Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Last Primaries Tomorrow

In Governor on September 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Tomorrow marks the last regular primary election of this political cycle, as voters go to the polls in Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Louisianans also haven’t chosen their nominees and will do so in their unique version of the jungle primary that occurs on general election day, Nov. 6. In the Bayou State, if no 2012 candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, then the top two finishers will run-off on Dec. 1.

Tomorrow, however, will decide two key races: choosing gubernatorial nominees in the open New Hampshire statewide race, and whether freshman Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1) survives his competitive Democratic primary challenge.

The 1st Congressional District of Rhode Island encompasses the eastern part of the state, beginning at the Massachusetts border with the city of Woonsocket, taking part of the city of Providence, and then traveling south all the way through the upscale city of Newport and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Though the seat is heavily Democratic in nature (Obama ’08: 67 percent), Rhode Island voters do tend to send Republicans to Washington from time to time. Therefore, with former state police colonel Brendan Doherty (R) waiting in the wings for tomorrow’s winner, determining the Democratic nominee, especially in the person of a beleaguered Rep. Cicilline, will not end the battle for this seat.

Cicilline has problems tomorrow not so much for what he has done in Congress, but rather as a hangover from his tenure as Providence mayor. The city is teetering on bankruptcy, and Cicilline has been taking major hits in the local media for his expenditure budgets while he was the city’s chief executive. The Providence Journal newspaper has detailed the waste and abuse in city spending over the course of months, and popular local radio talk show host Buddy Cianci, the former Providence mayor who spent time in federal prison for his improprieties in office, uses Cicilline as his regular whipping boy.

The prolonged attention has caused the congressman grief and though he will likely be renominated tomorrow night, the margin between he and Democratic challenger Anthony Gemma could provide a clue as to how the general election will unfold.

Gemma is a marketing executive who ran two years ago when the seat was open, placing second to Cicilline in a four-person Democratic primary field with 23.3 percent to the winner’s 37.7 percent. Despite Cicilline being so well-known and facing three people who were largely unfamiliar to the voting populace, more than 62 percent of 2010 Democratic primary voters chose another candidate. He then won an unimpressive 51-45 percent victory in the general election. With increased negatives since that time, tomorrow’s race should be considered a serious challenge despite Gemma only raising slightly over $300,000 for the campaign.

The most competitive New Hampshire primary race is the Democratic battle for the right to succeed retiring four-term Gov. John Lynch (D). New Hampshire and Vermont are the only two states who still utilize two-year terms for their governors. So, even though Lynch has won four elections, the first New Hampshire chief executive in the modern era to do so, he has only served eight years.

Two former state legislators are squaring off for their party’s nomination, Democratic former state Senate majority leader Maggie Hassan and ex-state senator Jackie Cilley. The winner – and Hassan is only a slight favorite tomorrow – will likely face GOP former gubernatorial nominee and ex-chairman of the state Board of Education, Ovide Lamontagne. The November contest will likely be as close as the presidential election here will be, in what will prove to be a tight and politically pivotal state.

At the congressional level, the general election contests are virtually set as Rep. Frank Guinta (R) defends his 1st District seat against the woman he unseated two years ago, former representative Carol Shea-Porter (D). The 2nd District contest will also feature a re-match of the 2010 campaign, a fierce one-point race between current Rep. Charlie Bass (R) and lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster (D). An equally close contest is forecast for this year. The two Republican incumbents face multiple primary opponents tomorrow, but none are serious. Both Democratic candidates are unopposed.

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