Ballot Watch: Northeast States, Big and Small
This is Ballot Watch. Today is the eleventh 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.
Last week, I covered most of the Northeastern states. For today’s Ballot Watch, I’m covering the remaining two, the smallest and the largest in this region — Rhode Island and New York. There’s quite a number of vacant seats in New York, mostly due to redistricting. Rhode Island has a bevy of ballot questions. Jump into the comments and give us your thoughts. Anyone who lives in the area is particularly welcome to give on-the-site reactions and reportage.
The Congressional districts in New York have been substantially redone. Here is the map for 2008; and you can see the one for this year below (and you can click on it to zoom in). Redistricting has meant there are no fewer than eight “open” seats, those in which neither candidate is the incumbent for that district. Many candidates are incumbents, but from districts other than the ones for which they are running.
Congressional District 1 occupies the eastern end of Long Island. The new extent of the district is slightly larger than the old. The incumbent is five-term Representative Timothy H. Bishop (D-Southhampton). He’s facing Republican businessman Randy Altschuler, who ran against Bishop — and lost — in 2010. The candidates have exchanged charges of corruption and outsourcing. The district has a Cook PVI rating of EVEN, and RealClearPolitics rates this rematch a “Tossup”. Even their fundraising is fairly close — $1.9 million for Bishop; $1.4 million for Altschuler. With the district balanced on a knife’s edge, this seems to be a metaphor for the nation in microcosm.
Congressional District 11 is Staten Island, which used to be District 13, the southernmost tip of New York State. The old District 11 was Queens; the incumbent there is Democrat Yvette Clarke, now running in the new District 9 (she has also been a guest on the Colbert Report). The candidates in the new District 11 are Republican Michael Grimm (who is the incumbent in the old District 13) and Democrat Mark Murphy. Gromm is a former FBI agent and Marine, and is an Gulf War veteran. He was first elected to Congress in 2010, with significant Tea Party support, after defeating the Republican establishment-preferred candidate Michael Allegretti in the primary election. Murphy is a real estate businessman and Staten Island native, who has been active in Borough politics for many years. RCP rates the race as “Leans Republican”. A recent Siena College poll shows Grimm favored over Murphy 48 percent to 38 percent. Grimm is also raising far more money than his Democratic challenger, $1.8 million to $370,000.
Congressional District 18 is at the bottom of the “funnel”, where the bulk of the state channels down toward New York City, covering all of Putnam and Orange Counties, six towns in northeastern Westchester County and the southeast corner of Dutchess County. It occupies the geographical area that used to be District 19. The old District 18 comprised the bulk of Westchester County, and the incumbent there is Representative Nita Lowey (D-Harrison), who is now running in District 17. Running in the new District 18 are District 19 Representative Nan Hayworth (R-Mount Kisco), and former Clinton administration West Wing Senior Advisor Sean Patrick Maloney (who has the most Irish name in the history of Ireland). Hayworth is a freshman Representative, having been elected in 2010, running on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party ballot lines. Maloney’s campaign ads portray her as a Tea Party Republican, hardly a stretch from the rhetoric on her website. RealClearPolitics rates the race as “Leans Republican”, and a recent Siena Poll has Hayworth up by 13 points. She has raised about three times as much money as Maloney, $2.1 million to $645,000.
Congressional District 19 is now north of where the old District 19 was, occupying the northern two-thirds of the “funnel”. It includes portions of what used to be Districts 20 and 22. Retired Army colonel Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) is the first-term incumbent for District 20. He is a veteran of the First Gulf War, Kosovo, and Iraq. His website says his Congressional priorities are “growing the economy to create jobs, working toward a balanced budget, and protecting freedoms.” He says Social Security and Medicare should be protected for “current recipients.” He opposes Obamacare, and the major “freedom” he appears to be defending is the Second Amendment. He is challenged by Democrat Julian D. Schreibman, a lawyer who worked at the CIA and received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award. He has also worked as federal prosecutor and as Ulster County Senior Assistant District Attorney. Gibson has raised about $1.4 million compared to Schreibman’s $500,000. RealClearPolitics and Election Projection both give the edge to Gibson; a recent Siena poll gives Gibson 52 percent to Schreibman’s 36 percent.
Congressional District 21 used to be a small clump around Albany. It now encompasses the majority of the large bump on the north of the state, which used to be occupied primarily by District 23. The new area is mostly rural and Republican — one of the few red New York Congressional Districts. The incumbent of the old District 21, Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam), is running for election in the new District 20, which occupies much the same geographical area that was formerly District 21. The incumbent of the old District 23 is Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh), and he is running in the new District 21. (Get all that?) Owens was elected to his seat in a special election in November of 2009 when the position was vacated by Republican John Hugh, who retired from the House to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of the Army. Owens won that election when Tea Party candidate Doug Hoffman split the conservative vote with Republican Dierdre Scozzafava. Scozzafava withdrew from the race days before the election and endorsed Owens. This area of New York had been represented by a Republican since 1873, making it historically one of the most reliably Republican districts in the nation. Owens was reëlected in 2010, and is now running for reëlection to a second full term. His opponent is Republican Matt Doheny, who ran unsuccessfully against Owens in 2010. A recent poll shows Owens opening a lead over Doheny, 49 percent to 36 percent among likely voters, though RealClearPolitics rates it a “Tossup”. Owens is outraising Doheny by almost 2-to-1, roughly $1.3 million to about $760,000.
Congressional District 24 used to be a long swipe across the middle of the state, with an arm reaching deep into the northern bulge. It’s now a small clump around Syracuse. The old District’s incumbent, Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld), is running in the new District 22, which reaches southward from what used to be the middle of the old District 24. The current candidates in the 24th are Republican Ann Marie Buerkle (who is currently the incumbent in the old District 25) and Democrat Dan Maffei. Maffei previously served one term in the U.S. House, being elected in 2008, but Buerkle defeated him in 2010. 2012 is a rematch (we’re seeing a lot of that this year). Buerkle was a nurse before obtaining a law degree from Syracuse University School of Law. She then served as Assistant New York State Attorney General. Maffei perviously worked for Senator Bill Bradley, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel. He’s also been featured on the Colbert Report. Maffei and Buerkle have each raised about $1.1 million for their campaigns.
Congressional District 25 now surrounds Rochester. It used to run across the heard of what is now the 24th. The current incumbent of District 25 is running in the District 24 (see above). The current candidates for this seat are Democrat Louise M. Slaughter (currently representing the old District 28, which occupies the northern edge of the new District 27) and Republican Maggie Brooks. Slaughter was first elected to Congress in 1992, and has an extensive legislative career. Brooks was a broadcasting personality, who moved into politics, serving as Monroe County Executive. The New York State Democratic Committee has given her its first ever Congressional Candidate Ducking Issues Award for allegedly declining to discuss substance. Slaughter has raised just over $1 million to Brooks’ $800,000. RealClearPolitics rates this race as “Leans Democrat”.
Congressional District 27 used to be a squarish area around Buffalo on the western edge of the state, with another rough square from the southwest corner of the state tacked on. District 27 is now the Buffalo square, plus what used to be District 26, plus most of what used to be District 28 — minus Buffalo itself, which is now District 26. The incumbent of the old 27th is Democrat Brian Higgins, who is running in the new District 28. The candidates in District 27 are Representative Kathleen Hochul (D-Buffalo) and Republican Chris Collins. Hochul is the current incumbent for the old District 26, which she won in a 2011 special election when the seat was vacated by Republican Chris Lee. He resigned because of the fallout from flirtation including emailed shirtless pictures. Hochul is the first Democrat to represent the district in forty years. RealClearPolitics rates the race a “Tossup”, and Election Projection recently switched it from “Weak Collins” to “Weak Hochul.” Collins bragged in late August that a Buffalo News/WGRZ-TV/Siena College poll showed him leading, when it actually showed a statistical tie. In a strange counterpoint to the presidential race, Collins has criticized Hochul for being rich. Businessman Collins is far wealthier than Hochul; though her family was poor in her early life, her father later did quite well, and she was a successful attorney before going into politics, but she’s not in the same league as Collins. Hochul has raised more than twelve times as much money as Collins, $3.2 million to a mere $260,000.
There is a new law in Rhode Island this year which requires voters to show a photo ID, bank statement or government-issued document before they are allowed to vote. The list of accepted forms of identification will become more restrictive in 2014, when only photo IDs will be accepted. This is one of the few states with new voter ID laws that actually allows for a transition period.
Congressional District 1 is shaped like a backwards and inverted L, covering the northern and eastern portions of the nation’s smallest state. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+15, so one might think the incumbent, David Cicilline (D-Providence), would have a distinct advantage over his Republican challenger, Brendan P. Doherty. Until recently, Doherty seemed to be ahead, but recent polling appears to have tightened, or even given Cicilline a lead; it may depend on who you believe. Cicilline was accused by primary opponents of being involved in a voter fraud scandal, but he won the primary anyway. Doherty is running on a platform of fighting fraud, waste, and abuse (though it seems difficult to find a candidate who favors these things). He is a former state police officer, and has a degree in Administration of Justice from Roger Williams University, along with a Master’s in Criminal Justice. Cicilline served in the Rhode Island state legislature after being elected first in 1994. In 2002, he was elected Mayor of Providence, and became the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. state capital, where he served until his election to the U.S. House in 2010. Cicilline has been raising more money than Doherty, $1.7 million to $1.1 million.
Rhode Island ballot questions are a mixture of economic development and public infrastructure.
Questions 1 and 2 ask voters if they want state-operated casino gambling at two Rhode Island slot casinos — Twin River in Lincoln, RI, and Newport Grand in Newport, RI. Supporters of one or both Questions insist these measures would bring income to the state, and further warn that moves in nearby states to allow casino gambling will soon make the currently-profitable Rhode Island sites no longer lucrative. Opponents argue that related questions have come up before (as recently as 2010), and have always been rejected; at some point, the legislature should simply accept the voice of the people on the matter. Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling seems to argue against the measure, at least in part, on religious grounds.
Questions 3, 4, 5, and 7 ask whether the state should “issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes” to finance specific state projects: Question 3 would raise money for academic buildings at Rhode Island College (up to $50 million), Question 4 for a new Veterans’ Home and renovations to existing facilities (up to $94 million), Question 5 for both wastewater ($12 million) and drinking water ($8 million) infrastructure projects, and Question 7 for “affordable housing” ($25 million). Much of this would be coördinated with federal programs, and any federal monies received would be used to reduce the amount needed to be raised by borrowing. The results of these ballot initiates could indicate public attitudes toward the need for infrastructure spending, a willingness to finance it through public debt, and a partnership between states and the federal government — at least, attitudes of people in Rhode Island.
Question 6 is similar to the infrastructure bonding Questions described above, but deals with a variety of environmental and recreational purposes: Narragansett Bay and Watershed restoration, open space for state land acquisition (apparently, there is still some open space in tiny Rhode Island), farmland development rights, local land acquisition grants, local recreation grants, and historic and passive parks. Each of these categories would be given between $1 million and $5.5 million. In addition to the issues raised above relating to a willingness to acquire public debt in order to fund infrastructure projects and to engage in coöperation between levels of government, this question additionally raises these concerns in the context of the environment. Are we willing to do all this simply to care for our land and water and air? Are parks and recreation and public lands worth going into debt over?
- RI voters to test out new voter ID law
- Doherty, Cicilline gear up for fight
- Ballot Watch: Northeast States (Part 1)
- Siena: Buerkle-Maffei looking like another squeaker
- ELECTION 2012: 24th CD — Incumbent has voted for government reform
About dcpetterson (194 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