• AZ-08: In case you missed it, Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords announced that she would resign from Congress this week, to focus on recovering from the near-fatal assassination attempt where she was shot in the head a little over a year ago. She posted an extremely moving video in which she says: "I'm getting better. Every day, my spirit is high. I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country."A special primary and a special general election will be held to fill Giffords' seat, with the former likely to take place in April and the latter in June. We will of course be following developments here closely, but above all else, we wish Rep. Giffords all the best in her recovery.
• CT-Sen: Chris Shays (R): $422K raised (plus $100K in self-funding)
• FL-Sen: George LeMieux (R): $388K raised, $1.1 mil cash-on-hand
• HI-02: Tulsi Gabbard (D): $204K raised, $313K cash-on-hand
• PA-Sen: Sam Rohrer (R): $122K raised (since late Nov.), $69K cash-on-hand
• WI-Sen: Mark Neumann (R): $518K raised (no self-funding)
• FL-Sen: Wow. It looks like former steakhouse CEO Craig Miller is actually running an ad starring former pizza CEO Herman Cain. Amazing.
• FL-Sen, MA-04: Seriously? Rep. Connie Mack, who is only in office because his famous father was a senator, is trying to feed red meat to his base by attacking potential House candidate Joseph P. Kennedy III for the alleged sins of his own dad, who served as a congressman in Massachusetts, of course. (Not particularly close to Florida, I notice.) It's a delightfully rich move that's almost Rovian, but I'm not willing to give credit to Mack for being that clever. I do love the P.S. in his "open letter," though:
I am giving you a platform to condemn Hugo Chavez, not perpetuate using our nation's less fortunate as props for your father's pro-Chavez campaign.
• MA-Sen: Uh, that's a lot of money. Fresh off announcing that she'd raised $5.7 million in the fourth quarter, Democrat Elizabeth Warren conducted a one-day "moneybomb" effort on Thursday and raked in another $1.2 million. Yeah, wow. Oh, and I love why Warren timed it like this, too: Her opponent, Scott Brown, formally kicked off his campaign the same day. Squashing his announcement this way really represents my favorite kind of Brooklyn-style (Brookline-style?) politics.
• TX-Sen: PPP, which put out GOP primary numbers the other day, of course also has some general election results. But as Tom Jensen says: "In 8 matchups pitting four different Republicans against two Democrats, the GOP candidate leads by at least an 8 point margin in every one." In fact, Republicans had double-digit leads except for one head-to-head between the odious Craig James and Democrat Sean Hubbard. Anyhow, I'll let you explore this one on your own.
• CA-15: Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration Commerce Dept. official who raised a mind-blowing $1.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, says that if Dem Rep. Pete Stark seeks re-election this year, he won't challenge him. Nothing Khanna said, though, had him ruling out a run in 2014. Also worth noting, as Carla Marinucci reports, is that power players seem to be coalescing around Khanna as the heir apparent to Stark, rather than Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett. Considering Khanna already has the support of people like Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Brown, well, no kidding!
• FL-06: I guess Jimmy Jett decided not to wait after all: The Clay County Clerk of Court said a week ago that he wanted to see the outcome of redistricting before deciding on a congressional run. But even though the map-makers haven't yet completed their work, he's launching a bid on Monday. The real question is whether he winds up in a new district, or if he remains in the 6th, where he'd have to wage a primary challenge against fellow Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns.
• GA-02: Army veteran and defense consultant John House became the second Republican to announce a challenge to Dem Rep. Sanford Bishop. He joins unsuccessful 2010 primary candidate Rick Allen.
• HI-02: I want to strongly encourage you to read this incredibly thorough and well-researched diary by Xenocrypt, who takes a long, hard look at the background of a Democratic congressional candidate whose views have been a major cause of concern for progressives, Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard is Honolulu city councilor and former state representative who is running to fill Rep. Mazie Hirono's seat in the House. She's admitted to holding some very retrograde social views (particularly with regard to gays) in the past, but says her positions have since evolved in a leftward direction. But even if we take her at her word, there are still a whole host of troubling issues surrounding her candidacy, like the fact that her campaign manager once said of a Department of Education committee trying to stem harassment of gay students: "Their agenda is to teach homosexuality in the schools." I can't possibly summarize Xenocrypt's excellent work, though, so again, please have a look for yourself.
• MO-01: Slight slip of the tongue? Russ Carnahan's district director said on Thursday that his boss plans to seek re-election "in the district he lives in." That would be the 1st CD, which would set up a primary fight with fellow Dem Rep. Lacy Clay, something many observers have long speculated about. But a different Carnahan spokesman very quickly tried to over-rule the district director, saying he had "misinterpreted the Congressman" and that no decision had been made. Carnahan himself added in a statement that he is "focused" on the court case he's been pushing against the new congressional map. So, whatever. I still don't think Carnahan will get much love from the courts and that he'll either wind up running in the 1st or retiring.
• ND-AL: Last cycle, Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer failed to get the official Republican Party endorsement for North Dakota's House seat at the state convention, but abided by the party's decision to back Rick Berg and dropped out of the race. This time (with the Republican nomination open once more, seeing as Berg is running for Senate), Cramer says he'll do no such thing and pledged to fight on to the primary, regardless of what happens at the convention.
• NH-01, NH-02: There are new polls out for both of New Hampshire's congressional districts, but there are two big caveats. First off, the group which paid for the surveys, Watchdog.org, is described by Dean Barker—as keen an observer of Granite State politics as there is—as "a right-wing organization masquerading as a think tank." Second, the polls were conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, the for-hire arm of Rasmussen Reports. So bear this all in mind as you examine the results, which are definitely somewhat contrary to what you'd expect: GOP Rep. Frank Guinta is tied with the woman he beat in 2010, ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, at 41 apiece in the 1st CD, while Democrat Annie Kuster (who is also seeking a rematch) trails Republican Rep. Charlie Bass in the 2nd, 39-35. Dean, though, has a "hunch that the first district will be more competitive than conventional wisdom says, and the second will be a bit harder to flip than everyone assumes," so perhaps these numbers aren't off-base.
• NY-13: Just days after Democrats finally landed a legitimate challenger to GOP freshman Mike Grimm in the form of Mark Murphy, former city councilman John Gangemi says he, too, is interested in the race. Gangemi, though, served a single term on the council in the 1970s (!) as a Republican; he later switched to the Democratic Party and made a few unsuccessful bids for other offices. What's more, he's 73 years old and is from Brooklyn, which only makes up a small portion of this Staten Island-centric district, so I'm having a hard time viewing him as a serious candidate.
• OR-01: Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles have both filed reports with the FEC detailing their recent fundraising for the Jan. 31 special election. Between Oct. 20 and Jan. 11, Bonamici raised $805K and had $236K cash-on-hand. (Remember, that's as of almost ten days ago.) Cornilles pulled in $521K and had $172K left over. Since the end of the reporting period, though, campaigns have been filing so-called "48 hour reports," which list last-minute donations. Annoyingly, these need to be toted up one-by-one, though Cornilles had only filed three such reports as of Friday, totaling $24,500, while Bonamici had filed 11, yielding $34,700.
• PA-12: PoliticsPA's Keegan Gibson says his sources are telling him that Republican state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai will indeed run for Congress, though Turzai himself would only say that he's giving it "serious consideration." Turzai's name first came up last month when fellow legislator Jim Christiana unexpectedly declined to make the race, and he had refused to rule out a bid, so this move was expected. Turzai, if he gets in, will still have to handle a primary fight against attorney Keith Rothfus, who nearly beat Democrat Jason Altmire in the old 4th last year (which makes up the bulk of the new 12th).
• UT-02: Former NFL and Brigham Young football player Jason Buck, who had seemed like he was planning a run for congress for quite some time, finally launched his campaign in the open 2nd District. Buck, who now spends his days working as a "conservative motivational speaker," had filed paperwork all the way back in September but hadn't identified a particular district since a new congressional map was not yet in place. With redistricting long since finished, it looks like he was finally able to make a decision, though he joins a very crowded Republican field.
• MO-LG: Following up on an earlier item, former state Rep. and 2008 MO-09 Democratic nominee Judy Baker confirms that she will indeed run for Lt. Gov. She joins former state Auditor Susan Montee and Missouri Conservation Commission member Becky Plattner in the race for the right to take on incumbent LG Peter Kinder (who may also have a primary of his own to worry about).
• ID Redistricting: This here is some Arizona-style intrigue, albeit of a more internecine variety. Because the Idaho Supreme Court struck down the state's new legislative maps, the panel which originally drew them has to be reconvened. But Republicans now want to oust two of their own appointees, former state Reps. Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen, because they think they were too accommodating to Democrats the first time around. This is vaguely insane, given the massive edge the Idaho GOP has in the legislature—but it's not entirely crazy, because state law (rather surprisingly) requires the redistricting commission to be composed of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. However, the attorney general's office issued an opinion saying it doesn't look like there's any way to remove a commissioner, "with or without cause." Panel members can resign, though, so maybe these guys will feel threatened enough to quit.
• KY Redistricting: Well, it's sounding like any optimism over a deal between Democrats and Republicans on a new congressional map was misplaced: Democratic state Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, who is on the joint House/Senate conference committee, says: “I think its going to be hard for everybody to agree from what I’ve seen thus far."
Meanwhile, Dem Gov. Steve Beshear signed off on separate legislative redistricting plans, even though the senate map deliberately screws Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein and the voters of Lexington, which is located in central Kentucky. Beshear blamed the move on the guy whose ass he kicked last November, state Senate President David Williams, saying it "goes beyond partisanship" and reflects "personal vindictiveness." But Beshear is no hero in this story, since he could have issued a veto. (His excuse? The filing deadline is coming up on Jan. 31. But that of course could be delayed.)
Regardless, what's at stake here is quite interesting, though, and in my opinion puts the GOP in a very dangerous legal position. Let me try to explain: Kentucky, like a number of other states, staggers its Senate elections, with half the body up every two years. (Terms last four years.) Senators in even-numbered districts are (or were) up for election in 2010, 2014, 2018, and so on; in odd-numbered districts, 2008, 2012, 2016, etc. Stein had represented SD-13, which means she last went before voters in 2008 and would have been on the ballot again this fall.
However, the territory covered by her district was renumbered to SD-04, which under Kentucky's bizarre rules means that it would actually be represented Dem Sen. Dorsey Ridley, the guy who was last elected to the old 4th—a district that happens to be on the far western end of the state, 200 miles away! (Ridley says he'll represent Lexington but has no plans to move there.) At the same time, SD-13 was stuffed into northeastern Kentucky, a region Stein obviously has no connection to. (This map will help illustrate things.) She could theoretically seek re-election there in November (if she moved there), but it would be pretty nuts to do so. Instead, she'd likely have to wait until 2014, when SD-04 will come up again.
But worse is the fate of the voters of Lexington, who will be forced to go six years between Senate elections. And that's why I think this map is on thin ice (even though the Democratic-controlled House passed it and a Democratic governor signed it). In a similar (albeit less-insane) situation in Wisconsin, a three-judge federal panel strongly suggested last fall that for a chamber with staggered elections (Wisconsin's Senate works the same way Kentucky's does), the legislature must do everything it can to minimize the number of people who get disfranchised this way. Given how transparently unnecessary this move is, I can't see how Senate Republicans could claim they tried to disenfranchise as few voters as possible. So the question now is, who would sue? Voters in Lexington would certainly have standing, and Stein herself might as well, but does anyone have the resources to bring a lawsuit? I certainly hope someone does, because this is obviously bullsh*t.
• NY Redistricting: Assemblyman Jack McEneny, who appears to be the lead Democrat on the legislature's redistricting panel (aka LATFOR), confirms Republican state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos's earlier remarks that legislative maps will be released next week, but says that there isn't even a "rough draft" of a congressional plan yet.
• TX Redistricting (PDF): On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling striking down the interim legislative and congressional maps drafted by the San Antonio district court and ordering them back to the drawing board. (The full opinion is available at the link.) Rick Hasen calls this "a big win" for the defendants—nominally the state of Texas, but practically speaking, the Republican-held legislature. Here's why:
More technically, the Court held that as to the Voting Rights Act section 2 standards, the three-judge court is not to defer on those districts where it appears more likely than not that Texas is in violation of the section 2 standards. (Burden appears to be on the VRA section 2 plaintiffs.)
As to section 5, however, because only the Washington DC court can decide on preclearance, the Court is not to take the section 5 preclearance question into account unless those plans have a reasonable probability of failing section 5 review (a tough standard for challengers to the law to meet).
So this is a big win for Texas, and will require the drawing of districts much more likely to favor Texas’s interim plan (and therefore favor Republicans over Democrats favored by the three-judge court’s original map).
In light of what Hasen says, here are what I think are some key excerpts from the decision (emphasis added):
To avoid being compelled to make such otherwise standardless decisions, a district court should take guidance from the State’s recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan. That plan reflects the State’s policy judgments on where to place new districts and how to shift existing ones in response to massive population growth. This Court has observed before that “faced with the necessity of drawing district lines by judicial order, a court, as a general rule, should be guided by the legislative policies underlying” a state plan—even one that was itself unenforceable—“to the extent those policies do not lead to violations of the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.” […]
A district court making such use of a State’s plan must, of course, take care not to incorporate into the interim plan any legal defects in the state plan. […] Where a State’s plan faces challenges under the Constitution or §2 of the Voting Rights Act, a district court should still be guided by that plan, except to the extent those legal challenges are shown to have a likelihood of success on the merits. Plaintiffs seeking a preliminary injunction of a statute must normally demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge to that law. […] There is no reason that plaintiffs seeking to defeat the policies behind a State’s redistricting legislation should not also have to meet that standard. And because the local district court—here, the District Court for the Western District of Texas—will ultimately decide the merits of claims under §2 and the Constitution, it is well equipped to apply that familiar standard. […]
The need to avoid prejudging the merits of preclearance is satisfied by taking guidance from a State’s policy judgments unless they reflect aspects of the state plan that stand a reasonable probability of failing to gain §5 preclearance. And by “reasonable probability” this Court means in this context that the §5 challenge is not insubstantial. That standard ensures that a district court is not deprived of important guidance provided by a state plan due to §5 challenges that have no reasonable probability of success but still respects the jurisdiction and prerogative of those responsible for the preclearance determination. And the reasonable probability standard adequately balances the unique preclearance scheme with the State’s sovereignty and a district court’s need for policy guidance in constructing an interim map.
So basically, the first graf says that the district court needs to follow the legislatively-enacted maps (aka "take guidance" from them) when drawing interim maps. The second and third grafs explain where the court is required to make exceptions to the legislature's maps: (1) where challenges to specific portions of the map under the constitution or Section 2 of the VRA "are shown to have a likelihood of success on the merits" and (2) where challenges under Section 5 of the VRA "stand a reasonable probability of failing to gain §5 preclearance."
Michael Li zooms in on on a key point:
It is not entirely clear, for example, what "reasonable probability" means or how it differs from the traditional injunction standard of "substantial likelihood of success," except that the court went on to say that it meant "not insubstantial." Some commentators and observers have suggested that is a high standard; other observers think the standard could be somewhat less demanding. Others have no idea what the opinion means. As one prominent civil practitioner said in an email, "The definition of 'reasonable probability' being 'not insubstantial' is not really clearing things up for me."
• VA Redistricting: As expected, Virginia's state Senate passed the new congressional redistricting plan on Friday that had already cleared the House. The one bit of good news is that the vote went strictly along party lines, with no Democrats (or Republicans) crossing the aisle. (Side note: GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling didn't have to break a tie because one Democratic senator was absent.) The legislation now goes to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature.
It's cold comfort to election junkies, but at least the state of Virginia provides election statistics for a number of different races in 2008 and 2009 for the proposed map. Below is a table comparing the Obama-McCain numbers for the new districts versus the old districts:
Because the Supreme Court’s order delaying the lower court decision contained no explanation, there is no way to know just why the Justices acted. But the core issue raised by state officials in their stay application… was whether state legislatures in drawing new congressional maps must do everything they can to achieve absolute equality in the population assigned to each district. A stay order, however, is not a guarantee that the Supreme Court will ultimately overrule the lower court and reject the equal population principle as that court applied it. One factor that the Court does consider in granting a stay, though, is whether there is a reasonable likelihood that the lower court will be overturned at the end of the review process.
Denniston notes, though, that given current scheduling, it's unlikely that the Supremes would hear the case this term, which ends in June.