2011 Elections, August 29 Edition

In our previous installment, we noted that Democrats only achieved partial success with the attempted recall of six Republican senators. While they did recall two Republicans, one of those was due to personal issues, while the other was merely a case of Democrats mobilizing to defeat an incumbent Republican in a heavily Democratic district – Barack Obama received over 60% of the vote there. However, Republicans are still in control of both houses of the Wisconsin legislature.

August elections

Though it has been relatively quiet on the electoral front recently, there were elections in Wisconsin and Mississippi. In Wisconsin, the Republicans were unable to recall either of two Democratic state senators, while in Mississippi, the Democratic runoff for governor has concluded, and the black mayor of Hattiesburg (Johnny duPree) is the Democratic nominee. He is the underdog against Republican Lt. Governor Phil Bryant.

September elections

Things start to pick up in September. Next Tuesday-Thursday (September 6-8) will be candidate qualifying for the fall elections in Louisiana for all statewide elected officials, all 144 legislative seats, the state education board (also known as BESE), and a myriad of local/parish-wide races.

Thus far, the governor’s race has been quiet. Other than Democratic school teacher Tara Hollis, no one else has decided publicly to challenge Governor Bobby Jindal, although term-limited state senator Rob Marionneaux (D-Maringouin) is keeping his cards close to his vest as to whether he will run.

Therefore, as qualifying approaches, we’ll be watching for the following in an otherwise low-wattage election season: (1) how many incumbents will receive significant challenges, (2) how many Republican vs. Republican races will there be, and (3) to what extent Democrats will attempt to compete this year. The latter point has historical significance, because it wasn’t until the 2007 elections that the GOP began to target legislative seats (that year, they contested 23 out of  39 Senate seats and 67 out of 105 House seats). Even though they fell short of legislative control after those elections, today, they control 56 House seats (Rep. Taylor Barras of New Iberia switched parties on August 12) and 22 Senate seats.

As qualifying progresses, we will keep track of how many offices are being contested and/or the extent of partisan competition, and compare those results against the 2007 statewide elections.

Once qualifying has concluded in Louisiana, New York and Nevada are holding special Congressional elections on September 13. In Nevada, you have an open Republican seat outside of Las Vegas. Recent polling shows the Republican (Mark Amodei) ahead, but by varying amounts. Magellan Strategies (which polls Republican candidates) shows Amodei ahead 48-35%, while a poll paid for by SEIU (the service employees’ union that typically supports Democrats) shows a one point Republican lead. Early voting has already begun, and Amodei also has secured the endorsement of the Republican Governor.

In New York, Democrats actually have a fight on their hands to keep a heavily Jewish House seat in New York City that once elected Democrats Chuck Schumer for 18 years and Anthony Weiner for the following 13 years. A district that once gave Al Gore 67%, John Kerry 56%, and Barack Obama 55% has soured on President Obama. The question is whether those voter attitudes will translate into a Scott Brown like upset by the Republicans, since Republicans have generally not had much recent success in New York House elections, and Democrats have held a majority of the House delegation since the 1950s.

October elections

While the non partisan primary on October 22 will undoubtedly be the focus of voters in Louisiana, there in fact is another election before that: West Virginia is holding a special election for governor on October 4. This special election is necessary because Governor Joe Manchin was elected to the U.S. Senate last year, and Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin became the acting governor. Though he is well funded (and according to the Democratic Governor’s Association, leads 47-33% in a recent poll), his Republican opponent Bill Maloney is able to self fund his campaign, and West Virginia is one of those states where any Democrat running has to disassociate himself from national Democratic policies, especially with regards to coal.