The special election in the Kansas 4th district is not supposed to be on anyone’s radar. When Donald Trump picked Congressman Mike Pompeo to be his CIA director, ratings for the special election started at “Safe R.” The district is solid red, voting for Trump by 27 points. It includes Wichita and several rural farm counties. Both party candidates where chosen at local conventions, with Democrats choosing James Thompson, an attorney and avowed progressive and Republicans choosing State Treasurer Ron Estes.
In 2015, Florida was ordered to undergo a round of mid-decade redistricting after the Florida Supreme Court found the 2012 Congressional Plan passed by the GOP-controlled Florida legislature to be unconstitutional. When the legislature failed to agree on a map, a judge selected a plan drawn by the coalition plaintiffs – who had originally filed suit over the map. This year was the first time an election was held under this new map.
Every since Republicans took control of Congress in 2010, the Republican caucus has been more fractured and divided than anytime in modern history. The wave of new Congresspeople featured many “Tea Party” politicians than ran and won on bucking the establishment. However, GOP leaders soon realized that the “establishment” did just refer to Obama and Democrats, but GOP leaders themselves. For the last five years, Speaker Boehner and now Speaker Ryan have had to deal with the unruly “Freedom Caucus” — a collection of tea-party politicians who often refuse to compromise on legislation. The Freedom Caucus has forced the GOP establishment to turn to Democrats for must-pass measures on more than one occasion. Boehner saw his leadership challenged several times and even Ryan has had to watch his back.
Establishment Strikes Back and the Farm Bill
The GOP’s internal division has spilled out into the campaigns. Establishment candidates have faced primaries from more conservative candidates. However, the establishment wing of the GOP has begun to fight back. Last year, the Chamber of Commerce announced it would take on GOP incumbents that effectively stood in the way of governing. Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp fit the model of a congressman the establishment forced of the GOP would target. He was a prominent Freedom Congress member that backed a challenge to Boehner for Speaker. His antics cost him his seat on the Agriculture Committee, a coveted seat considering his district, the Kansas 1st, has more farmers than any in the country. In addition to this loss of a committee assignment, Huelskamp angered voters in his district by opposing the Farm Bill, a large bi-partisan bill that is key for farmers to maintain their livelihood.
Huelskamp almost lost his 2014 primary due to his antics. He only got 56% of the vote in a race against an opponent that didn’t have nearly the same level of backing his 2016 opponent received.
The 2016 Campaign
When 2016 came around, there was a concerted effort to finally oust Huelskamp. Opposition rallied around Roger Marshall, a physician. Marshall had the financial backing of major agriculture organizations and the Chamber of Commerce. Huelskamp had the Koch Brothers on his side, but Marshall had more 3rd party money backing him than the incumbent. Farm issues was center to the campaign, with the Kansas Farm Bureau backing Marshall and attacking the incumbent for his opposition to farm issues and his removal from the Agriculture Committee. The narrative of the campaign was that Huelskamp’s attitude made him ineffective and he put purity over getting things done to help his district. The primary was expected to be close, but in the end, Marshall won comfortably.
Huelskamp lost a vast majority of the counties in his district. He only won big in Meade, his home county, and its neighbors. Compared to his 2014 election, he lost ground in all by two counties.
Huelskamp is the only congressman to lose his primary this year that isn’t due to redistricting or scandal. At the end of the day, voters decided they wanted someone who could be effective for their district.
Probably the most amusing portion of the evening was when this photo surfaced on twitter. Apparently former Speaker Boehner had received word of Huelskamp’s fate.
I get a sense a similar smile was on Speaker Ryan’s face as well.
New York Congressman Charlie Rangel opted to retire in 2016 after over 4 decades in Congress. Rangel was a powerful figure in New York and Democratic politics, surviving ethics investigation and major changes to his Congressional District. When Rangel won his seat in Congress in 1970, the district was an African-American seat, but over the years the region Rangel has Represented (Northern Manhattan and portions of the Bronx) has seen a growing Hispanic population.
New York Democratic Congressman Jared Nadler angered some in his district when he backed President Obama’s Iran Deal, which lifted sanctions on the Islamic Nation in exchange for it ending its nuclear program. By all accounts, the deal has worked, with Iran ending its program, ties between Iran and the West improving, and moderates making substantial gains in the Iranian Parliament. Nadler’s 10th district has the largest Jewish population in the nation.
Now that Florida’s Supreme Court has signed off on a Congressional map, the voters of Florida can finally know what districts they live in. For voters in North Florida, this means dramatic changes to their current political situation. Many voters west of Walton County will find themselves either in a safe Republican seat that stretches from Bay to Marion, the Florida 2nd; or a safe Democratic seat that goes from Gadsden to Jacksonville, the Florida 5th. The new 5th district is designed to be an African-American district, replacing the Jacksonville to Orlando configuration of the past.
The Florida Legislature released its base map heading into next week’s Special Session on redistricting. The map makes changes to 22 of the 27 districts. Some changes are small while others are very large. Many voters will find themselves in brand new districts if the base map becomes law. The map below shows areas that will change districts and those that will remain the same.
In today’s Tallahassee Democrat article, DNC member Jon Ausman and myself advocated for keeping Leon County whole in any new congressional district drawn in next month’s Special Session. The Supreme Court ordered that the current 5th Congressional district, stretching from Jacksonville to Orlando, be eliminated and a new east-west district be drawn. The court cited the proposed districts by the League of Women Voters as an acceptable option. The League’s proposed map splits Leon County between two districts, thus diluting the power of the County and Tallahassee.
November 4th, 2014 was a bad night for Democrats across the nation. Democrats fell short in several Gubernatorial elections, lost nine Senate Seats, and lost over ten House seats. Democratic fortunes in the South were abysmal. The Arkansas Governors Mansion went Republican, Senators Prior and Hagan lost their re-elections, and Senator Landrieu in Louisiana was forced into a runoff. Republicans also finally knocked off Congressman John Barrow and Democratic efforts to win seats Congressional seats in Arkansas, Virginia, and North Carolina came up short.