As the 2012 elections loom, both parties are starting to pour resources into congressional and gubernatorial races across the country. While Republicans work to regain control of the Senate, Democrats are vying to pick up seats in the GOP-controlled House. Below, a rundown of election news happening beyond the presidential field.
Dick Lugar Points Finger At Tea Party
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), considered a very vulnerable incumbent going into 2012, blamed the Tea Party for killing Republicans' chances of a controlling the majority in the Senate.
Republicans lost seats in Nevada, New Jersey and Colorado because of Tea Party sentiments, Lugar said on CNN. "They killed off the Republican chances for a majority. This is one of the reasons we have a minority in the Senate right now."
Lugar himself is fending off Tea Party-backed candidates in his bid for the GOP nomination. He told CNN the seat could be lost to Democrats if he isn't re-elected.
2011's Redistricting Roundup, And What's On Tap Next Year
The Washington Post updated its redistricting scorecard today. In states with Republican-controlled governments, Republicans picked up seven seats and Democrats lost nine, but these numbers were largely offset by states with Democratic-controlled governments or states where redistricting is overseen by independent commissions. Republicans are expected to lose a total of two seats and Democrats are expected to lose three, based on the maps that have been approved so far.
Several states have yet to finalize the process -- including some that have been tied up in messy, partisan fights over the proposed boundaries. The ones to watch in the new year:
Florida's GOP-controlled state House and Senate have each submitted draft versions of new district maps. The House maps would create new minority seats; the Senate maps pack Democrats into districts and strengthen Republican incumbents. The two houses must agree on a finalized version, which must then be approved by the Department of Justice. Florida's Constitution prohibits drawing boundary lines for partisan political gain.
A redistricting battle has been brewing here for months, beginning with GOP-drawn maps that many claimed underrepresented the influx of Hispanics in the state. The contested maps were replaced by court-drawn maps that tilted Democratic and angered Republicans. Now the whole process has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will weigh in next year.
Arizona's redistricting drama is nearing the end: The independent redistricting committee voted last week to approve the proposed maps, which Republicans strongly opposed. Led by Gov. Jan Brewer, the GOP pulled out all the stops to contest the proposed maps, but the efforts were not successful. The maps must now be approved by the Department of Justice.
Stay tuned for updates on Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Virginia, Hawaii and Washington as they finalize the redistricting process.
Connie Mack Gets Wrong Nelson
Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fl.) and the Tea Party mixed up their Nelsons, Roll Call points out. The subject line of a National Tea Party email alert said Mack had a "4 point lead over Senator Ben Nelson." Of course, Bill Nelson is the Democratic senator from Florida. Ben Nelson is the Democratic senator from Nebraska.
Ben Nelson Announces Retirement
And speaking of Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the senator announced his retirement today. Nelson was expected to have an uphill re-election battle, but his decision not to seek another term will make the seat even harder for Democrats to hold onto next year.
John Brunner, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri, is framing himself as a "citizen senator" -- a term that reflects the anti-politician rhetoric that is ubiquitous this election cycle as candidates play to voters' negative attitude toward Washington.
Many GOP Senate primaries are split incumbent vs. Tea Party-backed, anti-establishment rival. In Pennsylvania's primary, for example, none of the candidates are statewide elected officials or incumbent congresspeople. On the Democratic side, Elizabeth Warren, who has never held elected office, is one of the most popular candidates in any U.S. Senate race, and is leading incumbent Scott Brown (R) for his Massachusetts Senate seat.
Nevada Senate Race In A Dead Heat
A recent Las Vegas Review-Journal poll shows Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R) just about tied, at 44 percent to 43 percent. The Nevada Senate race is expected to be one of the closest and most-watched in 2012. Berkley is considered a strong recruit for Democrats to run against the freshman senator Heller.
Redistricting Drives Rothman To Run Against Fellow Democrat
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) announced Monday he would challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell in the New Jersey's 9th District instead of facing Republican Rep. Scott Garret in the 8th District, after new congressional election maps drew him into a Republican-leaning district.