Tag Archives: New Jersey

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.

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The Alabama Debacle

By Jim Ellis

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Nov. 14, 2017 — Senate Republicans have a major advantage in the current election cycle, but may be on the precipice of giving it away.

Looking at the 2018 Senate map, Republicans have only to defend eight of the 33 in-cycle seats. Considering that six of the eight are the safe Republican states of Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming and the Democrats need a net gain of three conversion seats to claim the majority, it appears unattainable even if the latter party converts legitimate targets in politically marginal Nevada and now open Arizona.

But the mathematics change if Democrats score an unlikely upset in the Alabama special election on Dec. 12, and the latest unfolding events there suggest that such an outcome is far more likely to happen.

As we know, Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, the twice removed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, has been accused of sexual impropriety with at least one teenage girl when he was 32 years old in 1979. Washington, DC Republicans, who appear to be taking the Washington Post story and the woman’s allegations at face value, are urging Moore to remove himself from the race. Alabama Republicans are still standing firm for Moore, refusing to accept the story without proof. For his part, Judge Moore denies the incident happened.

Three polls have already surfaced telling us that Moore has suffered a major hit. Earlier surveys found him leading in low double-digits, but Opinion Savvy, Gravis Marketing, and JMC Analytics & Polling immediately went into the field to test the Alabama electorate’s reaction.

Opinion Savvy (Nov. 10; 515 likely Alabama special election voters) conducted their survey just hours after the Moore story broke. Their results find that Moore’s lead has evaporated into a 46-46 percent tie with Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former US Attorney.

Gravis Marketing launched their poll just as quickly (Nov. 10; 478 likely Alabama voters) and finds a similar ballot test tally: 48-46 percent in Moore’s favor.

JMC Analytics (Nov. 9-11; 575 registered Alabama voters) sees Jones pulling into a 46-42 percent lead (48-44 percent when leaners to both candidates are added), but an over-sampling of female voters could account for the Democratic advantage. Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents were female and they break for Jones, 46-40 percent. Men favor the Democrat 46-45 percent.

Considering these polls were taken immediately as the story was breaking and the questionnaires included an explanation of what was being said about him, the results for Moore are not devastating. For the most part, Republican voters are taking Moore’s side while Democrats believe the accuser. The fact that the division is roughly even suggests that Moore has a chance to rebound if he can effectively tell his story.

While Republican leaders may be calling upon Judge Moore to remove himself from the ticket, realistically and legally, he cannot. Under Alabama election law, the ballot cannot be changed within 76 days of the election. That period began Sept. 28. Now comes talk that Gov. Kay Ivey (R) could be approached to postpone the election, or call a special session of the legislature to pass a new emergency election statute. The governor says she is not inclined to even think about such an option.

Additionally, some absentee packets containing Moore’s name have already mailed, thus making it logistically difficult, if not illegal, to inject a new ballot into the campaign. Therefore, the outlook is virtually certain that the election will proceed as scheduled on Dec. 12.

Another idea suggests that the Senate refuse to seat Moore if he wins the election. Should all Democrats vote against Moore, only three Republicans would need to break ranks to keep the seat in abeyance. Presumably, the state could then call a new election, but there would be nothing preventing Moore from running again. Should that be the case, Gov. Ivey then could appoint another interim senator or even keep Sen. Luther Strange (R) in the position. Also, a new election would allow him to run again, too.

For their part, Democrats are remaining publicly quiet. They are likely doing so for two reasons. First, they are adopting the old axiom, “if one’s political opponents are in process of destroying themselves don’t stop them.” Second, they may soon be faced with another vote to eject a senator. Should New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez be found guilty in his corruption trial, there will likely be a move to expel him. Democrats would find themselves in a bind if they make a public spectacle of denying entry to Moore, and then quickly pivot to do the opposite in order to save Menendez.

The Roy Moore saga is far from over but at the outset, the situation appears perilous for Republicans. Since losing this seat would endanger their majority standing in 2018, the stakes for how the majority leadership chooses to handle the Alabama situation becomes even more challenging.

Election Day: Before vs. After

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 10, 2017 — Voters went to the polls in three places Tuesday to elect two governors, state legislators, and a new member of Congress. Multiple local elections, including mayoral contests in 59 of the nation’s largest cities, with New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Charlotte among them, also were on the various ballots.

Much was written and discussed about the Virginia gubernatorial election leading into Election Day, clearly the most important contest from a political perspective. It appeared clear that the campaign between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie was a tight one. That proved not to be the case with Northam’s nine-point win.

Polling suggested that either candidate could win. Most surveys showed either a dead heat or Northam maintaining a small lead. Research for the last Virginia gubernatorial race, that in 2013 when Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was elected, badly under-estimated Republican strength. Therefore, should the same methodologies be present in this latest data, Gillespie’s chances of victory may be better than the raw numbers indicate. That line of thinking was dashed by the results.

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Dems Score Big; Curtis Wins in Utah;
VA House: 12 Votes to a Win

By Jim Ellis

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is also a pediatric neurosurgeon

Virginia governor-elect Ralph Northam (D) is also a pediatric neurosurgeon

Nov. 8, 2017 — Democrats came roaring back, particularly in the Virginia elections last night, as Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) easily outpaced former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie to win the open Virginia governorship, keeping the position in the Democratic column. Northam scored a 54-45 percent win over Gillespie in a race that most pollsters projected to be much closer.

It appeared that Gillespie had momentum at the end of the past week, but last day polling again found Northam beginning to pull away. Those surveys correctly detected the final trend, as did the Quinnipiac University polls and Christopher Newport University’s final study, all considered outliers because the big margins extrapolated for Northam were outside the polling realm for the other dozen-plus polls released during the closing two-week period. In the end, the actual victory margin was nearer to the previously rejected polls.

Curiously, Gillespie ran behind the two other Republicans on the statewide ticket. All in a losing effort, lieutenant governor candidate Jill Vogel (R) pulled almost 50,000 more votes than the gubernatorial nominee, while attorney general nominee John Adams attracted just under 38,000 more. This could possibly be attributed to left over bad feelings generated from the close Republican primary election that saw Gillespie barely defeat Prince William County Board chairman and immigration policy activist Corey Stewart. Many Stewart voters stated that they would not support Gillespie in the general election, and it may well be that many of them followed through on their “promise.”

‘Many [Corey] Stewart voters stated that they would not support Gillespie in the general election, and it may well be that many of them followed through on their “promise.” ‘

Turning to New Jersey, the pollsters, who uniformly produced consistent data on this race throughout the general election cycle, proved correct. Former US Ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D), as expected, recorded a 55-43 percent win over Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R). Murphy converts the governor’s mansion for the Democrats after eight years of having Republican Chris Christie.

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High-Stakes Voting

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 3, 2017 — Three important campaigns will be decided Tuesday, and the stakes are actually quite high for both major political parties. The favored entity losing an upset contest in any of the venues would immediately darken the particular party’s 2018 outlook. New Jersey and Virginia voters will elect new governors in regular cycle campaigns, and the Utah special congressional election will also be settled.

New Jersey

Former US ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D)

Former US ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D)

The race between Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) and former US ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D) already seems decided. Polls for months have varied only slightly. The latest published polling numbers, those from Monmouth University (Oct. 27-31; 529 likely New Jersey voters), find Murphy holding steady with a 53-39 percent advantage. Virtually every poll has projected a margin of this size.

This campaign has seemed over since the beginning. Gov. Chris Christie (R) has historically poor approval ratings – still more than 70 percent negative – and research shows the voters do link Guadagno to the current governor despite the two of them having a frosty relationship.

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Senate Candidate Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 26, 2017
— Yesterday, we reviewed the first half of the 33 in-cycle Senate races in terms of serious candidate personnel. Today, the remaining 17 states are covered.

As a reminder, no current Senate incumbent has announced his or her retirement.

(Regular type means the individual is an announced contender; italics denote possible candidate.)

NEVADA — TOSS UP
Sen. Dean Heller (R)
Danny Tarkanian (R) – Businessman, frequent candidate
Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) – US Representative, 3rd District
Rep. Dina Titus (D) – US Representative, 1st District

NEW JERSEY — LIKELY D
Sen. Bob Menendez (D)
• Sen. Menendez federal trial has frozen potential Democratic and Republican Senate hopefuls. After the Menendez legal situation is decided, much could happen in this state.

NEW MEXICO — LIKELY D
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D)
Mick Rich (R) – State Labor Commission member
Richard Berry (R) – Albuquerque mayor
John Sanchez (R) – Lt. Governor

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A New Republican Governor

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 7, 2017 — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made national news the other night at President Trump’s rally in Huntington, WV, when the Democratic state chief executive took the stage to announce that he is switching to the Republican Party.

When addressing the Trump rally, Justice said, “like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me … West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic governor.”

The move now gives Republicans control of the entire West Virginia governmental apparatus, owning both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office. Factoring Justice’s party change, the GOP holds the West Virginia chief executive post for the first time since Gov. Arch Moore (R) was defeated for re-election in 1988. There are now 26 states where Republicans control the legislature and governor’s office, including Nebraska where the legislature only has one ostensibly non-partisan legislative chamber but is clearly overwhelmingly Republican. In contrast, Democrats have full power in only five states.

The development means the Democrats drop to holding just 15 governors, an all-time low number for the party. Republicans, on the other hand, reach their historical apex with 34 governors as party members. The 50th governor, Bill Walker of Alaska, is an Independent.

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The Crystal Ball:
Points of Disagreement

By Jim Ellis

July 31, 2017 — University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato has released his latest “Crystal Ball” political ratings, but further arguments must come to the forefront about some of his individual race categorizations.

In the first part of his latest report, Sabato illustrates that the number of Democrats already running for Congress shatters the new candidate rate of previous off-election years. Currently, 209 Democrats have declared themselves as US House candidates at this point in the election cycle, obliterating the mean average of 42.6 derived from the period beginning in 2003 to the present. For Republicans, 28 non-incumbent candidates have currently declared, well below their non-election year average of 42.8 within the same post-2003 time frame.

But, so many Democratic candidates are declaring in the same districts, thus skewing the situation. For example, in the 14 seats where a GOP incumbent voted in favor of the healthcare legislation sitting in a district that Hillary Clinton carried, 57 Democratic candidates have already declared. In the seven competitive California Republican seats where national Democratic Party leaders pledge to heavily contest, 34 Dems have become candidates, though duplication does exist to some extent between the two aforementioned categories. In three more sites featuring presumed competitive 2018 campaigns: AZ-2 (Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson), FL-27 (open seat; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami), and VA-10 (Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean), an additional 23 candidates are competing within this trio of CDs.

Therefore, we find in these 16 unique, prime, targeted congressional seats, a total of 72 individuals who are active Democratic candidates. We also know today that 56 of these competitors will lose their primary because, of course, every district can only nominate one candidate per political party.

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New Jersey Nominations;
CA-34 Results

By Jim Ellis

June 7, 2017 — Voters cast their ballots in the 2017-18 election cycle’s first regular primary contest last night and the local political prognosticators fared well.

As predicted, former US ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy dominated the Democratic gubernatorial primary, scoring a 48-22-22 percent victory over ex-treasury official Jim Johnson and state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, respectively. Three other minor candidates combined to garner eight percent of the Democratic votes.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s winning margin was equivalent to her Democratic counterpart’s. She recorded a 47-31-10 percent vote to capture the GOP nomination against state Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli and engineer Hirsh Singh, respectively. Two minor candidates failed to reach double-digits.

The total primary turnout reached only 13 percent of the registered voter total; some 733,757 individuals of a vote base exceeding 5.6 million. Two-thirds of those participating voted in the Democratic primary. Party registration figures yield the Democrats a 36-21 percent margin over Republicans with non-affiliated voters numbering 42 percent. Under New Jersey election statutes, party registrants must vote in their own primaries, while non-affiliated voters can choose where to cast their ballot.

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New Jersey Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

June 6, 2017 — The 2017-18 election cycle’s first regular primary is occuring today as New Jersey voters head to the polls to choose major party nominees in the governor’s race. This campaign will lead to replacing term-limited state chief executive and former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.

We can expect a low turnout, because it appears a foregone conclusion that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy will easily win the Republican and Democratic nominations, respectively.

Polls have been few and far between, and the three surveys that were released in May show strong and solid margins for both Guadagno and Murphy. The most recent study, from Stockton University (May 16-23; 389 likely New Jersey GOP primary voters) finds Guadagno with a 37-18 percent advantage over Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and three others who don’t even top four percent support. Earlier in the month, Quinnipiac University April 26-May 1; 331 likely New Jersey GOP primary voters) surveyed the state and found Guadagno up in similar fashion: 23-12 percent over Ciattarelli with no other candidate breaking five percent.

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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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Democrats Play Offense

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 1, 2017 — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), in a memo from Executive Director Dan Sena, on Tuesday released their first 2018 target list of who they believe are the vulnerable Republican US House members. A total of 59 districts occupy the list; some that make sense, while others are long shots to say the least.

Included are eight freshmen members: representatives Brian Mast (FL-18), Jason Lewis (MN-2), Ted Budd (NC-13), Don Bacon (NE-2), John Faso (NY-19), Claudia Tenney (NY-22), Lloyd Smucker (PA-16), and Scott Taylor (VA-2). The freshman targets’ win percentages span from a low of 43.7 percent (Tenney) to a high 61.3 percent (Taylor), with an average of 51.9 percent among the eight.

Within the entire group of 59 targets, only five failed to reach majority support in their districts: representatives Tenney (43.7 percent), Lewis (46.9 percent), Will Hurd (TX-23; 48.3 percent), Martha Roby (AL-2; 48.8 percent), and Bacon (48.9 percent).

In the 59 Republican CDs, Hillary Clinton’s performance was better than former President Obama’s 2012 showing in 23 of them, her best Republican district being Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s South Florida FL-27, where the 2016 Democratic nominee garnered 58.6 percent. Sophomore Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s neighboring 26th District was her second-best seat. Here, Clinton tallied 56.7 percent of the vote.

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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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Gillespie vs. Northam: New Polling

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2017 — It’s hard to believe, but already we are not particularly far from a series of new election campaigns taking center stage. In addition to the five special congressional elections, the significant regular 2017 contests include the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia, along with the New York City mayor’s race.

At the end of last week, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) filed paperwork to run for governor, as expected, but is rather strangely refusing to confirm that she will actually become a candidate. Rumors are swirling that Hillary Clinton is considering challenging Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but little realistic chance exists that such a race will materialize.

Late this week, polling surfaced in the Virginia governor’s race, a contest that may well become the flagship campaign on the 2017 political calendar. A group called Conservatives for Clean Energy contracted with reliable Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies (POS) to survey the candidates vying for the Commonwealth’s top position.

Though the poll was conducted in December (Dec. 11-13; 500 likely Virginia voters), the results are similar to those found in a corresponding Quinnipiac University survey (Dec. 6-11; 1,098 registered Virginia voters). Normally, such outdated studies would provide us very little usable data, but with the Christmas holidays occupying a great deal of the time between the polling and release dates, the data has remained salient because little has changed politically in the intervening time period.

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Jockeying for Position

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 21, 2016 — Already, there is a lot of talk about various senators considering races for governor in their respective states, while at least one term-limited governor publicly muses about running for Senate.

With 38 governors’ races coming to the forefront in the next 24 months — two (New Jersey, Virgninia) in 2017 and 36 in 2018 — we already know that 20 of these states, due to term limits, will choose new governors.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) cannot succeed himself after four years at the state’s helm. Virginia is still the only state in the country that limits its governors to just one term. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie is ineligible to seek a third term. There is a chance, should Christie obtain an appointment from the Trump Administration, that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) would ascend to the governorship and be in a position to run as an appointed incumbent, however.

In the coming even-numbered year 36 gubernatorial chairs are in-cycle. Eighteen state chief executives are barred from seeking a third term (15 Republicans; 3 Democrats), while eight GOP governors and six Democrats can run for re-election. Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker is also eligible for a second term.

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