Category Archives: House

Pennsylvania Rep. Marino to Resign

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

Jan. 21, 2019 — Five-term Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) announced that he is leaving Congress next week to accept a professional position in the private sector. Marino was first elected to the House in 2010, after serving five years as the US Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and 11 years as District Attorney of Lycoming County.

In the Republican wave election of 2010, Marino ousted then-Rep. Chris Carney (D) by a 55-45 percent margin and has averaged 66.1 percent of the vote in his subsequent re-elections. The 2018 Pennsylvania court-ordered redistricting plan re-numbered his 10th Congressional District to 12 and created a seat where 68 percent of the constituency carried over from the previous district.

In 2017, President Trump nominated Rep. Marino as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly referred to as the nation’s “drug czar.” But the congressman withdrew his name when experiencing some negative reaction during the confirmation process.

The 12th District will now go into a special election cycle. After the seat becomes officially vacant on Jan. 23, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will have 10 days to issue a writ of election to fill the newly open seat. The various political parties will meet in special conventions to choose their nominees, with the winners proceeding to an election date that the governor will assign. It is most likely he will schedule the 12th District special to run concurrently with the Pennsylvania municipal primary, which is calendared for May 21.

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NC-9: Vacant for the Year?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 15, 2019 — The 9th District of North Carolina, still with uncertified electoral results from November, could conceivably remain vacant until the November municipal elections as the situation continues to unfold.

The NC State Board of Elections was supposed to have met on Friday, and at that point would likely have scheduled a new election, but the panel itself is a political football. A state judge acted to dissolve the membership by refusing to issue a stay of his previous ruling.

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris has filed a court challenge to the Board of Elections not certifying his win in NC-9 and claiming his 905-vote lead should stand.

The panel became a tug of war between Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and the Republican dominated state legislature even before the NC-9 controversy arose. During the transition between the time that Cooper unseated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in the 2016 statewide election and his taking office Republican legislators changed certain laws. One of those moves concerned the Board of Elections’ composition.

A judge eventually ruled that the legislature acted unconstitutionally regarding some of the changes including the legislation regarding the Board of Elections. The board was supposed to be dissolved after the election certification period, but the NC-9 problem earned the group a stay of the original ruling. The judge, however, did not see fit to allow them to continue in the new year.

At the end of the year, with Republican legislators desiring to change the special election law that would allow an open primary system instead of the general election rerun that would have been the previous board’s only option had they ordered a new vote, a new election law was enacted.

In a deal with the Democrats, the Republican leadership passed a bill that allows the open primary in exchange for giving Gov. Cooper what he wanted in terms of Board of Elections’ personnel. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses, but the governor vetoed. The legislature immediately overrode his action.

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What 2018’s Closest Races Mean
While Looking Ahead to 2020

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2019 — Now that the various state elections’ offices have certified the Nov. 6 final voting totals, we can begin to reflect and better analyze the particulars of the 2018 campaigns, which will provide clues to future targeting and possible performance.

Below are the 29 US House winners who received a final vote total of 51 percent or less, and we can be assured that most, if not all, of these veteran and new members will be major targets in the 2020 elections.

Fifteen of the districts yielded Democratic victories with 14 going to or remaining Republican. All US House results are final with the exception of the NC-9 contest that remains uncertified and is likely to go to a new election. The North Carolina State Board of Elections is scheduled to meet this week, and it is probable that they will order a new election as part of the proceedings.

Listed in order by party from the winner with the lowest percentages:

  • IA-3: Cindy Axne (D) – 49.3% (Rep. David Young – 47.1%)
  • NJ-3: Andy Kim (D) – 50.0% (Rep. Tom MacArthur – 48.7%)
  • UT-4: Ben McAdams (D) – 50.1% (Rep. Mia Love – 49.9%)
  • NY-22: Anthony Brindisi (D) – 50.1% (Rep. Claudia Tenney – 48.3%)
  • VA-7: Abigail Spanberger (D) – 50.3% (Rep. Dave Brat – 48.4%)
  • CA-21: T.J. Cox (D) – 50.4% (Rep. David Valadao – 49.6%)
  • NY-19: Antonio Delgado (D) – 50.4% (Rep. John Faso – 45.3%)
  • GA-6: Lucy McBath (D) – 50.5% (Rep. Karen Handel – 49.5%)
  • ME-2: Jared Golden (D) – 50.5% (Rep. Bruce Poliquin – 49.5%)
  • MI-8: Elissa Slotkin (D) – 50.6% (Rep. Mike Bishop – 46.8%)
  • SC-1: Joe Cunningham (D) – 50.6% (Katie Arrington – 49.2%)
  • OK-5: Kendra Horn (D) – 50.7% (Rep. Steve Russell – 49.3%)
  • FL-26: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) – 50.9% (Rep. Carlos Curbelo – 49.1%)
  • NM-2: Xochitl Torres-Small (D) – 50.9% (Yvette Herrell – 49.1%)
  • IA-1: Abby Finkenauer (D) – 51.0% (Rep. Rod Blum – 45.9%)
  • KS-2: Steve Watkins (R) – 47.6% (Paul Davis – 46.8% – Rep. Lynn Jenkins retiring)
  • NY-27: Chris Collins (R) – 47.8% (Nate McMurray – 47.4%)
  • TX-23: Will Hurd (R) – 49.2% (Gina Ortiz Jones – 48.7%)
  • GA-7: Rob Woodall (R) – 50.1% (Carolyn Bourdeaux – 49.9%)
  • MN-1: Jim Hagedorn (R) – 50.1% (Dan Feehan – 49.7%)
  • MI-6: Fred Upton (R) – 50.2% (Matt Longjohn – 45.7%)
  • IA-4: Steve King (R) – 50.3% (JD Scholten – 47.0%)
  • IL-13: Rodney Davis (R) – 50.4% (Betsy Dirksen Londrigen – 49.6%)
  • TX-31: John Carter (R) – 50.6% (MJ Hegar – 47.7%)
  • MN-8: Pete Stauber (R) – 50.7% (Joe Radinovich – 45.2%)
  • NY-1: Lee Zeldin (R) – 50.7% (Perry Gershon – 46.6%)
  • MT-AL: Greg Gianforte (R) – 50.9% (Kathleen Williams – 46.2%)
  • KY-6: Andy Barr (R) – 51.0% (Amy McGrath – 47.8%)
  • NE-2: Don Bacon (R) – 51.0% (Kara Eastman – 49.0%)

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House: Opening with a Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris

Jan. 7, 2019 — When the new House of Representatives convened last week, they did so with only 434 voting members, not 435, as the situation in North Carolina’s 9th District remains unresolved.

To recap, Republican Mark Harris scored an apparent 905-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready on election night, but the results remain uncertified due to what a majority of Board of Elections panel members are citing as voting irregularities in one county. The panel is scheduled to next meet this Friday, Jan. 11th, and organizing a new election is the likely resolution.

Previously, the Board only had the power to order a rerun of the general election. Hence, the subsequent election would have included only Harris, McCready, and Libertarian Jeff Scott. Considering the media hit that Harris has received over the election irregularity controversy, his chances of winning the rerun are slim. (He hired the Red Dome Consulting firm, which contracted with the individual accused of orchestrating the ballot harvesting operation, McCrae Dowless, the vice chairman of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation Board.)

Therefore, with Republicans controlling the legislature, they quickly constructed a legislative package that would give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper largely what he wanted in naming a new Board of Elections panel, while changing the post-election law to allow open primaries. This would give the GOP the opportunity of replacing Harris in the general election.

The legislature quickly passed the reform package at the end of the year with an overwhelming margin, because most Democrats voted for the bill as it included their much-wanted Board of Elections changes. The legislation was sent to Gov. Cooper with veto-proof majorities in both houses.

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Potential Specials in North Carolina

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 12, 2018 — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/Asheville) being mentioned as a possible successor to outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly means that a special election would be called for western North Carolina if the congressman were to vacate his district. Should this come to pass, the state may be forced to host two congressional special elections but possibly under different rules.

North Carolina Congressional Districts

The 9th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville along the South Carolina border, is likely headed to a new vote since the state Board of Elections refuses to certify Republican Mark Harris’ 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready due to election irregularities in one county.

Though the two potential elections could reasonably be held under the same schedule, the process parameters surrounding each are likely to be different.

If Rep. Meadows’ district opens, the special election will be run under traditional rules, meaning open partisan primaries and a general election once nominees are chosen. But, not so in the 9th District.

Under North Carolina law, should the Board of Elections declare the original election null and void after their investigation into the alleged irregularities concludes, a new special election would be a rerun of the 2018 general election, meaning the candidates would be Harris, McCready, and Libertarian nominee Jeff Scott.

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Two House Races Still Not Decided

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 6, 2018 — Two House races are still not finalized, with one possibly headed for a new election. In California, action is still not complete now almost a month after Election Day. Democrat T.J. Cox leads Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) by 843 votes in the 21st District with an undetermined number of ballots remaining to be counted. It does appear that Cox will be declared the winner, but the election officials actually doing finalizing the race still have not done so.

In North Carolina, the state Board of Elections has blocked certifying Republican Mark Harris’ victory over Democratic businessman Dan McCready in the state’s open 9th District. The seat went to open status after the North Carolina primary in May when Harris, formerly a Baptist pastor, upset Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) in the Republican primary.

Ironically, a practice referred to as “ballot harvesting” appears to be at the heart of the California political overtime races and this one suspended result in North Carolina. Ballot harvesting is the act of an individual gathering absentee ballots from voters, bundling them together, and turning them over to election officers for counting purposes. In California, ballot harvesting is now legal. In North Carolina, it is not.

In the Golden State, the Valadao district is the last to turn. In five other seats, all Republican held, the GOP candidate led through Election Day and mail counting, only to see the tables turn when provisional ballots were added. Statewide, almost 2 million votes were in this category, so an average of approximately 35,000 such votes were present in most congressional districts.

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Setting the 2020 Stage – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 3, 2018 — The election of Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) as the new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair at last week’s House Democratic Conference, and Rep. Tom Emmer’s (R-MN) previous selection to lead the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for the coming election cycle means the national players are coming into focus for the next campaign year.

Bustos topped Washington Reps. Denny Heck (D-Olympia) and Suzan DelBene (D-Medina/Redmond) 117-83-32 in the conference election to officially head the DCCC. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) was also a candidate, but he is hospitalized recovering from a bacterial infection and was unable to attend the meeting. He failed to convince the membership to postpone the internal election.

With a partisan division of 235D – 200R in the 116th Congress, the Republicans will need a net gain of at least 18 seats to re-take the House majority. With 43 seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat in the November election, the field would appear ripe for GOP challenge efforts.

The first category that we cover today is comprised of the most obvious seats that will be battleground districts in 2020. A total of 18 seats can currently be considered for this category and again figure to be among the most competitive districts in the next election cycle.

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NC-9: Certification Problems

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris

Nov. 30, 2018 — The North Carolina Board of Elections has failed to certify Republican Mark Harris’ victory in the open 9th Congressional District, action that may initiate a long legal battle.

Board Vice Chairman Joshua Malcolm (D) objected to certifying Harris’ 905-vote victory over businessman Dan McCready (D) from 282,717 total votes cast. The seat was open after Harris, a Baptist former pastor and ex-US Senate and congressional candidate, defeated Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) in the May Republican primary.

Malcolm cited “irregularities” in Republican Bladen County, an entity that Harris carried by 1,557 votes, obviously more than his district-wide margin, as his reasoning to the other board members as to why the result should be at least temporarily suspended.

The 9th District begins in Mecklenburg County and then travels down the South Carolina border to the Fayetteville area. It includes five complete counties and parts of three others including Mecklenburg and Bladen. Harris carried only Union County and Bladen’s 9th District section, but his margins were large enough in these two places to overcome McCready’s advantage in the other six local entities.

The North Carolina Board of Elections (BoE) is a nine-member panel that has been at the center of controversy between Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and the Republican legislature. After Cooper defeated then-Gov. Pat McCrory (R), the legislators passed a series of bills that limited some of the governor’s power. One of the measures involved changing how the Board of Elections’ membership was appointed.

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Looks Like the House Settles at 235

California Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 29, 2018 — The 2018 House election cycle is finally drawing to a close, and it looks like the Democrats are gaining their 40th conversion seat. Monday night in California, as the state’s marathon vote counting process meanders on, Democratic challenger T.J. Cox overtook Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) and may well be headed toward victory.

Rep. Valadao, who had earlier been projected as the winner, trails his opponent by 438 votes, but the counting is still not complete. New votes were counted in Kern County that greatly favored Cox, allowing him to take the lead for the first time.

The California counting system literally takes weeks because the state allows voters to postmark their mail ballots on Election Day, and the counties only process ballots on certain days. The 21st District is split among four counties, so it is difficult to know exactly how many mail, overseas, and provisional ballots still remain since the numbers are only released by complete county domain.

It is probable that we will not have a final result until next week because Kern won’t release more totals until Monday. The remaining counties: Fresno, Kings, and Tulare, should record their final numbers this week.

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Mia Love Falls in UT-4

Utah Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 21, 2018 — It appears the final undecided House race has now come to at least an unofficial end, and the result is a bit surprising.

Some, including me, were predicting the culminating vote tabulation trend in Utah’s UT-4 District would favor incumbent US Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs), based upon her overwhelming performance from the late votes in the 4th District’s two rural counties and the more populous Utah County. But the substantial number of remaining ballots in Salt Lake County proved decisive in that Democratic nominee Ben McAdams over-performed, which flipped the race back in his direction as the count concluded.

On election night, it appeared that Rep. Love had been defeated when she fell almost 9,000 votes behind as Salt Lake County was being tabulated. But she came roaring back when the outlying counties’ votes were counted. As the late votes were finally being recorded, Love rebounded to forge a 1,615 district-wide vote edge. Her advantageous situation was precarious, however, as thousands of same-day registration, absentee, and provisional votes still remained in Salt Lake County.

Yesterday, those latter votes were counted while Love found herself slightly under-performing within the last group of Utah County votes. She garnered only 66 percent in the final Utah County vote pool, below the 74% she was posting in previous totals within this entity.

According to local reports, this meant that Democrat McAdams, the Salt Lake County mayor, could overtake the congresswoman should he score approximately 59 percent from the remaining votes. This, he did, and then some, as McAdams erased MLove’s previous lead and ended the counting day with a 739-vote advantage.

McAdam’s surge was largely due to approximately 9,000 same-day registrants, many of whom were coming to the polls to vote for the medical marijuana ballot proposal that passed the state 53-47 percent but was overwhelmingly approved in Salt Lake County. It is evident that a strong majority of these voters supported McAdams.

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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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Rep. Marcia Fudge Emerges

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 16, 2018 — While Republicans chose their leadership team yesterday with little in the way of surprise as California Rep. Kevin McCarthy was easily elected to lead the new GOP minority, the bigger news surrounds former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) internal campaign to return to the House’s top post.

Also, yesterday the Huffington Post news website released the list of 17 Democrats, including five freshmen (one still in an uncalled race), who say they will not support Pelosi for Speaker.

The number is significant. If the House final party division margin breaks 233-202, the group, if they all follow through and don’t vote for Pelosi on the first roll call, would be enough to keep her from gaining majority support. Pelosi is still favored to become Speaker, but her road to the office is appearing a bit rockier than perceived immediately after the Democrats officially clinched the new House majority.

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Poliquin’s “Win” in Maine Likely a Loss

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 15, 2018 — Believing that Maine’s relatively new Ranked Choice Voting system will turn his current plurality re-election victory into a loss, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) and three others are filing a federal lawsuit asking a judge to halt the instant run-off process before post-election counting begins.

With just a scant number of absentee votes remaining, Rep. Poliquin leads state Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) by an unofficial 1,910 votes and it is clear that he will finish the final count with a lead. The congressman’s vote total, however, is well below 50 percent meaning the instant run-off will occur.

With two leftward Independent candidates on the ballot attracting just under 24,000 votes, Golden is more likely to gain a substantial majority in the second- or third-ranked choice round, which would likely allow him to pass Poliquin and exceed the 50 percent mark. Thus, we are likely to see a situation where the candidate who placed first in the final general election count will not be awarded the office.

Pine Tree State voters adopted the controversial practice in what most observers believe was a reaction to Gov. Paul LePage (R) winning two statewide elections with less than majority support. In his first electoral contest (2010), LePage, then the mayor of Waterville, was elected governor in a three-way race with only 38 percent of the vote. Four years later, he was re-elected with 48 percent in another three-way campaign.

Independents are often credible candidates in Maine political campaigns and sometimes win those races as in the case of Sen. Angus King (I), for example.

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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.