Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘@DNC’

Yikes…this series has already gone longer than I ever intended it to. And the end isn’t even in sight. This is the final post on retaking some House districts before we move to 2020 and its gubernatorial, senatorial, and especially presidential elections. For this post, I’ve construed the “West” broadly here, meaning obviously the Pacific coast, but also the Rocky Mountains and the “prairie states,” whose eastern halves often share more of a character with the Midwest. While the South and Midwest included many stretches and hail-Mary candidates, there are actually more likely pickups in this final section on the House. Take a look at California- fully 20% of all Democrats in the House come from this single state, but even then it has a number of very close, evenly matched districts with Republican incumbents. So without any further ado, let’s begin.

Alaska (at large): Don Young has represented this district since 1973, and since then, he’s become the crown prince of pork-barrel spending in a state with some of the wackiest politics in the union. Only in 2008 did he face credible opposition, winning by a scant 5 points; he might have lost if Sarah Palin wasn’t on the national ticket that year. Who was his challenger that year? Why that would be current Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz. You’d never guess it but Alaska is technically one of the more urban states in the country; over 50% of its population lives in the Anchorage metro area, giving Berkowitz the base of support he needs to challenge this bearded barnacle of an incumbent.

Arizona- 02: Any foreseeable map for taking back the House has to make a play for this district, which is mostly urban and covers much of the Tucson area. Matt Heinz, who ran for this seat in 2016, deserves another shot. He’s a medical doctor pushing 40, worked for Health and Human Services in Washington, and is a strong supporter of using Arizona to develop solar energy. His ties to Obamacare will surely be less of a liability in 2018 as the G.O.P. struggles to articulate a replacement.

California- 10: This particular district is dead even on the Cook PVI, and contains almost equal numbers of white and Hispanic voters. To nudge this district over the edge, I suggest looking for a disaffected Republican who hails from this area: Ann Veneman, George W. Bush’s secretary of agriculture. Veneman is a strong supporter of UNICEF, same-sex marriage, international aid, of humanitarian relief, and women’s health.  In short, the modern Republican Party bears no resemblance to her views any longer. Like my suggestion with Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey, perhaps someone can convince her to run as a Democrat-caucusing independent, with Democrats promising not to run someone of their own.

California- 21: Like the Dubuque district in Iowa and the Syracuse district in upstate New York, this one is listed as D+5 but still has a Republican congressman, David Valadao. The 21st went for Hillary by around 15 points, and is 70% Hispanic, which makes me think it is likely to fall if its candidate gets the right support. So even though Emilio Huerta lost the election in 2016, I think he should get another shot. (And yes, he’s Dolores’s son.) Huerta, who is a labor lawyer and a United Farm Workers veteran, has just the right profile for this district.

California- 25: The Simi Valley area is covered by this district, which is also listed as evenly matched in its partisan makeup. Hannah-Beth Jackson is an experienced hand who has represented this district for many years in California’s state assembly. She was the author of California’s nation-leading Fair Pay Act, and the Consumer Federation of California has named her its Legislator of the Year.

California- 39: This is a pretty crazy district, listed as R+5 although less than 40% of its population is white. It’s affluent, Republican-leaning, and could very well vote for someone like Ian Calderon. He’s a bit of a scion in California dynastic politics, but that at least means that he won’t have to worry about name recognition or fund-raising. He is a noteworthy advocate of childhood education and has recently jumped into the fray over immigration, making sure his constituents know their rights in the midst of intensified ICE raids. He’s not an ideal candidate, but his youth and brand name can help make this race competitive.

California- 45: Mimi Walters is a Republican who is high on any Democratic list of possible takeovers. Based in Orange County, the district has veered to the left in recent years, having gone from supporting Meg Whitman and Mitt Romney to supporting Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris. I would recommend Ferial Govashiri as the candidate. This young Iranian-American was also Barack Obama’s personal aide during his second term, and is as well-suited as any thirty-something I can think of to weigh in on issues of national significance.

California- 48: The 48th covers the coastal, and frankly more conservative, parts of Orange County. Democrats haven’t done well here historically, but Clinton beat out Trump and those trends should continue, given the district’s demographics. Deborah Cook was mayor of Huntingdon Beach and made the closest race of it in this district back in 2008; I think she would be the best candidate. Presently, she serves as a director of the Post-Carbon Institute, and fits in nicely with the environmentalism of coastal California.

California- 49: The closest congressional race in 2016 was right in this district. Darrell Issa’s countless, pointless, fruitless investigations of the Obama administration hurt his popularity here, but not enough to oust him. Doug Applegate remains a prohibitive favorite in 2018; the former Marine would be a good fit for a district that includes Camp Pendleton and his business background is in the general tenor of the San Diego suburbs.

Colorado- 06: Republican Mike Coffman is, on paper, a strong candidate for a district like this that is slightly more Democratic than the nation on average, which covers the city of Aurora and some of Denver’s eastern suburbs. Coffman was secretary of state for Colorado and a former Marine. Well, Coffman was a strong candidate…up until a week or two ago. Footage of him escaping a gathering with constituents in a library went viral, as angry voters accosted him about the hasty repeal of Obamacare. All things considered, this may be a career-immolating mistake. Advantage Morgan Carroll, a strong candidate who should have gotten greater support and traction when she ran for this seat last year. Her staunch environmentalism and penchant for legislation limiting the influence of lobbyists   will probably fit nicely with the issues that will illuminate 2018.

Kansas- 03: Covering the Kansas City metro area, this district still favors Republicans on a congressional level, but narrowly picked Clinton over Trump in the presidential race. But an anti-incumbent wind is probably going to sweep the prairie; Sam Brownback continues to be one of the nation’s most unpopular governors, and the historical Republican domination of Kansas might well be challenged. Kelly Kultala ran for lieutenant governor in 2010, serves on the local library board, and once represented this area in the Kansas state senate.

Montana- at large: With Ryan Zinke appointed to serve as secretary of the interior, whoever gets this seat will not have much incumbency on their side. Amanda Curtis is an anomaly- a thirty-something math teacher and state legislator with a nose ring. When Matt Walsh unexpectedly left the Senate race mid-campaign, Curtis stepped in. And while she lost- in a very Republican year and without the chance to prepare- she’d be a great candidate going forward. Most successful Montana Democrats are centrists, but Curtis isn’t. She supports gun control- her brother died at 16 playing Russian roulette- and was an ardent Bernie supporter. And yet- crazy works in Montana! It regularly elects iconoclastic, anti-corporate Democrats to congress.

Nebraska- 02: Only a handful of districts held by a Democratic incumbent fell to Republicans in 2016; it seems that if you could keep your district in 2014, you could keep it any year! Unfortunately, a solid congressman, Ben Ashford, lost his seat, which covers much of the Omaha metro area. Pete Festersen, the head of Omaha’s city council, would probably be the best opportunity to win back this seat- he’s young, likeable, and will benefit from the technically nonpartisan nature of the city council.

Nevada- 02: Every single district in the Silver State is competitive, although the 2nd leans decidedly to the right. Covering Reno and Carson City, though, its demographics may very well push it into the blue column, as Nevada as a whole has experienced over the last decade. Opportunity may be knocking for state assemblywoman and former Miss Nevada Teresa Benitez-Thompson of Reno.

South Dakota- at large: Maybe this seems unrealistic. And yet, South Dakota elected a Democratic congresswoman four times in the last 12 years- and at one point had an all-Democratic congressional delegation. Indeed, the party seems fluctuate between being competitive in the state and being a cipher. This seat will not have an incumbent running, as Kristi Noem intends to run for governor. As much as I try to avoid dynastic picks, the South Dakota Democratic Party is in terrible shape, but Brendan Johnson has what it takes to win. His own father’s political career in congress was cut short by a stroke that led him to pass up re-election in 2014. Brendan, meanwhile, has served ably as U.S. Attorney for South Dakota.

Utah- 04: During redistricting, Republicans took the surprisingly progressive Salt Lake City and divided it into two districts dominated by conservative Mormon-heavy suburbs. Of Utah’s four districts, the 4th is the most competitive on paper and is currently served by Mia Love, a black woman who is widely touted as an up-and-coming Republican. But this district has elected a Democrat before, and it might yet again. 42-year-old Ben McAdams is the Democrats’ best prospect in this deepest of red states. Mormon antipathy to Trump will probably only continue to mount- look at the trouble Jason Chaffetz, in an even more conservative district, ran into in his own town hall this week! As the mayor of Salt Lake County, he’s earned good reviews across the board, and has even advocated for workplace protections for gay and lesbian persons in Utah- an act of no small bravery.

Washington- 03: Southwest Washington state is represented by this district. Its current representative, Jaime Herrera Beutler, is one of the leading latina Republicans. A worthy opponent, though, may be found in Vancouver, Washington’s mayor, Timothy Leavitt.

Washington- 08: This looks like such an attractive target. It’s suburban Seattle- ergo fewer tech moguls, lots of 20-something evangelical pastors with hipster beards. Dave Reichert has represented this affluent, very Romney-ish district for years, and nobody has taken him out yet. But Washington as a whole is only getting bluer, and the right candidate can beat him.  For the last spot on my last post on congressmen, I’m going to give in to temptation and pick a celebrity. Seattle’s own- Ken Jennings. Sharp, politically aware, and a good citizen, he’d be great in congress. Wouldn’t this be amazing? The campaign ads write themselves. You could get Alex Trebek to ask, “This west coast-congressman voted with Donald Trump 80% of the time,” with an enthusiastic Jennings buzzing in with “Who is Dave Reichert?” I desperately want this to happen.

 

 

Read Full Post »

If the 2016 election taught us anything, it was a hard lesson in not taking any demographic, any region for granted. Election Night unfolded in a way few foresaw, as Michigan and Wisconsin- two states that voted for Gore and Kerry- tipped Republican. In a way, there is a certain sense to it- these two states have been devastated by deindustrialization, kneecapped by the decline of labor unionism, and are case studies in white flight from city centers. They, of all places, would be vulnerable to economic nationalism, and vague promises of restoring America to greatness. These are areas that would see some corners of modern progressivism as smug and unconcerned with their livelihoods.

That- to employ Midwestern sentence structure- needs fixed. I’ve chosen thoughtful, uniquely midwestern candidates who can channel much of populism’s hopefulness and authenticity without it’s bleaker elements of nativism and insularity.

 

Illinois- 06: Chicago’s redoubtably Republican suburbs have shown signs of cracking- especially against populist nominees. For example, although Romney carried the district in 2012, it swung hard to Hillary, and suggests that it’s historic business-friendly conservatism may be fraying. (For reference, Dupage County, where part of this district is situated, was once called “the Orange County of the Midwest” was carried by Clinton.) All of this means that Peter Roskam might very well be in trouble. Wheaton College, the intellectual center of modern evangelicalism, is located within this district, and I believe that the successful candidate will need to be conversant in the suburban Christianity that is slowly, tentatively, recognizing the message of social justice inherent in the gospels. I therefore pick Karen McCormack as my choice to run, although she hasn’t made any overtures in that direction. As a Wheaton sociologist, she studies the effect of home foreclosure on families- a matter of no small importance to this district. Moreover, she helped start a Peace and Social Justice minor at Wheaton, and is an expert at persuading evangelical audiences on the necessity of peacemaking, economic fairness, and empathizing with those in need.

Illinois- 12: The 12th takes up much of southwest Illinois, hugging the Missouri border. While in earlier times, this district was heavily Democratic, it moved decisively to Donald Trump, favoring him by ten points over Hillary Clinton. Yet, it’s listed as dead even on the Cook PVI, and I believe that former lieutenant governor Sheila Simon can make this race competitive. Governor Rauner’s travails have made people forget Governor Quinn’s. Her reputation for getting things done and her deep connections to Illinois politics- she’s former senator Paul Simon’s daughter- give her an added advantage.

Illinois- 13: This is another theoretically dead-even district that is nonetheless historically Republican. As a strong proponent of getting more scientists to run for office, I support the unlikely candidacy of Leellen Solter, who is the director of the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana.

Illinois- 14: The 14th consists of Chicago’s exurbs, up to the Wisconsin border. Steve Chirico, the new mayor of Naperville, would be my pick to represent this area. His success as a small business owner and his keen focus on teamwork and cooperation has the potential to translate into some crossover votes from this district’s Romney supporters.

Indiana- 02: For the last couple of years, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, has been touted as perhaps the nation’s premier up-and-coming Democrat. I’m going to save him for a later installment, and suggest that Jackie Walorski be challenged by Brendan Mullen. Mullen ran for this seat in 2012 and lost to Walorski by a percentage point and a half. This West Point vet has the potential to win this seat in a Democratic year and keep it Democratic. He’s a good fit for this working-class, post-industrial district. Like Senator Joe Donnelly, who once held this seat, he is cautiously pro-life and opposed to most forms of gun control.

Iowa- 01: Midwestern, rural, religious, and overwhelmingly white, Iowa took a sharp dive from being slightly more Democratic than the nation as a whole in the last two elections to  going for Donald Trump by nearly 10 points in 2016. Despite being rated D+5 by Cook’s PVI index, this district is held by a Republican, Rod Blum of Dubuque. More than any other state perhaps, Iowa needs to build a Democratic bench to challenge its Republican governor and two Republican senators in what is still by many metrics a swing state. She’s the same age as Taylor Swift, but state legislator Abby Finkenauer could have what it takes to win back this district. She’s wise beyond her years- focused, driven, a gifted orator, skilled at crafting a narrative, and learned on a few key issues, such as student debt.

Iowa- 03: I love that Iowa is one of the least gerrymandered states in the country. It makes all four of its districts compact and competitive. The 3rd covers Iowa’s southwest quadrant and is listed as dead even on the Cook PVI. My pick is former Iowa House member Ed Fallon. Fallon is a politician for people who don’t really like politicians. The Des Moines resident is a solid progressive, a multi-instrumentalist, and a former community organizer. He made a noble try at the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, falling to the well-funded Chet Culver, whose dad had been a senator from Iowa in the 1970s. He has lately been active in climate change activism and was a strong supporter of Sanders during the Iowa caucuses.

Michigan- 03: Historically, this Grand Rapids-based district is about Republican as it gets. Gerald Ford was once the congressman from this area, as was one of my favorite Republicans of the 1980s, Paul Henry. Presently, the district is represented by a big wheel- the young Tea Party acolyte Justin Amash. How to win such an uphill battle near Battle Creek? I’d look to Rosalynn Bliss, the new mayor of Grand Rapids- and the first woman ever to serve in that office. She is technically non-partisan (which helps in a Republican district) but a lot of signals- her admiration for Debbie Stabenow, her background as a social worker- suggest a left-of-center orientation. Her record can also appeal to erstwhile social conservatives- she helped shut down a number of the region’s strip clubs.

Michigan- 06: Taking up southwest Michigan, this district leans ever so slightly Republican, and could be won with the right candidate. Enter Kalamazoo native Eric Fanning– a defense specialist who served as Obama’s final Secretary of the Army, the acting Secretary of the Air Force and as chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense.

Michigan- 07: Southeastern Michigan- as well as the capital of Lansing- are encompassed by the 7th district. This is prime Rust Belt territory- it went from supporting Obama by 6 points in 2008 to supporting Trump by 17 points in 2016, a remarkable change for only eight years. Nevertheless, where the lash is strongest, the backlash is greatest. Before losing his seat to Tim Walberg in 2010, Mark Schauer had a promising career ahead of him- and he’s probably chomping at the bit to resume that career. He made a good fight of his gubernatorial race against Rick Snyder in 2014, losing by only four points against an incumbent Republican governor in a heavily Republican year. He’s hitting all the right populist notes, and his opposition to right-to-work will serve him well in heretofore heavily-unionized Michigan.

Michigan- 08: The 8th covers much of Lansing and some of the Detroit exurbs.For a while, Suzanna Shkreli, a first-generation Albanian-American was making a race of it, before incumbent Mike Bishop pulled ahead in this very Trump-friendly district. As buyer’s remorse afflicts the upper midwest, Shkreli deserves a second chance to take this seat. At only 29- and already an assistant prosecutor of Macomb County- she’ll have a long career to look forward to.

Michigan- 11: The suburban parts of Wayne County are covered by this district- which has a notably high 8% Asian population. David Curson has what it takes to win the 11th- in fact, he’s done it before. When its previous representative, Thaddeus McCotter, left office, Curson won a special election before opting not to run for a full term in 2012. Although he’ll be 70 years old- a tough age for a freshman congressman- his work with United Auto Workers harkens closer a more wholesome idea of what made America great- full employment, workers’ rights, and a robust labor movement.

Minnesota- 02: Angie Craig made a good race of this in 2016, losing to Jason Lewis by only 1.8%. I would be inclined to look elsewhere next time, however. Why not Ally LaTourelle? Her work with BioEconomy Partners has helped make Minnesota a center for clean energy and economic development. Her message is one that would resonant in the suburban areas of the Twin Cities, where her district is located. Her credo that environmentalism and economic development can reinforce- rather than short-circuit- each other is a winning message.

Minnesota- 03: This district also covers the Twin City suburbs and a piece of St. Paul. While I’ve tried to include as few scions as possible (which is harder than it looks), I’m going to make a glad exception here. David Wellstone is the son of Paul Wellstone, the progressive icon who perished in a plane crash over a decade ago. The elder Wellstone remains an icon among the left today- his conscientious vote against the Iraq War, and his legendary grassroots campaigning remain models that can be used today. Paul is back in the game and starting to engage in politics again, most notably as a mental health advocate. And if he follows his father’s playbook, he can help spur the next chapter of the DFL’s good, solid work in Minnesota.

Ohio- 01: This is a forbidding congressional district by all outward signs. Steve Chabot has held it for 20 out of the last 22 years. He was beaten in 2008, though, and he can be beaten again- and hopefully stay beaten. And P.G. Sittenfield is the man to do it.  Only 32 years old, he serves on the Cincinnati City Council, founded the city’s Community Learning Center, and is a board member for a food bank. He’s popular, young, and is widely regarded as one of the most promising young Democrats in a key swing state.

Ohio- 10: Covering a chunk of southwest Ohio, the 10th is a mashup of Rust Belt and Appalachian tendencies. It’s challenging, but I’ll bet Dayton mayor Nan Whaley could win. Her work to revitalize the downtown and bring in business investment will impress independent voters, while her work to make the city more bicycle friendly will surely make  the city’s hipsters and Bernie Bros delighted. More importantly, she’s committed to a diverse, open, welcoming Dayton- and it has helped make the city an emblem of Rust Belt revival.

Ohio- 16: John Boccierei was elected to this district in 2008 and was voted out in 2010. But his opponent, Jim Renacci, is a bastion of free-market conservatism that is an increasingly difficult sell in this region. Boccierei’s work in the Ohio state legislature and his tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq still make him a candidate to beat.

Wisconsin- 06: There are suburbs aplenty in this district, which covers the outlying areas of Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay. Town politics and bread-and-butter issues play big here, creating an opportunity for Manitowoc mayor Justin Nickels. Nickels is a wunderkind- he was first elected mayor when he was 22 years old, and just turned 30 this month. Yet he is a serious policy wonk, and can get a message out effectively in an environment when Wisconsin’s suburbs are tilting strongly toward a Scott Walker-ish right.

Wisconsin- 07: This is a gigantic district, nearly taking up the northern half of the state. In times past, this was the domain of long-time congressman David Obey, who opted not to run in 2010. Since then, the district is represented by Sean Duffy, a model of the Tea Party-aligned, Grover Norquist-affiliated Republicanism. A pleasant alternative is provided by state assemblyman Nick Milroy of Superior, Wisconsin- who is also a biology professor and a fisherman of some renown.

Wisconsin- 08: There aren’t many Democratic state legislators who represent an area other than Madison or Milwaukee. But 34-year-old Amanda Stuck is one of them, representing Appleton and specializing in environmental and housing issues. In a theoretically competitive state assembly district, she didn’t even get a challenger in 2016 and was re-elected unopposed.

Wisconsin- 01: Hold on a minute; I’m not quite done yet. If we are really going to think seriously about winning the House of Representatives, we need to consider a challenge to Paul Ryan’s district, which might be thought of as Milwaukee’s suburbs and Chicago’s exurbs. On paper, this district is only slightly more Republican than the nation as a whole; in 2008, it voted for Obama and in 2012, it only went for Mitt Romney by about five points- despite Paul Ryan being on the ticket! And don’t think this is impossible- sitting Speakers have lost re-election campaigns before. Given the toxicity of Trump’s policies in well-educated and upwardly mobile suburbs, and given Paul Ryan’s heretofore ineffective attempts to rein the president in, Paul Ryan can and should face a serious, well-funded, conscientiously progressive challenge. I have two sterling candidates in mind. Wisconsin will rue re-electing Ron Johnson to the Senate in place of progressive superhero Russ Feingold. Feingold is a master of grassroots campaigning and a conscientious man- the only senator who voted against the PATRIOT Act. As a Jaynesville native, he could run a very credible challenge to Paul Ryan. My other idea might take you by surprise, but makes sense the more you think about it. And that’s Mark Ruffalo, who is also a native of this part of Wisconsin. Buffalo has rewritten the book on celebrity political activism, following a Bernie-ish model of social media engagement and forming The Solutions Project to move the U.S. toward a clean energy future. Wisconsin was the cradle of modern progressivism in America- and either one of these men can nudge the Badger State back to its destiny by nudging Paul Ryan out of a congressional seat he takes for granted.

Read Full Post »

We now turn our attention to that most vexing of America’s regions, the South. It has gone from being dominated by Jim Crow-enabling Dixiecrats in the 1950s to being competitive in the 1970s and 1980s in terms of House and Senate elections, to becoming the bedrock of GOP support from the Newt Gingrich revolution of 1994 onward. Many districts in the South, even under the best of conceivable circumstances, are simply not in play. Yet not all is lost. Many parts of the South are trending toward Democrats, particularly in places with younger and more diverse populations. Suburbs in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida offer some of the most promising opportunities- at least on a national level. And remember, in 2016, Clinton-Kaine did better in Georgia than in Ohio, in Texas than Iowa, and in Virginia than Minnesota. So here are some of the most competitive districts in the South- along with my suggestions of some candidates that can win them.

Florida- 02: This is definitely a district favorable to Republicans; although it has a piece of Tallahassee, it also encompasses much of the state’s conservative panhandle. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum could make a race out of it, however. At only 37, he is one of the party’s brightest young talents. In his capacity as mayor, he has refurbished civic life in Tallahassee, sponsoring mentorship programs, championing early childhood education, and working to reduce criminal recidivism. Interestingly, Gillum may have his sights higher than a mere congress seat- he is being encouraged to run for governor, and was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s original list of vice-presidential choices.

Florida- 15: This district is also friendly to the GOP, but I’d think that many Republican voters would give due consideration to United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, whose jurisdiction covers the middle section of Florida. He’s got bipartisan credentials- including pursuing corruption charges against a Democratic congresswoman.

Florida- 18: Pat Murphy was expected to win Florida’s Senate race last year, until Marco Rubio decided to seek re-election after all, and ended up winning handily. Murphy’s old congressional district was then won by a Republican. But in 2018, Murphy is poised to make another run for the 18th, which covers much of Palm Beach. At only 33 years of age, Murphy has a great career ahead of him if he gets a couple more lucky breaks.

Florida- 25: On paper, the 25th, 26th, and 27th districts look competitive. Yet each of them is currently controlled by Republican congressmen, and each is home to a large population of Cuban-Americans. While younger Cubans are questioning their parents’ historic alliance with the G.O.P., movement in this direction can be encouraged by some good candidates. Mario Diaz-Balart is a Miami institution, but in a big election, popular incumbents can fall. This is especially so if the Trump administration continues to alienate Hispanic voters. I have chosen a candidate who can mobilize an impressive grassroots army and reframe the conversation. Lucas Benitez helped found the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to end the exploitation of field workers in the region’s tomato farms. From there, he launched the Campaign for Fair Food, a massive grassroots campaign that successfully got several restaurant chains to agree to purchase tomatoes only from certified, approved growers who paid fair wages. He’s a Cesar Chavez for the 21st century.

Florida- 26: Key West, the Everglades, and south Miami are all covered by this district. I only have one Kennedy in my list of congressional prospects, and it’s this one. For years, Anthony Kennedy Shriver has been a bastion of Miami civic life. Like his mother Eunice, he is an activist for the mentally handicapped; he has chaired the Best Buddies organization, which helps the developmentally disabled win friends and make connections.

Florida- 27: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is another true Florida institution, but she might face a close race- especially if someone like Guillermo Fernandez challenges her. Fernandez was the head of the Latin Builders Association. He’s one of Miami’s most highly regarded businessmen and his construction industry ties are in the best entrepreneurial spirit.

Kentucky- 06: The Cook PVI rates this as Republican +9, but Kentucky is a weird state. It elected a Democratic governor twice- by landslides- in 2007 and 2011, and still has a greater percentage of registered Democrats than many blue states. In fact, this district was held by a Democrat, Ben Chandler, for a decade up to 2012. Former Kentucky secretary of state Allison Grimes would be a solid choice to take on incumbent Andy Barr. She lost a highly touted Senate race against Mitch McConnell back in 2014, but one should keep in mind that 1) she was up against the freaking Senate then-Minority Leader, and 2) it was a deeply Republican year in a deeply Republican state. When she isn’t required to distance herself from President Obama, she’d be a formidable candidate.

South Carolina- 07: This race may be another pipe dream, but the Palmetto State is slowly trending blue, and becoming better educated, more suburban, and more like legit swing states North Carolina and Virginia. This district itself is new, apportioned after the 2010 census, and so its incumbent, Tom Rice, hasn’t had the time to become a part of the furniture. Vincent Sheheen, a state legislator who made his two races against Nikki Haley far more competitive than they should have been, could have what it takes to win.

Texas- 23: Amazingly, this district’s population is two-thirds Hispanic and still has a Republican congressman. Encompassing part of San Antonio to part of El Paso, it’s a massive district- about the size of West Virginia- and should be part of any attempt to get progressives the House Majority. While I’ve tried to avoid picky gimmicky celebrities, I think the best choice would be San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson. If this seems kooky, hear me out: Robinson is one of the very best citizens and teammates in NBA history- a Naval Academy grad, always soft-spoken, polite, and thoughtful. Since he retired, he’s worked hard to set up a school for inner-city kids in San Antonio and has learned a lot about finance and administration along the way. There’s nobody in NBA history I’d be happier with as a neighbor, as a fellow citizen, as my representative, than David Robinson. I surely hope he’d consider a run.

Virginia- 02: Generally, we can divine a trend from the 2016 election: Donald Trump’s message played out very well in the Rust Belt, in Appalachia, and in already blood-red sections of the South. It was most heavily resisted in suburbs- including many suburbs that were friendly to Mitt Romney four years earlier, in places with growing minority populations, and in areas with high levels of college graduates and jobs that supported them. Into this mix, Virginia’s 2nd district, covering much of Virginia Beach, should be considered in play. It’s only slightly more Republican than the nation as a whole, I have the perfect candidate in mind. Given the strong naval presence in this area, Rear Admiral Gretchen Herbert would be a compelling candidate. Lately the head of Naval Cyber Forces, her postings on the Virginia shore and mastery of national defense issues would make her the candidate to beat. She’s also clearly not timid about getting into the political fray, having joined 94 other high-ranking military officials in endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Virginia- 05: Difficult to win even in good circumstances, this district runs like a thick vertical line through the middle of Virginia and was once held by Tom Perriello, who was my pick to become Virginia’s next governor. Presently, however, I think a strong case could be made for a man who went from obscurity into a figure of national stature during the DNC– Charlottesville resident Khzir Khan. (It speaks volumes that Khan lives in the same town as Monticello.) You may remember him as at the man who tragically lost his son in Iraq, challenged Donald Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric, and stood up for the Americanism of his country’s Muslim community.

Virginia- 07: This looks like an extremely Republican district- Cook’s PVI lists it as R+10. Keep in mind that it’s representative is David Bratt- the Tea Party enthusiast who successfully primaried Eric Cantor for not being conservative enough. This district is fairly well-to-do, highly educated, and unlikely to sustain this kind of foolishness for long. Kelly Thomassen could make a solid run in a tough race. She is presently the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and her long history of working with Terry McAullife and Mark Warner would give her the inside track.

Virginia- 10: Political junkies watch this district with great interest, it’s a rare dead even on the Cook PVI and it is often described as a swing district among swing districts. Republican Barbara Comstock won in a close race last year, and she might have her eyes on higher office, perhaps challenging Tim Kaine in 2018. Whether or not this is a fight for an open seat, Aneesh Chopra is well suited for this affluent, highly suburban congressional district. Chopra has served as the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, and is an expert on making government more responsive to innovation.

So…not as many competitive districts as some of the other regions we will explore. This is partly because some sections of the South are prohibitively bad for progressives. But moreover, two states that were competitive in last year’s the presidential election, North Carolina and Georgia, do not have any true swing districts due to both partisan gerrymandering and a certain amount of racial and political “self-gerrymandering.” If Roy Cooper is able to hold on in the 2020 election, his governorship can serve as an effective leverage to carve out some more fairly drawn districts in what may well become America’s premier swing state.

Read Full Post »

Welcome to the third installment of our series on rebuilding the strength of the Democratic Party in preparation for 2018. In our first post in the series, we explored several optimal chances to win governorships in competitive states. In the second, we looked at far more difficult prospects- keeping a batch of seats that are already overwhelmingly Democratic in progressive hands.

For this installment, we turn to the House of Representatives, which has been under Republican control since the 2010 midterm elections. Here, progressives are playing the game on a board designed by the opposition: Republicans controlled many of the state legislatures that drew the congressional districts after the 2010 census. For that reason, very few truly competitive “swing” districts exist, so taking back the House will require strong candidates, peerless fundraising, listening to constituents, and most importantly of all, fervent grassroots activity. We need to make phone calls, knock on doors, donate, drive people to the polls, and do the sorts of things that can swing elections. To win the House, we need to keep the seats we have, and win 25 additional seats. That is a very challenging objective, but here is my roadmap for accomplishing this task.

To help this process along, I’m making some endorsements for House candidates. In all, I have identified 74 pick-up opportunities. Since that would make for a very long and unwieldy post, I’m dividing it into four posts, looking at one segment of the country in particular: the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and finally the Prairie and West Coast. Today, we explore the Northeast. In doing my research for this, I was surprised at how many Republicans held fairly neutral congressional districts, especially in what I regard as safe “blue” states: New York and New Jersey. But it’s a good example of how Trumpism has made its greatest inroads in Rust Belt areas with lots of discouraged, frustrated, and anxious blue-collar workers.

So without further ado, here are the Northeastern districts that I believe are winnable- and the candidates that can help win them.

Maine 2: It might surprise you to know that one of the most rural congressional districts in the nation isn’t on the prairies or the mountain states- it’s right in the northeast. Maine’s 2nd covers most of the state outside of the Portland metro area and its “Vacationland” south coast. For years, Michael Michaud held onto this district easily, but when he ran for governor in 2014, Bruce Poliquin ran for the empty seat and won it. In fact, it’s the only congressional district in New England held by a Republican. To make matters worse, Donald Trump won the 2nd congressional district and it’s accompanying electoral vote, since Maine apportions theirs by congressional district. There has recently been a movement to encourage scientists to run for office, and in such a rural and environmentally-conscious district, I think that’s a wise choice. My pick is Jacquelyn Gill, a professor of biology and ecology at University of Maine, Orono. As an expert on climate change, she’s in a great position to become a strong public voice from one of the most naturally beautiful congressional districts in the country.

New York- 1: The eastern half of Trumpy Long Island leans slightly Republican, but if the public sours against him, this can be a prime pickup opportunity. As a former state senator, Brian X. Foley has succeeded in winning in historically Republican territory and is a devoted advocate for victims of domestic violence.

New York- 11: This downstate district is also slightly Republican as per the Cook PVI index, and comprises Staten Island and parts of a couple other boroughs. My endorsement goes to Matthew Titone. As a lawyer and state assemblyman, adoption and LGBT issues are his stock and trade, and would work well in a fiscally-conservative/socially liberal area such as this.

New York- 19: I am all for giving worthy candidates a second chance. The fightin’ 19th winds down much of the Hudson river valley, and I’d love to see a rematch between professor and campaign finance reform activist Zephyr Teachout and incumbent John Faso.

New York-21: I grew up in this district, which covers much of the Adirondack Mountains as  well as my home town of Gloversville. After a few terms of a Democratic congressman, this seat fell to Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She’s a Paul Ryan protege and a very tough candidate to beat, even in a district that is theoretically evenly matched between Republicans and Democrats. I pick former congressman Scott Murphy, who is still young, sharp, and a conscientious venture capitalist who knows more about creating jobs than Stefanik ever will.

New York- 22: This district is on many peoples’ watch list of pickup opportunities, and incumbent Claudia Tenney is looking shaky and may not win in a year favorable to Democrats. In such a situation, I would be inclined to give a second chance to Kim Myers, who ran a close race in 2016.

New York- 23: Tom Reed is slowly losing steam and not listening to constituents. In fact, a professor at my old college, Houghton, has been trying to get a hold of him for months now to no avail, as she documents in her very thoughtful blog, “May I Call You Tom?.” I’d love for this professor to run for office, but if she doesn’t, I’d like to suggest an out-of-the-box pick for this district, which winds through the affluent Rochester suburbs down to the poverty-stricken Southern Tier.  Svante Myrick would be a terrific candidate who could attract loads of positive publicity. His tenure as mayor of Ithaca has been nothing short of incredible, and he was even a finalist for the World Mayor Award. The only question is- can he connect to rural voters?

New York- 24: This is a slightly Democratic-leaning district which nonetheless has a Republican incumbent. Since it contains most of the Syracause metro area, I don’t see how one could go wrong with Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner as a challenger. She is a dynamic speaker, as you can see from her talk to the women’s march in Seneca Falls last month. She’s made no bones about opposing Trump’s policies on refugees, and would be a feisty, dynamic, and conscientious candidate.

New York- 27: The 27th serves many of Buffalo’s north suburbs as well as Niagara County. Its congressman, Chris Collins, was one of the first to endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy in the primaries, and his fortunes are, for better or worse, now yoked to his. It’s a tough district for Democrats- Jack Kemp covered much of the same territory for many years, as Barry Goldwater’s running mate William Miller did before him. So we need to bring out the big guns. There aren’t many Buffalonians who were more revered than the late journalist Tim Russert, and we need to bring his young son Luke– a solid journalist in his own right- to harness Buffalo’s blizzard-like rage against economic injustice.

Pennsylvania- 06: This bizarre, gerrymandered monstrosity of  a district meanders across the exurbs and smaller cities orbiting around Philadelphia. Judy Schwank could be a compelling candidate that could make inroads into its agricultural areas; she’s a professor whose scholarship focuses on agricultural and responsible land use. She also sits in the Pennsylvania State Senate, and has been elected to office from competitive Berks County.

Pennsylvania- 07: The 7th also leans- ever so slightly- Republican, and could easily be won under good conditions. Like the 6th, it is heavily gerrymandered and barely contiguous. Katie McGinty, who lost in a squeaker of an election to Pat Toomey in last year’s Senate race, would be a terrific candidate who should be able to generate the money and the interest to take out incumbent Pat Meehan.

Pennsylvania- 08: Covering much of suburban Bucks County, this is yet another district designed to give the Republicans a slight advantage. Patrick Murphy held this seat for a while, then lost in 2010, but he’s an even stronger candidate today. He served as Undersecretary for the Army, developing a close rapport with soldiers and becoming a champion on veterans’ issues.

Pennsylvania- 15: Lehigh Valley is nestled in this congressional district, one of the areas most hostile to environmentalism, and heavily dependent on fracking and coal. It’s representative, Charlie Dent, is one of the most sensible Republicans in Congress, but he still needs a challenger. (With apologies to my friend Chris, who once worked at one of his offices.) Jennifer Mann. She has represented the city for 14 years in the Pennsylvania House, and has recently moved into the private sector with a consulting company.

Pennsylvania- 16: I also feel bad about suggesting a challenger to this seat– I went to college with the nephew of its new congressman, Lloyd Smucker. Nevertheless, enter Ephrata native Lindsay Holst, who has covered digital strategy for the White House the last several years, and was recently named one of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill.

Pennsylvania- 18: According to the Cook PVI index, Republicans enjoy a six-point advantage in this district, all other things being equal. It’s rural, it’s 96% white, it borders West Virginia, and its congressman, Tim Murphy, has rarely faced a serious challenger. In such a scenario, I would pick Rick Fernandez. Never heard of him? He’s the director of the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. And he would be perfectly poised to bring Mister Rogers’s values of neighborliness, kindness, peace, and social justice to Washington. Especially in an era where PBS is in danger of encroaching privitization.

New Jersey- 02: The second district of the Garden State hugs much of Atlantic City and south Jersey. Frank Lobiondo has represented this seat since the Gingrich Revolution way back in 1994. He might meet his match in Bob Andrzejczak, who is only 30 years old, a Purple Heart recipient who unfortunately lost his leg in Iraq, and a promising young member of the New Jersey General Assembly.

New Jersey- 03: One recent article called this district a carpetbagger’s paradise, unable to attract candidates- from either party- with substantive ties to the area. Although it is heavily urban and covers much of south-central Jersey, it experienced a wild swing– it went from giving 52% of its vote to Obama in 2012 to giving 54% to Trump in 2016. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has worked hard to cut down on wasteful bureaucracy and make local government more manageable. She would have a message that would really deliver in this region, which the PVI index lists as tilting +1 Republican.

New Jersey- 07: Although this district is rated Republican +6, its suburban and affluent character makes it a prime takeover opportunity; it voted for Clinton over Trump while re-electing a Republican congressman, Leonard Lance. Seeing as how this is the case, maybe a smart move would be to run…a rogue Republican. Christine Todd Whitman has served as governor of New Jersey and as George W. Bush’s first EPA administrator. But in the intervening years, she has slowly become disillusioned with her party. She wrote a book, It’s My Party Too about the marginalization of moderates such as herself, still supports environmental activism strongly, and hates Donald Trump so much that she bit her lip and endorsed Hillary for president in the general election. Now 70 years old, she might very well make the last act of her political life a conscientious run for Congress as a Democrat-caucusing independent or however she wants to fancy herself.

New Jersey- 11: Since the dawn of the republic, the Frelinghuysen family has loomed large in New Jersey politics. Various members of this dynasty fought in the American Revolution, served as secretary of state, ran as Henry Clay’s running mate, and perennially controlled a seat in Congress. Such is the case with Rodney Frelinghuysen, whose district includes, like the 7th, some of the most affluent areas in the country. My pick to challenge him is another solid educator, Helen Streubert. As the newly minted president of St. Elizabeth College, she oversaw the college’s transition to lay leadership and a co-education model. (It had been the last all-women’s college in New Jersey.) She’s a redoubtable Pope Francis Catholic who could really make waves in New Jersey politics.

Read Full Post »