Category Archives: Governor

Hickenlooper & Inslee:
Former Governor & Governor
Join Democratic Presidential Fray

By Jim Ellis

Left: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (Photo, Moritz Hager) Right: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

March 6, 2019 — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joined the Democratic presidential field over the weekend, following Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who jumped in last Friday. The pair became the 12th and 13th official Democratic presidential candidates, and the first governor and former governor to join the campaign.

But what are the paths to actual nomination for each man? Neither has high national name identification and both are from states moderate in size: Washington has 107 total Democratic National Convention delegates, and Colorado 80. This places them as the 14th and 17th largest states among the 57 voting entities that will comprise the Democratic delegate pool.

It’s hard to see a viable way to the nomination for Gov. Inslee. Without a strong geographical base or high name ID, the two-term Pacific Northwest governor is attempting to carve a niche for himself as the climate change candidate, but that is a space already heavily populated. Sen. Bernie Sanders in particular stresses the climate change issues as part of his portfolio, as do most of the other candidates at least to a degree.

It’s possible Inslee also doesn’t see much of a path for himself, which explains why he answered so vociferously that he is not ruling out running for a third term in his present position when asked during his announcement event. With almost two-thirds of the bound delegate votes likely being decided on or before March 17, 2020, Inslee will have plenty of time to pivot back into a governor’s race because the Washington candidate filing deadline doesn’t elapse until May of that year.

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Reflecting on the 2018 Numbers

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2019 — Now that all but one of the 470 House and Senate races from the election cycle just ended are final and recorded, it is time to better understand what the results portend.

As we know, the Democrats had a good election overall, and most particularly in the US House where they converted a net 40 seats — possibly 41 if NC-9 turns their way when the new election is finally scheduled — but Republicans did expand their majority in the Senate, thus largely disqualifying 2018 as an official wave election. Overall, there are 93 freshman House members and nine new senators when counting appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ).

Democrats came very near wave proportions, however – the Ballotpedia organization studied past wave elections and found that a swing of 48 House seats is necessary to constitute such a designation. While the effects from the 2018 election will certainly have long term reverberations, much more time is required to determine if the results are providing the foundation for transformational policy changes or are merely a blip that could just as quickly swing back to the Republicans.

What we do know is that women made significant gains in federal representation. In the Senate, the body now features a net three more female members (gaining Kyrsten Sinema and appointed Sen. McSally, both from Arizona, along with new Sens. Jacky Rosen (NV), and Marsha Blackburn (TN), but losing North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp), meaning that 25 women are now incumbent senators.

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Kentucky Gubernatorial Race
Challengers Emerging

By Jim Ellis

Unpopular Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R)

Jan. 9, 2019 — Blue Grass State politics are beginning to boil, all centered around the 2019 governor’s race. With the candidate filing deadline fast approaching on Jan. 29 for the May 21 statewide primary, several individuals are announcing that they will challenge unpopular Gov. Matt Bevin (R), including a Republican state legislator who is expected to make his formal declaration today.

Though the governor has said he intends to seek a second term, and did so again a week before Christmas, the fact that he has yet to file a 2019 campaign committee has fueled speculation that he may decide to retire. Bevin was elected in 2015 with a relatively substantial 52.5 – 43.8 percent victory over then-Attorney General Jack Conway (D) after upsetting then-agriculture commissioner and now US congressman, James Comer (R-Tompkinsville), by just 83 votes in a May Republican primary that drew almost 215,000 voters.

Bevin’s popularity ratings, however, have largely been upside-down throughout his tenure in office. According to the Morning Consult quarterly national gubernatorial approval rankings that were released just before the November elections in mid-October, Gov. Bevin ranked 46th on the nationwide list, with a 30:55 percent positive to negative ratio.

None of those finishing below the Kentucky governor on that particular scale in October remains in office. The least popular, according to the survey, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), was ineligible to seek a third term last November. Republican Kevin Stitt replaced her. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) did not seek a third term and Democrat Ned Lamont held the office. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) was defeated for re-election, and Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker withdrew before the election because his political situation was hopeless.

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Florida Ends; Others Called

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 20, 2018 — In a final result where the candidates were divided by less than two votes per precinct statewide, Gov. Rick Scott (R) defeated Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in the hotly contested Florida Senate race that proved a Herculean battle both before and after the election.

With the original vote falling within a half-percent margin, a mandatory machine recount commenced. Since it produced a separation of less than one-quarter percent between the two candidates, a mandatory hand recount began of the “under and “over votes”, i.e., those ballots where a voter either didn’t make their selection clear or appears to have marked more than one contender in the same contest.

Yesterday, when the afternoon hand count deadline produced a 10,033 vote margin for Gov. Scott, Sen. Nelson conceded the race and ended the seven lawsuits that had been filed by various parties contesting pools of votes and the post-election counting process.

The senator now completes a political career in which he served in elective office for 42 of the past 46 years as a state representative, US congressman, state insurance commissioner, and US senator. Counting his combined time in the House and Senate, Nelson will have served 30 years as a federal lawmaker when he leaves office in January.

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Florida Still Has Tight Satewide
Campaigns In Recount Mode

BROWARD COUNTY SAMPLE BALLOT – Click on this image to see the full-size ballot, or go to the jump page or scroll down to see it embedded in this post at a larger size.


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 19, 2018 — The state of Florida again has tight statewide campaigns in recount mode, reminiscent of the 2000 presidential campaign that saw George W. Bush winning the state by 537 votes that propelled him into the presidency. In that year, the recount and legal challenge process consumed 32 days.

In this election, the US Senate, governor, and agriculture commissioner races are all languishing with results that have yet to be finalized. Last Thursday, the 3 pm deadline for a statewide machine recount passed, and 66 of the state’s 67 counties successfully submitted new totals.

Palm Beach County was the lone electoral entity that was unable to complete the machine recount. Due to antiquated machines that broke down during the process, the county must redo all three statewide races and a state House contest that is fully contained within their jurisdiction.

There are more than 600,000 votes in the county, and all must be run again individually for each of the four races consecutively. Palm Beach is the only county in Florida using machines that cannot count multiple races simultaneously. Therefore, the recount will likely drag on here until late Sunday afternoon before new totals are released.

Here’s a snapshot of where things stand before that count comes through: After the machine counts, and including the Palm Beach original numbers that the county elections supervisor re-submitted because she had no updated information, Gov. Rick Scott (R) leads Sen. Bill Nelson (D) now by 12,603 votes, an increase of 47 votes after the machine recount in the 66 counties that successfully completed their verification process.

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Sinema Wins in Arizona; A Florida Update

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix)

Nov. 14, 2018 — Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) was projected as the winner of the open Arizona Senate race Monday afternoon as the 460,000-plus post-election vote count continued laboriously forward.

With Sinema racking up a 130,000-plus vote margin from Maricopa and Pima counties, it was too much for Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) to overcome in the remainder of the state where the she had been able to build a 64,000-vote advantage.

Though McSally conceded this Senate seat, it is possible that she could still end up serving there soon. Appointed Sen. Jon Kyl (R) has said he planned to remain just through the end of this congressional year. Should he resign early next year, McSally — since she will be exiting the House at the end of the current term — would have to be considered a prime appointment prospect to serve until the next general election. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Kyl on an interim basis when Sen. John McCain (R) passed away earlier in the year.

Should this happen, McSally, as the appointed incumbent, would be able to run again in 2020. Since Sen. McCain was re-elected in 2016, the seat must come before the voters in a 2020 special election with the winner serving the balance of the term. The 2020 victor would then be able to seek the full six-year term in 2022.

Should McSally be appointed, it could conceivably mean that she would run for the Senate in three consecutive election cycles. Just completing her unsuccessful 2018 campaign, and assuming she would run in the 2020 special election, the seat would again be contested in 2022, at which point she could finally run for the six-year term. But, all of this is pure speculation at this very early juncture.

The Sinema victory means the Democrats converted the two most vulnerable Republican seats: Arizona as well as Nevada, where Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) unseated GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Grabbing those two seats was absolutely necessary if the Dems were going to challenge for the majority. That didn’t play out, however, as the Democrats dropped at least three of their own seats (and possibly a fourth if Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) miniscule lead holds in Florida). That means the GOP will net gain at least one seat in the Senate and possibly two despite the loss of both key defense seats.

Turning to Florida, the three close statewide races: senator, governor, and agriculture commissioner, will all go to official recounts. Under Florida election law, election totals separated by less than one-half a percentage point are subject to an automatic recount. Republicans lead two of the three races, obviously all with very small margins.

Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was 12,562 votes at the time the recount was ordered. This from a total vote more that 8.183 million ballots cast. Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) sees a slightly larger lead over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), some 33,684 votes. But, the closest of all is the ag commissioner campaign with Democrat Nikki Fried having a statewide edge over Republican Matt Caldwell of just 5,326 votes.

The 67 counties have until Thursday at 3 pm to complete their machine recount. Under Florida law, if the machine recounts drop any race below one-quarter of a percent between the two candidates, then a hand recount will begin.

The Broward County controversy will continue. Over 24,000 ballots did not record votes in the Senate race, which Democrats claim is either the result of a faulty ballot design or that marked ballots were not being properly read in the machines. I must point out that none of the other 66 counties in the state of Florida are reporting such a problem.

We can expect this process to drag on for a long period of time, and will undoubtedly see a multitude of lawsuits being filed from each side.

Election Day Recounts and Lawsuits

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 9, 2018 — Political overtime action is occurring in three states as very close elections for US Senate and governor still appear to be a long way from concluding.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has dwindled to just over 15,000 votes as more and more mail ballots are counted. Now further controversy has arisen in Broward County, which is reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election that required 32 days and a US Supreme Court ruling to decide.

In this current instance, people are calling into question why there were 24,000-plus fewer votes cast in the US Senate race, which led the Florida ticket, than the other contests on the Broward County ballot. Democrats are suggesting the ballot design that placed the office on the lower left side is the a primary reason for the large drop-off and argue that the counting machines are not detecting marks made on individual ballots. Broward County election officials say they can only count what the machine reads.

Gov. Scott held a news availability last night to accuse the Democrats of attempting to “steal the election.” He is suing elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach County over their failure to meet certain legal deadlines in ballot counting and reporting and, in his capacity as governor, is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the situation.

The vote count change is also affecting the governor and commissioner of agriculture elections as well as the US Senate contest. All three have dropped within the half-percentage point margin that automatically triggers a recount. It is likely that all three contests will be recounted once a final vote is determined. Therefore, we can expect weeks of legal and administrative wrangling before these highly important elections are decided.

In Arizona, similar controversy is arising. With more than 450,000 ballots remaining to count in the US Senate race, local Republican county officers from Maricopa, Apache, Navajo, and Yuma counties are suing election officials in Maricopa, Pima, and Coconino counties over their process of “curing” absentee or mail ballots where the envelope signature appears different than what is on file. In such an instance, the election officials attempt to contact the individual to verify that he or she did cast the ballot.

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More Election Eve Updates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 8, 2018 — According to a CBS News report quoting University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the United States Election Project, more than 113 million people voted in the 2018 midterm election, the first time turnout exceed the 100 million mark.

With voter participation approaching a majority of the eligible voting population for the first time since 1966, we see a continued increase in voter participation. The 2018 midterm is among the three top off-year elections with the highest turnout rate in the past 118 years. This high voting trend has largely been in effect since the 2000 election, though the 2014 midterm proved an exception with very low turnout.

Carrying through from media projections of uncalled races, it appears the Democrats will see a net gain of 31 seats, not counting the California races that still have millions of votes to tabulate. An incumbent race featuring New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) appears to be flipping back and forth in final counting.

The Golden State features an election system where at least 75 percent of the people vote through the mail and they allow ballots to be postmarked on Election Day. Therefore, it will be a couple of full weeks before we know the final totals in what appears to be five congressional contests that are still undecided, all in current Republican seats. It is probable that the Democrats will win at least two of the five and possibly even all of them.

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The (Mostly) Final Election Results

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2018
— The long 2018 midterm election cycle drew to a close last night and, as predicted, split government will return to Capitol Hill. Republicans held the Senate and saw their majority grow as Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO) 2018-mid-term-election-results-graphicfell to Republican challengers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) likely will be forced into a recount to see if his just-under 40,000 vote advantage will be enough to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

The Montana race is undecided as Sen. Jon Tester (D) is on the precipice of losing but the outstanding vote suggests he could survive by a very small margin. The razor-thin Arizona race is a must-hold for the GOP. Democrat Jacky Rosen defeated Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) fought back a tough challenge from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).

If all of these follow their current trends, Republicans will gain a net of four seats and increase their majority margin to 55-45. If Montana and Arizona go Democratic, the division would slip to 53R-47D. In any event, it appears likely that the Republicans will gain two to four seats.

The new Senate will maintain their new majority split once the Nov. 27 run-off election is held and decided in Mississippi. In that new secondary election, appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will face former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). Sen. Hyde-Smith placed first in the Nov. 6 preliminary vote and ended with 41.5 percent of the vote, not close to secure the majority support that would have elected her outright and just ahead of Espy’s 40.6 percent. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) was third with 16.4 percent, likely denying Hyde-Smith the opportunity to win in the first round. He is eliminated from further competition.

As predicted, the House did flip to the Democrats and leadership elections will soon be held to determine who will replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). It is perceived that California’s Nancy Pelosi will again become the speaker after serving from 2007-11 and losing the post when the Republicans secured the majority in the 2010 election.

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Election Day Is Here

2018-elections-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis,

Nov. 6, 2018 — At long last, the 2018 midterm Election Day has arrived. Democrats appear well positioned to capture the House of Representatives, but the question of how big a majority margin we will see remains. The large number of dead-even campaigns heading into today suggests that a small majority margin is the most likely outcome.

Republicans, largely because Democrats are defending 26 of the 35 Senate races, should hold control but, again, to what degree? Will their 51-49 margin increase? It appears they will successfully unseat North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), but will Arizona and Nevada both hold for them, allowing more substantial gains? Does Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-El Paso) new-found celebrity status and national fundraising prowess allow him to overcome Texas voting history to unseat first-term senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz? These and many other yet-to-be determined answers will be uncovered late tonight.

Several races may not finish tonight. Today is also the first time Louisiana voters will go to the polls during this cycle. Without a formal nomination process, the Bayou State consolidates its primary and general election into one vote. Therefore, if a candidate receives an absolute majority tonight, that individual is elected. If not, the top two finishers will advance to a Dec. 8 run-off. With no governor or Senate election on the ballot and little competition within the state’s six House districts, it appears likely that all congressional incumbents will win tonight. Next up, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), possibly facing US Sen. John Kennedy (R), will defend his position in the 2019 odd-numbered year election.

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The Final Outlook

2018-elections-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis

Nov. 6, 2018 — Election Day has arrived, but it is likely that a majority of those planning to vote have already done so. Early voting totals are way up in most of the 37 states that employ a pre-election ballot casting procedure in comparison to the 2014 midterm election.

According to the University of Florida’s United States Elections Project, 25 of the 37 states report receiving more early votes than they did four years ago. None, however, is larger than Texas where early voting has already exceeded that grand total votes cast in 2014. The same also has occurred in Nevada, but it’s less surprising since the last midterm aggregate turnout there was unusually low.

In Texas, just under 4.9 million votes already have been received. In 2014, the aggregate early and Election Day vote was 4.72 million. In 2014, 44 percent of the total vote was cast early. If this same pattern occurs, the current election total turnout will exceed the 2016 presidential level participation figure of 8.96 million votes, however it is unlikely that will happen. How the increased turnout will affect the election outcome is undetermined at this point, but the high number of first-time voters suggest that Democrats could improve their typical standing.

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“Blue Wave” Absent in Arizona Races

By Jim Ellis

L-R -- Arizona Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

From left to right, Arizona Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Nov. 2, 2018 — It was always believed that the Grand Canyon State’s open Senate race between Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson) would be one of the best campaigns in the country, and no one should be disappointed.

As we approach Election Day, differing indicators have presented themselves regarding who might win this toss-up campaign. Five polls have been released covering the period between Oct. 23-29. Three of the five give Rep. Sinema a slight lead, while one projects a tie.

YouGov/CBS News (Oct. 23-26; 972 likely Arizona voters) and Marist College/NBC News (Oct. 23-27; 506 likely Arizona voters) both post the Democratic nominee to identical 47-44 percent leads. CNN/SSRS (Oct. 24-29; 702 likely Arizona voters) finds Sinema’s edge to be 51-47 percent. But HighGround Public Affairs (Oct. 26-28; 400 likely Arizona voters) sees Rep. McSally ahead, 47-45 percent. Fox News (Oct. 27-29; 643 likely Arizona voters) came to a third conclusion, a 46-46 percent tie.

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Ohio: Contrasting Polls

By Jim Ellis

state-of-ohio-mapNov. 1, 2018 — The Buckeye State of Ohio is viewed as one of the country’s quintessential swing states. In 2016, however, the state exceeded polling and even Republican expectations in their presidential vote, as President Trump won a decisive 52-44 percent victory over Hillary Clinton.

Some suggested the Trump vote was an indication that the state could be moving more definitively to the political right, but new surveys suggest the Buckeye electorate is returning to its previous swing vote history.

Still, Ohio proves a reliable national political barometer. In both 2008 and 2012, the electorate here voted for President Obama after twice after backing President George W. Bush in his two elections. The state previously favored President Bill Clinton in his two successful national campaigns. In fact, the last time Ohioans failed to vote for the winning presidential candidate came in 1960 when the state awarded its electoral votes to Republican Richard Nixon in his national losing effort against John F. Kennedy.

Two new polls were released this week that paint different pictures of the Ohio electorate’s current state. Some of the results are curious to the point of questioning the polling reliability or not being able to adequately determine how the governor’s race will end and failing to understand the wide discrepancy in US Senate polling projections.

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The Governors’ Races & Veto Power

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185Oct. 29, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle features 36 gubernatorial campaigns, 26 of which have federal redistricting ramifications. The ones that don’t are at-large congressional district states (Alaska, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming) or will be after the next reapportionment (Rhode Island), those that employ redistricting commissions (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho), or the multi-district state where the governor is only awarded a two-year term (New Hampshire).

Here is a breakdown of where things stand in the upcoming election in the 26 states where the governor will have redistricting veto power:


PURE TOSS UPS

FLORIDA: Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) vs. Ex-US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R)
• Most Recent Polls: Gravis Marketing (Oct. 22-23): Gillum 51 percent, DeSantis 46 percent
   Gray/Strategic Research (Oct. 16-23): DeSantis 48 percent; Gillum 45 percent

GEORGIA: Sec/State Brian Kemp (R) vs. Ex-state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D)
• Most Recent Poll: NBC News/Marist (Oct. 14-18): Kemp 49 percent; Abrams 47 percent

IOWA: Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) vs. Businessman Fred Hubbell (D)
• Most Recent Poll: Selzer & Co (Sept. 17-20): Hubbell 43 percent; Reynolds 41 percent

KANSAS: Sec of State Kris Kobach (R) vs. State Rep. Laura Kelly (D) & Greg Orman (I)
• Recent Poll: Public Policy Polling (Oct. 19-20): Kobach 41 percent; Kelly 41 percent; Orman 10 percent

NEVADA: Attorney Gen Adam Laxalt (R) vs. Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D)
• Most Recent Poll: Emerson College (Oct. 10-12): Laxalt 46 percent; Sisolak 41 percent

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Feinstein Still Weak; Gas Tax Polling

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

Oct. 18, 2018 — Survey USA released a poll of the California electorate, one more political study that finds Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) failing to establish command in her race against fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles state senator.

The S-USA data (Oct. 12-14; 1,200 California adults; 964 registered California voters; 762 likely California voters) sees Feinstein again locked at 40 percent support versus 26 percent for de Leon. This is the sixth survey from four different pollsters that finds the Senator in the mid to low 40s since the June 5th jungle primary. But de Leon fares much worse, failing to break 30 percent in any of the half-dozen ballot test questions.

While all of the research suggests that Sen. Feinstein is politically weak, she will not lose this race. Though she brought in only $982,000 for the third quarter — a low number when campaigning in a state the size of California and understanding that many Democratic House candidates have brought in millions during the same period — de Leon raised just $254,000 and has a mere $309,000 cash-on-hand for the period ending Sept. 30. This is a low figure for a congressional race, let alone for a place that’s 53 times as large as a single CD.

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

The other feature potentially making the California Senate race a wild-card contest is the vote drop-off that we will see when comparing turnout for this office to the rest of the statewide ballot.

In 2016, when two Democrats were competing for an open Senate seat — the now-Sen. Kamala Harris vs. then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) — fewer votes were cast for that contest than in any other statewide election, including all of the ballot propositions. In fact, over 1.9 million more people voted in the presidential race than in the Senate race, and 1.3 million more chose to decide the last ballot initiative that banned single-use plastic bottles.

What occurred was a plethora of Republican voters simply skipping the Senate race rather than supporting one of the two Democrats. With de Leon running to the ideological left of Feinstein the Republican vote will likely drop even further, which becomes an interesting factor.

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