KS-1 Sleeper Primary; Florida to Re-Draw

The sprawling Kansas 1st Congressional District, which consumes all of the western part of the state and stretches almost all the way to Topeka, could be the scene of an upset in tonight’s Republican primary according to some local political observers. Two-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp is being challenged by former school superintendent Alan LaPolice.

Though the challenger had only raised $137,000 through the June 30 financial disclosure deadline, the local farm groups and many in the solar wind energy industry are actively involved in trying to unseat the incumbent. Huelskamp, the victim of Speaker John Boehner’s show of party discipline in the former’s freshman year, was removed from the Agriculture Committee. The action left the region uncovered on the panel, something unheard of for a representative from this agriculture dominated district.

Huelskamp has been one of the vocal members of the Tea Party caucus openly critical of the GOP leadership. Whether he is toppled tonight remains to be seen, and the congressman is still the favorite to win, but it does add another bit of intrigue into what will already be an exciting night most specifically in Kansas and Michigan.

Florida Redistricting

Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, who earlier declared congressional districts 5 (Rep. Corinne Brown-D) and 10 (Rep. Dan Webster-R) to be illegal, issued an “order” last week for the legislature to convene in special session to re-draw the affected districts. Though it is questionable whether a single judge has such authority, the legislature announced it would begin the special redistricting session on Thursday. The Republican leadership reportedly believes it is in their interest to forego appealing Lewis and re-draw the seats with the minimum amount of change. The session is scheduled to last nine days, but may conclude earlier.

The Florida plan is the best Republican map in the country, and the party leadership wants to make sure that such status remains in tact. The big questions are how many districts will be affected by changing FL-5 and FL-10, which ones, and whether the new lines will take effect for the 2014 elections.

Conventional wisdom suggests, and this would be to the Republican leadership’s advantage, that the changes will affect a small number of seats, maybe as few as four, and will be centered mostly in the Orlando area. Though Judge Lewis wants the new map to be in effect for the current election, doing so may not likely occur. It is also unclear as to whether he will have any authority over a newly-enacted map, since what he determined to be illegal will presumably be changed. Therefore, if plaintiffs want to challenge the new map, they may have to start from scratch.

A more realistic scheduling scenario rather than fast-tracking these lines for 2014, and particularly so when considering candidate filing has already closed and the first few days of early voting are already underway, is to continue with the current elections and then conduct special elections in the affected districts next year. Legal precedence exists for such a scenario.

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