Tag Archives: Joe Baca

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.

California’s Changing Congressional Makeup

In what became an expected announcement, particularly considering the developments during the past few days, 17-term Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41) confirmed that he will retire at the end of the current Congress. Mr. Lewis, a former Appropriations Committee chairman and the dean of the California Republican delegation, was first elected to the House in 1978 after serving 10 years in the state Assembly.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission placed Lewis’ home in the new 31st District, a politically marginal seat anchored in the cities of San Bernardino, Rialto, and the congressman’s home of Redlands. But most of his Republican territory wound up in the new 8th District, a seat that begins in San Bernardino County, but which travels up the California-Nevada border all the way to Yosemite. When the map was passed, Mr. Lewis said he would not move his family to claim the 8th, but it also didn’t look like he would risk defeat by running in the 31st, which, more often than not, will elect a Democrat.

The other incumbent placed in CA-31 was Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA-43). Surveying the district after the lines were made public, Mr. Baca believed his political fortunes were better served by running in the new District 35, even though his home city of Rialto is excluded and having to face a popular Democratic state senator, Gloria Negrete McLeod, in an intra-party challenge that could consume a full year under California’s new election law.

Surprisingly, on the heels of the Lewis retirement statement, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42), currently paired with fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) in new District 39, said he will now run in the vacated 31st. Miller currently represents a small portion of San Bernardino County that is housed in the 31st, and he obviously believes his chances of surviving in a marginal Democratic seat are superior to fighting a Republican-on-Republican war with Mr. Royce. Thus, the big winner in this scenario is Rep. Royce, as he is now the only incumbent in the safely Republican CA-39. He still will have significant primary opposition, however, as Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson is an announced Republican candidate who could prove to be a formidable candidate.

The Miller move sends another signal, too. Because Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26), whose current district was split six ways, also represents part of the new 31st it was thought that this could be a landing place for him should Mr. Lewis either run in the 8th or retire. With no further inkling from Mr. Dreier that he is looking at the 31st, the speculation that he too will retire certainly gains credence.

Should Dreier follow suit and leave the House, California Republicans will lose their top four senior members: Lewis, Dreier, Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA-2), and Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24). Their combined length of service is 118 years.

Now that the 31st is officially an open seat, expect action to occur soon. The top Democrat in the race so far is Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar. Aside from Rep. Miller, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton and San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos are both potential Republican contenders. Taking into consideration California’s new law that sends the top two finishers from the qualifying election onto the general regardless of political party affiliation, virtually anything can happen in this race.

Though CA-31 leans Democratic, it doesn’t do so by much. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), for example, won here by just two points, 46-44 percent. The Republican attorney general candidate, though losing a close race statewide, carried the new 31st 46-39 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown scored a 49-41 percent win over GOP businesswoman Meg Whitman.

Expect this race to fluctuate between “toss-up” and “lean Democrat” all the way to the November election.

Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part I

Though it is still difficult to forecast the complete US House political picture next year, mostly because redistricting is only about half finished, we already see that more than 40 sitting members will draw serious competition in either the 2012 primary or general election.

Below is a list of 22 incumbents who will be in competitive campaigns next year from states where redistricting is complete. The second half of the overall group will be featured in our Wednesday report.

AR-1 – Rick Crawford (R) – Redistricting added more Democrats to what already was a highly Democratic seat. Crawford will be in a toss-up situation.

CA-3 – John Garamendi (D) – The new 3rd district could conceivably elect a Republican. Watch for a serious GOP challenge to Rep. Garamendi, who is serving his first full term.

CA-9 – Jerry McNerney (D) – Potential challenges in both the Democratic primary and general election await Mr. McNerney, who has chosen to run in a seat that doesn’t include his Bay Area political base.

CA-10 – Jeff Denham (R) – Though Rep. Denham will be the heavy favorite in this new district, it is not as Republican as his current CA-19.

CA-16 – Dennis Cardoza (D)/Jim Costa (D) – The redistricting commission greatly altered the Fresno area. Rep. Costa announced for CA-16 even though his home is in the new 21st, which is much more Republican. Rumors persist that Cardoza may retire.

CA-24 – Lois Capps (D) – The new Santa Barbara seat is a 50/50 district now, so former lieutenant governor and state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R) is a very strong challenger here.

CA-25/26 – Elton Gallegly (R) – Rep. Gallegly can either run against fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) or in the new marginal 26th district (Ventura County). Keep a retirement watch on Gallegly who even announced such before the 2008 election, only to change his mind.

CA-30 – Brad Sherman (D)/Howard Berman (D) – This will be a tough primary and general election for the two veteran Democratic congressmen. One will not return to the next Congress.

CA-31 – Joe Baca (D) – Rep. Baca does not like his new, and more competitive, 31st district and may hop over to the more Democratic 35th CD, created as an open seat.

CA-32 – David Dreier (R) – Congressman Dreier’s current 26th district seat was broken up into six different parts. He will not run in District 32, as this seat is highly Democratic. Most of his options are poor. If Elton Gallegly does not run in District 26, then that seat is a possibility for Dreier. He could also swing down into District 31 if Rep. Baca moves to CA-35.

CA-38/47 – Linda Sanchez (D) – There is a good possibility that Rep. Sanchez will face strong primary opposition either from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA-38) in the new 38th district, where both of their homes reside, or in the Long Beach-based new 47th district. There, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) has already said he will run. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) is also a potential candidate. This seat is also in play for the Republicans. Former Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R-CA-36), is saying that he, too, will run here next year.

CA-39 – Ed Royce (R)/Gary Miller (R) – This is a Republican pairing. The winner retains the seat for the GOP, but one of the two will not return. Most of the territory currently belongs to Royce, who has to be regarded as the favorite in this new configuration.

CA-44 – Janice Hahn (D) – Newly elected Rep. Hahn will likely draw a challenge from fellow Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) and state Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D). The seat is heavily minority, so facing either a strong African-American or Hispanic opponent in the general election could doom Hahn’s re-election chances.

CA-52 – Brian Bilbray (R) – Rep. Bilbray was paired with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) in new district 49, but will run in the new 52nd. The seat should elect a Republican, but the Democrats are competitive. Former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D) has already announced her candidacy.

GA-12 – John Barrow (D) – Assuming the current Georgia redistricting map passes the Georgia Senate and is signed by Gov. Nathan Deal (R), Rep. Barrow will find himself in a much more competitive district. The new 12th will go from a mid-50s Obama district to one in the mid-40s. The African-American population drops precipitously, as well.

IL-8/14 – Joe Walsh (R)/Randy Hultgren (R) – Another Republican pairing. Rep. Walsh’s current 8th district was eviscerated in redistricting. His best chance at winning re-election to a second term is to challenge fellow GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in new District 14. A child support payment scandal surrounding Walsh puts Hultgren in the early favorite’s position.

IL-10 – Bob Dold (R) – Redistricting makes the marginal 10th even more Democratic. Freshman Rep. Dold has already announced he will run for re-election here.

IL-11 – Adam Kinzinger (R)/Judy Biggert (R) – Rep. Kinzinger, like Mr. Dreier in California, saw his current district split multiple ways. He will have several choices of where to seek re-election. New district 11 is certainly one of his options, but none are particularly appealing unless Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) decides to retire. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) could also seek re-election here, though the new 11th is much more Democratic than her current seat. Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14) has already announced his candidacy in this newly configured seat as has a strong chance to convert it to the Democratic column, particularly with President Obama leading the ticket.

IL-13 – Tim Johnson (R) – Originally paired with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) in the new 15th District, Rep. Johnson has chosen to seek re-election in the marginal 13th District. He can expect serious general election competition.

IL-17 – Bobby Schilling (R) – Though redistricting brought the seat back toward Schilling’s base in the Quad Cities region, the new 17th will be even more Democratic than the previous district. Several strong Dem challengers are already running. Schilling finds himself in a toss-up situation, at best.
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