Updating Tuesday’s Results

By Jim Ellis

June 25, 2020 — With the Kentucky and New York primary totals still days away from becoming final, there are ways of looking to project an outcome of the close races.

KENTUCKY

Kentucky Senate challenger Amy McGrath (D).

There was some news in Kentucky yesterday as Fayette County, the state’s second-largest local entity, reported its first numbers in the Senate Democratic primary. While only showing about 2,000 total votes counted, 72 percent of the early tallies went state Rep. Charles Booker’s (D-Louisville) way, a rather astonishing occurrence in opponent Amy McGrath’s home county.

You will remember that McGrath ran for the US House in the Fayette County-anchored 6th District in 2018. Therefore, it was expected that the Fayette Senate primary totals would heavily favor her, thus suggesting her 5,104 early statewide vote lead might be sustained. Though just a sliver of the actual votes to come from Fayette are now reported, the fact that Booker would receive such a large share indicates the supposition that McGrath would sweep the county is incorrect.

Even with a low total being reported from Fayette — and that appears to be the only county with newly reported data — the Secretary of State is telling county election administration personnel not to release numbers until June 30. Booker’s statewide deficit is now just 4,066 votes with well over 600,000 votes expected to be added to the various totals.

The vote overlay also boosts Booker’s potential chance of slipping past McGrath when understanding that his home area alone, Jefferson County, could easily wipe out such a small statewide deficit. Jefferson County, which houses Louisville and is Kentucky’s largest local entity, has a population that exceeds 760,000 individuals. Therefore, the expected vote total coming from the locality will be large in proportion to the outstanding number of uncounted ballots. Thus, the race may well be too close to call.

In any event, the big winner of the Democratic primary appears to be incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is now assured of facing a Democratic general election opponent who will come out of their own party primary with a split base, not the way one would want to start a general election campaign against a powerful Senate majority Leader who tends to dominate his state’s politics.
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Primary Results: Many Undecided

By Jim Ellis

June 24, 2020 — Partial returns were reported last night in Kentucky and New York, but it likely will be June 30 before we see even unofficial final totals as both states wait for returning absentee ballots.

In Kentucky, an estimated 625,000 ballots are in the postal system and can take until June 27 to arrive in their respective county counting centers. The secretary of state is allowing the Kentucky counties to not report until June 30 and will not release statewide totals until then. News services, however, were reporting counted numbers.

Trends appear better established in New York, where a greater percentage of the overall vote is most likely counted. New York generally records low primary participation numbers. Most of the races have clear winners, however. Completed totals are reported in North Carolina and Virginia.

The Kentucky Senate Democratic primary, as closing polling predicted, is tight in early counting. Retired Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath leads state Rep. Charles Booker (D-Louisville), but with only a 5,104-vote margin (45-37 percent) among the just under 62,000 votes tabulated. No numbers are reported from the state’s two largest counties, Jefferson and Fayette, the homes of Booker and McGrath, respectively.

At this point, McGrath appears headed toward a close victory but, with so many votes outstanding, it will likely be a full week before we see an official winner declared. On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 87 percent total assures him of re-nomination.

All five of Kentucky congressional Republican incumbents have been re-nominated, as each total between 88-94 percent of the yesterday’s in-person vote. Kentucky is one of 12 states that does not allow early voting. In Rep. John Yarmuth’s (D-Louisville) 3rd District, no numbers have been reported in the Republican primary, but the congressman has been re-nominated because he was unopposed on the Democratic side.

In New York, state Sen. Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) has been projected as the special election winner in the vacant 27th District. Of the totals counted, he topped former Grand Island town supervisor Nate McMurray (D), 69-29 percent. In the concurrent Republican primary for the regular term, Jacobs is capturing 71 percent of the vote to easily win the party nomination for the full term.
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The Unique New York Special;
Other Key Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 23, 2020 — Voters in five states — New York, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia — will cast nomination votes today, and some interesting races are on tap.

NEW YORK

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx), faces challenges from former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and two minor candidates today.

Though the intra-party challenges to Reps. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) have drawn the most political attention, Buffalo area state Sen. Chris Jacobs (R) is embroiled in a unique special congressional election to replace resigned-Rep. Chris Collins (R).

The special wasn’t designed to have such an interesting, and largely confusing format, but a quirk in New York election procedure has caused Jacobs to be campaigning simultaneously before two different electorates. He faces Democratic former Grand Island town supervisor Nate McMurray, who held Rep. Collins to a 48-47 percent victory in 2018 in the special general, and two strong Republican challengers in the regular 2020 primary.

It’s not particularly unusual to see a special election and a regular primary election being run concurrently, but it is strange to see a special general and a regular primary paired. Therefore, this forces Jacobs to campaign closer to the political center, a place where he typically falls, in his battle with McMurray to serve the balance of the current term, while also protecting his right flank against two opponents who are attacking him for being outside the Republican Party mainstream. McMurray has no such problem because he is unopposed on the Democratic side.

The 27th District is vacant because Rep. Collins resigned the seat when pleading guilty to an insider financial trading federal charge. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) scheduled the replacement election on the same day as the regular primary. Since the New York political parties give power to choose replacement nominees to the various county chairmen in the district, there is no special election primary. Therefore, voters only cast one ballot to fill a congressional vacancy.

While Sen. Jacobs needs the Republican rank and file to turn out heavily to support him against McMurray, two GOP candidates not chosen by the party leaders, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato, are consistently hitting him from the right, thus cross pressuring his message to the GOP base.

In the closing days, Parlato, who also carries the Conservative Party ballot line, has launched an additional attack on Jacobs indicating that he’s being investigated for voter fraud. While a citizen charge was filed, the local District Attorney has already dropped the action as having no substantiation. Still, Jacobs’ has had to defend himself on another political front.

The 27th District is an upstate seat that begins in the eastern Buffalo suburbs and extends north all the way to Lake Ontario, and then drops south of Rochester and east as far as the town of Canandaigua. The district includes four whole counties and parts of four others, including Erie and Niagara. It is a reliably Republican district (Trump ’16: 60-35 percent; Romney ’12: 55-43 percent).

The CD did flip to the Democrats, however, the last time a special congressional election was held here. Kathy Hochul, now New York’s lieutenant governor, won the seat in 2011. She was then subsequently defeated in the 2012 regular election by Collins, however.
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Handicapping the Senate

By Jim Ellis

June 22, 2020 — Senate control in the succeeding Congress is a major discussion point in the 24-hour news media and within political circles, therefore it helps to organize an election scorecard.

As we know, Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, but they must risk 23 of their positions in the coming election. Democrats, on the other hand, defend just 12 of their 47 seats. In 2018, the fortunes were reversed as the Dems were forced to protect 26 of the 35 Senate contests in that election year, and the lopsided margin helped Republicans gain two seats and chamber control even in what proved a bad election year for them at the ballot box.

Let’s start with the 2020 safe seats for both parties. To hold the majority with 51 senators, Republicans must win any 21 of the 35 races. We will include those considered as likely winners in this category:

REPUBLICANS:

• Alaska – Dan Sullivan
• Arkansas – Tom Cotton
• Idaho – Jim Risch
• Louisiana – Bill Cassidy
• Mississippi – Cindy Hyde-Smith
• Nebraska – Ben Sasse
• Oklahoma – Jim Inhofe
• South Carolina – Lindsey Graham
• South Dakota – Mike Rounds
• Tennessee – Open Seat (Sen. Lamar Alexander retiring)
• Texas – John Cornyn
• West Virginia – Shelley Moore Capito
• Wyoming – Open Seat (Sen. Mike Enzi retiring)

Total – 13 | Remaining wins needed to reach 51: 8 of 22 contests

Clearly, several incumbents in this category will face competitive races – Lindsey Graham, for example, opposes a Democratic nominee, Jaime Harrison, who has already raised $19 million – but looking at the states’ political trends and incumbent vote history, and considering how the presidential race will affect turnout in each domain, all of the aforementioned GOP officeholders and candidates in the open states will almost assuredly hold in November.

Should any one of these individuals be upset, count on the Democrats winning the majority.

DEMOCRATS:

• Delaware – Chris Coons
• Illinois – Dick Durbin
• Massachusetts – winner of Sen. Ed Markey/Rep. Joe Kennedy Dem primary race
• Minnesota – Tina Smith
• New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen
• New Jersey – Cory Booker
• New Mexico – Open Seat (Sen. Tom Udall retiring)
• Oregon – Jeff Merkley
• Rhode Island – Jack Reed
• Virginia – Mark Warner

Total – 10 | Remaining wins needed to reach 51: 6 of 12 competitive contests

MUST-WINS FOR REPUBLICANS:

• Alabama – GOP nominee must defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D)
Most Recent Poll:
Mason-Dixon (Feb. 4-6) Tommy Tuberville 50%; Sen. Jones 42%
Mason-Dixon (Feb. 4-6) Jeff Sessions 54%; Sen. Jones 41%

Total – 14 | remaining GOP wins needed to reach 51: 7 of 11 competitive contests
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NY-16: Poll Finds Rep. Engel Trailing

Jamaal Bowman campaign-financed attack ad example against veteran Rep. Eliot Engel, hitting him for remaining in Maryland during the rise in COVID-19 cases and then only returning to the district when his political position became endangered


By Jim Ellis

June 19, 2020 — An internal poll for New York Congressional District 16 challenger Jamaal Bowman suggests we could see an upset in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

As the race between Bowman, a former middle school principal, and veteran Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) becomes more contentious and competitive, the challenger’s campaign this week publicized the results of their recent Data for Progress survey (released June 17; 525 NY-16 likely Democratic primary voters). The poll projects Bowman as establishing a clear lead over Rep. Engel, who was first elected to the House in 1988 after spending the previous 12 years in the New York state Assembly.

The DfP data shows Bowman holding a 41-31 percent lead over Congressman Engel in the closing days of the Democratic primary. When asked of the 27 percent who responded that they were still undecided, 40 percent of those individuals indicated they were leaning toward Bowman as compared to just 18 percent who said the same of Rep. Engel. Adding leaners to the secondary ballot test produces a substantial 52-36 percent advantage for Bowman.

The Engel campaign questions the accuracy of the Data for Progress survey because the questionnaire only gave respondents the choice of Bowman and Rep. Engel, even though two other candidates are also on the primary ballot.

Looking deeper at the data, Bowman leads Rep. Engel 56-10 percent among African Americans and 37-29 percent among Hispanics. Rep. Engel maintains an advantage with white voters, 52-30 percent. The district’s Citizen Voting Age population segments as 43.1 percent white, 31.2 percent black, and 20.0 percent Hispanic.

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