Tag Archives: US Senate

How to replace a US Senator who leaves or dies in office

The Constitution of Great Britain, which was famously not a thing, defined three entities of what Americans would call government, one elected by the common people, the King or Queen, and in between, the House of Lords, inherited and fancy like the Monarch, but many, and representing the wealth and power of the people.

In a sense, there were three branches of government, the monarchy (king), the aristocracy (we might call them the 1% today), and the democratic branch, aka, the unwashed masses. This conceptualization of the British government is neither new nor mine. In the words of “Massachusettensis,” quoted by John Adams, Continue reading How to replace a US Senator who leaves or dies in office

Which Senate Seats Will Switch to Democratic In 2016?

I’m trying to figure out how many Senate seats, and which ones, will switch from Republican to Democratic in November 2016.

At present, 54 Senator caucus with the Republicans, and 46 caucus with the Democrats (two of those are Independant).

We should be shooting for a good majority of 61, just to be safe. That means fifteen Republicans have to go, to result in a 39 to 61 mix. To get a simple majority, only five Republicans have to be replaced, to produce a 49 to 51 mix. So, we should be working for replacing fifteen but hoping to replace at least five.

A perusal of The Internet provides a list of Republicans and open seats that seem to have a chance of a Democratic takeover. (Importantly and worth noting, not many Democrats are at risk, but Michael Bennet of Colorado may be. Also worth noting is that Harry Reid’s seat in Nevada seems more likely to go GOP, according to some sources).

Here’s the list:

Arizona: John McCain. Challenged by Ann Kirkpatrick
Arkansas: John Boozman. Challenged by Conner Eldridge
California: Open Seat. Kamala Harris
Florida: Open Seat. Alan Grayson
Illinois: Mark Kirk. Challenged by Tammy Duckworth
Iowa: Charles Grassley. Challenged by Patty Judge
Kentucky: Rand Paul. Challenged by Adam Edleen
Maryland: Open seat? Donna Edwards
Missouri: Roy Blunt. Challenged by Jaoon Kander
Nevada: Open Seat. Catherine Cortez Masto
New Hampshire: Kelly Ayotte. Challenged by Maggie Hassan
North Carolina: Richard Burr. Challenged by Deborah Ross
Ohio: Rob Portman. Challenged by Ted Strickland
Pennsylvania: Patrick Toomey. No challenger yet
Wisconsin: Ron Johnson. Challenged by Russ Feingold

So, what’s missing? What’s wrong with this list? How would you rank it?

Kamala Harris gets Climate Hawks Vote Endorsement

Kamal Harris is running for Barbara Boxer’s seat in the California Senate. She just received an endorsement from Climate Hawks Votes. This is not an easy endorsement to get. A candidate has to be a true “Climate Hawk” and have climate change as a top priority, and to be smart about it, to have actual policies and a record. Here is what Climate Hawks Vote says about this candidate:

One word explains why we’re endorsing Kamala Harris for US Senate in California:

Exxon.

Shortly after Kamala Harris announced she was running to replace retiring Barbara Boxer as California’s next senator, she piled up tons of endorsements from California’s political establishment. For us, the big question was: would she be fierce enough to take on the climate crisis? As California’s attorney general, she’s vowed to defend President Obama’s Clean Power Plan in the courts. But at Climate Hawks Vote, we endorse only those leaders who will go on offense.

So we wrote a petition to her to investigate ExxonMobil for its systematic denial of climate science. RL Miller wrote a resolution, which was passed by the Ventura and Los Angeles County Democratic Parties, asking her to investigate Exxon. A week later, the Los Angeles Times reported:

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is investigating whether Exxon Mobil Corp. repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change — and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws.

As Attorney General, she’s compiled a strong record opposing expansion of dirty fuel in California neighborhoods. She’s opposed Chevron’s plan to expand an oil refinery in Richmond, already one of the most polluted areas of California; Valero’s plan to ship crude by rail to Benicia; and the WesPac tar sands project in Pittsburg. She’s also sided with public transit and against freeway widening/gridlock in the closely watched San Diego County regional transportation plan. This month she filed a lawsuit against Southern California Gas Co. for causing the massive Porter Ranch gas leak.

For us, the deciding factor was whether she would have the political courage to investigate the ExxonMobil behemoth for its role in climate pollution and political corruption. And the answer is: yes! Her leadership as Attorney General earns her a Climate Hawks Vote endorsement.
Here’s the campaign plan: because California is a notoriously expensive state for campaigns – it’s too big for meaningful field operations and its multiple media markets are among the most expensive in the nation – we’re going to target influencers and the digital grassroots. We’re going to be visible at the California Democratic Party convention beginning next weekend, which is holding a key endorsement vote, and then engage in smartly targeted social media.

As per this endorsement, you may feel free to click on this link to give this candidate money!

Democratic Loss in the Senate Was Not Exceptional or Unexpected

I noted earlier that the Democratic losses in the House were less than expected given what usually happens during the midterms. It is harder to make such a statement with the Senate because of the lower numbers, with fewer than a tenth of the total number of elections at stake when compared to the house. But, there is a pattern that makes the loss of a few seats in the Senate not unexpected. As is the case with the House race, the null model — what is expected despite any other political factors — is that this particular year for Senate races would favor Republicans when a Democrat is in office.

President Obama mentioned this just before the election, as I recall, but the press ignored it, possibly because it is a little hard to explain.

There are 100 Senators, each elected for a 6 year term, and some are up for election every two years. The Senate is divided into three classes, about one third of the Senate in each, distributing them evenly across these two year intervals. This year, Class 2 was up for election.

Apparently a sample of 100 Senators divided into three parts does not produce even and identical results. The following table indicates the average percent of the vote among Democratic and Republican voters that went to Obama-Biden for the states represented by each Senate Class. The values are similar, but not identical. The mean for Class 2 is slightly lower, as is the maximum.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.50.42 PM

This graph shows the data in more detail. Class 2 is not an Obama-Biden friendly set of states, as a sample, because it lacks a peak representing a small number of strongly supportive states. Class 3 has other problems; it has a few very unsupportive states. Clearly, when it comes down to just a few races (which is what happens when there is a close Senate) Class 1 is likely to be friendliest to a Democratic executive (both high maximum and lack of low support) while Class 2 and 3 are less friendly, with Class 2 possibly being the least friendly (we can assume the low value states would be Republican anyway; it is probably the upper part of the curve that matters more).
Obama-Biden_Friendliness_for_each_Senate_Class

The total number of Senate seats lost was low, and the chance of losing some were relatively high. So, as is the case with the House losses, what happened this year was more or less expected, and not exceptional. This was not an historic loss.