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Political Roundup for September 26, 2017

Today starting at 8ET we will have a liveblog of the Alabama Senate runoff. See our preview HERE for full details. The thread will open at 7ET for discussion of legislative specials in Florida and the mayoral race in Boston.

Senate:

MI-Sen: Rep. Fred Upton (R) attended the Mackinac Island GOP summit last week, and he appears to be moving closer to a run for the seat of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Two other Republicans are in the race, former supreme court justice Bob Young (R) and businessman John James (R).  At Mackinac, the betting among GOP insiders is that the big name hanging over this race, rock star Robert “Kid Rock” Ritchie (R), will not ultimately enter the race. Additionally, a MRG poll has Stabenow up over Ritchie 52-34.

NJ-Sen: This is a worthwhile read on possible gaming out the possible Phil Murphy (D) appointees to the seat of Sen. Bob Menendez (D) should Menendez be convicted on the corruption charges for which he’s currently standing trial. The article seems to think that Reps. Donald Norcross (D) and Frank Pallone (D) are the most likely appointees, with ethically-questionable ex-Sen. Bob Torricelli (D) a possible wild-card. This article at least seems to think that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) is no longer interested in the seat, but that topic is still one under heated discussion. General betting seems to be that Menendez will be able to drag things out until after Gov. Chris Christie (R) leaves office at the end of the year.

Governor:

AL-Gov: Ex-State Rep. and 2010 LG nominee James Fields (D) is surprisingly running for Governor, after spending the summer exploring a run for LG. Fields looks like something of a long-shot in the primary, as he could face two better-known candidates. Ex-State Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb (D) is in the race and Tuscaloosa Mayor Scott Maddox (D) is considering and will make a decision by the end of the year.

HI-Gov: Kauai CE Ernest Carvalho (D) quietly announced a bid for Governor last week. Carvalho leads one of the state’s four populated counties, but Kauai contains just around 4% of the state’s population, making him likely to be a third wheel in this race. Incumbent David Ige (D) and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) seem set for a titanic primary collision, and it seems unlikely Carvalho will be a major factor (except for perhaps siphoning off votes from Kauai).

KS-Gov: Ex-State Rep. Mark Hutton (R) has become the latest candidate into this crowded primary, joining SoS Kris Kobach (R), LG and Gov-designate Jeff Colyer (R), Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer (R), ex-State Sen. Jim Barnett (R), and businessman Wink Hartman (R) in the primary. Hutton seems likely to run more to the moderate side of the moderate/conservative chasm in the state party, along with Barnett and Selzer; Kobach, Colyer, and Hartman are considered conservatives. One more moderate, ex-State Rep. Ed O’Malley (R), is also considering.

MD-Gov: Ex-AG Doug Gansler (D) will not enter the race to take on Gov. Larry Hogan (R), preferring to stay in the private sector. A recent poll from Goucher College showing Hogan with a 62/16 approval rating and up 52/41 against a generic challenger (not even a generic Democrat) may have played a part in his decision. Baltimore CE Kevin Kamenetz (D), Prince George’s CE Rushern Baker (D), State Sen. Rich Maladeno (D), and ex-NAACP chair Benjamin Todd Jealous (D) so far look like the major candidates in this race, though others are in this race.

RI-Gov: Ex-Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) is considering a comeback bid. The liberal popular Republican Senator turned unpopular Indie Governor turned asterisk-level 2016 Dem presidential candidate has made it clear he will run in the D primary, challenging Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) from the left, instead of as an Indie. Chafee, whose term as Governor was generally regarded as plagued by mismanagement, would likely be a far more preferable opponent for any Republican than the moderate Raimondo.

WI-Gov: State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D) officially entered the race to take on Gov. Scott Walker (R) yesterday. Vinehout’s previous run in the 2012 recall didn’t amount to much, but she is still a credible candidate. Vinehout joins State Superintendent Tony Evers (D), State Rep. Dana Wachs (D), nonprofit exec Mike McCabe (D), and businessman Andy Gronik (D) in the race; so far, CW has Evers as the front-runner.

House:

MA-3: Cambridge councilman Nadeem Mazen (D) is exploring a run for the open 3rd district seat, a Merrimack Valley area seat that comes nowhere near Cambridge. However, Mazen, who grew up in the district, does have name recognition as a rare Muslim elected official. Should he enter he will join State Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh CoS Dan Koh (D) in the race, with several others considering.

NC-2: 2012/2016 LG nominee Linda Coleman (D), a former Gov. Perdue administration official who ran two credible statewide races against incumbent Dan Forest (R), is tackling another contest, the NC-2 seat of Rep. George Holding (R). The seat is based in the strongly-blue trending Raleigh suburbs, but includes enough rural territory to the east to make it a fairly strongly Republican seat. However, Coleman is a credible nominee and the seat is not bulletproof, so she may have a chance at the upset.

PA-15: Nonprofit exec Alan Jennings (D) is considering a run for this light-red Lehigh Valley open seat, joining Northampton DA John Morganelli (D) in considering this race. Two lesser-known Dems are in the race but seem unlikely to emerge with establishment support. Republicans have an increasingly bitter primary between State Reps. Ryan Mackenzie (R) and Justin Simmons (R).

WA-8: State Sen. Dino Rossi (R) will mount a bid for this open seat, based in the southeast Seattle suburbs. Local Republicans seem to be pegging Rossi, who lost three statewide runs by narrow margins in 2004, 2008, and 2010, as their top candidate. Rossi’s name recognition and cred with most of the area’s GOP establishment may to get him a free pass on the GOP side of the ledger in the top-two primary. However, this looks likely to be a very hard-fought general, as this seat is PVI-EVEN and has been trending left.

WV-1: Democrats may have a contested primary in this deep-red northern WV seat, as law professor and law school administrator Kendra Fershee (D) announced her run. Fershee will face San Francisco attorney Ralph Baxter (D) in the primary; either will face a very tough race for this deep-red and ultra-Trumpist seat against incumbent Rep. David McKinley (R).

State & Local:

AL-LG: Elected state school board member Mary Scott Hunter (R) will drop out of the LG race to run for State Senate in the Huntsville area. Hunter, an antiestablishment conservative, has been embroiled in a dispute with her fellow board members over a prior state superintendent that has not left her looking good; she was considered an underdog in the primary. PSC chair Twinkle Cavanaugh (R), State Sen. Rusty Glover (R), and State Rep. Will Ainsworth (R) are in the race.

GA-SoS: Ex-Rep. John Barrow (D) is making a comeback attempt, though very much not in a race most were expecting. Barrow, who represented a conservative east-central Georgia seat until being swept out in the 2014 wave, will run for the open SoS seat. The decision is somewhat surprising as he likely could have had the gubernatorial nomination for the asking. Republicans have a crowded primary field for the seat; incumbent Brian Kemp (R) is running for Governor.

IL-AG, IL-SoS: The pieces are slowly moving into place for this race after incumbent Lisa Madigan (D) announced her intent not to run for re-election. Republicans seem to be circling the wagons around former congressional candidate and former Miss America Erika Harold (R). For Dems, State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D) and State Rep. Scott Drury (D) are in the race, along with the inspector/auditor of the Chicago Police, Sharon Fairley (D). Several other Dems are considering. One other candidate, State Sen. Mike Hastings (D), has announced he is considering runs for both AG and the SoS seat. Incumbent SoS Jesse White (D) is said to be running again, but Hastings is hedging his bets that White may pull a late retirement.

MA-LG: Comedian Jimmy Tingle (D) has entered the shotgun-wedding primary for Lt. Governor, becoming the first major candidate to enter the race to join the D primary winner in an uphill run against popular Gov. Charlie Baker (R) and LG Karyn Polito (R).

MI-AG: Ex-US Attorney Pat Miles (D) has filed for this convention race. Miles seems a credible candidate and so far looks like the front-runner for the Dem nod. State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R) is in the race on the GOP side, but others are considering.

MI-SoS: One Republican is in and one Republican is out of this convention race. State Sen. Mike Kowall (R) withdrew from the race, most likely to run for MI-11; in his stead, university regent Mary Treder-Lang (R) has entered. Treder-Lang joins township clerk Stan Grot (R) and Trump campaign operative Joseph Guzman (R) in the race. 2010 nominee and law professor Jocelyn Benson (D) is considered likely to make another run for Dems.

NV-SoS: State Rep. Nelson Arujo (D) has announced his run for SoS. Arujo seems likely to be the Dem establishment choice to take on incumbent Barbara Cegavske (R), who has said she will seek a second term.

OH-Treas: University regent and former Cincinnati Mayoral candidate Rob Richardson (D) has announced his campaign for Treasurer, filling out Dems’ statewide Row Officer bingo card with a slate of four credible candidates. Richardson joins ex-US Attorney Steve Dettelbach (D) for AG, State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) for SoS, and ex-US Rep. Zack Space (D) for Auditor; none are expected to face serious primaries. The GOP has a primary for this open seat between State Rep. Robert Sprague (R) and Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo (R).

RI-AG: Ex-US Attorney Peter Neronha (D) will run for AG. Neronha looks like the front-runner to succeed termed-out AG Peter Killmartin (D), though State Rep. Robert Craven (D) is also considering.

SD-AG: State Sen. Lance Russell (R) has become the fourth Republican into this convention race, joining deputy AG Charles McGuigan (R), Lawrence County DA John Fitzgerald (R), and 2014 Senate candidate Jason Ravnsborg (R).

Baltimore, MD-CE: A pair of Republicans have entered this open seat race. Antiestablishment State Rep. Pat McDonough (R), a Trumpulist, and establishement-friendly Hogan Admin official Al Redmer (R) have entered the race. McDonough starts with higher name recognition, but Redmer has Hogan’s endorsement and would likely be a stronger candidate in the large suburban county that went by large margins for Hogan in 2014 and Clinton in 2016.

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AL-Sen Runoff Preview

Tomorrow, there are two major elections: a special Senate runoff in Alabama and a mayoral primary in Boston, as well as a key legislative special in Florida. Polls close at 8p ET in both Alabama and Boston (7p ET in Florida) and we will be liveblogging.

AL-Sen Runoff: The big race tomorrow is a GOP primary runoff for Alabama’s Senate seat. The special election was moved up to this year by now-Gov. Kay Ivey (R) after she ascended to the top job. The August primary narrowed the field down from four major Republican candidates to two for this runoff.

Luther Strange

Appointed incumbent Luther Strange (R) made a somewhat, well, strange, decision in regards to this race. Despite the fact that as AG his office was investigating then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) for covering up a sex scandal, Strange accepted an appointment to the Senate from Bentley. The appointment decision was in spite of the fact that Strange had statewide name recognition that would have made him the prohibitive favorite for an open seat race. Strange’s handling of the appointment, which raised blindlingly obvious questions of impropriety, has become a major liability for him in this race. And with the race moved up from 2018, he doesn’t have a lot of Senate service record to distract from the appointment mess. Strange came in second in the preliminary round with 33%; while that is a poor showing for an incumbent, it was something of a victory for Strange as some polls had shown him in danger of missing the runoff entirely. Strange’s biggest asset in this race has been his close establishment ties, particularly to Mitch McConnell; McConnell and his associated forces have not hesitated to use every card at their disposal for Strange. Thus, he has been the beneficiary of a sustained negative ad barrage against his opponents. Strange has also been able to land Trump’s endorsement and a rally from the president last Friday. But it may not matter in the end; all polls of the runoff have shown him down, though by varying margins. CW is that Strange is still ultimately a mild to moderate underdog tomorrow. However, Strange does seem to have been narrowing the gap in polling in recent weeks and there is a chance the Trump rally could give him a late boost to surprise.

Roy Moore

Strange’s rival, and the front-runner for the seat, is ex-State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R). If Strange has baggage of a typical political-insider nature, Moore has equal baggage in his out-of-the-mainstream ideology. Moore’s first stint on the state Supreme Court ended with his removal after he refused to take down a statue of the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouse. After being re-elected to the court in 2012, Moore was removed again over ordering state officials to disregard SCOTUS’s Obergefell decision. Moore has a dedicated base of social conservatives, but is something of a one-note character on religious issues. Indeed, Moore made a notable gaffe in the runoff campaign when he appeared to have no idea what the DACA program was. That single-minded focus on religious social conservatism could make him a tough sell to less-devout Republicans. That said, Alabama is still among the most religious states in the nation, and his evangelical base was still enough to put Moore in a comfortable first in the primary with 39%. Moore is also an easy fit for antiestablishment voters, due to his quixotic nature and Strange’s establishment ties. Indeed, Strange’s establishment backing (and negative ads) have pushed the two antiestablishment-leaning major eliminated candidates, Rep. Mo Brooks (R) and State Sen. Trip Pittman (R), to endorse Moore. Moore held wide leads in polls of the runoff after the primary, and has led in every released poll since the first round. However, his margins have been narrowing in recent weeks, and Strange does seem to have some momentum. If Strange is successful at selling himself as the stronger Trumpist, it’s likely Alabamans will gravitate to that message over Moore’s theocratic one. That said, Moore is still (at the very least) a moderate favorite to prevail tomorrow, and it would be at least somewhat surprising if he didn’t ultimately pull out a win. A Moore nomination would be a quite bitter pill to swallow for McConnell and establishment Republicans after their extensive involvement in the race; Moore is about as good a bet as any to be a difficult-to-work-with loose cannon in the Senate.

Doug Jones

The winner will face ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D) in a December general. Jones, who sewed up his primary against token opposition in the first round, is a relatively generic moderate Democrat, but he is still the most credible contender than Democrats have put up for an Alabama Senate seat since 2002. It’s hard to tell which of the two Republicans would be a stronger general election candidate against Jones; while Moore has very well-defined vulnerabilities, Strange has not come out of this campaign looking good himself. And Strange’s corruption stink may have more salience than Moore’s extreme social conservatism in a very socially conservative state that has just seen corruption scandals. All in all though it may not matter who Republicans nominate; Alabama is still a very red, very inelastic state, and it’s hard to think such a Trump-friendly area will hand a seat to a Democrat. For now Jones has been flying under the radar and hoping to spark some interest after the GOP settles on a nominee, but we continue to consider either GOP nominee an extremely strong favorite in the general. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.

Boston-Mayor: The other election of the day is the California-Rules Top Two primary for Mayor of Boston, which is basically a straw poll as there are only two major candidates. Boston has a population of 675K and a PVI D+33 (2016), which breaks down as roughly 45% White, 25% Black, 20% Hispanic, and 10% Asian. In spite of Boston’s reputation as a student/hipster/upscale liberal town, most of those sit outside the city limits in Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, and those within Boston are low-turnout and largely irrelevant in local elections. Instead, elections are dominated by moderate white ethnics: the city includes a huge section of high-turnout middle-class-white suburban territory in the southwest (West Roxbury) and some urban poor white ethnic neighborhoods. The only other real bloc in municipal elections is the minority community: Boston has a large Black community in the south-central part of the city, and a Hispanic community in East Boston. This year, incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh (D) is seeking a second term. Walsh is a union-backed white ethnic Dem who won a close race in 2013 and has been a mainstream to slightly moderate liberal in office. Walsh has been relatively popular and has long been considered a strong favorite for re-election; indeed, it was something of an open question whether he would get a serious challenger at all. Walsh did draw a serious rival, however, in councilman (not that) Tito Jackson (D), who represents the African-American heavy Roxbury neighborhood. Jackson is attempting to run to Walsh’s left, but he remains little-known outside his district and there isn’t an obvious reservoir of discontent with Walsh to tap into. A third non-serious candidate, insurance agent Joe Wiley (D), triggered the preliminary round. Rumor is that Walsh put Wiley up as a plant to trigger the preliminary round (it would have been canceled with only two candidates) and give Jackson an embarrassing preliminary result to keep him from gaining momentum. CW is that the gamble will work, as Walsh has been leading in polls by around 2:1 and it would be a surprise if the results tomorrow will look much different than that. However, if Jackson did better than expected it could give him momentum ahead of the real thing in November.

Legislative Specials: There are also three notable legislative specials this week. Two are hotly-contested generals in Dade County, Florida. The biggest race is for FL-SD-40, an R-held Hispanic-Majority D+8 (2016) seat around Kendall in the southwest suburbs of Miami. This seat shifted strongly for Clinton last year, but it is Cuban machine territory to its core. More importantly for the current national climate, the Dem base here is mostly minorities (blacks and non-Cuban Hispanics), who are likely to be low-turnout, with super-energized white liberals basically a non-entity here. State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R) is facing off tomorrow with perennial candidate Annette Taddeo-Goldstein (D). Diaz is considered a credible candidate and has strong machine backing. Likewise, Taddeo-Goldstein, who has run for office 5 times in the last 10 years (and come close multiple times but never won), is getting major outside support. In spite of the blue top-of-the-ticket lean of the seat, this race looks like a pure Tossup. Additionally, with Irma having just impacted the area and shut off power for several days this month to almost all the district’s residents, low turnout is likely. It’s unclear who that might help; Dems are super-energized nationally, but the Cuban GOP machine is excellent at rustling up votes for low-turnout races (with an army of absentee-ballot-rustlers called boleteros). Overall there is no clear favorite here tomorrow. In the same area, FL-LD-116 is an R-held D+1 (2016) seat covering southwest Miami suburbs around Kendall. This is the seat that Diaz gave up to run for SD-40, and overlaps with the central part of the Senate district. Attorney Daniel Perez (R), who won a closely-contested and nasty primary, looks to be favored over former anti-Chavista Venezuelan legislator Gabriela Mayaudon (D), as Mayaudon doesn’t seem to be running a serious campaign. However, in this purple a seat with the current national climate an upset can’t be counted out. The least interesting special to cover is in SC-LD-31, a D+23 (2016) seat covering central and western Spartanburg. Spartanburg councilwoman Rosalyn Henderson-Meyers (D) is the prohibitive favorite over 2016 nominee Michael Fowler (R).

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Political Roundup for September 25th, 2017

Check back this afternoon for our preview of tomorrow’s Alabama Senate runoff.

President

Hillary: Veteran pollster Stanley Greenberg fires back at the Clinton campaign horror-story book Shattered in this fairly lengthy blog post. It’s a great read if you’re a hardcore elections junkie.

Congress

AL-Sen: In a race that seems to have divided many party factions in strange ways, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson (yes, I did a mental double-take when I wrote that, because I’d honestly forgotten) has all but endorsed former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R) in tomorrow’s Republican primary runoff for Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat. Moore leads appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) in polling, though the race has tightened somewhat of late.

AL-Sen Continued: Speaking of tomorrow’s runoff, we have two last-minute polls of that race. A Gravis poll for the website Big League Politics has Moore leading Strange 48-40, while Optimus has Moore ahead 55-45.

WI-Sen: This is one of Politico Magazine’s awesome longform pieces. It details the rise of Kevin Nicholson (R), a candidate for Senate in Wisconsin who has come out of nowhere with big-money backing and charm to spare. I’m getting vibes of (a much more impressive) Trey Hollingsworth from this guy. It’s possible he could simply buy and charm his way to enough name rec to beat his main rival in the race to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R).

PA-17:  Tracking is something I’m sure a lot of politicians wish would go away. The newest inductee into that club is Rep. Matt Cartwright (D), who was recently filmed by a tracker while saying that he thinks John McCain will vote against Graham-Cassidy because ‘he’s staring death in the face.’ Why would a Republican organization bother tracking a Democratic member who sits in a historically-Democratic 55% Obama seat this early in the cycle, you might ask? Well, it’s because the district also gave President Trump 54%, and Cartwright only won by eight points in 2016 despite having a weak opponent.

Blue Dogs: Hey, it turns  out that the Blue Dogs are somehow inexplicably still around, and they’re even recruiting candidates. How cute. The candidates they’re endorsing in several districts are actually pretty good, but only Paul Davis in KS-03 and Jay Hulings in TX-23 have much of a chance of winning. I’m sure they’ll endorse a few more as the campaign develops, but these are probably most of their best prospects. This is a sign of life from the moderate wing of the Democratic party, but even if some of these guys win, I think it’ll probably be just a dead cat bounce for the Blue Dogs. The modern Democratic Party has little room for true moderates.

Governor

CO-Gov: After years of hemming and hawing about running for higher office, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton (R) has announced his run for Governor. Stapleton joins a crowded field on both sides of the aisle, but should be a formidable candidate in both the primary and general elections.

CO-Gov Continued/CO-06: Speaking of the Centennial State’s Republican gubernatorial primary, former Rep. and erstwhile Constitution Party gubernatorial nominee Tom Tancredo (R) is likely running for the office as well, and he doesn’t like people questioning his motives for doing so. Rep. Mike Coffman (R) said in an interview that he thought Tancredo was running because he was ‘bored.’ Tancredo, as you might expect, didn’t like this very much, and made it known publicly. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Coffman picked the fight on purpose to earn him more moderate cred ahead of 2018, when he faces a tough fight for reelection.

MI-Gov: In what may be the first instance ever of the endorsement of a glorified plumber mattering in a statewide race, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner and former Rep. Candice Miller (R) has announced her support of state AG Bill Schuette’s (R) campaign for Governor. Miller had previously been courted to run herself, but has now officially declined. The primary is crowded, but Schuette seems to be the early favorite.

MN-Gov: For a lot of candidates weighing a gubernatorial run in America’s little slice of Scandinavia, it’s put-up-or-shut-up time. Or rather, it’s that time if they want to abide by their party’s convention selections. State House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R) and AG Lori Swanson (D) are both thinking about ignoring their parties’ conventions. Another of several interesting tidbits is that former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has so far refused to say whether or not he’ll run for his old job.

State/Local

ME-HD-12: In a story as idiosyncratic as the state from which it is spawned, State Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford has left the Democratic Party to become an Independent… in a 70% Obama district. Grohman stated that he thinks that centrist Independents get more accomplished. To be fair, he and a small group of other Independents now hold sway over the chamber, but I’m sure the fact that he previously came decently close to losing a three-way race to an Independent has absolutely nothing to do with this switch…

NYC-Mayor: In a kind of that’s-great-but-it’s-still-ultimately-hopeless story, New York City mayoral candidate and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R) has qualified for $1.6 million in matching funds. This will allow her to somewhat compete on the airwaves. Also of note is that since Mayor Bill DeBlasio (D-Bold Progressive) is also accepting city matching funds (he gets about $400,000), he must now debate Malliotakis.

International

France: Well, it looks like prince really was just a frog. In the elections to the (somewhat irrelevant) French Senate this weekend, Les Republicans held their majority. Public dissatisfaction with centrist darling of the Economist-reading crowd President Emmanuel Macron is growing, and so far, the right is benefitting.

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New Zealand & Germany Election Preview & Open Thread

Sunday Evening Update: In Germany, the CDU and SPD have both dramatically underperformed: The CDU is at 33 and the SPD at 21. The AfD is at 13, FDP at 11, and Linke and Greens at 9. With the SPD saying they intend go into opposition, it looks like a Jamaica (CDU-FDP-Green) coalition is the only viable option.

Saturday Update: The Nationals have retained the lead, with 46% to 42% for the combined Labour and Green vote. NZ First will be in position to play kingmaker.

Two nations are holding elections this weekend. Here are our previews and an open thread to discuss the results:

New Zealand:

On Saturday, New Zealand will go to the polls to elect its parliament. New Zealand has a population of about 4.7 million, about the same as Ireland(about the size of the state of Louisiana) on two islands, North Island and South Island, that combined are similar in area to the state of Colorado. Since the Legislative Council (upper house) was abolished in 1951, the New Zealand Parliament has been unicameral, consisting of a 120 member (since 1996) House of Representatives (although extra seats can be created-description to follow below). Prior to the 1996 election, the size of the Parliament grew as the population grew. As part of a major electoral reform passed in 1993 and first used in 1996, the size was fixed at 120, and the method of election changed from all seats being elected by constituency (or electorate as they are called in New Zealand), to a mixed-member proportional system, where some seats are filled by electorate (elected by first past the post) and some by party list by proportional representation. Now the proportion of seats filled by electorate changes by population, with 71 of the seats being filled by electorate in this election.

64 of the 71 seats cover the general population (with the more populous North Island having 3/4 of the seats). The other 7 seats are seats reserved for the indigenous Maori people. People of Maori descent (about 18% of the population) may register either on the general electoral roll or a special electoral roll which allows them to vote for the Maori electorates. The 7 Maori electorates are overlayed over the general electorates, with 6 of them on the North Island, and the other covering the entire South Island.

Each voter gets two votes-a vote for their constituency member and a vote for a party that is used for proportional representation. Parties may achieve representation in one of two ways-either by winning an electorate seat, or by gaining 5% of the national vote. The number of seats a party is entitled to is determined by their overall vote share, with the party given list seats to add to the number of electorate seats they win to give them their total number. Often, a situation arises where the number of electorate seats a party wins is more than what they would be entitled to with their share of the national vote. In that case, 1 or more overhang seats are added to the total number of seats (the previous parliament had 1 overhang seat, so there were 121 total seats).

With the country’s move to a mixed-member proportional system, the influence of smaller parties has greatly increased, and it becomes difficult for any party to win a majority of the seats. No party has won a majority since the move to the system in 1996 (although National fell just one seat short in 2014). Thus the major parties need the support of minor parties to form government, whether in informal confidence and supply or formal coalition agreements. The parties can be broken down into 3 groups-the two major parties, the two significant minor parties that usually win multiple seats, and other minor parties that usually win 1 or 2 seats.

Bill English

The two major parties are the center-right National Party and the center-left Labour Party. The National Party is led by Prime Minister Bill English. English was chosen to replace John Key as prime minister last December when Key resigned after he decided 8 years as prime minister was enough. English is getting a second chance as National Party leader-he led the party to a disastrous electoral defeat in 2002, but worked his way back and served as Minister of Finance (traditionally the 2nd highest position in government) under Key. Key was highly popular as prime minister, and led the party to three electoral wins. Where Key was very much a centrist (a style emulated by Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull), English is somewhat more conservative, particularly on social issues-as a Catholic he opposes abortion and also voted against the same-sex marriage bill supported by Key and passed by his government (National Party members were given a free vote on the issue), although English now says he supports same-sex marriage.

Jacinda Ardern

The Labour Party is led by Jacinda Ardern. Ardern, previously deputy leader, took over as the party’s leader last month when then-leader Andrew Little resigned after the party had been performing poorly in polls under his leadership. The change in leadership from the middle-aged Little to the young Ardern has given Labour a boost in polling, actually taking a lead in polls for a few weeks until recently (more on that below).

Winston Peters

The two significant minor parties are the Greens and NZ First. The Greens and NZ First both usually win enough seats to be a significant player in any government (the Greens had 14 seats and NZ First 12 seats in the last parliament). The Greens, being on the left, are a natural potential coalition partner with Labour. A scandal involving former co-leader Metiria Turei and the popularity of Labour’s Jacinda Ardern however has cost the party support in polls, and some polls have them coming close to the 5% threshold, important for the party as they are not expected to win any electorate seats. NZ First is a populist/nationalist party known for its anti-immigrant stance. The party is led by Winston Peters, a former National MP who founded the party in 1993 and has led it ever since and is very much the face of the party. Peters could very well end up as a kingmaker as it appears there is a good chance either National or Labour may need its support to form a government. NZ First has supported both parties in the past-in a formal coalition with National in 1996 and in a confidence and supply agreement with Labour in 2005. NZ First seemed to have gotten along better with Labour in their two deals, which has some speculating that they are more likely to support Labour than National, although that is far from certain. However, a minor scandal involving Peters has hurt them in the polls, and one recent poll has them flirting with the 5% cutoff as well, and they may have to rely on Peters winning his current electorate seat to remain in Parliament. NZ First has been shut out before-failing to make the 5% cutoff in 2008.

There are three other minor parties who had representation in the last parliament. The Maori Party had 2 seats-one Maori electorate seat and one list seat. Although the Maori Party has a center-left orientation, it has had a confidence and supply agreement with National in the last 3 parliaments. The conservative ACT Party held 1 seat (an electorate seat) in the last parliament and has a confidence and supply agreement with National. The centrist United Future Party had one seat in the last parliament(an electorate seat, although as their national vote was not enough to give them any seats, they were the source of the overhang seat). United Future has had confidence and supply agreements with both parties, however as their leader is retiring, they are not expected to have representation in the next parliament.

National had a consistent lead of 20+ points in the polls until Jacinda Ardern took over as Labour leader, her personal popularity (called Jacindamania) caused them to steadily rise in the polls throughout August until Labour took their first lead in early September. But as Jacindamania has worn off and National’s attacks on Labour’s policies have taken hold, National has taken back the lead in the last week, with a polling average of 45% to Labour’s 37%. The Greens are polling at 7% in the average of polls-putting Labour and the Greens together essentially at the same level as National. One seat projection has National at 55, Labour with 46,the Greens 9 and NZ First with 8. Maori and ACT would get 1 seat each. This would mean likely either a National/NZ First or a Labour/Green/NZ First government. Although the possibility has been talked about at least some in the media, the chances of a National/Labour grand coalition is considered highly unlikely, if not impossible. Polls close at 7 PM local time on Saturday (3 AM EDT in the US).

 

Germany: (thanks to shamlet for writing the Germany preview)

Then on Sunday, Germany will be holding its parliamentary election. Germany has a population of about 83M and a land area slightly larger than New Mexico. The parliament (Bundestag) contains a variable number of members set by a complex formula, but is usually slightly larger than 600. The German electoral system is in practice a pure party-list proportional system with a 5% threshold. Voters get to vote for a constituency rep and a party preference, but each constituency seat costs the winning party a proportional seat, and the ultimate composition of seats is determined solely by the relative vote shares of the parties that cross 5% (or who don’t get 5% but win 3 constituency seats, but that provision is essentially never triggered).

Angela Merkel

Germany’s government is a grand coalition of its two largest parties. But for the last 12 years one party, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) has been in the lead of government in the personage of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The CDU/CSU is a notionally center-right conservative party, but in recent years it and Merkel have generally behaved more like a liberal centrist party of a Bloombergish nature. Indeed, the CDU’s defining position is not really anything typically conservative or Christian-Democratic, but rather its staunch defense of the European Project and open immigration. The CDU has been polling well in the lead at around 35-40%, and there is essentially no doubt that Merkel will be re-elected as chancellor for another term. However, because of the CDU’s centrist nature, there is wide latitude for its coalition partners to pull governance left or right, and who ultimately joins the CDU in government will have a major impact on policy.

Martin Schulz

The junior coalition partner is the Social Democrats (SPD), a standard-issue European socialist party (indeed, it is generally considered the model for most first-world social-democratic parties) that is about in line with American BernieBros. The SPD, led by the former President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has been in an uneasy Grand Coalition with the CDU two times, which has caused it some issues on its left flank. The SPD is polling around 25% and has essentially no chance to form government, but may once again join a Grand Coalition if more ideologically-coherent pairings don’t work out.

Four other parties are expected to enter parliament; all are polling in the high single digits. Two small parties are key to government calculations. The German Green Party, arguably the world’s most successful Green Party, is probably best thought of as a more fiscally moderate version of America’s Greens, which puts it within the mainstream center-left of the German spectrum. The Free Democrats (FDP) are a libertarian (by European standards) party that would be close to moderate establishment Republicans in the US, though its socially libertarian bent has been growing stronger in recent years. The FDP is expected to re-enter parliament this year after just falling just short in 2013. Then there are two other parties that are not expected to be a part of government calculations. On the far left, there is Linke, a descendant of the former communist eastern party that preaches a fairly typical form of European neo-communism. Its radical nature and personality tensions have historically made it an unacceptable coalition partner for even the SPD. On the far right, there is a new party, the Alternative (AfD), that is set to enter parliament. The AfD is still finding its legs ideologically, and its short history has featured ongoing battles between its hefty number of factions. For a small party, it’s a home for an incredible ideological diversity of opinions outside the German mainstream: old-UKIP style upscale euroskeptics, Americanesque social conservatives, LePen style working-class nationalists, and even some Jobbik style borderline neo-Nazis. It’s unclear which of the various ideologies of the party will emerge dominant, but unsavory characters are prominent enough for all other parties to flat-out exclude working with the AfD in coalition.

Unless polls are off by a wide margin or one of the four smaller parties fails to make the 5% threshold, you can say definitively that no coalition is possible that excludes the CDU. (A SPD+FDP+Greens+Linke combination could still theoretically occur, but Linke and FDP together in coalition is so improbable as to be absurd). So the coalition negotiations are really between the CDU and three potential partners: SPD, FDP, and Greens. Merkel’s first choice is likely a return of the CDU-FDP coalition that she led until the FDP lost parliamentary representation in 2013. That pairing would form with no issues if the seats are there; however, it seems likely the two will fall short of a majority. The second choice for Merkel is likely a “Jamaica” coalition of CDU, FDP, and Greens, which will likely clear the majority mark. However, ideological tension between the FDP and Greens may make this trio hard to form, which would likely put the CDU and SDP back together in another Grand Coalition.

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Weekend Open Thread for September 22-24, 2017

Programming Note:  We will have an open thread to discuss the elections in New Zealand and Germany.

As the Rocket Man threatens the Dotard with destruction, it is time for this weekend’s open thread:

(1) What is leading to President Trump’s rising approval ratings?  Does he need war drums beating and disasters happening to gain okay approval ratings?

(2) Who do you think will win the German federal election this weekend?

And since its the weekend, its time to watch Rocket Man looking at things!

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Political Roundup for September 22, 2017

Congress:

MI-Sen: Businessman and Iraq War Veteran John James has joined the race for the GOP nomination for US Senate. James, who identifies himself as a “conservative Republican” joins former State Supreme Court Justice Bob Young in the Republican primary. Musician Kid Rock and Sandy Pensler are considering joining the race as well.

MD-6: One Democratic candidate is taking himself out of the race. State House Majority Leader Bill Frick (D), who had been exploring a run for Congress will instead run for Montgomery County Executive. Wealthy businessman and unsuccessful 2016 MD-8 candidate David Trone, Del. Aruna Miller (D), state Sen. Roger Manno (D) and unsuccessful 2006 and 2010 MD-6 nominee Andrew Duck are all still running in the Democratic primary.

MI-11/MI-SOS: State Sen. Mike Kowall (R) is dropping out of the race for Secretary of State. Speculation is that he plans to run for Congress instead to replace Rep. Dave Trott (R), which he called an “unexpected opportunity”. Former state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski (R), state Rep. Klint Kesto (R) and businesswoman Lena Epstein are already running for the House seat, and others are considering joining the race. Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, Michigan State University professor Joseph Guzman, and businesswoman Mary Trader Lang are running for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State.

PA-11/PA-Sen: Berwick Councilman Andrew Shecktor (R) is dropping a mostly unnoticed campaign for US Senate, and instead running for the House seat Rep. Lou Barletta (R) is giving up to run for US Senate himself. Shecktor was a delegate to the Republican National Convention last year and considers himself a strong supporter of President Trump. Former state Revenue secretary Dan Meuser and state Rep. Steve Bloom (R) are also currently running for the GOP nomination.

Governor:

IA-Gov: Nurse and SEIU local president Cathy Glasson officially entered the Democratic nomination for governor this week. Glasson had been exploring a run for several months. She is establishing herself firmly on the left of the 7 Democratic candidates and has been endorsed by the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

WI-Gov: State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D) will make an announcement next Monday as to whether she will run for governor or run for re-election. She has given no clues as to which way she is planning to go. If she runs, she would likely join the top tier of candidates along with State School Superintendent Tony Evers, businessman Andy Gronik and state Rep. Dana Wachs.

WY-Gov: Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) has confirmed that she will not run for governor next year. She had once been considered likely to run, and had been lining up supporters earlier this year, but in recent weeks it seemed unlikely she would run, and she apparently told supporters a few weeks ago she was out. Lummis would have been a formidable candidate had she chosen to run, having run statewide before. State Treasurer Mark Gordon (R) and Secretary of State Ed Murray (R) are considered the potential frontrunners, although neither has decided yet to enter the race.

State offices:

AK-LG: Edie Grunwald, the mother of a teenager who was killed in a high-profile murder case, is running for LG as a Republican. She is criticizing a criminal justice overhaul bill approved last year, which was supported by the other 3 Republican candidates-former state Senate Presidents Kevin Meyer (R) and Gary Stevens (R), and former state Rep. Lynn Gattis (R). Grunwald said she was hoping to partner with the gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R), but Dunleavy recently suspended his campaign.

FL-AG: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) will not run for AG next year, and has endorsed former state Circuit Court judge Ashley Moody (R). Despite Gaetz only being in his first term in Congress, he had been mentioned as a possible candidate, and one who could have been a formidable candidate had he decided to run. Former state Rep. Jay Fant (R) is also running in the Republican primary.

IL-AG: State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D) has announced he is running for Attorney General. He is the second state legislator to announce a run since current AG Lisa Madigan (D) announced her retirement, joining state Rep. Scott Drury (D). Raoul was appointed to the state Senate in 2004, filling the seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected to the US Senate. Other Democrats, including state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, are considering getting in. Former Miss America and unsuccessful IL-13 candidate Erika Harold is running on the Republican side.

MI-AG: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R) is the first Republican to announce a bid for AG. Current AG Bill Schuette (R) is term limited and running for governor. Schuitmaker is term limited out of her state Senate seat as well after serving two terms. Two Democrats are running-former US Attorney Patrick Miles and attorney Dana Nessel.

RI-LG: State Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D) is exploring a run for lieutenant governor. Current LG Dan McKee (D) is planning to run for re-election, which would mean a primary challenge for the incumbent. Regunberg, who is only 27, says he hasn’t made any decisions yet whether to run.

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Political Roundup for September 21, 2017

As our thoughts are with our hurricane and debt ravaged unincorporated territory, it is time for today’s roundup:

President / National

Trump Job Approval Numbers:  In case you missed it, President Trump’s terrible approval numbers are starting to inch their way back into the low 40s.  Not great by any stretch, but not bad for Trump.

Manafort/Kurdistan:  While the Feds are closing in on Paul Manafort related to his shady political dealings with the Russians and their prodigy, Manafort is busy helping the Kurds plan an independence referendum.  Manafort has been doing things like this for years, but you have to wonder if the Kurds will give him citizenship if he makes their centuries long struggle a reality.

Congress

AL-Sen:  President Trump (R?-MAGA) appears to be waging battle for an underdog, Senator Luther Strange (R), in the US Senate runoff against former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R-Ten Commandments), but the race is tightening and Trump’s involvement is seen as someone with an ear to Trump believing Strange has a strong change of winning.

WV-Sen:  Governor Jim Justice (?) has completed his transition from being a DINO to a RINO by backing Senator Joe Manchin (D-Coal) in his reelection bid.  To quote Roguemapper, DINO+RINO = MAGA.

WATN:  Former Congressman and multi-time RRH Turkey of the Year winner Anthony Weiner (D-Sexting) is facing approximately 2 years in prison if the government gets its way.  A federal judge will sentence Weiner on Monday.

PA-19 (Defunct):  Former Congressman Bill Goodling (R) has died.  Goodling served 13 terms on Congress representing central Pennsylvania.

States

CT-Gov:  David Stemerman (R) is winding down his hedge fund, Conatus Capital Management LP, to explore a run for Governor in 2018.

NJ-Assembly:  Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) is pushing Democrats to pursue a supermajority in the NJ’s lower house in an effort to undermine the leadership aspirations of Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-South Jersey faction) whose recently received the backing of the majority of the existing Democratic lower house caucus.  Prieto’s long shot bid is targeting very unfriendly territory for the Democrats history in an effort to bring in new blood and save his Speakership.

PA-Voter Registration: A glitch in PennDOT’s motor voter system let non-citizens register to vote.  Al Schmidt (R) of the Philadelphia City Commission, which oversees elections in the city, announced that at least 168 non-citizens registered to vote in Philadelphia through the program that have been discovered.

More PA-Voter Registration:  While Republicans have made some gains in Philadelphia, independents and third parties now outnumber Republicans in the city.

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Political Roundup for September 20th, 2017

As evidenced by the fact that someone in my North Philadelphia neighborhood actually took a minute out of their day yesterday to scrape and peel the John Kasich sticker off of my car, reality really has become stranger than an episode of Showtime’s Shameless.

Last night, Foxborough councilman Paul Feeney (D) and legislative staffer Jacob Ventura (R) won primaries for MA-SD-Bristol & Norfolk. The two will head to a general next month with retired investigative reporter Joe Shortsleeve (I).

President

2020: Democrats are clearly ready to defeat the Donald (R?) at all costs ahead of their 2020 presidential primary pileup. The succeeding failing New York Times reports that, while Bernie Sanders (“I”) plans a “very far left” approach, potential frontrunner Elizabeth Warren (D) will merely run a “far left” campaign.

Democrats’ Lurch off the Left Coast: Politico reports that many Democrats are now wondering if the recent wave of virtue signaling support of Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan could distract from their efforts to fight another attempt at repealing Obamacare.

Congress:

AL-Sen: Senate candidate and God’s Gift to the World Roy Moore (R) doubled down on his “red and yellow” comments from earlier in the week in a presidential series of tweets.

More AL-Sen: Both Mike Pence (R) and the Donald (R?) will be campaigning for Luther Strange in Alabama.

TN-Sen: Despite recent friction between the two men, Roll Call reports that the Donald (R?) has urged Senator Bob Corker (R) to seek a third term.

MI-6/MI-Senate: Ahead of a likely US Senate bid, everyone’s second-favorite Upton and Whirlpool heir Fred (R) was named a Michigander of the Year by the generally-conservative Detroit News for his bipartisan dealmaking in the midst of the bipartisan opening of the seventh seal.

Governors/State:

Democrats/State Attorneys General: Still smarting from the Duchess of Chappaqua’s 2016 loss, some leaders of the ever-strategic Democrats have yet another plan to “avenge” the would-have-been First Woman President™’s defeat by… recruiting as many female attorney general candidates as possible. Yes, really.

IL-Gov/IL-AG: North Shore State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood) has dropped his gubernatorial bid to pursue the state AG position after the surprise retirement of incumbent Dictator Heiress and Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D). Drury was the only State Rep to oppose Fearless Leader Mike Madigan’s re-election bid to the speakership, and he earns major kudos from this Illinois expat for that stand.

More IL-AG: In addition to Drury, the Chicago Tribune has a Great Mentioner on others considering this now open race.

NJ-Gov: Highlighting their desperation for any victory in the age of the Donald, the Democrats are going all out in this Safe D race by sending in top fundraiser Barack Obama to stump for Phil Murphy (D), according to The Hill.

More NJ-Gov: The RGA has released a 15-second ad attacking Phil Murphy by implying that he wants to raise New Jersey’s already-high taxes, a development sure to shock Garden State voters.

TX-Gov: While Governor Greg Abbott (R) lacked a signature issue, Texas Tribune explains that Hurricane Harvey gave him the political cover to move away from the hard right direction he had reluctantly taken on the urging of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R). If this sounds strange, remember that the Texas Lieutenant Governor is arguably more powerful than the Governor.

More TX-Gov/TX-20: Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) reiterated yesterday that he has no plans to run for governor. Castro (not that one, as far as we know…) will seek re-election to the US House.

Local Races:

Urban Renewal/Detroit-Mayor: The Economist lays out Detroit’s improvements under Mike Duggan as a case study of tough love. It’s shocking what happens when voters elect a leader who tells them things that they don’t want to hear after decades of electing politicians who said anything to gain power.

Seattle-Mayor: Interim Mayor Bruce Harrell, clearly not touched, says that he does not intend to serve the rest of his disgraced predecessor’s term.

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