Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Election Night

Today is election day in the USA. These are the times that polls close in the various states - and special attention will be paid to the key Senate races. Exit polls should be available from the times below -

The times are GMT (UTC for those whose prefer not to refer to Greenwich in London - though personally Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory there - where you can stand on the Meridian line - is one of my favourite places in London)

Midnight: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia
00:30 am: North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia
01:00 am: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee
01:30 am: Arkansas
02:00 am: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska,
New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming
03:00 am: Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah
04:00 am: California, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington
05:00 am: Hawaii
06:00 am: Alaska

Monday, 3 November 2014

Campaign Contributions and Partisanship

Last week Don Wolfensberger published the following article in Roll Call. I have a great deal of respect for his column and his work. It's an article worth reading -

An interesting debate is swirling around next Tuesday’s midterm elections for Congress. It involves the extent to which the sources, amounts and uses of campaign contributions will affect not only the outcomes of various hotly contested races but the makeup, policy agenda and processes of the next Congress.

The 2010 midterms returned Republicans to power in the House after four years of Democratic rule. They also brought in a wave of hardline tea party conservatives who made any kind of cooperation between the House, Senate and White House nearly impossible. The re-election of President Barack Obama in 2012 did not alter that dynamic. If anything, it made governing even more problematic as the 2013 government shutdown amply demonstrated.

Two events this month helped highlight the nexus between campaign financing and polarization in Congress.

The Bipartisan Policy Center convened a roundtable Oct. 16 that brought together scholars, political practitioners, good government groups and journalists to discuss whether the current state of campaign financing is responsible for the increasing level of polarization and gridlock in Congress. 

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs hosted the second event Oct. 20 in Austin, “Mastering Congress: Political Reform 50 Years After the Great Society.” The program featured two former Texas congressmen who serve on the BPC Commission on Political Reform, and two political scientists who are coauthors of an award-winning book on the increasing role members of Congress play in raising money for their party campaign committees and other candidates.

Dueling duos of academic election experts kicked-off the former roundtable. Tom Mann and Anthony Corrado, governance studies fellows at the Brookings Institution, take issue with those who assert that campaign finance law restrictions have weakened the parties and strengthened outside groups that tend to support more extreme candidates. They maintain that parties are as strong as ever but that the Republican Party “has veered sharply right in recent decades” producing an “asymmetric polarization” characterized by an unwillingness to compromise and a set of “unusually confrontational tactics.”

University of Massachusetts political scientists Ray LaRaja and Brian Schaffner say their research at the state level suggests Mann and Corrado “could be wrong.” Their study indicates that, “states with party-centered campaign finance laws tend to be less polarized than states that constrain how the parties can support candidates.” This is because party organizations tend to fund more moderate, pragmatic candidates. Both sides of the debate concur that recent campaign financing developments are not the overriding cause of increased polarization but have certainly exacerbated it.

Eric Heberlig of the University of North Carolina and Bruce Larson of Gettysburg College, co-authors of “Congressional Parties, Institutional Ambition, and the Financing of Majority Control,” told the Austin conference about the explosive, coordinated growth since 1990 in campaign giving by members of Congress to their party committees and other candidates. Today, party leaders importune their members to give generously to their party campaign committees. The leadership establishes quotas for overall giving to the party depending on a member’s position in the leadership or on committees.

Consequently, members spend less time on their legislative work in Congress and more time raising campaign funds for their own re-election and their party. Former Reps. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, and Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, agreed that members now spend at least one-fourth of their time attending fundraisers and dialing for dollars. Committees consequently are less involved in serious policymaking as party leaders increasingly shape the legislative agenda to satisfy party campaign contributors.  The former congressmen say this shift was especially noticeable beginning in 2006 (Bonilla) or 2010 (Gonzalez).

The increasing role of Super PACs and wealthy, independent donors in recent election cycles poses more unanswered questions about the impact of campaign giving on the agenda and processes of Congress. If there is some correlation between the growth and sources of campaign spending, on the one hand, and legislative outcomes in Congress, then record-breaking campaign spending this cycle could either make the 114th Congress even more gridlocked than its predecessor or more unified and productive around a few select issues — all depending on which party wins the Senate.

Don Wolfensberger is a resident scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and former staff director of the House Rules Committee.

Vulnerable Republican Seats

CA31 (Dem+5)
An “open seat” which is currently held by Gary Miller [GOP]. However latest polls suggest that the seat is leaning towards the Democrats. Chabot has not been able to raise as much funding as his opponent, or other GOP candidates in the area. See the LA Times article at http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-two-gop-fundraising-20141016-story.html

Paul Chabot [GOP] – Stresses that he is a “Military Officer - Small Business Owner - Law Enforcement Veteran”. http://paulchabot.com/
Pete Aguilar [Dem] - small business owner and Mayor of Redlands. http://www.peteaguilar.com/

NE02 (GOP+7)

Rep Lee Terry [GOP] – Member of the House since 1999, who has survived a number of close re-election contests. He had promised at his first election only to serve three terms – but is now seeking election to his ninth Congress. Currently the seat is rated as a "toss up" by Cook and a "toss up/tilt Democrat" by Rothenberg. http://leeterry.com/

Brad Ashford [Dem] – A member of the Nebraska State Legislature, where he has served as the chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. http://bradashfordforcongress.com/


Some "Toss Up" Races for the House

AZ01 (GOP R+4)

Rep Ann Kirkpatrick [Dem] –In 1980, she became Coconino County's first female deputy county attorney. In 2004, she began teaching business law and ethics at Coconino Community College. Former Member, Arizona House of Representatives. Ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Vulnerable over Obamacare in a State in which even Democrat legislators are trying to change or dismantle the law.

Andy Tobin [GOP] – AZ House Speaker.

AZ02 (GOP+3)

Contains the SE of the State including roughly 2/3rds of Tuscon

Rep Ron Barber [Dem] - vulnerable over Obamacare in a State in which even Democrat legislators are trying to change or dismantle the law. Owned & operated a small business called Toy Traders/Stork’s Nest, allowing families to trade and buy children’s toys. Worked at AZ Division of Developmental Disabilities for 30 yrs. Worked for Gabby Gifford as her District Director.

Martha McSally [GOP} – Retired Air Force Colonel (first female fighter pilot to fly in combat). Was a national security advisor to Senator Jon Kyl on issues including terrorism, cyber security & missile defense. Served as a Professor of National Security Studies at the George C Marshall Center in Germany. Stood against Ron Barber in 2012.

CA07 (Even)
The district includes suburban Sacramento and much of Sacramento County. This includes Folsom (see Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’), but now an important Intel Campus.
Rep Ami Bera [Dem] – physician, who became Sacramento County’s Chief Medical Officer. He went on to become a Clinical Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Admissions and Outreach at University of California, Davis . Obamacare was a big issue in the 2010 election in which he lost.
Doug Ose [GOP] – a former Congressman for CA03 who served from 1999-2005, and who chaired a Government Reform sub-committee. He has focused on making Obamacare the centre of the election, though his website is currently stressing the water issue. http://www.dougose.com/
CA52 (Dem+2)
The district covers most of the city of San Diego, running along the coast, taking in many of the Naval installations, ports and beaches. Part of the town of La Jolla to the north is also in the district.
Rep Scott Peters [Dem] – freshman who won after re-districting removed some of the most heavily Republican areas. A lawyer and environmentalist. http://www.scottpeters.com/
Carl DeMaio [GOP] – A businessman with an interest in Government Reform. Like Peters he has served on San Diego Council. http://carldemaio.com/