Category Archives: Senate

New York Rep. Slaughter Passes;
Nevada’s Sen. Heller Dodges Primary

By Jim Ellis

March 20, 2018
— Veteran New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) who, at 88 years of age was the oldest member of the House of Representatives, passed away on Friday after suffering a fall-related concussion earlier in the week.

Veteran New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) | Facebook

Veteran New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) | Facebook

Rep. Slaughter, a native of Kentucky, was first elected to the House in 1986 from a Buffalo-Rochester district where she unseated first-term GOP Rep. Fred Eckert. She held the seat ever since, and had announced plans to run again this year. Slaughter became the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee, a position she held while the Democrats held the majority from 2007-2011.

Her one close re-election call came in 2014, when she surprisingly survived by just 871 votes. She rebounded in 2016 to defeat the same opponent, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini (R), 54-42 percent. Prior to her service in Congress, Slaughter spent two terms in the New York State Assembly and one in the Monroe County Legislature.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will now call a special election for the winner to serve the balance of the term and presumably run in the 2018 regular election. In accordance with New York election law, the Monroe County political leadership will choose party nominees. Therefore, no primary elections will be held.

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Wicker Dodges McDaniel in Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

March 16, 2018 — Just before the Mississippi candidate deadline approached on March 1, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who came within 1,719 votes of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination in the 2014 Republican primary, filed to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in this year’s June primary.

The move appeared dubious since McDaniel was just beginning a campaign in early March and Sen. Wicker, whose campaign committee has well over $4 million in the bank, was well prepared for a serious challenge coming from his Tea Party opponent.

Once again, it appears Sen. Cochran has factored into McDaniel’s political future. With the senator announcing that he will end his 40-year senatorial career next month — the tenth longest Senate tenure in American history — the southeastern Mississippi conservative state legislator announced Wednesday that he will already abandon his challenge against Wicker, and instead enter the special election to replace Sen. Cochran.

Under Mississippi succession law, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) will appoint an interim replacement after Cochran officially leaves office. The interim senator will be eligible to stand for election when the people have a chance to vote in the special election to be held concurrently with the regular election calendar.

Unlike in many states, there will be no nomination cycle for the Mississippi special election. All candidates, presumably including the interim senator, will be placed on the general election ballot. Should no one receive an absolute majority, the top two finishers will advance to a secondary run-off election three weeks after the regular general election. This date, according to the 2018 calendar, would be Nov. 27, or two days before Thanksgiving.

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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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“R’s” Up in Dubious Senate Polls

By Jim Ellis

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgMarch 12, 2018 — One of the keys to deciding the 2018 Senate election cycle is seeing how the 10 Democrat senators forced to defend states that President Trump carried will fare. A series of new Axios/Survey Monkey polls in these aforementioned places produces good news for Republicans, but the data appears flawed.

According to the methodology, 17,289 registered voters participated in the surveys within the 10 states between Feb. 12 and March 5. Obviously, the sampling period is too long, unless the polls were conducted successively, but there is no indication of such. The voluntary online response system also brings the polling reliability factor into question.

That being said, even suspect studies are valuable to analyze because more opportunities are provided to detect flows and trends within the various sampling sectors.

The results of the 10 polls are as follows (listed in alphabetical order):
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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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Cramer Up Against Heitkamp in
North Dakota Senate Polling

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) | Facebook

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) | Facebook

March 5, 2018 — A new Tarrance Group poll (Feb. 18-20; 500 likely North Dakota registered voters) conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee finds at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) taking an early lead over first-term Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), 49-44 percent, a split just beyond the polling margin of error.

The Tarrance poll comes on the heels of previously released data from Gravis Marketing (Feb. 21-24; 385 North Dakota voters interviewed online) that gives Sen. Heitkamp a 43-40 percent edge, but this survey was conducted wholly online. Though the Tarrance poll was in the field before the Gravis study, the latter data was first to enter the public domain.

North Dakota state law prohibits vendors from placing automated telephone calls, which is Gravis’ usual method of conducting their surveys. Additionally, since the state has no voter registration requirement or system, the likely voter screen is a bit more difficult to define. Both of these elements would affect the reliability factor, and particularly so for the Gravis results.

The Tarrance data also detected a retrogression in Sen. Heitkamp’s favorability rating. Though still strong, her positive ratio is a net 10 points below what was determined in the organization’s October poll. The February data records the senator with a strong 54:38 percent positive to negative index, but that is below the 60:34 percent rating she received in October. Rep. Cramer posted a slightly better 53:29 percent positive ratio. He was not tested in the October poll.

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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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The Tennessee Backtrack

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

Feb. 20, 2018 — In late September, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) announced that he would not seek a third term in 2018, saying he wanted to work “thoughtfully and independently” for the months remaining in his senatorial tenure. For the past several days, it has been widely reported that he is in a period of reconsideration, however.

At one time, Sen. Corker was considered as a potential nominee for secretary of state, and had a strong relationship with President Trump. In the succeeding months, their friendship cratered into an abyss. Understanding that the president is still highly popular within the Volunteer State Republican voting base, Corker is beginning to make overtures toward making amends with the president, thus signaling that he is at least contemplating running again, after all.

If Sen. Corker is listening to individuals telling him that leading GOP senatorial candidate Marsha Blackburn could be vulnerable in either a primary or the general election, empirical data suggests that such counsel is erroneous. In fact, polling and fundraising data should lead any observer to conclude that the congresswoman is actually one of the strongest Republican statewide candidates not only for Tennessee, but also across the national political spectrum.

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Filing Deadlines

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185Feb. 16, 2018 — Seven states have already set their candidate slate for the coming primary election season. When March ends, more than half the country (28 states) will have followed suit. For the first time, a state will hold a Wednesday primary (Rhode Island, Sept. 12), and two will vote on a Thursday (Tennessee, Aug. 2; Delaware, Sept. 6).

Below is the full candidate filing deadline calendar:

1. Illinois – December 4; Primary: March 20
2. Texas – December 11; Primary: March 6; Run-off: May 22
3. West Virginia – January 27; Primary: May 8
4. Kentucky – January 30; Primary: May 22
5. Ohio – February 7; Primary: May 8
6. Indiana – February 9: Primary: May 8
7. Alabama – February 9; Primary: June 5; Run-off: July 17

FEB. 27
• Maryland – Primary: June 26

FEB. 28
• North Carolina – Primary: May 8; Run-off (if no candidate receives 40%): July 18

• Nebraska – Primary: May 15
• Arkansas – Primary: May 22; Run-off: June 19
• Mississippi – Primary: June 5; Run-off: June 26

• Oregon – Primary: May 15

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Senate News From
North Dakota & New Jersey

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgBy Jim Ellis

Feb. 15, 2018 — The North Dakota US Senate campaign is on the precipice of drastic change. Earlier in the week, at-large US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) indicated that he was reconsidering his decision to bypass challenging first-term Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

According to one of the contenders who just dropped out of the race, and who is a close confidant of Rep. Cramer, the congressman has made the decision to enter the Senate race. Former ND Republican Party chairman Gary Emineth told the media that he is ending his fledgling Senate campaign to make way for Rep. Cramer. He further said that the congressman will shortly announce his new plans.

The Republican Senate race had gotten off to a slow start. Rep. Cramer had been keeping the party leaders hanging for the better part of a year, and then announced he wouldn’t run. State Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton) has been running for months, but it is obvious that national and state party officials don’t think he is a strong enough opponent for Sen. Heitkamp. That was one reason Emineth jumped in, but he quickly made a media gaffe, so his credibility was suffering even from the very beginning of his statewide effort.

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More Filings Close

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 14, 2018 — Two more states now have their official candidates for the 2018 election, bringing the national total to seven. Alabama and Indiana join the rank of early filing states that include Illinois, Texas, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio.

2018-elections-open-seatsAlabama sees a race for governor that includes new incumbent Kay Ivey (R), who ascended to the position when Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign last year. Ivey was elected lieutenant governor in 2010. She will face a Republican primary on June 5 that includes Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and state Sens. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) and Slade Blackwell (R-Birmingham), the latter man being a surprise filing. Two other minor candidates will also be on the ballot. If no one secures a majority in the primary, a secondary run-off election will be held July 17. Gov. Ivey is favored to win the nomination outright. The Democrats include former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.

In the House races, Reps. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) drew competitive primary challengers. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has a minor Republican opponent. Just one House member, Democrat Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), will run unopposed in both the primary and general election.

The surprise filing is former US Rep. Bobby Bright, who represented the Montgomery-anchored 2nd District for one term as a Democrat before Roby unseated him in 2010, switching parties to run as a Republican. State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) announced his campaign long ago, but has been slow to start. The former campaign manager for the Roy Moore for Senate campaign, Rich Hobson, is also in this race along with Army Iraq War veteran Tommy Amason. Democrats Audri Scott Williams, a former Community College dean, and Tabitha Isner, a business analyst, will compete for their party’s nomination. The GOP primary should be an interesting one, but the seat is a strong bet to remain Republican in the general election. Roby’s rather weak 49-41 percent re-election victory in 2016 questions her political strength, however.

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Ohio Candidates File to Run

state-of-ohio-mapBy Jim Ellis

Feb. 12, 2018 — The candidate filing deadline in Ohio passed last week — the fifth state to set its political contenders for the coming midterm election.

All of the expected gubernatorial candidates filed, meaning we will see a crowded Democratic field of eight candidates, led by former attorney general and recently resigned federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray. The remaining field features former congressman, Cleveland mayor, state legislator, and two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich; retired state Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill; state senator and former minority leader, Joe Schiavoni (D-Mahoning Valley); and Cincinnati ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich.

The Republicans are set for a gubernatorial one-on-one match between attorney general and former US senator, Mike DeWine, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. The general election is expected to feature a DeWine-Cordray battle, which will be a re-match of the 2010 attorney general’s campaign, a contest where DeWine unseated Cordray in a close campaign.

In the US Senate race, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) sees five Republicans battling for the right to challenge him in November. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) and investment banker Mike Gibbons are the two leading GOP candidates. Rep. Renacci is leaving his north-central congressional district to run for the Senate, switching to that race from the governor’s campaign after state Treasurer Josh Mandel decided not to run because of his wife’s newly diagnosed health condition. Since Mandel is ineligible to seek another term as treasurer, he will not be on the 2018 Ohio ballot.

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