Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Rep. Zeldin Declares for Governor

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)

April 12, 2021 — Long Island US Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced late last week that he will run for governor next year in hopes of facing beleaguered New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). The move appears to be a risky one in that Zeldin would be jettisoning a relatively safe Republican congressional seat that is almost redistricting proof for a statewide race in very unfriendly political territory for his party.

Should Gov. Cuomo survive the impeachment offensive against him and seek and win re-nomination, then Zeldin would be in position to wage a competitive challenge campaign. Against any other Democrat, however, the pendulum undeniably swings back to the left.

Rep. Zeldin’s 1st Congressional District is essentially secure under almost any potential redistricting map because water borders the far eastern Long Island seat on three sides. Therefore, the only way the district can move is west meaning the core constituency remains intact. Of course, a lot depends upon whether New York loses one or two seats in reapportionment.

The only way to fundamentally change the 1st is to cut Districts 1 and 2 (Rep. Andrew Garbarino; R-Sayville/Islip) horizontally but doing so could conceivably make Democratic Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Kathleen Rice’s (D-Garden City) districts more Republican. Irrespective of what occurs with redistricting, Rep. Zeldin is likely risking a relatively secure political future in what possibly becomes a Republican controlled House of Representatives.

The Zeldin announcement, however, doesn’t mean he, or any other potential candidate, couldn’t change their minds. Candidate filing in New York for the 2022 election cycle will be set for April of next year prior to the June primary, and the region’s politics will change a great deal during the time interval between now and then.

At this point, the Cuomo situation seems to have stabilized. No longer are we seeing daily announcements of different women coming forward to accuse the governor of inappropriate sexual oriented behavior. Furthermore, the investigation into the COVID-related nursing home deaths, a more serious situation than the sexual impropriety allegations, will take a long time to unfold.

With the governor steadfastly refusing to resign, the state Assembly has introduced articles of impeachment against him. In the past two weeks, key legislative leaders have said that such a procedure is likely to consume months rather than weeks, so the odds of Cuomo being able to hold on throughout the remainder of the term are increasing.

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Assessing Ohio

By Jim Ellis

April 9, 2021 — Ever since Sen. Rob Portman (R) announced his retirement in late January, the open Ohio Senate race has attracted a great deal of national political attention.

With the first quarter now at an end and Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports due on April 15, candidates who have found fundraising success in the previous 12 weeks are informally releasing their dollar totals. Such is the case for the major Ohio contenders.

At this point, the Democratic field already seems to be crystallizing. With a weak political bench in the state, the nomination favorite appears to be Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/ Youngstown). Ryan is in even stronger position because a potential opponent, former Ohio Health Department Director Amy Acton (D) – who was actually faring slightly better against the Republican slate than he according to a March 18-19 Public Policy Polling survey – announced last week that she would not run.

For his part, Ryan originally said he would formally announce his Senate campaign in March, but later indicated that he would not be declaring so soon. Seeing that his first quarter political receipts exceeded $1.2 million suggests that he has been working hard on the fundraising circuit, giving us a further clue as to his actual intention.

The up-and-coming potential Republican candidate appears to be six-term Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus). His aggressive fundraising resulted in $1.4 million obtained for the quarter and added to his previous $1 million cash-on-hand figure, gives him a base war chest of over $2.4 million to begin a statewide effort with millions more to come. The congressman says he will make a final decision about entering the Senate race later in the year.

Former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, however, had an even better fundraising sprint, obtaining just over $2.1 million. Ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who held over $1.6 million in his campaign account from previous campaigns, brought in $1.3 million during Q1 of 2021. Therefore, the GOP top tier contenders are all financially strong. Two other potential entries are author J.D. Vance and US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton).

Stivers, stressing that he has not yet made the decision to run for the Senate, said in an interview with the Cleveland.com news site that, “it’s a huge statement that someone who’s not in the race can outraise announced candidates.”

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Rep. Alcee Hastings Passes Away; Murkowski Trails Early in Alaska

By Jim Ellis

April 8, 2020 — After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, veteran Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) passed away Monday morning. The 84-year-old congressman was first elected in 1992, and his 28-plus years of congressional service elevated him as the dean of the Florida delegation.

Prior to his service in Congress, Hastings was a federal judge but found himself impeached and removed from the bench over financial impropriety in 1989. He then ventured into the electoral realm with a run for Secretary of State in 1990 where he failed to win the Democratic nomination. In post-redistricting 1992, with Florida gaining four seats in reapportionment, Hastings won a new seat from the region between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. He would never again be seriously challenged.

Rep. Hastings’ death opens Florida’s 20th District that encompasses parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties to a special election. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will eventually schedule a primary and special general to determine a successor who will serve the balance of the current term.

FL-20 is heavily Democratic (’20: Biden, 77-22 percent; ’16: Clinton, 80-18 percent), so the action will be in the partisan primary. Demographically, the seat divides racially as 53 percent black, 24 percent Hispanic, and 19 percent non-Hispanic white.

The gender breakdown favors the females: 51.3 percent. In terms of age, 14 percent are over 65, and 24.1 percent fall under age 18. A whopping 36 percent are foreign born. Concerning education, 83.2 percent have a high school degree, while just under 21 percent own a college degree. There are approximately 18,000 business entities within the district confines.

The House now has four Democratic vacancies and one Republican. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Deb Haaland (D-NM) all resigned their House seats to accept positions in the Biden Administration. The lone Republican vacancy is due to Rep. Ron Wright’s (R-TX) death.

Alaska Senate

The Cygnal survey research company just released a poll of a hypothetical 2022 Alaska Senate race now that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has drawn a significant opponent. It is probable that this is the first poll conducted in Alaska that accounts for the state’s newly installed jungle primary system that allows the top four qualifying finishers to advance into the general election.

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Community Activist Odessa Kelly Gets Backing From Justice Democrats to Challenge Tennessee Rep. Cooper

By Jim Ellis

Community activist Odessa Kelly (Photo: Odessa Kelly campaign)

April 7, 2021 — In what could be the beginning of a national trend developing against perceived moderate Democratic incumbents, community activist Odessa Kelly on Monday announced a party primary challenge against veteran Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville).

What makes this candidacy potentially more serious is her backing from the Justice Democrats national political action committee that posted a successful 2020 election cycle. The group is most closely associated with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) and the other members of “the Squad” — Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The Justice Democrats successfully backed Jamaal Bowman’s successful Democratic primary challenge of 16-term New York Rep. Eliot Engel, and they won another New York primary election with attorney Mondaire Jones in an open race to succeed retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D).

They also supported two other individuals who upset Democratic incumbents, Illinois challenger Marie Newman, opposite then-Rep. Dan Lipinski, and Cori Bush in St. Louis who defeated 20-year congressional incumbent Lacy Clay (D-MO). Overall, they endorsed nine non-incumbent Democratic challengers in primaries and were successful in five races.

Their two biggest losses came in Massachusetts and Texas. The failed to dislodge House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and veteran Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), though both campaigns were highly competitive.

Combined, the nine non-incumbents who the Justice Democrats supported spent an average of $2.25 million, meaning that a potential Odessa Kelly candidacy in Tennessee against Rep. Cooper could well become serious, at least in terms of available resources.

Tennessee’s 5th District contains the capital city of Nashville and all of Davidson County. The CD also includes to the west the neighboring county of Dickson and three-quarters of Cheatham. Demographically, the seat is 60.4 percent non-Hispanic white, 25.0 percent black, and 9.2 percent Hispanic. The gender division breaks 51.7 percent female. A total of 12.3 percent of the population is foreign born, which is a high number when compared to other districts around the country.

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Huge Missouri Polling Swing

By Jim Ellis

Ex-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R)

April 6, 2021 — Two new Missouri Senate surveys are about as divergent as polling gets.

For background purposes, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) received a great deal of media attention when he declared for the Senate during the latter part of March, just after incumbent Roy Blunt (R) announced his retirement. Much of the coverage dealt with Greitens’ 2017 sex scandal that forced him from office. Just days later, Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) went public with his plans to challenge the disgraced former governor for the 2022 Republican nomination.

With so much early attention being paid to the race, two pollsters fielded surveys during the same period, but their ballot test numbers drew very different conclusions. Fabrizio, Lee & Associates interviewed 400 likely Republican primary voters during the March 23-25 period. The Remington Research Group conducted their interactive voice response study within the same time frame, March 24-25, but their sampling universe was a much larger 1,041 Missouri likely Republican primary voters.

Fabrizio Lee puts Greitens in far better position than Remington Research. They see the ex-governor leading AG Schmitt by a whopping 48-11 percent margin with unannounced potential contenders Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) and Jason Smith (R-Salem) posting support percentages of nine and seven, respectively.

Conversely, Remington Research finds a very close race. Their ballot test finds Greitens leading AG Schmitt, by only a single percentage point, 40-39 percent. Adding the other potential candidates, Reps. Wagner and Smith along with Reps. Billy Long (R-Springfield), Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville) and St. Louis businessman John Brunner, we see a 31-18-12-9-8-6-2 percent division with Greitens and Schmitt leading the pack with Reps. Wagner, Smith, Hartzler, and Long trailing respectively. Brunner, who has previously lost two statewide races, tracks at only two percent support.

In the head-to-head pairing with Greitens and Schmitt, the geographic segmentation between the two candidates virtually mirrored the statewide 40-39 percent split in Columbia, Joplin, and Cape Girardeau. We see a much different result in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield, the state’s largest population centers. Greitens built a 46-35 percent lead in Springfield and a 43-38 percent edge in Kansas City. Schmitt, however, had the advantage in his home area of St. Louis, 43-34 percent.

Severe breaks occur when an ideological prism is placed over the two candidates. Among those in the survey universe who self-identify as very conservative, Greitens has a 48-34 percent lead. For those who say they are somewhat conservative, the margin tightens: Greitens, 41-37 percent. When looking at the moderate-progressive segment, the outcome substantially flips: Schmitt, 51-21 percent.

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