“I would like to serve on the Financial Services Agriculture, Homeland Security or Veterans Affairs Committee. That’s what I’m working on now.”
So said businessman, Republican U.S. House nominee and almost-Rep.-elect Randy Altschuler last week, as he arrived in Washington to participate in the orientation for more than 80 new House Republicans elected November 2.
Although the results from New York’s 1st District (Suffolk County) are still incomplete, Altschuler and his team told me they are confident their lead of 383 votes out of just under 200,000 cast will hold.
Although five other House contests remain undecided and are going through the process of tallying absentee ballots and face possible recounts, the candidate who was ahead on the morning after the election has remained in the lead. The race between Altschuler and four-term Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop is the only unresolved House race in which the roles of top vote-getter and runner-up have switched.
“We were down by about 3,400 votes the morning of November 3,” recalled Altschuler campaign spokesman Rob Ryan, “But there was also human error—and these were no machines being used for the first time in general election. The errors were found when the memory chips in the voting machines were downloaded on the Friday following the election. So about 4,000 votes were misreported and that gave us the lead we now hold.”
According to Ryan, there are more than 10,100 absentee ballots that remain to be counted. Most of them were requested, he noted, by registered Republicans and members of the New York Conservative Party, whose ballot line GOPer Altschuler also ran on. In addition, 1,000 provisional ballots (those subject to question whether to be counted) and several thousand military ballots have yet to be tallied. Under Empire State election law, all ballots mailed in must be postmarked no later than November 1 and be at the Board of Elections by November 24.The final results are expected to be announced in early December.
How Could Brady Blow It?
Discussing with me the narrow, 8,000-vote victory of Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn over conservative Republican State Sen. Bill Brady, a fellow GOP office-holder from a neighboring state who knew Brady from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council exclaimed: “With [disgraced former Democratic Gov. Rod] Blagojevich on TV every day with his corruption trial and Quinn raising taxes, my friend Bill Brady must have had to work pretty hard to lose this race.”
Indeed, national pundits had long expected that Brady would easily roll into the governorship on a “reform” tide and that his coattails could help the U.S. Senate nominee, moderate GOP Rep. Mark Kirk, in his nip-and-tuck contest for the seat once held by Barack Obama. As it turned out, Brady lost and Kirk won a narrow margin over the Democratic hopeful, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
Why did Brady lose? Prairie State Republicans I spoke to in days after the election agreed that the gubernatorial candidate who many conservatives thought of as a “young, Catholic Ronald Reagan” ran a dismal race with no strong issue stands. In addition, political consultants I spoke to almost universally said that the abysmal shape of the state Republican organization meant a very poor “ground game” on Brady’s behalf, in contrast to the strong get-out-the-vote effort Democrats always manage to conduct in Cook County (Chicago).
“Yes, he should have won,” said one veteran GOP operative who requested anonymity. “It was in part hubris, believing [the Brady campaign] could play not to lose, spew pabulum and walk into the governor’s office simply by not being Pat Quinn.”
As a result of a weak campaign in which the nominee failed to spell out what he would do as governor, the same Republican told me, “Quinn starting asking six weeks out of the election through commercials, ‘Who is this guy?’ This is a question Brady should have answered months ago, after he won the primary [by fewer than 300 votes over moderate fellow State Sen. Kirk Dillard]. At the end of the day, Brady’s poor campaign couldn’t run out the clock.” Meanwhile Quinn had created so much doubt in these precarious times when people don’t want further uncertainty to push enough suburban voters to go with the devil they knew. It was an incredible missed opportunity.
No Troops on the Ground
Doug Ibendahl, former general counsel to the Republican Party of Illinois, agreed. Noting that Brady received only 5.2% of the vote against Dillard and five other opponents in the primary, Ibendahl said that “much of Brady’s campaign South of I-80 revolved around bashing all things Chicagoland. Ginning up that kind of geographic division and resentment isn’t leadership, first of all. But more importantly, if you’re going to bad-mouth the bull that has the single largest concentration of voters by far—don’t cry about it when you get the horns.”
Ibendahl and others repeatedly made the point that, if Brady supporters are going to blame Cook County for giving 71% of its votes to Quinn as the chief reason for Brady’s defeat, they should also “look in the mirror” and note that the state Republican Party failed to fill 51% of the precincts statewide with Republican precinct committeemen—“a crucial office if you’re serious about turning out votes in November,” Ibendahl said.
This lack of grass-roots organization and a ground game spread to other races in Illinois. While the GOP was taking over state legislatures in Indiana and Minnesota and picking up 20 state house seats in Wisconsin, Republicans gained only two state senate seats and six state house seats in Illinois—which, as one GOP wag put it, “we could have won by falling out of bed Tuesday morning.”
His conservative record in Springfield on cultural and spending issues notwithstanding, Brady even left some on the right with a question about his being the lone conservative in the state senate to oppose S.B. 600, GOP Sen. Chris Lauzen’s bill to permit popular election of the party’s state committee instead of having the local Republican committees appoint the party’s ruling panel. In contrast, Jason Plummer, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor and also a strong conservative, strongly backed the rules change.
In all likelihood, the fallout from the unexpected loss by Bill Brady is likely to affect Republican activists throughout Illinois—something that is probably causing some worry for State Party Chairman Pat Brady (no relation) and Republican leaders Tom Cross (House) and Christine Radogno (Senate).
Watch Jerry’s Judges
That was the message of a book written in 2010 by veteran California conservatives Lou Barnett, John Feliz, and Dave Scholl. Now, Jerry Brown’s Destruction of the California Judiciary, is even more compelling reading than during the election year, as the former two-term governor (1974-82) has returned to his old job in Sacramento and will soon be able to put more left-of-center candidates on the state supreme court and throughout the Golden State judiciary.
Drawing on their experience in Brown’s first incarnation as governor, Barnett, Feliz, and Scholl vividly bring back to life Brown’s appointment of his onetime campaign chauffeur and cabinet member Rose Bird as chief justice of California. During ten years as the state’s top jurist, Bird voted to overturn every single death penalty decision appealed to her court and she her politically simpatico justices ruled against the state’s “use a gun, go to jail” law which made prison mandatory for any crime in which a gun was used.
Bird and two of her fellow jurists were finally recalled in a nationally watched campaign. But as California GOP State Sen. Tony Strickland notes in the book’s introduction: “The legacy of Jerry Brown’s judicial appointments to this day remains a challenge to the defense of life, liberty and property for Californians.” Hence, the strong case for reading Jerry Brown’s Destruction of the California Judiciary and how the past may be prologue.
(For copies of this book at $9.95 each, e-mail Lou Barnett at LouisWBarnett@yahoo.com. )