2010 races in my places of residence, past and present

November 1, 2010

By virtue of being a Navy snot and a bit of a government and politics geek,  I’ve accumulated U.S. House districts that I either follow or at least take note of when perusing election results.  Like someone who has at least nominal support for several college teams, the result is that always one bright spot amidst gloom or a blemish taking the luster off an otherwise good day.  Going more or less in order of interest, here’s some notes on the races in districts I’ve lived in:

  • FL 2 (Tallahassee-Panama City)     R+6 per Cook Political Report.   I was there in ’96 when Democrat Alan Boyd first won the seat and was present again in ’04 for one of the few times he was seriously challenged. Boyd won 59% in ’96 and hasn’t had a smaller share since (including unopposed runs in 2000 and 2006).  Boyd was a bit of an anachronism at the time he won; a conservative Democrat of the sort that elsewhere was defeated in 1994 or had changed parties.  Indeed, a past holder   occupant of the seat, James Grant changed parties in 1989 (and was subsequently thumped on his attempt for re-election as a Republican).  While Boyd usually tows the party line in Congress, he does dissent on some issues; for example, he’s consistently been endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

The mixed politics of Boyd and his predecessors The district features a diversity that’s unique in the other North Florida zones.  Geographically, most of the district is the same rural conservative area that is Republican friendly to the east and west. However, in the middle of it lies majority African-American Gadsden county and the city of Tallahassee, whose combination of state workers and students from two major universities make it a Democratic strong-hold *.

It appears that the times have caught up with Boyd.  His initial vote against the stimulus package (he supported it on final approval) was the given reason for a primary challenge by Al Lawson. Despite his waiver in support of the package and later support for the health care bill, Lawson persisted in his challange, one that proved to be much more formidable than outsiders anticipated (Boyd only won by 3%).

His challenger, Steve Southerland, who won a five-way primary fairly easily is heavily favored to win as recent polling showed him up by around 13%.  I’d be a bit surprised if he actually wins by that much, but I certainly don’t expect a Boyd win.

Southerland would be the first Republican to win election to this seat since 1882.  The aforementioned post-election party switch term of Grant was the only time the seat had an R next to it.

  • PA 6 Eastern Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia D+2 – This was where I saw my first representative in person, Peter Kostmayer (D) when I was in fifth grade.  The seat’s been Republican for most of modern times, shifting to Democrats when the currents dictate (1976,1982, and 2008). Interestingly Kostmayer was the winner of those two earlier elections.  In that light, it’s unsurprising that the previous Republican occupant of the seat, Michael Fitzpatrick is running to reclaim it from Patrick Murphy.  The polls favor Fitzpatrick; if he doesn’t when, then the anticipated Republican major hurricane probably ends up being a tropical storm at best.
  • ME 1Southern Maine D+8.  Tom Andrews (D) held this seat when I lived there in my junior high school years. He would go on to challenge the Representative of the northern district, Olympia Snowe for the Senate seat vacated by George Mitchell in 1994 **.  Republican James Longley filled the seat for a term, but it’s been in the hands of Democrats since.

I won’t deign to understand the dynamics of Maine politics, it’s unique unto itself (while I was there, it was a serious possibility that Ross Perot would get a share of electoral votes). I’ll just say that the incumbent Chellie Pingree is fairly heavily favored. Her defeat maybe would be indicative of a Republican rout, maybe not.

  • VA 4 Chesapeake-Petersburg  R+4 Well entrenched Democrat incumbent Norm Sisisky held the seat when I was in high school. For a seat that’s marginal on paper, it’s proven to be pretty secure. Sisisky filled the seat from 1983 until his death in 2001; the 1994 Republican landslide bypassed his district.  Republican Randy Forbes (who was a state Delegate when I first moved to the area) has held the seat since and is a virtual lock to retain it this time around.  The adjacent district is the one in question:
  • VA 2 Virginia Beach-eastern Shore R+5. Despite being nominally more Republican than the aforementioned district to its west, this district has been a bit more of a battleground.  Owen Pickett (D) filled the seat when I lived there and 1994 was a non-event for him as well.  The seat flipped Republican after his retirement in 2000, but went back to the Democrats after 2008.  Republican Scott Rigell is favored to defeat incumbent Glenn Nye.  Another instance of where the Republican storm maybe isn’t so big if they don’t win this seat, but keep the 1994 counter-trend in mind.

The district in which I currently reside, the oddly shaped FL-4 (extending from the don’t call it Jacksonville beaches to the edge of Tallahasse without including west-side Jacksonville) is quite boring.  By creating a majority minority district (the D+18 FL 3), the state legislature also created a district that’s just as lopsided on a partisan basis (R+17).

As such, the only elections of national interest are the state-wide ones.    The Senate race, of course has received much national attention. As was the case the last time the seat was contested ***, the chaos has been from the Republicans.   Mel Martinez abruptly retired in 2009.  Governor Charlie Crist appointed his chief of staff to keep the seat warm.  Marco Rubio disrupted Crist’s plans, soundly defeating him in the primary.  Undeterred, Crist is running as an independent.

Crist was buoyed by some favorable events early on in is independent campaign; a showdown against the Republican legislature on education made him attractive to Democrats and those without party affilation.  His high visibility during the oil spill also benefited him.  However, the oil spill faded out of the news as did his legislature fight (that wasn’t of the sort that translated into a federal campaign).  Rubio will win handily.

The outcome of the race for Governor, however, is highly uncertain.  Given all of that’s happened there’s no telling how things would have gone had Crist stood for re-election.  As it was with Crist vacating the position, I thought this was giong be an instance of the Republicans being “cycled out”. That is being exhausted of good candidates and being left with someone that even most Republicans aren’t enthusiastic for.  I was doubly confident of that when (Attorney General) Bill McCollum appeared to be a lock for the Republican nomination.  Having lost the 2000 Senate race to Bill Nelson and the 2004 Senate nomination to Mel Martinez, he wasn’t the strongest of campaigners and not someone people get fired up for.  The matchup against Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink did not look promising for Republicans (in my line of thinking, anyhow) and the stage seemed set of a counter-trend election cycle. However, McCollum despite being endorsed by Jeb Bush, among others, lost the nomination to health care executive Rick Scott in an outcome that was not unanimously foreseen in pre-election polling.

Scott, despite the cloud from his business past, has been just the sort of outsider able to resist potential ‘Republican fatigue’ among voters.  Polling has shown this to be a very tight race.  Keeping in mind how polling underestimated his strength in the primary, I picked Scott to win in my entry for Brendan Loy’s election contest. I must say though, that based on the television ads I’ve seen Sink has the advantage at the finish.  (I haven’t seen the positively themed “Let’s Get to Work” ads that Scott featured in the primary, while Sink has a very strong positive closing argument ad).  If what I’ve seen is representative of other television markets, then I’m inclined to think Sink wins a close one. 

* Although, Florida State  University, actually makes the area a little bit more Republican than it would be otherwise.  IIRC, I calculated at the time that in 2004 Bush carried ~45% of the vote in the precincts containing and immediately surrounding FSU (compared to 37% county-wide).

**  I’ve always liked the play-off feel of that race (two Representatives contending for a Senate seat) and wished that sort of thing happened more often. A Mark Warner/George Allen race, for instance.

***  Recall that at one point in 2003 (now disgraced) Representative Mark Foley was favored for the seat (being vacated by Democrat Bob Graham) before withdrawing from the race, leaving Bill McCollum the front-runner. It was not to be though, as HUD Secretary Mel Martinez was persuaded to run and he held off McCollum and a slew of other challengers.  At one point, Dan Webster, who is challenging Alan Grayson in FL-8 was in the running as well.



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