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9:10 AM PT (Jeff Singer): PA-Sen: In the last few months, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has looked like the favorite in light-blue Pennsylvania. Two polls gave him a strong job approval rating, and national Democrats aren't happy to see their 2010 nominee, ex-Rep. Joe Sestak, making another run. However, a new survey from Public Policy Polling paints a very different picture of next year's Keystone State contest and finds that while Toomey starts with a lead, he's far from secure in a race that could decide control of the Senate.
• 44-35 vs. ex-Rep. Chris Carney
• 44-35 vs. state Sen. Vincent Hughes
• 44-34 vs. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski
• 46-41 vs. ex-Gov. Ed Rendell
• 42-38 vs. 2010 nominee Joe Sestak
• 44-33 vs. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams
Against all comers, Toomey takes between 42 and 46 percent of the vote, a bit far from the 50 percent mark he'd like to be at. PPP finds Toomey's approval rating underwater at 30-37, not a great place for an incumbent in a hostile state to be. A March Quinnipiac
poll and May survey from Harper Polling
gave Toomey a 49-24 and 54-32 approval rating respectively, and there's no easy explanation for why PPP finds something so different.
With the exception of Rendell, none of Toomey's prospective foes are well known: At least 70 percent of respondents have no opinion of Carney, Hughes, Pawlowski, or Williams. Sestak, who lost to Toomey 51-49 in 2010, is also anonymous to 54 percent of the state, but he has a narrow 24-22 rating from people who remember him. Sestak's built-in name recognition helps explain why he performs so much better than the four mostly-unknown Democrats. Sestak does a better job unifying his party at this early stage and he keeps more independents in the undecided column (though he performs slightly worse with the independents who have made up their minds). As the campaign progresses, Sestak and any other Democrats who run should pick up more support from Democrats as they become better known.
Right now, Sestak and Pawlowski are the only Democrats running. Carney, Hughes, and Williams have all expressed interest, though they've been silent about their plans over the last few months. There's no sign that Rendell wants to be a Senate candidate (though he plays one on TV), which may be just as well, since he posts a meh 42-47 favorable rating four years after leaving office.
While Sestak polls the best of the five Democrats and came close to beating Toomey in the 2010 GOP wave, the national and state parties are wary of him. Sestak has had a bad relationship with these groups ever since he successfully challenged party-switching incumbent Arlen Specter in the 2010 primary. Insiders believe that Sestak then proceeded to run an amateurish race, complaining about how little he coordinated with the rest of the party and relied on family members rather than professionals to staff his campaign. So far, Sestak has done little to reassure his critics that this time will be different, and his weak initial fundraising has only made things worse. Fairly or not, the Democratic establishment is convinced Sestak will cost them a pickup and they've been shopping for another candidate.
Pawlowski's weak 2014 gubernatorial campaign didn't leave anyone impressed, and he's going to need things to go a lot differently if he's going to emerge as a credible threat to Sestak. But the DSCC's top recruit Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro just turned them down and it's possible that when all is said and done, national Democrats will need to bite the bullet and choose between Pawlowski and Sestak.
Democrats need to net four seats to flip the Senate (five if they lose the White House) and Pennsylvania is likely to be a major target. Team Blue is going to be happy to see a poll showing Toomey vulnerable after months of pessimism, but we have a long way to go here. Toomey has worked hard to define himself as a moderate, and he'll have more than enough cash. Democratic infighting could also leave their eventual nominee bankrupt in this expensive state, and tensions between Sestak and the establishment could cause problems if he's their nominee again. This is going to be a key race in the battle for the Senate, and both parties will be watching all the developments closely.
9:43 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NJ-02, State Assembly: Max Pizarro at PolitickerNJ has out-nerded even us with his detailed look at New Jersey's 2017 state Senate contests. However, a state Assembly contest this November could have real ramifications for Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo next year.
Democrats have spent the last decade trying to convince state Sen. Jeff Van Drew to take on LoBiondo in this Obama 54-45 seat. Van Drew is once again mulling a bid, but his decision may depend on the fate of his protege Assemblyman Rob Andrzejczak this year. Andrzejczak is defending a 53-46 Obama seat and Pizarro argues that if he loses, Van Drew will be pressured to stay in the legislature to preserve South Jersey political power. Of course, it's quite possible that Van Drew will pass on another bid against LoBiondo even if Andrzejczak prevails, but it sounds like we won't get a decision until November at the earliest.
9:57 AM PT (Jeff Singer): Nashville Mayor: On Tuesday, the local SEIU endorsed real estate executive Bill Freeman, making it the first major group to get involved in this crowded race. SEIU Local 205 has a good win-record in Nashville politics, though they backed Bob Clement in his unsuccessful 2007 campaign here. Recent polls from Freeman and rival Howard Gentry show the wealthy Freeman well-positioned to advance to the runoff, though we have a long time to go before the August primary.
10:13 AM PT (Jeff Singer): NH-Gov: The University of New Hampshire takes a very early look at next year's gubernatorial contest. Like PPP found last month, they have Gov. Maggie Hassan with sky-high approval ratings. However, national Democrats are trying to recruit Hassan to face Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte next year and they polled matchups between Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and two of his Democratic colleagues. Sununu takes 40 percent against each of them, which Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas scoop up a similar 23 and 26 percent respectively. PPP found a Sununu-Van Ostern duel looking quite a bit different, with the Republican only leading 37-34.
10:55 AM PT (Jeff Singer): IN-Gov: Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has been openly considering a run against GOP incumbent Mike Pence for the last few weeks, and it sounds like she's about to jump in. IndyPolitics reports that Ritz will announce her campaign next week: If she gets in, she'll face 2012 nominee John Gregg and state Sen. Karen Tallian. However, she won't need to worry about state House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, who tells Howey Politics that he's not going to run.
11:44 AM PT (Jeff Singer): AZ-01: Both parties were caught by surprise on Tuesday when Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her Senate campaign. There are plenty of potential candidates from each party who are eyeing her swingy northern Arizona seat, but most of them are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court decision to rule on the constitutionality of the state's independent redistricting commission. If the court rules the GOP's way, they'll have the opportunity to make this district as tough for Democrats to win as they can.
On the blue side, state Sen. Catherine Miranda wasted little time making her interest known, though she represents almost none of AZ-01 in the legislature. Former state Rep. Chris Deschene, who lost the 2010 secretary of state race 58-42, is also considering according to his spokeswoman. Deschene got plenty of attention last year when he ran for president of the Navajo Nation but was disqualified for not speaking Navajo fluently. Local Democrats say he'd be a top recruit, though he'd need to give up his post at the U.S. Department of Energy. Coconino County Board Chair Elizabeth Archuleta also says she's thinking about running, while Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon hasn't ruled anything out.
The Arizona Republic's Rebekah Sanders also mentions two other potential Democratic candidates, though there's no word if they're interested. State Sen. Carlyle Begay's district is entirely located in the 1st, though his support for this year's GOP state budget could be a liability in a primary. State Sen. Barbara McGuire's seat is split between AZ-01 and the safely red AZ-04, but she'd be an interesting recruit. In the last two cycles, McGuire pulled off narrow wins in a district that Romney carried 53-45, so she has experience winning in a difficult seat. Democratic consultant Andy Barr also tossed in 2014 gubernatorial nominee Fred DuVal's name, though DuVal previously said he's only interested in another statewide bid.
On the GOP side, rancher and 2014 candidate Gary Kiehne so far has the primary to himself, but he should have company soon. Ex-state House Speaker Andy Tobin, who narrowly beat Kiehne in the primary, confirms that he's interested but he's waiting for the redistricting case to play out. State Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce has also confirmed his interest, and Speaker David Gowan's office has also said he might go for it. Most of Gowan's seat is in AZ-02 and he could also challenge Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the primary, but Gowan is likely to carve out a district for himself if he gets the chance.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu also didn't rule anything out. Babeu's 2012 bid for the neighboring AZ-04 ended after it emerged that he had dated an undocumented immigrant and then threatened to deport him. Babeu did win re-election that November and he went on to star in a spot for 2014 gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, so maybe enough time has passed that he can run another serious House campaign. Some other potential GOP contenders include ex-Secretary of State and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, 2012 nominee Jonathan Paton, state Sen. Steve Smith, and state Residential Utility Consumer Office Director David Tenney.
1:54 PM PT (Jeff Singer): AZ-01: Babeu wasted little time releasing a survey from MBQF Consulting that shows him ahead in a hypothetical primary, albeit with a truckload of undecideds. Babeu leads Tobin 17-10, with Kiehne at 8, and 65 percent undecided. The entire survey was conducted May 26, the day Kirkpatrick announced her departure.
2:42 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NJ-Gov: Gov. Chris Christie's 2013 re-election, held in that bygone time when "Bridgegate," probably only meant someone was cheating during a card game, was a completely snoozer. However, 2017 is another story. The primaries are only two years away, and the Democrats especially are digging in for a long campaign.
Former Ambassador Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop have all been working hard to make connections with local Democrats and increase their name recognition around the state. We could also see state Sen. Richard Codey, who served as acting governor from 2004 to 2005, state Sen. Ron Rice, and Assemblyman Troy Singleton get in. Additionally, Assemblyman Louis Greenwald might be interested, though he could also try for speaker.
On the GOP side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's name has been in contention for a while. However, state Sen. Kip Bateman, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, state Sen. and 2006 Senate nominee Tom Kean Jr., and Assemblyman Jay Webber are also potential candidates. We have a very long time to go before 2017 but in a state as big and expensive as New Jersey, serious candidates need to start gearing up early.
3:06 PM PT (Jeff Singer): NY-11: Ex-Rep. Michael McMahon has spent the last few cycles turning down Democratic recruitment efforts, but he's looking to return to elected office in another capacity. The Staten Island Democratic Party is nominating McMahon to serve as their standard bearer in this year's contest for district attorney and now that GOP state Sen. Andrew Lanza has declined to run, McMahon should start out the favorite. National Democrats held out some hope that McMahon would challenge newly-elected GOP Rep. Dan Donovan next year, but it is not to be.
3:15 PM PT (Jeff Singer): PA State Senate: Only last year, Keystone Democrats held out hope that they could finally end two decades of GOP control, or at least get close enough to finish the job in 2016. However, redistricting and the red wave allowed the Republicans to expand their majority from a close 27-23 to a formidable 30-20, and they may have an extra seat soon. On Wednesday, Democratic state Sen. Matt Smith announced he would resign to take a post at the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, and it's not going to be easy for Team Blue to hold onto his 56-43 Romney Western Pennsylvania seat.
3:46 PM PT: Redistricting: In a move that election law expert Rick Hasen characterizes as "surprising," the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a potentially major case that could upend long-settled jurisprudence on the meaning of "one person, one vote." The suit, Evenwel v. Abbott, argues that the state of Texas should draw lines for its state Senate that equalize the voting population in each district, not the total population, as they do now.
And if the court were to side with the plaintiffs, Republicans would benefit. That's because there are fewer registered voters in urban, Democratic-leaning districts and far more in conservative rural seats. For instance, on the congressional level, California's sprawling 1st District—a vast, forested region nestled along the Oregon and Nevada borders—has about 521,000 eligible voters, according to one analyst, while the compact 40th District in Los Angeles has just 262,000. (When the lines were drawn in 2011, both had populations of 702,900.) And as you might expect, the former is represented by a Republican and the latter by a Democrat.
So if districts had to balance out voting-age populations, red seats would have to shed voters to blue seats, which are home to many more non-voters, chiefly non-citizens (often Hispanics), ex-felons without voting rights, and children. This would, of course, make those blue seats redder, which is why conservative groups are pushing this suit. What's more, while this case is focused on legislative redistricting, there's no reason any ruling here couldn't also apply to congressional redistricting—and congressional reapportionment, which would mean that blue states would also lose a number of seats to red states.
But there's a huge problem with this case's entire premise: It's almost impossible to count voters. Leah Libresco details the many reasons why, among them the fact that the Census doesn't ask about citizenship status. While the Census Bureau does get into more detail with its annual American Community Surveys, the ACS relies on statistical sampling—something the Supreme Court specifically barred for the purposes of the traditional decennial Census itself (which is currently used both for reapportionment and redistricting purposes).
Amusingly, Republicans were the victorious plaintiffs in that case (sampling would have uncovered many missing urban voters), so they might have unwittingly boxed themselves in. They also, as Libresco points out, hate the ACS and have tried to defund it, because heaven forbid the government should ever produce any useful statistical information that looks like science.
Of course, none of this may stop the Supreme Court's conservatives, who have shown no hesitation in curtailing minority voting rights. It'll be a while before they rule, though, but if they enshrine "one registered voter, one vote" into law, we'll be in for some serious upheaval.