Prioritizing House Races by State Delegation Control

We do a lot of chewing over which House races should get the most money and resource support here. Well, here's an added wrinkle that I started thinking about... which races would do the most to determine whether Democrats or Republicans control a particular state's House delegation?

Why on earth should that matter, you might ask? Partly, there's just the symbolism; Republicans can claim a 30-17 edge with 3 ties the way the House is currently composed, and that just plain looks bad. But a little-known tidbit is that if the Presidential election is thrown into the House, the election within the House isn't conducted with each Representative getting a vote. Instead, each state's delegation gets one vote. So, while neither is likely, suppose the 2008 election winds up with a 269-269 tie, or a vengeful McCain/Lieberman 3rd party ticket means no ticket breaks 270 EVs. Even if the Democrats control the House at that point (the House-brokered election would be based on the new House seated in January 2009), they could still lose the presidency because the Republicans control the majority of state delegations.

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Oregon primary results

Amidst all the Pennsylvania hoopla, I didn't see any discussion of the Oregon primary results from yesterday, so here's a quick diary. Most significantly, the governor's race will be Ted Kulongoski (the incumbent Dem) vs. Ron Saxton. Kulongoski (who may have had some progressive streaks at one time but has governed as a mushy centrist) had probably the strongest primary challenge of any incumbent Dem governor this year... two credible challengers from the left in former state treasurer Jim Hill and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. Kulongoski beat Hill (who had the backing of most unions) and Sorenson 54-29-16. That's probably more than was predicted for Kulongoski, but still shouldn't fill him with great confidence.

His task in November may have gotten a little harder in that the GOP bucked tradition and picked the most "moderate" candidate to go against him in Saxton (a Portland lawyer, former PDX school board chair, and general all-around power broker). Key to Saxton's win was two candidates splitting the wingnut vote, as he beat old hard-right 2002 nominee Kevin Mannix and young up-and-coming hard-right state senator Jason Atkinson, with Saxton winning 42-30-23. But Kulongoski's saving grace is likely to be that state senator Ben Westlund (a moderate former Republican who officially became an Independent) is apparently still planning to run as an Independent in November. Westlund may actually receive some union endorsements and draw some progressive support, but generally it's got to be helpful in November to have two moderate Republicans fighting over the turf, with no one on the ballot to motivate wingnut turnout. So this is a particularly weird governor's race, but probably safe to call "lean Democratic."

There's no senate race in Oregon this year, so the only federal race with any question marks was who would win the Dem nomination in the heavily Republican 2nd district to go up against the odious Greg Walden. Turns out it's colllege professor Carol Voisin. The name you heard most in the netroots, Scott Silver, finished 3rd. Perhaps also noteworthy is that incumbent Multnomah County Commission Chair Diane Linn got bounced by newcomer Ted Wheeler by a nearly 3 to 1 margin. Portland is overwhelmingly liberal, so this wasn't on ideological grounds; it had more to do with an escalating sense of Linn's incompetence and flakiness.

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Some good news: Washington state enters 21st century

Today the Washington Senate passed legislation adding sexual orientation as a protected class to the Washington Law Against Discrimination. In other words, once the governor signs off, Washington joins 15 other states in saying that a boss can't fire you or a landlord can't evict you for being gay (or for being straight, for that matter).

This comes after more than a dozen tries. This legislation has consistently passed the House only to fail in the more closely-split Senate. Last year, with Dems holding a 26-23 edge, it looked like it was finally going to pass, but two socially conservative rural Dems (Hargrove and Sheldon, both from the Olympic Peninsula) voted no at the last minute. This year, those two still voted no, but one Republican (Bill Finkbeiner, from Seattle's affluent eastside suburbs, and facing a strong challenge this year from a progressive self-funder with Microsoft money) turned around and voted yes. With one other Republican abstaining, it passed 25-23.

Kudos to my own state representative, Ed Murray, for constantly pushing this bill for the last decade-plus, in the face of unrelenting opposition from the state's wingnut contingent. A lot of Washingtonians are breathing easier tonight.

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Oregon assisted suicide law upheld

The Supreme Court has upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law 6-3, in the case of Gonzales v. Oregon. The majority opinion was written by Kennedy, joined by O'Connor, Souter, Stevens, Breyer, and Ginsburg. Scalia dissented, joined by Roberts and Thomas. Thomas also dissented separately.

My observations on this case:

  1. Roberts kind of telegraphed his vote with his questioning during the hearing of this case, but it's become clear he isn't an O'Connor style moderate; he's now revealed himself to be a conservative tool who will throw states' rights out the window when it's in the conservative movement's best interest.

  2. Kennedy is definitely flexing his swing-vote muscle, and assuming Alito winds up on the court, Kennedy becomes the person to watch as to how social-issues cases get decided.

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King County to switch to only mail-in voting

Interesting news on the voting machine/voter suppression front: King County in Washington (the location of Seattle) will be switching exclusively to voting by mail in the near future, perhaps by 2006. This makes it by far the nation's largest county to make this switch, and the second largest jurisdiction (after the state of Oregon, which has been doing it by mail since 2000). Doing so was probably only a matter of time, since in the last election 70% of the county's electorate voted absentee, and 33 of Washington's other 39 counties already are all vote-by-mail.

The good news: increased voter turnout among women, younger voters, and disabled people, especially in dinky off-season local elections (if the results in Oregon are any indicator). Increased turnout by these groups means more Democratic wins. Also, there's less chance of voter suppression occurring at the polling place or immediately prior to voting day (which our local GOP tried out last month, with a last minute attempted purge of more than 1000 voters from the rolls). (And naturally the local GOP is opposed to this change: here's the telling quote from Chris Vance, the state GOP chair, "Voters would resent it if they had to vote the old-fashioned way, but it's the right way to do it. We all ought to stand in line at the elementary school, show our voter ID, look the person in the face, sign on the dotted line and vote in person.")

The possibly bad news: King County uses Diebold machinery... but of course (since it's paper ballots) it's Diebold optical scanners, not touch screens, and with everyone submitting a paper ballot the paper trail is right there. But the need for open-source software, and for other security measures such as signature matching, is still there. (Plus, the Luddite in me will just miss the act of going to the school gymnasium and filling in ovals, and the symbolism that goes with that.)

Good polling news in Washington state (2005 election)

Washington state doesn't elect statewide offices in off-years, but there are still some semi-big races to keep an eye on.

First and foremost is the race for King County Executive. (King County is the location of Seattle, and contains 1.74 million people, making it bigger than many states. It's not as uniformly liberal as Seattle, as it also contains a lot of affluent moderate suburbs and a fair number of rural/exurban rednecks.) Current executive Ron Sims (D) is in a tight race with exurban county councilor David Irons (R). Sims won his last two elections by blowouts, but this one is tight... not so much because Irons is a strong candidate.

Sims' problems are partly self-inflicted (he's managed to piss everyone off at some point, ranging from the rural dwellers by enacting some of the nation's most stringent land use laws, to rich Seattleites by proposing to allow Southwest Airlines to start flying out of close-in Boeing Field and thus right over their expensive houses), partly driven by right-wing smearing (he's taken heat for not doing enough firing of King County elections officials in the wake of ballot mishandling in the super-close 2004 gubernatorial election... despite the fact that a number of smaller rural counties had higher ballot error rates, percentage-wise), partly by general Sims fatigue (he's already had two and a half terms), and partly by the presence of a Green party candidate who's sucking up 7-8% of the vote in polls.

Survey USA has polled the race twice. On 10/17 Irons was leading 46-43-7 with a 4.4% MoE. On 10/31, Sims was back in the lead, 48-41-8 with a 4.1% MoE. So the question is, is that standard fluctation within a big margin of error, or did something change? Well, there have been recent allegations that Irons isn't quite the mild-mannered moderate that he claims, but also a resume-paddingmother-beater. Either way, this race is going to remain close down to the wire.

Also noteworthy is Initiative 912, which is an attempt to repeal the supplemental gas tax of something like 5 cents per gallon. Usually, any initiative to limit a particularly nickel-dimey tax, especially anything transportation related, is a slam dunk in Washington. And the right has been framing this a vote for this as a way to vote directly against Governor Gregoire, since she had the temerity to not only a) contest and win the election but b) strong-arm the legislature into raising gas taxes so that, y'know, our bridges and viaducts don't fall down in the next earthquake. Nevertheless, Survey USA shows the initiative failing 44-50 on 11/1 with a 3.7% MoE. I don't know if that'll hold (it's the kind of poll question where people tend to give the civic-minded answer to the pollster and then make the self-interested vote in the privacy of the voting booth), but it too is a good sign.

Roberts confirmation vote count

Roberts was just confirmed on a 78-22 vote. 23 Dems voted yes, 22 Dems voted no. There are some surprises in each column. Can't say I'm too surprised by the actual totals, but I'd still been happier to have seen a lot more nays.

Here's the breakdown, courtesy of Confirm Them.

Democrats voting Yes:

Max Baucus of Montana
Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico
Robert Byrd of West Virginia
Kent Conrad of North Dakota
Russ Feingold of Wisconsin
Tim Johnson of South Dakota
Herb Kohl of Wisconsin
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana
Patrick Leahy of Vermont
Ben Nelson of Nebraska
Bill Nelson of Florida
Mark Pryor of Arkansas
Ken Salazar of Colorado
Christopher Dodd of Connecticut
Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut
Byron Dorgan of North Dakota
Carl Levin of Michigan
Ron Wyden of Oregon
Tom Carper of Delaware
Patty Murray of Washington
Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas
James Jeffords (I) of Vermont
Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia

Democrats voting no:

Evan Bayh of Indiana
Joseph Biden of Delaware
Barbara Boxer of California
Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York
Jon Corzine of New Jersey
Mark Dayton of Minnesota
Dick Durbin of Illinois
Dianne Feinstein of California
Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts
John Kerry of Massachusetts
Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey
Barbara Mikulski of Maryland
Barack Obama of Illinois
Harry Reid of Nevada
Charles Schumer of New York
Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
Jack Reed of Rhode Island
Tom Harkin of Iowa
Daniel Inouye of Hawaii
Paul Sarbanes of Maryland
Maria Cantwell of Washington
Daniel Akaka of Hawaii

Expanded worst president poll

With Paul's blessing, I'm commissioning a poll for Worst... President... Ever with a full 15 options.

Even narrowing it down to 15 (or 14 plus "other") was a chore, so I've left out a couple choices that many people love to hate but rarely get mentioned in the "worst president ever" context, like Andrew Jackson. Even though you don't hear usually Ronald Reagan mentioned in that context, I decided to include him though, since I suspect he'll get a lot of votes here. The options are listed chronologically.

FEMA Director's prior job: Destroying Arabian Horse Association

This started over at Horse's Ass and made its way upstream to Kos, so perhaps you've already seen this. But it's pretty damning as far as who gets high-profile jobs in the Bush administration.

Mike Brown, FEMA Director, was driven out of his job as "Judges and Stewards Commissioner" of the International Arabian Horse Association for ongoing incompetence and in the face of litigation. The man can't even manage a department within a horse breeder's group, and shortly thereafter he's running FEMA?

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New study ranks most liberal, conservative U.S. cities

Here's an interesting if somewhat methodolgically flawed study, released yesterday by a group called the Bay Area Center for Voting Research (never heard of 'em before, and don't know their agenda) that purports to rank the nation's most liberal and most conservative cities.

The only indicator on the liberal/conservative axis seems to be "voting patterns" (according to their press release, which says "In all, the BACVR researchers examined voting patterns of 237 American cities with populations of over 100,000 and ranked them each on liberal and conservative scales." Nary a peep on their website what elections this includes. (Hence my declaration of "methodologically flawed.")

The result this yields is that most of the nation's most liberal cities tend to be the ones with the greatest percentage of African-Americans. That makes sense when you view "liberal" purely in terms of registering and voting Democratic. The stereotypical "latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, tree-hugging liberal" oases (where "liberal" means secular, affluent, and white, along the lines of the Pew typologies) are much further down the list. (Madison is only 34th, and Eugene, OR is a whopping 54th.)

So the study's an OK starting point for thinking about where Dem numeric strengths and weaknesses lie geographically. A more interesting study to me... and one that might help the Dems greatly with tailoring messages and media buys to particular metro areas... might try to place various cities within the Pew typology template. (Of course, that would require someone to actually survey tens of thousands of people, instead of just dumping election data into Excel.)

If you can't be bothered to click on the link (based on my lukewarm endorsement), here are the top 10 and bottom 10 cities:

  1. Detroit, MI
  2. Gary, IN
  3. Berkeley, CA
  4. Washington, DC
  5. Oakland, CA
  6. Inglewood, CA
  7. Newark, NJ
  8. Cambridge, MA
  9. San Francisco, CA
  10. Flint, MI

  11. Provo, UT
  12. Lubbock, TX
  13. Abilene, TX
  14. Hialeah, FL
  15. Plano, TX
  16. Colorado Springs, TX
  17. Gilbert, AZ
  18. Bakersfield, CA
  19. Lafayette, LA
  20. Orange, CA


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