Category Archives: Senate

The Twists & Turns of Replacing
Georgia’s Sen. Johnny Isakson

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2019 — Political chatter about the new Georgia Senate race is becoming prevalent. As we know, last week Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) announced that he will resign at the end of this year due to health problems. A great deal of speculation has occurred since, not only about who will be appointed to succeed the senator, but also who will run in the 2020 special election, and even about the election procedure, itself.

At this point, we know that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will name a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The selected individual will serve throughout 2020 and will likely run in the succeeding special election. The winner then serves the balance of the current term and would be eligible to run for a full six-year stint in the 2022 election.

The special is scheduled somewhat concurrently with the November 2020 general election. It’s possible, however, that the initial Nov. 3 vote will not immediately produce a winner, thus forcing an early January 2021 run-off. The candidates will first run in a jungle primary – that is, all contenders regardless of party designation appearing on the same ballot – and if no one receives a majority vote, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election to be held Jan. 5, 2021.

There is a potential scheduling nuance, however. Since the 2020 candidate filing deadline is March 6 for a May 19 regular primary and July 21 regular run-off, it is highly unlikely that the special election candidates will also file on that particular date. Therefore, if the candidate filing deadlines are different, will that allow individuals to run for an office in the 2020 regular cycle, and then simultaneously appear on the special US Senate election ballot? The question appears to be unanswered right now, and likely won’t be resolved until Gov. Kemp names his appointment and officially sets the election calendar.

The dual office speculation is beginning on the Democratic side because freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) indicated yesterday that she is considering a potential Senate run. It would be assumed that the congresswoman would have to risk her House seat to run in the special, but is such the case? Since she, or anyone else, would already be filed for a race in 2020 before the Senate special filing deadline, does such status disqualify those candidates from entering the latter race?

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Kennedy Crushing it in Massachusetts Polling

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 5, 2019 — A just-released Change Research poll of the Massachusetts electorate (Aug. 25-28; 1,008 registered Massachusetts voters; 808 Massachusetts Democratic primary voters, online) conducted for the Commonwealth Magazine finds Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) jumping out to a large early lead over Sen. Ed Markey if the two were to face each other in next year’s Democratic primary.

The other two announced candidates, author and corporate executive Steve Pemberton and attorney/activist Shannon Liss-Riordan, were also included on the ballot test.

Change finds Rep. Kennedy topping Sen. Markey by a whopping 17 percentage points, 42-25 percent, including those respondents who say they are “leaning” to one of the candidates. Pemberton and Liss-Riordan are trailing badly with seven and five percent support. Rep. Kennedy has not committed to running but did confirm he is considering doing so and filed a Senate campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. The filing does not necessarily mean the individual is an official candidate, but the act is a typical first step in running for federal office.

The poll was conducted in an online format, and though the sample size is substantial for a state the size of Massachusetts, particularly in a party primary, the true error factor for this type of study tends to be greater than the stated polling margin of error. In this case, the variance is 3.5 percentage points.

The poll does clearly reveal, or perhaps confirm, legitimate political weakness for Sen. Markey. Originally elected to the US House in 1976, Markey has served in Congress ever since. He won a special US Senate election in 2013 when then-Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) resigned to become US Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Markey was subsequently elected to a full term in 2014 with a 59-36 percent margin in the general election. He faced no primary opposition in ’14.

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Succeeding Georgia’s Sen. Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R)

Aug. 30, 2019 — Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), first elected to the Senate in 2004 after spending six years in the US House and 18 years in the Georgia legislature, announced Wednesday that he will resign his seat at year’s end due to serious health problems.

The news stories have reported the details surrounding Isakson’s departure and his health status, but the succession situation will be the concentration of this update. The development means that both of Georgia’s Senate positions will be on the ballot in 2020. The two will run only semi-concurrently, however.

The first step is for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to appoint a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The governor will install an interim senator to serve from Jan. 1 until the appointed individual or another is elected. It is believed that the governor will name his choice quickly so that the person will have a transition time to work with Isakson and his staff before assuming the office.

While Sen. David Perdue stands for a second term in the regular cycle, meaning a May 19, 2020 primary followed by a July 21 run-off if no candidate secures majority support in the initial vote, the special election will follow a different format and slightly altered schedule.

The regular general election is, of course, Nov. 3, 2020, but Georgia is also one of the few states that holds a post-election run-off in case no one receives majority support. That run-off will be held Jan. 5, 2021, but it is unlikely that the Perdue race would advance through to such a process regardless of who wins the November vote.

The Isakson seat, however, will not follow the same calendar or system. Since this is a special election called to fill the balance of the current term, which will last until the beginning of 2023, a jungle primary is to be held concurrently with the November election, and the top two individuals, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the Jan. 5 run-off if no one receives a majority vote in the first election. For this seat, the odds of seeing a run-off election intensify because a crowded field is expected, thus making it more difficult for any one individual to secure majority support.

One person who will not be competing is former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, the former state House Minority Leader. Abrams indicated that she will not be a Senate candidate in either seat next year, preferring to remain focused in her role of working with voter registration and turnout organizations.

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2020 Senate Races: The Latest

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2019 — New developments are occurring in 2020 Senate races across the country and several are apparently unofficially set for the general election. Below is a recap:

ALABAMA: Two polls have been conducted since both former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and retired Auburn University football head coach Tommy Tuberville joined the Republican race. Each survey showed Tuberville with the lead. The most recent, from the Cygnal research firm (June 22-23), finds Tuberville leading Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), 29-21 percent. Judge Moore, the 2017 special election GOP nominee, recorded only 18 percent support among the likely GOP voters. An April 14 Republican run-off is likely after the March 3 primary. The eventual party nominee faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

ARIZONA: While the general election already appears set between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), the special election schedule is not as clear cut. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a lawsuit that challenges the length of McSally’s current appointment. The ultimate ruling could mean an earlier special election. Currently, the special cycle is to run concurrently with the regular 2020 election calendar.

COLORADO: Signs continue pointing to former Gov. John Hickenlooper leaving the Democratic presidential campaign and entering the Colorado Senate race. He looks strong in a Democratic primary – a recent Garin Hart Yang Research poll posts him to a 61-10 percent lead — but he will face a tough general election against incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

IDAHO: Sen. Jim Risch (R) has announced his re-election campaign for a third term and looks to be a lock for another win.

ILLINOIS: Minority Whip Dick Durbin now has no Democratic primary opposition as state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D-Downers Grove) announced several weeks ago that she was ending her Senate campaign. Sen. Durbin is the prohibitive favorite for re-election.

IOWA: The Democratic establishment is coalescing around Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. At this point, the general election pairing looks to feature Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Greenfield.

KANSAS: There is less conjecture that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) will return to Kansas and run for the open Senate seat and more thought that western Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) will become a candidate. Mr. Marshall already has $1.4 million in his federal campaign account for the 2020 election cycle. He will face a crowded Republican primary but should be favored. Democrats feature a primary between former US Attorney Barry Grissom and ex-one-term Rep. Nancy Boyda.

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9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Could Force Arizona’s Hand

By Jim Ellis

Appointed Arizona Sen. (and former representative) Martha McSally (R)

Aug. 13, 2019 — Soon after Republican Congress-woman Martha McSally was appointed to the Senate, a group of Arizona voters — two Democrats, a Repub-lican, a Libertarian, and an Independent — challenged the length of time that she could serve without going to election. Now the case awaits a ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that could force the state to hold an early special election.

Sen. John McCain (R), who was re-elected in 2018, passed away in late August almost a year ago, on the 25th. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) then appointed former Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to serve until the 2020 election, but Kyl only pledged to stay through 2018. He then resigned before the new Congress took office at the beginning of this year. Gov. Ducey responded by appointing then-Rep. McSally (R-Tucson), who had just lost the 2018 open seat US Senate election to then-Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix).

Because Sen. McCain died so early into his term, there would be an appointment followed by a special election. The appointment would extend to the next general election in 2020, with the winner serving the balance of the term. Therefore, whoever wins next November’s special election wouldn’t be eligible to run for a full six-year term until 2024.

Under Arizona law, which is similar to succession laws in 35 other states, the governor appoints an interim senator who serves until the next regular election. In 14 states, which have systems similar to what the plaintiffs are demanding, a special election is scheduled at the earliest possible date according to the individual state law.

In Sen. McSally’s case her interim term would stretch to 27 months, which the group of plaintiffs argues is too long a time to not give the voters a say. The federal district court judge rejected the argument, but the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th Circuit. Late last week, the appellate court agreed to hear the case, and will do so in an expedited manner.

The 2020 Arizona special election promises to be one of the most hard-fought campaigns during the cycle. Even at this early date it is already clear that the two major party nominees will be Sen. McSally and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), who is the husband of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson).

The contest is already almost at fever pitch. In fact, Kelly raised more money in the 2nd Quarter than any other US Senate candidate, $4.24 million, but he was closely followed by Sen. McSally who raised the second-most of any federal candidate in the country, $3.4 million. Kelly had $5.9 million cash-on-hand at the end of June while Sen. McSally had $4.4 million.

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