Category Archives: Senate

Moving to the General

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2020 — The June 2nd primary featured 10 states, and now the candidates are set for November. Below is a recap of the races from Tuesday’s primary that project as competitive this fall, and an early prognosis for each.


IN-5:

• St. Sen Victoria Spartz (R) vs. Christina Hale (D)
Trump ’16: 53-41%    |   2018 Congressional: 57-43% R (Brooks)

Ukrainian born state Senator Victoria Spartz topped a field of 15 Republican candidates with 41% on Tuesday night, after a nasty primary that resulted in some of the other contenders running ads touting that they were born in America. Democrat Christina Hale, a former state Representative and 2016 Lt. Governor nominee, had an easier time in her primary, and won with 39% of the vote, which was slightly under pre-election estimates.

Ms. Spartz is the favorite to win in November in a traditionally Republican district, but one that is moving more toward the center. Democrats will see how this race begins to unfold, but this is a seat on their secondary target list. We can expect Spartz to be tested early, and if the numbers suggest an opening, the Democrats will go for an upset win.


IOWA-SENATE:

• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) vs. Theresa Greenfield (D)
Trump ’16: 51-42%    |    2016 US Senate: 60-36% R (Grassley)

Iowa is one of three Republican firewall states to keep the Senate majority, with Montana and Maine being the other two. Sen. Joni Ernst seeks her first re-election and is now paired with Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. The Democratic establishment backed Greenfield, but she came under attack in the primary and defeated two opponents with 47% of the vote, a bit under pre-election projection.

All races in Iowa are competitive, so we can expect intense political competition here from the presidential race all the way through each of the state’s four House districts. Polling will show the Senate race as close until Election Day, but what should be another Trump victory here will help set the table for the remainder of the races. Sen. Ernst is rated as a slight favorite as the general election now officially begins.


IA-1:

• Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) vs. St. Rep. Ashley Hinson (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 50-45% D

Freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) defends her seat for the first time and faces a top opponent in Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Cedar Rapids), a former television news anchor. The 1st District looked to be the safest Democratic seat in the state after 2011 redistricting, but the electorate hasn’t voted that way. This will be a top tier Republican challenge race, and one to watch. Rep. Finkenauer certainly begins with the incumbent’s advantage, but the IA-1 campaign is a top national GOP target. If the Republicans are to have any chance of re-taking the House majority, Ms. Hinson will have to win.


IA-2:

• Rita Hart (D) vs. St. Sen. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 54-42% D (Loebsack)

The 2nd District, located in Iowa’s southeastern sector, is the district that has played best for Democrats during the decade despite President Trump carrying it in 2016.

Democrats feature former state Senator and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Rita Hart who was even unopposed in an open seat primary. Republicans counter with first-term state Senator Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), who begins her fourth race for the congressional seat. Ms. Hart is the clear favorite here, and Dr. Miller-Meeks will have to prove her credibility nationally after three losses. If she does not begin the general election in competitive fashion, this race will quickly turn Ms. Hart’s way.
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Kansas Beginning to Hop

By Jim Ellis

June 1, 2020 — The open Kansas Senate race is more interesting this year than typical for what is normally a safe Republican state; in fact, it is becoming one of the most intriguing races in the country.

Former Kansas secretary of state and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach

Democrats believe they have a chance of stealing this contest if former Kansas secretary of state and 2018 defeated gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach were to win the GOP nomination. And it appears that early polling numbers and even the Kansas Republican Party chairman agree.

Things started to unravel back in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary when Kobach, then the sitting Kansas secretary of state, challenged Gov. Jeff Colyer in the party nominating contest and managed to beat him by 343 votes from more than 317,000 ballots cast. Colyer ascended to the governor’s office when elected incumbent Sam Brownback (R) resigned to accept a federal position.

The outcome split the already badly divided Kansas Republican Party – fragmented between moderates and conservatives – and coupled with a lackluster, while some say non-existent, Kobach general election gubernatorial campaign effort, Democrat Laura Kelly was able to win the statewide contest 48-43 percent with nine percent going to various minor party candidates.

Democrats are hyped because of that outcome, and Republicans clearly nervous. After months of speculation that US secretary of state and former Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo would leave his position and enter the Senate contest, the party leadership is now solidly coalescing around US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend). Republican Party chairman Mike Kuckelman last week even publicly called upon all of the candidates beside Rep. Marshall to exit the race in order to give the congressman a one-on-one shot at denying Kobach the party nomination.

Yesterday, state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) announced she would end her Senate quest, stating among other reasons that she did not want to split the party. Kuckelman believes that that crowded field would help Kobach win the nomination because he could do so with a plurality vote, fearing that his hard-right base may be enough to win a crowded field race.

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Super June & Oregon Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

May 21, 2020 — With so many early primary states moving their elections to June due to the coronavirus shut down, no less than 24 states will hold their nominating event in the upcoming month, making this the most active primary month during the election cycle.

A dozen of the states are still observing their regular political calendar, but 12 more moved into June from earlier dates. Therefore, the following adjusted calendar has been locked into place:


JUNE 2

Connecticut (presidential only)
Idaho (from May 19; though mail voting began on the original primary day)
Indiana (from May 5)
Iowa
Maryland (from April 28)
Montana
New Mexico
Pennsylvania (from April 28)
Rhode Island (presidential only)
South Dakota
West Virginia (from May 12)


JUNE 9

Georgia (from May 19)
Nevada
North Dakota
South Carolina


JUNE 20

Louisiana (presidential only)


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Massachusetts Senate: Total Opposite

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2020 — On Friday, the most recent Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary poll was released, and it presents a very different conclusion to the close race results previously published.q

Late last week, we covered a University of Massachusetts at Lowell poll (April 27-May 1; 1,000 registered Massachusetts voters, 531 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) that found Sen. Ed Markey (D) locked in a virtual dead heat (42-44 percent) with Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) in their intra-party fight.

Emerson College (May 5-6; 740 registered Massachusetts voters, 620 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) conducted a statewide Massachusetts poll on the heels of the UMass effort and sees Rep. Kennedy crushing Sen. Markey, 58-42%.

The focal point of the Emerson poll was the presidential race and reaction to COVID-19, so just one question was asked about the Senate race. Unlike the UMass survey, Emerson did not release segmentation figures for the Senate ballot test question, so it becomes more difficult to judge reliability.

Since the two polls are so far apart, questions arise as to which is the more accurate. The sponsors are known pollsters who regularly survey Massachusetts – Emerson College is located in Boston, while the UMass affiliate resides in Lowell – so neither has a particular geographic familiarity advantage over the other. The sample sizes are both large enough to render strong results, and each has accurately depicted the state in previous studies.

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The Bay State Brawl

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Many seasoned Massachusetts political observers believed that the intra-party Democratic US Senate battle between incumbent Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) would never happen.

At the beginning of the election cycle the prevailing local political wisdom was, if Kennedy were to enter the statewide race, that Sen. Markey would simply retire after spending 48 consecutive years in elective office, counting his time in the state legislature, US House, and Senate, rather than taking on a Kennedy and risk losing. Such, however, proved not to be the case. With the candidate filing deadline passing this week, the Sept. 1 showdown between Sen. Markey and Rep. Kennedy is on. And, the latest poll again confirms the two men are locked in a dead heat.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell released their current survey results of the Bay State electorate (April 27-May 1; 1,00 registered Massachusetts voters, 531 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) and the Democratic US Senate primary ballot test finds Rep. Kennedy clinging to a 44-42 percent lead. This is not much different than the university’s February poll that found Kennedy ahead 35-34 percent.

In all, this has to be a very encouraging result for Sen. Markey. Running against the so-called “Kennedy mystique,” the media-driven term that matters more in Massachusetts than anywhere else, and qualifying for the ballot because the courts reduced the number of required petition signatures because of the COVID-19 imposed precautions, Sen. Markey’s ability to hold his status within the margin of error against Rep. Kennedy has to be considered a victory for the veteran politician.

The money count is almost as close as the polling, except Markey has the advantage. Looking at the March 31 Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports, Sen. Markey has raised just over $8.8 million for the campaign cycle as compared to $5.9 million for Rep. Kennedy. The senator also has the edge in cash-on-hand resources, $4.4 million to $3.8 million. Therefore, having enough funding to communicate their campaign message to the voters will not be a problem for either man.

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