Category Archives: House

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.

Update: House Review – Part II

We trust everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Resuming our coverage of the post-redistricting states as it relates to congressional maps, we analyze the remaining 13 states that have completed their drawing process for 2012. Legal action in some states could ultimately change the maps, but odds are strong that the 25 states with plans already adopted through their legislative and/or court processes will stand at least through the next election. To look over Part I of our two-part series, please go to this link: House Review – Part I.

Massachusetts

Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-MA-4) district becomes a bit more Republican, and it appears to be gathering serious general election competition between the two parties now with Frank’s impending retirement announcement at this writing. In a district that looked like the D’s would easily prevail next November with a Frank re-election, things now appear to be not so certain. More on that in another upcoming separate post.

The loss of a district in reapportionment prompted the retirement of Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1). And with Frank joining him in retirement, only eight of the 10 current incumbents are seeking re-election; and all now have a single-member district in which to run. New Districts 1 and 2 are combined into a large western Massachusetts seat covering the Springfield-Chicopee metro area and stretching to the New York border through Pittsfield and Amherst. The new 1st District is safely Democratic, but Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2) is getting a primary challenge from former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo, currently a Berkshire County local official.

Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) has decided to run in the new 9th District, despite his Quincy metro area political base being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s new 8th District. Keating will probably be tested in the Democratic primary, but the eventual winner of that contest holds the seat in the general election.

Michigan

Republicans are in total control of the Michigan redistricting process, so it is no surprise that the Democrats will absorb the loss of a seat from reapportionment. The map pairs veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MA-12) with sophomore Gary Peters (D-MI-9) in a new, safely Democratic 9th District but the latter has chosen an alternative course to re-election. Instead of challenging Rep. Levin, Mr. Peters has announced his intention to run in the new majority black 14th District. Freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13) is seeking re-election here, so this seat will host the pairing instead of District 9. Since Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is also in the race, Peters believes that the African-American vote will be split between she and Rep. Clarke. Therefore, he has the potential of building a white voter coalition large enough to win a primary with a small plurality, since the state has no run-off procedure. This strategy is a long shot, and Clarke has to be rated as the early favorite.

The new 11th District of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) continues in a competitive mode. He can expect serious competition in both the primary and general elections of 2012. If the Democrats do well nationally, then the 11th District could be in play. Odds are, however, the partisan swing is likely to be R+1 due only to the collapsed Democratic seat.

Missouri

As in Michigan and Massachusetts, the Missouri Democrats will also lose a seat because of reapportionment. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) has had his 3rd District split several ways, forcing him to seek re-election in the open 2nd District now that Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is running for the Senate. MO-2 is a Republican seat, but less so than in the previous draw. Carnahan will have strong general election opposition and is a clear underdog, especially if the top of the 2012 ticket goes Republican. All other incumbents appear to command strong re-election position. The partisan swing is likely to be R+1, with the GOP holding the 2nd District and all other incumbents retaining their new seats.

Nebraska

The Cornhusker State holds all three of its districts for the ensuing decade, and all should remain in the Republican column. Rep. Lee Terry’s (R) NE-2 District, which was becoming more competitive, was strengthened for him somewhat in the new draw. Expect no change in the 3R-0D delegation.

Nevada

The state gained one seat in reapportionment and the legislative process deadlocked, forcing a Nevada court to draw a de novo map. The result should produce one solid Democratic seat – Las Vegas-based District 1 that will be open and features a comeback attempt from defeated Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-3) – one likely Republican seat – District 2 of newly elected Rep. Mark Amodei (R), but he may face a serious primary against 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle – and two marginal seats. Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) 3rd District, in Nevada’s southern tail, will continue to see general election competition. The same is likely true for new District 4, which will encompass the northern part of Clark County and travel up through the center of the state. The likely result is a 2R-2D split, with Republicans holding the Amodei and Heck seats, and Democrats claiming the two open seats. Democrats should be in better position as the decade progresses, assuming demographic trends remain similar to present patterns. A 3D-1R split is also possible for 2012 if the Democrats do well in the presidential race and a sweep atmosphere occurs.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State is the Republican counter to the Democrats’ strength in Illinois. The Dem gains likely to be realized in the Land of Lincoln will largely be neutralized here, as the GOP could gain as many as four seats. Reps. David Price (D-NC-4) and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) are paired in a new 4th District that now stretches from Raleigh south to Fayetteville. The winner of this tough intra-party campaign holds the seat in the general election. The new 13th District, now an open seat contest, will heavily favor the eventual Republican nominee. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), and Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) are all seriously endangered and each could lose. The final swing here could be R+3 to R+4.

Oklahoma

The state adopted a map that changes very little among the five congressional districts. District 2, now open because Rep. Dan Boren (D) is not seeking re-election, becomes a strong GOP conversion opportunity. All other incumbents are safe. Because of the open seat, the preliminary projected outcome is R+1.

Oregon

Coming relatively close to gaining a new seat in reapportionment but falling just short, Oregon returns with its five districts for the ensuing decade. The new map changes little, so expect a 4D-1R split to continue for the foreseeable future. The 1st District, now in special election (January 31st) due to Rep. David Wu’s (D) resignation, will likely remain in Democratic hands in the person of state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici who has already won the special primary election. Expect no partisan change here.

South Carolina

Reapportionment adds a new 7th District to the Palmetto State delegation. The new seat is anchored in the Myrtle Beach/Horry County area and then comes south toward Charleston. The GOP controls the state’s entire political process and drew a 6R-1D map that the Department of Justice recently pre-cleared. All five current Republican members, four of whom are freshmen, should have safe seats as does the lone South Carolina Democrat, House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6). The Republican nomination process, in all likelihood, will choose the new 7th District congressman. Because of the addition of the new seat, expect a partisan swing of R+1.

Texas

The Republicans’ inability to produce a legally sound 36-District map will now cost the party at least three seats. The draw produced from the legislative process would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats, a gain of three Republicans and one Democrat from the current 23R-9D delegation split. With the new, just unveiled court map, which we will detail in tomorrow’s PRIsm Redistricting Report, a 23R-13D result is possible. Democrats will now likely win three of the four new seats and Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) is in an even more precarious position for re-election. The districts of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) become more Democratic and could become competitive, but likely in elections beyond 2012 as demographics continue to evolve. If Canseco wins, a distinct possibility next year as the national elections will undoubtedly favor the Republicans in Texas, the delegation count will be 24R-12D, a gain of three Democratic seats, while the GOP increases one. If the Democrats successfully unseat the freshman Canseco, the split will likely result in a net gain of four Democratic seats.

Utah

The Beehive State also gains an additional district from reapportionment and the Republicans have a chance of sweeping the state. The new map could yield a 4R-0D result, but Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) has proven he can survive in strongly Republican districts. If he decides to run for governor, however, a GOP sweep becomes much more realistic. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) get safe seats. Districts 2 and 4 should also elect Republican candidates, but Matheson’s presence in one of those seats could change such an outcome. Expect at least a 3R-1D split for a minimum gain of one Republican seat; two, if they can finally defeat Matheson or he vacates to run statewide. At this point, the congressman has ruled out a challenge to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), but has not closed the door to opposing Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

West Virginia

The legislative process produced a no-change map that basically keeps the current seats intact. The 1st District is still marginal, so expect freshman Rep. David McKinley (R) to have major competition in his re-election battle. The voter history patterns still suggest a Republican victory, however, so it is likely to remain in the toss-up category. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) retains the basic outline of her seat, which she has made relatively solid for herself despite the region’s Democratic overtones. New District 3 remains safe for Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3). The 1st District campaign will decide if the state breaks 2R-1D or 2D-1R.

Wisconsin

Republicans control the process here, too, and drew a map that locks in their 5R-3D majority, possibly for the entire decade. Realistically, this is the best the GOP can do in the Badger State. Expect all incumbents to retain their seats. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) is vacating her Madison-anchored seat to run for the Senate, but her replacement will be determined in the Democratic primary. Rep. Ron Kind’s (D) 3rd District becomes more Democratic so as to produce a more Republican seat for freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-7). The adjoining districts traded segments of voters to strengthen each for the respective incumbents. This is particularly important for Duffy as he is the first Republican to represent northwest Wisconsin in more than 40 years.

Texas Rep. Charlie Gonzalez to Retire

Seven-term Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX-20) announced over the weekend that he will not seek re-election next year, a surprise announcement.

The congressman says he wants to return to the private sector for financial reasons. The new court-drawn redistricting map just released prior to the Thanksgiving break makes the 20th District a bit more Republican, but still would have easily re-elected Mr. Gonzalez.

Since this is an unexpected open seat, local politicians will begin making their moves to take advantage of the situation. This development could create another opportunity for former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX-23) who is planning to run next year in a San Antonio-based CD.

Mr. Gonzalez becomes the 22nd member to announce they will not seek re-election to the House in 2012, and the 16th Democrat. He is the eighth member to retire. The others are running for higher office.