Category Archives: House

Previewing this Weekend’s Utah Conventions

Both Republicans and Democrats in Utah will begin their nominating processes on Saturday, potentially choosing gubernatorial, US Senate, and US House nominees. Newly released Dan Jones Associates polling (443 of the 4,000 state Republican delegates) suggests that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has improved his position and could potentially secure the 60 percent vote necessary to win renomination.

According to the poll, Hatch scores 61 percent, with former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist trailing at 21 percent, and state Rep. Chris Herrod posting 4 percent. Under convention rules, if a candidate receives 60 percent of the vote on any ballot, that person is nominated. If no one reaches that level, balloting continues until two candidates fall between 40-59 percent. Should that happen, a primary election featuring the pair will occur on June 26th.

In other races, Gov. Gary Herbert (R), who like Hatch is being challenged by several Republicans, also polls 61 percent according to the Dan Jones data. Former state Rep. Morgan Philpot, who held Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) to a 50-46 percent victory in 2010, is second with 12%.

In House races, all attention will be focused on open District 2 and new District 4, the latter where Matheson is attempting to win re-election. It is likely both parties will go to primaries in District 2, and the Republicans will have one in District 4.

Delegate polling is difficult because so much can change after the first convention ballot is cast. What appears true is that many races are close and several primaries could result. We will have full results on Monday.

Succeeding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona

The special election to replace resigned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) took form last night with party nomination votes. Democrats had only one choice for the special election, Giffords’ district aide Ron Barber, who was shot with the congresswoman during the highly publicized January 2011 ambush attack. Republicans again turned to former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, who came within two points of defeating Ms. Giffords in 2010. Kelly claimed the Republican nomination with 36 percent of the vote, topping Gulf War veteran Martha McSally’s 25 percent.

Barber was the consensus nominee last night because all the strong Democrats deferred to him for the special election campaign. The winner of the June 12 special general fills the unexpired portion of Giffords’ term. Barber does not have a free ride for the regular term, however, when the candidates will square off in the new 2nd District Democratic primary in August regardless of who wins the special election in current District 8.

Due to reapportionment and redistricting, the district numbers were changed throughout the state. The current 8th/new 2nd remains a marginal seat that both parties can win. Originally, Barber was planning only to serve the unexpired term but changed his mind about running for the regular term after the others withdrew from the special. Even as a short-term incumbent, Mr. Barber will have a strong advantage, at the very least in the regular Democratic primary, should he secure the seat in June.

The current 8th District went for favorite son John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign by a 52-46 percent margin. Prior to Ms. Giffords winning here for the Democrats in 2008, the district had been in Republican hands in the person of moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe, originally elected in 1984 and retiring in 2006. The new 2nd CD is of similar configuration, though slightly smaller because Arizona’s substantial growth rate brings the state a new 9th District. Prior to reapportionment, the 8th was over-populated by 44,076 people.

The special general election will be competitive, meaning the regular election will be, too. A new small sample poll from National Research, Inc. (April 12; 300 registered AZ-8 voters) gives Kelly a 49-45 percent lead over Barber in a hypothetical ballot test.

The closeness of the data suggests that the regular election campaign will be a free-for-all regardless of whether Barber or Kelly wins the June special election. Along with the highly competitive campaigns in the 1st (open seat), 5th (open seat), 6th (Republican incumbent pairing) and 9th (new seat), Arizona is becoming a hotbed of congressional political activity. Rate the new 2nd as a toss-up all the way through the November election.

Utah Convention Takes Center Stage

Now that the GOP presidential campaign is virtually over, the congressional primaries are taking center stage. This coming weekend at the Utah state Republican convention, several important contests will pass decision points.

Utah Senate

Thirty-six year veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch is fighting for renomination to a seventh term. Nine GOP candidates are mounting convention challenges to Hatch, who knows all too well the fate of his former seat mate, Bob Bennett. Two years ago, Sen. Bennett was denied renomination at the 2010 version of this convention by failing to tally even 40 percent of the delegate vote. To win the nomination this Saturday, one candidate must garner 60 percent of the convention votes cast. If no one reaches this plateau, then the top two candidates between 40-59 percent will face each other in a June 26 primary election.

The county conventions chose the approximately 3,500 state delegates who will cast these votes on Saturday. Before 2010, the average statewide turnout at county conventions numbered in the 30,000 range. In 2010, because of the challenge to Sen. Bennett, turnout swelled to about 75,000. This year, the participation rate was even higher, with more than 125,000 individuals attending the local meetings. Sen. Hatch himself was partially responsible for the turnout increase as he implemented an aggressive program to encourage his supporters to attend for purposes of sending Hatch voters to the state convention.

It is likely that the senator’s main opponent is former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Other notable candidates among the nine are state Rep. Chris Herrod and radio talk show host Tim Aalders, the latter of whom enjoys some Tea Party support. The most likely scenario is the delegates providing enough challenger votes to other candidates thus denying Hatch the 60 percent mark, meaning a primary will ensue. In a statewide election format, the senator will have a strong advantage both in terms of name familiarity, obviously, and campaign resources.

Utah House Races

UT-2: Eleven candidates are vying for the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District. This seat is partially represented by Democrat Jim Matheson (about 40 percent of the new 2nd contains current UT-2 population), but he decided to run in the new District 4. Therefore, it is possible the convention could be choosing a new congressman Saturday as the eventual Republican nominee is virtually assured of winning in November. Among the top candidates here are former state House Speaker David Clark, conservative activist Cherilyn Eagar, businessman Bob Fuehr, author Chris Stewart, and retired trucking executive Howard Wallack. Three of these candidates (and all five are at parity at least in terms of fundraising) will be eliminated Saturday.

UT-4: In the reapportionment-created 4th District, a new poll shows Rep. Matheson to be highly vulnerable. Mason-Dixon Polling & Research conducted a survey April 9-11 of 625 registered voters in the district. They found the congressman leading state Rep. Carl Wimmer (R) by only a razor-thin 46-45 percent margin. Against Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R), possibly the most interesting candidate in the race because a young African-American conservative Republican could quickly develop a national following if elected, Matheson leads only 46-42 percent. The third pairing, with state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom (R), gives the incumbent a 47-41 percent advantage. A Republican primary is a possibility as all three of the polled candidates appear to have political strength. It is clear the eventual winner will be in strong position to challenge Matheson in what promises to be a competitive general election. Matheson has won a highly Republican-leaning 2nd District throughout the previous decade; it is, in fact, now the most Republican seat in the nation to have Democratic representation. But the new 4th District is comprised of a constituency two-thirds of whom are new to him. Legislative Republicans drew the congressional map to produce a 4R-0D delegation. We shall soon see if that is achieved.

Santorum Exits: What Else Changes?

The surprisingly abrupt suspension of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign will affect more than just the national political contest. While Santorum’s decision effectively crowns Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, several other political contests will also change because of yesterday’s developments.

Looking ahead to contested Republican primaries where a Santorum candidacy would either positively or negatively affect the turnout model in places that vote for president and Congress together, many candidates will now have to re-adjust their own political campaign efforts. The lack of having an active presidential race will clearly alter the voter participation rates in their particular races.

One such contest that comes to mind is the upcoming Indiana Senate campaign where six-term Sen. Richard Lugar is facing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in what is becoming a contentious and hard-fought Republican primary election. Polling shows the race to be within single digits but, among self-identified Republicans, Lugar is clearly in trouble. Under Indiana law, the primary election is open so Independents and Democrats can choose to vote in the Republican primary. Lugar runs stronger with Democrats and Independents so inclined to vote Republican, but it is difficult to gauge at this point in time the overall size of such a pool of voters.

It is probably a bit too early to predict with any certainty just how Santorum’s exit from the presidential campaign will change the Lugar-Mourdock race. One school of thought suggests that the senator might actually benefit because Santorum’s absence now gives the most conservative voter less of a reason to vote. On the other hand, the lower overall turnout will make those most motivated to visit the polls all the more important and influential. The more intense voter tends to support the non-incumbent in these types of electoral situations, thus Lugar’s position becomes tenuous since Mourdock, as the lone GOP challenger, is solely benefiting from all of the anti-incumbent sentiment.

Another race where the lack of a Santorum presidential challenge could make a difference is in the Texas Senate race. There, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who should be the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination outright on May 29, could find his chances of being forced into a July 31 run-off increasing as the rate of turnout drops. Texas has notoriously low primary election participation rates so, as in Indiana, the more motivated voters generate greater influence within a smaller pool. Thus, conservative challenger Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, could benefit from this development.

Cruz’s only chance to wrest the nomination away from Dewhurst is to force him into a run-off election by holding him below 50 percent in the primary. With eight other candidates on the ballot, including former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and former NFL and Southern Methodist University football star Craig James, a lower turnout might make the run-off scenario more plausible.

Many congressional races will be effected, too. With contested Republican primary campaigns in action throughout North Carolina – GOP nomination challenges to Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC-3) and Howard Coble (R-NC-6) and crowded open seat races in the 9th (Rep. Sue Myrick), 11th (Rep. Heath Shuler), and 13th CD’s (Rep. Brad Miller) along with Republican challenger primaries for the right to face incumbents Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) in the general election – the new turnout model could greatly alter all Tar Heel State political outcomes.

The same can be said for the California House races, particularly as the state institutes its new primary system that allows the top two finishers in every campaign, regardless of political party affiliation, to advance to the general election. With Republican voter turnout percentages, now without an active presidential race on their side, probably falling into line with Democratic participation rates, several campaigns – such as Rep. Gary Miller’s 31st District election and the newly created open 41st (Riverside County) and 47th (Long Beach area) districts – will likely change direction. Which way they will move is still unclear.

Much more analysis will come for all of these campaigns as we get closer to their respective election dates. It is clear, however, that politics in a macro sense will drastically change as a result of Santorum conceding the presidential nomination to Romney.

Another U.S. House Retirement

Later today, Illinois Rep. Tim Johnson (R-15) will announce that he won’t seek a seventh term in the House, despite winning his primary election on March 20. The surprising development comes with the Democrats still not having an official nominee in the 13th District race. Dr. David Gill, the losing 2010 nominee against Johnson, has a 143-vote lead over Greene County State’s Attorney Matt Goetten with overseas ballots still eligible to be counted. The Illinois Board of Elections announced after the primary that they would not certify a winner here until April 20 for purposes of allowing all ballots postmarked March 20, and coming from around the world, to be received and tabulated.

More will come as to why Johnson decided not to continue his re-election campaign. Now, the various Republican county chairmen within the new 13th CD will caucus and choose a replacement nominee. One possible candidate is former gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady from the Bloomington-Normal area. Brady, a former state senator and losing congressional candidate (to Johnson in the 2000 GOP primary) came within one point of defeating Gov. Pat Quinn in the 2010 mid-term election. Others will undoubtedly surface. The new 13th is a marginal CD. Without Johnson in the race, this campaign will be competitive in the general election.

Mr. Johnson becomes the 38th congressional incumbent not to seek re-election and 16th Republican. IL-13 becomes the 56th open US House seat in this election cycle.

Maryland Congressional Races Today

With most political attention focused on the Wisconsin, Maryland, and District of Columbia presidential primaries, voters from both parties go to the polls in Maryland to also choose congressional nominees. The only race of significance is the newly constructed 6th District, a western Maryland seat that has sent Republican Roscoe Bartlett (R) to Congress for the past 20 years. The district was radically redrawn during the redistricting process for purposes of electing a Democrat instead of Bartlett, but the outcome of the party primary may be a surprise.

Rob Garagiola, the state Senate majority leader, had eyes on the new 6th for himself, and drew the district per his own specifications. But it might not be enough for him to clinch even the Democratic nomination. Businessman John Delaney, who had spent over $1.6 million on the primary race prior to the March 14 pre-primary financial disclosure report (he loaned $1.25 million to his campaign), is making a strong outsider bid to wrest the nomination away from the Annapolis political insider. Garagiola had spent $409,000 during the same period. Delaney has the advantage in advertising and certainly possesses momentum, but Garagiola has greater support from groups that traditionally run strong voter turnout operations, and such often proves to be the determining factor in a low turnout election.

On the Republican side, despite having seven opponents, including a state senator and delegate, Rep. Bartlett is expected to win a convincing nomination victory. The real test for the 85-year-old congressional veteran will come in the general election.

Illinois Congressional Match-ups

Now that Tuesday’s Illinois primary produced a slate of nominees for both parties in the 18 congressional districts, the general election cycle officially begins. Illinois is the Democrats’ most gerrymandered state in the nation and the one place where they can make significant gains in House races.

To re-cap, the current delegation stands at 11R-8D. The state loses one seat in reapportionment, which forced GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) and Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) into the same district. Kinzinger, the freshman, proved to be the surprisingly easy 54-46 percent winner Tuesday night and faces only an Independent in the general election. The pairing of the two Republicans in the down-sized state, however, cost the GOP at least one seat.

    The safe Democrats, based upon voter history and quality of GOP opponents are:

  • District 1: Rep. Bobby Rush (D) – Obama ’08: 80.8%
  • District 2: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) – Obama ’08: 81.1%
  • District 3: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) – Obama ’08: 58.3%
  • District 4: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) – Obama ’08: 80.5%
  • District 5: Rep. Mike Quigley (D) – Obama ’08: 69.8%
  • District 7: Rep. Danny Davis (D) – Obama ’08: 89.4%
  • District 9: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) – Obama ’08: 68.6%
    The safe Republicans, based upon voter history and quality of Democratic opponents are:

  • District 6: Rep. Peter Roskam (R) – Obama ’08: 51.3%
  • District 14: Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) – Obama ’08: 50.6%
  • District 15: Rep. John Shimkus (R) – Obama ’08: 42.8%
  • District 16: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) – Obama ’08: 50.0%
  • District 18: Rep. Adam Schock (R) – Obama ’08: 44.1%

Six districts will set the tone for the general election. The Democrats believe they can make a net gain of four seats. Originally, they thought a fifth seat was in their grasp, but Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL-13) drew little in the way of primary opposition and the man who Democrats’ believed to be their best candidate appears to have lost Tuesday’s primary. With 2010 nominee David Gill clinging to a lead of 143 votes, now with 100 percent of the vote counted, it appears Johnson will face an opponent he has twice beaten. The 13th is much more Democratic than his previous 15th CD, but the 54.6 percent Obama score is one of the lesser in the state. Johnson now becomes the decided favorite in this new district that stretches from him home region in Champaign to the southwest through Decatur and Springfield.

But the real battles will come in the Chicago suburbs and western Illinois. In the new 8th District, probably the most difficult seat for the Republicans to hold, freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) is taking his chances in a tough general election instead of running this past Tuesday against fellow GOP freshman Randy Hultgren in the 14th CD. In a district where President Obama scored 61.5 percent, Walsh will face former Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraq War veteran, who challenged Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th District back in 2006 when the seat was open and took 49 percent of the vote. Tuesday, Duckworth notched an impressive 67-33 percent win over former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi who spent over $1 million in the Democratic primary race. Ms. Duckworth begins the general election as the favorite to unseat Walsh.

In the new 10th CD, a district that encompasses the Chicago suburban territory north of the city and hugs Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin border, freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) must defend his seat that gave 63.0 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2008. Dold is a strong campaigner and had the advantage of seeing the Democrats fight it out in a tough primary that produced attorney Brad Schneider as the nominee. Schneider scored a 47-39 percent win over activist Ilya Sheyman and two others. Sheyman was the liberal base candidate, so the Democratic turnout drive in the general may be lessened a bit. It is unlikely Obama will score as well here as he did four years ago, so Dold has a chance to survive despite the gaudy Democratic political numbers.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will face former Rep. Bill Foster (D) in the new 11th District that stretches from her home area in Hinsdale southeast to include Joliet, the latter region brand new to the seven-term congresswoman. The general election will be a major fight here, but the political numbers give Foster and the Ds a clear advantage. Obama scored 61.4 percent under the new district confines. Foster, who lost his 14th District in 2010, has his own weaknesses, so this general election begins as a toss-up with a tilt toward the Dems.

The new 12th CD, anchored in the Democratic stronghold of East St. Louis and moving south all the way to Kentucky, is very much in play for November. Without incumbent Rep. Jerry Costello (D), who is retiring, the Democrats must now rely on former St. Clair County School Superintendent Brad Harriman in a district where the President received 54.7 percent of the vote. This is the only Illinois Democratic seat where the Obama percentage lessened significantly from the previous draw. The Republicans nominated their former lieutenant governor (2010) candidate Jason Plummer. With a strong campaign, the GOP could conceivably steal this seat, thus off-setting some of their other likely Illinois losses.

Finally, freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) must defend his new 17th CD against East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos, who scored a 58 percent win Tuesday night against two Democratic candidates. The 17th was made more Democratic and now actually reaches into the city of Rockford from its traditional population anchor in the Quad Cities region. Obama posted a flat 60 percent here in 2008, meaning Schilling has tough sledding in 2012 with the President again leading the ticket. Still, this is a competitive race and with a strong campaign, Schilling has a chance to win a second term.