Tag Archives: California

The House in 2012: The Vulnerables

Talk is already beginning about which of the newly elected and veteran House members will be on the hot seat in 2012, but little will be clear until redistricting is complete. Remembering that all multi-district states will change their congressional maps in 2011 (or early 2012), it is virtually impossible to project today which of the current incumbents will have bumpy re-election roads in 2012.

Looking at the reapportionment formula, a calculation that will be final and official before the end of this year, where will both Republicans and Democrats either protect a large number of their current seats or make substantial gains?

One of the top such states had not been decided until just before Thanksgiving. The New York state Senate is the key to the state’s redistricting process and it appears that Republicans have won enough undecided races to claim a small majority. If the GOP Senate majority becomes official, then count on a court-drawn 2012 map as they will have the necessary votes to block the Democratic plan coming from the House. Assuming NY-1 holds for the Democrats (the lone outstanding congressional race in the country), the GOP gained six seats in the 2010 election giving them a grand total of eight in the state, still a rather paltry total for a delegation of 29 members but an improvement over the 27-2 split from the current Congress. New York will lose at least one seat in reapportionment and, considering the probable population trends, the representation reduction should come from either New York City or Long Island. If the Democrats gain control of the Senate, a prospect that now appears unlikely, watch for a map that allows their party to regain some of the seats they lost in November.

If you’re looking for a place where Republicans are poised to make gains, watch North Carolina. With Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue having no veto over redistricting legislation, the new Republican legislature has full control of the map drawing process. The Tar Heel State is the place where the GOP has the opportunity to gain the largest number of US House seats. With Republicans usually winning the statewide vote, Democrats control the congressional delegation 8-5, and the GOP only pulled to within this number with Renee Ellmers’ upset win over Rep. Bob Etheridge in NC-2. The Republicans’ first priority will be to improve Ellmers’ seat and then look to give several Democratic incumbents more difficult seats. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) could all find themselves in much more competitive political situations under a Republican-drawn map.

Expected to gain four seats, Texas will again attract great redistricting attention. Republicans now enjoy a 23-9 margin in the congressional delegation and it will be hard to exceed this ratio, even when considering the four new seats with which an enlarged GOP legislative majority can play.

Republicans also control the pen in the more Democratic or marginal states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. This helps the GOP dramatically, because each state will lose at least one district. Ohio appears headed for a two-seat reduction. Since the GOP has virtually maximized the size of their representation in at least PA and OH, they will need such power just to protect what they have.

The Democrats will certainly take a loss in Massachusetts, as the Bay State’s 10-member Democratic delegation will be reduced by one seat. This Democratic loss, however, will be offset in Louisiana as the 6-1 Republican line-up will drop to 5-1. The lone Democratic seat, the New Orleans-based 2nd district, enjoys Voting Rights protection and will not be collapsed.

California, which could be a Democratic gain state, and Florida, the site of the best GOP map of the 2001 redistricting cycle, are big question marks. Ballot initiatives created a redistricting commission in California and made stringent map-drawing requirements upon the legislature in Florida, so the current outlook in both states is cloudy.

Much will happen in the coming redistricting year making early 2012 congressional predictions most difficult and unreliable. Those who thought the 2010 cycle was long and grueling haven’t seen anything yet.

Counting Continues in Alaska; Three House Races Remain

Alaska: Election authorities are finished counting about 89% of all ballots, including the write-in and absentee votes, in their unfinished U.S. Senate race. If current trends continue, it appears that Sen. Lisa Murkowski will be re-elected. Republican Joe Miller defeated Murkowski in the August 24th Republican primary, but a strong grassroots write-in campaign coupled with Miller’s political implosion apparently will combine to make the Senator only the second person in history to win a seat by write-in. The only other such instance in a Senate campaign was Strom Thurmond’s victorious effort in South Carolina back in 1954.

Murkowski is capturing 98% of the write-in tallies. More than 160 people are qualified to receive write-in votes, and it was obvious that the Senator would record the overwhelming majority of them, but it was unclear until the counting began whether she would get virtually all of them. That appears to be the case.

Numbers-wise, Miller is sitting with 82,180, but Murkowski has now surged ahead of him with 92,979. Miller has challenged about 10% of the Murkowski write-in votes, but has successfully disqualified only 1.52% of the disputed votes. Democrat Scott McAdams is way back with 54,147 and is eliminated from having any mathematical chance of winning.

Two More House Races Decided: Absentee ballot counting laboriously continues in California, but we have two more campaigns finally decided. Democratic incumbents Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) and Jim Costa (D-CA-20) have both declared victory as the post-election counting is now putting them comfortably ahead of their very competitive Republican challengers.

There are approximately 11,700 ballots left to count in the 11th district and GOP challenger David Harmer would have to win 57% of these to overtake the incumbent, a number that is almost assuredly out of reach; 700 of these ballots are from Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, two heavily Democratic regions that will overwhelmingly favor McNerney. Given that, Harmer is forced to win more than 60% of the San Joaquin and Contra Costa County votes, which simply won’t happen.

In California’s 20th district in the Central Valley, the tabulated Fresno County absentee ballots have wiped out challenger Andy Vidak’s small lead and put Rep. Costa in front by more than 1,200 votes. The remaining ballots are predominantly from Fresno and Kings Counties, two areas that heavily favor the Democratic incumbent. It is very likely that the Costa margin will increase as the final tallies become known in the next few days.

Still TBD: The resolution of the two California races means there are only three House campaigns left to be called.

  • Two New York races, NY-1 and NY-25, both feature Republican challengers who are leading by small margins. Military and absentee ballots will be counted next week, as the deadline for submitting such votes was extended past the election. Republican challenger Randy Altschuler leads by 383 votes in NY-1; former Syracuse City Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle has an official 659-vote lead over Democratic freshman Rep. Dan Maffei.
  • In the IL-8 contest between Rep. Melissa Bean and GOP educator Joe Walsh, the challenger continues to cling to a 553-vote margin. This one will likely end in Walsh’s favor, with a full recount procedure to follow.

Adding the two California Democratic victories, the House count now stands at 240 Republicans and 192 Democrats. GOP wins in the final three races would push their total to as high as 243.

Of Note: Recounts are underway in KY-6 and NC-2, but it is unlikely that the final results will change the outcome. Unless a major error is found in the previous count, Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) will retain his seat and challenger Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2) will defeat Rep. Bob Etheridge (D).

Today is the deadline for Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX-27) to decide if he will pay for a recount in his race against attorney Blake Farenthold. The incumbent trails by just about 800 votes with everything counted.

Some Interesting House Stats

The new House of Representatives will feature at least 94 new faces in the 112th Congress. Right now, it looks as if 430 races are either decided, or just about done.

Republican Keith Fimian conceded to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), so the total of uncalled campaigns drops to seven. NC-2 – Renee Ellmers (R) defeating Rep. Bob Etheridge – will go to a recount but the spread there (almost 1,700 votes) appears to give the challenger enough of a cushion to secure victory. In TX-27, challenger Blake Farenthold (R) is almost 800 votes ahead with everything counted. Incumbent Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) has until Friday to request a recount, a procedure that he must finance. The chances that Ortiz will overturn the outcome of this election are slim. Virtually the same situation exists in KY-6, where Rep. Ben Chandler (D) holds a 600+ vote lead with everything counted. Challenger Andy Barr (R) will likely fall short, but is already suggesting that he seek a re-match in 2012.

The races that are legitimately still undetermined begin in California where districts 11 and 20 still are not finished with the initial ballot count. Democrats Jerry McNerney and Jim Costa appear fairly well positioned to hang on, however, when projecting the number of outstanding votes and overlaying from where they are coming. Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) is now less than 400 votes behind, so this one is still in doubt. Additionally, the two New York districts, 1 (Rep. Tim Bishop (D) vs Randy Altschuler (R)) and 25 (Rep. Dan Maffei (D) opposing Ann Marie Buerkle (R)) are still very much undecided, though the two GOP challengers lead both campaigns.

Let’s look at some of the new House statistics (all are unofficial until the outstanding races are decided):

  • Number of incumbents re-elected …………………… 336
  • Number of pure freshmen ………………………………… 91
  • Number of ex-members returning ………………………. 3
  • Incumbent running in a different district …………….. 1
  • Freshmen who are previous office holders ………… 54
  • Freshmen never holding public office ……………….. 40
  • Freshmen Republicans …………………………………….. 85
  • Freshmen Democrats ………………………………………… 9

Republicans Win Hidden Election, Too

Now that the numbers in all gubernatorial races and most of the legislative contests are known, it appears that the Republicans are in their best-ever shape for congressional redistricting.

Looking at the configuration of multi-district states, the GOP will draw the 2011 maps – meaning they have total control of the process – in 17 states, representing 195 US House seats. Democrats now maintain only six such states, meaning they will draw just 44 districts. Fourteen states, containing 101 CDs, have divided government, suggesting that each party commands at least one leg of the redistricting stool. The three “legs” are the governorship, a state Senate, or state House. Six states, now led by California (53 districts) – Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, and New Jersey are the others – are controlled by various redistricting commissions, members of which will draw a total of 88 districts. Finally, seven states: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, are at-large and each elects only one member of the House. Thus, redistricting is not a factor in these places.

Some people refer to the zero-numbered election years as “hidden elections” because in many cases the people winning gubernatorial and legislative offices will draw maps that elect congressmen for the next decade. Hence, winning last week’s hidden election may allow the GOP to sustain the House majority for not just this current term, but for the next 10 years.

Several Races are Done; New Close Ones Emerge

Since Friday the electoral picture has become both clearer and cloudier. It is still unclear whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has won her write-in campaign after being defeated in the Republican primary, but it is obvious that either she or GOP nominee Joe Miller will win the race because Democrat Scott McAdams is too far behind to be a factor. This means the new Senate will feature 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. The GOP won 24 of the 2010 Senate campaigns and lost 13, a strong win percentage of .650, but not enough to take the majority. The Republicans converted six Democratic states and lost none of their own.

The Governors are virtually done, too. With the Connecticut race now being officially called for Democrat Dan Malloy, it appears the GOP will end the election cycle controlling 29 Governorships versus 20 for the Democrats. Former Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Lincoln Chafee won the Rhode Island governor’s race as an Independent.

The House still has nine races where questions abound. Two were called over the weekend: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) was declared the winner in a close contest over former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, and local official and 2000 congressional nominee John Koster (R) conceded to Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the hard-fought WA-2 campaign. A sizable number of ballots still remain in Washington, but with Larsen actually gaining as the new votes are being counted, the obvious conclusion is that he would win the final tally.

Conversely, two new campaigns joined the question-mark category. An accounting error in New York has apparently allowed NY-1 challenger Randy Altschuler to grab a several hundred vote lead over Rep. Tim Bishop (D), after the latter was projected to be the victor. In North Carolina, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC-2) is claiming that enough ballots still remain to change the outcome of that campaign, despite mathematical projections awarding the race to challenger Renee Ellmers (R).

Four races are close to being over but will undoubtedly go through a recount process. It appears that Democratic incumbents Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) will survive by the barest of margins, but certification still has not been sanctioned in either case. The same appears true for Republican challengers Joe Walsh (IL-8; versus Rep. Melissa Bean) and Blake Farenthold (TX-27; against Rep. Solomon Ortiz). Both of these campaigns could conceivably turn around (each is in the 6-800 margin range), but the candidate leading at this juncture usually wins the race.

Three of the battles feature large numbers of absentee and provisional ballots to count, possibly as high as 100,000 in the CA-20 race between Rep. Jim Costa (D) and challenger Andy Vidak (R). Costa leads 51-49%, but only about 65,000 votes have been counted. Up toward the Bay Area, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is barely clinging to a 400+ vote lead against attorney David Harmer (R). Finally, some 8-10,000 absentee ballots remain uncounted in the Syracuse-based NY-25, where freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) now trails former city Councilwoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R) by a little over 650 votes, so this outcome is clearly still in doubt.

Right now the current trends suggest that Democrats hold with Chandler and Connolly, and probably carry McNerney. Republicans have the edge with Walsh, Farenthold, and possibly Vidak, though it’s hard to get a good reading on the trends with so many ballots outstanding. The Maffei-Buerkle race is legitimately too close to call, but Buerkle has rebounded strongly to take the lead after it looked like she would go down to a close defeat. The NY-1 situation is a mystery, but it is clear that neither candidate has a lock on victory at this writing.