- FL Redistricting: In an epic descent into acrimony and recrimination, the Florida legislature concluded its special session on redistricting without producing a new congressional map, as ordered by the state Supreme Court. Even though—or perhaps because—Republicans control both chambers, the state House and Senate absolutely loathe one another: Earlier this year, the state government nearly shut down after the House refused to sign off on a Senate budget that would have expanded Medicaid. (Ultimately, the House prevailed, tanking the expansion.) With that history, it’s not so surprising that Republicans could reach no agreement on revising Florida’s congressional lines, which the court ruled were unconstitutional last month. But what makes this so amazing is that the differences between the two chambers’ proposals were really minimal. No one seemed to care that they were fighting over nothing, though, and the whole capitol collapsed into chaos: The Senate demanded the House pass its map; the House declined and called for a joint conference; angry senators proceeded to stalk out of that meeting; and then, finally, the House refused to extend the session past Friday’s noon deadline, which the Senate had voted in favor of earlier in the morning, thus sending everyone home. Insanity. It’s particularly nuts because now the court will almost certainly have to draw a new map itself. That’s all well and good for Democrats, but Republicans have been seething about what they (wrongly, comically) view as improper judicial interference in the redistricting process. Yet instead of retaining a measure of control over that process for themselves, they’ve decided to fully cede it back to seven judges who make up the state Supreme Court. It’s so crazy and so stupid that you have to wonder if there’s something else at play here, and the answer is “probably.” Matthew Isbell, one of the foremost experts on Florida cartography, points out that the legislature is due to reconvene for another special session in October, when it will redo the state Senate map (which faces similar constitutional infirmities). The House, says Isbell, is likely trying to assert its dominance ahead of that session, because the stakes will be much higher: Given Florida’s term limits, members of the lower chamber will want to maximize their opportunities to advance to the upper chamber. Those desires, though, will likely come into conflict with what senators want for themselves, and since any new map will have an immediate impact on them, they might be willing to demonstrate some more flexibility now that they know the House is willing to shoot the hostage. Or maybe not! Things are so poisonous in Tallahassee now that the Senate could very well strap some dynamite to its chest and light the fuse anyway. Whatever happens, Democrats have to be quite pleased. Their congressional gains won’t be huge—based on what the Supreme Court has said, we might be talking about a net change of one seat in the Democrats’ favor—but it’ll be better than the current state of affairs. And watching the GOP immolate itself in spectacular fashion for no good reason? Now that is a pearl beyond price.
- KY-Sen: On Saturday, the Kentucky GOP voted to switch from a May presidential primary to a March caucus in order to accommodate Sen. Rand Paul. Paul has insisted on running for president and for re-election at the same time, but Kentucky law forbids a candidate from appearing on the same ballot for two different offices. Now, Paul will be able to run for president in March and for renomination in May, when the Bluegrass State will hold primaries for its federal and state offices. The one catch is that Paul is required to transfer $250,000 to the state GOP by Sept. 18 to pay for the caucus, but this shouldn’t be much of a hurdle. If Paul somehow does emerge with his party’s presidential nomination the GOP may have a hard time replacing him on the Senate ballot, but right now it looks like his presidential campaign is going nowhere.
- Primaries: So far it’s just talk, but in an internal memo obtained by the AP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests it might get involved in a number of Democratic primaries next year, with the idea of helping to nominate weaker candidates or damaging nominees no matter who they are. The memo, which discusses four Senate and five House battlegrounds, specifically cites Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s highly successful effort to ratfuck the 2012 Missouri GOP primary to her advantage. Fortunately for Democrats, Republicans don’t have many targets that fit the Todd Akin mold. The only race where it seems like there’s a realistic chance of a less electable option winning a primary is Florida’s Senate contest, where the incendiary Alan Grayson is trying to thwart fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy, the establishment choice. All of the other races involve situations where one candidate is an overwhelming favorite for the nomination (like IL-Sen or OH-Sen), or where there’s little reason to think there’s much difference between the alternatives in a general election (like PA-Sen and basically all the House elections). That’s not say the Chamber or its allies couldn’t cause plenty of trouble. It absolutely could, and in fact, the Club for Growth has already run a quarter-million dollar TV ad buy trying to tarnish Murphy with Democratic voters while boosting Grayson. But let’s see if the Chamber actually follows suit, or if it’s just yapping.
- LA-Gov: Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has yet to launch any significant ad buys, but his allied super PAC Now or Never is up with their first spot. The group didn’t give out a specific size of the buy, only saying that it’s “well into the six figures” and running for “500 gross rating points.” (The group had a little less than $100,000 in the bank in mid-July.) The commercial isn’t online yet, but the Times-Picayune says it emphasizes Dardenne’s record as lieutenant governor while praising him for the tourism industry’s growth.
- CA-44: Democratic state Sen. Isadore Hall has consolidated support from nearly every quarter in his bid to succeed retiring Rep. Janice Hahn—including from Hahn herself, who is running for a spot on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. But one fellow Democrat, Hermosa Beach City Council Member Nanette Barragan, just earned the endorsement of EMILY’s List, so she might have some staying power. Barragan hasn’t raised much money so far (she took in $165,000 in the second quarter of this year), but then again, neither has Hall (who brought in $221,000). But Barragan also faces some issues, like the fact that Hermosa Beach isn’t actually in California’s 44th District, and that she has to resign her seat—which she only began serving in 2013—to move back into the district, where she’s originally from. Hall camp has taken a few shots at her over this stuff, though it may not be the kind of thing voters wind up caring about. Since the 44th is overwhelmingly blue, two Democrats are all but certain to advance from June’s top-two primary to the November general election, so there’s a good chance that Hall and Barragan face off twice next year.
- IN-04, AG: GOP Rep. Todd Rokita spent months mulling a Senate bid before declining to go for it, but he may have another statewide office in his sights. In the Aug. 21 edition of his newsletter, Brian Howey tells us that his sources are saying that Rokita is considering a bid for attorney general next year. The incumbent, Greg Zoeller, is giving up his post to run for IN-09. It’s rare to see entrenched House members run for a statewide office that isn’t governor or U.S. senator, especially when they’re in the majority. It might be that Rokita just really hates the House and wants to leave: Maybe Louie Gohmert stole his lunch money one time too many? If Rokita bails, the GOP won’t have any problem defending his central Indiana seat. Romney won 61-37 here, and even Richard Mourdock carried the 4th 49-44 during his disastrous 2012 Senate campaign.
- IN-09: Former congressional aide Jim Pfaff is the latest candidate to open up a campaign account with the FEC without making a formal announcement. Pfaff has a long career in conservative politics but while he got his start with the Indiana GOP, he hasn’t been active there in a while. Pfaff used to work as a talk radio host in the Denver area before signing on as Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s chief of staff in 2010, and he was named the chair of the Douglas County, Colorado Republican Party at the beginning of this year. Pfaff joins state Sens. Erin Houchin and Brent Waltz and state Attorney General Greg Zoeller in the GOP primary for this red southern Indiana seat. (Hat-tip Politics1.)
- PA-02: Perhaps indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah got a bit lucky, since the judge overseeing his corruption case just set his trial for a week after April’s Democratic primary. But that’s just likely to make the charges against him loom ever larger, and his rivals won’t hesitate to blast him.
- WA Senate, House: There’s a key retirement in Washington’s state Senate, where the GOP coalition holds a 26 to 23 majority (nominal Democrat Tim Sheldon caucuses with the GOP). First-term Republican state Sen. Bruce Dammeier, from the 25th District in Tacoma’s suburbs, will forgo re-election in 2016 in order to run for Pierce County executive. That opens up this 51-47 Obama district, which could tip the balance back to the Democrats. However, the bench is a little depleted here; both of the House members in the 25th are also Republicans. Even if the Dems did pick up the 25th next year, they’d still need to flip one more seat to have a Sheldon-proof majority, though, and unfortunately most of the swingy seats are elected in midterm years instead. The 41st, currently held by the GOP’s Steve Litzow, is probably the other opportunity here, but Litzow survived 2012 without much trouble. And what the state Senate could giveth, though, the state House could taketh away. In the 30th District in suburban Federal Way, there’s a special election in November. Democrat Carol Gregory was appointed to fill the seat after the 2014 election, which Democrat Roger Freeman won despite having died shortly before the election. Because the appointment was early in the year, though, she faces a special election this year. While this is a 59 percent Obama district, the low-turnout, off-year dynamics seem to be hampering Gregory: She wound up finishing in second place in August’s top-two primary to Republican challenger Teri Hickel, 51-49. (Bear in mind this is the same district where Democrat-turned-Republican Mark Miloscia was elected to the Senate in 2014, and the other House seat is also held by a Republican, so the 59 percent is sort of misleading.) The Democrats would keep the majority even if they lost this seat, but the edge would be paper-thin; their current majority is only 51 to 47.