Tag Archives: Gabrielle Giffords

Selecting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Successor in Arizona

Voters in southeast Arizona go to the polls tomorrow to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D). For the Democrats, Ron Barber, the former congresswoman’s district director who was wounded with her in the January 2011 shooting melee, opposes 2010 GOP nominee Jesse Kelly. Kelly came within two points of unseating Giffords in the last regular election. A close election is forecast.

The winner will serve the balance of Giffords’ term and then seek re-election in the new 2nd District, as designed in the Arizona redistricting plan. Both will have regular election primary opposition even though one will be the incumbent. State Rep. Matt Heinz and two minor candidates will challenge Barber for the Democratic nomination, while Kelly will again face Martha McSally who placed second to him in the special election primary. This campaign is competitive tomorrow, likely for the Aug. 28 primary, and in November, too.

Will the Blue Dogs Become Extinct?

The defeat of Pennsylvania Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Tim Holden (D-PA-17) in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary election forced the Blue Dog Coalition to absorb two more hits. Looking ahead to the general election, the already decimated caucus appears to be staring at even more adversity.

In an era when both parties are nominating doctrinaire ideological candidates, the ranks of contenders who describe themselves as moderates are shrinking. Centrist Republicans have grown a bit thanks to the GOP sweep in 2010 but are also poised to decline in this election as 17 of their 54 members are either retiring or facing competitive opponents.

After the 1994 Republican landslide that gave the GOP control of the House for the first time since 1948, the moderate Democrats decided to form their own official House caucus and did so under an unusual name. Because they were inspired by the paintings of Cajun artist George Rodrique, who often pictured animated blue dogs with deep, yellow eyes, and because of the common southern political phrase, “yellow dog Democrats” the group found its identity. A yellow dog Democrat, it is said, is an individual who will vote for a yellow dog before supporting a Republican. Saying that the extreme positions of both parties where “choking them (the moderate Democratic House members) blue,” the “Blue Dog Coalition” came into being.

When 2009 began, the Blue Dog Coalition numbered 54 members. At the end of the 111th Congress, right after the 2010 election, the coalition saw exactly half of its members (27) either retire or fail in their bids for re-election; mostly the latter. With the early 2011 congressional resignation of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36) and congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) following suit at the beginning of 2012, the caucus now numbers 25. Accounting for retirements, primary defeats, and possible general election defeats, the membership could potentially total only 10 at the beginning of the next Congress.

So far, four Blue Dog congressmen – Dan Boren (D-OK-2), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), Mike Ross (D-AR-4) and Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) – have already announced their retirement plans. And, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) is running for the Senate. As mentioned above, Reps. Altmire and Holden already have lost their primaries, meaning that the effective caucus membership eligible to return next year is 18.

But the leakage is likely to continue. An additional eight members face highly competitive re-election fights. For Reps. Joe Baca (D-CA-43), John Barrow (D-GA-12), Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3), Ben Chandler (D-KY-6), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), Jim Matheson (D-UT-2), Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) either renomination or re-election is no certainty.

Furthermore, of the 11 candidates the Blue Dog Coalition has so far endorsed, none, today, are favored to win their elections. They are:

  1. AR-4: Clark Hall (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  2. FL-2: Leonard Bembry (D) vs. Rep. Steve Southerland (R) – Underdog
  3. IN-2: Brendan Mullen (D) vs. Jackie Walorski (R) – Underdog
  4. IN-8: Dave Crooks (D) vs. Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) — Underdog
  5. MI-1: Gary McDowell (D) vs. Rep. Dan Benishek (R) – Toss-up
  6. NC-11: Hayden Rogers (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  7. ND-AL: Pam Gulleson (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  8. OH-6: Former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) vs. Rep. Bill Johnson (R) – Toss-up
  9. OK-2: Rob Wallace (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  10. SC-7: Ted Vick (D) vs. R nominee – Underdog
  11. TX-14: Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) vs. R nominee – Toss-up (at best)

With eight of its members in tough races and no guaranteed winners among the 11 candidates the coalition has officially endorsed, it appears that the Blue Dogs are headed for another difficult political year. Though polling respondents often like to define themselves as “middle of the road” or “moderate,” it is evident from the electoral results that the majority of voters don’t choose in such a manner.

Succeeding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona

The special election to replace resigned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) took form last night with party nomination votes. Democrats had only one choice for the special election, Giffords’ district aide Ron Barber, who was shot with the congresswoman during the highly publicized January 2011 ambush attack. Republicans again turned to former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, who came within two points of defeating Ms. Giffords in 2010. Kelly claimed the Republican nomination with 36 percent of the vote, topping Gulf War veteran Martha McSally’s 25 percent.

Barber was the consensus nominee last night because all the strong Democrats deferred to him for the special election campaign. The winner of the June 12 special general fills the unexpired portion of Giffords’ term. Barber does not have a free ride for the regular term, however, when the candidates will square off in the new 2nd District Democratic primary in August regardless of who wins the special election in current District 8.

Due to reapportionment and redistricting, the district numbers were changed throughout the state. The current 8th/new 2nd remains a marginal seat that both parties can win. Originally, Barber was planning only to serve the unexpired term but changed his mind about running for the regular term after the others withdrew from the special. Even as a short-term incumbent, Mr. Barber will have a strong advantage, at the very least in the regular Democratic primary, should he secure the seat in June.

The current 8th District went for favorite son John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign by a 52-46 percent margin. Prior to Ms. Giffords winning here for the Democrats in 2008, the district had been in Republican hands in the person of moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe, originally elected in 1984 and retiring in 2006. The new 2nd CD is of similar configuration, though slightly smaller because Arizona’s substantial growth rate brings the state a new 9th District. Prior to reapportionment, the 8th was over-populated by 44,076 people.

The special general election will be competitive, meaning the regular election will be, too. A new small sample poll from National Research, Inc. (April 12; 300 registered AZ-8 voters) gives Kelly a 49-45 percent lead over Barber in a hypothetical ballot test.

The closeness of the data suggests that the regular election campaign will be a free-for-all regardless of whether Barber or Kelly wins the June special election. Along with the highly competitive campaigns in the 1st (open seat), 5th (open seat), 6th (Republican incumbent pairing) and 9th (new seat), Arizona is becoming a hotbed of congressional political activity. Rate the new 2nd as a toss-up all the way through the November election.

New York, New York

Now that it is apparent that the three-judge panel’s congressional map for New York will in all likelihood be instituted for the 2012 congressional elections, action is happening in all four corners of the state.

First, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5), after basically having the field cleared for him in the new 6th District, surprisingly announced last night that he will not seek re-election. Ackerman was first elected to the House in 1982 after serving one term in the NY Senate. He becomes the 42nd member not to be standing for re-election. One of those, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), was defeated in her primary. Including the Schmidt seat and the two vacant US House positions, those of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) and the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ-10), the open seat count rises to 55.

The Ackerman retirement decision is a surprise for several reasons. First, it is incredulous that he waited until after redistricting was complete to make his intentions known when such knowledge would have made the legislators’ and court’s task easier in collapsing a seat, particularly since the Queens/Long Island area was targeted for district reduction. Second, GOP Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) had already announced that he would launch a long-shot senatorial campaign rather than oppose Ackerman in the new, and highly Democratic, 6th District. Third, sate Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D), who had been planning to challenge Turner, said he would not run for Congress when the Republican and Ackerman were paired, and publicly endorsed his Democratic colleague for re-election. Now, with all of this breaking his way, Ackerman calls it quits.

But, it’s possible that Turner may soon be back. A very late entry into the Senate race, the congressman, like all of the other candidates, must garner 25 percent of the delegate vote at the New York state Republican Convention beginning today in Rochester. Attorney Wendy Long, who also is getting the Conservative Party ballot line, is estimated to be around the 23 percent mark; Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos appears to have more than 28 percent in delegate commitments. But, Turner, just entering the convention race, is barely over 8 percent, a long way from the minimum 25 percent needed for primary ballot placement. Should he not make the statewide ballot, Turner could pivot back into what is now, at least temporarily, an open 6th District seat.

In Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY-3) Nassau-Suffolk County seat, now labeled District 2 and much more Democratic than his current CD, opposition party leaders are attempting to recruit a strong candidate. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice appears to be the party’s first choice.

Upstate, the collapsing of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s (D) 22nd District has sent several candidates who were running for what they thought was an open seat scrambling to other districts.

Leslie Danks Burke, the Ithaca Town Democratic Party chair will now challenge freshman Rep. Tom Reed in the new 23rd District. The same is true for Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa. The seat is more Democratic than Reed’s current 29th CD, but he begins the race as a strong favorite for re-election.

Democrat Wall Street attorney Sean Maloney, who was originally looking at challenging freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) in the Finger Lakes district will now run against freshman Nan Hayworth (R) in the Westchester County CD. For his part, Gibson will run in the new more Democratic 19th District. Matt Doheny, the 2010 nominee against Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23) will opt for a re-match in the new 21st District, which will be more to the Republican’s liking if he can get the incumbent into a one-on-one battle. In the Buffalo area, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26), who was placed in a heavily Republican 27th District and speculation became rampant that she might challenge Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-27) in the new Buffalo center city district, says she will fight it out in the new 27th.

Expect much more to come next week when the GOP state convention ends and the Senate field of candidates is set.

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.