Tag Archives: Montana

SC Run-off and Outright Win

By Jim Ellis

May 4, 2017
— Voters went to the polls in South Carolina Tuesday to begin the nomination process in the special election to replace Office of Management & Budget director Mick Mulvaney. The results were as predicted.

For the Republicans, the two leading candidates going into the partisan primary, state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope and former state representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman, virtually tied in the final result. Pope finished first with only a 112-vote margin, scoring 30.5 percent in a field of seven Republican candidates. Norman’s percentage was 30.2.

The 5th District contains all or part of 11 north-central South Carolina counties. Both Pope and Norman hail from York County, the district’s largest population entity. There, Pope outdistanced Norman by 137 votes. That means the difference between the two was just 25 votes in the remaining 10 counties.

Turnout was 38,903 in the Republican primary with the Democrats adding an additional 18,573 who voted in their nomination contest. The total participation factor of 57,476 represented only 12.5 percent of the district’s registered voters. This number pales in comparison to the GA-6 turnout that exceeded 192,000, as we saw on April 18, but was much stronger than the Los Angeles special earlier last month that drew just under 29,000 voters.

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Finally, a Montana Poll

By Jim Ellis

April 27, 2017 — While the Montana at-large special election has been heating up with both major party candidates approaching the $2 million mark in campaign receipts and each heavily spending on media, we had surprisingly not seen any polling data … until yesterday.

The lack of polling led some analysts to believe the race was trending toward Republican Greg Gianforte. Democrats, normally quick to release survey numbers that favor their candidate, had been unusually quiet about nominee Rob Quist’s ballot test status. GOP strategists typically tend to play their polling cards closer to the vest, but often publicize survey data in response to what they see as embellished numbers for the opponent.

It’s possible that such an argument scenario has some validity in this instance. The Emerson College Polling Society made public their recent survey totals that post Gianforte to a major advantage over country rock singer Rob Quist (D).

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Dems: Targeting Trouble

By Jim Ellis

April 26, 2017 — Democrats appear encouraged by their early House special election performance, which has spurred some talk about the party’s possibilities of re-claiming the House majority next year.

While the open special election Democratic candidates are of high quality in California, Georgia, and Montana, the early regular cycle contenders are lacking, finding themselves already embroiled in multi-candidate primaries, or not even in existence.

Of the 10 already announced regular cycle open seats six are in Republican districts. All are either categorized as safe or likely Republican, so the prospects for Democratic gains in this important sector appear non-existent at least within the current configuration.

Turning to the challenger races, Democrats are active on the recruiting front but it appears the party leadership efforts, combined with individuals declaring candidacies of their own accord, are resulting in either feast or famine. In each of 36 districts, for example, against Republican incumbents not even considered especially vulnerable, Democrats already have multiple announced candidates.

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Updating the Four Specials

By Jim Ellis

April 25, 2017 — Coming through the highly publicized GA-6 special election, the political overtime campaign season is hitting its stride as we approach May voting. In Georgia, South Carolina, Montana, and California, political action is now in full swing.

The GA-6 contest has eliminated all but finalists Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) in a race well on its way to becoming the most expensive congressional special election in American history. Right after last Tuesday’s vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sponsored an initial post-primary $450,000 flash media buy, which was quickly followed by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $250,000 airtime purchase.

While the two sides exceeded $16 million in pre-primary fundraising, it appears the special general spending pattern is already following suit to no one’s surprise. We can count on seeing very active campaigning here all the way to the June 20th special general vote.

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Not So Quiet Now

By Jim Ellis

April 3, 2017 –News coming from Montana last week has put this seemingly quiet special election congressional campaign squarely on the political map.

It has largely been believed that the Democrats are effectively conceding three of the four specials now occurring because President Trump chose the previous incumbents for cabinet positions. On the other hand, CA-34, which opened when Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) became California attorney general, is a district where Republicans barely attract double-digit support. This special election campaign will likely feature two Democrats advancing to the run-off election, and is not in play for the GOP.

So far, the GA-6 race has received most of the early attention and appeared to be the only one where Democrats are going all out to win. Consensus Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff has already raised a whopping $4 million, and has a good chance of placing first in the jungle primary scheduled April 18. When Montana at-large candidate Rob Quist announced yesterday that he has already raised more than $754,000, the special election paradigm was altered.

The Democratic state convention chose Quist, a country rock performer and long-time local Montana folk singer, as their nominee at the beginning of the month, just after Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Kingfish) won confirmation as US Interior Secretary. Quist, though never before a candidate for political office, was viewed as someone fresh who could attract interest, which is proving to be the case. He upset 2014 US Senate nominee Amanda Curtis in the state nominating convention, and it now appears that the majority of delegates knew what they were doing.

To raise over $750,000 since March 5 with an average contribution of $40, means the Quist operation is already operating at a surprisingly high level. Though Montana has many media markets, none are particularly expensive. Therefore, Quist already has the resources to make known his message before the May 25 election even if he doesn’t raise much more.

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No Surprise in Montana;
New GA-6 Poll

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2017 — Montana Republicans convened Monday night in the capital city of Helena to choose their nominee for the special at-large congressional election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Unlike the Democratic meeting the day before, the GOP caucus went according to the predicted political script.

Before the state convention, 2016 Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte claimed to have enough pledged votes to win on the first ballot, even against five other candidates. With 203 voting members attending last night, Gianforte’s claim held true. He captured 123 first ballot votes, over 60 percent of those present and voting, and won the nomination after just one round of voting.

During the preliminary question and answer period where the six candidates fielded queries from the delegates, concern was raised about whether the special election winner would serve for more than a term. The last two Republican at-large House members, current US Sen. Steve Daines and Zinke, each departed after one term. Daines was elected to the Senate in 2014 after first winning the House seat in 2012. Though Zinke successfully ran for a second term, he would only serve two months before being confirmed as President Trump’s Interior Secretary.

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Another Surprising Convention

By Jim Ellis

March 7, 2017 — It is commonly said that political conventions often assume a life of their own, and Sunday’s Democratic gathering in Montana to choose an at-large special congressional election nominee proved no exception to the axiom.

Last week, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) scheduled the congressional replacement vote for May 25 for the purpose of replacing former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish), who is now US Interior Secretary. Therefore, all recognized political parties had to quickly caucus in order to choose their individual nominee. Democrats immediately announced they would meet on March 5, and Republicans followed suit yesterday. The Libertarians will select a nominee on Saturday.

Going into the party meeting at the Helena Great Northern Hotel in Montana’s capital city, state Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte), a high school mathematics teacher who had been the party’s 2014 US Senate nominee, appeared to have the inside track for the special congressional nomination. Eight individuals stood before the 160 voting party members, with only two, Curtis and state Rep. Kelly McCarthy, being elected officials.

The voting consumed four rounds, with the final ballot winnowed down to Curtis and local bluegrass/country rock musician Rob Quist. On the final tally, it was Quist, born in Cut Bank, Mont. 69 years ago, who scored an upset 90-69 vote victory. Post-convention interviews suggested the majority of delegates wanted to choose the candidate they believed was more electable. Apparently, most thought Curtis would repeat her fate of 2014 when she fell to then-Rep. Steve Daines (R), 58-40 percent in that year’s US Senate campaign.

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Trump’s Approval; More Montana

By Jim Ellis

March 6, 2017 — In the early part of Donald Trump’s presidency, a wide chasm has opened surrounding his job approval polling ratings.

From the past 10 surveys, presented through seven different political pollsters over the period stretching from Feb. 21 thru March 1, the various results span from a plus-5-point differential all the way to minus-12. This is an incredibly large answer gap for one consistent question, but a simple explanation for the discrepancy is becoming evident.

The pollsters: Gallup (3 surveys), Rasmussen Reports (2), YouGov/Economist, Ipsos/Reuters, Politico/Morning Consult, Survey Monkey, and Public Policy Polling, were many of the same firms that continually tested the 2016 presidential campaign. As we remember, most of the results predicted a small national margin in Hillary Clinton’s favor, which is exactly what happened, though the individual state polling, particularly in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and even Florida was badly flawed.

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The New Special

By Jim Ellis

March 3, 2017 — The Senate confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) as President Trump’s Interior Secretary yesterday, and the Montana political apparatus wasted no time initiating the special election to replace him.

After confirmation, Zinke immediately resigned from the House, and released a statement thanking his constituents for allowing him to serve. “It has been an honor to serve you in Congress, and I appreciate the faith and trust you put in me to represent your values, interests and priorities,” the new secretary said in his departing remarks.

Upon receiving word of Zinke’s resignation, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) scheduled the replacement special election for May 25. Under Montana election law, the recognized political parties will meet in convention to choose their special election nominees, thus the electorate will vote only once.

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The Trump 10

By Jim Ellis

March 2, 2017 — There already has been a great deal of talk about the difficult campaign road ahead that Democrats face in 2018. With having to defend 25 of 34 states in next year’s election, the minority party finds itself being forced to play defense in what should be a very offensive election cycle for them.

Republicans, theoretically, have a chance to gain seats in the midterms because they have offensive opportunities, similar to what the Democrats enjoyed in 2016. In that cycle, Republicans were forced to defend 24 of 34 in-cycle states, but were able to sustain their majority status, nonetheless.

The Trump 10 refers to the number of in-cycle Senate states that President Trump carried, where Democrats must defend. The following is a list of the 10 incumbents seeking re-election who should be in politically precarious positions. The group is listed in order of vulnerability, based upon the Democratic performance in the presidential race, the strength of the incumbent, and presumed challenger capability.

1) Indiana – Sen. Joe Donnelly – President Trump and the Republicans, ostensibly led by Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, racked up large percentages in the Hoosier State. The trend, and the quality of potential Republican challengers such as representatives Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), arguably makes Sen. Donnelly the most vulnerable of Democrats seeking re-election.

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America’s Ideology

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2016 — The Gallup organization conducted a month long poll (Jan. 20-30) of almost 200,000 respondents (177,788 US adults) to determine where America stands ideologically. They find that the country still leans decidedly to the right, but not as strongly as in past years.

The three most conservative states are Wyoming (35-point difference between those self-identifying as conservative as opposed to liberal: 49 percent conservative – 14 percent liberal), Mississippi (31-point difference; 46-15 percent), and North Dakota (31-point difference; 43-12 percent).

The three most liberal states are all in the New England region: Vermont (14-point difference; 40 percent liberal – 26 percent conservative), Massachusetts (8-point differential; 33 percent liberal – 25 percent conservative), and Connecticut (4-point difference; 31 percent liberal – 27 percent conservative).

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Specials: Dems Reeling

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 3, 2017 — Soon we will be moving fully into special election season and the Democrats have already been dealt some early bad breaks, but not from Republicans.

In the four special elections created because President Trump appointed House members to various Trump administration positions, a quartet of Republican seats will go to election before the 4th of July, at least theoretically giving Democrats some opportunity for gains.

A fifth special, the Democratic CA-34 seat vacated when Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) resigned to accept Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment as California Attorney General, will be decided on June 6. Democrats should have no trouble advancing two party members to the special general election.

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Senate Plans

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2017
— Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two of the Senate’s most elderly members, were at the top of the potential retirement list in 2018. But, as we mentioned in our updates during the preceding 10 days, both are now sending re-election signals.

Below is a re-cap of the 21 senators who have made public comments about their 2018 campaign status (a total of 33 are in-cycle):

California: Sen. Feinstein stated during a radio interview within the past few days that she is “leaning” toward seeking re-election, feeling that her age during the next campaign (85) will not be a particular detriment either to her political ability or in representing her constituents. She stopped short, however, of making a formal campaign announcement.

Delaware: Sen. Tom Carper (D) said in early December that he has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term in 2018. The senator has been in elective office for 40 consecutive years, and will be 72 at the time of the next election.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was also thought to be a retirement possibility, considering that he will be 76 years of age in 2018, and will complete 30 years of congressional service in that same year. Repeatedly, however, Sen. Nelson has said that he will seek a fourth term next year.

Indiana: In what promises to be a hotly contested campaign, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) announced his re-election intention in January, and is beginning to hire political staff.

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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.

General Election Preview:
Iowa, Montana, North Carolina

By Jim Ellis

June 14, 2015 — In addition to the California races we described in the last Update, key general election campaigns are now underway in Iowa, Montana and North Carolina since their nominees were also chosen on June 7. New Mexico and South Dakota likewise held June 7 primary contests, but all of their incumbents appear safe for re-election.

Iowa

Senate: Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley (R), who has come under heavy fire for his handling of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, may face a more competitive 2016 political contest than first believed. Originally elected the same night that Ronald Reagan first won the presidency in 1980, Sen. Grassley has never faced a difficult re-election. This year, however, Democrats believe they have an opportunity to make the race competitive.

Their new nominee is former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, who served one-term under Gov. Chet Culver (D) but was swept from office with him in 2010. Previously, Judge had been appointed as state Agriculture Secretary by then-Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), who, himself, currently serves as President Obama’s top agriculture cabinet member.

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