Tag Archives: Arizona

Arizona Politics in Flux

By Jim Ellis

May 16, 2017 — The Grand Canyon State is looking to be a focal point for the 2018 election cycle. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) stands for re-election amid poor approval numbers within his own Republican Party vote base, while an interesting movement is occurring in what promises to be a competitive re-election effort for 2nd District sophomore Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-Tucson).

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

The Democrats have a fundamental non-correctable problem facing them in the 2018 US Senate cycle. That is, they must defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats with arguably only two conversion targets. In Nevada, which should be their top opportunity, Republican Sen. Dean Heller has yet to even draw a serious opponent, though it is still early. Therefore, the impending Arizona contest, highlighted by the public feud between Sen. Flake and then-candidate Donald Trump, becomes a more viable Democratic target than one would normally surmise based solely upon Arizona voting history.

The Senate race has already drawn early cycle attention, generally involving potential statewide candidate Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), the 9th District congresswoman. Seeing her raise almost $700,000 in the first quarter and holding $2.8 million in her campaign account was commonly interpreted as amassing funds for a statewide campaign.

Within the past 10 days, while being interviewed on a Phoenix radio show, Rep. Sinema indicated that she is running for re-election, seemingly removing herself from a Senate race. A day later her spokesperson claimed that nothing had changed and Sinema could well run statewide.

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Flake Dodges Political Bullet

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2017 — Arizona US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announced at the end of last week in a Phoenix radio interview her intention to seek re-election next year, meaning she will not become a US Senate candidate.

Most observers believed she would be the strongest Democrat to oppose first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R), and her robust first-quarter fundraising activity seemed to suggest she had something in mind beyond simply securing what was once a politically marginal district.

In the quarter, Rep. Sinema raised just short of $678,000, and holds a whopping $2.8 million cash-on-hand. This latter number is one million dollars more than even Sen. Flake’s reported total. The senator was more aggressive in the first quarter, however, raising $1.3 million in 2017’s opening months, but began with less in his campaign account.

Sinema backing away from a Senate challenge doesn’t mean Sen. Flake is home free, however. His intra-party battle scars from a national feud with then-candidate and later Republican nominee Donald Trump have not fully healed, so the senator harbors some GOP primary vulnerability at the very least. And, a wounded incumbent moving into the general election from a state with the capability of electing someone from the other party is not a scenario the national Republican Party leadership wants to see.

Currently, the senator’s announced primary opposition — former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held veteran Sen. John McCain to a 51.2 – 39.9 percent Republican primary win in 2016 — has little in the way of assets with which to oppose Flake. According to her 1st quarter financial disclosure report, Ward raised $168,369 and has just under $104,000 in her campaign account.

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against  first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Ward is not Sen. Flake’s chief potential Republican threat, however. Waiting in the wings is state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who has not yet entered the Senate race, but already has announced that he will not seek re-election to his current position. DeWit was President Trump’s Arizona campaign chairman, which could make this race all the more interesting if he were to become a Senate candidate.

Still, Sen. Flake’s electoral obstacles would not be in his rear-view mirror even if he only faces Ward in the primary and easily defeats her. With Rep. Sinema now out of the Senate race, a name moving up the Democratic potential candidate chart is state representative and doctor Randall Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who operated on former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) and saved her life from what easily could have been a mortal gunshot wound.

Several years after the Giffords surgery, Dr. Friese (left) decided to enter politics and was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2014, and then re-elected last November. He is now the body’s assistant minority leader. In addition to being an active trauma surgeon, the doctor is a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

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House Financials as Predictors

By Jim Ellis

April 19, 2017
— As we all know, actions speak louder than words. The US House first quarter campaign finance reports (through March 31, 2017) were publicized Monday and, tracking those members who have publicly indicated at least some interest in declaring a Senate challenge, we now have some tangible information to gauge which individuals might be serious about making a statewide run. A look below at the Senate incumbent and House challenger(s):

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
• Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix)
   $677,542 raised; $136,496 spent; $2,804,679 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Sinema has failed to confirm rumors that she is planning to run for Senate or governor. Considering that incumbent Sen. Flake is appearing in a more vulnerable state than Gov. Doug Ducey (R), it is more reasonable to think that a Sinema Senate challenge is the more likely. The congresswoman’s aggressive early campaign fundraising and already reaching just short of the $3 million mark in cash-on-hand makes her a very serious potential challenger.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
• Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Okeechobee)
   $73,552 raised; $59,359 spent; $84,848 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Rooney indicated several times that he has not closed the door on challenging Sen. Nelson. With little fundraising effort in the first quarter and Gov. Rick Scott (R) positioning himself for a Senate challenge, the financial numbers confirm that Rep. Rooney will not enter the statewide race.

Indiana: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)
• Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg)
   $706,414 raised; $136,418 spent; $1,620,394 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
• Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg)
   $321,166 raised; $88,501 spent; $1,548,229 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Both congressmen Messer and Rokita have impressive campaign accounts and are well positioned financially to launch a challenge against Sen. Donnelly. Messer has been the more aggressive early fundraiser, but it is conceivable that both could enter the Senate race.

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New Apportionment Patterns

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2017 — The Census Bureau released new population estimate data at the end of last week, and their information about the largest growth areas and places losing the most residents helps us project how the states will change in congressional representation. With almost four years remaining until reapportionment occurs at the end of 2020, much can still change, but the current population shift patterns provide some early clues as to what may be the future state gain/loss formula.

According to the Bureau’s new estimates, Maricopa County (Arizona) ended 2016 as the nation’s largest growing local entity replacing Harris County (Texas), which had been in the first position for the last eight consecutive years. The population estimates show that the Phoenix area gained 81,360 people from July 1, 2015 to the same date one year later. The Houston area net resident total increased 56,587 during the same period.

The calculations analyze the natural increase (number of births outpacing the number of deaths), net domestic migration, meaning those who move from one part of America to another, and net international migration figures (those coming from other countries). Maricopa County’s totals meant that an average of 222 new people came to or were born in the domain each and every day during the 2015-2016 yearly midpoints.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.

• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.

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Flake Still Trailing
in Arizona Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 15, 2017 — Just after the Nov. 8 election, Remington Research conducted a Republican voters’ statewide Arizona survey (Nov. 15-16; 1,122 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device), as we previously covered, and found Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to be in trouble … in his own primary. Now, a new poll seems to confirm Flake’s weakness.

The previous data showed the incumbent trailing state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), 42-33 percent, in a hypothetical Republican primary. The same sample found former state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward tied with Flake, 35-35 percent. Ward attracted 40 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain in the 2016 Republican US Senate primary. In a three-way race, DeWit led Flake and Ward, 38-30-15 percent, respectively. Perhaps most disconcerting for the senator was his favorability index among the Republican sample group, 30:49 percent favorable to unfavorable.

Now comes a new Political Marketing International poll (Feb. 7; 921 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device) that again brings warning signs to Sen. Flake. According to this current data, Flake actually trails Ward, 23-30 percent. DeWit, who has not committed to run for Senate though he did announce that he’ll retire as state treasurer, was not tested in this particular poll.

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More Races Called

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 10, 2016 — As outstanding and absentee votes continue to be tallied, more races are being decided. Yesterday’s biggest development was concluding the year long toss-up battle between New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) in what proved to be a laboriously slow counting process. With the election dust finally settling, we now see a victory for Gov. Hassan. From more than 707,000 votes cast, her unofficial victory margin appears to be just 716 votes.

Sen. Ayotte’s loss means the Republican majority margin will likely end at 52-48, since the Dec. 10 Louisiana run-off election will probably yield a John Kennedy (R) win. Kennedy, the four-term state treasurer, placed first on Tuesday night in a field of 24 candidates followed by Democrat Foster Campbell, a Louisiana public service commissioner and multiple-time statewide candidate.

This isn’t an easy race for Kennedy, however. Often, after one party wins a national election an emotional let down can occur in a quick subsequent vote, and a lack of enthusiasm allows the losing party to rebound. Additionally, we merely have to retreat to October 2015 to find the last time the Democrats won a Louisiana statewide election (governor’s campaign: John Bel Edwards-D defeated Sen. David Vitter-R).

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Still Not Over

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2016 — Though the Granite State of New Hampshire possesses only four electoral votes, it can potentially end as the most critical entity in Tuesday’s presidential election, at least according to Donald Trump’s recent comments. After Hillary Clinton had been maintaining a discernible lead here since the national conventions concluded, four new polls are now projecting New Hampshire going back into the toss-up range.

If Trump is to make a final run at national victory, he must first lock down all 23 states that normally vote Republican in a presidential contest. With his standing improving in Utah and Arizona, this initial objective appears within his grasp. After securing the base, he must win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, and then one more state. Therefore, his victory path is still difficult to attain.

The new American Research Group (Oct. 31-Nov. 2; 600 likely New Hampshire voters) and WBUR-MassINC study (Oct. 29-Nov. 1; 500 likely New Hampshire voters) studies provide Trump with some surprisingly good Granite State news. New Hampshire-based ARG sees a 48-43-4-1 percent Trump advantage over Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, while MassINC projects the Republican taking a 40-39-10-3 percent lead as Johnson actually touches double digits. The Boston Globe/Suffolk University data (Oct. 31-Nov. 2; 500 NH likely voters) finds the two tied at 42 percent apiece. The UMass Lowell poll (Oct. 28-Nov. 2; 695 likely New Hampshire voters) also sees a 42-42-5-2 percent tie. All of this portends a major swing in Trump’s favor.

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Senate Still in Limbo

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 3, 2016 — Entering the last week of campaigning, the Democrats are on the cusp of re-claiming the Senate majority they lost in 2014, but virtually no competitive outcome is yet secure.

The latest Hillary Clinton email revelations may cause irregular Republican turnout to increase, which should help the GOP Senate candidates. A demoralized Republican voter base, thinking that Donald Trump would have no chance to prevail against Clinton, is about the only way Democrats could have gained a wave effect, but that is no longer expected.

It appears that nine of 10 Democratic in-cycle states will remain in party control. Only Nevada is competitive on their side of the ledger. Republicans look to have 15 safe seats of their own, with another five: Arizona (Sen. John McCain), Iowa (Sen. Chuck Grassley), Georgia (Sen. Johnny Isakson), Florida (Sen. Marco Rubio) and Ohio (Sen. Rob Portman) all trending either strongly or nominally their way.

Democrats are in favorable position to convert incumbent Republican states in Illinois (Rep. Tammy Duckworth-D, unseating Sen. Mark Kirk-R) and Wisconsin (former Sen. Russ Feingold-D, re-claiming the seat he lost to Sen. Ron Johnson-R in 2010), in addition to being favored in the open Indiana seat (former Sen. Evan Bayh-D ahead of Rep. Todd Young-R).

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Early Voting: Definitive?

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 31, 2016 — Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have some form of what is commonly called “no excuse” early voting, and some of those release the number and type of ballots being returned well before Election Day. Can this provide us an insight into how the election is already unfolding?

There are many analytical pieces now in the public domain featuring many different conclusions. It doesn’t appear likely, however, that the early voting numbers are really telling us much. It appears that no matter what your electoral preference, you can find an early voting analysis that supports your individual political outlook.

Therefore, with so many more voters projected to take advantage of the early voting process, it’s difficult to make comparisons between this election and those from the past. It is likely that either a majority of 2016 voters, or close to one, will cast their ballots prior to the actual Nov. 8 Election Day, up from approximately 40 percent in the last presidential election.

Forty states have some type of no-excuse early voting procedure, including every individual entity west of the Mississippi River. Six states: Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia, technically allow early voting, but one must indicate a coming absence from the home area during the Election Day period in order to cast an early ballot.

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Pressure Point Races

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 26, 2016 — It is widely believed that Republicans will keep the House majority in the Nov. 8 election, though Democrats will gain seats. Determining the party division change level is a point of conjecture, however.

Most believe Democrats will gain between 12-15 seats. More optimistic party strategists think they could top 20 districts. Taking the majority would require a net of more than 30 seats, because it also appears a small number of seats are poised to convert to the Republicans.

The Donald Trump presidential scenario continues to unfold, and while some polls actually show him creeping closer on the national popular vote track (Tied – IBD/TIPP, Oct. 18-23, 815 likely US voters; Trump +2 – Rasmussen Reports, Oct. 19-23, 1,500 likely US voters), the all-important state numbers continue to project Hillary Clinton leading in the critical states of Florida and Nevada, while the North Carolina numbers bounce about. Understanding that Trump needs all of the aforementioned states – not to mention each of the 23 normally Republican states, and he has trouble at least in Utah and Arizona – his victory prospects continue to dim daily.

The question looming over the down-ballot races is whether Republican turnout will be demoralized to the point of allowing Democrats to form a wave even though they are following an unpopular Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket.

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More Senate Movement

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 25, 2015 — Entering the final two weeks of campaigning, the Senate majority is still in limbo even though Hillary Clinton is breaking away in the presidential campaign.

Republicans hope to hold the Senate largely by relying on taking a majority of independent voters and banking on a significant group of ticket-splitters. Though partisanship has been at all-time high levels among self-identified voters of both parties, the Republicans believe this year is different because Clinton, despite building what appears to be an unstoppable majority in the presidential campaign, may have very short coattails.

The fact that her overall favorability numbers are still upside-down creates the highly unusual situation of people voting for someone who they ostensibly don’t like. Therefore, it is unlikely a Democratic wave election will occur around someone whose negatives exceed her positives. Thus, the argument to balance the presidential outcome by voting Republican for the Senate and House may be a salient one.

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The Latest Trends

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 24, 2016 — With the presidential race appearing just about wrapped up, the Senate races are taking the center stage for competitiveness. Some of the races are changing.

The first section identifies competitive races that now appear set:

Arizona – Sen. John McCain (R) now looks to be a strong bet for re-election, as he leads Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in all polling. Additionally, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has pulled its media money, sending it to other states.

Illinois – Sen. Mark Kirk (R) appears in no position to overcome the strong Democratic trends that he faces. Therefore, Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Hoffman Estates) advantage should hold through Election Day, and she will become the new senator when the Congress convenes in January.

Iowa – Veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) continues to cement his lead over Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D). Neither party is emphasizing the race and the only October poll recorded (Des Moines Register/Selzer & Company; Oct. 3-6; 642 likely Iowa voters) again projects Sen. Grassley’s lead as approaching 20 points (53-36 percent).

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The Senate Reset

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 20, 2016 — It’s now inside of three weeks before the election, and hearing leaders of both parties claim they could control the Senate in the next Congress, it’s time to take a step back and see where the candidates actually stand.

To re-cap, Republicans are risking 24 seats as compared to the Democrats’ 10. In order to re-capture the majority they lost in 2014, the Dems must retain all 10 of their defensive seats, and then convert at least four Republican states if Hillary Clinton is elected president and five if she is not.

The Democrats appear safe in nine of their 10 seats: California (open-Barbara Boxer), Colorado (Michael Bennet), Connecticut (Richard Blumenthal), Hawaii (Brian Schatz), Maryland (open-Barbara Mikulski), New York (Chuck Schumer), Oregon (Ron Wyden), Vermont (Patrick Leahy), and Washington (Patty Murray).

The Republicans appear headed for victory in 14 of their defensive states: Alabama (Richard Shelby), Alaska (Lisa Murkowski), Arkansas (John Boozman), Georgia (Johnny Isakson), Idaho (Mike Crapo), Iowa (Chuck Grassley), Kansas (Jerry Moran), Kentucky (Rand Paul), North Dakota (John Hoeven), Ohio (Rob Portman), Oklahoma (James Lankford), South Carolina (Tim Scott), South Dakota (John Thune), and Utah (Mike Lee).

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Predicting a Wave

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13, 2016 — Democrats are attempting to get atop of what they perceive as a growing wave in response to Donald Trump’s potential collapse, but they are missing several components necessary to creating such an outcome.

During the past two days Democratic leaders and strategists have begun to predict a landslide Hillary Clinton win, a majority in the US Senate, and now an impending wave large enough to carry their House candidates to success.

In the Senate, as we know, Democrats need to hold all 10 of their in-cycle seats, and then convert at least four Republican states to re-capture the majority. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana all look like impending Democratic victories. Nevada Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), in the one state Democrats are risking, continues to hold a small lead but his advantage over former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is tenuous.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) are both highly vulnerable and could easily lose, as could North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R). Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) sees better trends developing in his state at the presidential level, but Democrats are using a strong performance in the open governor’s race as a potential springboard to unseating the one-term senator and former US House Majority Whip. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) look to be stemming the adverse tide. But, all of the aforementioned races could easily change one way or the other in the final four weeks.

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