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Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following nine states during the past week: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis’s impeachment saga continues, but it appears to be finally ending. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) still wants to take further action in order to remove Mathis from her position, but the state Supreme Court is issuing clear signals that they will again stop the process. The high court issued a letter indicating that the “substance” of the charges and not the “format of the letter” is an inadequate basis for removing the chairwoman from office. The signal likely means that Mathis will continue to serve and that a congressional map will soon be passed into law. Expect a revised draft map that featured four Republican seats, two Democratic, and three marginal seats likely to trend toward the Democrats to be the final plan.

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The special panel charged with redistricting responsibility is fast approaching its Nov. 30 deadline to release maps. Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who appointed the members, said it would be a “gigantic failure” if the committee again fails to meet the imposed deadline. The target date was previously moved to the 30th from September. Concrete action will be occurring here very shortly.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Facing the most difficult redistricting task in the nation, the Florida state Senate unveiled the first congressional map of the legislative session. The new map would basically keep the current footprint intact while adding a new Republican district in central Florida, the 26th, that includes Lake and Citrus Counties and parts of Marion and Lake. The plan also adds a Democratic district, the 27th, anchored in Osceola County, and including parts of Orange and Polk. There are no political numbers yet released with this map, but it appears to be a 20R-7D cut. The map likely adheres to the Voting Rights Act, but largely ignores the new provisions of the redistricting initiative voters passed in 2010. Rep. Corinne Brown’s current 3rd District, featuring a craggy, meandering draw touching Jacksonville, Gainesville, and the Orlando metropolitan area – which prompted the ballot initiative to draw more compact seats – is again presented in a similar configuration. The state Senate map is simply a proposal. Expect the most difficult legal process in the country to ensue before a final map is put in place for the 2012 elections. Should such a map as proposed by the Senate actually prevail, it would be a huge boon to the Republicans.

ILLINOIS (current delegation: 11R-8D; loses one seat) – The judge hearing the Republican redistricting legal challenge has postponed the candidate filing deadline from Dec. 5 to Dec. 27. The court also allowed itself leeway to change the deadline again, saying that if the case is still unresolved by Dec. 21, the date could subsequently be moved once more. The Illinois primary is March 20.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – State legislative leaders have again postponed redistricting action. They now have a target deadline of May 10 to vote on new political maps. The Kansas primary is Aug. 7.

MISSISSIPPI (current delegation: 3R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel holding Mississippi redistricting responsibilities is indicating that it may impose a new congressional map prior to the new legislature taking office. With the Republican sweep of the 2011 elections, the GOP now controls the entire redistricting process. Since the candidate filing deadline is Jan. 13, however, and the new legislature convenes Jan. 3, little time is available to pass a map. The fast judicial action would be unusual, particularly since a court-imposed map normally only has interim status. It is presumed, based upon legal precedence, that the legislative product would constitute the state’s final action.

NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – Apparently both sides are close to agreeing on jointly proposing a compromise, “no-change” map to the court with redistricting responsibility. Such a plan would likely keep the lines basically as they are, once adjusted for population change. The 2nd District of Rep. Steve Pearce (R) is the most out of balance. It needs to gain just 22,437 people, however. Even if the Democrats and Republicans agree to a map, the court is not bound to accept the offering. Still, it appears the New Mexico redistricting situation is close to resolution.

RHODE ISLAND (current delegation: 2D) – The redistricting legislative panel released its new two-district plan that, if adopted, will easily keep the Ocean State’s pair of seats in Democratic hands. District 1 needs to gain only 7,263 people from District 2, so the changes from the current map are minimal.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The newly-released Texas congressional district court plan has been vetted, and the Democrats will make gains in the Lone Star State in comparison to the now-defunct legislative plan. The original law, struck down by the courts, would likely have returned 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The new map will send three of the four new seats to the Democratic column, but still does not put a Hispanic seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. It does add a new Democratic seat in Tarrant County, however, but one that probably won’t elect a Hispanic. Apparently not paying much heed to the US Supreme Court directives in the Bartlett v. Strickland case that better defined minority district drawing criteria, the three-judge panel again favored more minority coalition districts, and these generally produce victories for white Democrats. The court made major changes in the center of the state, from DFW south through Austin and into San Antonio. They basically left east and west Texas in relatively unchanged position, with the exception of Districts 8 (Rep. Kevin Brady), 14, 34, and 36, but the partisan make-up should be the same with the possible exception of Rep. Ron Paul’s (R) open 14th District.

The big winners in the plan are the 20 Republican incumbents who receive safe seats, and the Democrats who should see their nine-seat delegation rise to between 12 and 14, depending upon the 2012 election results.

GOP incumbents who will have more competitive districts are Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), and Quico Canseco (R-TX-23).

It is likely that the court-drawn map will be in place for the 2012 elections, since candidate filing is already underway and the congressional primary is set for Super Tuesday, March 6. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, considering the state’s lawsuit, could issue a different map or directive, but it is unlikely that any course of action will derail the three-judge panel’s map from enactment at least for this one election. The state attorney general reportedly will ask the US Supreme Court to stay the judicial panel’s congressional map. He has already done so for the state House and Senate maps. It is unlikely that the high court will act, however. The legislature could change or replace the plan when it next convenes, as it did in 2003 and was ruled to have such authority by a US Supreme Court vote of 9-0.

Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part II

In concluding our two-part series about House members who will face serious 2012 re-election challenges, below we list 22 more competitive incumbents from states where redistricting has been completed or which is pending but clear.

IN-8 – Larry Bucshon (R) – In attempting to gain a 7R-2D advantage for the delegation, the 8th district of freshman Rep. Bucshon was weakened, from the Republican perspective. Expect competition here, but the new incumbent remains the favorite.

IA-3 – Leonard Boswell (D) / Tom Latham (R) – In the only intra-party pairing of the new election cycle so far, veteran Reps. Boswell and Latham square-off in a marginal district. Mr. Boswell represents more of the new district, but the voting patterns tilt a touch toward Mr. Latham. This race begins as a pure toss-up.

IA-4 – Steve King (R) – The new western-based 4th district is mostly comprised of Rep. King’s current 5th district and part of Mr. Latham’s old 4th. Christie Vilsack (D), wife of former Gov. Tom Vilsack who serves as President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, already has announced her intention to challenge Rep. King. This will be a competitive race because of Vilsack’s fundraising capability. However, King begins with the decided advantage.

LA-3 – Jeff Landry (R) / Charles Boustany (R) – Louisiana’s loss of a congressional seat pits freshman Rep. Jeff Landry against veteran Charles Boustany in a Republican primary battle. The winner retains the seat. Boustany is the early favorite.

MI-9 – Sander Levin (D) / Gary Peters (D) – Michigan’s loss of a district pairs 15-term Rep. Levin against two-term Rep. Peters. Levin, who will be 80 at the time of the next election, is a retirement possibility. Peters has also tested the waters to run for Oakland County Executive. The winner of this primary battle, should it occur, holds the seat.

MO-2 – Russ Carnahan (D) – The loss of a seat in Missouri has forced Rep. Carnahan either to challenge Rep. Lacy Clay in the 1st district Democratic primary or try to survive in the neighboring Republican 2nd district seat, in open status because Rep. Todd Akin is running for the Senate. Carnahan is competitive here, but will be the underdog.

NH-2 – Charlie Bass (R) – The 2nd district is now more like Vermont than New Hampshire in terms of voting patterns. This means the seat is decidedly Democratic. Rep. Bass regained the position he lost in 2006, but by just one percentage point over Democratic lobbyist Anne McLane Kuster. Redistricting must move only 254 people between the two districts, so Bass’s hopes for a more Republican seat are gone. This is a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

NY-25 – Ann Marie Buerkle (R) – Though redistricting won’t be completed well into next year, we can count on a competitive race in this Syracuse-based district. Chances are the city will remain intact, meaning it will anchor a seat in the Upstate region. Former Rep. Dan Maffei (D), the man Ms. Buerkle unseated in 2010, has already announced his intention to run again next year.

NC-3 – Rep. Walter Jones (R) – Though Rep. Jones has a safe Republican seat in which to run for re-election, the district has vast new territory for him. Already, retired New Bern Police Chief Frank Palumbo (R) has announced a GOP primary challenge to Mr. Jones. Others could follow suit.

NC-4 – David Price (D) / Brad Miller (D) – The Republican redistricting plan placed two Democratic incumbents in a seat that now stretches from Raleigh to Fayetteville. This will be a difficult primary as each man represents about one-third of this new district. The winner retains the seat for the Democrats.

NC-7 – Mike McIntyre (D) – Redistricting also threw Rep. McIntyre into a difficult district. This will be a top Republican conversion target. Both 2010 GOP nominee Ilario Pantano and state Sen. David Rouzer (R) have announced their intentions to run.

NC-8 – Larry Kissell (D) – Rep. Kissell loses a great number of Democratic votes in this new redistricting plan, making him a tempting GOP target. Three local officials, including one who isn’t from the district, have announced for the seat. Expect more candidates to soon enter the fray.

NC-11 – Heath Shuler (D) – Rep. Shuler may have received the most difficult draw of all, as he now represents the most Republican congressional district in North Carolina. Local District Attorney Jeff Hunt and several local officials already are officially running.

OR-4 – Peter DeFazio (D) – The seat became a touch more Republican in redistricting and Rep. DeFazio raised eyebrows with his comment earlier this week that he is thinking about retirement. Could be competitive in an open situation. Republican Art Robinson, who received 44% of the vote against DeFazio in 2010, is running again.

RI-1 – David Cicilline (D) – Negative stories about Rep. Cicilline’s financial management of Providence when he was mayor has made the freshman congressman potentially vulnerable. Two strong Republican candidates, including 2010 nominee John Loughlin and former state police chief Brendan Doherty, are running. Chances appear high that Cicilline could draw Democratic primary opposition, too.

TN-3 – Charles Fleischmann (R) – Though redistricting is not yet finalized in Tennessee, freshman Rep. Fleischmann in the Chattanooga-based seat will likely face primary opposition. Robin Smith, the local county Republican Party chair who lost to Fleischmann by less than 1,500 votes in 2010, is considering a re-match.

TN-4 – Scott DesJarlais (R) – Mr. DesJarlais, who unseated then-Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) by more than 30,000 votes last November, could see a GOP primary challenge from state Sen. Bill Ketron (R). Sen. Ketron is on the legislative committee in charge of redistricting, which presumably allows him to draw the 4th district to his liking.

TN-8 – Stephen Fincher (R) – Though redistricting is not completed, the 8th district, by virtue of its geographic location in the northwest corner of the state, will likely be competitive in 2012. Mr. Fincher is the first modern-day Republican congressman from this region.

TX-35 – Lloyd Doggett (D) – If the Texas map survives its legal challenges, Rep. Doggett will face a stiff Democratic primary battle in the new 35th District that includes parts of Austin and San Antonio. Already, state Rep. Juan Castro (D), twin brother to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), has announced he will challenge Doggett.

UT-2 – Jim Matheson (D) – Redistricting will likely put Rep. Matheson in another strongly Republican seat. He already represents the most Republican district held by a Democratic member. Matheson is also a potential statewide candidate. The Republicans will win the seat if he vacates.

WV-1 – David McKinley (R) – Redistricting kept the 1st district largely intact, which is a seat Mr. McKinley can hold, despite it being in Democratic hands for generations before 2010. Ex-Rep. Alan Mollohan, who was defeated in the Democratic primary after 14 terms in office, is a possible candidate in 2012. The Democrats will field a strong challenger here, and this race will be competitive.

WI-7 – Sean Duffy (R) – Mr. Duffy won a seat that was in former Rep. David Obey’s (D) hands for more than 40 years. The district gained Republicans in the re-draw, but Rep. Duffy can expect a stiff re-election challenge from a strong Democrat.

In these two reports (go to our Part I report) we already have isolated 44 incumbents who will face a competitive re-election challenge in either the primary or the general election. Keep in mind that no less than 13 major states still have not completed their redistricting, including Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Add in at least 26 more open seats and it is conceivable that as many as 90-100 House seats could be contested as the 2012 election hits its stride.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook

With three new Senate vacancies already present in the 2012 election cycle, it’s time to update our election grid. Democrats, including the two Independent senators who caucus with the party, must defend 23 states compared to just 10 for Republicans. The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to claim the outright majority, but 13 to reach 60, the number needed to invoke cloture on any issue.

Democratic Seats – Most Vulnerable

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad’s retirement gives the Republicans their best shot at converting a Democratic state. The GOP political bench here is robust and strong, thus the eventual Republican nominee will enter the general election as the favorite.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson, a retirement possibility, is politically damaged. He already trails at least two potential GOP candidates in polling, Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Right now, in this very early going, the Republicans are favored to convert the state.

Lean Democrat

Florida – The politically marginal Sunshine State suggests that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will face a highly competitive 2012 election challenge. The GOP field is yet to be determined, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) appears to be the only Congressman positioning himself for a run. Right now, Nelson must be viewed as the favorite, but this will become a serious race.

Michigan – The Republican resurgence here, and the early polling, suggests that Sen. Debbie Stabenow has a difficult road to re-election. GOP candidates have yet to come forward, thus the current Lean D rating is attached. Michigan is certainly a state to watch. The presidential election year turnout model is a plus for Stabenow.

Toss-ups

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill is polling in the dead heat range against former Sen. Jim Talent (R), the man she defeated in 2006. Talent is not a sure candidate, but former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6) also is reportedly considering entering the contest, particularly if Talent remains on the sidelines. All would be very competitive against McCaskill in a state that is trending a bit more Republican during the past two elections.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester can also expect a very competitive GOP challenge in what is normally a Republican state in a presidential year. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has not yet committed to the Senate race. Former Lt. Governor nominee Steve Daines is an official candidate and actively raising money.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown faces tough sledding presumably against newly elected Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R). Ohio will again assume its normal role as a battleground state for the presidential campaign, which, in 2012, could help Taylor. This may become the most hotly contested Senate race in the country.

Virginia – The actions of former governor and Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine and defeated gubernatorial candidate and ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe (both saying they won’t run for Senate in 2012 under any circumstances) suggests that Sen. Jim Webb will seek re-election, even though the incumbent has yet to confirm his intentions. Former senator and governor George Allen (R) will soon announce his candidacy, setting up a re-match with Webb. The Democrat won by 7,231 votes of more than 2.3 million cast five years ago. Early polling suggests a dead heat.

Questions

Hawaii – Speculation is prevalent that Sen. Daniel Akaka, who will be 88 at the time of the 2012 election, will retire. If so, the Republicans will be competitive with former Gov. Linda Lingle. If Akaka runs, and early indications suggest he will, the Democratic incumbent should have little trouble winning again.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez is polling below 50% in early survey trials but comfortably ahead of all potential Republican rivals. Though the senator is the decided favorite today, this race could become one to watch. Republicans may be looking most favorably toward entrepreneur John Crowley, who appears to have the potential of generating measurable political strength.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is in strong position for re-election and is viewed as a heavy favorite. Republican former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), always a good vote-getter, could make challenging Bingaman a competitive race. She is said to be seriously considering launching a bid.

Wisconsin – Though he has been mum on his re-election intentions, Sen. Herb Kohl is another retirement possibility. If he chooses not to run, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings to run again. Should the senator seek re-election, he will likely face only a minor challenge.

Likely Democrat

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) retirement, thereby avoiding an unpredictable three-way race, greatly improves the Democrats’ chances. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and ex-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz are announced Democratic candidates. Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is rumored as a possibility. The two losing 2010 nominees, Tom Foley in the governor’s race and Linda McMahon for the Senate, are both mentioned as possible candidates; so is former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

Pennsylvania – Until the Republicans field a top-tier candidate, something they have yet to do, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is a strong favorite for re-election. A serious campaign could develop, but not unless a stronger Republican joins the current field of candidates.

Rhode Island – The Republicans could move this state into the competitive category if former Gov. Don Carcieri (R) decides to run. In a presidential year, it is unlikely he will, so Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a solid favorite for re-election. 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille (R) has already closed the door on a senatorial challenge.

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is another strong favorite for re-election, but state Auditor Tom Salmon (R) is making noises about challenging the first-term senator. A statewide official would give the Republicans the opportunity of making this a competitive race.

Safe Democrats

California – Dianne Feinstein (D)
Delaware – Tom Carper (D)
Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)
New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D)
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D)

Republican Questions

Arizona – Retirement rumors are swirling around Sen. Jon Kyl. The senator has yet to begin an active re-election effort, thus suggesting he may decide to call it a career. The seat is competitive in an open situation.

Nevada – This is clearly the most vulnerable Republican seat, should scandal-tainted Sen. John Ensign win re-nomination. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is considering a Republican primary challenge. Heller would have a good chance of winning the nomination and the seat. Democrats are in strong shape if Ensign qualifies for the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) is a potential Democratic candidate and promises to make her intentions known in mid-February.

Lean Republican

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R), elected in an early 2010 special election, must stand for a full term in 2012. Despite Massachusetts being one of the most reliable of Democratic states, Brown’s numbers appear strong and he has a legitimate chance to win again. Once the Democratic field gels, a better assessment can be made.

Likely Republican

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who will be 80 at the time of the 2012 general election, has already announced that he is seeking re-election. A predicted Tea Party primary challenge could be his biggest problem. Lugar looks strong in a general election, but the GOP primary situation could change the outlook.

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has some of the better general election approval ratings of any 2012 in-cycle senator but, she too, has Tea Party problems in the Republican primary. Her situation in that regard has improved of late, however.

Safe Republicans

Mississippi – Roger Wicker (R)
Tennessee – Bob Corker (R)
Texas – Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Open Seat
Utah – Orrin Hatch (R) – Potential Tea Party convention challenge
Wyoming – John Barrasso (R)

Analyzing this initial line-up, it appears the Republicans’ chances of gaining an outright majority are good today, though there is no chance the net increase could be so high as to score filibuster-proof control.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook – Part II

Continuing our early analysis of the 2012 election cycle, we now look at some more select states featuring a senate race next year. Be sure to read through our post on Jan. 5 for our analysis of the initial group of states that we looked at.

Nevada – Sen. John Ensign (R) – The fallout from a highly publicized sex scandal still leaves Sen. Ensign in a vulnerable position both in the Republican primary and the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will announce by mid-February whether she will run for the Senate. This is the GOP’s most tenuous situation in the country.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – New Jersey political insiders suggest that bio-tech entrepreneur John Crowley (R) will challenge Sen. Menendez next year. Crowley, currently president and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics headquartered in Cranbury, NJ, is the inspiration for the 2010 movie “Extraordinary Measures” starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. The film depicts Mr. Crowley’s efforts directing his previous company to find a cure for Pompe Disease, a serious and life-threatening muscular disorder that infected two of his three children. Although he has significant personal resources, Crowley’s business connections and “star power” put him in position to raise the necessary funds to be competitive. If Crowley runs, the NJ Senate campaign becomes a race to watch.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) – Recently, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) made some public statements suggesting that she is considering challenging Sen. Bingaman, a five-term incumbent. Her entry into the race would certainly give the Republicans a credible candidate, but Mr. Bingaman appears to be in strong political shape. He will have the edge against all comers.

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad (D) – With strong Republican victories at the Senatorial and congressional level in 2010, the GOP will mount a strong challenge to Sen. Conrad, particularly noting the fate of his Budget Committee counterpart, defeated Rep. John Spratt (D-SC-5). Conrad chairs the Senate Budget Committee; Spratt held the same position when the Democrats controlled the House. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem are the names most often mentioned as potential Conrad opponents.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – The stage appears set for newly elected Lt. Governor Mary Taylor to take a shot at Sen. Brown next year. For her part, Taylor is uncommitted to such a race, but the other potential candidates, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4), appear to be either dropping out or taking no action to run. This will be a highly competitive race.

Rhode Island – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) – Despite the Republicans’ current poor position in the Ocean State, they are not without some credible potential candidates to oppose Sen. Whitehouse. Outgoing Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is not closing the door on a future political run and has not ruled out challenging Whitehouse next year. John Robitaille, who did surprisingly well in the 2010 Governor’s race – placing second to Independent Lincoln Chafee but ahead of Democrat Frank Caprio – is also a possibility. Though the Democratic nature of Rhode Island, particularly in a presidential election year, lends considerable strength to the Whitehouse campaign, either Carcieri or Robitaille could give him a run for the money. Whitehouse is the favorite in 2012 against all potential opponents, but this race could get interesting.

Texas – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Despite saying she would resign her seat before her run for governor that ended in a stinging defeat, it is still not clear whether she will seek another term in the Senate. Most believed Texas would feature an open seat election in 2012, but such may not be the case. If she does retire, then look for a mega-Republican primary that will contain several statewide elected officials and maybe a congressman or two. The Democrats seem pretty set with former state Comptroller John Sharpe as their candidate. He has lost two races for lieutenant governor since leaving his post. Whatever happens on the Republican side, the GOP will be heavy favorites to win in November 2012. As in most every year, the Democrats will claim to have a chance, brandish polls showing them in good position, but then lose by 12 points.

Virginia – Sen. Jim Webb (D) – This promises to be one of the top races in the country. Sen. Webb has curiously not yet committed to seeking re-election and murmuring even among Democrats suggests that it’s possible he will retire after just one term. If he does, watch for Democratic National Committee chairman and former Gov. Tim Kaine to enter the race. Ex-Gov. and Sen. George Allen (R), the man Webb beat in 2006, is gearing up for a re-match. He appears to have the inside track to the Republican nomination. Polling shows a tight Webb-Allen race. The Democrats will likely be stronger with Kaine as their nominee.

West Virginia – Sen. Joe Manchin (D) – Like Sen. Gillibrand, newly elected Sen. Manchin must also stand for election again in 2012, as he won only the right to serve the final two years of the existing term in the last general election. With all of the focus on the state’s basically open gubernatorial race, the position Manchin vacated to run for Senate, he begins the current election cycle as a prohibitive favorite.

Wisconsin – Sen. Herb Kohl (D) – There has been intense speculation that Sen. Kohl, who will be nearing his 78th birthday at the time of the next election, will retire. If he does, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings. Should Kohl seek re-election to a fifth term, he will be a heavy favorite and likely escapes a strong challenge. Most Republicans are looking to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) to run if the seat opens, but he may decide the stakes are too high to risk defeat in a state that normally trends Democratic, 2010 notwithstanding. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is another potential Republican candidate.
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The 2010 Elections are Finally Final

The last two undecided campaigns are now officially over. Republicans Tom Emmer in the Minnesota Governor’s race and Randy Altschuler in the NY-1 congressional contest have ended their post-election ballot counting efforts and conceded to their Democratic opponents. Former Sen. Mark Dayton will now become the 40th governor of Minnesota and Rep. Tim Bishop has successfully won a fifth term in the House. Emmer trailed the statewide Minnesota race by 8,770 votes when the recount began. Once the challenge counting pushed Dayton’s advantage to over 9,000 votes, Emmer saw that the trend would not be reversed. In NY-1, it appears Bishop’s margin of victory will be in the area of 263 votes, making it the closest election in the country.

Nationally, the final electoral results are now complete. In gubernatorial races, Republicans won 23 contests in the November election compared to 13 for the Democrats. Independent Lincoln Chafee won the Rhode Island Governor’s campaign. Overall, Republicans control 29 Governors’ mansions and the Democrats are in 20, with the one Independent. In the House, the GOP officially gains 63 seats, meaning the new body will feature 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats. Republicans won 24 Senate races versus the Democrats’ 13, meaning a net gain of six seats for the minority party and a new 53D-47R split.