Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Weekend House Happenings

In House on August 1, 2011 at 10:15 am

Much House political action occurred over the weekend while the debt-limit debate was grabbing so much attention. The release of the amended California redistricting map clarifies several Golden State political situations, assuming these new congressional boundaries are officially adopted Aug. 15 (we will have a full analysis of the substantial changes in the California map as part of tomorrow’s Redistricting Report). We also witnessed developments in Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

Now that the California map is becoming more entrenched, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) announced that he will seek re-election in the new 9th district, formerly referred to as the San Joaquin Valley district. While he represents some of this district today, his political base is on the Bay Area side of his current region. This territory now finds itself in Rep. Pete Stark’s (D-CA-13) new 15th district. Thus, McNerney could either primary Stark in a district more familiar to him, or be the sole incumbent in the San Joaquin Valley seat. He chose the latter. President Obama broke 57 percent in this district, so the general election outcome will clearly favor the Democrats. Mr. McNerney is vulnerable in the Democratic primary, thus making his re-nomination less than certain.

In the previous map, Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) were paired with no adjacent escape district. That has now changed, as the map amendments give both their own districts. Becerra is placed in the new 34th; Roybal-Allard in the new 40th. Newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36) now finds herself as the odd-member-out. Hahn has only bad choices in that she will almost assuredly find herself pitted against another incumbent. The most logical move for her is to run in new District 44, but that seat is only 10 percent Anglo and she will likely have to face Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) who is moving over from the Long Beach Port district (now the 47th).

Texas, the big winner in reapportionment by gaining four seats, also saw some congressional action over this past weekend. Former railroad commissioner Michael Williams (R), who left his position to run for the Senate, may make yet another course change. Originally abandoning his Senate bid to run for the new Parker/Tarrant Counties 33rd district, he now says he may move a bit to the south and run in new District 25. Former Secretary of State Roger Williams also dropped out of the Senate race and into House District 33 and his campaign war chest is robust. Michael Williams, should he make this second move, would find himself challenging area state legislators for the congressional nomination. It will be a safe Republican seat in the general election.

Turning to the Beaumont area, former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 & 22) originally said he was thinking of launching a comeback in the new District 14, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), because there is a large amount of overlap between this seat and the one he formerly represented from 1997-2005. He then went on to clarify that he is also thinking about new District 36, which is not a direct overlay, but resembles a horseshoe that travels around his previous district. Republicans have a plurality of support in both seats.

In North Carolina, responding to the new redistricting plan that made Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D-NC-11) seat the most Republican in the state, the congressman made it clear over the weekend that he will run for re-election. Speculation was rampant that Shuler could become the athletic director at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, particularly after he received such a politically unfavorable congressional district. Rep. Shuler’s press secretary released a statement saying the congressman never wanted, nor was ever approached about, the AD slot at the University and he is unequivocal in his desire to run for Congress next year. The statement did not say he would run in new District 11, however. There has been further speculation that he could challenge Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) because much of Shuler’s Asheville Democratic base now resides in the 10th district. Ironically, McHenry’s district is slightly more Democratic than Shuler’s. In either place, Mr. Shuler faces a very difficult re-election campaign.

Finally, former Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1) made a statement over the weekend that he will likely run for his old seat in 2012 regardless of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s (D-HI-1) intentions. The freshman congresswoman is still a potential Senate candidate but is more likely to seek re-election. After his defeat in 2010, Djou said he would never run for another political office. He is also mentioned as a potential Senate candidate if former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) does not run.
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