Tag Archives: California

Calif. Primary Preview

Tomorrow, California voters go to the polls along with those in five other states, the latter we reviewed on Friday. Because of the Golden State’s new primary election law, the top two finishers in all partisan elections will advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation. This, along with a congressional redistricting map that adds more competition to California politics, creates an entirely new dynamic and changes campaign strategies. For a state that defeated only one incumbent during the entire last decade, as many as 22 of the 53 congressional seats will see some level of legitimate competition.

District 1 (Wally Herger-R retiring: Open Seat) – This northern-most California open seat will almost assuredly stay in the Republican column. Tomorrow’s vote will answer whether this will be a double-Republican general election, meaning state Sen. Doug LaMalfa and former state senator Sam Aanestad both qualifying for the November vote. Or will Democrat Jim Reed slip into second place by solidifying the Democrats?

District 2 (Lynn Woolsey-D retiring: Open Seat) – This Marin County/north coast district will go Democratic in the fall and will likely see two Democrats move into the general election. State Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D) will certainly be one qualifier. The question is will liberal author Norman Solomon or businesswoman Stacey Lawson secure the second position.

District 3 (John Garamendi-D) – Expect Rep. Garamendi and Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann (R) to be the general election participants in what should be a competitive general election, in a seat that is much more Republican than the incumbent’s current 10th District.

District 7 (Dan Lungren-R) – Tomorrow’s vote will likely yield a re-match between Rep. Lungren and physician Ami Bera in what again promises to be a competitive general election. Lungren is favored, but not by much.

District 8 (Jerry Lewis-R retiring: Open Seat) – The new 8th District, stretching northward from San Bernardino up the California-Nevada border, will likely send two Republicans to the general election. Assemblyman Paul Cook (R) will probably advance with eight Republicans vying for the second position.

District 9 (Jerry McNerney-D) – This Stockton-San Joaquin Valley seat is much different from Mr. McNerney’s previous district. It is decidedly Democratic, but Republican Ricky Gill has already raised well over $1 million. This general election battle could get very interesting, but McNerney is the clear favorite.

District 10 (Jeff Denham-R) – Retired astronaut Jose Hernandez (D) will likely be the qualifier against freshman Rep. Jeff Denham in a district that has only a 38 percent carry-over rate from his current district. National Democrats like Hernandez. Denham is the decided favorite.

District 15 (Pete Stark-D) – Expect a double-Democrat general election between Rep. Stark and Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. Stark only represents 46 percent of the new district, so things could get very interesting here in November.

District 16 (Jim Costa-D) – Rep. Costa decided to run in this Central Valley district rather than the new 21st that contains 79 percent of his current constituency. Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s retirement allowed Costa to run here, which is a more Democratic district. This seat could become competitive in the general election, but the Republican qualifier will likely be a relatively weak candidate. Costa has the inside track to re-election.

District 21 (Open Seat) – Rep. Costa not running here gives the Republicans their best conversion opportunity in the state in the person of Assemblyman David Valadao. Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong will likely be the Democratic qualifier. Valadao is favored in November.

District 24 (Lois Capps-D) – The new redistricting plan created several very marginal districts, and this Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo County district is one of them. Former lieutenant governor and state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R) will advance to the general election and oppose Rep. Capps. This will be one of the hottest congressional races in the country and is a pure toss-up.

District 26 (Elton Gallegly-R retiring: Open Seat) – The 26th is another very marginal district that both parties can win. Republicans will advance state Sen. Tony Strickland to the general election. The second position will be a fight between Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) and Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a Republican who is running as an Independent.

District 29 (Open Seat) – This will be another double-Democrat general election and will heavily favor Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas to be the eventual winner.

District 30 (Brad Sherman-D/Howard Berman-D) – This likely double-Democrat general election will be the most expensive congressional race in the country as veteran Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman must square-off for this one seat. Sherman represents 58 percent of this new constituency, while Berman has only 20 percent carry over from his current 28th CD. This will be a hard-fought and bitter general election battle.

District 31 (Gary Miller-R) – Rep. Miller’s move to the 31st District avoids a pairing with fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce in new District 39. The vote tomorrow will determine which of three candidates qualifies for the general election: Miller, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, and Redlands Democratic Mayor Pete Aguilar. Miller represents no people in the new 31st and hopped over here when Rep. Jerry Lewis, a resident of this district, announced he would retire. This is one of the most interesting races in the entire state. A likely general election toss-up.

District 35 (Rep. Joe Baca-D) – Rep. Baca gives up District 31, which includes his home city of Rialto, to run against Democratic state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod. Both will qualify for the general election and set up another double Democrat campaign. Baca represents 61 percent of the heavily Hispanic Ontario-based district. This could be a competitive November election, but no doubt a safe Democratic seat.

District 36 (Mary Bono Mack-R) – Rep. Bono Mack gets a CD fully contained within Riverside County and is two points more Republican than her previous district. She and emergency room physician Raul Ruiz and she are the only candidates who have filed, so both will advance to the general election regardless of tomorrow’s vote. Bono Mack is a big favorite in November.

District 41 (Open Seat) – The new Riverside County congressional seat is another of the marginal seats created in the 2011 redistricting plan. The two likely general election participants are Democrat Mark Takano, who has already lost three congressional races in this region, and Republican County Supervisor John Tavaglione. This will be a toss-up election in the fall.

District 44 (Janice Hahn-D/Laura Richardson-D) – Another of the incumbent pairings, this campaign will go to the general election featuring two Democratic Reps, Hahn and Richardson, in a heavily minority district. The real battle here begins on Wednesday morning.

District 47 (Open Seat) – Another new open seat has been created in the Long Beach area. State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) is likely to be a general election finalist. The second position could go to Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong. Former representative Steve Kuykendall (R-CA-36) is in the race, but does not appear to have caught fire. Democrats are favored here in November, but the GOP does have an outside chance at scoring an upset.

District 51 (Bob Filner-D, running for San Diego mayor: Open Seat) – This will be yet another double-Democrat general election. Expect state Sen. Juan Vargas and former state Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny to qualify for the general.

District 52 (Brian Bilbray-R) – This is another challenger race that could become serious in a district that is only a 40 percent carry over from Rep. Bilbray’s current CD. The congressman should finish first tomorrow night. The big question is will the second place finisher be Democrat Scott Peters, the San Diego Port Commission chairman, or former state assemblywoman Lori Saldana.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Today’s spotlight takes us to southern California to underscore just how much difference redistricting and election law changes can make in campaign strategy. The new CA-26 was deliberately designed as a 50/50 seat, and the state’s novel primary law is forcing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) into making some rather unorthodox spending decisions.

CALIFORNIA (current delegation: 34D-19R) – The new 26th District is fully contained within Ventura County, which sits between cities and counties of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. According to the latest census count, Ventura has 823,318 residents, which makes it a major political division. The new 26th was designed with the idea of creating a marginal district that would remain competitive throughout the decade. As an open seat, because Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) is retiring, the district appears to be performing as intended.

Sixty-four percent of the district’s territory comes from Gallegly’s 24th District. Thirty-five percent is added from Democratic Rep. Lois Capps’ 23rd CD, with just a sliver from Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D) current 30th (1 percent). Though President Obama captured 56 percent of the vote here in 2008, the 2010 numbers tell a completely different story. In the governor’s race, Democrat Jerry Brown, the eventual winner, came up one point short in the 26th, as Republican Meg Whitman nipped him 47-46 percent. Republican Carly Fiorina came in ahead of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) by an almost identical 47-45 percent spread. Finally, to counterbalance the Obama double-digit win, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Steve Cooley, notched a 49-38 percent score against Democrat Kamala Harris, the statewide winner by less than half a percentage point.

In addition to redistricting, the other major California electoral change concerns how the state nominates candidates for the general election. Instead of featuring a closed primary election system that sends one Democrat, one Republican, and multiple Independent candidates to the general election, the new system puts forth only the two top vote-getters regardless of political party affiliation. The new procedure is creating havoc in District 26.

The Democrats were solidly behind their Ventura County supervisor, Steve Bennett, early in the race. Both the local and national party felt Bennett gave them their best chance of attaining victory in the marginal seat. After officially entering the race, Bennett decided to return to local government instead, and withdrew from the congressional campaign. This left the Democrats without a strong candidate until they were able to recruit three-term state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley; but the heart of her current legislative district is in Santa Monica and not Ventura County. For their part, Republicans coalesced around state Sen. Tony Strickland, who had twice been a statewide candidate.

It is the second supervisor in the race, Republican Linda Parks, who will test just how the new law works. Instead of running as a Republican, knowing that Strickland would take the majority of the GOP primary votes, she decided to declare herself as an Independent, thinking that this would be her best chance of snatching a run-off position away from the Democrats. Parks is a major Ventura County political figure, serving her third term on the Board of Supervisors after winning election as mayor of Thousand Oaks after serving on the locality’s city council. This contrasts heavily with Brownley, though representing some of Ventura County, who actually hails from Santa Monica in Los Angeles County – a point that Parks consistently reiterates.

The set-up here is forcing the DCCC to involve itself in the June election because they fear that both Strickland and Parks could qualify for the general, thus leaving them without a candidate in a seat that they can certainly win.

The DCCC is therefore actively communicating with voters, sending mailers that “Photoshop” Parks into a setting with Republican leaders such as Sarah Palin and former president George W. Bush. Others drive home the point to Democratic voters that Parks is actually a Republican. But Parks counters by highlighting other campaign messages from her previous opponent, ironically Sen. Strickland’s wife, Audra, who challenged her for the board two years ago, that identified her as a liberal and being too aligned with the Democrats. Parks is cleverly juxtaposing both mail messages to prove that she is, in fact, independent because both parties have launched similar attacks against her.

Redistricting and the election law process were done to change the voting system in California, and it appears those goals have been accomplished. The developments in the 26th District until the June 5 qualifying election will be very interesting to watch. It is clear we are seeing unusual happenings here, which are expected to continue.

Santorum Exits: What Else Changes?

The surprisingly abrupt suspension of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign will affect more than just the national political contest. While Santorum’s decision effectively crowns Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, several other political contests will also change because of yesterday’s developments.

Looking ahead to contested Republican primaries where a Santorum candidacy would either positively or negatively affect the turnout model in places that vote for president and Congress together, many candidates will now have to re-adjust their own political campaign efforts. The lack of having an active presidential race will clearly alter the voter participation rates in their particular races.

One such contest that comes to mind is the upcoming Indiana Senate campaign where six-term Sen. Richard Lugar is facing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in what is becoming a contentious and hard-fought Republican primary election. Polling shows the race to be within single digits but, among self-identified Republicans, Lugar is clearly in trouble. Under Indiana law, the primary election is open so Independents and Democrats can choose to vote in the Republican primary. Lugar runs stronger with Democrats and Independents so inclined to vote Republican, but it is difficult to gauge at this point in time the overall size of such a pool of voters.

It is probably a bit too early to predict with any certainty just how Santorum’s exit from the presidential campaign will change the Lugar-Mourdock race. One school of thought suggests that the senator might actually benefit because Santorum’s absence now gives the most conservative voter less of a reason to vote. On the other hand, the lower overall turnout will make those most motivated to visit the polls all the more important and influential. The more intense voter tends to support the non-incumbent in these types of electoral situations, thus Lugar’s position becomes tenuous since Mourdock, as the lone GOP challenger, is solely benefiting from all of the anti-incumbent sentiment.

Another race where the lack of a Santorum presidential challenge could make a difference is in the Texas Senate race. There, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who should be the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination outright on May 29, could find his chances of being forced into a July 31 run-off increasing as the rate of turnout drops. Texas has notoriously low primary election participation rates so, as in Indiana, the more motivated voters generate greater influence within a smaller pool. Thus, conservative challenger Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, could benefit from this development.

Cruz’s only chance to wrest the nomination away from Dewhurst is to force him into a run-off election by holding him below 50 percent in the primary. With eight other candidates on the ballot, including former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and former NFL and Southern Methodist University football star Craig James, a lower turnout might make the run-off scenario more plausible.

Many congressional races will be effected, too. With contested Republican primary campaigns in action throughout North Carolina – GOP nomination challenges to Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC-3) and Howard Coble (R-NC-6) and crowded open seat races in the 9th (Rep. Sue Myrick), 11th (Rep. Heath Shuler), and 13th CD’s (Rep. Brad Miller) along with Republican challenger primaries for the right to face incumbents Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) in the general election – the new turnout model could greatly alter all Tar Heel State political outcomes.

The same can be said for the California House races, particularly as the state institutes its new primary system that allows the top two finishers in every campaign, regardless of political party affiliation, to advance to the general election. With Republican voter turnout percentages, now without an active presidential race on their side, probably falling into line with Democratic participation rates, several campaigns – such as Rep. Gary Miller’s 31st District election and the newly created open 41st (Riverside County) and 47th (Long Beach area) districts – will likely change direction. Which way they will move is still unclear.

Much more analysis will come for all of these campaigns as we get closer to their respective election dates. It is clear, however, that politics in a macro sense will drastically change as a result of Santorum conceding the presidential nomination to Romney.

The Importance of Wisconsin and Indiana

With a break in the presidential voting action until Tuesday and Mitt Romney again trying to instill a sense of the inevitability of his victory by rolling out important endorsements like former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), we take a look at the remaining 22 entities that still lie ahead on the political landscape.

So far, Romney has won 20 voting entities and lost 14. Of the remaining 22 still to vote, 11 look like they are headed his way (California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah), while nine are places where Rick Santorum still has a chance to win (Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia). Should Santorum take all nine of these entities – and several are iffy – and Romney capture the 11 projected to go his way, the scorecard will read: Romney 31 states and territories; Others 23, with Wisconsin (April 3) and Indiana (May 8) shaping up as the key swing states.

Should Santorum upset Romney in Wisconsin and Indiana, the nomination fight could again divert along a new path and thoughts of an open convention could become real. If Romney wins the Badger State with a follow-up score in the Hoosier State, then the nomination battle truly could be over. Looking ahead, it now appears that this pair of states could become the final indicators.

Ins and Outs

California: Well, the expected finally happen. Sixteen-term Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26), chairman of the House Rules Committee, announced that he will not seek re-election this year. When the California Citizens Redistricting Commission split his district into seven parts, there were few viable re-election options available to the long time incumbent. It became inevitable that Mr. Dreier would end his long congressional career rather than run when entombed in a hopeless political situation.

Because he was technically paired with Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA-38) in the new 32nd District, the retirement does not lead to any new open seat. Mr. Dreier becomes the 38th sitting member to make public his intention not to return to the House when his current term expires. Twenty-two of the 38 are Democrats, 16 are Republican. Twenty-four are opting for retirement, while 14 are seeking a different political office.

Maine: In other news, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) has taken out nominating papers to run for the Senate now that incumbent Olympia Snowe (R) is retiring. Maine’s other House member, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) is said to be considering a run. Should they oppose each other in the Democratic primary, a host of people on both sides of the aisle appear poised to enter open congressional races.

Gov. Paul LePage (R) is indicating that he will ask the state legislature to pass a bill extending the petition gathering deadline past March 15. No less than 2,000 valid registered voter signatures are required to run statewide in Maine. LePage is suggesting that Sen. Snowe’s late retirement announcement is not giving potential candidates adequate time to decide whether to run, and then circulate petitions. Much more to come on what is shaping up to be a wild campaign ride in the Pine Tree State.

50 Open Seats in Congress

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) yesterday became the 34th sitting House member to announce he won’t seek re-election in the fall, just two days after he said he wouldn’t run in North Carolina’s newly open gubernatorial race. With Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton already jumping into the governor’s campaign to replace outgoing incumbent Bev Perdue as the Democratic nominee, there is some speculation that the state’s number two position might be a suitable political landing spot for the three-term congressman and former NFL football player. Mr. Shuler, however, gave no indication that he would immediately jump into another political contest.

Speculation has been rampant that he would retire ever since the North Carolina redistricting map was passed into law and the US Justice Department granted pre-clearance. With a good chunk of his Asheville Democratic base being transferred to Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R) 10th District, Shuler was actually left with the most Republican-voting congressional district in the state.

Considering his dim prospects for re-election and the fact that he had raised campaign contributions from only two individuals during the entire fourth quarter of 2011, his announcement yesterday seemed anti-climactic.

Along with Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN-5), who earlier in the week said he would not seek a 16th term, the Shuler announcement means that 50 seats are transforming into open races during the current election cycle. One CD, that of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) is vacant due to her resignation. A special election will be held June 12 to determine her replacement for the balance of the term. The others will be filled during the regular election.

Of the 34 members leaving the House at the end of this 112th Congress, 19 are opting for retirement while 15 seek different offices. Eleven of the latter 15 are running for the Senate; two for governor; one for president; and one for mayor of San Diego. Three members, Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), John Olver (D-MA-1), and Steve Austria (R-OH-7), find themselves in post-redistricting predicaments paired with another incumbent of their own party, hence the decision to retire. Since they were placed in a district with another incumbent, no open seat results in these three situations.

Reapportionment and redistricting have created an additional 19 open seats. The grand total of seats featuring no incumbent in 2012 is already 50, a very high number at this point in the election cycle. Of those open seats, nine are from California and six hail from Texas.

The open seats will also drastically change the complexion of the House. Even if no other member decides not to seek re-election, or none are defeated during the succeeding 2012 campaign – an unlikely outcome – a majority of the new House of Representatives will feature men and women who have served three terms or less. In fact, at least 225 members of the 113th Congress will have seniority of no more than six years. Even without the institution of universal term limits, the House is experiencing a rate of turnover that hasn’t been seen in more than a century.

Florida is Just the Beginning of the Presidential Campaign

Many commentators and analysts have been publicly alluding to a scenario where next Tuesday’s Florida primary perhaps ends the Republican presidential campaign. They believe that enough momentum could come from the Sunshine State vote, the biggest state to claim the electoral spotlight to date, that virtually all of the other candidates fall by the wayside.

Regardless of who wins Florida, it is very unlikely that such will be the case, and it all comes down to simple math. It takes 1,144 adjusted delegate votes to clinch the nomination. After Florida a mere 115 will be, for all intents and purposes, chosen; just 10 percent of the number required to win and only 5 percent of the total delegate universe.

The delegate number is so small during this first part of the election cycle, because many of the early states were penalized delegate slots for moving their nominating event. Florida started the musical chairs by shifting to Jan. 31, in violation of Republican National Committee rules. The action cost them 50% of their delegation. Florida is awarded 99 delegates, but post-penalty, the candidates are vying for only 50.

Because New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Arizona all moved up, they too, receive 50 percent penalties. Cumulatively, the penalized states lose an aggregate total of 143 delegate slots. Thus, the universe of Republican National Convention delegates is reduced from 2,429 to 2,286.

Through South Carolina, the projected delegate scorecard gives former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the lead with just 27 votes. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 15 delegates, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is third at 9, and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is next with 6. Technically, Texas Gov. Rick Perry captured three delegates and former Obama Administration official Jon Huntsman won two, so it is likely these five votes will be released.

But even the status of these few votes is no certainty. As Rep. Paul stated in Monday night’s Florida debate, the Iowa Caucuses are not over. The vote on Jan. 3 was merely a straw poll. The main purpose of the precinct caucuses was to elect delegates to the county conventions. At those meetings, delegates are then sent to the June 16 state convention where the 28 Iowa Republican National Convention representatives finally will be chosen.

South Carolina also is not finished. Because the state apportions most of their delegates through the congressional districts, assignment cannot yet move forward because the new seven-seat congressional redistricting plan has not fully cleared all legal hurdles. When the districts are finalized, it appears that Gingrich will win Districts 2 thru 7. Romney carried CD-1. This means the former Speaker is projected to eventually receive 23 of the 25 available Palmetto State delegates.

Even through Super Tuesday (March 6), only 29 percent of the delegates will be chosen, suggesting that the nomination fight could go on for some time. Eighteen states will vote on or before Super Tuesday, holding a total of 664 delegate votes.

Many of the larger states are holding their elections later in the cycle in order to attract more attention and greater political capital. In fact, just seven states (California, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas) hold more cumulative delegate votes (670) than do all the states voting through the Super Tuesday informal benchmark.

It is not until the April 24 primaries when more than 70 percent of the total delegates are selected that a clear nominee will likely be chosen. Therefore, instead of places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida determining the Republican nominee, the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut now become the key venues, some three months after Floridians cast their ballots.

Based on the current results, prepare for a much longer contest than originally projected … and miles to go before we sleep.