New District Maps Will Likely Cause Legislative Shake-ups

New legislative district maps were unveiled Monday, and some current legislators will likely find themselves battling each other in the next election cycle. The Indy Star reports:

In Congress
Marion County would be represented by two members of Congress, rather than the current three, under the maps agreed upon by House and Senate Republicans.

Under the proposal, the 7th District — now represented by Democratic Rep. Andre Carson — would become more Republican. Instead of encompassing the center of the county as it now does, the district would cover all but the top quarter of the county.

That would put the most Republican parts of Marion County — Beech Grove and Decatur Township — into the 7th District, while the top section, including some reliably Democratic areas, would move to the 5th District. That’s represented now by Republican Rep. Dan Burton.

One voter who would find himself in Burton’s district: Republican Rep. Todd Rokita. His 4th District no longer would include his northwestern Marion County home.

Still, the 7th and the 1st districts, in Northwest Indiana, are expected to remain Democrat-leaning. Not so the 2nd District, the only other congressional district currently held by a Democrat, Rep. Joe Donnelly of South Bend. By removing Kokomo from it, among proposed changes, the 2nd is expected to tilt Republican.

Undergoing some of the biggest changes: the 9th District. It now is an Ohio River district, including all of southeastern Indiana. It would become an I-65 district, stretching from Johnson County on the northern end to Harrison County on the southern end.

That means someone who lives a block south of Marion County would have the same congressman as someone who lives on the banks of the Ohio River. Continue reading

Survey Shocker: Many Constituents a Tad Miffed at Elected Officials

Obviously, it’s not stunning news that many Americans are not happy with their current elected officials. You might find it interesting, however, to peruse the Pew Research Center’s analysis of the situation:

The mood of America is glum. Two-thirds of the public is dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. Fully nine-in-ten say that national economic conditions are only fair or poor, and nearly two-thirds describe their own finances that way — the most since the summer of 1992. An increasing proportion of Americans say that the war in Afghanistan is not going well, and a plurality continues to oppose the health care reform proposals in Congress.

Despite the public’s grim mood, overall opinion of Barack Obama has not soured — his job approval rating of 51% is largely unchanged since July, although his approval rating on Afghanistan has declined. But opinions about congressional incumbents are another matter.

About half (52%) of registered voters would like to see their own representative re-elected next year, while 34% say that most members of Congress should be re-elected. Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys. Other low points were during the 1994 and 2006 election cycles, when the party in power suffered large losses in midterm elections.

Support for congressional incumbents is particularly low among political independents. Only 42% of independent voters want to see their own representative re-elected and just 25% would like to see most members of Congress re-elected. Both measures are near all-time lows in Pew Research surveys.

Rock Stars Sure are Lonely in the Winner’s Circle

In a previous post, we showed how difficult it was for a repeat candidate to win in his/her second attempt at an office. Since there was so much interesting data on this topic, we decided to turn this into several posts. This second post will refine the original target audience of 81 repeat candidates down to 32 repeat candidates who ran in two straight general elections with the opponent in the second general election being an incumbent.

From this more narrow group of 32 repeat candidates, only 1 (3.1%) was successful in his bid to become a state legislator — and that was the Elvis impersonating rock star Bruce Borders in HD45.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of these 32 candidates performed worse in their second attempt compared to their first attempt.  21 of these 32 candidates (65.6%) received a lower vote percentage in their second attempt while only 11 (34.4%) performed better than their first attempt.

In contrast, first-time state legislative candidates who were facing an incumbent won 5.7% of the time (18 out of 316).  Nine of these were House Democratic candidates, eight were House Republican candidates and one was a Senate Republican candidate.

It is also interesting to note that out of these 17 first-time House candidates who defeated an incumbent, the Democratic candidates in those nine districts have won all 17 (100%) of their contests since first winning the seat from a Republican, while the Republican candidates in those eight districts have won five of 15 (33%) of their contests since first winning the seat from a Democrat.

The bottom line here remains the same:  No matter how you choose to slice and dice the numerical facts of legislative races between 1998-2008, repeat candidates who do not have something significantly different in their second attempt are clearly less successful than first time candidates. It is clear that no matter the party or chamber, recruiting a defeated candidate to run again will most likely result in defeat again … unless you have a rock star running.

Please feel free to post a comment to this blog posting and start a conversation here.

Repeat Candidates Tend to be Losing Candidates in Indiana (Unless You’re a Rock Star)

For a number of years, I have had a strong bias against challenger candidates who lose and then run again in the next election cycle. Some of you have probably heard me say this whenever one of these repeat candidates makes that second attempt. For a repeat candidate to be successful, there must be something significantly different the second time around for that candidate to have a chance to win. This difference must fit into one of these categories: 1) the second attempt occurred after redistricting and the district is now different; 2) the race was an open seat race during the second try (as opposed to challenging an incumbent); or 3) something major changes the perception of the incumbent before the rematch, such as a scandal or the incumbent being clearly out of step with the district due to votes cast.

Now, thanks to some excellent research by IBRG manager of political affairs Chase Downham, this theory, and my long-time bias, have some numbers to back it up. Over the last 10 years, there have been 81 candidates (we have only included Democratic and Republican candidates) who have lost and then made a second attempt for the General Assembly in the next election cycle. 

From this group of 81 repeat candidates, only 8 (9.9%) were successful in their bid to become a state legislator. Let us take a look at these 8 successful repeat candidates and see how many had something significantly different in their second attempt:

  • In 2000, Don Lehe narrowly lost to incumbent Claire Leuck in HD25. After the 2001 redistricting, Lehe defeated George Baranowski in the open HD15 contest of 2002.
  • In 2000, Terri Austin lost to incumbent Jack Lutz in HD36. After the 2001 redistricting, Austin defeated Andy Kincaid in the open HD36 contest of 2002. Following the redistricting, HD36 changed significantly and incumbent Lutz was moved to HD35.
  • In 2002, Joe Micon challenged incumbent Sue Scholer and lost in HD26. Following Scholer’s retirement, HD26 was an open seat in 2004 and Micon defeated Connie Basham.
  • In 2002, incumbent Vern Tincher was defeated by Brooks LaPlante in HD46. In 2004, LaPlante initially did not seek re-election following a $10,000 fine from the Indiana Election Commission, but was placed on the ballot near general election day. Following a court case, Jeff Lee was removed from the ballot and LaPlante inserted. Tincher then defeated LaPlante.
  • In 2004, appointed state senator Nancy Dembowski was defeated in the SD05 contest. In 2006, Dembowski ran for the House against incumbent Steve Heim in HD17 and won.
  • In 2004, incumbent Ron Herrell was defeated by John Smith in HD30. In 2006, Ron Herrell defeated John Smith in a recount. The significant difference here is that labor unions played a major role in 2006 after helping the Kerry effort out of state in 2004.
  • In 2006, John Barnes challenged incumbent Larry Buell in HD89. In 2008, following Buell’s retirement, Barnes won the HD89 open seat.  Continue reading

Is Time Running Out on Incumbents?

"Vote Not to Re-elect!": This well stated bumper sticker I saw on a car yesterday summed up the feelings of many voters. People are clearly sick and tired of who we currently have in office, at all levels and of all parties. Incumbents in toss-up or lean districts are vulnerable. Incumbents in safe seats may escape with a victory, but it will unlikely be with the ridiculous margins to which they’ve grown accustomed.

As of today, the Secretary of State is reporting there are 524,405 newly registered voters since the 2006 general election. This is over a half-million people in a state with very little population growth. That means that nearly 12% of voters are newly registered. This is a voting bloc that simply did not exist two years ago, yet it now makes up a significant percentage of voters.

The next question for voters will be something like this, “Do you think a legislator who has served for 34 years needs to go?” The qualifications for those challengers may not be an issue or on the minds of voters, but voters will "Vote Not to Re-elect" in large numbers this year.