• VRA: Though the Supreme Court's rulings on same-sex marriage Wednesday understandably took center stage, their decision on the Voting Rights Act a day earlier remains no less important. So we've rounded up some of the most interesting responses to the Shelby County case from various pundits and observers, oriented more toward the practicalities of what comes next, rather than mere denunciations—of which there were plenty, though Ari Berman's was a particularly good one, in terms of locating Tuesday's decision in historical context.
Dave Wasserman predicts that we won't see much re-redistricting in the wake of the decision, because the GOP already has the maps it wants in most of these states. That's partly because minority-majority districts help them with maximally packing Dem voters, and partly because the Obama DOJ didn't aggressively challenge GOP maps other than Texas. In addition, Section 2 (which allows lawsuits after the fact, in cases of intentional discrimination) still stands as a guard against the worst abuses.
Of course, that presumes SCOTUS doesn't come after Section 2 in subsequent cases. That's what worries election law professor Rick Hasen, who thinks that a time bomb left in the earlier NAMUDNO case might be a prelude to a direct attack on Section 2. (Hasen also has a more general what-next piece in the New York Times that's worth reading.)
Nate Silver seems to join Wasserman in thinking that we won't see further redistricting hijinks, but less from a legalistic perspective and focusing more on the way that, redistricting or not, Democratic votes tend to be packed less efficiently into urban areas. That's not a new idea for the Daily Kos Elections readership, but, as always, his remarkably illuminating infographics alone make it worth checking out.
Texas redistricting expert Michael Li weighs in on what it all means for the Lone Star State, probably the most intensely affected jurisdiction. That's not only in terms of Texas's restrictive voter ID law (which now takes effect) but also in relation to the state's newly implemented congressional and legislative maps, which won't face preclearance now but will still face Section 2 challenges in court.
Reid Wilson has an interesting take on how the decision may affect maps in state legislatures more so than the House, if the GOP takes a hatchet to districts that aren't protected as majority-minority seats but nevertheless rely on significant non-white populations to elect Democrats.
And finally, there are good looks forward from George Zornick and Dylan Matthews. Zornick discusses the possibility of Congress replacing Section 4 (the part of the VRA that was actually struck down) with a broader formula that isn't limited to the South (useful, considering that some of the most blatantly suppressive activities in 2012 were in Ohio and Pennsylvania), possibly even applying preclearance everywhere. Matthews also talks about ramping up litigation under Section 2 but also, relatedly, making more use of little-known Section 3, which allows courts to "bail-in" jurisdictions into preclearance coverage after there's been a finding of discriminatory acts. (David Jarman)
• MA-Sen, MA-05: As expected, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey prevailed in Tuesday night's special Senate election in Massachusetts, turning back Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez by a 55-45 margin in a race notable for its low turnout. While a couple of pollsters incorrectly predicted 20-point blowouts, most surveys congregated in the high single-digits/low double-digits region, which turned out to be fairly accurate turf.
So how does Markey's 10-point win look compared to, say, Martha Coakley's 5-point loss? We can take a look. The first two maps below show the 2010 special general election and Tuesday night's, while the third shows the swing between the two elections (with darker shades of blue or red indicating a greater swing towards Markey or Gomez, respectively). Markey outperformed Martha Coakley almost across the board, with the exception of a handful of towns in Western Massachusetts (and Gomez's hometown of Cohasset on the South Shore):
Looking ahead, Markey's ascension to the Senate will also trigger a competitive special election for his House seat in the 5th District, to be held within 145 to 160 days of his resignation. That likely means a late-summer primary followed by a November general. And at 65-33 Obama, the 5th is safely Democratic, meaning the primary is where the real action will be.
Several candidates have been gearing up for the race (with different degrees of activity) for some time, including Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, state Sens. Katherine Clark, Karen Spilka, and Will Brownsberger, and state Rep. Carl Sciortino. Some issued formal announcements directly following Markey's victory, and more may join the race in the future. As always when it comes to special elections, we'll be tracking all developments here closely. (David Nir & jeffmd)
• NJ-Sen: Kean University's new poll of the special Democratic Senate primary finds the same thing everyone else's has so far. Newark Mayor Cory Booker has a commanding lead over the field, taking 49 percent, versus 9 apiece for Rep. Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, while Rep. Frank Pallone brings up the rear with 6. If something's gonna change the dynamics of this race, it better happen quick, since the primary is very soon, Aug. 13.
• CT-Gov: State House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, who has been weighing a gubernatorial bid for some time, now says that he'll announce whether he'll enter the Republican primary Thursday or Friday.
• ME-Gov: Someone with access to polling conducted by the Maine Democratic Party has leaked a new survey to Ethan Strimling at the Bangor Daily News, and unsurprisingly, the results look good for Rep. Mike Michaud, who recently announced the formation of an exploratory committee. The poll, conducted by Clarity Campaigns, finds Michaud tied at 32 percent with GOP Gov. Paul LePage, while independent attorney Eliot Cutler sits in third at 24. Other polls have shown Michaud close, but this is the first where he's not a few points behind the incumbent.
Strimling says he was able to review the crosstabs and notes that 40 percent of self-identified Democrats aren't yet supporting Michaud; most are going to Cutler (some are undecided), which I think actually presents an opportunity for Michaud if he can nuke Cutler from orbit. There are also a few other details on the poll, including sample composition, at the link. As for Clarity, we didn't see much of their polling last cycle, but their clients did release one late internal in Indiana that nailed both the Senate and governor's races.
• MI-Gov: Conservatives unhappy with Gov. Rick Snyder had been trying (via Facebook) to lure former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop into challenging the incumbent in a primary, but it's not gonna happen. Bishop lost a race for Oakland County prosecutor last year, and he says he won't run because he's "in the private sector now and out of the loop."
• MN-Gov: As expected, state Sen. Dave Thompson formally announced his entry into the Minnesota governor's race on Wednesday, making him the fourth Republican to do so. He joins businessman Scott Honour, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, and state Rep. Kurt Zellers, though several others are also considering the race, including state Rep. Matt Dean, Senate Minority Leader David Hann, state Sen. Julie Rosen, and former state House Minority Leader Marty Seifert. Polls have generally shown Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in good shape for re-election.
• VA-Gov: Oh man. Life is not good for Bob McDonnell:
A prominent political donor purchased a Rolex watch for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, according to two people with knowledge of the gift, and the governor did not disclose it in his annual financial filings.I really suggest you read the whole piece, especially if you haven't been following the whole Star Scientific saga in detail. One of the most striking aspects is how McDonnell's wife, Maureen, comes off as an utter chiseler who seemed to relish squeezing lavish boons out of Williams (the Rolex, a shopping trip to New York, even borrowing a Ferrari)—and of course, how Williams never appeared to hesitate to ply her with his largesse. There's a federal investigation underway pertaining to all these gifts; even if McDonnell somehow skates as a legal matter, I don't see how this ends well for him politically.
The $6,500 luxury watch was provided by wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the people said. He is the chief executive of dietary supplement manufacturer Star Scientific and the person who paid for catering at the wedding of the governor's daughter. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an ongoing federal investigation into the relationship between Williams and the McDonnell family.
Williams's gift came in August 2011—about two weeks after he met with a top state health official to pitch the benefits of his company's health products at a meeting arranged by first lady Maureen McDonnell, according to people who know of the meeting.
• WI-Gov: Wisconsin Democrats, who've been having a hard time coming up with a challenger to Gov. Scott Walker, have reportedly been polling to test Mary Burke, a former state Commerce Department secretary under ex-Gov. Jim Doyle, as a possible candidate. Burke sounds like she's from a wealthy family (her father founded Trek Bicycle and she's donated millions to charity), and she also spent six figures to win a race for the Madison school board last year, but she isn't commenting about a potential gubernatorial bid.
• IN Ballot: Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news on the marriage equality front on Wednesday. Despite—or really, because of—the Supreme Court's rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8, Republicans in charge of the Indiana legislature said they intend to press forward with plans to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. But doesn't Indiana already forbid such unions? Indeed it does, but only on the statutory level. Republicans want to stick it to same-sex couples even harder by enshrining their hostility toward gay marriage in the state constitution.
In fact, the legislature previously voted to refer such an amendment to the ballot two years ago; they have to do so a second time (likely in January) to complete the process. There hasn't been any polling on the issue since last year, and the picture was mixed, with one survey finding a slight plurality in favor of the amendment and another finding a sizable majority opposed. Given Indiana's general conservatism, I suspect the former is probably closer to the truth, which means pro-equality activists will have a serious fight on their hands to defeat this in 2014.
• NYC Mayor: Christine Quinn's long ride downward continues. Quinnipiac's latest poll of the Democratic primary has more bad news for the city council speaker, who found herself in second place for the first time ever in a Marist survey earlier this week. Here's how the field shapes up, with May's trendlines in parentheses:
Christine Quinn: 19 (25)As Quinn fades (she once stood at 37 percent, back in February), Thompson, the former comptroller and 2009 nominee, moves up, though why is certainly a mystery. (The airwaves are largely quiet.) What's most remarkable, though, is just how damn close the race is overall—only 9 points separate first from fourth—and how low even the "frontrunner's" share of the vote is. It's been a weird, desultory race, filled with mostly lousy candidates who don't excite anyone, and if you believe Quinnipiac, it now looks like both runoff slots, not just second place, are very much up for grabs.
Anthony Weiner: 17 (15)
Bill Thompson: 16 (10)
Bill de Blasio: 10 (10)
John Liu: 7 (6)
• Special Elections: In some good news for Democrats on Tuesday night, former congressional and legislative aide James Kay held on to Kentucky's 56th State House District, keeping the seat blue in a special election. Kay defeated Republican Lyen Crews 44-34, despite former Democrat John-Mark Hack taking 22 percent as an independent. Though Kay outraised Crews two-to-one, Republicans tried hard to pick up the seat, with the RSLC (the GOP equivalent of the DLCC) spending at least $177,000 to make up the gap.
The victory preserves Democrats' 55-45 majority in the House, which is itself remarkable given that outside of West Virginia, this is the only legislative chamber south of the Mason-Dixon line still held by Democrats. Republicans are likely to target it for takeover next year, so maintaining our strength here is especially important.