Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 35 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, less significant action is occurring. During the past week, however, action occurred in the following five states:

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the Florida congressional map legislation, and the legal wrangling has already begun. Several lawsuits were filed. The Florida Supreme Court has approval authority over the process, so the court must determine if the legislature and governor enacted a legal plan. The unique problem with the Florida map concerns the wide criteria differences between the voter initiative passed in 2010 and the Voting Rights Act. The two measures appear to conflict in certain areas. The legal procedure will take some time and the plan just enacted will likely undergo at least some change. Still, this new 27-seat map will almost assuredly be the footprint for the final plan.

MINNESOTA (current delegation: 4D-4R) – The state court with redistricting jurisdiction, having to take action because the legislature and governor failed to agree upon congressional and legislative plans, is scheduled to unveil the final map later today. The big question concerns how freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) will fare since he represents a seat designed for Democrats. The other point of interest concerns Rep. Michele Bachmann’s 6th District now that she has exited the presidential race and announced her intention to seek re-election. More on this to come when the court makes their map public.

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – A federal court judge has assembled a three-judge panel to begin redistricting consideration. The legislature has so far failed to produce any map, and a serious deadlock between the Democratic Assembly and the Republican state Senate remains unbroken. The map is difficult to draw from a partisan perspective. The greatest population loss is in the upstate Buffalo area, where Democrats must not only try to protect two veteran members, Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-27), but also must find a way to strengthen freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul’s (D-NY-26) seat that was won in a special election last year.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) – Though the congressional map has been enacted, a court has struck down the state legislative maps. It now appears that the April 24 primary, including the vote for president, could be endangered. If new legislative maps are not completed in time, this primary, too, may have to be moved to a later date.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – As time passes and it appears there is no agreement in sight between Texas Democrats and Republicans on a new congressional map, the prospects of moving the primary to May 29 increases. Originally, the nominating vote was scheduled for March 6, and then moved to April 3 because of delays in configuring a legally acceptable final map. The May 29 date means the Texas run-off election will move to sometime in July or possibly August. It also remains to be decided if the state will hold two primaries, one for the presidential, statewide and possibly county races, and another for all elections involving districts. The expense of holding the two separate votes will likely be the key reason that keeps the primary unified.

Pennsylvania Congressional Candidates Underwhelming

The Pennsylvania candidate filing deadline closed this week (Feb. 14), and the word to describe the new crop of congressional candidates may just be “underwhelming.” It appears that both parties have left opportunities to capture districts on the table.

Surprisingly, just one state legislator throughout the entire Keystone State is running for congress: York County Rep. Scott Perry (R) has declared for the lone open seat, that of retiring Rep. Todd Platts in the 4th CD. This, in a state featuring four freshmen Republicans (Reps. Mike Kelly, PA-3; Pat Meehan, PA-7; Tom Marino, PA-10; and Lou Barletta, PA-11), one Democrat member serving slightly more than a term (Rep. Mark Critz, PA-12) and a Republican who had previously been defeated only to rebound in 2010 (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, PA-8).

No particularly strong Republican challenger stepped forward in the Senate race, where first-term Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr. is seeking re-election. After the last election, with a victory in the governor’s race, the addition of five congressional seats, and converting the state House to majority status, the Republicans had high hopes of bringing down Casey. However, with little in the way of political fire power for the 2012 Senate race, Pennsylvania must go down as the Republicans’ biggest national recruiting disappointment.

But it is the Democrats who appear to have failed at the candidate recruiting game for House races. Against Rep. Mike Kelly, who defeated freshman Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper 56-44 percent less than two years ago, only a college professor, an attorney and a defeated candidate are coming forward to run. That’s not to say one of these men couldn’t transform themselves into a strong contender, but the first impression suggests that Kelly is in the driver’s seat.

A bright spot for the Republicans is Lou Barletta, who knocked off veteran Rep. Paul Kanjorski by a full 10 points in a district where the President notched 57.5% two years earlier; Barletta now sees his seat improve tremendously. Under the new PA-11 lines, Mr. Obama would have scored only 47.7 percent. Two Democrats, a pharmacy wholesale store owner, and a defeated state representative candidate are the only ones to file against the new congressman and former Hazelton mayor.

But District 12 is a Republican recruiting disappointment. With Pennsylvania losing a seat in reapportionment, the GOP legislature combined Democratic incumbents Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into a new 12th District that a Republican could win (Obama: 45.2 percent). After recruitment overtures were turned down by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, and a local county official, the Republicans will have to settle for 2010 nominee, Keith Rothfus, to go against Altmire. Rothfus only lost 49-51 percent in the last go-around, but his campaign was less than stellar. We’ll see if he steps it up this time around.

Finally, though Rep. Charlie Dent’s Allentown-Bethlehem 15th District improves 3.5 points in the Republicans’ favor, the President still gained an outright majority here, registering 52.8 percent. Dent racked up his largest career re-election percentage in 2010 (53-39 percent) against strong competition, John Callahan, the mayor of Bethlehem. This largely explains why the Democrats are fielding only the Lehigh County Democratic chairman and a former congressional aide.

For a place with so many marginal seats, and one that will be a key presidential battleground state, the congressional elections now appear much tamer than originally anticipated. In the current Pennsylvania political world, this ultimately means good news for the Republicans.

Santorum Sweeps Three; Faces Challenges Ahead

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum swept the voting last night at the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and in the non-binding Missouri primary. With his victories, the upstart presidential candidate has now won more states (four) than any other candidate, despite spending far less money.

Finally rebounding after his surprising Iowa win but subsequently followed with poor performances in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada, Santorum topped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 40-35 percent in Colorado, and won by a whopping 55-25 percent margin in Missouri. In Minnesota, he defeated Rep. Ron Paul 45-27 percent, as Romney could only manage 17 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to fall. He performed poorly in Colorado (13 percent) and Minnesota (11 percent) last night, and failed to even qualify for the Missouri primary ballot.

The Missouri vote carried no delegate allocation. This will occur in county caucus meetings beginning March 17. In 2008, the state hosted a winner-take-all primary. The process also continues both in Colorado and Minnesota where delegates are formally apportioned at the district and state conventions later this year.

Looking at the unofficial delegate count after the first seven states to allocate (including Colorado and Minnesota), Romney has 99 delegates, Gingrich 41 (thanks to his South Carolina victory where he gathered 23 of 25 available votes), Santorum 39, and Paul 28. A candidate needs 1,144 delegate votes to secure the nomination, so only 9 percent of the total delegate pool has so far been apportioned. With his strong performance in Missouri, Santorum is in the best position to secure the majority of the state’s 52 delegates when the allocation process begins next month.

Are last night’s results an indication that Santorum can seriously challenge Romney for the nomination? It will still be difficult for him to do so, despite being in reach in the early delegate count. He will likely need to top Romney in Arizona on Feb. 28, because the former Michigan resident will likely win that state on the same day, do well on Super Tuesday (March 6), and hope he can score big later in his home state of Pennsylvania (72 delegates at stake) and conservative Texas (155). He will also have to hold his own in the remaining big northeastern states such as New York and New Jersey.

Scoring victories among some of the 10 Super Tuesday states is a necessity. The downside for Santorum on that day is Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, which is among the voting states, as is Gingrich’s Georgia. And remember, Santorum failed to qualify for the Virginia ballot. So, Ohio, with its 66 delegates becomes critically important for the Santorum cause. He will also need to do well in the Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho caucuses, as well as capturing the Oklahoma (43 delegates) and Tennessee (58) primaries.

Florida is Just the Beginning of the Presidential Campaign

Many commentators and analysts have been publicly alluding to a scenario where next Tuesday’s Florida primary perhaps ends the Republican presidential campaign. They believe that enough momentum could come from the Sunshine State vote, the biggest state to claim the electoral spotlight to date, that virtually all of the other candidates fall by the wayside.

Regardless of who wins Florida, it is very unlikely that such will be the case, and it all comes down to simple math. It takes 1,144 adjusted delegate votes to clinch the nomination. After Florida a mere 115 will be, for all intents and purposes, chosen; just 10 percent of the number required to win and only 5 percent of the total delegate universe.

The delegate number is so small during this first part of the election cycle, because many of the early states were penalized delegate slots for moving their nominating event. Florida started the musical chairs by shifting to Jan. 31, in violation of Republican National Committee rules. The action cost them 50% of their delegation. Florida is awarded 99 delegates, but post-penalty, the candidates are vying for only 50.

Because New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Arizona all moved up, they too, receive 50 percent penalties. Cumulatively, the penalized states lose an aggregate total of 143 delegate slots. Thus, the universe of Republican National Convention delegates is reduced from 2,429 to 2,286.

Through South Carolina, the projected delegate scorecard gives former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the lead with just 27 votes. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 15 delegates, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is third at 9, and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is next with 6. Technically, Texas Gov. Rick Perry captured three delegates and former Obama Administration official Jon Huntsman won two, so it is likely these five votes will be released.

But even the status of these few votes is no certainty. As Rep. Paul stated in Monday night’s Florida debate, the Iowa Caucuses are not over. The vote on Jan. 3 was merely a straw poll. The main purpose of the precinct caucuses was to elect delegates to the county conventions. At those meetings, delegates are then sent to the June 16 state convention where the 28 Iowa Republican National Convention representatives finally will be chosen.

South Carolina also is not finished. Because the state apportions most of their delegates through the congressional districts, assignment cannot yet move forward because the new seven-seat congressional redistricting plan has not fully cleared all legal hurdles. When the districts are finalized, it appears that Gingrich will win Districts 2 thru 7. Romney carried CD-1. This means the former Speaker is projected to eventually receive 23 of the 25 available Palmetto State delegates.

Even through Super Tuesday (March 6), only 29 percent of the delegates will be chosen, suggesting that the nomination fight could go on for some time. Eighteen states will vote on or before Super Tuesday, holding a total of 664 delegate votes.

Many of the larger states are holding their elections later in the cycle in order to attract more attention and greater political capital. In fact, just seven states (California, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas) hold more cumulative delegate votes (670) than do all the states voting through the Super Tuesday informal benchmark.

It is not until the April 24 primaries when more than 70 percent of the total delegates are selected that a clear nominee will likely be chosen. Therefore, instead of places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida determining the Republican nominee, the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut now become the key venues, some three months after Floridians cast their ballots.

Based on the current results, prepare for a much longer contest than originally projected … and miles to go before we sleep.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following seven states during the holidays:

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission adopted a new congressional map just before the year ended. It is similar to the controversial draft map in that it creates more competitive seats. Political numbers will be available shortly, thus giving us a better picture of what will happen in the 2012 elections. Looking only at the geographical divisions, it appears that four seats will be Republican, three Democrat, with one toss-up district. Among incumbents, it appears that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1) may have received the most difficult draw, but it is possible he could hop over into the new 4th District, an open seat that should be solidly Republican. The most likely outcome for 2012, according to the earliest of projections, is a 5R-4D split, meaning the Democrats will gain one net seat.

GEORGIA (current delegation: 8R-5D; gains one seat) – The Justice Department granted pre-clearance to the Georgia map, virtually completing the Peach State redistricting process. Lawsuits will continue, but obtaining DoJ approval now makes it extremely difficult to dislodge the plan. Republicans will gain the new seat, labeled as District 9. Rep. Tom Graves (R) now goes to District 14, and Rep. John Barrow’s (D) 12th District becomes highly competitive. Republican District 1 (Rep. Jack Kingston) also becomes more competitive, while District 8 (Rep. Austin Scott) changes significantly but remains in the contested category.

MISSISSIPPI (current delegation: 3R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel, even before the new legislature convenes today, released a congressional map that changes very little among the four districts. Their biggest task was to balance the four seats from a population perspective. The 2nd District of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D) is officially 73,561 people low, meaning those individuals must come from the other three districts. The northern Mississippi 1st District (Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R) is the most over-populated of the four seats, having to shed 46,271 inhabitants. It remains to be seen if the new legislature makes any quick changes to the map. Candidate filing begins Jan. 13, thereby giving them a very small window in which to take action. The politics of the map will likely remain constant.

NEW JERSEY (current delegation: 7D-6R; loses one seat) – The New Jersey congressional redistricting commission comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and a tie-breaker (Republican former Attorney General John Farmer) released their congressional map just before 2011 ended. Tie-breaking member Farmer voted with the Republicans, thereby adopting the GOP-submitted map. On paper, the plan paired Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) into a new 5th District that contains 79 percent of Garrett’s current territory and only 21 percent of Rothman’s.

The practical outcome changed, however, when Rothman announced he will challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) in the new 9th District, a seat that contains 54 percent of the former’s current seat, instead of running against Republican Garrett. The new 9th houses Pascrell’s home of Paterson, but only encompasses 43 percent of his previous 8th District. Rothman sees his home of Fair Lawn go to Garrett’s 5th, but his former political power base of Englewood carries over to the 9th. It remains to be seen if Mr. Pascrell, an eight-term incumbent who will be 75 years old at the end of the month, will forge the uphill challenge against Rothman or simply retire. In any event, it appears the Democrats will absorb the reapportionment casualty and the new delegation will most likely return six Republicans and six Democrats.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – The New Mexico state court charged with drawing a new congressional map completed its work and returned a plan that looks almost identical to the current political landscape. The court made only small changes to the three districts after balancing the seats from a population perspective. Rep. Steve Pearce’s (R) 2nd District was the most out of balance, having to gain 22,437 people. The political numbers among the three districts are almost identical to those of the previous decade, meaning that the state will continue to hold one Democratic seat (NM-3; Rep. Ben Lujan), one Republican district (NM-2; Rep. Pearce), and a marginal Albuquerque-based 1st District that leans Democratic. Though the 1st CD will host a competitive open seat race in the fall, the eventual Democratic nominee will be tabbed as the general election favorite. The most likely outcome after the 2012 election will again yield a delegation comprised of two Democrats and one Republican.

PENNSYLVANIA (current delegation: 12R-7D; loses one seat) – Just before Christmas, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed the congressional redistricting legislation into law. The new plan pairs Democrats Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12) in a new western PA 12th District, a seat where President Obama tallied only 45 percent. This means the eventual Democratic nominee, either Altmire or Critz, will still face a stiff challenge in the general election.

Though the map is designed to elect 12 Republicans and six Democrats and could possibly stretch to 13R-5D, President Obama scored a majority of the vote in 10 of the 18 districts, including those represented by Reps. Jim Gerlach (District 6), Pat Meehan (District 7), Mike Fitzpatrick (District 8), Charlie Dent (District 15), and Joe Pitts (District 16). Rep. Todd Platts’ (R) safely Republican 19th District is re-numbered as District 4, since the state no longer possesses 19 districts. The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 17.

WASHINGTON (current delegation: 5D-4R; gains one seat) – The Washington redistricting commission also completed its work, adopting a new congressional plan that should protect all eight of the state’s incumbents seeking re-election, gives the new district to the Democrats, and puts a new 1st District in play for Republicans.

In a state where Democrats routinely win at the statewide level, the Republicans would have come away with a national victory simply by protecting all four of its incumbents. Under this plan, however, they now have a chance to evenly split the delegation as the new 1st District becomes competitive. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1) is running for governor, so his CD will be open in 2012. The plan switches the focal point of the district from the northern Seattle/Puget Sound island area to the east, meaning it has a more rural and conservative political anchor. The new draw plays well for Republican John Koster, the former state legislator and county official who lost close congressional races to Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the current 2nd District during both 2000 and 2010. Larsen’s CD-2 now moves into the Puget Sound islands, changing his political focus, but giving him a much more Democratic district. For his part, Mr. Koster announced that he will run in new District 1. He previously was gearing up for a re-match with Larsen in WA-2. Several of the Democrats who were planning to run to succeed Inslee may now find themselves displaced in this new draw.

All of the remaining political situations, including those of Reps. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3) and Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) who represent marginal areas, improve for the incumbent. The new 10th District is placed southeast of the Seattle metro area, between Tacoma and around and including the capital city of Olympia. Former state House Majority Leader Denny Heck (D), who lost 47-53 percent to Herrera Beutler in 2010, is the odds-on favorite to capture the new seat. He has already announced that he will run. The district heavily favors the Democrats. It is made up largely from Rep. Adam Smith’s (D) current 9th District and the most Democratic part of Herrera Beutler’s seat.

For his part, Mr. Smith draws a heavily Democratic district, but one that has a much higher minority complexion. Herrera Beutler’s current seat is over-populated to the degree of 106,894 people. Smith’s current seat needed to shed 50,675 bodies. The most over-populated of Washington’s congressional districts is that of Rep. Reichert, which sheds 138,300 inhabitants and becomes more rural and Republican.