As always, you can't have an election without some election authorities trying to cheat make decisions that favor their side.
The latest news is out of Ohio. Several weeks back, the courts decided that if the information on a provisional ballot was wrong due to the fault of election judges, the provisional ballot should be counted. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted had a solution to this problem of counting all votes (after all provisional votes might be for Democrats and what Republican wants those votes counted). He simply sent out a directive that the poll workers were not to assist in filing out the information for provisional ballots, that way any error is attributable to the voter and no longer fits within the court ruling requiring that the ballot be counted.
While we are all going to want to take a couple weeks off after tonight's victory to catch our breath, priory #4 ior 5 (after keeping the Senate, gaining the House, and gaining governorships) has to be electing Democratic Secretary of States around the country. As Florida and Ohio have shown time and time again, having people who actually support making sure that everybody can vote and that every vote is counted matters. When lots of people vote, we win. When votes are suppressed, we lose.
While everyone else is focused on Alabama, Mississippi, caucuses tomorrow and Saturday and then on to Illinois...I'm thinking about William R Smith.
Smith won the Democratic Congressional primary in Ohio's Second district against David Krikorian, who'd run and lost twice before and was the endorsed Democratic candidate.
Smith didn't campaign. He didn't give a single speech. Didn't knock a single door. Didn't submit to a single interview. Here you go:
A 61-year-old former postal worker from the small town of Waverly, Smith says he made less than $15,000 last year driving a truck. His reasons for running are a "long complicated story," he said.
His issues: mistreatment of veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs, tighter regulation of the mortgage industry and federal rules on how long truckers can drive before they have to rest.
"If you had to produce a prototype for the absolute common man, that's what you get. He drives a truck. He lives with his mother," said Blaine Beekman, Pike County commissioner who helped circulate Smith's petitions. "People call him the 'mystery candidate.' He's really the impossible candidate." Source
How did he win? He's the poster child for the Super PAC. One name Victory Ohio Super PAC made robocalls on his behalf. Smith doesn't know anything about it. No one knows anything about the PAC, and their phones have been disconnected. According to Beekman, no one in the county could have done it since it has the highest unemployment of any county in the state. The Republicans in Pike County are also at a loss. The US Attorney's office is consulting with the FBI and the FEC to look into prosecuting the PAC. This is the text of the call, which you can listen to here:
“William Smith has an opponent that describes himself as a Reagan conservative. William Smith’s opponent was already sanctioned by the Ohio Elections Commission for not telling the truth. Please don’t make a mistake and embarrass the party. Vote for William Smith, the real Democrat for Congress. This has been paid for by the Victory Ohio Super PAC.”
It's true that Krikorian was reprimanded by the Ohio Elections Commissions for falsely accusing the incumbent Republican of taking money from the Turkish government to deny their Armenian genocide. She's suing him. But she also lost her primary due to Super PAC money spent on behalf of Brad Wenstrup, who is now the GOP candidate. In fact it was Wenstrup who provided a recording of the robocall to a local newspaper. He's afraid the mystery PAC will target him in the general.
It's doubtful that the win could be taken from Smith since he legitimately had nothing to do with the calls. However, since he only won by 59 votes out of 20,000, there is likely to be an automatic recount. I expect that stupid, uninformed voters will vote for the name they know best from TV ads, or the top person on the list, or some other eeny-meeny-miney-moe reason. It's how Alvin Greene won in 2010, oh hell, the list is endless. But this is new: a robocall in the last days of an election? It's really stunning, and is yet another black mark against Citizens United. We should take this as a wake-up call that money moves even the smallest of elections and completely perverts the process.
Unlike California, both Ohio and Pennsylvania lost seats. That makes for very difficult decisions regarding who gets a free ride and who is going to have to face another representative next year. It is even more difficult in Ohio which lost two seats.
The target size for a district in Ohio is 721,000 persons. Both Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and Hamilton County (Cincinatti) lost population to their suburbs. On the other hand, Franklin County (Columbus) did gain residents. The net result of these changes (and the increase in the population required for a seat) is that no county in Ohio is entitled to two representatives (though the above three are each entitled to one and fraction) None of the other counties is large enough for a full congressional seat.
The amazing thing in Ohio is that even with the loss of seats, there are seats that are over the new target size. The Twelfth (which includes part of Franklin County) has 756,000 people. Of the remaining 17 districts, the smallest is the 11th which includes Cleveland with 540,000 people. The largest is the 7th (taking in another part of Franklin County which has 683,000 people. The good news out of Ohio is that since the Republicans won 13 of the 18 seats in 2010, it is going to be very difficult for them to get rid of two Democrats. Because the five Democratic seats do currently join each other, its going to be difficult to avoid losing one of those seats. Those five seats (plus the 14th district in the extreme northeast corner of the state) combine to be just over 5 seats. Since the 14th is a pretty safe Republican seat, it can take the hit of 63,000 from the neighboring Democratic districts leaving the five districts to be recombined into four districts with a spare 74,000 to go to the rest of the state (probably into the 5th which is also safely Republican and can take the hit as well).
The real question for Ohio will be the swing seats -- all currently held by Republicans. The Republicans took 5 seats from Democrats in the 2010 elections, all by relatively close margins. The Republican goal in this cycle will be to split up one of these seats and between two or three safe Republican seats and then to send excess Republicans from those seats into the remaining swing seats.
Pennsylvania is a tale of two states. The western (more conservative) part of the state generally lost population. Only three counties gained population on the west side of the state. Two of those three were suburbs of Pittsburgh, and the other one was tiny Forest County which went from very very tiny to just very tiny. On the eastern side of the state, the population grew with only five counties in north central Pennsylvania losing population.
Of the five districts currently in Western Pennsylvania, the Republicans control 3 and the Democrats held onto the remaining two by the slimmest of margins. The Democrats are not doing much better in the rest of the state, holding only a grand total of 7 of the 19 seats.
Gov, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) has set the dates for the special election to replace former representative Ellen Tauscher, who resigned to take an appointment as Undersecretary of Arms Control and International Security in the State Department. The primary is set for September 1st and the general election is November 3rd. The primary is an "open ballot" - all candidates will appear on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. The top vote-getter in each party plus the nonpartisan candidates will advance to the general election unless one candidate receives in the primary 50 percent plus one vote.
Sarah Palin is threatening the sue the media to stop them from, well, reporting the news.
Former Representative and Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney was released from an Israeli prison.
Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) will be in a tough re-election race next year according to the latest poll:
If you were reading DCW last year, you know of my interest in Vito Fossella. In fact, you can see the whole litany here, if you're not up on the Long Staten Island Congressman who was drinking in DC, arrested for drunk driving in Virginia, called his girlfriend to pick him up (she brought their child), had to deal with his wife, refused to give up his seat, finally decided against running again in November, and was charged in such a way that jail time on conviction was mandatory. (He blew a .18.)
Well, after his commitment to fighting the charges, this morning, Vito pleaded guilty. He begins serving his sentence this weekend.
Jail time doesn't necessarily cause Republicans to be barred from employment, however. Bob Ney, of the Jack Abramoff scandal, for example, will soon be starting his radio show. That's WVLY AM 1370, weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., broadcast from beautiful, downtown, Moundsville, WV.
Upcoming: Last year, we had Senate ranking charts. We're starting them again this week, and we'll be doing them the first weekend of every month (or thereabouts). This year, there will be a DCW column. As a sneak peak, my April rankings are after the jump. Once we put up all the rankings from different sources, we'll run a poll so that once a month, you can hazard a guess at how many Democratic senators we'll have in January 2011, and whether you've changed your mind since the previous month.
Now, on with the races --
Pennsylvania: Last night, Matt reported that Jim Gerlach is considering a run against Arlen Specter. I had to call Gerlach's office this past week with a question about the stimulus package. (He is my congressman, and the congressman for the place I work.) I was basically told to call someone who'd voted for it. It's going to hurt him. A lot.
There is an interesting piece comparing Pennsylvania unemployment rates with the Congressional votes and finally the projected impact of the stimulus money. Gerlach currently represents one of the districts with unemployement that is low compared to the rest of the state. (Still under 6%, compared to a state rate of more like 7%.) Hard to sell a candidate dedicated to keeping people unemployed.
Last year, I was convinced that Gerlach would hold his seat. If you were reading DCW back then, you know all my reasoning. Not this time: he doesn't get to be Senator. He doesn't even get to win the primary. It is not unsurprising that he would be branching out this year: not because of his record, but because there is a chance that the 6th CD will be split in 2011 when the districts are realigned based on the census, and the 1 - 2 seats we will likely lose. There are some interesting names currently deciding whether or not to run. I personally know a lot of the players on both sides, but will not report on who is running until their decisions are finalized.
North Carolina: Richard Burr has worse numbers than Liddy Dole had at this time last cycle. He currently has a 33% approval rating, while hers was 43%. The question is whether Secretary of State Elaine Marshall will run against Burr. He beats her in a head-to-head, but only 43-35. Not good enough for an incumbent.
Connecticut: Chris Dodd is in trouble. He was already in trouble before the "yes it was I who worked the AIG bonuses" imbroglio. No chance that Connecticut elects a Republican next year, they are too down on the semi-Republican they have in TLB Lieberman. But his opposition will be stiff.
Ohio: It turns out that the electorate has no idea who's running to replace the retiring Voinovich.
In an early look at the 2010 Republican primary for the Ohio U.S. Senate seat being vacated by George Voinovich, former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman holds a 33 - 11 percent lead over State Auditor Mary Taylor, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Both Republicans trail either of the two leading Democratic candidates, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher or Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, by almost identical double-digit margins.
In a possible Democratic primary, Fisher, Brunner and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan each get from 14 to 18 percent of the vote and more than half of the Democratic electorate is undecided, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.
The poll numbers really mean nothing when half the people just plain don't know.
Minnesota: We still don't have a decision. Even the Coleman camp is saying that Franken will win the court case. However, they're going to take their appeal up the ladder, and base it on Bush v Gore. Before you get nervous: Minnesota is NOT Florida.
Roll Call (subscription required) is reporting that Lt. Governor Lee Fisher has filed paperwork to explore the seat that will be left open next year by George Voinovich's retirement.
Fisher spokeswoman Lauren Goode said the filing was an indication that Fisher was “very serious” about running to succeed retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio).
Fisher would be the first Democratic candidate to enter the race, although a handful of other Buckeye State elected officials are looking at a bid. Gov. Ted Strickland (D), however, told a local newspaper last week that he would support Fisher over other Democrats, including Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Reps. Tim Ryan and Zack Space.
More information in Sunday with the Senators this weekend.
You lose 2 elections on Saturday, you win one on Sunday:
Now it's official: Mary Jo Kilroy will be going to Washington as the first Democrat to represent any part of Franklin County in Congress in a generation. Final vote tallies released this evening by the Franklin County Board of Elections show that Kilroy defeated Republican state Sen. Steve Stivers by 2,311 votes out of 304,053, outside of the 0.5 percent margin to trigger a recount. - Columbus Dispatch
This puts the overall Democratic net gain in the House back to 21.