Category Archives: State Legislatures

A One-Vote Victory in Virginia;
The Texas Challenge

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 21, 2017 — It now appears that an incredible finish has occurred in the Virginia state elections even though voting ended six weeks ago. The House of Delegates’ majority has come down to literally one single vote from one of the 100 districts according to a just-completed recount.

virginia-shelly-simonds-david-yancey-delegatesIn Newport News Delegate District 94, an incredible one-vote victory for Democrat Shelly Simonds was declared as the final recount tally Tuesday, but this result still won’t become official until the certification process concludes. Simonds is a Newport News School Board member who has apparently defeated incumbent Republican David Yancey by the slimmest possible margin. On election night, and through most of the process, Yancey led the count by 10 votes.

Since the election on Nov. 7, the canvassing and subsequent recount process had been underway with election officials attempting to agree upon a final determination as to who actually won the 94th District race where an apparent 23,912 individuals cast their ballots.

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Pennsylvania’s Rep. Pitts to Retire;
A Rundown of Ala., Ark. Filings

Nov. 10, 2015 — On Friday, veteran Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, first elected to the US House in 1996 after spending 24 consecutive years in the state legislature, announced that he will not seek re-election next year. Pitts’ retirement means that 27 seats are now open in the 2016 election cycle — 16 from Republican districts compared to 11 Democratic.

The congressman serves on the Energy & Commerce Committee, where he is fifth in seniority and chairs the Health Subcommittee. His 16th District is anchored in the cities of Reading and Lancaster, though the congressman hails from Kennett Square just north of Wilmington, Del. The seat is reliably Republican, though the Democrats could become competitive with the right candidate. Mitt Romney carried the district 52-46 percent in 2012, but then-Sen. Barack Obama slipped passed John McCain here four years earlier, 50-49 percent.

The name most mentioned as a potential successor is Republican state Sen. Lloyd Smucker. Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin (R) is also a prospective candidate, but reports suggest that he is more likely to seek Smucker’s open state Senate seat should the latter run for Congress.

Alabama, Arkansas Filings

Alabama — With early presidential nomination events occurring in March, some states are holding their 2016 primaries concurrently. Two of those, Alabama and Arkansas, feature the earliest filing periods in the country. Alabama closed Friday, while Arkansas ended Monday.

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Odd-Year Election Recap;
Louisiana Governor’s Poll

Nov. 6, 2015 — Looking beyond the vote tallies in Tuesday night’s odd-year election we find that at least two voting patterns reappeared. First, we again see, as has been the case since the beginning of this century, that Republicans have a clear advantage in low-turnout elections while the Democrats do much better when participation factors are higher.

This same situation was evident in the pre-Reagan era of the 60s and 70s, but changed after the 1980 election. During the 80s and some of the 90s, it was Republicans who generally performed better when turnouts went higher.

In Kentucky, for example, Republican Matt Bevin scored a surprising 53-44 percent victory and, even though voter turnout increased by more than 150,000 people when compared to the last gubernatorial contest of four years ago, the participation rate was only 30.4 percent. Tuesday, just under 975,000 voters cast ballots in the race for governor. By contrast, the 2012 Kentucky presidential vote reached near the 1.8 million range, a turnout percentage closer to 60 percent of the registered voter universe for that particular election.

We also saw Republicans perform well in Virginia, where they held their majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates, losing no seats. The Mississippi races went heavily Republican with Gov. Phil Bryant (R) scoring a 67 percent re-election victory, the GOP taking most of the statewide races, and gaining a net one seat on the entire state legislative scorecard, within an aggregate of 174 (52 Senate seats; 122 House districts) electoral contests.

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Bevin Wins Big in Kentucky; Election Night Belongs to Incumbents

Nov. 5, 2015 — Republican venture capitalist Matt Bevin, whom the Republican Governors Association abandoned in late summer because of what the organization’s leadership said was a poorly run campaign, came up a big winner Tuesday night in defeating Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway. Bevin’s victory margin was 53-44 percent.

The major institutions from both parties were wrong about the race. The RGA pulling out, only to return with a late $2 million ad buy, and the pollsters providing support for the analysis that Conway had the advantage were proved incorrect by a substantial margin.

About a week before the election both Survey USA and Western Kentucky University found Conway to be holding a 45-40 percent lead, almost the exact opposite of the final result. Vox Populi, which released the poll closest to the election, correctly found Bevin gaining momentum going into Election Day. Their last ballot test projected the candidates tied at 44 percent but the sample seemed to possess a slight Republican skew. The actual results, however, proved the Vox methodology, as it related to turnout model projection, sound.

In winning, Bevin is only the second Republican to become governor since World War II ended. The only other GOP winner was former Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY-6), who held the governor’s mansion for one term after winning the 2003 election.

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A Budding Primary Challenge in MS-4

MARCH 2, 2015 — It’s rare that we cover state legislative candidates in these columns, but a new Mississippi political development may serve as a precursor to a major 2016 congressional challenge.

Chris McDaniel is the state senator who came so very close to denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination last year. Yesterday, McDaniel announced that he is seeking re-election to the legislature in Mississippi’s odd-numbered off-year state elections.

Since the Magnolia State does not host a US Senate race in 2016, McDaniel was asked in an interview if he is planning to challenge 4th District three-term Rep. Steven Palazzo in next year’s Republican primary. While not flatly answering “yes”, McDaniel admitted that he would “prefer a federal position.”
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