Category Archives: House

Today’s Illinois Primary

The state of Illinois now begins the process of deciding how their 69 delegates will vote at the Republican National Convention. Polling consistently shows Mitt Romney leading Rick Santorum, but not by such a margin as to close out the latter’s candidacy.

Illinois is one of two “Loophole” primary states. Voters will actually vote twice for president today. They will first choose one of the national candidates, and then directly vote for individuals running for delegate from their particular congressional district. The popular vote has no bearing on the delegate selection process. The Loophole primary got its name because this particular system allowed a candidate to theoretically take all of a state’s delegates even though the entity did not adopt the winner-take-all format. The only other Loophole primary state is Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania.

Illinois will also choose its congressional nominees today. The House race attracting the most attention is the nip and tuck battle between veteran Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) and freshman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) for the newly configured 16th CD. Polling shows a virtual tie, so expect this one to be decided by a very close margin.

The new Chicago suburban 8th District will choose a Democratic nominee, as former Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth battles ex-Deputy state Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi. The winner faces freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) in the general election, and will likely be favored because redistricting has significantly changed the political complexion of this district.

Along Lake Michigan north of Chicago in the 10th District, Democrats are sparring to find a nominee to challenge freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) in a race that also promises to be competitive.

The Dems will also be selecting nominees to face Reps. Tim Johnson (R-IL-13) and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17) in campaigns that also have the potential of becoming highly competitive.

Finally, both parties will choose their candidates to square off in the open 12th District, a seat left open because Rep. Jerry Costello (D) chose not to seek re-election. This district, too, has competitive possibilities for the fall.

Another interesting political night is again in store. Many questions will be answered and several new ones will undoubtedly be asked.

New York, New York

Now that it is apparent that the three-judge panel’s congressional map for New York will in all likelihood be instituted for the 2012 congressional elections, action is happening in all four corners of the state.

First, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5), after basically having the field cleared for him in the new 6th District, surprisingly announced last night that he will not seek re-election. Ackerman was first elected to the House in 1982 after serving one term in the NY Senate. He becomes the 42nd member not to be standing for re-election. One of those, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), was defeated in her primary. Including the Schmidt seat and the two vacant US House positions, those of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) and the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ-10), the open seat count rises to 55.

The Ackerman retirement decision is a surprise for several reasons. First, it is incredulous that he waited until after redistricting was complete to make his intentions known when such knowledge would have made the legislators’ and court’s task easier in collapsing a seat, particularly since the Queens/Long Island area was targeted for district reduction. Second, GOP Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) had already announced that he would launch a long-shot senatorial campaign rather than oppose Ackerman in the new, and highly Democratic, 6th District. Third, sate Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D), who had been planning to challenge Turner, said he would not run for Congress when the Republican and Ackerman were paired, and publicly endorsed his Democratic colleague for re-election. Now, with all of this breaking his way, Ackerman calls it quits.

But, it’s possible that Turner may soon be back. A very late entry into the Senate race, the congressman, like all of the other candidates, must garner 25 percent of the delegate vote at the New York state Republican Convention beginning today in Rochester. Attorney Wendy Long, who also is getting the Conservative Party ballot line, is estimated to be around the 23 percent mark; Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos appears to have more than 28 percent in delegate commitments. But, Turner, just entering the convention race, is barely over 8 percent, a long way from the minimum 25 percent needed for primary ballot placement. Should he not make the statewide ballot, Turner could pivot back into what is now, at least temporarily, an open 6th District seat.

In Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY-3) Nassau-Suffolk County seat, now labeled District 2 and much more Democratic than his current CD, opposition party leaders are attempting to recruit a strong candidate. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice appears to be the party’s first choice.

Upstate, the collapsing of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s (D) 22nd District has sent several candidates who were running for what they thought was an open seat scrambling to other districts.

Leslie Danks Burke, the Ithaca Town Democratic Party chair will now challenge freshman Rep. Tom Reed in the new 23rd District. The same is true for Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa. The seat is more Democratic than Reed’s current 29th CD, but he begins the race as a strong favorite for re-election.

Democrat Wall Street attorney Sean Maloney, who was originally looking at challenging freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) in the Finger Lakes district will now run against freshman Nan Hayworth (R) in the Westchester County CD. For his part, Gibson will run in the new more Democratic 19th District. Matt Doheny, the 2010 nominee against Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23) will opt for a re-match in the new 21st District, which will be more to the Republican’s liking if he can get the incumbent into a one-on-one battle. In the Buffalo area, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26), who was placed in a heavily Republican 27th District and speculation became rampant that she might challenge Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) in the new Buffalo center city district, says she will fight it out in the new 27th.

Expect much more to come next week when the GOP state convention ends and the Senate field of candidates is set.

Romney’s Reality and Other Struggling GOP Candidates

Now that the dust has settled and the final results have been recorded from the Tuesday night vote, it is clear that Mitt Romney slightly underperformed on the aggregate delegate count. With his win in Hawaii and the sweep of American Samoa’s nine delegates somewhat off-setting his third-place finishes in Mississippi and Alabama, Romney looks to have secured approximately 42 delegate votes on the evening. This is four to five short of his projected bare minimum pace necessary to secure 1,144 delegates before the Republican National Convention begins. Since he will more than likely continue to fare poorly in the remaining southern states of Louisiana (March 24), North Carolina (May 8), Arkansas (May 22), and Texas (May 29) the Midwestern trio of states – Illinois (March 20), Wisconsin (April 3), and Indiana (May 8) – are must-win landslides if he is to maintain his victory chances.

In other races, several Republican incumbents claimed renomination on Tuesday night with uninspiring percentages against weak opposition. Reps. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1), House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL-6) and freshman Alan Nunnelee (R-MS-1) all won their primary elections outright, but with percentages between 55 and 60 percent. This is hardly a normal result since such efforts against under-funded opponents usually find the incumbent exceeding 75 percent. Tuesday’s congressional vote, coupled with the defeat of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2) and former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH-15) last week in the Ohio primaries, could be an early indication that voters’ anti-incumbent sentiments, so prominent since the 2006 election, have yet to subside.

Washington’s Inslee to Resign

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1), already a declared 2012 candidate for governor of Washington state, will resign his seat in Congress this week. With gubernatorial election polling continuing to show him either behind or tied with Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), carrying out his responsibilities in the nation’s capital while still trying to campaign in a state that is the farthest away in the continental region from Washington, DC is logistically too difficult.

The timing of his resignation is important, hence the reason that he has waited until now to leave office. Under Washington election law, resigning in March prior to the state’s May 18 candidate filing deadline will allow a special election to be conducted concurrently with the state’s regular primary and general election schedule, Aug. 7 and Nov. 6, respectively.

This is a curious decision because the current 1st District, where a special election would be held, is more highly Democratic than the new 1st District. Though the Obama 2008 percentage in the new 1st is 56 percent, usually regarded as a strong partisan number, Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R) current 8th District has the same percentage, yet he has held even in the worst of Republican years. Therefore, the open battle in the new 1st figures to be much more competitive than one in the current 1st.

While it’s true that any new member would serve just a short time under the current lines if the election were held sometime before November, the short-term incumbency advantages would seemingly put the winner in a stronger position when facing a viable Republican regular election opponent, presumably 2nd District 2010 nominee John Koster who held Rep. Rick Larsen (D) to a 51-49 percent win. Much of the Koster base territory is in the new open 1st.

Expect WA-1 to be competitive in the fall. The concurrent special election will be virtually meaningless, because the winner will serve only the final two months of the current term. If the two elections produce different winners, the special election victor will have only eight weeks in office during the interim transition period.

Examining How Kaptur Crushed Kucinich in Ohio

Those who spent any time with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) this winter knew that she was not looking forward to the month of March. The Toledo area congresswoman had been paired in the same district with Ohio Democratic colleague Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) by the newly minted GOP majority in the Buckeye State legislature as part of this year’s redistricting, and she was not looking forward to having to battle the combative Cleveland Democrat as prelude to defending her seat in November.

Dennis Kucinich has been a fixture and a colorful figure on the Cleveland political scene since the late 1960s. Some Clevelanders have had the chance to support Kucinich in campaigns for city council, mayor, Ohio secretary of state, governor, state senator, the U.S. Congress and the presidency in 2004 and 2008 during the course of a roller-coaster political career that has spanned 45 years.

For her part, Miss Kaptur’s political career, spent in the Toledo area, has been less colorful, but more careful than that of her Cleveland rival. First elected to Congress in 1982, Kaptur has steadily built support and seniority to become the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2010 Census made it clear that Ohio would lose two House seats to reapportionment. With Republicans gaining control of both Houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office that year, it was no surprise that Democrats in the Congressional delegation would be uneasy. The final redistricting plan to emerge from Columbus raised eyebrows this winter when two of the state’s most senior Democrats were both thrown into a battle for their political lives in the new Ninth CD.

Stretching all the way from Kaptur’s Toledo base in the west and hugging the Lake Erie shore all the way to Lorain and Kucinich’s Cleveland/Cuyahoga County political launching pad in the east, the district is the longest from end-to-end in Ohio. With more of Kaptur’s old district than Kucinich’s in the new CD, the voter history edge went to Kaptur in the early handicapping, but Kucinich supporters felt that as the more liberal of the two, he might have the edge with party activists and primary voters.

Kaptur, who hasn’t been seriously tested in some years in her heavily Democratic base, dusted off her campaign skills, showing remarkable energy in tirelessly reaching out to voters in the eastern reaches of the district where she was less well known. The final weeks the campaign took on a surreal atmosphere as Kucinich touted endorsements from country music icon Willie Nelson, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, none of whom live in Ohio.

By contrast, Kaptur captured the endorsements of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former GOP Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R).

Adding to the campaign mayhem, Kaptur ran an ad in the Cleveland media market highlighting Kucinich’s musings about possibly moving to Washington state to run for Congress instead of Cleveland. Kaptur’s ad linked Kucinich to Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell and Cleveland Cavaliers/Miami Heat basketball superstar LeBron James as figures willing to turn their backs on Cleveland and Ohio by packing up and moving away.

While Tuesday night’s Romney-Santorum cliffhanger captured almost all the national media attention, Kaptur’s 56-40% drubbing of Kucinich may have the greater long-term consequences in Washington DC, if not Washington state. Late last week, the announcement that Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA-6) would not seek re-election created a third Democratic-leaning open House seat in the Evergreen State. Dicks’ retirement also will make Kaptur the most senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee come January if she wins re-election in the new, heavily Democratic Ninth CD.

It would be highly unusual for any Democrat to mount a challenge to Kaptur for the top spot, but it is not unprecedented for members to challenge each other for choice slots on major committees. Kaptur, after all, is no favorite of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi lieutenant Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-18), for one, might be put up to such a run. A long-shot dream scenario for Pelosi might be for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) to give up his leadership post and reclaim his seniority on the Appropriations Committee, where he served before moving into the Capitol Building. Hoyer would then become chairman of the committee in the unlikely event the Democrats regained the House majority. That move would allow her to dispatch two rivals in one move, but such things are too much for even former Speakers to hope.

A more realistic view is that Kaptur will be the odds-on favorite to win the top Democratic spot on the Appropriations Committee when the next Congress convenes. She can look back and think that this whole chain of events all started with a momentous month of March.