The First Run-off Poll

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 23, 2017 — JMC Analytics and Polling, one of the pollsters for the special Alabama Senate Republican primary, is first to release run-off numbers. In their post-primary survey (Aug. 17-19; 515 completed interviews of Republican likely run-off voters), JMC finds appointed Sen. Luther Strange to be in deep political trouble, but some of the numbers may be slightly exaggerated.

According to the results, former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads Sen. Strange by a substantial 51-32 percent count, remembering that the primary results four days before were 39-33 percent in the challenger’s favor. This clearly suggests that supporters of the third-place finisher, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), are flocking to Judge Moore in droves.

Geographically, the respondent sample is divided into five segments, with the Huntsville sector coming very close to the confines of Rep. Brooks’ northern Alabama 5th Congressional District. According to this grouping, Judge Moore receives a commanding 52-29 percent support factor in this region thus explaining the large statewide polling swing to Moore when compared to the primary results.

Judge Moore also does well in the Birmingham (49-36 percent), Montgomery (58-22 percent), and Dothan (69-19 percent) sectors. He carries Mobile by just a two-point spread, however, 42-40 percent.

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A Not So Open Seat

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 22, 2017 — Currently, we see a low number of open US House seats during this 2018 election cycle, and the number is about to get even smaller. Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) is expected to announce that he has changed political course once again and now will seek re-election.

In April, the six-term congressman announced his candidacy for governor, only to withdraw two months later. At the time when ending his statewide bid, Perlmutter confirmed that he would not be seeking re-election to a seventh term in the House. Believing the 7th District, a likely Democratic seat, would be open in 2018, three state legislators and a former US Ambassador jumped into the party primary.

At the very least, each of the three legislators has previously indicated that they would end their congressional campaigns and defer to the returning incumbent should he decide to return. Therefore, it is likely Perlmutter’s re-entry into the congressional race will not spur a competitive primary campaign.

Assuming this predicted new course of action proves true, the number of open regular cycle House seats will temporarily drop to 20. At this point in time, the total open seat universe is half of what it was in the last two election cycles, and less than one-third the high water number of 64 we saw in 2012.

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The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

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Alabama’s Game Within the Game

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 18, 2017 — Tuesday’s special Alabama Senate Republican primary sent former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange to the September 26th run-off election, but what can we expect from the next round of voting? Will Judge Moore’s momentum continue to thrust him forward despite being badly out-spent, or will the Alabama and national Republican establishment’s strong support for Sen. Strange allow him to overcome his primary election deficit?

On Tuesday, Judge Moore placed first, capturing 39 percent of the Republican primary vote. Just over 423,000 people voted in the election, which will likely be similar to the Sept. 26 projected participation rate. Most of the time fewer people vote in a run-off than a primary, but recent special elections have yielded a slightly different turnout pattern. Sen. Strange garnered 33 percent in the primary and showed strength in the Birmingham area, though he lost substantially in Alabama’s southern region including the metropolitan areas of Montgomery, Mobile, and Dothan.

The run-off wild card may well be Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) voters. The primary’s third place finisher tallied 20 percent, translating into more than 83,000 individual supporters. Since he placed first in his congressional district (41 percent), and carried his home county of Madison with majority support, northern Alabama will become critical in determining how the run-off concludes. And, considering that Judge Moore received almost the same number of votes as those who cast ballots in the Democratic primary, it is reasonable to presume that the Republican run-off victor will become a heavy favorite to win the Dec. 12 special general election.

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AL Run-off; Curtis Wins

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 17, 2017 — The pre-election polling proved accurate Tuesday, as Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Senate Republican primary, as predicted, and will advance to a Sept. 26 run-off election.

The Trafalgar Group released the last poll for the special primary cycle. The survey (Aug. 12-13; 870 likely GOP primary voters) found Judge Moore holding 38 percent support, followed by appointed Sen. Luther Strange with 24 percent, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) dropping back to 17.5 percent. The results were almost precise for Moore, understated Sen. Strange’s support, and slightly missed Brooks’ finish.

With just over 417,000 individuals voting in the Republican primary Judge Moore captured 39 percent of the statewide Republican vote, enough to claim the first run-off position but a long way from securing a majority.

Sen. Strange easily took the second run-off slot with 33 percent finishing well ahead of the third place finisher, Congressman Brooks (20 percent).

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Sinema’s Changing Stance

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 16, 2017 — Reports attributed to the Phoenix NBC television news affiliate indicate that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) will imminently announce a challenge to Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. For her part, Sinema concedes that she is “seriously considering” running for the Senate, which is much different than her previous stated position of committing to seek re-election to a fourth US House term.

With Rep. Sinema putting herself on the sidelines early in the game, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) after she was gunned down back in 2011, were being mentioned as potential Senate Democratic candidates.

If Sinema is to move forward with a Senate challenge to Flake, it is becoming apparent that Mayor Stanton would divert away from a direct confrontation with the congresswoman, and instead become a candidate for her open House seat. It is unclear what, if any, move Friese might make under this potentially new configuration of candidates.

Sen. Flake, along with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R), appears to be the most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election. Though Arizona is a better Republican state than Nevada to the point of electing two GOP senators, a governor, controlling five of nine US House seats and both houses of the legislature, Flake finds himself in a tenuous political position largely through his own doing.

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Special Elections Today

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2017 — Voters go to the polls today in the long-awaited Alabama special US Senate primary, the first tangible step in permanently replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As we know, Sessions resigned his Senate seat early in the year to accept the top law enforcement position in the Trump administration.

Most of the special election campaign action is on the Republican side, as appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) fights to secure a run-off position.

With the nine GOP candidates clearly attracting enough support to prevent any one of them from capturing a majority and winning the party nomination outright today, moving to a Sept. 26 run-off vote appears certain. Polling suggests that former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will seize the first run-off position, but with 40 percent or less support. Sen. Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are fighting for the second qualifying position with the other six candidates lagging behind.

The latest poll from the Trafalgar Group (Aug. 8-10; 1,439 likely Alabama GOP primary voters from more than 50,000 contacts), perhaps the most accurate survey research firm because of their most recent track record, finds Judge Moore capturing 35 percent support, with Sen. Strange far back at 23 percent and Rep. Brooks closing to 20 percent.

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Dina Titus’ Decision

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 14, 2017 — It’s interesting how individual political moves can often yield opportunities or create obstacles for others in a semi-related fashion. Such is the case for Las Vegas US Rep. Dina Titus (D), as she is all of a sudden looking at a much different Nevada political landscape since Republican Danny Tarkanian announced his primary challenge to incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) earlier in the week.

Within the past two weeks, Titus made a public statement reminding national and local political observers that she is still considering entering the 2018 Senate race even though fellow Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) has become a statewide candidate.

To review, largely at the behest of former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Rosen decided to run statewide even though she was just elected to the House in November, ironically defeating Tarkanian by one percentage point with both candidates garnering less than majority political support. Just after Rosen made her announcement, Rep. Titus commented about her own Senate prospects and reminded people that she has twice beaten the “Reid Machine,” a claim few Nevada politicians can make.

Dina Titus won the 2006 gubernatorial nomination despite Reid supporting an opponent. In 2012, the Senate Leader tried to recruit now-4th District Congressman Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), then a state senator, to challenge Titus for the open 1st District party nomination, but his attempt failed. She proceeded to win the nomination, the associated 2012 general election, and remains in the House.

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Rokita In; Tsongas to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 11, 2017 — Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) is generally considered to be the first or second national Republican conversion target, and the GOP candidates are beginning to come forward.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) announced, as expected, his run for the Senate and immediately pressed the attack before his supporters to “Defeat the Elite,” a phrase that he defines as pertaining to “lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians and the media.”

Rokita was first elected to the House in 2010 after serving two terms as Indiana’s secretary of state. He averaged 65.5 percent in his four congressional elections, and leaves his western 4th District as a safe Republican seat.

The announcement creates a major Republican primary with fellow Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Messer tweeted about two weeks ago that he will soon become a Senate candidate with a formal announcement to follow.

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Tarkanian to Challenge Heller

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 10, 2017 — Perennial Nevada candidate Danny Tarkanian yesterday announced a US Senate Republican primary challenge to incumbent Dean Heller, creating more chaos in what is the Democrats’ best national conversion opportunity for next year.

Tarkanian released an announcement statement early Tuesday morning declaring himself a candidate. “I am running for United States Senate because Nevada deserves a senator who will keep his word and vote in Washington DC the same way he campaigns here in Nevada,” he wrote, presumably referencing Sen. Heller’s statements about the failed Republican healthcare bill.

But, the senator did vote in favor of the rule bringing the bill for a vote and, in the end, supported what was termed the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. Though he expressed concern about the bill, Sen. Heller did not ultimately join Republican Sens. John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Susan Collins (ME) who formally opposed the legislation.

Published a day before the Tarkanian announcement was a Strategic National political survey (Aug. 1-2; 500 likely Nevada Republican primary voters) that found Tarkanian trailing the senator only 34-38 percent in a proposed GOP primary pairing. Interestingly, the same poll showed 2nd District Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City/Reno), who holds Sen. Heller’s former congressional seat, actually leading the incumbent 27-26 percent among the likely Republican primary voters tested. There is no indication that Amodei is considering entering the Senate race, however.

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GOP Could Cancel Colorado Primary

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 9, 2017 — Local Centennial State news reports indicate that a Colorado Republican Central Committee vote will transpire in late September about whether to cancel the 2018 party primary.

The vote would have a significant effect upon not only the governor’s nomination campaign, but also the budding 5th Congressional District challenge to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), and choosing a party nominee for the potentially competitive open 7th CD (Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter retiring).

In lieu of the party primary, the Colorado Republicans would return to their previous system of holding closed party conventions to choose their nominees. The convention system is currently in use, but can only officially endorse candidates, and not nominate them as in years past. Some GOP committee members offer the argument that the Colorado open primary will allow non-Republicans to influence the primary to the degree that a non-representative GOP candidate wins certain office nominations, thus dooming the party to defeat in the succeeding general election.

The move is in response to the voting public approving Proposition 108 in the 2016 election that allows the state’s non-affiliated voters, some 1.4 million individuals, to vote in the primary of their choice. Registered party members are limited to participate only in the party primary to which they are officially affiliated. Both parameters are common procedures in modified primary states. The new election law allows the party central committees to opt out of holding a primary, but only if 75 percent of the voting committee members choose to do so.

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New Alabama Data; UT-3 Formulating

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 8, 2017 — As we enter the final full week of campaigning before the Aug. 15 vote, a new political poll forecasts a different leader in the Republican special US Senate election primary. The survey reliability factor could be suspect, however.

During the July 31 – Aug. 3 period, RHH Elections conducted a poll of 426 self-identified Alabama GOP registered voters who say they will vote in the special Republican primary. All but 57 responded via the Interactive Voice Response system, and the former provided their responses through an online questionnaire. No live surveyors were part of the interview process, which weakens the reliability substantially.

That being said, the RHH numbers are within the realm of the other published poll results. The new data forecasts former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore as capturing the edge with 31 percent over the previous race leader, appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who is just two points behind, meaning the contest is a virtual tie between them with as much as 40 percent of the outstanding preference spread among the remaining seven candidates. The latter group includes US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) with 18 percent, state Sen. Trip Pittman (8 percent), and former Alabama Christian Coalition head Randy Brinson (2 percent). Those not stating a named candidate are categorized as undecided.

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A New Republican Governor

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 7, 2017 — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made national news the other night at President Trump’s rally in Huntington, WV, when the Democratic state chief executive took the stage to announce that he is switching to the Republican Party.

When addressing the Trump rally, Justice said, “like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me … West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic governor.”

The move now gives Republicans control of the entire West Virginia governmental apparatus, owning both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office. Factoring Justice’s party change, the GOP holds the West Virginia chief executive post for the first time since Gov. Arch Moore (R) was defeated for re-election in 1988. There are now 26 states where Republicans control the legislature and governor’s office, including Nebraska where the legislature only has one ostensibly non-partisan legislative chamber but is clearly overwhelmingly Republican. In contrast, Democrats have full power in only five states.

The development means the Democrats drop to holding just 15 governors, an all-time low number for the party. Republicans, on the other hand, reach their historical apex with 34 governors as party members. The 50th governor, Bill Walker of Alaska, is an Independent.

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Another Tennessee Open

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 4, 2017 — For the second time this week, a Volunteer State Republican seat came open for the succeeding election. Following Rep. Jimmy Duncan’s (R-Knoxville) retirement announcement in the state’s 2nd District, House Budget Committee chair Diane Black (R-Gallatin) declared her candidacy for governor, thus opening her 6th District for the 2018 campaign.

In an announcement video (see above) that left no doubt she will be campaigning as a strong conservative, Rep. Black attempted to neutralize what may be her most glaring negative … that she is a member of the US House. In her one minute, 46-second video announcement, the congresswoman emphasizes the work she’s done for Tennessee and makes clear that she will use intense rhetoric to convey her positions, such as opposing “the weak-kneed people in her own party.” Professing to be like most Tennesseans, Rep. Black says she is among the majority who “do things the right way, no matter what Hollywood or Washington thinks about it.”

Rep. Black joins an open Republican governor’s field that includes state House Speaker Beth Harwell, state Sen. Mae Beavers, former state Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, business owners Bill Lee and Kay White, and entertainer Mark “Coonrippy” Brown. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, so far, comprise the Democratic contingent. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

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Ohio Poll; Tennessee Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2017
— We now have our first major political poll for the important open Ohio governor’s race, a contest that features several current and former prominent office holders from both parties.

The Tarrance Group surveyed the Ohio Republican electorate (July 24-26; 800 likely Ohio GOP voters) for the American Freedom Builders conservative organization, testing next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary that includes three sitting statewide elected officials and a member of Congress.

According to the Tarrance results, attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine leads the field both in support (42 percent) and name identification (96 percent). He enjoys a wide margin over Secretary of State Jon Husted who polls 18 percent, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (11 percent), with US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) now taking just five percent.

Name familiarity at this point has a great deal to do with ballot test standing. Husted’s name is recognized by 67 percent of the respondents, and Lt. Gov. Taylor just 44 percent, while Rep. Renacci is unknown to 71 percent of the statewide voters.

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