Category Archives: House

Weiner’s Real Political Problem

The sexting controversy surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) rages on in the media, but his ultimate political problem may not be whether to resign. Rather, with New York losing two seats in reapportionment, the scandal could give the legislature all the reason it needs to collapse his 9th district. The other lost seat will certainly come from upstate, probably near the Buffalo area. In terms of redistricting, NY-9 would be relatively easy to cut into pieces. First, it needs an additional 57,401 people just to reach its population quota. Second, because it already contains parts of two boroughs (Kings and Queens) and cuts across New York’s Lower Bay to enjoin other precincts in order to comply with the contiguous requirements, it would be a simple task for map drawers to parcel its distinct parts to other seats.

Two polls of New York City residents were made public yesterday, and it appears that Rep. Weiner has a split constituency regarding his future. According to Survey USA (June 6; 500 New York City residents), 46 percent favor his resignation versus 41 percent who believe he should remain in office. The Marist College poll, conducted on the same day (June 6; 379 NYC registered voters) produces better numbers for the congressman. Fifty-one percent say he should remain in office, while 30 percent believe resignation is his proper course of action.

But when it comes to Weiner’s future mayoral plans — the congressman was a virtual certainty to enter the 2013 city-wide campaign — his numbers dive bomb. Asked if they would vote for Weiner should he run for mayor, just 11 percent of S-USA respondents said they would, versus 43 percent who said, “NO.” An additional 46 percent say it is too early to decide. Marist asked the question a different way, querying the respondents as to whether or not they think he should run for mayor. According to these results, 56 percent say he should not run for Mayor while 25 percent believe he should.
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In Oklahoma’s 2nd D, Boren to Retire; ex-Rep. Carson to Run Again

Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2), 37, announced that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in Congress next year. Mr. Boren, arguably one of the most conservative House Democrats, clearly is part of a minority within a minority, being a right-of-center congressman in an increasingly liberal party conference. Boren says being in Washington and away from his young family, coupled with the time demands of campaigning, are the reasons for his retirement.

Rep. Boren becomes the 14th non-redistricting-related House member to either resign or say they won’t run again, but is the first to do so without seeking higher office or escaping scandal. He will serve the balance of the term and did not say what he plans to do when he leaves the House.

The 2nd district of Oklahoma is one of the most conservative seats held by a Democrat in the United States. Once a “yellow dog” Democrat region, OK-2 trended much more Republican as the previous decade progressed. President Obama could only manage 34 percent of the vote here in 2008, compared to John McCain’s 66 percent. Former President George W. Bush notched 59 percent in 2004, seven points better than the 52 percent he recorded four years earlier.

The 2nd district encompasses the entire eastern quadrant of Oklahoma, beginning at the Kansas border and traveling south all the way to Texas. On the northeast, the seat borders Missouri; Arkansas lies to the southeast. The largest city is Muskogee.

Because Oklahoma had little in the way of population change, their new congressional redistricting plan looks very much like the current map. The new legislation has already been enacted into law. While the 2nd district traditionally elects a Democrat to Congress, in an open seat with an unpopular Barack Obama leading the 2012 Democratic Party ticket, a different result could be realized.

While two early GOP names pop up on the potential candidate list — Josh Brecheen, a state Senator from Coalgate, and state Rep. George Faught — the Democrats already have a likely successor waiting in the wings, and he will run. Former 2nd District Rep. Brad Carson (D), who vacated the seat to run unsuccessfully for Senate in 2004, announced his congressional comeback attempt next year on the heels of Boren’s retirement announcement. Kenneth Corn, a former state senator and the 2010 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee is also reportedly considering the race, but Carson appears to be the strongest possible Democrat to run in this seat, outside of Boren.

If the president cannot perform better than the 34 percent he scored in his last election, what effect will this have upon Carson’s race? Obviously, there will be a Democratic drag, hence the Republican nominee will have a legitimate chance to win even against the former congressman and Senatorial nominee.
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Liberal Groups Test Bass Attack in New Hampshire

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America teamed up to produce a negative issue ad against Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), ostensibly because he voted in favor of the Ryan Budget. Since the groups are only spending $25,000 on the television buy, the effort is being done to test messages and theme. This particular ad says Bass “voted to end Medicare”, which presumably refers to the Ryan plan but such is not identified in the script’s text.

Expect the Medicare issue to be a focal point of the 2012 campaign. Democrats and left-wing groups are clearly stepping up this line of attack in light of Rep. Kathy Hochul’s victory in the NY-26 special election. Debate continues about whether Hochul’s offensive play on Medicare was the defining point of her campaign – the fact that Republican turnout was low suggests that candidate Jane Corwin’s many mistakes and the presence of Independent Jack Davis masquerading as a Tea Party candidate might have been the bigger factors – but the Democrats won with this strategy, so they feel the approach warrants further usage.

Why, then, the test on Bass since these groups aren’t yet dishing out attacks against any other member? Of all the 2010 Republican victories, Rep. Bass regaining the seat he lost after six terms in 2006 was one of the most tenuous. Winning by just one point (48-47 percent), a margin of 3,550 votes over lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster (D), Mr. Bass could be the top 2012 Democratic conversion target. His inclusion on the National Republican Congressional Committee Patriot Program list, announced last week, is a further indication that both parties see him as a highly vulnerable incumbent.

The 2nd district covers New Hampshire’s western region and encompasses the state’s second largest city of Nashua along with Concord, the state capital. The district voted Democratic during the last decade. President Obama scored 56 percent here in 2008. Former President George W. Bush lost the seat in both of his elections. He trailed 47-52 percent in 2004 and 47-48 percent in 2000. In contrast, the state’s other CD, NH-1, gave Obama only a 53-47% win in 2008 while Bush carried the district both times.

As mentioned above, Bass first won his seat in 1994, but was defeated by ex-Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in 2006. Hodes won an easy 56-41 percent re-election in 2008. He then left the House for an unsuccessful 2010 Senate run, losing to freshman Kelly Ayotte (R) by a substantial 37-60 percent count.

As one can see, the district voting patterns became more Democratic as the decade progressed with the exception of 2010 when the whole state decidedly snapped back to the GOP. Will NH-2 continue to cast future votes more like liberal Vermont, which it borders, than generally conservative New Hampshire? The next election will provide the answer.

Rep. Bass, never known as a strong campaigner, has his work cut out for him. What might have been a major factor in his favor, redistricting, did not materialize. The state’s two congressional districts are only 254 people out of balance, so the 2011 New Hampshire map will be virtually identical to the present boundaries. An influx of new Republicans are likely needed for Bass and the GOP to hold this seat, but it’s clear such won’t happen.

For her part, 2010 nominee Kuster, who raised $2.5 million to Bass’ $1.2 million, is already running again. She should be a stronger candidate in 2012 because the Granite State presidential turnout model will likely be more Democratic than it was during the last election and she won’t have to fend off a tough September intra-party opponent as was the case in 2010.

Totaling all of the relevant factors suggest that Charlie Bass’ 2nd district may be the Democrats’ best national opportunity to defeat a House Republican incumbent. Though there is undeniably a long way to go before Election Day 2012, expect this race never to leave the toss-up category.
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Former Illinois Rep. Foster Coming Back

The “send” button had been barely pushed releasing the new Illinois congressional district map, and former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14), defeated in 2010 for re-election by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R), 45-51 percent, says he will run again next year in the newly created 11th district. No present incumbent currently resides in the proposed IL-11 and the inclusion of the city of Aurora gives Foster a base in the new territory. The seat is designed as a Democratic gain.

From Aurora, a western Chicago suburb, the new district meanders eastward to pick up the city of Naperville and then darts even further east, closer to south Chicago. It then juts south all the way to annex the city of Joliet. The current 11th, represented by freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, is spilt into no less than eight districts.

Mr. Foster, however, will not likely win the new 11th without a fight. Wealthy insurance executive John Atkinson (D), who had already signaled his intention to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3) because he believes the Congressman does not work closely enough with President Obama, now finds his home in the new open seat. Atkinson did not give a firm indication of where he might run, but clearly the Democratic legislative leaders want to avoid the intra-party challenge.

The current Illinois delegation count stands at 11R-8D. In losing a seat in reapportionment, early analyses show that Democrats could come away with a maximum 13-5 split under the new lines, as most of the Republican incumbents find themselves placed in districts with a GOP colleague or more. The map is expected to sail through the legislature and be signed by Gov. Patrick Quinn (D).
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The Angle-less Special Election in Nevada’s 2nd

Nevada's congressional districts. The 2nd extends north over the entire remainder of the state.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed conservative who upset the Republican establishment with her GOP Senatorial primary win last year, abruptly announced that she will not file as a candidate for the Sept. 13 special congressional election in Nevada’s 2nd district. Expressing displeasure toward the electoral system chosen for the early fall vote, Angle said the technical procedures are “…an illegitimate process that disenfranchises the electorate.”

Originally, Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that the special election would be open to all, and decided in just one voting contest. Termed a “ballot royal,” Miller copied the system used in Hawaii that features no nomination process. All candidates would have equal access to the special general ballot and the person receiving the most votes, regardless of percentage, wins the seat.

Miller made this ruling for several reasons. Primarily, it is the system that best gives his Democratic Party a chance of capturing the seat. Angle would have been strong within this format because of her solid political base, but so would a unified Democratic Party solidifying behind one candidate. If the Republicans split their votes among several contenders, the analysis showed, the Democrats, limiting their candidates to just state Treasurer Kate Marshall, could successfully steal the Republican-leaning seat.

Republicans objected to Miller’s dictate, saying he wrongly interpreted state election law. The parties themselves, the GOP argued, should be allowed to choose their nominees in caucus, similar to New York’s law, and have just two major party candidates on the ballot. Last week, a lower court judge ruled in favor of the GOP lawsuit saying that Miller’s decision was “unreasonable and absurd.” The Secretary of State and the Democratic Party are appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Candidates were originally to have filed earlier in the week (May 25th), but the judicial ruling forced Miller to extend the candidate declaration deadline all the way through June 30th. The state high court will likely make a ruling before the deadline expires.

It is obvious that Angle believes the Supreme Court will uphold the lower court ruling and allow the state party central committees to choose the special election nominees. She also knows she is not the choice of the Nevada Republican establishment. In her statement, Ms. Angle said she would consider running for public office again and did not eliminate the possibility of competing for the 2nd district in the regular cycle.

Though NV-2 will have a new incumbent before the 2012 general election, it is likely the new 2nd will be more to Angle’s liking. The current configuration in the three-seat state map allows the 2nd to touch all of Nevada’s 17 counties including dominant Clark, home to the city of Las Vegas.

Though the state’s new four-seat congressional map is in limbo today, the basic design seems clear. The Democratic legislature passed a map that had a similar look to the Republicans’ draw, but a far different partisan complexion and it led to a Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) veto. Though further effort was made up until legislative adjournment, the map will end up in court and judges will develop the final blueprint. Since the legislative intent clearly makes two Las Vegas city districts, one rural Clark County seat that stretches to the central part of the state, and a final district, the 2nd, that contains only the northern half of the state with its population anchors of Reno and Carson City, such will likely be the final map’s basis. In the two Democratic maps and one Republican, each used this same fundamental design.

This version will play right into Angle’s hands and may be what’s driving her decision to sit out the special election. Though she will face an incumbent in either the 2012 primary or the general vote, the district will be much different than the one electing the new congressman. So, it is very possible Ms. Angle will come roaring back in the regular cycle.

Republicans should win the seat, but after their party’s recent debacle in the NY-26 special election, it’s clear that anything can happen in these low turnout, irregular electoral contests.
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