‘They’ll Do It Every Time’
That signature title of cartoonist Jimmy Hatlo’s weekly syndicated artwork says it all about my coverage of close elections. A race, usually out in the West (with the three-hour time difference from the East), is reported one way early, only to have late-reported returns either change the outcome or at least put in doubt who won.
This year was no exception. Like other publications, HUMAN EVENTS reported the winner of the open race for California attorney general to be Republican Steve Cooley, three-term district attorney of Los Angeles County. With Democrat Jerry Brown leading the Democratic ticket as the nominee for governor, all the Democratic nominees for statewide offices were winning decisively, except attorney general candidate Kamala Harris, the San Francisco district attorney.
She trailed Cooley, who appeared to be headed for becoming the lone GOPer winner for any of the seven statewide offices (see “Politics,” November 9).
But, now that is in question. As counties were to complete their semi-official returns last weekend, Cooley trailed Harris by 14,838 votes, or two-thirds of a percentage point. But, Cooley headquarters remained confident, as more than a million provisional and absentee ballots were yet to be counted. Sure enough, last Monday, the Republican hopeful pulled ahead of Harris by 22,817 votes.
“The race for attorney general will not be decided for at least another couple of weeks,” Cooley senior consultant Kevin Spillane told reporters late last week, “and potentially could go until the official Certification of Vote deadline on December 3.”
This is not an unprecedented development. In 1990, there were similar unclear results from the first returns in the race for California attorney general. But, Republican Dan Lungren finally emerged on top when the absentee and provisional ballots were finally counted.
When he dropped by to see me three days after the November 2 elections, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder still could not stop talking about what he and other Show-Me State Republicans call “the Missouri Miracle.”
“Our state senate now has 26 Republicans and eight Democrats—three above being veto-proof,” said Kinder, recalling how his fellow Republicans won control of the senate in 2001 following a special election that made then-Sen. Kinder the first GOP senate president in 53 years.
The big gains in the Missouri senate last week also obliterated the Democratic ranks outside major urban centers such as Kansas City and St. Louis. In other words, there are no more “blue dog” Democrats from the country in the state senate anymore—only big-city liberals.
In the state house of representatives, Republicans made a net gain of 17 seats. This raised their majority to 106 seats, or ten more than their previous high number in the house. With the number of Democratic seats down to 57, House GOPers are just three-seats shy of a “veto proof” chamber.
Along with the election of Rep. Roy Blunt to the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Kit Bond, Republicans won the other statewide race on the ballot. Attorney and former diplomat Thomas Schweich won the office of state auditor by unseating Democratic incumbent Susan Montee. That result was historic in that this was the first time a Republican had ousted a Democratic incumbent for a statewide office lower than the governorship since 1968 (when Sen.-to-be John Danforth, then 32, defeated Democratic Atty. Gen. Norman Anderson).
As attorney general from 1970-76, Danforth launched the careers of several young assistant attorneys general: Kit Bond, John Ashcroft (who went on to be governor, senator, and U.S. attorney general), and present Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. All are considered more conservative than their mentor, who compiled a generally moderate record as U.S. senator from 1976-94.
Now Danforth appears to have launched another political career in Schweik, who worked with the former senator’s law firm and with Danforth when he served briefly as UN ambassador. After Danforth resigned, Schweik worked on the staff of his successor, John Bolton.
“And this year, Ambassador Bolton made four appearances in Missouri for Tom Schweik,” said Kinder, “and each time, he drew a large and enthusiastic crowd.”
New England Lore
For all the talk of their “writing off” New England, Republicans did recover some lost turf there last week.
Republican Tom Foley conceded the closest-ever race for governor. Foley was about 5,600 votes shy of Democrat Dan Malloy, former Stamford mayor. But Nutmeg State Republicans did pick up 14 seats in the state house and two in the senate.
Massachusetts GOPers were disappointed that their gubernatorial nominee, Charles Baker, narrowly lost to Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick. Spirited Republican bids for state auditor and for four U.S. House seats were likewise all unsuccessful, but, in a totally unexpected development, Republicans actually doubled their ranks in the 160-member state house of representatives from 16 to 32. The lone Democratic incumbent to lose re-election was Rep. James Fagan of Taunton, who fell after a hard-hitting campaign focused on his vote against “Jessica’s Law” (the bill to increase penalties for sexual predators).
And in New Hampshire, after years in the political wilderness, Republicans led by State Party Chairman (and onetime White House Chief of Staff) John Sununu roared back. Along with electing Republican Kelly Ayotte and putting both of the Granite State’s U.S. House districts in the GOP column, the party won control of both the state house and senate by resounding margins. In fact, there are near veto-proof GOP ranks in the legislature to deal with Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who won a closer-than-anticipated re-election against former state Commissioner of Human Resources John Stephen.
Did I Get A Wrong Number
Two recent errors on my part involved numbers.
In reporting (“Politics,” October 25). about the strong Democratic challenge to conservative Republican State Delegate Ron George in Maryland’s 20th District (Anne Arundel County), I had the breakdown of the Free State’s House of Delegates as 141 to 36. Paul Foer, free-lance writer, radio commentator and political blogger, corrected me, noting the breakdown was 104 to 37 (for a total of 141 lawmakers).
On November 2, despite Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s winning re-election comfortably, Republicans actually picked up four open delegate seats relinquished by Democrats and unseated two Democratic incumbents. That means the new breakdown of the house will be 98 Democrats to 43 Republicans.
And not only did Ron George win re-election, but he came in first in District 30 and outpolled Democratic House Speaker Mike Busch. Running a close third and thus winning a seat was an ardent anti-tax Republican candidate named Herb McMillan. Former Hillary Clinton campaign operative Judd Legum, who had national Democratic assistance in an effort to unseat George, placed last in a field of six candidates and so lost.
In looking back at the contested Republican primary for Congress in Montana against the late Tippy Huntley (see “Politics,” November 1), I said it was held in the Big Sky Country’s 2nd District. Former Secretary of State Bob Brown, a repository of Montana political history in Montana (and one of the GOP candidates in the 1978 primary involving Huntley), informs me that the contest was in the 1st District.
After redistricting in 1991, Montana’s two House districts became a single at-large district and that is currently represented by Republican Dennis Rehberg.