Ballot Box

DOJ: Perry signed discriminatory congressional map in Texas

The new map for congressional districts in Texas signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) discriminates against Hispanic voters, the Department of Justice said in a federal court filing.

The Obama administration is opposing implementation of the map and asking the court to stop it. The filing followed a review of the map by the federal attorneys that found that almost one-half million Hispanics would live in districts where they would be unable to elect a minority candidate.

"The state chose not to propose any new additional minority ability-to-elect districts and removed hundreds of thousands of minority voters from districts in which they could elect candidates of choice," even though Texas is getting four new House seats due largely to Hispanic population growth, the Justice Department wrote. "This suggests both possible dilution as well as possible retrogression of minority voting strength in Texas."

Texas is one of many states still completing the once-per-decade redistricting process that follows the U.S. Census. Under the Voting Rights Act, the federal government has oversight authority over maps in states with a history of discriminating against minorities through the voting process.


Another Warren challenger pulls out of Mass. Senate race

Alan Khazei (D) is ending his second bid for the Senate in Massachusetts, according to multiple reports, removing yet another obstacle for Democratic front-runner Elizabeth Warren.

Khazei told the Boston Globe that Warren's entrance had made fundraising and media outreach more difficult and shifted the race's dynamics.

Khazei becomes the third Democratic primary candidate to call it quits since Warren entered the race in September. Newton Mayor Setti Warren (of no relation to Elizabeth Warren) and Bob Massie both cited the momentum behind Warren in explaining their decision to pull out of the race.

Earlier Wednesday, Setti Warren announced he would endorse Elizabeth Warren.

While three other Democrats remain in the race, none are expected to pose a major challenge to Warren as she works to secure the nomination to take on Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Khazei, an entrepreneur, had been considered the likely Democratic nominee until Warren entered the race. He also competed in the Senate primary in 2010, but lost to state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who in turn lost to Brown.

Khazei is expected to formally announce his withdrawal on Thursday.


Poll: Dead heat in Nevada Senate race

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) has erased Sen. Dean Heller's (R-Nev.) lead over her in the Senate race in Nevada, a new poll showed.

Berkley and Heller are now tied at 45 percent in a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released Wednesday. In July, Heller was beating Berkley by 3 points.

Heller is running for his first regular term in the Senate after being appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.) to the seat left open when former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) resigned.

Berkley's climb comes primarily from consolidating the vote within her party. Three months ago, Berkley took only 75 percent of the Democratic vote; she now captures 82 percent.

Democratic firm PPP polled 500 Nevada voters between Oct. 20-23 using automated telephone interviews. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.


Dems hit GOP Senate hopefuls for protecting oil tax breaks

Democrats see pay dirt in Republican ties to highly profitable oil companies, and are working to tie GOP Senate candidates to efforts to protect their tax breaks.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is targeting five candidates for supporting taxpayer funded subsidies for big oil companies while also advocating for cuts to entitlement programs that benefit the middle class.

The attacks come amid reports this week that the major oil companies will post massive profits for the third quarter, boosted by high oil prices. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate and economic conditions for most Americans are still in a slump.


Romney announces support of Texas Rep. Smith

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign on Wednesday announced the support of Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“I support Mitt Romney because I believe that he has the specific skillset needed to turn around the economy: he has a conservative track record as a successful businessman and as a governor who created jobs, cut taxes, and kept spending low,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith told the San Antonio Express-News that his endorsement of Romney "does not lessen my regard for [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry.” According to the statement released by Romney’s campaign, Smith committed to supporting Romney last May, which he notes was three months before Perry announced his candidacy.


Gov. Haley on GOP presidential endorsement — 'not yet'

Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) said on Wednesday she is not endorsing a presidential candidate just yet.

When asked if she had chosen a GOP presidential hopeful to endorse, Haley told The Hill, “Not yet. Still waiting it out.”

Her endorsement would be highly coveted in the Republican presidential race, particularly if it comes before South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary. The governor has seen her national profile skyrocket since her election last year.

Haley was in Washington to speak at the U.S. Chamber's ILR Legal Reform Summit about the ongoing lawsuit between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB has brought a lawsuit against Boeing for shifting workers from its unionized plant in Washington state to a non-unionized factory in South Carolina. Haley, who has led the fight for keeping the Boeing factory in her state, said in her remarks that the NLRB trying to shut down the plant “is the most un-American thing I have ever seen.”

Haley told the business-friendly crowd she is making sure all the presidential candidates are talking about the Boeing issue, and several have already. Rick Perry spoke out against the NLRB on Tuesday in South Carolina when pitching his economics platform, as did Mitt Romney a few weeks ago.

While the GOP presidential candidates are quick to speak out against the NLRB, perhaps hoping it will lead to an endorsement from Haley, there is one presidential candidate who has remained mute.

“As we know now, every one of the presidential candidates has talked about NRLB and Boeing. Except for one candidate. We have yet to hear from President Obama on that,” Haley said.


Sold: McCaskill's private plane

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has sold the private plane she and her husband co-owned, hoping to put an end to what has become the favorite attack line of her opponents.

McCaskill's congressional office said the plane was sold for $1.9 million to an air ambulance group. McCaskill took a loss on the plane's sale.

“Claire said she would sell the plane and did. True to her word as always," McCaskill spokesman Trevor Kincaid said.

The saga over the airplane dates back to the beginning of the year, when McCaskill was accused of using congressional funds to pay for a trip on the airplane that had a political purpose. The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed the complaint, but McCaskill announced she was reimbursing the government about $300,000 for back taxes she had failed to pay on the plane.

Calling the tax issue a substantial yet unintentional mistake, McCaskill vowed in April to "sell the damn plane."

Republicans seized on the gaffe as a symbol that McCaskill was out of touch with constituents, launching a mocking "Air Claire" ad campaign and arguing she had undercut her own claim to be an ethics leader.

Although McCaskill is fighting a difficult reelection campaign in a state that has soured on President Obama and Democrats, the airplane fiasco does not seem to have hurt her significantly with Missouri voters. She has maintained a small lead in the polls against all of the Republicans vying to unseat her in 2012.