As we start a new year (a mid-term election year), it is an appropriate time to look at goals/resolutions for 2014 for the Democratic Party.
For the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, two separate resolutions/goals:
1) Out of the nine Republican targets (Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia), win at least five of the nine. Realistically, 2008 was a great year for Democrats running for the Senate and winning 20 senate races again is not likely, but if we can win five of these nine we keep control.
2) Take at least one Senate seat away from the Republicans (best chances may be Georgia, Kentucky, and Maine). We are going to need some Tea Party help to do this, but the one thing that we can count on the Tea Party is to give us a Senate seat or two by winning a primary.
For the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
A simple resolution, defy history and pick up seats in the mid-term election of a second term. The party not in the White House normally picks up seats in the mid-term, especially when the other party is in its second (or more) consecutive term in the White House. The Democratic goal is hindered by the dwindling number of swing seats. A majority may be too much to ask for, but ending the year with 205-10 representatives might be achievable.
For the Democratic Governors Association:
1) Of the nine Republicans up for re-election in swing or lean Democratic states (Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), win at least four.
2) While this to some extent overlaps with the other resolution, have a strong showing in the southwest (defending Colorado, seeking open seats in Arizona and Texas, and challenging Republicans in Nevada and New Mexico). While it may not be possible to win all of these seats, keeping them all competitive is a necessary step to laying down a foundation for taking these states in 2016.
For the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee:
1) Regain control of some state legislative houses (particularly Iowa House and New Hampshire Senate and one of the houses in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan).
2) Narrow the gap in other states.
Realistically, a lot of state houses have large Republican majorities (partially for geographic reasons, partially due to gerrymandering). However, picking up five or six seats per state would be a down payment on taking some of these houses later in the decade. Additionally, it might allow Democrats to work with more moderate Republicans against some of the more extreme measures put forward by the Tea Party.
Last Week the Cook Report issued the updated Partisan Vote Index that adjusts for the results of the 2012 election (the Cook Report releases the PVI in three tables -- by district, by member, and by partisan rank). I'll skip over most of the details in the story about the change over time in the number of swing districts to focus on what this release means for 2014.
First, the explanation of the data and the cautions on its use, the Partisan Vote Index is a measure of how far the presidential votes in a given district differ from the national average over the past two cycles. (With redistricting, the assignment of the 2008 vote to new districts is, in some cases, a rough estimate). In other words, it is, in part, a measurement of how well the people running redistricting have gerrymandered the districts, but it is also, in part, a measure of how well a party has do nationally to win an election.
Second, because it is based on divergence from the national average in the last two elections -- an "even" district is one that Obama averaged a fraction under 53% in 2008 and 2012. Thus, to win an even district, the Democrats would need to get around 53% nationally.
Third, individual Congressional races (and thus the national vote total) differ from the Presidential race in multiple ways. For Presidential races, the two parties, in theory, are each running a strong candidate. For Congressional races, especially lopsided races, a party may not be able to get any candidate much less a strong candidate. Representatives may serve the same area for twenty-thirty years becoming well-known to their constitutents and picking up voters who otherwise would never vote for a candidate from the representatives party. In some states (Louisiana, California, and Washington), candidates run in a jungle primary in which candidates from bothe parties compete against each other and the top two regardless of party advance to the general.
Fourth, while election forecasters love to talk about a uniform national swing, there is no such thing. Even with a nation race (like for the President), you can see when you compare the 2008 numbers to the 2012 numbers (a very, very tiny overall swing to the Republicans), there were districts that swung noticeably towards Romney and districts that swung noticeably toward Obama throughout the chart. When you add in the strength of weaknesses of individual candidates in congressional races, there will be Democrats winning districts that they shoujld not win,a nd losing some districts that they should win.
Having given the appropriate cautions on the limits of these numbers, what do they show. First, even with his sizable national win, President Obama only carried 209 seats in 2012. President Obama probably needed about 0.75% more to get to a majority of Congressional Districts (one reason why Republicans keep flirting with adopting the Maine-Nebraska system). Currently, the median district in the county is the Third District of Washington, showing an Index of R+2. In theory, to win this election, the Democrats need to get a national vote total of around 52.25% (compared to the approximately 50.5% in 2012). However, while theoretically, the Republicans should have only gotten 51.5% of the vote in this district in 2012 based on the national numbers, they actually got 61%. To get enough of a swing to actually get to 218, the Democrats probably need something like 54% to account for districts in which Republicans overperform and Democrats under perform (which would only put another 10-15 seats into play).
Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case in December.
“I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” Walsh says directly into the camera in his viral video lecturing Obama on the need to get the nation’s finances in order. - Chicago Sun-Times
It's SO typical. Won't give them "debt", and won't feed his own kids, either.
The resignation was in some ways anticlimactic. I'm much more disappointed by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Chris Van Hollen relative to this whole situation than by Weiner.
Remember Charlie Rangel? Here is a guy whoREALLYbroke the public trust. The Ethics Committee investigated him for years. He still hasn't paid his parking tickers. He still has the place in the Caribbean and four (4!!!) rent controlled apartments. No member of the Democratic leadership ever publicly called for his resignation. They didn't call for William "Cash" Jefferson's resignation.
His offense, according to Bill Maher, was that of all the people involved in any form of sex scandal, he didn't get any. I think that's funny, but not the actual reason.
The Democratic leadership didn'tLIKEAnthony Weiner. He was a lifetime politician, having been in some form of public service his whole career. He started out working for Chuck Schumer, went on to be a NYC councilman, and then to the House. Rumour has it his original career goal was to be a TV weatherman. He has always been an unabashed liberal: if you look at his record, you'll see that he is someone who actually probably read both the US Constitution and the Democratic Party platform and STUCK TO THEM. He never backed down. A thorn in the side of a spineless, ball-less leadership that prefers compromise to winning. They didn't honestly like his politics, nor his persona. On a personal level, they didn't like HIM.
A secondary consideration is related to what Bill Maher said: "people" find sexting weird. Well, people of a certain age. Certainly teenagers don't. An affair? Lots of people have affairs. Have since the dawn of marriage. It's in the Old Testament, early on. Hookers? The world's oldest profession. Sexting is new, texting is only about 20 years old:
The first text message ("Happy Christmas") was sent in on December 3, 1992 over the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom from Neil Papworth of Sema Group from an R&D lab using a personal computer to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone.
Sexting is much newer: think about when you started texting. And face it, like all technologies, eventually sex gets involved. As in: there was less phone sex on party lines then there was once 900 numbers became popular. As it happens, the term "sexting" was only coined in 2005. And let's be honest, ON AVERAGE, the younger you are, the more likely you are to embrace newer technologies sooner. Which explains Nancy and Steny, but you'd think that even if they don't do it, Chris and Barack would have been less appalled. Oh, wait, they didn't LIKE him.
The resignation itself causes unintended consequences for the Democrats: especially Andrew Cuomo who should be spending time getting gay marriage passed and not be distracted having to come up with a primary date.
Today, the left lost a solid voice. A solid vote. It's a sad day.
There are three things for today. First, today is the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers. You can read a recent interview with Daniel Ellsberg here.
In this interview, Ellsberg says, "Richard Nixon, if he were alive today, would feel vindicated that all the crimes he committed against me–which forced his resignation facing impeachment–are now legal. " (Thanks to the Patriot Act and other laws passed in recent years.) And he says all presidents since Nixon have violated the constitution, most recently President Obama, with the bombing of Libya.
You can watch an internet stream of PBS POV documentary about Ellsberg here.
If you've never read the book, or if you're too young to remember what was going on in 1971, check it out. You might be interested in the parallels to Afghanistan, or in the ramifications of the Patriot Act...but what might catch your eye is how different things looked in 1971. There was no internet, no fax machine, barely overnight delivery. Mimeograph machines in lieu of ubiquitous copiers. Information was disseminated in a time lag. People were more serious (not all people, but in 1971 we did NOT live in the United States of Entertainment.) I could write for pages and pages on what 1971 was like: it was so long ago, and yet only a memory away.
Compare that to the two other stories of the day: will Weiner resign? Should he? All carried live. A scandal like his could not have happened in 1971: no Twitter, no instant cameras (sure, we had Polaroids, but you still had to mail the picture, yes, US Mule), no Facebook, no IMs, no 24 news cycles. And then there's the mental midget debate this evening. Let's compare: first off, no one announced until January of 1972. There was no actual presidential campaign, much less a debate, in 1971. Shirley Chisolm was the first African-American to run for president, of either gender, in either party. Also of note, Patsy Mink ran as the first Asian-American candidate. There are similarities of the Democratic Party of 1971 and the Republican Party of 2011 - both were in disarray, the Republicans because of the Tea Party, and the Democrats because of 1968. As an aside, Abbe Hoffman's Steal this Book was also published in 1971. If you want some good backdrop to the year, and to the Ellsberg saga, read it.
Also operational in 1971 on the Republican side was CREEP - Nixon's slush fund fundraising operation - "Committee to Re-Elect the President". Related organization? The Plumbers who broke into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office in July of 1971, practice for the DNC/Watergate break-in in 1972.
Let's put this all together. 40 years ago, the Vietnam War was on, and unpopular. Women were entering the workforce in great numbers, and NOT because their husbands were off fighting WW2 and the factories needed to be staffed. As a country, we were moving towards being less racist, the 1960's Civil Rights movement having been reasonably successful, although some would contend some work is never done. The Roe v Wade SCOTUS decision was still 7 months in the future. The 26th amendment lowering the voting age to 18 ("old enough to die in Vietnam, old to enough to vote against it") was a few weeks from full ratification. (That's not the last one, and yes, you should know how many there are.) It was also the golden age of sex: after the advent of the Pill, and before the scourges of herpes and AIDS. A time of great flux.
Today, we've got war, and terrorism, and more knowledge then we ever could have imagined we'd know...technology, medical advances, media, obscene divisions between rich and poor. Politicians who can't take time off from campaigning long enough to govern: a virtual non-stop election cycle. A Congress that is basically non-functional. The worst economy since the 1930's. A redistricting map that runs the gamut from California, which will have its first map drawn by non-policos ever, to Pennsylvania that will likely end up in court since they can't even get the committee to redistrict together. We're fighting civil rights again: not back of the bus and school integration this time, but immigration and freedom of speech. We're fighting Roe v Wade again. No one has a job at the factory anymore: at least not one with benefits, a strong union, and actual long-term benefits.
So on this auspicious anniversary, Anthony Weiner will be in Tiger Woods sex rehab mode, and six men and one woman will get up on a stage at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, NH to see who can be the most anti-Obama of the pack, all agreeing on most everything of substance, but mostly throwing barbs. It won't be a serious debate. And none of them will have a serious idea about how to solve our country's problems.
Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell played the Schoolhouse Rocks version of how a bill becomes a law. Then he pointed out that Eric Cantor said that if the House passes a piece of legislation, and the Senate does not concur, and the President does not sign said bill, it becomes a law anyway.
We've posted it before, but in case you've forgotten (again, I'm talking to YOU, Eric Cantor):
O'Donnell believes that Cantor really doesn't know. His first guest was Barney Frank, who had a very different take on the situation, saying that Cantor does know, but is posturing.
Either way, it's offensive that a member of the House leadership could stand up in front of colleagues and the press, and get away with disseminating completely erroneous information on a process so basic a cartoon can explain it in 3 minutes. O'Donnell is right: no one said ANYTHING at the time.
We're a little more than a week from a potential government shutdown. Vice President Biden was up on the Hill last night, looking to cut a deal. Boehner knows he's got to deal with the Democrats if a deal is to be cut, since he can't count on the teabag contingent of the GOP. And the Republicans are far more fearful of a shutdown then the Democrats are. While 2011 is different from the winter of 1995-96 in that Newt was far more polarizing than the Tan Man is known to be by most people, Boehner's albatross is the glee that the teabaggers will spread all over the news that the government shut and they helped! (If you remember it, hear the early 1960's Shake and Bake ad in your head.)
But the real question is whether people know, or care, that their elected officials break laws...look at Walker having the no-more-collective-bargaining legislation passed illegally, then published illegally, and then continuing on in the face of a judge's order. Does Cantor really think the House can enact legislation with no Senate and White House concurrence? Will they try to do it anyway? Will anyone notice?
Happy New Year campers, and welcome to the start of the 112th Congress, which will convene on Wednesday. Before we get to the crux of the discussion, just a timing note. In addition to getting more paid vacation time then any other group of people, including union workers and even most part time workers, Congress generally doesn't meet Monday or Friday. That's 102 scheduled vacation days (exclusive of the Monday/Friday deal) with adjournment on 8 December, leading to an additional 16 days off. Strikes me as obscene. If I owned a company and paid someone in the neighborhood of $250,000/year in salary, benefits and perks (exclusive of the office budget) - I'd expect that person to work more than he/she took vacation. But maybe that's just me. You can see the full calendar here.
Then again, this might be a good year for gridlock, given what the House led by the Tan Man and his DeMint-led cohorts in the Senate want to do.
On their agenda:
Repeal healthcare. And no, this won't happen.
Repeal safe and legal abortion. This might happen.
Repeal DADT. NOT gonna happen.
Debt ceiling? The tea baggers are already up in arms about what the lame duck Congress did, and they do NOT want to raise it. Hopefully, cooler heads amoung the Republican intelligencia (sole member: Karl Rove) and the GOP members who've been around long enough to want to come back for an additional term will prevail.
Spending bills: remember there's no budget, just a continuing budget resolution that will need to be renewed/reviewed/reconsidered/beaten with a stick in February.
Yesterday, the Supremes remanded Clemons v US Department of Commerce back to the District Court for dismissal due to a lack of standing. You probably haven't heard a lot about this since it hasn't been anywhere near the front page. The case involves a request to force Congress to increase the number of House members to decrease the number of constituents per district.
If you remember, having two chambers was a compromise of the Founding Fathers to be fair to states with very different populations. The Senate is two representatives per state, and the House would be based on a population that could not fall below 30,000 people. That precluded too much power being handed to either large or small states.
That worked reasonably well until 1920, when the House ceased to increase the number of reps based on Census data. We have had 435 reps ever since. Back in 1920, each House member had slightly less than 250,000 constituents. Currently most House districts represent about 650,000 people, and that is expected to go up to about 710,000 with the current Census, and about a million by the next one.
It would be a problem to hold the number of reps to one for every 30,000 people, as that would mean we'd have 10,000 members. But there is also a problem with the size of the districts approaching a million people. First and foremost, it creates an inequity that the Founders never intended. For example, Wyoming has one CD, one Congressman, and fewer than 500,000 people. It could be a problem in 10 years for Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island in 10 years. Each currently has over 1 million in population and two Congressional seats, but they have high median ages, and face population loss. They could each lose a seat not so much to redistricting, just because their relative size will no longer support the stated size of the district.
There is also a political representation problem. Senators represents entire states, which are rarely homogeneous. Congressmen represent small areas and are more attuned to local issues. When a rep needs to be responsive to three-quarters of a million people, it's less possible to keep politics local.
Should there be an up-set number of the number of constituents per House seat? If so, should that number be based on absolute population, or the size of the smallest state? Or is it okay for the number of constituents to keep rising?
The Republicans intend to block anything and everything. This should come as no surprise to those of us who read, but still, they put it in a letter yesterday. They took their first shot yesterday, when they blocked school lunch money in the House. Meanwhile, Obama is convinced that becoming the most capitulating appeaser since Chamberlain is a good thing since, and I quote:
The American people did not vote for gridlock.
Um, Mr. President, YES THEY DID. With every Republican elected to take a seat held in the 11th, every state assembly and senate position, and every governor's mansion.
Theoretically, they'll be voting against the tax cut extension for those earning less than $250,000/year today in the House. Holding hostage the unemployed with no extensions, the budget, the lunches and everything else for the 98% of America that is not seriously rich. As an aside, this is an excellent piece on the state by state effects of the cessation of unemployment extensions, in case you want state-by-state data.
So you might assume that anyone NOT a Republican will blink first, roll over, and play dead.
Then again, you might believe that the Democrats, led by the appeaser in chief, will suddenly grow an actual spine, and go with Robert Reich's Option "B", in thought, deed and messaging.
There are those who, while normally sane and cognizant, have fallen off a thinking cliff and believe that there is some answer in the middle.
By the way, if you wonder why I keep harping on the unemployment extension, it's because it is important not only to the people who will need welfare if it doesn't go through, but for the economy as a whole. Unemployment dollars are dollars that get spent every day. Rich tax money? They just hold onto it, and it doesn't go into our delicate economy. Further, it is an integral part of the safety net, and there is something morally bankrupt about a government that caters to the rich at the expense of hungry children.
My real question is: at what point does the electorate realize that they voted against their own self-interest, unfortunately, I know the answer, and it's NEVER.
I love a lot about technology, but every once in a while, I'm faced with something that has gotten lost. For example, most people don't own dictionaries any more, instead using web dictionaries. (That's NOT a condemnation about those who've given up dead tree editions.) But the following is lost on the younger generation "I've seen your picture in the dictionary, it's next to the word "idiot."" In this case "I've seen your picture in the dictionary, Congress, it's next to the word "gridlock.""
Yes, kids, Congress is back again tomorrow. The Senate will see a big change as Roland Burris is replaced with the swearing in of Mark Kirk. I'll miss Senator Burris (potentially not for long, as while HE is still considering, his supporters filed papers for hm to run for Mayor of Chicago). While a lot of people only think of him as a Blago flunky, his voting record was stellar, and he stood in every way for progressive principles.
It will be a good week for Maxine Waters, whose hearing in front of the House Ethics Committee has been delayed. We'll see how Charlie Rangel fares. While the Ethics Committee voted to censure, for that to happen the full House needs to vote, and the censure will only carry with a 2/3 vote. Censure would involve him standing on the floor of the House and the Speaker saying ugly things to him. I hope when people vote, they remember that his voting record for the past 40 years was exemplary, and prior to that he fought for civil rights and was a decorated war hero.
As an aside, there are jail cells in the bowels of the Capitol. Yes really, they were used from 1795 to 1821 to compel citizens to testify at Congressional hearings. Then, the Supremes turned such things over the the Justice Department. And here's the thing that rankles me: Charlie Rangel didn't pay his taxes, nor his parking tickets, and he's got three too many rent-controlled apartments. After a lifetime of public service, he will be shamed. To a lot of us of a certain age, "shame" means something. And yet, people like Baby Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and their brethren, with the full complicity of lots of Senators and House members did HORRIBLE things to us, the American people. And to others throughout the world. Here, they eviscerated the Constitution, went around the FISA court, put in place economic policies that destroyed our economy, dithered on policies related to the environment that may well kill the earth as we know it for our kids and grandkids and yet they walk free. They invaded a sovereign nation for no reason other than Shrub hated Saddam, killed tens of thousands, and walked away feeling okay about the whole thing.
How is it that these people get off with book deals and no prosecution, and Charlie Rangel gets shamed for not paying taxes? Does anyone else feel the outrage that I do? The House and Senate, should, this week, be looking at extending unemployment benefits, repealing DADT, getting a budget in place, avoiding a government shutdown, taking action to prevent newbie Republicans who campaigned on a repeal-healthcare platform to be denied ANY coverage paid for with tax dollars, giving support to DOT in getting their money back from governors who won't build the transportation projects for which the money was intended, etc., etc., etc., and instead, they'll gridlock on everything but censuring Charlie Rangel.
There are eight Congressional Districts in Arizona. We're going to focus on the 3rd, 7th and 8th. Right now, the 3rd is represented by John Shadegg, a very conservative Republican who is retiring. This open seat is being pursued by Baby Quayle, also known as the Family Values Porn Star. Interestingly, if you look at Nate Silver's projection, he cites only one poll, which is 46% Jon Hulbard, 44% Quayle, and then gives Baby Quayle a 90% chance of winning. I don't get the math. But that's just me. Does the pornographer make it?
The other two races we're looking at are both held by Democrats, and they are a study in contrasts. Raul Grijalva is part of the leadership of the Progressive Caucus in the House, someone who has stood up for Democratic values for 40 years. He began his career as an organizer, went on to hold a number of local and state positions, and was elected to Congress in 2002.
Both the 7th and the 8th districts border Mexico, and both have the associated problems. Rumour has it that immigration is an especially big issue in Arizona. Grijalva favours a path to legality for the currently undocumented, and if you go to Giffords Congressional web site, near the top, in the middle, below the word "Welcome" is the line "Securing our borders is my top priority". It will be interesting not only to see who wins, but to see the relative vote percentages of these two very different incumbent Democrats.
To start the House polling, we're going to extremes. On the one hand, smart, liberal, accomplished, Harvard-educated Barney Frank. On the other side, hypocrite and wingnut, Oral Roberts-educated and owner (with her family) of a farm. In both cases, their poll numbers dipped in September. According to conventional wisdom, both will win their races. But who knows....
In Minnesota, Michelle is challenged by Tarryl Clark (donate here) who has a history of public service, civic work, and is a current State Senator. I have tried, honest, REALLY TRIED to understand how Michelle wins over Tarryl Clark. Here's someone who says that she wants the government to cut spending and yet takes every Federal farm subsidy that she can get her hands on, and has for many years. She exemplifies "truthiness", the idea of people believing lies over actual facts. I honestly DO NO UNDERSTAND.
In Massachusetts, while the polls indicate Frank is ahead, his numbers have dropped from the mid-60's to the mid-50's. He recently loaned his campaign about $200,000 because in the last days, it's the money. Bielat's claim to fame is that he served in the Marines, and he's a "businessman". No experience, no cogent ideas, and no actual plans if elected except to vote "no". Can the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee pull it out?
While it is somewhat easy to follow the national races, many of the contests that will effect control of the House (both this year and after redistricting) are under the radar. Since we all can't live everywhere and follow every state political blog, here is my attempt to provide the information from my neck of the woods.
The big race that folks are following nationally is the Senate race. In this tough national environment (and Missouri is slightly more Republican than the rest of the country with a PVI of R+3), Democratic candidate Robin Carnahan has had a tough race to stay competitive in. Depending upon which poll you follow, it looks like she will need a couple of last second developments to break her way. Out in the rural part of the state, I have already been hit by multiple mailers and robocalls from Crossroads on this race -- all carefully phrased as asking voters to call Robin about her stands on the issues to stay as an educational group (and thus not have to disclose donors). While this blitz will make it tough to win, it does mean that the money is coming to a seat that the Republicans must hold instead of one that they must take. Robin did get a bit of a break with news that Blunt has illegal immigrant problems but whether it will be enough to change the fundamentals of the race is unclear.
Fortunately, the Governor's office is not on the ballot this year. The only state office on the ballot is State Auditor. Democrat Susan Montee holds this office and most of the press coverage seems to think that she has done a good job.
To understand this race, you need to know something about the history of campaign finance in Missouri. Back in the 90s, voters passed campaign finance reform. The voter passed law ultimately went up to the US Supreme Court and the Supreme Court found that the Missouri statute was constitutional. The law put limits on what individuals and committees could give to candidates. It did not place any limit on what individuals and committees could give to non-candidate committees. It also allowed party committees to give more to candidates than individuals could. There were the type of problems that you would expect from such a rule. When Republicans took full control of the State after the 2004 election, they saw a need to reform the campaign finance laws. Rather than the logical fix of placing some limit on donations to political party committees and PACS, the Republican solution was to remove the limits on donations to candidates.
The Republican candidate, Tom Schweich, was considering a run for the Senate. Party leaders convinced him to run for Auditor instead and promised him adequate funding. Every time that Mr. Schweich needs cash, the big names in Republican politics open up their wallets and give him another $100,000.00 or so.
This race could be close and will tell us something about the strength of the Republican tide. On the merits, the Democrats should have a solid landslide win in this race. I think we will keep this office, but turnout could make the difference.
In Congress, there are four seats that merit closer attention. Two of the four (the 3rd and 4th) are currently held by Democrats and two (the 7th and 8th) are currently held by Republicans.