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Leading Off:

NY Redistricting: Late on Wednesday night, Albany lawmakers passed the unholy legislative gerrymanders agreed upon by Democratic leaders in the Assembly and their Republican counterparts in the Senate. Indeed, Senate Democrats were so enraged that they stormed out of the chamber en masse, leading to a 36-0 vote in favor of the maps. (The four members of the so-called "Independent Democratic Conference" shamefully sided with the GOP: David Carlucci, Jeffrey Klein, Diane Savino, and David Valesky.)

Then on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave final testament to the fact that he spent a year lying to New Yorkers about his promise to reform the redistricting process and signed the maps into law. What did he get in exchange? The mere possibility that a deliberately crappy redistricting commission might come into effect a decade hence. In order for that to happen, the next legislature would have to pass the proposed constitutional amendment again—something they may well not bother to do, given that they already got what they wanted (their maps)—and then voters have to approve it in a referendum.

Hopefully they won't: SUNY New Paltz Prof. Gerry Benjamin, an expert on government process, rated the commission a "C-" on behalf of the Citizens’ Committee for an Effective Constitution (a good-government group) and said he'd vote against it himself. Cuomo also pushed the legislature to pass a statute that is identical to the amendment in case the amendment never happens... but of course, a statute can be undone by an act of the same legislature which passed it in the first place.

All in all, this is an extremely raw deal for New Yorkers, and for Democrats, this truly is the worst of all possible worlds. We gave up the ability to draw a congressional map, and we allowed the GOP to produce another outrageous gerrymander of the state Senate—in other words, worse than bupkes. If Cuomo had kept his word and vetoed any maps produced by the legislature, we'd be taking back the Senate this fall, guaranteed, and then we'd have an opportunity to re-do the congressional map next year.

But instead, Cuomo's for some reason in thrall to Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who appears to be his closest ideological soul-mate in Albany. It's absolutely disgusting, and if there's a singular villain who stands out above many others across the nation in this dismal season of redistricting, it's Andrew Cuomo. When he tries to run for president, don't forget this. (David Nir)


IN-Sen: Well, here's two people who won't be able to vote for Richard Lugar in the GOP Senate primary: Richard Lugar—and his wife. The Marion County election board voted 2-1 (along party lines, with the Dems voting "yes") that Lugar is ineligible because he hasn't lived at his registered home address in over three decades. This is nowhere near as important as the recent decision by the statewide Indiana Election Commission that Lugar was indeed eligible to run for Senate, but it's still bad optics. (I'm wondering if he could salvage this by registering at the rural Indiana farm he owns but never stays at because of its "rustic conditions," which isn't in Marion County and where he'd likely find a more favorable elections board.)

LA-Sen: Conventional wisdom is that Dem Sen. Mary Landrieu will have a tough race in 2014, given Louisiana's reddish turn of late. But a new statewide poll by Southern Media & Opinion Research (on behalf of conservative businessman Lane Grigsby, a frequent funneler of money into GOP causes in Louisiana) finds her with a 53% approval rating, the same as David Vitter. (Lest you think it's a wonky sample, Barack Obama, as you might expect, is down at 39%.)

ME-Sen: Although it seems like none of Maine's top-tier Democrats will venture into the Senate race (in the face of the pre-emptive Angus King coronation), it's looking like there will at least be a Democrat on the ballot: Former SoS Matt Dunlap turned in his signatures on Wednesday. Dunlap was running even before Olympia Snowe's retirement announcement, then thought about dropping down to the House when it looked like he was going to get bigfooted out of the Senate race—but then he resumed his Senate bid once that bigfooting never happened.

On the Republican side, state Senate Majority Whip Debra Plowman, state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and state AG Bill Schneider have all now turned in their signatures. That means they join the GOP field of SoS Charlie Summers, ex-state Sen. President Rick Bennett, and tea partier Scott D'Amboise, who have all now submitted paperwork ahead of Thursday's deadline. Quite the crowd! We'll keep an eye out for more filings. (Remember that King, as an indie, has a later deadline.)

NM-Sen: I'm not sure if people were actually expecting that he might not endorse Heather Wilson (what, was he going to endorse "short, bald, honest" teabagger Greg Sowards?), so this may not be that newsworthy. But, at any rate, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, who recently bailed out of the Republican field in the New Mexico Senate race, gave his backing to Wilson, his former opponent and the frontrunner for the nomination.

NV-Sen: Everybody wants to be like those cool kids in Massachusetts. It became a political football in the Virginia race, and now Dem Rep. Shelley Berkley, in Nevada, is proposing a deal similar to the one between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown to restrict third-party spending. It's not sounding like Sen. Dean Heller's going to take her up on it yet, though; his camp is saying she has to give back all her out-of-state direct contributions (a totally different issue, but a good example of Republican subject-changing abilities) before they'll talk about a third-party money ceasefire.

OH-Sen: For close observers it's not exactly a surprise to find out that Sherrod Brown has been the top Democratic target in the Senate of Republican outside-group spending, considering how many different times they've gone to that well. But it's impressive to see it all added up in one place: nearly $5 million in ads already, most of which come from three places (the Chamber of Commerce, the 60 Plus Association, and Crossroads). Even though the polling hasn't shown Brown in much danger, this is a good example of the GOP playing smart: Brown is one of the most overperforming Senate Dems (one of the few strong progressives from a swing state), so he's a more valuable scalp for them to try and claim.

PA-Sen, NC-Gov: In case you missed it, you might check out our full-length post on the two big polls that recently dropped from PPP. They found Bob Casey, Jr. in good shape in Pennsylvania (leading his GOP opponents by 15 to 20 points)—but the potential Dem nominees are in poor shape in North Carolina (trailing Republican Pat McCrory by 10 or 11 points).

UT-Sen: The first step in Utah's unusual Senate nomination process has now begun, where hypothetically Orrin Hatch could get knocked out before even having the chance to face the state's GOP primary voters. On Thursday night, Republicans held their precinct-level caucuses, where the 4,000 delegates for the statewide nominating convention will be picked. As you probably remember, GOP incumbent Bob Bennett finished third at the convention in 2010 and didn't make it to the primary. But the Hatch camp is better-prepared, recruiting and training thousands to run as his delegates. Hatch faces state Rep. Chris Herrod and ex-state Sen. Dan Liljenquist for the Republican nod.


IL-Gov: You may have seen this story on Wednesday about how the Mitt Romney camp had a chance months ago to keep Rick Santorum from picking up delegates in 10 of the state's 18 congressional districts (because he failed to turn in enough signatures), but didn't follow through on the challenge. If you read the fine print, though, there's an important downballot angle here: Romney's state chair is also the state's Treasurer, Dan Rutherford, who's also thought to be angling for the gubernatorial nomination in 2014. Grumblers within the Romney camp are accusing Rutherford of trying to win favor with the state's conservative base by failing to pursue the challenges, shirking his Romney-related duties when local Santorum backers protested.

PA-Gov: The gubernatorial portion of Quinnipiac's Pennsylvania sample finds Republican Gov. Tom Corbett down to 41/41 approval, from a 47/34 standing back in December. Broad disapproval (53 to 27) over his handling of funding for state universities seems to be pushing him down.

WI-Gov: We've got dates for the recall elections in Wisconsin (targeting both Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican state Senators). The race will take place on May 8, or if primaries are necessary, then they'll be held May 8 and the general will be June 5. (A primary will almost certainly required, not because of GOP meddling as with the state Senate recalls last year, but because a number of legit Dems are all seeking the nod for the gubernatorial recall.) The Government Accountability Board had previously proposed these dates, but on Wednesday they got the judicial approval that they needed to confirm them. (I'm still not sure I understand why the Dems timed their signature submissions in a way that would require the election to be held over the summer, when college students won't be engaged, but what's done is done.)


CA-52: We've gotten to the bottom of why SurveyUSA did two different polls of the House race in the 52nd (favorables only, no head-to-heads), one right after the other, for the same client. SurveyUSA says "Miscommunication led to us missing some candidates in the 1st one. Since results were determining debate invites, we re-did."

FL-02: Former state Sen. Nancy Argenziano's challenge to a Florida law that would preclude her from running for Congress as a Democrat was just turned back by a state judge. Argenziano used to be a Republican, then left her party to become an independent. New Florida rules require that you be a member of your chosen party for a full year before the filing deadline (so in this case, June of 2011), but Argenziano didn't become a Democrat until after that point. The real question is whether she'll still pursue her bid: She previously filed with the FEC (listing her party affiliation as independent), and she's a serious loose cannon, so I could see her going ahead with a third-party run. If she does, that would very likely complicated Democratic efforts to retake this seat from GOP freshman Steve Southerland. However, Argenziano says she can't afford the cost of an appeal and actually doesn't sound too sanguine about staying with the race, so she may yet bail. (David Nir)

IL-10: Progressive activist Ilya Sheyman is out with a big lead over his more moderate Dem primary opponent, Brad Schneider, according to the newest poll of the race. Sheyman leads Schneider 45-27 (with John Tree at 7 and Vivek Bavda at 4), according to PPP, who polled the race on behalf of the PCCC and MoveOn. We actually have trendlines on this poll; PPP also polled in January and found a smaller Sheyman lead, 23-21; a Schneider internal in February, conversely, gave Schneider a 29-14 lead over Sheyman. Those are some pretty big gyrations, but the poll's sponsors are attributing it to the latest round of ads, calling attention to Schneider's past financial contributions to Republican candidates.

MD-06: I haven't been quite sure what to make of this story. Financier John Delaney has been attacking his main opponent in the Democratic primary, state Sen. Rob Garagiola, for his prior work as a lobbyist, something that's gotten a bit of traction in the press (especially on the sanctimonious Washington Post editorial page). Delaney's complaints are several-fold, but one of his most recent has been to accuse Garagiola of having performed work on behalf of conservative lobbyist Rick Berman. (No, not the Star Trek guy.) I don't know how well-prepared Garagiola was to handle this line of attack, seeing as a spokesman said his boss "doesn't recall" lobbying for Berman, which is almost never the right response. But it's been hard to figure out what the real story is here, though I suppose we'll see soon enough whether these hits are actually effective: Maryland's primary is on April 3. (David Nir)

NH-01: Ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has a big lead over her not very well-known Democratic opposition in the primary, at least according to a new poll. She leads DNC committeewoman Joanne Dowdell by a, well, rather dominant 87-5 margin. (Third wheel Andrew Hosmer wasn't even asked about in the poll.) We don't know who the pollster is, but this part is interesting: the poll was commissioned by the DCCC. The D-Trip has always seemed kind of ambivalent about Shea-Porter since she surprisingly won the 2006 primary against their preferred candidate, and doesn't usually take sides in primaries where there's no incumbent, but now they seem eager to help her lock down the primary and get on with the task of completing her comeback against Rep. Frank Guinta in November.

NY-06: In a major surprise, Dem Rep. Gary Ackerman says he will not seek re-election this year. Ackerman had been making the case why he had roots in the redrawn 6th District (which only has about 38% of his current constituents) as recently as a couple of days ago, so this move was definitely unexpected. Even stranger is that Assemblyman Rory Lancman stood down from his anticipated primary challenge to Ackerman just hours before Ackerman's announcement. Out of the loop much? I'm guessing Lancman will re-reverse course, but I'm sure he won't be the only politician interested. Click the link for our full post at Daily Kos Elections with our early take on the impact of this move.

NY-23: No surprise: Attorney and Ithaca Democratic Party chair Leslie Danks Burke says she'll run for congress against GOP freshman Tom Reed in the redrawn 23rd District. Burke originally planned to make a bid in the old 22nd (retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey's seat), but stated at the outset that she'd seek office wherever her home was placed, making this move very much expected. She joins Tompkins County legislator Nate Shinagawa, who just announced a day earlier, in the hunt for the Democratic nomination. (David Nir)

PA-12: Mark Critz's hope of defeating fellow Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire in their redistricting-forced primary seems to hinge on getting labor's support, and he's been running up the score on that front. Thursday he announced the support of the Teamsters. That's one of the biggies, on top of previous support from the SEIU and Steelworkers.

RI-01: Businessman Anthony Gemma has taken a pretty clear step toward a run against the vulnerable-on-paper Rep. David Cicilline in the Democratic primary in the 1st: He's quit as CEO of his company, Mediapeel. He's pushing back any official announcement on his plans until April, though.

UT-02: With Rep. Jim Matheson moving over to UT-04, there's a Dem hole that needed filling here (in this red district that got even redder with redistricting, though they probably don't have much of a shot with a non-member of the Matheson family). Two different sons of ex-Rep. Wayne Owens passed on the race, but now they've managed to land a former legislator, ex-state Rep. Jay Seegmiller.

WA-06: Most of the news since Democratic state Sen. Derek Kilmer's announcement has been other heavy hitters taking themselves out of the running, but here's one guy who's still opening the door a crack. Democratic Kitsap Co. Commissioner Josh Brown says he's still thinking about it, though this is odd hedgey phrasing: "I could be very interested in running."

Other Races:

IN-SoS: The election law elves have been busy in Indiana (see IN-Sen item above); we also have a story concerning the strange saga of Charlie White, the Republican Secretary of State who just got bounced from office for committing (irony alert!) voter fraud. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that he was eligible to run for office in 2010, even though he was illegally registered at his ex-wife's house at the time. That doesn't undo his felony conviction, so, don't worry,  he isn't coming back. But this is still a victory of sorts for the Republicans, because it doesn't retroactively invalidate White's win last cycle, which would have meant that the second-place finisher, Democrat Vop Osili, would have become SoS. Instead, this treats White as having served for several months, so now Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels gets to appoint a replacement (who, one would presume, will be a Republican).

Grab Bag:

VRA: We mentioned that Texas had managed to bundle its challenge to the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, as part of its already-scheduled case concerning its voter ID requirements. But it's worth looking at this new analysis of the case from election law professor Rick Hasen, who explains how the stakes got much higher, and how this whole package could wind up before the Supreme Court before the November election (so the matter is decided in time for Texas to implement the voter ID law). This was a big case even when it was just about voter ID, but now it's a whole lot bigger.

WATN?: Remember Chuck DeVore? He was the ultra-conservative California Assemblyman who ran in the GOP primary for Senate in 2010, getting totally overwhelmed by Carly Fiorina's money and finishing third. Now he's resurfaced in Texas (making this a literal "where are they now?"), writing an article for the National Review about how he made the move because California tries to "tax success" and "subsidize poverty." (David Nir)

Redistricting Roundup:

AK Redistricting: It's a surprising trip back to the drawing board in Alaska, where, on Wednesday, the state Supreme Court struck down the legislative maps drawn by the Alaska Redistricting Board. The court pointed to a number of state House districts that didn't meet the state's requirements for compactness. (Alaska, of course, has only one U.S. House seat, so this development late in the game at least won't affect its congressional primary.)

KS Redistricting: Unsurprisingly, a panel in the Kansas House just passed a new congressional redistricting plan that is completely at odds with one passed by the full Senate last month. (Details are available at the link.) In the Senate, a faction of "moderate" Republicans teamed up with Democrats to thwart the will of their "conservative" brethren; in the House, the conservatives hold sway. Presumably this means the chambers will either have to hash out their differences in some sort of conference committee, or this whole thing will wind up in court. (David Nir)

VA Redistricting: Looks like we can close the book on one more state's redistricting process: Virginia received DOJ preclearance of its congressional map on Wednesday. This was the final step in the process, as lawsuits against the map by private citizens had already been dismissed. The approval means that Virginia now can proceed with having its congressional primaries on June 12, rather than having to push them back to August as had been feared.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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