A Nuclear-Free Florida Vote

Marie Rich now serves on the Mount Dora City Council, after her name was drawn. Even better: nobody got nuked.

Try this for a 2014 surprise: Florida, the state which gave American hanging chads and a nation paralyzed by a sketchy statewide vote back at the beginning of this century, has found a peaceful way to settle elections.

Unable to determine the winner of seat on the Mount Dora city council, the town’s mayor this week drew the winning name from a hat — on the front porch of city hall, for all the world to see.

How’s that for open government?

The winner: political novice Marie Rich, who bested incumbent Nick Girone.

Nothing comes easy in Sunshine State politics. The two candidates drew 2,349 votes apiece. There were two recounts, then more awaiting as city officials bet on maybe a few military ballots trickling in from overseas to swing the contest.

Unable to break the tie, a judge greenlighted the mayor’s to hold a drawing, which is permissible under Florida state law.

One reason perhaps why Mount Dora is so civil in its civic proceedings: it’s seen the future and didn’t like it.

The town (it’s in central Florida, northwest of Orlando) is the basis for the 1959 novel Alas, Babylon, about the effects of a nuclear war on fictional Fort Repose, Florida — i.e., Mount Dora.

Hey, that was 55 years ago. The Cold War’s over.

No need to go nuclear over a city council seat.

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Eye Carly

Carly Fiorina seems likely to become the first (and the only?) woman in the 2016 Republican presidential field.

I have this op-ed in Wednesday’s Sacramento Bee discussing, among other things, talk of Carly Fiorina entering the 2016 Republican presidential field.

If you’re not from California and unfamiliar with her body of work, Fiorina is the former chair of Hewlett-Packard who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in the Golden State in 2010.

Since then, she’s been a presence inside the beltway, working on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and doing cable television gigs. And now, apparently, setting her sights on a political job a couple of rungs higher than the Senate.

(If you’re looking for a historic parallel: Fiorina would be looking to win the presidency six years after losing a statewide contest; Richard Nixon lost California’s gubernatorial race in 1962, but was elected president in 1968).

Three things that stand out re. a Fiorina 2106 run:

1) In a GOP race absent Mitt Romney, she’s the only contender to date whose career is defined by private-sector experience (well, other than Dr. Ben Carson, who polls better than you might think).

2) And, of course, gender. There’s not a woman in the Republican field at present. To the extent any names come up (Susana Martinez, Condi Rice, Kelly Ayotte), it’s in conjunction with the vice-presidential slot.

3) Finally, the Biden Precedent. Joe Biden ran for president in 2008 with no realistic expectation of winning the nomination (were you 4biden?). But Biden figured that, if he played nice and got along well with others, there might be a nice cabinet post for the taking (most likely: Secretary of State in a Clinton Administration). Carly Fiorina as a Secretary of Commerce would make sense — especially as a voice for a Silicon Valley that feels under-represented and unappreciated in Washington.

It’s only four weeks since Election Day and already 2016 is shaping up. Fiorina seems in. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has declined. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush remains a favorite game. At least one poll shows Hillary Clinton having trouble in a matchup against Romney — but less so against Bush,  New Jersey Sen. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Romney and Clinton are the name-recognition frontrunners at this point in the contest).

Oh, and one other name to note: Newt Gingrich, who just yesterday told Wolf Blitzer: “I haven’t totally closed the door, but I’m certainly not opening it.”

Well, that settles matters . . .

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Hillary On The Mount?

There are no Democrats on the real Mt. Rushmore — would an all-Democratic version include either of the Clintons?

Work takes me today to New York City, where a politics-related topic is the health of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo, age 82 and father of current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has been hospitalized with a heart condition, reportedly spending the Thanksgiving holiday with family at his bedside.

No discussion about the elder Cuomo is complete without his fabled flirtation with the presidency two decades ago.

Having shined on the national stage as the keynote speaker at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Cuomo took a pass on running in 1988.

By 1992, Cuomo, had taken the concept of moral agonistes to a new level. He mulled over a presidential run to great length, earning the nickname “Hamlet on the Hudson”. At one point, New York’s governor had a plane on standby at Albany’s airport, ready to whisk him to New Hampshire in time to file for the first-in-the-nation primary.

But Cuomo blinked and you know the rest of the story: Bill Clinton earned his party’s nomination; two years later, Cuomo was swept out of office in 1994’s Republican landslide.

But what if Cuomo got on that plane, went to New Hampshire, earned the Democratic nomination, and then went on to defeat George H.W. Bush and become America’s 42nd President?

Might he have passed health care reform, which eluded Clinton in his first term?

Assuming Cuomo had been elected to a second term, might he have spent his time in the White House as the most successful big-government advocate since Lyndon Johnson, if not Franklin Roosevelt?

If so, Cuomo would be on the Democratic Mount Rushmore, alongside FDR, Andrew Jackson and the trinity of the three Kennedy brothers.

The question, then, is who gets that fourth spot on the Democrats’ mountainside?

Barack Obama? Hard to see it, with his presidency failing to live up to the hype.

It’s not Bill Clinton, whose rise to power (“a new kind of Democrat”) was about moderating his party’s liberal impulses on taxes, trade and welfare reform.

At the moment, it wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton, either. And that’s a problem as she gears up for a run in 2016.

Mrs. Clinton was outmaneuvered by Barack Obama in 2008 when he rallied liberal activists to his cause — the same activists who seem hungry for the likes of Elizabeth Warren.

Meanwhile, Democratic pollster and ex-Clinton advisor Doug Shoen suggests that the problem with his old boss is she lacks “a new car smell”.

Here’s another way to look at the Hillary conundrum.

The winning Obama coalition is a stool consisting of the following legs: white liberals, single and professional women, millennials, blacks and Hispanics.

Give Mrs. Clinton the women’s vote (men, on the other hand, may prove problematic). But how many of those other blocs are guaranteed — at least, in the same numbers that Obama twice produced?

Such is the difference between being a modern Democratic icon, as is Mrs. Clinton, versus a historical giant who evoked passion.

The Kennedys had it. So did FDR.

But not the Clintons.

Which is why a second Clinton presidency is hardly etched in stone.

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AZ’s CD2: Let Us Recount The Ways

Former combat pilot Martha McSally: with a House recount about to begin, is she finally due for a landing?

To the extent that there’s a light at then end of the tunnel in the still-unresolved race in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, it would be the dim fluorescent glow a government office where votes are about to be recounted.

At last report, Republican Martha McSally leads Democrat Rep. Ron Barber by 162 votes out of more than 219,000 cast (a difference of 0.07%). That’s prompted the first-ever congressional recount in Arizona state history.

And that should go into motion at some point today, when Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is expected to certify AZ CD’s election results. Because the margin is less than 0.1%, Bennett will ask a judge to order the recall. Elections officials in Cochise and Pima Counties will then recount all the ballots.

Now, if only it were as simple as re-tallying the votes . . .

Barber’s campaign challenged election officials’ rejection of 133 ballots in two of the district’s counties (the claim: voters went to the wrong polling place or had their signatures on ballot envelopes invalidated). On Thanksgiving Day, a Tucson federal judge denied that request.

Which isn’t good news for the Democrat’s re-election chances, as Arizona election history suggests.

According to the Associated Press, the only recent recount in an Arizona statewide general election came in 2010, when voters rejected Proposition 112 (requiring initiative petitions to be filed six months before an election, instead of four). Prop 112 went into the recount trailing by 128 votes. After all 1.585 million ballots were recalculated, just 33 votes changed from yes to no, increasing the margin of loss to 194 votes.

AP also notes that none of the eight Arizona-based recounts in the past 16 years has resulted in a change of the magnitude that Barber needs. Only one of the recounts led to a change in the winner — a race that was all of a 17-vote swing (from 4-vote lead to a 13-vote loss).

As for McSally, she’s already moving on — and moving east.

Last month, before the judge’s ruling, she took part in the New Member Orientation program, organized by the Committee on House Administration, for a briefing on ethics, hiring and life inside the beltway (that, and an introduction to some senior members looking for their help in committee and leadership votes).

Afterwards, McSally attended the traditional freshman class photo on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol.

Not that she’s completely settling in: because of the recount, she didn’t participate in a lottery for Capitol Hill office space. Instead, she’ll simply take over Barber’s space in the Longworth Office Building if — we mean: when — the race is put to the bed.

In all, making this the longest that McSally, the first female Air Force fighter pilot to see combat (flying with the 354th Fighter Squadron in Afghanistan), has been stuck in a ground-controlled approach.

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In Louisiana, One Last Hail Mary

Rep. Bill Cassidy and Sen. Mary Landrieu debate one last time tonight. Louisiana voters will settle matters on Saturday.

In case you forgot, there’s still a Senate race to determine in Louisiana — a runoff that’ll occur next Saturday.

On paper, this shouldn’t be close. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu trails by 15.7%, according to the Real Clear Politics average. But take that with caution: it is a runoff, so the turnout will be screwy. And the latest polling came a week before Thanksgiving, with Rasmussen handicapping the race at 56%-41% in favor of Cassidy and declaring the Republican challenger “comfortably on his way to joining the new GOP Senate majority”.

As for that majority: if Cassidy prevails, it will be 54 Republicans, with 44 Democrats and 2 independents who caucus with the Dems.

What to expect in the last week of this seemingly eternal/infernal contest?

Earlier this month, Landrieu staked her chances on the Senate saying yes to a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline — a big deal in oil & gas Louisiana. But the so-called “Hail Mary” turned into a “Fail Mary” when Landrieu’s fellow Democrats kept the bill from getting the 60 votes needed to end debate and pass the matter out of the chamber.

That leaves the senator with one last “Hail Mary” — an allegation that Cassidy’s hiding something from voters in the form of fees he billed to LSU while serving as a House member.

Last week, local Louisiana bloggers released nearly a year-and-a-half’s worth of internal emails and school records questioning whether Cassidy (a) remained on payroll as a congressman while not contributing at the school, (b) wrongly logged hours at LSU while in D.C., and (c) leveraged his political clout to maintain tenure when he didn’t meet the minimum requirements. In all, about $20,000 in questionable billing.

How will this play out in the election’s final act? We’ll find out, in part, tonight when the two candidates get together for one last debate (it’ll be televised at 8 p.m. EST on C-SPAN2).

Meanwhile, here’s Times-Picayune columnist James Varney’s take:

“This one isn’t about the money, really, as the total sum is around $20,000. Like Landrieu billing taxpayers for campaign flights she should have covered, an embarrassment that hit her campaign months ago, the allegations’ power isn’t so much legal as ethical: It doesn’t look right.

It would also be a lot worse if Cassidy had, over the years, gotten these relatively small amounts to cover his tennis club membership dues, or as a cushy way to funnel money to a relative, or any of the other classical political graft moves. The fact he actually is a doctor who has done considerable work with the poor and uninsured cushions the blow.”

Varney adds:

“The allegations are real; something doesn’t pass the smell test with Cassidy’s arrangement with LSU.

Yet the charges amount to decidedly small beer. Landrieu isn’t in desperate straits as she seeks a fourth term because of a handful of erroneously billed flights. Cassidy doesn’t appear likely to miss his first term because of a handful of erroneous time sheets.

That actually reflects well on the voters as it suggests they discount petty scandal regardless of its timing.”

Speaking of the electorate, here’s one final bit of bad news for Landrieu: Republicans apparently turned out in strong numbers in early voting for the runoff.

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Goodbye Columbus . . . Or Philly, Or Brooklyn?

W.C. Fields at the helm; where will Democrats dock their ship in 2016 — Philly, Brooklyn, or Ohio?

Overall, maybe they rather would be in Philadelphia . . . or Brooklyn, or even Columbus, Ohio.

Those three cities reportedly are on the short list for host site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

W.C. Fields jokes aside (the late comedian also supposedly said: “I once spent a year in Philadelphia; I think it was on a Sunday”) what do the cities say about the Democratic existence in the next election?

Brooklyn (the Barclay Center, home of the NBA’s Nets and a home-away-from-home for Beyonce and Jay Z) has three things going for it: an enormous fundraising base to underwrite the effort; proximity to Chappaqua (about 40 miles as the crow flies) if the nominee ends up being a certain New York resident; and a sentimental bookend as Bill Clinton accepted the party’s nomination in 1992 in Madison Square Garden (odds of a Fleetwood Mac reunion at DNC 2016?).

Philly offers geography (an easy train ride from either NYC or DC) and a lot of historical overtones if the Democrats want to party like it’s 1776 — plus, ironically, a good example in the form of the 2000 Republican National Convention.

As for Columbus, need we state the obvious? With the Republicans already set to gather in Cleveland, Democrats could counter with a Buckeye move of their own — and a chance to sell the party as something other than a coastal entity (Columbus being the fastest growing city in the Midwest).

Final note: for all the hoopla over the importance of convention locals, consider the recent track record:

2012: Democrats in Charlotte, Republicans in Florida; Democrats lose North Carolina, Republicans lose Florida.

2008: Democrats in Denver, Republicans in Minneapolis; Democrats win Colorado, Republicans lose Minnesota.

2004: Democrats in Boston, Republicans in New York City; Democrats win Massachusetts, Republicans lose New York.

2000: Democrats in Los Angeles, Republicans in Philadelphia; Democrats carry California; Republicans lose Pennsylvania.

1996: Democrats in Chicago, Republicans in San Diego; Democrats win Illinois, Republicans lose California.

1992: Democrats in New York City, Republicans in Houston. Democrats win New York, Republicans win Texas.

So if a city is selling a party on the importance on geography, it would seem a sucker bet.

Then again, never give a sucker an even break.

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California Republican Evolution, The Next Step

GOP Assemblywoman-elect Catherine Baker: the next step in the California GOP’s evolution?

All of California’s congressional races are now settled, and the outcomes are a little unsettling for a Golden State GOP that though it might walk away with some gains in America’s largest state in this otherwise strong year for Republicans coast to (well, almost the other) coast.

In three districts where where Republicans had high hopes of knocking off vulnerable Democratic incumbents, the GOP challenger got inside the 5-yard-line but couldn’t gross the goal line.

That would include:

CA CD7: Democrat Ami Bera defeating Republican Doug Ose by 1,400 votes out of over 183,000 votes.

CA CD 26: Democrat Julia Brownley defeating Republican Jeff Gorell by less than 3,300 votes out of nearly 163,000 votes case.

CA CD 52: Democrat Scott Peters defeating Republican Carl DeMaio by 6,000 votes out of over 191,500 votes cast.

And there’s CA CD 16 — the cliffhanger no one saw coming — where Republican Johnny Tacherra came within 1,300 votes (out of over 91,000 votes cast) of unseating Democratic Rep. Jim Costa.

The moral of the story?

Republicans can argue tactics — one argument being that more resources should have been shifted Gorell’s way, given that as a young Assemblyman he has more of a long-term investment than Ose, a former congressman from back in the late 1990s.

But I think the bigger story here is evolution — and the California GOP slowing moving to an upright position.

In 2014, Republicans won races in legislative districts where they enjoyed numerical or ideological advances.

But the party did take a step forward in at least one race that in the past few elections might have amounted to wishful thinking. And that would be California’s 16th Assembly District, where Republican Catherine Baker won by nearly 4,200 votes (out of nearly 135,000 votes cast) in a suburban Bay Area district that used to lean Republican but Democrats now enjoy an 8-percent edge in voter registration.

What Baker’s race showed: given a lower turnout that works to the GOP’s advantage and a candidate well tailored to fit the district’s style and concerns — a Republican can win, even in a sea of blue.

But that’s in a race where only 135,000 locals turned out to vote.

While one of the aforementioned congressional races had a smaller electorate, the other three races had pools of voters 20%-35%-42% larger than the 16th Assembly District.

So the next step in the California GOP’s evolution?

Yes, winning in larger, but competitive congressional districts.

But proving that 2014’s successes weren’t a fluke.

And that begins with defending Baker’s seat in 2016 — no easy feat, given that California Democrats already are mulling how to win back her Assembly district.

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