Tag Archives: California

Top-Two “Jungle Primary” Reverberations

By Jim Ellis

May 14, 2018 — Back in 2010, when initiators created the movement to change the California primary system to feature a jungle format — where the top two finishers advance to the general election regardless of the percentage of vote they attained or party affiliation — they had hoped their ultimately successful ballot initiative would favor candidates closer to the political center. Approaching the June 5, 2018 primary, however, we see that this top-two system might produce quite different and possibly unintended outcomes.

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-480

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-48)

In a pair of competitive Southern California Republican congressional districts, recent polling suggests that Democrats could find themselves on the outside looking in for the November election despite having high hopes of converting the two seats.

The districts are CA-48, where veteran 15-term US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) seeks to be part of another two-year congressional session, and CA-49, the open Orange/San Diego County seat from which Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is retiring.

The pair of early May polls, one from Change Research (CA-48) and the other Benenson Strategy Group (CA-49), reveals that two Republicans could potentially advance to the general election in both districts, thus preventing Democrats from competing in the general election. Though it’s mathematically possible that two Dems could also progress to November in both places, the latter scenario is less likely because the GOP holds a voter registration edge in each CD.

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

In the 48th, Republicans have a 10-point 40.7-30.1 percent registration advantage over Democrats with an additional 24.5 percent declaring No Party Preference, meaning the latter are Independents. In the 49th, the GOP advantage is a lesser 36.7–31.1 percent with 26.6 percent not stating a party preference. Therefore, without coalescing the Democratic vote in each district behind one strong candidate, the chance plainly exists that Republicans could potentially slip two contenders in through the proverbial backdoor. In both the 48th and 49th, too many Democratic candidates are strong enough so as to prevent such a base unification.

The Change Research survey (May 2-3; 590 likely CA-48 jungle primary voters) finds Rep. Rohrabacher leading the field of four tested candidates (though a total of 16 candidate names will appear on the primary ballot, including three Democrats and one Republican who have withdrawn, but too late to erase their ballot positions). Rohrbacher is in front in the poll with just 27 percent of the vote, followed by Democratic scientist Hans Keirstead, who has 19 percent, and ex-state assemblyman and former Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh, with 17 percent. Democrat Harley Rouda, a businessman and attorney, garners 11 percent support.

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Top Two Playing Havoc in California

California Congressional Districts

California Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2018 — When sponsors of the 2010 California ballot initiative that would change the state’s primary system from a closed one to a structure that sends the top two finishers to the general election regardless of political party affiliation, they believed such an alteration would result in more centrist candidates being elected. Thus, the theory was, a new voting procedure would put the extreme candidates from both parties at a disadvantage.

While it’s debatable that centrists have benefited since the “top-two” system went into effect beginning with the 2012 election, the “jungle primary” is clearly having an effect in the many crucial California congressional campaigns this year. While Golden State Democrats are optimistic they can convert competitive seats in Orange County, recent polling in at least one of these seats reveals no clear advantage even as they mount strong efforts in what have traditionally been Republican districts.

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Three House Polls Show Tight Races

By Jim Ellis

2018-us-house-racesApril 13, 2018 — New polls were released recently indicating that three US House races will likely become highly competitive come November. The CA-10 contest featuring Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto) was always slated to be a top-tier challenger race. But it’s apparent that races in Kentucky and Michigan — KY-6 (Rep. Andy Barr-R) and MI-8 (Rep. Mike Bishop-R) — are now emerging onto the contested campaign scene. I’ll review the current status of each of the three races:

CA-10

Anzalone Liszt Grove Research conducted a poll for California Democratic candidate Michael Eggman (March 13-15; 471 likely CA-10 June 5 jungle primary voters, 400 likely CA-10 general election voters) and found four-term Congressman Denham leading his two-time opponent, 45-41 percent. In the past two general elections, Rep. Denham has defeated Eggman, 52-48 percent (2016) and 56-44 percent (2014).

Though the June qualifying election numbers were not released, the survey supports the underlying contention that Eggman would be a stronger candidate against Rep. Denham than Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder. While Eggman trails the congressman by four percentage points, Harder lags behind, 48-37 percent.

KY-6

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D), who lost the 2016 US Senate race in Kentucky 57-43 percent to incumbent Rand Paul (R), is coming back this year with the hope of unseating three-term Rep. Barr (R-Lexington). This week, the Gray campaign released a poll taken a month earlier that shows him easily defeating retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath in the Democratic primary. The Mellman Group survey (March 3-6; 400 likely KY-6 Democratic primary voters) finds Mayor Gray leading McGrath, 52-19 percent.

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Senate Match-Ups Forming

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2018
— Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.

2018-elections-open-seatsBelow are the races that look set as general election campaigns. Those headed for serious primary battles are not included on this list.

In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:

Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.

California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.

Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.

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The California Candidates

By Jim Ellis

March 13, 2018 — California candidate filing closed on Friday, and the jungle primary scheduled for June 5 will be a crowded affair.

California Congressional Districts

                                    California Congressional Districts

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), seeking a fifth full term in office, will face 39 Democrat, Republican, minor party, and Independent opponents on the qualifying election ballot. The top two finishers on June 5, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the general election. At this point, chances are strong that Sen. Feinstein and state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) will be the qualifying candidates.

The open governor’s race is even more crowded. Sixty candidates returned documents for ballot placement. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is favored to finish first, but the major remaining question concerns whether Republicans can coalesce behind one candidate to at least compete in the general election. Seventeen Republicans and 15 Democrats will be listed on the ballot if all submitted the proper qualifying documentation. The remaining contenders belong to a minor party or are Independents. The most likely pair to advance is Lt. Gov. Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, thus creating the double-Democratic general election campaign that Republican leaders hope to avoid.

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The Swap in California

By Jim Ellis

March 7, 2018 — The California candidate filing deadline is Friday, and we are beginning to see some complicated political moves crystallize as we get closer to final decision time.

California candidate T.J. Cox (D)

California candidate T.J. Cox (D)

In the state’s Central Valley, a major Democratic shake-up is unfolding. On Sunday, Emilio Huerta, the 2016 Democratic nominee against Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) in California’s 21st Congressional District, announced that he is dropping his 2018 bid. The surprise announcement appears linked to Democratic leaders wanting to move 10th District candidate T.J. Cox (D) south so he can become Rep. Valadao’s general election opponent.

Months ago, Cox, a businessman and investment fund founder, announced his candidacy against Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto) in CA-10. Democrat leaders were positive about his candidacy at the time because they were reportedly less than satisfied with two-time nominee Michael Eggman, a wealthy farmer who lost to Denham in both 2014 (56-44 percent) and 2016 (52-48 percent).

As is the case in many districts around the country, large numbers of Democrat aspirants began declaring their candidacies for the 10th District race. Last year, it appeared the party establishment was lining up behind Cox, especially when Eggman announced that he would not run for a third time. In late January, however, Eggman suddenly changed his mind, did an about-face, and declared his congressional candidacy once again. Knowing that the former nominee’s name ID would likely land him the second qualifying position in the June 5 jungle primary because a total of seven Democrats were headed toward securing positions on the ballot, the party leaders began scrambling to fortify a better candidate lineup.

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Surprising California House
Non-Endorsements

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 28, 2018 — Yesterday, we reported that the California Democratic Party state convention delegates snubbed veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein by not officially endorsing her for re-election. The US House endorsements, or lack of them in many instances, also featured some unexpected results.

Looking at the 14 Golden State Republican incumbents, seven of whom Democratic leaders have publicly identified as targets for the upcoming election, the state delegates left four of these top conversion opportunities without an endorsed candidate.

california-39th-and-49th-congressional-districtsIn the campaigns against Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto), Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), and in the open districts of the 39th (Rep. Ed Royce retiring) and 49th (Rep. Darrell Issa retiring), the Democratic candidate contingent in each contest will head into the June 5 jungle primary election with no one carrying the official party endorsement.

In the other two top-tier targeted districts, convention delegates officially endorsed Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/ Bakersfield) in the 21st and Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) in the 45th. The activists chose their 2016 nominee, attorney Emilio Huerta, to run against Rep. Valadao; Huerta actually performed poorly against the congressman in 2016, losing 57-43 percent, while Hillary Clinton carried the district 55-40 percent. However, Huerta is the only announced candidate in this race; therefore, he was easily able to exceed the 60 percent threshold needed to claim the state party endorsement.

In the Walters district, the party delegates chose law professor Dave Min as their endorsed candidate. This is a bit of a surprise because fellow law professor and consumer advocate Katie Porter seems to be attracting at least an equivalent level of campaign support. Both have outside endorsements, each has raised over $675,000 (Min: $679,000; Porter: $741,000), and the two each have more than $400,000 in the bank (Min: $411,000; Porter: $510,000). In addition to these two candidates, four other Democrats are also on the ballot. Min, however, is clearly the better inside political player since he was able to convince a super majority of convention delegates to publicly back his campaign.

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Indictment Politics

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 26, 2018 — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted on one count of felony invasion of privacy late last week. The photograph of a partially nude woman with whom he was having an affair is the subject of the felony charge. Though the extramarital affair was consensual, being photographed in a compromising position was not, hence the invasion of privacy indictment. Transmitting the photo through use of a computer makes the charge a Class E felony under Missouri law, which could mean a prison sentence of up to four years.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' mug shot

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ mug shot

While the legal situation will be left to the courts to adjudicate, the political aftermath merits discussion. Though Gov. Greitens claims he will fight the charge, more often than not these situations end in reaching a legal agreement. In cases involving office holders, resigning from office is always part of any plea agreement. This was certainly the case for then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in Alabama, when he agreed to resign when the charges against him were reduced to misdemeanor campaign violations. Upon news of the indictment, Republican state legislative leaders said that they would assign a committee to investigate the charge, which opens the door to potential impeachment proceedings.

Should the governor reach a plea bargain, or be found guilty and thus forced to resign his position, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson would ascend to the governorship. As a Republican, Parson’s becoming governor would not result in a change of party leadership. Because Gov. Greitens was just elected in 2016, Parson, should he succeed a resigned or impeached state chief executive, would serve in the state’s top position through 2020 and be eligible to run in his own right in the ’20 election.

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An Open Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2018 — With so many House retirements coming into focus within the past several weeks, it is a good time to review the list of 53 districts heading into their next election without an incumbent on the ballot.

Of the 53, Republicans currently hold 37 seats versus just 16 for the Democrats. Here’s the breakdown of how things look regarding all 53 seats right now:

2018-elections-open-seats

  • Safe Republican (19)
  • Likely Republican (6)
  • Likely Democrat (6)
  • Safe Democrat (6)
  • Lean Republican (5)
  • Lean Democrat (3)
  • Toss-up (8)

This configuration could change drastically if the Pennsylvania map is re-drawn in a court-ordered redistricting. The state Supreme Court has declared the Keystone State map a political gerrymander and has ordered a new plan drawn by Feb. 15.

The state Senate President Pro Tempore is responding, however, that the legislature will not comply with the court order to turn over statistical data need to draw a new map because the state court did not cite the legal provisions violated in making the current plan a gerrymander. Additionally, the US Supreme Court is sending signals that it may try to involve itself even though this case is filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution and not its federal counterpart. We can count on major action coming here within the next several days.

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court is in the process of deciding the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, which will also affect active lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; in Pennsylvania, the political gerrymandering lawsuit realm is not directly part of this group because its case is filed within the state court system. But the Republicans have petitioned the federal high court to look at this case for other legal reasons.

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Senate Candidates 2018 – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2018 — As we continue setting the stage for the 2018 midterms now that we are in the actual election year, in a two-part series, we review the announced candidate status in each state, since much has changed in the past few weeks.

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 30, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 28, 2018
• Joe Arpaio (R) – former Sheriff, Maricopa County
• Martha McSally (R) – US Representative; 2nd District
• Kelli Ward (R) – former state Senator; 2016 US Senate candidate
• Kyrsten Sinema (D) – US Representative; 9th District
3 Minor Republican candidates
5 Minor Democratic candidates
1 Libertarian candidate
1 Green candidate

California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 9, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
Jungle Primary: Top two candidates advance to general election
• Kevin de Leon (D) – State Senate President
• Erin Cruz (R) – Radio Talk Show host
5 Minor Democratic candidates
6 Minor Republican candidates
6 Independent candidates

Connecticut: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 8, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Ann-Marie Adams (D) – Journalist
• Tony Hwang (R) – State Senator – possible candidate
2 Minor Republican candidates

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The Daily Retirement Briefing

California Rep. Darrell Issa

California Rep. Darrell Issa

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 12, 2018 — California Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Vista) latest re-election, a 1,621-vote victory over retired Marine Corps Colonel Doug Applegate (D) in CA-49, proved to be the closest US House result in the nation during 2016, but there will not be a re-match this year.

Rep. Issa announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to a 10th term, becoming the 48th House member to take this action in the current election cycle. With Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) reportedly primed to declare her Senate candidacy today, the number will quickly grow to 49. Issa’s action directly follows that of fellow California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/ Fullerton), who announced on Monday that he won’t run for a 14th term.

Both men faced difficult re-election battles, as do five other California Republicans that Democrats are targeting. Because President Trump fared so poorly in California, the Democratic strategists believe the same pattern will carry over into the midterm cycle. But, such a result remains to be seen.

Though Republicans are clearly in worse position without Rep. Royce running again, that might not be the case concerning Issa’s. With his negatives growing and a close call in the previous election, the party might actually fare better with a fresh face, particularly when the Democrats do not have a clear alternative. Though Applegate is running again, he is facing a stiff challenge from at least two other Democrats, wealthy attorney Mike Levin, and former US State Department and United Nations official Sara Jacobs. Real estate investor Paul Kerr rounds out the current Democratic field.

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Monday’s Retirement

California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) | Facebook

California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 10, 2018 — It’s getting to the point where literally every day we witness a new retirement announcement from Congress, and Monday was no exception.

In another surprise political decision, veteran California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed that he will not seek a 14th term this year, preferring to dedicate his last year in Congress to finishing his committee agenda.

The move was unexpected in that Royce appeared to be preparing his political operation for a major battle. Reportedly through the year-end financial disclosure period, he already amassed a treasury exceeding $3.5 million. Until this week, his actions suggested that he was well equipped to run a strong re-election campaign.

Unlike most of the other 31 Republican seats that are being vacated for the next election, Royce’s California district has strong Democratic conversion potential. The constituency voted 51-43 percent for Hillary Clinton, but backed Mitt Romney 51-47 percent in 2012, and gave John McCain a 49-47 percent margin four years earlier. The Romney and McCain votes are more consistent with the district electorate’s long-term political performance history, but this area of the state, like many regions in the nation’s most populous domain, is turning more Democratic as significant demographic change continues.

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The Senate Picture – Re-cap

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 28, 2017 — During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we previewed all 34 current Senate races. Today, we wrap-up with the often-described 30,000-foot national overview perspective.

The Alabama special Senate election scheduled for Dec. 12 will tell us a great deal about the coming regular cycle. While the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race is not likely to provide a voting trend preview since the contest has been tainted with scandal, it will signal whether or not the Democrats own a path to the Senate majority.

If Democrat Jones wins the Alabama special, it would give his party 49 seats, thus making their two primary Republican conversion targets in Arizona and Nevada enough to claim majority status, assuming all 25 of their defense seats are held, which, of course, is no easy task. If Republican Moore can hold Alabama, despite being jettisoned by the national GOP leadership, that would secure the Republican majority because such an outcome relegates Democrats’ chances of netting the three GOP seats they need within the regular cycle as highly unlikely.

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The Senate Picture – Part I (of III)

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats-1-of-3

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 22, 2017 — Since little in politics happens around a holiday period, it is a good time to quickly review all 34 in-cycle US Senate campaigns. Today, alphabetically in the first of a three-part series, we look at Alabama through Massachusetts.

• Alabama: The special election to permanently replace current Attorney General and former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) is scheduled for Dec. 12. All are aware of the controversy surrounding Republican nominee Roy Moore, and the latest polls show him falling behind Democratic nominee Doug Jones, the former Birmingham area US Attorney. The latest poll is from Change Research (Nov. 15-16; 2,090 Alabama voters) and finds Jones leading 46-43 percent. With sexual harassment now becoming the issue of the day in politics, Hollywood, and the media, how this race will be finally affected remains unclear. If the Republicans lose this seat, it would put what should be their unassailable Senate majority in jeopardy during the regular election year.
Rating: Toss-Up

• Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) has previously announced his retirement. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is moving to become a consensus Democratic candidate. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) is poised to enter the race to challenge former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) in the Republican primary. A recent OH Predictive Insights survey (Nov. 9; 600 likely Arizona voters) finds Rep. Sinema clinging to just a one point, 46-45 percent, edge over Rep. McSally despite having greater statewide name identification. She leads Ward, 46-43 percent.
Rating: Toss-Up

• California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) announced that she is seeking re-election amid speculation that the 83-year-old, five-term incumbent would retire. With state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) challenging her in the state’s jungle primary, it appears highly probable that we will see a competitive double-Democratic general election.
Rating: Safe D

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The Emerging Senate Cycle

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee state flag

Tennessee state flag

Oct. 25, 2017 — Though we still have more than two full months remaining in calendar year 2017, the 2018 US Senate field is beginning to take clear shape. With 34 statewide contests to be decided, including the Alabama special election that will conclude Dec. 12, no fewer than 10 campaigns are basically set. Action is occurring in an additional 13 states suggesting that some sort of primary or general election competition will soon come to the forefront. Eleven incumbents seeking re-election are rated as “safe” at the present time.

Former Tennessee US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced Monday that he would join the open US Senate Republican primary battle, attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). This race already appears to be evolving into a possible two-way primary between ex-Rep. Fincher and current 7th District veteran incumbent Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).

Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity, remains in the race after launching what is now a moot primary challenge to Sen. Corker but it is unclear how strong he will be now that several conservative organizations are already beginning to coalesce behind Rep. Blackburn.

The only other bit of Volunteer State intrigue centers around Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen and whether he will enter the statewide contest. Originally, Bredesen took himself out of consideration, but now agrees to consider becoming a candidate. He says a decision will be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Without Bredesen, the Democrats would likely concede the seat to the eventual Republican nominee since other strong potential candidates, specifically US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, have already said they will not run.

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