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.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Leticia Perez and Democratic Turnout in Senate District 16

On May 21st, the voters of California's 16th Senate District nearly voted to elect a Republican even though President Obama won the district handily in 2012. This district is a 71% Hispanic district representing all of Kings County and heavily Hispanic parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kern Counties. This was a special election for the seat that State Sen. Michael Rubio (D) vacated in order to serve as a lobbyist for Chevron. The rules for this special election are that all candidates will run in an all party primary and if no candidate receives the 50.1% majority or more, there will be a runoff on July 23rd. The main Democratic candidate is Leticia Perez (D), a young Kern County Supervisor and the Republican candidate is Andy Vidak (R), the 2010 candidate for the 20th Congressional district representing parts of Fresno, Kings and Kern Counties. Perez campaigned on the high speed rail, raising the minimum wage to $9 and not raising taxes on working families. The CA Democratic Party also encouraged Democratic organizations (including the USC Democrats which I am a proud member of,) to campaign for Perez. Despite the hard work, Perez fell short on election night with Vidak winning 51.9% on the morning of May 22nd. Provisional ballots are being counted and have brought Vidak's numbers down to 49.8% and Perez's up from 41% to 43.8% (the other 8% went to less advertised Democratic candidates.) The race will now probably go to a July 23rd runoff because no candidate won 50.1% of the vote or more. There are almost no ballots in Fresno and Kern Counties but there are 135 left in Kings County and 170 left in Tulare County. Vidak needs to get a 211 vote margin from these 305 votes which means 85% of the remaining ballots must break for him which is unlikely. Many Republicans however are touting Vidak's numbers as a resurgence for Republicans in California and evidence that Republican candidates can win Hispanics. No exit polls were conducted on this race but this race should be seen not as a sign of Republican resurgence in California or with Hispanics. This race should be seen as a sign of low turnout especially with Hispanic voters which is typical in off year California elections, especially in the Central Valley.

(map of the 2014 version of the State Senate district, mpi maps.) 

(note: while I am a member of the USC Democrats and campaigned for Leticia Perez, the views espoused in this article do not represent the views of the Perez campaign, the CA Democratic Party or the USC Democrats. This article only represents my opinion.)

Turnout: 

In 2010, turnout in this area was low. The Democratic base in this district is Hispanics and the white voters in this district are mostly Republicans. Rep. Jim Costa (D) who represented the 20th Congressional district which overlaps much of the 16th State Senate district barely won in 2010, winning 51% of the vote. The reason is probably low turnout. Many of the Hispanics counted here in the 2010 census may be undocumented residents who cannot vote or documented residents who are not citizens yet and cannot vote. Also, some may be migrant farmworkers who do not have a permanent residence and travel around the valley depending on the harvest. The 2012 June primary is a bigger example of low turnout. Dianne Feinstein (D) only won 49% of the vote in the primary statewide. While she slightly underperformed in the Bay Area, she performed poorly in Los Angeles and other heavily Hispanic areas. She won 62% of the vote statewide in November and performed well in heavily Hispanic areas so Feinstein's problem was not that Hispanics preferred her opponent, it was that many of them were not voting. Therefore, it appears that Hispanics in these off year elections, especially special elections and primaries, have lower turnout rates. 

Turnout rates: 

Here are the turnout rates by county for each candidate compared with the 2008 Presidential election totals (2012 results are not available.) 

Senate District 16
               Obama  McCain
Fresno    50,332   25,618 
Kern      26,400    13,955 
Kings     14,747    19,710
Tulare     9,389     8,166
Totals     100,868  67,449
Percent 58.3% 39.8%  
            Perez     Vidak
Fresno 13,336   10,997
Kern    8,563     5,215
Kings   3,286     11,104
Tulare  2,079     3,677
Total:   27,264   30,993
Percent  43.8%     49.8%
Source: 

As shown, while Kern County had higher turnout than Kings County in 2012, it was the opposite in the State Senate election where Kings County had higher turnout. The Kern County portion of the 16th district is heavily Hispanic, and contains east Bakersfield which is heavily Hispanic. Kings County is roughly split between Hispanics and Whites but most of the Kings County Hispanics do not vote, either due to being below 18, not having permanent residence and not having citizenship. Therefore, Kings County is extremely Republican (and it is Vidak's home base.) Even President Obama in 2012 only won 40% of the vote there.

The Republicans' main response to this argument is CA-21 where David Valadao (R) won a 54% Obama district in 2012 with 58% of the vote. For CA-21, it has similar lines to SD-16. The reason for Valadao's win is not that Hispanics in the valley are trending Republican, it is that Valadao faced a poor Democratic candidate. John Hernandez (D), Valadao's challenger was poorly funded (the DCCC's preferred candidate Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong (D) lost in the June 2012 primary,) and ran a poor campaign. For example, he spelled Karl Rove as "Carl Rove" in one of his ads. Democrats should nominate a candidate such as Perez for this seat and then they can win. Perez has a solid base in Kern County as a Supervisor, she can raise money and she is very likable. She needs to run in 2014 or 2016 though when Hispanic turnout will be higher than in the special election.

Overall, as of Sunday, May 26th, the provisional ballots are being counted and the counting will finish on Friday May 31st. Vidak currently has 49.8% of the vote and it is surprising that the pundits did not see his 51.9% lead from the morning of Wednesday May 22nd declining because provisional ballots favor Democrats in California and make a difference in close races. In 2010, CA Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) was behind and her opponent declared victory but when the provisional ballots finished reporting, she won. Even more importantly, Costa in 2010 was behind but won when all the provisional ballots reported. Even in 2012 the provisional ballots changed results transforming a 2 point Romney lead in Fresno County into a 2 point Obama lead. Perez is ready for the runoff but no matter what happens with this race or the runoff, it should not be an indicator for Republicans that Hispanics are winnable, it should be an indicator to the Democrats that the turnout rates for Hispanics are lower in special elections.

Monday, March 4, 2013

California House Races 2014

2012 was a fantastic year for Democrats in California. Obama won 60% of the vote here, Democrats won 2/3 majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate and Democrats gained four U.S. House seats (from 2002-10, they gained only one.) Democrats overperformed expectations by winning all the tossup House seats and winning Assembly seats such as one in formerly Republican leaning Lancaster. Democrats have even more opportunities in 2014 though and can gain three more U.S. House seats if everything goes right. Having everything go right does not happen often but in 2012, most projections showed Democrats gaining two House seats in California but they gained four, winning CA-36 and CA-7 which were previously thought to be Republican leaning tossups. They also performed well in CA-26 and CA-52, two districts with many upscale white voters. These districts voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 but in 2010, voted for Whitman in the Gubernatorial so Democrats need to prevent the upscale voters from reverting back to the Republicans in 2014. Also, Democrats need to retain those seats because the base will have lower turnout in 2014 and midterms always have a more conservative electorate. With more resources in 2014 devoted to House races than in 2012 though, Democrats stand a strong chance to retain their wins in 2012 and expand on their 38-15 seat majority of California's Congressional delegation.
Map of California's congressional districts. Source:

Here is an interactive map of California's current congressional districts: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/CA

Republican held seats:

Tossup/Tilt Democratic (1 seat)

CA-31 Rep. Gary Miller (R) Redlands, San Bernadino, Rancho Cucamonga
Partisan Stats: Obama 57%, Romney 41% (2012 Presidential results by district for California are here)
Obama 56%, McCain 41%
Brown 49%, Whitman 44%
(2008 and 2010 district by district results + demographics are here)

The 31st district has a strong Democratic lean (even Whitman could not win it,) and it was one of the few districts where the President performed better in 2012 than he did in 2008. It is trending Democratic quickly too with a 49% Hispanic population so why does a Republican represent it? California's top two primary system is the answer. The top two vote receivers regardless of party run for the seat and in the 2012 primary, the top two vote receivers were Republicans. The Democratic field was split and Pete Aguilar (D), the Redlands Mayor was the top Democrat in that race. Democrats are working to convince him to run again and this time, two Republicans will not be the top two vote receivers. Miller does not even have a looming primary challenge. The district's lean should be enough to put Aguilar over the top in the general election if he runs although as Democrats learned in 2012, they can take nothing for granted in this district.

Lean Republican

CA-10 Jeff Denham (R) Modesto, Tracy
Partisan stats: Obama 51%, Romney 47%
Obama 50%, McCain 47%
Brown 43%, Whitman 49%

Democrats nominated Astronaut Jose Hernandez (D) in 2012 and Hernandez lost by only 5 points. Hernandez may run again for this seat but it is difficult to see how 2014 should be more favorable to him than 2012 was. President Obama won the district in 2012 but Denham is popular here and convinced enough voters to ticket split even while Hernandez had strong ads, a strong backstory and strong fundraising. Voters have ticket split for Denham in the past when he represented a State Senate seat that Obama won with 59% in 2008 and even Kerry carried in 2004 so it was not a major surprise. It shows how difficult it will be to defeat  Denham though but since the demographics of the district are changing, Democrats should win here eventually.

CA-21 David Valadao (R) Bakersfield, Kings County
Partisan Stats: Obama 55%, Romney 44%
Obama 51%, McCain 46%
Brown 47%, Whitman 44%

The 21st district is 70% Hispanic, the Hispanic population is growing quickly and the district is trending Democratic. Why does a Republican represent this district? The Hispanic turnout here is very low and the Hispanics in the Central Valley are more likely to ticket split than Hispanics in Los Angeles and Democrats nominated John Hernandez (D) who received little help from the DCCC. The Democratic preferred candidate Michael Rubio (D) declined running due to family concerns. He also resigned the State Assembly where he served in 2012 to become a lobbyist for Chevron, taking him out of consideration in 2014. For 2014 though, Democrats need to nominate a better fundraiser than Hernandez and a possible candidate is Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong (D) who lost the 2012 primary to Hernandez. Other possible candidates include Fran Florez (D). Democrats have been attacking Valadao early seeing an opportunity in this district. The problem for Democrats is that Hispanic turnout in California tends to drop in midterms so whoever they nominate has to turnout Hispanics and prevent Valadao from winning them.

Democratic held seats:

Tossup/Tilt Democratic

CA-36 Raul Ruiz (D) Coachella, Palm Springs
Obama 51%, Romney 48%
Obama 50%, McCain 47%
Brown 43%, Whitman 49%

This seat barely supported President Obama in 2012, Ruiz is a freshman Congressman, this district has a large Hispanic population and the Hispanic turnout should be lower in 2014 so Republicans should be ready to target this seat. They should not underestimate Ruiz though because he overperformed President Obama not against a far right candidate in the mold of Michelle Bachmann but Mary Bono Mack (R), a moderate candidate who had represented the district since the 90s. This indicates that if even Bono Mack cannot hold this seat, how could a far right tea party candidate win it back? (and it is unlikely any moderate candidate can win a Republican primary in this climate and Bono Mack does not seem interested in running.) Also, with the Hispanic population here growing very quickly, Republicans will be unable to hold this seat long even if they win in 2014.

(Lean Democratic)

CA-07 Ami Bera (D) Sacramento suburbs
Obama 51%, Romney 47%
Obama 51%, McCain 46%
Brown 49%, Whitman 44%

In the 2006 edition of the Almanac of American Politics, a similar configuration to this district was called "safely Republican." In 2012, Dr. Ami Bera won this district against former Rep. Dan Lungren (R), defeating a man who had served as CA Attorney General in the 1990s and had 18 years of experience in the U.S. House. Bera won not only by his strong fundraising skills, he won by courting the new voters in the Sacramento suburbs in a district that was >70% white in 2000 but in 2010 was close to 60% White. Even in the 2010 midterms, this district voted for Gov. Jerry Brown (D). This district is listed at Lean Democratic for now due to the close nature of this district even though no strong Republican has stepped up to challenge Bera. Potential candidates Republicans may consider courting could be vocal Prop 8 supporter Andy Pugno (R) who ran for State Assembly in 2010 or State Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R). The issue for Republicans though is that their bench has weakened recently in the Sacramento suburbs because they lost their State Assembly districts there in the late 2000s. One  possibility is 2012 Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken who expressed interest in running. Emken ran for office twice, first for U.S. House and came in last place in the Republican primary and ran for Senate in 2012, losing by 24 points. She may not be a major threat.

CA-26 Julia Brownley (D) Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks
Obama 54%, Romney 43%
Obama 56%, McCain 41%
Brown 46%, Whitman 47%

This was one of the most interesting races of 2012 where State Senator Tony Strickland (R) (who I met on January 23rd actually at a panel discussing President Obama's 2nd term,) Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks (I) and State Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) faced each other in the top two primary. Brownley and Strickland went to the general election and Brownley won by showing Strickland's extremist views on women's rights. Brownley should probably win reelection because she is a good fit for the district and Strickland was an extremely difficult candidate to beat, proving Brownley can handle tough opponents. This race may move into the likely Democratic column soon.


CA-52 Scott Peters (D) northern San Diego
Obama 52%, Romney 46%
Obama 55%, McCain 43%
Brown 43%, Whitman 50%

Peters fought a hard battle to win this seat against Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) even though Bilbray is moderate and well respected in the San Diego area. Also, this district is trending Democratic which should help Peters but the issue for him is that San Diego votes more Republican during midterm races (Bilbray won easily in 2010 and Whitman performed well too.) Republicans however are working hard to beat Peters and potential candidates include San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer (R) and former councilman Carl DeMaio (R). DeMaio ran for mayor in 2012. While he lost the mayor's race by 5 points, he carried the portion of San Diego in CA-52 56%-43% so he is popular here.



Overall, how does the 2014 cycle look in California 20 months until Election Day? Both parties have opportunities with Democrats hoping to gain Republican held seats where they ran poor campaigns in 2012  and Republicans are hoping to win back seats they lost in 2012 due to changing demographics and poor candidates. What Republicans must worry about though is that even if they prevent Democrats from turning out in 2014 and gain a few seats, California's changing demographics and the Republicans' inability to win over the new demographics mean that in 2016, Republicans could lose those seats again and lose more seats they thought were safely Republican. In 2012, Republicans lost an Assembly seat in Palmdale with a fast growing Hispanic population, despite even Democratic pundits predicting Republicans would hold that seat. In 2016, Rep. Buck McKeon (R) representing Palmdale may face a very close race too, he won only 54% in 2012 against an underfunded challenger despite nearly no pundits predicting a single digit margin for him. Even running Hispanic candidates is not always a solution, Republicans ran Hispanic Abel Maldonado (R) in the 24th district which was a near tie between Brown and Whitman. Maldonado was moderate and well known throughout the district yet he lost by ten points. Another plus for the Democrats is that Organizing for Action, the President's campaign arm which helped him win in 2012 but focused little on the House races will be devoting more energy to the House races in 2014 and will be extremely helpful in districts such as California's by helping Democrats register and turnout the new demographics moving into California.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Minnesota Redistricting 7-1 Democratic

After a yearlong absence, my redistricting map posts are back!

Although the 2011 redistricting season has passed and the next redistricting will take place around 2020, Minnesota has the possibility of undergoing mid decade redistricting. In 2010, Republicans and Democrats had split control of the state Government with Democrats controlling the Governorship and Republicans controlling the Legislature. Democrats now control the Legislature though so they have the trifecta. Currently, the map is 5-3 Democratic but with a bit of redistricting, Democrats can bring it up to 7-1 Democratic without splitting St. Paul and Minneapolis which is a big no no in Minnesota redistricting. I am not sure if Minnesota will undergo mid decade redistricting but if Minnesota did, I would recommend this map. In this map, besides not splitting the Twin Cities, I created a Republican vote sink in the western suburbs that combined John Kline's home with most of Michelle Bachmann's district. I also made the 3rd district more Democratic and changed its configuration greatly. The reason is that many of the incumbents such as Erik Paulsen (R) and John Kline (R) have become entrenched so I added unfamiliar territory to their districts. Anyway, here is the map.


Statewide


Data for the districts (the AA stands for African American.)

Minnesota's 1st District: Tim Walz (D) Rochester, southern Minnesota (blue)
Although this district barely voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, Walz should probably win here. He has become entrenched after his 2006 win and won easily in 2010 and 2012. This district undergoes minimal changes, losing two conservative western rural counties and replacing them with two conservative counties Sibley and LeSeur. They do not alter the district makeup much and Walz keeps most of his constituents. 
Likely Democratic

Twin Cities and exurbs

Minnesota's 2nd District: Vacant Northfield, Dakota County, Washington County (green) 
This district contains parts of Rep. John Kline's (R) current district but Kline may not run here because this district supported Obama by 9 points in 2008 (Obama won Minnesota by 9 points in 2008 so this matches his statewide average,) and Kline's home of Lakeville is in the more conservative 6th district. Kline faced a tougher reelection campaign than expected in 2012, winning with 54% of the vote. This new district though adds unfamiliar territory for Kline where he is not entrenched while eliminating Scott and Goodhue Counties which gave him a combined 21,000 vote margin (his overall margin was 29,000 votes.) The 2nd district also loses conservative parts of Dakota County. Kline won 52% in Dakota County. The district retains Democratic parts of Rice County though which voted 40% for Kline. The 2nd district also adds new territory including central Washington County as well as some Democratic leaning St. Paul suburbs in Ramsey County. These voters are unfamiliar with Kline and it will be harder for him to win them. The 2008 Obama percentage goes up from 51% to 53% as well. The higher percentage may encourage some strong Democrats to run which will be hard for Kline because he has not faced a tough challenge since 2002. If Kline opts for the 6th district, he will have a difficult primary with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) but since most of the new 6th district is new territory for her, she may have trouble winning the primary, especially if she is too extreme. 
Tossup/Tilt Democratic if Kline runs, Lean Democratic if not 



Minnesota's 3rd District: Vacant Brooklyn Park, Coon Rapids (purple)
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) will probably run in this district after it is increased from 50% to 56% Obama but he probably will lose. The reason is that he was entrenched in a swing district that contained the outer suburbs in Hennepin County so he did well there but the 3rd district adds Edina and a few other heavily Democratic suburbs bordering Minneapolis. The 3rd district also loses the conservative exurbs in western Hennepin County including Eden Prairie, Paulsen's home. These stronger Democratic lines should attract a strong Democratic challenger instead of the token opposition Paulsen faced in 2010 and 2012. The 3rd is at 56% Obama even without splitting Minneapolis and although it splits counties, I had to do so for population reasons.
Lean Democratic

Minnesota's 4th District: Betty McCollum (D) St. Paul, northern Anoka County (red)
This district loses most of the close in St. Paul suburbs and gains conservative areas such as northern Anoka County and Isanti County to remove them from the 6th and 8th districts. These changes bring down Obama's 2008 percentage to 58.7% and his 2012 percentage is probably 56%-57%. St. Paul does not ticket split in local races and it has high turnout so it should be enough to anchor McCollum. She may have to fight a bit more to keep her seat but she should still win.

Minnesota's 5th District: Keith Ellison (D) vs. Erik Paulsen (R) Minneapolis, Eden Prairie (yellow)
I placed Paulsen's home in this district but I doubt Paulsen would run in this district which voted 68% for Obama. The 5th district becomes more Republican by losing Democratic suburbs such as Edina and gains western Hennepin County which is exurban, conservative and resembles Sherburne County more than it resembles Minneapolis. These exurban areas also are staunchly Republican (especially in local races unlike the 7th district which is Republican nationally but Democratic in local races.) These changes make the 3rd district more Democratic while keeping the 5th safely in Democratic hands. The 5th also does not split any counties and it splits as few towns as possible, keeping Eden Prairie and Bloomington 100% intact.

Minnesota's 6th District: John Kline (R) vs. Michelle Bachmann (R): Lakeville, Carver County, Sherburne County (teal)
Bachmann and Kline will probably face each other in this extremely conservative district. It is 1 point more Republican than Bachmann's current district so Bachmann would be even safer here. I wanted to sacrifice her though for opening up the 2nd and 3rd districts to Democratic challenges. Also, Kline's home is in the district so he may prefer to run here and he would face an easy reelection if he won the primary. Bachmann will be able to fundraise easily but if the Republican Party does try to moderate itself, Bachmann may be in trouble. She is not popular in her district after her Presidential run (she won by only two points in 2012 despite her money advantage,) so if Kline can exploit that (and win big margins in his current district and Carver County which he represented until 2010,) he could win.

Minnesota 7th District: Collin Peterson (D) west Minnesota (gray)
Besides trading a few counties around the edges, the 7th district remains the same. These counties may lean Republican but they are strongly Democratic in statewide and local races. It is still Republican leaning but Peterson is very popular and he should hold it as long as he is in office.



Minnesota's 8th District: Rick Nolan (D) St. Cloud, Duluth, northeastern Minnesota (light purple)
I strengthened Nolan a bit by removing fast growing exurban areas in Chisago and Isanti Counties. I then added St. Cloud which is a swing area (the counties around it are Republican because the exurbs there are conservative even though the city of St. Cloud is pretty even politically.) Besides these changes, the district remains centered around the Iron Range. Nolan performed fine here in 2012, winning by 8 points against former Rep. Chip Craavack (R) but this district is still moving away from the Democrats so removing Isanti and part of Chisago will help Nolan because those areas are fast growing and trending Republican quickly. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Outlook for 2014 Senate Races




After an amazing 2012 election, it is already time to start previewing the 2014 Senate races. I have not posted many posts analyzing the 2012 election results yet because I like to wait until all the votes are tallied. In 2014 though, Democrats face a tough map. Like 2012, the majority of the seats up for reelection are held by Democrats and like 2012, some of those Democrats such as Kent Conrad (D) ND and Claire McCaskill (D)-MO, represented Republican leaning states which turned out strongly for Romney. In the beginning of 2011, most pundits were expecting a Republican takeover of the Senate. However, Republican candidate implosions (such as Todd Akin's,) and stronger than expected Democratic candidates (such as Heidi Heitkamp,) allowed the Democrats to retain the Senate and even gain two seats. Another point that compares this election to the 2004 election is that in 2004, Republicans gained seats across the South to create a string of red seats from Oklahoma to North Carolina which helped the Republicans have 55 seats. In 2012 though, Democrats have a string of seats across the North from Massachusetts to Montana which helped give them 55 seats.

Anyway, it is possible Democrats could surprise conventional wisdom and protect their seats in 2014 but it is a harder task than it was in 2012. In 2008, Democrats swept almost all of the competitive races so the 13 seats that Republicans do have up (the Democrats have 20,) are mostly in solidly Republican states such as Wyoming, Alabama and Kansas where Democrats are not going to win. The only opportunity for the Democrats is in Maine where moderate Susan Collins (R) could decide to retire. Another possibility is Georgia with Saxby Chambliss (R) where Democrats came within three points of unseating him in 2008. That year though, there was high African American turnout which is unlikely in 2014. Still, Georgia is having an influx of African Americans and Hispanics and Romney won by 7 points in 2014 when most observers predicted a 10-12 point victory. I am not going to predict Georgia as competitive just yet but if Democrats find a strong candidate to challenge Chambliss, that race could become interesting. As for the Republicans, they have a large range of seats they can win in such as Alaska, Arkansas North Carolina, South Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia They need to gain six seats though and Democrats seem favored to prevent that. They have a disadvantage in South Dakota but in states such as Alaska, Arkansas and North Carolina, Democrats may be unpopular nationally but the Senate candidates are popular statewide. Anyway, italicized names are potential retirement and here are the ratings:

My ratings standards:
Safe: the incumbent party will win easily, either the incumbent is too popular, the state is too blue or red and there is no potential candidate who can cross the party lines.
Likely: the incumbent party is heavily favored but retirement and/or the right candidate can make a competitive race.
Lean: this race is competitive now but one party is slightly favored.
Tossup: this race is too close to call



Dark blue =Safe Democratic
Blue=Likely Democratic
Light blue=Lean Democratic
Purple=Tossup
Red=Likely Republican
Dark Red=Safe Republican


Safe Democratic
Delaware Chris Coons (D): Republicans had their chance here in 2010 but they blew it by nominating Christine O'Donnell (R) who proved that telling voters "I'm not a witch, I'm you," is not a persuasive argument. Future candidates, please take note.

Illinois Richard Durbin (D): Illinois may have an unpopular Democratic Governor but the Majority Whip Durbin should have no trouble winning reelection here.

New Jersey Frank Lautenberg (D): Lautenberg will be 90 in 2014 so he may retire and if he does, the seat should remain in Democratic hands unless Gov. Chris Christie (R) decides to run which is extremely unlikely because he will be preparing for the 2016 Presidential race.

Oregon: Jeff Merkley (D): Merkley's approval ratings are strong enough at 50/41 but a recent PPP poll shows Merkley with a 4 and 5 point leads over Rep. Greg Walden (R) and former Sen. Gordon Smith (R). While Walden and Smith can run a competitive race, Walden is running the NRCC so he is too busy to run for Senate and Smith has expressed no interest in running. The PPP poll tests other Republican candidates too but Merkley leads all of them by 17+ points. Oregon normally would be at Likely D seeing how Republicans have run close statewide races in 2008 and 2010 but since Merkley has no real opposition, the race is at Safe D.

Rhode Island Jack Reed (D): Republicans have no game in Rhode Island, one of the five most Democratic states. The only danger sign for Reed is if Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (I) ran but due to Chaffee's low approval ratings (at least for now because Governor's approval ratings change faster than Romney's platform does,) I expect Reed to win easily.

Likely Democratic

Colorado Mark Udall (D): Colorado has been trending toward the Democrats recently. In 2010, Democrats retained a Senate seat they were expected to lose and in 2012, Obama won Colorado by 5 points even though pundits said it would be a nailbiter (Colorado's margin was only two points behind Georgia's 7 point Romney margin and no pundit called Georgia a target state,) and Democrats won the legislature. Also, Udall leads by 7 points against a Generic Republican according to a PPP poll on November 4th. A potential Republican candidate is Rep. Cory Gardner (R). However, these Colorado Republican House members do not do well in statewide races. For example, Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) lost in the 2006 gubernatorial race, Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) lost in the 2008 Senatorial race and Rep. Scott McInnis (R) lost in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. I am not a big fan of Colorado's Republican bench and I do not see Udall losing since Republican have not won a Senatorial race in Colorado since 2002.

Iowa Tom Harkin (D): Iowa is well known as a swing state but Harkin has been a Senator since 1984 and will be 74 years old on Election Day in 2014. He has also been quiet about retirement plans but many Senators serve well into their 70s and 80s (hello Frank Lautenberg, Daniel Inouye, Dianne Feinstein etc.) Harkin should be able to fend off Republican challenges due to his popularity but if he retires, expect this race to move to tossup immediately. Potential Republican candidates include conservative firebrand Rep. Steve King (R), popular Rep. Tom Latham (R) and Gov. Terry Bransted (R). Potential Democratic candidates may include Rep. Bruce Braeley (D), Rep. Dave Loesbeck (D) and Christie Vilsack (D), the former Iowa first lady who ran against King in 2012.

Massachusetts John Kerry (D): Kerry is popular enough to win reelection but if he is appointed to Secretary of State by the President, then Massachusetts will have an open Senate seat with a special election. We all remember how the last special election in Massachusetts turned out where Scott Brown (R) shocked everyone by defeating Attorney General Martha Coakley (D). Brown lost his Senate race in 2012 to Elizabeth Warren (D) by 8 points even though Warren may have been too liberal so Brown may be weaker than pundits believe. Democrats have a good list of potential candidates though including Rep. Edward Markey (D), Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and Rep. Edward Capuano who ran in the 2009 Special Election primary. A few pundits mentioned Coakley but she is more interested in running for Governor so many Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief now. Anyway, as long as Kerry stays in the Senate, he should win easily. If it is an open seat though and Brown runs, I am moving this race to Lean Democratic. Markey is a good fundraiser and the other Democrats should beat Brown but they will have to fight a real race. The race will be at Likely Democratic for now though.

Michigan Carl Levin (D): Like Iowa, this is another state with an older Democratic incumbent who should win easily if he runs but would create a competitive race if he retires. Like Harkin, Levin has been quiet about his retirement plans. Republicans have a large bench but it is weaker than it looks (as the 2012 Senate race showed. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) was supposed to be a strong candidate but he ran a racist ad  which ruined his campaign.) Still, Republicans could run Rep. Candice Miller (R) who is a strong fundraiser or Rep. Mike Rogers (R) who is very popular in his swing district. Democrats though could run Rep. Gary Peters (D) but besides that, they do not have a strong bench. Still, Michigan's Democratic lean means this race should lean Democratic if Levin retires.

New Mexico Tom Udall (D): Udall's approval ratings are in the low 50s right now which are good numbers in the blue leaning state of New Mexico. This state used to be a swing state in the early 2000s but has shifted toward the Democrats in the last few years as the Hispanic population shifted toward the Democrats. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) could try at this seat but she lost by 6 points in the 2012 Senate race so she probably would not beat Udall. Gov. Susana Martinez (R) however could run a real challenge against Udall because her approval ratings are high (although they could change quickly because gubernatorial approval ratings are volatile,) but there has been no noise from her about running.

New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen (D): New Hampshire is such a bellwether state. It mirrors whichever party does well. For example, it went strongly Democratic in 2006, 2008 and 2012 while the Republicans did well in 2010. Midterms usually favor Republicans but Shaheen may be able to win. Her approval ratings are hovering around 50 and she leads a generic Republican opponent by 10 (the same poll sample showed Gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan (D) leading by 4 but Hassan won by 13 so this sample favored Republicans so Shaheen leads a generic Republican by more than 10.) Shaheen may face a challenge from former Sen. John Sunumu (R) but PPP shows Shaheen leading 53%-42% so Shaheen should win reelection as long as the Republican winds do not shift too far to the right.



Virginia: Mark Warner (D): Virginia may be a swing state but Warner is extremely popular here, mostly due to his strong career as Governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. He won the Senate seat in 2008 with 65% of the vote against former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R). In Virginia, the Governors have always run for Senate (Charles Robb (D), George Allen (R), Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D)) and it may happen again because Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is term limited out so he may challenge Warner. If the Republicans nominate an unknown candidate, I will move this race to 'Safe Democratic' but McDonnell should give Warner a race (although I expect Warner to win.) McDonnell is popular but Warner is more popular.

Lean Democratic:

Arkansas Mark Pryor (D): Pryor faced no Republican opponent in 2008 but he will not be as lucky in 2014. In 2008, Arkansas's congressional delegation was 3-1 Democratic and Democrats controlled the Legislature. In 2012, Republicans control the congressional delegation 4-0 and the Legislature. Rep. Tim Griffin (R), announced he will not run, helping Pryor because Griffin would have been a formidable foe. Still, Reps. Tom Cotton (R) and Steve Womack (R) are potential candidates. In 2010, Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln (D) lost and Republicans hope Pryor will follow her path. Pryor though is more popular than Lincoln and is from a strong political family. He has been moderate but did not anger the base the way Lincoln did. No polls have been released so it is difficult to assess the race but Pryor seems to have an edge.

Louisiana Mary Landrieu (D): Why am I placing Landrieu's seat in the Lean Democratic category despite Louisiana’s strong Republican bent? The reason is that Landrieu has become entrenched after representing Louisiana since 1996 and her political family is popular (her father Moon Landrieu (D) was Governor and her brother Mitch Landrieu (D) is mayor of New Orleans.) She also is popular in the New Orleans metropolitan area and can make inroads in the conservative New Orleans suburbs. Potential Republican candidates include Reps. Charles Boustany (R), Bill Cassidy (R) and John Fleming (R) (one of Fleming's aides said Fleming is interested.) Although the Republicans have many potential candidates, none of them have the star power needed to beat Landrieu but they should run a close race. Also, Louisiana has jungle primaries were candidates of all parties are on the same ballot and if no one receives 50% or more, they have another election between the top two in a month.

Minnesota: Al Franken (D): Franken's approval ratings are at 47/39 and 48%-42% against a generic Republican according to a recent PPP poll so Franken has more supporters than opponents but not by a large margin. Franken probably will win, especially if Michelle Bachmann (R) decides to challenge him. It is possible former Senator Norm Coleman (R) will run after losing in 2008 but he has been quiet about the race and Minnesota Republicans think he is more likely to run for Governor. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) stated he will not run but two strong potential candidates include Reps. John Kline (R) and Erik Paulsen (R). Neither Paulsen nor Kline have said they will not run but neither of them said they will. Paulsen could be the Mark Kirk of Minnesota because of his popularity in a swing district and his appeal to moderates (although his voting record is conservative.) Still, I expect Franken to win but it could be close.

Montana Max Baucus (D): Baucus has been a Senator from Montana since 1978 but he may face a tough race in 2014 even though he has fallen below 55% of the vote only once since his 1974 House election. His popularity sank because of the healthcare controversy and he has a 41/44 approval rating. He also leads a generic Republican 45/42 which means Republicans have a chance to beat Baucus but their bench is weak. Republicans ran their strongest candidate former Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) who lost the 2012 Senate race by 4. Democrats also won all statewide offices except Attorney General in 2012. Also, the influx of Democrats from California and other west coast states is helping Montana become less red. Possible Republican candidates include Attorney General Tim Fox (R), U.S. House Freshman Steve Daines (R) (although he may not be inclined to run after freshman Rick Berg (R) ran for Senate in ND and lost,) and Rehberg (Rehberg challenged Baucus in 1996 and lost though.) Another possibility is a primary challenge from former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) because Schweitzer has not quashed any rumors about running although he may be more interested in higher office. Overall, Baucus's low approval ratings put this race at Lean Democratic but the weak Republican bench prevents it from reaching tossup. Republicans also usually underestimate how Montana ticketsplits for Republican Presidential candidates and Democratic statewide candidates. Republicans have not won a single Gubernatorial or Senatorial contest since 2000.

Tossup
Alaska Mark Begich (D): If anyone is encouraged by Alaska's swing toward Obama (it was one of the five states where Obama performed better in 2012 than in 2008. He lost by 13 points in 2012 instead of by 20 in 2008,) Begich should be happy. In 2008, he barely won against Sen. Ted Stevens (R) who was extremely corrupt and represented Alaska since the 1960s. Begich has kept a moderate profile and will certainly be hard to beat. The Republicans though are already lining up to challenge him including Gov. Sean Parnell (R) and 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller (R). Democrats should hope Miller gets the nomination because he is a far right conservative who might go the road of Todd Akin (R), Richard Mourdock (R) and Sharron Angle (R). Parnell though is a saner Republican so he would be harder to beat.

North Carolina Kay Hagan (D): The North Carolina Democratic Party took a beating recently with Republicans seizing control of the Governorship and State Legislature. Even Obama could not win North Carolina despite high turnout in the Democratic areas. In 2014, Democratic turnout will be lower but Hagan could make up for it with crossover support in rural eastern North Carolina (many white voters there support Democrats in statewide races.) Also, she has announced she will run.  Republicans though have a large bench of Congressmen looking to move up in the Senate.

South Dakota Tim Johnson (D): Johnson is no stranger to tough races. He faced two close elections in 1996 and 2002 and emerged successfully. His opponent though is popular former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) who recently announced his candidacy so Johnson faces a tough race. There were speculations he would retire but his statement suggests Johnson plans to stay in the race. If Johnson retires, Democrats could recruit former Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D) to run. Although Rounds is popular, he is very conservative and in 2006 signed a bill banning abortion, even in cases of rape. Voters had other ideas and overturned the bill 44%-56%. Johnson may run ads comparing Rounds's abortion positions with Akin's and Mourdock's. Also, Johnson needs to turn out the Native American voters because in 2002, they provided his winning margin. Overall, although South Dakota is a Republican state, the Dakotas will ticket split for Senate races as shown with Heidi Heitkamp's win in North Dakota so Johnson has a strong shot. I think Democrats are overreacting a bit here, Johnson probably will win although it could be close. If it is a Republican wave year, Republicans should win this though.

West Virginia Jay Rockefeller (D): Rep. Shelley Moore Captio (R) announced her candidacy for Senate. Rockefeller has served since 1984, has more than enough money but pundits say he is too liberal for West Virginia. I believe he is an institution in West Virginia but he needs to prepare for a tough race and he is in his mid 70s. However, Capito is moderate which helps her in the general election but since she is pro choice and West Virginia is a socially conservative state, I expect she will receive a challenge from the right such as 2010 and 2012 Senate candidate John Raese (R). Unless the tea party movement shrinks, a right wing challenger should be able to knock her off because I do not see how a socially conservative state such as West Virginia can nominate a pro choice Republican. As for Rockefeller's plans, he may decide to retire and has been quiet about his plans. If he does retire, Democrats could nominate former Sen. Carte Goodwin (D) or Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) for the seat. Overall, I think Capito is overhyped because she will get attacked by the right and it will be hard to beat Rockefeller because West Virginia still supports Democrats for statewide offices (and Rockefeller can self-fund.) Also, Capito probably announced early because she was worried about a conservative primary challenge and wanted to clear the field.


Likely Republican:
Georgia Saxby Chambliss: Although Chambliss seems safe enough from Democrats (he won in 2008 despite the high African American turnout,) Chambliss may not be safe enough from a Republican challenge on the right. The teabaggers may run a candidate because Chambliss may not follow the Norquist pledge. Potential candidates include 2010 Gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel (R), Rep. Tom Price (R), conservative editor of RedState Erick Erickson (R) and former Presidential candidate Herman Cain (R). A PPP poll showed Chambliss leads all challengers except Cain and 43%-38% of Republicans wanted a more conservative nominee. If Chambliss loses the primary, Democrats have a shot because if the Republican candidate is too extreme, Democrats could win the way they did in Indiana and Missouri. A potential candidate is Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed (D). Price leads by only 5 in the PPP poll against Reed so Reed could make it close (but Chambliss leads Reed by 15.) The Gubernatorial polling numbers are more favorable for Democrats though so Reed may run there.

Kentucky Mitch McConnell (R): Democrats would love to defeat the Minority Leader of the Senate and the Minority Leader of Americans who's first priority is to make Obama a one term President. McConnell may receive a challenge on the right but no candidate has emerged. For the Democrats though, actress and Kentucky native Ashley Judd (D) may run for the seat. She is well known, can attract national attention to this race and can raise money. Kentuckians though are not a fan of Hollywood Stars running for office (as shown in 2004 when George Clooney's Father Nick Clooney (D) ran for U.S. House and lost after Republicans tied him to Hollywood.) Still, Judd has real Kentucky roots and will be able to compete with McConnell on the airwaves (and a recent PPP poll shows her within four points of McConnell.)  Also, Kentucky has a tendency to support Democrats in statewide races, as shown when Democrats swept all but one statewide office in 2011. If she decides to run, this race will automatically move to Lean Republican but since Judd has not officially announced, this race remains at Likely Republican. Democrats control all but one statewide office in Kentucky but no candidate there has stepped forward to challenge McConnell.

Maine Susan Collins (R): Collins is very popular in Maine. In 2008, she won 62%-38% against a strong candidate, Rep. Tom Allen (D) so Collins should probably win again and PPP's early November poll gave Collins a 65% approval rating. If Collins decides to run, she will win. If she retires though, Democrats have a great chance to win and I will immediately move the race to Lean Democratic. Potential Democratic candidates include Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) and Rep. Michael McAuland (D). Pingree should be a strong candidate due to her popularity. Also, Collins may get a primary challenge from the right due to her moderate views. Although conventional wisdom says Maine is a moderate state, it does have its conservatives (Maine elected the unpopular teabagger Governor Paul LePage (R). 2012 Senate candidate Charlie Summers (R) is a potential primary challenger.

South Carolina A: Lindsay Graham (R): Graham has been shifting right lately because he is worried about a primary challenge. Even if Graham loses though, the seat should stay Republican because Democrats have a weak bench in South Carolina. Their only strong candidate is State Sen. Vincent Shaheen (D) but he seems more likely to run for Governor and leads Gov. Nikki Haley (R). Also, Graham receives 51% of the vote against a more conservative challenger but if he moderates himself on the fiscal cliff issue, expect the number to go south for him. 

Safe Republican

Alabama Jeff Sessions (R): Alabama has not elected a Democratic Senator in who knows how long. Anyway, Alabama is not unseating Sen. Sessions.

Idaho Jim Risch (R): As long as Risch does not follow the footsteps of former Idaho Senator Larry Craig (R), Risch should win reelection easily.

Kansas Pat Roberts (R): Even if former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) ran here, Roberts should hold this seat easily. Sebelius lost her popularity in the Obama Administration.

Mississippi Thad Cochran (R): Should be an easy hold for Republicans. 

Nebraska Mike Johannes (R): Nebraska is looking pretty safe for Republicans here. Not even former Gov. Bob Kerrey (D) could make a close race for Senate in 2012.

Oklahoma James Inhofe (R): Oklahoma is one of the five reddest states so Inhofe should have no trouble winning reelection. He may retire though because he will be 80 in 2014. If he does, Democrats should persuade Paul Ryan's wife's cousin former Rep. Dan Boren (D) or former Gov. Brad Henry (D) to run. Boren previously represented the 2nd district in eastern Oklahoma and won reelection with double digit margins, even in 2010. Henry was very popular as Governor however Oklahoma has been trending away from the Democratic Party quickly so Henry or Boren may run a slightly competitive race but should not win.
Safe Republican if Inhofe runs, Likely Republican if Boren or Henry runs +Inhofe retirement.

South Carolina B: Open Jim DeMint (R): DeMint resigned to work for the Heritage Foundation. There is no strong Democratic candidate waiting to run for office though (unless Stephen Colbert decides to run as a Democrat.) Republicans should hold this. 

Tennessee Lamar Alexander (R): It was only 2006 that Democrats controlled the Governorship, five House seats and came within three points of winning a Senate seat. Those days are long gone now; Tennessee is a solidly Republican state. Democrats control two House seats and won 30% in the 2012 Senate race.

Texas John Cornyn (R): Texas is trending Democratic but Cornyn should have no trouble winning. 

Wyoming Michael Enzi (R): Assuming former Gov. Dave Freudental (D) does not run here, Enzi should have an easy race.