Category Archives: House

Updates From Texas, West Virginia

Texas Senate: Sanchez Drops Bid

While former NFL football player Craig James (R) appears to be headed into the Texas Senate race, another candidate is departing. Retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (D) who officially launched his Senatorial campaign back in May, now says he will not run.

Sanchez experienced a difficult time launching his campaign from a fundraising perspective and in attempting to kick his effort into high gear. After recently sustaining huge personal losses due to a fire that cost him his personal residence, the retired military officer said it was simply not the right time for him to enter elective politics, particularly for a long shot statewide attempt.

Republicans are strong favorites to hold the open seat. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) is retiring.

WV-1: Oliverio Out

Former state Sen. Mike Oliverio (D), who lost one of the closest elections (49.6-50.4 percent) of the 2010 election cycle to freshman Rep. David McKinley (R), has withdrawn from the 2012 contest. In May of 2010, Oliverio upset 14-term Rep. Alan Mollohan in the Democratic primary largely because of the incumbent’s vote in favor of the Cap & Trade legislation, an issue that is wholly unpopular in northern West Virginia coal country. In September, Mr. Oliverio announced that he would seek a re-match with Rep. McKinley.

Oliverio gave no reason for changing his mind, only saying that he would be an “active citizen” instead of a candidate for public office. In the three months of his latest campaign effort, he had only raised $11,000 and still carries a debt of $27,000 from the 2010 race.

Remaining in the race is Democratic activist Susan Thorn. WV-1 changed little in redistricting. The McKinley-Oliverio re-match was considered a toss-up, but the congressman will certainly be favored if Thorn becomes the eventual Democratic nominee.

Two Polls; Two Drop-Outs

NM-1 Poll

Public Policy Polling surveyed the upcoming open New Mexico Senate race (Dec. 10-12; 500 New Mexico registered voters; 309 New Mexico Democratic primary voters). Their latest data gives Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) a 47-40 percent edge over former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1). If Lt. Gov. John Sanchez were to become the Republican nominee, Heinrich would beat him 48-37 percent.

In the Democratic primary between Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas, the congressman leads that battle 47-30 percent. The Republican primary featuring Wilson and Sanchez was not tested.

The results are about what one would expect at this time. New Mexico is a relatively competitive state, much more so at the presidential level than in the state contests, and it leans to the Democrats. Normally, the Democrat holds the lead early and the Republican gains strength as the election draws near. The fact that Rep. Heinrich only leads Ms. Wilson by seven points in a small-sample poll and still falls below the 50 percent mark suggests that this could become a highly competitive general election campaign. The New Mexico seat is open because Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is retiring after five terms.

OR-1 Poll

Public Policy Polling was also in the field in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District for the upcoming special election to be decided on Jan. 31. Their poll (Dec. 13-14; 979 OR-1 likely special election voters) gives former state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D) an expected 52-41 percent lead over 2010 Republican nominee Rob Cornilles, a local sporting goods executive.

The data breaks down exactly as one would predict: Democrats overwhelmingly support Bonamici (89-6 percent), while Republicans are just as strong for Cornilles (88-5 percent). Liberals and conservatives each strongly break toward the Democratic and Republican candidate, respectively. The two points that prove interesting and potentially determinative – and there is one plus for each candidate – are that women are going heavily for Bonamici (57-36 percent) while men break evenly (47-47 percent), and Independents are trending toward Cornilles (46-40 percent).

The fact that the district is overwhelmingly Democratic and the party apparatus and liberal special interest groups are spending heavily for Bonamici while the Republican/conservative side has yet to step up for Cornilles, suggests that the former will handily win this seat if the current trends continue.

The position is open because Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1) resigned earlier in the year.

Kentucky Rep. Davis Retires; Utah Rep. Matheson Jumps Districts

Kentucky GOP Rep. Geoff Davis surprisingly announced that he won’t seek a fifth term in his 4th Congressional District next year, opening what will likely be a safe Republican seat and a position on the Ways & Means Committee in the next Congress.

Davis, a former US Army Ranger and prosperous independent businessman, is retiring due to family considerations. In 2004, after running a close but unsuccessful campaign against Rep. Ken Lucas (D-KY-4) two years earlier, Davis defeated Nick Clooney, father of actor George Clooney, by more than 30,000 votes to win the seat. He then repelled Lucas’ comeback bid by eight points in the Democratic year of 2006, and cruised to big re-elections in 2008 and 2010. Mr. Davis becomes the 25th member and seventh Republican to make public his plans not to run for the House in 2012. He is the 11th to retire. The others are seeking a different office.

The KY-4 District is strongly Republican and expected to remain in GOP hands even after the new congressional map is drawn. John McCain received 60 percent of the vote here in 2008. Former President George W. Bush scored 63 and 61 percent in 2004 and 2000, respectively.

After exploring for several months whether to challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch or Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah 2nd District Rep. Jim Matheson (D) announced that he will seek re-election in 2012, but from new District 4. The Utah Republican plan is to attempt to win all four of the state’s congressional seats – the Beehive State gained one district in reapportionment – and Matheson feels his best chance of winning re-election lies in the new 4th, rather than his current 2nd District.

Republican state Reps. Stephen Sandstrom and Carl Wimmer had already announced for the 4th. It will be interesting to see if they stay in this seat now that Matheson has declared, or if they will hop over to the vacant 2nd. In any event, Mr. Matheson has a difficult road to re-election.

Rep. Joe Walsh Raising Eyebrows

Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL-8), whose suburban Chicago district was obliterated in the Democrats’ redistricting plan, has changed his re-election plans. His decision to switch campaign venues has surprised many political observers since his chances of winning in the new territory next November don’t appear too favorable.

Originally, Mr. Walsh decided to mount a campaign against fellow freshman Republican Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) in the new 14th District, a seat where the GOP primary winner becomes the strong favorite for the general election, but now he is opting for an uphill general election battle in a new and heavily Democratic 8th District.

Though party leaders are pledging to raise big money for him to take on the eventual Democratic nominee, either former Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary Tammy Duckworth or former Deputy Illinois Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi, it remains to be seen if they come through when polling will likely show Walsh considerably behind, and many other districts around the country will be in closer position.

The big winner in this scenario is Mr. Hultgren who avoids a difficult primary election and now becomes the prohibitive favorite for re-election. The Republican apparatus wins by avoiding an intra-party pairing of incumbents, but the same result is not as apparent for Mr. Walsh.

Candidate filing deadline of Dec. 27 is fast approaching. The Illinois primary is March 20th.

DSCC Chair Patty Murray’s Favorites

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made some statements that clearly indicates who she believes are her party’s strongest candidates in three key campaigns when she spoke during an informal session with reporters.

The senator stopped short of committing the DSCC to officially support and help any particular candidate in the Democratic primaries, but did offer her personal endorsement to a pair of open-seat contenders and spoke glowingly of a third.

Murray said that Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and Hawaii Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) are the best Democratic candidates for their states, that she personally supports both, and expects each to win their own general elections.

Not surprisingly, Murphy and Hirono’s opponents shot back when hearing the news. Former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz responded to Murray’s statements by saying that, “My opponent is the favorite of K Street, and my supporters are on Main Street.”

Former Hawaii Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) responded in a similar way about the senator’s comments praising Hirono. He claims that his top opponent is “selling her candidacy to the DC insiders.”

Murray also praised Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) as being the superior candidate in the New Mexico open-seat contest. She stopped short of personally endorsing him, however, and again did not commit any DSCC resources to Heinrich or any of the aforementioned candidates.

The New Mexico congressman is running against state Auditor Hector Balderas, who will likely draw well in the state’s substantial Hispanic community. Since these votes are critically important to the Democrats in the general election, both Murray and Heinrich are treading very carefully with respect to how they draw a contrast with Balderas.

The frankness of Murray’s comments is a bit unusual for a major party committee chair, particularly this early in the election cycle. Normally, the official response is to remain publicly neutral even if they help particular contenders behind the scenes. Often times public endorsements from Washington political committees do more harm than good for the people the party establishment wants to help, so they usually keep as silent as possible.

There is no question that Murphy, Hirono, and Heinrich are the early favorites in their respective states. If the election were today, each would almost assuredly win the nomination, so it makes sense that, from a general election “winability” perspective, Murray would want to further their candidacies. The fact that she is at least personally on board is a clear signal to outside liberal groups and labor union financial communities that they should be backing each campaign.

Much time remains in each of the three situations, so it is curious that Sen. Murray would be publicly picking favorites this early. The New Mexico primary is scheduled for June 5th. Hawaii and Connecticut do not choose nominees until Aug. 11 and 14, respectively.

In the Land of Enchantment, Heinrich and Balderas are fighting for the right to succeed retiring five-term Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez are dueling for the Republican nomination. The Democrats begin the campaign as early favorites, but this race could become a toss-up before people go to the polls next November.

The Democrats also appear strong in Connecticut, though ex-Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4) does match-up well with Bysiewicz in early ballot test polling. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman is retiring.

The Hawaii situation may be different. With former Gov. Linda Lingle in the race and already the consensus Republican candidate in a late primary state, it is important that the Democrats avoid a divisive nomination fight. With Case having been on the ballot so many times before in the state (he’s previously had runs for governor, US senator, and three times as a representative for the US House), he has the potential of causing Hirono problems; so Murray attempting to give Rep. Hirono a boost should help the party’s general election standing. Four-term Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring.

In MD-6, It’s Time for a Scorecard

It’s getting so you can’t tell the players in the Maryland’s 6th congressional race without a scorecard.

The Democratic congressional redistricting plan upended Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R) 6th District, transforming it from a safely Republican seat to one that will likely elect a Democrat. The feisty Bartlett, who will be 86 at the time of the next election, defiantly said he would seek an 11th term in 2012 regardless of how his district is drawn. But, is his decision changing?

Earlier in the week, it was reported that the congressman’s chief of staff, Bud Otis, was contacting key opinion leaders, testing the waters for his own run for Congress in the new 6th. He was telling people that he would run only if Mr. Bartlett decided to retire. Just yesterday, however, he resigned his position in order to begin the campaign. For his part, Rep. Bartlett still says he’s running. It appears Otis is, too.

These recent moves have prompted Maryland Republican Party chairman Alex Mooney to also enter the congressional race. Mooney served two terms in the Maryland Senate, but surprisingly went down to defeat in 2010, in the most Republican of years. Mooney previously said he was staying out of the race because of his respect for Bartlett but, he said, upon learning of the developments just described, if Otis is running, then he is too. State Sen. David Brinkley also entered the race, saying he was in regardless of what anyone else decided.

But, that’s not all. Attorney Robin Ficker, a former state Delegate who came to fame as a professional sports heckler, had declared his candidacy several weeks ago. Ficker, a rabid fan of the Washington Bullets/Wizards professional basketball team, used to heckle the visiting teams from behind their bench at the old Cap Centre. During one playoff series, the New York Knicks actually hired Ficker and flew him to Madison Square Garden in order to heckle the Knicks’ opponents. Three other lesser known candidates are also in the Republican field.

The interesting part about all of these Republican maneuverings is that they are likely for naught. Since the new draw brings the western Maryland district all the way into Montgomery County in the Washington, DC suburbs, the seat will most likely elect a Democrat no matter who eventually wins this hotly contested Republican primary.

For their part, the Democrats seem to be having an easier time settling on a contender. State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola has a good chance of becoming a consensus candidate, as other prominent Montgomery County Democratic local officials have decided not to make the race.

If Bartlett decides to move forward with his campaign as he continues to promise, he still could find himself winning the primary, simply because his field of opponents will likely be so large that the anti-incumbent vote will be widely split. Or, is Otis’ entry a clear sign that his long-time boss has actually already decided to forego re-election?

It is clear that redistricting has made Roscoe Bartlett one of the country’s most endangered of Republican congressmen. Therefore, all of these GOP machinations could be much ado about nothing. Unless something drastic occurs, the Republican who finally comes through the nomination morass, will find himself decidedly in the underdog position, even if it is the current incumbent.

As a result of their successful redistricting effort, the Maryland Democrats have made MD-6 one of their best conversion opportunities in the entire country.

With Rep. Frank Retiring, What’s Next?

Yesterday Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4), currently serving his 16th two-year term in the House, announced he will not seek re-election in 2012. Previously, he had said he would run again but the Massachusetts redistricting plan gave him a much different seat, one that includes a substantial amount of new territory. The new 4th is more Republican, but nowhere close to the level of making Rep. Frank vulnerable to defeat. The loss of the more liberal towns of Fall River and New Bedford, however, which were replaced with more culturally conservative regions, does change the ideological prism of the district.

Without Mr. Frank in the 2012 picture, several Democrat office holders already are beginning to make moves to enter the race. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter announced his congressional candidacy yesterday on the heels of the Frank retirement statement. Two former US Senate candidates, Newton Mayor Setti Warren and wealthy businessman Alan Khazei, both of whom dropped their bids earlier this year in favor of Obama Administration consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, are also potential candidates. Three women, Democrat state and local officials, likewise are being mentioned: state Sen. Cynthia Creem, and Brookline Selectwomen Jesse Mermell and Deborah Goldberg.

On the Republican side, 2010 nominee Sean Bielat, who held Frank to a 53-43 percent victory in the current district, had previously announced his candidacy as did Elizabeth Childs, a former state Mental Health Commissioner. The Democrats will likely hold the seat, but this campaign becomes more interesting in its new status as an open seat contest.