful in defeating two of the GOP incumbents but, overall, the results did not accomplish what the union organizers who gathered the necessary petitions to force a vote had desired. At the beginning of the evening, the Senate party division was 19R-14D. With the two Democratic victories, the worst case scenario for the GOP after the completion of all recall voting will be 17R-16D. Since only Democratic incumbents are before the voters on August 16th, the Republicans can only increase their majority or remain clinging to a one-seat advantage.

Turnout was predictably high. In most cases the numbers reached approximately 80 percent of what appear to be normal general election voter participation levels. This helped the GOP win two-thirds of the contests. Low turnout elections are normally won by the side that is most driven to turnout. Since the unions and Democrats were forcing the recalls to protest GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature’s actions to curtail the public employee union benefits and organizing rights, it was they who should have been more energized. The districts were largely Republican, but President Obama did win all eight of the jurisdictions back in 2008. So, it is conceivable the Democrats could have done better.

The two seats they won were rather expected. Sen. Dan Kapanke (R), who represents a southwestern Wisconsin seat including the city of Lacrosse, suffered the biggest defeat, losing 45-55 percent to Democrat Jennifer Schilling. Kapanke, you may remember, challenged Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) in their 2010 congressional race, losing 46-50 percent – a better result than he received last night in trying to defend his own position. Of the seats facing recall, this 32nd district was by far the most Democratic. The President received 61 percent here in 2008. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) who unseated then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2010, scored only 49 percent here. Walker posted 42 percent. In the other post-general election political race, the hotly contested 2011 battle for a key state Supreme Court seat, Republican incumbent Judge David Prosser, who won statewide, failed to carry the 32nd district. He registered only 44 percent. Last night’s recall here produced the biggest Democratic victory of the night, but in this type of district, such a result was largely expected.

The other Democratic victory featured a scandal-tainted Republican incumbent in the 18th district. Sen. Randy Hopper was the subject of controversy regarding an extra-marital affair and a messy divorce while the labor unrest in the state capitol was occurring. He lost his Senate seat last night by a tight 49-51 percent margin to Democrat Jessica King. Both new Senators will have to defend their seats in the 2012 general election, as that is the normal election time for the two even-numbered districts. Wisconsin state Senators receive four-year terms. The elections are staggered so that half of the seats stand for election every two years. The odd-numbers run with the governor; evens with the President. The 18th district is much more Republican than the previously mentioned 32nd district. Obama posted 51 percent in 2008. The 2010-11 District 18 results gave Sen. Johnson 59 percent, Gov. Walker 57 percent; and Judge Prosser 53 percent.

The Republican incumbents carried their districts last night with victory margins of 60 percent (Sen. Rob Cowles in District 2), 58 percent (Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in District 10), 54 percent (Sen. Alberta Darling in District 8), and 52 percent (Sen. Luther Olsen in District 14). Of these, the Harsdorf victory is the most impressive, as the Republican numbers were not as strong as in the other districts. Judge Prosser, for example, failed to carry this seat in 2011, scoring 48 percent of the vote.

Though the GOP lost two seats in the recall process, they appear to have survived all of the post-budget crisis action in relatively good shape. In the face of superior labor union and Democratic Party political organizing, they turned back the Supreme Court challenge and held onto the state Senate majority after enacting the controversial public employee union legislation that rocked the state capitol with nationally covered protests and featured the Democrats failing to report to the Senate for weeks. All of this in a state that routinely elects Democrats to positions of power. Wisconsin will clearly be a major battleground state for the coming 2012 election.
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Hahn Attacking in California

The next special congressional election is two weeks away in California and Democratic nominee Janice Hahn appears nervous. The general election phase of this contest should be an easy run for any Dem, and was viewed as such ever since Republican Craig Huey slipped through the jungle primary election instead of the favored Debra Bowen (D), California’s Secretary of State. CA-36 is solidly Democratic. The worst number posted by the party’s presidential candidate since 1996 is 57 percent, and the region routinely elects liberals to virtually every political position. But Hahn isn’t acting like a runaway winner. She just aired a new ad attacking Huey as an “extremist politician” followed up with a more positive commercial about her own career. The latter ad surprisingly does not mention she’s a Democrat, instead choosing to emphasize that she has “never held partisan office.”

Several weeks ago Ms. Hahn, a Los Angeles City councilwoman who has previously lost a race for Congress (1998) and another for lieutenant governor (2010), surveyed the district but refuse to publicize the results even while tepidly claiming that she led Huey “beyond the margin of error.” These actions suggest that the CA-36 special election is much closer than anyone would have originally believed. Hahn will still likely win this race, but it’s probable she will under-perform the Democratic average.

Even if the councilwoman does prevail on July 12, the road to re-election may be quite difficult. The new Palos Verdes East seat, as the 36th has been named in the new redistricting plan, covers many of the same communities – Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance – but the new seat possesses a much more Republican complexion. While Barack Obama carried the new Palos Verdes East seat with 53.6 percent of the vote, under the old 36th district boundaries, the president’s number topped 64 percent. In the very close race for attorney general in 2010, an election the Democratic nominee carried by less than one percentage point statewide, the Republican nominee actually scored a 45-41 percent plurality within the Palos Verdes East boundaries.

While Ms. Hahn now surprisingly finds herself in a competitive race, it is likely she will face a difficult re-election challenge even if July 12 brings her success. The Palos Verdes East seat looks like another of the more competitive districts that the new California Citizens Redistricting Commission constructed.
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Liberal Groups Test Bass Attack in New Hampshire

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America teamed up to produce a negative issue ad against Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), ostensibly because he voted in favor of the Ryan Budget. Since the groups are only spending $25,000 on the television buy, the effort is being done to test messages and theme. This particular ad says Bass “voted to end Medicare”, which presumably refers to the Ryan plan but such is not identified in the script’s text.

Expect the Medicare issue to be a focal point of the 2012 campaign. Democrats and left-wing groups are clearly stepping up this line of attack in light of Rep. Kathy Hochul’s victory in the NY-26 special election. Debate continues about whether Hochul’s offensive play on Medicare was the defining point of her campaign – the fact that Republican turnout was low suggests that candidate Jane Corwin’s many mistakes and the presence of Independent Jack Davis masquerading as a Tea Party candidate might have been the bigger factors – but the Democrats won with this strategy, so they feel the approach warrants further usage.

Why, then, the test on Bass since these groups aren’t yet dishing out attacks against any other member? Of all the 2010 Republican victories, Rep. Bass regaining the seat he lost after six terms in 2006 was one of the most tenuous. Winning by just one point (48-47 percent), a margin of 3,550 votes over lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster (D), Mr. Bass could be the top 2012 Democratic conversion target. His inclusion on the National Republican Congressional Committee Patriot Program list, announced last week, is a further indication that both parties see him as a highly vulnerable incumbent.

The 2nd district covers New Hampshire’s western region and encompasses the state’s second largest city of Nashua along with Concord, the state capital. The district voted Democratic during the last decade. President Obama scored 56 percent here in 2008. Former President George W. Bush lost the seat in both of his elections. He trailed 47-52 percent in 2004 and 47-48 percent in 2000. In contrast, the state’s other CD, NH-1, gave Obama only a 53-47% win in 2008 while Bush carried the district both times.

As mentioned above, Bass first won his seat in 1994, but was defeated by ex-Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in 2006. Hodes won an easy 56-41 percent re-election in 2008. He then left the House for an unsuccessful 2010 Senate run, losing to freshman Kelly Ayotte (R) by a substantial 37-60 percent count.

As one can see, the district voting patterns became more Democratic as the decade progressed with the exception of 2010 when the whole state decidedly snapped back to the GOP. Will NH-2 continue to cast future votes more like liberal Vermont, which it borders, than generally conservative New Hampshire? The next election will provide the answer.

Rep. Bass, never known as a strong campaigner, has his work cut out for him. What might have been a major factor in his favor, redistricting, did not materialize. The state’s two congressional districts are only 254 people out of balance, so the 2011 New Hampshire map will be virtually identical to the present boundaries. An influx of new Republicans are likely needed for Bass and the GOP to hold this seat, but it’s clear such won’t happen.

For her part, 2010 nominee Kuster, who raised $2.5 million to Bass’ $1.2 million, is already running again. She should be a stronger candidate in 2012 because the Granite State presidential turnout model will likely be more Democratic than it was during the last election and she won’t have to fend off a tough September intra-party opponent as was the case in 2010.

Totaling all of the relevant factors suggest that Charlie Bass’ 2nd district may be the Democrats’ best national opportunity to defeat a House Republican incumbent. Though there is undeniably a long way to go before Election Day 2012, expect this race never to leave the toss-up category.
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