July 25, 2017 — Arizona former US Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) has completed her political transition to Tucson. Over the weekend, the former congresswoman and US Senate candidate announced that she will enter the very crowded Democratic primary in the AZ-2 Congressional District.
The move had been anticipated since Kirkpatrick had re-located from her home in Flagstaff to Arizona’s second largest population center and never ruled out entering the 2nd District race when questioned about doing so. Yet, even her path to the Democratic nomination is a difficult one, not to mention facing GOP Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson). Rep. McSally scored an impressive 57-43 percent re-election victory last November even though Hillary Clinton carried the district, 50-45 percent.
Already in the 2018 Democratic field are former state Rep. Matt Heinz, who lost to McSally as last year’s party nominee, ex-state Rep. Bruce Wheeler, former Assistant US Army Secretary Mary Matiella, businessmen Billy Kovacs, Charlie Verdin and Jeff Latas, and retired Air Force colonel, Lou Jordan.
July 3, 2017 — Action late last week emanating from Massachusetts could be a harbinger of what we can expect in the coming months. The Boston Globe reported that Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazen is not seeking re-election to instead launch a significant Democratic primary challenge to veteran 10-term congressman, Mike Capuano (D-Somerville).
Mazen has not yet announced his congressional candidacy, though he has previously made public his decision not to seek re-election to the Cambridge Council when he seat comes before the voters later this year. He did tell the Globe, however, that he is “beginning to focus on campaign plans for 2018” but wants to talk to community leaders, elected officials, and “potential allies” before making public statements about any future political plans.
Mazen, the first Muslim elected to office in Massachusetts, was originally elected to the council in 2009 and, at the time, pledged to only serve two four-year terms. He has worked to activate Muslims to join the political process and run for office. Professionally, Mazen founded a film company that produces animated content.
June 15, 2017 — The long Georgia special election cycle is mercifully almost over, as this most expensive-ever congressional race draws to a close next Tuesday. Looking at the aggregate spending, this one House campaign will easily exceed $40 million in combined expenditures, probably topping $25 million for Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign committee alone when the financial books close at the reporting cycle’s end.
The polls have forecast a close race between Ossoff and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) immediately upon both advancing from the April 18 jungle primary. The most recent study, from Survey USA polling for WXIA-TV in Atlanta (June 7-11, 700 registered GA-6 voters; 503 either likely June 20 participants or those who have voted early), finds the two again tied at 47 percent. This is a marked improvement for Handel in comparison to both S-USA’s previous poll and last week’s Abt Associates survey for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, both of which found Ossoff holding a 51-44 percent advantage.
All three of these polls, however, are apparently understating Republican strength. In party segmentation, the GOP/lean GOP cell has only small advantages over the Democrat/Lean Democrat grouping. This is largely due to over-emphasizing the close 2016 presidential race when constructing the respondent pool. Since Georgia does not register voters by political party affiliation, it becomes more difficult to determine an accurate party sample for polling purposes.
June 13, 2017 — Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) announced his campaign for governor Sunday, making the open seat Democratic primary even more crowded. Polis’ move sets up a major primary confrontation with fellow Colorado congressional colleague Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), who announced his own candidacy in early April. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.
Rep. Polis becomes the ninth Democrat to enter the governor’s race, but clearly he and Perlmutter are the heavyweight candidates. Former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), and plastics company CEO Noel Ginsburg are also substantial players. Seven Republicans are in the race, the most prominent of whom is George Brauchler, the Aurora County District Attorney who prosecuted James Holmes, known as the “Joker”, a mass murderer who killed a dozen people and wounded 70 more in a rampage outside a local movie theatre in July of 2012.
The Colorado governor’s race will be one of the most interesting and competitive of the 2018 election cycle. Democrats will be favored to claim the statewide race, but a strong Republican effort could position the GOP candidate for an upset victory, similar to how Sen. Cory Gardner (R) won here in 2014.
The Democratic primary here will likely yield another example of how the party is becoming at odds within itself. Rep. Polis may be in strong position to attract the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren most liberal faction, while Perlmutter is likely to be the establishment wing’s preferred contender. With at least seven other Democrats vying for the nomination in varying degrees of strength, this June 2018 Dem primary will be among the most hard fought, and potentially divisive in the nation.
June 13, 2017 — The Virginia governor’s campaign is becoming a national race in relation to prognosticating political trends, and we will be able to glean some partial answers this evening.
Initially, the eventual Virginia general election winner earns the redistricting veto pen for the 2021 redraw, and becomes the first newly elected governor to have such authority. All other states where redistricting is handled through the normal legislative process will elect their commensurate governors in 2018, 2019, and/or 2020.
Second, the Commonwealth’s Democratic primary race has evolved into an early microcosm of what Democrats may be experiencing throughout the country this year and next, and quite possibly beyond.
The split between the party’s more extreme Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren faction and the traditional liberal Hillary Clinton segment is portrayed in the Tom Perriello/Ralph Northam gubernatorial primary. Though former US Rep. Perriello is wrapping himself in the Sanders/Warren mantra, going so far as having them star in his ads along with film clips of President Obama extolling his virtue when he was a member of the House, Perriello’s initiative has driven Lt. Gov. Northam to adopt more leftward ideological positions, as well.
By Jim Ellis
June 8, 2017 — A statewide New Mexico poll released late last week suggests that US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) is well within the competitive range of fellow US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque), should the two battle each other in next year’s open race for governor of New Mexico.
In December, Grisham announced that she would not seek re-election to the House, instead declaring for governor. She is the leading Democratic candidate, particularly now since Attorney General Hector Balderas, who would have been a credible gubernatorial contender, announced instead that he would seek re-election and support the congresswoman’s statewide bid. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is ineligible to seek a third term, and the lack of an incumbent in the 2018 campaign for the state’s top public office has ignited a game of political musical chairs.
Pearce, who represents the southernmost of the three Land of Enchantment congressional districts, and the state’s only Republican seat, confirms that he is considering the gubernatorial race. He was first elected to the House in 2002, and then vacated to run for US Senate in 2008, upsetting his congressional colleague, then-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque), in the Republican primary but losing the general election badly to the state’s third House member, Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe), 61-39 perent. Pearce returned to the House in the 2010 election, unseating one-term Democratic Rep. Harry Teague.
May 30, 2017 — More incorrect post-election analysis is coming to the forefront after last week’s Montana special congressional election.
After a similar Kansas special electoral contest in April yielded stories saying that a 7,600-vote Republican victory was an under-performance and reflected poorly upon a besieged President Donald Trump, similar analyses came immediately after Greg Gianforte’s 23,000-vote (22,990) win last Thursday over Democratic nominee Rob Quist.
In response to the media stories in April, we pointed out that the 52-46 percent Ron Estes victory in Kansas’ Wichita anchored district was only slightly behind previous open seat or challenger GOP victories – Todd Tiahrt first converting the seat in 1994 with 53 percent and Mike Pompeo winning the open district seven years ago with 59 percent – rather than a precursor to a coming Democratic wave election. In both the Kansas and Montana post-election analysis, the past Republican-Democrat performance was generally only defined as how the candidates performed in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections, while failing to account for the particular region’s more complete voting history.
The New York Times ran a story last Friday, the day after the Montana election, that portrayed liberal Democratic base activists as being upset with the party chieftains who didn’t prioritize converting the at-large Big Sky Country campaign. Again, the 50-44 percent Republican victory was couched as Quist being in range for an upset if more outside support would have come from national Democratic party organizations and affiliated outside organizations. Citing President Trump’s 20-point victory in the state as basically the sole determining factor as Montana being a “solid Republican state”, the Gianforte victory pales in comparison.
May 23, 2017 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) just scheduled the special election to replace resigning Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy), and the candidate filing deadline will occur even before the congressman leaves office.
Chaffetz announced last week that he will resign from the House effective June 30. It was thought there would be a battle over the UT-3 special election process because Utah election law sets no procedure parameters. The state has not hosted a special federal election since 1930.
Utah election law merely says that a special election will be scheduled in the event of a vacancy. Some in the legislature are indicating that they need to be called into special session to determine the procedure, i.e., primary schedule, whether a nominating convention will be held, etc.
But over the weekend, Gov. Herbert usurped such an idea and had Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) publicly announce the special election schedule.
May 22, 2017 — Early in this election cycle we’ve already seen several special and odd-numbered year campaigns produce conflicting polling data, and at the end of last week, a new example came forth. Two new polls from the Virginia governor’s race, Democratic primary, produced opposite results and both can be questioned in terms of reliability.
Earlier in the week, the Virginia Education Association released a Public Policy Polling survey (May 9-10; 745 likely Virginia Democratic primary voters), which projects Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam leading former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) by a substantial 45-35 percent margin.
Late last week, the Washington Post and the Schar School of George Mason University released their sponsored Abt Associates poll (May 9-14; 1,604 Virginia adults; 351 likely Democratic primary voters; 264 likely Republican primary voters) that produced a much different result. According to this polling sample, it is Perriello who actually holds a 40-38 percent preference lead among the most likely June 13 Democratic primary voters.
Not only do we see inconsistent conclusions from this pair of surveys, but also methodological questions arise. The Public Policy Polling survey has the stronger sampling group particulars, but may have bias problems. PPP features a robust sample of 745 Democratic primary voter respondents but the poll was conducted for an organization that is outwardly supporting Northam, and the 10-point advantage for their candidate is beyond any previously released independent figures.
May 9, 2017 — Much is being made about the vulnerability of certain Republican representatives after the healthcare legislation passed the House last Thursday. From Democratic members heckling various Republicans on the floor in serenading them with the “hey, hey, hey, goodbye” song, to liberal commentators predicting their political deaths, most of the Republican members sitting in what are viewed to be the most vulnerable districts still held the party position.
The main focus is the group of 23 GOP members representing districts that Hillary Clinton carried last November. In those seats, 14 of the 23 voted in favor of the leadership’s healthcare bill. Most of the controversy surrounds the pre-existing condition provisions and changes that would be made to Medicaid funding.
But, how truly vulnerable are these particular 14 individuals? It is important to remember that Democrats would have to retain all 194 of their current seats, and then convert another 24 Republican districts in order to gain a mere one-seat House majority in the 2018 election. Therefore, even if they were to convert all 14 of the seats currently in the political spotlight, the task would barely be half completed.
May 2, 2017 — President Trump’s retaliatory attacks against the latest major media polls may actually be more correct than even he alludes. The nation’s chief executive predictably came out swinging against ABC and NBC News regarding their newly released polls that found just over 40 percent of their sampling groups approve of his job performance, the worst of any president after 100 days in office.
Trump reminded his audience that those two particular polls were wrong in their election predictions, but the survey representatives quickly shot back to point out that their pre-election projection of Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote was in fact accurate. These pollsters are correct in this particular assertion, but we all know that the individual state polling, particularly in the key Great Lakes states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, was badly flawed and completely missed the mark.
Digging deeper into the current and past election polls does produce a little known factoid, however, and one that the president should find comforting. While the ABC and NBC representatives say their data find Trump to be the most unpopular short-term president, they fail to draw upon a critical comparison factor from their own previous polls.
April 28, 2017 — Democrats face a major problem in the 2018 Senate races that they have no ability to solve. Forced to defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats, not counting the new 2017 Alabama special election, there simply aren’t enough viable Republican conversion targets to yield a legitimate run for the majority.
Even in what should be their top conversion target, the Nevada race where GOP Sen. Dean Heller is seeking his second term, the Democrats do not yet have a viable candidate. This week, businessman Steve Cloobeck, who has the ability to self-fund a Silver State campaign, announced that he would not run.
And then, in a move that perplexed the Democratic leadership, Cloobeck went a step further and publicly endorsed Sen. Heller for re-election. While professing not to agree with Heller on core issues, Cloobeck says he appreciates “his (Heller’s) businesslike approach to politics and legislation.”
April 26, 2017 — Democrats appear encouraged by their early House special election performance, which has spurred some talk about the party’s possibilities of re-claiming the House majority next year.
While the open special election Democratic candidates are of high quality in California, Georgia, and Montana, the early regular cycle contenders are lacking, finding themselves already embroiled in multi-candidate primaries, or not even in existence.
Of the 10 already announced regular cycle open seats six are in Republican districts. All are either categorized as safe or likely Republican, so the prospects for Democratic gains in this important sector appear non-existent at least within the current configuration.
Turning to the challenger races, Democrats are active on the recruiting front but it appears the party leadership efforts, combined with individuals declaring candidacies of their own accord, are resulting in either feast or famine. In each of 36 districts, for example, against Republican incumbents not even considered especially vulnerable, Democrats already have multiple announced candidates.
April 24, 2017 — House Oversight & Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) made a great deal of news over the past week. He surprisingly announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018; Chaffetz said he’s been away from his family in Utah too long during his four-plus terms in Congress, and desires to return to the private sector, yet he left the door wide open about running for governor in 2020.
Then, Rep. Chaffetz indicated that he was considering resigning before the term ends. In fact, late last week, rumors were circulating through media outlets that the congressman was going to leave the House as early as Friday.
Then Rep. Chaffetz somewhat clarified the situation saying that while he would not likely serve the remaining 20 months of the current term, he wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon and certainly not within days. The representative told the Salt Lake City Tribune that, “if I do it, it’s going to be months from now.” Chaffetz also disclosed that he is in discussions with an unidentified company about a private-sector position.
April 21, 2017 — Five-term Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) announced Wednesday that he will surprisingly retire from the House at the end of the current term. Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, says he wants to return to the private sector and devote the rest of this time in Congress to completing his open investigations. The congressman said he may well run for public office again, but not in 2018. When asked about him entering the impending open 2020 gubernatorial race, Chaffetz joked that he is a “definite maybe.”
Rep. Chaffetz becomes the 14th House incumbent who will not be on the ballot for the next election, including the four remaining special congressional elections. At least another 15 members are reportedly considering seeking a different elective office, or outright retirement. Nine of the previously mentioned 14 are Republicans.
Utah’s 3rd Congressional District is safely Republican. President Trump took the district with 47.2 percent of the vote, while Hillary Clinton actually placed third, just behind Independent Evan McMullin at 23.3 percent. The 3rd was one of Mitt Romney’s strongest districts in the entire country. In 2012, he defeated President Obama, 78-19 percent, in this CD. Reviewing the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain won here with a 68-30 percent margin.