Tag Archives: Gov. Tom Wolf

An Open Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 7, 2018 — Continuing our look at the 53 open seats, today we look at those in the Lean R & D categories. It is here where Democrats will have to score big if they are to claim the House majority.

2018-elections-open-seatsThe US Supreme Court declined to hear the Pennsylvania Republicans’ arguments earlier this week to move the live redistricting case to the federal level. To review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the current congressional map a political gerrymander, but without citing any election law statute violations. State Senate Republicans are refusing to provide the court with their requested data until the legislative bodies are informed about what is legally wrong with the current map.

In the meantime, the court has already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw a new plan, and moved the congressional candidate filing deadline from March 6 to March 20. Additionally, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is already saying he will veto the legislature’s map, so all of these developments suggest that a new, Democrat-friendly map will likely be in place before the 2018 elections.

In our overview of the current House open seat configuration, two of the Pennsylvania seats are either in the Lean D category (PA-7; Rep. Pat Meehan-R) or Lean R (PA-15; Rep. Charlie Dent). With a new map likely to collapse most, if not all, of the four open Republican seats, it is likely that both of the aforementioned districts will find themselves in the Democratic column after the next election.

Currently, the Lean Democrat column consists only of Republican seats. In addition to PA-7, and probably adding at least PA-15 post-redistricting, retiring GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) are leaving seats that are also trending toward the Democratic side of the political ledger.

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Looking at the Governors’ Races


By Jim Ellis

Jan. 25, 2018 — Earlier this month, we set the stage for the Senate and House campaigns. Today, we look at another important election platform, that of the nation’s governors. Though these races will elect people who will obviously determine future individual state policy, most of the 2018 gubernatorial winners will carry redistricting veto power in 2021. Therefore, these elections also carry national implications.

Of the 36 governors’ campaigns, 17 will be open races mostly due to state term limit laws. While the Democrats must protect the preponderance of US Senate seats this year, the opposite situation exists in the governors’ races. Here, Republicans must defend 26 state houses, 13 of which are open seats.

Of the 13 GOP incumbents seeking re-election, three are actually running for governor for the first time. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), and Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) were all lieutenant governors who ascended to their current position because the person elected in 2014 is no longer in office.

Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain arrangement over campaign finance violations. The other two state chief executives, Terry Branstad (IA) and Nikki Haley (SC), accepted positions in the Trump Administration. At this point in the election cycle, all three unelected governors are favored to win a full term.

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The Pre-Redistricting Wars

redistricting-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2018 — Though we are in the fourth election cycle of the decade, the 2011 redistricting fights are still continuing. The US Supreme Court has been dealing with redistricting cases from five states, but it all could come to a head soon.

The lawsuits first break down into the familiar racial gerrymandering claims, which have been in the courts in some fashion or another since the Voting Rights Act was created in 1965. Currently, the topic of political gerrymandering is hot as both parties are pursuing live complaints against their opponents for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize the political standing of one party to the unfair detriment of the other.

The major political gerrymandering case comes from Wisconsin and will likely set the tone for other such suits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and possibly Maryland. Democrats are bringing the action in the first four states, while Republicans are challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Obviously, the high court is getting involved to craft a new set of rulings relating to both racial and political gerrymandering before the entire country goes into a 50-state redistricting round upon completion of the 2020 census. Therefore, election results in 2018 and 2020 to establish incumbency both in the House of Representatives and the state legislatures become critically important.

Last week, the US Supreme Court stayed the most recent North Carolina lower court redistricting ruling. The three-judge panel invalidated the maps, determining that majority Republicans engaged in political gerrymandering. In the last election cycle the Tar Heel State boundaries were also re-drawn to remedy what the panel cited as racial gerrymandering reasons, but the Democrats were unable to make a dent in the Republicans’ 10R-3D delegation advantage.

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The Next Special: Nominees Set

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Nov. 21, 2017 — After the raucous Alabama special Senate election concludes on Dec. 12, voters in western Pennsylvania will go to the polls next March 13 to fill a US House vacancy. We will remember that Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned under pressure in October after a series of extra-marital affairs came into public view, with allegations that he urged a mistress to have an abortion at the very time he was co-sponsoring pro-life legislation.

Murphy had represented his southwestern Keystone State district since originally winning election in 2002, in a seat the preceding redistricting plan created as open. Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Murphy was elected to two terms in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Upon the congressman’s resignation, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) scheduled the replacement general election for March 13. Under Pennsylvania statute, there is no primary to choose partisan nominees. Rather, the various political party members meet in a special district convention to choose among individual candidates.

A week ago Saturday, Republicans chose state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/ Jefferson Hills) who had previously dropped his US Senate campaign to take his chances in the open House seat. Prior to winning his position in the state legislature in 2010, Saccone had served as an Air Force officer, a civilian employee of the Army in Iraq after retiring from active duty, and a television anchorman for a South Korean English-language news station. He also was assigned to North Korea for the purpose of assisting with a proposed agreement to prevent further nuclear weapons development. Saccone won the GOP nomination on the second ballot, defeating state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Kim Ward (R-Greensburg).

Democrats met in their 18th District special convention Sunday and chose as their standard bearer. Lamb, like his future Republican opponent Rep. Saccone, also won nomination on the second ballot by defeating Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, former Obama Veterans Administration official Pam Iovino, Allegheny County Councilman Mike Crossey, psychologist Rueben Brock, writer Keith Seewald, and emergency physician Bob Solomon.

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A New Nominee; Another Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Nov. 15, 2017 — Though almost all of the weekend political media coverage focused on the Alabama Senate campaign and the sexual impropriety allegations against former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), over 800 miles from the heart of Dixie another group of Republicans was choosing a nominee to fill a US House vacancy.

In late October, yet another sex scandal-tainted political figure, Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh), succumbed to the pressure against him and announced that he would resign from the House. Quickly, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called the special election to fill the new vacancy for March 13. Each 18th District political party organization then had the responsibility of meeting in convention to choose their respective congressional nominee.

On Saturday, 215 Republican conferees from the CD’s four counties decided among three candidates, all members of the Pennsylvania legislature. An additional state representative, Jason Ortitay (R-Bridgeville), originally announced that he, too, would stand for nomination but decided the morning of the convention to withdraw.

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With Murphy Out in PA, Corker Out in TN, Who Will Fill the Vacancies?

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Tim Murphy  (R-Pittsburgh)

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Oct. 9, 2017 — A new special US House election will soon be on tap, this time in southwestern Pennsylvania in PA-18. Beleaguered Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) succumbed to the negative publicity leaking out about his extra-marital affairs, abortion hypocrisy, and internal relations with staff members to announce late last week that he will resign his congressional office effective Oct. 21. This, just a day after he made public his intention not to seek re-election but serve the balance of the current term.

Once the seat is vacant, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will call a special election to choose a replacement. Since the Nov. 7 municipal elections occur less than three full weeks after Rep. Murphy departs, that means holding a new special congressional contest concurrently with the regular off-year vote would be impossible. Therefore, it is probable a mid-December or post-January 1st election will be scheduled.

There will be no primary period. Under Pennsylvania law, the parties will meet in district conclaves and local delegates will select the respective nominees.

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Pennsylvania’s Importance

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2017 — In every election, it seems one or two states become that cycle’s political focal point and we can already identify which places might serve in such a role for 2018. Along with California for House races, political fortunes in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania could well influence national Senate and House outcomes, while strongly contributing to the national redistricting outlook when the state’s competitive governor’s race is ultimately decided.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) seeks re-election with improving favorability ratings and will be in a targeted 2018 campaign. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) is running for a third term and drawing considerable opposition, particularly from US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). US House competition is projected for as many as 11 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, some of which coming in primaries, and a live political gerrymandering lawsuit before the state court system could potentially radically change Pennsylvania’s redistricting maps prior to the next election. Therefore, we see a state teeming with political activity in each of its four corners.

Gov. Wolf came from nowhere in 2014 as a successful York business owner to capture the Democratic nomination, and then proved to become the only member of his party to unseat a Republican governor in what was otherwise a Republican wave election year. He will face his own highly competitive re-election battle next year, as the GOP must re-capture this statehouse to protect its congressional and state legislative gains as a new redistricting cycle will begin during this next governor’s term.

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Polls: Razor Thin Races

By Jim Ellis

May 13, 2016 — Quinnipiac University, releasing the Senate numbers from the three-state presidential polls they just conducted, finds toss-up campaigns emerging across the board.

In Florida, both nomination battles are far from clear or being settled. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18), the Democratic establishment’s chosen candidate, and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), the conservative base contender who enjoys strong support from the Club for Growth — among other outside right-of-center organizations — were the strongest competitors for each party. It is important to note, however, that all potential general election match-ups were within small single-digit margins.

It is fair to say that representatives Murphy and DeSantis may have the best chance of advancing to the general election and, if they do, this might become the best campaign in the country. Such a race would feature two young, articulate office holders with leadership potential in their respective parties. That being said, the Q-Poll Florida data (April 27-May 8; 1,051 registered Florida voters) finds Murphy holding the barest of margins, 36-35 percent over DeSantis, meaning a virtual tie.

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New Senate Primary Polls

By Jim Ellis

April 8, 2016 — Democrats have two near-term US Senate primary battles underway and both will be decided on April 26. The Maryland Democratic primary will almost assuredly determine who succeeds retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D). The Pennsylvania contest will identify first-term Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R) general election opponent in what promises to be a hotly contested campaign with national implications.


The polls have seesawed for weeks between representatives Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County). Just last Friday, Van Hollen released his own Garin Hart Yang Research survey giving the candidate a 45-40 percent advantage, but this is the only recent poll arriving at such a conclusion. Several days earlier, the Baltimore Sun published their data giving Edwards a 34-28 percent lead.

Seeing this, the Washington Post, partnering with the University of Maryland, went into the field with their own poll (March 30-April 3; 539 likely Maryland Democratic primary voters) and also found Edwards ahead. The spread was 44-40 percent among likely Democratic primary voters and 44-35 percent when the entire registered Democratic universe (741) was queried. The conclusions are exactly the opposite of Van Hollen’s findings.

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McGinty to Run
In Pennsylvania Senate Race

Aug. 6, 2015 — Tuesday, as expected, just-resigned gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty announced that she will challenge former congressman Joe Sestak for the Democratic US Senate nomination next year. The winner opposes first-term Sen. Pat Toomey in one of the nation’s most critical campaigns.

The Pennsylvania contest has already been a major problem for the Democratic Party leadership. Falling into open internal warfare with Sestak, largely over personality conflicts and the inability to work together during his previous campaign five years ago, the party leaders have been candid about their desire to field another candidate.

Earlier in the year they attempted to recruit Montgomery County Commission chairman Josh Shapiro but failed. Largely because of Rep. Bob Brady’s (D-PA-1) behind-the-scenes work, McGinty is now an official candidate.

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Pennsylvania Democrats in a Quandary Over 2016 Senate Race

May 29, 2015 — The Senate majority will again be up for grabs next year, and the important Pennsylvania race is putting Democratic Party leaders in a precarious position. With the Keystone State voting history of favoring Democrats in presidential election years -– the last Republican presidential nominee to win the state was George H.W. Bush back in 1988 –- failing to convert the Pennsylvania Senate seat could well dampen any hopes the party has of recapturing the majority they lost in 2014.

Despite holding winning 2010 Republican candidate Pat Toomey to a 51-49 percent margin, Democratic leaders are open in their desire for a different 2016 nominee than former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7). But, two new occurrences only deepen the hole they seem to be digging for themselves.

Wednesday, their top recruiting prospect, Montgomery County Commission chairman Josh Shapiro announced he would not be running for the Senate, saying that he “didn’t want to come Washington or be a legislator.” On top of that, a new Public Policy Polling survey (May 21-24; 799 registered Pennsylvania voters) finds Sestak doing best against Toomey among six Democrats tested, trailing him only 42-38 percent.
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The Sestak Factor in the
Pennsylvania Senate Race

April 7, 2015 — The Pennsylvania US Senate campaign, a race that could well decide which party controls the majority in the next Congress, is beginning in bizarre fashion. While many people think that first-term Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is highly vulnerable under a presidential year turnout model, the Democratic situation is suspect, at best.

Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), who served two terms from Delaware County in the Philadelphia suburbs after unseating veteran Rep. Curt Weldon (R) in 2006, has been running his 2016 Senate campaign virtually since the time he suffered a 51-49 percent statewide loss to Toomey in 2010. Sestak officially announced his new effort well before the 2014 election.

Normally, having a nominee who lost by just two points return to challenge the opposite party’s incumbent in the next campaign is a positive occurrence, but relations between Sestak and the national and state Democratic Party leadership are so poor that such is not the case.
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