Category Archives: House

Could Elizabeth Holtzman Return in New York’s 9th CD?

New York City congressional districts.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has set the date for the special election to choose a successor for former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9). The vote is set for Sept. 13 and is New York’s second such special congressional election to be held this year, both necessitated to replace congressmen who resigned in disgrace after publicly revealing electronic messages and pictures. This is the same day as primaries for other Empire State offices as well the special election date to fill six vacant state assembly seats.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY-7), who represents a district adjacent to NY-9, also serves as the Democratic Party’s chairman for the Borough of Queens. Under New York law, it is the county political party chairmen who choose special election nominees. Because approximately 70 percent of the 9th District is within Queens, Crowley alone has the virtual power to choose the Democratic general election candidate. He is expected to reach a decision in the next day or two.

The congressman reportedly wants “an elder statesman without long-term ambitions” to fill the Weiner seat. He now has the opportunity of ensuring that the new Democratic nominee will allow the 9th CD to be eliminated in redistricting so that Crowley himself can assume much of the Queens territory that was once Weiner’s. New York loses two seats in reapportionment. Such a move will allow him to jettison the Bronx portion of his current district, an area that is becoming heavily Hispanic, and give him a seat wholly within the Borough of Queens. Collapsing the 9th will also mean that Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D) 5th district, a hybrid seat between Queens and Long Island, will likely survive the redistricting pen, as well.

The person currently being mentioned as having the inside track for the nomination is former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman (D). The ex-representative reportedly reached out to Crowley shortly after Weiner’s resignation and now appears to be the top Democratic prospect.

During her 1970’s tenure in the House (four terms; 1973-1981), Holtzman represented a portion of the current 9th District. She was succeeded by now-Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), whose own election to the Senate opened the door for Weiner to win the congressional seat. Holtzman ended her career in Congress by losing a 1980 U.S. Senate race to then-Nassau County Board of Supervisors Chairman Alfonse D’Amato. She made a political comeback of sorts at the municipal level, winning election in Kings County (Brooklyn) for district attorney and later as New York City comptroller. Her 1992 Democratic primary bid for the right to square off against D’Amato again ended in another Holtzman loss, this time a rather humiliating fourth place finish. An unsuccessful primary fight to retain her party’s nomination for the city comptroller position the next year effectively ended her career in elective politics. Now at age 70, Holtzman may fit the bill of an “elder statesman” who can win the race in September, and will then fade quietly away when the 9th district is eliminated as a casualty of reapportionment.

Should Holtzman be appointed the nominee, she will begin the special election campaign as the favorite but the seat has some chance of becoming competitive as Republicans plan to wage a significant campaign. More will be known when the GOP nominee is actually chosen.
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Is Heath Shuler Returning to Football?

With the North Carolina redistricting maps set to be released today, and passed during a legislative special session that begins July 13th, rumors are beginning to circulate around Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC-11). Apparently, Mr. Shuler is a potential candidate to become the athletic director back at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee.

The proposed redistricting map is likely to be unfriendly to Shuler. Early indications are that Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) is willing to take a large section of Buncombe County (Asheville), which is the Democratic heart of Shuler’s district. This territory is likely to be replaced by strong Republican precincts that will endanger the incumbent’s re-election prospects even further. Shuler, a former star quarterback at Tennessee who played briefly in the National Football League with the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints, could then forego running for a fourth term in the House in order to accept a premier job in the collegiate sports world. Obviously, this would be welcome news for Republicans as they would likely sweep to victory in a new open 11th district.

Speculation is rampant during this time in the political cycle, and the Shuler retirement rumors could prove to have little foundation. It is likely, however, that decision time is coming soon for most of the North Carolina Democratic Representatives as they prepare, for the first time, to face a Republican-drawn congressional map.
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Carson Reverses Course in Oklahoma

Former Oklahoma Rep. Brad Carson (D), who appeared to be immediately hopping back into the political fray when Rep. Dan Boren (D) announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, has had a change of heart. Mr. Carson, who represented the 2nd district for two terms before running unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2004, would clearly be the Democrats’ best candidate to hold the seat for the party in the general election. He began sending messages yesterday, however, that he has decided not to run.

OK-2 is the state’s eastern congressional district, anchored by the city of Muskogee – made famous in the 1969 Merle Haggard song, “Okie from Muskogee” – features many towns between 10 and 20,000 people and hugs the entire Oklahoma-Arkansas border. The 2nd is a politically changing district, evolving from the quintessential “yellow dog Democrat” seat to a place that will vote Republican (McCain: 66 percent). Regardless of its partisan context, the region remains habitually conservative.

Sen. Tom Coburn became the first Republican to represent this part of the state in the modern political era when he won the congressional seat in 1994. Pledging only to serve three terms, Coburn retired in 2000 thus opening the door for Carson to re-capture the district for the Democrats. Rep. Boren succeeded Carson in 2004.

The former congressman’s surprise decision not to re-enter national politics next year makes this district highly competitive in the general election and gives the Republicans a strong opportunity to convert the seat. State Sen. Kenneth Corn (D), who was already challenging Carson for the Democratic nomination, is obviously now in a stronger position but the nomination is far from his. Since the Democrats have a large number of state and local officials throughout this region, we can expect a crowded and combative party primary. Republicans don’t yet have an announced candidate, but state Sen. Josh Breechen and state Rep. George Faught continue to be mentioned as likely candidates.

Without Carson in the race, expect activity in both parties to rapidly increase. The OK-2 campaign will likely carry a “toss-up” rating at least through the early going of the 2012 election cycle and probably all the way to Election Day.
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Hahn Attacking in California

The next special congressional election is two weeks away in California and Democratic nominee Janice Hahn appears nervous. The general election phase of this contest should be an easy run for any Dem, and was viewed as such ever since Republican Craig Huey slipped through the jungle primary election instead of the favored Debra Bowen (D), California’s Secretary of State. CA-36 is solidly Democratic. The worst number posted by the party’s presidential candidate since 1996 is 57 percent, and the region routinely elects liberals to virtually every political position. But Hahn isn’t acting like a runaway winner. She just aired a new ad attacking Huey as an “extremist politician” followed up with a more positive commercial about her own career. The latter ad surprisingly does not mention she’s a Democrat, instead choosing to emphasize that she has “never held partisan office.”

Several weeks ago Ms. Hahn, a Los Angeles City councilwoman who has previously lost a race for Congress (1998) and another for lieutenant governor (2010), surveyed the district but refuse to publicize the results even while tepidly claiming that she led Huey “beyond the margin of error.” These actions suggest that the CA-36 special election is much closer than anyone would have originally believed. Hahn will still likely win this race, but it’s probable she will under-perform the Democratic average.

Even if the councilwoman does prevail on July 12, the road to re-election may be quite difficult. The new Palos Verdes East seat, as the 36th has been named in the new redistricting plan, covers many of the same communities – Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance – but the new seat possesses a much more Republican complexion. While Barack Obama carried the new Palos Verdes East seat with 53.6 percent of the vote, under the old 36th district boundaries, the president’s number topped 64 percent. In the very close race for attorney general in 2010, an election the Democratic nominee carried by less than one percentage point statewide, the Republican nominee actually scored a 45-41 percent plurality within the Palos Verdes East boundaries.

While Ms. Hahn now surprisingly finds herself in a competitive race, it is likely she will face a difficult re-election challenge even if July 12 brings her success. The Palos Verdes East seat looks like another of the more competitive districts that the new California Citizens Redistricting Commission constructed.
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California Congresswoman Woolsey Retires

Today, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) formally announced that she will not seek an 11th term in Congress next year. Woolsey, a former Petaluma, Calif. city councilwoman before coming to Washington, first entered the House in 1992 replacing then-Rep. Barbara Boxer (D) who won election to the Senate that same year.

Ms. Woolsey becomes the 14th House member who is choosing to step aside in 2012, but only the second to retire. The other dozen are running for higher office. Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2) is the only other member who, so far, is voluntarily opting to leave politics.

Congresswoman Woolsey is one of the most liberal members of the House. She is the chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House and has consistently aligned herself on the far left spectrum of the Democratic Party. She came to fame for being the first former welfare recipient to win election to Congress. Since then, another member, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), also claims the same distinction.

The new California redistricting map radically alters Woolsey’s 6th district. Previously anchored in the Bay Area’s Marin County, CA-6 covered only the aforementioned locality and part of Sonoma. Under the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s 2011 congressional redistricting plan, the Woolsey district will now stretch all the way from Marin to the Oregon border, taking in a large portion of Rep. Mike Thompson’s (D-CA-1) current territory. The new North Coast district is heavily Democratic but has a considerably different constituency for Woolsey. The congresswoman would likely have held the seat, but she could have been vulnerable in a Democratic primary to a state or local official more familiar with the new district. It does not appear, however, that the re-map is the driving reason why the 73-year-old veteran representative will be walking away from her position.

Considering the major redistricting shake-up that is proving challenging for more than a third of California incumbents from both parties, Woolsey’s retirement is likely the first of several more. Seeing his district split six different ways, House Rules Committee chairman David Dreier (R-CA-26) is a retirement possibility. So are Reps. Pete Stark (D-CA-13), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34). While none of the aforementioned has specifically said they will leave Congress, their new districts will either be substantially different from their current seats, or politically unfavorable to them in a primary or general election. After years of representing safe districts, being thrown into a seriously competitive situation late in their careers may send some or all of these members packing.

Since the Woolsey retirement had been rumored for some time, two Democrats had already begun assembling a congressional campaign, and others will likely follow. State Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D) said he would not run against the congresswoman, but was beginning to raise money for a federal race in case she decided not to seek re-election. Through March 31, Huffman had raised $123,000 for his potential federal campaign.

In addition to Assemblyman Huffman, author and leftwing activist Norman Solomon had also announced his candidacy, once again presuming the Woolsey retirement. He did not file a financial disclosure report in the first quarter.

Now that Ms. Woolsey has made her plans official, expect other state legislators, Marin and Sonoma County local officials, and individuals from the newly added smaller north coastal counties, to seriously consider making congressional bids. Regardless of who eventually wins the Democratic primary in the newly configured district, that person will succeed Ms. Woolsey as the region’s Representative. Should the proposed lines actually become the final district boundaries, rate the North Coast seat as “Safe Democratic.”
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