Tag Archives: Jim Ellis

Feinstein Loses

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

July 17, 2018 — Five-term Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) lost the official California Democratic Party endorsement to her general election rival and fellow Democrat, state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), this past weekend in Oakland, attracting an embarrassing seven percent of the vote among the Democratic Party delegates.

Sen. Feinstein knew she was headed for defeat within the party structure formal endorsement process, so she was campaigning for the delegates to vote “no endorsement.” This ploy garnered more votes than she received, as 28 percent of the delegates supported the party taking no official action in the Senate race. Thus, Sen. de Leon received 65 percent of the delegate vote, exceeding the minimum threshold of 60 percent to claim the party endorsement.

The action means that de Leon will be designated the official party candidate on the ballot, obviously an unusual situation for a challenging Democrat opposing an incumbent of the same party. So unusual, in fact, that in no other race where two Democrats are facing each other in the general election, from the statewide contests through the state assembly races, did the party delegates choose the challenger over the incumbent.

In winning the party endorsement, Sen. de Leon will be entitled to direct party funding and access to the state party’s fundraising and voter databases. Though having access to these resources should result in him raising an estimated several hundred thousand dollars, such an amount is just a drop in the bucket as to what a candidate in the nation’s most populous state needs in terms of financial resources necessary to compete.

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Crowley: Still on the Ballot

By Jim Ellis

Democrat-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Democrat-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

July 16, 2018 — As has been extensively covered in the national media, Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) in the June 26 New York federal primary, but the winner is now claiming the defeated congressman may still oppose her in the general election.

As we detailed in our own report about the 14th Congressional District result, Rep. Crowley could still force a general election campaign because he became the Working Families Party nominee on the same night that he was losing the Democratic Party nomination. Under New York election law, candidates may simultaneously appear on the ballot as the nominee of more than one party.

The congressman, however, still maintains that he is not running but simultaneously has refused to resign from the WFP line — even when the party leadership asked him to do so.

Ocasio-Cortez is accusing the congressman of launching a minor party general election effort because he has, according to her, refused to follow through on scheduled calls to discuss his support for her despite his public comments to the contrary. Crowley said, via Twitter, that it is Ocasio-Cortez’s people who have “not followed through,” with scheduling the appointments.

Swept up in the national media coverage that has engulfed her since denying Rep. Crowley re-nomination, Ocasio-Cortez is already moving onto the national stage and still challenging the party establishment. She has already dispersed staff members to Delaware to help US Senate candidate Kerri Harris who is challenging Sen. Tom Carper in the Sept. 6 Democratic primary. She is doing the same for Bernie Sanders activist Brent Welder, one of the far left candidates hoping for the chance to unseat GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas.

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Gauging the Enthusiasm Gap

By Jim Ellis

i-vote-i-countJuly 13, 2018 — Much has been written over the past few elections cycles about voting enthusiasm and whether it is a predictive political factor. It has been seemingly apparent that the party members most interested in participating in an election, most particularly for a midterm or special election vote, generally see its candidates enjoy the greater success.

Yesterday, we looked at the extensive just-released Survey Monkey-Axios Media data that covered 13 US Senate races. The combined number of states also hosts a minimum of 15 competitive US House races. To re-cap, while the Survey Monkey analysts posted results under various turnout models in each of the tested states, it generally became clear about which candidate has the current advantage from the Senate contests in question.

Democrats were performing well in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, where incumbents in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and West Virginia all held substantial leads over their Republican opponents.

The GOP held the upper hand in Indiana and North Dakota challenge races. In the South, Republican Gov. Rick Scott looks to be topping Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, and US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has opened a substantial lead over Tennessee former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Turning to the West, Democrats are moving ahead in both Arizona and Nevada and securely lead in Montana.

The Missouri contest between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) stretches from a five-point Democratic lead all the way to a five-point Republican advantage depending upon the turnout model.

The Survey Monkey pollsters tested voter enthusiasm in all 13 states. They asked the following question:

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Supreme Politics

By Jim Ellis

July 11, 2018 — President Donald Trump’s choice of US Circuit Judge of the DC Court of Appeals Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely fundamentally change the 2018 Senate election cycle.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the White House, where President Trump nominated him to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

Judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks at the White House, where President Trump announced Monday that Kavanaugh would be his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. | C-SPAN

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) already publicly indicating that he is planning to keep the Senate working through August, the Supreme Court confirmation process now guarantees such will happen. With majority Republicans having leverage over the confirmation hearings and vote schedule, we can expect a great deal of politics will be accompanying the legal rhetoric that awaits us during the remaining summer months.

The Senate political map helps Judge Kavanaugh in his confirmation battle. Both sides will mount crushing pressure on those members perceived as swing votes, and the eventual targets will be backed into such a position where it will be impossible to avoid political damage once their eventual vote is cast. The three Democrats who supported Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch when he was confirmed on April 7, 2017 are:

  • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

The three will naturally be the top targets for this confirmation battle, and there is a strong chance that each will also vote for Judge Kavanaugh. Already trapped in tough re-election battles, these senators will be hard-pressed by both sides pushing them to vote for or against Kavanaugh; but considering their respective states voted for President Trump in margins of 19 (IN), 36 (ND), and 43 (WV) percentage points suggests the density of pressure to support the nominee will overwhelm the opposition.

After last night’s announcement, Sen. Manchin issued a statement saying he is particularly interested about Judge Kavanaugh’s position on healthcare issues, especially those affecting people with pre-existing conditions as they relate to healthcare insurance coverage. Sen. Manchin says over 800,000 people in his state of West Virginia fall into this category.

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Opposing Florida Gubernatorial
Candidates Both Ahead by 17 Points …

By Jim Ellis

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam (left) -- ahead by 17 percent; US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) leading by 17 percent

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam (left) — ahead by 17 percent according to polling; US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) — also ahead by 17 percent

July 10, 2018 — It’s not particularly unusual to find a political race where different pollsters see separate leaders in an election contest, but the open Florida Republican primary governor’s campaign may be setting a new standard.

As Ryan Nichol of the Florida Politics Blog reports, a new Remington Research poll (July 2-5; 2,900 likely Florida Republican primary voters via automated response) finds US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) leading state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam 43-26 percent in the upcoming open Aug. 28 Republican primary.

What’s unusual about this survey conducted for the Tenth Amendment Project, a group supporting DeSantis, is that the result provides the opposite margin when compared to two other recent independent news organization political polls that both project Putnam to be substantially ahead — one of which by the same 17-point spread that Remington sees for DeSantis. Another poll posts the Putnam advantage at 15 percentage points.

Marist College, conducting their poll for NBC News (June 17-21; 1,083 Florida adults, 947 registered Florida voters, 326 likely Florida Republican primary voters, 344 likely Florida Democratic primary voters via live telephone interviews), found Putnam’s edge to be 38-21 percent, which is similar to the Fox News survey (Anderson Roberts Research [D] and Shaw & Company Research [R]; June 15-19; 901 likely Florida Republican primary voters via live telephone interview) that forecast Putnam leading 32-17 percent.

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Cloud Wins Special in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Michael Cloud (R) | Photo from campaign ad

Michael Cloud (R) | Photo from campaign ad

July 2, 2018 — Perhaps the most unique special election from a long series of 2017-18 irregular voting contests just wrapped up this weekend in southeast Texas, capping a subdued political battle that attracted little national attention.

Former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) is one of several members to be forced from office because of sexual harassment allegations. Already announcing that he would not seek re-election because of a settlement reached with a female employee that was financed through the special congressional taxpayer funded account created years ago to settle internal employee relations incidents, Farenthold then quickly resigned from Congress when it became apparent that the House Ethics Committee was going to fully investigate his situation.

Rep. Farenthold’s exit meant the committee would no longer have jurisdiction to consider an ethics complaint because the incumbent’s mid-term departure meant the committee could not pursue a private citizen.

Under Texas election law, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was forced to quickly call a special election to fill the balance of the term. His state’s vacancy procedure did not afford him the opportunity of making the special election concurrent with the regular vote as Govs. Rick Snyder (R-MI) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) did when House members in their states resigned (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI) or suddenly passed away (Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY).

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Examining The Tuesday Turnout

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJune 29, 2018 — In continuing the effort to monitor primary turnout as a potential indicator of how the general election may unfold and whether a Democratic wave is forming, today we examine the preliminary participation numbers from the June 26 primaries.

Previously, in the 26 states where primaries were held, it appears that a normal turnout pattern had developed. Generally, more Democrats were voting in the states that typically vote Democratic, while more Republicans participated in those places where Republican candidates win the greater number of offices. In the five pure primary (non-run-off) states that held primaries on Tuesday, such a pattern continued. Utah was not included in the following analysis because the state did not feature any political contest where both Democrats and Republicans held a primary vote.

Democrats decisively turned out more people in Maryland (the Senate Democratic primary attracted 560,477 votes while the Republicans only produced 169,047), as one would expect, since the Free State is one of the strongest Democratic entities in the country. Conversely, more Republicans than Democrats voted in the Oklahoma primary (452,194 to 395,038 in the gubernatorial race), and that ratio, too, was anticipated.

Colorado, generally considered a swing state but one moving toward the Democrats in most elections, again saw more Democrats participating in Tuesday’s election. In the open governor’s race, 627,839 Democrats voted in the gubernatorial primary as compared to 493,445 Republicans. Once more, these numbers are predictable and represent a rather normal voter turnout pattern.

While talk of a “blue wave” continues and polls continue to show that more Democrats are interested and enthused about the coming midterm elections in the fall, such is not apparent in actual voting behavior within the two largest and most prolific Democratic states. In California, as we previously reported, while more Democrats than Republicans voted in the statewide jungle primary, in the seven targeted congressional districts more people voted for Republican candidates in six of those seven.

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Mountain Polling

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJune 25, 2018 — The Utah state primary is tomorrow, and we have finally seen a poll testing former presidential nominee Mitt Romney in his run for the open Senate seat that the venerable Orrin Hatch (R) is vacating after what will be 42 years of legislative service. In New Mexico, Carroll Strategies released a statewide survey last week of 1,199 of the state’s registered voters and segmented the respondents into the state’s three congressional districts. We look at the upcoming primaries in both states:

Utah Senate

According to the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah (June 11-18; 654 registered Utah voters, 356 likely Utah Republican primary voters), Romney has a commanding lead as the campaigns enter the final days before Republican voters choose their nominee. In late April, state Democratic convention delegates nominated Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson as the party standard bearer, so there is no Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday.

The polling results find the 2012 Republican presidential nominee leading state Rep. Mike Kennedy, a Provo physician who outpaced Romney among delegates at the Republican state convention, by a whopping 65-23 percent margin. Therefore, little doubt exists that we will see a sizable Romney victory this coming Tuesday night.

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Still Counting . . .

By Jim Ellis

i-vote-i-countJune 21, 2018 — Even in the age of advanced technology, vote counting can be a surprisingly long process. Despite political primaries being conducted weeks ago in California (June 5) and Maine (June 12), as of this writing, election officials still have not determined a winner, or second general election qualifier, in at least three campaigns.

In California, the 48th Congressional District’s second general election qualifier remains undeclared. There, Democratic businessmen Harley Rouda and Hans Keirstead are fighting to determine which of the two will advance from a pool of 15 candidates challenging veteran Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).

On election night, Rohrabacher clinched first place with 30.3 percent of the vote over the field of 15, while Rouda placed second. With the California process being notoriously slow because of the large number of mail ballots that must be counted and are allowed to be postmarked the day of the election and received through that following Friday, it appeared evident that the substantial number of outstanding votes could well change the outcome for the second place qualifier. Hence, the abnormally long post-election process began.

Today, the official count, though still not complete, now finds Rouda re-capturing second place, this time by a scant 69 votes of the more than 173,000 votes cast, counted, and recorded district-wide, and the 57,285 ballots divided only between Rouda and Keirstead.

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Maine’s Instant Run-Off Examined

By Jim Ellis

MAINEJune 15, 2018 — An interesting situation is developing from the still-in-progress Maine primary that could become a test case for either changing or instituting state run-off electoral systems.

As you know, run-offs ensure that a party nominee obtains a majority or, in the case of North Carolina and South Dakota, a substantial share of the vote. The run-off’s purpose is to prevent a party from nominating a winner in a multi-candidate election who garners only a small plurality.

The South Carolina 4th Congressional District race is a good example of why some states choose a run-off format. On Tuesday, both parties advanced a pair of candidates into respective run-off elections because no one came close to receiving majority support.

For the Republicans, with 13 candidates running to succeed retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg), former state Sen. Lee Bright finished first, but with only 25 percent of the vote. In most other states, he would have been nominated. Since, 75 percent of the Republican voters chose another candidate, the run-off ensues. On June 26, Bright and state Sen. William Timmons (R-Greenville), who finished second with 19.2 percent, will decide the party nomination in one-on-one electoral competition. On the Democratic side, candidates Doris Lee Turner (29.4 percent) and Brandon Brown (28.5 percent) advance, while Eric Graben (25.7 percent), Will Morin (9.1 percent), and J.T. Davis (7.2 percent) are eliminated.

Maine is testing a unique new system that prevents situations such as their own that occurred in the past two gubernatorial elections, but avoids the cost of holding another separate election. Political observers will now see if their new idea will work and potentially withstand a legal challenge.

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California Still Counting;
CD-48 Still Undecided

By Jim Ellis

The California state flag

The California state flag

June 13, 2018 — The notoriously long California vote counting system continues to grind along, and a week later a major election is still in doubt — the 48th Congressional District, a seat fully contained within Orange County. Among the 16 jungle primary candidates, incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has secured the first run-off position and advances into the general election. The ongoing battle is for second place between biomedical company CEO Hans Keirstead and businessman Harley Rouda, both Democrats.

This is an interesting election since the national and state Democratic Parties are split. The California State Democratic Party convention gave its official endorsement to Keirstead, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and many Democratic leaders officially backed Rouda.

On election night, Rouda had taken the lead, but the laborious post-election count has now put Keirstead in second place with a growing lead. His previous edge over Rouda was 87 votes. The latest count, released Monday night, increases Keirstead’s edge over Rouda to 372 votes, continuing the pattern of Keirstead moving up in the post-election count.

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Today’s Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2018 — Today brings another set of primaries, this time from five states: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.

MAINE

the-primariesSen. Angus King (I) stands for a second term, and today’s primary will be a non-event. Both the Republicans and Democrats have only one candidate on the ballot. State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Kennebec County), who was the Maine State Director for the 2012 Ron Paul for President campaign, will be the GOP nominee, while teacher Zak Ringelstein is the Democratic candidate. Sen. King is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.

The open governor’s race is a wild affair for both parties. Gov. Paul LePage (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. The Democrats are fielding seven candidates and the Repblicans, four. Expect the general election to be competitive.

The 2nd District Democratic congressional primary is of keen interest, as a three-way contest culminates among state Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston), wealthy conservationist Lucas St. Clair, and former Islesboro Selectman Craig Olson. The resource battle is between Golden and St. Clair, and both figure to spend more than $800,000 in attempting to secure the party nomination. The winner will challenge two-term Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) in the general election.


NEVADA

The Silver State political card is full with contested races for Senate, governor, and three House races.

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Democrats Re-Visit
“Super Delegates”

By Jim Ellis

June 11, 2018
— According to an article published late last week by Politico, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez informed a group of US House members this week in a meeting that the party will be considering a move to change the status of what are now known as “Super Delegates” in preparation for the 2020 presidential election.

super-delegates-375The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws panel met Friday to consider two proposals about making the group virtually powerless before the next presidential campaign begins. The Super Delegates became controversial in the 2016 presidential contest because of Hillary Clinton’s dominance within this delegate sector, which is comprised of elected officials and party leaders.

Many believed the group unfairly tilted the playing field toward Clinton in the face of actual Democratic primary and caucus voters who preferred Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In the end, Clinton still won the pledged delegate count — those earned in primaries and caucuses — but her strength with Super Delegates clinched the nomination long before all the delegates voted on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

In short, each state is awarded a certain number of Super Delegates, officially labeled as “PLEO’s” (Party Leader/Elected Official). They are comprised of a defined number of the state’s elected officials, internally elected, and “distinguished” party leaders. Each state has different rules governing who is awarded Super Delegate status.

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California Jungle Primary Intrigue

The California state flag

The California state flag

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2018 — In 2010, Golden State voters adopted a ballot proposition that changed the state’s primary system. As we have often noted in articles about the state’s political campaigns, the primary is now a qualifying election with the top two vote-getting candidates advancing to the general election regardless of percentage or political party affiliation. Looking toward the California preliminary vote tomorrow, the top-two jungle primary system may produce some unintended consequences.

When the initiative was first floated eight years ago, many pro-enterprise organizations joined in support because they correctly saw that business coalition candidates, and Republicans in particular, were headed for further downturns in California elections. The top-two format, many believed, would produce more centrist victors from both political parties. In practice, when analyzing the three election cycles since the process began and going into a fourth on Tuesday, such has not quite been the case.

As we know, Democrats have heavily targeted California in their 2018 bid to regain the US House majority, believing that their chances of winning the seven Republican districts Hillary Clinton carried in the last presidential election are strong. But Tuesday’s vote is providing them a new obstacle to overcome, a complication that could actually shut them out of even having a general election candidate in some of their top targeted districts.

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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)