Category Archives: Senate

What the First Poll Shows in Alabama With Jeff Sessions Entering Race

By Jim Ellis

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

Nov. 12, 2019 — The Club for Growth organization, the leadership of which had been encouraging former Alabama senator and US attorney general Jeff Sessions (R) to enter the state’s Senate race, conducted and released the first survey since Sessions announced his candidacy on Thursday.

WPA Intelligence administered the survey well before Sessions publicly declared, but just published the results over the weekend. The sampling period was Oct. 29-31, with a respondent universe of 511 likely Alabama Republican primary voters.

The results find Sessions leading the field with 36 percent voting preference. Auburn University former head football coach Tommy Tuberville is second with 23 percent support. The addition of Sessions to the field shows that Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) dropping into a tie for third position with former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore as the two record 11 percent apiece. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, the only current statewide elected official in the race, notches only six percent, and state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) trails the entire field at just two percent.

If this poll is wholly accurate, it means that both Sessions and Tuberville would advance from the March 3 Super Tuesday primary into an April 14 run-off election to determine who will qualify for the general election opposite Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.

Just over two weeks before WPAi went into the field, the Cygnal polling organization tested the race. According to Cygnal (Oct. 10-12; 536 likely Alabama Republican primary voters), Tuberville led Rep. Byrne, 32-18 percent, and the two of them would have advanced into the second round. Secretary Merrill was next with 13 percent and Judge Moore followed with 11 percent, the same level of support that WPAi detected for the latter man when Sessions’ name was included. State Rep. Mooney records a similar one percent in this survey.

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New NC State Poll

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 16, 2019 — A new Meredith College political survey (Sept. 29-Oct. 7; 998 registered North Carolina voters) shows electoral weakness for Sen. Thom Tillis (R) as he seeks a second term next year.

The poll places the first-term US senator in a statistical tie with both of his potential Democratic opponents, state Sen. Erika Smith (D-Gaston) and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. The large number of uncommitted voters, however, suggests the race could go to either party and will likely break late, similar to many previous North Carolina election results.

According to the Meredith data, Sen. Tillis would tie both Smith and Cunningham with each of the three candidates receiving 33 percent support in all pairings. Obviously, these are not particularly favorable numbers for any incumbent and must be taken more seriously in this instance because of North Carolina’s history of either defeating its senators or seeing them not serve a second term for another reason.

In fact, the only two Tar Heel senators who have been re-elected since 1974 are Jesse Helms (R) and current three-term incumbent Richard Burr (R). During that span, the following senators were no longer in office after one term:

ONE-TERM NORTH CAROLINA SENATORS

  • Robert Morgan (D), 1980 – lost re-election
  • John East (R), 1986 – committed suicide in June before seeking a second term
  • Jim Broyhill (R), 1986 – appointed to fill Sen. East’s term; lost 1986 election)
  • Terry Sanford (D), 1992 – lost re-election
  • Lauch Faircloth (R), 1998 – lost re-election
  • John Edwards (D), 2004 – did not seek a second term to instead run for president
  • Elizabeth Dole (R), 2008 – lost re-election
  • Kay Hagan (D), 2014 – lost re-election

The Meredith College pollsters also tested Gov. Roy Cooper (D) as he fights for a second term likely against Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R). Here, Meredith finds the incumbent holding a 46-33 percent margin over his eventual GOP challenger.

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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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