Ballot Watch: The South (Part 2, The Swinging South)
This is Ballot Watch. Today is the 15th (and last) in the series of articles on the upcoming ballot initiatives and some key local elections. Some of these covered topics in common with multiple states, but the remainder looked at a state level. With this second part of our two-part article on the South, our series closes.
Of the ten states in this region, the only competitive states for Democratic Presidential candidates are Florida (29 electoral votes, with a state Partisan Voting Index of R+2) and North Carolina (15 electoral votes, with a state PVI of R+4), the subjects of today’s article. Both went for Obama in 2008. Florida and North Carolina also have one Democratic Senator each (Kay Hagen in North Carolina, Bill Nelson in Florida). Florida’s governor is Republican Rick Scott, and North Carolina’s retiring governor is Democrat Bev Perdue. Her seat is up for election next month. She declined to run this year in the face of mounting criticism; she has a disapproval rating of 59 percent, the highest for any governor.
Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott is also unpopular, with 38 percent approving of his job performance vs 48 percent disapproving. DC has given us a rundown on Scott’s effort to purge voter rolls: Scott said he expected to remove registration for 2,600 illegal immigrant voters. In the event, the Governor was only 92 percent wrong. The real number was 206, or 0.00184 percent of the 11.2 million registrants. Ironically, or perhaps predictably, while Florida Republican leaders beat the bushes looking for fraudulent voter registration, they’re embroiled in their own voter fraud scandal. It might backfire on them in the general election.
In contrast with the states of the Deep South, which have exactly one House seat in play (Georgia’s 12th, currently held by the only white Southern Democrat), Florida has eight of 27, and North Carolina five of 13, seats in play. Those are listed under the individual states after the jump, along with any important ballot initiatives and North Carolina’s gubernatorial election.
The previous South Ballot Watch had eight states and only two competitive House seats. This Ballot Watch, with just the two states of Florida and North Carolina, lists 11 competitive seats (according to the New York Times’s ratings): Florida’s 2nd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 18th, 22nd, and 26th and North Carolina’s 7th, 8th, 11th, and 13th.
I’ve surveyed House race ratings from as many sources as I can find, and those who want to check on individual races can use the following links: Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball; Cook Political Report; New York Times; National Journal; Roll Call; RealClearPolitics (RCP).
Florida voted for Barack Obama by 51–48 over John McCain in 2008. Its Class I Senate seat is also up this year. Democrat Bill Nelson is running for reëlection against Representative Connie Mack, IV (R-Fort Meyers). Michael rates this race as “likely Democrat”.
Florida had 25 seats in the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress. Even though the state is about evenly split between self-identified Democrats and Republicans, a Republican legislature created gerrymandered districts after the 2000 census so that 19 Republicans and only six Democrats represent Florida in the House for the 112th Congress, which was elected in 2010. Using 2010 census figures, which gave Florida two more seats, this year’s Republican-controlled process produced an even more horrific map.
To take one clear example of shameless gerrymandering (from a House seat that’s not competitive), examine Congressional District 5, the purple monstrosity that (for no good reason) meanders from the western suburbs of Jacksonville to the northern suburbs of Orlando, a trip of over 150 miles. Along with non-competitive District 5, the competitive House districts from Florida are shown with red numbers.
Congressional District 2 is a Florida panhandle district that includes the state capitol of Tallahassee. This is a contest between incumbent Representative Steve Southerland, II (R-Panama City) and Democrat Al Lawson, Jr. Southerland is a Tea Party favorite who swept aside Blue Dog Democrat Alan Boyd in the Tea Party-fueled 2010 wave. Southerland is quite conservative, with a DW-NOMINATE of 0.637 (the 36th most conservative of 435 House members). All sources rate this “likely Republican” except The New York Times, which has only “lean” and “safe” categories. Still, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has added this to their “Red to Blue” list of the most competitive seats. That may help Lawson, who so far has raised a paltry $187 thousand to Southerland’s $1.2 million.
Congressional District 9 features the Phoenix-like return of firebrand former Representative Alan Grayson (“The Republican health care plan: 1. don’t get sick; 2. and if you do get sick… 3. die quickly”) wants his job back in this PVI D+3 Orlando district. Grayson is good at rhetoric, but his votes are not all that liberal; he has a relatively moderate DW-NOMINATE of –0.393; if he had served in the 112th Congress, he would be the 120th most liberal House member. All sources rate this “lean” or “likely Democratic”. Attorney Grayson (his campaign website domain name says it all about his attitude and self-regard: congressmanwithguts.com) faces Republican attorney Todd Long. Grayson says his internal polls have him a 48–34 favorite, but no independent polling is available. He’s raised $2.8 million, which swamps Long’s fundraising of $34,359.
The Devil isn’t running against Whig Daniel Webster (DW-NOMINATE of 0.361) in Congressional District 10, but Democratic former police chief Val Demings is running against District 8 incumbent Representative Daniel Webster (R-Orlando), a former Speaker of the state House who has been moved into District 10 by redistricting. Webster is a beloved of conservatives because he tossed Alan Grayson out of this district in the 2010 wave; now redistricting moved Grayson to District 9. Webster’s voting record has him at a relatively moderate DW-NOMINATE of 0.499, the 111th most conservative. Demings is not beyond stretching the truth a bit to get a blue win. She is also outraising Webster by $1.1 million to his $0.9 million. This is a PVI R+7 district with a well-connected incumbent, so it’s amazing anyone thinks it’s competitive at all. Sabato, Cook and Roll Call have this as a “likely Republican” district while the New York Times and RCP have it as “leans Republican”.
Congressional District 13 is roughly the same as Pinellas County, with the city of St. Petersburg. The district is PVI R+1. RCP rates this as “likely Republican”; no one else sees it as competitive. Incumbent C.W. Bill Young (R-Indian Shores) is currently in the 10th District, with a very moderate DW-NOMINATE of 0.321. His opponent is attorney Jessica Ehrlich. No public polling data is available.
The New York Times, Roll Call and RCP all have Congressional District 16 (PVI R+5) as “lean Republican” while Sabato and Cook see it as “likely Republican”. Incumbent Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota), a self-made businessman from the toney island of Longboat Key, has represented the 13th since 2007 with a DW-NOMINATE of 0.325 in the 112th Congress. He has raised $1.9 million. His Democratic opponent is college professor Keith Fitzgerald who has close to $1 million in his war chest.
You could count on the fingers of one hand House races that could be considered “nationalized”, where a candidate has a national fundraising reach and megaphone. Congressional District 18 is one of those. Republican Tea Party darling and retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Representative Allen West (R–Palm Beach Gardens) from District 22 has a list of 78 Communists in the 112th Congress (shades of Tail Gunner Joe).
CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien had this testy exchange with West, as reported by theblaze.com:
“So name names for me,” O’Brien said. “Start naming the 78 to 81…”
“Oh, we don’t have to…” West countered.
“Oh, we do! I’m dying to know,” O’Brien pressed. “Which are the members of the…”
“You can go look up the progressive caucus…” interrupted West.
“I got ’em right here!” O’Brien interjected — and seemingly out of thin air pulled out a list of the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“Well then you’ve got the names,” West said.
“So Keith Ellison is a communist?” asked O’Brien. “Raúl Grijalva is a communist?”
“Well, look, I’m just talking about the fact that the ideology and principles — you can call it whatever you want…”
“Tammy Baldwin is a communist? Judy Chu is a communist?” O’Brien continued.
“You can call it whatever you want,” West replied.
“Yeah, but I want to know what you’re calling it,” O’Brien said.
“I’m calling it this,” West clarified. “Communist, progressive, Marxist, statist, another term being used. I’m looking at things they believe in. If you don’t think we have to stand upon truth and be able to identify and clearly contrast the different principles and values and ideologies of governance here in this country, then we’re never going to get to the fact of accepting the true debate happening in America. We don’t need a bureaucratic nanny state. We need to stay a Constitutional Republic. I think a lot of people need to study that and understand what it is.”
West has raised a whopping $10.8 million for this district. It’s the first time he’s actually lived in the district he represents; he used to live in Plantation, in the “old” District 20. Ironically, his Representative there was Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, one of the names on his list. That area is now represented by District 22 (see below). Democrat Patrick Murphy has raised “only” $2.4 million. His colleagues in the Florida Legislature gave West a challenge, first drawing a Democratic district around him. He’s moved to District 18, a district with boundaries that give it a PVI of R+1. Cook and RCP have this one as a tossup, while The New York Times, Sabato, and Roll Call reckon it leans Republican. No public polling is available, but West’s campaign said he had a 52–41 lead in late September. Republican polling shows Murphy with a four point lead, and Democratic polling has Murphy up by nine points, leading Politico to conclude that West is in trouble.
Now if we can arrange a West-Grayson matchup, I’m moving to that district.
Redistricting made Representative Allen West’s district majority Democratic, so he shifted to the 18th. The Congressional District 22 election now pits Democratic West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel against Republican health care attorney Adam Hasner. Frankel has the demographic advantage in this PVI D+5 district; all major analysts have this as “lean Democratic”. West’s voting record, a moderate (by Republican standards) DW-NOMINATE of 0.467 is a contrast to his überconservative public image. Compare these scores to Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-Janesville, WI) 0.567, which is only a few seats to the left of Representative Michele Bachmann’s (R-Stillwater, MN) 0.579. The most conservative member of the House, Representative Jeff Flake (R-Mesa, AZ), is running for the Senate seat from Arizona. His is a whopping 0.988. Hasner has a minor fundraising advantage with $2.4 million to Frankel’s $2.3 million.
In Congressional District 26, a new PVI R+4 district, District 25 incumbent David Rivera (R-Miami), with a DW-NOMINATE 0.304, faces Democrat Joe Garcia. Predictions range from “lean Democratic” (Sabato) to “tossup” (New York Times, Cook, Roll Call) to “lean Republican” (RCP). Rivera has been dogged by ethics violation complaints throughout his term as Congressman (he was in office only three weeks before the first complaint was filed). Rivera is under investigation by the FBI and his former associate Ana Alliegro, a pistol-packing self-described “Republican political guru and conservative bad girl” has disappeared as the Fibbies are looking for her. She’s accused of paying off former night shift hotel worker (Justin) Lamar Sternad to run in the Democratic Primary to provide Rivera with an easily-defeated opponent.
According to the Miami Herald:
A key witness in a federal grand jury case involving U.S. Rep. David Rivera is still missing, but she left important evidence behind for investigators: at least four envelopes that had been stuffed with unreported campaign cash.
Ana Alliegro, a Republican political operative, delivered the cash-stuffed envelopes to a Hialeah mail house that sent out fliers in a congressional race against a Rivera political rival, the mail house owner told the FBI.
The FBI has the envelopes to check for fingerprints and handwriting comparisons.
Also in the hands of FBI agents: at least six invoices initially made out to the attention of David Rivera — all marked paid “cash” — to cover the mailings for Democratic primary challenger Justin Lamar Sternad, a suspected Rivera straw-man candidate. The congressman demanded that his name be removed from the invoices with Wite-Out, documents and interviews show.
What is it about Congressmen and “envelopes stuffed with cash” that makes such a good lede? So far, Garcia’s reported donation envelopes have been stuffed with $554 thousand while Rivera’s envelopes only had $417 thousand in them.
Eleven legislatively-referred Constitutional Amendments are on the ballot.
Amendment 1 is typical of the anti-Obamacare constitutional amendments DC told you about in an earlier Ballot Watch.
Amendment 3 is a scheme called “Smart Cap” that indexes state budget increases to inflation and population growth. The State Senate President is a supporter; the AARP and League of Women Voters are not.
Amendment 4 alters property tax assessments so that if your home declines in value, your property taxes cannot be raised. It also changes the existing homestead exemption. Amendments 2, 9, 10 and 11 amend the Constitution to make special tax breaks for defined populations such as veterans, first responders and low-income seniors.
Amendment 5 gives the Legislative more power over the Judiciary by imposing State Senate confirmation of Florida Supreme Court justices and setting forth impeachment procedures similar to those of the United States Congress.
Amendment 6 prevents the use of public funds (including publicly-funded insurance) for most abortions.
This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest. This proposed amendment provides that the State Constitution may not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution. With respect to abortion, this proposed amendment overrules court decisions which conclude that the right of privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the State Constitution is broader in scope than that of the United States Constitution.
It is supported by a group called “Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights” which receives most of its funding from the Catholic Church. It is opposed by “Vote No on 6″.
Amendment 7 would have removed the current state Constitutional ban on state funding for religious institutions. In December 2011, a court ordered the ballot language was problematic and took it off the 2012 ballot. The court found particularly troublesome a phrase that said it would be consistent with the United States Constitution. The court ruled that this phrase implied separation of church and state. Attorney General Pam Bondi rewrote the ballot text for the amendment, which now appears on the ballot as Amendment 8. It now reads:
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
Amendment 12 appears to be non-controversial. It changes how the student member is appointed to the Board of Governors of the State University System.
Barack Obama won North Carolina’s electoral votes in 2008 by a mere 14,000 out of 2.2 million cast. North Carolina has Class 2 and Class 3 Senate seats, so there is no Senate election this year.
North Carolina’s redistricting using 2010 Census data was controlled by Republicans. Here’s their plan:
Incumbent Mike McIntyre (D-Lumberton) faces off against State Senator David Rouzer in Congressional District 7, a PVI R+11 district. McIntyre’s DW-NOMINATE is a very middle-of-the-road –0.168, typical of a Blue Dog Democrat.
In August, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll showed McIntyre up by 19 while Republican internal polling at the same time showed McIntyre up by only four. In other words, we’re flying blind here. Sabato and Cook call it a tossup, while The New York Times and RCP have it as “leans Republican”.
Politico says this is the fifth most expensive House race in the country, with $3 million being spent. That would seem to indicate both parties feel this is a tossup as well.
In Congressional District 8, a PVI R+12 district, incumbent Larry Kissel (D-Briscoe) has a Blue Dog DW-NOMINATE of –0.230. He’s facing marketing consultant and former Republican Congressional aide Richard Hudson. Kissel has the funds advantage, having raised $973,000 to Hudson’s $631,000. The New York Times rates this a tossup, but Sabato and Cook figure it’s a “lean Republican” and Roll Call and RCP, figuring voters will tell Kissel to kiss off, call this one “likely Republican”.
In the PVI R+11 Congressional District 9, Republican former assistant to the President of Campus Crusade for Christ and real estate investor Robert Pittenger faces Democrat Jennifer Roberts. Pittenger has raised $2.3 million compared to Roberts’ $253K. Only RCP thinks this is at all competitive, rating it “likely Republican”.
Retiring Blue Dog Representative Heath Shuler (D-Waynesville), representing Congressional District 11, has the most conservative DW-NOMINATE of any Congressional Democrat, a –0.102 [the most liberal Republican is Representative Chris Smith (R-Hamilton, NJ), with +0.121]. Republican Mark Meadows and Democrat Hayden Rogers are both vying to replace Shuler. Meadows is a self-described “Christian conservative businessman” and Rogers is Shuler’s campaign manager. The funds race is almost tied, at $492,000 each. The district is PVI R+13 so Republicans have a natural advantage here. All analysts have this as “likely Republican”.
Congressional District 13 is a PVI R+10 district in the center of the state. Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding (with a war chest of a million dollars) faces off against Democrat state human resources manager Charles Malone, who reportedly has raised only $6,000. The New York Times and Cook have this as leaning or likely Republican, but Sabato and RCP say it’s not competitive.
The polling data for North Carolina Governor is equivocal. RealClearPolitics has a polling average of +13 for the Republican, Duke Energy executive Pat McCrory, over the Democrat, Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton. But an early September PPP poll, which used automated calling and thus missed Democrat-favoring cell phones, puts McCrory at 45 percent to Dalton’s 39 with Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe getting 5 percent. A mid-September NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll gives McCrory a 52–39 lead. Cook calls this “leans Republican” while Sabato thinks it’s “likely Republican”.
- Ballot Watch: The South (Part 1, The Solid South) (logarchism.com)
- Va. GOP fires vendor over Fla. issues (miamiherald.com)