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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The Race to Replace Obama II

(Thanks to American007 for putting this together. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Well, with the election of President Barack Obama (I will never get tired of typing that) looking more and more like a certainty, it's time once again to get elbow deep in the muck that is Illinois politics. In this diary, I'll be taking an updated look at possible appointees to Obama's Senate seat.

A quick reminder of the rules at play here. The Constitution states that a congress person must be at least 30, a citizen for at least 9 years prior to entering the Senate, and must live in the state they represent. Beyond that, there are no rules. Governor Rod Blagojevich can appoint whoever he likes to the position, without having to have that pick voted on or vetted by anyone.

So here are my odds on who the pick will be:

2-1: Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)

Often, when a governor must appoint someone to fill a vacant seat, their first reaction is to fill the seat with someone as close to the genuine article as possible. In that regard, Jackson Jr. is the man for the job. He's an almost universally well-liked Representative from the south side of Chicago. It helps that he's one of Obama's closest allies, having put out fires started by his father several times. Plus, appointing Jackson will help keep the “upstate senator/downstate senator” balance with the downstater Dick Durbin.

In addition, Gov. Blago has to be feeling the pressure to appoint an African-American to the seat, lest the 111th Congress have no African-American senators.

Working against Jackson is the fact that he is disliked by the Daley machine, a powerful contingent that has kept him out of some House committees in the past. The other factor working against Jackson is his father, who has been a thorn in seemingly everybody's sides this election cycle.

5-1: Lisa Madigan (IL Atty. General)

Unlike others, I'm giving much higher odds to Lisa Madigan. Madigan, a rising star in Illinois politics, matches the profile of a serious candidate for the Senate. She's young, liberal, ambitious, well-connected, and wildly popular. Unlike Jackson, she's won a statewide race. Plus, by appointing her, Gov. Blago gets one of his fiercest critics out of his hair, and wins favor with another: Lisa's father, and Speaker of the Illinois House, Mike Madigan. A potential 2 for the price of 1, if you will.

However, Gov. Blago's many political enemies are like the mythical Hydra: cut down one, and two grow in their place. Even if Madigan weren't around to challenge him in 2010, other candidates are ready to step in. Also, the Senate currently has 13 women, but only one African-American.

5-1: Tammy Duckworth (IL Dir. of Veterans Affairs)

One candidate that all the political forces in Illinois can agree on is Tammy Duckworth. She is reportedly well-liked by Durbin, Obama, Rahm Emmanuel and even Gov. Blago. If appointed, she would be first Asian-American women in the Senate (one of three Asian senators in the next congress if appointed), and to my knowledge, the first Iraqi War veteran in the Senate.

The only thing holding her back is the fact that she has never been elected to a public office before. While she came close in 2006, and has served as the appointed Director of Veteran's Affairs, nearly all the other people being considered for the position have at least one publicly elected position in their resume. In addition, Obama may be “saving” Duckworth for a cabinet position, specifically the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.

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Who will replace Obama in the Senate?

I apologize for sounding over-confident (GOTV!), but “things are looking very good” for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign now. Even the grand spinmaster Karl Rove admitted this on Fox tv.

So, who will replace Obama as the junior senator from Illinois?

Bleeding Heartland’s own American007 took a stab at answering this question in May.

Daily Kos front-pager brownsox spun some scenarios here.

Swing State Project user Safi’s take is here.

The Illinois blogger ArchPundit’s take is here. His closing line is amusing:

As I said above, anyone who thinks they know what [Illinois Governor] Rod Blagojevich will do is lying or as delusional as he is so the above may be the most pointless thing ever written.  The only sure thing is that Mr. 10% makes John McCain look like a planning genius.

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The Race to Replace Obama

I thought as a nice break from all the primary squabbling, I thought I might spark some discussion about something else: the race to replace Obama. There was a very neat discussion about this on the National Journal's wonderful HotlineTV v-blog the other day, and so I thought I'd share it with everyone.

The problem: Should Obama win the presidency, he'll need someone to fill his seat in the senate. According to this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it's entirely up to Illinois Governor Blagojevich who he appoints to pick. He doesn't have to specifically pick a Democrat (although he would be certifiably insane not to), or have his pick vetted by anyone. Like much of Illinois politics, anything goes.

The Serious Seven Contenders: 

1. Gov. Rod Blagojevich
    That's right. He can appoint himself. And, there is reason to suggest he just might. The only catch is, he is intensly unpopular…especially in downstate Illinois. Were he to appoint himself, it puts the seat in serious jeopardy in 2010. 

2.  Ill. Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan
    At 41, Ms. Madigan reigns supreme as the post-Obama rising star of the Illinois Democrat Party. Narrowly elected in 2002 with just a hair over 50% of the vote, her stances against some of Gov. Unpronounceable's policies have made her incredibly popular–as well as the Gov's chief rival. (For proof, see her 2006 reelection with 72% of the vote.) As rumor has it, the Gov. might appoint her for no other reason than to get her out of his well-coifed hair. 

3.  Sen. Rahm Emanuel
    A man with serious skills, Sen. Emanuel is nothing if not politically savvy. He's a powerhouse in the House and connected out the wazoo; with those connections, could become a more influential senator than even his predecessor.  And if the decision comes down to who's worked the hardest, it's a lock for Sen. Emanuel.

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