Category Archives: House

Bera Challenged Again in CA-7

Nov. 18, 2015 — Democratic Sacramento Congressman Ami Bera is no stranger to close elections, and it appears he’s headed toward another in 2016.

Three years ago, Dr. Bera defeated then-Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) in a 52-48 percent win, a spread of just under 9,200 votes. His first re-election was even closer, a 1,455-vote margin against former Rep. Doug Ose (R-CA-3) who was attempting a political comeback. In both instances, Bera trailed in the Election Day vote but his strength among the early and absentee ballots, which, in California usually accounts for about half of the vote, brought him the victories.

Now, his presumptive opponent will be Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones (R) who officially announced his challenge to Rep. Bera as the week began. Expect this to again be a highly competitive campaign in a congressional district that hosted the most expensive 2014 campaign in the United States. The two candidates combined to spend over $9 million, and there was an additional $13 million expended from outside organizations. This, in a media market that ranks as the 20th largest in the country.

The 7th District is fully contained within Sacramento County, encompassing the eastern and southern portions of the region. In effect, this district claims virtually the entire county except for the city of Sacramento and the small delta agricultural area. It combines the Sacramento suburban area along with rich agricultural lands and contains the cities of Folsom and Elk Grove.

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A Retirement Trio

Nov. 16, 2015 — Three retirement announcements, and how the process of filling the vacancies looks to play out:

CA-20

Twelve-term Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), who represents the exclusive Monterey Peninsula in coastal California, announced that he will not seek re-election next year. The 74-year-old veteran congressman was first elected in a 1993 special election, after serving 12-plus years in the California state assembly.

The district includes all of Monterey and San Benito Counties, and portions of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. The 20th is heavily Democratic, as President Obama’s twin 71 percent victories here reveal. Under California’s top-two political primary system, it is probable that two Democrats will advance from the June primary to the general election.

Rep. Farr came to Congress when President Clinton tabbed this region’s congressman, then-Rep. Leon Panetta (D), to serve as his Director of the Office of Management & Budget. During his tenure in the House, Panetta had been chairman of the House Budget Committee. Now, Panetta’s son, Jimmy Panetta, a Monterey County Deputy District Attorney, is a potential congressional candidate.

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In Arkansas, Dems Concede Three of Four Races

Nov. 11, 2015 — Candidate filing closed in Arkansas Monday night, the second state to qualify their upcoming slate of political aspirants, and already Democrats have virtually conceded all of the state’s congressional seats for the 2016 election. Three Republican representatives: Rick Crawford (R-AR-1), Steve Womack (R-AR-3), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4), will run without Democratic opposition next fall. This, in a state where the Dems controlled three of the four congressional positions as late as 2010. Republicans captured all four districts only in 2012.

The one incumbent facing general election competition will be freshman Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock), in the 2nd District. Though this seat is marginally Republican today, it has elected many more Democrats than Republicans throughout its history. French likely will face former Little Rock School Board president Dianne Curry (D) in the general election.

Representatives Crawford, Womack, and Westerman face only Libertarian opposition, and all three are therefore guaranteed re-election. Rep. Hill has also drawn Republican primary competition, in the person of educator Brock Olree. Rep. Hill is a prohibitive favorite to win both re-nomination and re-election.

The lack of any Democratic congressional ticket tells us that the party establishment could not convince prospective candidates that former Secretary of State and Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton will be a major draw at the presidential nominee come next November. The lack of a strong undercard also says that the state party leaders, and possibly those at the national level, are conceding former President Bill Clinton’s home state without a fight. The trends in the past three elections have been so strongly Republican that it is unlikely such a swing will begin to sway back to the Democrats anytime soon.

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Pennsylvania’s Rep. Pitts to Retire;
A Rundown of Ala., Ark. Filings

Nov. 10, 2015 — On Friday, veteran Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, first elected to the US House in 1996 after spending 24 consecutive years in the state legislature, announced that he will not seek re-election next year. Pitts’ retirement means that 27 seats are now open in the 2016 election cycle — 16 from Republican districts compared to 11 Democratic.

The congressman serves on the Energy & Commerce Committee, where he is fifth in seniority and chairs the Health Subcommittee. His 16th District is anchored in the cities of Reading and Lancaster, though the congressman hails from Kennett Square just north of Wilmington, Del. The seat is reliably Republican, though the Democrats could become competitive with the right candidate. Mitt Romney carried the district 52-46 percent in 2012, but then-Sen. Barack Obama slipped passed John McCain here four years earlier, 50-49 percent.

The name most mentioned as a potential successor is Republican state Sen. Lloyd Smucker. Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin (R) is also a prospective candidate, but reports suggest that he is more likely to seek Smucker’s open state Senate seat should the latter run for Congress.

Alabama, Arkansas Filings

Alabama — With early presidential nomination events occurring in March, some states are holding their 2016 primaries concurrently. Two of those, Alabama and Arkansas, feature the earliest filing periods in the country. Alabama closed Friday, while Arkansas ended Monday.

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Worsening News for Vitter in Louisiana; Webster’s Landing Zone

Nov. 9, 2015 — We’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing and reporting upon the Louisiana governor’s race, and with good reason. It isn’t often that we see a sitting US senator who attempts to run for his state’s gubernatorial office fail to win. Yet that very scenario may occur later this month when Sen. David Vitter (R) attempts to switch offices.

The news got even worse for the embattled candidate yesterday when Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who placed fourth in the jungle primary last week, publicly endorsed Democrat John Bel Edwards. Dardenne’s message was obviously personal. “The Republican brand has been damaged by the failed leadership of Bobby Jindal during this last term. David Vitter’s governorship will further damage that brand as I and others have pointed out during the campaign,” he said with Edwards standing next to him at the podium.

As we’ve repeatedly cited, the governor’s race has been trending badly for Vitter during the past two months and the chances of a Democratic upset now appear good. Therefore, with his Senate seat in the cycle next year, what will happen to his federal position should Vitter lose the governor’s race?

It is reasonable to believe that should a Vitter loss occur, the state’s 2016 Senate election will become a more viable Democratic target opportunity. Originally believed to be a safe seat for a Vitter re-election, a new campaign involving the embattled senator would obviously be a difficult one should he seek another term.

To complicate matters, at least two members of the state’s congressional delegation, representatives Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) and John Fleming (R-LA-4), have already expressed interest in running statewide next year. Both, among others, are already vying behind the scenes to replace Vitter by appointment should he actually be elected governor.

Since Vitter is already willing to relinquish the Senate seat in exchange for becoming governor, it is reasonable to assume that, should he be unsuccessful on Nov. 21, he will not seek re-election. Such would actually be the best Republican Party scenario, because the state and national political leaders could then start anew with a fresh candidate, presumably either Boustany, Fleming, or another elected official, who could run free of the negative baggage that Vitter obviously possesses.

FL-10; 11

We have reported on several occasions that representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13), Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), and Daniel Webster (R-FL-10), will be left without seats once the new Florida redistricting plan is formally adopted. The state Supreme Court will likely take final action on Nov. 10.

Jolly is already abandoning his House re-election effort, and instead is running for the state’s open Senate seat. Graham says she will make a decision about her own political future after the new lines are officially adopted. It is unlikely that she will run for the House, and she, too, could hop into the Senate contest, or sit out a cycle and challenge for a statewide position in 2018.

Rep. Webster attracted a great deal of attention in the past few weeks by running for House Speaker even though his 10th District seat is sure to go Democratic, this by his own admission. But now, Webster may be finding a political life preserver. Rep. Rich Nugent’s (R) announcement this week that he will not seek re-election in the 11th District, which the court generally left intact as a Republican seat, is now open for the 2016 election. The 11th borders Webster’s Orlando-anchored district before moving northwest stretching as far as the city of Ocala. It is conceivable that Webster would have a fighting chance to win here in a Republican primary. He does have a home within the confines of this CD, which gives him some background within the region.

Earlier this week Webster confirmed that he is at least considering hopping into the 11th, likely his best option from which to continue his congressional career. But, it is certain that he will attract primary opposition from sitting and former elected officials who either already or previously represent large chunks of the current district.

Florida Rep. Nugent to Retire

Nov. 4, 2015 — Three-term Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL-11), the former Hernando County Sheriff, surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek re-election next year, making this the 26th open seat for the 2016 election cycle.

Nugent cited the long absences from his family and a lesser desire to serve as chief reasons for retiring after a short stint in the House. According to his announcement release the congressman stated, “we care deeply about shrinking the size and scope of government; we care deeply about restoring America’s place in the world. We’ll get somebody new with real fire in the belly who shares our beliefs and is ready to give it a shot in Washington.”

Nugent’s tenure in office was not without controversy. A former member of the House Rules Committee, the congressman was relieved of his post when he voted for fellow Florida Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL-10) in the early 2015 Speaker’s election. In response, then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) quickly removed both men as members of the partisan rules body.

His first election to the House raised eyebrows as well. When Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL-5) retired in 2010, she did so just as the filing deadline expired, thereby giving then-Sheriff Nugent the only inside track to the seat. He was the one potential major candidate who was given pre-announcement notice of the impending vacancy, and took full advantage of the lack of competition for the open House seat.

The Central Florida 11th District stretches from Ocala and The Villages communities in the northeast, west to the Gulf of Mexico, and then south as far as Spring Hill. The relatively compact seat is safely Republican and did not experience much change as it relates to the proposed congressional re-districting map that currently sits before the sate Supreme Court.

It is in this area that Nugent may have tipped his hand too early. The proposed redistricting plan makes only cosmetic changes to his CD and leaves it intact as a core Republican seat. But, the plan is not yet final, and seeing that they have another open seat to work with, it is conceivable the court could still change the boundaries to provide a better geographic flow and benefit the Democrats. The seat sits between Rep. Corinne Brown’s (D-FL-5) Jacksonville-Gainesville-Sanford-Orlando district and representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13) and Kathy Castor’s (D-FL-14) CDs, both in the Tampa Bay region. All of these districts were declared illegal, and the Nugent seat is certainly close enough to all of them to make further late changes plausible.

FL-11 now becomes the fifth open seat just in the Sunshine State. Nugent joins representatives Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), David Jolly (R-FL-13), and Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) as members who will not be returning to Congress as House members after the next election. DeSantis, Grayson and Murphy are all running for the Senate.

It is also possible that Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), who the redistricting plan displaced from her 2nd District in the northern Florida Panhandle, will also join the list of House members not seeking re-election. She may enter the Senate race, challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Corinne Brown for the newly constituted 5th District that now will encompass the city of Tallahassee, which is Graham’s political base, or skip an election and run for a statewide post in 2018. The congresswoman says she will decide her 2016 political plans once the new congressional lines become final.

Ryan Elected; House ’16 Outlook

Nov. 2, 2915 — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, became the Speaker of the House late last week, but what are his long-term prospects for remaining in the newly attained position? Ryan replaces Ohio’s John Boehner (R) who resigned from Congress Friday.

The vote of 236-184 represented all but 10 Republicans supporting the nine-term Wisconsin representative who was first elected at age 28 and a veteran chairman of two House committees (Budget; Ways & Means). Considering the fractured nature of today’s House Republican Conference, the vote was a show of strong unity for Ryan, which provides him a better mandate than Boehner had during his final term.

Ryan’s 1st District of Wisconsin stretches from his hometown of Janesville all the way to Racine, Kenosha, and Lake Michigan in his state’s southeastern corner. The 1st is a marginal district, but the new speaker long ago made it a safe seat for him. He is the first Wisconsin representative to become speaker and now the region’s most historically prominent congressman. Previously, the late Les Aspin (D), who held the 1st District for 22 years before becoming Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton, was the most notable southern Wisconsin Representative.

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