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Leading Off:

WV Redistricting: This is unexpected but not, to my mind, hugely surprising: A three-judge federal panel hearing a suit over West Virginia's new congressional map just ruled the plan invalid on the grounds that the population differences between districts was too great. Contrary to popular belief, the court held that the state constitution does not require map-makers to avoid splitting counties, but even so, the legislature considered (and rejected) six alternative plans that would have resulted in lower variances without dividing counties. (I say this decision is unsurprising because Democratic state Senate Majority Leader John Unger, who dissented from his party, predicted this outcome in August.)

In any event, the court is giving the legislature until Jan. 17 to come up with a remedial plan; if not, elections will go forward this year under a court-drawn interim map. The judges even went so far as to say which they will likely choose: either one called the "Perfect Plan" (originally put forth by Unger) or another one known as "Cooper Plan 4," both of which had virtually no population variance. (Hat-tips to Charleston Daily Mail reporter Ry Rivard for flagging the court ruling and to reader AK for the link to the Unger map.)

4Q Fundraising:

IL-08: The first fourth-quarter fundraising numbers are trickling in. Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi says he's raised "at least $274K." No word yet on cash-on-hand.

PA-Sen: Steve Welch (R): ~$125K raised (plus $1 mil self-loan); $1 mil cash-on-hand; Sam Rohrer (R): >$116K raised

RI-01: Brendan Doherty (R): >$150K raised


IN-Sen: What a phony. Wealthy auto dealer Bob Thomas said just last month that, in terms of the GOP Senate primary, he "will be a yes, based on everything I know." Now, of course, he's bowing out. When Thomas's name first came up in November, we noted that he claimed he was going to run for Senate in 2010 as well but bailed just two weeks later. At the time, we said "maybe he's not serious about a statewide contest this time either," and it looks like we were right. Anyhow, this is obviously good news (for real) for Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who will now very likely face incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar one-on-one for the Republican nomination.

ME-Sen: Even though two Democrats are already running, and even though prospects for beating Sen. Olympia Snowe look very tough, a third Dem is considering the race: state Sen. Cynthia Dill. If you have an especially good memory, you may recall that Dill, a former member of the state House, just won a special election last year to replace ex-state Sen. Larry Bliss (who in a rather poignant story, resigned his post to move out-of-state because he couldn't find full-time employment in Maine). In any event, if Dill gets in, she'd join former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and state Rep. Jon Hinck in the primary.

MO-Sen: Yow. GOP Rep. Todd Akin's campaign manager, finance director, and general consultant all jumped ship in December, which can't be a good sign. Sometimes when a campaign bring in new blood, that's a good thing, especially when there's an orderly transition. But that doesn't seem to be the case here, given the number of people departing and the fact that the Akin camp doesn't appear to have announced replacements yet.

TX-Sen: I guess Rick Perry more-or-less just endorsed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary without actually uttering those words. Here's what the Texas governor (and presidential hopeful) said on Monday:

The boost came while Dewhurst and a handful of politicians from around the state appeared with Perry during an evening speech. When introducing two members of the U.S. House that support him, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Sam Graves of Missouri, Perry said, "They’re on the leading edge and there’s more of those members of the United States Congress and the United States Senate — which David soon will be a member of, Lord willing — that understand how important, when we’re talking about making America more competitive, when we’re talking about what this country needs is a president of the United States and a Congress who will work with that president to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the United States Constitution."

Later in the speech, when talking about repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law, Perry said, "You can be the cosponsor in the Senate, David."

VA-Sen: Sheesh, I didn't realize Bob Marshall was still out there teasing us. The loonocrat state delegate says he's still considering a bid for Senate—something he first suggested last February—which would put him up against George Allen's rather intimidating candidacy in the GOP primary. As I noted back then: "Marshall almost stole the GOP nomination for VA-Sen in 2008 from the super-sad Jim Gilmore, but that near-upset took place at a Republican convention—this time, the party's nominee will be selected in a primary." So even if he gets in, I doubt he'll be as successful as he was four years ago. Plus, Allen's nowhere near the pushover Gilmore was.


AZ-09: As expected, state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema launched her campaign for Arizona's swingy new 9th Congressional District on Tuesday. Sinema's been talking about a run since June, well before the first draft maps were published, and she becomes the first Democrat to formally enter the race. One of Sinema's fellow state senators, Minority Leader David Schapira, has formed an exploratory committee but hasn't yet pulled the trigger. There's a reason to hold off, too: Under Arizona law, Sinema had to resign her current post in order to run for Congress, something Schapira hasn't been willing to do just yet. In any event, a couple of other Democratic names are still floating out there as possibilities: 2010 state Treasurer candidate Andrei Cherny and ex-Rep. Harry Mitchell, who represented the 5th CD for two terms until getting swept out last cycle.

HI-02: When EMILY's List endorsed Democratic Honolulu City Councilmember (and former state Rep.) Tulsi Gabbard, it raised a lot of eyebrows—and concern. Gabbard didn't have much of a public track record on EMILY's signature issue, abortion rights, but she did have an ugly history of opposing gay rights, along with other prominent members of her family, including her father, a notoriously anti-gay one-time Republican state senator. For instance, when Gabbard served in the House, she led the opposition to a civil unions bill and spoke out against a resolution requiring the state Department of Education to study the effects of a rule prohibiting harassment of gay students.

Facing public pressure over these issues, she recently posted an essay on her campaign website in which she admits she was once anti-choice (and also acknowledges, as we knew, that she supported an anti-same sex marriage amendment to the state constitution). She says now, though, that her positions have "evolved" and that she now will "fight any efforts to undermine our reproductive freedom" and "fight for the repeal of DOMA." However, she pointedly does not say she supports gay marriage but rather favors civil unions. Instead, she prefers the radical libertarian (and therefore pointless) construct of getting government "out of the marriage business." Since that's never going to happen, I find that to be a very weak dodge indeed. And if you really mean it, then you have to support ending marriage for heterosexual couples, too, if you're going to be consistent.

KY-04: Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Dusing says he won't run in the GOP primary for the open 4th CD. While a ton of Republicans are still considering the race, only two have actually launched bids: state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore.

MD-02: Republican state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who only last month said she was forming an exploratory committee, has pulled the trigger on a challenge to veteran Dem Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger. She's going to need a lot of luck, seeing as Barack Obama took 61% of the vote in this district.

NJ-05: Former New York Giants hall-of-fame linebacker Harry Carson, whose name popped up as a possible Democratic challenger right after Rep. Steve Rothman said he wouldn't run against GOPer Scott Garrett, says he's looking at the race. Carson, who spent his entire playing career with the Giants (from 1976 to 1988), has since worked as a broadcaster and has personal wealth he could bring to bear. According to the article, he's also spoken with the DCCC, though the D-Trip of course is declining to comment on that.

NJ-09: A piece in PolitickerNJ notes that Dem Rep. Bill Pascrell has been slow to announce endorsements, in contrast to his primary opponent, Steve Rothman, who has already rolled out a ton. Pascrell did, however, just secure the backing of Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco, who is popular with the city's large Hispanic population. (Blanco himself is Dominican.) And another supporter, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, says Pascrell will soon launch his own list of endorsers.

Rothman, meanwhile, picked up his first Passaic County endorsement from another local heavyweight, Assemblyman Gary Schaer. (Rothman's home base is in Bergen County, which makes up about two-thirds of the new district.) Schaer is well-connected with many Orthodox Jews, also an important voting bloc here.

MA-04: This is quite thin, but Scott MacKay of Rhode Island Public Radio says that unnamed "sources close to" Joseph P. Kennedy III's family are lining up support for him, and that Kennedy is "likely to run" for retiring Rep. Barney Frank's 4th CD seat. MacKay adds that Kennedy "will have something more to say about his plans within a week or so."

MI-06, PA-18, TX-Sen: Now this is the Club for Growth I remember! I'm talking about the one which used to spend money savaging Republicans for insufficient conservative purity—and it looks like they're back. The CfG is forking out half a mil on ads targeting Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy, and Texas LG David Dewhurst (who is running for Senate), calling Upton and Murphy "liberals" and Dewhurst a "moderate." (Oh noes!) Unfortunately, there's little hope that any of this internecine warfare will directly redound to Democrats' benefit, though Barack Obama did carry Upton's district. But the more the NRCC has to spend defending incumbents, the better.

OH-16: Ordinarily Libertarian Some Dudes (is there any other kind?) who qualify for the ballot don't merit our attention, but some eagle-eyed commenters noted that in 2010, Jeff Blevins managed to pull almost 7% of the vote in the high-profile fight between then-Rep. John Boccieri and his Republican opponent (and eventual victor) Jim Renacci. I mention this because Blevins has filed to run in the 16th yet again, the site of an incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchup between Renacci and Dem Rep. Betty Sutton. While Blevins' unusual showing last cycle might be an artifact of what was an unusual year, conventional wisdom suggests that a Libertarian Party candidate ought to draw more votes away from the GOP than from the Democratic side, so if Blevins has any kind of impact this time, it ought to be good news for Sutton.

OR-01: As Nathan Gonzales reports, Republican Rob Cornilles is going up with his first attack ad of the special election, a spot hitting Democrat Suzanne Bonamici for allegedly voting to raise taxes. Props to Nathan for scoring details on the size of the buy: It's for roughly $100K (or 645 gross ratings points), on Portland broadcast TV. You can watch the ad here or below. (By the way, is it just me, or does the announcer's voice sound funny, almost like it's quavering?)

Meanwhile, before Christmas, we mentioned that EMILY's List was reserving airtime for the first week of January. Now their spot is up, an ad attacking Cornilles for his anti-choice views. (Dave Catanese calls it a "low six-figure cable TV ad buy," so about double what the Smart Media Group initially reported.) My two cents: They really need to include subtitles for the segment which features a video clip of Cornilles talking, but anyhow, you can watch the ad here or below:
RI-01: WPRI's Ted Nesi reports that former AG (and 2010 gubernatorial hopeful) Patrick Lynch is considering a challenge to Rep. David Cicilline in the Democratic primary, but adds that he's "unlikely" to do so, according to unnamed sources. Lynch himself has refused to comment, but he'd be a formidable candidate if he got in, thanks to name recognition and access to money. If the name sounds familiar in the context of this race, that's because Lynch's brother Bill, the former chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, ran for this seat when it was open last cycle, finishing last in a four-way primary.

Grab Bag:

Campaign Finance: Rick Hasen has an excellent piece explaining the tension between a new Montana Supreme Court ruling that "upholds Montana’s ban on independent corporate spending on state elections" and "seems to run headlong into the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United." Hasen continues:

How did the Montana Supreme Court try to get around the holding of Citizens United? It took SCOTUS’s statement that independent spending cannot corrupt and pointed to evidence that such spending has in fact corrupted in Montana.

But SCOTUS is likely to conclude that this kind of evidence is foreclosed by CU. Why? Brad Smith explains: "In fact, Citizens United’s holding that independent expenditures are not "corrupting" is not a statement of fact, but a statement of law. In this respect, it is similar to contractual doctrines that imply consent where consent is truly a fiction; or criminal doctrines that throw out confessions that were freely given, on the grounds that they were not probative because the accused was not properly ‘Mirandized.’"

Hasen thinks that this legal fiction was cover for what the SCOTUS truly believed but didn't have the guts to say: "We don’t care whether or not independent spending can or cannot corrupt; the First Amendment trumps this risk of corruption." He also thinks, as do several other commentators, that the Supreme Court will reverse the Montana ruling, and that in doing so, "the disingenuousness of this aspect of CU will be on full display for all."

Ohio: Benawu has a roundup of all the congressional filings in Ohio—a huge task, since candidates file with local boards of election rather than the Secretary of State. Democrats have candidates running everywhere except in the 8th (John Boehner's super-red district), while Republicans are leaving the heavily black (and solidly blue) 11th CD uncontested.

WATN?: Ex-Rep. Brian Baird's, nobody's favorite Democrat, is now working as a lobbyist for Vigor Industrial, a shipbuilding company and government contractor. Baird, as has been the case for a while, wouldn't rule out a return to office despite retiring last year, but his hometown of Edmonds was just placed into Jim McDermott's super-liberal 7th CD, a district Baird would never have a hope of winning even if McDermott retired.

Redistricting Roundup:

CT Redistricting: The Connecticut Supreme Court has appointed Columbia poli sci Prof. Nathan Persily, whom both sides agreed upon, as its special master in the state's redistricting litigation. Persily has to submit a proposed map by Jan. 27, and under the state constitution, the court must approve a final plan by Feb. 15.

FL Redistricting: The newest Congressional map from Florida's GOP-controlled state Senate makes a few nips and tucks beyond the existing proposals, but there's one that's particularly worth a mention: Vern Buchanan's FL-13 picked up some additional turf to its south in Charlotte County which seems to push it a little closer to swing territory. The GOP still has the numeric edge here, but remember that Buchanan has a big ethical/legal cloud hanging over him and could be a potential retiree. Click here for our Google Doc doing a side-by-side comparison of the 2008 presidential results by district under the old and new Senate maps. You'll see that the Sarasota-based 13th has the biggest blue shift of any district, from 47.3% Obama to 48.3% Obama; St. Petersburg's 10th and Tampa's 11th also improve, while the 8th and 12th get a bit redder. (David Jarman)

MS Redistricting: On Friday, Dec. 30, the three-judge panel which drafted a revised congressional map for Mississippi entered a final order (PDF) confirming the new plan and explaining its rationales. Since there were no objections to the map, it seems very doubtful any appeals will be filed. And because the plan was drawn by a court rather than the legislature, it doesn't need to be precleared by the Dept. of Justice under the Voting Rights Act. So this should be it.

NY Redistricting: I've certainly spitballed this idea before, but  I believe Shira Toeplitz is the first reporter to suggest in print that anyone is actually concerned about the possibility. Says Shira: "Congressional Republicans are increasingly worried their state Senate colleagues will cut a deal to save their own seats on the legislative map, meanwhile throwing their Congressional colleagues to the wind." If this were to happen, the question is whether the legislature can convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign such an obvious incumbent-protection gerrymander, seeing as he's threatened to veto any maps that were not "independently" drawn. Alternately, the lege could try to over-ride a veto, which would likely be easy in the Assembly but very challenging in the Senate, where Republicans don't have a lot to offer their Democratic colleagues (whose votes they'd need to oppose Cuomo).

And speaking of which, the legislature's redistricting panel (known as LATFOR) will reportedly release its first maps next week, but it sounds like we're only talking about legislative plans, not congressional ones. Still, it'll be very interesting to see what they do with the Senate.

And on a related note, Democratic state Senate Minority Leader John Sampson filed a brief in support of a lawsuit asking a federal court to take over redistricting and appoint a special master, claiming there's an "impasse" on account of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's firm-yet-vague veto threats. That certainly seems a bit premature, and what's more, Democratic Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos both oppose the suit. So it's hard to know what to make of this move, but it could just be a way for Sampson, who is basically irrelevant to this whole process, to insert himself into the mix.

WA Redistricting: Things wrapped up over the holiday weekend in Washington, with the independent redistricting commission finishing up business at 10 p.m. on December 31, about two hours before their efforts would have been junked and it would have gone to the courts. (The legislature can make minor changes by a two-thirds vote, but since the Dems don't have a supermajority, these maps are basically a done deal.) The major hangup wasn't the Congressional map unveiled a week ago, but rather the last set of legislative districts, where there was a standoff over creation of a Hispanic-majority seat in the Yakima area. (David Jarman)

Hungary Redistricting: If you're a regular reader of Paul Krugman's blog at the New York Times, you've probably encountered a series of guest posts by Prof. Kim Lane Scheppele about the chilling anti-democratic developments in Hungary, where a right-wing party, Fidesz, recently came to power and forced through a new constitution and other legal changes that all but lock it into permanent power. As Scheppele explains, one thing Fidesz did that will be of particular interest to Daily Kos Elections readers was radically gerrymander the districts used to elect the parliament and change the law so that a two-thirds vote is required to alter district lines in the future. The new districts would have meant Fidesz victories in 2002 and 2006 (PDF), even though they lost both elections. Much more here—all worth reading.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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