Tag Archives: Jim Ellis

Post-Primary Pennsylvania:
Setting the Stage

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map - Philadelphia Area

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map – Philadelphia Area | Click on map to see full-size Philadelphia area congressional line up

May 17, 2018 — Now that the dust is settling from the May 15 Pennsylvania primary, we can firmly look at which of the races have already produced November winners and the match-ups for what will be key toss-up races.

Keystone State voters chose nominees for the statewide offices and congressional races where incumbents and candidates ran for the first time in newly drawn districts.

The governor’s race will feature incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf seeking a second term against York Republican state senator and businessman Scott Wagner. With Gov. Wolf’s job approval improving after a rocky first two years in office, he is clearly favored for re-election in the fall.

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) runs for a second term against Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). Barletta tallied a 63 percent Republican primary victory on Tuesday, setting up the general election contest. Sen. Casey is favored for re-election, and it remains to be seen if Rep. Barletta can attract the attention and financial support to make this a top-tier challenge race.

The Pennsylvania primaries produced Tuesday winners who have virtually punched their tickets to Washington in districts that heavily favor their political party. Aside from incumbents Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), Tom Marino (R-Williamsport), Glenn Thompson (R-Howard), Mike Kelly (R-Butler), and Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh) securing re-election, the following non-incumbents will also head to DC after the general election:

• District 4 (Montgomery County) – State Rep. Madeleine Dean (D)
• District 5 (Delaware County) – Ex-local official Mary Gay Scanlon (D)
• District 9 (East-Central PA) – Former Revenue Comm. Dan Meuser (R)
• District 13 (Central PA) – Dr. John Joyce (R)
• District 14 (Southwest PA) – State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R)

Races that heavily favor a particular candidate, yet still feature competition:

• District 6 (Chester County) – Chrissy Houlahan (D) vs. Greg McCauley (R)
• District 10 (Harrisburg/York) – Rep. Scott Perry (R) vs. George Scott (D)

The following are the highly competitive districts that will dominate the Pennsylvania congressional campaign landscape in the fall:

• District 1 (Bucks County) – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) vs. Scott Wallace (D)
• District 7 (Allentown/Bethlehem) – Marty Nothstein (R) vs. Susan Wild (D)
• District 8 (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) – Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) vs. John Chrin (R)
• District 17 (Allegheny County) – Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) vs. Rep. Conor Lamb (D)

May Primaries: Round 2

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

May 15, 2018 — Voters in four more states go to the polls to choose their nominees today. Today, we examine those four states as voting gets underway in the Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania primaries.

Pennsylvania

Voters in the Keystone State go to the polls throughout the day to choose partisan nominees for governor, US senator, and representatives in their 18 new US House Districts.

The governor and Senate contests are not stirring up much intrigue as neither Gov. Tom Wolf (D) nor Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) face any Democratic primary opposition. On the Republican side, state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) seems to have the inside track against businessman Paul Mango and former Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce president Laura Ellsworth. In the Senate GOP contest, US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) appears primed to defeat state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Monaca) for the opportunity to challenge Sen. Casey in November. Both Democratic incumbents are currently favored to win new terms.

PA-1: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) will easily win re-nomination against a minor Republican candidate. Democrats have three candidates vying for advancement to the general election. Though the district remains 93 percent intact after the state Supreme Court re-drew the Pennsylvania CDs, and contains all of Bucks County, this race has toss-up potential.

PA-2: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia) is running in the eastern downtown district, now fully contained within Philadelphia County. Rep. Boyle will have little trouble securing this seat in tonight’s Democratic primary and in the general election. Half of Rep. Boyle’s previous 13th District comprises new District 2.

PA-3: Freshman Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) seeks re-election in a slightly different district, as 80 percent of his former constituents are re-cast into the new 3rd CD. Evans will easily be re-elected in both today’s primary and the general.

PA-4: The new 4th is comprised of parts of five previous districts, and now contains most of Montgomery County with a sliver of Berks County. Former US Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) is attempting a comeback here, but it appears state Rep. Madeleine Dean has the advantage in the Democratic primary. The new 4th is safely Democratic in the general election.

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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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The Turnout Report:
Signs of a “Blue Wave”?

By Jim Ellis

May 10, 2018
— Looking at the voting patterns for Tuesday’s primaries in the four states holding elections, we see little evidence of the reported “blue wave” often discussed in media analyst reports — meaning a surge in Democratic Party voter turnout — but there is also sparse information to determine specific participation trends in many of the noted places.

state-of-ohio-mapOhio has the most complete data to compare totals for midterm elections dating back to 2006. On Tuesday, 1,506,777 people voted in the two major party primary elections, with just about 55 percent recorded in the Republican gubernatorial contest. The current grand total was the second largest participation figure in the four midterms since 2006, inclusive. The 1.506 million aggregate total was second only to the 2006 turnout that saw 1.626 million Ohioans voting. This year, both parties featured open gubernatorial primaries, each with a clear leader heading into Election Day.

In all four of the tested Ohio midterms, more people voted in the Republican primary. The 54.9 percent participation factor when measuring the two parties against each other on Tuesday night was the second highest of the sampled four. Only the Republicans’ 56.0 percent participation rate in 2014 was stronger. To put the current rate in perspective, the GOP low occurred in 2006 when 50.8 percent of primary voters cast a Republican ballot. In the succeeding general election, Democrat Ted Strickland would win the governor’s campaign, making the result consistent with the higher Democratic primary participation rate.

In the Buckeye State House races, eight of the 16 districts featured primary elections for both parties. In each of the districts holding primaries for both parties, the political entity controlling the seat before the election saw more people vote in that party’s primary. The most significant race was the special primary election in the 12th District, the seat former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) vacated to return to the private sector. There, 23,902 more people voted in the Republican primary, thus providing some tangible support for predicting the state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) is favored to win the seat in the Aug. 7 special general vote.

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Big Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185May 9, 2018 — Voters in four states made their preliminary electoral statements known last night, choosing nominees in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia in the 2018 election cycle’s first multi-state primary event. The night included defeating the first incumbent of the electoral season, North Carolina three-term Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), and nominating two Senate nominees in what could become first-tier Republican challenger campaigns.

Indiana

One of the more interesting contests heading into yesterday’s voting was the Indiana GOP Senate primary where three major contenders were vying for the right to advance into the general election and face first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). There, former state representative and national distribution company owner Mike Braun attempted to seamlessly drape both Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) in the algae of the Washington swamp, with the two House members retaliating that Braun is a former Democrat with a voting record that supported raising taxes 47 times.

Considering that Braun proved successful in winning the nomination last night, his strategy and clever advertising campaign worked but, in the aggregate, almost 60 percent of the Republican primary electorate still voted for one of the two congressman. In the end, Braun captured 41.2 percent of the vote, enough of a plurality to claim the nomination. Rep. Rokita was second with 30 percent, while Rep. Messer was a very close third, getting 28.8 percent of the GOP vote. Braun swept virtually all of the counties outside of Congressional Districts 4 and 6, which belong to Reps. Rokita and Messer, respectively.

A Donnelly-Braun general election will be highly competitive, as now the new Republican nominee will make the incumbent senator the focal point of his anti-Washington swamp, politics-as-usual campaign strategy. The Indiana race now becomes one of the premier GOP challenge targets in the country.

In the House races, while Braun ran strongly throughout most of the state, he failed to provide familial coattails. His brother, Steve Braun, fell to state Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) in a 36-29 percent spread from a 4th District GOP electorate that exceeded 80,000 votes. Baird will easily win the general election and come to Washington as Rep. Rokita’s replacement in the western state congressional district that touches the outer Indianapolis suburbs.

Turning to the eastern 6th District, in a highly expected result, Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother, Greg Pence, easily captured the Republican nomination for Rep. Messer’s open seat. His 65 percent victory over four opponents sends him into a general election campaign that he will surely win in November.

North Carolina

All local political observers were following the two Republican US House incumbents facing strong challengers. As mentioned in the introduction, Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) became the first House member in this fledgling election cycle to be denied re-nomination. Pittenger, who came within just 134 votes of losing the 2016 GOP primary, could not overcome former pastor Mark Harris this year. Harris, a 2014 US Senate candidate, ran two years later for the post court-mandated redistricting seat that changed 60 percent of the district just before the 2016 primary.

Though it looked like Rep. Pittenger would have an easier road to re-nomination this year, the opposite proved true. Harris won the party nomination, 48.5–46.2 percent, a margin of 814 votes of more than 35,000 primary votes cast. Harris will now face the new Democratic nominee, businessman Dan McCready who is already on record saying he won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker if he wins in November. The 9th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville, posted a 54-43 percent victory for President Trump. Rep. Pittenger won re-election in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote. Though the numbers stack up well for Republicans in this district, with McCready already raising $1.9 million for the primary, it makes this contest competitive and may become a targeted Democratic challenge race.

Moving to the Outer Banks region, veteran Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville), also facing serious competition, scored a 43 percent victory to win what he says will be his last term. The fact that he had two opponents who pulled virtually equal support allowed Jones to win again with just a plurality. He faces no competition in the general election, which means last night’s victory assures him of re-election in the fall.

In the Greensboro area, as expected, University of North Carolina at Greensboro trustee Kathy Manning, another challenger who has raised well into seven figures, easily advanced into the general election last night with 70 percent of the vote. She will face freshman Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) in another November race that appears more competitive than the regional voting history might suggest. Budd garnered 56 percent in his first general election. The congressman was unopposed last night in the Republican primary.

Ohio

The Ohioans voted as expected last night. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) scored a 47-32 percent win over investment banker Mike Gibbons to win the 2018 Republican Senate nomination. The congressman now advances against two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in November.

Originally a gubernatorial candidate, Renacci made the smart switch to the Senate race after attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted voluntarily formed a ticket to effectively clinch the nomination in the early part of the year. All of these strategic moves proved prescient, as DeWine easily won the gubernatorial election last night, 60-40 percent over Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R); Rep. Renacci secured the Senate nomination.

In the 12th District special election, state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) out-paced Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan by a single percentage point (29-28 percent) and topped a field of seven other candidates to win the Republican nomination and advance to the Aug. 7 special election. Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor easily won the Democratic nomination. The 12th is a reliably Republican seat, and with a 24,000-vote edge in total turnout last night, Sen. Balderson becomes the clear favorite to win the special general. Both men also were nominated for the full two-year term in November.

Looking at Rep. Renacci’s open Cleveland-Akron area 16th District, technology executive and former NFL football player Anthony Gonzalez defeated conservative state Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township) 53-41 percent to win the Republican nomination. Gonzalez will now face healthcare company executive Susan Moran Palmer, who captured the Democratic nomination. The former Indianapolis Colts and Ohio State Buckeye wide receiver is the favorite to win the seat in November.

West Virginia

In the other premier Senate contest of the evening, media reports that disgraced former coal company CEO Don Blankenship was making a serious move on the Republican nomination proved erroneous as two-term Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won the GOP primary with a 35-29 percent margin over US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington). Placing third with 20 percent of the Republican vote was Blankenship. AG Morrisey won the right to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin in the general election. The incumbent defeated a Democratic primary challenger from his left, environmentalist Paula Jean Swearingen, 70-30 percent.

Morrisey swept the northern and central portions of the state, with Rep. Jenkins dominating south West Virginia, the site of his congressional district. Blankenship won four small counties. The Manchin-Morrisey Senate election now becomes a top-tier Republican challenge race.

With Reps. David McKinley (R-Wheeling) and Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) running unopposed for re-nomination, the congressional action was in Rep. Jenkins’ open 3rd District where state House Majority Whip and farmer Carol Miller (R-Cabell County) topped a field of six other Republican candidates, including two sitting state delegates, one former delegate and congressional nominee, and an ex-West Virginia Republican Party chairman to win a close nomination campaign. She begins the general election in the favorite’s position against state senator and Iraq War veteran Richard Ojeda (D-Holden/Logan) who easily won the Democratic primary.

Primary Previews

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185May 8, 2018 — Today’s elections kick-off the prime time of primary season, with voters in four states — Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia — choosing nominees for November. Here is an outlook for each of the states:

Indiana

With no governor’s race on the ballot this year, the Republican Senate nomination campaign tops the Indiana political card, which is one of the more interesting campaigns in the country. Here, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) are battling former state representative and Meyer Distributing and Meyer Logistics companies’ owner Mike Braun for the right to face first-term Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November. Donnelly has no opposition for his party nomination.

Braun has gained national notoriety for his campaign, which has strategically melded both congressmen into basically one person. The Braun Campaign ads have characterized Reps. Rokita and Messer as being part of the Washington “swamp”, concentrating negatively on their budget and trade votes, as well as casting them as professional politicians. He even goes so far as to brandish two cardboard cutouts of the congressmen where they are dressed exactly alike and says they are both lawyers who never practiced, instead spending their entire careers in politics.

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Ohio Poll: Heading for Primary Day

By Jim Ellis

state-of-ohio-mapMay 7, 2018 — Tomorrow’s primary featuring voting in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia is now only a day away; Berea, Ohio’s Baldwin Wallace University just released a new survey of the Buckeye State electorate.

Though the poll possesses significant flaws, the primary results for both parties seem consistent with other published data, even though such publicly released information is sparse.

The Baldwin Wallace poll (April 24-May 2; 811 registered Ohio voters — 333 likely Ohio Democratic primary voters, 323 likely Ohio Republican primary voters) is unusual in several ways.

First, the nine-day polling sample is, on average, three times too long and thus negatively affects overall reliability.

Second, and more damaging, is the huge over-sampling of female voters in the respondent sample. Some 59 percent of those polled are female leading women to dominate every polling segment. For example, on the question of political ideology, more women then men say they are very liberal (60.3 percent), liberal (60.0 percent), moderate (57.3 percent), conservative (53.6 percent), and very conservative (52.8 percent), thus yielding a female majority in every category. Since women traditionally poll more liberal than men, this poll skews definitively to the left.

Another unusual aspect associated with the Baldwin Wallace research is the administrators not testing 2018 general election pairings even though they move forward to begin examining the 2020 Ohio presidential campaign.

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The Coming New Specials

By Jim Ellis

May 1, 2018 — Just when we thought the number of special elections was lessening when Debbie Lesko won the AZ-8 election last week to replace resigned Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria), new vacancies are popping up.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), abruptly resigned Friday.

Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), abruptly resigned Friday.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), who had previously announced his retirement for term’s end, abruptly resigned when learning the House Ethics Committee was going to launch an investigation into the severance payment awarded to one of his staff employees. The source of this particular recompense was the special taxpayer funded congressional account found to cover members’ special staff settlements.

Meehan also pledged to repay the $39,000 payment that is the investigation’s basis within the next 30 days. Now that Meehan has exited the House, the Ethics Committee no longer has jurisdiction. He joins former Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) who resigned in early April also to avoid a congressional investigation.

Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa) resigned his seat in late April to accept his position in the Trump Administration as the new NASA Administrator. Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) says he will resign his seat at an unspecified date in early May, presumably because he will be accepting a position in the private sector. As we know, the late New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) passed away on March 16.

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Romney Forced to Utah Primary;
Curtis, Too, in the US House

By Jim Ellis

Former presidential nominee and governor, Mitt Romney

Former presidential nominee and governor, Mitt Romney

April 24, 2018 — Over the weekend, delegates to the Utah state Republican Party nominating convention gathered in the Maverik Center, an arena that is home to the minor league Utah Grizzlies hockey club in West Valley City, a Salt Lake City suburb, to potentially choose general election candidates in contests from US Senate to the state legislature.

In the biggest of the races, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney was forced into a June 26 primary and will face state Rep. Mike Kennedy (R-Lindon), a physician, who actually was the delegates’ first choice.

After multiple rounds of voting that eliminated 10 other senatorial candidates, Kennedy placed first with 51 percent delegate support as opposed to Romney’s 49 percent. To win the nomination in convention without going to a primary election, a candidate needs 60 percent of the delegate vote, a number that neither Kennedy nor Romney came close to attaining.

Romney, knowing that he would have trouble at the convention because the average convention delegate is more conservative than he, a former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential candidate, also opted to qualify for the ballot via petition. His operation easily gathered the necessary number of signatures to gain ballot access, and exceeded it to the point of collecting over 28,000 verified names.

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Indiana: Wild and Entertaining

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2018 — A new Gravis Marketing survey (April 6-11; 411 likely Indiana voters) produced a result in the Senate Republican primary ballot test that appears to have even surprised the pollsters.

The sample size of 411 likely voters includes all parties, so looking only at the GOP primary means the respondent cell size could number less than 200. This would make the results largely meaningless because the sampling universe would be too small to draw reasonably accurate conclusions. Gravis did not release the sampling numbers associated with the Republican primary questions, likely for obvious reasons.

But the results are interesting, nonetheless, and could give us a clue that former state Rep. Mike Braun, whose creative advertising has not only attracted attention but is strategically brilliant (see below), has a real chance to upset Republican congressmen Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/ Muncie). According to the Gravis results, Braun leads Reps. Rokita and Messer 26-16-13 percent in anticipation of the May 8 Indiana state primary.

The Senate GOP primary turned into a three-way race almost from day one. Braun, then a state representative who would resign his seat to concentrate on the Senate campaign, owns a successful manufacturing business and spent heavily early to become known statewide.

As the campaign began, the thinking was that Rokita and Messer would target one another, assuming that both would view the other as his chief competitor. For Braun, it was believed that he would adopt the approach of staying above the negative fray and giving Republican voters an alternative from two individuals who would engage in what would likely become a bitter campaign.

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New Arizona Senate Data

By Jim Ellis

Sen. John McCain (R) -- Negative approval rating and pressure to retire

Sen. John McCain (R) — Negative approval rating and pressure to retire

April 19, 2018 — Magellan Strategies independently surveyed the Arizona Republican electorate (April 11-12 and 15; 755 likely Arizona Republican primary voters) to test the state’s upcoming Senate race, along with Sen. John McCain’s (R) status and that of other key elected GOP leaders.

According to Magellan’s results, US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) outpaces former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and ex-state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward, 36-26-25 percent, an improvement for the congresswoman when compared to previously published polls.

In January, Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights released their poll that found McSally leading 31-22-19 percent over Arpaio and Ward, while another Arizona-based survey research firm, Data Orbital, found a much tighter three-way split, 31-29-25, again with McSally topping Arpaio and Ward, consecutively.

Much speculation still surrounds Arpaio’s candidacy. Some believe that he will drop his Senate campaign prior to the state’s May 30 candidate filing deadline, instead using the race as basically a vehicle to raise money to cover legal fees from battling charges filed against him during the past two years. President Trump pardoned Arpaio after he was found guilty of criminal contempt in relation to refusing to follow a judge’s immigration order while in his position as sheriff.

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Democrats Now Need 23

By Jim Ellis

March 29, 2018 — It appears that Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester) is turning over a projected swing 2018 electoral seat in PA-6 to the Democrats without so much as a fight. Doing so will reduce the net number of Democratic majority conversion seats from the current 24 to 23.

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester)

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester)

The two-term Philadelphia suburban representative informed Keystone State Republican leaders on Tuesday that he will remove his name from the ballot and not run for re-election. Yesterday was the final day for Pennsylvania candidates to withdraw before the primary ballots become permanent.

The major issue for Republican leaders with this belated move is that the candidate filing deadline already has passed, and another Republican has qualified for the ballot. Attorney Greg McCauley filed his candidate documents and presented the proper number of ballot petition signatures. Therefore, as the only Republican who was running opposite Costello in the GOP primary, it is likely that this obscure challenger will now be unopposed for the party nomination. McCauley has a credible resume but has never run for public office, and is not viewed as a top-tier candidate for an impending campaign in a highly competitive district such as PA-6.

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PA: Lamb, Saccone Decide; Others, Too

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court


By Jim Ellis

March 19, 2018 — Though Tuesday’s special election results in western Pennsylvania are not yet even finalized, the two candidates, and others, are making decisions about where to run in the regular election cycle. After the state Supreme Court created a new congressional map for the coming election, they lengthened the candidate filing period from one that closed March 6 to a new deadline of tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20.

Republicans are formally challenging the new map in federal court. A three-judge federal panel has already heard their arguments and the GOP leaders also filed a motion to stay the state court’s mapping decision with the US Supreme Court. Since no ruling has yet come from either judicial panel, incumbents and candidates must move forward with the qualifying process assuming the new map will stand.

Under Pennsylvania election law, congressional candidates must obtain 1,000 valid signatures from registered party members to qualify for the ballot. Since such a process obviously requires time, all candidates, including Rep.-Elect Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) and defeated Republican candidate Rick Saccone, must determine where they will run under this new and very different Keystone State congressional map.

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Wicker Dodges McDaniel in Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

March 16, 2018 — Just before the Mississippi candidate deadline approached on March 1, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who came within 1,719 votes of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination in the 2014 Republican primary, filed to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in this year’s June primary.

The move appeared dubious since McDaniel was just beginning a campaign in early March and Sen. Wicker, whose campaign committee has well over $4 million in the bank, was well prepared for a serious challenge coming from his Tea Party opponent.

Once again, it appears Sen. Cochran has factored into McDaniel’s political future. With the senator announcing that he will end his 40-year senatorial career next month — the tenth longest Senate tenure in American history — the southeastern Mississippi conservative state legislator announced Wednesday that he will already abandon his challenge against Wicker, and instead enter the special election to replace Sen. Cochran.

Under Mississippi succession law, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) will appoint an interim replacement after Cochran officially leaves office. The interim senator will be eligible to stand for election when the people have a chance to vote in the special election to be held concurrently with the regular election calendar.

Unlike in many states, there will be no nomination cycle for the Mississippi special election. All candidates, presumably including the interim senator, will be placed on the general election ballot. Should no one receive an absolute majority, the top two finishers will advance to a secondary run-off election three weeks after the regular general election. This date, according to the 2018 calendar, would be Nov. 27, or two days before Thanksgiving.

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CATCHING UP WITH THE PA-18 ELECTION

By Jim Ellis

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

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

March 14, 2018 — The Keystone State special congressional election was held yesterday, as southwestern Pennsylvania voters went to the polls to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).

Before PA-18 Election Day, Democrats appeared to have the better candidate in the person of attorney Conor Lamb, whose grandfather was a former state House Democratic leader and uncle is the Pittsburgh City Controller.

Simultaneously, this election carried major national ramifications, yet the winner’s success might be short-lived, when one can be identified, which likely will take a day or two longer. With 100 percent of the vote in, Lamb leads Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) 113,111 (49.8 percent) to 112,532 (49.6 percent) a difference of only 579 votes as of this writing. Absentee and provisional ballots are still being counted. So there’s a chance that Saccone could overtake Lamb, however, that’s unlikely.

Democrats predicted victory before yesterday’s election, citing polls showing Lamb holding a slight lead over Saccone. The last survey, coming from Monmouth University (March 8-11; 372 likely PA-18 voters), gave Lamb leads of two to seven points, depending upon the overlaid turnout model. Obviously, the more energized and aggressive Democratic participation model gave Lamb the stronger edge. Under a low turnout model, the lead dropped to two points. Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that has no early voting system, so there were no tangible pre-election turnout indicators for this contest.

The Lamb campaign approached $5 million in dollars raised for the race versus Saccone directly commanding resources in the $1 million range. The national Republican Party organizations and conservative groups entered the district to even the spending, so it’s likely we’ll see total combined expenditures approach or exceed the $15 million mark.

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