Friday, November 10, 2006

Meet the New Boss II

Here is a quick rundown of the power shift in the Senate when Democrats take charge next year:

Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Saxby Chambliss, Ga. — Tom Harkin, Iowa

Thad Cochran, Miss. — Robert Byrd, W.Va.

Armed Services
John Warner, Va. — Carl Levin, Mich.

Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Richard Shelby, Ala. — Christopher Dodd, Conn.

Judd Gregg, N.H. — Kent Conrad, N.D.

Commerce, Science and Transportation
Ted Stevens, Alaska — Daniel Inouye, Hawaii

Energy and Natural Resources
Pete Domenici, N.M. — Jeff Bingaman, N.M.

James Inhofe, Okla. — Barbara Boxer, Calif.

Charles Grassley, Iowa — Max Baucus, Mont.

Foreign Relations
Richard Lugar, Ind. — Joseph Biden, Del.

Homeland Security
Susan Collins, Maine — Joe Lieberman, Conn.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Mike Enzi, Wyo. — Edward Kennedy, Mass.

Norm Coleman, Minn. — Carl Levin, Mich.

Arlen Specter, Pa. — Patrick Leahy, Vt.

Rules and Administration
Trent Lott, Miss. — Dianne Feinstein, Calif.

Small Business
Olympia Snowe, Maine — John Kerry, Mass.

Veterans Affairs
Larry Craig, Idaho — Daniel Akaka, Hawaii

George Voinovich, Ohio — Tim Johnson, S.D.

Pat Roberts, Kan. — John D. Rockefeller IV, W.Va.

Meet the New Boss...

When Congress comes back after the Christmas break, Democrats will be in the majority for the first time in a dozen years. And that means more than just Nancy Pelosi taking the Speaker’s gavel. It also means there will be new chairmen taking charge of all the committees in the House and Senate.
Here is a quick rundown of the power shift in the House with the current Republican chairman listed first and the potential Democratic chairman listed second. Note the lack of Texans chairing any key committees thanks to Tom DeLay. But then, what does Tom DeLay care? He’s from Virginia.

Bob Goodlatte, Va. — Collin Peterson, Minn.
(Note: Charles Stenholm of Texas would have been in line to chair this key committee before Tom DeLay’s re-redistricting shenanigans)

Jerry Lewis, Calif. — David Obey, Wis.

Armed Services
Duncan Hunter, Calif. — Ike Skelton, Mo.

Jim Nussle, Iowa — John Spratt Jr., S.C.

Education and Work Force
Howard McKeon, Calif. — George Miller, Calif.

Energy and Commerce
Joe Barton, Texas — John Dingell, Mich.

Financial Services
Michael Oxley, Ohio — Barney Frank, Mass.

Government Reform
Thomas Davis, Va. — Henry Waxman, Calif.

Homeland Security
Peter King, N.Y. — Bennie Thompson, Miss.
(Note: Jim Turner of Texas would have been in line to lead this key committee before Tom DeLay’s re-redistricting shenanigans)

International Relations
Henry Hyde, Ill. — Tom Lantos, Calif.

James Sensenbrenner, Wis. — John Conyers Jr., Mich.

Richard Pombo, Calif. — Nick Rahall, W.V.

David Dreier, Calif. — Louise Slaughter, N.Y.
(Note: Martin Frost of Texas would have been in line to lead this key committee before Tom DeLay’s re-redistricting shenanigans)

Sherwood Boehlert, N.Y. — Bart Gordon, Tenn.

Small Business
Donald Manzullo, Ill. — Nydia Velazquez, N.Y.

Transportation and Infrastructure
Don Young, Alaska — James Oberstar, Minn.

Ways and Means
Bill Thomas, Calif. — Charles Rangel, N.Y.

Peter Hoekstra, Mich. — Alcee Hastings, Fla.

First party switcher

Now that Democrats are in control of the House and Senate for the first time in a dozen years we can look forward to a bunch of Republican retirements by members unhappy in with their new minority status. And we can also look forward to some party switching by opportunistic politicians.
The first one has already made the jump: Joe Lieberman: Call me a Democrat. Lieberman is switching from the Connecticut for Lieberman Party to the Democratic Party. Nothing wrong with that.
Lieberman will be the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the Senate next year as long as he stays a Democrat and I don’t think there is any question about that. He told his constituents he was going to serve as an independent-minded Democrat. If he had announced that he would go to Washington and caucus with the Republicans he probably would not have won his election.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Winners and Losers

The midterm elections gave us some pretty clear winners and losers.

Here are the folks whose political power and ambitions got a boost on Tuesday:

Hillary Clinton - The front-runner for 2008 was re-elected in a landslide.
Barak Obama - Has seen his status go way up after campaigning on behalf of lots of winning candidates.
Nancy Pelosi - Speaker Pelosi
Harry Reid - Majority Leader
Edward Kennedy - Chairman Kennedy
Charlie Rangel - Ways and Means Chairman
Barnie Franks - Financial Services Chairman
Henry Waxman - Government Reform Chairman
John Conyers - Judiciary Chairman
Eliot Spitzer - Blowout win for Gov. of New York; Setting his sights on 2112.
Charles Schumer - Led the Democrats to regain the Senate
Rahm Emanuel - Led the Democrats to regain the House
Steny Hoyer - Majority Leader
John Murtha - Majority Whip
Joe Lieberman - Back from the dead
Bernie Sanders - The world’s most powerful Socialist.
Sherrod Brown and, of course, all other the new Democratic Senators and Representatives.

The losers were pretty easy to pick out as well:

George W. Bush - Lame Duck with 34 percent approval rating.
Donald Rumsfeld - Out on his rear and soon to be subpoened.
Karl Rove - Not the genius everyone thought he was.
Dennis Hastert - Guess he doesn’t have to resign now. The voters did it for him.
Bill Frist - So much for his presidential aspirations.
George Allen - Ditto
Rick Santorum - Double ditto.
Conrad Burns - Scandal-tarred loser.
Mike DeWine - Loser.
Jim Talent - KO’ed by Michael J. Fox.
Lincoln Chafee - Missed his chance to switch parties. Bye bye.
And all the other Republican losers on election day.

But there were a few Republicans whose political fortunes actually improved on Tuesday:

John McCain - So many Repubicans’ presidential aspirations were wiped out (George Allen, Bill Frist) that it practically left McCain as the only viable GOP contender for 2008.
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Bounced back from a disasterous year by moving left.
Charlie Crist - The new governor of Florida ran the other way when Bush came to campaign for him and managed to weather the Democratic onslaught.
Trent Lott - Now has a clear shot at regaining the leadership job he lost when he praised Strom Thurmond’s segregationist ways a couple of years ago.
John Boehner - He finally got Denny Hastert out of the way and has a clear shot at being the next Minority Leader.
Christopher Shays - Is guaranteed to be the leader of the Republican’s New England caucus in the House.

Too close to call

They’ve got an extremely close election in the 2nd Congressional District of Connecticut - again.
Democrat Joe Courtney is currently leading incumbent Republican Rob Simmons by a razor-thin 170 votes. But if you think that is close, it doesn’t compare to the 1994 race when Democrat Sam Gejdenson just squeaked by Republican Ed Munster with 21 votes - the smallest margin of difference ever recorded in a House race.
That was the rematch race between Gejdenson and Munster. I was there for the first go around in 1992 when Gejdenson bested Munster by a more comfortable 3,700-vote margin. I was a reporter for the Old Saybrook Pictorial Gazette at the time, part of the Shoreline Times chain of weekly papers, and I was covering the 2nd District race along with all the other elections that year (that was also the year I got to hear candidate Bill Clinton give a talk to the Middletown Chamber of Commerce that blew everyone away).
Gejdenson wasn’t supposed to have such a hard time but the district was starting to trend Republican that year and if he had had a more charismatic challenger he might have lost that year. But poor Ed Munster had a couple of things going against him that were beyond his control. First was his name that just reminded everyone of Fred “Herman Munster” Gwynne from the 1960s television show The Munsters. But if Munster had at least looked like Fred Gwynne he might have had a chance. Instead, he was a dead ringer for Michael Dukakis, someone who was not too popular in Republican circles and a fact which brought snickers from most Democrats.
Gejdenson managed to hang onto the seat until 2000 when he finally lost to Simmons. Now it appears that the evenly divided district is about to lean back the other way.
Assuming that Courtney hangs on and ousts Simmons, it will leave Christopher Shays as the sole Republican House member from all of New England (Conn., Mass., R.I., N.H., Vt., Maine).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ciro vs. Bonilla

I’m absolutely thrilled that Republican Henry Bonilla has been forced into a runoff election next month (Dec. 9) with Ciro Rodriguez. Despite Bonilla’s high name recognition, bags and bags of corporate campaign cash and non-stop TV commercials airing during the final weeks ofthe campaign, a majority of the voters in District 23 chose to vote for someone else. That gives me hope that he can be defeated.
I cast my vote for Lukin Gilliland, who I thought ran a very respectable and positive campaign. Now I am throwing all my support to Rodriguez, the former congressman, and I would urge others to do so as well.
I hope that the national Democratic Party will take heed to this race and come in with some extra campaign cash which I’m sure Ciro will be needing.
I also hope that the Express-News will rethink its lame endorsement of Bonilla for the special election. Now that the Democrats are in charge of the House, it would be much better for the district to send a member of the majority party, and one who already has experience and seniority to represent them than someone who will be little more than an ineffective back-bencher.

I was also pleased to see that Democrat Joe Farias was able to withstand all the slime that was thrown his way by Republican George Antuna in what had to be the most despicable campaign by a local politician in years. Despite the fact that the Express-News had exposed Antuna’s allegations of corruption against Farias as lies, Antuna kept up the attacks throughout the campaign.

And in other good news, Charles Kuffner reports that Democrat Juan Garcia has claimed victory in HD32 against incumbent Repbulican Gene Seaman. That would make five state House pickups for Texas Democrats with no corresponding losses.

Aggies rule!

Wow! The news just keeps getting better and better.
Donald Rumsfeld is out! Texas A&M President Robert Gates is in as Secretary of Defense.
Gates is a former CIA director and is close to Bush Sr. confidante James Baker. They both sit on the Iraq Study Group which has been trying to devise an exit strategy to get us out of Bush's quagmire. I think this means that Bush has officially thrown in the towel.

In other news, the Montana Senate race has now been called for the Democrats giving them a total of 50 and guaranteed to at least share control of the upper chamber. But in Virginia, James Webb has a bigger lead than his Montana counterpart and has already claimed victory. I think it is just a matter of time before we can start calling Harry Reid the Majority Leader.

Meanwhile, expect the long knives to come out for former Speaker Dennis Hastert. I doubt that he will still be in the House leadership next year.


A headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion

Republicans Blame Election Losses On Democrats

I nailed it!

Yesterday, actually Monday night, I made my predictions on the mid-term elections and it appears that I nailed it.
I wrote this up for my friend Bill Crawford to use at All Things Conservative but either he did not get the e-mail or chose not to use it and thus it did not get posted. So I am posting it now just for my own enjoyment.

Here are my predictions for the midterm elections:

The Democrats will take the House with about a 30-seat gain. That is the general consensus right now, but many people are saying it could be much higher - as much as 50 or more. Races like the 23rd District here in San Antonio haven’t even been on the radar for most election prognosticators and there is a good chance that Republican Henry Bonilla could be held to less than 50 percent of the vote in this newly redrawn, more Democratic district. And that would essentiallly force him into a run-off in December against a newly energized Democratic Party.

I’d love to predict that the electoral tidal wave is going to sweep across the country and elect hordes of Democrats, but then that means I would have to risk being disappointed if it does not happen and winning 30 seats is already a tremendous victory and nothing to be disappointed with. Still, it has been noted that Republicans are facing a political environment much worse than the one the Democrats faced in 1994 when they lost 54 seats, so why under these circumstances should the Republicans lose only 30? The answer, according to most experts, is that redistricting and the extreme financial advantages that most incumbents have over their challengers has made our House of Representatives much less responsive to the shifting moods of the electorate than it once was. Nevertheless, it will shift this time. The Democrats are getting a few freebies in heavily Republican districts thanks to Republican scandals involving Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Mark Foley and others. In Texas, the best chance for a pickup is the Hammer’s old district thanks to DeLay’s antics earlier this year when he screwed his party around by stepping down after it was too late to replace his name on the ballot. Now Republicans are forced to run an uphill write-in campaign against a well-funded former Democratic congressman. Still, even if the Democrats win the seat, as appears to be likely, they will have to work hard to prove they deserve it or risk losing it again two years from now.
The same goes for the seat of disgraced cyber-pedophile Mark Foley where the Democrat is likely to win unless the GOP can convince enough voters to pull the lever for someone who most think belongs in jail and not in Congress.

Whatever the final numbers, there is little doubt that Democrats will have a lot to cheer about tomorrow. If you are a Republican, I would advise ignoring the national results and concentrating on the statewide races here in Texas where the GOP is still guaranteed to do well. Republicans are on track to re-elect a senator, a governor and most statewide officeholders, as well as all but maybe one or two congressmen. Texas, for whatever reason, is still bucking the national trend that is shifting most of the rest of the country back to the left. Just look at our neighbors. After Tuesday, we will likely have Democratic governors in every state that borders Texas: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. Democrats are poised to win governors races in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Maine, Massachusetts and New York.
But Texas looks like it will keep its unpopular governor who is likely to win re-election with less than 40 percent of the vote.

In the Senate, I am predicting Democrats will win the six seats they need to claim a slim majority. Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine of Ohio are toast. They are gone, no question. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island isn’t faring much better and neither is scandal-plagued Conrad Burns of Montana. I’m predicting both will lose handily. Slightly tighter races that will fall into the Democratic column are in Missouri where Claire McCaskill, with an assist from Michael J. Fox, will best Republican Jim Talent, and Virginia where James Webb, the former Navy Secretary in the Reagan administration, has pulled ahead of the faltering campaign of Republican George Allen.
The one disappointment for Democrats appears to be in Tennessee where it looked for a time like Harold Ford Jr. could become the first black senator from that state, but has since fallen back and is down several points in the polls behind Republican Bob Corker.
I also think the Democrats will come close, but fall short in their bid to oust Republican Jon Kyle in Arizona.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Final polls

The final poll results are out and they are good news for Democrats.

• Missouri: McCaskill 49%, Talent 46%
• Montana: Tester 49%, Burns 44%
• New Jersey: Menendez 50%, Kean 41%
• Tennessee: Corker 48%, Ford 47%

Also, Think Progress has a list of 109 reasons why should vote to throw out the Republican Congress.

My vote

I cast my vote this morning. Lukin Gilliland for Congress. Carlos Uresti for State Senate. Chris Bell for Governor. Barbara Radnofsky for U.S. Senate. Mostly Democrats everywhere else, although I did support a few Republicans like Wallace Jefferson for State Supreme Court because he is from San Antonio (and his only challenger was a Libertarian) and Elizabeth Ames Jones for Railroad Commissioner because her Democratic opponent did not impress me with his response on the League of Women Voters Guide and because she is from San Antonio.
It’s not the first time I’ve voted on an electronic, push-button screen, but it was more disturbing this year realizing that there is no paper trail to verify if the machine recorded my votes correctly after I pushed the little red button that said “Vote.”
There were far too many races to vote on. Too many names on the ballot. After a while it all becomes a jumble. I believe we have too many elections for our own good. At least half of these offices should be appointed rather than elected. That includes all the judicial races and anything else that is not a representative or executive position. I’m as politically savvy as anyone and there is no way I can keep up with all these races. I know the average voter doesn’t have a clue as to who they are voting for in most races. They are either voting based on party identification or name recognition, if they are bothering to vote at all. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. If you vote based on the party, you are more guaranteed to get someone you agree with (though not always). However, there are many positions where political parties should not matter and experience and integrity should be the guiding principles. If you vote based on name recognition you are essentially rewarding the person who raised the most money and ran the most advertising.
I think we should elect our representatives and executive branch officials and then have them appoint professional people to these other positions. If you don’t like who they are appointing then don’t vote for them. But this would at least remove some of the hyper-partisan, money-driven influence that tends to corrupt our political system.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Avoiding the kiss of death

Ha.Ha.Ha! President Bush went down to Florida today to campaign for Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist and Crist ran the other way.

(AP) -- The White House did not hide its irritation Monday at Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist for ducking President Bush at a campaign rally in the Republican-friendly Panhandle.

You really can't blame him for not wanting to be around a guy with a 35 percent approval rating.

Dirty politics

Here is a low-life dirty trick that unsurprisingly is coming from the GOP:

Sources in Bergen County are reporting that an autodial robocall is being made that starts out sounding like a positive Bob Menendez message. If you hang up, it repeatedly calls you back. If you listen all the way to the end, it finishes by saying that Menendez is an embezzler and under criminal investigation.

This is a voter suppression tactic being used nationwide by the GOP. Initially callers will think they are hearing a call from the Menendez campaign asking for support. If they hang up, it will repeatedly call them back. The intention is to annoy the voter so much that they no longer support the candidate. For those who actually listen to the entire call, they are presented with a series of lies and smears against Menendez, also with the intention of suppressing turnout. It's a win-win tactic for them.

The NRCC is doing the same exact thing in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and at least 53 other races across the country.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The E-N hates Billy Joel

I was inspired to write a letter to the editor of the E-N today in reaction to this incredibly lame editorial.

Is it now the consensus view of the San Antonio Express-News editorial board that Billy Joel sucks?
What gives with that editorial last Saturday complaining about the Rock Hall of Fame? That had to be one of the worst editorials I have ever seen in any paper. Did the editorial writer set out just to pick a fight, because that's about all they succeeded in doing. They certainly didn't have any constructive suggestion on how to fix the Hall of Fame balloting and selection process that they are so unhappy with.
If the editorial had simply been about the unworthiness of the Dave Clark Five to enter the Hall of Fame, I would have been OK with it. But where do they get off throwing Van Halen into the mix? A personal grudge against David Lee Roth? They diss the Dave Clark Five as a band that "sounded as if they were playing air guitar." I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean exactly, but there is probably no guitarist who inspired more kids to play air guitar than Eddie Van Halen. So why diss Van Halen? The editorial does not say.
But if Van Halen is not worthy of admittance to the Hall of Fame, who is? The editorial writer thinks some worthy candidates include the Stooges and the Ronettes. Excuse me?! Name one song by the Ronettes other than "Be My Baby." Yeah, I didn't think so. And the Stooges? Maybe if there were a punk hall of fame. The pioneering punk band featured lead singer Iggy Pop whose claim to fame is that he would smear himself with peanut butter on stage and cut himself with broken bottles. Yep, definite Hall of Fame material there.
And then there is this ridiculous slam against Billy Joel at the end of the editorial with no explanation. The editorial writer who wants to induct The Stooges and The Ronettes thinks that Billy Joel, the All-American troubedeaur, is an unworthy Hall inductee. The man was a hit machine throughout the 1970s, '80s and into the '90s. He has sold more than 100 million records and is the sixth best-selling artist in the U.S. My God, what does one have to do to get into the Rock Hall of Fame?
This reminds me of the movie critic who once gave thumbs down to "Lord of the Rings" the same year that he gave a big thumbs up to "Jackass: The Movie."