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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Amodei’

Update: House Review – Part II

In House, Reapportionment, Redistricting on November 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm

We trust everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Resuming our coverage of the post-redistricting states as it relates to congressional maps, we analyze the remaining 13 states that have completed their drawing process for 2012. Legal action in some states could ultimately change the maps, but odds are strong that the 25 states with plans already adopted through their legislative and/or court processes will stand at least through the next election. To look over Part I of our two-part series, please go to this link: House Review – Part I.

Massachusetts

Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-MA-4) district becomes a bit more Republican, and it appears to be gathering serious general election competition between the two parties now with Frank’s impending retirement announcement at this writing. In a district that looked like the D’s would easily prevail next November with a Frank re-election, things now appear to be not so certain. More on that in another upcoming separate post.

The loss of a district in reapportionment prompted the retirement of Rep. John Olver (D-MA-1). And with Frank joining him in retirement, only eight of the 10 current incumbents are seeking re-election; and all now have a single-member district in which to run. New Districts 1 and 2 are combined into a large western Massachusetts seat covering the Springfield-Chicopee metro area and stretching to the New York border through Pittsfield and Amherst. The new 1st District is safely Democratic, but Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA-2) is getting a primary challenge from former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo, currently a Berkshire County local official.

Freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10) has decided to run in the new 9th District, despite his Quincy metro area political base being placed in Rep. Stephen Lynch’s new 8th District. Keating will probably be tested in the Democratic primary, but the eventual winner of that contest holds the seat in the general election.

Michigan

Republicans are in total control of the Michigan redistricting process, so it is no surprise that the Democrats will absorb the loss of a seat from reapportionment. The map pairs veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MA-12) with sophomore Gary Peters (D-MI-9) in a new, safely Democratic 9th District but the latter has chosen an alternative course to re-election. Instead of challenging Rep. Levin, Mr. Peters has announced his intention to run in the new majority black 14th District. Freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13) is seeking re-election here, so this seat will host the pairing instead of District 9. Since Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence is also in the race, Peters believes that the African-American vote will be split between she and Rep. Clarke. Therefore, he has the potential of building a white voter coalition large enough to win a primary with a small plurality, since the state has no run-off procedure. This strategy is a long shot, and Clarke has to be rated as the early favorite.

The new 11th District of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) continues in a competitive mode. He can expect serious competition in both the primary and general elections of 2012. If the Democrats do well nationally, then the 11th District could be in play. Odds are, however, the partisan swing is likely to be R+1 due only to the collapsed Democratic seat.

Missouri

As in Michigan and Massachusetts, the Missouri Democrats will also lose a seat because of reapportionment. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) has had his 3rd District split several ways, forcing him to seek re-election in the open 2nd District now that Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) is running for the Senate. MO-2 is a Republican seat, but less so than in the previous draw. Carnahan will have strong general election opposition and is a clear underdog, especially if the top of the 2012 ticket goes Republican. All other incumbents appear to command strong re-election position. The partisan swing is likely to be R+1, with the GOP holding the 2nd District and all other incumbents retaining their new seats.

Nebraska

The Cornhusker State holds all three of its districts for the ensuing decade, and all should remain in the Republican column. Rep. Lee Terry’s (R) NE-2 District, which was becoming more competitive, was strengthened for him somewhat in the new draw. Expect no change in the 3R-0D delegation.

Nevada

The state gained one seat in reapportionment and the legislative process deadlocked, forcing a Nevada court to draw a de novo map. The result should produce one solid Democratic seat – Las Vegas-based District 1 that will be open and features a comeback attempt from defeated Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-3) – one likely Republican seat – District 2 of newly elected Rep. Mark Amodei (R), but he may face a serious primary against 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle – and two marginal seats. Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) 3rd District, in Nevada’s southern tail, will continue to see general election competition. The same is likely true for new District 4, which will encompass the northern part of Clark County and travel up through the center of the state. The likely result is a 2R-2D split, with Republicans holding the Amodei and Heck seats, and Democrats claiming the two open seats. Democrats should be in better position as the decade progresses, assuming demographic trends remain similar to present patterns. A 3D-1R split is also possible for 2012 if the Democrats do well in the presidential race and a sweep atmosphere occurs.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State is the Republican counter to the Democrats’ strength in Illinois. The Dem gains likely to be realized in the Land of Lincoln will largely be neutralized here, as the GOP could gain as many as four seats. Reps. David Price (D-NC-4) and Brad Miller (D-NC-13) are paired in a new 4th District that now stretches from Raleigh south to Fayetteville. The winner of this tough intra-party campaign holds the seat in the general election. The new 13th District, now an open seat contest, will heavily favor the eventual Republican nominee. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Larry Kissell (D-NC-8), and Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) are all seriously endangered and each could lose. The final swing here could be R+3 to R+4.

Oklahoma

The state adopted a map that changes very little among the five congressional districts. District 2, now open because Rep. Dan Boren (D) is not seeking re-election, becomes a strong GOP conversion opportunity. All other incumbents are safe. Because of the open seat, the preliminary projected outcome is R+1.

Oregon

Coming relatively close to gaining a new seat in reapportionment but falling just short, Oregon returns with its five districts for the ensuing decade. The new map changes little, so expect a 4D-1R split to continue for the foreseeable future. The 1st District, now in special election (January 31st) due to Rep. David Wu’s (D) resignation, will likely remain in Democratic hands in the person of state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici who has already won the special primary election. Expect no partisan change here.

South Carolina

Reapportionment adds a new 7th District to the Palmetto State delegation. The new seat is anchored in the Myrtle Beach/Horry County area and then comes south toward Charleston. The GOP controls the state’s entire political process and drew a 6R-1D map that the Department of Justice recently pre-cleared. All five current Republican members, four of whom are freshmen, should have safe seats as does the lone South Carolina Democrat, House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6). The Republican nomination process, in all likelihood, will choose the new 7th District congressman. Because of the addition of the new seat, expect a partisan swing of R+1.

Texas

The Republicans’ inability to produce a legally sound 36-District map will now cost the party at least three seats. The draw produced from the legislative process would likely have elected 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats, a gain of three Republicans and one Democrat from the current 23R-9D delegation split. With the new, just unveiled court map, which we will detail in tomorrow’s PRIsm Redistricting Report, a 23R-13D result is possible. Democrats will now likely win three of the four new seats and Rep. Quico Canseco (R-TX-23) is in an even more precarious position for re-election. The districts of Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) and Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) become more Democratic and could become competitive, but likely in elections beyond 2012 as demographics continue to evolve. If Canseco wins, a distinct possibility next year as the national elections will undoubtedly favor the Republicans in Texas, the delegation count will be 24R-12D, a gain of three Democratic seats, while the GOP increases one. If the Democrats successfully unseat the freshman Canseco, the split will likely result in a net gain of four Democratic seats.

Utah

The Beehive State also gains an additional district from reapportionment and the Republicans have a chance of sweeping the state. The new map could yield a 4R-0D result, but Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) has proven he can survive in strongly Republican districts. If he decides to run for governor, however, a GOP sweep becomes much more realistic. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) get safe seats. Districts 2 and 4 should also elect Republican candidates, but Matheson’s presence in one of those seats could change such an outcome. Expect at least a 3R-1D split for a minimum gain of one Republican seat; two, if they can finally defeat Matheson or he vacates to run statewide. At this point, the congressman has ruled out a challenge to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), but has not closed the door to opposing Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

West Virginia

The legislative process produced a no-change map that basically keeps the current seats intact. The 1st District is still marginal, so expect freshman Rep. David McKinley (R) to have major competition in his re-election battle. The voter history patterns still suggest a Republican victory, however, so it is likely to remain in the toss-up category. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) retains the basic outline of her seat, which she has made relatively solid for herself despite the region’s Democratic overtones. New District 3 remains safe for Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3). The 1st District campaign will decide if the state breaks 2R-1D or 2D-1R.

Wisconsin

Republicans control the process here, too, and drew a map that locks in their 5R-3D majority, possibly for the entire decade. Realistically, this is the best the GOP can do in the Badger State. Expect all incumbents to retain their seats. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) is vacating her Madison-anchored seat to run for the Senate, but her replacement will be determined in the Democratic primary. Rep. Ron Kind’s (D) 3rd District becomes more Democratic so as to produce a more Republican seat for freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-7). The adjoining districts traded segments of voters to strengthen each for the respective incumbents. This is particularly important for Duffy as he is the first Republican to represent northwest Wisconsin in more than 40 years.

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A Republican Double-Header Sweep

In House on September 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for Republicans, as the party’s candidates won two special congressional elections last night, Sept. 13.

The upset of the political season went to GOP contender Bob Turner, who defeated Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin, thus converting the vacated Anthony Weiner congressional district to the Republicans. Prior to Weiner’s election to Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) held the 9th district for nine terms before being elected statewide.

Mr. Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, scored a 54-46 percent win in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 57-18 percent count. Only 22 percent of the registered voters participated in the special election, a key reason why the GOP nominee was able to win despite having such a small political base. He scored 48 percent of the vote in the Queens borough, which is NY-9’s population anchor. He won the race, however, in Brooklyn where he attracted an astonishing 69 percent of the vote.

In the closing days of the campaign four pollsters, McLaughlin Associates, Magellan Strategies, Siena College and Public Policy Polling, all produced surveys projecting Turner to be in strong position and headed to victory. Last night’s results certainly proved the pollsters correct. On a side note, the NY election result is a bad sign for President Obama, as his favorability ratings in this heavily Democratic district are poor. Carrying the seat over John McCain with 55 percent of the vote in 2008, the PPP poll showed the President actually trailing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (42-46 percent) and ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry by just one percentage point (44-43 percent) in hypothetical presidential match-ups. Obama scores poorly on his handling of the economy and on issues concerning US policy in the Middle East, greatly influenced by the 36 percent of the district’s residents who are members of the Jewish faith.

Turning to the west, former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei easily won the congressional district seat that was vacated when then-Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) was appointed to the US Senate. Amodei won easily, scoring a 58-37 percent margin of victory over Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall. Rep-elect Amodei now becomes an incumbent in a district that touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties, but will likely only occupy the northern half of the state post-redistricting. His toughest electoral challenge may still lie ahead, however. It is likely that 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle will challenge the new congressman in a Reno-Carson City anchored district during the regular 2011 election cycle. This will be a competitive race despite Mr. Amodei’s short-term incumbency.

Turnout for the Nevada election was much greater than the voter participation level in New York. Approximately 140,000 voters went to the polls to choose a replacement for Mr. Heller, about 35 percent of those registered, slightly higher than the average special congressional election draws.

The Turner victory restores the New York delegation to 21D-8R, the ratio found on election night 2010. Republicans lost the 26th District in a special election earlier in the year, so the two parties have now traded conversion districts.

The current House party division count now stands at 242 Republicans; 192 Democrats; and one vacancy (ex-Rep. David Wu, D-OR-1). The final vacant seat will be filled in a Jan. 31 special election.

GOP Poised for Special Election Sweep

In House on September 14, 2011 at 12:27 am

The final polls for the two special elections that were held today, NV-2 (Mark Amodei, R) vs. Kate Marshall, D) and NY-9 (Bob Turner, R vs. David Weprin, D), indicate that Republicans will score victories in both. As we covered in our update yesterday, Mr. Turner appeared on the verge of a major upset win in the heavily Democratic New York City seat, vacant due to former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D) resignation. At the time of this post, the Associated Press has projected Turner to be the winner. The current lead is six points.

The weekend Public Policy Polling survey basically confirms the latest Siena College poll that gave Turner a six-point lead. According to the PPP data (Sept. 8-11; 664 likely NY-9 special election voters via automated telephone calls), the Republican former broadcasting executive has a 47-41 percent lead over the Democratic state assemblyman. Like the Siena College survey that showed Turner receiving a large cross-over vote from Democrats, PPP detects the same pattern. They post him attracting 29 percent of Democratic votes. Turner is crushing Weprin among Independents. Within this polling sample subset, the GOP nominee has a 58-26 percent edge. President Obama, in a district that he carried 55 percent in 2008, has a poor 31:56 percent job approval rating, which is proving to be a drag on Weprin’s candidacy.

The last Nevada survey, also from PPP (Sept. 9-11; 629 likely NV-2 special election voters via automated telephone calls) gave Republican Amodei, a former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman, a whopping 50-37 percent lead over Democrat Marshall, the state Treasurer. An even more solid indicator is the early voting report. So far, of the early votes already cast, 53 percent come from Republicans while only 34 percent originate from registered Democrats. The polls indicating a Republican sweep appear to have been borne out.

Upset City in NY’s 9th CD?

In House on September 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm

The special election to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY-9) congressional vacancy in New York City will be held tomorrow and the latest poll from the Siena College Research Institute (Aug. 6-8; 886 likely NY-9 special election voters) suggests a possible Republican upset in this heavily Democratic district.

According to the Siena survey, Republican Bob Turner, a retired broadcasting executive, leads Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin 50-44 percent. This is on the heels of a Magellan Strategies study (Sept. 1; 2,055 likely NY-9 voters via automated telephone calls) giving Turner a 45-40 percent advantage. Furthermore, within the last 10 days, McLaughlin Associates showed the race to be tied at 42 percent, prompting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to counter with their own Global Strategy Group (GSG) survey (Aug. 30-31; 400 likely NY-9 voters), which posted Weprin to a 47-39 percent lead. The high error factor (4.9 percent) for a poll with a large congressional district sample suggests that the GSG results may be from the “educated” ballot test, meaning that people were given further information about the candidates after the respondents made their initial candidate preference selection.

An upset in a New York irregular election would be nothing new. In the past two years, three special elections have been held in the state, each producing a winner different from the early projected favorite. The one special election where the favored candidate won, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-29), was held concurrently with the 2010 general election. The others, all in Republican seats, elected Reps. Scott Murphy (D-NY-20), who was subsequently defeated in the succeeding regular election, Bill Owens (D-NY-23), and Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26).

As in all special elections, turnout will be the determining factor. With a superior Democratic Party operation in the city, Weprin certainly has a chance to win regardless of the late polling results. If the Democrats are motivated to turn out, then Weprin can survive. If they are not inclined to do so in sufficient numbers, then we could see a GOP upset.

Should Turner win this seat, the Republicans will likely sweep the two congressional special elections being held tomorrow. The other, in Nevada’s 2nd district, will likely elect Republican Mark Amodei. Winning the New York seat, however, will almost assuredly have national ramifications and won’t make any Democrat, including President Obama, feel overly secure.
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Trends Favor Amodei in Nevada’s 2nd CD

In House on September 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, voters in Nevada’s 2nd district will go to the polls to choose a successor to Rep. Dean Heller (R), who resigned the seat upon receiving his appointment to the US Senate. All indications suggest that Republican Mark Amodei, a former state legislator and Nevada Republican Party chairman, has the inside track to victory in the special election. Democrats nominated twice-elected state Treasurer Kate Marshall, a former Senior Deputy Attorney General.

The 2nd district, which will change drastically when the courts finalize the state’s new four-district congressional map, touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties including part of Clark, which houses the overwhelming majority of the state’s residents. The new map is likely to confine the district boundaries to the state’s northern portion, anchoring it around the Reno and Carson City population centers.

At the beginning of this mid-year campaign, it appeared that the result would be close. In fact, Marshall seemed primed to pull an upset particularly because Amodei proved to be a weak fundraiser in previous campaigns and the district voting patterns were not as strongly Republican. Though the seat was designed as a GOP stronghold in the 2001 redistricting plan, it began trending a bit more Democratic as the decade progressed and can be considered competitive in its current configuration.

Though no Democrat has carried the seat, the Republican margins of victory have grown smaller. While former President George W. Bush scored a pair of 57 percent wins in his presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004, John McCain managed to place ahead by a mere handful of votes here when matched with Barack Obama in 2008. Both men scored in the 49th percentile. The last time the congressional seat was open, when Mr. Heller won in 2006, the Republican margin of victory dropped to 50-45 percent. As the incumbent, Heller steadily increased his victory percentage. In 2008 he won 52-41 percent and 63-33 percent two years later.

Financially, Marshall has out-raised Amodei. The latest available disclosure reports (through Aug. 24) show Ms. Marshall gathering $695,465 to Amodei’s $537,598. But it is outside spending that gives the Republican the overwhelming campaign advantage. So far, published independent committee financial disclosures, including political party expenditures, show more than $850,000 going to support Mr. Amodei versus nothing for Ms. Marshall.

Published polls, though none have been recently conducted, also project Amodei to have the advantage. Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-21) gave the Republican only a one-point 43-42 percent lead, but Magellan Strategies, polling around the same time period (Aug. 15-16), showed Amodei to have a substantial 48-35 percent edge. It is likely we will see another published poll or two before Tuesday, thus giving us further indication of the eventual result.

But probably the best indicator of the vote trend are the early ballot tabulations. Though the votes themselves are not yet counted, the Secretary of State issues reports citing how many ballots the office has received from members of each political party. At this writing, over 7,600 more Republicans than Democrats have already returned their ballots. This margin will almost certainly give Amodei a relatively strong lead going into Election Day itself.

But this special election will not signal the end of the long-term congressional contest regardless of Tuesday’s outcome. Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican nominee who carried this district in the 2010 general election against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, even though she lost statewide, waits in the wings for the winner – in a regular election district that is much more to her liking than the current 2nd. Should Amodei successfully carry the seat in the special election, he will face a Republican primary battle against Angle next June. Amodei, who is moderate, will have to protect his right flank to a great degree upon election or he will be vulnerable to a Republican primary challenge from Mrs. Angle, who has proven she is a strong vote-getter in northern Nevada.

The winner on Tuesday will serve the remainder of the current term, but may find him or herself in a dogfight to retain the seat in the regular election. It appears that the Sept. 13 vote will likely mark only the effective beginning of this campaign and not the end.
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Conflicting Data in Nevada’s 2nd District Special Election

In House, Redistricting on August 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Two surveys covering the Sept. 13 special election in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district were just released, producing very different results. Magellan Strategies, polling for Americans for Prosperity, went into the field Aug. 15-16 (656 registered NV-2 voters via automated phone calls) and found Republican Mark Amodei to be leading Democrat Kate Marshall by a hefty 48-35 percent margin. Two days later, Public Policy Polling began testing 600 NV-2 voters, also with automated calls (Aug. 18-21), and found Amodei’s advantage to be only 43-42 percent.

One reason for the large swing is the make-up of the two polling samples. Magellan’s consisted of 48 percent registered Republicans, 38 percent Democrats, and 14 percent Independents. PPP’s included 41 percent Republican, 37 percent Democrat, and 22 percent Independent respondents. According to the latest registered voter statistics (July 2011), NV-2 Republican registration is 43.1 percent; Democrats post 35.4 percent; and Independents (American Independents, Greens, Libertarians, Non-Partisan, and Other are the choices in Nevada) capture 21.5 percent of the district’s voters. Therefore, the PPP sample draw is the more accurate of the two, though they slightly discounted the Republican number. Magellan has the right number of Democrats, but their Republican composition is seven points high while the Independent is seven points low. Notice that the two polls differ by about those same margins. Magellan’s results are five points higher for the Republican candidate and seven points lower for the Democrat than PPP’s.

Though the 2nd District, which touches all 17 of Nevada’s counties but has its population anchor in Reno and Carson City, was originally drawn as a Republican seat in the 2001 redistricting plan, it has strayed much closer to the Democrats as the decade progressed. In 2004, then-President George W. Bush scored a 57 percent victory here over John Kerry. Four years later, Barack Obama and John McCain fought to a 49 percent draw. On the congressional front, in the open seat race of 2006 when Dean Heller (R) defeated Jill Derby (D), the GOP scored a 50-45 percent win. Two years later the same candidates finished 52-41 percent in favor of incumbent Heller. In the 2010 Republican landslide election, without strong opposition, Rep. Heller’s re-election margin was 63-33 percent.

Expect the current special election to be close. Both candidates are now airing television ads and neither are timid about going negative. The National Republican Congressional Committee has already dropped approximately $400,000 into the race, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has yet to counter. Outside organizations for both sides are also expected to participate. In a special election, turnout is everything and the Democrats, as proven in the 2010 Senate campaign that re-elected Majority Leader Harry Reid 50-45% when polling was suggesting a different result, seem to have the superior ground apparatus.

The PPP data released the results of their long questionnaire and that produced interesting results too, mostly favoring the Republicans. Though Amodei’s favorability ratio is only 43:42 percent positive to negative, Marshall’s is 43:47 percent. President Obama’s job approval score is a weak 41:55 percent, and Reid’s is even worse at 39:56 percent. On the other hand, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval posts a strong 55:32 percent score.

Testing former NV-2 Rep. Heller, who is now the state’s interim Senator running for a full term against Las Vegas Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), his job approval number as a statewide federal official is 48:41 percent favorable to unfavorable, and he would defeat Berkley 52-40 percent in the current 2nd District if the US Senate vote were today.

The NV-2 special election is now kicking into high gear, and these combined polling results suggest a tough road for both candidates down the closing stretch. Waiting in the wings is Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee who will enter the regular election in the new 2nd District, no matter what the final result of this campaign. Therefore, the new incumbent will face plenty of competition next year. The new 2nd District redistricting draw is expected to be very different from present. The Las Vegas portion of the district will no longer be included, as the new seat will be concentrated in Nevada’s northern sector. This plays right into Angle’s hands, so this current race merely begins what will likely be more than a year of steady political activity.
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The Supreme Court Rules in Nevada’s 2nd CD

In House on July 6, 2011 at 10:20 am

The Nevada state Supreme Court late yesterday clarified the state’s special election law. The court agreed, on a 6-1 vote, with the Republican objection to the Democratic Secretary of State’s scheduling of one federal special election to fill a vacancy and awarding all qualified candidates ballot placement regardless of party. The high court ruled that the political parties do have the right to nominate their own candidates.

This means that ex-Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei, also a former state legislator, will face Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall on Sept. 13. The winner will fill the unexpired term of former Rep. and current Sen. Dean Heller (R). Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) appointed Heller to replace Sen. John Ensign (R) when the latter resigned.

The special election will take place in the current NV-2, an expansive district that touches all 17 of the state’s counties. The winner will then run for a full term in the new 2nd district, whose boundaries will become known when the state completes its redistricting process. No map was passed during the regular legislative session, so a court will draw the lines from scratch. The addition of a new 4th district in Las Vegas means that the 2nd will become northern Nevada’s seat.

Much more on this race as the campaign develops.
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Nevada Republicans Choose Amodei; Angle Waits in the Wings

In House on June 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Nevada's congressional districts.

The Nevada State Supreme Court will eventually decide if the Republican Party’s action taken this weekend has meaning. The GOP officials held a nominating convention on Saturday to choose a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District special election tentatively scheduled for September 13th.

In what constituted little surprise, former state party chairman Mark Amodei, who spent 12 years as a state legislator and briefly ran for US Senate in 2010, was selected as the Republican congressional nominee by the voting members. He easily defeated state Sen. Greg Brower and former Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold on the first ballot.

But, the nomination may become irrelevant. Soon after Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) was appointed to replace resigned Sen. John Ensign (R), Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that the special election process would be conducted as an open one-election contest in which all individuals desiring to run would qualify for the ballot. The Nevada Republican Party sued to overturn Miller’s decision, arguing that the ambiguous state election code pertaining to special election process – this is the first federal special election in Nevada’s history – actually allows the political parties to choose their own nominees. A lower court judge agreed with the Republican argument, hence the necessity for the state Supreme Court to become involved. The high court’s only action so far is to say that they may need more time to decide and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Sept. 13 election date schedule may have to be postponed.

The Nevada Democratic Party has yet to make any move vis-a-vis the special election and now find themselves facing a key decision. Officially backing Secretary of State Miller’s “battle royal” election format concept, the party may now be forced to caucus and nominate a candidate so that Amodei and the Republicans don’t gain a major advantage should the high court uphold the lower court ruling. If the Democrats do convene, state Treasurer Kate Marshall, already an announced congressional candidate, is the prohibitive favorite to receive the official party nod.

But the uncertainty for Amodei, in particular, won’t end with the Supreme Court ruling or even the special election itself. Sharron Angle, the former state assemblywoman who became the GOP 2010 Senatorial nominee only to lose to Majority Leader Harry Reid in the general election, was originally a candidate in the special election but has since withdrawn. She has the luxury of simply waiting for the regular election in the newly drawn seat to run either against a brand new Republican incumbent, now most likely Amodei should the GOP hold the seat in September or whenever the special is actually held, or a Democrat in what should be a Republican-leaning seat under the new redistricting plan.

Nevada’s congressional districts will change significantly because, as the fastest growing state in the nation, a new fourth district will be created as the result of reapportionment. Though the Democratic legislature and Republican governor drew to a stalemate over redistricting, meaning a court will now draw the final map, it is pretty clear that the city of Las Vegas will have two seats, rural Clark County (Las Vegas) and the central part of the state will occupy one, and the northern sector, the heart of the district in question, will comprise the new NV-2. The current district must shed 161,424 people, which is 24% above the new state CD population target of 675,138 individuals.

The winner of the special election will represent the current 2nd congressional district for the remainder of this Congress but will run for re-election in a seat that is considerably different. The area sure to be removed from the new 2nd is the central and southern portion of the seat. Currently, NV-2 encompasses all or part of the state’s 17 counties. The places going to other districts are largely areas where Ms. Angle did not perform as strongly.

Sharron Angle choosing not to participate in the special election is a sound political decision from her perspective. Should she decide to run in the regular election, which is likely, she can continue to amass campaign resources – her ability to do so is an advantage over every other candidate – and can challenge a short-term incumbent, either Republican or Democrat, in a new district that will likely be more to her liking particularly in the GOP primary.

The 2nd district political saga may prove to be the “great unknown” of the 2011-12 election cycle. What we can expect, however, is non-stop political action from here all the way to the next regular general election.
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Does Nevada Have the Right Angle in NV-2?

In House on May 11, 2011 at 10:12 am

While the NY-26 special election has taken an interesting turn since Democrats might be on the doorstep of positioning themselves for an upset win on May 24, the NV-2 vacancy seems to be flowing in the opposite direction.

Last week, despite the contention from Nevada Republican Party officials that the state parties would choose nominees for the Sept. 13 special election to fill the unexpired portion of now-Sen. Dean Heller’s (R) current term in the House, Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that a jungle-ballot format would take precedence. This means anyone can run for the seat regardless of political party affiliation and, like in the Hawaii special election of 2010, the person obtaining the most votes in the one election, regardless of percentage, is elected. Such a format favors the candidate with the strongest base and plays against a particular party that may field two or more viable candidates.

Miller’s ruling was savvy on at least two points. First, he, as a potential aspirant for future higher office himself, scores points with the Democratic establishment because this is the best possible format for his party to steal what should be a reliable Republican seat. Second, even if the Republicans were to file suit against him, a court would be in a difficult position to rule against a Secretary of State who merely opened up the process equally to everyone, thus his decision is also legally secure.

It was originally believed that the Democrats had a legitimate shot in the jungle format because controversial 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle would be in the field of candidates, since she had already announced for the seat in the regular election. Before Sen. John Ensign (R) resigned and Rep. Heller was appointed to replace him, the congressman had made known his intention to run for the Senate in the regular 2012 election. Angle barely lost the 2006 congressional nomination to Heller (by 421 votes) the last time the seat was open.

It was also conventional wisdom that Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) would hop into the congressional race. His strong presence would split the GOP vote and allow a consensus Democrat, presumably state Treasurer Kate Marshall, to slip by the split Republicans and win the seat with a plurality of the vote.

It appears now, however, that the tables have turned. While Angle did enter the special election contest, Krolicki backed away. State Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei, a former state legislator who briefly ran for the Senate in 2010 only to withdraw because he lacked funding, is now in the congressional race. But, so far, the only two other Republicans to declare candidacy are state Sen. Greg Brower and former US Navy officer Kirk Lippold, both of whom have small constituencies.

Amodei, coming from the more moderate wing of the party, could become the main alternative to Angle but none of the Republicans have as strong a political base, both financially and vote-based, as the former Senatorial nominee. Aside from barely losing the GOP primary to Heller in 2006, Ms. Angle actually carried the 2nd district, even against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in the 2010 general election. So, it is clear that this north/central Nevada region constitutes her main base of support.

Now, the Democrats have a potentially split field. While Treasurer Marshall, who most believe is the party’s strongest candidate, announced her candidacy, so did Jill Derby, the former state Democratic Party chair, university regent, and congressional nominee in both 2006 and ’08. Derby, too, has a base in the district. She held Heller to a respectable 45-50 percent winning percentage in ’06, but fell to 41-52 percent in the re-match. It is conceivable that she will take a significant percentage in the special election, votes that will more than likely come right from Marshall’s political hide. Additionally, former university regent and 2010 Democratic congressional nominee Nancy Price is also running again. Though she lost to Heller in a landslide 33-63% vote, she has the potential of snatching a few more votes from Marshall.

While two weeks ago it looked liked the Democrats were in an enviable special election position, the most recent events seem to be unfolding in Angle’s favor. Much more will happen before the May 25 filing deadline to better define the special election parameters. We will then see if the Democrats can fully coalesce behind Marshall, thus restoring what originally appeared to be a reasonable chance at victory.
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