Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Posts Tagged ‘Nita Lowey’

Examining How Kaptur Crushed Kucinich in Ohio

In House, Reapportionment, Redistricting on March 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Those who spent any time with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) this winter knew that she was not looking forward to the month of March. The Toledo area congresswoman had been paired in the same district with Ohio Democratic colleague Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) by the newly minted GOP majority in the Buckeye State legislature as part of this year’s redistricting, and she was not looking forward to having to battle the combative Cleveland Democrat as prelude to defending her seat in November.

Dennis Kucinich has been a fixture and a colorful figure on the Cleveland political scene since the late 1960s. Some Clevelanders have had the chance to support Kucinich in campaigns for city council, mayor, Ohio secretary of state, governor, state senator, the U.S. Congress and the presidency in 2004 and 2008 during the course of a roller-coaster political career that has spanned 45 years.

For her part, Miss Kaptur’s political career, spent in the Toledo area, has been less colorful, but more careful than that of her Cleveland rival. First elected to Congress in 1982, Kaptur has steadily built support and seniority to become the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2010 Census made it clear that Ohio would lose two House seats to reapportionment. With Republicans gaining control of both Houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office that year, it was no surprise that Democrats in the Congressional delegation would be uneasy. The final redistricting plan to emerge from Columbus raised eyebrows this winter when two of the state’s most senior Democrats were both thrown into a battle for their political lives in the new Ninth CD.

Stretching all the way from Kaptur’s Toledo base in the west and hugging the Lake Erie shore all the way to Lorain and Kucinich’s Cleveland/Cuyahoga County political launching pad in the east, the district is the longest from end-to-end in Ohio. With more of Kaptur’s old district than Kucinich’s in the new CD, the voter history edge went to Kaptur in the early handicapping, but Kucinich supporters felt that as the more liberal of the two, he might have the edge with party activists and primary voters.

Kaptur, who hasn’t been seriously tested in some years in her heavily Democratic base, dusted off her campaign skills, showing remarkable energy in tirelessly reaching out to voters in the eastern reaches of the district where she was less well known. The final weeks the campaign took on a surreal atmosphere as Kucinich touted endorsements from country music icon Willie Nelson, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, none of whom live in Ohio.

By contrast, Kaptur captured the endorsements of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former GOP Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R).

Adding to the campaign mayhem, Kaptur ran an ad in the Cleveland media market highlighting Kucinich’s musings about possibly moving to Washington state to run for Congress instead of Cleveland. Kaptur’s ad linked Kucinich to Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell and Cleveland Cavaliers/Miami Heat basketball superstar LeBron James as figures willing to turn their backs on Cleveland and Ohio by packing up and moving away.

While Tuesday night’s Romney-Santorum cliffhanger captured almost all the national media attention, Kaptur’s 56-40% drubbing of Kucinich may have the greater long-term consequences in Washington DC, if not Washington state. Late last week, the announcement that Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA-6) would not seek re-election created a third Democratic-leaning open House seat in the Evergreen State. Dicks’ retirement also will make Kaptur the most senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee come January if she wins re-election in the new, heavily Democratic Ninth CD.

It would be highly unusual for any Democrat to mount a challenge to Kaptur for the top spot, but it is not unprecedented for members to challenge each other for choice slots on major committees. Kaptur, after all, is no favorite of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi lieutenant Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-18), for one, might be put up to such a run. A long-shot dream scenario for Pelosi might be for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) to give up his leadership post and reclaim his seniority on the Appropriations Committee, where he served before moving into the Capitol Building. Hoyer would then become chairman of the committee in the unlikely event the Democrats regained the House majority. That move would allow her to dispatch two rivals in one move, but such things are too much for even former Speakers to hope.

A more realistic view is that Kaptur will be the odds-on favorite to win the top Democratic spot on the Appropriations Committee when the next Congress convenes. She can look back and think that this whole chain of events all started with a momentous month of March.

Turner Win Endangers Upstate NY Democrats

In House, Redistricting on September 16, 2011 at 11:48 am

Representative-elect Bob Turner’s (R-NY-9) special election victory in Anthony Weiner’s vacated Queens/Brooklyn congressional district carries greater ramifications for the New York Democratic Party than merely losing a seat that was theirs for the taking. With the Empire State losing two districts in reapportionment, the Turner victory will now likely put at least one upstate Democrat on the political hot seat.

In New York, as in most other states, redistricting is handled through the normal state legislative process. Democrats control two of the three levers of political power here: the Governor’s office and the state Assembly. Republicans have a small majority in the state Senate. This gives both parties a seat at the redistricting table and will send the map to court unless the political leaders can reach a compromise.

Since losing representation is nothing new for this delegation, the traditional method of deciding which seats to collapse is to divide them evenly between the two political parties. Such will likely be the 2012 outcome, too, even though the Democrats have a 21-8 majority in the current NY congressional lineup.

Typically those in power collapse the least senior members’ seats. It is clear that the Democrats will want to collapse Turner’s 9th District, because it is fertile territory that can be used to shore up their other districts. All 29 seats are under-populated, hence the reason the state is dropping two more seats. Thus, if Mr. Turner, the newest freshman, is to see his 9th CD divided among the others in the city, the map drawers will then be looking upstate to collapse a Democratic district. Before, it was assumed that the Democratic loss would come in the city and an upstate Republican would likely be drawn out. Because of Turner’s surprise victory this past Tuesday, it is likely that the tables have turned.

If you look at the population numbers for each of New York’s 29 seats, the district needing the greatest influx of people is that of 82-year-old congressional veteran Louise Slaughter (D). Her 28th District is 105,869 individuals under zero-deviation quota. The district boundaries stretch from Niagara Falls to Rochester and many people believe its configuration resembles a set of headphones. The adjacent district, Rep. Brian Higgins’ (D) 27th District, which encompasses Buffalo and travels southwest along the Lake Erie coastline to the Pennsylvania border, needs an additional 88,436 people and is the state’s second-most under-populated seat. Clearly, the simple mathematics suggests that a pairing of these two sparse seats is a distinct possibility.

Keeping within the practice of “last in; first out,” then freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26) could also become a target. Ms. Hochul won a special election earlier this year after Rep. Christopher Lee (R) resigned. Her seat stretches between Buffalo and Rochester but contains no portion of either city. It is always easier to collapse a district that lies in the middle of a region rather than one in a corner, and the 26th certainly fits this criteria.

A more intriguing option for the Democrats, however, might be to sacrifice Rep. Bill Owens in the 23rd District. In what should still be a Republican seat, the GOP badly bungled the 2010 special election and the succeeding general vote to elect the novice Democratic politician. Since the 23rd is high on the national GOP’s conversion target list, collapsing this particular seat would almost serve the same purpose as taking another Republican district away. The worst case Democratic scenario would be to sacrifice another member and then lose the Owens seat, too. Giving up the 23rd might mitigate their losses and become the safe play.

Other elimination possibilities are the districts of Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22) and Nita Lowey (D-NY-18). Both are down approximately 40,000 in population, and each member is over 70 years of age and has considered retirement possibilities. If either of the two decides not to seek re-election, then the choice of which district to collapse becomes easy.

Expect New York to be one of the last states to finish its redistricting process, meaning it will end well into next year. At that time we will finally learn who wins and loses the game of political “Russian Roulette.”