Category Archives: Primary

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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Alabama’s Game Within the Game

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 18, 2017 — Tuesday’s special Alabama Senate Republican primary sent former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange to the September 26th run-off election, but what can we expect from the next round of voting? Will Judge Moore’s momentum continue to thrust him forward despite being badly out-spent, or will the Alabama and national Republican establishment’s strong support for Sen. Strange allow him to overcome his primary election deficit?

On Tuesday, Judge Moore placed first, capturing 39 percent of the Republican primary vote. Just over 423,000 people voted in the election, which will likely be similar to the Sept. 26 projected participation rate. Most of the time fewer people vote in a run-off than a primary, but recent special elections have yielded a slightly different turnout pattern. Sen. Strange garnered 33 percent in the primary and showed strength in the Birmingham area, though he lost substantially in Alabama’s southern region including the metropolitan areas of Montgomery, Mobile, and Dothan.

The run-off wild card may well be Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) voters. The primary’s third place finisher tallied 20 percent, translating into more than 83,000 individual supporters. Since he placed first in his congressional district (41 percent), and carried his home county of Madison with majority support, northern Alabama will become critical in determining how the run-off concludes. And, considering that Judge Moore received almost the same number of votes as those who cast ballots in the Democratic primary, it is reasonable to presume that the Republican run-off victor will become a heavy favorite to win the Dec. 12 special general election.

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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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Strange vs. Brooks

By Jim Ellis

July 26, 2017 — Though nine Republicans are on the ballot for the Aug. 15 Alabama special Senate GOP primary, the ad war would suggest it’s a contest only between appointed Sen. Luther Strange and US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville).

Brooks is advertising heavily and going hard right, a reasonable strategy for an Alabama Republican primary, and his latest ad (above) features his role in helping the shooting victims during the June 14 morning congressional baseball practice at an Alexandria, Virginia park. After Brooks risked his life to help those who had been wounded, a reporter attempted to bring the gun control debate into focus. Brooks’ answer to his question is the ad’s focal point, as well as identifying the shooter as a “Bernie Sanders supporter.”

Sen. Strange, on the other hand, is exclusively targeting Rep. Brooks with hard-hitting negative ads, attacking him for not supporting President Trump during the 2016 national campaign. (See below)

Strange’s tactics tell us that the few published polls suggesting the senator and Rep. Brooks are fighting for the second run-off position are most likely accurate. It also supports the idea that Strange’s own internal polling numbers are giving him similar reports, or he wouldn’t be focusing on just one opponent.

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Gillespie Digging Out

By Jim Ellis

June 19, 2017 — As has been discussed since the Virginia gubernatorial primary votes were counted last Tuesday, the election’s end result was much different for both parties than expected even though the favored candidates won. For Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, the primary vote distribution could have only been worse if he had lost.

At week’s end, GOP second-place finisher Corey Stewart announced that he would not challenge the vote totals –- it is unlikely that a recount would have produced enough to overcome his 4,320 statewide vote deficit -– but he stopped short of formally endorsing the new party nominee; though Stewart did indicate that he would vote for Gillespie.

The breadth of his former opponent’s comments indicates that Gillespie has quite a gap to fill in order to attract the Stewart vote base for the general election. These are people Gillespie must have if he is to seriously compete with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in surprisingly easy fashion.

“The real question is, will [Gillespie] support my supporters? Unless he stands up and takes clear positions on defending our heritage and our history, supporting the president, cracking down on illegal immigration, those who supported me are not going to go with him. This isn’t old-style politics anymore. I just can’t tell 155,000 folks to go ahead and vote for Ed despite the fact that he’s not a fighter,” Stewart said in a post-election Washington Post interview.

Gillespie had hoped to be in the opposite position that he now faces. Forecasts suggested he would easily win the party nomination, while it appeared that the Democrats were in the closer contest. Possibly the best case Gillespie scenario was seeing a close Northam win after strongly securing his own nomination. Since the lieutenant governor moved far to the left to counter the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren-supported Tom Perriello, Gillespie wanted maneuvering room to move closer to the center while Northam was trapped on the far left perch of his party.

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The Final Results

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 16, 2016 — After two very close New Hampshire Republican primaries were left with remaining votes to count, both received closure.

In the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Frank Guinta (R-Manchester) barely survived his re-nomination challenge. He recorded a 46-45 percent, 649-vote victory over businessman Rich Ashooh. Since the latter man conceded the race, there will be no re-count and Guinta advances to the general election to again face former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-East Rochester) and three independent and minor party candidates.

This will be the fourth consecutive campaign between the two political principals. Guinta defeated Shea-Porter in 2010 and 2014, while she won in 2012. NH-1 has defeated more incumbents during the last 10 years than any congressional district in the country. The 2016 version promises to again be a difficult general election campaign, albeit a shortened one considering the lateness of the New Hampshire primary. Guinta’s 46 percent showing within his own party is clearly a sign of major political weakness, which does not bode well for him in the general election.

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New Hampshire’s Wild Ride; DE, RI

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2016 — Tuesday night’s Granite State primary featured a pair of very close Republican races, one involving an incumbent. It is unclear if either the governor’s contest or the 1st Congressional District race will go to a re-count once the final accounting is recorded.

The Senate nominations, however, are decided. Sen. Kelly Ayotte scored a 79 percent victory in her Republican primary against former state Sen. Jim Rubens and three minor candidates. Gov. Maggie Hassan was unopposed for the Democratic Senatorial nomination. This race will go a long way to deciding which party controls the new Senate majority.

In the 1st Congressional District, before an electorate that has unseated more incumbents than any other CD during the last ten years, incumbent Rep. Frank Guinta (R-Manchester) appears to have barely won re-nomination. From a turnout that broke 55,000 voters, Guinta held just a 661 vote lead over businessman Rich Ashooh with four precincts still outstanding. The congressman’s margin was only a plurality (46 percent), as three minor candidates drew enough support to keep both leaders below the 50% majority mark.

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Stunning Arizona Development

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2016 — In last Tuesday’s Arizona primary, it appeared that former GoDaddy.com executive Christine Jones had all but clinched the Republican nomination in the state’s open 5th Congressional District. However, just as all votes were finally counted, the lead surprisingly switched. This means we are headed for a re-count and a long sorting out process because the result is a virtual tie.

The unofficial final tally shows state Senate President Andy Biggs now clinging to just a nine vote lead over Jones. On election night, the initial count found Jones leading Biggs by 876 votes with absentee and provisional votes remaining to be counted. In the early post-election counting her lead dropped to 578 votes, but it appeared that Jones would have enough of a margin to cement her preliminary victory.

The final pre-canvass report, however, shows Sen. Biggs with 25,228 votes as compared to Jones’ 25,219. Under Arizona election law, this slim margin triggers an automatic re-count and, with such a small difference separating the two candidates, this contest could still go either way.

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Rep. Brown Loses; McCain, Rubio Win; All Others

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 31, 2016 — A look at overnight primary results:

Senate

Veteran Sen. John McCain (R) won his re-nomination campaign last night in Arizona, but with a lesser majority than expected. McCain topped former state Sen. Kelli Ward, 52-39 percent, which proved worse than his GOP primary margin six years ago (56 percent). Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) was unopposed on the Democratic side. The rather tepid McCain victory last night increases her chances in the general election.

Sen. Marco Rubio rebounded strongly from his failed presidential campaign with a 72 percent victory in his statewide Republican primary yesterday. More than 1.4 million Republican voters cast ballots in Florida’s nomination contest. Businessman Carlos Beruff, who spent more than $8 million of his own money on his campaign, finished a distant second with only 19 percent support.

Sen. Rubio now advances to the general election to face, as expected, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) who won his Democratic primary with 59 percent of the vote. Controversial Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando), who was close early in the campaign, fell to only 18 percent, just ahead of also-ran candidate Pam Keith, an attorney and Navy veteran (15 percent). About 300,000 fewer Democrats than Republicans participated in the primary election. Sen. Rubio has been consistently gaining momentum, so he begins the general election as the slight favorite.

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Primary Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 30, 2016
— Today, we cover the second half of the competitive Florida campaigns, with just a word about Arizona. The Washington Post ran an article yesterday chronicling Sen. John McCain as being “in the fight of his life.” It does not appear that McCain is in any danger of losing the primary today, and his general election polling puts him in his strongest position of this election cycle. Therefore, the Post story seems ill timed.

Also in Arizona, and not covered yesterday, despite a moderate independent expenditure leveled against Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott), the congressman is also expected to easily survive his primary challenge. Gosar’s opponent, former local official Ray Strauss (R), has attracted just over $100,000 in support of his own campaign, far less than the independent expenditure. The general election will not be competitive.

Florida

• FL-9: The new 9th District, which stretches from east Orlando south through Kissimmee, west to Winter Park and then east to the Yeehaw Junction, is a few points less Democratic than the seat Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) currently represents. His departure to the Senate race makes this one of seven open Florida congressional districts. While Alan Grayson will not represent this district in the next Congress, another Grayson may. A poll released last week found the congressman’s new wife, physician Dena Grayson, leads the Democratic primary field, thus making her at least a slight favorite. Former congressional aide Susannah Randolph and state Sen. Darren Soto are the other viable candidates in the Democratic field. Today’s Dem primary victor will win the seat in November. Safe Democratic

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Primary Preview – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 29, 2016 — Arizona and Florida voters go to the polls tomorrow in what has become the most important of the late summer primaries.

Today, we cover Arizona and half of the competitive Florida campaigns. Tomorrow, the remaining Sunshine State races will be updated. Resulting from the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting changes and an unusually large number of open seats, competition is developing in no less than 17 of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Both states also host critical Senate contests.

Arizona

• Senate: Sen. John McCain (R) is seeking a sixth term after originally winning in 1986, four years after his initial election to the House. What was thought to be a potentially competitive Republican primary at the outset seemingly fizzled when McCain drew a lesser primary opponent. For a time, it appeared that either Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) or Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale) might enter the statewide contest, but neither chose to do so. In fact, Rep. Salmon would later decide to retire altogether.

Former state Senator Kelli Ward, who resigned her position in order to spend her full energies in challenging McCain, has raised about $1.5 million, but it would likely require more in the way of resources and outside support to deny the veteran incumbent and former Republican presidential nominee a re-nomination victory. Expect Sen. McCain to do better than his 56 percent Republican primary performance in 2010.

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Cheney Results In;
Alaska Primary Decided

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 18, 2016 — Liz Cheney, daughter of former vice president, US defense secretary, and five-term Wyoming congressman, Dick Cheney, successfully captured Wyoming’s open seat Republican congressional nomination Tuesday night. The first-place finish, though nowhere close to garnering a majority of the votes cast, is enough to earn her the primary victory. Becoming the GOP nominee is tantamount to winning the seat in November since Wyoming will undoubtedly vote Republican once again this year.

Cheney scored 40 percent of the vote, far ahead of second-place finisher Leland Christensen’s 22 percent. The latter is a veteran state senator. Placing third was state Rep. Tim Stubson (17 percent), followed closely by attorney Darin Smith (15 percent). Five minor candidates came after Smith with college professor Mike Konsmo, obtaining under two percent of the vote, being the largest vote-getter within the also-ran group.

In 2014, Cheney aborted a challenge to veteran Republican US Sen. Mike Enzi and controversy arose that the candidate, who has lived in Virginia most of her life, was not a true Wyoming resident, nor was she and her family committed to living there. Cheney’s regular presence in the state and actually residing there after the 2014 election cycle put her in strong position to run for the at-large US House seat once incumbent Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Cheyenne) decided not to seek a fifth term.

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Ryan Primary; 4 States Vote

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 10, 2016 — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) won re-nomination easily in his Wisconsin district by a margin of 84-16 percent. Businessman Paul Nehlen (R), a first-time candidate who made immigration and trade policies the centerpiece of his campaign, opposed him.

Nehlen had attracted a great deal of local and national attention, particularly when regularly holding events in front of Ryan’s Janesville home. The congressman countered with running positive television ads, using his extreme financial advantage to his benefit, never advertising that he is the Speaker of the House, and relying upon a strong connection with his district Republican voters who have nine times nominated and elected him to the House.

Ryan raised almost $15 million and spent $8 million through July 20, but determining actual re-election expenditures versus national political commitments and expenses is difficult at this point. By contrast, Nehlen had raised and spent close to $900,000 through the same date, a very respectable amount for a challenger to a top House leader.

Turning to northeastern Wisconsin, Rep. Reid Ribble’s (R-Sherwood/Green Bay) open 8th District voters also chose nominees. Democrats have coalesced around Outagamie (Appleton) County Executive Tom Nelson, who is unopposed in the party primary. Already raising just over $600,000, Nelson will be a competitive general election factor in a district that has five times elected a Democrat since 1974.

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Another Day, Another Primary Slate

By Jim Ellis

June 15, 2016 — A review of yesterday’s slate of primaries:

District of Columbia

Yesterday marked the final presidential primary as Democrats trudge to the polls in the District of Columbia. Forty-six Democratic delegates are at stake, 26 of whom are Super Delegates.

But the DC count wouldn’t and didn’t change anything. If Sen. Bernie Sanders had captured the entire slate, it wouldn’t change the final result. That didn’t come close to happening, however, as presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton destroyed Sanders with a 79-21 percent win from almost 100,000 votes cast. Clinton won with the balance of Super Delegates providing her the margin to exceed the 2,383 votes required to secure the party nomination.

Virginia

The Old Dominion’s unusual nomination system where the party leadership in each district can decide to hold a primary or convention culminated with voting in three CDs yesterday.

The most interesting was in the open Virginia Beach 2nd District where Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4) attempted to win re-nomination from a new CD. The court-ordered mid-decade redistricting turned Rep. Forbes’ previous domain into what should now become a decidedly Democratic seat. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach) deciding to retire after three terms gave Forbes the opportunity to jump into an available political situation.

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An Incumbents’ Night

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2016 — It was an incumbents’ night on Tuesday. For example, despite wide dissatisfaction with their federal elected officials, particularly among Republican voters, incumbents again scored well in the Georgia primary.

Georgia

Several House members have now been effectively re-elected for another term. Representatives Buddy Carter (R-GA-1), Jody Hice (R-GA-10), and David Scott (D-GA-13) faced no primary opposition and have no major party opponent for the fall campaign, thus effectively winning a new term.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA-9) prevailed in his multi-opponent re-nomination battle. He scored 61 percent of the vote against former Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10), who previously represented about half of this seat pre-redistricting and was attempting an ill-fated political comeback after losing the 2014 Senate Republican primary. Broun notched 22 percent, while the remaining three candidates split the outstanding 17 percent. With no Democratic opposition for November, Collins also won his re-election last night.

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