Tag Archives: Jim Ellis

The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

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Alabama’s Game Within the Game

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 18, 2017 — Tuesday’s special Alabama Senate Republican primary sent former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange to the September 26th run-off election, but what can we expect from the next round of voting? Will Judge Moore’s momentum continue to thrust him forward despite being badly out-spent, or will the Alabama and national Republican establishment’s strong support for Sen. Strange allow him to overcome his primary election deficit?

On Tuesday, Judge Moore placed first, capturing 39 percent of the Republican primary vote. Just over 423,000 people voted in the election, which will likely be similar to the Sept. 26 projected participation rate. Most of the time fewer people vote in a run-off than a primary, but recent special elections have yielded a slightly different turnout pattern. Sen. Strange garnered 33 percent in the primary and showed strength in the Birmingham area, though he lost substantially in Alabama’s southern region including the metropolitan areas of Montgomery, Mobile, and Dothan.

The run-off wild card may well be Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) voters. The primary’s third place finisher tallied 20 percent, translating into more than 83,000 individual supporters. Since he placed first in his congressional district (41 percent), and carried his home county of Madison with majority support, northern Alabama will become critical in determining how the run-off concludes. And, considering that Judge Moore received almost the same number of votes as those who cast ballots in the Democratic primary, it is reasonable to presume that the Republican run-off victor will become a heavy favorite to win the Dec. 12 special general election.

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Sinema’s Changing Stance

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 16, 2017 — Reports attributed to the Phoenix NBC television news affiliate indicate that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) will imminently announce a challenge to Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. For her part, Sinema concedes that she is “seriously considering” running for the Senate, which is much different than her previous stated position of committing to seek re-election to a fourth US House term.

With Rep. Sinema putting herself on the sidelines early in the game, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) after she was gunned down back in 2011, were being mentioned as potential Senate Democratic candidates.

If Sinema is to move forward with a Senate challenge to Flake, it is becoming apparent that Mayor Stanton would divert away from a direct confrontation with the congresswoman, and instead become a candidate for her open House seat. It is unclear what, if any, move Friese might make under this potentially new configuration of candidates.

Sen. Flake, along with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R), appears to be the most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election. Though Arizona is a better Republican state than Nevada to the point of electing two GOP senators, a governor, controlling five of nine US House seats and both houses of the legislature, Flake finds himself in a tenuous political position largely through his own doing.

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Special Elections Today

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2017 — Voters go to the polls today in the long-awaited Alabama special US Senate primary, the first tangible step in permanently replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As we know, Sessions resigned his Senate seat early in the year to accept the top law enforcement position in the Trump administration.

Most of the special election campaign action is on the Republican side, as appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) fights to secure a run-off position.

With the nine GOP candidates clearly attracting enough support to prevent any one of them from capturing a majority and winning the party nomination outright today, moving to a Sept. 26 run-off vote appears certain. Polling suggests that former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will seize the first run-off position, but with 40 percent or less support. Sen. Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are fighting for the second qualifying position with the other six candidates lagging behind.

The latest poll from the Trafalgar Group (Aug. 8-10; 1,439 likely Alabama GOP primary voters from more than 50,000 contacts), perhaps the most accurate survey research firm because of their most recent track record, finds Judge Moore capturing 35 percent support, with Sen. Strange far back at 23 percent and Rep. Brooks closing to 20 percent.

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Rokita In; Tsongas to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 11, 2017 — Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) is generally considered to be the first or second national Republican conversion target, and the GOP candidates are beginning to come forward.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) announced, as expected, his run for the Senate and immediately pressed the attack before his supporters to “Defeat the Elite,” a phrase that he defines as pertaining to “lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians and the media.”

Rokita was first elected to the House in 2010 after serving two terms as Indiana’s secretary of state. He averaged 65.5 percent in his four congressional elections, and leaves his western 4th District as a safe Republican seat.

The announcement creates a major Republican primary with fellow Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Messer tweeted about two weeks ago that he will soon become a Senate candidate with a formal announcement to follow.

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Michigan Poll; Delaney for President

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 1, 2017 — A poll released last week that placed entertainer Robert Ritchie (Kid Rock) ahead of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) generated a great deal of news coverage, but the Delphi Analytica survey didn’t appear reliable. A new credible Michigan Senate survey followed, however, and actually seems to confirm that Ritchie could become a viable candidate.

The Delphi Analytica poll was never available on the reported web links and showing Sen. Stabenow, who is completing her third term with respectable approval ratings, with only 26 percent support failed to make sense.

The Trafalgar Group, on the other hand, is a reliable pollster. The only survey research firm to correctly forecast Donald Trump victories in Pennsylvania and Michigan, the Atlanta-based firm also projected Republican Karen Handel to defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Georgia special congressional election last month when most pollsters were predicting the opposite. Now, the company’s new Michigan Senate study (July 25-27; 1,078 likely Michigan voter respondents from more than 50,000 attempted calls) finds Ritchie in a virtual dead heat with Sen. Stabenow.

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A Surprising Announcement

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-St. Louis County)

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-St. Louis County)

July 6, 2017 — A July announcement regarding the coming Missouri US Senate race had been expected for weeks, but the actual content featured a much different declaration than anticipated.

Just before the July 4th holiday, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-St. Louis County), who was thought to be announcing a campaign for the Senate, instead made public her decision not to challenge Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. Rep. Wagner will seek a fourth term in the House, however. The congresswoman cited her desire to continue fully representing her home area as the driving force behind her ultimate political decision. In her statement, Wagner said that the 2nd District “ … is my home. It’s where I grew up, went to school, have worked and volunteered, raised my kids, and attend church every week—there is no greater honor than representing a place and people that I love.”

The Wagner turnabout was particularly surprising in that she had been raising money at a very strong clip, more than $800,000 in the first quarter with a projected similar amount for the quarter just ended but not yet publicly reported.

Democrats, of course, are saying that Wagner decided not to run statewide because she and another Republicans fear a bad political year. The Dems uniformly cite President Trump’s low approval ratings and what many perceive as a politically negative healthcare issue, things they believe will cause major electoral problems for GOP candidates.

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Utah Convention Winner

By Jim Ellis

June 23, 2017 — Last Saturday, in news that has been somewhat overshadowed by the recent special elections I’ve been writing about, former state Representative Chris Herrod, who challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch for re-nomination in 2012, won the special Republican nominating convention to replace outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy). Herrod advances to the Aug. 15 Republican primary to face Provo Mayor John Curtis and businessman Tanner Ainge, who both qualified for the ballot via petition signature.

Once Rep. Chaffetz announced he would leave the House without completing his current term, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) scheduled the replacement special election to include an Aug. 15 primary and a Nov. 7 general election. The political parties had the option of holding a nominating convention, which the Republicans quickly scheduled for this past Saturday, June 17. They changed the normal party rules to select one candidate for advancement rather than two if no candidate received 60 percent of the delegate vote.

Almost 800 Republican precinct delegates gathered in Provo for the special election vote. Eleven candidates were on the ballot, and it took five rounds of voting before Herrod emerged with a majority vote. On the final ballot, he defeated state Sen. Deidre Henderson, 415-338, for 55.1 percent of those present and voting, thus exceeding the majority mark and clinching the official party endorsement.

In regular Utah convention politics, candidates are required to receive 60 percent of the delegate vote to, if no candidates qualify by petition signature, clinch the actual party nomination. Because this is a special congressional election, the first held in Utah since 1930, the party leaders altered the convention rules to produce only one winner once 50 percent support was obtained. The fact that at least one other candidate would apparently qualify via signature -– an onerous requirement of 7,000 valid signatures gathered exclusively with circulators from the 3rd District -– factored heavily in the leaders’ decision to change the convention rules. This way, they could limit the number of primary participants.

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Virginia’s Perriello Peaking

By Jim Ellis

June 9, 2017 — According to his internal polling, former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) has caught Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam as the two head into next Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary election.

Wednesday, the Perriello camp released a series of internal Haystaq DNA surveys that portend the former congressman now maintains a slight edge over Northam, 36.8 to 36.0 percent, with the undecideds overwhelmingly breaking to their candidate. (See Perriello ad below)

Though it appears their polling results are at odds with previous independent studies that project Lt. Gov. Northam to be holding a large, and in some cases double-digit, lead, the Perriello data progression acknowledges that their candidate was significantly behind at the beginning of May.

The Haystaq DNA release actually covers three polls conducted within the last five weeks. The firm developed a sampling pool of 2,000 respondents and began questioning them on May 2. The series ended with a third and final polling snapshot (June 1-6; 455 likely Virginia Democratic primary voters drawn from the original 2,000) that yielded the aforementioned dead-heat split.

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New Jersey Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

June 6, 2017 — The 2017-18 election cycle’s first regular primary is occuring today as New Jersey voters head to the polls to choose major party nominees in the governor’s race. This campaign will lead to replacing term-limited state chief executive and former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.

We can expect a low turnout, because it appears a foregone conclusion that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy will easily win the Republican and Democratic nominations, respectively.

Polls have been few and far between, and the three surveys that were released in May show strong and solid margins for both Guadagno and Murphy. The most recent study, from Stockton University (May 16-23; 389 likely New Jersey GOP primary voters) finds Guadagno with a 37-18 percent advantage over Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and three others who don’t even top four percent support. Earlier in the month, Quinnipiac University April 26-May 1; 331 likely New Jersey GOP primary voters) surveyed the state and found Guadagno up in similar fashion: 23-12 percent over Ciattarelli with no other candidate breaking five percent.

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Census Bureau: American Voting

By Jim Ellis

June 2, 2017 — There are always seemingly conflicting reports about the actual number of people who register to vote and the corresponding number who are even eligible to participate, but we are now closer to having more definitive information courtesy of the US government.

The Census Bureau recently released its biennial national report on voter registration, which provides us some definitive answers to the aforementioned observations. According to their report, the 2016 presidential total vote, rounded to 137,537,000 though the actual recorded total registers 136,792,535 ballots cast, set an all-time participation record exceeding the 131,426,292 total tallied from the previous national high (2008; Obama vs. McCain presidential election).

According to the Census Bureau report, 71.2 percent of citizens over the age of 18 are registered to vote. The Pew Charitable Trusts Research & Analysis department, which dissected the government’s findings, sees this number as a slight increase over the 70.3 percent total registration figure found soon after the 2012 presidential contest.

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Setting the Record Straight

By Jim Ellis

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.

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Gianforte Slams Reporter – Literally!

By Jim Ellis

May 25, 2017 — On the eve of today’s Montana special election, at-large Republican special election congressional nominee Greg Gianforte was involved in a physical altercation with a national news reporter, Ben Jacobs from the Guardian-US publication, a confrontation the correspondent described as being “body slammed.”

According to Gianforte campaign spokespeople, Jacobs pushed his way into an inner office area where a different interviewer was questioning the candidate. Shane Scanlon, speaking for the Republican nominee, said the Guardian correspondent entered the room and immediately started aggressively interrogating Gianforte about the newly released Congressional Budget Office report that scored the GOP healthcare legislation.

An audio of the conflict contains indistinguishable sounds, but ends with Jacobs claiming he had been thrown to the ground and his eyeglasses broken after Gianforte yells that he is “sick of this,” a reference to what he apparently believes is harassment from news reporters. Jacobs is then heard saying that he wanted to call the police. Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, opened an ongoing investigation but left the premises without arresting or charging Gianforte with any crime. The inquiry, however, is far from over.

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Utah’s Lightning Speed; Norman Wins

By Jim Ellis

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.

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South Carolina Run-off Numbers

By Jim Ellis

May 15, 2017 — Northern South Carolina Republican voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose a special election nominee in the vacant 5th Congressional District run-off election. The June 20 special general winner will replace former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) who resigned from Congress to become Director of the Office of Management & Budget.

We remember the results from the special primary vote held 10 days ago that almost ended in a tie. Seven Republicans originally entered the GOP contest, and it quickly became clear that a two-week run-off period would be necessary to determine a final nominee. Few expected, however, that the original vote would come close to deadlocking.

State House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (above) arguably began as the favorite for the nomination. Ironically, it is likely that he wouldn’t have even been a congressional candidate had not incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley (R) been appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations. The move allowed Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) to ascend to the state’s top job where he can now run for a full term unencumbered by the term limit that would have ended Gov. Haley’s tenure. In an open seat situation, Pope intended to run for governor.

The second major candidate, state representative and former congressional nominee Ralph Norman (below) quickly jump-started his political effort by resigning from the legislature to go “all-in” for the congressional race. His campaign aggressiveness paid off as he drew virtually even with Pope in the primary vote.

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