Maine’s Instant Run-Off Examined

By Jim Ellis

MAINEJune 15, 2018 — An interesting situation is developing from the still-in-progress Maine primary that could become a test case for either changing or instituting state run-off electoral systems.

As you know, run-offs ensure that a party nominee obtains a majority or, in the case of North Carolina and South Dakota, a substantial share of the vote. The run-off’s purpose is to prevent a party from nominating a winner in a multi-candidate election who garners only a small plurality.

The South Carolina 4th Congressional District race is a good example of why some states choose a run-off format. On Tuesday, both parties advanced a pair of candidates into respective run-off elections because no one came close to receiving majority support.

For the Republicans, with 13 candidates running to succeed retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg), former state Sen. Lee Bright finished first, but with only 25 percent of the vote. In most other states, he would have been nominated. Since, 75 percent of the Republican voters chose another candidate, the run-off ensues. On June 26, Bright and state Sen. William Timmons (R-Greenville), who finished second with 19.2 percent, will decide the party nomination in one-on-one electoral competition. On the Democratic side, candidates Doris Lee Turner (29.4 percent) and Brandon Brown (28.5 percent) advance, while Eric Graben (25.7 percent), Will Morin (9.1 percent), and J.T. Davis (7.2 percent) are eliminated.

Maine is testing a unique new system that prevents situations such as their own that occurred in the past two gubernatorial elections, but avoids the cost of holding another separate election. Political observers will now see if their new idea will work and potentially withstand a legal challenge.

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California Still Counting;
CD-48 Still Undecided

By Jim Ellis

The California state flag

The California state flag

June 13, 2018 — The notoriously long California vote counting system continues to grind along, and a week later a major election is still in doubt — the 48th Congressional District, a seat fully contained within Orange County. Among the 16 jungle primary candidates, incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has secured the first run-off position and advances into the general election. The ongoing battle is for second place between biomedical company CEO Hans Keirstead and businessman Harley Rouda, both Democrats.

This is an interesting election since the national and state Democratic Parties are split. The California State Democratic Party convention gave its official endorsement to Keirstead, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and many Democratic leaders officially backed Rouda.

On election night, Rouda had taken the lead, but the laborious post-election count has now put Keirstead in second place with a growing lead. His previous edge over Rouda was 87 votes. The latest count, released Monday night, increases Keirstead’s edge over Rouda to 372 votes, continuing the pattern of Keirstead moving up in the post-election count.

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Today’s Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2018 — Today brings another set of primaries, this time from five states: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.

MAINE

the-primariesSen. Angus King (I) stands for a second term, and today’s primary will be a non-event. Both the Republicans and Democrats have only one candidate on the ballot. State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Kennebec County), who was the Maine State Director for the 2012 Ron Paul for President campaign, will be the GOP nominee, while teacher Zak Ringelstein is the Democratic candidate. Sen. King is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.

The open governor’s race is a wild affair for both parties. Gov. Paul LePage (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. The Democrats are fielding seven candidates and the Repblicans, four. Expect the general election to be competitive.

The 2nd District Democratic congressional primary is of keen interest, as a three-way contest culminates among state Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston), wealthy conservationist Lucas St. Clair, and former Islesboro Selectman Craig Olson. The resource battle is between Golden and St. Clair, and both figure to spend more than $800,000 in attempting to secure the party nomination. The winner will challenge two-term Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) in the general election.


NEVADA

The Silver State political card is full with contested races for Senate, governor, and three House races.

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Democrats Re-Visit
“Super Delegates”

By Jim Ellis

June 11, 2018
— According to an article published late last week by Politico, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez informed a group of US House members this week in a meeting that the party will be considering a move to change the status of what are now known as “Super Delegates” in preparation for the 2020 presidential election.

super-delegates-375The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws panel met Friday to consider two proposals about making the group virtually powerless before the next presidential campaign begins. The Super Delegates became controversial in the 2016 presidential contest because of Hillary Clinton’s dominance within this delegate sector, which is comprised of elected officials and party leaders.

Many believed the group unfairly tilted the playing field toward Clinton in the face of actual Democratic primary and caucus voters who preferred Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In the end, Clinton still won the pledged delegate count — those earned in primaries and caucuses — but her strength with Super Delegates clinched the nomination long before all the delegates voted on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

In short, each state is awarded a certain number of Super Delegates, officially labeled as “PLEO’s” (Party Leader/Elected Official). They are comprised of a defined number of the state’s elected officials, internally elected, and “distinguished” party leaders. Each state has different rules governing who is awarded Super Delegate status.

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Latest Post-Primary Developments

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJune 7, 2018 — Featuring eight primaries and the Minnesota political party endorsing conventions immediately preceding the state’s candidate filing deadline, the week has brought a whirlwind of political activity. We’ll update the latest developments.

Over the weekend, Minnesota Democrats and Republicans met in convention, as they do in every election cycle, to issue formal party endorsements. It is the typical practice in this state for the un-endorsed candidates to end their campaigns instead of forcing an August primary. But, 2018 is proving to be an unusual year.

While the Republicans re-endorsed their 2014 gubernatorial nominee, particularly when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty chose not to compete in the endorsing convention, it became clear that there would be an active Aug. 14 Republican primary between the ex-state chief executive and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

The Democratic process was even more interesting, however. When the delegates voted to endorse state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), state Auditor Rebecca Otto announced that she would end her campaign. On the other hand, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who said weeks ago that he would force a primary if he lost the party endorsement, confirmed that he will activate an Aug. 14 primary against Murphy.

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Big Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

June 6, 2018 — Voters chose their general election nominees in eight states last night with most races ending as predicted, though a few surprises also occurred. Here’s the rundown:

ALABAMA

the-primariesGov. Kay Ivey scored an outright Republican primary victory, defeating Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and two others. The governor scored 56 percent of the GOP primary vote. She will now face Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the general election. Maddox defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, 55-29 percent, in last night’s Democratic primary. None of the other four candidates even reached 10 percent support.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) placed first in her multi-candidate primary, but scored only 39 percent support. She will now advance to a July 17 run-off election with party-switching former Democratic Congressman and ex-Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who recorded 28 percent of the vote. In 2010, Roby unseated then-Democratic incumbent Bright, so the run-off will be a re-match of sorts. Her low vote total suggests that Rep. Roby is in danger of losing re-nomination in the secondary election. The winner faces business analyst Tabitha Isner who won the Democratic primary with 60 percent of the vote. Either Roby or Bright will be favored in the general election after the run-off concludes.

In the other challenged primary race, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) notched a 61-39 percent win over businessman Clayton Hinchman. Earlier, this looked to be a significant challenge, but Rep. Brooks easily secured re-nomination.


CALIFORNIA

The California tabulation is incomplete as votes can still be received through Friday. Ballots postmarked yesterday will count as long as they reach the county elections office by 5 pm on Friday. Therefore, some second place finishes in the various races are somewhat undetermined though the current leader for the final general election qualifying position will likely hold on through the final counting phase.

As expected, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) finished first (33 percent) in the open governor’s race and advances into the November general election. Republican attorney and former presidential candidate John Cox (26 percent) clinched second place making both the state GOP leadership and Newsom happy. The Republicans needed a statewide candidate in the general election to help with voter turnout for the down ballot races, while Newsom clearly wanted a Republican against him in the general as opposed to another Democrat. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa finished third (13 percent) and state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was fourth (10 percent). In all, 27 individuals received votes for governor in the state’s jungle primary format.

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Big Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 5, 2018 — Today voters in eight states — Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota — will choose nominees for the 2018 general election in the single primary election day with the largest number of voters participating. Here’s a rundown on where things stand in each of the eight states:


ALABAMA

the-primariesThe most interesting race on the Alabama primary card is the state’s governor’s race. Incumbent Kay Ivey (R) runs for a first term after succeeding resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R), when he left office last year as part of a plea bargain agreement for campaign finance violations.

Polling gives the governor wide leads to defeat Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and Baptist minister Scott Dawson. For the Democrats, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb are vying for the party nomination. Gov. Ivey is the favorite today and in November.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) faces a multi-candidate Republican primary, including former US Rep. Bobby Bright, the man she unseated in 2010 when he was the Democrat incumbent. Also in the race is state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and former Roy Moore campaign manager Rich Hobson. Rep. Roby is favored, but the possibility of being forced to a run-off exists if she fails to obtain majority support.

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California Jungle Primary Intrigue

The California state flag

The California state flag

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2018 — In 2010, Golden State voters adopted a ballot proposition that changed the state’s primary system. As we have often noted in articles about the state’s political campaigns, the primary is now a qualifying election with the top two vote-getting candidates advancing to the general election regardless of percentage or political party affiliation. Looking toward the California preliminary vote tomorrow, the top-two jungle primary system may produce some unintended consequences.

When the initiative was first floated eight years ago, many pro-enterprise organizations joined in support because they correctly saw that business coalition candidates, and Republicans in particular, were headed for further downturns in California elections. The top-two format, many believed, would produce more centrist victors from both political parties. In practice, when analyzing the three election cycles since the process began and going into a fourth on Tuesday, such has not quite been the case.

As we know, Democrats have heavily targeted California in their 2018 bid to regain the US House majority, believing that their chances of winning the seven Republican districts Hillary Clinton carried in the last presidential election are strong. But Tuesday’s vote is providing them a new obstacle to overcome, a complication that could actually shut them out of even having a general election candidate in some of their top targeted districts.

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Arizona Senate: Filing Closes,
New Poll Shows Surprise

Arizona-mapBy Jim Ellis

June 1, 2018 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona Wednesday for the state’s Aug. 28 primary election, and the US Senate candidate fields are now set. Little in the way of surprise — barring last minute filers who have not yet been reported, the Republicans, who are attempting to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R), number three in total: US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and ex-state senator and former US Senate candidate Kelli Ward. For the Democrat primary, US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) faces attorney Deedra Abboud, a minor candidate.

Remington Research just released the results of their latest Grand Canyon State GOP primary survey conducted last week (May 23-24; 2,011 likely Arizona Republican primary voters via an interactive voice response system). According to the data, Rep. McSally attracts 42 percent support as compared to ex-Sheriff Arpaio’s 25 percent, while Ward tallies 23 percent. In two other polls conducted in April, Rep. McSally led in one and Ward the other.

While the McSally advantage is 17 and 19 points over Arpaio and Ward in the most current survey, she led the former sheriff and the ex-state legislator, 36-26-25 percent in a mid-April Magellan Strategies poll. OH Predictive Insights, however, found Ward jumping out to a 36-27-22 percent advantage over Rep. McSally and Arpaio in their early April study.

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Poll: New Jersey Closing

By Jim Ellis

new-jersey-mapMay 31, 2018 — A new curious poll was released right before the Memorial Day break that suggests the New Jersey Senate race is already closing.

Since presumed Republican nominee Bob Hugin, the former chairman and CEO of the Celgene pharmaceutical corporation, has already spent $3.7 million on his campaign in conjunction with the June 5 primary, it is not particularly surprising that the margin between he and Sen. Bob Menendez (D) is getting tighter.

What appears unusual are the raw numbers from the recent Fairleigh Dickinson University survey, however. The poll (May 16-21; 856 registered New Jersey voters) looks to be sound methodologically, and the numbers reported for various approval ratings and other data points seem consistent with previously released research. The ballot test, however, raises questions because the incumbent’s support figure is so low and the undecideds high (46 percent). According to the F-D study, Sen. Menendez leads Hugin only 28-24 percent.

Despite the veteran senator seeing the federal bribery case against him fall apart and charges dismissed, his reputation has still suffered. The F-D report finds the senator’s favorability index at 33:39 percent favorable to unfavorable with only 51 percent of Democrats answering with a positive response. In comparison, the state’s junior senator, Cory Booker (D), posts a 55:27 percent ratio and a positive rating among Democratic respondents of 79 percent.

Demographically, the senator’s numbers are weak across the board. Even while leading Hugin in every category, his margins are tight and overall support figures poor. Sen. Menendez gets 27 percent among men, 29 percent from women, 27 percent with white voters, and just 30 percent from non-white voters. Even the college-educated voters, usually a strength segment for Democratic candidates, favor him only 32-24 percent.

This May poll is drastically different from published university polls in April and March. But Hugin’s strong early campaign provides at least a partial explanation. The former corporate leader is so far self-funding to the tune of $7.5 million and had raised almost $700,000 from individuals as listed in the May 16 pre-primary disclosure report.

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Rep. Garrett Reverses Course

By Jim Ellis

May 30, 2018 — Late last week, with rumors swirling that Virginia freshman Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville) would not seek a second term, the congressman called a news conference to announce that he would run even though the day’s opening comments seemed to point in an opposite direction. On Memorial Day, however, not only did he reverse course by announcing that he was changing his mind about continuing his political career and actually would not run, but he also publicly admitted that he was an alcoholic and was seeking treatment for it.

virginia-congressional-districts

With that announcement, District VA-5 becomes the 62nd House open seat and the 42nd that the Republicans must defend; but this latest development may actually help the GOP hold the central Virginia CD. With the scenario of a weakened Rep. Garrett heading into a general election against a well-funded Democrat, it is now probable that with a fresh candidate replacing Garrett, GOP retention chances would be improved.

Both Rep. Garrett and Democrat Leslie Cockburn, an award winning “60 Minutes” producer for CBS News, are unopposed in the June 12 primary. Once Rep. Garrett becomes the official nominee and withdraws, the local congressional district Republican Party will then meet in a special convention to choose a replacement standard bearer.

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A False Alarm in Virginia

By Jim Ellis

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville)

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville)

May 29, 2018 — The news media was filled with stories last week that freshman Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville) was about to announce his retirement. And Late last week, Rep. Garrett fueled such talk in telling the media that he would hold a news conference to address his status. But the speculation proved overblown when Garrett clarified, in what was described as a long and rambling news availability, that he will seek a second term in the fall.

Rep. Garrett, who parted ways with his chief of staff last week and who is not known for being an aggressive fundraiser, partially fed into the idea that he would not seek re-election. Through April 8, Garrett had only $133,275 in his campaign account. Observers invariably drew a comparison with his Democratic opponent, journalist Leslie Cockburn. She has raised more than $715,000 but only has $271,113 remaining. Cockburn does have the wherewithal to self-fund her campaign to a significant degree, however.

Before the Garrett retirement flap, Democrats were looking at this race as a second-tier potential target. Garrett won the 2016 election with 58 percent of the vote against Albemarle County Supervisor Jane Dittmar, another Democratic candidate who was originally believed to be competitive and did, in fact, spend over $1.3 million on her campaign.

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The Primaries Through May:
Setting November, Part II

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

May 25, 2018 — With primaries having been completed in 13 states we review the key run-off and general election pairings that these primaries produced. Today we’ll look at Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. Yesterday we reviewed Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska and North Carolina.


Ohio: A competitive open governor’s race is underway, featuring Attorney General and former US Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and ex-Attorney General Richard Cordray (D). Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) begins the general election in the favored position over Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth). A special election in the 12th District between state Sen. Troy Balderson (R) and Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor (D) occurs on Aug. 7. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) defends his seat against Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. Former NFL football player and businessman Anthony Gonzalez (R) is heavily favored to succeed Rep. Renacci in the open 16th District.


Oregon: The only competition here is occurring in the governor’s race, where incumbent Kate Brown (D) runs for her first full term against state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend). The governor is a clear favorite for re-election.


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The Primaries Through May:
Setting November, Part I

By Jim Ellis
the-primaries
May 24, 2018
— We have now completed primaries in 13 states. Therefore, we can review the key run-off and general election pairings that these primaries produced. Today we’ll look at Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska and North Carolina. Tomorrow we’ll go over the states of Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.


Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is a lock for re-election. Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) is a clear favorite over state Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock).


Georgia: Republicans will see a gubernatorial July 24 run-off between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The winner faces former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) in the open general election. In the House, Democrats are forced into run-offs in District 6 and 7. The winners will be clear underdogs to Reps. Karen Handel (R-Roswell) and Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville).


Idaho: Lt. Gov. Brad Little (R) is a heavy favorite over state Rep. Paulette Jordan (D-Moscow) in the open governor’s race. Former state Sen. Russ Fulcher (R) will succeed Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) in the open 1st District.


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Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky
and Texas Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seatsMay 23, 2018 — Yesterday, voters in four states cast their votes in nomination elections. Today, we look at the results from Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas.

ARKANSAS

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) easily won re-nomination for a second term with 70 percent of the vote and now faces former non-profit executive Jared Henderson (D) in what is expected to be an easy run for re-election.

The most significant Arkansas race is in Little Rock’s 2nd Congressional District. With the Democratic establishment’s backing, state Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) scored an outright victory last night, capturing 59 percent against three Democratic opponents. By earning a majority of the total votes cast, Tucker avoids a run-off and automatically advances into the general election. He will now face two-term US Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) in November.


GEORGIA

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek re-election, so the open governor’s race tops the election card this year.

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