Category Archives: House

Rep. Alcee Hastings Passes Away; Murkowski Trails Early in Alaska

By Jim Ellis

April 8, 2020 — After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, veteran Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) passed away Monday morning. The 84-year-old congressman was first elected in 1992, and his 28-plus years of congressional service elevated him as the dean of the Florida delegation.

Prior to his service in Congress, Hastings was a federal judge but found himself impeached and removed from the bench over financial impropriety in 1989. He then ventured into the electoral realm with a run for Secretary of State in 1990 where he failed to win the Democratic nomination. In post-redistricting 1992, with Florida gaining four seats in reapportionment, Hastings won a new seat from the region between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. He would never again be seriously challenged.

Rep. Hastings’ death opens Florida’s 20th District that encompasses parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties to a special election. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will eventually schedule a primary and special general to determine a successor who will serve the balance of the current term.

FL-20 is heavily Democratic (’20: Biden, 77-22 percent; ’16: Clinton, 80-18 percent), so the action will be in the partisan primary. Demographically, the seat divides racially as 53 percent black, 24 percent Hispanic, and 19 percent non-Hispanic white.

The gender breakdown favors the females: 51.3 percent. In terms of age, 14 percent are over 65, and 24.1 percent fall under age 18. A whopping 36 percent are foreign born. Concerning education, 83.2 percent have a high school degree, while just under 21 percent own a college degree. There are approximately 18,000 business entities within the district confines.

The House now has four Democratic vacancies and one Republican. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Deb Haaland (D-NM) all resigned their House seats to accept positions in the Biden Administration. The lone Republican vacancy is due to Rep. Ron Wright’s (R-TX) death.

Alaska Senate

The Cygnal survey research company just released a poll of a hypothetical 2022 Alaska Senate race now that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) has drawn a significant opponent. It is probable that this is the first poll conducted in Alaska that accounts for the state’s newly installed jungle primary system that allows the top four qualifying finishers to advance into the general election.

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Community Activist Odessa Kelly Gets Backing From Justice Democrats to Challenge Tennessee Rep. Cooper

By Jim Ellis

Community activist Odessa Kelly (Photo: Odessa Kelly campaign)

April 7, 2021 — In what could be the beginning of a national trend developing against perceived moderate Democratic incumbents, community activist Odessa Kelly on Monday announced a party primary challenge against veteran Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville).

What makes this candidacy potentially more serious is her backing from the Justice Democrats national political action committee that posted a successful 2020 election cycle. The group is most closely associated with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) and the other members of “the Squad” — Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The Justice Democrats successfully backed Jamaal Bowman’s successful Democratic primary challenge of 16-term New York Rep. Eliot Engel, and they won another New York primary election with attorney Mondaire Jones in an open race to succeed retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D).

They also supported two other individuals who upset Democratic incumbents, Illinois challenger Marie Newman, opposite then-Rep. Dan Lipinski, and Cori Bush in St. Louis who defeated 20-year congressional incumbent Lacy Clay (D-MO). Overall, they endorsed nine non-incumbent Democratic challengers in primaries and were successful in five races.

Their two biggest losses came in Massachusetts and Texas. The failed to dislodge House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and veteran Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), though both campaigns were highly competitive.

Combined, the nine non-incumbents who the Justice Democrats supported spent an average of $2.25 million, meaning that a potential Odessa Kelly candidacy in Tennessee against Rep. Cooper could well become serious, at least in terms of available resources.

Tennessee’s 5th District contains the capital city of Nashville and all of Davidson County. The CD also includes to the west the neighboring county of Dickson and three-quarters of Cheatham. Demographically, the seat is 60.4 percent non-Hispanic white, 25.0 percent black, and 9.2 percent Hispanic. The gender division breaks 51.7 percent female. A total of 12.3 percent of the population is foreign born, which is a high number when compared to other districts around the country.

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IA-2: Hart Concedes;
NM-1: Dems Nominate

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Ottumwa)

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2021 — Former Iowa state senator, Rita Hart (D), withdrew her challenge late Wednesday afternoon, before the House Administration Committee pertaining to Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Ottumwa) six-vote victory in the November election. Also, the New Mexico Democratic State Central Committee met virtually over the past two days in order to choose a congressional nominee to fill the state’s 1st District vacancy. The seat is in special election cycle because Deb Haaland resigned her federal legislative office in order to join the Biden cabinet as Interior Secretary. Details below:

Iowa

In a released statement, IA-2 challenger Hart said, “Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans.”

In actuality, the miniscule victory margin is the first such result of this type since 1984, not in 100 years, when in a similar case the House of Representatives decided in early 1985 that then-Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-IN) was re-elected with a four-vote margin.

The IA-2 result was a point of controversy ever since the new Congress was sworn into office on Jan. 3. Instead of challenging the six-vote margin in the Iowa court system, Hart chose to bring her complaint directly to the House of Representatives. She claimed that Iowa election authorities has not counted 22 legal ballots that would have changed the final outcome. The officials retorted that they rejected the ballots for various reasons of noncompliance with state election laws.

After the body’s internal organization process was completed, the House Administration Committee voted on a 6-3 party line vote to hear Hart’s case. There had been much chatter in the news media and blogosphere during the past two weeks about the Democratic leadership wanting to award the seat to Hart, thus displacing Rep. Miller-Meeks who had been provisionally seated on Jan. 3 pending the outcome of the Hart challenge.

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LA-2 Special Election Tightening

By Jim Ellis

April 1, 2021 — The Louisiana special congressional election between two New Orleans Democratic state senators appears to be tightening after the perceived underdog just scored an important endorsement that could help produce a closer than anticipated finish on April 24.

Louisiana state Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans)

Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) placed first in the March 20 jungle primary with 36 percent of the vote. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) was second with 23 percent, just ahead of Baton Rouge community activist Gary Chambers Jr. who posted 21 percent. Because no one reached the majority threshold, the top two finishers, Sens. Carter and Peterson, advanced to the special runoff election scheduled for late April.

Chambers, the third-place finisher, announced Wednesday that he is endorsing Sen. Peterson. With his 23 percent of the vote, Chambers can be a major influence in the runoff election. This is particularly true within the East Baton Rouge and Orleans parishes, where he performed well.

Louisiana state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans)

In the Baton Rouge area, for example, meaning both the East and West Baton Rouge parishes (though the West Baton Rouge entity only produced a total of 1,414 votes in the March 20 jungle primary election), Chambers and Sen. Peterson combined to record 65 percent of the original vote as compared to Sen. Carter’s 25 percent.

Also, the Congressional Progressive Caucus organization began running television advertising Wednesday that thanked Sen. Peterson for voting to expand the number of those eligible for Medicaid health benefits.

The outside CPC assistance supports the Peterson campaign strategy. One of her main goals is to identify herself as the more progressive of the two candidates. In this same vein, for example, she draws the distinction between her position and that of Sen. Carter regarding the Green New Deal. His public statements for the program have not been as strongly favorable as Sen. Peterson’s.

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IA-2 Controversy Heating Up

By Jim Ellis

IA-2 Republican congresswoman, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks

March 31, 2021 — Iowa Democratic congressional candidate Rita Hart’s 2020 election result challenge has recently attracted significant media attention. With rhetoric sharpening on both sides over Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Ottumwa) state certified six-vote victory, let’s examine where the situation stands.

To review, Miller-Meeks held a 47-vote edge on the original canvass, a total that was reduced to just six votes after the state’s full recount. Miller-Meeks was certified the victor based upon the original final total, and then re-certified post recount. The bipartisan Iowa state canvassing board issued both certifications on unanimous votes.

The losing Democratic nominee, former state senator and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Hart, filed her challenge directly with the US House instead of turning to the Iowa court system. She claims there are 22 uncounted votes that would change the outcome. The local Iowa election authorities rejected these ballots for various reasons. At the time of commencement for the new Congress, the House seated Miller-Meeks provisionally until the Hart challenge is resolved.

The motion was referred to the House Administration Committee, a panel of six Democrats and three Republicans. California Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is the committee chair. Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) is the ranking Republican member. The committee held one hearing on the challenge and agreed on a partisan roll call vote to conduct an investigation and hear her case. The committee has not voted to remove Rep. Miller-Meeks, nor has the case been sent from the committee to the House floor.

Should the complaint come before the full body, and with a 6-3 Democratic majority on the Administration Committee, chances are strong that the Hart case will advance, the Democratic leadership may have a difficult time in obtaining the votes to remove Miller-Meeks.

They certainly would face a united Republican conference, meaning 211 votes assuming that Miller-Meeks would not be allowed to vote on her own seating. If they move after the April 24 Louisiana special election where a double-Democratic runoff assures them of gaining an extra seat and increasing the majority conference total to 220, they could afford to lose no more than four Democratic votes in order to successfully take the seat from Miller-Meeks and award it to Hart.

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