Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Sen. Markey Surges in Massachusetts

By Jim Ellis

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey (D)

Aug. 13, 2020 — A new University of Massachusetts statewide Democratic primary survey posts Sen. Ed Markey (D) to a surprisingly large lead over four-term Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) in their impending US Senate battle. The poll has methodology flaws, however, as the high error factor suggests.

The UMass survey (July 31-Aug. 7; 50 registered Massachusetts voters, 199 likely Democratic primary voters, 163 Independents saying they will choose to vote in the Democratic primary) posts Sen. Markey to a 50-32 percent first question ballot test lead, and 51-36 percent margin when those who say they are leaning to one candidate or the other are added.

The self-stated error factor is 5.9 percent for all registered voters and a whopping 7.0 percent for those likely to cast a Democratic primary ballot. Asking the ballot test and individual candidate profile questions to only the likely voters limits the sampling universe to 362; hence, the high error factor because the segmentation is too low for a statewide campaign in a place with a population large enough to fill nine congressional districts.

Even when taking into account the high error rate the new Markey advantage is beyond doubt, and it appears the senator’s campaign may be peaking at the proper time considering the primary is Sept. 1 and early voting begins Aug. 22.

Recently, Sen. Markey has been on an aggressive upswing. He’s receiving outside support from strong environmental groups that are delivering a seven-figure independent expenditure; he earned an endorsement from the largest state teacher’s union; and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is narrating his closing ads. The moves forced another group of unions and the Kennedy Family to counter by announcing a $1.6 million independent expenditure effort on the Representative’s behalf.

The UMass questionnaire asked the entire sample if they would describe the two candidates with one word apiece, and the results suggest Rep. Kennedy has a more negative image than Sen. Markey. While not all the top one-word answers were favorable to the veteran office holder – “old” was one of the most often mentioned terms, for example – he received more positive descriptions than negative. The top responses were, “progressive, good, dedicated, liberal, smart, and experienced.” Negative terms about Markey included “useless, unknown, and unsure.”

For Rep. Kennedy, we see a different picture. The top three words describing him were, “entitled, young, and ambitious.” Other major descriptors were, “opportunist, privileged, arrogant, and fake.” On the positive side, Kennedy was characterized as, “good, smart, energetic, and honest.”

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Rep. Omar, Georgia’s Greene Both Win

By Jim Ellis

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) won a hard-fought Democratic primary challenge from attorney Antone Melton-Meaux for a 57-39 percent re-nomination victory last night.

Aug. 12, 2020 — The two most controversial candidates on the primary ballot yesterday were both nominated and advance into safe general election campaigns from their respective states.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) withstood a hard-fought and expensive Democratic primary challenge from attorney Antone Melton-Meaux for a 57-39 percent re-nomination victory last night in a district election that drew the highest turnout of the night (just over 160,000 voters). Both candidates raised well over $4 million apiece for their respective campaigns.

In Northwest Georgia, businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) who has drawn attention for her association with the QAnon movement, a loose organization of individuals who believe that the government’s “deep state bureaucrats” are conspiring to take down President Trump, won the Georgia 14th District Republican runoff election.

Greene defeated Rome area surgeon John Cowan by a 57-43 percent margin from what will likely be over 75,000 voters who participated in the runoff vote. The final turnout number could soar, however, since a relatively substantial number of mailed ballots remain to be counted. The primary election in this district drew over 108,000 voters.


CONNECTICUT

Very little fanfare occurred here as few races were contested. The only result of interest came in the state’s 2nd District Republican primary where the two candidates are separated by just 78 votes with approximately 90 percent of the precincts reporting. The winner advances to the general election and a sure loss opposite Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Vernon). All five Democratic candidates were unopposed for re-nomination last night and each is a heavy favorite for re-election in the Fall.


GEORGIA

In addition to Greene winning the 14th District Republican runoff and stamping her ticket for Washington, DC from her politically safe congressional district from which Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome) is retiring (Trump ’16: 75-22 percent), three other runoffs were settled.

In the Savannah-anchored 1st District, attorney and retired Army officer Joyce Griggs defeated former local Democratic county chair Lisa Ring in the party runoff. Griggs’ victory margin was 56-44 percent, but from a low in-person turnout of only about 28,000 individual voters. Griggs now becomes a heavy underdog against incumbent Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) who is running for a fourth term.

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Another Big Primary Day

By Jim Ellis

Controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) faces a primary challenge today by attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D).

Aug. 11, 2020 — In addition to the Georgia runoff elections, which we covered yesterday, today we see five states holding their regular state primary. Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin are all choosing their nominees for the Fall.


CONNECTICUT

With no Senate or governor’s race on the ballot this year, votes are being cast to select the general election candidates in the Nutmeg State’s five congressional districts. Reps. John Larson (D-Hartford), Joe Courtney (D-Vernon), Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven), and Jim Himes (D-Cos Cob) look safe for re-election as they have each won multiple terms.

Freshman Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Wolcott) in the 5th District is also a heavy favorite for re-election but retired federal prosecutor David X. Sullivan (R) is a credible candidate in a district that could elect a Republican under the right circumstances. This year, however, doesn’t appear to yield such a positive atmosphere for the GOP. Sullivan has raised over $230,000, but that won’t be near enough to run a strong campaign against Rep. Hayes. The first-term congresswoman is the top fundraiser in Connecticut with $1.33 million in receipts through June 30.


MINNESOTA

Former representative Jason Lewis (R) is vying for the opportunity of challenging first-term Sen. Tina Smith (D) and is a likely winner tonight over four lightly regarded Republican opponents. Lewis will be a clear underdog against Sen. Smith, who won a 2018 special election with a 53-42 percent victory over what looked to be a strong challenge from GOP state Sen. Karin Housley. A recent Public Policy Polling survey (July 22-23; 1,218 Minnesota voters) found Sen. Smith leading Lewis, 48-39 percent.

The 1st District congressional race looks to be another hard-fought political battle. Here, we see a re-match between freshman Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) and former Defense Department official Dan Feehan (D). In 2018, this contest was decided by a scant 50.1 – 49.7 percent percentage spread, a margin of just 1,315 votes.

Feehan leads the money chase with $2.3 million raised to the congressman’s $1.66 million through the July 22 pre-primary campaign finance disclosure deadline. Both will easily win re-nomination tonight, but a close finish here is a virtual certainty.

The race that will attract the most attention lies in the Minneapolis-anchored 5th District where the challenger to controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis), attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D), has raised almost as much money as the incumbent, $4.15 million to $4.28 million, and both had less than $1 million remaining in their accounts at the July 22 reporting deadline.

It is unlikely that Melton-Meaux will deny Rep. Omar re-nomination, but his percentage will be interesting to watch. His main mode of attack, while positioning himself clearly on the ideological left, underscores that Rep. Omar is much more interested in developing a national platform than she is in representing the local district.

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TX-4 Convention; GA Runoff Preview

By Jim Ellis

Pat Fallon (R-Wichita Falls), is a virtual cinch to join the new Congress in January.

Aug. 10, 2020 — A shoo-in candidate in TX-4 and a naval battle in Georgia highlight tomorrow’s primaries in those states:


TX-4

Fourth Congressional District convention delegates chose a general election ballot replacement for resigned Rep. John Ratcliffe (R) on Saturday, and that replacement, state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Wichita Falls), now becomes a virtual cinch to join the new Congress in January.

A high turnout of 144 individuals from the universe of 158 eligible precinct chairs, empowered under Texas election procedure to choose a new congressional nominee, gathered in the small community of Sulphur Springs, located on Interstate 30 in Hopkins County, which lies in the center of the 4th District. The seat is vacant because former Rep. Ratcliffe resigned in May when he was appointed Director of US Intelligence.

State Sen. Fallon, who does not live in the 4th District and currently represents only four of its 18 counties, scored a first-ballot victory. He came to Saturday’s meeting backed by US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who delivered an endorsement speech on Fallon’s behalf.

A total of 12 candidates’ names were placed into nomination, obviously including Sen. Fallon, and Ratcliffe former district chief of staff Jason Ross, Atlanta (TX) Mayor Travis Ransom, and US Rep. Lance Gooden’s (R-TX) chief of staff, Aaron Harris. Sen. Fallon recorded 82 votes on the first ballot, which allowed him to clinch the general election nomination outright.

The 4th District seat will remain vacant for the rest of the year because Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has decided not to call a special election to fill the unexpired portion of the current term. The 4th District is heavily Republican (Trump ’16: 75-22 percent), so Sen. Fallon becomes a prohibitive general election favorite and, barring a GOP political catastrophe, will take the seat in January with the incoming freshman class.

TX-4, once represented by legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Bonham), is located in the Lone Star State’s northeastern corner. The district begins in Rockwall County, just east of the Dallas outer suburbs, and stretches all the way to Texarkana. It is bordered by Oklahoma and the Red River to the north and the Arkansas and Louisiana to the east.

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Hagerty Wins; Harshbarger Takes 1st

By Jim Ellis

Former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty won the Tennessee Senate Republican nomination.

Aug. 10, 2020 — Former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty won the Tennessee Senate Republican nomination last Thursday night with a 51-39 percent victory margin over his chief opponent, Dr. Manny Sethi, a Nashville surgeon, in the nation’s only Thursday primary.

Now as the official Republican nominee, Hagerty becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election against businesswoman and environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw, who was an upset winner in the Democratic primary despite spending virtually no money on her campaign.

The last three publicly released Republican primary polls, from JMC Analytics, the Trafalgar Group, and Victory Phones, all forecast a 3-4 point edge, far below Hagerty’s actual percentage spread. The Tarrance Group, which polled at the end of June, was much closer to the final result, predicting a 46-29 percent split in Hagerty’s favor. The surveys, however, were completed through July 19, so it is possible that his late message blitz was responsible for Hagerty gaining strong momentum in the campaign’s final stage that led to a strong victory.

The Democratic side actually became more curious. Attorney James Mackler, who raised and spent more than $2 million and was viewed as a heavy pre-election favorite for Thursday night’s vote, not only lost to Bradshaw, but placed a poor third. In between Bradshaw and Mackler was attorney and Unitarian minister Robin Kimbrough. Together, she and Bradshaw are reporting spending only $17,000 on their combined political effort through the July 17 pre-primary financial disclosure period.

The Republican primary turned into a hard-fought battle between Hagerty, who spent over $9 million, and Dr. Sethi, who was making his first venture into elective politics. Sethi raised and spent well over $4 million. The contest was personal at the end, with both candidates trying to get to the right of the other and launching negative attacks. Hagerty had President Trump and Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s (R) combined endorsement, signaling that he had the conservative credentials necessary to win a Tennessee Republican primary.

East Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) is retiring after serving what will be six complete terms and his successor will be pharmacist and political activist Diana Harshbarger.

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