Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Susan Brooks represented Indiana’s 5th District, a reliably Republican district over the years.

June 18, 2019 — The 2019-20 House open seat count reached double-digits as Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) announced late last week that she would not seek a fifth term next year.

With Brooks retiring and Montana at-large Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) announcing that he will run for governor, the open seat count grows to 10 including the two North Carolina special congressional elections that will be filled on Sept. 10.

Most news outlets were reporting the Brooks announcement as a surprise, in large part because she chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee’s candidate recruitment operation. But, rumors of Brooks moving on from the House have circulated before, and she did attempt to become governor when incumbent Mike Pence left office after being selected as Donald Trump’s running mate. There was also speculation that she could leave the House next year in order to run for state attorney general.

Immediately after Pence left his Hoosier State gubernatorial re-election effort to campaign for vice president, an Indiana Republican Party committee was empowered to choose a new gubernatorial nominee. Rep. Brooks, along with fellow US Rep. Todd Rokita, declared for the special nomination, but the party committee members instead chose then-Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb who would go onto win the general election and now stands for re-election in 2020.

Rep. Brooks says her retirement decision is primed because of a desire to begin devoting her life to interests outside of politics. She will, however, continue in her NRCC role to lead the party’s recruitment apparatus in serving the balance of this current term.

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California Already Tightening

By Jim Ellis

June 17, 2019 — A new large-sample Golden State poll released from the University of California at Berkeley and the Los Angeles Times (June 4-10; 2,131 likely California Democratic primary voters from a pool of 4,435 registered voters) yields some surprising results. The three most unexpected findings first show a tight race among the four top contenders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) surging into second place, and home-state Sen. Kamala Harris only finishing fourth but not substantially behind.

The California primary, scheduled for March 3, possesses the largest number of first-ballot delegates of any state or territory. The state’s 416 first-ballot delegates, 272 of whom are divided among the 53 congressional districts and 144 at-large, will certainly help set the tone over how the Democratic National Convention unfolds.

Sen. Harris, who could well be the indicator candidate as to what scenario will occur at the convention, (i.e., will one candidate be able to coalesce a majority coalition on the first or second ballot or does the nomination battle fall into a multi-ballot contest) must score big in her home state, and this latest survey suggests her path is challenging but doable.

The Berkeley/LA Times study sees former Vice President Joe Biden holding a smaller lead than in past surveys, as he polls 22 percent first-choice responses. Sen. Warren makes a major jump into second place and records 18 percent, one of her best showings in any poll. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has been dipping in polling across the country, places third at 17 percent, and Sen. Harris trails in fourth position, but is still clearly in the game at 13 percent.

Polling from around the country within the last 10 days, and this California study is obviously no exception, has been projecting a tighter Democratic race. Though Biden still leads, his advantage is lessening.

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Nevada Surprises

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) moving up in Nevada

June 14, 2019 — Monmouth University just released their Nevada survey (June 6-11; 370 likely Nevada Democratic caucus attenders from a pool of 1,333 registered Democratic and unaffiliated voters) and it contained two major surprises.

First, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is beginning to show signs of upward mobility after being stagnant since her campaign’s inception, moves into the runner-up position in the Silver State and, second, neighboring Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) fares poorly in an early voting venue where she needs to succeed.

The Monmouth data projects former Vice President Joe Biden to be leading the pack of candidates, as in almost every current poll, with 36 percent preference and Sen. Warren follows with 19 percent, ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who drops to 13 percent. Sen. Harris then places fifth with just six percent support, and one point behind South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Monmouth then asked the second-choice question. Within these responses, the candidates are closely bunched. Here, it is Sen. Warren who leads with 15 percent, but the group is so close that a statistical tie among the top four is the best way to categorize the answers. After Sen. Warren, Sen. Sanders posts 14 percent, while Sen. Harris performs better than on the initial ballot test, tying Biden at 13 percent.

The Nevada Caucus, even though it holds only 36 first-ballot delegates, is an important momentum builder. Placed third on the nomination calendar, Nevada follows the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary, respectively. It is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22, and exactly a week before the South Carolina primary.

Nevada is important for Sen. Harris because she is unlikely to do particularly well in either Iowa or New Hampshire. She is expected to be one of the top finishers, if not the winner, in South Carolina, so a strong performance in Nevada is critical to give her some needed momentum in order to maximize her chances in the Palmetto State.

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Is Michigan Rep. Justin Amash
Seeking a Political Exit Strategy Should He Run for President?

By Jim Ellis

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids)

June 13, 2019 — The Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS) released an independent poll just a couple days ago from the Practical Political Consultants organization (June 5-9; 335 likely MI-3 Republican primary voters) that finds western Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids) trailing his announced 3rd Congressional District Republican primary opponent, state Rep. James Lower (R-Greenville), by a lopsided 49-33 percent count.

After Rep. Amash became the only Republican to side with the Democrats’ informal impeachment caucus over whether to bring proceedings against President Trump, speculation became more rampant that the five-term Michigan congressman would seek the Libertarian nomination for president. The new poll and his action earlier in the week of resigning from the Freedom Caucus and its leadership fuels more speculation that he will jump into the presidential contest.

Many are arguing that Amash would have an effect upon the national election to the point of potentially costing President Trump victory, or at the very least, the state of Michigan, but such an outcome is far from determined.

The Libertarian presidential nomination has some value in that the party can qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It is the only political entity aside from the Republican and Democratic parties that has such an ability. Jill Stein, the 2016 and 2012 Green Party presidential nominee, appeared on the ballot in 45 and 38 states, respectively.

However, just how much of a factor are the individuals who represent the minor parties on the presidential ballot? Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson was the Libertarian nominee in both 2016 and 2012. He has already said he will not be a candidate in 2020. In 2012, his national vote total was 1.27 million. Four years later, his aggregate vote number soared to just under 4.5 million. But, was that due to Johnson himself, or is the Libertarian ballot position, regardless of the candidate’s name associated with it, simply the best place for disaffected voters to cast a ballot?

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2020 Open House Seats Review

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2019 — Since the last national redistricting completed in 2011 for the 2012 election cycle, we have seen 222 US House seats come open, for a mean average of 55.5 per cycle during the eight-year period. Prior to this decade, the average House open seat factor was typically closer to 35.

In 2012, reflective of the new reapportionment from the 2010 census, the House featured 62 open seats. This was followed by 47 more in 2014, another 49 in 2016, and finally 64 opens in the 2018 election cycle.

So far in this current 2020 election cycle, the exodus syndrome appears to be winding down as we see only nine districts now opening, assuming that Montana at-large Rep. Greg Gianforte follows through with his stated plans to announce his gubernatorial campaign later this week. One open district, PA-12, was already filled at the end of May as Republican Rick Keller replaced resigned Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport).

Below is a listing of the nine seats and the preliminary replacement outlook:


Special Elections – Sept. 10, 2019

NC-3: Rep. Walter Jones (R) – passed away Feb. 10, 2019
The Republicans are in a run-off election that will be decided on July 9. Participants are state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) and physician Joan Perry of Kinston. The winner faces Democratic nominee Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville. The eventual GOP nominee will begin the special general election as a heavy favorite for a seat that has been in Republican hands since 1995.


NC-9: Vacancy, non-declaration of 2018 election winner due to alleged voter fraud
Both parties nominated outright in this special election. Democrats feature 2018 nominee Dan McCready, who ran unopposed in the special primary. Republicans nominated outright state Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), who captured 48 percent of the vote in a crowded Republican primary. A minimum total of 30 percent was needed to win outright nomination and avoid a run-off. Two polls have been released, both showing the race in toss-up mode with each candidate leading in one of the surveys.


Regular-Cycle Open Seats

AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) running for Senate
With the Republican presidential nominee topping 60 percent of the vote here in the past three national elections, including President Trump attracting 63.5 percent, the Republicans will be in strong position to hold this seat. With candidate filing coming on Nov. 8 for the March 3 primary, the field of four announced candidates could swell to as many as 10 before the filing cycle concludes. No Democrat has yet come forward to declare.


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