Monday, October 20, 2014

Louisiana County Benchmarks

This post is first in an installment continuing to Election Day looking at competitive Senate/Gubernatorial races and examining the dynamics and county benchmarks in each state.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is no stranger to competitive races. She has been in the Senate since 1996 but has consistently faced close elections. She won by a few points in 1996, back when Louisiana voted Democratic at both a federal and statewide level. In 2002 however, she did not get 50% in the first election and due to Louisiana's jungle primary rules (all candidates regardless of party run in a primary on Election Day and if no candidate gets 50% of the vote, there is a runoff in December). Most polls show her opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) from Baton Rouge with a slight lead but turnout in Louisiana is unpredictable in runoffs so it could easily shift.

These percentages show the percentage that Landrieu needs in order to avoid a runoff and in the runoff avoid losing the seat. The vote totals are the 2010 vote totals in the Vitter/Melancon race and turnout was uniformly increased by 10%. The results were calculated using the Landrieu 2008 results (to factor in regional strengths that Landrieu has including in the New Orleans suburbs and Cajun counties in southern Louisiana) and the 2012 Presidential results (to show how current political trends have affected Louisiana voting patterns).

Here is a map of the benchmarks:


Dark Blue = Landrieu 55%+
Light Blue = Landrieu 50%-54%
Light Red = Landrieu 45%-49%
Dark Red = Landrieu 44%-

New Orleans Metropolitan Area:
This area is the most Democratic part of Louisiana. New Orleans is the major Democratic area while the suburban Parishes St. Tammany and Jefferson are strongly Republican in national elections. St. Tammany frequently votes Republican in statewide elections too, it has a strong evangelical population and is fast growing. Jefferson County is more of a swing county in close statewide elections. Landrieu won it in 2008. It has a large African American population and the white voters are not as uniformly Republican as they are throughout the rest of the South. The Landrieu family is from the New Orleans family and Landrieu will need to win over enough suburban white voters to win Jefferson County and statewide. The baselines show the importance, if Landrieu loses Jefferson County in the runoff, then she will not be Senator.

Baselines:



Baton Rogue Metropolitan Area:
This is the 2nd most Democratic part of Louisiana. Despite being historically Republican (East Baton Rouge Parish voted Republican in 2003 when Louisiana elected a Democratic Governor,) East Baton Rouge Parish now leans Democratic. There is a large African American population there while the suburbs are evangelical and conservative. The suburban Parishes are Ascension and Livingston. Ascension formerly was a Republican leaning county (Bush in 2000 won it by 10,) but now it is heavily Republican with Romney winning 66% there. Livingston is even more Republican, Romney won more than 80% of the vote there. The problem for Landrieu though is despite Baton Rouge's Democratic trend, Cassidy's base is in Baton Rouge. Landrieu will need a large margin out of East Baton Rouge Parish in order to offset Republican margins from Livingston and Ascension Parishes.

Baselines: (possibly 1-2 points lower because the baselines do not factor in Cassidy)



Southern Louisiana:
There are two divides in rural Louisiana. The northern part of the state has rural southerners similar to Arkansas and Mississippi who vote heavily Republican. The southern part though is different with Catholic French descendants and this area is called the Cajun Country. While in 2012 it voted heavily Republican (Cameron County voted 87% for Romney,) it is open to voting for statewide Democrats, especially Cajun ones. Cameron County in 2008 voted for Landrieu but even if she wins, it is highly unlikely that Cameron County will support her. The Cajun voters kept Louisiana competitive after many southern states started voting Republican but they have trended Republican recently too. Winning coalitions for Democrats years back would be winning enough African Americans and Cajuns. Landrieu's coalition now is more likely to be focused around urban areas instead of the Cajuns but they will still play an influential role. Landrieu's family has strong ties to Louisiana and the Cajuns which will help her.

Baselines:


Northern Louisiana:
"The further north you go the further south you get" is what they say about Florida, they meant the same about Louisiana. The northern part of Louisiana is the most culturally southern part with few Cajuns and mostly evangelical Protestants. The politics here are closer to Mississippi than they are to the rest of Louisiana. Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) won here after voters did not want to support Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) due to his race but Landrieu and Cassidy are both white. The opening for Landrieu here though is in Caddo Parish (Sherveport) which is trending Democratic and turning out the African American voters in the counties surrounding it. The voting here is extremely racially polarized but Landrieu has traditionally made inroads in the counties around Sherveport (except Bossier which is heavily Republican) so she must win those. Also, Concordia Parish is a good Parish to watch as the bellwether.

Baselines:


So when you are watching Louisiana on election night, watch Jefferson Parish (Landrieu may overperform the baselines there because it is trending Democratic,) is East Baton Rouge offsetting Republican margins in Ascension and Livingston Parishes, is Landrieu keeping Republican margins low in Republican leaning southern Louisiana Parishes such as St. Martin and Calcaiseu and most importantly, is she hitting 50% in Jefferson and Concordia Parishes?

Below is the full baseline list:




Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Senate Outlook 2014: Tossup in the Works

The Senate has been very competitive and conventional wisdom by inside the beltway pundits has suggested that Republicans have a narrow advantage. 2014 was supposed to be the year that Republicans nominated moderates so they could take the Senate unlike in 2010 and 2012 when they nominated far right candidates (we will never forget Todd Akin with his legitimate rape comment and Christine O'Donnell who ran an ad saying she's not a witch).  Many Republicans however have shown extremist views such as in Iowa where Joni Ernst (R) believes that federal agents promoting the ACA should be arrested and in North Carolina where State Senate President Thom Tillis (R) lost his lead with Sen. Hagan (D) due to his extremism in the legislature.

Thanks to these extremist candidates and an Independent candidate in Kansas, Democrats have a stronger chance at keeping the Senate. If I had written a Senate outlook in March of 2014, I would have probably stated that the Republicans would take back the Senate, thanks to the anti ACA numbers in the polls. The anti ACA movement has died down a bit and there is no major issue uniting the Republicans this year unlike 2010 which was about ACA and the economy. About the economy actually; the U.S. under President Obama has gained nearly 10 million new jobs over the last four years so Republicans cannot use the economy as a major issue. They may be able to attack him on foreign policy but they need to offer solutions and show the voters how foreign policy affects them personally. Still, midterm turnout is generally low for Democrats so my assessment is that Democrats have a very slightly better chance of keeping the Senate but not by much. Even if Democrats do lose the Senate, they will retake it in 2016 with winnable Republican seats up in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida. Anyway, here are the races:



Safe D = Dark blue
Likely D = Blue
Lean D = Bright blue
Tilt D = Pale Blue
Pure Tossup = Purple
Tilt R = Pale Red
Lean R = Orange
Safe R = Red

Safe D

Delaware:
Sen. Chris Coons (D) faced Christine O'Donnell (R) in 2010 who told voters she was not a witch. This seat however is not bewitched, Coons should win easily.

Hawaii:
After a bruising Democratic Primary, Sen. Brian Schatz (D) should have no trouble winning the general.

Illinois:
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D) will win easily and hopefully provide coattails to Gov. Pat Quinn (D) who is facing a tough reelection.

Massachusetts:
Sen. Ed Markey (D) will have no trouble winning here.

New Jersey:
Sen. Cory Booker (D) is a rising star and that star will not fall this year.

New Mexico:
Despite being a Republican held seat in 2008, this Senate seat should stay in Democratic hands now that New Mexico has shifted to be a strongly Democratic state. Sen. Tom Udall (D) will have a 2nd term.

Oregon:
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) may have faced a competitive challenge from physician Monica Wehby (R) but she's faced issues including problems with her ex boyfriend (she stalked him and harassed his employees) and then plagiarized Republican economic plans, Merkley should win this race easily.

Rhode Island:
Jack Reed (D) will have no trouble winning reelection.

Virginia:
Sen. Mark Warner (D) was supposed to face a strong challenge from former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie (R). Virginia is a Democratic leaning swing state so Republicans should at least run a competitive race? Nope, Warner is extremely personally popular (he won by 30 points in 2008 against former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R)). While Warner's margin will not be as large (the RCP average has him at 13 points,) he will still win easily.

Likely D

Minnesota
Sen. Al Franken (D) had a tough election in 2008 and faced a recount that continued into July of 2009. This year though, polls show him with about a 10 point lead so he should win reelection without any difficulties.

Lean D

Michigan:
This seat used to be a tossup but Michigan showed its true colors and is shifting toward Rep. Gary Peters (D). Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) was nearly tied with Peters early in the year when Obamacare was in the news. The race now has shifted back to Peters with leads in the high single digits. One mistake Land made was running an ad with the message that she would protect women based on the fact that she was one. This ad inspired responses such as this one. Also, the NRSC is pulling out of Michigan, suggesting that Republicans think they will lose. This race may be in the Likely Democratic column next week.

New Hampshire:
Scott Brown (R) was heralded by the inside the beltway pundits as the strongest candidate in New Hampshire and the one that would take down Sen. Shaheen (D). New Hampshire is historically a bellwether state (voting strongly Democratic in 2008 and 2012 and strongly Republican in 2010,) Republicans do not seem to have much luck there this year. Shaheen is consistently posting high single digit leads in reputable polls. Also, the carpetbagging issue is not helping Brown either.

North Carolina:
Infusion after infusion of cash from Republican Super PACs has hit Incumbent Kay Hagan (D) but is she far behind in the polls? Nope, since September 2nd, not a single poll has shown Hagan behind her opponent. Hagan has been successful so far because her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis (R) represents the unpopular North Carolina Legislature. While President Obama is unpopular in North Carolina, the Legislature is more unpopular.  ratings. Also, many Republicans believe that Hagan is driftwood from 2008. She is not because she won in rural counties in east NC that are traditional Dem areas that Obama lost. This is enough to shift the race into Lean Democratic for now but it could easily shift back to Tilt D.


Tilt D

Colorado: This is another race which is over hyped by the establishment. Originally, Cory Gardner (R), a representative of a conservative exurban and rural congressional district, was the Republican savior candidate. People keep saying he is an amazing contender but I have yet to see what makes him such a strong candidate. All Gardner has done since he stepped into the race is flip flop and stumble over the personhood issue (Colorado has a ballot initiative deciding whether a fetus is a person or not). With women's issues at the forefront this year with the Hobby Lobby ruling, Gardner needs to be careful. He should also take note that the 2010 Republican losing Senatorial candidate, Ken Buck (R) said he should be elected because he doesn't wear high heels. Gardner also released an ad saying one may like Udall but that does not mean one should vote for him. This may seem to be a strong attack according to pundits but the pundits need to look at North Dakota Senate in 2012. Republicans tried the exact same attack on Heidi Heitkamp (D) which failed. A PPP poll came out showing Gardner with a 2 point lead and while PPP is almost always right, the poll also shows the President with a 35% approval rating. With the President having an approval rating in the low-mid 40s nationally and Colorado has mirrored the national average, 35% seems a bit low so the sample may have skewed more conservative. If the poll showed the President with a low mid 40s approval in Colorado, this poll probably would be an accurate picture of the Senate race. Plus, Colorado polls always underestimate the Democratic performance. In 2010, Dem Gov. Hickenlooper was supposed to win by 4 points and U.S. Senator Michael Bennett (D) led in only one poll since Sept. 14th but Hickenlooper won by 14 and Bennett won by 2.


Lean I:

Kansas:
Senator Pat Roberts (R) was originally a shoo in for reelection but Kansas Republicans have faced a backlash. Kansas' Republicans are divided between a conservative and moderate wing and Gov. Sam Brownback (R) offended the moderate wing. He's down in the polls and appears so desperate that he released an ad attacking his opponent for going to a strip club. The unpopularity of Republicans seems to be hurting Roberts, who also is under fire for claiming his Kansas home was a laz-boy place. Also, Greg Orman (I) is an Independent candidate and former Democrat who persuaded Chad Taylor (D) to drop out of the race (even though the Secretary of State found the relative of a Republican campaign staffer to sue Taylor,) and Orman is ahead in every single poll but one since August and led in a Marist poll by 10, shifting this race to Lean Independent. Roberts does not appear to be recovering so Orman should be able to win this. Orman though has stated he will caucus with whatever party is in the majority. If he is a tiebreaker though, history suggests he will go with the Democrats because of his views and the fact that the Democrat dropped out of the race.

Pure Tossup

Arkansas:
This seat has bounced back between Tilt R, Tilt D and Tossup but if the election were held today, the Republican would have a very minor edge but not quite enough for Tilt R (thanks to a poll from Suffolk which does not have a Democratic bias showing Pryor leading by 2 points). Pryor is from a political family and in 2008 faced no opposition. Arkansas has changed as Republican gained all congressional seats and the Legislature. In February, Obamacare was extremely unpopular and Pryor was being tied to it. In July though, Pryor seems to have regained his footing. While Arkansas may vote Republican nationally (supporting Romney with 61%,) it is open to voting for Democrats locally if those Democrats connect with the voters. Pryor's style is folksy and resembles Arkansas while Cotton went to Harvard and may appear too wooden and East Coast for Arkansas. Also, Pryor has been campaigning on a minimum wage increase, an important issue in Arkansas which will be on the ballot this year. Cotton got into hot water on income inequality issues by recently comparing food stamp recipients to drug addicts and voting against farm bill funding and the only pediatric hospital in Arkansas. While Arkansas is socially conservative, many voters here agree with Democrats on economic issues.

Iowa: Longtime Senator Tom Harkin (D) is retiring and Rep. Bruce Braley (D) is running against Joni Ernst (R). Ernst is most famous for being 2014's version of Sue Lowden (she was a Nevada Senatorial candidate suggesting that people should trade chickens for healthcare,) and ran an ad about castrating pigs.  However, in the last few weeks, polls have shifted and shown Ernst has taken a narrow lead. There is no explanation for the leading shifting suddenly to Ernst after polls in August and early September showed Braley leading. In the first week of October though, three polls have been released, one showing Ernst ahead by two, one showing them tied and another showing Braley leading by one point. This shows the race as basically a complete tie. It may shift toward Braley. Democrats have booked extra airtime for late October so it is possible Braley might pull a Joe Sestak and start spending heavily in the very end and win over voters (but hopefully unlike Sestak, Braley will win). Also, the polls showing Braley behind show the undecideds and Democratic leaning voters, suggesting that Braley may need to consolidate his base. One way to do that is add a more personal tone to his ads and his newest ad on bipartisanship does that to an extent. Also, Democrats are underpolled in Iowa. The RCP final average had Obama winning by two points and he won by six.

Louisiana:
 Senator Landrieu (D) may be from a political family (her brother Mitch is mayor of New Orleans) and has survived close elections in 2002 and 2008 but this may be her last year. Polling shows this race to be close. One potential negative for Landrieu is the jungle primary system. All candidates run in one election on election day and if no one gets 50%, there is a runoff in December. While conventional wisdom suggests runoffs have lower turnout rates, especially for Dems, turnout during the 2002 Senate runoff where Landrieu was expected to lose (she won) was only down by 1%. Also, Landrieu is running close because she is supported by voters who support Republicans nationally but personally like Landrieu and her moderate views. Landrieu though does have support from oil companies which are powerful in Louisiana and could help her campaign immensely. What is keeping Landrieu in the running though is that her opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) has made a few stumbles on the campaign trail.


Tilt R

Alaska
Sen. Mark Begich (D) is running a strong campaign as a moderate in a state President Obama lost by 13 points. In order to win, Begich needs a strong margin among Native American voters who generally have low turnout rates as well as keeping his strength in the Anchorage area (he's a former mayor). Dan Sullivan (R) has been leading a few polls however. Alaska seems to have a problem of having polls that underestimate Republicans at a first glance. This helped Stevens in 2008 and Murkowski in 2004. What the difference in those races were that they favored incumbents. Alaska seems to have support for incumbents and one fact analysts tend to forget was that in 2010, Joe Miller (R) was in the lead but Lisa Murkowski (R) came from behind in the general election to win, even though Miller was more conservative than her. Also, President Obama lost Alaska in 2012 by only 13 points, (he lost 2008 by 20) and polls were predicting a loss closer to 20 points. This suggests that Alaska's underpolling favors incumbents, not necessarily Republicans but since most Alaska incumbents are Republicans, the underpolling favors them. Also, Native Americans in Alaska usually favor Republicans and they are hard to poll but Begich has worked aggressively to court them so there is a strong likelihood they will support him. Remember, if a Democrat seems to be tying Murkowski in the polls in 2016, the chances of Democrats winning it are very small because Alaska polls underestimate incumbents. Still, Sullivan's lead puts this race in the Tilt R category for now.

Georgia:
This race has been close for awhile. Republican David Perdue (R) is the strongest candidate the Republicans could find unlike some of his primary opponents (who believed that evolution was a lie and that Todd Akin's rape comments were partially right). Perdue is less conservative though. This means that daughter of Senator Sam Nunn (D), Michelle Nunn (D) the Democratic candidate does not have a major chance to win this seat. Nunn though has an extensive registration program looking at registering African Americans and has the ability to reach out to conservative rural white voters. Nunn's goal is to win 30% of Georgia white voters which can be done by appealing to southern rural white voters in Georgia that voted for Sam Nunn and upper middle class white voters in the Atlanta area who used to be strongly Republican but are turned off by the Republicans' shift to the right. Polls continue to show Nunn in the high 20s with white voters and enough undecideds to get her to 30%. What the polls do not say is where those undecided white voters are located. Also, Nunn's campaign is undergoing a large registration operation among African American voters so it is possible they will have a higher percentage in the electorate and Nunn can win with white support in the high 20s. While polls throughout September showed Perdue with a small lead, he recently released an ad linking Michelle Nunn's organization, Points of Light to terrorism. The ad has been criticized and even one of the Bushes criticized the ad. This could change the trajectory of the race. Also, David Perdue said he is proud of outsourcing (let's ask Mitt Romney how comments like that help win votes). The only problem though is that if no candidate gets 50%, there is a runoff and Democratic turnout tends to drop in runoffs in Georgia. This runoff is in January, after a possible runoff for the competitive Gubernatorial race. Nunn has been spending heavily on November turnout, suggesting they feel pessimistic about the runoff turnout and believe the only way to win is by increasing November turnout.

Kentucky:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has maintained a consistent small lead throughout the summer. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D) has run a strong campaign in a state that President Obama lost by 24 points. This race would have been Lean R if I wrote it in late September.  However, this race barely makes it in the Tilt R category thanks to two new polls. The first is from the Melman group which showed Grimes ahead by 2 points. Melman famously predicted the Democrats' wins in North Dakota and Nevada Senate races in 2012 and 2010 respectively despite other polling firms showing Republicans in the lead. Also, SurveyUSA which does not have a reputation for any Democratic bias showed Grimes ahead by 2 points (they showed McConnell ahead by four points in late August in line with most pollsters at the time). This shows that Grimes may be winning traditionally Democratic voters in eastern Kentucky who usually back Republicans in federal races but Democrats must win in order to win statewide.

Lean R

South Dakota:
Sen. Tim Johnson (D) retired and Democrats nominated Daschle aid Rick Weiland (D). Republicans however got one of their strongest candidates in former Gov. Mike Rounds (R). Also, former Republican Larry Pressler (I) is running as an Independent and getting about 25% of the vote. Polls show that Pressler is actually taking more votes away from Weiland than Rounds surprisingly. Weiland though has been attacking Pressler as a conservative in order to win back Democrats. Rounds also has been facing trouble from the EB-5 scandal. Also, a super PAC supporting campaign finance reform (yes they exist) just announced they are spending 1 milllon on behalf of Rick Weiland. A poll was released showing Rounds with 35, Pressler with 32 and Weiland with 28. Pressler is an Independent with little funds so he could easily lose because Independents tend to fizzle (at least unless there's no Democrat or Republican on the ticket like in Kansas). The support would likely go to Weiland because Pressler tends to align with the Democrats (he endorsed President Obama in 208 and 2012). Also, on October 8th, the DSCC just announced a $1 million ad buy in South Dakota. $1 million goes a long way in a small state such as South Dakota and that $1 million could be used in competitive races such as Iowa and Arkansas but the DSCC clearly sees something in South Dakota. Therefore, this race is at Lean Republican for now but if more polls show a close race, it will move to Tilt R or even Tossup.

Safe R

Alabama:
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) will not have any trouble here.

Idaho:
There are rumors Governor Butch Otter (R) may have a closer than expected reelection but all Senator Jim Risch (R) should worry about whether his margin is closer to 20% or 40%.

Maine:
Democrats are expected to takeover the Maine Governorship.  Sen. Susan Collins (R) fans however have taken over Maine.

Montana:
Democrats won the Senate and Governorship here in 2012 but this time, they lost their main candidate after a plagiarism scandal and will be unable to win. Also, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) was supposed to run for the seat but declined.

Nebraska:
This seat may not be a 20 point win for Republicans but it will be still be a solid win.

Oklahoma:
Despite calling global warming one of the biggest hoaxes on American people, poll numbers showing Sen. James Inhofe (R) in the lead are not a hoax.

Oklahoma 2:
Tom Coburn (R) is leaving, another Republican is replacing him.

South Carolina:
Lindsey Graham (R) loves to talk about the embassy attack in Benghazi (but not about the 13 embassy attacks that occurred while George W. Bush was President,) and will have six more years to mention it.

South Carolina 2:
Tim Scott (R) should win his special election to Senate.

Tennessee:
Lamar Alexander (R) got above 60% even in 2008, the most Democratic year since I was born, nothing to see here...

Texas:
John Cornyn (R) is facing David Alameel (D) who may not be a weak candidate but is no Wendy Davis (and while I even see Davis doing better than most pundits predict, she will not win).

West Virginia:
Sen. Jay Rockeller IV (D) vacated this seat and despite nominating Sec. of State Natalie Tennett (D), Democrats will lose a Senate seat in West Virginia for the first time in decades. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) is extremely popular and does not have the baggage that McConnell does in neighboring Kentucky.

Wyoming:
There may have been some drama when Senator Michael Enzi (R) would face a Liz Cheney (R) but after some misshaps, she dropped out of the primary and Enzi can win easily in heavily red Wyoming.

Overall, the Senate battle will be extremely close either way. By looking at the poll numbers though and the fundamentals, it seems that Democrats have an extremely narrow advantage. They will have to win at least one of the Pure Tossups in order to win (assuming they hold all the Democratic Leaning states and Orman caucuses with them). It could easily shift direction though and it is possible Republicans will sweep all three pure tossups.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Florida Fair Redistricting Map

Last July, a 5-4 panel of judges ruled that the maps for Florida's congressional 5th and 10th districts needed to be re-drawn due to VRA violations. No surprise there. Florida has a "Fair Districts Amendment" which requires Florida's legislature to re-draw congressional districts fairly without political considerations. This was similar to California's fair redistricting plan except that California's maps were redrawn by a commission of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Florida's maps, though, were re-drawn by its Republican-controlled Legislature. While the map they drew in 2011 allowed Democrats to pick up a few seats, Republicans controlled Florida's congressional delegation 17-10 even though President Obama won Florida in 2012. The 5th and 10th districts are key to this issue.

The highly gerrymandered 5th district connects primarily African American neighborhoods in both Jacksonville and Orlando with a few in between in Gainesville. This district voted 71% for President Obama in 2012 while many of the surrounding districts voted 51%-55% for Romney, showing that this gerrymandering prevented Democrats from winning in those other districts. The argument Republicans used for keeping the 5th district intact was that the VRA required that a majority African American district should be drawn. As courts have ruled though, the VRA's goal is to create African American (and Hispanic) majority districts in areas with large African American populations instead of creating a district that connects African American communities that are far away from each other. In this case, Jacksonville and Orlando are more than 100 miles away from each other.

Florida's 10th district was a major beneficiary of the 5th. The 10th represents parts of Lake and Polk Counties, two Republican leaning counties bordering Democratic leaning Orange County (Orlando) and the 10th district also represented part of Orange County. The 5th, though, covered the Democratic areas in Orange County, so the 10th was able to represent more Republican parts of Orange County, keeping the 10th Republican leaning.

The Republican Legislature is tasked with redrawing the 5th and 10th (plus surrounding districts) and their new proposal released on August 7th keeps the Jacksonville to Orlando string on the 5th district and keeps the 10th Republican leaning.

This map is how a fair map of how Florida should be drawn using the California redistricting model of combining communities of interest and creating competitive districts. This map redraws Florida's districts 3-15 and creates two new swing districts. The other districts were not included in the redrawing because they were not affected by the ruling. Here is the old map of Florida's districts:


 Old election results: 

New Florida map: 

New Florida election results: 


Florida's 3rd District:
Ted Yoho (R)
Demographics: 17.5% African American, 8.6% Hispanic, 69.5% White
Lean Republican
The 3rd district represents communities of interest by representing rural areas and small cities in northern Florida. By including Gainesville (University of Florida), and losing Clay County in suburban Jacksonville, this district becomes more Democratic, voting for Romney by 10 points and voting Republican in the 2010-12 average by seven (??). While those numbers show a Republican lean, this district is culturally southern and open to voting for conservative Democrats down-ballot. Senator Nelson in 2012 won the district by seven points. If Democrats are able to find a strong candidate in a good year such as 2016 with Hillary (likely) on the ticket, Democrats have a shot. Also, Rep. Yoho’s suggestion that voting should only be limited to property owners  does not hurt the Democrats' chances either.

Florida's 4th District:
Ander Crenshaw (R) vs. Ron DeSantis (R)
Demographics: 8.8% African American, 6.1% Hispanic, 80.6% White
Safe Republican
The 4th undergoes changes by gaining Clay County and representing communities of interest by representing suburban Jacksonville. This is Romney's best Florida district so no Democrat will win here. The 4th district mostly contains area represented by Crenshaw but also adds DeSantis’s home county - St. John's County with about 200,000 people. . DeSantis may choose to run here because the 6th is a swing district but DeSantis was first elected in 2012 and Crenshaw has served since 2001 (and represents more of the district), putting DeSantis at a disadvantage. But if DeSantis were to win, he would not have to worry about a competitive race in the 6th district every two years.

Florida's 5th District:
Corrine Brown (D)
Demographics: 33.8% African American, 7.9% Hispanic, 4.5% Asian, 51.0% White
Tilt Democratic with Corrine Brown, Lean Democratic with Alvin Brown
The 5th district is now more compact and combines communities of interest by representing urban Jacksonville instead of combining urban Jacksonville with urban Orlando. Even though Bush won the district in 2004, it is trending Democratic so Democrats should have the advantage here barring another year similar to 2010. Brown, though, is disliked by many Democrats by supporting her district's current lines which keep her safe but prevent Democrats from winning in the 10th district. Under these new lines though, Brown will have to fight to keep her seat and may even face a primary challenge from Jacksonville mayor Alvin Brown (D) who can question her ethics issues. Alvin Brown won citywide in Jacksonville and since the 5th district represents most of Jacksonville, Brown is familiar to the voters and his moderate profile should allow him to win in this marginally Democratic seat.

Florida's 6th District:
Vacant (Ron De Santis (R))?
Demographics: 11.8% African American, 12.0% Hispanic, 72.4% White
Pure Tossup
The 6th district loses heavily Republican Putnam and St. Johns Counties and gains Democratic leaning Deltona in Volusia County and Democratic Sanford in Seminole County. These changes bring Romney's margin from 16.4% to 0.2%, making it the closest district in Florida in the 2012 Presidential election. Both Flagler and Volusia Counties in the district are swing counties, supporting Obama in 2008 narrowly and Romney in 2012 narrowly. The representative for the old 6th district (58% Romney) is freshman Ron DeSantis (R) who may run in the new 4th district which is safely Republican and contains his home county. A potential Democratic candidate for the 6th district is young Daytona Beach mayor Derrick Henry (D) who represents the largest city in the district and the center of Volusia County, one of the closest counties in Florida. 

Old map of I-4 Corridor: 

New map of I-4 Corridor: 



Florida's 7th District:
John Mica (R)
Demographics: 9.1% African American, 15.3% Hispanic, 70.3% White
Safe Republican
The 7th district becomes more Republican, going from a 5% Romney win to a 10% Romney win. It loses some close suburbs to Orlando and gains some exurban areas in Lake County. While placing part of Lake County in this district was not ideal due to communities of interest, it was necessary for population reasons. Mica may face a primary challenge from Rep. Daniel Webster (R) who represents the 10th district which has become Democratic under the new lines. With a solid base in his home area of Seminole County though, Mica should be able to win easily, even though parts of the 10th district are now in the 7th.

(The 8th district is not included because it does not undergo any changes. Rep. Bill Posey (R) should have an easy reelection).

Florida's 9th District:
Alan Grayson (D)
Demographics: 9.8% African American, 43.4% Hispanic, 40.3% White
Safe Democratic
This district represents heavily Hispanic suburban Osceola County  and heavily Hispanic parts of Orange County. Rep. Grayson’s reputation for making inflammatory statements about Republicans hurt him when he represented a swing district from 2009 to 2011. His 9th district however, has very minor changes and remains strongly Democratic with President Obama winning 61% of the vote.

Florida's 10th District:
Daniel Webster (R)?
Demographics: 25.6% African American, 19.8% Hispanic, 4.5% Asian, 47.0% White
Likely Democratic
The 10th district undergoes major changes, losing most of Republican Lake County, all of Republican Polk County and gaining heavily African American precincts in Orange County that were formerly represented by the 5th district. As a result, the district is more compact and combines communities of interest by representing (inner- is “central” a better term?) Orlando. These changes would bring President Obama's percentage from 46% to 58% in the 2012 election. Webster will probably not run here because the district is too Democratic. His 2012 opponent and former Orlando Chief of Police Val Demmings (D) may run for this seat.

Florida's 11th District:
Rich Nugent (R)
Demographics: 5.7% African American, 8.5% Hispanic, 82.9% White
Safe Republican
The 11th undergoes a few minor changes, mainly in Ocala and Pasco Counties. The district remains safely Republican and retains its large retiree population.

Florida's 12th District:
Gus Bilirakis (R)
Demographics: 10.7% Hispanic, 80.9% White
Safe Republican
Despite the 12th district voting for Romney by only seven points, Bilirakis has not faced a serious Democratic contender since 2006 in his suburban Tampa district with a large population of retirees. Besides gaining some Republican leaning parts of Pinellas County, the 12th district does not change much.

Florida's 13th District:
David Jolly (R)
Demographics: 12.2% African American, 8.4% Hispanic, 74.0% White
Lean Democratic
In March of 2014, there was a low turnout special election for this seat where moderate Republican David Jolly beat Democrat Alex Sink for this seat by 2 points. While that was a tough election loss for some Democrats, it was not unexpected because the Republican electorate skews much older in this district thanks to the retirees and therefore has high turnout in low turnout elections such as this one. The old district's lines voted for President Obama by one point in 2012 and the new district supported him by ten points. Even though Jolly is moderate, he should be unable to win in a 10 point Obama district. The district becomes more Democratic with the addition of Democratic neighborhoods in St. Petersburg that were in the 14th district and connected by water contiguity.

Florida's 14th District:
Kathy Castor (D)
Demographics: 20.3% African American, 28.9% Hispanic, 45.5% White
Safe Democratic
This district used to combine Tampa and St. Petersburg which violated communities of interest by crossing water. The 14th district now is 100% in Hillsborough County (Tampa) and represents Tampa and some close suburbs. The district voted 61% for President Obama in 2012 though so it should remain safely Democratic.

Florida's 15th District:
Dennis Ross (R) 
Demographics: 13.0% African American, 16.4% Hispanic, 65.7% White
Safe Republican
The district loses a few heavily Hispanic precincts to the 9th district and gains a few from the 10th but otherwise does not change. It remains Republican leaning and continues to represent the fast growing Lakeland area and some Tampa suburbs. 

The other districts remain unchanged. The political results overall show one Democratic seat (the 5th) becoming competitive and the Republicans losing two seats (the 10th and the 13th) and getting a 50/50 chance in another (the 6th). Overall, this map's goal was to suggest a fair map that Florida should draw that increases the number of competitive districts (the 5th and 6th districts) while combining communities of interest into the same district. While it is likely the Republican controlled Florida Legislature will aim to pass a proposal that creates minor changes to the 5th and 10th district, this map shows what needs to be done in order to give Florida voters a fair chance to choose their representatives. 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome to the Six State California Part I

California with its 55 electoral votes used to be a competitive state in national elections that leaned Republican. In 1992 though, California voted for Clinton by 14 points and never looked back. California now is Democratic and voted 60% Obama in 2012. California is next to impossible for Republicans to win because of the Hispanic vote, Republicans would need to win 60%+ of the white vote to even get close which is hard to do because of the Bay Area and Los Angeles liberals. 2010 was the last hurrah for Republicans with Meg Whitman who was a Silicon Valley billionaire who was pro choice, not extremely anti gay but extremely rich and still lost by 13 points. Fiorina, another rich Silicon Valley former CEO lost by 10 points, despite running against one of the most liberal members of the Senate in the best year possible for Republicans. All statewide offices are held by Democrats and there seem to be no registered Republicans running who are serious contenders for any of those offices.

A recent initiative though may go on the ballot which will split California into six states. A Silicon Valley billionaire is funding the signature process. If there are enough signatures, the measure will go on the ballot this November. If California passes it, then Congress will need to approve the measure. It is unlikely that both the House and Senate would approve this measure because the Republicans would not want extra Democratic Senators that West CA, North CA and Silicon Valley would likely send and Democrats would not want to risk losing some of California's electoral votes. This post though will examine hypothetically who would run for the newly created statewide offices in each state if California's voters and Congress managed to approve this measure. Also, while predicting which candidates will run for statewide office, the article will not always specify which statewide office a candidate will run for if she does not seem to have a clear preference for Governor or Senator. The author however does oppose this measure and will vote against it if it reaches the ballot.

Disclaimer: None of these politicians I list in my post have announced any plans to run for any of the positions. These are just my predictions.

Map of six proposed states:
Blue = Jefferson
Green = North California
Purple = Silicon Valley
Yellow = Central Valley
Red = West California
Teal = South California

Jefferson: 
Presidential vote 2012: Obama 48.5%, Romney 51.5%
Gubernatorial vote 2010: Brown 47.7%, Whitman 52.3%

Jefferson is the smallest state with about 900,000 people. It represents rural Northern California covering the California coast with the Mendocino and Humboldt County areas and the Inland Central Valley with the Redding area. There have actually been several secession attempts from counties in Northern California to form their own state called Jefferson (as recently as September of2013, Siskyou County's Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to secede) so this has been an ongoing issue in this part of the state. Overall, the state would lean Republican thanks to the heavily Republican Central Valley and high desert (Lassen and Modoc Counties in the northeast corner of the state are usually the two most Republican counties in statewide elections,) but Mendocino and Humboldt Counties in the western part of the state help keep the Republican margin narrow and could allow Democrats to win statewide with the right candidate.

Statewide offices:
 It is possible that State Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D) from Eureka would run for statewide office. He is well liked in the North Coast but would have to work to appeal to voters in the Central Valley. State Sen. Ted Gaines (R) from the Central Valley may run too. Another candidate for statewide office to watch would be Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R), the newly elected Representative from California's 1st district. He has a strong base in the eastern part of the state representing more than half of the state's constituents and he is well known there too due to his tenure as a State Senator. A potential Democratic candidate is Rep. Jared Huffman (D) who represents the North Coast and is well liked in the district. His views on the environment will work well with voters in Mendocino and Humboldt but the district's voters in the Central Valley are less pro environment and will likely side with LaMalfa. Also, Huffman may be accused of carpetbagging because he lives in Marin County which is not part of Jefferson. It is possible however that Huffman will run in the state of North California which contains Marin County (more on that in the North California description.) Rep. Mike Thompson (D) may consider returning to the district because he represented the North Coast until 2010 so the voters will probably remember him and his tenure there will make attacks on him as a carpetbagger less harmful. Also, Thompson has a reputation as a moderate and won tough races when his district was competitive in the 1990s so he could run a strong campaign to win statewide.

Overall, generic Democratic vs. generic Republican would be Tilt Republican. If Democrats nominate a moderate such as Thompson or a well funded candidate such as Huffman, then the statewide races should be Tossup. 

North California: 
2012 Presidential vote: Obama 59.9%, Romney 40.1%
2010 Gubernatorial vote: Brown 57.8%, Whitman 42.2%

Description:
Unlike Jefferson which clearly represents the rural northern part of California, North California does not have a major center or geographical area. North California represents Marin and Sonoma Counties which are both heavily Democratic. North California then goes to the east and covers Napa County as well as industrial Solano County. North California then takes in the Sacramento area as well as some conservative suburban areas in it which makes the state less Democratic but still strongly Democratic. The state is torn between higher income portions of the Bay Area, industrial areas and the Sacramento area so there could be some competitive primaries for offices here.

Statewide offices:
 Marin and Sonoma Counties should keep the state Democratic (they are some of the few Democratic areas that have low dropoff in midterms,) so the primaries will be the most important. State Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D) could consider running for Governor here and he should win the primary based on his connections in the California Legislature. On the Republican side, Tom McClintock (R) may run whichever seat has the weakest challengers. He would face a predicament though because he is too conservative for a 59% Obama district that votes Democratic even in the 2010 off year elections and McClintock would have trouble in the other Central Valley state which contains part of the 4th district because he does not have connections with the district's agricultural base. Supervisor Kim Dolbow Vann (R) is a potential candidate for statewide office thanks to her close race against John Garamendi (D) in the 3rd congressional district in 2012. State Assemblymember from Placer County Beth Gaines (R) also is a potential candidate too. The problem for Republicans though is that in this state, the only bases of support are in the lightly populated Colusa and Glenn Counties and in Placer and El Dorado Counties in the far east which are very conservative and have politicians who would not play well in the Marin/Sonoma/Napa areas. The only hope for a candidate such as Dolbow Vann or Gaines is that a far left Marin County liberal such as Norman Solomon (D) runs who's views on the environment and foreign policy would be too far left for the more blue collar Democrats in Solano County and the more moderate Democrats in Sacramento County. As was shown in the 2012 primary for California's 2nd district though, Solomon could only get 14% of the vote in a much more liberal district than the North California state so he would probably lose a Democratic primary while facing a Sacramento based Democrat such as Steinberg, Bera or Garamendi who can win over the blue collar Solano County Democrats while holding his own with the liberal Democrats in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Overall, statewide offices should vary between Solid Democratic and Likely Democratic.

Silicon Valley:
Presidential Election 2012: Obama 75.8%, Romney 24.1%
Gubernatorial Election 2010: Brown 69.8%, Whitman 30.2%

This state contains San Francisco, the East Bay, the South Bay + Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties. All counties in this district voted heavily for President Obama in 2012 and this state is more Democratic than Vermont is so Republicans have no chance winning any statewide office (or any office for that matter except a few city council races in the San Ramon Valley and the Salinas Valley if they are lucky). The primaries will be where the real battles are.

Statewide Offices:
Governor: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D) ran for Governor of CA in 2010 before dropping out so he would probably want to become Governor of Silicon Valley. His success as an entrepreneur and his liberal views on social issues will play perfectly with voters in this district and he should win easily.

Senator: Kamala Harris also lives in this district as former DA of San Francisco. I doubt Newsom and Harris would like to primary each other when there are three major statewide offices available in a strongly Democratic state so Harris would probably run for Senate, as many pundits except her to do if either seat opened in the current California.

Senator II: Newsom and Harris are the most powerful politicians from the Silicon Valley state but they both leave this seat open and it is difficult to see this state electing a Governor and two Senators all from San Francisco so this creates an opening for an East Bay or Silicon Valley politician. This seat could see a large primary because Newsom and Harris would probably clear the field in their respective races. If Ro Khanna (D) who is currently running for CA-17 against Rep. Mike Honda (D) loses, Khanna may try for this Senate seat because he is wealthy and will probably receive backing from Silicon Valley companies such as Yahoo if he runs for this seat, allowing him to outraise his opponents. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) should not be counted out either and if he made it into the top two against another Democrat, he could win over enough moderate Democrats and Republicans to be competitive.

Overall, all offices would be Solid Democratic, regardless of the candidates.

Central Valley CA:
President 2012: Obama 48.6%, Romney 51.4%
Gubernatorial 2010: Brown 44.9%, Whitman 55.1%

Central Valley covers the Central Valley and the Sierras from Kern County to San Joaquin County. The economy here is mostly based around agriculture but there is some tourism in the Yosemite area. This part of California in the early to mid 20th Century voted Democratic, then in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s voted heavily Republican. In recent years though, the Democrats have been coming back due to Hispanic growth in the valley. Still, Democratic turnout is low in this state during midterm years but in Presidential years, Hispanic turnout is high so Democrats will be competitive statewide.

Statewide Offices:
Governor: Tom McClintock (R) may run since part of his 4th district is in the state because North California is probably too Democratic for him. He ran for Governor in 2003 and Lieutenant Governor in 2006 so if he ran for statewide office, he would probably aim for Governor. As stated in the North CA description though, he does not have connections in this part of the state so he may face a candidate such as

Senate:
Rep. Jeff Denham (R) would probably seek higher office and would have a strong chance to winning, thanks to his moderate views, his ability to win in tough districts such as CA-10 and his former State Senate District which voted 59% for Obama in 2008. Rep. David Valadao (R) who represents CA-21, a leaning Democratic district also may run for a statewide office. He was able to successfully win with 58% of the vote in CA-21 in 2012 even though Obama won it in the same election. Rep. Devin Nunes (R) from the Tulare County area may be interested in Senate too. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) from Kern County would probably not run because he has a strong leadership position in the House.

The Democrats could have a stronger bench here, as evidenced when the Democrats were unable to recruit a strong candidate for CA-21. It is possible that former State Senator Michael Rubio (D) will decide that he had enough time as a lobbyist at Chevron and wanted statewide office. He left his State Senate seat in 2013 because he wanted a job at Chevron. Rep. Jim Costa (D) may run for statewide office as well as Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez (D) who ran a close race for SD-16 but lost due to low Democratic turnout. Another candidate to watch for either Governor or Senator would be former Astronaut Jose Hernandez (D) who ran a close race against Denham in 2012.

Overall, all offices would be Lean Republican based on the state's demographics for Generic D vs. Generic R.

West CA:
President 2012: Obama 68.6%, Romney 31.4%
Gubernatorial Election 2010: Brown 62.8%, Whitman 37.2%

State Description:
This state combines part of the Central Coast with Los Angeles County, combining the wine country and vacation areas in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties with the suburbs, film industry and manufacturing in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County should prevent this district from voting Republican anytime soon and as with the Silicon Valley state, the primaries will be the important contests here.

Governor: Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) has been mentioned as a potential Gubernatorial candidate by many pundits for the state of California so it is likely he would run for Governor of West California. His base as mayor of Los Angeles should prevent any major primary challenges and LA's population should prevent a Republican from the Central Coast from coming even close to him. One potential challenger would be Controller John Chiang (D) but it may be more difficult for Chiang because he is not as well known as Villaraigosa but would still be able to run a strong race unless Chiang decided he wanted to run for Treasurer of West CA (he is running for Treasurer of California in 2014), or for Senate.

Senator I: Wendy Greuel (D) ran a close race for Mayor of Los Angeles and is running for CA-33. Regardless of the result in that race, a new open Senate seat could be an appealing option for her. The other question though is if Garcetti will run because he is adjusting to his position as LA Mayor. Garcetti would probably not primary Villaraigosa and while he beat Greuel the last time he ran against her, he may not want to face another tough race against her.

Senator II: Eric Garcetti (D) may run for this seat but since he already is LA Mayor, he may want to wait until his term expires before he runs. If Garcetti does not run, expect a large crowded primary for this race from LA politicians. State Senator Ted Lieu (D) is a potential candidate. It is possible a Hollywood Celebrity would take a plunge too because it is an open seat and if the Los Angeles political establishment is fighting each other over a few candidates, then the celebrity could slip through them. Even if Garcetti does run, candidates such as Lieu and Padilla could switch and run against Greuel.

Overall, all offices would be Solid Democratic, regardless of the candidates.

South CA:
President 2012: Obama 51.2%, Romney 48.8%
Gubernatorial 2010: Brown 44.9%, Whitman 55.1%

Description: South California covers all of Southern California east and south of LA County. The counties include San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Imperial and San Diego. Bush won all of these counties twice except for Imperial but thanks to demographic changes (including Hispanic and Asian growth,) President Obama carried all these counties except Orange in 2012 and he came within six points there. The state as a whole voted for President Obama in 2012 and should continue to trend Democratic as the Hispanic population continues to increase and the social conservatives continue to alienate the fiscally conservative but socially moderate high income voters along the coast. Midterm dropoff for the Democrats like in the Central Valley state is a problem however so while Democrats may maintain a slight advantage during the Presidential elections, the midterms will be more difficult for them.

Governor: The Republicans admittedly have a wider bench here. While that helps them in the general, there is no clear frontrunner in the primary because there is no real center in South California. The three distinct areas, the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego County are all heavily populated. One potential candidate though is Rep. Darrel Issa (R) who has previously expressed interest in running for Governor and may be interested in running here because it is a swing state instead of a solidly blue state like California. Issa is worth $450 million and should be able to outspend all opponents but he is Chairman of the House Government and Oversight Committee so he may want to stay there unless the Republicans lose the House in 2014 which looks very unlikely according to current polling. If Issa does not run, another potential candidate is San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) who has an anchor in the San Diego area. As Faulconer proved in his San Diego Mayoral race, he can appeal to moderates so he will be a tough candidate to beat if he runs for Governor. The tea party however has a strong base in Southern California and Tim Donnelly (R) who is running for Governor of California this year may decide to run for Governor of South CA. If Donnelly advanced to the top two though, he could scare away Independents because of his far right views.

The Democratic bench is not as strong as the Republican bench here but Nathan Fletcher (D) is a potential candidate for statewide office. He could appeal to upscale Orange County voters but he may face trouble in the more industrial Inland Empire who probably would prefer a Democrat closer to the unions such as Alvarez. Loretta Sanchez (D) is in a safe Democratic seat in Orange County but may decide to run anyway because Democrats do not have the House Majority and she is one of the most prominent Democrats in Orange County. She considered running for Governor in 2003 on the recall replacement ballot. Also, she is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition so as a moderate, she can perform well with Independents.

Senate Seats: Mimi Walters (R) has consistently run for statewide office in California and as a state Senator from Orange County with strong conservative credentials, she can advance into the top two as the tea party candidate. There are no politicians though who could clear the field for Senate except possibly Issa because of his money so expect a Senate race to pit San Diego politicians (possibly former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) who may want to return to office after losing a close race in 2012,) against Orange County politicians and Inland Empire politicians.

The Democratic side also could be contentious. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D) could run and he would be a formidable candidate with a compelling backstory who was able to beat popular Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) in a swing district so he could win in this swing state with a high Hispanic population. Scott Peters (D) also may consider running for the seat but considering what Fletcher and Alvarez do, the San Diego area could be overrepresented in the primary, allowing Ruiz to slip through the primary. It is more likely though that if Alvarez and Peters decided to seek statewide office, they would probably run for different ones which could avert a primary completely.

Elections held in Midterm years should be Lean Republican (or Tilt Republican if Democrats nominate a strong candidate and/or Republicans nominate far right candidates such as Walters or Donnelly,)

Elections held in Presidential years should be Tossup (or Tilt Democratic if the Republicans choose far right candidates,) 

Part II is next and in Part II, I will discuss how I would draw a hypothetical six state California if California were forced to split into six states (personally, I adamantly oppose any plan to split California into six states).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Virginia 2013 Governor Election Guide

2013 is an odd numbered year which means that there are no major U.S. House, Senate or Presidential elections (except for a few specials) so it is a relatively quiet year. There are two major Gubernatorial elections though and those are in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey, the RCP average shows Republican incumbent Chris Christie ahead by 25 points due to goodwill from his Hurricane Sandy response (the effects still impact New Jersey today.) Virginia though has a streak of not electing a Governor of the same party as the incumbent President since the 1970s but a combination of factors look to break that streak. Virginia's demographic changes in Northern Virginia as well as Republican Gubernatorial candidate State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's (R) stands on social issues are helping former DNC chair and friend of the Clintons Terry McAuliffe (D) lead Cuccinelli in every poll since July (even polls conducted by Republican leaning firms such as Rasmussen.) Cuccinelli also seems to have realized he is in trouble, he recently tweeted that "the only poll that matters is Election Day." This is one of the six things losing candidates say according to well known political analyst Staurt Rotheberg. Others include "I'm the next Scott Brown" and "My son is running my campaign."

The two other statewide offices up for a vote in Virginia are Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. For Lieutenant Governor, State Senator Ralph Northam (D) is posting double digit leads. Those leads grow as Virginian voters learn more and more about his opponent E.W. Jackson's views which include that "gay people are perverted and psychologically sick"  and that Planned Parenthood is the "KKK" When a reporter asked Jackson why he made these statements, he pretends he never said them. That strategy however is not working as Northam continues to lead. 

The Attorney General's race is much closer though where it is a contest between two State Senators named Mark. The Democrat, Mark Herring (D) is from Loudon County, the main bellwether county in Virginia (since 2001, only one Virginia general election candidate has won without carrying Loudon County.) Herring's record includes working on fixing transportation issues and bringing tech jobs to Northern Virginia. His opponent, Mark Obershain (R) is from the Shenandoah Valley, one of the most conservative areas in Virginia. While the other two statewide offices are locked up for the Democrats, this race has been close, mainly because Obershain is more moderate than Cuccinelli and Jackson. The Attorney General race is important policywise if there is a lawsuit against the gay marriage ban because the Attorney General can decide not to defend the ban. Also, the Attorney General of Virginia is important for other issues. For example, Cuccinelli in 2010 sued the U.S. Government over the Affordable Care Act and brought the case to the Supreme Court. 

This post overall will be devoted to dividing up the areas in Virginia and explaining how well Herring needs to perform in order to win. 

(map is courtesy of U.S. Census Quick facts. The author is responsible for coloring the regions.) 

Virginia can be divided into 7 regions:
1. Inner core (Dark Blue)
2. 1st Ring suburbs (Light Blue)
3. 2nd Ring suburbs (Purple)
4. Exurbs (Red)
5. Tidewater/Hampton Roads (Green)
6. Richmond Area (Yellow)
7. Rural Virginia (Gray)

The Inner core:
The Inner core includes Arlington and Alexandria, the first areas to experience suburban growth from Washington D.C. in the 1970s. These areas have large numbers of well educated professionals, many of them white. D.C. is famous for having 80%+ of its white voters voting Democratic and many of those voters have moved to Arlington and Alexandria.

For Dems:
These voters fit McAuliffe's business and D.C. connection profile well and while he will overperform in Virginia as a whole, there needs to be high turnout here to carry Herring over the top.

1st Ring suburbs:
Fairfax County would constitute that 1st ring of suburbs. The voters here are also mainly well educated professionals who are socially liberal and fiscally moderate. There is a fast growing immigrant community of Hispanics and Asians in Fairfax County. Back in the 1980s and the 1990s, Fairfax County grew as families (including mine,) left Washington D.C. Fairfax County used to be a heavily Republican bastion that even  Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton failed to win. In 2004 though, Fairfax County voted Democratic Presidentially for the first time in decades with Kerry winning 53% of the vote. Part of this was due to the trend among socially liberal suburbanites toward the Democrats as the Republicans shifted right on cultural issues. The influx of Asians and Hispanics helped the Democrats even further while the more conservative voters moved out into the exurbs and the 2nd ring.

For Dems:
McAuliffe should overperform here because he is the kind of Democrat that this area will support. He is white collar, well educated, a successful businessman and he has ties to Washington (many of the residents here are involved in the Government.) Northern Virginia is famous for propelling these kinds of Democrats such as Mark Warner (D) in the 2001 Gubernatorial race and Jim Webb (D) in his 2006 Senatorial race to victory in extremely close races. If a Republican emphasizes the economy and his business credentials though, they can win as Bob McDonnell (R) showed when he won Fairfax County in 2009. McAuliffe though is the right fit for this area and Cuccenelli's social issues extremism should hurt him here. McAuliffe could win about 65% of the vote here if he wins more than 55% statewide. Cuccenelli though is a former State Senator from Fairfax County so it will be important to see whether latent goodwill here will trump over his social extremism.

2nd ring suburbs:
Prince William and Loudon County used to be heavily Republican counties but have become bellwethers. The counties themselves are both swing counties but are very different from each other. Loudon County is very upscale (a 100k income here is considered average,) is 65% White with the other 35% being a mix between Hispanics and Asians. The Democrats here are socially liberal while the Republicans here are economic conservatives similar to the Wall Street voter (there are a few evangelicals in the western part of the county but their presence is diminishing.) In Prince William County, the scene is different with many evangelicals and Hispanics and African Americans. President Obama won 57% here in 2012 due to the turnout among African Americans and Hispanics but this should not be taken for granted as a Democratic area. Turnout rates among minorities usually drop in non Presidential elections.

For Dems: In 2012, President Obama won Loudon County (albeit very narrowly) even though Romney connected with the upscale economic conservatives due to the area's large Asian vote swinging strongly for Obama. McAuliffe can overperform Obama among the economic conservatives and Loudon County is the perfect county to test if Obershain is associated enough with Cuccenelli. In Prince William County, McAuliffe must increase turnout among the African Americans and Hispanics who are the main Dem voter base there.

Exurbs:
This area includes Faquier, Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties. These are counties boarding the 2nd ring suburbs of Washington D.C. They are a mix of rural and new subdivisions. Unlike the inner suburbs, these areas are less diverse and have more in common with rural Virginia than they do with Fairfax County. These areas are not as Republican as other exurban areas are including the Atlanta suburbs but they still lean in a Republican direction.

For Dems: Although voters here are not socially liberal, it is possible McAuliffe can win Stafford or Spotsylvania Counties if Cuccinelli's implosion in the polls translates into votes. Herring should not expect to win any counties here but should be able to at least reach the mid 40s in Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties. If he is unable to do so, it will be problematic for him.

Tidewater Virginia:
Tidewater Virginia is also known as the Hampton Roads Region. This area has a strong military presence and a large African American population, creating a perfect swing area. The major Democratic areas are Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton and Newport News while the more Republican areas are York County and Virginia Beach. The swing areas are Suffolk and Chesapeake. President Obama won both areas in his 2008 and 2012 elections and barely lost Virginia Beach both times. In 2004, Kerry lost both areas, however. Democrats such as Senator Tim Kaine (D) have done well here too while the African American population turned out strongly for President Obama.

For Dems:
Herring needs to win Suffolk and come within 1-2 points in Chesapeake. Republicans may overperform here a little bit because McAuliffe does not have the same appeal among African American voters that President Obama did which caused them to turnout in high numbers for him and therefore help other Dems such as Kaine in 2012. Kaine in 2005 still performed well here despite average African American turnout levels because he was able to win over swing voters here though. This is very doable for Herring because of the Government shutdown which Cuccenelli supported. Government employment is high here so the shutdown is a major issue and with the shutdown ending less than a month before the election, this issue hurts Republicans.

Richmond:
The Richmond metropolitan area appears similar to the Hampton Roads demographically at first with a large African American population but many of the white voters here are more upscale and not associated with the military. In 2008 and 2012, President Obama overperformed here due to the high African American turnout which will not be as high in 2013 but the white voters here are not as socially conservative as rural white voters so it is possible that the swing voters here will break strongly for the Dems.

For Dems:
Henrico County is the bellwether county here, it used to be heavily Republican but African American voters moving in there from Richmond have caused it to become a swing county (and even a few points more Dem in certain elections such as the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections.) Herring needs to win Henrico County, the last Democrat to win statewide and lose Henrico County was Jim Webb in 2006.

Rural Virginia:
Rural Virginia is a large area and while a few parts of it are Democratic (Charlottesville with UVA in Central Virginia, a few counties in Southeast Virginia with high African American populations,) it is primarily Republican. It is trending that way too. For example, Buchannan County in Southwest Virginia voted 66% for Romney but voted for Kerry in 2004. The area is socially conservative so unless McAuliffe decimates Cuccinelli, Buchannan County should stay Republican. The white voters in rural Virginia are mostly conservative and in southwest Virginia (this area is demographically similar to West Virginia with working class white voters who are trending Republican,) are becoming more Republican. This area one could say has more in common with Alabama than with Fairfax County.

For Dems: Rural Virginia is the Republican base so Democrats should not expect to carry it unless McAuliffe has a large double digit win. The bellwether county for Herring is Montgomery County where Virginia Tech is located. Montgomery County is in Southwest Virginia but the college voters in Virginia Tech have helped the county become a swing county.

Overall, while watching the election results, here are a few tips to keep in mind while watching for the Attorney General race.
1. Is McAuliffe winning by extremely high single digits or double digits? If so, this is good news for Herring.
2. Is Herring performing well in Loudon County? While Loudon County normally is a bellwether, Herring needs to overperform there because it is his home and he will receive a regional bounce.
3. Is Herring winning Henrico County? If he is, it means that the African American turnout is high and he is winning over enough Richmond area white voters.

Keep these in mind in order to determine who the next Attorney General of Virginia will be.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Leticia Perez and SD-16 Election Night Guide

On May 21st, 2013, the voters of California's SD-16 (a State Senate District spanning Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern Counties,) voted in a special election for State Senate. This election is pivotal for the Democrats in order to maintain their 2/3rd majority there which allows them to pass legislation more easily. The previous State Senator, Michael Rubio (D) had retired in order to accept a lobbying position at Chevron. Rubio recently came under fire from Democratic pundits for not challenging former State Sen. David Valadao (R) in a race for California's 21st Congressional district which covered much of Rubio's district. Valadao went on to win with 58% of the vote, despite President Obama winning 54% in the same district. Rubio now may cause the Republicans to win another seat, this time his State Senate district.

The SD-16 race so far has been very close. The Democrats nominated Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez (D) whose campaign platform is increasing the minimum wage and supporting the high speed rail project (the high speed rail project is a very contentious issue in the Central Valley with some voters supporting it due to job creation and others opposing it saying it is a waste of tax dollars.) The Republicans have nominated Andy Vidak (R), a rancher from Kings County who ran against Rep. Jim Costa (D) in 2010 under similar district lines and nearly beat Costa. This race is drawing attention, $400,000 was spent on TV ads between June 9th and July 6th and experts predict that $4.5 million will be spent on the race. Even though President Obama won 58% of the vote in 2008 in this district, Vidak nearly won the primary, winning 49.8% of the vote on May 21st, 2013. This primary featured candidates from all parties and if no candidate received 50% of the vote or more, there would be a July 23rd runoff. Vidak at first seemed to have won with 51.9% of the vote on the morning after election day but after late provisional ballots were counted, his vote percentage dropped to 49.8%. Perez received about 43% of the vote but the rest of the votes that Perez and Vidak did not win went to Democrats so hopefully Perez can win over those voters. This post though will feature a description of the district and show the county baselines for Perez.

I previously wrote a similar post focusing more on turnout in SD-16 and why Leticia Perez should not concede. It was written just after the May 21st primary. It can be found here: 



map of SD-16:

President Obama's 2008 numbers in SD-16: 

Supervisor Perez's numbers in the 2013 primary: 

Fresno County:
The Fresno County part of this district is heavily Hispanic. It excludes the more conservative areas such as Clovis and contains inner city Fresno and some farming areas in the western part of the county, including the area along the I-5 with the "Congress created the dust bowl" signs. Even though the sign owners may be Republicans, the large majority of the population in this part of the district are Democratic leaning Hispanics. Many of them however are migrant workers who do not have a permanent residence and even more may be undocumented. This part of the district will be helped by the high speed rail which will be built through Fresno and create jobs there. Jobs are an important issue here for voters who were hurt by the 2008 foreclosure crisis. This area usually votes Democratic (President Obama won around 66% of the vote here in 2008,) but can Perez motivate enough Democrats in this district, especially Hispanic ones to turn out in this off year special election?

Kings County: 
Kings County is 50% Hispanic but that number should not fool anyone, it is a heavily Republican area, voting 57% for Romney in 2012. Kings County is also Vidak's home county. The main city here is Hanford and the main industry is farming (prisons also have a presence here too.) Ranching and farming is also large here but the turnout among Hispanic voters is low, allowing the white voters who generally vote 70%+ Republican in this district to cast the large majority of votes. Many argue this district is culturally closer to Texas than Los Angeles, despite being around 2.5 hours from Los Angeles and much farther from Texas. Despite having lower turnout in 2008 than the Kern County part of SD-16, Kings County had higher turnout in the 2013 primary which hurt Perez, especially since Kings County voted 74% for Vidak.

Tulare County: 
Tulare County is similar to Kings County demographically and economically. SD-16 only represents part of Tulare County and that part of Tulare County voted for President Obama in 2008 with 53% of the vote. Vidak won 59% of the vote in that portion though, mainly due to lower Hispanic turnout (this portion of Tulare County represents rural areas with large populations of Hispanic farm workers.) This district also excludes the major urban areas in Tulare County such as Visalia.

Kern County: 
Perez needs to perform extremely well here in order to win. Although Kern County as a whole voted 57% for Romney, this part of Kern County is heavily Democratic and contains heavily Hispanic areas such as Delano and eastern Bakersfield. Delano was the former headquarters for Cesar Chavez and like other towns in the district such as Wasco, has a large agricultural presence. Perez actually underperformed President Obama the least here, he won about 65% of the vote in 2008 in this part of SD-16 and she won about 60%. The reason is that this is her home area. Many volunteers from Los Angeles were working hard in the district last weekend (I helped volunteer with a group last April in Bakersfield and noticed that the minimum wage platform was very helpful with the voters I talked to,) so hopefully they can help Perez win big here.

Here are the benchmarks from each county for Perez to win with about 51%, assuming turnout rates are similar to the primary. To calculate the benchmarks, I relied on the results from the May 21st primary.

Fresno: Perez 59-41
Kern: Perez 66-34
Kings: Perez 27-73
Tulare: Perez 42-58

Turnout: 
The Central Valley has a long history of having low Democratic turnout in non Presidential elections. The 2010 midterms had low turnout where Rep. Jim Costa (D) nearly lost his seat which voted 59% for President Obama. Jerry Brown also won 42% of the vote in Fresno County, despite voting 50% for President Obama in 2012. Brown also faced Whitman who was unpopular with most Hispanics due to the housekeeper issue. Another turnout fact about the Central Valley is that many provisional ballots are counted after election day and these ballots tend to favor Democrats (for example, Costa won 54.6% by election day morning but that increased to 57.9% once the provisional ballots were counted. Ballots counted after election day also include absentee ballots dropped off at polling places on election day.) Costa also appeared to have lost in 2010 until the provisional reported and gave him a win. In 2012, President Obama lost Fresno by 2% before the provisionals were counted and won by 2% when they were counted. The example that applies to this race is the May 21st primary where Vidak won with 51.9% of the vote and Perez conceded but the provisional ballots reduced Vidak's percentage to 49.8%. If Vidak does not receive more than 52% of the vote by the morning of Wednesday, July 24th, then expect a long wait until all the votes are counted.

Final Questions: 

Overall, on election night, keep three questions while watching the returns: 1. Is Fresno County voting strongly for Perez the same way Kern County probably will? 2. Is Kings County having higher or lower turnout than Kern County which had higher turnout in 2008 but lower turnout in the 2013 primary? 3. If Vidak is ahead by Wednesday morning, did he win less than 52% of the vote so the provisionals can make up the ground? Keep these questions in mind to find out who will control this crucial seat for the 2/3rd majority in the California State Senate.

*Disclaimer: while I volunteered for this race last April, the views espoused in this article do not express the views of Supervisor Perez's campaign. This article espouses my views only.