Communism in Italy

This is the third part of a series on Communism in Western Europe; this section focuses on Italy in particular. The previous parts can be found here.


The Italian Communist Party (PCI) formed in 1921, as a break-away faction of the socialist party. In many respects, its early years were similar to those of the PCF. Like the French Communists, the Italian Communist Party (PCI) fared poorly in national elections, winning less than five percent of the popular vote. Its time to grow, moreover, was cut short by Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship; he outlawed the party in 1926.

In another parallel to their French colleagues, the Italian Communists (PCI) fought fiercely against the Nazis during WWII and won major acclaim for their efforts. After the war, the PCI took part in the new government, playing a major role in writing the new Italian constitution. As in France, however, America’s Marshall Plan curbed their influence; to gain access to U.S. aid, the Italian government kicked out the Communists. They would never again hold power in Italy.

Continued below.

Here the paths of the French and Italian Communists diverge. In France the Communist story is one of steady decline, until the PCF no longer constituted a viable political force. In Italy the story is different.


Before getting into it, however, another tale must be told – that of the 1948 general elections. This contest was the most important election in Italian history, pitting the Italian Communist Party (the PCI, allied with the socialists) against the Christian Democrats (Democrazia Cristiana, DC). It literally determined Italy’s side on the Cold War, whether it would ally with the United States or the Soviet Union. Many feared that if the Communists won, Italy would go red, never to turn back.

The election was fiercely fought; both sides were discretely funded by their respective superpowers. The Catholic Church came out strongly against the Communists (PCI), using slogans such as, “In the secrecy of the polling booth, God sees you – Stalin doesn’t.”

Christian Democracy (DC) blew away the Communists (PCI). While the PCI won a 31.0% vote share, their second-best performance ever, the Christian Democrats took 48.5% of the vote. Italy allied with the United States.

For nearly half a century thereafter, Christian Democracy governed Italy. The PCI never managed to win more votes than the Christian Democrats, although they continued to fare respectably in general elections.


Here a crucial distinction between the French Communists and the Italian Communists occurs: while the PCF gradually declined throughout the 50s to 70s, the PCI actually strengthened itself during this era. Unlike the French Communist Party, the PCI publicly and dramatically distanced itself from the Soviet Union. Instead, the party was the most vocal advocate of eurocommunism, a far different philosophy than that espoused by the Soviet Union.

Thus, the Italian Communist Party was perceived as more acceptable and moderate than other communist parties, and its share of the vote steadily increased. In 1976, they won 34.37% of the vote, their best performance in history and a mere 4.34% behind DC. The PCI achieved this result by doing “all they could to appear as a respectable, rather conservative party committed to sensible change by constitutional means…[and] emphasise how moderate, democratic and uncorrupt they were.”

In the end, however, the PCI was still Communist, irrevocably tied to the fate of the Soviet Union no matter how distant their ties. When the USSR fell, the Italian Communist Party was broken up – though, as in eastern Europe, many parties of Italy’s left have roots from the PCI. Within a few years, DC – its reason for existence now dead – imploded under a shroud of corruption scandals.

That was the end of the old system. Today, for better or for worse, one man – Silvio Berlusconi – dominates the political arena. Yet, even with the PCI long gone, Berlusconi still invokes anti-communism to win votes. The shadow of the PCI is long indeed.

–Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpr…

NY-23: Scozzafava Bowing Out!


Republican Dede Scozzafava announced Saturday that she is suspending her campaign in the Nov. 3 House special election in New York, a dramatic development that increases the GOP’s chances of winning the contentious and closely-watched race.

“In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be. The reality that I’ve come to accept is that in today’s political arena, you must be able to back up your message with money-and as I’ve been outspent on both sides, I’ve been unable to effectively address many of the charges that have been made about my record,” she said in a statement.

“It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support. Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit to do so. I am and have always been a proud Republican.”

On first blush, this seems like bad news for Democrat Bill Owens. While there isn’t much time left, it allows Doug Hoffman to consolidate the Republican vote.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel reports that the chairman of the Independence Party is now endorsing Owens:

I just got off the phone with Frank MacKay, state chairman of the New York Independence Party, which had endorsed Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava in the NY-23 special election. While Scozzafava has suspended her campaign, she will remain on the ballot as the candidate of the Republican and Independence Parties. MacKay can’t change that, but he told TWI that the party probably made a mistake in endorsing her over Democratic candidate Bill Owens.

“Some of our local organizations have endorsed Hoffman now that Scozzafava is out, and I want to be careful and respect their decisions,” said MacKay, who lives in downstate Suffolk County. “I don’t have a vote in the district. But if I did, I would vote for Bill Owens.” …

“If I knew how chaotic the Scozzafava campaign was going to be, I would have gone with Owens in the beginning,” said MacKay. “That certainly was a disastrous campaign.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: I was about to put up a post about Siena’s newest poll, though it seems a bit moot. I had already written it up, though, when the Dede news broke, so here you go:

Siena (PDF) (10/27-29, likely voters, 10/11-13 in parens):

Bill Owens (D): 36 (33)

Dede Scozzafava (R): 20 (29)

Doug Hoffman (C): 35 (23)

Undecided: 9 (15)

(MoE: ±3.7%)

Siena’s numbers confirm R2K’s – Dede was in utter freefall.

ONE MORE UPDATE: A dispiriting tweet from Tom Jensen:

With about 200 interviews down we had Hoffman 45 Owens 26 Scozzafava 17…her withdrawal will just make it that much easier for Hoffman

Those are very different numbers from what Siena and R2K have shown, though.

EXTRA UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the NRCC is endorsing Hoffman. Scozzafava herself didn’t endorse Hoffman, but it’s easy to read between the lines:

“It is my hope that with my actions today, my party will emerge stronger and our district and our nation can take an important step towards restoring the enduring strength and economic prosperity that has defined us for generations,” she said.

“Most liberal candidate in the race” my ass.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Charles Franklin points out that the Siena internals look bad for Owens:

Can Owens pick up from Scozzafava supporters? Not so likely given these poll results.

Owens Fav/Unfav among Scozzafava suppporters: 19/50

Hoffman Fav/Unfav among Scozzafava supporters: 15/57

Looks like a wash with many likely to skip the choice of two disliked alternatives.

And the worse news for Owens is among independents:

Ind. Fav/Unfav Owens: 39/47

Ind. Fav/Unfav Hoffman: 47/33

CA-Gov: Newsom Drops Out

And then there was one:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped out of the California governor’s race Friday, leaving no clear challenger in the Democratic field to the former governor and current state attorney general, Jerry Brown.

“It is with great regret I announce today that I am withdrawing from the race for governor of California,” Newsom said in a statement released late Friday afternoon. “With a young family and responsibilities at city hall, I have found it impossible to commit the time required to complete this effort the way it needs to – and should be – done.”

I suppose this isn’t a huge surprise – Brown led in all the polls and had been swamping Newsom in fundraising. Still, I would have given Newsom at least something of a shot just by virtue of being the only alternative to the septuagenarian former governor. Given how brutally ungovernable California often appears to be, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if, at this point, Brown winds up sailing through to the nomination – I just can’t imagine a lot of people clambering to occupy the California statehouse.

Weekly Open Thread: What Races Are You Interested In?

I bet I can guess.

UPDATE: The DCCC just dropped another $280K on Owens tonight, bringing their total to over $1.1 million.

SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: PPP just posted their poll release schedule for tonight:

NY-23 around 10

New Jersey around 11

Maine around midnight

Virginia around 1 AM

Chapel Hill around 2 AM

Charlotte around 3 AM

SSP Daily Digest: 10/30


AR-Sen: A new R2K poll for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy For America is yet another bad omen for Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln: she’s only beating state Sen. Gilbert Baker by a 41-39 margin.

NC-Sen: An Elon University poll finds GOP Sen. Richard Burr with crappy re-elects (19-42), while the latest Civitas poll shows Burr leading Democrat Elaine Marshall by 43-33.

CA-10: In yet another sign that the Democratic base is taking a prolonged ganja break, Democrat John Garamendi, California’s Lt. Governor, is only leading Republican David Harmer by 50-40 in SurveyUSA’s final poll of the race. Obama won this CD by a 65-33 margin last year.

FL-02: Republicans have added a second challenger to the mix against Blue Dog Allen Boyd. Attorney Charlie Ranson is joining funeral home chain-owner Steve Southerland in the GOP primary.

NY-23: Under normal circumstances, I would have said that ex-Gov. George Pataki was breaking ranks by endorsing Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman over Republican DeDe Scozzafava, but considering that RNC Chair Michael Steele came out today tacitly cheering Hoffman on, it seems that the GOP establishment itself is leaving Scozzafava out in the cold. Democrats, meanwhile, have deployed Joe Biden to campaign with Bill Owens in South Memphis Watertown on Monday.

VA-05: The GOP field taking on frosh Dem Rep. Tom Perriello has gotten a little bit slimmer today, as “grassroots” candidate Bradley Rees is attempting to switch his candidacy over to the Virginia Conservative Party ticket. In any event, get a good look at this guy’s mug.

SC-Gov: GOP Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a guy with few friends in the Republican establishment, has just opened up a gubernatorial campaign account. I guess we can expect a formal announcement soon.

Congress: Tons of lawmakers, including quite a few in bright blue jumpsuits, are under investigation for ethical misconduct.

Midterms: Joe Lieberman is still an asshole, in case you have forgotten. The Rave Master himself says that he expects to share some of his Joementum with GOP candidates next year through his personal endorsement.

Voting: Chuck Schumer’s legislation mandating that military and overseas voters get at least 45 days to return their ballots came into force as part of the defense spending bill that President Obama signed into law on Wednesday. As we noted previously, this could force a number of states to push their primaries earlier. Green Papers has a list of potentially affected states. (D)

NM-Gov: Wilson Won’t Run

There was one Republican question mark left concerning the New Mexico gubernatorial race, and it was a fairly big one: former Rep. Heather Wilson, who gave up her seat for an unsuccessful Senate run. Yesterday, she announced that she won’t run, saying that she enjoys her private sector work, and:

“The Governor of New Mexico has no significant national security role – an issue area that continues to be an important part of my life. Running for office and being Governor means setting these things aside.”

That leaves well-regarded Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish a pretty clear path to the victory. The only Republicans in the race are pretty second-string: state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and Dona Ana County DA Susana Martinez.

RaceTracker: NM-Gov

The Next Special Election Battle (And A Rundown of the Special Elections in Georgia on November 3)

On November 3, while voters are going to the polls to decide governors races in New Jersey and Virginia, the fate of gay marriage in Maine, and special elections for congressional seats in California and New York, voters in Georgia will cast votes for municipal elections.  In addition, there will be special elections to fill seven vacant seats in the General Assembly: two state senate seats and five state house seats.  Here’s a rundown.  In summary, there is only one seat (HD-141) that stands a chance off changing parties, but the other ones bear some attention, too.  


Democrat Robin Shipp resigned to eliminate a conflict of interest between her full-time job as an assistant prosecutor and her part-term job legislator.  Divided by the Fulton-DeKalb line, this appears to be the most compact district in Georgia, including the neighborhoods of East Atlanta, Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Edgewood,  Kirkwood, Ormewood, Boulevard Heights, Eastland Heights, Woodland Hills, Custer/McDonough/Guice, and Benteen.

Four very strong Democrats have qualified.  Activist Simone Bell seeks to become the second openly gay member of the General Assembly ever and the first from a racial minority.  Her campaign emphasizes women’s and GLBT rights and issues and social justice, including healthcare, education, and safe schools.  She had the second best fundraising haul of the five candidates.

Attorney Asha Jackson seems to be the frontrunner, judging from her fundraising prowess (more than her opponents combined).  I am a little concerned that her law firm defends tort cases (do they represent insurance companies and incompetent doctors?) and some lack of specifics but nothing I’ve seen has really worried me.  I’m wary, but not to the point where I’d reject her.

Activist and businessman Kevin Johnson‘s claim to fame is his advocacy toward gaining more consumer protections from credit card companies, including influencing the recently-passed federal credit card reform legislation.  Johnson vows to continue this work if elected, along with working to protect the HOPE Scholarship, Peach Care, and arts education from budget cuts, affordable housing, and high-speed rail.

Michael McPherson is a former General Assembly staffer and has worked on several community boards.  Like Asha Jackson, there are some lack of specifics that make me wary to some extent (e.g. “I am dedicated to supporting Georgia’s public schools. We need to find ways to inspire students to remain in school and stay competitive.”), although when he’s more specific, I do like what I see, such as his emphasis on lower carbon emissions, sustainable development, and a regional effort for transportation in the Metro Atlanta area.

For what it’s worth, he’s also the only white Democrat running here.

Josh Lewis IV, an executive with his family-owned surveying company, has also filed as an independent.  Interestingly, he filed as J. Lewis IV.  I can’t help but to wonder if that’s a ploy to fool people into thinking he’s Congressman John Lewis (or his offspring).  His father (judging by the name) was a Mark Taylor supporter, but I can’t find anything on the son.

I expect a runoff, probably between Jackson and either Bell or Johnson (although with low confidence in that prediction) but I’ll say with almost complete certainty that a Democrat will win.  My preferences would be, from highest to lowest, Bell, Johnson, McPherson, Jackson.  


Not far south, Democrat Celeste Johnson resigned her seat in North-Central Clayton County to move to Florida for personal and family reasons.  Two candidates have emerged for the special election: Democrat Ron Dodson and Republican Shawn James.  Dodson will no doubt win in a cakewalk (I’m expecting at least 60%), having the benefits of party affiliation (2000 census numbers put this district at almost majority black, with another 11% Hispanic added in, numbers that have likely increased since then), first ballot listing, and name recognition (he held this seat before retiring and held other elected positions before that).  

However, Dodson sucks.  For starters, at the end of his tenure in the state house, he left the Democratic Party to become an independent.  And his tenure as state representative does not make me feel warm and fuzzy, such as his failing ratings from the Georgia League of Conservation voters and votes in favor of the gay marriage amendment (and against floor amendments by opponents of the bill).  And even in his most recent announcement, he says his big issue is tort reform.

If I lived in the district I’d throw off and allow James to win.  He’ll just lose next year and we’ll get something better, hopefully.


Left vacant when Republican Vance Smith resigned to take a seat on the state transportation board, we have no chance here: we didn’t field a candidate.  Even if we had, our guy/woman would have gotten slaughtered in this blood red, white, rural-exurban district that runs from NW Columbus north.  The Republicans fielded four candidates: former State Rep. Earl Davis (who’s seeking to make a comeback after losing over 35 years ago), publications consultant/talk show host Jerry Luquire, businessman and former member of the state licencing board of massage therapists Steve Earles, and Vance Smith’s son businessman Kip Smith.

Pick your poison here.  Luquire rants about maintaining the “Biblical” definition of marriage and denying hate crimes protections for gays, along with calling for taxing lottery ticket sales and being anti-Atlanta.  Earles goes off about “socialist infringements” on his “conservative way of a life,” seemingly calls the entire Atlanta population “unproductive and welfare dependent” (unspoken racism, you think?) and literally says the best way for the state government to ensure better success at handling issues is to cut staff.  Smith goes off on a hardline “no taxes”/”small government” screed, along with ample repetitions of the word “conservative” (makes me think of Sarah Palin and “maverick.”).

I guess that leaves us with Davis, who at least admits government has a use (“To provide those services citizens cannot do themselves – police, courts, parks, education, etc.”) and does accept using the power of the state to force localities to “do what they should have done.”  Plus, at 75, his time and ability (due to not being able to build a lot of seniority) to do damage is much more limited than Earles, who’s 56, or Smith (27).  Luquire is old too (70) but that’s a lot of batshit to take.  I expect a runoff here.  If money and insider support are any indication, Smith should get through.  Davis hasn’t raised money, instead taking out a $20k personal loan while Earles has had a respectable haul for a state representative seat.  Luquire hasn’t filed a report.  Earles has the benefit of being from the largest county in the district (although it isn’t dominant), but I’m thinking (and hoping) he and Luquire will split the wingnut votes.  With little certainty, I’ll say a runoff between Davis and Smith will happen, with Smith probably getting at least 60% of the runoff vote.


Like Vance Smith, Democrat Bobby Parham resigned to take a seat on the state transportation board, leaving his seat open.  It consists of all of Baldwin County (Milledgeville) plus a tiny sliver of Putnam County.  That sliver is so minuscule (only about 2% of the electorate) that it is almost meaningless, short of a razor-thin margin in Baldwin (and if that happens, we’ve likely lost as Putnam is really Republican).  

This is a swingy county, with a propensity for being close (55% or less) no matter how big the state margins are, no matter who.  Obama and Bush (both times) narrowly won it.  Max Cleland (2002) and Jim Martin (2008-general and runoff) narrowly won it.  Sonny Perdue won it in his narrow defeat of Roy Barnes, but, despite a huge win state wide in his re-election bid, narrowly lost it.  Zell Miller underperformed there in his 2000 Senate special election.  However, Democrats overperformed there in the 2004 Senate election and the 2006 Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State open seat elections.  It’s about 42% or so black and is the site of Georgia College of State University.

Four candidates emerged for the special election: Democrat Darrell Black, and independent Rusty Kidd, and Republicans Angela Gheesling-McCommon and Casey Tucker.  Tucker, a recent college grad, is your run-of-the-mill wingnut: a gun nut, a tenther, tax cuts solve everything, government is evil.  Gheesling-McCommon, the executive director of the local development authority, seems like an empty slate of sorts, with no real positions anywhere.  Kidd, a lobbyist, has a good position on stem cell research (I would imagine his being paralyzed from the chest down would give him perspective), but nothing else seems notable one way or another.  Black, a local businessman, has some good positions, calling for green jobs and banning insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

If there is a runoff, which I expect, I would expect Black to get through due to his party affiliation (and lack of split) and being first on the ballot, along with either Kidd or Gheesling-McCommon; Tucker just seems too new to this to get farther.  Kidd seems more likely based on his huge fundraising but the lack of party affiliation and lower ballot slot may hurt him.  Hopefully, the Republican flank will be split enough to deny them anything in the runoff.  I’m not sure where Kidd’s support will come from, though.


Republican Buddy Carter resigned his seat in the crimson, Northern suburbs of Savannah to run in the special election for SD-01.  Not long after that announcement, former State Rep. Ann Purcell announced her candidacy.  Purcell switched from Democrat to Republican after redistricting but still lost in the primary to Carter, who is now endorsing her!  Some Republicans have objected to the way things have gone down here along with the fact that Purcell used to be a Democrat and have run their own candidate, 25 year-oldJesse Tyler, who has made it known that he’s a “true conservative.”  

Despite that disatisfication, Purcell will have the advantages of name recognition, money, elite support, experience and will probably be the choice of whatever Democrats and moderates that are in the district due to her being a former Democrat and ostensbily less conservative.  I expect at least 60% for her.


Republican Eric Johnson resigned his seat to get around fundraising laws preventing him from raising money for his gubernatorial run during legislative sessions.  Two Republicans are in the race: the aforementioned former State Rep. Buddy Carter and former Chatham County Commission Chair Billy Hair.  This does not appear to be another case of Dodson vs. James or Purcell vs. Tyler.  This one looks like it will be competitive.  Still, Carter has a huge money advantage, so I’m expecting him to prevail.

Hair is big on school vouchers and privitization, but he at least says we should fund mental health and trauma care.  Carter is a tort reformer and a no taxes hardliner.   I guess I’d say Hair is the lesser of two evils.


Democrat Kasim Reed resigned his seat in South Fulton, South Atlanta, and parts of Eastern Douglas County to run for Mayor of Atlanta.  And the floodgates opened; nine candidates have emerged, all Democrats.  Kezmiche Atterbury, who mentions her work for various non-profits and government positions to increase minority enrollment in medical schools and streamline state children’s healthcare programs, promises to increase school funding (higher teacher pay, more teachers, etc), better funding Grady Hospital and its level 1 trauma care, and increasing mass transit (including expanding MARTA).  Other than mentioning his work on affordable housing and a goal of a clean environment, Benny Crane doesn’t give much information.

Rosie Jackson talks about issues in a roundabout way, emphasizing her advocacy work on eliminating funding disparities between the white, Republican, well-to-do North Fulton and the black, Democratic, poorer areas in South Fulton and providing health clinics to these areas.  Former State Senator Donzella James emphasizes afterschool programs to help prevent crime, better pay and benefits for teachers, and universal healthcare coverage.

Other than decrying cuts to education, Aaron Johnson really doesn’t say a whole lot, other than murky priorities.  Torrey Johnson believes healthcare is a right, promises to work to reduce teacher-student ratios, requiring more notification for impending layoffs, and a six month moratorium on foreclosures.  Attorney Cory Lynch doesn’t say much of any real use (other than increasing teacher pay and tax breaks for teachers).  Demarcus Peters deserves some attention for at least mentioning, among other things, the need to preserve greenspace and increase consumer protections.  Registered nurse George Sneed explicitly states that he would support the/a public option, creating state funding for MARTA, increasing teacher pay, and extending the grace period.

Although counties like Douglas (re: bluing, inner/middle ring suburbs) have Democrats representing parts of their area, those Democrats are always from an inner county like Fulton, Clayton, or DeKalb.  I would like to see that change so we can build a bench in these bluing counties.  The only one that would qualify would be Peters.  However, I am not going to sacrifice issues for geography.  My preferences are Torrey Johnson, Sneed, James, Atterbury, Jackson, Crane, Lynch, and Aaron Johnson, in that order.  It’s hard to gauge a front runner with many candidates having not filed a campaign finance report yet (and those that have haven’t put up anything astonishing).

SSP Daily Digest: 10/29

FL-Sen: Everything’s coming up Milhouse for Rep. Kendrick Meek these days: Rep. Corrine Brown decided not to challenge him in the primary, he’s watching Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio go hammer and tongs at each other on the GOP side, and now he has the endorsement of Florida’s currently most successful Democrat, Sen. Bill Nelson.

NH-Sen: Oh please oh please… the geniuses at the Club for Growth are considering getting involved in the New Hampshire Senate race, where the position-less campaign of Kelly Ayotte doesn’t seem to be capturing their fancy. (This is buried at the end of an article on how they’re still weighing involvement in FL-Sen.)

NY-Gov: David Paterson is playing a different tune than before, sounding less defiant and ready to “reassess” if his numbers stay in the tank on into early 2010. Meanwhile, this may be a tea leaf that Rudy Giuliani isn’t planning to run — or simply one Suffolk County resident doing a favor for another one — but Suffolk County (on Lon Gisland) GOP leader John Jay LaValle endorsed Rick Lazio last week, and now Orange County (in the Hudson Valley) GOP leader Bill DeProspo is also endorsing Lazio. (And with Lazio poised to get demolished in a Rudy primary, you wouldn’t likely make that endorsement and risk the Rudy’s wrath unless you had a sense that he wasn’t running.) Finally, Erie County Exec Chris Collins had been considered a post-Rudy Plan B for the GOP, but he seems to have taken himself out of the running with bizarre remarks last weekend comparing Democratic Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver to both Hitler and the anti-Christ.

VA-Gov: Two more Virginia polls to add to the pile today: Roanoke College (in its first and apparently only poll) finds Bob McDonnell with a 53-36 lead over Creigh Deeds. In another bit of bad news, Republicans lead Democrats 43-33 on a generic ballot question concerning the House of Delegates. Research 2000 also looks at the race, finding a 54-44 lead for McDonnell — one of Deeds’ best performances recently, although that’s not saying much.

IA-03: Republican state Sen. (and former mayor of the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale) Brad Zaun says he’s seriously considering a run against Rep. Leonard Boswell in the 3rd next year. Mike Mahaffey, former state GOP chair, is set to decide by next week whether or not he’ll run too.

IL-18: Democrat D.K. Hirner will run for the nomination to face off against Rep. Aaron Schock in the Peoria-area 18th (who benefited from Democratic recruitment problems in his initial run in 2008). Hirner is the executive director of the Illinois Environmental Regulatory Group.

MN-03: Democratic psychiatrist Maureen Hackett filed campaign papers to run in the 3rd against freshman Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen (who won with only 49% of the vote in 2008). Minnesota PTA president Jim Meffert-Nelson is also planning to announce his bid soon, while state Sen. Teri Bonoff, the district’s heavyweight Dem, is still weighing the race.

NH-02: EMILY’s List has one more endorsee: attorney Ann McLane Kuster, in the open seat race in the 2nd. You may be wondering “Wait, isn’t Katrina Swett going to run there?” While Kuster is officially in the race and has been fundraising well, Swett hasn’t committed to a bid yet, though… and more importantly, supports parental notification for abortion, making an endorsement unlikely.

OH-15: Here’s a positive development at both the micro and macro levels: little-known anti-abortion Ron Paul-supporter David Ryon dropped out of the Republican primary field against state Sen. Steve Stivers (who’s seeking a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy), and he’s going to go the third party route. This is good at a micro level because it’s similar to what happened in 2008, when two minor right-wing candidates siphoned off 9% of the vote, allowing Kilroy to get past the pro-choice Stivers despite an underwhelming performance (and without Obama on the ballot driving turnout in a university-dominated district, Kilroy is poised to underwhelm again in 2010). And at a macro level, it may be an indication that various wingnuts are taking stock of the Doug Hoffman situation and saying “Hey, that could be me!” (Thus further exacerabting the rifts in the GOP.)

OH-16: Buried at the end of an article that’s mostly profiling alleged GOP frontrunner Jim Renacci, there’s news that conservative former Ashland County Commissioner Matt Miller is planning a third run in the primary in the 16th. Miller, if you’ll recall, got 42% in the 2006 primary against long-time Rep. Ralph Regula (which was probably instrumental in prompting Regula’s 2008 retirement), and then almost won the 2008 primary against state Sen. Kirk Schuring. So it’s hardly a foregone conclusion that freshman Democratic Rep. John Boccieri will be facing Renacci next year.

VA-07: Democratic real estate developer Charles Diradour has decided to scrap his nascent candidacy against Eric Cantor, so it’s back to the drawing board for Dems in the reddish 7th. Cantor has the biggest bankroll of any House Republican, so it’d be an uphill fight, to say the least.

NY-St. Sen.: With state Sen. Hiram Monserrate intending to stay in the Senate despite having been convicted of misdemeanor assault last week, the Queens Democratic Party (led by Rep. Joe Crowley) is taking the unusual step of recruiting and endorsing a primary challenger to him. Assemblyman Jose Peralta will be running against Monserrate with the local party’s blessing. The Senate is also still considering whether to begin expulsion proceedings against Monserrate.

PA-S. Ct.: Josh Goodman has a good catch on how the lone Supreme Court race on the ballot in Pennsylvania next week is actually a key race, in terms of state legislative redistricting in 2010. The state’s legislative redistricting board has 5 seats, with two seats from each legislative chamber and the remaining seat chosen by the first 4. But if the two legislative chambers are controlled by different parties (as is currently the case), there’s a deadlock, and the 5th member is chosen by the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court is also currently deadlocked between the parties (3-3, with the victor of next week’s race the tiebreaking vote), so the Supreme Court race essentially is for control of state legislative redistricting for the next decade. In the one poll I’ve seen of the race, Democrat Jack Panella led GOPer Joan Orie Melvin 38-35.

Polling: PPP is asking for your help again: they’d like to know what you’d like to see for a release schedule over the next week.

NY-23: Owens Barely Leads as Hoffman Gains

Research 2000 for Daily Kos (10/26-28, likely voters, 10/19-21 in parentheses):

Bill Owens (D): 33 (35)

Dede Scozzafava (R): 21 (30)

Doug Hoffman (C): 32 (23)

Undecided: 14 (12)

(MoE: ±4%)

The new poll of NY-23 from Research 2000 doesn’t go as far as the two Doug Hoffman internal polls in showing the Hoffman surge (they showed him in the lead), but they do give the momentum to the Conservative Party candidate. Democrat Bill Owens has lost a little ground, while Republican Dede Scozzafava has basically collapsed over the last couple weeks. Hoffman’s performance is strongest among independents — I’s go 47% for Hoffman, with 28 for Owens and 11 for Scozzafava — while also leading among Republicans (41 for Hoffman, 34 for Scozzafava, and 13 for Owens).

Scozzafava’s approvals have also fallen like a rock (down to 32/46), compared with 38/23 for Hoffman and 36/26 for Owens. We’ll get some more confirmation on these trends soon, as Siena and PPP both have polls in the works here too.

There’s a lot else going on in the 23rd:

• New 48 hours reports show Hoffman leading the field in fundraising over the last couple days ($32K, including contributions from the leadership PACs of Reps. Steve King, John Linder, and Jeff Flake), Owens not far behind at $27K, and Scozzafava lagging at $12K.

• Newly-formed (i.e. last week) right-wing group Common Sense in America is engaged in some rope-a-dope advertising, running a TV ad that claims that Scozzafava is the “best choice for progressives,” in an effort to steer Republican voters away from her and to Hoffman. The group’s founder is Arkansas businessman Jackson Stephens, also a board member of the Club for Growth. Meanwhile, there’s also an anti-Owens TV ad up from the Hoffman camp, calling him Nancy Pelosi’s “lackey.”

• The local establishment is still sticking with Scozzafava, as seen by her endorsement from the Watertown Daily Times (Watertown is the core of her Assembly district). However, a who’s who of the behind-the-scenes puppetmasters of the movement conservatives (Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, American Conservative Union head David Keene, publisher Alfred Regnery, direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie) all signed a letter jointly endorsing Hoffman.

RaceTracker: NY-23

Where Do the Dollars Go? The 2010 Edition

(Cross-posted at ML and WMR and SSP-PB. If you have any questions, email me at

In the 2008 cycle the Michigan Democratic Party emerged victorious for the second straight election, picking up nine seats to bring their seat total to 67 and helping President Barack Obama win the state in a landslide. However the 2010 cycle appears to be challenging for the party; defend its hold on the executive branch and the lower legislative chamber, while picking up the upper chamber, a victory that has eluded the party since 1984.

To better determine which seats in both the House and Senate will likely be targeted by each party, I’ve replicated research I did in the last election cycle on the funding that the MDP and the MRP gives to various candidates in the State House. I used Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 to see on what races each party put their money. Before analyzing the data I suspected that both parties would protect incumbents first, and then spend money on flipping open seats. I suspected that independent expenditures (from both parties) would also follow this logic. Finally, candidates that raised little money on their own would not receive any financial support from the state parties. I listed any race where there was an investment of over $15,000 from either party, and whether the seat was open or whether a party’s incumbent was defending the seat.  

State House…

Figure 1: 2002 State House Races

Figure 1 shows the races that each party contested in 2002. The Republicans contested 18 seats, the Democrats 17. The Democrats contested 13 open seats and 3 Republican-held seats, while defending 1 seat. The GOP also contested 13 open seats and 1 Democratic-held seat, while defending 4 Republican seats. Of the 15 seats that each party actively contested, Democrats won 6, while the Republicans won 9.…

Figure 2: 2004 State House Races                                                                              

As shown in Figure 2, the 2004 election cycle saw an increase in contested seats. The Republicans spent serious money on 21 seats, while the Democrats challenged in only 11 races. This difference may be a result of the large GOP money advantage for the state level races in this cycle. Regardless, the Democrats contested 7 open seats and 2 seats held by the GOP, while defending 2 Democratic seats. The GOP challenged 13 open seats and 4 Democratic seats, while defending 4 Republican seats. However, in the 10 races contested by each party, the Democrats won 7 seats. Of the 10 seats that the Democrats did not contest, the GOP won 7.…

Figure 3: 2006 State House Races

Figure 3 shows the total number of contested races decline in 2006. However, the Democrats increased the number of challenges, spending heavily in 17 races, while the GOP contested only 13 seats. Of the 17 races that the Democrats spent money on, 5 were open seats and 7 were held by the GOP, while 5 seats were defended. The GOP challenged 4 open seats and 2 Democratic seats, while defending 7 GOP seats. Of the 12 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 8.…

Figure 4: 2008 State House Races

Figure 4 shows the total number of contested races in 2008. 31 races were seriously contested altogether; however, of these seats the Republicans contested 20, while the Democrats spent on 21. Of the 20 seats the GOP spent on, 14 were open seats, 3 were held by Republican incumbents, and 3 defended by Democratic incumbents. The Democrats challenged 14 open seats, defended 6 incumbents and challenged 1 Republican incumbent. Of the 10 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 7. Interestingly, the Democrats spent large amounts of funds defining two relatively safe incumbents, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (34% of his total funding was from the MDP) in District 17 and Mike Simpson in District 65 (55% of his total funding was from the MDP).

Over the past 4 election cycles, only 6 incumbents have fall to challengers. Two Democrats have lost (1 in 2002 and 1 in 2004), while 4 Republicans fell (1 in 2004 and 3 in 2006). Of the 47 races contested by each party between 2002 and 2008, the overwhelming majority have been open seats. All these seats are also Weak Democratic or Republican or Swing Seats.…

Figure 5: State House Competitiveness Matrix

Figure 5 is a chart displaying the expected competitiveness for Michigan State House races further. Each District has a Democratic baseline number in parenthesis, along with the number of times each party has challenged the seat. The Democratic baseline is determined by the Democratic share of the Board of Education vote for the election cycles between 2000 and 2008. For example, in House District 51 (in which the Democratic baseline is 51%), the Democrats have invested party resources in the seat four times, while the GOP has invested in it three times. It quickly becomes apparent that both parties rarely spend money defending or challenging seats in the Safe or Strong category or that of the opposing party. Hence, that gives the Democrats 31 worry free seats, and the Republicans 25. For an upset occur in these races means that the challenger needs to be self-financing, as the party will pay for nothing.

Hence both parties put their attention on the remaining 54 leaning, weak, and swing seats. Thus, expect the 11 Democratic and 9 Republican seats outside the Safe or Strong categories of either party that are open to be hotly contested. The Republicans will particularly contest three Republican-leaning seats held by Democratic Representatives in Districts 57, 83, and 107, although the GOP has done poorly in the Upper Peninsula over the past three cycles (This might change with Tom Casperson running for Mike Prusi’s 38th State Senate seat). On the opposing side the Democrats will look to pick up Districts 97, while challenging a number of swing seats (Districts 30, 71, and 85) that the Republicans currently hold. The GOP in turn will certainly try hard to pick up open Democratic swing seats (Districts 52, 91, and 103). Also expect the Republicans to try and knock off first-term Democratic incumbents in Districts 32, 70, and 101, although each of these candidates significantly outperformed the Democratic baseline in the last election cycle with vigorous campaigns.

If the Republican Party is serious about returning to a majority in the lower chamber, the party needs to in seats in Wayne County. Currently it holds only one based in Livonia, and this seat will likely face a Democratic challenger should the district get significantly redrawn in 2011 by the Democrats. While there was a significant Democratic wave in 2008, there is no indication that the Michigan voting population is moving to make the GOP the majority party in the lower chamber any time soon. Indeed, some long-term Republican Party strongholds are increasingly turning Democratic. Berrien County in southwestern Michigan, a long-term Republican stronghold, has seen its two State House districts become increasingly Democratic over the past three election cycles, and could be vulnerable to a strong Democratic candidate, especially in the open 79th District. While the GOP continues to do well in the exurban districts in the state, much of the party’s post 2004 decline has come from candidates losing in first-ring suburbs in metropolitan Detroit and in other metropolitan centers throughout the state.

Despite the potential opportunities, it is unlikely that the GOP will pick up the 13 seats it needs to regain a House majority in 2010. To do so the GOP would need to pick up all the open and first-term seats held by Democrats in Swing, Weak Republican, and Leaning Republican seats without the Democrats a single Democratic pickup, an unlikely event.

State Senate…

Figure 6: 2002 State Senate Races

Figure 6 shows the total number of contested races State Senate races in 2002. This was the first cycle in which a number of state senators were term-limited, and thus a number of competitive districts drawn up under the 2001 redistricting plan were open seats. Of the 38 seats in the senate, 13 were seriously contested altogether; with the Republicans contested 9, while the Democrats challenged 10. Of the 6 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 2. The Democratic efforts in 2002 met with resounding failure, as the party won only 4 of the 10 seats contested, while the GOP won 7 of the 9 seats they spent substantial sums upon.…

Figure 7: 2006 State Senate Races

Figure 7 shows the total number of contested races State Senate races in 2006. With few open seats available to contest, both campaigns spend funds challenging specific races. As opposed to the 13 seats challenged in 2002, only 6 districts caught the attention of the parties in 2006, and the Democrats only challenged 4 districts. Of the 4 districts the Senate Dems challenged, the party picked up only 1 seat, while the GOP successfully held 5 of the 6 seats (including open seats) they were defending. Despite concentrating their financial support on only four districts, the Democrats were outspent by the Republicans in every district, and by substantial margins in the 13th and 34th Districts.…

Figure 8: State Senate Competitiveness Matrix

Figure 8 displays the competitiveness of the 38 State Senate seats. There are 11 seats that are Safe or Strong Democratic, while there are 5 Safe or Strong Republican districts. In all likeliness, the 6 Leaning GOP seats are going to be uncontested by the Democrats, simply because there are too many other seats to spent limited financial resources upon.

Districts 32 and 34 are likely to be among the most temping seats for the Democrats to contest. While District 34 is an open seat that has a strong Democratic candidate (State Representative Mary Valentine), District 32 is held by incumbent Republican senator Roger Kahn, who narrowly won against Democrat Carl Williams in 2006. What the Democrats need in the 32nd District is a strong candidate who can make strong contest against Kahn, who is likely to get piles of money from the GOP to hold this seat.

The GOP is in an unenviable situation in 2010. If Republican Mike Nofs picks up the open 19th District seat vacated by Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer, the GOP will have a 22-16 margin in the State Senate. Thus, the Democrats would need to pick up four seats to win the chamber. The Senate Republicans need to hold three seats in western Michigan where the Democrats have made strong electoral gains over the past two election cycles (District 20-Kalamazoo County, District 29-Grand Rapids and surrounding suburbs, and District 34-Muksegon County and three rural counties). If the Democrats pick up two of these three seats, the GOP needs to only lose one more seat to have a tied chamber. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Districts 7 (western Wayne County), District 13 (portions of Oakland County), and District 25 (Lapeer and St. Clair Counties) are all tossup seats.

A few Democratic seats could be potential Republican pickups. Mike Prusi’s 38th Senate District is open, and former Republican State Representative Tom Casperson is running for this district, which has a weak Democratic lean. If any Republican candidate can win this seat it is Casperson, who has a history of winning tough races, despite being pounded by Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak last year. Likewise, District 26 (Genesee County) and 31 (Bay County) are districts represented by popular senators (Jim Barcia and Deborah Cherry, respectively) who romped to victory in seats that are not as strongly Democratic as seem.