Category Archives: House

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.

Illinois Primary Answers

Mitt Romney easily won the Illinois primary last night finishing exactly as the late polls predicted, 47-35 percent over Rick Santorum. Delegate-wise, it is more difficult to project this soon into the post-election process because Illinois is a “Loophole Primary” and voters were actually choosing individuals on the ballot to fill 66 of the 69 delegate positions. Romney will very likely exit Illinois with more delegates than the other candidates; but will he have enough to stay on track to reach the 1,144 committed delegates prior to the Republican National Convention in Tampa? It still may be too early to answer that question.

The congressional primaries brought few surprises, though the margin of veteran Rep. Don Manzullo’s defeat at the hands of freshman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) raised more than a few eyebrows in the new 16th District. Polling had forecast an even race and it appeared Manzullo had the forward momentum toward the end of the campaign, but this clearly proved to be a misconception. Kinzinger won a 56-44 percent victory, a raw vote total of more than 9,000 votes. Since the Democrats did not file a candidate in the 16th District, Kinzinger is a lock in the general election. The county chairmen do have the power to meet and choose a nominee, but such a person would start in a major deficit position after this victory performance in what should be a reliable Republican seat.

In the lakeside 10th District, attorney Brad Schneider won a 47-39 percent win over political activist Ilya Sheyman, a favorite of the liberal “Netroots” organizations. He will oppose freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) in what will be a highly competitive general election race.

To the southwest in the new Chicago suburban 11th CD, Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will attempt to convert the marginal seat intended as a Democratic pick-up. Former Rep. Bill Foster, who lost his 14th District seat in 2010, won the Democratic nomination with 59 percent of the vote against two other opponents. This also will be a race to watch in the fall.

In the western Illinois 17th District, East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos cracked the 58 percent mark against two other candidates and will give freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) all he can handle in the general election.

It is reasonable to expect heavy competition in six of the state’s 18 congressional districts. Democrats hope to net four seats when the dust settles in November. It is unclear how many they will actually win, but Dem gains are expected in the Land of Lincoln especially with favorite son Barack Obama again leading the top of the national ticket.