Tag Archives: Virginia

Weekly Redistricting Outlook

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.

ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – The Arizona state Supreme Court failed to grant impeached Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) chair Colleen Mathis (I) a stay over the state Senate and governor’s decision to remove her from office. The Court has agreed to hear Mathis’ motion to overturn her removal, but the judicial body won’t allow her to return to the Commission before the case is heard. Thus, the Arizona congressional map is on hold for an indefinite period of time.

Mathis supporters and the Democratic Party were hoping the high court would reinstate her so the Commission would have time to pass the map that had been previously laid out for comment. The public is allowed 30 days to express opinion after which changes can be made. That period ended just days after Mathis was removed, thus denying the panel a clear majority to enact the plan. Over the course of time, the Mathis map would likely produce a 5D-4R Democratic majority in the Arizona delegation.

Should she lose her legal maneuvering, the process to fill the Mathis vacancy would begin anew as a different chairman would be chosen as defined through the procedures governing commission membership. By law, the IRC must have two Democrats, two Republicans, and an Independent who becomes the chairman.

COLORADO (current delegation: 4R-3D) – The state court drawing the de novo map released its plan and basically adopted the Democratic outline. This is not a surprise, as the Colorado courts have repeatedly favored the Democrats in previous decades. The most endangered member of the delegation now appears to be sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), as his Arapahoe County-based district now wraps around into Adams County, northeast of Denver, and adds a much higher number of Democrats to what was his safe Republican seat. The 6th District goes from 46 percent Obama in the 2008 presidential contest to 54 percent Obama, suggesting that the district will become highly competitive in the 2012 election and likely beyond.

The big winner for the GOP is freshman Rep. Cory Gardner in the 4th District. Formerly a safe Republican seat, the 4th went Democratic for one term prior to Gardner’s victory in 2010. His eastern Colorado seat goes from 49 percent Obama to 42 percent Obama, representing a substantial jump in Republican voters.

The other districts remain in about the same partisan ratio as they were during the previous decade. This means the 3rd District of freshman Republican Rep. Scott Tipton remains as a swing seat. CD-4 changes from 47 percent Obama to 48 percent. The map, which is unlikely to be challenged, will create an even more competitive plan than in the past decade.

The state court was forced to draw the map because the legislature deadlocked over the congressional plan during the regular session.

NEVADA (current delegation: 2R-1D; gains one seat) –
It appears the Republicans will not challenge the lower court-drawn congressional map. Petitioning the state Supreme Court would be the next step in the process. It is unlikely the high court would overturn what the lower court devised, so such action is futile, Republican leaders apparently believe. The court created a 1D, 1R map with two seats rated as competitive.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Republicans are still trying to put a two-thirds coalition together in both houses of their legislature to pass a modified congressional map. At this writing, the chances of forming such a consensus appear slim. Failure to pass a new map means reverting to the previous enacted plan over which Democrats are currently gathering petition signatures to force a ballot referendum. If successful, the map will go to the voters in the general election of 2012, meaning a court will draw an interim 16-seat Ohio map for the current election cycle.

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) –
A new Voting Rights lawsuit was filed against the state’s recently enacted congressional map that should return six Republicans and one Democrat to Washington. The lawsuit, brought by a group of African-American voters, claims that too many black voters were packed into Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D) 6th District. Because the US Justice Department has already granted pre-clearance to the South Carolina congressional plan, any lawsuit charging illegalities over minority representation is unlikely to succeed.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) –
As expected, now that Republicans will assume control of the state Senate, the new leadership announced they will wait until the next legislative session, when they are officially in control, to move a congressional map. Expect the 8R-3D ratio to be strengthened and remain locked for the ensuing decade. The new session begins in January.

Election Night 2011: Something for Everyone

Both parties scored major victories last night in the odd-year election results. Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear scored, as predicted, an easy 56-35 percent win over state Senate Pres. David Williams to secure a second term in office. Democrats, except for the Office of Agriculture Commissioner, swept the statewide races. There were no state legislative elections held.

In Mississippi, the reverse occurred, except in a bigger way, as the Republicans may have captured both houses of the legislature in addition to holding the open governor’s seat. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R), also as expected, romped to a 61-39 percent win over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). Except for the attorney general’s office, the Republicans swept all of the statewide posts.

However, it was the legislative elections where change occurred. Republicans reversed the Democrats’ 27-25 majority in the state Senate as they have secured or are discernibly ahead in 29 districts to the Democrats’ 22, with one seat still being too close to call. But the bigger turnaround came in the state House, where the Dems have apparently lost their 74-48 margin. Republicans appeared to have claimed or were leading in 59 races as compared to the Democrats 57, with six races still too close to call. If the GOP splits the six undeclared campaigns, they will assume the state House majority. Controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion will mean the 3R-1D split in the congressional delegation will likely hold in the new redistricting map.

It appears the Republicans may have also gained a majority in the Virginia state Senate. Right now, it appears the body has fallen into a 20-20 tie, which is a gain of two seats for the GOP on the Democrats’ own Senate redistricting map. The final seat, District 17 in Fredericksburg, is extremely close. The Republican challenger and Democratic incumbent are separated by only 86 votes, meaning a series of recounts. The state Senate majority will literally hang on these few ballots. The GOP assumes the majority in an even chamber because Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) will cast the tie-breaking vote. In the House of Delegates, the GOP increased their majority by eight seats, and now have a huge 67R-32D-1I advantage. Taking the state Senate would be big for congressional Republicans, too, since the federal redistricting map is not yet completed. If the tenuous majority holds, it is likely the current 8R-3D congressional delegation split will carry over onto the new map.

The Virginia legislative elections illustrates the importance of redistricting. The Republicans drew the state House map, and the Democrats authored the Senate plan. The GOP was able to win two-thirds of the seats in their chamber, while the Democrats came away with a split, even though the elections were all held on the same day among the same voters.

In Ohio, the labor union-backed referendum to undo Gov. John Kasich’s (R) public employee benefit reduction law was easily struck down by a 61-39 percent margin as polling had predicted. This is an obvious victory for Big Labor and the Ohio Democrats.

Turning to the west and the one special congressional election in the country, the 1st District of Oregon’s special primary election also went as polling predicted. State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici captured 66 percent in the Democratic primary to easily claim her party’s nomination. On the Republican side, 2010 congressional nominee Rob Cornilles racked up 73 percent to secure a position in the special general. The deciding vote will be held on Jan. 31. The winner serves the remaining portion of resigned Rep. David Wu’s (D) final term in office, and will be on the regular general election ballot in November to try for a full term. As the new Democratic nominee, Bonamici is rated as a heavy favorite to retain the seat for the national Dems.

Election Day Outlook

Voters in many states go to the polls tomorrow to fill municipal offices and, in a pair of instances, statewide positions and legislatures. Kentucky and Mississippi will elect governors. Virginia’s Senate elections will have a major effect upon that state’s congressional redistricting plan, scheduled to be drawn in the new legislative session beginning in January.

In the Blue Grass State, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed for a landslide re-election, as polls show him consistently above 50 percent and more than 20 points in front of state Senate President David Williams. The Democrats are in position to capture all statewide offices there.

To the south, the Republicans are likely to sweep the political board in Mississippi, with the exception of the race for attorney general, as Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is poised to win a big victory against Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D).

In the Virginia Senate, Democrats hold a 22-18 majority. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is only at the mid-point of his single term in office, therefore he is not on the ballot tomorrow. The 100-member state House of Delegates will remain safely in GOP hands. The state Senate redistricting plan is what the Democratic leadership wanted, but it still appears the GOP has a chance to reclaim the majority. Since the Republicans control the lieutenant governor’s office, losing just two net seats will cost the Democrats their power position and give the GOP full control of the state government. Under the Commonwealth’s constitution, the lieutenant governor, in this case Republican Bill Bolling, would cast any tie-breaking vote. Several seats are in play making such a scenario a strong possibility.

Ohio voters will have a chance to affirm Gov. John Kasich’s (R) legislative initiative to curtail public employee collective bargaining rights and a significant reduction in benefits. Polls indicate the pro-referendum group has the advantage going into the election.

Turning to the west, one U.S. House congressional vacancy will take a step toward fulfillment tomorrow in Oregon as each party will choose nominees to replace resigned Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1). On the Democratic side, late polling gives state Sen. Susan Bonamici a wide lead over state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brad Witt. Rob Cornilles, the 2010 GOP candidate who lost to Wu 42-55 percent, is the prohibitive favorite for the Republicans. The special general election will be held Jan. 31, with tomorrow’s Democratic winner assuming the favorite’s track to win the seat.

Tomorrow will bring us some answers and allow us to ask new questions, one of which will undoubtedly pertain to what effect, if any, the votes cast tomorrow will have on the 2012 election. It is already clear that parallels will be drawn.

Virginia: A Battlefield Again

Gen. Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Now, more than a century and a half later, the Old Dominion may again be the site of further history-making battles; but this time the participants are Republicans and Democrats instead of military heroes.

The election of 2008 had Democrats speaking openly of Virginia being permanently converted from a “red” to a “blue,” or at least evolving into a swing “purple” state. Barack Obama carried the state, once designated as the capital of the Confederacy, by a wide 235,000-vote margin over John McCain. As a result of this success, Virginia’s Gov. Tim Kaine became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Additionally, the state claimed six Democrats in its congressional delegation and both of the party’s U.S. senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, recently converted Republican seats and were considered rising stars.

But, the Democrats’ success proved to be short-lived. Just a year later in 2009, then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell led a sweep of the state’s constitutional offices, returning the governor’s mansion to the GOP after eight years of Democratic rule. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli joined McDonnell in Richmond and began filling the party’s coffers with treasured campaign dollars, much to the delight of veteran GOP state party chair Pat Mullins.

Another year later, on Election Day 2010, the GOP re-captured the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 9th congressional District seats and gave 11th District Congressman Gerry Connolly the scare of his political life.

Next week, Election Day 2011 will feature a down-to-the-wire contest for partisan control of Virginia’s 40-member state Senate. Controlling the legislature will give the GOP control of the congressional redistricting pen. The Republicans need to capture three seats to gain a working majority and Mullins is spending heavily on his targeted races to accomplish this goal.

But, of even greater importance, are the headline events for 2012. At stake: Virginia’s thirteen presidential electoral votes and control of the US Senate. As one of the key states nationally, the Commonwealth is clearly in play for the presidential nominees of both parties. Because the Senate races are expected to be tight across the country, control of the body could conceivably come down to how the Old Dominion votes. The Commonwealth’s senior senator, Jim Webb (D), was one of the first to announce his retirement during this election cycle, and the race to succeed him has been locked in a dead heat ever since former governor and DNC chair Tim Kaine decided to jump into the race and oppose the GOP’s likely nominee, former governor and senator, George Allen. The polling throughout the summer and as recently as last week continues to show the race to be in a statistical tie, and even their Q3 financial reports reveal that both have raised nearly identical amounts of campaign funds ($3.5 million).

The contests on Election Day 2011 and 2012 may not be quite as historic or dramatic as what happened in Yorktown or Appomattox, but it is clear that Virginia is once again front and center for key political developments. Both the Presidency and the Senate potentially could be decided here, which means that this swing state could become the epicenter of Campaign 2012, and once again be a focal point for American political change.

Virginia Poll Shows Trend Moving Away from Obama

A new Roanoke College poll (Sept. 6-17; 601 registered Virginia voters) suggests that both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are ahead of President Obama in early presidential race pairings. Virginia is a must-win state for the GOP if their eventual nominee is to have any legitimate chance at unseating the Democratic incumbent. According to the data, Romney would defeat Obama 45-37 percent if the election were held today. Gov. Perry also leads, but by a much smaller 42-40 percent clip. The President’s job approval score is a poor 39:54 percent and, by a margin of 81-15 percent, the respondents believe that the nation is on the wrong track. By contrast, the polling sample generally believes their state of Virginia is heading in the right direction (49-41 percent).

Those tested also believe that their own top elected officials are doing a very good job, irrespective of political party. Both Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) scored identical ratings, each posting an impressive 67-24 percent positive to negative ratio.

But the news isn’t all bad for the President in this swing, and possibly decisive, state. The Virginia sample, by a margin of 25-16 percent, still blames former President George W. Bush for the current state of the economy rather than President Obama. They also agree, by a 55-36 percent count, with one of the President’s key campaign themes, saying that the rich should pay a greater share of the current tax burden. Interestingly, the sampling universe split exactly evenly on whether they believe an elected official should vote the way he or she sees fit or in the manner that he or she perceives are the people’s desires without regard to the official’s personal views.

In the hotly contested VA Senate race, Republican former Sen. George Allen has taken a slight 41-38 percent lead over former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine. It is already clear that this race will go down to the wire.