Category Archives: House

Special Election Open to All in Nevada’s 2nd District

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D), after conferring with legal personnel in Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D) office, ruled that the state’s special election law does not give exclusive candidate nomination authority to the state political central committees, as at least the Republican Party had contended. Rather, Miller said in a news conference yesterday, the process will be open to all potential candidates.

With Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) scheduling the NV-2 special election for Sept. 13 after appointing Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) to succeed Sen. John Ensign (R), who officially leaves office today, the Nevada congressional replacement system becomes similar to that of Hawaii – that is, all candidates will appear on the same ballot in one winner-take-all election. This will be the first special congressional election in Nevada’s history, hence the confusion over the law. The race will be conducted under the 2001 Nevada congressional map. The winner will serve what will be the final 15 months of the unexpired term in the current Congress.

The ruling has two clear winners. Sharron Angle, the 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee and former NV-2 candidate (who lost the 2006 GOP primary to Heller by 421 votes), will now likely run in the special election. It was clear that the state Republican Party would not have chosen her as the official party standard bearer, if they had the power to choose a nominee. The Democratic Party benefits under this ruling because coalescing Democratic votes around one strong candidate, like state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who confirms she is running, could allow them to steal the seat with a small plurality since majority Republicans are likely to split their votes among many candidates. This possibility is exacerbated with Angle in the race. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and state Republican chair Mark Amodei are other potential GOP candidates.

The Nevada Republican Party is threatening a lawsuit over Miller’s ruling, but it will be difficult for them to prevail in court. It is hard to see how a judge will overturn an administrative decision that opens an electoral process to all people. The filing period is scheduled for May 23-25. Miller says all legal challenges must be decided by July 15 for his office to have the necessary time to conduct the Sept. 13 election.
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Special Election Tightens in NY’s 26th

The Republicans have had a poor run in upstate New York special elections during the past election cycle, and the new one being held later this month (May 24th) has just returned closer-than-expected results in the first public poll. Siena College (April 26-27; 484 likely NY-26 special election voters), located north of Albany, NY, and which conducts political polling on a regular basis, shows Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin with only a 5-point lead over Democratic nominee Kathy Hochul (36-31% percent. But, the bigger story is the performance of Independent Jack Davis who captures 23 percent. Davis is running under the misleading party label that he simply lists as “Tea.”

Jack Davis is a wealthy businessman who has run for Congress three times as a Democrat. He started campaigning in 2004 when he held incumbent Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY-26) to a 49-39 percent win. He tried again in 2006 and scored his best performance, coming within four points of Reynolds, 48-52 percent, and hastening the congressman’s decision not to seek re-election in 2008. With a contested Democratic Party fight for the open seat primary, Davis lost badly in a multi-candidate race to attorney Alice Kryzan, who subsequently failed in the general election as businessman Christopher Lee won the seat.

It may be Davis’ victory in the courtroom that best defines his political career, however. The frequent candidate challenged the so-called “millionaires’ amendment” in the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, and was victorious in removing the provision from the federal statute. The millionaires’ amendment allowed a candidate to raise contributions in amounts triple the federal individual limits if a congressional race opponent spent $350,000 of his or her own money. Davis, a multi-millionaire who has spent a total of $7.43 million in personal funds over his three campaigns, argued that such an amendment is unconstitutional. The courts agreed.

Now in a special election after Rep. Lee resigned to avoid making public a personal scandal and knowing that he would never be chosen by Democratic Party leaders as their nominee, Davis entered the race via petition signature as an Independent. In New York, an Independent can describe themselves with a label on the ballot, and Davis chose the word “Tea.” Obviously, this was done to make him an attractive option to Tea Party voters, a group that could make a difference in a special election for this district. His move is disingenuous, however, since Davis has run from the left in his previous campaigns.

Vowing to avoid the divisiveness that cost the party dearly in the previous special elections, the Republicans and Conservatives both endorsed Assemblywoman Corwin even before Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) officially scheduled the special election. But now Davis is apparently causing another dicey three-way race.

Can Jack Davis confuse enough voters with his “Tea” label to bring Jane Corwin down? While his better-than-expected showing in the first poll is certainly a nuisance to, and will undoubtedly cause a strategy shift for Corwin, enough time remains to dispel his candidacy and unite the right-of-center base. Assemblywoman Corwin is still in the driver’s seat for the May 24th special election and she remains the favorite to hold this seat in the Republican column.
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House Financials – Analyzing the Numbers

The first quarter in the never-ending political fundraising cycle is in the books, and it appears that 37 incumbent Representatives raised more than $300,000 in the first three months of 2011. Six non-incumbents also posted numbers north of $300K, but in two of those cases the number was achieved with a large personal contribution.

Of the three dozen in the aforementioned group, 10, all Republicans, are freshmen. They are: Reps. Cory Gardner (CO-4), Allen West (FL-22), Joe Walsh (IL-8), Bob Dold (IL-10), Steve Stivers (OH-15), Pat Meehan (PA-7), Tim Scott (SC-1), Diane Black (TN-6), and David McKinley (WV-1).

Forty-seven members, 27 Republicans and 20 Democrats, have more than $1 million cash-on-hand. Ten (six Democrats and four Republicans) have more than $2 million. They are: Reps. Brad Sherman (CA-27), Ed Royce (CA-40), Cliff Stearns (FL-6), Jerry Costello (IL-12), Richard Neal (MA-2), Ed Markey (MA-7), Michele Bachmann (MN-6), Frank Pallone (NJ-6), Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), and Paul Ryan (WI-1). Sherman, Markey, Pallone, and Ryan actually have more than $3 million in the bank. Ryan, with $3,156,814 in his campaign account, has the most of any incumbent congressman.

The most prolific fundraising district is FL-22, as three potential candidates, including freshman Rep. Allen West, all broke the $250,000 mark in money raised. West attracted $452,843. Businessman Patrick Murphy (D) registered $352,449, and former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel (D) obtained $254,664. The early start here is a bit of a paradox. The 22nd district was represented by both a Republican, E. Clay Shaw, and Democrat, Ron Klein, during the past decade prior to West winning in 2010. With the state gaining two new seats, it is a cinch that this marginal district, currently stretching north to south from West Palm Beach and deep into Broward County as it weaves its way along the coast, will be radically redrawn. Therefore, it is unclear if either of these potential West challengers will even have a base within the new district.

The fundraising numbers can tell individual stories, too. Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) just announced her decision to run for the Senate, but her campaign account suggests she made up her mind weeks ago. The congresswoman raised $694,750 for the first quarter. Though Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) says he has not ruled out a Senate bid in the Show Me State, his early campaign activity suggests that he will get into the race. His first quarter income figure was $458,552, a big number for a member who has traditionally been less than prolific on the fundraising circuit. The same is true for Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-13), who banked $524,757. He has also not yet ruled out a Senate bid. Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-4), who just announced he will challenge fellow-Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) because Iowa loses a seat raised $414,257. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) is gearing up for a potential presidential run, thus explaining her huge $1.75 million quarter. Another potential national candidate, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) raised almost nothing for his congressional account ($4,430), but has over $1.63 million on hand.

The California delegation is a story, too, as the 53 congressmen await the actions of a new redistricting commission, the members of which will draw the Golden State congressional lines for the first time. This explains a great deal of financial activity here, even though virtually all of the members have safe districts. California does not gain any representation from reapportionment for the first time in history, meaning that a further unknown creeps into the California redistricting mix. Rep. Brad Sherman’s CA-27 could be radically redrawn as Los Angeles County will likely have fewer seats than it does today, losing them to places such as the Inland Empire and desert region. Sherman is one of the members with more than $3 million in the bank, so he is ready for a campaign no matter where his district may land. Seventeen California members have more than $500,000 in their campaign accounts and seven of them are over $1 million.

As so often occurs in modern era politics, the dollars tell much of the story. The first quarter of 2011 appears to be no exception.
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Derailing the Ryan Express in Wisconsin?

Liberal activists are beginning to tout a new congressional candidate who they believe has a chance of unseating House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) next year. The Swing State Project, a national liberal campaign blog, is reporting that Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban is taking concrete steps toward assembling a 2012 electoral challenge against the popular Republican incumbent.

Paul Ryan is an up-and-coming national Republican political figure. Now in his 7th term in the House, he was elected in 1998 at the young age of 28. Mr. Ryan was appointed ranking member of the Budget Committee in the last Congress and became the panel’s chair with the Republican sweep back into the majority in the last election. Ryan’s name has popped up as a long shot presidential candidate, and also a possible Senate contestant if Wisconsin’s senior Sen. Herb Kohl (D) decides to retire. For his part, Rep. Ryan is committed only to running for re-election in 2012, saying he wants to finish his allotted terms as Budget chairman in order to make progress toward the goal of reducing the federal deficit before running for another office.

Zerban undoubtedly looks better on paper to the Democratic candidate recruitment team than he does face-to-face against Ryan. Though he is an elected local supervisor, Kenosha County represents only 25 percent of the 1st CD total population, and the Board of Supervisors has 28 single-member districts. Therefore, Zerban’s entire constituency is just short of 5,500 people, only about 7.5% of the total congressional district population.

The liberals also opine that Ryan is too conservative for what should be a marginal congressional district, and that redistricting really won’t greatly affect his seat. They say this because the territory occupies the southeast corner of the state, bordering Illinois on the south and Lake Michigan to the east, so it doesn’t appear much can change.

Both arguments are incorrect. First, WI-1 is a much different district than when former Armed Services Committee chairman and future US Defense Secretary Les Aspin (D-WI-1) represented the seat during his 22-year congressional career (1971-1993). Pres. Barack Obama did carry the 1st in 2008, but only with 51% of the vote. Former Pres. George Bush performed well there in 2004, winning a 54-46 percent victory. Bush also carried the 1st with 51% in 2000.

For his part, Ryan has been a huge vote-getter during his congressional tenure. He has averaged an impressive 64.4 percent through his seven elections, four times breaking 65 percent of the vote. He is a strong fundraiser, too. In 2010, when he romped to victory with 68 percent, Ryan raised more than $3.9 million for his re-election. His year-end 2010 report shows he finished the campaign cycle with over $3 million cash-on-hand, one of the best financial entries for the entire House.

In terms of redistricting, the 1st district must shed 17,169 people. Since Republicans are in total control of the Wisconsin redistricting process, the swing between Ryan’s district and those of neighboring Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2; +40,296 over-populated) and Gwen Moore (D-WI-4; -41,858 under-populated) will result in Ryan receiving a few more Republicans and the two Democrats also getting a bit stronger. Thus, the new WI-1 is likely to be even better for Ryan than the current district configuration he has dominated over the past 10 years.

While the controversy over Wisconsin’s public employee labor policy continues toward a political meltdown, thus throwing the state’s politics into chaos, Rep. Ryan appears completely secure for his 2012 election. Though Supervisor Zerban may well be preparing for a run against him, such a battle will likely sputter and become another easy ride for the veteran Republican. National Democrats will likely find more tempting targets in other locations than Chairman Paul Ryan’s southern Wisconsin district.
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Special Election Candidates Set in NY-26

Upstate New York Democratic Party county chairmen, in action taken just last night, officially nominated Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul to carry the party banner in the special congressional election now scheduled for May 24. The seat was vacated when second-term Rep. Christopher Lee (R) resigned earlier in the year. Erie County has the largest block of registered voters (149,643) in its portion of the 26th congressional district. Seven full and partial counties comprise the seat.

The Republicans nominated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin back in late February, giving her a head start in constructing a campaign organization in a district that normally votes for GOP candidates. The 26th, along with Rep. Peter King’s 3rd district, gave John McCain his strongest performance in any New York CD (52%). By contrast, Pres. Barack Obama posted a 62-36% victory statewide.

In recent days, both the New York Conservative and Independence parties have cross-endorsed Corwin. This should give her the necessary right-of-center support to avoid splitting the electorate. The Green Party, now with an official ballot line in New York after posting more than 50,000 votes for their 2010 gubernatorial candidate, did not endorse the Democratic nominee, now Hochul. Rather, the Greens have their own special election candidate, Ian Murphy, who is likely to draw away critical votes from the Democrat, thus further reducing Hochul’s chances of winning.

Jack Davis, the multi-millionaire who sued the federal government over the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold law and successfully overturned the provision in one of his two previous congressional runs, filed as an independent under his own “Tea” label, though he is not part of the actual Tea Party movement. David Bellavia, carrying the Federalist Party label, is the fifth contender and the more genuine Tea Party activist. Davis and Bellavia are independents, but can identify themselves under a party name.

The GOP holds a 241-192 margin in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives. Retaining the New York seat is important in order to maintain their current House margin. Additionally, with the Empire State losing two seats in
apportionment, the GOP must keep as many seats in the congressional delegation as possible, particularly if the legislative redistricting process cannot produce a final map without going to court. Today, Democrats dominate the New York congressional contingent, 21-7, with the one Republican vacancy.

Now that the Democrats have nominated a candidate, the New York special election campaign is officially underway. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Assemblywoman Corwin should have a relatively easy road to Congress. Rate this seat as “Likely Republican.”
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