Update on U.S. House and Senate races

Yesterday runoff elections were held in Louisiana’s second and fourth Congressional districts.

In the biggest Congressional upset of the year, Democratic incumbent “Dollar Bill” Jefferson lost to Republican Joseph Cao in LA-02. You may remember Jefferson as the guy who kept $90,000 in cash in his freezer and used the National Guard to visit his home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’m normally a yellow-dog Democrat, but Jefferson is one Democrat I’m happy to see go.

No need to worry about winning back this seat in 2010, as David from Swing State Project explains:

So LA-02 is D+28 (old PVI). There is no district that is as red as this one is blue – UT-03 tops out at R+26. This reminds me of IL-05 in 1994 (1990s PVI: D+11) – corrupt Dan Rostenkowski got beaten by the unknown Michael Flanagan, who got soundly thumped by Rod Blagojevich two years later.

Remember, there are only nine other Republicans in Congress representing House districts with any kind of Democratic lean, and the most Democratic of those districts is D+6.5. Assuming Louisiana Democrats come up with a credible candidate in 2010, LA-02 should be an easy pickup.

The result in LA-04 yesterday was more disappointing. Democrat Paul Carmouche appears to be just 350 votes (less than 0.5 percent) behind Republican John Fleming. Carmouche is not conceding yet, but I doubt there are enough outstanding provisional and absentee ballots to put him over the top here. On the other hand, keeping it this close represents a kind of moral victory for Democrats, since John McCain carried LA-04 by 19 points on November 4. A Democrat “should” not even be competitive in a district like this.

Within the past week Democratic candidates conceded in California’s fourth and forty-fourth districts, which were both unexpectedly close despite having strong Republican partisan voting index numbers.

Provisional ballots are still being counted in Ohio’s fifteenth district. It looks like Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy has a decent chance at beating Republican incumbent Steve Stivers, because the 26,000 provisional ballots are in her stronghold (see this post by brownsox for more details). Am I the only one who finds it suspicious that so many voters had to fill out provisional ballots? That’s almost 10 percent of all the voters in the district on November 4.

UPDATE: Kilroy has won OH-15 by about 2,000 votes. Her margin of victory is large enough not to trigger an automatic recount. Assuming the recount in LA-04 does not change last night’s result, the next Congress will have 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans. I’ll take it!

Moving to the Senate races, the Minnesota contest is sure to end up in the courts and perhaps resolved by the U.S. Senate. The state canvassing board has delayed its meeting to review thousands of challenged ballots until December 16, because one precinct that favored Al Franken appears to have lost about 130 ballots that were counted on election night. If the ballots are not found, he could lose several dozen votes, which could make the difference in this ridiculously close race. It’s still unclear whether absentee ballots that were rejected because of clerical errors will be counted in Minnesota.

Click here to find a bunch of recent (and more detailed) accounts of what’s going on in Minnesota. Whoever ends up getting seated in the Senate is going to be viewed as illegitimate by many on the other side. I still can’t believe more than 400,000 Minnesotans voted for independent candidate Dean Barkley.

The presidential election results created a few Senate vacancies. The governor of Delaware appointed Ted Kaufman, a former chief of staff to Joe Biden, to take Biden’s place. The consensus seems to be that Biden set this up to leave the path clear for his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, to run in 2010 when there is a special election to determine who will serve out Joe Biden’s term (which ends in 2014). The younger Biden cannot serve in the Senate now because he has been deployed in Iraq.

In New York, Caroline Kennedy (the daughter of President John F. Kennedy) has become the surprise favorite to be appointed to take Hillary Clinton’s place. It strikes me as an odd choice in a state with many capable Democrats in the U.S. House. Nothing against Kennedy, who seems very smart and principled, but I think Governor David Paterson should pick someone with more relevant political experience for this job. More speculation on the New York Senate seat is here. As in Delaware, there will be a special election in 2010 to determine who will serve out Clinton’s term (which ends in 2012).

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich still has not announced his choice to replace Barack Obama in the Senate. Many people still expect Tammy Duckworth to have the inside track, especially since Obama is going with retired General Eric Shinseki for Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs. On the other hand, Fox News says Illinois Senate President Emil Jones will be picked to serve out Obama’s term (which ends in 2010). Jones is considered a “safe” choice because he is both black and an “elder statesman” placeholder. If he is the pick, expect a very competitive Democratic Senate primary in Illinois in 2010.

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Update on U.S. Senate seats still up for grabs

The Democrat challenging seven-time convicted felon Ted Stevens has taken a lead in the Alaska Senate race. OK, it’s only a three-vote lead among some 250,000 votes counted so far, but if I’m Mark Begich, I’ll take it. (UPDATE: Begich now leads by 814 votes out of some 263,000 counted.)

There are lots more early votes to be counted in the coming days, and no one seems to know exactly where they will come from. However, speculation in this thread at Swing State Project indicates that Democrats have reason to be optimistic about picking up the Senate seat from Alaska. That would bring the Democratic caucus to 58 (counting independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who votes with Democrats).

The Minnesota Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman will go to a recount and may not be decided before the middle of December. According to the latest count, Coleman leads by 206 votes out of more than 2.5 million cast. Nate Silver examines Franken’s prospects from several different angles, and concludes:

The more that I examine this data, the more I’m beginning to believe that the number of reclassifiable ballots may be relatively low, but that the proportion of such ballots that are resolved in Franken’s favor may be relatively high. How these two factors will ultimately reconcile themselves, I don’t know.

The runoff Senate election in Georgia between incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin will take place on December 2. There have not been any public polls yet in this race since the general election. A lot of Barack Obama’s field staff have reportedly moved to Georgia to work this race for Martin. The Republican playbook is to link Martin to Democratic leaders in Congress. Will that be enough for Chambliss in this red state?

At Swing State Project, Crisitunity published this overview of likely candidates to replace Joe Biden as U.S. Senator from Delaware. Biden’s son Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, is ineligible because of his current deployment. The most likely options are either Lieutenant Governor Jack Carney, or a seat-warmer who would let Beau Biden run for the seat in 2010, after his deployment has ended.

Speculation about Barack Obama’s replacement continues, with the first Illinois poll on the topic showing Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. as the most popular choice.

Six U.S. House races are still uncalled: Alaska’s at-large seat, California’s fourth district, California’s 44th district, Ohio’s 15th district, Louisiana’s second district, and Louisiana’s fourth district. The first four are Republican-held seats where the Republican candidate leads. LA-04 and LA-02 will hold runoff elections in December. Probably our best chance to pick up another seat is in OH-15.

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