Tag Archives: Kansas

More on the House

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2017 — Yesterday, we examined the House’s post-special election status and speculated upon the Democrats’ chances of wresting majority control away from Republicans during the coming regular campaigns. One of the obstacles that make the Democrats’ task difficult is that only 15 early seats are open, and Republicans risk just nine of the total sum.

What could bring Democrats greater opportunity is the number of potentially open seats — that is, where members are, reportedly, considering running for another office. In this category, 18 incumbents are said to be contemplating different political moves that, if executed, would send their current seats into the open category.

Of the 18, only two are Democrats. Should Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) draw a major Republican primary opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is likely to jump into the Arizona statewide race thinking her victory chances become more realistic if Flake is forced to battle through a difficult intra-party contest. In Maryland, Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) is still reportedly considering entering the governor’s race to challenge incumbent Larry Hogan (R). The Democratic field is expanding, however, with former NAACP president Ben Jealous and Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker just recently announcing their candidacies, so Rep. Delaney’s decision is likely becoming more difficult.

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The Aftermath

By Jim Ellis

June 22, 2017 — Much was written and discussed yesterday about Tuesday’s surprising special election results in GA-6 and SC-5. Democrats, in particular, had raised victory expectations to unrealistically high levels for the Georgia race while spending record sums of money there, yet still suffered another crushing defeat.

Northeast from the Atlanta district some 200 miles away on Interstate 85, South Carolina Democratic candidate Archie Parnell, who the national party leadership basically considered politically dead even before he won the party nomination, lost by only two percentage points. He actually came closer to his Republican opponent than GA-6 candidate Jon Ossoff did while having 97 percent less in the way of campaign financial resources.

Predictably, Democratic congressional members, activists, and donors from around the country are not happy with the party leadership over the losses, but talk inside and outside the House of deposing the leadership team of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will soon dissipate.

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Unelecteds and Opens

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2017 — It was always known that a large number of 2017-18 cycle governors’ races would be open contests, but finding several unelected incumbents running to hold their new positions is an unforeseen nuance.

In three states, and possibly soon a fourth, governors have been appointed to Trump administration positions or forced from office, thus allowing the lieutenant governor to move into the state’s top position.

South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, now UN Ambassador; Terry Branstad of Iowa becoming US Ambassador to China and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley being forced from office for misappropriation of state funds have made Henry McMaster (SC), Kim Reynolds (IA), and Kay Ivey (AL) overnight governors. While on paper and in practice this is a big advantage for the former lieutenant governors in running for the state’s top position, none of them have easy campaign roads, and not even for their respective party nominations.

Last week’s announcement from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) that he will enter his state’s open gubernatorial contest next year may soon lead to him battling a new incumbent if on-again, off-again Washington, DC appointment rumors eventually prove true.

Speculation has abounded that President Trump will tap Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) for an open United Nations position, or another associated with foreign policy. Though such talk has been a subject of discussion since February and he has yet to be appointed, it is unclear if such will ever happen. Should it, however, then Secretary Kobach, oil businessman Wink Hartman, and ex-state Rep. Ed O’Malley will have to face a new sitting Republican governor, Jeff Colyer, the current lieutenant governor.

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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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Kansas Expectations

By Jim Ellis

April 11, 2017 — Today is Election Day in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, the Wichita-anchored seat left vacant when then-Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) was appointed CIA Director. Republican state Treasurer Ron Estes is favored over Democratic attorney James Thompson in a race that is only now catching some national attention.

Neither candidate has been strong on the fundraising circuit. The national Democrats have done next to nothing for Thompson, not believing he had a chance to win the strongly Republican district. The GOP apparatus has come in late to run ads painting Thompson as an extremist, particularly in the area of abortion, and possibly indicating that internal data is not showing Estes in as strong a position as necessary from their perspective.

Media stories have been trying to paint the race as close, quoting GOP strategists as admitting the contest could be within single digits.

Trying to place realistic expectations around the outcome tonight, the GOP’s Estes should win with a victory percentage in the high 50s. Though some may believe Estes’ margin should be greater, the average vote percentages and the overlay of other races suggests that a GOP win in the 56-59 percent range would mean the campaign performed in accordance with historical voting trends.

An Estes winning percentage under 55 percent, however, will lead to Democrats and the media proclaiming that Thompson’s better-than-expected showing is reflective of national disapproval with President Trump and the Republican Congress. They will begin to draw parallels between the KS-4 result and how such developing trends will continue for the coming three special elections in the other vacated Republican US House districts.

There is little chance that Thompson wins the race. The Republican registration advantage here is 20 percentage points and unless the party turnout drops well below normal special election levels, Estes will be victorious.

Early voting does not indicate a Republican turnout drought. According to election officials, approximately 13,000 ballots from registered Republicans have been returned as compared to just over 10,000 for Democrats. Some 3,400 ballots have come from unaffiliated, or Independent, voters.

KS-4: Special Election

By Jim Ellis

April 11, 2017 –National Republicans are investing in media and digital ads at the very end of the Kansas special congressional election cycle in order to infuse energy into what has been a lackluster campaign effort from GOP nominee Ron Estes.

The 4th District of Kansas contains 16 south-central Sunflower State counties and a sliver of Pawnee County. Sedgwick County, home to the city of Wichita, is the population anchor (70 percent of the congressional district population resides in this local entity).

Since the 1936 elections, only one Democratic congressional candidate has won here: former Rep. Dan Glickman, first elected in 1976. He would serve nine consecutive terms before falling to defeat in 1994. Republican Todd Tiahrt unseated Rep. Glickman that year, and held the seat for an additional eight terms until departing for an unsuccessful US Senate run. In 2010, businessman Mike Pompeo won a crowded Republican primary to capture the seat. President Trump’s selection of Rep. Pompeo as CIA director opened the district for today’s special election.

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Specials Update

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 16, 2017 — News is breaking in three of the impending special congressional elections:

GA-6

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has scheduled the special election to replace newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for April 18, with a run-off to follow on June 20. Already 15 candidates have announced for the seat.

For special elections, Georgia employs the same system as we’ve previously described when discussing the California race. That is, a jungle primary will be conducted on April 18, with all candidates placed on one ballot. If no one secures a majority the top two finishers, irrespective of political party affiliation, will advance to the special general election in late June.

Democrats intend to make a push for this seat, which should become the most competitive of the five special congressional elections. President Trump only carried this district 48.3 – 46.8 percent in November, a major downturn for the GOP in what is typically a reliably Republican seat.

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Special Elections Getting Underway

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 9, 2017 — The special election cycle officially launches tomorrow evening.

KS-4

Kansas’ 4th District Republican Committee will convene for purposes of choosing a nominee to compete in the April 11 special election. Democrats will follow suit with their own confab on Saturday afternoon.

The Wichita-anchored 4th CD is vacant because Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) was nominated and confirmed as President Trump’s CIA director. He resigned the congressional seat on Jan. 24 to accept his new position. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) then quickly scheduled the replacement election for early April.

The 4th District Republican Committee consists of 126 party-elected delegates. They will consider the candidates, and then cast secret ballots. The voting will continue until one person reaches majority support (64 votes). The lowest vote-getter will be eliminated after every round of voting.

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Kansas in Flux

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 2, 2017 — The state of Kansas is heading for a period of major political upheaval both in the state house and within their congressional delegation.

In addition to CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s vacant 4th District being slated for an April 11 special election, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) has already announced that she will not seek re-election in the 2nd District.

With Jenkins not only leaving Congress but bypassing a chance to enter an open governor’s race – a contest most observers expected her to enter in 2018 – 3rd District Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park/Kansas City) is now reported to be seriously considering becoming a gubernatorial candidate. Should he make the jump into the statewide foray, his 3rd District will also be open in the next election.

Turning to the sprawling western 1st District where freshman Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend/Salina) will stand for his first re-election, the man he unseated in the 2016 Republican primary has already announced that he will return for a re-match. But, former Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R) has also been mentioned as a possible candidate in the Jenkins’ open seat, potentially jumping districts and hoping to stake out a Tea Party base in what promises to be a crowded primary. Kansas has no run-off, so a person with a strong ideological or geographic base can often win a multi-candidate primary election with only a small plurality. Such is how Huelskamp originally won his 1st District nomination back in 2010.

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Two Kansas Races:
Retirement & Special

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2017 — Rep. Lynn Jenkins bows out of politics, opening up the KS-2 congressional district, and Rep. Mike Pompeo’s confirmation as CIA director under President Trump opens up the KS-4 congressional district. Here’s a look at how those openings are expected to play out:

KS-2

It was expected that five-term Kansas Rep. Jenkins (R-Topeka) would not seek re-election in 2018, but her actual announcement contained a surprise. Most politicos believed Rep. Jenkins would enter the open governor’s campaign, but that will not be the case.

The congresswoman did, in fact, announce that she will leave the House at the end of the current term, but will not be running for governor or any other office. Jenkins intends to return to the private sector after completing her final term in Congress.

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is ineligible to seek a third term, and a great many names have been mentioned as potential statewide candidates. Now that Rep. Jenkins will not be a gubernatorial contender, the race to succeed Brownback becomes even more wide open. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), and Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) are attracting attention as prospective candidates. For the Democrats, 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis, the former state House minority leader, resides in this district and could potentially become a congressional candidate.

CD-2 lies in eastern Kansas, stretching in a north-south direction from Nebraska to Oklahoma. The two largest population centers are the capital city of Topeka and Lawrence, the home of Kansas University. The seat is reliably Republican but has elected Democrats from time to time. President Trump carried the 2nd, 56-37 percent. Four years ago, Mitt Romney out-polled then-President Obama, 56-42 percent.

Once this open seat race takes shape, the eventual Republican nominee will be viewed as a strong favorite, but a Democratic wave year, if such were to form, could potentially make this open seat race competitive.

KS-4

Since Rep. Pompeo (R-Wichita) immediately resigned his congressional seat upon being confirmed as President Trump’s CIA Director earlier in the week, Gov. Brownback (R) scheduled the replacement election for Tuesday, April 11. The two parties will determine for themselves how their nominees will be chosen, but it will be through an internal party procedure that must be completed by Feb. 18.

The Republicans have already announced that the 126-member 4th District Republican Committee will choose the special election nominee. The eventual GOP candidate will likely be a prohibitive favorite to win in April. Democrats have not yet announced their nomination structure.

The 4th is a strongly Republican seat. President Trump scored a 60-33 percent victory here over Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s victory margin over then-President Obama was 62-36 percent.

In anticipation of the special election, several individuals have already announced their candidacies, including former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R). Also petitioning the Republican committee members are state Treasurer Ron Estes, Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner, former radio talk show host Joseph Ashby, petroleum company CEO George Bruce, and Trump Transition Team member Alan Cobb.

For the Democrats, former state Treasurer Dennis McKinney and international relations consultant Laura Lombard are the two most prominent announced candidates.

Kansas’ largest city, Wichita, anchors the 4th District that occupies the south-central region in the state, just along the Oklahoma border. Much more will develop on this special election now that the vacancy is official, and with a newly defined short election cycle.

Open Seat News — Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 12, 2017 — With the new Congress scarcely a week old, we already know of eight open House districts. Assuming all of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees coming from the House are confirmed for their new positions, the action will lead to five mid-year special elections.

Additionally, one sitting member has been appointed California attorney general and is moving through the state confirmation process. Two more have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, and another just made a public pronouncement that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Below is a re-cap of the first four (alphabetical) CDs. The remainder will follow in the succeeding Update.

CA-34: Thirteen-term Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) was appointed attorney general to replace newly elected Senator Kamala Harris (D). Becerra is currently going through the legislative confirmation process, which means a hearing and vote in both the state Assembly and Senate. Once the congressman is confirmed for his new position, assuredly before January ends, he will resign from the US House. When the vacancy becomes official, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will call a special election to occur between 126 and 140 days after his order. Both the special primary and general elections must occur within this time frame.

All candidates will participate in a jungle primary. If one candidate receives a majority vote, such individual is elected outright. If not, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the special general election. Already 14 candidates have announced for the seat (11 Democrats, two Republicans, and one Green Party contender). The most likely scenario would find two Democrats advancing to the special general, which will most likely occur at the end of May or in early June. The leading candidates appear to be Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) and former LA City Council aide Sarah Hernandez (D).

GA-6: When Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) is confirmed as Secretary of Health & Human Services and resigns his northern Georgia congressional seat, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) will call a special replacement election. Deal will have wide scheduling discretion, as his requirement is that the vote be no less than 30 days after his call. The process will be three-tiered, featuring partisan primaries, partisan run-offs if necessary, and a general election. Most likely, the entire cycle will end sometime in June.

Republicans will be heavily favored to hold the seat. Former GOP Secretary of State Karen Handel (unannounced) and Republican state Sen. Judson Hill (announced) appear to be the leading early contenders.

KS-4: Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Wichita) selection as CIA Director will likely result in the special election with the shortest cycle calendar. Under Kansas law, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) will call the election for between 45 and 60 days after his pronouncement. If Pompeo resigns in February, the replacement election will then be held sometime in April.

The officially recognized political parties will determine for themselves how they will choose their nominees. Republicans have already announced that the 4th District Republican Committee of 126 voting members will vote for a special election nominee. Democratic leaders have not yet indicated how their process will unfold.

Once nominees are chosen, the candidates will participate in one election. Independents will have the right to petition onto the ballot, but the high signature qualification requirement will be over 17,000. Republicans are heavy favorites to hold the southeastern Kansas seat. Former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), state Treasurer Ron Estes (R), oil company executive and former congressional candidate Wink Hartman (R), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R) are among the high profile candidates being mentioned.

MT-AL: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) has been nominated as US Interior Secretary. Once the at-large seat becomes vacant, presumably sometime in February, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) will call the election for between 85 and 100 days post his declaration, meaning a vote sometime in late May or early June. The political parties will meet in convention to determine their nominees, so voters will go to the polls only once.

The special election could become competitive. Democrats hold two of Montana’s six statewide offices and before the November election actually controlled five. Already four Democrats and three Republicans have announced their candidacies. For the Democrats, three contenders are state representatives, including 2014 US Senate nominee Amanda Curtis, along with one businessman. The GOP side, so far, features two state senators, including Senate President Scott Sales, and one state representative. Democrats could turn to former state schools superintendent and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau. The latter lost to Rep. Zinke in November by a 56-41 percent count.

Follow the Money

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2016 — The Wesleyan Media Project released their campaign advertising study for the 2016 election cycle and, focusing on their Senate data that Kantar Media/CMAG compiled, the information gives us strong clues as to which races are the most important to each party. The report also provides clues as to which media campaigns and strategies are working and those that are lacking.

The study tracked ads run in 20 states featuring Senate general election campaigns, from a high of 18,265 ads aired (Pennsylvania) to a low of 18 (Kansas). The tested period spanned from Aug. 19 to Sept. 15. In the 20 states, an aggregate of 104,522 ads aired in the various markets. Those backing Republican candidates or opposing Democratic contenders accounted for approximately 53 percent of the total study period buy.

Though Pennsylvanians have seen the greatest number of Senate ads, the most money spent during the period was in New Hampshire ($16.9 million). This is because the overwhelming number of ads purchased was in the expensive Boston media market.

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Senate Trends

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2016 — While national pollsters are detecting a tightening presidential race, the US Senate campaigns are also beginning to reveal some potentially defining trends.

Safe Republicans & Democrats

Of the 34 in-cycle US Senate campaigns currently underway in 2016, half of them are in the safe category and won’t change. Nine Republican senators and eight Democrats are assured of re-election:

Republican senators: Shelby (AL), Murkowski (AK), Crapo (ID), Moran (KS), Hoeven (ND), Lankford (OK), Scott (SC), Thune (SD), Lee (UT)

Democrat sentors: California (Open Boxer), Maryland (Open Mikulski); Blumenthal (CT), Schatz (HI), Schumer (NY), Wyden (OR), Leahy (VT), Murray (WA)
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Huelskamp Loses; Full Re-cap

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 4, 2016 — Voters in four states went to the polls Tuesday, and the primary evening’s top news featured western Kansas Republicans unseating their three-term Freedom Caucus congressman.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler) fell to Dr. Roger Marshall (R), 56-44 percent, effectively ending his six-year tenure in the House. Huelskamp was at odds with the Republican leadership from the very beginning of his congressional career, even driving them to remove him from the Agriculture Committee, the industry of premier dominance in his district. The situation deteriorated to the point that even the Kansas Farm Bureau and the state Livestock Association officially backed Dr. Marshall.

Though national issues drove Huelskamp, it was the local agriculture situation that cost him the seat. The successful opposition campaign centered around Huelskamp’s ouster from the Agriculture Committee in one of the nation’s richest farm producing districts, and the incumbent’s refusal to support the farm bill in several Congresses. Dr. Marshall will easily win the seat in the general election.

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Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2016 — Today, voters in four states go the polls to choose nominees for their federal and state races. Intra-party contests in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will be decided. The Tennessee primary will follow on Thursday.

Kansas

The day’s most competitive primary challenge is underway in the 1st District, where one of the conservative Freedom Caucus’ most outspoken members, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler/Western Kansas), faces one lone, serious challenger, Dr. Roger Marshall (R). Sen. Jerry Moran (R) and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park/Kansas City) face only minor opposition in their respective campaigns.

The 1st District stretches from the Colorado border east through three-quarters of Kansas’ land mass. Including cities such as Manhattan, Hutchinson, Salina, Dodge City, Garden City, and Liberal, KS-1 is a conservative, agriculture-dominated CD. Rep. Huelskamp, who won a crowded open seat nomination fight in 2010, also received a primary challenge in 2014 and prevailed 56-44% over Alan LaPolice who only managed to spend just over $160,000.

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