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Leading Off:

TX Redistricting: Holy hell! Late on Friday evening, in response to a request for a stay by Republican state Attorney General Greg Abbott, the full Supreme Court stunningly blocked implementation of Texas's new court-drawn legislative and congressional maps. This throws the state's 2012 elections into complete turmoil because right now, there are no maps that can be legally used. What's more, the state's filing deadline is this Thursday, Dec. 15, and the SCOTUS won't even hear oral arguments until Jan. 9, so that date will definitely have to get moved. The primary, set for March 6, will almost certainly have to be delayed as well. For an excellent Q&A that explains exactly where things stand and what might happen going forward, I strongly recommend this very accessible discussion by Texas redistricting expert Michael Li. We will of course bring you further developments as they happen.


CO-Sen: PPP asked some very early head-to-heads for freshman Dem Sen. Mark Udall, who is not up for re-election until 2014. He leads GOP Rep. Mike Coffman (who may well be out of a job after next year) by a 48-34 margin, and former LG (and 2010 Senate primary runner-up) Jane Norton by 50-33.

MT-Sen: The Montana GOP is running a new ad attacking Dem Sen. Jon Tester for taking money from lobbyists (by some unspecified metric, he's supposedly received more than anyone else). No word on the size of the buy, though it's apparently football-themed because it was scheduled to run during some college football playoff games featuring Montana teams over the weekend. I have to admit, I actually find the production values kind of catchy, but see for yourself here or below.

NE-Sen: For the second time in a week, GOP Gov. Dave Heineman tried to downplay the notion that he might seek to run for Senate, which is really making me think this is all a gambit to f*ck with Ben Nelson's head—something unnamed Democrats and Republicans suggested to The Hotline just a few days ago. If I'm right, this means Heineman is struggling to simultaneously spook Nelson and avoid offending the actual GOP candidates who are already in the race, which is why he keeps trying to walk back the possibility of a run while still holding the door open. It would also mean that national Republicans are worried about how their current field would fare against Nelson, if they are indeed putting Heineman up to this.

NY-Sen: New York state GOP chair Ed Cox sent a letter to the editor to the Syracuse Post Standard, touting Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney as a possible Senate candidate. It sounds like Cox was freelancing/spitballing, though, and what's more, Mahoney endorsed Dem Gov. Andrew Cuomo and even held a fundraiser for him, so I'm not sure how that's supposed to work.


NC-Gov: After a brief while this fall where it seemed like Dem Gov. Bev Perdue might be recovering from her long, long sojourn in the polling wilderness, she now trails Pat McCrory by a 50-40 margin. It's not a big change from the 48-39 spread last month, but it's a lot worse than September's numbers, when she managed to claw her way to just four points down, 45-41.

WI-Gov: Interesting. State Sen. Tim Cullen, who only began floating his name a week ago, just became the first Democrat to say he'll run against Gov. Scott Walker if there is in fact a recall election next year. That probably means we'll have a primary, since a whole host of other potential candidates (most of them with greater name recognition) are still waiting in the wings. Cullen, incidentally, is on his second tour of duty in the Senate, after a long absence. He first served from 1975 to 1987, then returned to the chamber this year. He also has a reputation for bi-partisan cooperation, which may not really be what fired-up Democratic activists are looking for in this race.


CO-06: Even with Andrew Romanoff out, it looks like state Rep. Joe Miklosi may not have the Democratic primary to himself. Wealthy chiropractor Perry Haney already has an exploratory committee and is reportedly meeting with Democratic insiders to lay the groundwork for a possible run. Back in May, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer suggested Haney might make a go of it in the 3rd CD, but evidently he prefers the bluer confines of the 6th instead.

FL-02: You may remember Nancy Argenziano, the former state Senator and lifelong Republican who recently became a Democrat and wants to run for Congress in Florida's 2nd CD. Her problem, as you'll recall, is a new state law which forbids candidates from switching parties a year before the candidate qualifying period begins, a deadline some 18 months before election day, and one which snared Argenziano. So now she's suing to have the law overturned, calling it unconstitutional.

IL-08, IL-14: It'll be the 8th District after all for Joe Walsh, who spent much of the year jousting with fellow Republican Randy Hultgren in an inchoate fight in the 14th CD, a deliberate GOP vote sink. But a little over a week ago, word emerged that Walsh might instead seek re-election in the 8th, which, strictly speaking, is his current district. But if you've been following the Illinois redistricting saga all along, you know that the 8th was redrawn into a much bluer configuration, one that supported Barack Obama at a 63% clip.

So while Walsh gets to avoid wingnut-on-wingnut violence over in the 14th, his decision to run in the 8th means he'll face a Democratic buzz-saw in the general election. Could a Republican survive in a seat like this? It's not impossible. But combine Joe Walsh's poisonous record, and the fact that either Dem he might face—Tammy Duckworth or Raja Krishnamoorthi—will be formidable indeed, I don't see how he'll wind up serving another term. If I were him, I'd have taken my chances on Hultgren. So why would he make such a manifestly bad choice?

Well, whoa! I guess this explains it! Via Dave Catanese:

Walsh — lured by the thought of an easier primary and the promise, according to top Illinois GOP officials who requested anonymity and influential Barrington Republican Jack Roeser, of $3.5 million in general election fundraising help from House Speaker John Boehner — will now make a bid in the recently drawn 8th District, roughly centered in Schaumburg and including Addison, Elk Grove, Hanover and Wheeling townships.

Wow. Does Joe Walsh really think this money will be there for him? It's not like he'd even have much of a chance at victory even with such a huge infusion of coin, but I guess he's stupid enough to believe he might get it. However, I can't believe Boehner would be stupid enough to spend this kind of cash—or any cash—on a guy like Walsh in a district like this. And forget about the general election—Walsh might need the dough for the primary:

Yet […] Walsh still faces a primary battle — against DuPage Regional Superintendent of Education Darlene Ruscitti and Barrington businessman Andrew Palomo. Ruscitti, who held an Addison fundraiser on Thursday, is expected to receive the support of several members of the Illinois Republican delegation over Walsh — including [Peter] Roskam, the GOP chief deputy whip and 6th District congressman, and 13th District Congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale.

It would be quite the treat if Walsh couldn't even make it past Ruscitti—something John Boehner is probably hoping for as well, since that'll free him from having to awkwardly explain why he isn't carrying through on this promise next fall. Of course, what Walsh could really use the money for is his child support payments. At least then it would be going to a good cause.

MA-04: A new name has emerged in the race to replace retiring Rep. Barney Frank: Boston City Councilor Mike Ross has formed an exploratory committee, which makes him the first Democrat to take a formal step toward running.

And while we're talking about the race, this should come as no surprise: Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, busy running his own video-game company in Rhode Island, says he won't run for Frank's seat. Schilling, who has long been involved in Republican politics, says: “If it was any other point in time, I would do it in a heartbeat. But it’s an elected position — it’s 365 days a year, nights, weekends. I can’t do it right now.”

OR-01: Yow. Jess Taylor says a GOP source tells her that the DCCC buy in the Oregon special election is now up to one million bucks, up from the mid-six figures just a few days earlier, for a spot attacking Republican Rob Cornilles. The question is whether this is just a smart preventive measure—much like how the NRCC boxed out Democrat Kate Marshall in the NV-02 special earlier this year by getting on the air and defining her early—or whether someone in charge got seriously spooked by some ugly poll numbers for Suzanne Bonamici. This is, after all, a district that Obama won with 61% of the vote and Kerry with 55%—really at the outer edge of where Republicans can be competitive, and bluer than NV-02 was red. Even accounting for the sour economy and the unpredictability of a special, this race really ought to be no worse than Likely D, but this spending indicates it may not be.

Now, Republicans did wind up forking out $600K in the Nevada contest, and Portland is a much more expensive media market. Indeed, in a second tweet, Taylor says that the number of gross media points the NRCC wound up buying in NV-02 was equal to the number of points the DCCC has reserved so far in Oregon. And as for the D-Trip shelling out all this money so much earlier, they have the holidays to contend with, a time when it's very hard to break through to voters. What's more, early voting starts on Jan. 13, so there actually isn't a ton of time left. So without any polling in hand, it's hard to read this one either way. But after the NY-09 debacle in September, I'm wary of using party committee spending (or lack thereof) as a direct proxy for competitiveness. Hopefully we'll see some poll numbers here soon.

TX-14: Longtime SSP/DKE commenter trowaman, who has been organizing a Draft Nick Lampson campaign on Facebook, just saw Lampson at an event on Thursday evening. Based on trowaman's report, it sounds like Lampson is leaning toward a second comeback bid in the open 14th CD, but obviously the Supreme Court's new ruling is a huge wildcard.

TX-27, TX-34: Well, who knows what to make of this now? After Friday night's Supreme Court ruling (see "Leading Off" section above), it's impossible to say if anyone's decisions about whether or where to run for Congress will still hold. But before the SCOTUS blocked the interim map, GOP freshman Blake Farenthold had seen his 27th CD get made much bluer by the court-drawn map. However, his home was placed into the new (and very red) 34th District, and Farenthold indicated quite strongly that he'd seek re-election in there instead. The problem, though, was that he currently only represents some 15% of the constituents of the revised 34th, which would make it a tempting seat for much stronger Republican names to target. (Unusual, I know, to suggest that a non-incumbent might have an edge over an incumbent in a primary, but we're talking about Mr. Ducky Pajamas here.)

So late last week, Farenthold suddenly started hedging, saying he might still run in the 27th, even though the version of this district that the trial court created was almost suicidally blue. Now, though, Farenthold may eventually get some kind of relief if the Supreme Court orders a new map to be drawn.

Before everything went to hell on Friday, several Democrats started making up their minds about the 27th. One was Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, who finally bit the bullet and decided to launch a bid for the Democratic nomination. Villalobos had been talking about a possible run since May, back when the seat was still much swingier; under the court's map, it went from 53-46 Obama to 58-41, so that may have helped spur him into the race, even though that might all be moot now.

Another Democrat, Ramiro Garza, former city manager of Edinburg (pop. 77K), also said he'd run. Charles Kuffner tells me:

"City manager" is "the guy who actually has the power in a weak-mayor city," so he must have some juice. Having that on his resume for sure means he's not Some Dude. It's an appointed position, so he may not have any electoral experience, but for sure he has political experience.

If they still go through with their plans, Villalobos and Garza would join Nueces County Democratic Party Chairwoman Rose Meza Harrison in the race. Meanwhile, former state Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr. decided to seek his old seat in the state House, rather than run for Congress. And his dad, Solomon Ortiz, Sr.—the guy who held this seat before getting upset last year by Farenthold—has opted not to make a comeback bid. The elder Ortiz, 74, says he is "really enjoying my life now."

Grab Bag:

Colorado: Public Policy Polling has some interesting Colorado miscellany, too, finding rather liberal views on gay marriage and marijuana legalization. In fact, a plurality of Coloradans now support same-sex marriage, one of the only swing states where PPP has found that to be the case, leading Tom Jensen to think it's unlikely to flip back into the red column. Democrats also lead on the generic congressional ballot, 46-42, little changed from August's 45-40.

Ohio: It looks like Ohio legislators are trying to undo their ridiculous plan to have two separate primaries, one in March for the Senate race and state & local contests, and one in June for House races and the presidential election. Republicans pushed this change through because of uncertainty over the congressional map, but having finally realized how unnecessary and costly this is, they're now proposing a single primary on May 8, with a filing deadline of March 9.

Redistricting Roundup:

Chicago Redistricting: This is a crazy, down-in-the-weeds redistricting story. The city of Chicago is, like countless other municipalities, in the midst of redrawing the map for its city council. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel is promising a smooth process, something very unusual will happen if no agreement is reached. Chicagoist explains: "If at least 41 aldermen do not approve a new ward map, and at least 10 aldermen propose an alternate map, Chicago voters would choose between the two next March." Amazingly enough, this is exactly what happened 20 years ago! Even nuttier is that voters didn't even get to see the dueling maps on the ballot, just lists of which aldermen supported which one. In any event, despite the referendum, the map still wound up in court—something Emanuel is apparently eager to avoid this time.

FL Redistricting: Right now, there are eight (!) competing congressional proposals floating around the Florida legislature right now. The St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald have helpfully put Google Maps versions of all eight plans on a single page, with the districts shaded by recent election performance in the presidential and gubernatorial races.

RI Redistricting: Rhode Island's redistricting commission says it expects to vote on which several different congressional proposals to recommend to the legislature on Dec. 19. There's been some grousing about various aspects of the maps: One plan would move Republican Brendan Doherty out of the 1st CD, where he's challenging freshman Dem David Cicilline; meanwhile, an aide to 2nd CD Dem Rep. Jim Langevin argued that some of the proposed changes are too drastic. Perhaps in response to these complains, the panel says it will offer new plans on Monday.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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