Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

House Democrats Release “Frontline Program” Targeting Perceived
Vulnerable GOP CDs

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 12, 2019 — Countering the previously announced National Republican Congressional Committee Patriot Program targeting list, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released their Frontline Program protection listing late last week.

Since the Democrats are now in the House majority, their list is wholly defensive in nature while the Republicans are the minority challengers, a juxtaposition of roles from the past four election cycles. Of the 44 Frontline defense districts, 43 are also GOP Patriot Program targets. The lone exception is Connecticut freshman Jahana Hayes (D-Wolcott), a former national Teacher of the Year award winner who won a 56-44 percent victory in her maiden general election campaign.

The targeting organizational programs are important because both official political party apparatuses help the candidates with fundraising, a campaign element where Democrats overwhelmed Republicans in the 2018 election cycle. Therefore, it is likely that the Patriot Program is more important to the previously identified GOP members than the Frontline operation is to the Democratic incumbents, most of whom raised multi-millions in their own right.

Comparing the lists, the 43 top Democratic protection members who are also found on the Republican register could more realistically be narrowed to 27 campaigns that should reasonably be placed in the highest vulnerability category.

In 19 of the 27, President Trump carried the district over Hillary Clinton, and four years earlier Mitt Romney topped President Obama in 17 of the CDs. The Republicans had won all three post-redistricting congressional elections (2012, ’14, ’16) in 22 of the 27 districts prior to the 2018 vote.

Additionally, the isolated campaigns below should be the most competitive 2020 districts because the Republicans have won 75.5 percent of the federal political contests (an aggregate 102 of 135: three congressional races and two presidential apiece, but not counting 2018) since the last redistricting (2011) created the current CD configurations. Therefore …

The 27 most vulnerable Democratic protection races are as follows (the number in parenthesis is the member’s 2018 victory percentage):


  • AZ-1 – Tom O’Halleran (54%)
  • CA-21 – T.J. Cox (50)
  • CA-39 – Gil Cisneros (52)
  • CA-45 – Katie Porter (52)
  • CA-48 – Harley Rouda (53)
  • FL-26 – Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (51)
  • GA-6 – Lucy McBath (50)
  • IL-14 – Lauren Underwood (52)
  • IA-1 – Abby Finkenauer (50)
  • IA-3 – Cindy Axne (49)
  • KS-3 – Sharice Davids (54)
  • ME-2 – Jared Golden (50)
  • MI-11 – Haley Stevens (52)
  • MN-2 – Angie Craig (53)
  • NH-1 – Chris Pappas (53)
  • NJ-3 – Andy Kim (50)
  • NJ-7 – Tom Malinowski (52)
  • NM-2 – Xochitl Torres Small (51)
  • NY-11 – Max Rose (52)
  • NY-19 – Antonio Delgado (50)
  • NY-22 – Anthony Brindisi (50)
  • OK-5 – Kendra Horn (51)
  • SC-1 – Joe Cunningham (51)
  • TX-7 – Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (52)
  • UT-4 – Ben McAdams (50)
  • VA-2 – Elaine Luria (51)
  • VA-7 – Abigail Spanberger (50)

 

In the succeeding 10 districts, Republicans have won every federal race with the lone exception of the 2018 congressional contest. These should be considered the first-level targets. They are:

First-Level Targets


  • GA-6 (McBath)
  • IL-14 (Underwood)
  • MI-11 (Stevens)
  • NM-2 (Torres Small)
  • NY-22 (Brindisi)
  • OK-5 (Horn)
  • SC-1 (Cunningham)
  • UT-4 (McAdams)
  • VA-2 (Luria)
  • VA-7 (Spanberger)

 

Under the present political situation, considering the strength of the new incumbent and the district voting history with particular emphasis on its latest trends, the following

Frontline Democratic Representatives should arguably be considered lesser targets at least for right now:


  • CA-10 – Josh Harder (52%)
  • CA-25 – Katie Hill (54)
  • CA-49 – Mike Levin (56)
  • CO-6 – Jason Crow (54)
  • IL-6 – Sean Casten (54)
  • MI-8 – Elissa Slotkin (51)
  • NV-3 – Susie Lee (52)
  • NV-4 – Steven Horsford (52)
  • NJ-2 – Jeff Van Drew (53)
  • NJ-5 – Josh Gottheimer (56)
  • NJ-11 – Mikie Sherrill (57)
  • PA-7 – Susan Wild (53)
  • PA-8 – Matt Cartwright (55)
  • PA-17 – Conor Lamb (56)
  • TX-32 – Colin Allred (52)
  • WA-8 – Kim Schrier (52)

 

Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall to Retire:
A Look at the Seat’s 2020 Contenders

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville)

Feb. 11, 2019 — Five-term Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville), who survived the closest raw vote election of any winning incumbent last November (419 votes from just over 280,000 ballots cast against former state Senate committee staff director Carolyn Bourdeaux), announced late last week that he won’t seek re-election in 2020.

This opens a seat that was obviously highly competitive in the ’18 election cycle, but this lone result might not tell the entire story.

Only at the very end of the election cycle did Rep. Woodall launch a campaign, previously believing that his seat would perform as a safe Republican enclave just as it had since its inception under the 2001 redistricting plan, and then reconfigured in the 2011 remap. Then-Congressman John Linder (R) represented the district at the time and until his retirement before the 2010 election, always enjoying landslide re-election percentages.

Woodall was badly outspent by challenger Bourdeaux, falling behind her by a 2:1 ratio as his campaign posted less than $1.5 million in direct expenditures.

Upon the news of Rep. Woodall’s retirement becoming public, Ms. Bourdeaux confirmed that she would again become a candidate. Previously, 2018 contender David Kim, owner of a learning center chain of businesses who lost the Democratic run-off to Bourdeaux by only 569 votes, and attorney Marqus Cole had already announced that they would battle for the 2020 party nomination. Democratic state Reps. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) and Brenda Lopez Romero (D-Norcross) also confirm that they are considering the congressional race now that the seat will be open.

The potential Republican candidate field could be even larger than that of the Democrats, which would almost inevitably lead to a run-off election once the original primary concludes. Most multi-candidate primaries advance to a secondary election in states like Georgia that require party nominees to obtain majority support.

Among the early Republican names being mentioned are US Attorney B.J. Pak, state Sens. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), and P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville), along with ex-state Rep. Scott Hilton and former state Sen. David Shafer, among others, according to Tamar Hallerman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper.

Other than the 2018 congressional election, the 7th District has performed as a reliable GOP district. President Trump carried it 51-45 percent in 2016, but he was the low performer among national Republican presidential nominees. Mitt Romney’s margin was 61-37 percent four years previous over President Barack Obama, and John McCain registered a 59-40 percent spread against then-Sen. Obama in 2008.

Prior to his close call in November, Woodall averaged 63.8 percent of the vote in his other four congressional victories. Therefore, it remains to be seen if the 2018 congressional race is an anomaly or a harbinger of new developing voting patterns.

The 7th District is comprised of approximately 70 percent of two Atlanta suburban counties, Gwinnett and Forsyth, with about 80 percent of the population residing in the former. The people live in generally small communities with Lawrenceville and Duluth being the largest, and they only report about 30,000 residents apiece. Other towns include Norcross, Buford, Grayson, Suwanee, and Cumming.

Woodall becomes the third House member to announce that he won’t be seeking re-election next year. Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) are the other two.

Special Election Called in PA

By Jim Ellis

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

Jan. 29, 2019 — While most of the special election banter surrounds the still undecided North Carolina situation (NC-9), the first new election of the year has just been scheduled.

With Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino’s (R-Williamsport) surprise announcement earlier this month that he was resigning from the House, a move he made official on Jan. 23 to accept a position in the private sector, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has already called the replacement special election to fill the new vacancy.

As expected, Gov. Wolf made the 12th District special election concurrent with the Pennsylvania statewide municipal primary, which is scheduled for May 21. There will be only the one election, and the candidate receiving the most votes, regardless of percentage attained, will serve the balance of the current term.

In the meantime, the 15 county chairmen from the qualified political parties will schedule a convention in the district to choose their respective nominee. Generally, the convention is weighted to accurately reflect the population spread throughout the district. Therefore, the most populous counties within the 12th CD, Lycoming and part of Centre that together possess 29 percent of the district’s population, will likely have a commensurate number of votes at the special nominating convention.

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The Nevada Sway

By Jim Ellis

Nevada-mapOct. 17, 2018 — A new Emerson College poll (Oct. 10-12; 625 likely Nevada voters) projects Sen. Dean Heller (R) to a 48-41 percent lead over freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson), which is the largest lead for either candidate since the June 12th primary.

For most of the election cycle, this race has been rated as a toss-up campaign, but most prognosticators believed it would eventually tilt toward the Democrats yielding a challenger victory.

Viewed as a state trending Democratic because of Hillary Clinton’s 48-45 percent victory in the most recent presidential campaign added to President Obama winning here in both of his elections: 52-46 percent over Mitt Romney, and in a 55-43 percent landslide over John McCain, the 2014 Republican sweep from the governor’s race through the state legislative campaigns has generally been disregarded as an anomaly.

Outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has strong approval ratings and would clearly be a re-election favorite if the state did not have a term limit law. The governor is playing an interesting role in this year’s campaign. He is featured prominently in Sen. Heller’s advertising but refuses to endorse Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) as his successor because the latter man refuses to support the Sandoval tax program, which is becoming the governor’s legacy as Nevada’s chief executive.

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MA-3: A Sleeper?

Massachusetts congressional districts

Massachusetts congressional districts


By Jim Ellis

Aug. 27, 2018 — One of the few interesting remaining primaries in this 2018 election cycle is the open northern Massachusetts congressional race a week from tomorrow featuring 10 Democratic candidates all attempting to succeed retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell).

A new University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Boston Globe survey of the impending MA-3 Democratic primary (Aug. 14-21; 849 MA-3 registered voters, 553 MA-3 likely Democratic primary voters) finds ex-Boston mayoral chief of staff Dan Koh forging into the lead, but with only a 19-13-13 percent edge over former ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford, and state Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) as the state’s Sept. 4 partisan primary draws near.

But other candidates could possibly make a run, too. Business consultant Lori Trahan posts eight percent in the poll, and while state Rep. Juana Matias (D-Lawrence) has just six percent, she is dominant within the district’s Hispanic community. In such a crowded campaign with a low voter turnout, any candidate with a major support base must be taken seriously. The other five candidates each register four percent and below.

But there could be more to this campaign than the winner of a crowded primary going on to easily take the general election in what should be a safe seat for the dominant party in the district, in this case the Democrats.

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Dead Heats in New Nevada Senate Poll

By Jim Ellis

Nevada Senate candidate, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R)

Nevada Senate candidates: Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R)

Aug. 2, 2018 — A new Suffolk University survey (July 24-29; 500 likely Nevada voters) returns numbers that again show Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) falling within the margin of polling error with neither candidate attracting majority support.

According to Suffolk, Sen. Heller leads Rep. Rosen by a bare 41-40 percent margin, meaning the two are virtually tied. This is the first poll since mid-April that projects the senator to any kind of an advantage, but even the four surveys in between, all of which favored Rep. Rosen, showed margin spreads in the realm of two to six points. Of the eight polls publicized for this race during the entire election cycle, in only one, the April Survey Monkey study, did either candidate ever reach the 50 percent mark (Rosen, 50-44 percent; Survey Monkey; April 2-23; 1,332 Nevada registered voters in the Survey Monkey pool).

Suffolk also tested the state’s open governor’s race, and found an equally tight contest. Here, Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt posts a 42-41 percent tally over Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. In the one previously released post-primary general election poll, from Gravis Marketing (June 23-26; 630 likely Nevada general election voters), an almost identical result was projected: Laxalt leading 43-41 percent.

The Nevada Senate race is one of the most important in the nation this year, and one of two main Democratic conversion targets (the open race in Arizona is the other). Winning this race is the only gateway to the Democrats potentially gaining the Senate majority, thus we can expect to see major political action in this state for the remaining prime campaign months.

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Critical NJ Race in Toss-Up Mode

By Jim Ellis

Navy veteran and attorney, Mikie Sherrill

Navy veteran and attorney, Mikie Sherrill (D) | Photo from campaign ad

June 28, 2018 — Democrats have high hopes of converting a northern New Jersey seat that has only elected Republicans during the past 34 years, and a new Monmouth University poll (June 22-25; 406 NJ-11 registered voters) projects a toss-up 11th District contest. The two major party nominees, chosen in early June, are state Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morristown) and attorney and Navy veteran Mikie Sherrill (D).

Monmouth polling is experimenting with new sampling methods that involve three different turnout projection models. Their full sample, or “potential” voter model is one that tests only people who have voted in at least one election since 2010 or who are newly registered voters. The second model is what they term a “standard midterm” sample, and the third is in place to monitor a “Democratic surge,” if such were to develop.

The latter phrase has been used frequently in polling and in political commentaries, but there is little evidence of a substantial increase in Democratic primary voting from most states. At this point, national turnout models based solely upon 2018 primary voter turnout suggest a pattern that is closely aligned with a typical midterm performance. So far, more Democrats have been voting in states that normally vote Democratic, and more Republicans are participating in places where GOP candidates dominate.

New Jersey state Assemblyman Jay Webber (R) | Photo from campaign ad

New Jersey state Assemblyman Jay Webber (R) | Photo from campaign ad

According to the full sample model, Democrat Sherrill leads Republican Webber by a scant 40-38 percent. Under the typical midterm model, the Democratic advantage increases to four points, 44-40 percent, but is still within the polling margin of error. Under their potential “Democratic surge” model, which may well prove illusionary when actual votes are counted, Sherrill increases her advantage to 45-39 percent.

The sample is weighted, but the draw does include more Independent voters (plus-three percent) than the raw percentage district total, and is four points less Democratic. But, the weighting formula is supposed to neutralize such discrepancies.

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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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US Senate Candidate Ratings

By Jim Ellis

daily-kos-fox-news-pollingJune 19, 2018 — Two organizations just released 2018 US Senate race ratings, and though the differences are few it is worth analyzing the aggregate comparison.

Fox News and the Daily Kos Elections site published their updated ratings at the end of last week. Fox is a bit different in that they do not distinguish a “safe” race from one where the current favorite is a “likely” winner. Therefore, they have only five categories instead of the traditional seven.

While both organizations place eight Senate races in their Toss-up category, there are differences. The most glaring variance appears to be the Nevada race featuring Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson). The other is the Tennessee open campaign that finds Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former governor, Phil Bredesen (D), vying to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). The Tennessee primary is not scheduled until Aug. 2, but there is no doubt that both will advance into the general election.

Daily Kos rates the Nevada race a toss-up, but Fox favors Rep. Rosen as it puts the campaign into the Lean Democratic column. The Fox rating is curious in that current polling is tight, Sen. Heller is the incumbent, winning in 2012 even though President Obama scored a 52-46 percent victory in the state over Mitt Romney, and he also has three other statewide conquests to his credit, as secretary of state, dating back as far as 1994.

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Do Democrats Have a Chance in SC-1?

By Jim Ellis

South Carolina 1st District Republican nominee, state Rep. Katie Arrington (R-Summerville)

South Carolina 1st District Republican nominee, state Rep. Katie Arrington (R-Summerville)

June 18, 2018 — A day after US representative and former governor Mark Sanford (R-Charleston) was denied re-nomination, becoming the second incumbent in this election cycle to fall before the national vote even begins (in May, North Carolina Rep. Bob Pittenger, R-Charlotte, was the first to lose) the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party was claiming that his political organization is now staring at a conversion opportunity.

“It is a perfect storm and an opportunity for us to pick that seat up,” said Trav Robertson, the SC Democratic chairman in an interview last week with the Huffington Post.

Robertson and the local Democrats are claiming that the 1st District is now competitive because Rep. Sanford is out. The 1st stretches from Daufuskie and Hilton Head Islands along the Atlantic coast in the state’s southeastern corner and moves up State Route 17 to the Santee Coastal Reserve while taking in the southern tip of Charleston before jutting up Interstate 26 and State Highway 52 to capture the Goose Creek, Summerville, Moncks Corner, and Bonneau communities.

But it seems the chairman may have it backwards. His “perfect storm” might actually have formed if his candidate, attorney Joe Cunningham, were now facing a weakened Rep. Sanford, who might have won re-nomination with a 50.5 – 46.5 percent spread, instead of losing to state Rep. Katie Arrington (R-Summerville) by such a margin.

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A False Alarm in Virginia

By Jim Ellis

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville)

Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville)

May 29, 2018 — The news media was filled with stories last week that freshman Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville) was about to announce his retirement. And Late last week, Rep. Garrett fueled such talk in telling the media that he would hold a news conference to address his status. But the speculation proved overblown when Garrett clarified, in what was described as a long and rambling news availability, that he will seek a second term in the fall.

Rep. Garrett, who parted ways with his chief of staff last week and who is not known for being an aggressive fundraiser, partially fed into the idea that he would not seek re-election. Through April 8, Garrett had only $133,275 in his campaign account. Observers invariably drew a comparison with his Democratic opponent, journalist Leslie Cockburn. She has raised more than $715,000 but only has $271,113 remaining. Cockburn does have the wherewithal to self-fund her campaign to a significant degree, however.

Before the Garrett retirement flap, Democrats were looking at this race as a second-tier potential target. Garrett won the 2016 election with 58 percent of the vote against Albemarle County Supervisor Jane Dittmar, another Democratic candidate who was originally believed to be competitive and did, in fact, spend over $1.3 million on her campaign.

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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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Senate Match-Ups Forming

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2018
— Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.

2018-elections-open-seatsBelow are the races that look set as general election campaigns. Those headed for serious primary battles are not included on this list.

In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:

Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.

California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.

Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.

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Balancing the Scale

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2018 — The Hill newspaper released an article entitled, “GOP Seeks to Avoid Dem Upset in Arizona” Wednesday, but there is little empirical evidence to suggest that any such result is in the offing.

Is Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko facing defeat by Democrat Hiral Tipirneni ?

Is Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko (above) facing defeat by Democrat Hiral Tipirneni?

The Hill correspondents Ben Kamisar and Lisa Hagen report that the national Republican political apparatus in the form of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican National Committee, and the Congressional Leadership Fund (the latter organization loosely affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan), are investing a combined $570,000 to protect what should be a safe seat. The spending reference somehow provides substantiation that Democrat Hiral Tipirneni is potentially positioning herself to defeat former state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko in the April 24 special election to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria).

Fresh from a stinging loss in the western Pennsylvania special election, Republican House members and rank and file supporters would rebel if the political committees were not taking this impending race seriously. Therefore, the ingestion of what is a modest amount of money when compared to previous special election spending has much more to do with covering internal political bases than any reference suggesting trouble for Lesko.

Moreover, even in their own copy, the authors quote numbers from Democratic pollster Lake Research for the Tiperneni campaign that find Lesko’s lead registering 14 percentage points. The Republican campaign confirms, according to the article, that their internal polls also show a double-digit lead. The survey spread is then contrasted with President Trump’s 21-point victory from this district to suggest that Lesko is under-performing.

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NJ-11: A Consensus Forming?

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 8, 2018 — House Appropriations Committee chairman and New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (R-Morristown) surprise retirement announcement last week was initially met with cheers from the national Democratic establishment and local rank and file. As an open seat, they believed their conversion chances were growing even stronger. But, it appears that local Republican leaders are very quickly working to build support for a contender who may well become a consensus GOP candidate as soon as next week.

New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen  (R-Morristown)

New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown)

When Rep. Frelinghuysen decided not to seek a 13th term, state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) immediately indicated that he would become a congressional candidate. Almost as quickly, neighboring Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Randolph) followed suit. But, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Parsippany), who also represents the 26th Legislative District (as does Sen. Pennacchio), is now coming to the forefront as the man to beat in the GOP primary.

Upon Assemblyman Webber entering the race — who is a former New Jersey Republican Party chairman — Sen. Pennacchio quickly bowed out; Bucco also is sending signals that he, too, will soon exit. This leaves only attorney and first-time candidate Martin Hewitt remaining as an opponent for Webber.

Democrats were targeting Frelinghuysen, pointing to the fact that President Trump carried only the 11th District — originally drawn to be a decidedly Republican seat — by just a single percentage point, 49-48 percent. The district has been trending a bit more Democratic since it was first drawn. Compare the Trump numbers to both Mitt Romney and John McCain’s identical 52-47 percent showings. (The McCain numbers were re-configured into the territory comprising the current 11th CD, not the one existing in 2008. The previous seat was four points more Republican.)

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