Category Archives: House

Bonamici Wins Convincingly In Oregon’s 1st District

Former State Senator Suzanne Bonamici (D) racked up a 54-39 percent victory over GOP businessman Rob Cornilles in Oregon’s 1st District special election contest to fill the unexpired term of resigned Rep. David Wu (D). The outcome was no surprise in a district that has been reliably Democratic since Les AuCoin became the first member of his party to carry the seat all the way back in the Watergate year of 1974.

Bonamici, elected to the state House of Representatives in 2006 and then appointed to the state Senate before the end of her first term, can expect clear sailing throughout the rest of the decade. She ran at virtually the same level as former Rep. David Wu (D) in his last election during 2010. In that most Republican of years, a scandal-tainted Wu defeated Cornilles 55-42 percent.

Ms. Bonamici will be immediately sworn into the House later this week. OR-1 now leaves the open seat list and returns to the D incumbent column. The new congresswoman is already a heavy favorite to win a full term in the new 1st District in the regular election.

Indiana’s Rep. Burton to Retire

Rep. Dan Burton (R), a 15-term congressman, announced that he will not seek re-election later this year, thus avoiding a difficult primary contest that he was not guaranteed of winning. Mr. Burton won his last two primaries with small pluralities of the vote and would have had serious trouble had Indiana employed a run-off electoral system.

Former Rep. David McIntosh (D-IN-2), who left the House in 2000 to run unsuccessfully as the Republican gubernatorial nominee, already is in the race. And former US Attorney Susan Brooks is an announced candidate, as is ex-Marion County Coroner John McGoff, who is making his third run for the seat. The eventual Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite to win in November. The Indiana primary is May 8. Candidate filing closes Feb. 21.

Mr. Burton becomes the 33rd member to announce he won’t seek re-election to the House (19D-14R). Eighteen members are opting to retire from politics, while 15 are running for a different office. Adding the new seats created by reapportionment and redistricting, 49 seats are already open for the 2012 election.

Republican-Held CDs: A Vulnerability Analysis

The House Majority PAC, run by a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee political director who served under then-chairman Rahm Emanuel, released the findings of Public Policy Polling vulnerability surveys for eight Republican-held congressional seats (all conducted during the Jan. 18-23 period). It is not known in exactly how many districts the PAC polled, but these eight will undoubtedly be competitive and obviously fare the best for Democrats among those tested.

Though the release was done in the context of making the GOP incumbents look as vulnerable as possible, looking beyond the numbers and overlaying the new district lines tells, perhaps, a different story in many of these targeted CDs.

The eight are:

• CO-3: Rep. Scott Tipton (R), 46% vs. Sal Pace (D), 39% – The 3rd District of Colorado is commonly described as the Western Slope seat. The region encompasses the mountainous western part of the state but comes east along the state’s southern border to capture the Democratic city and county of Pueblo. Because the split-control Colorado legislature was unable to produce a new congressional map, the subsequent de novo court map kept the integrity of the district intact and made the swing seat lean just one more point toward the Democrats. Sal Pace is the state House minority leader and expected to be a strong challenger. Scott Tipton is a freshman who defeated three-term Democratic Rep. John Salazar in the last election 50-46 percent. This is expected to be a close race, but since the Republican presidential nominee usually carries this region, Tipton might get a point or two bump. At this point, a 46-39 percent spread for numbers released by a Democratic Super PAC are not too bad for the incumbent Republican in a district that traditionally features tight congressional contests.

• IL-8: Rep. Joe Walsh, 35% (R) vs. Generic D, 49% – The two Democratic contenders in this new district are former US Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth and ex-Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi. The generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have a strong chance of unseating freshman Rep. Joe Walsh here, in a Democratic redraw that was designed to do just that. Walsh’s decision to run in the new 8th instead of facing a GOP incumbent pairing with fellow freshman Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) is highly questionable. Despite House Republican leadership promising to raise Walsh millions of dollars if he were to run in the 8th District, the demographic and political numbers paint an unpleasant picture regarding the freshman’s chances. Expect the Democratic nominee, likely Duckworth, to romp in the general election. The PPP generic poll has a high probability of being accurate.

• IA-4: Rep. Steve King (R), 49% vs. Christie Vilsack (D), 43% – Rep. Steve King’s 5th District, now labeled #4, is quite different under the new redistricting design, as the state lost a seat in reapportionment. Instead of occupying the entire western side of Iowa from north to south, the new 4th CD keeps only his north-central western base and now travels as far east as Mason City, Charles City, and New Hampton. The seat is generally Republican, but King has drawn a challenge from Christie Vilsack (D), wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. She will have all the campaign resources she needs to run a competitive race. Since Vilsack likely has higher name ID throughout the entire district than does Rep. King, a 49-43 percent spread in the congressman’s favor is not particularly bad news for he and the GOP.

• MD-6: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 42% – One of the biggest redistricting victims in the United States is 85-year old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). He has seen his district go from a 58 percent McCain performance to a 56 percent Obama number with the addition of more highly Democratic precincts in Montgomery County. Under the new district lines, Rep. Bartlett is a clear underdog in the general election, assuming he survives an eight-person Republican primary. Considering the drastic nature of the redraw, pulling dead even in what is now a decidedly Democratic district is actually a surprisingly good showing for the GOP incumbent.

• MI-1: Rep. Dan Benishek (R), 41% vs. Gary McDowell (D), 46% – Rep. Benishek is trailing by five in a new district that is slightly more Republican than the one in which he defeated then-state Rep. Gary McDowell (D) 52-41 percent in 2010; and that is a sign of trouble. Though the seat was held by Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak for 18 years, the voting history of northern Michigan is hospitable to Republicans. Therefore, a poll showing Benishek already trailing McDowell, who just announced he was going to run again in September, should be a cause for concern among Benishek and the northern Michigan Republican party.

• OH-6: Rep. Bill Johnson (R), 42% vs. Charlie Wilson (D), 41% – Though Ohio loses two congressional districts, the configuration of the 6th District that hugs the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders all the way from East Liverpool and Steubenville down to and through Scioto County stays virtually intact under the new Buckeye State map. The seat juts west on I-70 at Cambridge in order to pick up some new Republican voters to give Johnson some help. The freshman congressman’s opponent is former two-term Rep. Charlie Wilson, who Johnson defeated 50-45 percent in 2010. A one-point polling margin is what one would expect in this district featuring two well-known candidates at such an early point in the election cycle. The new OH-6 race is likely to remain close all the way to Election Day.

• OH-7: Rep. Bob Gibbs (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 43% – The new 7th District is a radical redraw from the current 18th CD that elected freshman Rep. Bob Gibbs. Instead of stretching south from the central part of the state, the new 7th moves north to grab the city of Canton, sweeps around new District 16 in a horseshoe-shaped fashion to pick up the city of Ashland on the west, and then travels north all the way to Lake Erie. The new district should elect a Republican, but Gibbs is unfamiliar to a large number of voters. The fact that he is virtually dead-even on the generic ballot question is not particularly bad news for the new congressman. Once he becomes better known throughout the entire new district, and is paired with a live Democratic candidate instead of a party label, his ballot test numbers should dramatically improve.

• OH-16: Rep. Jim Renacci (R), 46% vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D), 46% – The 16th District doesn’t much resemble either GOP Rep. Renacci’s current 16th CD, nor Rep. Sutton’s 13th District. Renacci represents a greater proportion of the new district, but it only slightly leans Republican. Therefore, it is not particularly surprising that the two candidates are starting on even footing. This is another race that will be hard-fought. Because Sutton’s political base was split among several districts, forcing her to begin again from scratch, she faces the more difficult path to re-election. OH-16 is one of just three districts in the nation so far that features an inter-party incumbent pairing. The other two are CA-32, with Reps. Grace Napolitano (D) and David Dreier (R) facing off – though it is highly unlikely that the Republican will run here – and IA-3, with Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) lining up against each other.

Democrats to Depart in North Carolina

Two Democratic retirements were announced yesterday in North Carolina.

First, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC-13), who seemed politically doomed in an intra-party pairing with Rep. David Price (D-NC-4) in the new 4th Congressional District, decided not to make the race after all. Though saying he was encouraged by his supporters’ responses if forced to make a choice between the two, Miller indicated that Democratic Party leaders, activists, and financial donors were virtually unanimous in expressing the opinion that the two should not challenge each other.

The congressman was first elected in the redistricting year of 2002, winning the new seat North Carolina gained in reapportionment. Ten years later, Miller became the victim of redistricting as his 13th District was redrawn as a Republican seat and his Raleigh political base became enjoined with Price’s.

But the bigger Tar Heel State news is embattled Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue’s announcement that she will not seek a second four-year term in this year’s general election.

Lagging in the polls to Republican Pat McCrory, the man she beat in 2008, and being continually upside down in job approval, her political outlook appeared bleak. Perdue’s standing was so bad at one point during the summer of 2009, that even a plurality of Democrats disapproved of her performance in office (38:40 percent). It was believed by many that Democrats would have a better chance to win in November with another candidate. Now, they have that opportunity.

The move has upended the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, however. Already Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), another redistricting victim, says he is “strongly considering” and “leaning towards running for governor.”

Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), one more Tar Heel State Democrat whose district will be more Republican in 2012, also said he is not ruling out running statewide. Should both of these men jump into the now open governor’s race, Republicans will almost certainly fill their vacated congressional districts.

For his part, outgoing Rep. Miller stated that he “hadn’t given [running for governor] the first thought,” but he also didn’t close the door on running. He added, however, that other qualified candidates are already jumping into the race.

In terms of statewide Democratic office holders, with the exception of Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton – who immediately declared his candidacy for governor and never even eliminated the possibility of launching a primary challenge to Purdue – each publicly ruled out embarking upon gubernatorial campaigns. Attorney General Roy Cooper, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, and State Treasurer Janet Cowell all confirmed they are seeking re-election to their current positions.

It is clear that North Carolina is the Republicans’ best redistricting state. According to many analyses, the GOP has a strong chance to gain as many as four seats in the 13-member delegation, making the 2013-14 delegation split 10R-3D. Should both Shuler and McIntyre enter the governor’s race, such an outcome becomes a virtual lock.

The most likely scenario features Mr. Shuler becoming a gubernatorial candidate, but Mr. McIntyre either seeking re-election or retiring from the House. Yesterday’s decisions rocked North Carolina politics. Many more developments will soon be forthcoming.

Arizona Rep. Giffords to Resign; The Road Ahead

The senseless shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) a little more than one year ago has now led to her leaving Congress, as announced in an emotional video to supporters and her constituents. She will attend tonight’s State of the Union message, but then officially leave the House later this week and return home to Tucson to continue her recovery.

Once the resignation becomes official, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has only 72 hours to schedule a replacement special election. Based upon Arizona election code requirements in relation to the timing of the vacancy, the nominating contest will be in mid to late April (within 80 to 90 days of the official date of vacancy) with the special general in June (within 50 to 60 days after the special primary). The vote will occur within the current 8th District boundaries, which is slightly more favorable to Republicans than the post-redistricting Tucson-based 2nd District, re-numbered as such by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2010, Rep. Giffords won re-election in a tight 49-47 percent contest over Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly.

Expect a large number of Democrats and Republicans to run in the marginal open seat race. Five Republicans, including Kelly and state Sen. Frank Antenori, have already indicated their interest in becoming a candidate for the new 2nd District, so it is assumed that they will participate in the special election. Several state legislators are Democratic potential candidates. The winner will serve only to the end of the current Congress. It is assumed the victor will run in the regular new 2nd District election, meaning he or she will endure four elections (two primaries, two generals) over a period of eight months.

Another House Retirement: NY Rep. Hinchey

Later today, New York Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-22) will become the 31st US House member to announce that he will not seek re-election next year, and the seventh to do so since Dec. 15. Mr. Hinchey, 73, was treated for colon cancer last year but is now reportedly free of the disease. He is in his 10th congressional term, originally winning election in 1992. The representative is the 19th Democratic incumbent intent on leaving the House at the end of the current Congress as compared to 12 Republicans. With Hinchey added to the list, 17 are opting for retirement, while 14 are running for different elected offices.

But the big change spawning from Hinchey’s move is determining just how the new vacancy will affect New York congressional redistricting. Since the Empire State is losing two congressional seats via reapportionment, his 22nd District (Ithaca, Binghamton, Middletown, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Kingston) will very likely be collapsed. The seat is reliably Democratic (Obama ’08: 59 percent – Bush ’04: 45 percent), yet it is now surrounded by Republican seats. Not having to protect Hinchey will allow the Democrats to claim that they are relinquishing a seat while simultaneously drawing a plan to put the area upstate Republicans at a severe disadvantage. Watch for a play likely involving freshman Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY-24) or Nan Hayworth (R-NY-19) now that there will be plenty of available Democrats in their region looking for a home.

The Return of Parker Griffith

In 2008, physician Parker Griffith won Alabama’s 5th Congressional District race replacing veteran Rep. Bud Cramer (D), who retired after serving nine terms in office. Parker, at the time a state senator, won election to the US House as a Democrat (51-48 percent over Republican businessman Wayne Parker), but switched parties after about a year in office citing frustration with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team.

After weathering a storm of GOP attack ads in the ’08 general election, Mr. Griffith continued to absorb political punishment even after joining his new party. Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks challenged him for the Republican nomination and ended the race with a stunning 50-33 percent victory in a three-way campaign, securing an outright majority to avoid even a run-off election. Last Friday, Mr. Griffith surprised everyone by again filing for the seat, seeking a Republican primary re-match with Rep. Brooks.

The most important election for any political switcher is the first nomination vote in the new party. Griffith did not establish a proper local Republican base in order to secure a political foothold in his new party despite major national support. Now, with no money in his campaign account, two months in which to campaign, and both the national and local GOP establishment firmly backing incumbent Brooks, it’s hard to comprehend what path to victory Griffith sees in 2012. It is probable that Mr. Brooks’ re-nomination percentage will be even higher than when he unseated incumbent Griffith just two years ago.