Category Archives: Governor

Pence Making Moves

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN-6) is a man on the move. Deciding not to pursue the House leadership track upon the GOP assuming the majority (he was the Republican Conference Chairman but didn’t seek re-election or run for any other leadership post), Mr. Pence has been circumspect as to his next political move. While it’s pretty clear he won’t seek re-election to the House in 2012, he doesn’t quell speculation that he is a potential presidential contender or candidate for governor of Indiana. Pence is highly regarded by the national conservative/Tea Party movement, thus giving him a base from which to run for president. The Hoosier State’s incumbent chief executive, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), is ineligible to seek a third term, meaning an open seat campaign next year.

Pence isn’t saying much publicly about his plans, but his actions appear to reveal his eventual direction. He recently let it be known that he will be attending Republican Lincoln Day Dinners throughout Indiana in late January and all through February, suggesting his focus is statewide and not national. Furthermore, his gubernatorial prospects just became brighter. Republican Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced she won’t run for governor in 2012, as did outgoing Senator and former Gov. Evan Bayh (D). Watch for a Pence for governor campaign to take shape soon.
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The 2010 Election Turnout

Throughout the 2010 election cycle, we often mentioned that campaigns are always decided by the turnout model, especially in mid-term voting. Since a lower number of people participate in non-presidential elections, and 2010 was no exception, the groups of voters coming to the polls then determines which party wins and loses.

The preliminary 2010 turnout patterns, remembering that ballot counting in some states is not quite finished, clearly points to the fact that Republicans were in fact way more energized to vote, as the pre-election polling continually predicted.

The landslide, particularly at the U.S. House and state legislative level, occurred because Republicans did very well in states that have either been trending toward their opposition in the last two elections, or are normally reliable Democratic performers. The fact that many of these states turned out fewer voters in 2010 than they did in 2006, despite population gains, provides us clear evidence.

Of the Democratic states where Republicans made strong inroads, we see the same turnout pattern occurring. The Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voter participation rates show unmistakable evidence that the Democratic voter base was demoralized. Since the results in these states, by and large, heavily favored the GOP and turnout was down from 2006, it is clear that the turnout dip was disproportionately felt on the Democratic side.

In Michigan, turnout was down a whopping 19.7% from 2006. This also translates into a 36.7% drop-off from 2008. With Republicans winning the Governorship, two US House seats, and both houses of the legislature, it is clear that the lower turnout was very likely exclusively within the Democratic voting sector.

Pennsylvania also was down, again indicating that Democrats simply were not voting at a normal level. The Keystone State saw turnout drop 2.7% from ’06, with a 35% drop-off rate from the presidential election. Here, the Republicans gained the Governorship, a U.S. Senate seat, five congressional seats, and the state House, while holding the state Senate. In Wisconsin — where the GOP won the Governorship, defeated a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator, gained two congressional seats and both houses of the legislature — turnout fell into a similar pattern as the aforementioned states, but not to the same degree. There, it dropped just 1% from 2006, and was off 28.5% from 2008.

Though a small state, South Dakota is also in this category. They elected a Republican Governor and defeated a popular Democratic at-large U.S. Representative. Total turnout was down 5.8% from ’06, but with only a 17% drop-off from the last presidential election.

Ohio, though not traditionally a Democratic state but which has performed as such in both 2006 and 2008, also fit the lower turnout pattern. There, the Republicans defeated an incumbent Governor, held an open U.S. Senate seat, gained five congressional districts, the state House and held the state Senate. 2010 turnout was off 6.1% from ’06 and 37% from the presidential election.

Another reason for the GOP landslide was that turnout experienced a boost in the more traditional Republican states. Arizona, which witnessed a strong Republican comeback when compared to 2006 and 2008 with wins at the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, U.S. House (+2) and state legislative levels, saw a huge increase in turnout when compared with the last mid-term election of 2006. There, turnout rose a huge 24.8% over 2006, but the drop-off from 2008 was still significant at 33.3%. This shows a disproportionately low turnout in ’06, thus proving that demoralization among the Arizona Republican voter base of that year was severe.

Two states that didn’t fit the pattern were the more Republican state of Tennessee and the Democratic state of Illinois. Though GOP gains were major in TN, turnout actually dropped a huge 15.7% from 2006, and was off 39.6% when compared to the presidential race. In Illinois, Democratic in nature and a state that one would expect to fit the lower turnout pattern, saw voter participation increase 7.9% from 2006. Republicans won a U.S. Senate seat here, but did not convert the Governor’s office as was expected prior to the election. The GOP went on to gain three congressional districts.

More definitive answers will be determined when all of the 2010 voting numbers become final and official.

Several Races are Done; New Close Ones Emerge

Since Friday the electoral picture has become both clearer and cloudier. It is still unclear whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has won her write-in campaign after being defeated in the Republican primary, but it is obvious that either she or GOP nominee Joe Miller will win the race because Democrat Scott McAdams is too far behind to be a factor. This means the new Senate will feature 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The GOP won 24 of the 2010 Senate campaigns and lost 13, a strong win percentage of .650, but not enough to take the majority. The Republicans converted six Democratic states and lost none of their own.

The Governors are virtually done, too. With the Connecticut race now being officially called for Democrat Dan Malloy, it appears the GOP will end the election cycle controlling 29 Governorships versus 20 for the Democrats. Former Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Lincoln Chafee won the Rhode Island governor’s race as an Independent.

The House still has nine races where questions abound. Two were called over the weekend: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) was declared the winner in a close contest over former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, and local official and 2000 congressional nominee John Koster (R) conceded to Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the hard-fought WA-2 campaign. A sizable number of ballots still remain in Washington, but with Larsen actually gaining as the new votes are being counted, the obvious conclusion is that he would win the final tally.

Conversely, two new campaigns joined the question-mark category. An accounting error in New York has apparently allowed NY-1 challenger Randy Altschuler to grab a several hundred vote lead over Rep. Tim Bishop (D), after the latter was projected to be the victor. In North Carolina, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) is claiming that enough ballots still remain to change the outcome of that campaign, despite mathematical projections awarding the race to challenger Renee Ellmers (R).

Four races are close to being over but will undoubtedly go through a recount process. It appears that Democratic incumbents Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) will survive by the barest of margins, but certification still has not been sanctioned in either case. The same appears true for Republican challengers Joe Walsh (IL-8; versus Rep. Melissa Bean) and Blake Farenthold (TX-27; against Rep. Solomon Ortiz). Both of these campaigns could conceivably turn around (each is in the 6-800 margin range), but the candidate leading at this juncture usually wins the race.

Three of the battles feature large numbers of absentee and provisional ballots to count, possibly as high as 100,000 in the CA-20 race between Rep. Jim Costa (D) and challenger Andy Vidak (R). Costa leads 51-49%, but only about 65,000 votes have been counted. Up toward the Bay Area, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is barely clinging to a 400+ vote lead against attorney David Harmer (R). Finally, some 8-10,000 absentee ballots remain uncounted in the Syracuse-based NY-25, where freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) now trails former city Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R) by a little over 650 votes, so this outcome is clearly still in doubt.

Right now the current trends suggest that Democrats hold with Chandler and Connolly, and probably carry McNerney. Republicans have the edge with Walsh, Farenthold, and possibly Vidak, though it’s hard to get a good reading on the trends with so many ballots outstanding. The Maffei-Buerkle race is legitimately too close to call, but Buerkle has rebounded strongly to take the lead after it looked like she would go down to a close defeat. The NY-1 situation is a mystery, but it is clear that neither candidate has a lock on victory at this writing.

The Senate is Finally Final … Almost

Washington Sen. Patty Murray (D) was declared the winner of the 2010 Senate contest with still more than 17% of the vote remaining to be counted. The 46,000+ vote margin made it impossible for challenger Dino Rossi (R) to close the gap. Rossi released a statement conceding the election. Campaign Manager Pat Shortridge indicated that the turnout in the Democratic stronghold of King County (Seattle) was greater than 70%, a huge number for a mid-term election and an obstacle that Rossi could not overcome.

The Murray victory ends all of the Senate races from a partisan perspective. It is still unclear if Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will retain her seat via the write-in process, but it is a foregone conclusion that the eventual winner will either be she or the Republican nominee Joe Miller. You will remember that Miller defeated Murkowski in the GOP primary. Though it will be two weeks or more before this election is finally determined, it does appear that Murkowski is well positioned to eventually declare victory.

The final count will show 53 Democrats in the new Senate versus 47 Republicans; a net gain of six seats for the GOP. Republicans won 24 of the 37 Senate elections, but needed 28 to claim the majority. They converted six Democratic states, but only defeated two incumbents – Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Democrats won zero Republican states, as the GOP was successful in holding all of the seats they previously controlled.

On the gubernatorial side, several more races were called yesterday. Former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) was declared the winner in Oregon, defeating ex-NBA basketball player Chris Dudley (R). Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) eked out a very close win over state Sen. Bill Brady (R) in a race that polling suggested was headed for a different conclusion. In Vermont, Democrats successfully converted the open Republican seat back to their column as state Senate President Peter Shumlin won a razor-thin victory over GOP Lt. Governor Brian Dubie.

Two states are still outstanding: Connecticut and Minnesota. Confusion reins in Connecticut as election officials and media outlets attempt to determine the actual vote count. Democrat Dan Malloy claims to be ahead in the race as most of the uncounted ballots come from the city of Bridgeport, which is a Democratic fortress area. Former Sen. Mark Dayton’s (D-MN) 8,000+ vote margin will likely stand, but the Minnesota election appears headed for a recount.

Should the Democrats win the final two races, the count will end with 29 Republican governors, 20 Democrats and 1 Independent (former Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island); a gain of five seats for the Republicans. Like in the Senate, only two incumbents were defeated, Govs. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Chet Culver (D-IA). Republicans won a total of 23 gubernatorial elections this past Tuesday night as compared to the Democrats’ 13, assuming the last two campaigns finally break their way.

Looking at some House stats from Tuesday, 51 incumbents were defeated (49 Democrats; 2 Republicans), not counting any of the remaining outstanding campaigns; 35 of the ousted incumbents are either in their freshman or sophomore term, and 16 are veteran members. The House Blue Dog Coalition was decimated on Tuesday, as 28 of its 52 members will not return to the 112th Congress. Twenty-two BD’s were defeated on Election Day and six more either retired or ran for a different office.

The Upside Down Landslide

The 2010 election cycle proved unique in many ways – it’s the first time that the House of Representatives switched party control without the Senate also doing so, for example – but probably it’s most surprising characteristic is the reverse nature of the results.

Normally in landslide years, the statewide elections set the tone for incumbent defeats. Not so in 2010. Only two US Senators, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, were unseated Tuesday night. Likewise, only two Governors, Ohio’s Ted Strickland and Iowa’s Chet Culver, were politically fired. In the US House races, however, at least 49 (47 Democrats; 2 Republicans) incumbents lost their re-election battles, and the number could go as high as 59 depending upon the outcome of the 10 House elections that are still undecided. At the state legislative level, the number of incumbent defeats rose into the hundreds. Republicans gained more there than at any electoral level, and increased their total number of legislative seats by at least 680 nationally. They will control a minimum of 54 legislative chambers, a modern-day political record.

The voting public’s willingness to change political course in 2010 is unusual because the anti-incumbent fervor actually increased as people moved down the ballot (into races where the candidates’ names are less familiar) instead of waning. Thus, the sense that this is an “upside down landslide” victory for the Republicans.

As mentioned above, 10 US House races remain unresolved. In all cases, large numbers of absentee and/or provisional ballots remain to be counted that could certainly change the results. Whether such alteration means a different candidate will eventually win the election as opposed to the one who is now leading remains an open question in each of these elections. The 10 are (in alphabetical order):

  • AZ-7: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) vs. Ruth McClung (R)
    Grijalva leads 62,459 to 58,376 – all precincts are counted
  • AZ-8: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) vs. Jesse Kelly (R)
    Giffords leads 120,175 to 117,826 – in both AZ races all precincts are counted but thousands of absentee ballots remain
  • CA-11: Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) vs. David Harmer (R)
    McNerney leads 82,124 to 82,003 with thousands of ballots remaining to be counted
  • CA-20: Rep. Jim Costa (D) vs. Andy Vidak (R)
    Vidak leads 32,521 to 30,708 – the low vote total suggests huge numbers of votes remain uncounted
  • IL-8: Rep. Melissa Bean (D) vs. Joe Walsh (R)
    Walsh leads 97,403 to 96,850 – again large numbers of absentees remain
  • KY-6: Rep. Ben Chandler (D) vs. Andy Barr (R)
    Chandler leads 119,845 to 119,245 – the high vote total suggests the absentee ballots remaining are relatively few, but are enough to change the outcome
  • NY-25: Rep. Dan Maffei (D) vs. Ann Marie Buerkle (R)
    Maffei leads 95,286 to 93,090 with 96% of the precincts counted
  • TX-27: Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) vs. Blake Farenthold (R)
    Farenthold leads 50,954 to 50,155 – all precincts are reporting; low voter turnout; absentee ballots remain
  • VA-11: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) vs. Keith Fimian (R)
    Connolly leads 111,615 to 110,695 – absentee ballots remain
  • WA-2: Rep. Rick Larsen (D) vs. John Koster (R)
    Larsen has just pulled into the lead 97,931 to 97,224 – but only 71% of the vote has been counted; Washington’s unique all-mail system that allows ballots postmarked on Election Day means this one will take a long time to resolve

Only two Senate races remain outstanding. In Alaska, it will take some time to determine if Sen. Lisa Murkowski has won re-election via write-in after losing the Republican primary. It is clear, however, that Republicans will retain the seat. In Washington, Sen. Patty Murray maintains a lead of 27,464 votes, but a quarter of the statewide vote remains to be counted.

On the gubernatorial front, five races remain outstanding. Democrats have small leads in Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota, and Vermont. Republican Tom Foley has a slight lead in Connecticut. Several percentage points worth of votes remain to be counted in all five states.