Category Archives: Special ELection

North Carolina Polling Review:
Under-Estimating the GOP Vote

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2019 — The recent North Carolina special elections’ polling appears slightly flawed, containing a pattern that came to the forefront in the previous presidential race. The weakness: under-estimating the Republican vote. Doing so became a major discussion point within the research community after they cumulatively missed the 2016 Trump-Clinton race but did not regularly appear in most of the subsequent midterm campaigns.

In the two North Carolina special elections that were decided on Tuesday night, the winning Republican candidates exceeded the published polling projections. The same pattern also occurred in Pennsylvania back in late May when Rep. Fred Keller (R-Middleburg), while predicted to win comfortably, garnered a considerably larger vote percentage than projected when he scored a 68 percent special election victory.

Four different polls were publicly released during the week preceding Tuesday’s North Carolina elections. Only RRH Elections sampled the 3rd District and tested the eventual winner, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), against former Greenville mayor, Allen Thomas. The polling result projected Murphy to a 51-40 percent lead. He won 62-37 percent, meaning RRH under-estimated Murphy’s strength and over-estimated Thomas’.

The survey was conducted during the Aug. 26-28 period, two full weeks before the election, which means the situation on the ground could have certainly changed during the intervening time between the poll and the vote. Advertising was heavy during the campaign’s final two weeks, and the survey could not account for which campaign would be more adept at turning out its vote.

Three polls, from three different survey research firms, were released for the more competitive 9th CD at irregular times, and here RRH was the closest to the actual result. Their study was also conducted over the Aug 26-28 period, and it correctly forecast a close Dan Bishop win. At the time, RRH saw a 46-45 percent spread in favor of Bishop over Democrat Dan McCready, and the actual result was 50.7 – 48.7 percent.

Harper Polling, also testing during the same Aug. 26-28 span, missed. They projected McCready to be holding a five point, 51-46 percent advantage. At the time, we mentioned that their sample contained 56 percent female respondents, which could have been a major reason for the Democratic skew.

The final poll from a lesser known firm, co/efficient, also came very close to the actual result, projecting a 44 percent tie between the two candidates over a much later Sept. 5-6 period, but this result may have come through happenstance.

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NC Special Elections Decided Today

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

Sept. 10, 2019 — Voters in eastern and south-central North Carolina will go to the polls today to fill the state’s two vacant congressional seats. The 3rd Congressional District is open because Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) passed away in February. The 9th District will finally get a representative after going vacant for this entire Congress. As we remember, the 2018 electoral result was not certified due to voter fraud allegations; hence, the calling of this new election.

North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District

The 3rd District, which includes the Outer Banks area that Hurricane Dorian recently hit, hosts the cities of Jacksonville, New Bern, and part of Greenville within the 17-county region. It should remain in Republican hands. The seat has performed strongly for the GOP, including a 60-37 percent win for President Trump in 2016. Jones represented the district since his original election in 1994, when he unseated then-Rep. Martin Lancaster (D) in the Republican landslide of that year. Rep. Jones averaged 74.5 percent of the vote in the four elections of the present decade.

The Republican special election nominee, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), is favored to defeat former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas, who won the Democratic nomination outright at the end of April. The latest available polling yielded a low double-digit lead for Murphy.

The 9th District begins in Charlotte, encompassing approximately 20 percent of Mecklenburg County, and continues to annex Union – the most Republican county and largest population entity – Robeson, Richmond, Scotland, and Anson counties along with parts of Cumberland and Bladen. The final county, Bladen, was the site of the voter fraud allegations in the last regular election.

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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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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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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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