Category Archives: House

Utah’s Lightning Speed; Norman Wins

By Jim Ellis

May 23, 2017 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) just scheduled the special election to replace resigning Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy), and the candidate filing deadline will occur even before the congressman leaves office.

Chaffetz announced last week that he will resign from the House effective June 30. It was thought there would be a battle over the UT-3 special election process because Utah election law sets no procedure parameters. The state has not hosted a special federal election since 1930.

Utah election law merely says that a special election will be scheduled in the event of a vacancy. Some in the legislature are indicating that they need to be called into special session to determine the procedure, i.e., primary schedule, whether a nominating convention will be held, etc.

But over the weekend, Gov. Herbert usurped such an idea and had Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) publicly announce the special election schedule.

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Another Close One in SC-5;
Ohio Senate Decision

By Jim Ellis

May 18, 2017 — Tuesday’s special Republican SC-5 run-off election ended in almost as close a fashion as did the primary two weeks ago. Former South Carolina state representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman has scored an apparent 203-vote victory over state House President Pro Tempore Tommy Pope. In the original May 2 vote, Pope nipped Norman by 135 cast ballots. Since no one was close to the majority mark, the secondary run-off election was thus necessitated.

The totals are unofficial, so a recount will likely be ordered, and it is not clear whether any absentee, provisional, or disputed ballots remain uncounted. Assuming the Norman margin holds, he will face Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Wall Street executive and congressional aide, in the special general vote scheduled for June 20. The winner of that election serves the balance of the current congressional term. The seat is vacant because former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) resigned to become director of President Trump’s Office of Management & Budget.

In the primary, the two candidates not only spilt the district, but they virtually halved their joint home county of York, the dominant population center. Such was not the case Tuesday, as Pope carried the entity, where 54 percent of the entire district’s ballots were cast, by a 1,414-vote margin, substantially better than his 187 ballot spread in the primary.

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Arizona Politics in Flux

By Jim Ellis

May 16, 2017 — The Grand Canyon State is looking to be a focal point for the 2018 election cycle. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) stands for re-election amid poor approval numbers within his own Republican Party vote base, while an interesting movement is occurring in what promises to be a competitive re-election effort for 2nd District sophomore Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-Tucson).

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

The Democrats have a fundamental non-correctable problem facing them in the 2018 US Senate cycle. That is, they must defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats with arguably only two conversion targets. In Nevada, which should be their top opportunity, Republican Sen. Dean Heller has yet to even draw a serious opponent, though it is still early. Therefore, the impending Arizona contest, highlighted by the public feud between Sen. Flake and then-candidate Donald Trump, becomes a more viable Democratic target than one would normally surmise based solely upon Arizona voting history.

The Senate race has already drawn early cycle attention, generally involving potential statewide candidate Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), the 9th District congresswoman. Seeing her raise almost $700,000 in the first quarter and holding $2.8 million in her campaign account was commonly interpreted as amassing funds for a statewide campaign.

Within the past 10 days, while being interviewed on a Phoenix radio show, Rep. Sinema indicated that she is running for re-election, seemingly removing herself from a Senate race. A day later her spokesperson claimed that nothing had changed and Sinema could well run statewide.

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South Carolina Run-off Numbers

By Jim Ellis

May 15, 2017 — Northern South Carolina Republican voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose a special election nominee in the vacant 5th Congressional District run-off election. The June 20 special general winner will replace former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) who resigned from Congress to become Director of the Office of Management & Budget.

We remember the results from the special primary vote held 10 days ago that almost ended in a tie. Seven Republicans originally entered the GOP contest, and it quickly became clear that a two-week run-off period would be necessary to determine a final nominee. Few expected, however, that the original vote would come close to deadlocking.

State House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (above) arguably began as the favorite for the nomination. Ironically, it is likely that he wouldn’t have even been a congressional candidate had not incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley (R) been appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations. The move allowed Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) to ascend to the state’s top job where he can now run for a full term unencumbered by the term limit that would have ended Gov. Haley’s tenure. In an open seat situation, Pope intended to run for governor.

The second major candidate, state representative and former congressional nominee Ralph Norman (below) quickly jump-started his political effort by resigning from the legislature to go “all-in” for the congressional race. His campaign aggressiveness paid off as he drew virtually even with Pope in the primary vote.

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Dueling Polls

By Jim Ellis

May 10, 2017 — Two new Georgia special election polls are telling similar stories, but in very different ways. Both show a virtual tie between Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel and Democratic investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff, but the survey results produce different leaders and present mirror images of Independent preference.

GBA Strategies, a Democratic pollster surveying for the House Majority PAC — a group associated with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — recently went into the field (April 29-May 1; 400 likely GA-6 special election voters) and found Ossoff leading Handel, 50-48 percent. This conclusion is similar to what another Democratic firm, Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, produced in their previously reported April 23-26 poll (Ossoff 48 percent; Handel 47 percent).

This week, Landmark Communications, polling for Atlanta’s WSB-TV Channel 2 (May 3-4; 611 likely GA-6 special election voters), released a slightly different result but certainly fell within the same polling realm. They see Handel pulling ahead in a 49.1 – 46.5 percent spread.

Interestingly, the two more recent polls have possible flaws or biases – quirks that prove opposite one another – yet they both still arrive at basically the same final conclusion.

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The Healthcare Targets

By Jim Ellis

May 9, 2017 — Much is being made about the vulnerability of certain Republican representatives after the healthcare legislation passed the House last Thursday. From Democratic members heckling various Republicans on the floor in serenading them with the “hey, hey, hey, goodbye” song, to liberal commentators predicting their political deaths, most of the Republican members sitting in what are viewed to be the most vulnerable districts still held the party position.

The main focus is the group of 23 GOP members representing districts that Hillary Clinton carried last November. In those seats, 14 of the 23 voted in favor of the leadership’s healthcare bill. Most of the controversy surrounds the pre-existing condition provisions and changes that would be made to Medicaid funding.

But, how truly vulnerable are these particular 14 individuals? It is important to remember that Democrats would have to retain all 194 of their current seats, and then convert another 24 Republican districts in order to gain a mere one-seat House majority in the 2018 election. Therefore, even if they were to convert all 14 of the seats currently in the political spotlight, the task would barely be half completed.

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Flake Dodges Political Bullet

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2017 — Arizona US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announced at the end of last week in a Phoenix radio interview her intention to seek re-election next year, meaning she will not become a US Senate candidate.

Most observers believed she would be the strongest Democrat to oppose first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R), and her robust first-quarter fundraising activity seemed to suggest she had something in mind beyond simply securing what was once a politically marginal district.

In the quarter, Rep. Sinema raised just short of $678,000, and holds a whopping $2.8 million cash-on-hand. This latter number is one million dollars more than even Sen. Flake’s reported total. The senator was more aggressive in the first quarter, however, raising $1.3 million in 2017’s opening months, but began with less in his campaign account.

Sinema backing away from a Senate challenge doesn’t mean Sen. Flake is home free, however. His intra-party battle scars from a national feud with then-candidate and later Republican nominee Donald Trump have not fully healed, so the senator harbors some GOP primary vulnerability at the very least. And, a wounded incumbent moving into the general election from a state with the capability of electing someone from the other party is not a scenario the national Republican Party leadership wants to see.

Currently, the senator’s announced primary opposition — former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held veteran Sen. John McCain to a 51.2 – 39.9 percent Republican primary win in 2016 — has little in the way of assets with which to oppose Flake. According to her 1st quarter financial disclosure report, Ward raised $168,369 and has just under $104,000 in her campaign account.

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against  first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Ward is not Sen. Flake’s chief potential Republican threat, however. Waiting in the wings is state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who has not yet entered the Senate race, but already has announced that he will not seek re-election to his current position. DeWit was President Trump’s Arizona campaign chairman, which could make this race all the more interesting if he were to become a Senate candidate.

Still, Sen. Flake’s electoral obstacles would not be in his rear-view mirror even if he only faces Ward in the primary and easily defeats her. With Rep. Sinema now out of the Senate race, a name moving up the Democratic potential candidate chart is state representative and doctor Randall Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who operated on former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) and saved her life from what easily could have been a mortal gunshot wound.

Several years after the Giffords surgery, Dr. Friese (left) decided to enter politics and was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2014, and then re-elected last November. He is now the body’s assistant minority leader. In addition to being an active trauma surgeon, the doctor is a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

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SC Run-off and Outright Win

By Jim Ellis

May 4, 2017
— Voters went to the polls in South Carolina Tuesday to begin the nomination process in the special election to replace Office of Management & Budget director Mick Mulvaney. The results were as predicted.

For the Republicans, the two leading candidates going into the partisan primary, state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope and former state representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman, virtually tied in the final result. Pope finished first with only a 112-vote margin, scoring 30.5 percent in a field of seven Republican candidates. Norman’s percentage was 30.2.

The 5th District contains all or part of 11 north-central South Carolina counties. Both Pope and Norman hail from York County, the district’s largest population entity. There, Pope outdistanced Norman by 137 votes. That means the difference between the two was just 25 votes in the remaining 10 counties.

Turnout was 38,903 in the Republican primary with the Democrats adding an additional 18,573 who voted in their nomination contest. The total participation factor of 57,476 represented only 12.5 percent of the district’s registered voters. This number pales in comparison to the GA-6 turnout that exceeded 192,000, as we saw on April 18, but was much stronger than the Los Angeles special earlier last month that drew just under 29,000 voters.

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South Carolina Special

By Jim Ellis

May 3, 2017 — Voters in north-central South Carolina’s 5th District cast ballots yesterday in partisan primaries as the people voted to choose a replacement for ex-Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill), now director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Unlike the four previous special elections in California, Kansas, Montana, and Georgia, the Palmetto State neither holds a jungle primary nor a nominating convention. Just as in the regular election cycle, candidates first run in partisan primaries. If no one secures a majority in the first vote, partisan run-offs occur in a short two-week time frame under South Carolina election law. The eventual nominees then advance to the general election.

In a district that voted 57-39 percent for President Trump, and elected Rep. Mulvaney four times by an average of 57.6 percent of the vote, including his initial percentage when defeating veteran incumbent Rep. John Spratt (D) in 2010, the Republicans were heavy favorites to hold the seat in the current special election process.

Seven Republicans are on the ballot, and most observers agree that former state representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman and state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope were the two leading candidates. With five others on the ballot, it appeared unlikely that either Norman or Pope would command a majority of the primary vote, hence a May 16 GOP run-off was viewed as the likely outcome of yesterday’s voting.

Norman had the most in the way of funding, securing almost $600,000 according to the pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing report through the period ending April 12. Half of that amount was from a candidate loan, however. State Rep. Pope, who was planning to run for governor had not Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) become the incumbent state chief executive when Gov. Nikki Haley (R) was appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations, had only banked $226,002 during the same period, which was a surprisingly low amount.

Both of these candidates have cut television ads, but more airings have been through the digital medium rather than the airwaves. (See below samples)

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Updating the Four Specials

By Jim Ellis

April 25, 2017 — Coming through the highly publicized GA-6 special election, the political overtime campaign season is hitting its stride as we approach May voting. In Georgia, South Carolina, Montana, and California, political action is now in full swing.

The GA-6 contest has eliminated all but finalists Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) in a race well on its way to becoming the most expensive congressional special election in American history. Right after last Tuesday’s vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sponsored an initial post-primary $450,000 flash media buy, which was quickly followed by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $250,000 airtime purchase.

While the two sides exceeded $16 million in pre-primary fundraising, it appears the special general spending pattern is already following suit to no one’s surprise. We can count on seeing very active campaigning here all the way to the June 20th special general vote.

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More Chaffetz Intrigue

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

April 24, 2017 — House Oversight & Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) made a great deal of news over the past week. He surprisingly announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018; Chaffetz said he’s been away from his family in Utah too long during his four-plus terms in Congress, and desires to return to the private sector, yet he left the door wide open about running for governor in 2020.

Then, Rep. Chaffetz indicated that he was considering resigning before the term ends. In fact, late last week, rumors were circulating through media outlets that the congressman was going to leave the House as early as Friday.

Then Rep. Chaffetz somewhat clarified the situation saying that while he would not likely serve the remaining 20 months of the current term, he wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon and certainly not within days. The representative told the Salt Lake City Tribune that, “if I do it, it’s going to be months from now.” Chaffetz also disclosed that he is in discussions with an unidentified company about a private-sector position.

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Chaffetz to Retire; Cruz Down

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2017 — Five-term Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) announced Wednesday that he will surprisingly retire from the House at the end of the current term. Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, says he wants to return to the private sector and devote the rest of this time in Congress to completing his open investigations. The congressman said he may well run for public office again, but not in 2018. When asked about him entering the impending open 2020 gubernatorial race, Chaffetz joked that he is a “definite maybe.”

Rep. Chaffetz becomes the 14th House incumbent who will not be on the ballot for the next election, including the four remaining special congressional elections. At least another 15 members are reportedly considering seeking a different elective office, or outright retirement. Nine of the previously mentioned 14 are Republicans.

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District is safely Republican. President Trump took the district with 47.2 percent of the vote, while Hillary Clinton actually placed third, just behind Independent Evan McMullin at 23.3 percent. The 3rd was one of Mitt Romney’s strongest districts in the entire country. In 2012, he defeated President Obama, 78-19 percent, in this CD. Reviewing the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain won here with a 68-30 percent margin.

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GA-6: Ossoff vs. Handel

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2017
— Democrat Jon Ossoff came within a relative whisker of capturing the 6th District special election contest last night against 17 other candidates. In an election night that featured a laboriously slow count from Fulton County, Georgia, which experienced technical problems throughout the day, Ossoff tallied 48.1 percent of the vote, just two points away from winning the seat.

Turnout was unusually high for a special election, and the 6th will likely have the highest participation factor of the five special congressional contests occurring throughout the early summer. With the vote totals still a bit sketchy because of the Fulton County problems, and final tallies potentially changing, it appears that just over 192,000 voters will have cast ballots. Compare this to the 28,731 who voted in the California special congressional election on April 4, and the 120,897 participants in the Kansas special held last week. In the regular 2016 general election, 326,005 individuals voted in the congressional election.

Karen Handel, the Republican former Secretary of State placed a solid second and advances to the June 20 run-off election with Ossoff. Her percentage of just about 20 percent almost doubled the vote of the third place finisher, businessman and local city councilman Bob Gray.

Most of the polls released before the special jungle primary appeared flawed because they were not listing all of the candidates. Thus, there was some potential that the surveys over-stated Ossoff’s strength, but such was not the case. They also consistently showed the four competitive Republicans are closely bunched together in low double-digits, but Handel distinctly out-performed most of those estimates.

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GA-6 Today

By Jim Ellis

April 18, 2017 — Voters in the northern Atlanta suburbs go to the polls today, and if a new Opinion Savvy survey is correct, Democrat Jon Ossoff will easily claim the first run-off position but will fall well short of claiming an outright victory in Georgia.

Since Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) was nominated as President Trump’s Secretary of Health & Human Services, the Democrats have been investing heavily into the replacement special election, believing that they have a shot to convert this historically reliable Republican district. Their hopes were buoyed in finding that President Trump scored only a 1.5 percentage point win over Hillary Clinton within the 6th District boundaries.

Though five Democrats are on tomorrow’s ballot, the party has coalesced around investigative filmmaker and former congressional aide Ossoff. It is apparent that he is the strongest individual candidate, but the combined Republican number still outpaces him.

The new Opinion Savvy data (April 13; 437 GA-6-weighted likely voters) is very similar to one they conducted over the March 22-23 period. The OS surveys likely provide our best glimpse into the race because the firm is the only polling operation that has included the names of all 18 candidates on their survey questionnaire. Because the entire field is so large, the other pollsters have given their sampling group members only an abbreviated list of individuals from which to choose.

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New GA-6 Data

By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2017 — With the KS-4 special election just concluding last week, we now turn our attention to the imminent Georgia congressional primary. Voters in the northern Atlanta suburbs head to the polls for next week’s much-anticipated electoral contest scheduled for Tuesday, April 18.

While the hot early polling pace has seemingly dissipated for an election that will eventually produce a replacement for Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price in his vacated congressional district, the RHH Elections firm just released a fresh set of numbers.

Once more, however, we are examining a methodologically flawed survey, but the polling conclusion again proves consistent with other previously released data.

RHH Elections – identified as a group of eight unnamed lobbyists who are conducting an independent poll for this race – uses a combination of survey methods, neither of which included personal interviews with the individual respondents. The RHH survey (April 5-10; 321 likely GA-6 voters; 75 percent IVR; 25 percent online respondents) was conducted questioning participants through an interactive voice response system supplemented with online responses. Therefore, the sample’s error factor is a serious issue, and likely greater than the 5 percent estimated in the pollsters’ analysis.

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