Developments in MS-1 Special,
Illinois Senate, Virginia Redistricting

April 1, 2015 — Candidate filing closed this past Friday for the MS-1 special election, which Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s (R) death made necessary. Twelve Republicans and one Democrat will be on the May 12 Mississippi jungle primary ballot. With so many candidates qualifying, a June 2 run-off between the top two finishers is a virtual certainty, since it would be very difficult for any one contender to attract a majority of the vote.

One prominent name missing from the list is former Rep. Travis Childers (D), who won the last special election held here, and then claimed a full term later in 2008. He was unseated in 2010, and then lost to Sen. Thad Cochran (R) last November in a statewide general election contest. Though it is always possible lightning could have again struck for him in a special election, the chance of Childers holding this strongly Republican northern Mississippi district for a long duration is an unlikely one, at best. Hence, his decision not to run.

The lone Democrat running is former Jackson mayoral aide Walter Zinn. His prospects of qualifying for the run-off are somewhat realistic because the Republican vote will be split literally a dozen ways. His prospects are thin, however, to capture the seat in the run-off. Aside from being a prohibitive underdog against a Republican in a one-on-one battle, Zinn’s Jackson political base is not even in the 1st District.

The state transportation commissioner, two local prosecutors, a state legislator, an ex-mayor, and a former Jackson City councilman -– having the same geographical problem as Zinn -– comprise the major part of the Republican field.

Illinois Senate

As predicted last week, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) officially announced her senatorial candidacy, but she may not have a clean primary. Three other US House delegation members earlier expressed interest in running statewide, and two of them are still not ruling out entering the Democratic primary. The winner faces first-term Sen. Mark Kirk (R), who may well be the most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election in 2016.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) has virtually taken herself out of consideration, saying that her entering the senatorial contest is “highly unlikely.” Rep. Bustos came one step short of endorsing Duckworth.

Representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL-2) and Bill Foster (D-IL-11), however, did not commit to stepping aside, with both leaving the door very much open for their potential candidacies.

In the end, it will probably be Rep. Duckworth standing alone in her quest for the nomination, but it will be several interesting weeks before these two federal officeholders, and maybe others, finally agree to step aside.

Virginia Redistricting

The Commonwealth of Virginia is one of three states that were waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the Alabama state legislative case, a decision made public last week. It became clear even before making the final ruling that the high court was using the Alabama case as a benchmark for issuing a directive about minority congressional districts. The three states, Florida and Texas in addition to Virginia, had previously declared certain congressional districts as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court took action in relation to the Virginia case yesterday and we may see redrawing action coming much sooner, rather than later.

Instead of hearing the Virginia case, since they returned the Alabama case back to that state last week, the high court sent back the Virginia map to the jurisdictional three-judge panel and told them to reconsider their previous ruling based upon the new Alabama decision. SCOTUS’ latest action appears to further weaken the Voting Rights Act, which means minority retrogression could practically become less important if minority voters have a stronger say in a greater number of districts.

If the special judicial panel responds and sends the map to the legislature for a redraw or manipulates the lines themselves, several districts in addition to Rep. Bobby Scott’s (D-VA-3) CD will be affected. Scott’s district, declared unconstitutional last year, stretches from Richmond into the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. It is this latter region where we will see the most significant boundary changes. The members most likely affected, in addition to Rep. Scott, are representatives Scott Rigell (R-VA-2) and Randy Forbes (R-VA-4).

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