Is Sen. Kamala Harris Protecting
Her California Senate Seat?

By Jim Ellis

Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris of California

Dec. 5, 2019 — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the first of what one might consider the top-tier candidates to end her presidential effort, but the announcement timing on Tuesday likely has more to do with her 2022 Senate race than the presidential contest.

The California candidate filing deadline is tomorrow, so Sen. Harris deciding to end her presidential effort means she won’t be on the Golden State presidential primary ballot, and thus avoids an embarrassing loss within her own constituency. Recent polling was forecasting her in the single-digit range even in California.

Obviously, losing any race in one’s home state reveals political weakness, and though she is virtually invulnerable against a Republican in the 2022 general election, the same might not be true if her opponent were a strong Democrat.

Under the California election system that features the jungle primary concept, variations of which are also seen in Washington state and Louisiana, members of the same party can advance into the general election. Florida voters will have the opportunity of adopting that jungle primary concept via ballot initiative next year.

Because California and Washington hold regular primaries before the general election, a pair of candidates always advance irrespective of percentages attained. Conversely, Louisiana holds one election concurrent with the general, meaning a candidate exceeding 50 percent is elected outright; otherwise the top two finishers advance into a December run-off election.

In the California 2022 Senate race, for example, two candidates will move into the general election from their March or June primary (California has continually alternated their primary election dates between the two months, depending upon the political situation at the time the legislature acted) so long as more than one candidate files. Thus, a strong Democrat — and California has many such individuals — could challenge Sen. Harris, draw a relatively meager percentage in the primary while finishing second, and then rally to make a serious general election challenge against her.

Other previous presidential candidates have often found the political going much tougher than expected when returning home to seek re-election after engaging in the national contest, and it remains to be seen if Sen. Harris will find her road to re-election any bumpier.

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House 2020 Overview

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 3, 2019 — Now that two states have already completed their congressional candidate filing (Alabama and Arkansas) and five more are scheduled for December including Illinois, which closed yesterday, it is time to begin to ascertain where US House politics might reasonably stand right now.

California (Dec. 6), Texas (Dec. 9), Ohio (Dec. 11), and North Carolina (Dec. 20 – on hold due to court order), are the other states with candidate deadlines this month. At the end of December, the seven filed states including North Carolina, would account for 129 congressional district candidate slates.

Currently, the party division yields four vacant House seats — two from each party. Of the 431 seats with representation, Democrats hold 233 and Republicans have 197, along with one Independent — Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/ Grand Rapids), who left the Republican Party earlier this year.

Comparing the current ratings for each district against where the seats stood a year before the 2018 election finds that 82 political situations have changed ratings with most moving away from the Republican column and toward the Democrats, but not in all cases.

Currently, 75 districts fall into either the Toss-up, Lean Democrat, or Lean Republican categories. This assumes that the four vacancies — CA-25 (Katie Hill-D), MD-7 (Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R) — all remain with their current party in upcoming special elections.

Adding another assumption concerning the House outlook involves the newly adopted court-ordered North Carolina congressional map, the third of this decade. On its surface, these latest district boundaries would net the Democrats at least two seats, those that Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) currently represent.

Both parties are lodging new legal challenges to the map, and the state’s Dec. 20 candidate filing deadline is on hold for the US House candidates until the legal situation is resolved. For the purposes of this analysis, the new North Carolina map is inserted into the national overlay, thus increasing the Democratic conference by two seats.

Of the 75 lean and toss-up seats, 36 are currently in the Democratic column and 38 lie in Republican hands. The remaining seat belongs to Independent Rep. Amash. Looking at how the seats might break right now, it appears that 33 are rated as Lean Democratic with 30 categorized as Lean Republican. The remaining dozen, including the Amash seat, are considered toss-ups.

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An Impeachment Casualty in NJ?

By Jim Ellis

NJ-2 Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew

Dec. 2, 2019 — There are many moving parts to the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, and not all of the flying political shrapnel will hit the intended target. In some instances, the issue could backfire against a few Democratic members for various reasons.

An example of that involves one of the two Democrats to vote against the impeachment inquiry. Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis Township/Cape May) is a former state legislator, serving in Trenton for 16 years before winning the 2nd District congressional seat last November. He replaced retired congressman Frank LoBiondo (R), who owned NJ-2 for a dozen terms.

Van Drew’s victory was expected because the Republicans failed to field a strong candidate, yet his 53-45 percent margin was a bit underwhelming considering he was rated a general election prohibitive favorite. Furthermore, Democrats converted four Republican districts in this state alone last year, leaving the GOP with just one congressman from New Jersey’s 12 districts.

As a result of Congressman Van Drew not believing sufficient evidence existed against Trump to warrant an impeachment inquiry, local Democrats are now beginning to stir about a potential primary challenge. Such a move might gain legs if the various county Democratic Party chairmen, powerful officials in New Jersey politics, recommend the party endorsement for a candidate other than their incumbent.

The party-endorsed candidate is given preferential placement to the point where opponents are even listed on a different part of the ballot. Therefore, losing the party endorsement, if that were to occur, is particularly damaging to an incumbent.

The political situation here intensified just three weeks ago in the 2019 elections when Rep. Van Drew’s appointed state Senate successor stood before voters who would choose a more permanent replacement. Despite the Democratic candidates within the legislative district running as “Team Van Drew”, they all lost to Republican opponents. Naturally, this does not help the Congressman should he draw a significant Democratic challenge.

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NY-2: Trump for Congress?

NOTE: Happy Thanksgiving. Our Political Updates will return on Monday, Dec. 2.

By Jim Ellis

Lara Trump

Nov. 27, 2019 — Action about who the Republicans might nominate to succeed retiring New York Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is beginning to simmer, especially since the Club for Growth released a poll of the district’s GOP electorate late last week.

The Club contracted with WPA Intelligence to test Lara Trump, wife of Eric Trump and daughter-in-law of President Trump. Rumors had been surfacing that she might be contemplating running in the 2nd District; hence, the interest in gauging what type of support she might have for such a race. WPAi paired Lara with former congressman, Rick Lazio, who is considering becoming a candidate, in a hypothetical Republican primary. According to their data (Nov. 17-18; 400 likely NY-2 Republican primary voters), Lara Trump would lead Lazio by a whopping 53-19 percent.

The result is not particularly surprising because Donald Trump has a solid Republican base in the district. The WPAi survey finds the president’s favorability ratio at 78:19 percent within this GOP primary voter sample.

In response to the poll, Lara told Breitbart News that she’s, “ … incredibly honored by this showing of support from my fellow New Yorkers. While I would never close the door on anything in the future, right now I am focused on winning a second term for President Trump.” Lara serves as an advisor to the president’s re-election campaign.

So far, Islip Town Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Suffolk County Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota are announced Republican candidates. State Assemblyman Mike LiPetri (R-Massapequa) has formed a congressional exploratory committee and is expected to join the race. Early last week, former Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, and County Legislature Minority Leader Tom Cilmi both said they would not run for the seat.

The Democrats appear to be coalescing around Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, who is a retired Army officer. Gordon had announced a challenge campaign against Rep. King and raised just under $188,000 through the Sept. 30 deadline. The 2018 Democratic nominee, Liuba Grechen Shirley, who held the congressman to a surprisingly close 53-47 percent victory, has already announced that she will not enter the 2020 open seat campaign.

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Super Tuesday Senate Primaries

Super Tuesday 2020 States and Territories; *Important Senate primaries will also be occurring in four states — Texas, Arkansas, Alabama & North Carolina


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 26, 2019 — Super Tuesday is scheduled for March 3, and while the national focus will be on the 14 states and one territory whose electorates will vote in the Democratic presidential nomination contest, important Senate primaries will also be occurring in four states. Five places moved their regular-cycle primary to run concurrently with the early March presidential vote, and four from this group host 2020 Senate campaigns. The lone exception is California.

The Alabama Senate contest has drawn much attention lately since former US Attorney General and ex-Sen. Jeff Sessions has re-emerged as a candidate. His nomination is not a foregone conclusion, however. He faces a significant field of Republican opponents on March 3, all of whom became candidates before he decided to run again.

Along with Sessions, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, former state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 Senate special election nominee Roy Moore, and state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) comprise the credible candidate field.

Polling since Sessions returned to the race suggests that both the former senator and Coach Tuberville would advance to an April 14 run-off, but campaign prime time still remains, and much could change. Though Sessions has a residual base, he is unlikely to win the nomination outright against this field, none of whom have departed the race since his return. Therefore, the eventual nomination victor is still in doubt. The winner will face Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) stands for a second term and currently has no opponent. Democratic businessman and former congressional candidate Josh Mahony had been traveling the state to organize support from local party leaders and became the sole filer at the deadline against Sen. Cotton, but then ended his effort just two hours after submitting his candidate documentation citing family issues. Since the Democrats have no candidate, the party will convene to choose a replacement nominee. Regardless of whom they select, Sen. Cotton looks solid for re-election.

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