Tag Archives: Kansas

Kansas’ New Race

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) | Facebook

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 26, 2018 — Two events occurred two days ago that drastically changed the Kansas gubernatorial race.

First, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) won confirmation as President Trump’s ambassador-at large for International Religious Freedom and will soon be resigning as Kansas’ chief executive to accept his new position. Gov. Brownback barely passed muster in the Senate, a body in which he served 14 years before being elected governor in 2010. Vice President Mike Pence was called into the Senate chamber to break the 49-49 confirmation deadlock.

The move means that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), already a candidate for the state’s top post, will be ascending to the governorship by the end of this week. Colyer will become the fourth Republican lieutenant governor who will be running for governor as an unelected incumbent. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), and Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) are the other three who became governor last year when the individual elected in 2014 either left under an ethical cloud (Alabama) or accepted a Trump Administration appointment (Iowa; South Carolina; and now Kansas).

Second, Republicans also received good news over a development that could decimate the Democrat’s opportunity of running a viable general election campaign. Wealthy Independent Greg Orman, who challenged Sen. Pat Roberts (R) in 2014 and actually became the de facto Democratic nominee (he lost 53-42 percent), officially announced he will enter the governor’s campaign and as a non-affiliated candidate.

Continue reading

New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

Continue reading

Democratic Enthusiasm: Overblown?

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 20, 2017 — In attempting to objectively look at the current electorate now one year before the next election, is Democratic enthusiasm about the party’s prospects of capturing the US House majority accurate or does their optimism exceed what the numbers actually say?

Several points need to be dispelled before examining the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll that gives the Democrats a 10-point advantage in the “enthusiasm gap.”

partisan polling splitFirst, let’s remember in looking at the current cycle’s House special election results that neither party lost a seat they previously held. This is particularly significant when Democrats use the argument in reference to the Kansas, Montana, and Georgia special elections that they over-performed even though failing to win any of the seats.

While they may have over-performed in relation to the Trump presidential percentage in Kansas and Montana, when looking back to the last time those particular seats were open the 2017 Republican special election performance was actually within the consistent realm. Therefore, as the Democratic strategists often say themselves, and correctly so, it is the Trump percentage that is generally the political anomaly and not the historical results.

” … a one-point victory in an election with such a flawed candidate, irrespective of Alabama’s voting history, simply cannot be considered the emerging beacon of a coming wave for the 2018 midterm elections.”

In Georgia, the Democrats and their allies spent a record $35 million on that particular special election campaign and still lost by four percentage points. The one seat where they unmistakably over-performed was the only special election where the party’s political apparatus didn’t target: the three-point Republican victory in the South Carolina electoral contest.

Continue reading

Mapping Out the
Open Seat Opportunities

By Jim Ellis

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-November-2017Nov. 16, 2017 — If the Democrats are to capture the House majority next year, they will have to score well in the burgeoning open seat category, but so far the map does not appear particularly favorable for them. Though a strong showing in the 2017 odd-year elections, particularly in Virginia, gives them a boost headed into the midterm vote, Democrats still have a significant task ahead in order to gain ground within the House open seat universe.

Witnessing six new retirement announcements since the end of October, in part because the Dec. 11 Texas candidate filing deadline for 2018 is fast approaching thus forcing early campaign decisions, the open-seat contingent has significantly changed during the past month.

Currently, counting the PA-18 vacant seat that will be decided in a March 13 special election, 36 seats are coming open next year. Monday’s retirement pronouncement from Lone Star State Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) brings the Democratic open protect count to 11 seats, meaning 25 incumbent-less Republican districts remain.

But, carefully looking at the GOP open-seat inventory yields very few highly competitive districts. One can argue, and we do, that the number of endangered Republican seats is only two: retiring veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Miami) South Florida district, and south New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s (R-Ventnor City) CD.

Continue reading

Follow the Money

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 24, 2017 — The 3rd Quarter Federal Election Commission US House disclosure reports are available, and they provide valuable clues as to which campaigns could become first-tier efforts next year. The Daily Kos Elections Page once again completed their quarterly analysis, which became the major source for this column.

federal-elections-commission-logoThirty-five incumbents and two challengers have already raised more than $1 million for the current election cycle. Another seven (six incumbents; one challenger) have crossed the $900,000 mark in current cycle receipts.

Most of the million-dollar incumbents are in projected competitive primary or general election campaigns.

Arizona two-term incumbent Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) is again raising and spending huge amounts in the early going. She has gathered $2.8 million, a great deal of which comes through expensive direct mail, hence her cash-on-hand total is $1.453 million. Her potential leading Democratic opponent, former 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) who has re-located to Tucson in order to challenge McSally, is showing only $269,000 on hand in comparison, but that is the largest amount among the five Democrats filing disclosure reports in this district.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Specials Update

By Jim Ellis

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


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.

Continue reading

Special Elections Getting Underway

By Jim Ellis

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


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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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:


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.


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.