Tag Archives: New York

Who Knows in New York’s 26th?

Tomorrow is Election Day in New York’s 26th district and the latest Siena College poll (May 18-20; 639 likely New York-26 voters) tells us that either Democrat Kathy Hochul or Republican Jane Corwin can win. Independent Jack Davis, who has become the focal point of the controversial campaign, has fallen out of contention. The seat came open upon the resignation of Rep. Christopher Lee (R) in order to avoid impending public scandal. Siena College, located just north of Albany, NY, has a history of conducting political polls, particularly in New York State.

According to the data, Hochul leads 32-28-12 percent over Corwin and Davis, respectively. This represents quite a change, particularly for the Independent, from Siena’s last poll. In late April (April 26-27), Corwin held a 36-31 percent lead over Hochul, with Davis polling at 23 percent. The new results show Hochul holding strong with the Democratic base (gaining one point overall) and Corwin dropping eight percentage points, while Davis loses half of his support. In April, 90 percent of the respondents had decided upon a candidate but in this latest survey only 72 percent did so, meaning a full 18% of the two groups making up the pair of diverse sampling universes drifted into the undecided column. Because of the conflicting and confusing messages coming from the candidates during the past month, such a result is not surprising.

This campaign has been one of the oddest in recent memory because both Hochul and Corwin employed virtually the same strategy in dealing with Davis. Both feature him in their negative ads, always portraying him as being in the same camp with their major party opponent. The idea was to align Davis with their most serious competitor in order to steer ideological partisans from both parties toward the Independent, in addition to solidifying their own bases. Thus, voters were seeing double-barreled negative messages about Davis over his seemingly paradoxical philosophical association with each candidate.

Jack Davis, 78, is a multi-millionaire businessman who has run for Congress three times before, all as a Democrat. Previously campaigning from the ideological left, Davis adopted the “Tea” label in his Independent special election bid and is trying to cast himself as being a conservative budget hawk. He attacks both parties as entities that have lost the American people’s confidence. Davis, through his 2006 legal challenge, negated the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that allowed political opponents to raise triple the individual contribution limit if another candidate spent more than $350,000 of his or her own money. The Supreme Court cemented the ruling in 2008.

This special election should have been easily in Assemblywoman Corwin’s column. It is a marginally safe Republican seat and with her earning the Conservative and Independence Party endorsements, the race appeared to be the upstate legislator’s to lose. But a series of gaffes, including having her Assembly chief of staff accost Davis on camera about the latter lacking the “courage” to debate, derailed her campaign. The stunt badly backfired and the Corwin campaign, despite a sizable funding advantage, came unglued and lost the upper hand. Hochul has consistently maintained the Democratic base support and run the more competent campaign. In a close three-way race, these two factors could be enough to steal victory.

The Siena poll shows that both Hochul and Corwin are keeping their party bases, but the former is performing better. The Erie County Clerk gets 76 percent of Democrats compared to 66 percent of Republicans for Corwin. Independents are breaking toward Hochul by a 44-36 percent rate.

Predicting special elections and low turnout voting is extremely difficult, so this poll basically suggests that either Hochul or Corwin can win tomorrow. Turnout is likely to be high, in special election terms, if the two 2009 upstate NY elections are any indication. Both the 20th and 23rd districts turned out just over 161,000 voters when the people filled those respective vacancies. These numbers represent about 35 percent of the registered voters in those particular districts.

The recent New York special congressional elections have been debacles for the Republicans and tomorrow’s election could follow that same pattern. Whichever party can best get their voters to the polls will win. Tomorrow night tells the tale.
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Elections are Right Around the Corner

By this time next week, we will know the results of a special congressional election and two statewide primaries. And, on May 24, in upstate New York, another congressional vote follows. We will present an update report on the NY-26 race when that particular election approaches.

Saturday, May 14 – West Virginia Governor:
When Joe Manchin was elected to the Senate last year, he left the governor’s office with two years remaining on his final term. Under a rather ambiguous state succession law, it was determined that state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin (D) would become acting governor, but a special election would still be held to fill the unexpired portion of the gubernatorial term. The special election winner would serve the remaining 14+ months of the term but would be eligible to run for a full four years in the regular 2012 election.

Because every West Virginia office holder has a free ride for the special election, both parties drew very crowded fields. For the Democrats, aside from Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, state Treasurer John Perdue, state Senate President Jeff Kessler, and WV House Speaker Rick Thompson are all in the field of candidates. When the biggest Republican name, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) decided not to enter the race, a plethora of eight Republican candidates jumped into the race, led by former Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Westover Mayor Cliff Ellis and Senate Minority Whip Clark Barnes appear to be among the most serious challengers to Ireland.

Heading into Saturday’s election, it appears that Tomblin has a sizable polling lead among Democrats, as does Ireland for the Republicans. The special general election won’t be until Oct. 4, meaning a rather long special cycle. Should Tomblin win the Democratic nomination as expected, he will begin the special general in the favorite’s position.

Tuesday, May 17 – Kentucky Governor:
While the other elections are all of the irregular variety, the Kentucky vote is regular. The Blue Grass State normally elects its governor and statewide constitutional officers in the odd-numbered years. Tuesday should be a yawner in the governors’ race, however. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is seeking re-election and remains unopposed for his party’s nomination. Republicans feature three sets of candidates, as gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates run as a team, even in primary elections. State Senate President David Williams and his running mate, Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, appear to be the decided front-runners for the GOP nomination.

With a clear financial advantage and the voting history trends decidedly favoring the Democratic candidate in Kentucky governor races, Beshear becomes a prohibitive favorite in the major party match-up with Williams for the Nov. 8 general election. Five other offices: attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, and agriculture commissioner, will also being decided during this regular election cycle.

Tuesday, May 17 – CA-36 Special Election
California Rep. Jane Harman (D), who resigned her seat early in the term to accept a position with a foreign policy think tank, forced the Democrats to risk a congressional seat mid-term. Fortunately for them, CA-36 is safely Democratic and the new election laws now allow candidates of the same party to qualify for the general election, meaning their prospects of retaining the seat are even brighter. Considering the field of candidates and the Democratic nature of this district (Obama ’08: 64; Bush ’04: 40) it is likely that two specific individuals will qualify for the special general.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D), who previously ran unsuccessfully for the congressional seat in 1998, losing to Republican Steve Kuykendall who then turned around and lost to Harman two years later, and then subsequently lost a statewide Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, should qualify for the special general election. By bringing in $423,000+ by April 27, Ms. Hahn was the leading fundraising in the race and has significant name identification in the region.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), who was just re-elected to her second and final four-year term as a statewide official, hopped into the race to preserve her long-term political future. Bowen represented large portions of this Los Angeles harbor district during her tenure in both the state Assembly and Senate. Bowen raised $338,000 by the same April 27 disclosure filing deadline. Based upon the strength of the candidates and the CA-36 voting patterns, it would be shocking if someone other than these two ladies moves onto the general election. (There are a total of 16 candidates on the ballot: five Democrats, six Republicans, and five Independents.)

As in the other states hosting gubernatorial elections, the length of this special general cycle is also long. The second election is scheduled for July 12th. A Hahn-Bowen general election will be interesting because both candidates are strong and credible with solid name identification. The summer election will likely become hotly contested because both women possess political strengths. Councilwoman Hahn should place first in the primary and begin the special general election as a slight favorite. In any event, the district will easily remain in Democratic hands, regardless of which of their candidates finally claims the seat in mid-July.
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Deja Vu All Over Again in New York’s 26th?

The Republicans had a difficult 2010 special election cycle in upstate New York, losing two political contests after beginning as clear favorites. According to Public Policy Polling (May 5-8; 1,048 likely NY-26 special election voters via automated calls) history may yet again repeat itself as Democrat Kathy Hochul has taken a 35-31-24 percent lead over Republican Jane Corwin and Independent Jack Davis.

Mr. Davis, who has unsuccessfully run for Congress three previous times as a Democrat and is responsible for the successful lawsuit against the federal government that overturned the “millionaire’s amendment,” originally part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, is becoming the focal point of this campaign. In New York, Independents have the ability to label themselves on the ballot and Davis chose the word “Tea,” even though he has no association with the New York Tea Party and has always run his previous campaigns from the left. Ms. Corwin is not only attempting to create a clear contrast between herself and Hochul, but must also peel off Republican votes that, to a small but significant degree, are going to Davis. The wealthy Independent has been blanketing the airwaves with ads condemning both parties and “business as usual” in Washington, a viewpoint that certainly attracts many who agree.

Can Corwin, originally viewed as a prohibitive favorite, successfully fight her two-front political war? Will another New York special election again slip through the Republicans’ fingers? The next two weeks will determine the outcome, as Election Day is May 24.
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Presidential Mathematics

In the past few days, developments have occurred that help define the Republican presidential field of candidates. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, after giving every indication he was beginning to build a bona-fide presidential campaign apparatus, now says he won’t run. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is forming a presidential exploratory committee, meaning his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), will not become a candidate. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now traveling to New Hampshire on a regular basis, says he will run if he doesn’t believe that another Republican candidate could actually defeat Pres. Barack Obama in a general election.

We still must hear definitively from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, ex-VP nominee Sarah Palin, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, all of whom may not enter the race, and Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, all of whom either will, or probably will, run.

Looking at the delegate counts and apportionment systems that each state employs uncovers a road map to victory for one of the eventual candidates. Eleven states are winner-take-all (of Republican delegates) and another nine are winner-take-all by congressional district. These states proved key to Sen. John McCain’s come-from-behind victory in 2008. Remember, the McCain candidacy had been given up for dead until the actual voting began. His close wins in South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, and Arizona (though the margin between McCain and the other candidates wasn’t particularly close in his home state, he still managed to garner only 47 percent of the vote within his own Arizona party base) gave him such a commanding lead in the delegate count that it soon became obvious no one could catch him.

Interestingly, despite his under-the-radar approach to the 2012 campaign, the delegate-rich states stack up pretty well in former Mayor Giuliani’s favor, considering his home base of New York (101 delegates) and New Jersey (53), are in the winner-take-all category. Connecticut (28), the District of Columbia (19), Delaware (17), and Vermont (17) are all other places the ex-NYC chief executive could win. Maryland (37 delegates), another Giuliani potential, is in the winner-take-all by congressional district category. The big states of California (172) and Florida (93) are also there, as are Ohio (72) and Wisconsin (42).

All totaled, the winner-take-all and the winner-take-all by congressional district states contain 1,096 delegates of the grand total of 2,422 that form the Republican National Convention. This means 45.2 percent of all delegates will be chosen in either winner-take-all or winner-take-all by CD states. The remainder are in caucus, proportional systems, or hybrids like Louisiana (48 delegates) where both a primary and caucus are used.

The winner-take-all by congressional district awards a candidate a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote (usually their base 10 delegates that all states receive, and whatever extra and bonus votes they earn for electing Republican candidates to office) and another three delegates for every congressional district won. This system is interesting because some congressional districts in places like Los Angeles, where Republicans routinely receive well less than 30 percent of the vote are of equal stature to the strongest of GOP districts in terms of delegate allocation for the Republican presidential primary. While it is unlikely that any one candidate would win all of the delegates in a winner-take-all by CD state, it is possible for an individual to snare the vast majority, which matters greatly in the national vote count.

Whether Rudy Giuliani comes back from political oblivion to stake his comeback on a winner-take-all state strategy is unclear right now. What is evident, however, is that the person carrying the preponderance of these winner-take-all states and districts will almost assuredly win the 2012 Republican nomination and become Obama’s future general election opponent.

Winner-Take-All States
• Arizona – 54 delegates
• Connecticut – 28
• Delaware – 17
• District of Columbia – 19
• Missouri – 56
• Montana – 26
• New Jersey – 53
• New York – 101
• Utah – 36
• Vermont – 17
• Virginia – 49

Winner Take All by Congressional District
• California – 172 delegates
• Florida – 93
• Georgia – 72
• Maryland – 37
• Michigan – 62
• Ohio – 72
• Oklahoma – 43
• South Carolina – 47
• Wisconsin – 42

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A Presidential Candidate Finally Emerges

Yesterday, a presidential candidate officially launched his campaign, but it’s not who you might expect. Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, on April 4 via a special announcement video in which he does not appear, has begun Campaign 2012.

The 2-minute, 10-second, short-take features people from the key states representing demographic and economic voter groups that must comprise a winning Obama coalition. Speaking for the president were Hispanic women in Nevada, a liberal white Colorado woman, an older white North Carolina male voter, a middle-aged female African-American Michigander, and a young New York male who was not eligible to cast a ballot for Mr. Obama in 2008. Re-uniting and energizing an even larger minority voting base (African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians), unmarried women, and white union voters is clearly the Obama 2012 campaign strategy. This is particularly so in places like Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Nevada. A flip of just six states could mathematically reverse the 2008 election results.

Republicans were basically mum about the president’s re-election announcement, with one notable exception. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani indicated that he is likely to run for president again if he perceives the GOP field of candidates to be weak.

With Obama’s announcement, and now entering the election cycle’s second fundraising quarter, expect the presidential campaign action to ignite very quickly.
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Special Election Candidates Set in NY-26

Upstate New York Democratic Party county chairmen, in action taken just last night, officially nominated Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul to carry the party banner in the special congressional election now scheduled for May 24. The seat was vacated when second-term Rep. Christopher Lee (R) resigned earlier in the year. Erie County has the largest block of registered voters (149,643) in its portion of the 26th congressional district. Seven full and partial counties comprise the seat.

The Republicans nominated state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin back in late February, giving her a head start in constructing a campaign organization in a district that normally votes for GOP candidates. The 26th, along with Rep. Peter King’s 3rd district, gave John McCain his strongest performance in any New York CD (52%). By contrast, Pres. Barack Obama posted a 62-36% victory statewide.

In recent days, both the New York Conservative and Independence parties have cross-endorsed Corwin. This should give her the necessary right-of-center support to avoid splitting the electorate. The Green Party, now with an official ballot line in New York after posting more than 50,000 votes for their 2010 gubernatorial candidate, did not endorse the Democratic nominee, now Hochul. Rather, the Greens have their own special election candidate, Ian Murphy, who is likely to draw away critical votes from the Democrat, thus further reducing Hochul’s chances of winning.

Jack Davis, the multi-millionaire who sued the federal government over the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” to the McCain-Feingold law and successfully overturned the provision in one of his two previous congressional runs, filed as an independent under his own “Tea” label, though he is not part of the actual Tea Party movement. David Bellavia, carrying the Federalist Party label, is the fifth contender and the more genuine Tea Party activist. Davis and Bellavia are independents, but can identify themselves under a party name.

The GOP holds a 241-192 margin in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives. Retaining the New York seat is important in order to maintain their current House margin. Additionally, with the Empire State losing two seats in
apportionment, the GOP must keep as many seats in the congressional delegation as possible, particularly if the legislative redistricting process cannot produce a final map without going to court. Today, Democrats dominate the New York congressional contingent, 21-7, with the one Republican vacancy.

Now that the Democrats have nominated a candidate, the New York special election campaign is officially underway. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Assemblywoman Corwin should have a relatively easy road to Congress. Rate this seat as “Likely Republican.”
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Democrats Announce First Frontline Group

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made public their first list of 15 Frontline candidates, those they believe will need the most help to win re-election in 2012. Redistricting, however, will have much to say about the fortune of these members and many others.

The list begins with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8), still recovering from the senseless and tragic shooting that put her life in grave danger. Remember, however, that she won by just 1.5 percentage points over Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly in November, which puts Giffords’ re-election status as unclear. Some even still mention her as a potential Senate candidate. Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is clear: Giffords’ 8th district will change. The Arizona Redistricting Commission is charged with drawing new seats, and it is quite possible the members will craft a compromise to give Giffords a safe Tucson-based seat, should she be able to run, while the new Arizona congressional district would then become more Republican. Too much uncertainty exists to make an accurate contemporary prediction.

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) is in a similar political situation to that of Giffords. A new statewide redistricting commission will also draw the California districts. Right now, without the state even having its census block numbers yet, it is virtually impossible to gauge how McNerney will fare as population changes in the Bay Area appear significant. Another in an unknown situation is Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3), where the Hawkeye State is the only one in the country not to allow political considerations, or even the incumbent’s residence, to affect how the map is drawn.

The two New Yorkers listed, Reps. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) and Bill Owens (D-NY-23) are also both in temporary limbo as is almost everyone in the Empire State. Slated now to lose two seats to apportionment, it remains to be seen what legislative compromise, or court action, will eliminate which seats. It is unlikely that Bishop can be collapsed because he occupies the far eastern end of Long Island, and being in a corner is always a plus when enduring redistricting.

The members currently viewed as vulnerable who are more than likely to benefit from redistricting are Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN-1) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11). Since Minnesota did not lose a seat in apportionment and they have split government, expect an incumbent-oriented map. Therefore, Walz’s seat should improve for him. With Republicans having an 8-3 advantage in Virginia, expect the Democratic districts, like Connolly’s 11th, to get stronger.

Though there is a slight unknown factor for Reps. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5) because of their state government’s also being under split control, it is probable that both get equivalent or better districts than they respectively represent today.

The remaining six Frontline members all have serious redistricting problems, as Republicans hold the pen in their states:

  • Both Reps. Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) are likely to face very adverse constituencies under the new North Carolina map.
  • Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-9) is expected to be paired with veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-12) because Michigan loses a seat. Under this scenario the new Peters-Levin district would be heavily Democratic, but the two would be forced to duel each other in a primary battle.
  • A similar situation could occur in Pennsylvania where Reps. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) and Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) could find themselves fighting for one district. Like Michigan, Pennsylvania will lose one seat.
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3), another razor-thin election survivor, could find himself as the odd-man-out in Missouri’s delegation reduction. His district and that of neighboring Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) are the two least populated in the state. Clay is likely to survive because the Republican legislature and Democratic Governor are unlikely to collapse an African-American district and will want to protect St. Louis city as the dominant population center in one seat.
  • Finally, with Utah gaining a seat, will the Republican legislature and governor concede a seat to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2), or draw a pie-shaped map emanating from Salt Lake City? The latter option would give the GOP good odds to defeat Matheson and win all four districts. But, it’s too early to tell what might happen.

With redistricting having such a major factor upon virtually all states, it is very difficult to accurately determine political vulnerability until the new maps are set. Thus, the Frontline member group composition will likely change drastically between now and Election Day 2012.
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