Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

A Brewing Battle Emerging in Kansas

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 17, 2019 — Former legislative aide Abbie Hodgson, the only announced Democratic candidate in the KS-2 congressional race, withdrew her challenge to freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) Wednesday because she claims not to possess the fundraising ability to conduct a credible campaign. At this point, there is no alternative Democrat on the horizon in the Kansas district, but that will soon likely change.

Rep. Watkins won a tight 48-47 percent general election victory over former state House Minority Leader and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis (D) last November to succeed retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R). This came after political newcomer Watkins, a West Point graduate, Army Ranger and Afghanistan veteran, won a tight seven-way Republican primary but with only 26.5 percent of the vote. Controversy arose when a major independent expenditure committee emerged, which was principally funded by the candidate’s father, to back Watkins.

More potential upheaval surrounds Rep. Watkins, but it simmers below the surface. Rumors were flying around in August that the congressman would imminently resign his office because of a rumored scandal that was about to become public. Watkins took no such action, and to date nothing involving scandalous activity has come to light.

This has not stopped certain Republicans from taking action, however. In early September, reportedly at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) who lost his own bitter primary to then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner made a surprising move. He was the first declared US Senate candidate after incumbent Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement, but he then transferred from the statewide campaign to instead enter the primary to challenge Watkins in the Topeka-anchored congressional district.

Kansas’ 2nd is a decidedly Republican seat, but not intensely so. The CD occupies 23 eastern Kansas counties and parts of two others. It runs vertically from the Nebraska border to Oklahoma and consumes the territory between the Kansas City metro area and Wichita.

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Hunter Reeling

California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 7, 2019 — In addition to his legal woes, indicted California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) now appears to have severe political problems according to a new just-released CA-50 district study.

A Survey USA poll conducted for the San Diego Union-Tribune (Sept. 27-Oct. 2; 592 likely CA-50 voters; 671 respondents were asked favorability questions about the top four candidates, but the electoral questions were asked only of those who described themselves as likely voters) tested the seven announced candidates for the March 3 California jungle primary.

The S-USA results find Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, the 2018 party nominee who held Rep. Hunter to a four-point win, holding 31 percent support. Former San Diego City councilman and mayoral and congressional candidate Carl DeMaio (R) follows with 20 percent, ex-Rep. Darrell Issa, who recently announced his candidacy records 16 percent, while Rep. Hunter posts only an 11 percent preference factor.

Rather surprisingly, state Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee), also a recent candidate but a public official who represents almost 90 percent of the 50th District, records a very low four percent. The two independent candidates have three percent combined.

It is no surprise that Campa-Najjar is leading. In a crowded field with only one candidate from a particular party, it becomes a simple strategy to coalesce the party members behind the lone contender. While Campa-Najjar will almost certainly advance to the general election in this type of jungle format with so many candidates splitting his opposition party vote, we also must see that 52 percent of the poll respondents chose a Republican candidate. This obviously bodes poorly for the sole Democrat in the general election.

The setup here is similar to last year’s open 49th District, the adjacent seat from which Rep. Issa retired. In the June 2018 election, Republican Diane Harkey finished first by an eight-point margin in a field of 16 candidates but, in the general with only two contenders, it was Democrat Mike Levin who recorded a 56-44 percent victory.

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Collins Resigns; Thornberry to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

Oct. 2, 2019 — Reportedly planning to plead guilty to an insider trading charge after being indicted last year, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) resigned his seat in the House, officially informing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Monday of his intentions.

Despite having an indictment hanging over his head, Rep. Collins won a close re-election in NY-27 — normally a safe Republican upstate district that occupies all or parts of eight counties in the region’s rural area east of Buffalo and south of Rochester.

The congressman defeated Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island town supervisor, by a razor-thin 49.1 – 48.8 percent spread, a margin of just 1,087 votes. Clearly the indictment played a major role in the outcome being so close, as Collins’ re-election percentages were an identical 67.2 percent in 2014 and 2016 after unseating then-Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in the 2012 general election.

Anticipating an open seat or a weakened Collins seeking re-nomination, several Republicans had already announced their intentions to run. Two state senators, Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Rob Ortt (R-Lockport), are already in the race as is attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato. The 2018 Democratic nominee, McMurray, is also a declared candidate.

It is likely that other Republicans will jump into either the special election, if it is called, or the regular election now that it is an open seat race. It is also likely that Democratic leaders will make sure that McMurray has a clean shot for re-nomination in order to make him as strong as possible against a different GOP nominee.

The New York state primary is scheduled for June 23. The eventual GOP nominee should begin as a favorite to hold the seat.
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Rep. Shimkus to Retire

Illinois Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 4, 2019 — Twelve-term Illinois Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), a key member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, announced over the Labor Day weekend that he will not seek re-election next year, becoming the latest GOP House member to join the increasing line of incumbents voluntarily not returning for the next Congress.

Rep. Shimkus’ retirement makes his IL-15 the 18th open House seat for the next election, including the two September 10th North Carolina special elections. Of this group, Republicans currently hold 14 of the 18 seats, with the vacant NC-9 — one of those currently in special election and the district that featured a disputed 2018 electoral result — previously in the GOP column as well.

Shimkus, in his written statement, said, “[A]s Illinois candidates begin to circulate petitions next week, now is the time for me to announce that I will not be seeking re-election.

“It has been the honor of my lifetime to be asked by the people of Illinois to represent them in our nation’s capital. Each day I have tried to do this as best as I possibly could, and my success lies squarely at the feet of my incredible staff in Illinois and Washington, DC.”

IL-15 is a safe Republican district. President Trump carried the seat, 71-24 percent, in 2016. Four years earlier, Mitt Romney’s margin was 64-34 percent, and John McCain won here 55-43 percent in 2008. Therefore, over the course of time, the 15th has become more Republican. In his four elections in this district configuration, Shimkus has averaged 78.6 percent of the general election vote.

The district is predominantly located in the eastern sector of the state, hugging the Indiana border and traveling due south all the way to Kentucky. It then stretches west to almost the other side of the state in order to annex the Collinsville area, an outer St. Louis metro area community where Shimkus resides.

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Ex-Rep. Issa Forms Exploratory Committee For Crowded CA-50

Ex-California US Rep. Darrell Issa

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 3, 2019 — Ex-California US Rep. Darrell Issa, who represented the state’s 49th CD for 18 years, just filed a new congressional exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. But he is not looking to run in his former seat. Rather, the exploratory committee is organized to survey his chances of winning the adjacent 50th CD, the district that indicted Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) currently represents.

This congressional district’s political soap opera continues to unfold. Hunter is facing a trial after the first of next year to defend himself against campaign finance charges, certain ones for which his estranged wife and former campaign manager have already negotiated a plea agreement with the government. And, with the early March 3 state primary scheduled concurrently with the presidential Super Tuesday vote, candidates are already announcing their intentions.

Anticipating that the court case will go against the congressman, five Republicans have announced their candidacies. And, with the trial now postponed until after the first of the year (it was originally scheduled for mid-September) there is a strong chance that Rep. Hunter will file for re-election before the state’s Dec. 6 candidate filing deadline. Should Issa decide to enter the race, then at least seven Republicans will be competing.

So many are coming forward because the 50th is one of the safest Republican seats in California, a state that now has a congressional delegation of 46 Democrats and just seven Republicans. However, quite possibly, and largely due to the state’s jungle primary law, the seat could fall into Democratic hands under a very realistic scenario.

Under California law, similar to the system in Louisiana and Washington, all candidates appear on the primary ballot regardless of political party affiliation. In the California process, the top two finishers in the first election, which is in reality a qualifying election as opposed to a partisan primary, advance to the general election.

Because there will be seven Republicans or more on the ballot and, at this point, just one Democrat — 2018 nominee Ammar Campa-Najjar, who posted 48.3 percent of the vote against Hunter — Campa-Najjar’s chances of advancing to the general election are quite favorable.

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