Crist Announces for Governor

Florida Rep. Charlie Crist

By Jim Ellis

May 6, 2021 — US representative and former Florida governor, Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), announced this week that he will again run for the state’s top elected post, which appears to be influencing an interesting series of political maneuvers.

His candidacy declaration video, which included attacking incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as “a governor that’s only focused on his future and not yours” – an interesting line of attack for a person who has run 11 times for six different offices under three political party designations over a span of 28 years – spurred the Republican governor and potential Democratic opponents to respond.

Answering a reporter’s question about Crist’s candidacy, Gov. DeSantis retorted as noted in the Tampa Bay Times, “which party is he going to run under? Do we even know for sure? He has run as a Republican, lost; independent, lost; Democrat lost. But now I see he’s voting with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time, he could probably give it a run for the Green Party in San Francisco,” the governor concluded.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) made several statements indicating that she is highly likely to enter the governor’s race but would do so at a still unspecified time. She also said that Rep. Crist should remain in Congress, “where his voice is needed.”

US Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando), another potential gubernatorial candidate, also released her own video message this week extolling her career and ideals. The video did not specify that she would declare for governor since her congressional campaign committee paid for the production. The release timing, however, suggests that her intention is to eventually enter the governor’s race.

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TX-6: Analyzing a Mild Upset

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2021 — With many observers in and out of Texas conceding that Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez had a chance to finish first in Saturday’s special jungle primary to begin the process of replacing the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington), it came as at least a mild surprise to see her failing to even qualify for the secondary election. The final result yielded two Republicans advancing from the huge field of 23 candidates.

Finishing first was Susan Wright (R), the late congressman’s widow, which was not a particularly surprising result as virtually every analyst and available polling data conceded her one of the two runoff positions.

The race got particularly nasty, however, towards the end. An anonymous robocall – one without a legal disclaimer – flooded the district a day before the election claiming Ms. Wright murdered her husband to redeem a $1 million insurance policy. The call text said she deliberately contracted COVID in order to intentionally infect her husband. Rep. Wright died in early February after a long battle with cancer and COVID. Ms. Wright’s attorneys have referred the matter to the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Tarrant County District Attorney.

Freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) edged Sanchez for second place; Ellzey ran against Ron Wright when the congressional seat was last open in 2018 and forced him into a runoff.

For more than a generation, the 6th District was a Republican bastion. Rep. Joe Barton (R), Rep. Wright’s predecessor and former boss when the latter man served as a congressional district office director, held four variations of the 6th over a long 34-year congressional career. The electorate began to turn when Rep. Wright won two underwhelming victories and Democrats significantly closed the partisan gap at the presidential level (’20, Trump 51-48 percent; ’16, Trump 54-42 percent).

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Add IL-17 to the List of Vacancies

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2021 — Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), just emerging from her closest re-election victory in November – a 52-48 percent win over Republican Esther Joy King – surprisingly announced Friday that she will not seek re-election to a sixth term next year. Bustos was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair for the 2020 cycle and appeared positioned for further leadership or strong committee positions in the future.

Her absence in the next cycle from a state that is losing a congressional district means her politically marginal western Illinois CD (Trump ’20, 50-48 percent; Trump ’16, 47.4 – 46.7 percent) that stretches throughout the Iowa border region and is anchored in the area known as the Quad Cities, could drastically change in the next redistricting.

For her part, King immediately declared her candidacy for the open seat election. The Bustos retirement coupled with Rep. Charlie Crist’s (D-FL) expected gubernatorial announcement would create 16 open or vacant US House seats, eight from each party.

TX-6: Double R Runoff

By Jim Ellis

Susan Wright

May 4, 2021 — Republicans are guaranteed to hold Texas’ vacant 6th Congressional District in the succeeding runoff election as two GOP candidates advanced from the 23-person jungle primary election on Saturday night. Susan Wright, widow of late Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington), finished first, as expected, with just over 19 percent of the vote.

Accompanying Wright into the runoff contest is freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie). He scored a vote percentage of 13.9 in slipping past the top Democrat, 2018 congressional nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez, who finished just 354 votes behind in third place.

Ellzey was elected to the legislature in November, but immediately jumped into the congressional race when Rep. Wright passed away. In 2018, Ellzey ran for the 6th District open seat when veteran Rep. Joe Barton (R) retired, finishing second and forcing Rep. Wright, then the Tarrant County Tax Assessor, into a runoff election. Rep. Wright won the runoff 52-48 percent, which was a much closer finish than initially anticipated.

The Saturday night primary proved big for Republicans. Combined, their candidates received 61.9 percent of the 78,374 votes cast according to the initial final count. Democrats finished well below expectations with only a combined 37.3 percent split among their 10 candidates.

These totals are quite different than Rep. Wright’s victory margins in both 2020 and 2018, when he recorded almost identical splits of 53-44 percent and 53-45 percent, respectively. Former President Donald Trump carried the district with a 51-48 percent spread in November but a much stronger 54-42 percent in 2016.

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TX-6 Primary Saturday

By Jim Ellis

May 3, 2021 — The special jungle primary to begin the process of replacing the late Texas Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington) began Saturday as 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, a Libertarian, and an Independent scratched and clawed to obtain one of the two available runoff positions.

With 23 candidates on the ballot and nobody even reaching 30 percent in published polling, there was virtually no chance any of these contenders win outright with a majority vote. Therefore, a secondary election between the top two finishers will be called as soon as the vote totals are made official. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) then will schedule the special runoff election for what appears to be a period in late June.

The candidate attracting the most attention is the late congressman’s wife, Susan Wright (R). She scored a major endorsement last week as former President Donald Trump announced his support for her candidacy. The Trump move was a major blow to candidate Brian Harrison (R), who is a former official in the Trump Administration’s Health and Human Services Department and an ex-White House aide to then-President George W. Bush.

Wright garnered 19.2 percent of the vote Saturday, which was enough to give her a first-place finish.

Aside from Wright and Harrison, who finished a distant fourth with 10.8 percent of the vote, the other significant Republican candidate is freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie). He ran for the congressional seat in 2018 when Rep. Wright was first elected, forcing him into a runoff and losing just 52-48 percent to the eventual general election winner.

Just as he did then, Ellzey finished second, with 13.8 percent of the vote. Wright and Ellzey both will advance to the runoff, likely in late June.

Recently, both the Club for Growth and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have come out opposing Ellzey’s candidacy, with the former launching an opposition independent expenditure.

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