Category Archives: House

A Shocking Retirement

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (R-Rochester)

New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (R-Rochester)

Oct. 10, 2017 — Since Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) announced he would run for the US Senate in late August, and after an additional eight US House seats opened in the succeeding weeks, none were as surprising as the latest one announced on Friday.

New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (R-Rochester), who represents the one seat that has defeated more incumbents than any other in the last decade including herself twice, announced that she will not seek re-election in 2018.

Her departure reasons were not part of the retirement statement but, for a woman who first came to Congress in 2006, was defeated in 2010, returned in 2012, and then lost again in 2014 before winning once more last November, her voluntary departure was certainly not predicted. Shea-Porter claimed another term in 2016, but with only 44 percent of the vote in part due to three Independent and minor party candidates taking more than 12.6 percent, but the number represented her lowest victory percentage.

Since the 2006 election, inclusive, the NH-1 electorate has consistently defeated its incumbent. In only 2008 was a US representative (Shea-Porter) here re-elected. The district encompasses New Hampshire’s eastern half, including the state’s largest city of Manchester, the Seacoast region, and the mountain area that hugs the Maine border. In the past six elections, the largest recorded win percentage was 54 percent (Republican Frank Guinta in 2010), while Shea-Porter never exceeded 51.7 percent.

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With Murphy Out in PA, Corker Out in TN, Who Will Fill the Vacancies?

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Tim Murphy  (R-Pittsburgh)

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Oct. 9, 2017 — A new special US House election will soon be on tap, this time in southwestern Pennsylvania in PA-18. Beleaguered Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) succumbed to the negative publicity leaking out about his extra-marital affairs, abortion hypocrisy, and internal relations with staff members to announce late last week that he will resign his congressional office effective Oct. 21. This, just a day after he made public his intention not to seek re-election but serve the balance of the current term.

Once the seat is vacant, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will call a special election to choose a replacement. Since the Nov. 7 municipal elections occur less than three full weeks after Rep. Murphy departs, that means holding a new special congressional contest concurrently with the regular off-year vote would be impossible. Therefore, it is probable a mid-December or post-January 1st election will be scheduled.

There will be no primary period. Under Pennsylvania law, the parties will meet in district conclaves and local delegates will select the respective nominees.

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Pennsylvania’s Importance

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2017 — In every election, it seems one or two states become that cycle’s political focal point and we can already identify which places might serve in such a role for 2018. Along with California for House races, political fortunes in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania could well influence national Senate and House outcomes, while strongly contributing to the national redistricting outlook when the state’s competitive governor’s race is ultimately decided.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) seeks re-election with improving favorability ratings and will be in a targeted 2018 campaign. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) is running for a third term and drawing considerable opposition, particularly from US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). US House competition is projected for as many as 11 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, some of which coming in primaries, and a live political gerrymandering lawsuit before the state court system could potentially radically change Pennsylvania’s redistricting maps prior to the next election. Therefore, we see a state teeming with political activity in each of its four corners.

Gov. Wolf came from nowhere in 2014 as a successful York business owner to capture the Democratic nomination, and then proved to become the only member of his party to unseat a Republican governor in what was otherwise a Republican wave election year. He will face his own highly competitive re-election battle next year, as the GOP must re-capture this statehouse to protect its congressional and state legislative gains as a new redistricting cycle will begin during this next governor’s term.

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Categorizing the Open Seats

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 22, 2017 — Seeing three Republican House members last week announce they won’t be running for re-election next year – Reps. Charlie Dent (R-PA; retiring), Tom Marino (R-PA; appointed Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy), and David Trott (R-MI; retiring) – obviously increases the number of House open seats, thus becoming a good time to analyze the early political trends for this important political category.

For Democrats to have a legitimate chance of actually winning the net 24 seats they must convert to dethrone the House Republican majority, the number of GOP competitive opens must climb. While the three aforementioned seats were just added to the now growing open seat category, one could still arguably point to only one open Republican seat (FL-27; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) residing in the toss-up category at this early campaign stage.

Currently, and not counting the UT-3 special election that will be decided on Nov. 7 (Republican Mayor John Curtis vs. Democratic physician Kathryn Allen), the election cycle is yielding 26 open seats – 18 Republican-held as compared to just eight for the Democrats.

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Another Republican Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2017 — For the third time in a week, a Republican House member announced that he will not seek re-election next year. This time, it’s a junior member who is retiring. Second-term Michigan Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham/Livonia) announced that he will return to the private sector after the current Congress ends in early 2019. The congressman had built a highly successful real estate and foreclosure legal practice before coming to the House in 2015.

The move is certainly a surprise, and leaves another marginal Republican district up for grabs. Though races can get close here, the GOP congressional nominee has won in every election since the 11th District was originally created.

The seat was drawn in its near present form during the 2001 redistricting process as a result of then-Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Lynn Rivers (D-Ann Arbor) being paired in the former 15th District. This, after national reapportionment reduced the Michigan delegation by one seat.

In 2002, then-state Sen. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) won the new 11th District after having a hand in drawing the congressional map as a member of the Senate redistricting committee. McCotter would serve five terms, leaving because of ballot qualification problems in 2012.

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Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent
Announces Departure

By Jim Ellis

Sep. 12, 2017 — A day after Pennsylvania conservative state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg) officially declared his Republican primary challenge to Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown), the congressman announced that he would not seek an eighth term in the House.

It is unlikely the Simmons challenge forced Dent from Congress, but the overall political climate certainly contributes to his retiring. Dent has been one of President Trump’s top Republican critics. The congressman, age 57, reminded his supporters, however, that he originally planned to only serve five or six terms and will be in elective office for 28 consecutive years once his final term in the House comes to a close at the beginning of 2019. He was originally elected to the state House of Representatives in 1990, serving until his election to the state Senate in 1998, and then to Congress in 2004.

Democrats will now be looking to target the open 15th District, which stretches from the Allentown-Bethlehem area all the way west on Interstate 78 to the outer reaches of Harrisburg. The 15th District was more of a swing district before 2011 redistricting, however. Now, it performs as a reliably Republican seat.

The Allentown-Bethlehem district was solidly in Democratic hands from 1952 through 1978, when Republican Don Ritter upset eight-term Democratic Congressman Fred Rooney (D-Bethlehem) in that latter year. Ritter would represent the Lehigh Valley until 1992 when he lost to Democrat Paul McHale. McHale (D-Bethlehem) then retired after serving three terms. In 1998, businessman Pat Toomey (R-Allentown) converted the seat for the GOP and held it for three terms until he unsuccessfully challenged then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 GOP primary.

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Retirement Brings a Toss-Up

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2017 — Washington Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) announced earlier this week that he will not seek an eighth term next year. The congressman was first elected in 2004, succeeding veteran Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R), which proved to be only two-plus years before her untimely death.

In 2005, Reichert came to Washington after serving 33 years in the King County Sheriff’s office, his last eight as the county’s top law enforcement officer. It was in this position where Sheriff Dave Reichert gained national notoriety through apprehending the Green River serial killer. After conviction, Gary Ridgway confessed to committing 71 murders, 49 of which were confirmed. Some investigators believe his actual victim number may exceed 90. The totals make Ridgway the most prolific serial killer in American history.

Riding his local positive image, Sheriff Reichert was able to bridge the partisan gap in his first congressional race and won election to the increasingly Democratic 8th District. He would clinch three re-elections in the seat before the district lines were made more Republican. In his trio of difficult campaigns prior to redistricting, the congressman averaged 52.1 percent of the vote. Post 2011 redistricting, his average victory margin increased to 61.0 percent.

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Another Trump Appointment;
A Double-Digit West Virginia Poll

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 7, 2017 — White House personnel this week announced that President Trump will nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) as the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The appointment was expected to happen much earlier in the year, but a serious illness in the congressman’s family forced him to ask the administration for a postponement.

Should Rep. Marino move quickly through the confirmation process we would likely see another congressional special election called, similar to the situation involving Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) appointment as NASA administrator, in order to fill the remainder of the current term.

There is a good bet, however, that Senate Democrats will want to delay Marino’s confirmation as long as possible. With a live redistricting lawsuit making its way through the Pennsylvania court system, the Dems hope a potential re-draw will significantly change the statewide map, and specifically this district, in time for the 2018 regular election.

The 10th District, which contains 10 complete Pennsylania counties and parts of five others, occupies the entire northeastern corner of the Keystone State that borders New York and New Jersey, encompasses the territory around the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and then shoots southwest past the Harrisburg-Carlisle area as far as the Tuscarora State Forest. Since 1952 inclusive, the district has voted Democratic only three times in congressional elections. During much of the succeeding six decades, veteran Rep. Joe McDade (R-Scranton) represented the region. He was in office for 36 years from the early 60s to the late 90s.

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Another Open; New Special

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 6, 2017 — US House action occurred during the three-day holiday weekend both on the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle. A new open Democratic House seat was announced because the incumbent has decided to run for governor of her state, and President Trump chose a GOP House member to become the new NASA administrator meaning seeing yet another special election is distinctly possible.

HI-1

Last month, stories surfaced that Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) was seriously considering challenging Gov. David Ige in next year’s Democratic primary. Over the weekend, she made public her intentions to again run statewide.

Rep. Hanabusa was originally elected to the House in 2010. She served two terms and then ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, attempting to deny appointed Sen. Brian Schatz the Democratic nomination. Then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) appointed then-Lt. Gov. Schatz to the Senate seat left vacant when long-serving incumbent Daniel Inouye (D) passed away in 2012. Hanabusa claimed the late senator wanted her as his successor, prompting her to run. In the succeeding primary, Sen. Schatz secured his victory by slightly more than one percentage point, a margin of 1,782 votes from just under 234,000 ballots cast.

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Sanford’s Next Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 1, 2017 — We all remember former Gov. Mark Sanford’s ignominious exit from the South Carolina political scene in 2010, a year after his international extra-marital affair became worldwide news. His political exile did not last long, as he was able to return to the US House in 2013, winning a special election for the Charleston-anchored congressional district after then-Rep. Tim Scott (R-Charleston) was appointed to the Senate after incumbent Jim DeMint (R) resigned from office.

Considering the way in which Sanford left office, which before engaging in the affair was widely regarded as a successful governorship to the point of him being mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate, his quick return to elective politics was surprising. And, his re-election to the district he previously represented from 1995-2001 proved rather extraordinary.

After winning the 2013 special, Sanford did not even draw a Democratic opponent in the 2014 regular election, capturing 93 percent of the vote against only minor party opposition.

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Action Breaking in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2017
— Early last week, the three-judge federal panel considering the Texas redistricting lawsuit issued a ruling, one that contained a rather major surprise.

It was expected that Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Austin) districts would certainly be ordered re-drawn for racial gerrymandering reasons, but it was assumed that Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-San Antonio) 23rd District would also be in the same predicament. In a ruling that certainly caught the Democratic plaintiffs off guard, the court allowed the current 23rd to stand while striking down the other two. The panel also left north Texas in tact, another region the Democrats wanted re-configured.

Now with some certainty that the district will remain intact – though it could tangentially change as a result of re-crafting Doggett’s nearby 35th District – candidates already are starting to make their moves regarding challenging vulnerable two-term incumbent Hurd.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio)

Congressman Hurd was first elected to represent his sprawling central-west Texas district, a seat that stretches more than 550 miles from San Antonio to El Paso, in 2014 when he upset then-Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), 50-48 percent, yielding a margin of just over 2,400 votes. This past November, Rep. Hurd again beat Gallego, this time 48-47 percent, a spread of just over 3,000 votes. Knowing that the turnout would literally double in the presidential year from the previous mid-term, many observers expected Gallego to re-claim the seat and were again surprised when the re-match evolved into a rerun.

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A Not So Open Seat

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 22, 2017 — Currently, we see a low number of open US House seats during this 2018 election cycle, and the number is about to get even smaller. Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) is expected to announce that he has changed political course once again and now will seek re-election.

In April, the six-term congressman announced his candidacy for governor, only to withdraw two months later. At the time when ending his statewide bid, Perlmutter confirmed that he would not be seeking re-election to a seventh term in the House. Believing the 7th District, a likely Democratic seat, would be open in 2018, three state legislators and a former US Ambassador jumped into the party primary.

At the very least, each of the three legislators has previously indicated that they would end their congressional campaigns and defer to the returning incumbent should he decide to return. Therefore, it is likely Perlmutter’s re-entry into the congressional race will not spur a competitive primary campaign.

Assuming this predicted new course of action proves true, the number of open regular cycle House seats will temporarily drop to 20. At this point in time, the total open seat universe is half of what it was in the last two election cycles, and less than one-third the high water number of 64 we saw in 2012.

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The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

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AL Run-off; Curtis Wins

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 17, 2017 — The pre-election polling proved accurate Tuesday, as Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Senate Republican primary, as predicted, and will advance to a Sept. 26 run-off election.

The Trafalgar Group released the last poll for the special primary cycle. The survey (Aug. 12-13; 870 likely GOP primary voters) found Judge Moore holding 38 percent support, followed by appointed Sen. Luther Strange with 24 percent, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) dropping back to 17.5 percent. The results were almost precise for Moore, understated Sen. Strange’s support, and slightly missed Brooks’ finish.

With just over 417,000 individuals voting in the Republican primary Judge Moore captured 39 percent of the statewide Republican vote, enough to claim the first run-off position but a long way from securing a majority.

Sen. Strange easily took the second run-off slot with 33 percent finishing well ahead of the third place finisher, Congressman Brooks (20 percent).

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Special Elections Today

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2017 — Voters go to the polls today in the long-awaited Alabama special US Senate primary, the first tangible step in permanently replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As we know, Sessions resigned his Senate seat early in the year to accept the top law enforcement position in the Trump administration.

Most of the special election campaign action is on the Republican side, as appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) fights to secure a run-off position.

With the nine GOP candidates clearly attracting enough support to prevent any one of them from capturing a majority and winning the party nomination outright today, moving to a Sept. 26 run-off vote appears certain. Polling suggests that former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will seize the first run-off position, but with 40 percent or less support. Sen. Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are fighting for the second qualifying position with the other six candidates lagging behind.

The latest poll from the Trafalgar Group (Aug. 8-10; 1,439 likely Alabama GOP primary voters from more than 50,000 contacts), perhaps the most accurate survey research firm because of their most recent track record, finds Judge Moore capturing 35 percent support, with Sen. Strange far back at 23 percent and Rep. Brooks closing to 20 percent.

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