Tag Archives: California

House: Opening with a Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris

Jan. 7, 2019 — When the new House of Representatives convened last week, they did so with only 434 voting members, not 435, as the situation in North Carolina’s 9th District remains unresolved.

To recap, Republican Mark Harris scored an apparent 905-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready on election night, but the results remain uncertified due to what a majority of Board of Elections panel members are citing as voting irregularities in one county. The panel is scheduled to next meet this Friday, Jan. 11th, and organizing a new election is the likely resolution.

Previously, the Board only had the power to order a rerun of the general election. Hence, the subsequent election would have included only Harris, McCready, and Libertarian Jeff Scott. Considering the media hit that Harris has received over the election irregularity controversy, his chances of winning the rerun are slim. (He hired the Red Dome Consulting firm, which contracted with the individual accused of orchestrating the ballot harvesting operation, McCrae Dowless, the vice chairman of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation Board.)

Therefore, with Republicans controlling the legislature, they quickly constructed a legislative package that would give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper largely what he wanted in naming a new Board of Elections panel, while changing the post-election law to allow open primaries. This would give the GOP the opportunity of replacing Harris in the general election.

The legislature quickly passed the reform package at the end of the year with an overwhelming margin, because most Democrats voted for the bill as it included their much-wanted Board of Elections changes. The legislation was sent to Gov. Cooper with veto-proof majorities in both houses.

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Apportionment Projections:
Who is Gaining, Who is Losing

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 3, 2019 — Late last year, we covered the new Census Bureau report for the states gaining and losing population during the past 12-month period. Now, we see the agency’s latest just-released numbers for the decade through this past July. Armed with the new data, outside mathematicians have made apportionment projections to provide a more defined picture as to which states will be gaining or losing US House seats in the 2020 post-census reapportionment.

With two years remaining in the present decade, trends can still change and we must remember that the reapportionment formula is complex, but the new projections give us a strong idea as to just how many seats, give or take a small variance, will transfer. At this point, according to the Washington, DC-based Election Data Services, it appears that as many as 22 seats could change location affecting 17 states.

Texas, having gained 3.55 million people since the 2010 census, looks to be adding as many as three seats for the 2022 elections and beyond. This will give the Lone Star State 39 seats during the next decade, and 41 electoral votes in the succeeding presidential elections.

Florida was the second largest gainer with just under 2.5 million new residents, meaning the Sunshine State will likely gain two seats, going from 27 to 29. In terms of raw numbers, California gained more than 2.3 million people, but it actually dropped a tenth of a point below the national growth average of 6.3 percent for the past eight years. This means the Golden State is currently on the hook to actually lose a district for the first time in history.

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What to Expect

We’re back after going dark briefly over the Christmas holiday. (No, just in case you were wondering, we’re not part of the government shutdown.) We trust that you are rested, recharged and ready for the new year and the ever-evolving political developments that will come.

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 2, 2019 — We kick off a new calendar and political year looking at several anticipated events. On the presidential front, we can expect several candidate announcements coming in January, along with a changing primary/caucus schedule. Additionally, some close losing congressional candidates are already declaring they want a re-match.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began the new year by forming a presidential exploratory committee and stating that she would begin her potential national campaign with a four-city information-gathering tour in Iowa, site of the first presidential votes scheduled for early February of 2020.

Four potential Democratic candidates are reportedly close to hiring key personnel either as national managers or Iowa state leaders. Aside from Sen. Warren, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), are apparently poised to make staffing announcements possibly within the first two weeks of this new month and year.

An imminent presidential candidacy declaration is expected from former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro (D-TX), who formed an exploratory committee in early December. Rumors in Texas abound, however, that while Castro may begin to compete in the presidential race he could pivot out of the national campaign and into a US Senate challenge against Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) if he fails to gain traction.

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Two House Races Still Not Decided

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 6, 2018 — Two House races are still not finalized, with one possibly headed for a new election. In California, action is still not complete now almost a month after Election Day. Democrat T.J. Cox leads Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) by 843 votes in the 21st District with an undetermined number of ballots remaining to be counted. It does appear that Cox will be declared the winner, but the election officials actually doing finalizing the race still have not done so.

In North Carolina, the state Board of Elections has blocked certifying Republican Mark Harris’ victory over Democratic businessman Dan McCready in the state’s open 9th District. The seat went to open status after the North Carolina primary in May when Harris, formerly a Baptist pastor, upset Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) in the Republican primary.

Ironically, a practice referred to as “ballot harvesting” appears to be at the heart of the California political overtime races and this one suspended result in North Carolina. Ballot harvesting is the act of an individual gathering absentee ballots from voters, bundling them together, and turning them over to election officers for counting purposes. In California, ballot harvesting is now legal. In North Carolina, it is not.

In the Golden State, the Valadao district is the last to turn. In five other seats, all Republican held, the GOP candidate led through Election Day and mail counting, only to see the tables turn when provisional ballots were added. Statewide, almost 2 million votes were in this category, so an average of approximately 35,000 such votes were present in most congressional districts.

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Looks Like the House Settles at 235

California Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 29, 2018 — The 2018 House election cycle is finally drawing to a close, and it looks like the Democrats are gaining their 40th conversion seat. Monday night in California, as the state’s marathon vote counting process meanders on, Democratic challenger T.J. Cox overtook Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) and may well be headed toward victory.

Rep. Valadao, who had earlier been projected as the winner, trails his opponent by 438 votes, but the counting is still not complete. New votes were counted in Kern County that greatly favored Cox, allowing him to take the lead for the first time.

The California counting system literally takes weeks because the state allows voters to postmark their mail ballots on Election Day, and the counties only process ballots on certain days. The 21st District is split among four counties, so it is difficult to know exactly how many mail, overseas, and provisional ballots still remain since the numbers are only released by complete county domain.

It is probable that we will not have a final result until next week because Kern won’t release more totals until Monday. The remaining counties: Fresno, Kings, and Tulare, should record their final numbers this week.

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Florida Ends; Others Called

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 20, 2018 — In a final result where the candidates were divided by less than two votes per precinct statewide, Gov. Rick Scott (R) defeated Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in the hotly contested Florida Senate race that proved a Herculean battle both before and after the election.

With the original vote falling within a half-percent margin, a mandatory machine recount commenced. Since it produced a separation of less than one-quarter percent between the two candidates, a mandatory hand recount began of the “under and “over votes”, i.e., those ballots where a voter either didn’t make their selection clear or appears to have marked more than one contender in the same contest.

Yesterday, when the afternoon hand count deadline produced a 10,033 vote margin for Gov. Scott, Sen. Nelson conceded the race and ended the seven lawsuits that had been filed by various parties contesting pools of votes and the post-election counting process.

The senator now completes a political career in which he served in elective office for 42 of the past 46 years as a state representative, US congressman, state insurance commissioner, and US senator. Counting his combined time in the House and Senate, Nelson will have served 30 years as a federal lawmaker when he leaves office in January.

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Rep. Marcia Fudge Emerges

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 16, 2018 — While Republicans chose their leadership team yesterday with little in the way of surprise as California Rep. Kevin McCarthy was easily elected to lead the new GOP minority, the bigger news surrounds former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) internal campaign to return to the House’s top post.

Also, yesterday the Huffington Post news website released the list of 17 Democrats, including five freshmen (one still in an uncalled race), who say they will not support Pelosi for Speaker.

The number is significant. If the House final party division margin breaks 233-202, the group, if they all follow through and don’t vote for Pelosi on the first roll call, would be enough to keep her from gaining majority support. Pelosi is still favored to become Speaker, but her road to the office is appearing a bit rockier than perceived immediately after the Democrats officially clinched the new House majority.

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More House Calls

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 13, 2018 — While two key Senate races in Florida and Arizona as well as the Georgia governor’s campaign remain languishing in a situation rife with uncounted votes and complaints about election officials, progress is being made with outstanding House races.

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-480

Two of the nine congressional races were called over the weekend, one for each party. Looking at the trends in the remaining seven, it appears the Democrats’ final conversion number may now approach 40.

In California, 15-term Rep. Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has gone down to defeat at the hands of businessman Harley Rouda (D). Though thousands of votes remain to be counted, a projection has been made in Rouda’s favor. Three more California races still remain uncalled, however, and a final result could still consume days if not weeks.

Rep. Rohrabacher fell into trouble in what should be a strong Republican district with stories about how the congressman was making favorable statements toward Russian president Vladimir Putin and being close to some Russian officials. The FBI warned Rohrabacher that the Kremlin had even assigned him a code name. Republicans, concerned about his actions, curtailed his role as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

Rohrabacher signaled his political trouble when he scored only 30.3 percent of the vote in the state’s jungle primary, even though he finished first in a pool of 16 candidates. Rouda, placing second by just 125 votes, which allowed him to advance into the general election, was able to overwhelm the congressman in campaign funding. The Democrat’s campaign spent over $7 million, including $2 million from his personal finances, as compared to about $2.5 million for Rohrabacher.

Turning to North Carolina, Baptist former pastor Mark Harris (R) has successfully held the open 9th District Republican seat, as he defeated businessman Dan McCready (D). Harris has been projected to win with an approximately 2,000-vote margin (49.4 – 48.8 percent), and overcame a better than 1:2 ratio in campaign spending.

It appears McCready will spend close to, or over, $5 million in his losing effort as compared to Harris spending in the $2 million range. In the Republican primary, Harris unseated three-term Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), but he managed to hold what became a competitive seat in the general election.

The 9th District begins in the Charlotte metropolitan area and then stretches along the South Carolina border all the way to the Fayetteville suburbs. McCready, a business owner, was one of the Democratic candidates saying he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, even going so far as to making the statement in his campaign ads.

The remaining uncalled offices are:

CA-10 (Rep. Jeff Denham (R) now trailing Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder)
CA-39 (former Assemblywoman Young Kim (R) leading retired Naval officer and lottery winner Gil Cisneros (D)
CA-45 (Rep. Mimi Walters (R) leading Democratic law professor Katie Porter)
GA-7 (Rep. Rob Woodall (R) leading former state legislative committee staff director Caroyln Bourdeaux (D)
ME-2 (Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) vs. Democratic state Rep. Jared Golden – see NOTE below)
NJ-3 (Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) trailing former National Security Council official Andy Kim (D)
UT-4 (Rep. Mia Love (R) trailing Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams)

All of these races have a greater number of outstanding and uncounted ballots than the current margins, and thus each could still turnaround.

NOTE: In the Maine district, it appears that Rep. Poliquin will likely finish ahead of Golden but will not attain majority support. In previous years, this would have elected Poliquin, as it would in almost every other state, but Maine’s new ranked voting instant run-off system will likely flip the result to Golden. Therefore, we can expect continued counting and much legal wrangling to occur until this final result is recorded.

More Election Eve Updates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 8, 2018 — According to a CBS News report quoting University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the United States Election Project, more than 113 million people voted in the 2018 midterm election, the first time turnout exceed the 100 million mark.

With voter participation approaching a majority of the eligible voting population for the first time since 1966, we see a continued increase in voter participation. The 2018 midterm is among the three top off-year elections with the highest turnout rate in the past 118 years. This high voting trend has largely been in effect since the 2000 election, though the 2014 midterm proved an exception with very low turnout.

Carrying through from media projections of uncalled races, it appears the Democrats will see a net gain of 31 seats, not counting the California races that still have millions of votes to tabulate. An incumbent race featuring New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) appears to be flipping back and forth in final counting.

The Golden State features an election system where at least 75 percent of the people vote through the mail and they allow ballots to be postmarked on Election Day. Therefore, it will be a couple of full weeks before we know the final totals in what appears to be five congressional contests that are still undecided, all in current Republican seats. It is probable that the Democrats will win at least two of the five and possibly even all of them.

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The (Mostly) Final Election Results

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2018
— The long 2018 midterm election cycle drew to a close last night and, as predicted, split government will return to Capitol Hill. Republicans held the Senate and saw their majority grow as Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO) 2018-mid-term-election-results-graphicfell to Republican challengers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) likely will be forced into a recount to see if his just-under 40,000 vote advantage will be enough to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

The Montana race is undecided as Sen. Jon Tester (D) is on the precipice of losing but the outstanding vote suggests he could survive by a very small margin. The razor-thin Arizona race is a must-hold for the GOP. Democrat Jacky Rosen defeated Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) fought back a tough challenge from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).

If all of these follow their current trends, Republicans will gain a net of four seats and increase their majority margin to 55-45. If Montana and Arizona go Democratic, the division would slip to 53R-47D. In any event, it appears likely that the Republicans will gain two to four seats.

The new Senate will maintain their new majority split once the Nov. 27 run-off election is held and decided in Mississippi. In that new secondary election, appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will face former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). Sen. Hyde-Smith placed first in the Nov. 6 preliminary vote and ended with 41.5 percent of the vote, not close to secure the majority support that would have elected her outright and just ahead of Espy’s 40.6 percent. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) was third with 16.4 percent, likely denying Hyde-Smith the opportunity to win in the first round. He is eliminated from further competition.

As predicted, the House did flip to the Democrats and leadership elections will soon be held to determine who will replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). It is perceived that California’s Nancy Pelosi will again become the speaker after serving from 2007-11 and losing the post when the Republicans secured the majority in the 2010 election.

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Election Day Is Here

2018-elections-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis,

Nov. 6, 2018 — At long last, the 2018 midterm Election Day has arrived. Democrats appear well positioned to capture the House of Representatives, but the question of how big a majority margin we will see remains. The large number of dead-even campaigns heading into today suggests that a small majority margin is the most likely outcome.

Republicans, largely because Democrats are defending 26 of the 35 Senate races, should hold control but, again, to what degree? Will their 51-49 margin increase? It appears they will successfully unseat North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), but will Arizona and Nevada both hold for them, allowing more substantial gains? Does Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-El Paso) new-found celebrity status and national fundraising prowess allow him to overcome Texas voting history to unseat first-term senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz? These and many other yet-to-be determined answers will be uncovered late tonight.

Several races may not finish tonight. Today is also the first time Louisiana voters will go to the polls during this cycle. Without a formal nomination process, the Bayou State consolidates its primary and general election into one vote. Therefore, if a candidate receives an absolute majority tonight, that individual is elected. If not, the top two finishers will advance to a Dec. 8 run-off. With no governor or Senate election on the ballot and little competition within the state’s six House districts, it appears likely that all congressional incumbents will win tonight. Next up, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), possibly facing US Sen. John Kennedy (R), will defend his position in the 2019 odd-numbered year election.

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The Final Outlook

2018-elections-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis

Nov. 6, 2018 — Election Day has arrived, but it is likely that a majority of those planning to vote have already done so. Early voting totals are way up in most of the 37 states that employ a pre-election ballot casting procedure in comparison to the 2014 midterm election.

According to the University of Florida’s United States Elections Project, 25 of the 37 states report receiving more early votes than they did four years ago. None, however, is larger than Texas where early voting has already exceeded that grand total votes cast in 2014. The same also has occurred in Nevada, but it’s less surprising since the last midterm aggregate turnout there was unusually low.

In Texas, just under 4.9 million votes already have been received. In 2014, the aggregate early and Election Day vote was 4.72 million. In 2014, 44 percent of the total vote was cast early. If this same pattern occurs, the current election total turnout will exceed the 2016 presidential level participation figure of 8.96 million votes, however it is unlikely that will happen. How the increased turnout will affect the election outcome is undetermined at this point, but the high number of first-time voters suggest that Democrats could improve their typical standing.

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National Early Voting Report

By Jim Ellis

i-vote-i-countOct. 31, 2018 — Now more than halfway through the early voting period in the 37 states that offer early voting options for the populace, some places are turning in record participation rates. Each state has various nuances in their early voting procedures, so comparing the early reports to each other is of little value. Going back to contrast the current 2018 reported numbers with how that particular state voted in the last midterm election (2014) does have significance, however.

Already, in the latest available reports according to the United States Election Project administered by the personnel at the University of Florida, seven states are reporting more received early voting ballots than were recorded for the entire 2014 pre-election period. They are:

• Tennessee – 162.3% more ballots (1,029,846 versus 634,364 recorded in 2014)
• Texas – 144.3% increase (2,980,915 versus 2,066,368 recorded in 2014)
• Indiana – 127.9% increase (292,726 versus 228,932 recorded in 2014)
• Nevada – 122.5% increase (372,455 versus 304,005 recorded in 2014)
• Georgia – 111.1% increase (1,188,636 versus 1,069,912 recorded in 2014)
• Minnesota – 106.0% increase (249,909 versus 235,808 recorded in 2014)
• Delaware – 103.2% more ballots (8,550 versus 8,288 recorded in 2014)


An additional seven states have so far recorded better than 85 percent of their early voting total in comparison to their entire 2014 pre-election voting universe:

• North Carolina – 97.1% of previous (1,140,657 versus 1,174,188 recorded in 2014)
• Virginia – 94.2% of previous total (191,755 versus 203,556 recorded in 2014)
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Surprising Q3 Financial Disclosures

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 19, 2018 — The third quarter financial disclosure reports are now public, and more details are readily available. Thus, we are able to learn about various record-setting fundraising efforts.

FEC-moneyIn addition to Texas US Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) attracting $38 million in the third quarter, an all-time record for any such campaign, several House candidates also reported financial numbers that have never been seen for district-level politics.

In the third quarter of 2018, nine House contenders exceeded raising $3 million, eight Democrats and one Republican.

In California’s 22nd District, incumbent Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was the top Republican fundraiser and appears to have accumulated more financial resources for the entire campaign than any other congressional candidate of either party. In the quarter, Rep. Nunes raised $3.14 million. For the campaign, he has exceeded the $10.5 million mark.

But his Democratic opponent, attorney Andrew Janz, brought in over $4 million for the quarter, the only congressional candidate in the US to do so, and an all-time record for a quarter. He still trails Rep. Nunes in overall receipts (Janz posted $7.13 million for the campaign), however. Together, this campaign leads the nation in combined fundraising with over $17 million. For a regular cycle congressional campaign – not including the special elections we saw earlier that became national contests – this, too, is likely an all-time record for a House contest.

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Feinstein Still Weak; Gas Tax Polling

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

Oct. 18, 2018 — Survey USA released a poll of the California electorate, one more political study that finds Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) failing to establish command in her race against fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles state senator.

The S-USA data (Oct. 12-14; 1,200 California adults; 964 registered California voters; 762 likely California voters) sees Feinstein again locked at 40 percent support versus 26 percent for de Leon. This is the sixth survey from four different pollsters that finds the Senator in the mid to low 40s since the June 5th jungle primary. But de Leon fares much worse, failing to break 30 percent in any of the half-dozen ballot test questions.

While all of the research suggests that Sen. Feinstein is politically weak, she will not lose this race. Though she brought in only $982,000 for the third quarter — a low number when campaigning in a state the size of California and understanding that many Democratic House candidates have brought in millions during the same period — de Leon raised just $254,000 and has a mere $309,000 cash-on-hand for the period ending Sept. 30. This is a low figure for a congressional race, let alone for a place that’s 53 times as large as a single CD.

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

California Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

The other feature potentially making the California Senate race a wild-card contest is the vote drop-off that we will see when comparing turnout for this office to the rest of the statewide ballot.

In 2016, when two Democrats were competing for an open Senate seat — the now-Sen. Kamala Harris vs. then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) — fewer votes were cast for that contest than in any other statewide election, including all of the ballot propositions. In fact, over 1.9 million more people voted in the presidential race than in the Senate race, and 1.3 million more chose to decide the last ballot initiative that banned single-use plastic bottles.

What occurred was a plethora of Republican voters simply skipping the Senate race rather than supporting one of the two Democrats. With de Leon running to the ideological left of Feinstein the Republican vote will likely drop even further, which becomes an interesting factor.

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