Ballot Watch: Northeast States (Part 1)
This is Ballot Watch. Today is the eighth 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 a chunk of the Northeastern states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. Vermont does not seem particularly noteworthy this year. Rhode Island and New York are particularly busy; I’ll cover them in a future article. There’s quite a number of vacant seats, mostly due to redistricting. Jump into the comments and give us your thoughts. We encourage anyone who lives in the area or is uniquely familiar with it to give on-the-site reactions and reportage.
Congressional District 5, in the northwest corner of the state, is an open seat. The incumbent, Representative Christopher Murphy (D-Cheshire), is vacating his seat to run for the U.S. Senate. Democratic state House member Elizabeth Esty and Republican Andrew Roraback are running to replace him. Esty is a transplant from Oak Park, Illinois. She was raised in Minnesota and graduated from Winona Senior High School (I had to mention these points in her biography for personal reasons, having myself grown up not far from Oak Park and then moved to Minnesota.) Roraback also served in the Connecticut legislature. His number one priority, according to his website, is to “Repeal Obmacare and replace it with market-based health care reforms.” Esty is concerned with job creation, women’s rights, protecting seniors, and a number of environmental issues. She is significantly out-fundraising her opponent, more than 3-to-1, having raised over $2 million to Roraback’s $570,000.
There are five interesting ballot measures in Maine. In some ways, they seem to run counter to movements in other states. Do these measures indicate a change in national consciousness, or are then an indication of something special about Maine? What do you think?
Question 1 would overturn a ban on same-sex marriage in the state. This is an attempt to undo a 2009 ballot measure which, in turn, undid a 2009 state law that allowed same-sex marriage. It isn’t often that a ballot initiative is created in support of same-sex marriage. This is one. The petition drive for this ballot measure was organized by a group called Equality Maine. Monotreme will be covering this in his Ballot Watch on Same-sex Marriage.
Question 2 is an $11 million bond for higher education intended to expand the state’s community college system. The legislature enacted the measure in May, and sent it to the governor for a veto or to be placed on the ballot for approval by voters. In an era in which educators and public or public-supported education is being scapegoated for causing useless state deficits, it will be interesting to see how this measure plays out.
Questions 3 and 5 both would allow bonds for water and sewer projects in the state. Infrastructure throughout our nation is in disrepair. Changes in population and demographics also require changes to infrastructure. One project that would be funded is in Windham, Maine, and you can read about it here.
Question 4 is yet another infrastructure measure, allowing for a $51 million transportation bond, mostly for road and bridge repairs in the state. The fate of these bills may serve as an indication of how the nation will think about rebuilding its skeleton. Or will they? Is Maine unique, or does it serve as a bellwether? As a rule, these sorts of bond bills pass, though.
Massachusetts lost one of its ten congressional districts in the 2010 census. The others have been shuffled around. The state is primarily Democratic, and there is really only one congressional district where Republicans hope to have a pickup:
Congressional District 6 is relatively unchanged in geographic extent, occupying the northeast corner of the state. It has a Cook Partisan Index of D+7. The incumbent, Representative John F. Tierney (D-Salem), was first elected to the House in 1996. He sits on the House Committee on Education and Labor, and he supports green energy and increased college access. His opponent is Republican realtor Richard Tisei, who has served in the state legislature for 26 years. Tisei argues that “Government does not create wealth or jobs,” and “Our economy is being strangled by unprecedented debt, spending, and over-regulation.” What is, perhaps, most interesting about Richard Tisei is that he is a gay Republican. He had problems with the Republican national platform. Judging by fundraising in this race (right around $1.4 million each) it’s pretty tight. A poll released on September 12 shows Tierney ahead by seven points, but Republicans seem to think this is their best shot at picking up a seat in Massachusetts.
There are three ballot measures this year which could, perhaps, only happen in Massachusetts. Note that — unlike many other states, but as seems common here in the Northeast — these are not constitutional amendments. Apparently, Northeasterners don’t feel quite as moved to write policy into constitutions.
Question 1 deals with vehicle owner and business protections in the state. It would require motor vehicle manufacturers to give car owners and independent repair facilities access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information that the dealers and authorized repair facilities get. It is, therefore, a consumer protection measure that would provide additional information to owners and corner garages.
Question 2 would allow terminally ill patients to request, and be given, lethal drugs. It would establish, according to the Question, an “Act Relative to Death with Dignity”. There are substantial protections as part of the Act, including a requirement that the patient making such a request be mentally competent, and must make the request at least twice verbally and once in writing, be subject to a waiting period, and get a second doctor’s opinion as to competency.
Question 3 would allow for the use of medical marijuana in the state. It is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance and the Committee for Compassionate Medicine. It would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, and allow patients who need it to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in case of hardship,to grow marijuana for their own use.
New Hampshire has two Congressional districts. The smaller of the two, NH-1, includes the southeast corner, with Manchester, Gloucester, Nashua, and Rochester. NH-2 is more rugged and less densely populated. Both have exciting rematches.
Congressional District 1 — with a Cook Partisan rating of EVEN — has a closely-fought rematch. Democrat Carol Shea-Porter served two terms in the U.S. House before being defeated by Frank Guinta (R-Manchester) in 2010, who had served for two terms as mayor of Manchester. Guinta claims on his website to have “voted for over 30 jobs bills” (this must have happened in his own house, one supposes). Shea-Porter is a social worker by profession, and an advocate of campaign finance reform. Guinta has been raising more money, at about $1.4 million to Shea-Porter’s $800,000. RealClearPolitics rates the race as a “Toss Up.”
Congressional District 2 is larger and somewhat more rural than District 1, running from the southwest all the way along the western edge to include the northern third of the state. It has a Cook rating of D+3. Incumbent Representative Charles Bass (R-Peterborough) represented District 2 seat for six terms, from 1996 until 2007. His father, Perkins Bass, also represented the same district. The younger Bass lost the 2006 election against Democrat Paul Hodes, who left the House in 2010 for an unsuccessful Senate run. Bass ran again in 2010 and defeated Democrat Ann Mclane Kuster. But it wasn’t Kuster’s last stand; she’s back this year. She is an adoption attorney, a public policy advocate, an author, and an active nonprofit volunteer. RCP sees this race as leaning to the Democrat. Fundraising would seem to support this, as Bass is at a significant disadvantage, $1.4 million to $2.1 million.
New Hampshire held their primaries for the open Governorship on September 12. The candidates chosen are Republican Ovide Lamontagne, an attorney and former gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate, and Democratic State Senate majority leader Maggie Hassan. Lamontagne unsuccessfully ran for Governor in 1996 and the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Hassan is doing her best to link Lamontagne to the Tea Party, in contrast to the “New Hampshire way”.
New Hampshire has three ballot measures:
CACR 26 would make the chief justice of the state supreme court to be administrative head of all the courts. This would appear to concentrate a lot of the administrative functions in one place. However, the detailed wording of the change appears to make it an attempt to allow the state legislature more control over the judiciary, because it allows the legislature to override the decisions of the chief justice. It’s technical and confusing; one most wonder if that was intentional.
CACR 13 would ban new taxes on personal income. New Hampshire currently has a “gambling winnings tax” that assesses a 10 percent levy on winnings of $600 or more and a 5 percent tax on dividends and interest. CACR 13 would prevent any new taxes on, say, wages.
The Constitutional Convention Question would create a convention to revise, alter, or amend the state constitution. New Hampshire is one of the states that require this question now and again, in this case, every ten years. New Hampshire residents are seldom anxious to change their Constitution, and the measure is not expected to pass.
There is a close and fascinating race in a fairly moderate district in the middle of the state. We’ve seen a number of rematches above. This one is a twist on the idea.
Congressional District 3 is a slightly Republican-leaning district (Cook PVI R+2) straddling the middle of the state like a belt. Incumbent Representative Jon Runyan (R-Mount Laurel Township) is out-fundraising his Democratic opponent Shelley Adler by $1.4 million to about $630,000. Runyan was an offensive tackle in the National Football League, where he played for fourteen seasons. He ran for Congress in 2010 and defeated then-incumbent Democrat John Adler, who died on April 4, 2011. He was the husband of Runyan’s current opponent, Shelley. (I told you it was an interesting twist on the “rematch” idea.) RCP gives Runyan a “Weak” edge, downgraded from “Moderate” a few days ago, which may be a symptom of some momentum toward the Democrat.
There are two ballot measures, one raising money for higher education, the other with a tortured history that displays a current Republican obsession with cutting benefits for public employees. These particular employees fought back, setting up a New Jersey constitutional crisis.
Judicial Salary and Benefits Amendment: In 2011, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pushed pension and benefit “reforms” that required state employees — including members of the judiciary — to pay more for these benefits. The New Jersey Constitution, however, forbids changes to judicial salaries during a judge’s tenure. Hudson County Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale then filed a lawsuit, arguing that the new requirements for increased contributions to pensions constituted a “diminution of salary” and was therefore unconstitutional. The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed. State legislators responded by putting a pension reform proposal on the ballot to let the voters decide. Apparently, if the law is not on your side, the proper course is to change the law.
The State College Bond Issue would authorize the state of New Jersey to borrow $750 million for upgrades at the state’s colleges. Most of the money would reportedly go to research universities, public colleges, and 19 community colleges.
- YouSpeak: Should Medical Marijuana Be Legalized? (bu.edu)
- GOP Congressional candidate Richard Tisei bucks national platform (boston.com)
- WBUR Poll: Tierney Leads Tisei In Tight Race (wbur.org)
- Gay Republican Candidate Does Not Want the Romney Platform for His State (advocate.com)
- Logarchism » Ballot Watch: Northeast States, Big and Small
- Logarchism » 113 th Congress: Veer Slightly Left; It’s the Last One on the Right
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About dcpetterson (186 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson