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Leading Off:

IL-08: Hahah! I love political theater like this:

A bill clearly inspired by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh's child support issues would forbid people owing more than $10,000 in back child support from running for office in Illinois.

Unfortunately, even if the bill passed, it wouldn't actually ensnare Walsh because the bill doesn't apply retroactively. And I suspect it probably wouldn't even be constitutional anyway. But the real goal is to squeeze (yet) another news cycle out of this story, so none of this matters. As the bill's sponsor cannily says, "If I wanted to get political, I would have filed it six months ago." Uh huh, sure. We're winking along with you.

Meanwhile, it actually looks like Walsh caught a break: DuPage County Regional Superintendent of Schools Darlene Ruscitti is dropping out of the GOP primary in the 8th CD, where Walsh is attempting to seek re-election. You'll recall that Walsh pissed off a lot of local Republicans by clumsily bigfooting back into the 8th District after spending most of the year running in the 14th. He even tried to get Ruscitti to abandon her bid, but she had some powerful allies, including Reps. Peter Roskam and Judy Biggert. Walsh was undeterred, though, since John Boehner reportedly offered him $3.5 million in re-election assistance, to dissuade him from a primary with fellow Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren. And I guess that was enough for Ruscitti to ultimately change her mind and decide the whole thing wasn't worth it.

Senate:

VA-Sen: Quinnipiac, which only started polling Virginia this year, has consistently shown less optimistic numbers for Democrats in the Old Dominion than their colleagues at Public Policy Polling, and that's particularly true of their latest poll. While PPP recently saw Democrat Tim Kaine finally put some daylight between himself and Republican George Allen, Quinnipiac has Allen leading, 44-42. That's changed from a 45-44 Kaine edge in October. They also find Barack Obama trailing Mitt Romney, again by 44-42, which contrasts with PPP's 48-42 lead for the president. Part of it may be sample composition: Quinnipiac's survey has a 30D-29R-28I breakdown, while PPP was at 36D-33R-31I.

Gubernatorial:

NH-Gov: Count Steve Marchand out of the race for governor: The former Democratic mayor of Portsmouth just accepted a job as director of corporate relations at the University of New Hampshire, which means he won't be running for office any time soon. That means former state Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan is still the only announced Democrat in the race.

House:

IL-13: Conservative activists, for whom Rep. Tim Johnson is not conservative enough, staged a last-minute effort to recruit state Sen. Sam McCann to challenge the incumbent in the GOP primary. But McCann says he'll continue with his plans to seek re-election instead.

KY-04: I'm starting to feel like the list of Northern Kentucky Republicans who aren't considering a run in the suddenly-open 4th CD is actually shorter than the list of those who are. Here's yet another new name, and it definitely stands out:

Republican K. Lance Lucas, a Florence-based lawyer and son of former Democratic Congressman Ken Lucas, said in a phone interview that he is considering jumping in the Republican primary.

“Public service has always been something in our family,” Lucas said. “And I think people are looking for something very different.”

Ken Lucas, of course, was the last Democrat to hold this seat, before retiring in 2004. Gee, I'm sure dad must be so proud right now.

NC-02: It's certainly unsurprising, since his name's been circulating at least since August and he even attended a DCCC candidate training event in October, but ex-Rep. Bob Etheridge now confirms that he's thinking about a comeback bid. The woman who defeated him last year, freshman Rep. Renee Ellmers, was one of the weakest and therefore most surprising GOP victors of 2010's red wave, but her fellow Republicans did her a huge solid and made the 2nd CD much redder in redistricting. (It went from a district Obama won by 52-47 to one McCain won 56-43, a net change of 18 points.) And at age 70, Etheridge is pretty old to be considering un-retirement. So all in all, I don't see this as a winning move for him—though he may nonetheless be our best bet to take this seat back.

Grab Bag:

NY-St. Sen.: Some big news in the closely-divided New York state Senate: Dem Sen. Carl Kruger pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and resigned his post on Tuesday. That summary, though, does even remotely do justice to how weird and sordid a tale this is. Just a taste:

[Kruger] could not control his emotions, mumbling and sobbing as he admitted abusing his position and detailed his crimes: bribery schemes in which he accepted nearly half a million dollars in exchange for taking official action as a senator. Beside him, separated by one of Mr. Kruger’s lawyers, sat the gynecologist who court papers suggested was the senator’s intimate companion; he, too, would weep uncontrollably as he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge a few minutes later.

Mr. Kruger, who has said he is not gay, had emphatically declared his innocence after his arrest in the broad corruption case in March. But people briefed on the matter said Tuesday that he had decided not to fight the charges, in part because the doctor, Michael S. Turano, 50, would have had to go to trial with him. […]

Mr. Kruger and Dr. Turano lived with the doctor’s brother, Gerard I. Turano, also a gynecologist, and their mother in a garish mansion in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, that prosecutors said was financed with bribery payments to the senator and was originally built for the boss of the Luchese crime family.

Kruger wasn't only notorious for his corruption: You may also recall that he voted against same-sex marriage legislation in 2009, despite quite clearly being in a same-sex relationship himself. (He later voted in favor of the bill when it came back up earlier this year.) In any event, all eyes will now turn to the special election in the 27th Senate District, where Democrats will have a devil of a time holding this seat. The southern part of Brooklyn has been trending hard red in recent years, and in fact, this was John McCain's second-best SD in the entire state (not just the city). The district overlaps considerably with the Brooklyn portion of NY-09, which powered Republican Bob Turner to his big upset win in November. It won't be easy turf at all.

Fortunately, Democrats have what appears to be a strong candidate in City Councilman Lew Fidler, though he's being coy about his intentions. As is always the case with special elections in New York, nominees will be chosen by party leaders, not primaries, and The Brooklyn Politics' Colin Campbell, in gaming out the next steps, expects Dems to tap Fidler. He also thinks the GOP will go with attorney David Storobin, whom Politicker profiles here.

This race won't decide control of the chamber: The GOP already has a 32-30 edge, and Democrats are playing defense here. But it will, of course, affect Democratic chances of taking the Senate back next November. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a lot of latitude in setting the election date, so we won't know when it will take place until he announces his decision. We'll keep you posted.

Grab Bag:

New Mexico: PPP's batch of New Mexico miscellany finds surprisingly high approval numbers for its Republican governor (Susana Martinez) and both Democratic senators (Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, who is retiring). There are also some optimistic numbers on same-sex marriage as well (45-43 in favor).

Redistricting Roundup:

AZ Redistricting: Late on Tuesday, Arizona's redistricting commission voted to approve a final congressional map, dividing along expected party lines (independent commissioner Colleen Mathis sided with the two Democrats). Below (with more at this link) is what the redistricting commission is calling its "tentative final map." I'm not sure why "tentative," except for the fact that the plan needs to be precleared by the Department of Justice first. In any event, the map:

The commission also passed new legislative plans, which are also available at the previous link. Interestingly, the vote there did not break down along partisan lines: Colleen Mathis (I), Linda McNulty (D), and Richard Stertz (R) voted in favor, while José Herrera (D) and Scott Freeman (R) voted against.

As a bonus, jeffmd also worked up (in record time!) a new CD distribution chart for the new map:

CA Redistricting: ProPublica has an interesting new piece in which they argue, based on emails and other records they've acquired, that Democratic politicians and groups engaged in subterfuge to convince an overworked and inexperienced redistricting commission to adopt their aims. For instance, a consultant to Dem Rep. Jerry McNerney created a front group called "OneSanJoaquin," with the aim of keeping the San Joaquin Valley in a single district—something that appeared to benefit Republicans, but could actually only help Democrats. The commission accepted OneSanJoaquin's plan without really inquiring into who was making it, and McNerney moved to the valley to run in the new 9th.

But of course, a number of Democrats have gotten hosed by the new map, including at least one of Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, and one of Reps. Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson. (These two pairs are facing off in primary battles.) Lois Capps and John Garamendi have seen their districts get tougher, too. So while Democrats did well, it's not like they ran the table. There are also some serious misapprehensions in the piece, such as this claim:

“Very little of this is due to demographic shifts,” said Professor Doug Johnson at the Rose Institute in Los Angeles. Republican areas actually had higher growth than Democratic ones. “By the numbers, Republicans should have held at least the same number of seats, but they lost.”

As sapelcovits noted, most of this growth "came from Democratic-voting Hispanics"—the fact that it happened to take place in so-called "Republican areas" is just happenstance. What's more, you're probably asking, where were Republicans when it came to giving testimony before the commission? Well, for whatever reason, they were completely AWOL. This was just politics, and the GOP decided not to play. That's their fault, not ours.

CT Redistricting: Connecticut's bipartisan redistricting panel failed to reach an agreement by Wednesday's noon deadline, which means the new congressional map will get drawn by the state supreme court. I'm guessing that Republicans figure they can't do any worse than the status quo (Democrats currently control all five of the state's House seats), so they're praying that the high court will adopt their radical plan to move heavily blue Bridgeport out of the 4th District. (That would imperil Dem Rep. Jim Himes.) In the worse-case scenario, if the court goes for the Democratic proposal (which is a "minimum change" plan designed to achieve population equality and nothing more), then Republicans haven't lost any ground. So GOP obstructionism actually makes a certain amount of sense here.

MS Redistricting (PDF): Courtesy the awesome Greg Giroux, we now have a copy of Mississippi's new, court-drawn congressional map (click for larger):

New Mississippi congressional map
According to Loyola Law School's redistricting website, parties must file any objections to the map by Thursday. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 28, but I imagine it might not take place if there are no objections.

OH Redistricting: I'm not buying this for one second. Dem Rep. Marcy Kaptur is only now following Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern in blaming the DCCC for the failure of the redistricting referendum drive. But where on earth was she when her complaining might have made a difference? Was she on the horn to Steve Israel, asking him for an infusion of cash? Was she calling her own donors, exhorting them to give to the ODP? She could have been out there raising hell and calling attention to the issue when it mattered. Now, though, I think she and Redfern are just piling on to an easy target that simply can't and won't defend itself in the press.

The reality is that Kaptur got a district that was very favorable to her under the original map. Yes, she'd have to face Dennis Kucinich in a primary, but almost every observer felt the odds were strongly on her side. And when the newest (and final) map came out, the lines were better still. And how about rest of Ohio's remaining House Democrats? Marcia Fudge and Tim Ryan certainly wound up with districts that suited them, and Kucinich was too stupid to realize he'd been screwed (to the point that he even tried to whip votes for the first GOP map). Only Betty Sutton really got the shaft. So the majority of the delegation had plenty of selfish reasons to see this map pass into law. And when that's the case, the DCCC simply can't contradict the wishes of its dues-paying members, no matter how badly it might want to.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the legislature requested all of one tweak to the final map: They asked that state Rep. Ted Celeste's house be moved into OH-03, a new (and open) Democratic district centered around Columbus. So they were obviously looking out for one of their own as well. And don’t forget that Redfern himself is running for the state House. If Republicans could pass a second congressional map, it's not inconceivable they could have reconvened the special panel which draws legislative lines—something their rules (PDF) specifically allow for. That means Redfern had a personal incentive to lay low on the congressional map lest the GOP decide to mess with him on the legislative map.

I'm no fan of conspiracy theories, and I resent having to operate on what is clearly less than complete information. But the fact remains that progressive interests succeeded in collecting enough signatures for not one but two referenda in the past year (SB5 and HB194). It's very doable, and I refuse to believe that somehow the ODP was so hamstrung that they couldn't accomplish the job this time. If they wanted the referendum to get on the ballot, I'm absolutely convinced that they could have. I'm casting about for alternative explanations only because this failure makes no sense. What's more, we've seen self-interest rear its ugly head with regard to redistricting countless times in many states this year—far more often than we've seen any examples of selflessness (of which there are almost none). So in this case, yeah, I believe there were bad actors on our own side here, except they were in the Buckeye State, not Washington, DC.

PA redistricting: As we've mentioned, Pennsylvania's Congressional redistricting map passed the state House on Tuesday by an unnecessarily large 136-61 margin, which means that 36 Democrats voted for the Republican plan (while 8 Republicans voted against it). The Dems are primarily from the Philly area and many are allies of Bob Brady (the 1st District Rep. and, more importantly, boss of the Philly machine), who'd been publicly whipping Democratic votes in favor of the map. PoliticsPA also notes that several Dems from Tim Holden's part of the state voted "yes," suggesting that Holden (who gets a much safer NE PA district, though at the possible risk of a primary) may have been whipping votes too, just not publicly. GOP "no" votes were from the rural parts of the SE, apparently upset over the crazy-quilt line drawing. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Dec 22, 2011 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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