Redistricting will undoubtedly be a top - if not the top - topic around here over the next year or so. To get your engines started, here are a few early items from around the nation:
Indiana: Gov. Mitch Daniels released his list of legislative priorities for 2011, and it looks like he's trying to burnish his bi-(or non-)partisan cred with this plank:
"Indiana must have a fair redistricting based on geographic and community of interest lines - not politics. And I'll only sign one that meets that test."
Daniels' commitment will be seriously tested on this part of his platform, seeing as the GOP now controls both houses of the state lege (in addition to the governor's mansion, of course). Incoming House speaker Brian Bosma also claims he's a supporter of such reforms. We shall see.
Alabama: Meanwhile, down in Alabama, Republicans also control the trifecta - and seeing as it's their first time, they're licking their chops. As the Birmingham News puts it:
The likely result is a new congressional map that protects all six Republican congressmen and keeps intact the majority black district home to the only Democrat, according to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks.
Illinois: The upper hand is on the other foot in Illinois, one of the few redistricting bright spots for Dems. With Team Blue in charge of the trifecta here - and the Prairie State on track to lose a seat in reapportionment - the only question is which Republican freshman will get tossed in the woodchipper. Sadly, we have quite a few to pick from: Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, Bobby Schilling, Jim Walsh, and Bob Dold! But it'll still be satisfying to see one of these guys get axed. (And if we're really lucky, two of `em will get tossed into a single district together.)
New Jersey: For whatever reason, New Jersey chooses to be a freak state, holding its state-level elections in odd-numbered years. This is good news for horserace bloggers, but probably a pain in the ass for the folks in charge of drawing state lege district lines. They have to produce a map by Feb. 1 - which is barely a month after the Census Bureau will releases its state-level population data, and a month or so before they release redistricting-level data. In any event, I suggest you read the linked story, which details how Dems succeeded in getting a very favorable map ten years ago - circumstances which are unlikely to obtain this time around.
Dave's Redistricting App: I realize there are quite a few new SSP members these days, so it's possible not everyone is familiar with the awesome (and free!) Dave's Redistricting App. It does exactly what it sounds like it ought to do - you can draw and re-draw maps to your heart's content. The eponymous Dave often stops by in comments and with diaries of his own, in case you ever have questions. He's also always looking for assistance in compiling partisan data for the app, so if you want to help improve the program, please click the link to find out how!
Recounts: The Hill reports that the DCCC has sent staffers to assist with recount efforts in California, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina and Washington state. One state is notably not on the list, and I think that says a lot: Texas. Check out our TX-27 item below for more.
AK-Sen: Here's the schedule: Absentee ballots (30,500) will start getting counted today. Tomorrow, write-ins (83K) will be talled. And provisional ballots (12,000) will be opened on Friday. Joe Miller needs to find a way to disqualify over 13,000 write-ins to have a shot (as things stand now) - or pray that people wrote in someone other than Lisa Murkowski. Interestingly, the NRSC is still backing Miller's play, with Big John Cornyn and Jim "Crème" DeMenthe both sending fundraising emails on his behalf to help with recount efforts. Meanwhile, for her part, Murkowski has brought in notorious GOP hatchet man Ben Ginsburg. You may remember Ginsburg from such recounts as "Florida 2000: The Brooks Brothers Riot" and "Dickface Norm Coleman's Dickfaced Adventure: The Whinening." A little late-breaking cat fud!
MN-Gov: Though he trails Dem Mark Dayton by more than 8,700 votes, Tom Emmer (through his lawyer) says he won't forego a recount. Cynical (i.e., sensible) observers imagine that Emmer will pursue even a hopeless recount just to give GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty some more time in office. With the state lege having just flipped to the Republicans, this would give the right-wing wrecking crew some unfettered time at the controls. The incoming state House Speaker, Kurt Zellers, says that even if this scenario came to pass, the Republicans would not "rush to ram something right through." Of course, you trust him, right?
CA-11: Dem Rep. Jerry McNerney's lead over David Harmer has now climbed to 804 votes. A judge also rejected GOP demands that the elections chief for Contra Costa County allow observers to "compare signatures on vote-by-mail ballots with voter affidavit signatures on file in the office." (The Contra Costa portion of the 10th CD went for Obama 56-43.)
CA-20: Republican Andy Vidak has seen his lead shrivel to just 145 votes... but it's Dem Rep. Jim Costa who is in the driver's seat. Huge numbers of ballots remain to be counted in Fresno County (perhaps 50 to 70K), and the Fresno part of this district went for Obama by a two-to-one ratio. Hard to see how Vidak hangs on.
IL-08: Though she picked up 188 votes last week, Rep. Melissa Bean (D) still trails Jim Walsh by 350. According to the AP, "hundreds of provisional and absentee ballots are still being counted in Cook, McHenry and Lake counties," but the count won't be finalized any sooner than Nov. 16th, the deadline for absentees to arrive. Provisional ballots will get counted after that date. In related barf-inducing news, unnamed sources (aka "buzz," according to Politico) are supposedly floating Bean's name to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Board if she doesn't pull this one out. Gack!
KY-06: Andy Barr is down 649 votes to Rep. Ben Chandler (D), but he won't concede until after a recanvass (scheduled for Nov. 12th) is complete. Barr vaguely sounded like he might be interested in a rematch, saying ""the cause will continue... and you can count on me whether I'm in Congress, a citizen, or a candidate for Congress."
NC-02: A lot of roundups keep forgetting this race, but Dem Rep. Bob Etheridge has not conceded to Renee Ellmers - and in fact, he's already filed a request for a recount. As long as the margin stays under 1% (as it is now), Etheridge is automatically entitled to have the votes tallied a second time. Even so, the gap right now is quite wide - 1,646 votes - but it seems like Dems are pinning their hopes on more errors like the one on election night, where Samson County failed to report votes from three of four early voting sites. Once these were added to the tally, Etheridge gained 453 votes. Still, he's got a long way to go.
NY-01: Dem Rep. Tim Bishop's lawyers are apparently headed to court today, seeking a full hand recount of all the ballots cast in this race. (And he's raising money for the cause, too.) As you will recall, Bishop had a 3,400-vote lead on election night, but somehow that has since swung all the way to a 383-vote advantange for Randy Altschuler. New York finally moved to a modern, scantron-type ballot system this year; problems with the transition are being blamed for all kinds of issues. As for absentees, Hotline says: "There are approximately 10,000 absentee ballots still to be counted; 4,200 from voters of parties that endorsed Altschuler and 3,900 from voters of parties that endorsed Bishop."
NY-25: Dem Rep. Dan Maffei trails Ann Marie Buerkle by 659 votes, but the AP says that "more than 7,000 absentee and other ballots remain outstanding and most won't be counted until Nov. 15." Also note that military and overseas ballots have until Nov. 24th to come in, which could be a factor if the race tightens. However, an analysis in AuburnPub.com suggests that if the absentees follow the same pattern as votes cast on election day, Buerkle's lead will actually increase a bit.
TX-27: Dem Rep. Solomon Ortiz is gearing up to request a recount, but this one looks pretty hopeless. There are fewer votes remaining to be counted (and this includes provisionals, which are subject to getting tossed) than separate Ortiz from Blake Farenthold. Oritz is alleging irregularities at the polls, but local officials haven't heard any such reports.
VA-11: As we mentioned yesterday, Republican Keith Fimian is conceding the race to Rep. Gerry Connolly.
WA-02: As we mentioned yesterday, the AP has called the race for Dem Rep. Rick Larsen over John Koster.
AK-Sen: Right now, write-ins account for 41% of the vote in Alaska, while Joe Miller has 34% and Scott McAdams 24%. State election officials have bumped up the start of the write-in count to Nov. 10th (from Nov. 18th). Murkowski is one of 160 declared write-in candidates, but obviously quite a few write-ins ballots would have to be spoiled, or for other candidates, for her to lose.
WA-Sen: Patty Murray's lead widened to 1.6% as votes were counted in the populous Democratic stronghold of King County. The trends look poor for Dino Rossi, who took 40% here in 2004 (when he almost tied Christine Gregoire in the gubernatorial race), but is now at 37% this year.
CT-Gov: Yikes - the AP withdrew its call for Dem Dan Malloy. This one could get seriously topsy-turvy. Whatever the hell is going on here might also impact Jim Himes (vs. Dan Debicella) in CT-04. Not good.
MN-Gov: With 100% of precincts reporting, Dem Mark Dayton holds an 8,854-vote lead over Republican Tom Emmer, within the half-percent margin which would prompt an automatic recount. No recount can start until after Nov. 23rd, when the vote is certified. Note that Norm Coleman's election-day lead was just 725 votes in 2008. So even though GOP lawyers are already laying in a supply of amphetamines, it's possible the Republicans will abandon what looks like a futile effort.
IL-Gov: Man, did anyone dig a mangier rabbit out of a shabbier hat than Pat Quinn? After a day of counting more votes in Cook County (Chicago), Quinn's lead has expanded to 19,000 votes, and Republicans are getting ready to throw in the towel on behalf of Bill Brady. Pretty amazing, for a guy who seemed DOA just a couple of months ago.
OR-Gov: As we noted yesterday, various media sources have called the race for Dem John Kitzhaber over Chris Dudley.
AZ-07: As we noted yesterday, Dem Rep. Raul Grijalva has declared victory over Ruth McClung, with a 3% lead. A Grijalva spokesman said that the remaining ballots are in Pima County, which favors Dems.
AZ-08: Dem Rep. Gabby Giffords leads by 2,349 votes over Jesse Kelly, but again, Pima - they have some 47,000 votes still outstanding. Pima was one of only four counties to go for Kerry - and for Obama, too.
CA-11: With an unclear number of votes left to be counted, Dem Rep. Jerry McNerney has inched into a 121-vote lead over David Harmer. It'll take four weeks for the vote to get certified, at which point the loser can seek a recount (at his own expense).
CA-20: Dem Rep. Jim Costa trails Andy Vidak by almost 2,000 votes, but there may be something like 30,000 uncounted ballots from Fresno County, which Costa won on e-night by a 2-to-1 margin. So maybe we'll get lucky here.
IL-08: With 100% of the vote in, Dem Rep. Melissa Bean is trailing in a shocker to Jim Walsh by 553 votes. She isn't conceding yet, though.
KY-06: With 100% of votes counted, Dem Rep. Ben Chandler has a 619 vote lead over Andy Barr. Barr has until next Tuesday to request a "recanvass," which would be completed by Nov. 12th. Barr could then ask for a formal recount, but he'd have to foot the bill.
NY-25: Really barfy: As we noted yesterday, Republican Ann Marie Buerkle has moved into the lead, after late results from Wayne County came in. She's now up by 659 votes. Some 8,300 absentee ballots have been returned so far (out of 11,600 requested), though more are trickling in. Maffei would have to pull in something like 54% or so out of the absentees to pull this one out.
TX-27: It's looking pretty bad for Dem Rep. Solomon Oritz, who trails Blake Farenthold by 799 votes with 100% in. Farenthold has declared victory, but Ortiz claims his legal team is conducting a review and that he may seek a recount - which he would have to pay for (unless it changes the final results). And check out how far the apple has fallen from the tree:
Farenthold is grandson of Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, a Democrat who served two terms in the state House and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1972. That same year, she finished second in balloting to become George McGovern's vice presidential candidate at the Democratic convention.
VA-11: With 100% of precincts reporting, Dem Rep. Gerry Connolly leads Keith Fimian 111,621 to 110,696. The vote will get certified on Nov. 22nd, at which time Fimian can seek a recount if the margin remains less than half a percent (recounts are not automatic).
WA-02, WA-09: As we noted yesterday, a number of media outlets have called the 9th CD race for Dem Rep. Adam Smith over Dick Muri. Meanwhile, Rick Larsen has taken his first lead over John Koster, albeit a narrow one (30% of votes remain to be counted).
Ever since Republican Congressman Jim Walsh announced his retirement, the GOP has had a difficult time finding a candidate to run for this district, leaving Democrat Dan Maffei unopposed. Well, Maffei is still the clear favorite to win in November, but he is not officially unopposed anymore; David Gay, a former organizer for Ron Paul's presidential campaign, has stepped up to the plate. I have a feeling that the GOP will have trouble getting behind him, though, since he doesn't exactly toe the party line when it comes to intervening in other people's-- or other nations'-- matters:
As a true Conservative Republican voter, I will answer this call to action. I will defeat my opponent using no other guide for my campaign than the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In Congress I will work relentlessly in defense of our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe we should eliminate the income tax, stop taxing Social Security pensions, respect private property, secure our national borders, stop government spending with credit we can never afford to repay, and bring our troops home from all over the world immediately. In Washington, I will fight to keep the government out of our wallets, our bedrooms, our telephone calls, and our daily lives.
Somehow, I have a feeling that the only Republicans left in the northeast will be those with libertarian views such as those of David Gay. And even then, the Democrats will handily win. Here's to the prospect of a completely blue northeast!
If 2007 was a year of shocking Republican retirements, 2008 appears to be offering its own share of stunners. The latest? The upcoming retirement of Rep. Jim Walsh:
Republican Rep. Jim Walsh of New York is expected to announce his retirement soon, according to a GOP aide familiar with the decision, giving Democrats another pick-up opportunity following a wave of Republican retirements this cycle.
The veteran appropriator had a tough reelection fight in 2006 and was expected to face another challenge in the fall.
This is huge, huge news, and an incredible break for Democratic challenger Dan Maffei. With an open seat on the table, he's in prime position to pick up this D+3.4 district.
Holy hell. Will there be any Republicans left in Congress to turn the lights off at the end of the day?
I am particularly excited about this endorsement for several reasons. First, I am from the district, and ever since Jim Walsh originally won the seat by a few hundred votes back when I was a freshman in high school, I have been itching for someone to defeat him. Second, Dan Maffei epitomizes one of my longest-running arguments about the need to run in every district. In 2004, no Democrat ran against Walsh, but in 2006 Dan came within 1% of defeating him. Third, having met Dan Maffei, I can honestly say that there is no member of Congress, or candidate for Congress, with whom I was more personally impressed and within whom I felt more personally comfortable (there are two or three who I feel roughly the same about). When we talked for over two hours over coffee and pizza, it felt like every idea we exchanged about strategy, policy, and life really clicked (like me, he went to local public schools, and hasn't exactly made a fortune working in progressive politics). Dan is a serious, brilliant progressive, who absolutely means more and better Democrats. Please, contribute to Dan today.
Here is a video Dan put together to introduce himself and the district to the readers of Dailykos, MyDD, Open Left and Swing State Project a few days ago:
Now, some of you might ask something to the effect of "wait-he is running against Jim Walsh, the Republican who just said he was now opposed to the Iraq War? Isn't that the sort of Republican behavior we should be encouraging, rather than immediately punishing with a major counter-endorsement?" If you are asking this question, I am glad you did, because even though the Maffei endorsement was decided upon several days before Walsh's announcement, since that time it has revealed the true danger Democrats face in offering up weak, meaningless, "compromise" bills on Iraq. The NY-25 is the first case study of how Democratic weakness in the House on Iraq can allow Republican to potentially blur the difference between the two parties on Iraq, and thus wipe out virtually our entire advantage heading into the 2008 elections.
Here is the situation. Over the past nine months, Jim Walsh has said he was in favor of withdrawal, and then voted a timeline that would actually mandate withdrawal. Even in discussions with local media yesterday, and in calls I made to his staff, he refused to come out in favor of a timetable. Walsh has said that he is in favor of oversight on Iraq, and then voted against oversight. He said he was opposed to the escalation, and then refused to vote against the escalation. In May, he said he was opposed to a blank check for Bush on Iraq, and then voted to give Bush a blank check on Iraq in the capitulation bill. Everything Walsh is saying now, he ha already said before. The key difference is not hat Walsh has changed his opinion, but that Democats in Congress are changing the legislation they are trying to pass through Congress.
Back in the spring, House Democrats forced votes on stiffer legislation that required real oversight and mandated withdrawal. It only received two votes form Republicans, because the many so-called moderate Republicans who are supposedly against Bush's policy in Iraq are not willing to pass binding legislation opposing Bush's policy in Iraq. They are, however, willing to pass meaningless legislation that suggests Bush should change course, but does not actually require him to do so. For example, Walsh is a co-sponsor of the Kirk-Lipinski bill that does not mandate any troop withdrawal whatsoever, but sets it as a "goal." Compromise bills of this sort are in abundance nowadays, and I imagine Walsh will vote for all of them. However, if a bill comes up that actually mandates troops withdrawal, there is still no indication that he would vote for such a bill. Given everything he has said on the matter, I bet he won't vote for mandated troop withdrawal.
This is the crux of the problem progressives face in the 2008 elections. Bad, Bush Dog Democrats are coming up with cover your ass legislation that won't do anything to drawdown our military involvement in Iraq. Instead, the actual impact of these bills will be to allow Bush Dogs and endangered Republicans alike to appear as though they oppose Bush's policies, and thus strengthen all of their hands for re-election. In short, weak Iraq legislation in Congress will help empower Bush Dogs, and help prevent progressives like Maffei from taking over Republican seats. This is the exact opposite of the more and better Democrats refrain that has been traveling around the blogosphere. Weak Iraq legislation will allow Republicans like Walsh to blur their differences on Iraq all over the country, and the result will be fewer, and worse Democrats.
In the first major case study of this kind for the 2008 elections, we can't let this stand. Supporting Dan Maffei means opposing weak, toothless Iraq legislation in Congress. It means taking a stand against a self-defeating Democratic strategy that will not only do nothing to drawdown the Iraq war, but will also go a long way toward wiping out any chance of a second Democratic wave election. It means supporting more and better Democrats, instead of reverting to the pro-war, minority status Democratic Party of 2002-2003.
Contribute to Dan Maffei on Blue Majority. Fight Bush dogs and Republican blurring alike. This lean-Kerry district is going to be a very big race down the road, and a place where a true progressive like Maffei can hold a seat for a long time to come.