Tag Archives: Alabama

The Return of Parker Griffith

In 2008, physician Parker Griffith won Alabama’s 5th Congressional District race replacing veteran Rep. Bud Cramer (D), who retired after serving nine terms in office. Parker, at the time a state senator, won election to the US House as a Democrat (51-48 percent over Republican businessman Wayne Parker), but switched parties after about a year in office citing frustration with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team.

After weathering a storm of GOP attack ads in the ’08 general election, Mr. Griffith continued to absorb political punishment even after joining his new party. Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks challenged him for the Republican nomination and ended the race with a stunning 50-33 percent victory in a three-way campaign, securing an outright majority to avoid even a run-off election. Last Friday, Mr. Griffith surprised everyone by again filing for the seat, seeking a Republican primary re-match with Rep. Brooks.

The most important election for any political switcher is the first nomination vote in the new party. Griffith did not establish a proper local Republican base in order to secure a political foothold in his new party despite major national support. Now, with no money in his campaign account, two months in which to campaign, and both the national and local GOP establishment firmly backing incumbent Brooks, it’s hard to comprehend what path to victory Griffith sees in 2012. It is probable that Mr. Brooks’ re-nomination percentage will be even higher than when he unseated incumbent Griffith just two years ago.

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the past week: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas.

ALABAMA (current delegation: 6R-1D) – The Department of Justice officially granted pre-clearance for the Alabama congressional map, making the enacted map a virtual lock to survive all future legal challenges. The plan protects all seven incumbents and should return the 6R-1D delegation split for the ensuing decade.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court overturned Arizona Independent Redistricting Chair Colleen Mathis’ (I) impeachment, thus reinstating her as a member of the panel. This likely means that the Commission will now be able to pass a new congressional map into law. The draft map has now exceeded the required time limit for public comment and is ready for passage. The panel has indicated that some changes will be made based upon input received. Mathis says the Commission will complete its work before Christmas. The map features four Republican districts, two Democratic, and three swing seats that will likely trend toward the Democrats as the decade progresses. For her part, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) who led Mathis’ impeachment drive, indicated she may again pursue an effort to remove her.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The Republicans decided to appeal the lower court action that constructed the new congressional districts. Under the plan, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) is endangered and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) continues to hold a very marginal seat. The state Supreme Court will hear the appeal and have scheduled the first week of December for oral arguments.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – Now that the odd-numbered year elections are over, the Kentucky legislature released draft congressional maps. The congressional delegation itself proposed a map and state Assembly Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) also put forth his plan. Both are similar, particularly in the way they protect the 4R-2D current footprint. The Democrats control the governor’s office and the state Assembly. Republicans have a strong majority in the Senate. The deal appears to give all four GOP members safe seats but also shores up Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) who had a close call in the 2010 election, winning by just 515 votes. The incumbent protection plan is expected to pass into law.

MASSACHUSETTS (current delegation: 10D; loses one seat) – After a slight delay due to a legislative procedural maneuver, the state Senate passed the House version of the new nine-district congressional map. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed the plan into law yesterday. The map should elect nine Democrats in succeeding elections. With Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1) retiring, his 1st District was collapsed into the Springfield seat of Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2), making one large western Mass district. Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) will run in the new 9th District despite his home city of Quincy being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s (D-MA-9) new 8th District.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4R-4D) – Late last week, the political parties filed their proposed congressional maps with the special judicial panel hearing the redistricting lawsuit. The legislature passed a map, but Gov. Mark Dayton (D) vetoed the plan. Therefore, the court must draw a de novo map. For their part, the Republicans filed the eight-district bill that passed the legislature. The Democrats submitted their own map, but the plan was so partisan that even two of their own congressional members, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), both decried it saying their Democratic Party leaders went too far. The Dem plan pairs Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) with McCollum in a new Democratic 4th District that is only two points below the present MN-4 partisan number. Bachmann, should she choose to seek re-election to the House, could move to a nearby more Republican seat, so it is unlikely that the pairing will ever occur. McCollum’s chief of staff was quoted as saying, “The DFL Chair and his high-paid lawyers have proposed a congressional map to the redistricting panel that is hyper-partisan and bizarre.” Peterson stated his belief that both party’s maps are too partisan. The court is taking input from all sides and will put forth its own plan at a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The three-judge panel drawing the new Texas maps released the state House and Senate maps, meaning the congressional plans will soon be made public, probably right before Thanksgiving or the Monday after the holiday. The panel favored the Democratic versions of the submitted legislative plans, and much the same is expected for the congressional plan. The enacted US House plan would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The court plan will likely be closer to a 22- or 23-R, 14- or 13-D map.

State-by-State House Race Review

With several more states completing their redistricting maps, it is again a good time to take an updated look at the competitive campaigns where district boundaries have been adopted. The first 12 states are covered below. The remaining dozen will be in Wednesday’s report. If the Texas court map is released this week, that analysis will be included, too.

As of now, the aggregate partisan swing pertaining to the states that have completed their maps is negligible. The remaining 14 multi-district states where the process has either not begun or isn’t complete, as well as the new Texas map, could favor the Democrats by the tune of 10 to 12 seats.

Alabama

All incumbents received winnable districts. Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-AL-3) district was greatly improved from his perspective. The Alabama map still awaits Justice Department pre-clearance. Assuming it is granted, no partisan change is expected here.

Arkansas

The new lines most greatly affect the 1st and 4th districts. Freshman GOP Rep. Rick Crawford faces a difficult test in the new 1st District, which was made more Democratic. The retirement of Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) makes the new 4th CD highly competitive in an open seat situation and is a GOP conversion opportunity. The swing will fall between R+1 and D+1.

California

The California Independent Redistricting Commission created a highly competitive map that could produce contested campaigns in as many as 23 of the 53 districts. The change in the state’s election law also adds a new twist to California campaigns. Now, the top two finishers in the June qualifying election advance to the November general regardless of party affiliation.

Among incumbents, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) whose home was placed in new District 32, faces the most difficult re-election situation. He won’t run in CA-32 against Rep. Grace Napolitano (D) because the seat so heavily favors the Democrats. He could run in District 31, assuming Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) does not seek re-election there, or District 26 if Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) decides to challenge Rep. Buck McKeon (R) in the new 25th District. Neither scenario is positive for Dreier.

Several members are paired. The most notable are Reps. Howard Berman (D) and Brad Sherman (D) in the new Los Angeles County 30th District, and Reps. Ed Royce (R) and Gary Miller (R) in the new 39th District (Orange County). Should Gallegly and McKeon square-off in the new 25th, then another incumbent pairing will result.

With members still deciding where, or if, to run in 2012, the California situation is still unclear. It appears the statewide swing can go all the way from +3 Democrat to +3 Republican. After only seeing one incumbent of either party lose during the entire last decade, the new congressional redistricting map will make the Golden State one of the more hotly contested states in the country.

Colorado

The new court-produced map changes the competition factor. The plan makes the 4th District of freshman Rep. Cory Gardner (R) more Republican, but endangers sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6). The western slope 3rd District remains in the swing category. The partisan swing could go from even to D+2.

Georgia

The state gained one seat in reapportionment, and Republicans adding that seat to their column is a certainty. Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12) will face a more competitive re-election contest, but the large African-American percentage is his greatest asset and may be enough to save him. The swing could go from R+1 to R+2. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10) was given a relatively safe Republican seat, but a much different one than his current district. A primary challenge here is a possibility. Like Alabama, Georgia awaits Department of Justice pre-clearance.

Idaho

The redistricting commission made only cosmetic changes in the state’s two congressional districts. Both Republican incumbents have winnable districts.

Illinois

This is the Democrats’ best state. The partisan swing could be as many as a D+4. Reps. Bob Dold (R-IL-10), Judy Biggert (R-IL-13), and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17) all have difficult re-election challenges. Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL-8) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) are paired in the new 14th CD. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) and Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) are paired in the new 16th.

Indiana

Republicans drew the Hooiser State map and are attempting to increase their 6-3 delegation advantage to 7-2. They might be successful, since 2nd District Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) decided to forego re-election in a more difficult seat and is running for the Senate. Though the 2nd District is more Republican, it is still competitive as President Obama scored 49 percent even within the new boundaries. By making IN-2 more Republican, the 8th District of freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) becomes more competitive. The map improved, from a Republican perspective, freshman Rep. Todd Young’s (R) 9th District. The swing could go from R+1 to D+1.

Iowa

The new four-district map largely displaces all five current House incumbents. The loss of a seat in reapportionment causes the pairing of Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) and Tom Latham (R-IA-4) in the very different and marginal new 3rd District. This race will be a toss-up all the way to Election Day. The new western Iowa 4th District is also competitive. Rep. Steve King (R) faces Christie Vilsack (D), the wife of former governor and current US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The swing could go from R+1 to D+1.

Louisiana

Reapportionment costs the state one district and even though Republicans control the entire process, they will lose a seat. The new map pairs veteran Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-7) and freshman Jeff Landry (R-LA-3) in the new 3rd District. Boustany is favored. All of the other incumbents should be safe. With the GOP taking the reapportionment hit, the partisan swing becomes D+1 by default.

Maine

Another two-district state where little change will occur. After an attempt to make the 1st District more Republican, the final plan protects the state’s two Democrats, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2). No change is expected here.

Maryland

The Democrats, in full control of the redistricting process, made the Republicans pay. The resulting plan will very likely increase their 6D-2R delegation split to 7D-1R. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R) 6th District goes from 57 percent McCain, based upon the 2008 presidential contest, to 62 percent Obama, thus becoming a likely Democratic conversion district. All other incumbents, including freshman GOP Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1), get safe seats. The partisan swing is D+1.

More state reports on Wednesday …

It’s Over: A Stunning GOP Election Turnaround

For the most part, the 2010 election is in the books. With just a few races outstanding in the Senate, House, and Governors races, it appears the Republicans will command the next House of Representatives with anywhere from 239 to 242 seats, a stunning turnaround from the previous Congress. Such a composition of the body would mean a net gain of between 61 and 64 Republican seats. The new House will represent the largest GOP majority in the modern-day political era. The largest number of elected Republicans during the 12-year majority run (2005-2007) was 232.

The Senate races were kinder to Democrats. The Ds will hold the Senate with 52 or 53 seats depending upon the outcome in Washington. The winner of the Alaska seat is still in doubt, though the top two contenders, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (W/I) and Joe Miller (R) are both Republicans. Colorado was called earlier in the day for appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) by a very small margin over Weld County DA Ken Buck.

Several races remain outstanding for Governor: Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont. Republicans lead in Connecticut and Oregon; Democrats in the remaining three. If things stay as they are, the GOP will control 30 Governorships, the Democrats 19, with one Independent (former Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Independent Sen. Lincoln Chafee). Earlier this morning, Florida and Maine were decided, both in favor of the Republican candidates.

The big story on the state front is the number of legislative chambers that flipped from Democrat to Republican. At this writing it appears that 20 chambers went from Democratic control to the GOP. Some of the surprises are both houses in the Alabama, Maine and Minnesota legislatures changing, the Texas House now breaks in favor of the GOP 101-43, and the party obtained the requisite number of new legislators to take full control in the critical redistricting states of Texas, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Florida remains under total Republican control, but a ballot initiative passed last night that will create a redistricting commission. A similar measure passed in California. Thus, the majority party in both of those states stand to fare worse through the commission process than if they were drawing the new maps themselves.

The interesting point about this landslide is that, in contrast with most others, the wave came from the bottom up. Only two incumbent Senators (Lincoln, Feingold) and a pair of incumbent Governors (Strickland, Culver) were defeated at the statewide level versus possibly more than 50 US House members and hundreds of state senators and representatives. This appears to be the biggest Republican legislative year since the Great Depression.

The bottom-up nature of this landslide makes it historically unique. In most such elections it is the statewide candidates who fare worse than those who represent districts. It is also the first time in history that the US House changed party control without the Senate following suit. In other years the Senate has flipped without the House, but never the inverse.

Much more in the coming days.

When Will it End?

As we pull to within less than three weeks of the election, the Democrats appear to be in a free-fall. Nevada GOP Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, opposing unpopular Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, raised a huge amount of money –– $14 million from July 1st to September 30th — an impressive haul for any candidate, but especially so for one from a small state. It’s even more stunning when you note that 94% of the money came from contributions of less than $100. In Florida, Senate GOP candidate Marco Rubio brought in more than $5 million for the quarter. In liberal Washington, Republican Dino Rossi locked in a tight battle with Sen. Patty Murray (D), exceeded $4.5 million.

In the House races, Reps. Gene Taylor (D-MS-4), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), Walt Minnick (D-ID-1) and Bobby Bright (D-AL-2) are publicly saying they will vote for someone other than embattled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8), when the new Congress convenes. Reps. Chet Edwards (D-TX-17), Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) have ads expressing their independence from Pelosi and President Obama. Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23), in serious trouble because the split among local Republicans and Conservatives has ostensibly healed and Matt Doheny now has virtually united support from the right-of-center, launched a rather desperate new ad saying that he “votes with the Republican leader 63% of the time.” These are obvious signs of a party in trouble.

And new competitive congressional races are popping up every day. Now the list is even reaching protected voting rights districts like AZ-7 (Rep. Raul Grijalva in a close contest with scientist Ruth McClung), and TX-27 (Rep. Solomon Ortiz actually trailing Republican opponent Blake Farenthold in both a campaign-released survey and a private independent poll).

All of these anecdotes are similar to what we were seeing for Democrats in both 2006 and 2008, and the results, as we all know, were landslide elections. Right now, it appears that Republican House candidates are likely to win in the neighborhood of 35 Democratically-held seats, with another 30 or so in range to win. The Democrats will at least pick up two GOP seats, and maybe as many as five. Thus, the GOP approaching or exceeding a 50-seat gain is not out of the question, and reclaiming the majority appears to be on the horizon.