Ballot Watch: West Coast
This is Ballot Watch. Today is the seventh in the series of articles on the upcoming ballot initiatives and some key local elections. Some of these will cover topics in common with multiple states, while others will look at a state level.
For today’s Ballot Watch, I’m covering the West Coast…and Arizona and Nevada. Why Arizona and Nevada? In trying to balance the regions somewhat so that all three of Logarchism’s regular writers get a fair share of the country, the states touching the Pacific Ocean weren’t quite enough. And so Arizona and Nevada are in the mix.
So what do the ballots look like in these seven states? Nothing of interest in Alaska or Hawaii, but the other five have tales to tell.
Arizona is a wild west state, and has gotten wilder over the past decade.
Recall that Governor Jan Brewer initially became Governor when her predecessor, Janet Napolitano, was tapped by President Obama to be the Secretary of Homeland Security. Brewer was Secretary of State at the time, and that made her second in line for Governor (Arizona has no Lieutenant Governor). Brewer polled poorly against Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard initially, but momentum shifted when she got behind ALEC-drafted Senate Bill 1070, which passed in part because of public outcry when Robert Krentz was murdered near the border with Mexico. That man had been known to give water to people entering the country illegally. Goddard opposed SB 1070, and he lost support from then on. Brewer isn’t up for election, but this story should give a little background for some of the other descriptions below.
You may recall Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau, who got in hot water when he was accused of blackmailing his illegal immigrant gay lover. Charges were dropped against him in late August. He was going to run for a seat in Congress before this all blew up. He did choose to run again for Pinal County Sheriff, and won the primary. He’s likely to retain his job.
And of course there’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was really popular among Arizonans for his treatment of prisoners (pink underwear, cheap rations, mandatory work). But then he started to get in trouble for allegations of misuse of public funds, and criminally filing charges against a sitting county judge. The FBI dropped the charges at the end of August. In the interim, every time there was a big story about to break on the investigation, he’d pull out a press conference to talk about the birther stuff. It became a joke among Maricopa County residents, because it happened every single time. And, as it looked as if the FBI was going to formally indict him, he ramped up his Big Birther event, featuring Pat Boone. Now that the charges have been dropped, so, too, has the event. He’s still looking forward to implementing the “show your papers” part of SB 1070, and the almost guaranteed lawsuits that will follow.
Congressional District 1 is a merely shrunken version of its predecessor, owing to Arizona’s gain of a House seat in the latest reapportionment. Part of the territory that was cut out contains the residence of incumbent freshman Representative Paul Gosar (R-Flagstaff), who will almost certainly be reëlected to represent the new District 4. Republican former state Senator Jonathan Paton will face off against Gosar’s predecessor, former Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff). District 1 has long been close, though its PVI is R+3. But Kirkpatrick has raised more than two dollars for each dollar Paton has raised, and has far more money left in reserves. In fact, she has more money left in her reserves than Paton has raised altogether. This gives the edge to Kirkpatrick.
Congressional District 2, a shrunken version of the old District 8, is the district formerly represented by Representative Gabirelle Giffords, and currently represented by Representative Ron Barber (D-Tucson). Barber faces off against retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally. Barber has outraised McSally by a four-to-one margin, and has the immensely popular Giffords’s endorsement. Barber is likely to give McSally a serious buzzcut and win reëlection in this R+2 district.
Congressional District 3 is newly-drawn from parts of old Districts 3 and 7. Conservative activist Gabriela Saucedo Mercer is the Republican candidate running against incumbent Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Tucson). Mercer is the one who said Middle Eastern immigrants should be banned from the US. Brewer abruptly backed out on attending a September 11 fundraiser for her. It wouldn’t have mattered, really; District 3 is heavily Democratic, with a PVI of D+7, and Grijalva has outraised Mercer by a four-to-one margin. He should have no difficulty keeping his job.
Congressional District 9 is Arizona’s brand new district, carved out of a piece of the old District 5. It consists mostly of Tempe, with a sprinkling of south Scottsdale and north Phoenix in the mix. This makes it geographically significantly more liberal than the old District 5, and Democratic former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema has outraised Republican former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker by a three-to-one margin. The district’s PVI is EVEN, but Sinema should have the edge in this election.
It’s worth noting that, in all of the contentious House seats in conservative Arizona, the Democrats have the upper hand. Of course, Arizona Democrats aren’t New York Democrats.
Arizona has nine ballot measures this time around, five of which are worthy of mention.
Proposition 114 is sort of a “stand your ground” for civil law. If passed, crime victims would be immunized against damages they cause those who committed the crimes against them. It’s an interesting idea, and should pass easily in this wild west state.
Proposition 117 is an echo of California’s 1978 Proposition 13. Proposition 117 would limit property tax increases by capping the potential annual increase in assessed value.
Proposition 120 is Arizona’s version of Utah’s Ragegush Rebellion, though at an initiative level. If passed, it would declare Arizona’s sovereignty over natural resources, though it remains to be seen whether such a declaration would stand up in federal court. Like 114, and for the same reasons, this should pass easily.
Proposition 121 would turn Arizona’s primary elections into “jungle primaries”. The impact in California hasn’t been quite as significant as many previously thought, so it may not make much of a difference what happens with this initiative. Nonetheless, it’s a sign that people are increasingly tiring of the hyperpartisan nature of Congress.
Proposition 204 would extend the one-percent sales tax increase passed in 2010, which is otherwise scheduled to expire on January 1, 2013. For whatever reason, taxes of this sort tend to pass in Arizona; I’d expect this one to pass, too.
California’s Congressional Districts were redrawn this time by a nonpartisan citizens’ commission, which will undoubtedly benefit Republicans, since past redistricting was handled by Democrats in the state Legislature. This change accounts for the significant number of close Congressional races in California this year.
Congressional District 7 is made up by parts of the old Districts 3 and 7, the former represented by Dan Lungren (R-Gold River). The new, more compact district has more of eastern Sacramento in it, making it more moderate than the current District 3. He is running against Democrat Ami Bera, a first-generation American doctor. The new district boundaries make it well balanced between urban liberals and rural conservatives, making this a bit of a tough race to handicap. Lungren has the advantage of name recognition, though — he has been active in California politics for decades — and he garnered almost 53 percent of the vote in the primary election. Bera has a slight edge in fundraising, with a 16 percent edge. RealClearPolitics calls this a tossup. I’m more inclined to say that it leans in Lungren’s favor, particularly since its PVI is R+3.
Congressional District 9 is made up of parts of the old Districts 9, 10, and 11. From old District 11 hails Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton), who is opposed by Republican Ricky Gill. Currently, all three of the old districts have Democratic Representatives, which would lead one to believe that this should be a slam-dunk for McNerney. However, a look at the primary election, where the two Republican candidates split 52 percent of the vote, and its PVI of D+2, suggest that this race is likely to be closer than one would otherwise think. This is particularly true when one considers that Gill has raised slightly more money than McNerney.
Congressional District 10 is comprised of pieces of the old Districts 10, 18, and 19, and has a PVI of R+5. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater) currently represents District 19. He’s running against former NASA astronaut José Hernández. Though the old Districts 10 and 18 were gerrymandered to send Democrats to Washington, the new borders make District 10 far more rural, and thus more likely to go Republican. Denham captured 49 percent of the vote in the primary election, and can be expected to crest above 50 in the general. Denham has also outraised Hernández by a more than two-to-one margin. It’s not a sure thing, but it seems more likely that Denham will continue to serve in the House.
Congressional District 24, which is mostly a major expansion of the old District 23 encompassing a good chunk of the old District 24, is a battle between District 23 incumbent Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) and Republican Abel Maldonado, who was Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Lieutenant Governor. District 23 was a sliver of very liberal coastline. With the redistricting, the territory is more balanced between the liberal coast and the conservative interior. Capps captured 46 percent of the primary election votes, while 51 percent were split between two Republican candidates. On the other hand, it’s a D+3 district, and Capps has outraised Maldonado by a two-to-one margin. This could go either way, as the new district encompasses substantial swaths of old Districts 24 and 22, both of whom are currently represented by Republicans.
Congressional District 26 is made up of parts of old Districts 24, 26, and 27, and has a PVI of D+2. There are no incumbents in this race, as the one possible incumbent of the three districts, Representative Elton Gallegy (R-Simi Valley), is retiring. Republican State Senator Tony Strickland is battling it out against Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley for this seat. Strickland garnered 44 percent of the primary votes, while Democratic candidates split 38 percent. The remaining 18 percent went to independent candidate Linda Parks, who represents the 2nd District in Ventura County. RealClearPolitics thinks Strickland has a better chance, and his outraising Brownley by a 1.5:1 margin supports this.
Congressional District 41 in the Inland Empire is comprised of parts of the old Districts 41 and 44, both of whom are currently represented by Republicans. The new 41 is much more compact, and thus much more urban, than either of the old districts. This turns it into a D+3 district. That said, the Inland Empire is more conservative than the coast — particularly this area, which includes March Air Force Base — so it’s not like we’re talking about San Francisco here. This incumbent-free district saw three Republicans and two Democrats battle in the primary, with Democrat Mark Takano and Republican John Tavaglione emerging as the two winners. Collectively, Democrats got 45 percent of the vote, while Republicans got 55. Both candidates have raised about the same amount of money, but Tavaglione has more still in reserve. RealClearPolitics says this district leans Democratic, but I’m not so sure about that. I’d call this a tossup.
Congressional District 47 includes Long Beach and parts of Orange County, territory that was part of old Districts 37 and 47, and has a PVI of D+5. Both Districts are currently represented by Democrats, though neither’s Representative lives within the boundaries of the new District 47. Instead, we have two newcomers: Democratic state Senator Alan Lowenthal and Republican Gary DeLong. Democratic and Republican candidates split the votes almost perfectly in the primary election, but this territory leans more Democratic than Republican. I suspect the name recognition Lowenthal has and the slight Democratic lean will be enough to push him over the edge to victory, though DeLong has outraised Lowenthal by nearly two-to-one.
Congressional District 52, made up of parts of old Congressional Districts 50 and 52, is a battle between District 50 incumbent Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad) and Democratic former San Diego city councilman Scott Peters over this D+1 territory. Republicans got 49 percent of the votes in the primary, and Democrats 51, but Bilbray captured 41 percent by himself. San Diego is bipolar, with conservative military coupled with liberal coastal urban sorts, and this territory leans a little more toward the latter than the former. Peters has the lead in fundraising, but he has been spending as fast as he is raising, and has little left; Bilbray still has half his warchest remaining. This race could go either way, though Peters has a razor-thin edge.
California also has 11 ballot measures. We already discussed three of them — Propositions 30, 38, and 39 — in the Ballot Watch on Taxes. And we covered Proposition 32 in the Ballot Watch on Unions. Of the remaining eight, four are worthy of further examination.
Proposition 34 would abolish the death penalty in California, and would convert the sentences of all 725 death-row inmates to life in prison without parole. Those prisoners would be required to work in the prison system, with their earnings going to their crime victims. Proposition 34 would invalidate 1978’s Proposition 7 (it was on the same ballot as its more famous sibling, Proposition 13), which reinstated the death penalty in California. Only 13 inmates have been executed in the 34 years since Proposition 7 passed. Californians were enthusiastic about the death penalty initially, but that has waned in the years since. As California government has spent more money on prisons, the state has spent less on education. For this reason, criminal penalty reform has gained momentum in the Golden State. This is also a motive for…
Proposition 36, another crime initiative, which would modify, though not eliminate, the three-strikes law. As it stands today, any third felony conviction is a life sentence. Proposition 36 would require the third felony to be “serious or violent”. The savings of $90 million per year makes this more compelling.
Proposition 37 would require all food products containing genetically modified organisms be labeled as such. California has a history of strong labeling; in 1986, Californians passed Proposition 65, which requires labeling of all hazardous materials in public places. This, too, could pass.
Proposition 40 is a referendum on the state Senate district map drawn up by the citizen commision. It’s a complete waste of everyone’s time, since the group originally opposed to the map have withdrawn their opposition…but it’s too late to remove this referendum from the ballot.
Congressional District 3 is currently represented by Representative Joe Heck (R-Henderson, who won the seat in 2010 by a half point. With reapportionment gaining Nevada a fourth seat in the House, the redrawn District 3 loses its northeastern portion to the newly-created District 4, and gains territory to the west from a part of the old District 2. The old territory had a PVI of D+3, and it should be a touch bluer now. Heck is running against Democrat John Oceguera, and the increasingly liberal district could well go to the challenger this time. That said, Heck has raised a heck of a lot more, at nearly a two-to-one ratio. The money and the name recognition may be enough to keep Heck in the House.
Congressional District 4, created through reapportionment, carves a big chunk out of the old District 2 (PVI R+5), plus the northeastern corner of the old District 3 (PVI D+2). Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford is running against Danny Tarkanian, who most recently came in third in the Republican primary for Harry Reid’s Senate seat. Horsford has outraised Tarkanian by about 1.5:1. It’s hard to tell who’s in the lead here, given so many conflicting forces.
Oregon has nine ballot measures this time, seven of which are interesting enough to cover. We already covered Measure 80 in the Ballot Watch on Marijuana.
Measure 79 is about real estate transfer taxes. Current law prohibits such taxes in Oregon, but Measure 79 would codify that law in the state constitution. It seems a little draconian to me.
Measure 81 is a second try at banning gillnet fishing in Oregon; a similar measure failed in 2010. Opponents are concerned that it will merely drive gillnet fishers to Washington, hurting Oregon industry without having an appreciable impact on the use of gillnets.
Measures 82 and 83 would allow gambling in the state. Measure 82 would allow privately-owned casinos, while 83 would specifically allow a single privately-owned casino in Multnomah county. Opponents of these measures claim that private casinos would hurt tribal revenues.
Measure 84 would phase out state estate and inheritance taxes over a four-year period.
Measure 85 is an unusual initiative. Currently, if Oregon receives 102 percent or more of expected corporate and/or excise tax revenues, the excess must be refunded to those who paid the taxes. If Measure 85 passes, it would take those excess revenues and apply them to K-12 public education.
This year, the Governoris up for election. Incumbent Christine Gregoire, who took office after a contentious 2004 election in which the final tally had her winning by 133 votes (out of over 2.5 million cast), has chosen not to run for a third term. Instead, District 1’s Representative Jay Inslee (D-Mountlake Terrace) resigned to run as her replacement. He is opposed by Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna. Both candidates are popular in the state, and this has been a fierce battle. A total of $10 million has been spent on negative advertising, as each has attempted to tear the other down in a bid for the Governor’s Mansion. But the ads are coming from surrogates, giving the candidates a fig leaf. McKenna opposed the Obamacare individual mandate, and joined the lawsuit against it; he is therefore being painted as a generic Republican. Inslee voted in favor of Obamacare, and the ARRA stimulus bill; he is therefore being painted as a generic Democrat. Polls have shown a tight race, but Inslee leads in the most recent poll, conducted by Elway. Given the overall direction in Washington this year, I suspect Inslee will win by a point or two.
Congressional District 1 is expanding in territory well to the north, to the Canadian border, as part of redistricting. This will make the district more competitive than it has been historically, when it had a PVI of D+9. Republican John Koster won the special election to serve out the remainder of Inslee’s term. He is running against former Microsoft Vice President Suzan DelBene, who attempted, but failed, to defeat Dave Reichert (R-Bellevue) in the 8th District in 2010. DelBene has outraised, and outspent, Koster by an astonishing five-to-one ratio. This, plus the demographic makeup of District 1, should give DelBene a decent chance, but the outcome is far from certain; the lone poll taken at the end of may put Koster ahead by 17 points.
Washington has eight ballot measures this November; only three are really interesting, and all are mentioned elsewhere at Logarchism:
Initiative 1185, the Tim Eyman flavor of the month, was already covered in the Ballot Watch on Taxes.
Referendum 74, which will be covered in greater detail in two days in the Ballot Watch on Same-sex Marriage, gives the voters a chance to overturn a recently-passed state law permitting same-sex marriage in Washington.
Initiative 502, the marijuana initiative, was already covered in the Ballot Watch on Marijuana.
- Ballot Watch: West Midwest (logarchism.com)
- Raul Grijalva’s fear-based smear of “Gabby” Saucedo Mercer (seeingredaz.wordpress.com)
- Republican Candidate In Arizona Accused Of Voter Fraud (thinkprogress.org)
- Quayle Loses Heated Primary Race in Redrawn Arizona District (nytimes.com)
- Race for Ariz. 4th district seat largely GOP fight (azfamily.com)
- Arizona Republican: Middle Easterners ‘look Mexican’ and want ‘to cause harm’ (rawstory.com)
- Supreme Court Watch: Hollingsworth v. Perry
- Supreme Court Watch: Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.
- Reparative Repair
- Shot to the Foot
- Primary Recall
- Supreme Court Watch: Arizona v. United States
- Your Next Comment Could Be Illegal
- Primary Preview: Washington Caucus
- Today’s Primaries: Arizona and Michigan
- Republican Presidential Debate: February 22