Category Archives: Governor

Montana’s Competitive Races

By Jim Ellis

Montana

March 23, 2020 — Today, Montana has the reputation of being a Republican state, and GOP candidates have won more races here than their Democratic counterparts of late, but the latter party is far from moribund in Big Sky Country. As an at-large political domain with a sizable number of statewide offices, Democrats have had plenty of opportunities to win.

Montana holds its major statewide races in the presidential election year as opposed to the mid-term. In the state’s seven major statewide offices, Republicans currently enjoy a 5-2 edge, though Democrats hold the governorship and a US Senate office. In the 2012 election, however, the outcome was completely reversed as Democrats took five of the same seven positions.

With this background, a just-released research survey from Public Policy Polling (March 12-13; 903 registered Montana voters) tested a newly formed US Senate race between first-term Sen. Steve Daines (R) and Gov. Steve Bullock (D), along with the open at-large congressional contest. Both parties have contested primaries for the House, but state auditor and former US Senate nominee Matt Rosendale (R) and former state representative and 2018 congressional nominee Kathleen Williams (D) appear to be the favorites to win their respective party nominations.

The state is also hosting an open governor’s race, but the PPP poll did not test that campaign. The progressive left group End Citizens United sponsored the Public Policy Polling survey, and they sampled a universe that contained 37 percent self-identified Republicans, 32 percent Democrats, and 31 percent who describe themselves as Independents. It’s difficult to compare this sampling universe with the actual state electorate because Montana does not have party registration and the state features an open primary system.

That being said, the ballot test finds Sen. Daines and Gov. Bullock locked in a 47-47 percent tie, with an almost identical conclusion for a hypothetical pairing between Rosendale and Williams (45-45 percent).

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The North Carolina Filings

All the best for a wonderful holiday season.
Ellis Insight daily updates will return on Jan. 3, 2020.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 24, 2019 — Candidate filing in the Tar Heel State closed Friday, and the North Carolina political contestants are now set for the March 3 Super Tuesday state primary. In addition to the presidential race, North Carolina voters will choose nominees for governor, US Senate, 13 congressional races, the state constitutional offices, and state legislature.

No surprises came from the presidential filings, though 38 individuals filed to run for the nation’s highest office. Twenty of the 38 are minor party candidates, however. Fifteen Democrats are running, including all of the major contenders. President Trump draws Republican primary opposition from former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and Illinois ex-congressman Joe Walsh.

Sen. Thom Tillis sees only minor Republican primary opposition and now is a cinch for re-nomination. Businessman Garland Tucker was expected to run a competitive primary race but decided to end his effort prior to the filing deadline. When Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) was drawn out of a winnable district in the court-mandated redistricting plan, he began considering entering the Senate race. The congressman, however, ultimately decided to wait a cycle and looks to run for Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) open seat in 2022.

Five Democrats filed for the Senate, but the nomination battle is realistically between former state senator Cal Cunningham, who is the party leadership favorite, and state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston). The eventual Democratic nominee will face Sen. Tillis in what promises to be a competitive general election in a state that has defeated more incumbents in the modern political era than any other place.

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House Retirement No. 36

Four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced that he will not seek re-election next year.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 10, 2019 — The 36th US House seat to come open lies in Raleigh, North Carolina, as four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced late Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. He is in the rare situation of being forced from his position because of an unfavorable redistricting draw during the fifth election of the political decade.

We can expect to see a number of such redistricting-related instances occur throughout the country in the next election cycle, but to be still fighting redistricting legal battles, as they are in North Carolina, with a new census and apportionment directly upon us is unprecedented.

Rep. Holding says he is now not seeking re-election because of what he describes as the “terrible” manner in which the boundaries of his 2nd District have been reconstructed. The 2nd moves from a 53-44 percent Trump district to one that voted 60-36 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Though the Republican legislators reconfigured the map, the partisan division will increase the Democratic number by at least two seats, which directly affects the Raleigh and Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. The court directive forced a criterion change upon the legislature, which responded with the new map.

The post-2020 election delegation will likely feature an 8R-5D split, and Democrats sued arguing they should have more in a state whose electorate typically splits close to 50/50. The three-judge panel that originally struck down the previous GOP map unanimously approved this latest mapping effort, so the new plan will stand for the 2020 elections.

This new congressional map significantly changes the North Carolina political picture. The Holding seat is now a Democratic primary fight, and the early leader is former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who challenged Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2016 and held him to a hard fought 51-45 percent victory.

The other Republican incumbent left without a political home is three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), and it is clear he will not seek re-election in the new 6th District. He is reportedly weighing his options for other political opportunities. Rep. Walker averaged 58.1 percent of the vote in his three congressional victories while the newly constructed NC-6 constituency supported Hillary in a 59-38 percent result.

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Louisiana Elects a Governor;
Bevin Concedes in Kentucky

By Jim Ellis

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), left, and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone (R)

Nov. 18, 2019 — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) defied typical southern electoral history on Saturday as an incumbent winning a run-off election. Usually, when an office holder is forced into a run-off because he or she failed to secure majority support in the primary election, that individual loses the secondary vote. Not so, for Gov. Edwards as he scored a 51.3 – 48.7 percent victory over Baton Rouge developer Eddie Rispone (R).

Late polling suggested a different outcome, as the latest data proposed a trend line where Rispone might have well gone over the top. A new JMC Analytics poll (Nov. 12-13; 600 likely Louisiana voters) showed that Baton Rouge developer Rispone could slip past Gov. Edwards by a 46-45 percent count. The one-point margin was not particularly significant, since the result meant the two candidates were locked in a virtual tie, but the aggregate late-polling trend was more telling.

Since Nov. 1, five studies have been publicly released from five different pollsters and each find the spread ranging from a flat tie to four points. But even the four-point margin, 50-46 percent from Targoz Market Research (Nov. 7-13; 803 likely Louisiana voters) in Edwards’ favor, is inconsistent with the others. Removing this poll, with its strong sample size but long sampling period, means the average percentage difference between the two candidates from the four remaining surveys is only 1.25.

The actual turnout said something different, however, and the first clue came from early voting. According to the latest count on Thursday night, 46 percent of the early votes were coming from Democrats as compared to 38 percent from Republicans. In the jungle primary election, the Democratic early voting advantage was only 44-41 percent, and the GOP candidates secured 52 percent of the vote.

The Daily Kos Elections site authors calculated the percentages that Gov. Edwards would need to attain in key parishes in order to reach 50 percent. We see that the governor reached his projected benchmark in 13 of the 15 representative parishes selected, which accounts for his statewide total.

Over 1.5 million voters participated in the election, meaning a turnout percentage of 50.7 percent of registered voters. This was up 4.8 percent from the recorded primary turnout figure. Four years ago, when Gov. Edwards was first elected in defeating then-US Sen. David Vitter (R), just 40.2 percent of registered Louisiana voters cast their ballots.

Rispone centered his campaign around attacking Edwards over Louisiana ranking near the bottom of state statistics in job creation, and that he was fully in President Trump’s camp. The President came to the state to hold one of his rallies for Rispone, but even this did not help engender a victory.

Edwards’ campaign contended that Louisiana is in the top 10 of fastest growing state economies, that the $2 billion deficit the governor inherited is now a surplus and that was accomplished while increasing teacher pay and expanding Medicare.

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Tuesday’s Election Reflection

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2019 — Kentucky’s GOP Gov. Bevin looses, Republican Reeves wins in Mississippi and state legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia are looking decidedly blue …

Kentucky

Gov. Matt Bevin (R), always lagging near the bottom of the 50-state gubernatorial approval polls throughout his term, lost his re-election bid to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

The vote totals fell within three-tenths of one percent, or an unofficial raw vote margin of 5,150 votes of 1.41 million votes cast. The Beshear victory spread translates into just 1.4 votes per precinct, statewide. Additionally, the Libertarian candidate in the race, Kyle Hugenberg, attracted over 46,000 votes, nine times greater than the spread between the two major party candidates.

The defeat appears to belong solely to Gov. Bevin, and not the Republican Party in general. The down-ballot Republicans scored a clean sweep, converting the attorney general’s office that Beshear held with 58 percent of the vote, and the secretary of state’s position (52 percent). GOP incumbents also were re-elected as state treasurer (61 percent), agriculture commissioner (58 percent), and auditor general (56 percent). With these hefty Republican percentages recorded for the other offices, it is clear that Gov. Bevin severely under-performed.

Political trouble for the governor became apparent when he won re-nomination last May with just 52 percent of the vote against little-known state Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) and two others. Bevin under-performed in the “coal country” area of the state, an area from which Goforth hails, and again fell below typical Republican vote patterns here in the general election, which evidently cost him the race. Mining healthcare issues became a problem for Bevin, and his position with regard to miner health benefits went a long way toward unseating him election night.

Andy Beshear was elected attorney general in 2015. His father, Steve Beshear (D), served the maximum two terms as governor prior to Bevin winning four years ago. Therefore, the Beshear name is extremely well known throughout Kentucky.

Voter turnout was up a whopping 45 percent above the 2015 odd-year election, though still significantly under presidential levels. In 2016, more than 1.9 million voters cast ballots in the presidential election.

Mississippi

The Mississippi voter patterns in the election were similar to Kentucky’s, except for the final result in the governor’s race.

In this contest, Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated four-term Attorney General Jim Hood (D), 52-46 percent, thus likely nullifying a federal court challenge to the state’s system of requiring that gubernatorial candidates carry a majority of state House of Representatives’ districts in addition to winning the popular statewide vote. Since Reeves recorded a clear majority in the popular vote, there will be no grounds for legal action.

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