Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for October 5th, 2011|Daily archive page

Illiniois Rep. Costello to Retire

In Election Analysis on October 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Twelve-term Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL-12) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to the House next year. When his tenure ends and he completes 24 years in office, it will be almost exactly half of the time that his predecessor, the late Rep. Melvin Price (D), spent in Congress. Together, the two men have represented the Illinois portion of the St. Louis suburbs and the city of East St. Louis for 72 consecutive years.

Mr. Costello becomes the 20th sitting member who will exit the House at the end of the current Congress. He is the seventh to retire. The other 13 are seeking higher office. Fourteen are Democrats as compared to six Republicans. Adding the dozen new seats that reapportionment created, the current open seat total for the 2012 cycle is now 32.

IL-12 is the least Democratic of all the new districts that state legislative majority leaders constructed for members of their own party. President Obama scored 55 percent here in 2008, a strong number but much weaker than in the other Democratic districts. John Kerry, in his 2004 campaign against then-President George W. Bush, only carried the seat by four percentage points. Though it may be approaching a marginal rating, the 12th should still elect a Democrat in a 2012 open situation, especially with the President back on the ballot in his home state.

Republicans were making plans to target this seat even when believing their campaign would be a challenge to Costello. Now that the seat is open, IL-12 will likely move up the GOP conversion target list. Their first choice as a prospective candidate is 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer. Former Bellevue Mayor Roger Cook (R) had previously announced his candidacy.

Democrats could conceivably turn to Mr. Costello’s son, Jerry Costello Jr., who is an appointed state Representative. Since this is a seat that favors Democrats, expect lively competition in the party primary. The eventual Democratic nominee will have the inside track for the general election.

Tomblin Withstands Maloney’s Challenge in West Virginia

In Governor on October 5, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Acting West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) successfully withstood a strong gubernatorial special election challenge from Republican businessman Bill Maloney last night, winning a tight 50-47 percent victory. An overwhelmingly Democratic state in voter registration (53 percent D – 29 percent R), the Mountain State has been voting decidedly Republican in recent national elections. In fact, no Democratic presidential candidate has carried the state since 1996. But, for state contests, the Dems have remained in control as they again did yesterday.

Tomblin will fill the final year of Joe Manchin’s (D) second term as governor. Manchin resigned the office when he was elected to the US Senate last year. He was heavily involved in campaigning for Tomblin and certainly could have made the difference for his Democratic successor in what evolved into a close race. The senator is the state’s most popular elected official.

Polling showed the race closing fast in Maloney’s favor, but it was a question whether his charge was too little, too late. He under-performed in the coal country, which is a good sign for the state’s Democrats. The party’s federal candidates were ravaged here during the 2010 election as a direct result of the President’s Cap & Trade legislation.

Though the GOP, particularly through a $1.8 million Republican Governor’s Association independent expenditure, tried to tie Tomblin directly to President Obama – attacking mostly on healthcare as opposed to Cap & Trade – the strategy came up just short. This may be an example of how an offensive on a federal issue may not necessarily carry over to a state race.

Turnout was very low, just under 25% of the state’s 1.2 million registered voters. An average congressional special election usually broaches participation rates in the 35% range, with statewide contests usually doing better.

Gov. Tomblin is eligible to run for a full term next year. It remains to be seen if Maloney runs again.