Tag Archives: PA-18

AZ-8: Lesko Wins

By Jim Ellis

Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko wins AZ-8

Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko wins AZ-8

April 26, 2018 — Arizona Republican former state Senate President Debbie Lesko defeated physician Hiral Tipirneni (D) last night, 53-47 percent, to win the vacant 8th District seat that former Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria) resigned in January.

Lesko held the seat for Republicans with a high turnout of 173,708 voters, but her six-point win is being cast in the media as an under-performance. Dr. Tipirneni, however, ran a significant campaign and will spend a projected financial number in the $1 million range. Therefore, it’s not particularly surprising that a credible candidate spending significant resources would place in the mid-high 40s despite her opponent’s party being dominant in the region. Lesko will likely spend a bit less than Dr. Tipirneni but received stronger outside support, particularly from the national Republican Party apparatus.

Though Rep. Franks averaged 69.2 percent during his three terms with the district in its present configuration, he did so against candidates who spent virtually no money. In 2014, when he drew 75 percent of the vote, he didn’t have a Democratic opponent. When Franks first won in open configuration back in 2002, his initial win percentage was 59 percent against a candidate who spent only $40,000.

The most recent polls correctly forecast the outcome. Emerson College, the pollster conducting the only two publicly released polls during the period immediately preceding the election (April 19-23; 400 likely AZ-8 special election voters: Lesko 49 percent, Tipirneni 43 percent), correctly predicted a Lesko six-point victory. A week earlier the same pollster (Emerson College; April 12-15; 400 likely special election voters) actually found Dr. Tipirneni forging a small one-point lead.

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Lamb, Barely

By Jim Ellis

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

March 15, 2018 — Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have captured the 18th District special election held Tuesday in southwestern Pennsylvania, besting Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg); but it will likely be a couple days before the result is finalized. The margin stands at 641 votes in Lamb’s favor of 228,177 ballots cast with all precincts reporting and absentee votes counted, meaning a recount could be ordered.

Democrats will claim that this special election result sets the groundwork for the “blue wave” they have been predicting because their candidate converted a district that President Trump carried by 20 points and where resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) didn’t even draw an opponent during the past two elections.

Republicans will now counter saying that Lamb didn’t run like a liberal Democrat but was able to bring the large conservative western PA Democratic voter contingent — those who came out in droves to support President Trump, for example — back into his party’s column. During the campaign, Lamb publicly indicated that he would not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a way to convince the behaviorally conservative regional voter that he is not a national Democrat. Additionally, Lamb’s deep family ties to the Democratic base helped him as well. His grandfather is a former state House majority leader, and his uncle is the Pittsburgh City controller.

President Trump will undoubtedly take some credit for the close outcome. Prior to his visit to the district, pollsters were showing a much larger lead for Lamb than the preliminary final outcome produced. The final Monmouth University poll, for example, predicted a six to seven-point Lamb lead if the Democrats “surged” in turnout as they have done in other special elections around the country.

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CATCHING UP WITH THE PA-18 ELECTION

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Former Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Former Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

March 14, 2018 — The Keystone State special congressional election was held yesterday, as southwestern Pennsylvania voters went to the polls to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).

Before PA-18 Election Day, Democrats appeared to have the better candidate in the person of attorney Conor Lamb, whose grandfather was a former state House Democratic leader and uncle is the Pittsburgh City Controller.

Simultaneously, this election carried major national ramifications, yet the winner’s success might be short-lived, when one can be identified, which likely will take a day or two longer. With 100 percent of the vote in, Lamb leads Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) 113,111 (49.8 percent) to 112,532 (49.6 percent) a difference of only 579 votes as of this writing. Absentee and provisional ballots are still being counted. So there’s a chance that Saccone could overtake Lamb, however, that’s unlikely.

Democrats predicted victory before yesterday’s election, citing polls showing Lamb holding a slight lead over Saccone. The last survey, coming from Monmouth University (March 8-11; 372 likely PA-18 voters), gave Lamb leads of two to seven points, depending upon the overlaid turnout model. Obviously, the more energized and aggressive Democratic participation model gave Lamb the stronger edge. Under a low turnout model, the lead dropped to two points. Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that has no early voting system, so there were no tangible pre-election turnout indicators for this contest.

The Lamb campaign approached $5 million in dollars raised for the race versus Saccone directly commanding resources in the $1 million range. The national Republican Party organizations and conservative groups entered the district to even the spending, so it’s likely we’ll see total combined expenditures approach or exceed the $15 million mark.

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New Poll Confirms Toss-Up in PA-18

By Jim Ellis

March 9, 2018 — The PA-18 special election will be decided on March 13, falling between the Texas primary this past Tuesday and the Illinois state primary on March 20. And, as the two candidates, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) and Democratic former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb, head for the finish line, late polling suggests this contest is a pure turnout battle.

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

The current 18th District lies in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, encompassing a portion of Pittsburgh. The district contains parts of four different counties: Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington, and Greene.

Though this Pennsylvania region is culturally Democratic, Republicans have moved the 18th District from marginal status to secure in the past few elections. President Trump easily won here in 2016, and resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) didn’t even draw an opponent in his past two campaigns. The congressman’s forced resignation over a sordid extra-marital affair led to this special election.

Under Pennsylvania election law and process, the political party leaders convened district conventions in November to choose their special election candidates. The Republicans went with state Rep. Saccone who, until the 18th District opened, had been a US Senate candidate. Democrats turned to 33-year-old former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb, whose grandfather is a previous state House Democratic Leader. His uncle, Michael Lamb, is the Pittsburgh City Controller.

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More on Pennsylvania

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map - Philadelphia Area

Old/New Pennsylvania Congressional Map Comparison – Philadelphia Area
(Click on map to see larger)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 22, 2018 — A day after the court-imposed Pennsylvania congressional map was instituted, much action is occurring in and around the new districts. A more in-depth look at the now available political numbers, for example, tells a somewhat different story than the one gleaned from simply looking at the new map configuration.

Before discussing the historical numbers and trends, several non-mathematical happenings also transpired.

First, as promised, Republicans filed a federal lawsuit against the new plan, a complaint that largely attacks the state Supreme Court for usurping legislative duties, and less about the districts themselves. The Republicans also make the sub-point that no legal challenge from any party had been leveled against the previous map even though the map cleared the legislative process and stood through three complete election cycles.

The GOP is asking the federal court system to stay the new map until the appropriate judicial panel hears their case. Such a rendering would reinstate the 2011 plan for the current election cycle. Since the revised congressional candidate filing deadline is March 20, we can expect the ruling authorities, most likely the US Supreme Court, to quickly signal an intent.

Assuming the new map stands, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), whose Montgomery County-anchored 13th District was split into three southeastern Pennsylvania districts, announced that he will run in District 2. The new PA-2 is predominantly a downtown Philadelphia district that features a voting history where Republicans don’t even reach 30 percent of the vote. This leaves new District 4, where the other large section of his 13th District now resides, as an open seat. The new 4th, where Republicans fare better than in the 2nd but still don’t come close to winning, will elect a freshman Democrat if the court map survives its legal challenge.

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Looking at the Opens

2018-us-house-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis

Jan. 19, 2018 — Considering the large number of House retirements that came swiftly late last year and just as 2018 began, it is a good time to review the 49 seats that will have no incumbent running in the next election.

Three of the current vacancies are in special elections that do not run concurrently with the regular election calendar, and will operate under the following schedules:

• AZ-8: (Rep. Trent Franks-R) – Primary: February 27 | General: April 24
• PA-18: (Rep. Tim Murphy-R) – One election: March 13
• OH-12: (Rep. Pat Tiberi-R) – Primary: May 8 (concurrent with state primary) | General: August 7

Republicans are expected to hold all three seats.

While the GOP is risking 34 of the 49 open seats, most should easily remain in the Republican column. Eighteen of the 34 are considered safely Republican, while another six reside in the “Likely Republican” category. An additional five are in the “lean Republican” category The remaining five are clear political battlegrounds and are “Toss Ups,” several of which are ripe for Democratic conversion.

But seeing that only five of 34 open Republican seats rest in the highly competitive category, it will not be enough for Democrats to create the wave election that they are already expecting. Therefore, they will have to build serious and expensive campaigns in the five “Lean R” seats, and further expand their resources into the Likely Republican category in order to score long-shot upsets.

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A New Round of Special Elections

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 8, 2017 — Last week, it was erroneously reported in the New York Daily News and several other publications and tweets that embattled Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) had announced he would not seek re-election next year, but the story proved premature.

Congress’ most senior member actually took things a step further on Tuesday. Not only will he not seek another term in office, but the Dean of the House, and the only member originally elected in the 1960s, resigned his seat effective immediately. The sexual harassment allegations that seem to be growing by the day, in the end, proved too much for Conyers to contain and remain in office.

The congressman’s mid-term departure after more than 53 years in office will lead to a new special election for Michigan’s 13th District, a seat fully contained in Wayne County that encompasses a large portion of the city of Detroit, including part of the downtown area. The district then swings south to include the River Rouge and Midtown communities before swerving west to annex Brightmoor, Warrendale, Westland, and Romulus, the latter town being adjacent to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airport. The majority black district is 55 percent African American and 38 percent Anglo. No other race or ethnicity tops 10 percent of the district population.

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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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Moore Under Attack; Goodlatte #34

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.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 13, 2017 — Controversy is erupting in the Alabama special US Senate election as we begin to enter the last month of campaigning before the Dec. 12 vote.

The Washington Post broke a story late last week (above) that accuses former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) of engaging in sexual contact with a 14-year old girl 38 years ago. At the time, Judge Moore would have been 32 years of age. The judge vehemently denies the charges and strikes back against the Post saying the story is politically motivated. Republican officials in Alabama are generally still supportive of Moore. Washington Republicans, who made public statements, expressed the opinion that Moore should step away from the race if the allegations are true.

In actuality, there is no legal way to remove Moore’s name from the ballot even if there is Republican unanimity to do so. Ballots are printed, some absentee packets have already been mailed to voters, and the law specifically states that a change of nominees cannot be made once the campaign moves within 76 days of the election. For this contest, the point-of-no-return date occurred on Sept. 28.

Suggestions range from running defeated Sen. Luther Strange as a write-in candidate, calling the state legislature into special session to pass emergency legislation to change the election law, or simply refusing to seat Moore should he win the Dec. 12 election. If they choose the latter route, another special election would have to be called and scheduled, and the cycle begins anew.

For his part, Moore is already launching fundraising appeals lashing out at his accusers and begging for resource help in order to fight back. He shows no indication that he will relinquish his position as the US Senate nominee.

More will clearly come of this story during the coming week.

VA-6

Continuing what looks to be a series of House incumbent retirements, veteran 13-term Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that he, too, will depart when the current Congress adjourns. The timing coincides with his allotted chairmanship tenure also coming to an end.

Goodlatte becomes the 34th regular cycle member not to seek re-election next year, and the 24th Republican. This total does not include the PA-18 vacancy (former Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pittsburgh) that will be filled on March 13. The latest vacant seat was filled earlier this week when Utah Rep-Elect John Curtis (R-Provo) was elected to replace resigned Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy).

Though the open GOP list now reaches 24 seats, 17 of them are safely or likely Republican. Only two are in the toss-up category (FL-27, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami; NJ-2, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-Ventnor City), and another five are rated as lean Republican.

Virginia’s 6th District is safely in the GOP column. Goodlatte averaged 77.6 percent of the vote over his 13 congressional elections. The district hugs the West Virginia border and runs north to south along Interstate 81 from Strasburg through Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Lexington, continuing south all the way to Roanoke, with a jut westward to annex the Lynchburg region. President Trump carried the 6th, 60-35 percent, while Mitt Romney outpaced President Barack Obama here, 60-40percent.

Rep. Lamar Smith to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Texas US Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio)

Texas US Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio)

Nov. 6, 2017 — Veteran Texas US Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) rather surprisingly announced late last week that he will not seek a 17th term in the House next year. Smith was first elected in 1986, and has averaged 81.5 percent of the vote during his 16 election campaigns. The lowest win percentage of his long career (57 percent) actually came last November.

Prior to his election to Congress, Smith served for a short time on the Bexar County Commission and in the Texas House of Representatives. In the US House, his current 31 years of service ranks him #14 in seniority. He is in his final term as chairman of the House Science Committee. Previously, he was chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and House Ethics Committee.

Rep. Smith is the second Texas Republican to announce his retirement this week and third overall. Earlier, Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, also a committee chairman (Financial Services), made public his intention to retire. They join Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Plano) who announced his own retirement months ago. On the Democratic side, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) is leaving his safe congressional seat to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R).

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With Murphy Out in PA, Corker Out in TN, Who Will Fill the Vacancies?

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Tim Murphy  (R-Pittsburgh)

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)

Oct. 9, 2017 — A new special US House election will soon be on tap, this time in southwestern Pennsylvania in PA-18. Beleaguered Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) succumbed to the negative publicity leaking out about his extra-marital affairs, abortion hypocrisy, and internal relations with staff members to announce late last week that he will resign his congressional office effective Oct. 21. This, just a day after he made public his intention not to seek re-election but serve the balance of the current term.

Once the seat is vacant, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will call a special election to choose a replacement. Since the Nov. 7 municipal elections occur less than three full weeks after Rep. Murphy departs, that means holding a new special congressional contest concurrently with the regular off-year vote would be impossible. Therefore, it is probable a mid-December or post-January 1st election will be scheduled.

There will be no primary period. Under Pennsylvania law, the parties will meet in district conclaves and local delegates will select the respective nominees.

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Pennsylvania’s Importance

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2017 — In every election, it seems one or two states become that cycle’s political focal point and we can already identify which places might serve in such a role for 2018. Along with California for House races, political fortunes in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania could well influence national Senate and House outcomes, while strongly contributing to the national redistricting outlook when the state’s competitive governor’s race is ultimately decided.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) seeks re-election with improving favorability ratings and will be in a targeted 2018 campaign. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) is running for a third term and drawing considerable opposition, particularly from US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). US House competition is projected for as many as 11 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, some of which coming in primaries, and a live political gerrymandering lawsuit before the state court system could potentially radically change Pennsylvania’s redistricting maps prior to the next election. Therefore, we see a state teeming with political activity in each of its four corners.

Gov. Wolf came from nowhere in 2014 as a successful York business owner to capture the Democratic nomination, and then proved to become the only member of his party to unseat a Republican governor in what was otherwise a Republican wave election year. He will face his own highly competitive re-election battle next year, as the GOP must re-capture this statehouse to protect its congressional and state legislative gains as a new redistricting cycle will begin during this next governor’s term.

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