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: 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: Can Democrats really beat David Vitter? We’re skeptical

GOP Sen. David Vitter

Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter

Leading Off:
LA-Gov: While state Rep. John Bel Edwards looks like a longshot to win this fall’s gubernatorial contest in dark red Louisiana, a new poll is arguing that he has what it takes to turn the governor’s mansion blue. On behalf of Gumbo PAC, PPP takes a look at a hypothetical Nov. 21 runoff between Edwards and GOP Sen. David Vitter and gives Edwards a shockingly strong 50-38 lead. Vitter posts a horrible 34-51 favorable rating while Edwards is on positive ground at 35-27.

PPP also finds Edwards competitive against two other Republicans, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle: Edwards is tied 40-40 with Angelle and trails Dardenne just 42-40. But according to this survey, a Vitter-Edwards runoff is the most likely outcome. In the Oct. 24 jungle primary, PPP sees Edwards and Vitter taking the first

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Morning Digest: America’s most gerrymandered district is about to get flambéed

Florida's 5th Congressional District (2013-2017)

Florida’s current 5th Congressional District, in all its snake-like glory

Leading Off:
FL-05: While we know much less than we don’t know as far as the fate of Florida’s congressional map is concerned, one thing’s for sure: Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown is hosed. Long before the state Supreme Court’s decision this month that struck down the current district lines, Brown’s serpentine abomination of a district had drawn heaps of scorn, as well as derision from every Democrat not named Corrine Brown. That’s because the 5th takes in just about every black voter it can find along an absurd 200-mile corridor from Jacksonville to Orlando, “bleaching” neighboring districts and making them safer for Republicans.

Brown’s tried to hang on for dear life, though, and even joined with Republicans in an unsuccessful lawsuit to strike down the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” amendments Florida voters passed into law back in 2010.

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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: Bobby Jindal’s greatest rival is also his likely successor

Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal

Leading Off:
LA-Gov: Even as Gov. Bobby Jindal covets the Republican presidential nomination, plenty of his fellow conservatives at home are sick of him. We don’t link to The American Conservative very often, but author Rod Dreher gives us a good read on why so many Pelican State Republicans can’t wait for him to be termed-out of office early next year. Jindal’s tax cuts may give him a good talking point in Iowa but they’ve led to brutal cuts that even hardline conservatives are angry with, and forced him to rely on one-time revenue sources over and over again.

Democratic state House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards is hoping that voter’s disgust with Jindal’s policies will give him an opening in this year’s gubernatorial contest, but one Republican may have snatched the anti-Jindal banner first. Sen. David Vitter has been blasting the governor’s fiscal stewardship, taking aim at his tax credits and short-term budget fixes in particular. Fellow Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has not been afraid to criticize Jindal’s record either, but he hasn’t trained as much righteous fury at the governor’s mansion.

In another contest it might be strange to see this kind of Republican in-fighting, but Vitter and Jindal have had a terrible relationship for almost a decade. In 2007, the senator’s prostitution scandal came to light for the first time, putting his political career in jeopardy. Then-Rep. Jindal didn’t want Vitter’s cooties all over his gubernatorial campaign and so he did little to defend the embattled senator, something Vitter never forgave or forgot. Jindal even refused to endorse Vitter’s 2010 re-election campaign, even after the senator won re-nomination. But Vitter survived his scandal and easily defeated Democrat Charlie Melancon, and he soon got the chance to exact revenge.

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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: Tammy Duckworth looks at unseating Mark Kirk

Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, jumps with the U.S. Army?s Golden Knights parachute team, February 2010. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran who received a Purple Heart.  REUTERS/Handout/Courtesy of Tammy Duckworth and the Veteran's Administration (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY MILITARY POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTXUE64

Democratic Rep. and prospective Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth

Leading Off:
IL-Sen: Until now Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth has been pretty mum about a potential campaign against Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, though her campaign team has been keeping her name in contention. However, on Monday she confirmed that she is indeed considering taking on the senator and will look more closely at it now that her daughter is two months old. Fellow Reps. Bill Foster and Cheri Bustos are also reportedly mulling a bid, though it sounds like Duckworth is the preferred candidate of national Democrats.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t include Kirk’s thoughts on facing Duckworth from his The Hill interview in November:

“She has a very bright future ahead of her. After only one term … you know, when you run for the Senate, you have to give up your congressional seat. If she gives up her congressional seat and loses against me, that’s a very sad ending to a bright career,” Kirk said about the congresswoman and potential rival.
“To fight and lose a Senate race against Kirk is a terrible start to a career,” the Illinois Republican said in a sit-down interview in his Senate office.

I’m sure she’ll consider Mark Kirk’s sage words of advice in the weeks ahead.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Why Staten Island Democrats are afraid to talk about Garner

Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan speaks during an interview with Reuters in New York, August 10, 2010. Donovan, who will compete against the Democratic nominee in the Nov. 2 election, supports a year-long moratorium for further study, but oppos

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, the GOP’s presumptive special election nominee

Leading Off:
NY-11: While Republican Dan Donovan has sounded a few uncertain notes over his failure to obtain an indictment in the Eric Garner case, it sounds like Democrats are ready to drop the issue in the special election to replace disgraced ex-Rep. Mike Grimm. John Gulino, chair of the Staten Island Democratic Party, was quite clear in saying he hopes the race will be about anything but Garner:

“I don’t think the race is a national referendum. There are many, many issues affecting this congressional district. I’m hoping this becomes about all of the issues. I don’t want that to be the end all and be all.”

Hank Sheinkopf, a local consultant who’s always good for a quote, was even blunter:

“Traditional campaigns on Staten Island are about how everybody hates us and doesn’t understand us. The best way to elect Dan Donovan is to make Eric Garner the issue. It would do [Democrats] as much good to send him boxes of chocolate candies and send checks to his campaign.”

Indeed, stoking that kind of resentment is exactly how Grimm won re-election last fall despite an indictment for tax fraud hanging over his head. And the numbers back up this sentiment as well. While New York City voters as a whole are quite disappointed in how the Garner case turned out (and disapprove of the hostility the police department reacted with toward Mayor Bill de Blasio), Staten Island is its own universe. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Staten Islanders despise de Blasio, are very supportive of the police, and think that the Garner grand jury made the right call.
This is a serious problem because Staten Island is contained entirely in the 11th District and makes up 65 percent of its population. The rest is contained in a slice of south-western Brooklyn that includes the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. Even the Brooklyn portion of the district isn’t especially liberal: Voters there went for Obama by a 54-45 margin in 2012. But Staten Islanders are even less so, supporting Obama by a narrow 51-48 spread.

On paper, that still balances out to a 52-47 Obama seat, so you’d expect Democrats to be competitive here.

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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Here’s to the losers!

Republican Lee Zeldin lost by 16 points when he first ran in 2008, but won by 10 this year

Leading Off:

House: It’s no secret that the DCCC is trying to convince several unseated incumbents and other unsuccessful candidates to run again in 2016. As those would-be contenders mull their plans, here’s a statistic from Nathan Gonzales at Roll Call that should give them some hope: More than 40 percent of this year’s House freshman class lost at least one race sometime in their careers.

There’s a lot of interesting information in Gonzales’ piece. For instance, Democratic Rep.-elect Brad Ashford ran for Nebraska’s 2nd District all the way back in 1994 but lost the Republican primary. Republican Mike Bishop of MI-08 also lost his 2010 primary for attorney general and 2012 race for Oakland County prosecutor, but in 2014 he won the GOP primary and general without much trouble.

NY-01’s incoming Republican representative Lee Zeldin is another one-time loser, unsuccessfully challenging Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop for this seat back in 2008. Back then Zeldin was pretty much a Some Dude and he predictably lost to Bishop 58-42 in the Democratic wave. However, Zeldin was elected to the state Senate two years later and emerged as a much more formidable contender in 2014. The district didn’t change much in the intervening six years but a stronger campaign from Zeldin, the Republican wave, and Bishop’s ethics problems led to a 10-point GOP victory this time.

Gonzales also takes a look at this year’s crop of new governors and finds that four lost a race in the past. The most interesting is Republican Larry Hogan of Maryland, who lost the primary for a House race all the way back in 1981. The whole article is a good reminder that while a political loss can be embarrassing and demoralizing, good candidates can bounce back.