8:27 AM PT: CT Redistricting: Democrats just scored a huge procedural win which would seem to halt the GOP's redistricting aims dead in their tracks. The state Supreme Court just directed its newly-appointed special master, Columbia Prof. Nathan Persily, to essentially make any changes as minimal as possible to meet its requirements. And what are those criteria? Population equality, contiguity, and compliance with the Voting Rights Act. What's not on the list? Geographic compactness—which was specifically requested by Republicans—and "political fairness." Indeed, the court has explicitly forbidden Persily from considering any political data. Democrats have long been advocating for a least-change plan that would tinker with the existing lines only very slightly, in order to restore population balance between the districts, so these constraints definitely augur in favor of such a map, rather than the radical changes the GOP has proposed.
8:42 AM PT: WV Redistricting: There's also some big redistricting news out of West Virginia, where several key players (including the governor and the state House and Senate leaders) have all decided to appeal a court ruling throwing out the state's congressional map to the U.S. Supreme Court. That's a bit unexpected, since just the other day, it sounded like legislators wanted to draw a new map for themselves. With this move, though, even if the SCOTUS doesn't overturn the district court, lawmakers are buying themselves more time to work things out on their own. The three-judge panel had set a very short deadline of Jan. 17, so unless the Supremes bounce this case ultra-quick, that'll have to change. So, too, will West Virginia's Jan. 28 filing deadline, in all likelihood. Fortunately, the primary isn't until May 8, so that gives the state more flexibility and should hopefully forestall the kind of scramble we've seen in Texas.
8:59 AM PT: Some 4Q fundraising numbers:
FL-Sen: Rep. Connie Mack (R): ~$500K raised
IL-08: Tammy Duckworth (D): $470K raised
MT-Gov (see also here): Steve Bullock (D): $160K raised, $280K cash-on-hand; Corey Stapleton (R): $91K raised (+ $10K loan), $125K cash-on-hand; Jeff Essman (R): $86K raised, $73K cash-on-hand; Rick Hill (R): $81K raised, $284K cash-on-hand (numbers for other candidates, all of whom raised less than $50K in 4Q, at the links)
9:25 AM PT: FL-14: Conservative talk radio host Trey Radel is joining the already-huge Republican field to replace Rep. Connie Mack, who is running for Senate. Check out the Race Tracker Wiki, a joint project of Daily Kos Elections and Open Congress, to see who else is in the mix.
9:31 AM PT: KY Redistricting: A committee in Kentucky's Democratic-controlled state House just passed a new congressional redistricting proposal along party lines, though Speaker Greg Stumbo expects the map will change before it becomes law. (That's only natural, considering that the GOP is in charge of the Senate.) You can view the plan here.
9:53 AM PT: NJ-02: Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who has been courted to run against veteran GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo in each of the last two cycles, has declined a third time. Van Drew cited the usual family stuff, but it's also worth noting that he was heavily targeted by the GOP in his re-election campaign last year. He survived pretty handily in the end, but right after his victory, he said the sort of negative race he faced "will take a toll on you." A fight against LoBiondo would have been even more difficult—and more bruising. Given that he's now 58, I'd be surprised if Van Drew ever decided to pull the trigger on a run, unless LoBiondo were to retire.
10:14 AM PT: MD-Sen: Just a day after state Sen. C. Anthony Muse announced a primary challenge to Sen. Ben Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, the former congressman and NAACP president who faced off against Cardin for the Democratic nomination in 2006, endorsed his one-time rival.
10:25 AM PT: NJ-09: Rep. Steve Rothman says the DCCC will stay out of the primary battle between himself and fellow Rep. Bill Pascrell—not that I'd expect otherwise. He also denied a thinly-sourced report that said he was given assurances of seven figures in campaign funding if he challenged GOP Rep. Scott Garrett in the 5th instead. Rothman said he wouldn't run there "[e]ven if they said they would put $5 million in escrow in my campaign bank account." Meanwhile, state Dem chair John Wisniewski says he wants to broker a meeting between Rothman and Pascrell in the hopes of convincing one of them to step aside and avoid a primary battle. Good luck with that.
Pascrell is certainly plowing ahead with his campaign: He just unveiled a long list of union endorsements, from a whole range of labor organizations, including the "building trades, carpenters, transit workers, and letter carriers." Apparently, though, at least one labor leader thinks both Democrats have equally good records, but Bill Mullen, president of the New Jersey State Building and Constructions Trades Council, says he's going with Pascrell because "[m]oving your home to challenge one of your own doesn’t make sense."
10:33 AM PT: PA-18: Keegan Gibson at PoliticsPA suggests that Democrats might try to recruit former state Rep. Ralph Kaiser to run against GOP Rep. Tim Murphy. Kaiser, however, hasn't held office since 2002 (when he retired after being targeted by his own party in redistricting), and he also hasn't responded to repeated requests for comment.
10:52 AM PT: WA-09: Assuming the legislature doesn't tinker with the maps put forth by the state's redistricting commission, Washington's revised 9th District will soon become a majority-minority seat, by the very tiniest of margins. It's not any kind of district protected under the Voting Rights Act, though: Rather, it contains a diverse amalgam of races (PDF). Eleven percent of its residents are black, 21% Asian, 4.5% Hispanic, 1% Indian, 1% Hawaiian, about 5.5% say they are of more than one race, and almost 6% define their race as "other," which makes for a 49.7% white plurality.
The seat also won't be open: Dem Rep. Adam Smith (who is white) plans to seek re-election here. But as Jim Brunner in the Seattle Times reports, some minority activists are hoping to back a primary challenge to Smith, and they are "looking for a person of color who could champion issues of importance to them—or at least force the moderate Smith to the left." The first name that's come up is Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, whose campaign says he's considering a run. And given the district's new demographic profile, Harrell certainly is an interesting fit: His mother is of Japanese descent and his father is black. For more on Harrell's background, I encourage you to read Brunner's piece. (One other note: Pramila Jayapal, the executive director of the immigrant rights organization OneAmerica, says she won't run.)
11:08 AM PT: OR-01: Democrat Suzanne Bonamici is out with a new negative ad attacking Rob Cornilles for his failure to pay business taxes on time. The Hill reports that the run is for about $100K, relying on numbers from the Smart Media Group. (A series of tweets about separate buys totals up to $100 grand.) You can watch the ad here or below:
11:21 AM PT: Redistricting Contest: A reminder: All entries in our new Chicago redistricting contest must be received by this Sunday, Jan. 8, at 11:59pm Central Time. Click the link for all the rules.
11:28 AM PT: Election Results: If you were following along with the results of Iowa's caucuses on Tuesday, you may have noticed that WNYC's website had by far the fastest results, so Poynter takes a look at why that was the case. It turns out that it was the result of an unusual partnership between the Republican Party of Iowa and Google, whose software they used to aggregate and publish results. The RPI allowed Google to make those results freely available in real time, and it was that data stream which WNYC relied upon. They wound up being much faster than the AP, which said it, too, used the RPI/Google data but also performed all kinds of double-checking for accuracy, which naturally slowed them down. Anyhow, we aren't likely to see this sort of situation again, because the Iowa caucuses involved unusually simple reporting (everything was collected at RPI HQ first), and because Google apparently doesn't have any further plans to get involved with election coverage.
12:11 PM PT: On first glance, it looks like GOP freshman Scott DesJarlais was indeed targeted as expected, with all of Rutherford County placed inside his 4th District. Rutherford is the home base of state Sen. Bill Ketron, who sits on the redistricting committee and has long made his designs on DesJarlais known. It's also a boon for another Republican freshman, Diane Black, who wanted Rutherford out of her 6th CD. (She barely won a multi-way primary last year and her toughest potential opponents hailed from Rutherford.)
Also, as expected, Democrat Jim Cooper's 5th remains whole, even though there had been some early talk about cracking the district. That might have risked a dummymander, so the GOP did the next-best thing: They turned his seat into even more a vote sink. Some preliminary sketch-work suggests that Cooper's district became a few points bluer, which may potentially inspire a primary challenge from the left.
12:47 PM PT: SC-07: Republican state Rep. Thad Viers just dropped out of the race for South Carolina's new 7th CD. Why? Because he just turned himself in to police in Myrtle Beach on charges that he stalked his girlfriend. According to WMBF: "This is not Viers' first brush with the law for harassment. In 2006, Viers was accused of threatening to 'beat up' a man dating his estranged wife, according to WMBF News' sister station WIS."
1:57 PM PT: IL-11: Grundy County Board member Chris Balkema is backing off his plans to run for the GOP nomination in the redrawn (and nominally incumbent-less) 11th CD—not really a surprise, since GOP Rep. Judy Biggert has decided to seek re-election here.
2:39 PM PT: Polltopia: Tom Jensen (relying on the crosstabs from the most recent Daily Kos/SEIU national poll) takes a look at our weekly "voter enthusiasm" question and finds that all the talk about Obama's 2008 coalition being likely to desert him is dead wrong. The group most eager to vote in 2012? African Americans, 62% of whom say they are "very excited" to participate. And right behind in a third-place tie are 18-29 year olds, of whom 55% are "very excited." There's also good news for the GOP here, though, since Tea Party supports are tied with blacks, and self-identified Republicans are more excited than Democrats. I think this just reinforced the notion that this is going to be a base election on both sides, similar in ways to 2004.
3:15 PM PT: NY-26: Former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, who lost last fall to Mark Polloncarz in what was a big win for Democrats, isn't ruling out the possibility of a run against freshman Dem Rep. Kathy Hochul.
3:26 PM PT: NE-Sen: Man, Jon Bruning really just can't seem to handle the heat. Last month, we mentioned that the Republican state AG awarded $100,000 from a special fund under his control to a conservative political action group called "We Support Agriculture." It was the largest such grant his office has ever made, from a program ostensibly meant to support educational aims, but WSA's goals are quite clearly political. (The organization was created by the Nebraska Farm Bureau "to oppose efforts of the Humane Society of the United States and other animal advocacy groups to change livestock practices.") Bruning, of course, has every reason to want the WSA on his side as he seeks the GOP Senate nomination.
And now, new email records show that this six-figure disbursement was approved just 32 minutes after WSA's grant application was sent in, and of course, it's landed Bruning in even deeper hot water. Bruning's digging in his heels, saying the decision to hand out the money had been discussed for several weeks beforehand, but he doesn't seem to have anything other than his word to back this claim. And he's getting quite testy about it, too:
"News flash: The attorney general has some discretion to make decisions," Bruning said in an animated voice. […]
"I'm not going to apologize for standing up for agriculture in the State of Nebraska," he said.
I believe "speaking in an animated voice" is polite newspaper-speak for "getting hot under the collar. Paul Hammel at the Omaha World-Herald also adds that Bruning has pulled stunts like this before:
In 2007, the state won $30,000 in a music industry lawsuit, and Bruning chose three schools to receive grants from the settlement.
Those three schools—Shelton, Bruning, and Fillmore—were schools his wife, his father and his mother graduated from, respectively.
3:31 PM PT: NJ-Sen: Democratic state Senate President Steve Sweeney is reportedly opening an exploratory committee to look at a Senate run—in 2014. The current incumbent is also a Democrat, Frank Lautenberg, so there's a question as to whether Sweeney would primary him. But Lautenberg will be 90 (!) by then, and I have to imagine there will be considerable pressure on him not to run for another term.
3:43 PM PT: NV-St. Sen: David McGrath Schwartz at the Las Vegas Sun has a good piece summarizing the state of play in two open Nevada state Senate districts—the 5th and the 6th—both of which are currently held by Democrats. Control of the chamber will likely hinge on these races, since Dems have just an 11-10 edge over Republicans in the Senate.
3:50 PM PT: NY Redistricting: Ah, nothing like ye olde Friday evening news dump. Confirming Republican state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos's comments the other day, LATFOR (New York's redistricting panel) quietly announced on its website that its new draft Senate map would indeed increase the chamber from 62 to 63 seats. Since the move is designed to aid Republicans, you can bet that a Democratic legal challenge will be forthcoming.