Monthly Archives: March 2017

O’Rourke to Run

By Jim Ellis

March 31, 2017 — Reports coming from Texas, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, indicate that three-term Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will formally announce a challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz (R). Will O’Rourke be a viable challenger, or will his campaign be nothing more than a political suicide run?

It will be interesting to see what type of arguments the El Paso congressman and his Democratic allies use in attempting to convince the Texas electorate to choose a Senate Democratic contender for the first time since the late Lloyd Bentsen (D) was last re-elected in 1988. It has been 26 years since the Democrats won any major Texas statewide election, last occurring in 1990 when Ann Richards became governor. Other Democratic statewide candidates were also swept into constitutional office that year, as they had been for previous generations. George W. Bush unseated Gov. Richards in 1994, which actually began the period of Texas Republican dominance that continues to this day.

Beating Sen. Cruz may actually be more difficult than running against a typical Republican incumbent, meaning one who did not actively oppose President Trump. Democrats who hope to take advantage of what is typically a favorable wave for the out party in a president’s first mid-term election, may have a difficult time wrapping Cruz in such a surge, if it is to form, since he was the president’s chief electoral opponent for the GOP nomination.

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Viginia Race Becoming More Interesting

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2017 — A new poll continues to show that former Virginia US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) is pulling even with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Democratic gubernatorial primary scheduled for mid-June. Until Perriello became a late entry into the statewide campaign, Northam looked to have an easy ride to the party nomination.

Now, the latest Christopher Newport University survey (March 16-26; 831 registered Virginia voters) finds Northam and Perriello tied at 26 percent preference less than three months before the June 13th statewide primary election.

The March poll is the second that the university has commissioned. Their first, in mid to late January (Jan. 15-28; 1,002 registered Virginia voters; 464 self-identified Democrats and Independents who lean Democratic), found Northam holding an 11-point lead over the former congressman but with 59 percent of the primary electorate undecided.

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House Opens – A Growing List

By Jim Ellis

March 29, 2017 — Coming to the end of just the first quarter of the off-election year, already 31 open US House seats could potentially be on the docket for the impending election cycle. Of those, 12 are either in special election or the incumbent has announced his or her intention not to seek another term.

Five of the 12 are currently vacant, and, as we know, special elections have already been scheduled to replace resigned House members who have either accepted cabinet positions from President Trump or a state position (Xavier Becerra becoming Attorney General of California).

The remaining seven, including Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) who just announced that he will run for governor next year, have either declared candidacies for another office or will retire.

In addition to Walz, three other representatives have announced gubernatorial candidacies. Repesentatives Michelle Grisham Lujan (D-NM), Jim Renacci (R-OH), and Kristi Noem (R-SD) have all publicly declared their intention to run for their respective state’s top political position.

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Another Questionable Poll

By Jim Ellis

March 28, 2017 — The Georgia special congressional election has already been polled rather extensively, but each survey has possessed methodological issues. The latest Opinion Savvy (OS) survey (March 23-24; 462 pre-screened, likely special election voters) appears to follow this same pattern.

The new OS data is unusual in that the individuals comprising the sample group were pre-screened before being selected from the Georgia registered voters list. The pollsters’ are using the selection process to determine the likelihood of special election participation. The polling directors do not provide in depth information about the pre-screening formula. Opinion Savvy was rated a C- performer with a slight Democratic skew according to the most recent FiveThirtyEight analytics organization’s national polling report.

Unlike the previous polls completed for this special election contest, Opinion Savvy does list all of the candidates on their polling questionnaire. The two Clout Research efforts provided only an abbreviated array of choices, and particularly helped Democrat Jon Ossoff because their first poll allowed only he as a Democratic option, while the second listed he and state Sen. Ron Slotin. Eighteen candidates, including five Democrats, are in contention.

The Opinion Savvy survey also draws the conclusion that Ossoff leads the field at or around the 40 percent mark. This could be an accurate depiction because this and the other polls are not so flawed as to make their conclusions unworthy of consideration.

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New Apportionment Patterns

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2017 — The Census Bureau released new population estimate data at the end of last week, and their information about the largest growth areas and places losing the most residents helps us project how the states will change in congressional representation. With almost four years remaining until reapportionment occurs at the end of 2020, much can still change, but the current population shift patterns provide some early clues as to what may be the future state gain/loss formula.

According to the Bureau’s new estimates, Maricopa County (Arizona) ended 2016 as the nation’s largest growing local entity replacing Harris County (Texas), which had been in the first position for the last eight consecutive years. The population estimates show that the Phoenix area gained 81,360 people from July 1, 2015 to the same date one year later. The Houston area net resident total increased 56,587 during the same period.

The calculations analyze the natural increase (number of births outpacing the number of deaths), net domestic migration, meaning those who move from one part of America to another, and net international migration figures (those coming from other countries). Maricopa County’s totals meant that an average of 222 new people came to or were born in the domain each and every day during the 2015-2016 yearly midpoints.

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More Sunshine Polling

By Jim Ellis

March 24, 2017 — The Sunshine State of Florida may set an aggregate polling record if the current surveying pace continues. Already we have seen four different pollsters test what may evolve into a US Senate political battle between incumbent Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), including two new studies released just this week.

More telling than the sheer polling volume is seeing all four surveying entities detect virtually the same result. That is, Sen. Nelson has a discernible lead, as one would expect from a three-term incumbent, but his advantage is small and he fails to top 50 percent in any of the publicized ballot tests.

Sen. Nelson was first elected to the House in 1978 after spending six years in the Florida legislature. He served until running for governor in 1990, losing the Democratic primary to former three-term Sen. Lawton Chiles, who would go onto unseat Gov. Bob Martinez (R) to win the statewide political position. Nelson returned to win the office of Florida treasurer, insurance commissioner and fire marshal in 1994, and then was elected US senator in 2000. He will be 76 years old in November of 2018, and has said on numerous public occasions that he will run for a fourth term.

Gov. Scott came to politics after a career in the hospital industry, which led to him forming his own venture capital firm. Politically, he seems to specialize in winning close, upset elections. He nipped then-Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill McCollum in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary with a three-point margin of victory, and then defeated Florida CFO Alex Sink (D), 49-48 percent, in a contest that the latter was expected to win easily. Despite poor job approval ratings, Gov. Scott was able to slip past former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in his re-election campaign, in yet another one-point race (48-47 percent).

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Renacci to Run in Ohio;
Angle in Nevada

By Jim Ellis

March 23, 2017 — The open Republican gubernatorial primary to succeed term-limited Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is producing an all-star political lineup. This week, another prominent GOP politico entered the impending contest, making the May 2018 primary a major political event.

Joining Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine as a gubernatorial candidate is four-term US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth). The congressman officially announced that he will enter the statewide campaign, a move that had been speculated upon for months. It is further expected that Secretary of State Jon Husted will also soon declare his gubernatorial candidacy.

Renacci was first elected to the House in the 2010 Republican wave. He defeated then-freshman Rep. John Boccieri (D) by 11 percentage points. Two years earlier, Boccieri had converted the seat for the Democrats after 36-year veteran Congressman Ralph Regula (R-Canton) retired.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

March 22, 2017 — In our fourth and final installment in this update report series, we examine the latest happenings for the remaining seven 2018 US Senate campaigns.

• Utah: Now that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is sending signals that he will run for an eighth term (he is already the longest-serving Republican senator in history) much less political attention will be paid to this state. Should Hatch decide to retire, then former Massachusetts governor and presidential nominee Mitt Romney will become the center of attention. Romney made statements earlier in the year that he would consider running for the Senate from Utah. The context, however, was in the realm of an impending Hatch retirement. Same for former Utah governor and presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, but his likely appointment as ambassador to Russia means the former governor will be removed from the Senate picture irrespective of Sen. Hatch’s status.

In any event, this seat will remain in Republican hands. Currently, it appears that the senator will seek re-election and is projected to win again in 2018.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part III

By Jim Ellis

March 21, 2017 — Today, we continue to examine the latest happenings for the coming 2018 Senate campaigns.

• New Mexico:
The open governor’s race is attracting most of the early political attention in the Land of Enchantment. Once the field to replace term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez (R) solidifies itself, it’s possible we could see more interest develop for opposing first-term Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry are all potential Republican gubernatorial candidates. So far, only State Labor Commissioner Mick Rich (R) is an announced US Senate candidate.

• New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is preparing for re-election to a second six-year term in 2018. Presidential overtones will affect this race, as the senator is being mentioned as a possible national Democratic candidate. Little in the way of Republican Senate opposition is forming against her right now.

• North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) attracted a great deal of media attention when President Trump first interviewed her for Agriculture Secretary during the post-election transition period. A 50-49 percent winner in 2012, Heitkamp defeated one-term at-large US Rep. Rick Berg (R), and now she prepares for a second term possibly against another at-large congressman. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) says he will decide whether to run for the Senate “in the next few months.” Obviously, a Heitkamp-Cramer race would be a hard fought contest, but it is far from certain that the congressman will make the challenge. This is clearly a race to watch, and a top Republican conversion target, especially if Rep. Cramer decides to run.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.

• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.

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Texas Redistricting – The Redux

By Jim Ellis

March 16, 2017 — After the 2003 Texas redistricting saga became synonymous with internal partisan political strife, a three-judge federal panel appears to have ordered the state to again become engulfed in another such battle.

The special panel ordered a re-draw of three districts, and the after-effects of reconstituting the seats will change several more adjoining CDs. The 35th District of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), which contains parts of Bexar (San Antonio), Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, and Travis (Austin) counties, was actually declared illegal back in 2011. The Supreme Court remanded that ruling back to the panel, and instructed them to take action. Now, after three elections cycles have already passed, the court has decided to move forward.

In addition to the Doggett seat, the 23rd (Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio), and 27th (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) CDs have also been declared unconstitutional, and will need to be re-drawn if the ruling is upheld.

The Democratic plaintiffs argued that the districts illegally pack Latino voters and were done so because of race. Emails emanating from Republican staff members participating in the process, and the messages contained in them, lent credence to the Democrats’ case thus culminating in this court decision.

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Filing Closes in SC-5

By Jim Ellis

March 15, 2017 — The special election that has so far attracted the least attention in this active early political season is Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s north-central South Carolina congressional district.

Most believe the Republicans will retain the seat, but while the GOP victories here have been consistently solid, they are not landslides. Then-state Sen. Mulvaney first won the district under a different configuration in 2010, ousting 14-term Congressman John Spratt (D-Rock Hill) in a 55-45 percent result. The Republican incumbent then averaged 57.8 percent of the vote in his three subsequent re-election campaigns, reaching his highest total this past November, at 59.2 percent.

Seven Republicans, three Democrats, and five minor party contenders have filed as candidates. In South Carolina, the special election system is partisan and three-tiered. The party primaries are posted for May 2. Using the state’s typical two-week run-off format, the secondary election will be May 16 if no candidate secures an absolute majority in the first vote. The special general is scheduled for June 20.

In all likelihood, with seven Republicans on the primary ballot, it is probable that the GOP contest will yield a run-off election. Democrats appear to have one serious candidate compared to a pair of “also-ran” contenders. Therefore, it is at least plausible that the Democratic nominee will be chosen in the May 2 primary.

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He’ll Be Back — Maybe

By Jim Ellis

March 14, 2017 — Veteran actor Arnold Schwarzenegger made famous the line, “I’ll be back,” in the “Terminator” movies. Now, the former California governor is intimating that he may return to Golden State politics, saying he is “not ruling out” a run for US Senate next year.

But a bigger question looms. Veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) — the body’s most elderly member at 83 years of age — has not announced her retirement. In fact, the senator recently said in a California radio interview that she is seriously considering seeking a fifth full term in 2018. Despite her comments, she remains a retirement possibility, and it is doubtful that Schwarzenegger would run unless the seat comes open.

Several questions pose themselves. Since Republicans have fared so poorly in California statewide elections since his own last victory in 2006 (56-39 percent over then-state Treasurer Phil Angelides), there are questions as to whether the actor/politician would run as an Independent should he make a return to the electoral world.

Actually, the Indie option makes sense for a number of reasons.

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Senate: Utah & Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

March 13, 2017 — Originally elected in 1976, no Republican senator has served longer than Utah’s Orrin Hatch, and he is the eighth longest-serving member in American history. At the end of last week, he informed the media that he’s “planning on” running for an eighth term in 2018.

In 2012, Sen. Hatch indicated that he would be serving his final term upon election that year, but now his intention has apparently changed. The press office statement proved less definitive than Sen. Hatch’s words, however, suggesting that there is still a possibility for retirement.

“Senator Hatch appreciates the encouragement he’s receiving to run for reelection. While he has not made a final decision about his plans for 2018, he has made plans thus far to ensure all options remain on the table,” came the official statement clarifying the Senator’s earlier comments.

Earlier in the year, former governor and US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman (R), indicated an interest in running for the Senate. He said at the time that he did not intend to challenge Sen. Hatch, should the latter decide to seek re-election. With Huntsman now appearing to be President Trump’s choice for Ambassador to Russia, it is unlikely that he will be in the Senate campaign picture irrespective of what Sen. Hatch decides.

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Nelson vs. Scott

By Jim Ellis

March 10, 2017 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is already creating news. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has repeatedly said he will seek re-election to a fourth term even though he had been rumored as a retirement candidate.

The senator will turn 76 years of age before the next election and completing 30 years of congressional service at that time has led some to believe he might call it a career in 2018. His public comments about seeking re-election are unequivocal, however.

Simultaneously, Gov. Rick Scott (R), ineligible to seek a third term, has publicly discussed challenging Nelson. Now, two contemporary polls testing the hypothetical race were just released, and the early numbers are suggesting a typically close Florida result.

The University of Northern Florida ran a somewhat flawed poll during February (Feb. 16-26; 973 “completed surveys”), over a long 11-day sampling period but featuring a large respondent pool. Referring to them in terms of “completed surveys” tells us little about the group composition, however. Thus, we cannot clearly determine whether those queried are even registered voters, let alone likely participants in a midterm election.

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