Category Archives: Governor

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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Key Announcements

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2017 — It’s been a busy political week even beyond the happenings at the presidential level, and the recent political news will affect the federal political apparatus long after the 2018 election cycle concludes.

Several current campaign announcements in governors races are setting the stage for critical 2021 redistricting battles. These races could well decide which political party will have the easier path toward controlling the US House for what could be the entire decade of the 2020s. The governors elected in the present election cycle will carry redistricting veto power; hence, the 2021 re-draw process is actually beginning right now.

In key states that are projected to gain and lose congressional districts, major gubernatorial campaign announcements were just made that will soon become focal points of the next redistricting process.

In Michigan, a state expected to again lose a congressional district and where Republicans own a 9-5 federal delegation margin within, Rep. Dan Kildee’s (D-Flushing/Flint) has rather surprisingly decided not to run for governor even when he appeared to be his party’s top statewide candidate. His remaining in the House will likely ignite a wide-open 2018 Democratic primary.

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Minnesota Already in High Gear

By Jim Ellis

April 10, 2017 — We’re 19 months from the next election, yet already major Minnesota political moves are being made. Though state law does not limit its governors to eight years in office, incumbent Mark Dayton (D) has already announced he will not seek a third term next year. His retirement decision is setting political musical chairs in motion.

Additionally, the Democratic Farm Labor Party, the state’s dominant political apparatus, was shaken in November as President Trump came within just 45,000 votes of winning the state and, in fact, carried five of Minnesota’s eight congressional districts. Together, these events have put much of the state’s liberal political establishment on edge.

Last week we reported that six-term Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) formally announced his gubernatorial campaign and immediately took positive steps toward becoming a major contender. Walz arranged for fellow Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) to announce his support, which has strategic value. So does former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (D) expressing public support for Walz’s gubernatorial aspirations.

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Viginia Race Becoming More Interesting

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2017 — A new poll continues to show that former Virginia US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) is pulling even with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Democratic gubernatorial primary scheduled for mid-June. Until Perriello became a late entry into the statewide campaign, Northam looked to have an easy ride to the party nomination.

Now, the latest Christopher Newport University survey (March 16-26; 831 registered Virginia voters) finds Northam and Perriello tied at 26 percent preference less than three months before the June 13th statewide primary election.

The March poll is the second that the university has commissioned. Their first, in mid to late January (Jan. 15-28; 1,002 registered Virginia voters; 464 self-identified Democrats and Independents who lean Democratic), found Northam holding an 11-point lead over the former congressman but with 59 percent of the primary electorate undecided.

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Perriello a Factor

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 7, 2017 — A new Christopher Newport University poll (Jan. 15-28, 1,002 registered Virginia voters; 464 self-identified Democrats and Lean Independents, 418 self-identified Republicans and Lean Independents) finds weakness in Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s candidacy, putting former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) within early striking distance for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

According to the survey, Northam has only a 26-15 percent Democratic primary lead over Perriello, far short of what would be expected considering that the former has locked down the party establishment.

Northam’s political Achilles heel is his lack of name identification. Even though he is the Commonwealth’s lieutenant governor, a huge 77 percent of the respondents either expressed no opinion of Northam (64 percent), or they “didn’t know/refused to answer (13 percent). Of those who could identify him, the lieutenant governor had a 16:7 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Perriello, on the other hand, scored similarly: 11:8 percent positive to negative, 81 percent no opinion/didn’t know/refused to answer.

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Specials: Dems Reeling

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 3, 2017 — Soon we will be moving fully into special election season and the Democrats have already been dealt some early bad breaks, but not from Republicans.

In the four special elections created because President Trump appointed House members to various Trump administration positions, a quartet of Republican seats will go to election before the 4th of July, at least theoretically giving Democrats some opportunity for gains.

A fifth special, the Democratic CA-34 seat vacated when Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) resigned to accept Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment as California Attorney General, will be decided on June 6. Democrats should have no trouble advancing two party members to the special general election.

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Two Kansas Races:
Retirement & Special

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2017 — Rep. Lynn Jenkins bows out of politics, opening up the KS-2 congressional district, and Rep. Mike Pompeo’s confirmation as CIA director under President Trump opens up the KS-4 congressional district. Here’s a look at how those openings are expected to play out:

KS-2

It was expected that five-term Kansas Rep. Jenkins (R-Topeka) would not seek re-election in 2018, but her actual announcement contained a surprise. Most politicos believed Rep. Jenkins would enter the open governor’s campaign, but that will not be the case.

The congresswoman did, in fact, announce that she will leave the House at the end of the current term, but will not be running for governor or any other office. Jenkins intends to return to the private sector after completing her final term in Congress.

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is ineligible to seek a third term, and a great many names have been mentioned as potential statewide candidates. Now that Rep. Jenkins will not be a gubernatorial contender, the race to succeed Brownback becomes even more wide open. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), and Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) are attracting attention as prospective candidates. For the Democrats, 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis, the former state House minority leader, resides in this district and could potentially become a congressional candidate.

CD-2 lies in eastern Kansas, stretching in a north-south direction from Nebraska to Oklahoma. The two largest population centers are the capital city of Topeka and Lawrence, the home of Kansas University. The seat is reliably Republican but has elected Democrats from time to time. President Trump carried the 2nd, 56-37 percent. Four years ago, Mitt Romney out-polled then-President Obama, 56-42 percent.

Once this open seat race takes shape, the eventual Republican nominee will be viewed as a strong favorite, but a Democratic wave year, if such were to form, could potentially make this open seat race competitive.

KS-4

Since Rep. Pompeo (R-Wichita) immediately resigned his congressional seat upon being confirmed as President Trump’s CIA Director earlier in the week, Gov. Brownback (R) scheduled the replacement election for Tuesday, April 11. The two parties will determine for themselves how their nominees will be chosen, but it will be through an internal party procedure that must be completed by Feb. 18.

The Republicans have already announced that the 126-member 4th District Republican Committee will choose the special election nominee. The eventual GOP candidate will likely be a prohibitive favorite to win in April. Democrats have not yet announced their nomination structure.

The 4th is a strongly Republican seat. President Trump scored a 60-33 percent victory here over Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s victory margin over then-President Obama was 62-36 percent.

In anticipation of the special election, several individuals have already announced their candidacies, including former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R). Also petitioning the Republican committee members are state Treasurer Ron Estes, Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner, former radio talk show host Joseph Ashby, petroleum company CEO George Bruce, and Trump Transition Team member Alan Cobb.

For the Democrats, former state Treasurer Dennis McKinney and international relations consultant Laura Lombard are the two most prominent announced candidates.

Kansas’ largest city, Wichita, anchors the 4th District that occupies the south-central region in the state, just along the Oklahoma border. Much more will develop on this special election now that the vacancy is official, and with a newly defined short election cycle.

South Carolina’s Political Conundrum

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 20, 2017 — Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) confirmation hearing to become US Ambassador to the United Nations and an expected quick Senate approval vote will ignite a rather unique South Carolina constitutional and political situation. Tangentially, the evolving lieutenant governor office quandary also has an effect upon the upcoming special congressional election in the state’s 5th District, to occur once incumbent Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) is confirmed as Office of Management & Budget director.

When Gov. Haley resigns to accept the UN position, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) will immediately ascend to the governorship. Under the state’s constitution, at least until right after the 2018 election, the Senate President Pro Tempore, a powerful legislative leader, automatically becomes lieutenant governor. In this situation, however, the sitting President Pro Tem does not want to be lieutenant governor, preferring to keep his Senate post.

Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), who is 85 years old and is a 36-year veteran state senator, has little interest in relinquishing his more powerful leadership position in exchange for a largely ceremonial statewide office. His problem, however, is that the state Supreme Court just ruled that he has no choice. According to the Court’s directive, Leatherman, or whoever sits in the Senate Pro Tem’s office, must fill an open lieutenant governor’s office.

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More Virginia News

By JIm Ellis

Jan. 18, 2017 — Yesterday, we wrote an update that quoted a December Public Opinion Strategies (POS) survey testing the Virginia gubernatorial candidates (Dec. 11-13; 500 likely Virginia voters; Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) 43 percent — ex-RNC chairman Ed Gillespie 38 percent) and made the statement that the poll is still worth considering because not much would politically change over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Apparently, such is not the case.

A more current study (Mason-Dixon Polling & Research; Jan. 5-10; 625 registered Virginia voters) shows a different result. According to the Mason-Dixon data, it is Gillespie who leads, forging a 44-41 percent advantage over Lt. Gov. Northam.

In the previous POS poll, the other Republican potential candidates, Prince William County Board chairman Corey Stewart and state Sen. Frank Wagner, were within basically the same range as Gillespie.

That’s inconsistent with Mason-Dixon, however. In this poll, Northam does considerably better against Stewart, leading him by a relatively robust 45-38 percent spread. Wagner was not tested, probably because the state legislator had less than 10 percent name identification according to this same sampling universe.

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Gillespie vs. Northam: New Polling

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2017 — It’s hard to believe, but already we are not particularly far from a series of new election campaigns taking center stage. In addition to the five special congressional elections, the significant regular 2017 contests include the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia, along with the New York City mayor’s race.

At the end of last week, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) filed paperwork to run for governor, as expected, but is rather strangely refusing to confirm that she will actually become a candidate. Rumors are swirling that Hillary Clinton is considering challenging Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but little realistic chance exists that such a race will materialize.

Late this week, polling surfaced in the Virginia governor’s race, a contest that may well become the flagship campaign on the 2017 political calendar. A group called Conservatives for Clean Energy contracted with reliable Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies (POS) to survey the candidates vying for the Commonwealth’s top position.

Though the poll was conducted in December (Dec. 11-13; 500 likely Virginia voters), the results are similar to those found in a corresponding Quinnipiac University survey (Dec. 6-11; 1,098 registered Virginia voters). Normally, such outdated studies would provide us very little usable data, but with the Christmas holidays occupying a great deal of the time between the polling and release dates, the data has remained salient because little has changed politically in the intervening time period.

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Scanning the Country – Part V

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 10, 2017 — Completing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the final nine states — Tennessee through Wyoming — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Tennessee: Like many states in 2018, Tennessee features an open governor’s race and a US Senate campaign. Sen. Bob Corker (R) will either run for a third term, or possibly take a shot at the governor’s office. Rumors had arisen earlier that Sen. Corker was considering opting for a governor’s contest, but less is being said about that now. Assuming the senator seeks re-election, he will likely draw little in the way of credible opposition.

The main focus will be on the battle to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam (R). At this point, Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) appears to be the only House member from either party looking at the governor’s race. Many state officials and legislators are jockeying for statewide position, however. Democrats are looking toward either former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is also being mentioned as a possible challenger to Sen. Corker, or Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

All of the House incumbents appear secure, even Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg). After sex scandals with several of his former patients were revealed soon after his original election in 2010, DesJarlais survived two particularly tough Republican primary challenges. Still in office, the worst is clearly behind the now-four term congressman.

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Scanning the Country – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 9, 2017 — Continuing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the next nine states — North Carolina through South Dakota — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

North Carolina: After a heavy 2016 political cycle, Tar Heel State voters will get a political respite for the election two years hence. With no governor or US Senate race on the ballot, the 13 congressional races will lead the North Carolina ballot. After a mid-decade redistricting battle, the 10R-3D delegation split did not change.

Though Democrats won their lawsuit, they are now suing again because they still did not like the final results. Unless the districts again change, 12 of the 13 incumbents should be in strong re-election position. The lone exception will be Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-Charlotte), whose new district is 60 percent different than his former one and is politically marginal. He can be assured of tougher opposition in 2018, and a strong campaign being waged against him. Just barely winning his 2016 nomination battle in the new 9th district, he can potentially expect another Republican primary challenge, too.

North Dakota: With it now clear that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) will not be joining the Trump Administration, the North Dakota Senate race becomes a top national Republican target. At-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) is now acknowledging that he is at least considering a run for the Senate. He would likely be the national Republicans’ top choice as Heitkamp’s opponent. Should Cramer enter the Senate contest, the race would be rated a toss-up. His open House district would lead to a major convention nomination battle for Republicans, with the eventual GOP nominee being the favorite to hold the seat in the general election. Should Cramer not challenge Heitkamp he would be safe for re-election, yet the Senate race will still be highly competitive.

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Scanning the Country – Part III

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 6, 2017 — Continuing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the next set of states — from Minnesota to New York — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Minnesota: After publicly contemplating an open race for governor, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) announced to the Minneapolis press that she will seek a third term next year. With an open governor’s race also on the ballot, it is doubtful that the senator will face any major opposition. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is barred from running for a third term. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who survived a close re-election call in November (50.3/49.6 percent), is now purportedly looking at a statewide run. Republican Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), the unsuccessful 2012 gubernatorial nominee, and Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) are mentioned as potential GOP candidates.

Democrats will target freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury), another close winner in his southern Minneapolis suburban CD. Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) and Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), who also had competitive contests in northern districts where Donald Trump carried 62 and 54 percent of the respective vote, can expect active opponents in 2018. Retired Air Force officer Dave Hughes, scoring 47 percent against Rep. Peterson while not even spending $50,000, has already announced that he will run again.

Mississippi: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) is on the ballot next year and is not expected to face difficult competition. There is no 2018 governor’s race in Mississippi and the congressional delegation is secure. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Biloxi) is perennially subject to a Republican primary challenge, but now in his fourth term the seat may be secure.

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Scanning the Country – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2017 — Continuing on our political journey around America, we now look at the next set of states — Hawaii through Michigan — examining whether members from the various federal delegations may be looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Hawaii: Sen. Mazie Hirono (D) stands for her first re-election and major opposition is not expected. Gov. David Ige (D) will likely seek a second term. Reps. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) will be safe for their respective re-elections, though the latter has had meetings with the Trump Transition team indicating at least the possibility of a future Administration appointment.

Idaho: Gov. Butch Otter (R) will not seek a fourth term, meaning an open governor’s race. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) has already publicly expressed his potential interest in running for the position. After easily fending off a 2014 primary challenge, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho Falls) is again secure for re-election. Idaho has no US Senate election in 2018.

Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is sure to draw major competition. Reps. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson/Chicago) and Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) have been mentioned among many others as potential candidates. Sen. Dick Durbin (D) has already said he will not run for governor in 2018. Rauner’s chief opponent, however, could be Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy (D), son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar became the first official Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Illinois has no Senate race in the coming cycle. Returning Rep. Brad Schneider (D) may get yet another challenge from outgoing Rep. Bob Dold (R). If so, it will be the fourth consecutive election cycle in which the two will have faced each other.

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Scanning the Country — Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 4, 2017 — Embarking upon the new year, which we hope proves happy for all, it is a good time to spend this first week setting the political stage for the coming election cycle. Today, we cover the first 10 states — Alabama through Georgia reporting which members from the various federal delegations may be looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Alabama: Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R) selection as US Attorney General has thrown the state into political chaos. Five of the six Republican House members report interest in being appointed to the Senate. With Attorney General Luther Strange (R) already declaring that he will run for the seat no matter who is appointed, things may be taking on a different look. Everything will remain murky until Sen. Sessions is confirmed to his new position and Gov. Robert Bentley (R) makes an interim appointment.

The one Republican not looking at the Senate seat is Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile). He is likely to again run for Governor in 2018, when the seat is open. Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is also a potential gubernatorial candidate should she not be appointed senator. Gov. Bentley is ineligible to seek a third term.

Alaska: Independent Gov. Bill Walker is eligible to run for re-election. There is no Senate election here in 2018. Rep. Don Young (R-At-Large) is expected to seek a 24th term though, at age 83, he is a perennial retirement candidate.

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