Archive for September, 2010


USA 2010: Florida Senate

Florida is a rapidly growing state that in recent decades has become one of the largest states in the United States. At each of the last six ten-year censuses, Florida has gained a number of new congressional seats, growing from six seats in 1950 to 25 seats in 2002.

Florida is also a key swing state in presidential elections. The state has gone with the winning party at nearly every election in recent decades, only going against the trend in 1960 and 1992. In 2000, the result hinged on a contested result in Florida, delaying the election’s winner being decided for over a month.

This year’s Senate race is unique, with the formerly Republican Governor of Florida neck-and-neck with the Republican candidate, with the Democrat trailing in third place.

Florida’s Senate seats were long dominated by the Democrats, who held both seats continuously from the late 1870s until the late 1960s. At the 1968 election, sitting Democratic senator George Smathers retired, and his seat was won by Republican Edward Gurney.

Gurney served one term, and retired at the 1974 election, after being embroiled in a scandal earlier that year.

At the 1974 election, the seat was won by Richard Stone (D), who won a narrow primary runoff for the Democratic nomination. Stone faced a fierce primary challenge in 1980, and lost the Democratic nomination that year. Later that year, the Democrats lost his Senate seat to Republican candidate Paula Hawkins.

In 1986, Hawkins lost her seat to Governor Bob Graham (D).

While that seat had flipped back and forth between the parties from 1968 to 1986, the Democrats consistently held the second Senate seat. It was held for three terms from 1970 to 1988 by Lawton Chiles. He retired in 1988, but was elected Governor of Florida in 1990.

Chiles’ seat was won in 1988 by Republican US Representative Connie Mack. Mack won the seat for a second term in 1994, before retiring at the 2000 election. His seat was won in 2000 by former US Representative Bill Nelson (D), who won re-election in 2006.

Graham held his Senate seat from the 1986 election until his retirement before the 2004 election. The seat was won by Mel Martinez (R), who had served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the first term of the Bush Administration.

Martinez held the seat until he resigned in September 2009. Governor Charlie Crist (R) appointed his former chief of staff, George LeMieux.

Crist had already announced plans to run for the Senate before Martinez in mid 2009, before Martinez resigned. His main rival in the primary was Marco Rubio, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Rubio ran to the right, while Crist was seen as more of a centrist, supporting parts of President Obama”s stimulus bill.

Polling in mid 2009 showed Crist well ahead of Rubio in primary polling, but Rubio caught up to Crist by December 2009. By February 2010, Rubio had a solid lead in primary polling.

In April 2010, Crist withdrew from the Republican primary and announced that he would run for the Senate, amidst polls showing him trailing in primary polling, but competitive in a three-way general election contest. Rubio went on to win the Republican victory practically unopposed.

The Democratic primary was won decisively by Congressman Kendrick Meek, who defeated billionaire Jeff Greene, 57-31.

Polling for the general election has shown Crist and Rubio neck-and-neck in the race for the seat, with Meek polling about 20% of the vote. Many Democrats have already moved across to Crist, but there is a sizeable group of Democrats who have refused to move across to the more electable former Republican, but they will be key to this race.


USA 2010: California Senate

The largest state in the United States, California usually leans heavily towards the Democrats, having been won by the Democrats at every election since 1992. The state now has 53 members of the House of Representatives. Despite California’s liberal bent, it has not been uncommon for Republicans to win seats in the Senate, or be elected Governor.

Both of California’s Senate seats are currently held by Democrats. The seat up for election in 2010 has been held by Democrats continuously since 1968, when it was won by Alan Cranston. Cranston won re-election in 1974, 1980 and 1986.

In 1970, California’s other Senate seat was also won by the Democrats, with John Tunney defeating George Murphy. Tunney lost to S.I. Hayakawa (R) in 1976. Hayakawa retired in 1982 and was succeeded by fellow Republican Pete Wilson. Wilson won re-election in 1988. In 1990, he was elected Governor of California. He resigned as Senator in early 1991 days before being sworn in, and appointed State Senator John Seymour, also a Republican, to the seat.

In 1992, Californians voted in both a regular Senate election to elect a successor to the retiring Cranston, and in a special election to fill Wilson’s former seat for its final two years.

Cranston’s seat was won by US Representative Barbara Boxer, while Seymour lost the special election to former Mayor of San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein and Boxer were the first two women to win Senate seats in California.

Both Boxer and Feinstein have held their seats ever since. Boxer won easy re-election in 1998 and 2004, winning 53% and 57% respectively. Feinstein won a close race in 1994, winning 46% to 44% for the Republican candidate. She won a second full term in 2000 with 55% and a third term in 2006 with 59%.

Boxer is running for a fourth term in 2010. Boxer easily won the Democratic primary, with over 80% of the vote.

The Republican primary was comfortably won by Carly Fiorina, a former Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett Packard who had never previously stood for elected office. Originally she was in a close contest with former Congressman Tom Campbell and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

For most of the campaign, Boxer has had a solid lead in polls, but that begin to slip in July, with Fiorina winning a number of polls in August. Having said that, the race is extremely close, and it’s yet to be seen if Fiorina can maintain her position against such a successful figure.


Breaking down the NSW adoption vote

Australia’s political parties tend to have very strong internal discipline, with Members of Parliament exercising a ‘conscience vote’ very rarely. We saw an example of this last Thursday when the NSW Legislative Assembly considered Clover Moore’s bill to legalise adoption for same-sex couples.

The vote split 46 to 44, passing with the narrowest of margins. The bill will progress to the Legislative Council this week, where it is expected to pass.

The current make-up of the NSW Legislative Assembly includes 50 Labor MPs, 24 Liberals, 13 Nationals and six independents. Despite the numbers being similar, the vote did not break down at all along party lines, with many Labor MPs voting no and many Liberal MPs voting yes.

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USA 2010: Nevada Senate

Nevada is a swing state, going with the party winning each presidential election since 1980. Nevada is also a rapidly growing state, having gained a second House of Representatives seat after the 1980 census, and a third after the 2000 census. Nevada is expected to gain a fourth seat after this year’s census. This year’s seat is held by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D).

Both Senate seats were held by Democrats throughout the 1960s, until one of the two seats was won by Republican Paul Laxalt in 1974, who defeated Lieutenant Governor Harry Reid.

The other Senate seat was won by Republican candidate Chic Hecht in 1982, defeating Senator Howard Cannon in an upset result.

Laxalt retired from his seat at the 1986 election, and the seat was won by Democrat Harry Reid, who had held a seat in the House of Representatives since 1982. Two years later, Senator Hecht lost his seat to Governor Richard Bryan (D).

Reid won re-election in 1992, 1998 and 2004, and Bryan won re-election in 1994, before retiring in 2000. At the 2000 election, Bryan’s seat was lost to John Ensign (R), who had challenged Reid in 1998, losing by 428 votes. Ensign was re-elected in 2006.

Reid easily won the Democratic primary, winning 75% of the vote. His closest rival was the “none of the above” option, which polled 10%. Nevada is unique in giving voters the opportunity to formally cast a vote for no candidate.

The Republican primary was hotly contested, and was won by Nevada Assembly member Sharron Angle, who polled 40%, with two other candidates polling over 20%. Angle only took the lead in primary polling in the week before the June vote.

Angle is a far-right candidate, having advocated the abolition of the US Department of Education and Social Security and US withdrawal from the United Nations. She is also a climate sceptic.

Angle led Reid in most polls up until mid-July, but Reid has won most polls since that point, although they have never been by much, suggesting a very tight contest.

Nevada has a history of tight Senate contests. Reid himself has had two, losing to Paul Laxalt in 1974 by less than 600 votes, and defeating John Ensign in 1998 by 428 votes. In 1964, sitting Democrat Howard Cannon defeated Laxalt by 48 votes in a year which saw a landslide victory for Democratic President Lyndon Johnson.


USA 2010: Ohio Senate

Ohio is a typical swing state, having gone to the winning presidential candidate at every election since 1964. Ohio’s two Senate seats are currently split between the two parties.

Both Ohio seats were held by the Democrats from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. In 1994, Mike DeWine (R) won one of Ohio’s Senate seats off the Democrats upon the retirement of Howard Metzenbaum.

Former astronaut John Glenn retired in 1998 from the seat up for election this year, and Ohio Governor George Voinovich (R) won the seat. In 2000, DeWine won re-election, as did Voinovich in 2004.

In 2006, DeWine lost his Senate seat to US Representative Sherrod Brown (D).

This year, George Voinovich is retiring from his Senate seat. The Republican primary was won unopposed by Rob Portman. Portman served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1993 until 2005. Portman served as US Trade Representative from 2005 to 2006, then served as Director of President Bush’s Office of Management and Budget until 2007.

In the Democratic primary, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, with 55% of the vote.

Portman is in a slight leading position in recent polls, although as recently as June, Fisher was holding a slight lead. Portman also has a massive advantage in terms of cash in hand, and would have to be assumed to be in the lead, although most analysts see the state as a toss-up.

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USA 2010: Colorado Senate

Colorado has recently acted as a swing state at all levels, moving back and forth between the Democrats and Republicans. Most recently, the Democrats won both Senate seats off the Republicans at the 2004 and 2008 elections

This year’s seat was won by Ken Salazar (D) in 2004. Salazar was state Attorney-General. The seat had previously been won by Republicans only once since it was won by Gary Hart in 1974, which was in 1998. The seat was held from 1993 to 2005 by Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who was elected in 1992 as a Democrat, but switched parties in 1995, and was re-elected as a Republican in 1998 before retiring in 2004.

The other Colorado Senate seat is held by Mark Udall (D), who won the seat in 2008. The seat had previously been won for five terms in a row by Republicans, with the last Republican senator, Wayne Allard, retiring in 2008.

Salazar resigned as Senator in January 2009 upon his appointment as President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior. Colorado’s Democratic Governor nominated Michael Bennet, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, to take over the seat.

Bennet won the Democratic primary over Andrew Romanoff, former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, with 54.2% in a two-candidate race.

The Republican primary in August was won by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, defeating former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton 51.6% to 48.4%. Buck had been a relatively unknown underdog in his first run for statewide office. He ran to the right of Norton with the support of much of the Tea Party movement, gaining momentum and defeating his prominent opponent. Buck’s far-right positions have provoked attacks from the Bennet campaign.

Buck has gained on Bennet in recent polls, and is now slightly ahead in most recent polls, although Bennet has disputed this lead, releasing internal polls showing him with a slight lead.