Another House Member Bows Out

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 18, 2017 — Yet another House member announced late last week that he will not seek re-election due to reverberations from sexual impropriety incidents. Texas four-term Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), after filing for re-election on Dec. 4, decided not to continue his campaign effort and now will retire at the end of the current Congress.

Rep. Farenthold was the subject of much negative publicity in the previous couple of weeks and drew a significant Republican primary opponent just before the candidate filing period ended. Now, with Farenthold on the political sidelines, the stage appears set for former Texas Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun to begin an open seat primary campaign as the perceived favorite for the GOP nomination, and as the party nominee would be projected to win the general election.

Farenthold was first elected in 2010, when he scored the political upset of the year by defeating veteran Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Brownsville) in the previous 27th District, a strongly Democratic CD that stretched from Corpus Christi to Brownsville. Farenthold won a 47.8 – 47.1 percent election over the 14-term incumbent in a low turnout election of slightly more than 106,000 voters.

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Alabama Stats;
Minnesota’s New Senator

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 15, 2017 — Predictably, Democrats and media commentators are promoting the premise that Doug Jones’ victory in Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election is another sign that a Democratic wave is building to transform the minority party into one that wins control of at least one congressional chamber next year. But the actual numbers do not provide evidence for such an analysis.

In actuality, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) may have succinctly and correctly described what happened in the Alabama election, which caused Republicans to lose one of their safest seats in the nation. During an interview with NBC News, Sen. Johnson simply said, “Alabamians didn’t want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.”

Looking at the actual figures, there is more supporting data for the supposition that Jones’ win is more likely due to Republican defections from former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, rather than a massive increase in Democratic turnout. While the Alabama special did feature a higher turnout than the last midterm election (2014), we also saw this phenomenon occur in two earlier special elections: the Montana at-large and GA-6 congressional contests. Republicans won both of those votes, proving that the GOP base was sufficiently energized in those two places to withstand increased Democratic turnout. But, Alabama doesn’t fit that same model either in the mode of Republican loyalty or an energized Democratic base.

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Jones!

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones' campaign image.

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones’ campaign image.


By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2017 — With the final polling covering all possibilities — from Democrat Doug Jones leading by 10 points, to Republican Roy Moore ahead by nine, to a straight tie — Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election carried a great deal of uncertainty as voters cast their ballots.

Republicans were badly split between those party leaders publicly repulsed by the allegations of sexual impropriety against Moore, to those who felt that holding the seat and preventing the Democrats from having any path to obtaining the Senate majority in 2018 was most important.

The split was enough to allow Democrat Jones, a former Birmingham region US Attorney, to slip past Judge Moore and secure what previously had been a safely Republican seat for the next three years. Jones will replace appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) who fell to Moore in the Republican run-off in late September.

The unofficial final totals give Jones 49.9 percent of the vote as compared to Moore’s 48.4 percent. Election Day’s final turnout figure showed 1,344,406 individuals having cast ballot, a total that will increase when all absentee and provisional ballots are finally added to the mix. In comparison, the last gubernatorial election (2014) drew 1,180,413. The 2016 presidential campaign saw 2,123,372 votes cast. Therefore, this special election, as did others earlier in the cycle (MT-AL; GA-6), actually produced a higher voter turnout than the state’s last regular midterm election.

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ALABAMA: All Across the Board

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R)
Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 13, 2017
— Yesterday morning, we reported about the four weekend closing polls in the Alabama Senate election race, three of which projected former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) as the race leader in the closing days. Then on Monday, a much different story emerged. Four more surveys were released, and the results were head-scratching to say the least. If you supported Moore, favored Democratic nominee Doug Jones, or were an observer who thought the race was too close to call, poll results were published that supported your position.

Yesterday, the voters of Alabama put an end to all the speculation. Embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore succumbed to the many challenges he faced and lost the election to Democrat Doug Jones by a slim 49.9-48.4 percent margin.

Which polling entity got it right? Let’s take a look: Emerson College (Dec. 7-9; 600 likely Alabama special election voters), in line with most of the data from the previous day, publicized new totals showing Judge Moore with a 53-44 percent advantage. Monmouth University (Dec. 6-9; 546 likely Alabama special election voters), however, found the two candidates tied at 46 percent, and indicated that individualized turnout models could easily produce potentially substantial victories for each man. The brand new Change Research survey (Dec. 9-11; 1,543 likely Alabama voters) projected a 51-45 percent Moore lead, almost identical to the 51-44 percent spread in their poll released over the weekend.

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Alabama: The Last Polls

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 12, 2017 — The latest polls for today’s special Alabama Senate election were released over the weekend, and three of what are likely the final four surveys arrived at virtually the same conclusion.

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

The Survey Monkey (Nov. 30-Dec. 7; 1,559 registered Alabama voters), Change Research (Dec. 5-7; 2,443 registered Alabama voters), Trafalgar Group (Nov. 6-7; 1,419 likely Alabama voters), and Gravis Marketing (Dec. 5-8; 1,254 likely Alabama voters) still see a close contest as the campaign surges to culmination.

CR, Trafalgar and Gravis all post embattled former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) to single-digit leads over ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D). The Change Research ballot test result favors Moore, 51-44 percent; Trafalgar: 51-46 percent; and Gravis: 49-45 percent. On the other hand, Survey Monkey finds Jones holding a 49-47 percent edge.

The Survey Monkey study found Jones’ slight advantage through weighting the responses both from demographic data and 2016 voter performance. Though they forecast a different leader than the other three, their methodology looks to be sound and all four automated polls featured strong sampling universes. Therefore, it is difficult to discount the SM result simply because the end result is slightly different.

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Franken & Franks Out; Bredesen In

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 11, 2017 — Continuing the spate of recent congressional resignations for sexual impropriety, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), as news reports predicted, announced late last week that he will resign his seat in several weeks.

The action means Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will now appoint a successor. Speculation suggests that he will name Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), his former chief of staff, to the federal position and it is believed that she will serve as a caretaker. If all of this proves true, we will have another open Senate race in 2018. In any event, voters will choose the individual to serve the remainder of Franken’s term in the upcoming regular vote. This particular Class II seat will again come before voters for a full six-year term in 2020.

Some in the news media believed that Gov. Dayton would have made his appointment announcement by the end of last week, but the Minnesota chief executive did not do so, saying he would make a decision in the next few days. This could be because Franken did not resign immediately, or he has not fully committed to naming Lt. Gov. Smith.

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A New Round of Special Elections

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 8, 2017 — Last week, it was erroneously reported in the New York Daily News and several other publications and tweets that embattled Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) had announced he would not seek re-election next year, but the story proved premature.

Congress’ most senior member actually took things a step further on Tuesday. Not only will he not seek another term in office, but the Dean of the House, and the only member originally elected in the 1960s, resigned his seat effective immediately. The sexual harassment allegations that seem to be growing by the day, in the end, proved too much for Conyers to contain and remain in office.

The congressman’s mid-term departure after more than 53 years in office will lead to a new special election for Michigan’s 13th District, a seat fully contained in Wayne County that encompasses a large portion of the city of Detroit, including part of the downtown area. The district then swings south to include the River Rouge and Midtown communities before swerving west to annex Brightmoor, Warrendale, Westland, and Romulus, the latter town being adjacent to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airport. The majority black district is 55 percent African American and 38 percent Anglo. No other race or ethnicity tops 10 percent of the district population.

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Franken to Resign Today?

UPDATE: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) today on the floor of the US Senate announced that he would resign: “I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” he said.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 7, 2017 — A day after US House Dean John Conyers (D-MI) resigned from Congress over sexual misconduct allegations, the resignation drumbeat for Minnesota Sen. Al Franken to follow suit may have risen to a successful crescendo. The embattled Democratic politician has now scheduled time this morning on the Senate floor to make an announcement.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Speculation is rampant that he will make public his decision to resign because of growing sexual harassment accusations, but his spokespeople have stopped short of confirming that such will be the subject matter of his floor address.

The crushing blow to Franken’s political career may be seeing 30 Democratic senators, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), go on record calling for him to resign. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez has also called upon Franken to leave office.

Should he depart, the 2018 Senate election cycle will significantly change. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will choose a replacement to serve until the next regular election, with voters then choosing an officeholder to complete the term. The Class II seat would then come in-cycle for a full term in the 2020 election.

Published Minnesota sources suggest that Gov. Dayton’s first choice would be to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), his former chief of staff. Most believe she would serve in a caretaker role, thus opening the race in 2018. Smith chose not to run for governor even though the seat is open saying in March when she made public her retirement decision, “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something.”

Should the involved players choose the caretaker course, we would see this open Senate race accompany an open governor’s position and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) seeking re-election all on the same ballot. The scenario of yielding a competitive governor and Senate race would add to the Minnesota political intrigue, since the state is likely to host as many as five contested US House campaigns among its eight congressional districts.

The Franken situation could also have reverberations for the Alabama special Senate race to be decided on Tuesday. Should Republican Roy Moore win, and he is once again leading according to most polls, the problem of having Franken in the chamber accused of similar actions would be eliminated. This means a bid to expel Moore after he is sworn in could gain steam.

Democrats wanted to get themselves on record as being strongly supportive of sexual harassment victims by vociferously calling upon Sen. Franken to resign, but they also free themselves to call for a new Sen. Moore to resign or be expelled. Since the Republican leadership is not happy with the prospect of Moore serving, the Franken situation could place the twice-removed Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice in an untenable position should he win on Tuesday.

Taking the Alabama scenario further, should Moore be expelled – it is unlikely he would resign since he did not remove himself from the ballot after the sexual allegation charges broke, and the voters would have just elected him even with the knowledge of such accusations – the vacancy situation would repeat itself. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) would then appoint an interim senator and the seat would immediately again be placed into special election mode.

This time the new special election would likely be scheduled concurrently with the regular election cycle. As with Franken in Minnesota, the Alabama seat in question is a Class II, meaning it would come in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2020, so filling it with a 2018 election would give the winner only a two-year term.

Whether or not Sen. Franken follows through and resigns this morning, today promises to be an interesting one in the halls of the nation’s capitol.

Scott Gaining Momentum in Florida;
Illinois Filing Closes

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 6, 2017 — In what should be a premier Senate race next year, the Florida political contest that likely will develop between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not yet drawn a great deal of national media coverage, but that will certainly change over time.

A new St. Leo University poll (Nov. 19-24; 500 Florida residents) finds Gov. Scott opening up a sizable lead over the three-term Democratic incumbent, 42-32 percent. The results definitely detect a swing toward the term-limited Republican governor; but previous polling conducted since Sept. 10 has forseen a much closer skirmish.

Two polls from September, St. Leo University (Sept. 10-15; 500 Florida residents) and the Florida Chamber of Commerce (Sept. 17-24; 615 likely Florida voters), both projected Gov. Scott to be holding a two-point lead over Sen. Nelson, 35-33 percent and 47-45 percent, respectively. The University of North Florida (Oct. 11-17; 834 Florida voters), however, gave the incumbent a scant 38-37 percent edge in mid-October, while Mason-Dixon Polling & Research (Oct. 17-19; 625 Florida voters) cast the two prospective candidates as tied at 44 percent each.

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More on Moore

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Left: Former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 5, 2017 — Several new developments have occurred in the Alabama special Senate election, now just a week from culmination. Two new polls have been released, one from the Washington Post/Schnar School and one from CBS News/YouGov; also, the campaigns’ latest financial disclosure numbers are now public.

Prior to this weekend, the last six public polls all showed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) regaining a small lead over ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D). Now, the Post/Schnar poll (Nov. 27-30; 1,304 adults; 1,110 self-identified registered Alabama voters; 739 self-identified likely Alabama voters) reverses the trend (Jones up, 50-47have been released), but a further examination of the respondent universe suggests that this survey is likely within the same realm as the others.

Conversely, the CBS News/YouGov data (Nov. 28-Dec. 1; 1,067 registered Alabama voters, 68 percent of whom say they will “definitely” vote in the special Senate election) finds a much different result over virtually the same time period. According to CBS/YouGov, Judge Moore retains a 49-43 percent edge, with 71 percent of Republicans saying they believe the sexual impropriety allegations against the former state Supreme Court Chief Justice are false.

Therefore, it appears this campaign is at least toss-up or, more likely, one that is slightly leaning Moore’s way as we head into the Dec. 12 election day. The winner will serve the balance of the current term, which goes through 2020. The new senator will be eligible to seek a full six-year term in that particular regular election.

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Rep. Barton to Retire;
Major Ohio Moves

Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis)  | Facebook

Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 4, 2017 — Veteran Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, has apparently taken the advice he was reportedly receiving from many local Republican leaders and activists advising him not to seek re-election. Barton, recently coming under attack when his nude picture taken during a previous consensual sexual relationship surfaced on Twitter, announced late last week through social media that he will end his 34-year congressional career when the current Congress adjourns.

Barton had already filed to run in 2018, but will now withdraw his paperwork prior to Texas’ Dec. 11 candidate filing deadline. We expect to see several Republicans come forward to run in what will be the first open 6th District contest since 1984. Immediately, Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright announced that he would enter the newly open Republican primary.

The 6th District performs as a safe Republican seat beginning in the Arlington area of Tarrant County, which is the population anchor, before continuing southeast to annex Ellis and Navarro Counties. President Trump carried the 6th, 54-42 percent, down a bit from Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance of 58-41 percent against President Obama.

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Conyers Will Go; More From Illinois

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 1 2017 — Succumbing to pressure from highly publicized sexual harassment allegations, Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) announced Wednesday night that he will not seek re-election next year.

Conyers, the Dean of the House and the last member of either congressional chamber originally elected in the 1960s, will retire after serving what will be 54 years as a US representative. Assuming Rep. Conyers completes the current term, he will serve longer in the House than all but one member in American history: fellow Detroit area former Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn) who was elected to 30 terms, spending just over 59 years in office.

Michigan’s 13th District that Conyers represents splits downtown Detroit with the adjacent 14th CD, before encompassing the River Rouge, Midtown, Brightmoor, and Westland communities, prior to annexing the Romulus area that includes the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The 13th is solidly Democratic (Clinton: 78.8 percent; Obama ’12: 85.2 percent) and its population is 55 percent African American. Rep. Conyers has averaged 79.8 percent of the vote in the current district configuration, though only tallied 61 percent in the 2016 Democratic primary turning back a challenge from Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey.

We can expect a crowded Democratic primary in a seat that hasn’t been open for more than five decades. The Conyers retirement announcement allows plenty of time for potential candidates to make their decisions. The Michigan candidate filing deadline isn’t until April 24, in preparation for the Aug. 7 partisan primary. The eventual Democratic nominee will capture the seat next November.

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Confirming Data in Alabama

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2017 — As we reported last week, two polls, one from WT&S Consulting (Nov. 18-20; 11,641 registered Alabama voters; Moore, 46-40 percent advantage) and one from Strategy Research for the Raycom News Network (Nov. 20; 3,000 likely Alabama special election voters; Moore, 47-45 percent advantage) first detected a swing back toward embattled Republican US Senate nominee Roy Moore in his special election contest with former US Attorney Doug Jones (D). Now another new survey, and one that is perhaps more significant, confirms the Moore advantage.

The Change Research firm, a San Francisco company that claims it brings a “Silicon Valley approach to polling,” has just reported new survey numbers, and for the third time in the Moore-Jones race. In mid-November (Nov. 9-11), CR found Judge Moore holding a 44-40 percent advantage just as the sexual impropriety scandal was beginning to become public knowledge. Later, from their November 15-16 poll, they saw the electorate sway to a 46-43 percent edge for Democrat Jones.

Yesterday, the firm released its Nov. 26-27 polling result (1,868 self-identified Alabama registered voters) and, confirming what WT&S and Strategy Research found, sees Judge Moore rebounding into the lead, 49-44 percent.

The swing to Moore is significant for several reasons. First, as the Politico publication reported, Jones and the Democrats are outspending Moore by a 7:1 margin in advertising, already running or reserving $5.6 million in media and digital advertising time versus only $800,000 for the Republican. But, assuming the consistent results from the three recent aforementioned polls are accurate, it appears either the Jones ad barrage is having no effect at best for the Democratic campaign, or worst, the piling on Moore is backfiring and leading to the opposite result.

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Another House Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Rep.-Luis-Gutierrez-D-ChicagoNov. 29, 2017 — Two years ago, US Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced that he would not seek re-election, only to eventually turn around and file for another term. On Monday, Gutierrez filed paperwork to secure a ballot spot, according to a Chicago Tribune report, but yesterday reversed course and announced for the second time that he would retire. “I’m going to leave Congress at the end of my term in 2019,” he said, “but I’m not retiring.” Once this Congress adjourns, he will have completed 13 full terms in the House.

This could be an example of Chicago machine politics at its best, however. With Gutierrez announcing that he won’t run just a week before the Dec. 4 candidate filing deadline after giving every indication he would seek re-election, it’s possible he could be setting up a designated successor. Already, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) is reportedly circulating petitions to gather signatures for congressional race qualification. We can expect a great deal of political scrambling in the next day or two, since prospective candidates have little time to decide about their individual run for Congress, and then build and command enough of a political organization to meet the ballot qualification requirements.

Illinois’ 4th District is heavily Democratic (Clinton 82.1 percent; Obama ’12: 80.9 percent), so all of the political action will be settled in the March 20th party primary. The seat is 70.1 percent Hispanic, and the state’s only Hispanic majority district.

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The Senate Picture – Re-cap

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 28, 2017 — During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we previewed all 34 current Senate races. Today, we wrap-up with the often-described 30,000-foot national overview perspective.

The Alabama special Senate election scheduled for Dec. 12 will tell us a great deal about the coming regular cycle. While the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race is not likely to provide a voting trend preview since the contest has been tainted with scandal, it will signal whether or not the Democrats own a path to the Senate majority.

If Democrat Jones wins the Alabama special, it would give his party 49 seats, thus making their two primary Republican conversion targets in Arizona and Nevada enough to claim majority status, assuming all 25 of their defense seats are held, which, of course, is no easy task. If Republican Moore can hold Alabama, despite being jettisoned by the national GOP leadership, that would secure the Republican majority because such an outcome relegates Democrats’ chances of netting the three GOP seats they need within the regular cycle as highly unlikely.

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