Morning Digest: Pennsylvania Supreme Court sweep gives Democrats legislative redistricting control

Wikimedia Commons photo of the Pennsylvania state capitol building taken by Ad Meskens

Pennsylvania state capitol building


Leading Off:

PA Supreme Court: In what was by far the most important victory of the night, Democrats swept three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, giving them a five to two majority; previously, Republicans had controlled the bench three to two, with two vacancies. This victory isn’t simply about ensuring a more just court, though undoubtedly the cause of fairness will benefit greatly. It will also have an enormous impact on the next round of legislative redistricting.

That’s because the Supreme Court selects the tie-breaking vote for the commission that draws up the maps for Pennsylvania’s state House and Senate. In the prior two rounds of redistricting, the Republican-dominated court chose the tiebreaker, but now Democrats will have that power come 2021 (justices are elected to 10-year terms). As a result, Democrats will have the chance to undo the Republican gerrymanders that

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Morning Digest: Pennsylvania Supreme Court sweep gives Democrats legislative redistricting control

Wikimedia Commons photo of the Pennsylvania state capitol building taken by Ad Meskens

Pennsylvania state capitol building


Leading Off:

PA Supreme Court: In what was by far the most important victory of the night, Democrats swept three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, giving them a five to two majority; previously, Republicans had controlled the bench three to two, with two vacancies. This victory isn’t simply about ensuring a more just court, though undoubtedly the cause of fairness will benefit greatly. It will also have an enormous impact on the next round of legislative redistricting.

That’s because the Supreme Court selects the tie-breaking vote for the commission that draws up the maps for Pennsylvania’s state House and Senate. In the prior two rounds of redistricting, the Republican-dominated court chose the tiebreaker, but now Democrats will have that power come 2021 (justices are elected to 10-year terms). As a result, Democrats will have the chance to undo the Republican gerrymanders that

Continue reading “Morning Digest: Pennsylvania Supreme Court sweep gives Democrats legislative redistricting control”

Morning Digest: Even Matt Bevin’s own poll shows him trailing in Kentucky

Kentucky Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin

Republican Matt Bevin

Leading Off:
KY-Gov: Ah, yes. We can now add Matt Bevin to the rarefied Hall of Shame for candidates who release internal polls showing them trailing their opponents. Bevin’s new survey, from Republican pollster Fabrizio Lee, finds him losing to Democrat Jack Conway by a 44-41 margin, with left-leaning independent Drew Curtis taking 11. This means that Bevin would have to scrape up all the remaining undecideds—all 4 percent of them—just to eke out a win.

Even sadder, Fabrizio’s poll included some axe-grindy message-testing questions along the lines of, “Would you rather vote for a Republican who opposes Obama’s policies or a Democrat who would be a rubber stamp for the president?” This kind of stuff might be helpful early in a campaign, but Election Day is just two weeks away. Does Bevin really think he can persuade voters to view Conway

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Morning Digest: RGA boot camp weigh-in: Matt Bevin almost misses his own fundraiser

Kentucky Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin

Matt Bevin has better things to do than show up at his stupid fundraiser

Leading Off:
KY-Gov: Here’s how the RGA’s plan to whip Matt Bevin’s campaign into shape is going: He showed up an hour late to a fundraiser that Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as Kentucky’s entire GOP House delegation, hosted for him last week—just as guests were preparing to leave. And according to Politico’s Kevin Robillard, the RGA has no plans to go back on the air for Bevin unless he contributes more of his own money to his cause. He’s not, though, since Democrats are set to spend $1 million more than the GOP this week.

Bevin does have a new ad out, this one featuring his wife. Glenna Bevin declares that Democratic ads attacking her husband are “misleading” and “false,” without any elaboration—we’re simply supposed to take her

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Morning Digest: With his speakership hopes dashed, Kevin McCarthy mopes back to Bakersfield

U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), flanked by his wife Judy (L), explains his decision to pull out of a Republican caucus secret ballot vote to determine the nominee to replace retiring House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 8, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTS3LZW

Not Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Leading Off:
CA-23: On Thursday, Speaker-in-Waiting Kevin McCarthy pulled the plug on his bid to become Speaker-for-Real. McCarthy quickly announced that he would not be resigning from the House and would stay on as majority leader. McCarthy’s Bakersfield seat is safely red and no notable Republicans have ever tried to challenge him, and that’s unlikely to change even after this debacle.

Of course, it’s always possible that McCarthy changes his mind and exits the House a bit earlier than planned. It’s probably not going to be fun for McCarthy to try and enforce order among his chaotic caucus when he knows that his path to becoming speaker has been blocked by his own loose lips. It’s also possible that McCarthy will find he can’t do his job as majority leader as well now that he’s embarrassed himself so badly, and that he’ll leave

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Morning Digest: Tea partier Joe Walsh may seek a comeback at Randy Hultgren’s expense

Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh

Former Illinois GOP Rep. Joe Walsh

Leading Off:
IL-14, Sen: Oh Joe Walsh, don’t get our hopes up again. The former tea partying congressman has been publicly considering a longshot primary bid against Sen. Mark Kirk, but GOP sources tell the Daily Herald‘s Kerry Lester that Walsh is considering challenging Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren instead. The two almost came into conflict in 2012 after they were thrown into the same safely-red House seat, but national Republicans convinced Walsh to seek re-election in the Democratic leaning 8th District instead. The NRCC pledged to send millions of dollars to help Walsh if he took one for the team, but it didn’t stop him from losing to Tammy Duckworth 55-45.

Hultgren is one of the many bland but usually dependable conservatives in the House GOP caucus, and it would be fun to watch him try and fend off the

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Russ Feingold is back

Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold, the once and future senator?

Leading Off:
WI-Sen: On Thursday, ex-Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold announced that he would seek a rematch with Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, who defeated him in 2010.

Both parties have been anticipating Feingold’s comeback bid for a while, especially after he resigned from his post as a State Department envoy to Africa a few months ago. However, Feingold has always been an unpredictable enough guy that we couldn’t be quite sure, but there’s no ambiguity anymore. There were a few Wisconsin Democrats who might have run against Johnson if Feingold had stayed out, but he shouldn’t face any real primary opposition now. The DSCC also wasted no time endorsing him.

Assuming Democrats hold the White House next year, they’ll need to net four seats to retake the Senate, and this looks like it will be one of their best opportunities.

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: The United Kingdom prepares for a suspenseful election night

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is escorted by party workers as he walks back to his bus during a campaign visit to north London, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett - RTR4XKBT

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband

Leading Off:
UK General: Thursday will bring one of the most chaotic and unpredictable general elections the United Kingdom has ever seen. National polls show a close race between Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party and the Labour Party led by Ed Miliband. But the next government will be decided in the 650 seats (called constituencies), and the polls also find competitive races in the ones that both major parties need to win. The rise of the Scottish National Party and the decline of the Conservatives’ coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, as well as the emergence of the UK Independence Party, also introduces plenty of instability.

We’ll be liveblogging the election Thursday starting when polls close at 5 PM ET and the BBC/ITV/SKY exit poll is revealed, and into the night as the results are announced seat-by-seat. David Beard gives us a

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Supreme Court tosses Republican maps in North Carolina

Leading Off:
NC Redistricting: On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated a ruling from North Carolina’s highest court that had upheld Republican-drawn maps of the state’s congressional and legislative districts. While we don’t yet know what the final outcome will be, the court’s decision could have a real impact on one of the most aggressively partisan gerrymanders in the nation.

Democrats had argued that the new lines were unconstitutional because they’d improperly taken voters’ race into account; while this line of attack did not receive a receptive audience in state court, the SCOTUS decreed that in light of a recent decision of theirs in similar case out of Alabama, the North Carolina Supreme Court had to reconsider its decision.

So what did that Alabama decision say? In that case, plaintiffs claimed that Republicans—who had their hands on the cartographer’s pencil there as well—had packed black voters into too few districts, “bleaching” surrounding districts and thus diminishing Democratic voting strength in those areas (because African-Americans almost always vote heavily for Democrats). There as here, a lower court sided with the defendants, but the Supreme Court disagreed and sent that case back down for a re-hearing last month. We’re still awaiting the results, and may yet for a while.

Opponents of North Carolina’s maps raised very similar arguments—take a look at the skinny, snake-like 12th District, which crams in a black majority running along a hundred-mile stretch of I-85 from Greensboro to Charlotte. They now find themselves in the same place as their peers in Alabama: waiting to see how a lower court decides the second time around. However, as legal scholar Rick Hasen explained when the Alabama decision was handed down, the Supreme Court’s ruling may only offer plaintiffs a “small” and “temporary” victory.

Head over the fold to find out why.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: A Rubio-less Florida Senate race starts out as a tossup

Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy

Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy at a 2014 campaign appearance with The Big Dog.

Leading Off:
FL-Sen: On Monday, Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy announced that he would run for Senate, whether or not Republican incumbent Marco Rubio seeks a second term. On Wednesday, Murphy earned two pieces of good news: He picked up a major endorsement from ex-Gov. Charlie Crist, and he also got welcome polling numbers from Public Policy Polling, which surveyed the Sunshine State’s 2016 Senate contest for the first time. Here’s how Murphy fares against a battery of possible opponents:

Rubio 48, Murphy 41
Atwater 41, Murphy 39

Bondi 45, Murphy 41

Lopez-Cantera 34, Murphy 41

West 39, Murphy 41

While Rubio understandably starts with a lead, an open seat race would begin as a tossup. Rubio posts a positive 45-40 approval rating which, while not fantastic, is nothing to sneeze at in a time when Congress is so universally despised. Still, Murphy has to be happy that he’s holding the incumbent below 50 at the outset.
Rubio has not announced his 2016 plans, but he looks very likely to seek the presidency rather than seek a second term. Rubio has pledged not to campaign for both offices at once and it’s not hard to see why. It’s difficult enough to run for either the White House or for re-election in a swing state, and doing both at once would be a superhuman task. While the NRSC might be relieved if Rubio decides to put his presidential ambitions on hold, his fellow Republicans are already positioning themselves to run to succeed him.

State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera have both met with national Republicans about potentially running, and at least in the early going, Atwater posts better numbers, though that’s due to his greater name recognition. As for Attorney General Pam Bondi, while she hasn’t formally ruled out a Senate run, she seems to have her eyes on the governorship in 2018. Finally, PPP tested former Rep. Allen West, whom Murphy narrowly unseated in 2012; if they took a rematch statewide, things would be similarly tight. But while Democrats would love it if the incendiary West made a comeback, it’s not going to happen. West recently moved to Texas and told Politico’s Jake Sherman on Wednesday that he’s staying in the Lone Star State and won’t be “chasing political office like some egomaniacal politician.”

Head below the fold for more on this Florida Senate race.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Brad Ashford’s worst enemy may be Brad Ashford

Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford

Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford will be a top GOP target in 2016

Leading Off:
NE-02: There are a couple warning signs on the road ahead for freshman Rep. Brad Ashford, who will be a top GOP target in a seat that Romney won 53-46. For one thing, his fundraising is off to a slow start — he says he’s raised about $150,000 this year, short of his $250,000 goal for the (almost over) first quarter. That’s apparently generating a lot of heartburn at the DCCC, who’ve named him to their Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents. Ashford’s stance on fundraising, per the article, is admirable, if quaint and reeking of loser-speak:

“If I don’t get re-elected because I don’t toe the party line, or I don’t raise enough money by the first quarter, then I don’t,” Ashford said. “But I don’t think that’s going to make a difference. I think I’ll be graded on how I do.”

Perhaps more importantly, though, the tension over fundraising also seems to be generating a lot of turmoil within the office. Ashford has already lost a chief of staff and two communications directors after just two-and-a-half months in office. Roll Call‘s article draws an apt comparison to Nancy Boyda, who won a similarly-red Midwestern district in 2006 thanks to an unpopular incumbent, proceeded to run a laid-back, 20th-century style “grade me on my accomplishments” type-campaign, and promptly lost re-election. Ashford is going to have a tough fight next year no matter what, but if he doesn’t pick up the slack, he may very well meet the same fate as Boyda.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: DWS trips herself up tangoing with medical marijuana supporters

U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, speaks during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR34842

Democratic Rep. and potential Senate candidate Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Leading Off:
FL-Sen: Hoo boy. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is reportedly weighing a Senate run, truly just shot herself in the face. Last year, Wasserman Schultz spoke out against a medical marijuana amendment that went before voters, leading one the measure’s top backers, wealthy trial lawyer John Morgan, to attack her publicly. (Wasserman Schultz incensed supporters by comparing medical marijuana dispensaries to illegal “pill mills”; the measure narrowly went down to defeat.)

Unsurprisingly, Morgan and his allies started making noise recently about how they intend to thwart whatever higher ambitions Wasserman Schultz may have this cycle. That prompted Wasserman Schultz’s staff to fire off an embarrassingly transactional proposal to the pro-pot forces via email, in which the congresswoman would offer to trade her support for medical marijuana (organizers are trying again next year) in exchange for a cease-fire.

That infuriated Morgan, who released the emails to Politico and called Wasserman Schultz a “bully.” At the same time, another medical marijuana proponent bitingly pointed out that the amendment took 58 percent last year (it needed 60 to pass), making it far more popular than Wasserman Schultz would ever be in a statewide race.

So how did Wasserman Schultz respond on Friday? By simply insisting she never made such an offer, and even claiming her staffers sent no emails! That level of outright denial is almost John McCain-esque, making an already terrible story look even worse for her. And this is the head of the Democratic National Committee, mind you.

Head below the fold to learn how one of Wasserman Schultz’s potential rivals is adroitly preparing for a run.

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Five mayoral races to watch in 2015

Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) (R) talks to U.S. Congressman Artur Davis before delivering a speech at the Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast in Selma, Alabama, March 4, 2007.  REUTERS/Tami Chappell   (UNITED STATES) - RTR1N3FJ

Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis is seeking a comeback this year in Montgomery as a Republican

Odd-numbered years don’t typically offer many marquee elections, aside from a handful of gubernatorial races and the occasional special election to replace a member of Congress who’s either resigned in disgrace or found a more lucrative job on K Street. But look just a little further down the ballot and you’ll find that many, if not most, U.S. cities—including all of the largest—elect their mayors in off years.
These mayors are responsible to millions of constituents, control huge budgets, and, with D.C. mired in gridlock, are often responsible for major policy decisions that have immediate impact on our lives. (Over 80 percent of the country now lives in urban areas.) These elections may not get the same attention as the battle for the White House or control of Congress, but they’re critically important and many offer the opportunity for progressive ideas—so often blunted at the state and federal level—to make an impact.

With that in mind, Daily Kos Elections presents a look at five of the nation’s top mayoral races taking place in 2015, in order of their election dates. We’ll be covering these and many more contests for mayor as the year unfolds, so if you don’t see your city’s race here, please tell us more about it in comments. But without further ado, we’ll proceed to the Windy City:

Chicago, Illinois: Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent much of 2014 looking very vulnerable for re-election. With gun violence dominating the headlines and a shaky local economy, Rahm (he’s almost never identified by his last name, either by friend or foe) continually posted poor approval ratings and often trailed badly in hypothetical matchups. The incumbent will face the voters on Feb. 24, and while nothing is assured, he now looks like he has a good chance to win a majority and avoid an April 7 runoff.

Rahm’s main challenger is Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, whom Daily Kos has endorsed.

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: The Toomey-Sestak rematch starts off tight

Pat Toomey arguing for background checks April 17, 2013

Pennsylvania’s Republican Sen. Pat Toomey starts the 2016 cycle as a top Democratic target

Leading Off:
PA-Sen: Here’s how you know the 2015-16 election cycle has officially begun: The good folks at Public Policy Polling have released their first public poll of the year. PPP starts with Pennsylvania, one of the Democrats’ top pickup targets as they aim to claw their way back to the majority. (Down 54-46, Democrats need to gain four seats to win back the chamber if they can also hold the presidency, five if they cannot.)

In 2010, ultra-conservative ex-Rep. Pat Toomey narrowly defeated Rep. Joe Sestak, 51-49, after Sestak had in turn dethroned Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary by a 54-46 spread. (Specter, of course, had served decades as a Republican before switching parties in 2009 so that he could ensure he’d get “re-e-lec-ted.” Didn’t quite work out for him.)

Though Sestak pissed off the Democratic establishment for daring to challenge Specter (even Barack Obama endorsed the incumbent), he proved he had serious chops as a campaigner by taking on the party and prevailing. And Toomey’s slim margin of victory, despite the GOP’s intense tailwinds that fall, showed that in any other year, Sestak would have likely prevailed.

Will 2016 be that year? Perhaps. PPP finds Toomey with a schvach 28-35 job approval rating and just a 40-36 edge on Sestak, who’s still largely unknown despite his prior run and has a 19-21 favorability score. Toomey doesn’t do much better against other options:

41-44 vs.

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Who could run to succeed Barbara Boxer? Try everyone

Senators Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Grassley, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz introduce legislation to combat sexual assault in the military.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer looks ready to call it a career

Leading Off:
CA-Sen: It looks like we may be in for a very big race in the Golden State, with Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reporting that California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is on the verge of retirement. Boxer will reportedly make a decision over the holidays and announce it in early 2015, but she doesn’t seem likely to stay on. The senator has halted her fundraising and isn’t doing anything to prepare a campaign, and the loss of her Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairmanship gives her another reason to call it quits.

Ambitious state Democrats haven’t had a good opportunity to advance in a long time. Both Boxer and Senate colleague Dianne Feinstein have held their posts since 1992, and Gov. Jerry Brown cleared the field in 2010’s open gubernatorial race. If Boxer leaves, plenty of Democrats are expected to take a very serious look at running to replace her, and Isenstadt gives us several names.

In fact, the right question to ask may not be who will run if Boxer leaves, but who won’t run. Both Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are already getting a lot of attention. The two share plenty of consultants and donors so there’s good reason to think that they won’t campaign against one another, though that possibility has plenty of California Democrats anxious.

They are far from the only potential Democratic names though. Head below the fold for more.