Category Archives: Governor

A New Republican Governor

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 7, 2017 — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made national news the other night at President Trump’s rally in Huntington, WV, when the Democratic state chief executive took the stage to announce that he is switching to the Republican Party.

When addressing the Trump rally, Justice said, “like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me … West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic governor.”

The move now gives Republicans control of the entire West Virginia governmental apparatus, owning both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office. Factoring Justice’s party change, the GOP holds the West Virginia chief executive post for the first time since Gov. Arch Moore (R) was defeated for re-election in 1988. There are now 26 states where Republicans control the legislature and governor’s office, including Nebraska where the legislature only has one ostensibly non-partisan legislative chamber but is clearly overwhelmingly Republican. In contrast, Democrats have full power in only five states.

The development means the Democrats drop to holding just 15 governors, an all-time low number for the party. Republicans, on the other hand, reach their historical apex with 34 governors as party members. The 50th governor, Bill Walker of Alaska, is an Independent.

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Another Tennessee Open

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 4, 2017 — For the second time this week, a Volunteer State Republican seat came open for the succeeding election. Following Rep. Jimmy Duncan’s (R-Knoxville) retirement announcement in the state’s 2nd District, House Budget Committee chair Diane Black (R-Gallatin) declared her candidacy for governor, thus opening her 6th District for the 2018 campaign.

In an announcement video (see above) that left no doubt she will be campaigning as a strong conservative, Rep. Black attempted to neutralize what may be her most glaring negative … that she is a member of the US House. In her one minute, 46-second video announcement, the congresswoman emphasizes the work she’s done for Tennessee and makes clear that she will use intense rhetoric to convey her positions, such as opposing “the weak-kneed people in her own party.” Professing to be like most Tennesseans, Rep. Black says she is among the majority who “do things the right way, no matter what Hollywood or Washington thinks about it.”

Rep. Black joins an open Republican governor’s field that includes state House Speaker Beth Harwell, state Sen. Mae Beavers, former state Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, business owners Bill Lee and Kay White, and entertainer Mark “Coonrippy” Brown. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, so far, comprise the Democratic contingent. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

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Ohio Poll; Tennessee Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2017
— We now have our first major political poll for the important open Ohio governor’s race, a contest that features several current and former prominent office holders from both parties.

The Tarrance Group surveyed the Ohio Republican electorate (July 24-26; 800 likely Ohio GOP voters) for the American Freedom Builders conservative organization, testing next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary that includes three sitting statewide elected officials and a member of Congress.

According to the Tarrance results, attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine leads the field both in support (42 percent) and name identification (96 percent). He enjoys a wide margin over Secretary of State Jon Husted who polls 18 percent, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (11 percent), with US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) now taking just five percent.

Name familiarity at this point has a great deal to do with ballot test standing. Husted’s name is recognized by 67 percent of the respondents, and Lt. Gov. Taylor just 44 percent, while Rep. Renacci is unknown to 71 percent of the statewide voters.

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One In, One Out

By Jim Ellis

July 13, 2017 — Two major announcements occurred during the last few days resulted in one individual becoming an official statewide candidate and another withdrawing from a campaign that had already begun.

West Virginia Senate

As had been expected for some time, two-term West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced his campaign for the United States Senate. He will face two-term Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) in the Republican primary, with the winner drawing a difficult political match with Sen. Joe Manchin (D).

With average win percentages of 62 percent over two elections as governor (2004, ’08) in addition to a pair of Senate campaigns (2010 special election; 2012), Sen. Manchin appears to be in strong shape as he approaches his 2018 re-election. But, there are some cracks in his armor, hence the presence of two strong GOP opponents.

Though Sen. Manchin has attempted to cross the partisan line in his public relationship with President Trump and the Republican leadership on several issues, it is still a net negative for the senator to campaign on the same political landscape that proved to be the former’s second strongest state (69 percent).

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Big Governor News

By Jim Ellis

July 12, 2017 — A major announcement was made in a western state governor’s race Monday, with an additional one from an adjacent domain coming later today. Both affect corresponding US House seats.

New Mexico Governor; NM-2

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) announced that he will enter the open New Mexico governor’s race next year, saying to the Albuquerque Journal that he’s “concerned about an exodus of young people leaving New Mexico,” going to other places for a more favorable job market. Pearce said his campaign will emphasize improving education, spurring economic growth, and reducing crime and poverty.

This will be the second time Pearce has left his House seat to pursue a statewide contest. In 2008, when serving his third term in Congress, he decided to challenge then-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque) for the US Senate nomination, and successfully upset her in the Republican primary. He would then go onto lose the general election to then-Rep. Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe), 61-39 percent, in the Obama landslide year.

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New Virginia Polling

By Jim Ellis

June 26, 2017 — Despite the vast majority of survey research firms again failing to predict the correct outcome for a recent political campaign — this time the GA-6 special election — we do have new data to analyze for the Virginia governor’s race.

While it is too early to tell whether the pollsters are correctly projecting the turnout model and whether they are using the proper formula to pull a representative sample, it is still worthwhile to look at all the published polls in order to establish a moving trend.

As was reported immediately after the Virginia primary concluded, Harper Polling went into the field the day after Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie won their respective party nominations for governor. According to their results (June 14-16; 500 registered Virginia voters), both Northam and Gillespie were tied at 46 percent. The conclusion was even a bit better for Gillespie because within the eight percent group who reported themselves as undecided, 19 percent indicated a preference for the Republican, while seven percent said they were leaning toward Northam, the new Democratic candidate.

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Gillespie Digging Out

By Jim Ellis

June 19, 2017 — As has been discussed since the Virginia gubernatorial primary votes were counted last Tuesday, the election’s end result was much different for both parties than expected even though the favored candidates won. For Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, the primary vote distribution could have only been worse if he had lost.

At week’s end, GOP second-place finisher Corey Stewart announced that he would not challenge the vote totals –- it is unlikely that a recount would have produced enough to overcome his 4,320 statewide vote deficit -– but he stopped short of formally endorsing the new party nominee; though Stewart did indicate that he would vote for Gillespie.

The breadth of his former opponent’s comments indicates that Gillespie has quite a gap to fill in order to attract the Stewart vote base for the general election. These are people Gillespie must have if he is to seriously compete with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in surprisingly easy fashion.

“The real question is, will [Gillespie] support my supporters? Unless he stands up and takes clear positions on defending our heritage and our history, supporting the president, cracking down on illegal immigration, those who supported me are not going to go with him. This isn’t old-style politics anymore. I just can’t tell 155,000 folks to go ahead and vote for Ed despite the fact that he’s not a fighter,” Stewart said in a post-election Washington Post interview.

Gillespie had hoped to be in the opposite position that he now faces. Forecasts suggested he would easily win the party nomination, while it appeared that the Democrats were in the closer contest. Possibly the best case Gillespie scenario was seeing a close Northam win after strongly securing his own nomination. Since the lieutenant governor moved far to the left to counter the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren-supported Tom Perriello, Gillespie wanted maneuvering room to move closer to the center while Northam was trapped on the far left perch of his party.

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Virginia Opposite Than Predicted

By Jim Ellis

June 14, 2017 — The Virginia governor primaries actually produced the expected winners for both sides last night, but the margins and the candidates’ points of geographical strength turned the pre-election predictions upside down.

Going into yesterday’s vote, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam was generally favored to prevail in a close Democratic contest over former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville). The tangible result, however, provided Northam a substantial 56-44 percent win, a performance that saw him easily carrying the areas where Perriello had to make major inroads if the latter was to construct a winning statewide bid.

Specifically, vote-rich northern Virginia, where Perriello was making a strong campaign effort and went as far left as possible in an attempt to attract the region’s Democratic primary voters, failed to come through for him. Northam took the city of Alexandria, and Arlington and Fairfax Counties with percentages of 61, 62, and 60 percent, respectively, far above his projected vote performance.

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Virginia Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

June 13, 2017 — The Virginia governor’s campaign is becoming a national race in relation to prognosticating political trends, and we will be able to glean some partial answers this evening.

Initially, the eventual Virginia general election winner earns the redistricting veto pen for the 2021 redraw, and becomes the first newly elected governor to have such authority. All other states where redistricting is handled through the normal legislative process will elect their commensurate governors in 2018, 2019, and/or 2020.

Second, the Commonwealth’s Democratic primary race has evolved into an early microcosm of what Democrats may be experiencing throughout the country this year and next, and quite possibly beyond.

The split between the party’s more extreme Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren faction and the traditional liberal Hillary Clinton segment is portrayed in the Tom Perriello/Ralph Northam gubernatorial primary. Though former US Rep. Perriello is wrapping himself in the Sanders/Warren mantra, going so far as having them star in his ads along with film clips of President Obama extolling his virtue when he was a member of the House, Perriello’s initiative has driven Lt. Gov. Northam to adopt more leftward ideological positions, as well.

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Unelecteds and Opens

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2017 — It was always known that a large number of 2017-18 cycle governors’ races would be open contests, but finding several unelected incumbents running to hold their new positions is an unforeseen nuance.

In three states, and possibly soon a fourth, governors have been appointed to Trump administration positions or forced from office, thus allowing the lieutenant governor to move into the state’s top position.

South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, now UN Ambassador; Terry Branstad of Iowa becoming US Ambassador to China and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley being forced from office for misappropriation of state funds have made Henry McMaster (SC), Kim Reynolds (IA), and Kay Ivey (AL) overnight governors. While on paper and in practice this is a big advantage for the former lieutenant governors in running for the state’s top position, none of them have easy campaign roads, and not even for their respective party nominations.

Last week’s announcement from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) that he will enter his state’s open gubernatorial contest next year may soon lead to him battling a new incumbent if on-again, off-again Washington, DC appointment rumors eventually prove true.

Speculation has abounded that President Trump will tap Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) for an open United Nations position, or another associated with foreign policy. Though such talk has been a subject of discussion since February and he has yet to be appointed, it is unclear if such will ever happen. Should it, however, then Secretary Kobach, oil businessman Wink Hartman, and ex-state Rep. Ed O’Malley will have to face a new sitting Republican governor, Jeff Colyer, the current lieutenant governor.

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Virginia’s Perriello Peaking

By Jim Ellis

June 9, 2017 — According to his internal polling, former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) has caught Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam as the two head into next Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary election.

Wednesday, the Perriello camp released a series of internal Haystaq DNA surveys that portend the former congressman now maintains a slight edge over Northam, 36.8 to 36.0 percent, with the undecideds overwhelmingly breaking to their candidate. (See Perriello ad below)

Though it appears their polling results are at odds with previous independent studies that project Lt. Gov. Northam to be holding a large, and in some cases double-digit, lead, the Perriello data progression acknowledges that their candidate was significantly behind at the beginning of May.

The Haystaq DNA release actually covers three polls conducted within the last five weeks. The firm developed a sampling pool of 2,000 respondents and began questioning them on May 2. The series ended with a third and final polling snapshot (June 1-6; 455 likely Virginia Democratic primary voters drawn from the original 2,000) that yielded the aforementioned dead-heat split.

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Pearce in Range in New Mexico

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2017
— A statewide New Mexico poll released late last week suggests that US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) is well within the competitive range of fellow US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque), should the two battle each other in next year’s open race for governor of New Mexico.

In December, Grisham announced that she would not seek re-election to the House, instead declaring for governor. She is the leading Democratic candidate, particularly now since Attorney General Hector Balderas, who would have been a credible gubernatorial contender, announced instead that he would seek re-election and support the congresswoman’s statewide bid. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is ineligible to seek a third term, and the lack of an incumbent in the 2018 campaign for the state’s top public office has ignited a game of political musical chairs.

Pearce, who represents the southernmost of the three Land of Enchantment congressional districts, and the state’s only Republican seat, confirms that he is considering the gubernatorial race. He was first elected to the House in 2002, and then vacated to run for US Senate in 2008, upsetting his congressional colleague, then-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque), in the Republican primary but losing the general election badly to the state’s third House member, Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe), 61-39 perent. Pearce returned to the House in the 2010 election, unseating one-term Democratic Rep. Harry Teague.

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New Jersey Nominations;
CA-34 Results

By Jim Ellis

June 7, 2017 — Voters cast their ballots in the 2017-18 election cycle’s first regular primary contest last night and the local political prognosticators fared well.

As predicted, former US ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy dominated the Democratic gubernatorial primary, scoring a 48-22-22 percent victory over ex-treasury official Jim Johnson and state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, respectively. Three other minor candidates combined to garner eight percent of the Democratic votes.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s winning margin was equivalent to her Democratic counterpart’s. She recorded a 47-31-10 percent vote to capture the GOP nomination against state Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli and engineer Hirsh Singh, respectively. Two minor candidates failed to reach double-digits.

The total primary turnout reached only 13 percent of the registered voter total; some 733,757 individuals of a vote base exceeding 5.6 million. Two-thirds of those participating voted in the Democratic primary. Party registration figures yield the Democrats a 36-21 percent margin over Republicans with non-affiliated voters numbering 42 percent. Under New Jersey election statutes, party registrants must vote in their own primaries, while non-affiliated voters can choose where to cast their ballot.

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New Jersey Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

June 6, 2017 — The 2017-18 election cycle’s first regular primary is occuring today as New Jersey voters head to the polls to choose major party nominees in the governor’s race. This campaign will lead to replacing term-limited state chief executive and former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.

We can expect a low turnout, because it appears a foregone conclusion that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy will easily win the Republican and Democratic nominations, respectively.

Polls have been few and far between, and the three surveys that were released in May show strong and solid margins for both Guadagno and Murphy. The most recent study, from Stockton University (May 16-23; 389 likely New Jersey GOP primary voters) finds Guadagno with a 37-18 percent advantage over Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and three others who don’t even top four percent support. Earlier in the month, Quinnipiac University April 26-May 1; 331 likely New Jersey GOP primary voters) surveyed the state and found Guadagno up in similar fashion: 23-12 percent over Ciattarelli with no other candidate breaking five percent.

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Conflicting Virginia Polls

By Jim Ellis

May 22, 2017 — Early in this election cycle we’ve already seen several special and odd-numbered year campaigns produce conflicting polling data, and at the end of last week, a new example came forth. Two new polls from the Virginia governor’s race, Democratic primary, produced opposite results and both can be questioned in terms of reliability.

Earlier in the week, the Virginia Education Association released a Public Policy Polling survey (May 9-10; 745 likely Virginia Democratic primary voters), which projects Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam leading former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) by a substantial 45-35 percent margin.

Late last week, the Washington Post and the Schar School of George Mason University released their sponsored Abt Associates poll (May 9-14; 1,604 Virginia adults; 351 likely Democratic primary voters; 264 likely Republican primary voters) that produced a much different result. According to this polling sample, it is Perriello who actually holds a 40-38 percent preference lead among the most likely June 13 Democratic primary voters.

Not only do we see inconsistent conclusions from this pair of surveys, but also methodological questions arise. The Public Policy Polling survey has the stronger sampling group particulars, but may have bias problems. PPP features a robust sample of 745 Democratic primary voter respondents but the poll was conducted for an organization that is outwardly supporting Northam, and the 10-point advantage for their candidate is beyond any previously released independent figures.

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