Category Archives: House

Utah Convention Winner

By Jim Ellis

June 23, 2017 — Last Saturday, in news that has been somewhat overshadowed by the recent special elections I’ve been writing about, former state Representative Chris Herrod, who challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch for re-nomination in 2012, won the special Republican nominating convention to replace outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy). Herrod advances to the Aug. 15 Republican primary to face Provo Mayor John Curtis and businessman Tanner Ainge, who both qualified for the ballot via petition signature.

Once Rep. Chaffetz announced he would leave the House without completing his current term, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) scheduled the replacement special election to include an Aug. 15 primary and a Nov. 7 general election. The political parties had the option of holding a nominating convention, which the Republicans quickly scheduled for this past Saturday, June 17. They changed the normal party rules to select one candidate for advancement rather than two if no candidate received 60 percent of the delegate vote.

Almost 800 Republican precinct delegates gathered in Provo for the special election vote. Eleven candidates were on the ballot, and it took five rounds of voting before Herrod emerged with a majority vote. On the final ballot, he defeated state Sen. Deidre Henderson, 415-338, for 55.1 percent of those present and voting, thus exceeding the majority mark and clinching the official party endorsement.

In regular Utah convention politics, candidates are required to receive 60 percent of the delegate vote to, if no candidates qualify by petition signature, clinch the actual party nomination. Because this is a special congressional election, the first held in Utah since 1930, the party leaders altered the convention rules to produce only one winner once 50 percent support was obtained. The fact that at least one other candidate would apparently qualify via signature -– an onerous requirement of 7,000 valid signatures gathered exclusively with circulators from the 3rd District -– factored heavily in the leaders’ decision to change the convention rules. This way, they could limit the number of primary participants.

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The Aftermath

By Jim Ellis

June 22, 2017 — Much was written and discussed yesterday about Tuesday’s surprising special election results in GA-6 and SC-5. Democrats, in particular, had raised victory expectations to unrealistically high levels for the Georgia race while spending record sums of money there, yet still suffered another crushing defeat.

Northeast from the Atlanta district some 200 miles away on Interstate 85, South Carolina Democratic candidate Archie Parnell, who the national party leadership basically considered politically dead even before he won the party nomination, lost by only two percentage points. He actually came closer to his Republican opponent than GA-6 candidate Jon Ossoff did while having 97 percent less in the way of campaign financial resources.

Predictably, Democratic congressional members, activists, and donors from around the country are not happy with the party leadership over the losses, but talk inside and outside the House of deposing the leadership team of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will soon dissipate.

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Handel and Norman

By Jim Ellis

June 21, 2017 — It’s difficult to characterize a Republican candidate winning a Republican congressional district as an “upset”, but Karen Handel’s victory in the north Atlanta suburbs last night, at least in terms of the money spent, polling, and how the media covered the campaign, seems to qualify for such a description.

From a huge turnout of 259,622 voters, just about 58 percent of the entire registered 6th district universe and almost 50,000 more than participated in the last regular mid-term election, Handel, a former Georgia Secretary of State, topped Democratic filmmaker and ex-congressional aide Jon Ossoff by a 52-48 percent margin, a spread of 9,702 votes when all of the ballots were counted. She retains for the Republicans Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s former congressional seat.

Simultaneously, over 200 miles away via Interstate 85 northeast of Atlanta in central South Carolina, Republican Ralph Norman claimed the evening’s other special congressional election with a surprisingly close 51-49 percent win over Democrat Archie Parnell from a small turnout of 87,840 voters. Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney left open this seat to assume his national position.

The GA-6 contest, which became a national election because of the record amounts of money spent — an aggregate total that will likely exceed $50 million when the final accounting is published, and where the Democratic leadership virtually invested their entire special election season budget and emphasis — is now a crushing defeat for the party and what is termed the “anti-Trump resistance.”

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Election Day Today

By Jim Ellis

June 20, 2017 — Voters in Georgia and South Carolina complete their special election processes today, with Republicans protecting both vacant US House seats and Democrats trying to make one of them a major national gain. The GA-6 and SC-5 seats of Trump Administration appointees Tom Price of Georgia and Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina have been vacant for months, but will have new representatives as tonight draws to a close.

GA-6

This is the big one. More than $40 million will be spent in the aggregate for this campaign, more money than ever expended for a single congressional contest. Democrats went “all in” on this contest at the beginning of the special election cycle, using President Trump’s 1.5 percentage point victory performance as a harbinger of a changing Republican district.

Polling shows the race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel as being a dead heat. Ossoff has maintained a slight lead for most of the post-primary period, but the polling sample selections have often over-emphasized the 2016 presidential campaign, which has led to a greater number of Democratic respondents. This, plus the Republicans tending to under-poll in the South could give Handel a better chance than the pure numbers indicate.

Democrats are using this race as proof that they can sweep the mid-term elections, but GA-6 isn’t representative of their coming campaigns. First, they won’t be able to raise and spend $25 million for every congressional race in the 2018 cycle, so the financial aspect skews the outcome. Second, the Democratic spokespeople will make this result, should Ossoff win, a statement suggesting that the voting public is rejecting President Trump. This is only a surface argument because Ossoff’s public positions don’t often mention the chief executive, nor do they espouse liberal economic principles. Therefore, it is likely their post-election victory analysis won’t reflect Ossoff’s actual reasons for winning.

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GA-6 – Dead Even

By Jim Ellis

June 15, 2017 — The long Georgia special election cycle is mercifully almost over, as this most expensive-ever congressional race draws to a close next Tuesday. Looking at the aggregate spending, this one House campaign will easily exceed $40 million in combined expenditures, probably topping $25 million for Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign committee alone when the financial books close at the reporting cycle’s end.

The polls have forecast a close race between Ossoff and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) immediately upon both advancing from the April 18 jungle primary. The most recent study, from Survey USA polling for WXIA-TV in Atlanta (June 7-11, 700 registered GA-6 voters; 503 either likely June 20 participants or those who have voted early), finds the two again tied at 47 percent. This is a marked improvement for Handel in comparison to both S-USA’s previous poll and last week’s Abt Associates survey for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, both of which found Ossoff holding a 51-44 percent advantage.

All three of these polls, however, are apparently understating Republican strength. In party segmentation, the GOP/lean GOP cell has only small advantages over the Democrat/Lean Democrat grouping. This is largely due to over-emphasizing the close 2016 presidential race when constructing the respondent pool. Since Georgia does not register voters by political party affiliation, it becomes more difficult to determine an accurate party sample for polling purposes.

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Another House Opening;
Puerto Rico Vote

By Jim Ellis

June 13, 2017 — Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) announced his campaign for governor Sunday, making the open seat Democratic primary even more crowded. Polis’ move sets up a major primary confrontation with fellow Colorado congressional colleague Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), who announced his own candidacy in early April. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Rep. Polis becomes the ninth Democrat to enter the governor’s race, but clearly he and Perlmutter are the heavyweight candidates. Former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), and plastics company CEO Noel Ginsburg are also substantial players. Seven Republicans are in the race, the most prominent of whom is George Brauchler, the Aurora County District Attorney who prosecuted James Holmes, known as the “Joker”, a mass murderer who killed a dozen people and wounded 70 more in a rampage outside a local movie theatre in July of 2012.

The Colorado governor’s race will be one of the most interesting and competitive of the 2018 election cycle. Democrats will be favored to claim the statewide race, but a strong Republican effort could position the GOP candidate for an upset victory, similar to how Sen. Cory Gardner (R) won here in 2014.

The Democratic primary here will likely yield another example of how the party is becoming at odds within itself. Rep. Polis may be in strong position to attract the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren most liberal faction, while Perlmutter is likely to be the establishment wing’s preferred contender. With at least seven other Democrats vying for the nomination in varying degrees of strength, this June 2018 Dem primary will be among the most hard fought, and potentially divisive in the nation.

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New Jersey Nominations;
CA-34 Results

By Jim Ellis

June 7, 2017 — Voters cast their ballots in the 2017-18 election cycle’s first regular primary contest last night and the local political prognosticators fared well.

As predicted, former US ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy dominated the Democratic gubernatorial primary, scoring a 48-22-22 percent victory over ex-treasury official Jim Johnson and state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, respectively. Three other minor candidates combined to garner eight percent of the Democratic votes.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s winning margin was equivalent to her Democratic counterpart’s. She recorded a 47-31-10 percent vote to capture the GOP nomination against state Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli and engineer Hirsh Singh, respectively. Two minor candidates failed to reach double-digits.

The total primary turnout reached only 13 percent of the registered voter total; some 733,757 individuals of a vote base exceeding 5.6 million. Two-thirds of those participating voted in the Democratic primary. Party registration figures yield the Democrats a 36-21 percent margin over Republicans with non-affiliated voters numbering 42 percent. Under New Jersey election statutes, party registrants must vote in their own primaries, while non-affiliated voters can choose where to cast their ballot.

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GA-6: Even More Controversy

By Jim Ellis

June 5, 2017 — The backfired Kathy Griffin ploy about beheading President Trump has made its way into the hotly contested GA-6 special election.

The Republican Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), loosely associated with House Speaker Paul Ryan, is airing a new ad (above) that ties Griffin to Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, labeling her an “Ossoff supporter,” and then attacking “extreme liberals” for creating violence and national unrest. Griffin publicly endorsed Ossoff several weeks ago via Twitter.

The script proceeds to call attention to Ossoff’s fundraising that could attract over $12 million before the election culminates on June 20. The CLF contends that 95 percent of Ossoff’s funds come from outside of Georgia, and infers that most of his supporters are of the same ilk as Griffin. The script ends explaining that these activists support Ossoff because “he is one of them.”

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The Lineup to Replace
Chaffetz in Utah

By Jim Ellis

May 31, 2017 — The replacement process for Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Alpine/ Sandy) southeastern Utah congressional 3rd District seat is moving forward with both clarity and cloudiness. The field of 15 Republican special election candidates include a mayor, three state legislators, a former state representative, a radio talk show host, an advertising executive, the son of a local college basketball star and two attorneys, among others. Democrats feature no elected officials in their mix of four contenders. They have yet to schedule a party nominating convention.

Of the group, already Provo Mayor John Curtis and Tanner Ainge, son of Boston Celtics general manager and former Brigham Young University basketball star Danny Ainge, have already said they will use the petition process to place their names on the ballot. The vast majority of the others will enter the party convention.

Going the petition route, however, is no sure option. With a requirement to gather 7,000 valid registered voter signatures from within the district boundaries by June 12 means the project features a high degree of prospective failure.

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UT-3: More Clarity?

By Jim Ellis

May 31, 2017 — The replacement process for soon-to-be ex-Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Alpine/ Sandy) southeastern Utah congressional seat has just become clearer in some ways, but not in others.

Candidate filing closed on Friday, and 15 Republicans, four Democrats, one Libertarian, and two Independents filed for the impending special election. But, most will not qualify for the Aug. 15 primary ballot. Those wanting to run as Independents still have until June 12 to file, so it will be several weeks before we know each of the eventual primary candidates’ identities.

The Utah political parties typically employ a nominating convention as the first step in choosing final contenders for the various partisan offices. When Gov. Gary Herbert (R) scheduled the current special election, he indicated that the parties continue to retain the option of holding a nominating convention. Republicans have decided to do so, scheduling their confab for the fast approaching June 17th date. Yet, even the convention delegates’ designating a presumed nominee does not necessarily negate holding a primary.

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Setting the Record Straight

By Jim Ellis

May 30, 2017 — More incorrect post-election analysis is coming to the forefront after last week’s Montana special congressional election.

After a similar Kansas special electoral contest in April yielded stories saying that a 7,600-vote Republican victory was an under-performance and reflected poorly upon a besieged President Donald Trump, similar analyses came immediately after Greg Gianforte’s 23,000-vote (22,990) win last Thursday over Democratic nominee Rob Quist.

In response to the media stories in April, we pointed out that the 52-46 percent Ron Estes victory in Kansas’ Wichita anchored district was only slightly behind previous open seat or challenger GOP victories – Todd Tiahrt first converting the seat in 1994 with 53 percent and Mike Pompeo winning the open district seven years ago with 59 percent – rather than a precursor to a coming Democratic wave election. In both the Kansas and Montana post-election analysis, the past Republican-Democrat performance was generally only defined as how the candidates performed in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections, while failing to account for the particular region’s more complete voting history.

The New York Times ran a story last Friday, the day after the Montana election, that portrayed liberal Democratic base activists as being upset with the party chieftains who didn’t prioritize converting the at-large Big Sky Country campaign. Again, the 50-44 percent Republican victory was couched as Quist being in range for an upset if more outside support would have come from national Democratic party organizations and affiliated outside organizations. Citing President Trump’s 20-point victory in the state as basically the sole determining factor as Montana being a “solid Republican state”, the Gianforte victory pales in comparison.

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Gianforte KO’s Quist in Montana

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2017 — Bozeman, Montana businessman and former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte (R) shrugged off a 24-hour media pounding last evening. The congressional candidate, besieged with attacks over his election eve physical altercation with a Guardian-US publication reporter, rebounded to defeat country folk singer Rob Quist, 50-44 percent, in the state’s at-large special congressional election.

The victory margin translates into a 24,027-vote edge, from a voting universe of just under 375,000 people with one county still to report, who either came to the polls or mailed a pre-election day absentee ballot. The turnout is a special election record, and actually exceeds the number who voted in the state’s most recent mid-term (2014). The numbers are unusually high because the Montana at-large seat is the largest congressional district in the country, housing over one million residents.

The special congressional vote was made necessary when former at-large Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) was appointed US Interior Secretary. The major political parties nominated their candidates in convention, a process that produced Gianforte for the Republicans, which had been expected since he had run a close gubernatorial bid in November, and Quist for the Democrats.

In the end, the final result was not as close as several final pre-election media stories predicted. There were several pieces, even in conservative publications, that left the door wide open for a Quist upset finish, and the writers were already beginning to spin how this Montana election result would reflect poorly on President Trump.

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Gianforte Slams Reporter – Literally!

By Jim Ellis

May 25, 2017 — On the eve of today’s Montana special election, at-large Republican special election congressional nominee Greg Gianforte was involved in a physical altercation with a national news reporter, Ben Jacobs from the Guardian-US publication, a confrontation the correspondent described as being “body slammed.”

According to Gianforte campaign spokespeople, Jacobs pushed his way into an inner office area where a different interviewer was questioning the candidate. Shane Scanlon, speaking for the Republican nominee, said the Guardian correspondent entered the room and immediately started aggressively interrogating Gianforte about the newly released Congressional Budget Office report that scored the GOP healthcare legislation.

An audio of the conflict contains indistinguishable sounds, but ends with Jacobs claiming he had been thrown to the ground and his eyeglasses broken after Gianforte yells that he is “sick of this,” a reference to what he apparently believes is harassment from news reporters. Jacobs is then heard saying that he wanted to call the police. Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, opened an ongoing investigation but left the premises without arresting or charging Gianforte with any crime. The inquiry, however, is far from over.

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Montana Special:
The Healthcare Referendum

By Jim Ellis

May 24, 2017 — We’re going to see either a quick validation or clear rejection of the Democrats’ healthcare strategy later this week.

Montanans head to the polls on Thursday, an unusual day for an election, to replace former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish), who left the House to become US Interior Secretary. Toward the end of this expensive campaign, Democratic candidate Rob Quist has been zeroing in on Republican nominee Greg Gianforte’s support of the recently House-passed healthcare legislation, most specifically its sections relating to pre-existing conditions.

Whether the race turns on this specific issue remains to be seen, but Quist and the Democratic strategists are crafting the end of their campaign to make this congressional special election a referendum on the GOP’s proposed changes to the nation’s healthcare law. (See ad below)

Because the provisions will allow the states to change the pre-existing condition coverage requirement, Quist is using his own “botched surgery” as an example of the risks people with some type of health problem could face. Quist doesn’t explain how his own surgical problem directly related to insurance -– he doesn’t indicate that he was, or would be, denied future coverage because of this procedure, for example -– but his point is to show how many people could easily fall into the category of having some pre-existing health problem that could preclude them from receiving future coverage.

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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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