Category Archives: House

Another House Member Bows Out

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 18, 2017 — Yet another House member announced late last week that he will not seek re-election due to reverberations from sexual impropriety incidents. Texas four-term Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), after filing for re-election on Dec. 4, decided not to continue his campaign effort and now will retire at the end of the current Congress.

Rep. Farenthold was the subject of much negative publicity in the previous couple of weeks and drew a significant Republican primary opponent just before the candidate filing period ended. Now, with Farenthold on the political sidelines, the stage appears set for former Texas Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun to begin an open seat primary campaign as the perceived favorite for the GOP nomination, and as the party nominee would be projected to win the general election.

Farenthold was first elected in 2010, when he scored the political upset of the year by defeating veteran Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Brownsville) in the previous 27th District, a strongly Democratic CD that stretched from Corpus Christi to Brownsville. Farenthold won a 47.8 – 47.1 percent election over the 14-term incumbent in a low turnout election of slightly more than 106,000 voters.

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Alabama Stats;
Minnesota’s New Senator

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 15, 2017 — Predictably, Democrats and media commentators are promoting the premise that Doug Jones’ victory in Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election is another sign that a Democratic wave is building to transform the minority party into one that wins control of at least one congressional chamber next year. But the actual numbers do not provide evidence for such an analysis.

In actuality, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) may have succinctly and correctly described what happened in the Alabama election, which caused Republicans to lose one of their safest seats in the nation. During an interview with NBC News, Sen. Johnson simply said, “Alabamians didn’t want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.”

Looking at the actual figures, there is more supporting data for the supposition that Jones’ win is more likely due to Republican defections from former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, rather than a massive increase in Democratic turnout. While the Alabama special did feature a higher turnout than the last midterm election (2014), we also saw this phenomenon occur in two earlier special elections: the Montana at-large and GA-6 congressional contests. Republicans won both of those votes, proving that the GOP base was sufficiently energized in those two places to withstand increased Democratic turnout. But, Alabama doesn’t fit that same model either in the mode of Republican loyalty or an energized Democratic base.

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Franken & Franks Out; Bredesen In

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 11, 2017 — Continuing the spate of recent congressional resignations for sexual impropriety, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), as news reports predicted, announced late last week that he will resign his seat in several weeks.

The action means Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will now appoint a successor. Speculation suggests that he will name Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), his former chief of staff, to the federal position and it is believed that she will serve as a caretaker. If all of this proves true, we will have another open Senate race in 2018. In any event, voters will choose the individual to serve the remainder of Franken’s term in the upcoming regular vote. This particular Class II seat will again come before voters for a full six-year term in 2020.

Some in the news media believed that Gov. Dayton would have made his appointment announcement by the end of last week, but the Minnesota chief executive did not do so, saying he would make a decision in the next few days. This could be because Franken did not resign immediately, or he has not fully committed to naming Lt. Gov. Smith.

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A New Round of Special Elections

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 8, 2017 — Last week, it was erroneously reported in the New York Daily News and several other publications and tweets that embattled Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) had announced he would not seek re-election next year, but the story proved premature.

Congress’ most senior member actually took things a step further on Tuesday. Not only will he not seek another term in office, but the Dean of the House, and the only member originally elected in the 1960s, resigned his seat effective immediately. The sexual harassment allegations that seem to be growing by the day, in the end, proved too much for Conyers to contain and remain in office.

The congressman’s mid-term departure after more than 53 years in office will lead to a new special election for Michigan’s 13th District, a seat fully contained in Wayne County that encompasses a large portion of the city of Detroit, including part of the downtown area. The district then swings south to include the River Rouge and Midtown communities before swerving west to annex Brightmoor, Warrendale, Westland, and Romulus, the latter town being adjacent to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airport. The majority black district is 55 percent African American and 38 percent Anglo. No other race or ethnicity tops 10 percent of the district population.

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Scott Gaining Momentum in Florida;
Illinois Filing Closes

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 6, 2017 — In what should be a premier Senate race next year, the Florida political contest that likely will develop between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not yet drawn a great deal of national media coverage, but that will certainly change over time.

A new St. Leo University poll (Nov. 19-24; 500 Florida residents) finds Gov. Scott opening up a sizable lead over the three-term Democratic incumbent, 42-32 percent. The results definitely detect a swing toward the term-limited Republican governor; but previous polling conducted since Sept. 10 has forseen a much closer skirmish.

Two polls from September, St. Leo University (Sept. 10-15; 500 Florida residents) and the Florida Chamber of Commerce (Sept. 17-24; 615 likely Florida voters), both projected Gov. Scott to be holding a two-point lead over Sen. Nelson, 35-33 percent and 47-45 percent, respectively. The University of North Florida (Oct. 11-17; 834 Florida voters), however, gave the incumbent a scant 38-37 percent edge in mid-October, while Mason-Dixon Polling & Research (Oct. 17-19; 625 Florida voters) cast the two prospective candidates as tied at 44 percent each.

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Rep. Barton to Retire;
Major Ohio Moves

Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis)  | Facebook

Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 4, 2017 — Veteran Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, has apparently taken the advice he was reportedly receiving from many local Republican leaders and activists advising him not to seek re-election. Barton, recently coming under attack when his nude picture taken during a previous consensual sexual relationship surfaced on Twitter, announced late last week through social media that he will end his 34-year congressional career when the current Congress adjourns.

Barton had already filed to run in 2018, but will now withdraw his paperwork prior to Texas’ Dec. 11 candidate filing deadline. We expect to see several Republicans come forward to run in what will be the first open 6th District contest since 1984. Immediately, Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright announced that he would enter the newly open Republican primary.

The 6th District performs as a safe Republican seat beginning in the Arlington area of Tarrant County, which is the population anchor, before continuing southeast to annex Ellis and Navarro Counties. President Trump carried the 6th, 54-42 percent, down a bit from Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance of 58-41 percent against President Obama.

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Conyers Will Go; More From Illinois

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 1 2017 — Succumbing to pressure from highly publicized sexual harassment allegations, Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) announced Wednesday night that he will not seek re-election next year.

Conyers, the Dean of the House and the last member of either congressional chamber originally elected in the 1960s, will retire after serving what will be 54 years as a US representative. Assuming Rep. Conyers completes the current term, he will serve longer in the House than all but one member in American history: fellow Detroit area former Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn) who was elected to 30 terms, spending just over 59 years in office.

Michigan’s 13th District that Conyers represents splits downtown Detroit with the adjacent 14th CD, before encompassing the River Rouge, Midtown, Brightmoor, and Westland communities, prior to annexing the Romulus area that includes the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The 13th is solidly Democratic (Clinton: 78.8 percent; Obama ’12: 85.2 percent) and its population is 55 percent African American. Rep. Conyers has averaged 79.8 percent of the vote in the current district configuration, though only tallied 61 percent in the 2016 Democratic primary turning back a challenge from Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey.

We can expect a crowded Democratic primary in a seat that hasn’t been open for more than five decades. The Conyers retirement announcement allows plenty of time for potential candidates to make their decisions. The Michigan candidate filing deadline isn’t until April 24, in preparation for the Aug. 7 partisan primary. The eventual Democratic nominee will capture the seat next November.

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Confirming Data in Alabama

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2017 — As we reported last week, two polls, one from WT&S Consulting (Nov. 18-20; 11,641 registered Alabama voters; Moore, 46-40 percent advantage) and one from Strategy Research for the Raycom News Network (Nov. 20; 3,000 likely Alabama special election voters; Moore, 47-45 percent advantage) first detected a swing back toward embattled Republican US Senate nominee Roy Moore in his special election contest with former US Attorney Doug Jones (D). Now another new survey, and one that is perhaps more significant, confirms the Moore advantage.

The Change Research firm, a San Francisco company that claims it brings a “Silicon Valley approach to polling,” has just reported new survey numbers, and for the third time in the Moore-Jones race. In mid-November (Nov. 9-11), CR found Judge Moore holding a 44-40 percent advantage just as the sexual impropriety scandal was beginning to become public knowledge. Later, from their November 15-16 poll, they saw the electorate sway to a 46-43 percent edge for Democrat Jones.

Yesterday, the firm released its Nov. 26-27 polling result (1,868 self-identified Alabama registered voters) and, confirming what WT&S and Strategy Research found, sees Judge Moore rebounding into the lead, 49-44 percent.

The swing to Moore is significant for several reasons. First, as the Politico publication reported, Jones and the Democrats are outspending Moore by a 7:1 margin in advertising, already running or reserving $5.6 million in media and digital advertising time versus only $800,000 for the Republican. But, assuming the consistent results from the three recent aforementioned polls are accurate, it appears either the Jones ad barrage is having no effect at best for the Democratic campaign, or worst, the piling on Moore is backfiring and leading to the opposite result.

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Another House Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Rep.-Luis-Gutierrez-D-ChicagoNov. 29, 2017 — Two years ago, US Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced that he would not seek re-election, only to eventually turn around and file for another term. On Monday, Gutierrez filed paperwork to secure a ballot spot, according to a Chicago Tribune report, but yesterday reversed course and announced for the second time that he would retire. “I’m going to leave Congress at the end of my term in 2019,” he said, “but I’m not retiring.” Once this Congress adjourns, he will have completed 13 full terms in the House.

This could be an example of Chicago machine politics at its best, however. With Gutierrez announcing that he won’t run just a week before the Dec. 4 candidate filing deadline after giving every indication he would seek re-election, it’s possible he could be setting up a designated successor. Already, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) is reportedly circulating petitions to gather signatures for congressional race qualification. We can expect a great deal of political scrambling in the next day or two, since prospective candidates have little time to decide about their individual run for Congress, and then build and command enough of a political organization to meet the ballot qualification requirements.

Illinois’ 4th District is heavily Democratic (Clinton 82.1 percent; Obama ’12: 80.9 percent), so all of the political action will be settled in the March 20th party primary. The seat is 70.1 percent Hispanic, and the state’s only Hispanic majority district.

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The Next Special: Nominees Set

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Nov. 21, 2017 — After the raucous Alabama special Senate election concludes on Dec. 12, voters in western Pennsylvania will go to the polls next March 13 to fill a US House vacancy. We will remember that Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned under pressure in October after a series of extra-marital affairs came into public view, with allegations that he urged a mistress to have an abortion at the very time he was co-sponsoring pro-life legislation.

Murphy had represented his southwestern Keystone State district since originally winning election in 2002, in a seat the preceding redistricting plan created as open. Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Murphy was elected to two terms in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Upon the congressman’s resignation, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) scheduled the replacement general election for March 13. Under Pennsylvania statute, there is no primary to choose partisan nominees. Rather, the various political party members meet in a special district convention to choose among individual candidates.

A week ago Saturday, Republicans chose state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/ Jefferson Hills) who had previously dropped his US Senate campaign to take his chances in the open House seat. Prior to winning his position in the state legislature in 2010, Saccone had served as an Air Force officer, a civilian employee of the Army in Iraq after retiring from active duty, and a television anchorman for a South Korean English-language news station. He also was assigned to North Korea for the purpose of assisting with a proposed agreement to prevent further nuclear weapons development. Saccone won the GOP nomination on the second ballot, defeating state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Kim Ward (R-Greensburg).

Democrats met in their 18th District special convention Sunday and chose as their standard bearer. Lamb, like his future Republican opponent Rep. Saccone, also won nomination on the second ballot by defeating Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, former Obama Veterans Administration official Pam Iovino, Allegheny County Councilman Mike Crossey, psychologist Rueben Brock, writer Keith Seewald, and emergency physician Bob Solomon.

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Mapping Out the
Open Seat Opportunities

By Jim Ellis

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-November-2017Nov. 16, 2017 — If the Democrats are to capture the House majority next year, they will have to score well in the burgeoning open seat category, but so far the map does not appear particularly favorable for them. Though a strong showing in the 2017 odd-year elections, particularly in Virginia, gives them a boost headed into the midterm vote, Democrats still have a significant task ahead in order to gain ground within the House open seat universe.

Witnessing six new retirement announcements since the end of October, in part because the Dec. 11 Texas candidate filing deadline for 2018 is fast approaching thus forcing early campaign decisions, the open-seat contingent has significantly changed during the past month.

Currently, counting the PA-18 vacant seat that will be decided in a March 13 special election, 36 seats are coming open next year. Monday’s retirement pronouncement from Lone Star State Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) brings the Democratic open protect count to 11 seats, meaning 25 incumbent-less Republican districts remain.

But, carefully looking at the GOP open-seat inventory yields very few highly competitive districts. One can argue, and we do, that the number of endangered Republican seats is only two: retiring veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Miami) South Florida district, and south New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s (R-Ventnor City) CD.

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The Roy Moore Polling

By Jim Ellis

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) | Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)

Nov. 16, 2017 — Last evening’s political news featured heavy coverage of a new National Republican Senatorial Committee poll that produced bad news for Alabama GOP special Senate nominee Roy Moore, but not enough information was released to determine the reliability aspect. In fact, the NRSC didn’t even release the name of the polling company with which they contracted to conduct the survey.

This is significant because their finding that Democrat Doug Jones is leading Judge Moore, 51-39 percent, is clearly out of line with every other poll taken in the corresponding time frame. It is also interesting that they would even release such a poll considering the Republican candidate is doing so badly. It does, however, justify their previous position of cutting the Moore Campaign from additional funding because of the sexual impropriety allegations against the candidate that has dominated recent news coverage.

Below are the post-scandal publicly reported surveys as complied by the Ballotpedia website:

• National Republican Senatorial Committee (Nov. 12-13)
No pollster credited
Jones 51%; Moore 39%
500 Sample

• Fox10 (Mobile) (Nov. 13)
News Strategy Research
Moore 49%; Jones 43%
3,000 Sample (Automated)

• Emerson College Polling Society (Nov. 9-11)
Moore 55%; Jones 45%
600 Polling Sample

• JMC Analytics & Polling (Nov. 9-11)
Jones 46%; Moore 42%
575 Sample

• Decision Desk HQ (Nov. 9)
Moore 46%; Jones 46%
515 Sample

As we can see, the NRSC poll returns the most inconsistent results in comparison to the other available data during the same time frame; the period just after the Moore sexual scandal broke.

Additionally, because the NRSC did not release the name of their pollster or the survey methodology, not enough information exists to determine if their data are skewed in any particular manner.

The lack of available information does not necessarily mean that the Senatorial Committee’s results are inaccurate. It is curious, however, that the other results — and, all have larger sample sizes than the reported NRSC calling universe — finds much different ballot test margins.

Interestingly, the Fox10 poll from a local Mobile television affiliate, which is the latest released survey prior to the NRSC study, and the Emerson College Polling Society find the complete opposite result and their methodologies utilize much larger sample sizes within the studied polling grouping. The Fox10 3,000-person sampling universe clearly suggests that the questionnaire responses were obtained through an automated device, but such does not necessarily mean this poll is less accurate than the live operator polls.

The Alabama race continues to deteriorate, and it is becoming more evident that Jones is now in a strong position to win. But, despite all the negative news coverage, this phantom NRSC poll is the only one that shows him trailing badly.

The other survey to find him dropping behind, from JMC Analytics, featured a sampling universe where 56 percent of the respondents are female, a potential skew in Jones’ favor since this subset broke his way, 46-40 percent. In comparison, men favored the Democrat only 46-45 percent in the JMC crosstabs. Therefore, with a sample where the Democratic-leaning female sector was over-sampled by approximately five percentage points, correcting this skew likely brings the Jones’ 46-42 percent ballot test result back into a tied range.

The NRSC results and partial poll release is intriguing to say the least. Hopefully, we will see more substantiation of their data later today.

A New Nominee; Another Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Nov. 15, 2017 — Though almost all of the weekend political media coverage focused on the Alabama Senate campaign and the sexual impropriety allegations against former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), over 800 miles from the heart of Dixie another group of Republicans was choosing a nominee to fill a US House vacancy.

In late October, yet another sex scandal-tainted political figure, Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh), succumbed to the pressure against him and announced that he would resign from the House. Quickly, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called the special election to fill the new vacancy for March 13. Each 18th District political party organization then had the responsibility of meeting in convention to choose their respective congressional nominee.

On Saturday, 215 Republican conferees from the CD’s four counties decided among three candidates, all members of the Pennsylvania legislature. An additional state representative, Jason Ortitay (R-Bridgeville), originally announced that he, too, would stand for nomination but decided the morning of the convention to withdraw.

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Election Day: Before vs. After

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 10, 2017 — Voters went to the polls in three places Tuesday to elect two governors, state legislators, and a new member of Congress. Multiple local elections, including mayoral contests in 59 of the nation’s largest cities, with New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Charlotte among them, also were on the various ballots.

Much was written and discussed about the Virginia gubernatorial election leading into Election Day, clearly the most important contest from a political perspective. It appeared clear that the campaign between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie was a tight one. That proved not to be the case with Northam’s nine-point win.

Polling suggested that either candidate could win. Most surveys showed either a dead heat or Northam maintaining a small lead. Research for the last Virginia gubernatorial race, that in 2013 when Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was elected, badly under-estimated Republican strength. Therefore, should the same methodologies be present in this latest data, Gillespie’s chances of victory may be better than the raw numbers indicate. That line of thinking was dashed by the results.

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Dems Score Big; Curtis Wins in Utah;
VA House: 12 Votes to a Win

By Jim Ellis

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is also a pediatric neurosurgeon

Virginia governor-elect Ralph Northam (D) is also a pediatric neurosurgeon

Nov. 8, 2017 — Democrats came roaring back, particularly in the Virginia elections last night, as Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) easily outpaced former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie to win the open Virginia governorship, keeping the position in the Democratic column. Northam scored a 54-45 percent win over Gillespie in a race that most pollsters projected to be much closer.

It appeared that Gillespie had momentum at the end of the past week, but last day polling again found Northam beginning to pull away. Those surveys correctly detected the final trend, as did the Quinnipiac University polls and Christopher Newport University’s final study, all considered outliers because the big margins extrapolated for Northam were outside the polling realm for the other dozen-plus polls released during the closing two-week period. In the end, the actual victory margin was nearer to the previously rejected polls.

Curiously, Gillespie ran behind the two other Republicans on the statewide ticket. All in a losing effort, lieutenant governor candidate Jill Vogel (R) pulled almost 50,000 more votes than the gubernatorial nominee, while attorney general nominee John Adams attracted just under 38,000 more. This could possibly be attributed to left over bad feelings generated from the close Republican primary election that saw Gillespie barely defeat Prince William County Board chairman and immigration policy activist Corey Stewart. Many Stewart voters stated that they would not support Gillespie in the general election, and it may well be that many of them followed through on their “promise.”

‘Many [Corey] Stewart voters stated that they would not support Gillespie in the general election, and it may well be that many of them followed through on their “promise.” ‘

Turning to New Jersey, the pollsters, who uniformly produced consistent data on this race throughout the general election cycle, proved correct. Former US Ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D), as expected, recorded a 55-43 percent win over Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R). Murphy converts the governor’s mansion for the Democrats after eight years of having Republican Chris Christie.

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