Category Archives: Primary

Post-Primary Pennsylvania:
Setting the Stage

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map - Philadelphia Area

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map – Philadelphia Area | Click on map to see full-size Philadelphia area congressional line up

May 17, 2018 — Now that the dust is settling from the May 15 Pennsylvania primary, we can firmly look at which of the races have already produced November winners and the match-ups for what will be key toss-up races.

Keystone State voters chose nominees for the statewide offices and congressional races where incumbents and candidates ran for the first time in newly drawn districts.

The governor’s race will feature incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf seeking a second term against York Republican state senator and businessman Scott Wagner. With Gov. Wolf’s job approval improving after a rocky first two years in office, he is clearly favored for re-election in the fall.

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) runs for a second term against Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). Barletta tallied a 63 percent Republican primary victory on Tuesday, setting up the general election contest. Sen. Casey is favored for re-election, and it remains to be seen if Rep. Barletta can attract the attention and financial support to make this a top-tier challenge race.

The Pennsylvania primaries produced Tuesday winners who have virtually punched their tickets to Washington in districts that heavily favor their political party. Aside from incumbents Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), Tom Marino (R-Williamsport), Glenn Thompson (R-Howard), Mike Kelly (R-Butler), and Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh) securing re-election, the following non-incumbents will also head to DC after the general election:

• District 4 (Montgomery County) – State Rep. Madeleine Dean (D)
• District 5 (Delaware County) – Ex-local official Mary Gay Scanlon (D)
• District 9 (East-Central PA) – Former Revenue Comm. Dan Meuser (R)
• District 13 (Central PA) – Dr. John Joyce (R)
• District 14 (Southwest PA) – State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R)

Races that heavily favor a particular candidate, yet still feature competition:

• District 6 (Chester County) – Chrissy Houlahan (D) vs. Greg McCauley (R)
• District 10 (Harrisburg/York) – Rep. Scott Perry (R) vs. George Scott (D)

The following are the highly competitive districts that will dominate the Pennsylvania congressional campaign landscape in the fall:

• District 1 (Bucks County) – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) vs. Scott Wallace (D)
• District 7 (Allentown/Bethlehem) – Marty Nothstein (R) vs. Susan Wild (D)
• District 8 (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) – Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) vs. John Chrin (R)
• District 17 (Allegheny County) – Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) vs. Rep. Conor Lamb (D)

May Primaries: Round 2

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

May 15, 2018 — Voters in four more states go to the polls to choose their nominees today. Today, we examine those four states as voting gets underway in the Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania primaries.

Pennsylvania

Voters in the Keystone State go to the polls throughout the day to choose partisan nominees for governor, US senator, and representatives in their 18 new US House Districts.

The governor and Senate contests are not stirring up much intrigue as neither Gov. Tom Wolf (D) nor Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) face any Democratic primary opposition. On the Republican side, state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) seems to have the inside track against businessman Paul Mango and former Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce president Laura Ellsworth. In the Senate GOP contest, US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) appears primed to defeat state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Monaca) for the opportunity to challenge Sen. Casey in November. Both Democratic incumbents are currently favored to win new terms.

PA-1: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) will easily win re-nomination against a minor Republican candidate. Democrats have three candidates vying for advancement to the general election. Though the district remains 93 percent intact after the state Supreme Court re-drew the Pennsylvania CDs, and contains all of Bucks County, this race has toss-up potential.

PA-2: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia) is running in the eastern downtown district, now fully contained within Philadelphia County. Rep. Boyle will have little trouble securing this seat in tonight’s Democratic primary and in the general election. Half of Rep. Boyle’s previous 13th District comprises new District 2.

PA-3: Freshman Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) seeks re-election in a slightly different district, as 80 percent of his former constituents are re-cast into the new 3rd CD. Evans will easily be re-elected in both today’s primary and the general.

PA-4: The new 4th is comprised of parts of five previous districts, and now contains most of Montgomery County with a sliver of Berks County. Former US Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) is attempting a comeback here, but it appears state Rep. Madeleine Dean has the advantage in the Democratic primary. The new 4th is safely Democratic in the general election.

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Top-Two “Jungle Primary” Reverberations

By Jim Ellis

May 14, 2018 — Back in 2010, when initiators created the movement to change the California primary system to feature a jungle format — where the top two finishers advance to the general election regardless of the percentage of vote they attained or party affiliation — they had hoped their ultimately successful ballot initiative would favor candidates closer to the political center. Approaching the June 5, 2018 primary, however, we see that this top-two system might produce quite different and possibly unintended outcomes.

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-480

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-48)

In a pair of competitive Southern California Republican congressional districts, recent polling suggests that Democrats could find themselves on the outside looking in for the November election despite having high hopes of converting the two seats.

The districts are CA-48, where veteran 15-term US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) seeks to be part of another two-year congressional session, and CA-49, the open Orange/San Diego County seat from which Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is retiring.

The pair of early May polls, one from Change Research (CA-48) and the other Benenson Strategy Group (CA-49), reveals that two Republicans could potentially advance to the general election in both districts, thus preventing Democrats from competing in the general election. Though it’s mathematically possible that two Dems could also progress to November in both places, the latter scenario is less likely because the GOP holds a voter registration edge in each CD.

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

In the 48th, Republicans have a 10-point 40.7-30.1 percent registration advantage over Democrats with an additional 24.5 percent declaring No Party Preference, meaning the latter are Independents. In the 49th, the GOP advantage is a lesser 36.7–31.1 percent with 26.6 percent not stating a party preference. Therefore, without coalescing the Democratic vote in each district behind one strong candidate, the chance plainly exists that Republicans could potentially slip two contenders in through the proverbial backdoor. In both the 48th and 49th, too many Democratic candidates are strong enough so as to prevent such a base unification.

The Change Research survey (May 2-3; 590 likely CA-48 jungle primary voters) finds Rep. Rohrabacher leading the field of four tested candidates (though a total of 16 candidate names will appear on the primary ballot, including three Democrats and one Republican who have withdrawn, but too late to erase their ballot positions). Rohrbacher is in front in the poll with just 27 percent of the vote, followed by Democratic scientist Hans Keirstead, who has 19 percent, and ex-state assemblyman and former Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh, with 17 percent. Democrat Harley Rouda, a businessman and attorney, garners 11 percent support.

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The Turnout Report:
Signs of a “Blue Wave”?

By Jim Ellis

May 10, 2018
— Looking at the voting patterns for Tuesday’s primaries in the four states holding elections, we see little evidence of the reported “blue wave” often discussed in media analyst reports — meaning a surge in Democratic Party voter turnout — but there is also sparse information to determine specific participation trends in many of the noted places.

state-of-ohio-mapOhio has the most complete data to compare totals for midterm elections dating back to 2006. On Tuesday, 1,506,777 people voted in the two major party primary elections, with just about 55 percent recorded in the Republican gubernatorial contest. The current grand total was the second largest participation figure in the four midterms since 2006, inclusive. The 1.506 million aggregate total was second only to the 2006 turnout that saw 1.626 million Ohioans voting. This year, both parties featured open gubernatorial primaries, each with a clear leader heading into Election Day.

In all four of the tested Ohio midterms, more people voted in the Republican primary. The 54.9 percent participation factor when measuring the two parties against each other on Tuesday night was the second highest of the sampled four. Only the Republicans’ 56.0 percent participation rate in 2014 was stronger. To put the current rate in perspective, the GOP low occurred in 2006 when 50.8 percent of primary voters cast a Republican ballot. In the succeeding general election, Democrat Ted Strickland would win the governor’s campaign, making the result consistent with the higher Democratic primary participation rate.

In the Buckeye State House races, eight of the 16 districts featured primary elections for both parties. In each of the districts holding primaries for both parties, the political entity controlling the seat before the election saw more people vote in that party’s primary. The most significant race was the special primary election in the 12th District, the seat former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) vacated to return to the private sector. There, 23,902 more people voted in the Republican primary, thus providing some tangible support for predicting the state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) is favored to win the seat in the Aug. 7 special general vote.

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The Coming New Specials

By Jim Ellis

May 1, 2018 — Just when we thought the number of special elections was lessening when Debbie Lesko won the AZ-8 election last week to replace resigned Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria), new vacancies are popping up.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), abruptly resigned Friday.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), abruptly resigned Friday.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), who had previously announced his retirement for term’s end, abruptly resigned when learning the House Ethics Committee was going to launch an investigation into the severance payment awarded to one of his staff employees. The source of this particular recompense was the special taxpayer funded congressional account found to cover members’ special staff settlements.

Meehan also pledged to repay the $39,000 payment that is the investigation’s basis within the next 30 days. Now that Meehan has exited the House, the Ethics Committee no longer has jurisdiction. He joins former Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) who resigned in early April also to avoid a congressional investigation.

Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa) resigned his seat in late April to accept his position in the Trump Administration as the new NASA Administrator. Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) says he will resign his seat at an unspecified date in early May, presumably because he will be accepting a position in the private sector. As we know, the late New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) passed away on March 16.

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The Coming Primaries

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185April 30, 2018 — Completing the Arizona special congressional election earlier this week is the precursor to the beginning of the primary season’s most prolific period: the nomination voting scheduled for May and June.

With two primary elections already in the books — the March nomination contests in Texas (March 6) and Illinois (March 20) — 11 additional states vote in May with 18 more coming in June. Once the final June primaries are completed on June 26, a total of 31 states will have nominees.

There are only run-offs scheduled in July before 14 more states vote in August. Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island still hold September primaries, while the unique Louisiana election calendar continues to feature a jungle primary concurrent with the general election followed by a December run-off for those races where a candidate does not obtain a majority.

New York is the only state with two primaries. The federal primary for the Senate and House is scheduled for June 26. The statewide contests, including the governor’s race, will nominate in a separate vote on Sept. 13.

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More on the Illinois Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

March 22, 2018 — Tuesday night’s big stories in the Illinois primary were Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) having a difficult time in winning a close Republican primary, and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) just barely surviving his Democratic primary challenge. Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker successfully captured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination with a margin greater than polling had predicted.

Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) | RGA

Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) | RGA

Gov. Rauner scored only a 51.5 – 48.5 percent win over state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) in a primary result that finds the state chief executive’s GOP political base eroding. While spending over $60 million in the primary campaign against just $3 million-plus for Ives, the 20:1 resource advantage only proved good for a three percentage point win with still 294 precincts not fully reporting as of this writing. The 351,086 to 330,227 vote totals represent 97 percent of the recorded voting universe. Mathematically, however, there are not enough uncounted votes remaining in Ives’ areas of strength for her to overcome the current statewide deficit.

In the 3rd District House race, seven-term Rep. Lipinski appears to have scored a narrow victory with almost all Cook County precincts reporting. Lipinski carried Cook County with 51.7 percent, a total that will likely rise a bit once all the votes are counted. His opponent, media consultant Marie Newman, won Will County with 58.6 percent of the vote and took the district’s sliver of DuPage County with a mere 55 to 34 vote margin. But, her 1,256 vote lead coming into Cook County was not substantial enough to defeat Lipinski there, which resulted in her district-wide loss.

Lipinski is one of the few remaining Blue Dog Democrats, while Newman enjoyed support from the Bernie Sanders’ wing of the Democratic Party along with major backing from national liberal organizations. The turnout will exceed 90,000 voters once all of the ballots are recorded. When all totals are official, the voter turnout percentage here will hover somewhere in the 45-50 percent range.

In other key congressional races, the Democratic primary in the state’s 6th District has flip-flopped back and forth in a very close contest between financial advisor Kelly Mazeski and clean energy company executive Sean Casten. Mazeski initially was in the lead but in the end, Casten pulled ahead when all 640 precincts were able to report vote totals. Casten captured about 30 percent of the vote (18,863) to Mazeski’s 26.5 percent (16,686). Five other candidates were on the ballot, and cumulatively they garnered 44.2 percent of the vote. Now Casten will challenge veteran Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) who was unopposed in his primary.

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Yesterday’s Illinois Primary

By Jim Ellis

March 21, 2018 — Land of Lincoln voters went to the polls yesterday to vote in the nation’s second primary of the 2018 midterm election season.

2018-elections-open-seats-185The headliner of Election Day was the gubernatorial primary, as Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), sporting poor job approval ratings but having virtually unlimited financial resources, squared off against conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton). Ives received early support in the form of a $2.5 million donation from mega-donor Dick Uihlein, but her standing did not greatly improve in the past weeks, meaning her long-shot campaign remained as such entering Election Day.

Because of significant dissatisfaction with Gov. Rauner within the GOP base constituency, Ives was projected to perform better than a typical candidate challenging a sitting governor in a party primary. Yet, her performance was not strong enough to deny Rauner from advancing into the general election. Rauner scored only a 51.5 – 48.5 percent win over Ives in a primary result that indicates the state chief executive’s GOP political base is eroding.

Yesterday’s most competitive race wasn’t the one most had predicted — on the Democratic side of the gubernatorial primary. Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker had spent over $65 million of his own money in this campaign, and was fortunate to have drawn two equivalently strong intra-party opponents.

A new poll from Victory Research (March 13-16; 1,204 registered Illinois voters) — the last before the vote — found Pritzker with only a 32-26-22 percent lead over Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, who had advertised heavily and featured footage in his promotional ads of his late father, US attorney general and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Chicago). Biss had shown surprising strength for a legislator without statewide name identification. But Pritzker won the party nomination with 45.4 percent of the vote, a much larger total than the polling had predicted.

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PA: Lamb, Saccone Decide; Others, Too

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court


By Jim Ellis

March 19, 2018 — Though Tuesday’s special election results in western Pennsylvania are not yet even finalized, the two candidates, and others, are making decisions about where to run in the regular election cycle. After the state Supreme Court created a new congressional map for the coming election, they lengthened the candidate filing period from one that closed March 6 to a new deadline of tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20.

Republicans are formally challenging the new map in federal court. A three-judge federal panel has already heard their arguments and the GOP leaders also filed a motion to stay the state court’s mapping decision with the US Supreme Court. Since no ruling has yet come from either judicial panel, incumbents and candidates must move forward with the qualifying process assuming the new map will stand.

Under Pennsylvania election law, congressional candidates must obtain 1,000 valid signatures from registered party members to qualify for the ballot. Since such a process obviously requires time, all candidates, including Rep.-Elect Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) and defeated Republican candidate Rick Saccone, must determine where they will run under this new and very different Keystone State congressional map.

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The California Candidates

By Jim Ellis

March 13, 2018 — California candidate filing closed on Friday, and the jungle primary scheduled for June 5 will be a crowded affair.

California Congressional Districts

                                    California Congressional Districts

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), seeking a fifth full term in office, will face 39 Democrat, Republican, minor party, and Independent opponents on the qualifying election ballot. The top two finishers on June 5, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the general election. At this point, chances are strong that Sen. Feinstein and state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) will be the qualifying candidates.

The open governor’s race is even more crowded. Sixty candidates returned documents for ballot placement. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is favored to finish first, but the major remaining question concerns whether Republicans can coalesce behind one candidate to at least compete in the general election. Seventeen Republicans and 15 Democrats will be listed on the ballot if all submitted the proper qualifying documentation. The remaining contenders belong to a minor party or are Independents. The most likely pair to advance is Lt. Gov. Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, thus creating the double-Democratic general election campaign that Republican leaders hope to avoid.

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The Texas Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle’s first regular primary results are in the books, and the Texas electorate largely performed in its typical fashion last night.

Democrats were citing that their primary turnouts would be much higher this year in anticipation of a more competitive 2018 general election cycle; however, the party turnout was substantially better than in the 2014 midterm election (almost double the participation factor), it was still only two-thirds of their 2016 presidential total.

(To see full-size results graphic below, please click on image; partial results shown.)
325-2018-Texas-Primary-Results-graphicDespite the increase, just 6.8 percent of the state’s more than 15 million registered voters cast a ballot in this year’s Democrat primary. Adding the Republican vote, the primary registered only a 17 percent total turnout, again making the state one of the lowest in terms of party primary participation.

This year, 60 percent of those voting chose to cast a Republican ballot, down from the 71 percent in the last midterm and the 68 percent total from the 2016 presidential race. But, in the 17 Republican congressional districts where both sides fielded contested primaries, in only one CD, Rep. Will Hurd’s 23rd District, did more Democrats vote than Republicans.

As expected, both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) easily captured their party nominations for the US Senate campaign. Sen. Cruz recorded an 85.3 percent vote total among Republicans, while 61.8 percent of Democrats chose Rep. O’Rourke. Since both men exceeded the 50 percent plus one vote majority figure, each advances to the general election.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott racked up a 90.4 percent win in the GOP primary, while Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (42.9 percent) and businessman Andrew White (27.4 percent) must now duel in a May 22 run-off election to decide the Democrat nomination.

In the eight open congressional races, three featured outright winners. In retiring Rep. Sam Johnson’s (R-Plano) north Texas 3rd District, state Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), as expected, easily captured the Republican nomination (84.7 percent) and he will go onto win the general election. In Rep. O’Rourke’s El Paso-anchored 16th District, the El Paso County Judge (Executive), Veronica Escobar, recorded a 61.4 percent win over five opponents and will easily win the succeeding general election. In Houston, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), also as expected, notched a 63.2 percent win against six Democratic opponents, and she will replace retiring Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) in the 29th CD.

Turning to Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Atascocita) open district, a surprise occurred in the GOP primary. Though she spent over $5 million of her own money, GOP activist Kathaleen Wall failed to qualify for the run-off by a slight 145-vote margin. State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) placed first with 33 percent and will face retired Naval officer Dan Crenshaw (27.4 percent) in the May 22 Republican run-off. The winner will have the inside track toward replacing the retiring seven-term incumbent in the general election.

A run-off will occur in retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Dallas) 5th District. State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) advances to the run-off against political fundraiser Bunni Pounds. Gooden’s advantage in the primary vote was 29-22 percent over Pounds. Former Terrell City Councilman Dan Wood was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Tarrant County Tax Assessor and former congressional chief of staff Ron Wright came within five percentage points of clinching the Republican nomination in retiring Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Ennis) north Texas’ 6th District. He becomes a heavy favorite to dispatch airline pilot and Afghanistan War veteran Jake Ellzey (21.7 percent) in the run-off election. Wright will likely succeed the retiring 17-term congressman.

In the 18-candidate 21st District Republican primary to succeed veteran Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), former Ted Cruz chief of staff Chip Roy placed first (27 percent), and will face frequent candidate Matt McCall (17 percent) in the run-off election. McCall, who has previously challenged Rep. Smith, may have benefited from name confusion since this seat is adjacent to Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Austin) 10th District. Roy now becomes the favorite to win the run-off and the general election to follow the retiring incumbent.

Turning to the Corpus Christi area, former Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun (36.1 percent) placed a close first in the Republican primary over former Victoria County Republican Party chairman Michael Cloud (34.9 percent), and the two will battle again in late May. The likely Republican nominee will replace retiring Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi).

Looking at the three races that are expected to be competitive in the general election, Rep. Hurd was easily re-nominated (80.3 percent), while the Democrats must go to a run-off. Former US Trade official Gina Ortiz Jones ran strongly in the Democratic primary (41.3 percent), but must face former San Antonio City Council candidate Rick Trevino (17.5 percent) on May 22. The Democrat establishment’s favored candidate, attorney Jay Huling’s (15 percent), failed to qualify. The succeeding general election here will be competitive in what is the state’s lone swing district.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) was easily re-nominated with 76.1 percent while attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (29.3 percent) and author Laura Moser (24.3 percent) advance to a run-off.

In Dallas, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) won a 79.3 percent re-nomination victory, while ex-NFL player Colin Allred (38.5 percent) and former US Agriculture Department official Lillian Salerno (18.3 percent) will battle in the May 22 Democrat run-off election.

None of the 28 House incumbents seeking re-election were forced into a run-off. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas), running for what she says will be her last term, fared the worst but still scored a 63.6 percent re-nomination victory over two opponents.

Primary Season Begins Today

By Jim Ellis

texas-primary-election-2018March 6, 2018 — The 2018 primaries begin today, as Texans will complete their voting process for the first-in-the-nation midterm primary.

The Lone Star State political card features the US Senate race, a full compliment of statewide races, including Gov. Greg Abbott (R) beginning his campaign for re-election, along with voters choosing nominees in the 36 US House seats. The delegation’s eight open seats will attract the most attention. Should candidates not receive majority support, run-off elections between the top two finishers in each party will subsequently be held on May 22.

Both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) are expected to easily win their respective nominations. This will officially begin the nation’s first US Senate general election cycle. Rep. O’Rourke will have the benefit of commanding strong financial resources — he had just under $5 million in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period — because so many national liberal donors are contributing against Sen. Cruz.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary features Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez opposing businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D). Neither have major resources, and the winner draws Gov. Abbott who could top $100 million in spending. The governor is viewed as a safe bet for re-election.

In the 36 House races, 28 incumbents are seeking re-election; 15 of them (a dozen Republicans and three Democrats) have primary opposition, but all are expected to easily win re-nomination.

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McDaniel Joins Mississippi Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

March 2, 2018 — Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) announced at a rally this week that he will challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in the June 5 Republican primary. McDaniel’s declaration, which had been speculated upon for months, came just before the state’s candidate filing deadline, which was yesterday.

In 2014, McDaniel came within an eyelash of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination, as the incumbent was saved ironically through a reported deal made with African American leaders to deliver black votes for the senator in the Republican run-off.

In his original primary against Sen. Cochran, McDaniel actually placed first, but was denied winning the party nomination because he finished 1,719 votes away from attracting majority support. This forced the secondary run-off election. The presence of a third candidate in that primary race, the little-known Thomas Carey, who received 4,854 votes, created the dynamic for the run-off. Had Carey not been a candidate, McDaniel would have successfully won the GOP nomination, and would very likely be serving in the Senate today.

But a race against Sen. Wicker will be much different. Though McDaniel did very well in his challenge to Sen. Cochran, he still failed to win. Therefore, some of the luster his grassroots supporters had for him as a candidate may have faded at least to a degree.

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Democrats Maneuver in San Diego

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 27, 2018 — Two noteworthy Democrat events happened in San Diego over the past few days.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

First, the California Democratic Party state convention, meeting in San Diego over the weekend, actually denied veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) the party endorsement. Though the delegates came close to endorsing state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), he also fell short.

In the vote to award the party endorsement for the 2018 US Senate race, it was state Sen. de Leon capturing 54 percent of the delegate votes as compared to only 37 percent for incumbent Sen. Feinstein. A total of 60 percent was needed for endorsement. This is not the first time that the liberal grassroots delegates have turned away from Feinstein. According to an NPR account of the convention proceedings, the party delegates chose then-Attorney General John Van de Kamp over Feinstein in the 1990 governor’s race.

The lack of an endorsement will not hurt the senator’s campaign, however. A January Public Policy Institute of California poll (Jan. 21-30; 1,705 California adults) favored Sen. Feinstein over Mr. de Leon, 46-17 percent, when tested in the jungle primary format. She has an even more commanding lead in campaign resources. The year-end Federal Election Commission disclosure report finds her holding just under $10 million in her campaign account as compared to an embarrassingly low $359,000 for de Leon.
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Setting the Stage: The Texas Primary

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 23, 2018 — We’re now inside two weeks before the first-in-the-nation regular midterm primary election, as the Texas early voting process is now well underway in preparation for the March 6 regular primary vote.

texas-primary-election-2018Seventy-six candidates are running for major statewide office — races for governor, US senator, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner, and one slot on the state railroad commission. A record total of 304 Democrats, Republicans, Independent and minor party candidates are vying for their respective party nominations in the state’s 36 US House districts.

Texas is a run-off state, meaning if no candidate in the various primaries receives majority support, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election on May 22. Since a vast number of races have multiple candidates, including 28 individual candidates alone fighting to succeed retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) in his open central Texas CD, the secondary election calendar promises to also have a large slate of late May voting contests.

Two Democrats off to late starts are vying to face Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and though nine candidates are on the Democratic gubernatorial ballot, there remains some possibility that either Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez or businessman Andrew White, the son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D), will emerge as the party’s nominee on March 6.

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