Tag Archives: Mike Ross

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.

Ross, Wu to Retire

Two more Democratic House members announced they will not seek re-election in 2012, but for very different reasons.

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4), first elected in 2000 and whose eyes are set on a gubernatorial run in 2014, announced yesterday that he will end his congressional career when the current term concludes. The 4th district was made more competitive in redistricting, so not seeking re-election and possibly risking a closer result than in 2010 (Ross’ margin over Republican Beth Anne Rankin was 57-40 percent) will not weaken his standing in the gubernatorial contest. Already, several Democratic and Republican state and local office holders are expressing interest in running for the new open seat. The succeeding campaign will likely be highly competitive.

In Oregon, Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1) who had been the subject of news stories questioning his mental health and now facing an ethics probe of sexual harassment accusations says he won’t seek re-election in 2012. It was clear that Mr. Wu is in a weakened political state, but the large number of Democrats publicly contemplating filing against him could have allowed him to slip through with a small plurality of support since the anti-Wu voters would be split. Expect many Democratic candidates to file in this new open seat.

The Democrats will retain the district as it is unlikely to become competitive even in an incumbent-less race.
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Fayetteville Finger Falls

The current layout of Arkansas' congressional districts. (govtrack.us)

The Arkansas legislature officially sent Gov. Mike Beebe (D) a new congressional district map, but the attempt to annex the city of Fayetteville to Democratic Rep. Mike Ross’ 4th district failed. This is a victory for the northwest Arkansas-area legislators who insisted that the city stay as the anchor of the 3rd district. The controversy surrounding Fayetteville erupted because of a proposal that featured a jutting protrusion, dubbed the “finger,” beginning in the southern part of Arkansas and stretching all the way to Fayetteville in the northwest. This was done to put more liberal voters into Rep. Ross’ 4th district to better secure the seat for future Democrats. Ross is expected to run for governor in 2014, thus creating a potentially competitive open seat three years from now. The Fayetteville “finger” would have cemented the seat for the Ds.

The new map secures AR-3 for Republican Steve Womack, but the 4th could now become competitive after Ross departs. The 2nd district remains relatively intact, which is good news for freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R). The GOP could take a hit, however, in the 1st district that will now cover the entire eastern portion of the state. The inclusion of more Democratic votes in Arkansas’ southeastern delta region will likely make freshman Rep. Rick Crawford’s seat highly competitive. Liberal activists are generally upset with the map, believing that the Democratic legislature and governor should have drawn a plan to return to a 3D-1R advantage, instead of the current split that features the exact opposite 3R-1D division. To summarize, the new Arkansas congressional map has two marginal seats and two that will likely remain Republican, thus the source of angst for the Democratic partisans.
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Redistricting in Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas & Maryland

The Census Bureau is sending four more states their block data this week and soon Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland will begin their redistricting processes.

Iowa: The Hawkeye State — which draws its lines through a special legislative committee and does not add the incumbents’ home addresses to their data pull, thereby ensuring that districts are built only around population figures and not politics — will be the most interesting of this bunch. Iowa will lose a seat, and it’s still unclear which two members will be paired. Prior to the actual census data being released, it was estimated that Iowa had two of the 20 lowest populated districts. The current delegation stands at three Democrats and two Republicans, so statistically the Democrats have a greater chance of having at least one of their districts in a pairing. On the Republican side, Rep. Tom Latham’s 4th district, the more interior seat, has a greater chance of being paired than the western-most 5th district of Rep. Steve King. The final four-seat plan could assume one of many diverse variations, but it’s simply too soon to tell what may happen here. We do know for sure, however, that at least one current sitting incumbent will not return in the next Congress.

Indiana: The new Indiana Republican delegation approaches redistricting in strong position. The delegation is divided 6R-3D, after the GOP gained two seats in the 2010 election. All six Republicans can expect to gain safe seats from the GOP-controlled state legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Expect the southern Indiana seats, districts 8 and 9, to be strengthened with more Republicans, thus reconfiguring to some extent the safe 4th (Rep. Todd Rokita) and 6th districts (Rep. Mike Pence; likely an open seat). The aforementioned central state seats will all remain heavily Republican, including the 5th district of Rep. Dan Burton, but they will likely contain some different territory. The big Indiana question is whether the Republicans will try to weaken Rep. Joe Donnelly’s (D) 2nd district. He barely secured a third term last November with a very tight 48-47% victory over state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R).

Arkansas: The Republicans gained two seats in the Arkansas delegation, flipping the 3D-1R advantage into a 3:1 split in the GOP’s favor. With Democrats in control of the redistricting pen, will they draw a map that protects all incumbents to the detriment of their own party? Today, that’s difficult to say. The wild card in the picture is Rep. Mike Ross’ (D-AR-4) open desire to run for governor in 2014, since Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe will be term-limited. Ross wants to ensure the safest congressional seat possible for himself to build a strong base for the statewide contest. The more Democratic Ross’ district becomes, the greater the chance all three Republicans survive.

Maryland: This is a state where the Democrats must be concerned about over-reaching. Currently ensconced with a solid 6D-2R delegation split, some Ds want to see the Eastern Shore seat strengthened to give a legitimate shot a unseating freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1). Geography favors Harris, as the Eastern Shore is unlikely to be split. If the region has grown, this will help Harris, too. The Congressman hails from the mainland of the state, and his strength on the Eastern Shore may be weaker than most incumbents, but he has a full term in which to personalize his seat. The only Maryland question to resolve is how far will the Democrats go? Will they secure a strong 6D-2R map, or stretch to 7D-1R?
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.