Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

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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Democrats Now Need 23

By Jim Ellis

March 29, 2018 — It appears that Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester) is turning over a projected swing 2018 electoral seat in PA-6 to the Democrats without so much as a fight. Doing so will reduce the net number of Democratic majority conversion seats from the current 24 to 23.

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester)

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester)

The two-term Philadelphia suburban representative informed Keystone State Republican leaders on Tuesday that he will remove his name from the ballot and not run for re-election. Yesterday was the final day for Pennsylvania candidates to withdraw before the primary ballots become permanent.

The major issue for Republican leaders with this belated move is that the candidate filing deadline already has passed, and another Republican has qualified for the ballot. Attorney Greg McCauley filed his candidate documents and presented the proper number of ballot petition signatures. Therefore, as the only Republican who was running opposite Costello in the GOP primary, it is likely that this obscure challenger will now be unopposed for the party nomination. McCauley has a credible resume but has never run for public office, and is not viewed as a top-tier candidate for an impending campaign in a highly competitive district such as PA-6.

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Pennsylvania Files – Part II

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2018 — Today we finish our look at the new Pennsylvania filings from Districts 10 thru 18, but first must mention a new story floating in the Washington Post and throughout the local Philadelphia media.

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester), after filing for re-election, is already dropping out of the race. In withdrawing, the two-term incumbent virtually hands the seat to Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, a first-time candidate for any office, because the local Republican Party will have no way of replacing him. Attorney Greg McCauley filed in the Republican primary and becomes the party nominee now that Costello has backed away. It is unclear why Costello filed for re-election if he was not serious about running.

District 10: Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/York)

Though new District 10, that now includes all of the York and Harrisburg metro areas, is more Democratic than Perry’s previous 4th District, President Trump still posted a nine percentage point win during the 2016 presidential election contest. Rep. Perry is unopposed in the Republican primary and draws five Democratic opponents, including 2016 congressional nominee Christina Hartman who suffered a decided loss to freshman Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) in an adjoining district. Hartman raised over $1.1 million for her first congressional effort, and was originally seeking a re-match with Rep. Smucker. When the new redistricting plan left him with a solidly Republican district, she moved here even though none of her previous territory transferred to new CD-10.

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Pennsylvania Files – Part I

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

March 26, 2018 — After the three-judge federal panel and the US Supreme Court both rejected Republican legal appeals to overturn the new state Supreme Court-imposed congressional map, candidates submitted their official filing documents to run in the new districts.

We now have an idea as to where the key Pennsylvania political battles will occur, and who some of the key players will be. Today we take a look at the first nine districts. Tomorrow, we’ll review CDs 10-18. The party primaries are scheduled for May 15.

District 1 – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown)

Freshman Rep. Fitzpatrick faces attorney Dean Malik in the Republican primary. Three Democrats filed, including Scott Wallace, grandson of WWII era Vice President Henry Wallace (D). Attorney Rachel Reddick and non-profit organization executive Steven Bacher round out the Democratic field. The new 1st is highly competitive, and this race could well evolve in to a toss-up campaign.


District 2 – Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia)

Originally designed as an open seat, or the place where retiring Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) may have run, the new 2nd will now go to two-term Rep. Brendan Boyle who formerly represented a district anchored in Montgomery County. The new 2nd contains the eastern part of Philadelphia and is a safely Democratic seat. Radio talk show host Michele Lawrence is challenging Boyle in the Democratic primary, and Republican David Torres will be his general election opposition. Rep. Boyle will have little trouble in securing this new district.


District 3 – Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia)

This is a heavily African American Democratic seat that freshman Rep. Dwight Evans will have little trouble holding. He has only minor opposition in both the Democratic primary and the general election.


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PA: Lamb, Saccone Decide; Others, Too

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court


By Jim Ellis

March 19, 2018 — Though Tuesday’s special election results in western Pennsylvania are not yet even finalized, the two candidates, and others, are making decisions about where to run in the regular election cycle. After the state Supreme Court created a new congressional map for the coming election, they lengthened the candidate filing period from one that closed March 6 to a new deadline of tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20.

Republicans are formally challenging the new map in federal court. A three-judge federal panel has already heard their arguments and the GOP leaders also filed a motion to stay the state court’s mapping decision with the US Supreme Court. Since no ruling has yet come from either judicial panel, incumbents and candidates must move forward with the qualifying process assuming the new map will stand.

Under Pennsylvania election law, congressional candidates must obtain 1,000 valid signatures from registered party members to qualify for the ballot. Since such a process obviously requires time, all candidates, including Rep.-Elect Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) and defeated Republican candidate Rick Saccone, must determine where they will run under this new and very different Keystone State congressional map.

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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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“R’s” Up in Dubious Senate Polls

By Jim Ellis

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgMarch 12, 2018 — One of the keys to deciding the 2018 Senate election cycle is seeing how the 10 Democrat senators forced to defend states that President Trump carried will fare. A series of new Axios/Survey Monkey polls in these aforementioned places produces good news for Republicans, but the data appears flawed.

According to the methodology, 17,289 registered voters participated in the surveys within the 10 states between Feb. 12 and March 5. Obviously, the sampling period is too long, unless the polls were conducted successively, but there is no indication of such. The voluntary online response system also brings the polling reliability factor into question.

That being said, even suspect studies are valuable to analyze because more opportunities are provided to detect flows and trends within the various sampling sectors.

The results of the 10 polls are as follows (listed in alphabetical order):
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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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Results in Arizona’s 8th CD

By Jim Ellis

March 1, 2018 — Voters in the West Valley of Arizona’s Maricopa County went to the polls Tuesday and prior to that, throughout the early voting period, to cast their ballots for special election nominees to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria).

debbie-lesko-arizonaUntil she resigned her own seat in the state legislature to enter this special congressional election, Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria), was the state Senate President Pro Tempore. She became the favorite late in the voting period, and capitalized on her momentum to score a strong victory in the Republican primary. She recorded 36 percent of the vote while resigned state Rep. Phil Lovas (R-Glendale) and resigned state Sen. Steve Montenegro (R-Surprise) trailed, each posting 24 percent. Former Public Service Commissioner Bob Stump (no relation to the late Republican US Rep. Bob Stump, who served in the House for 26 years), finished a poor fourth, capturing just over five percent of the vote.

Arizona has a “resign to run” law, meaning an elected official must relinquish the office they currently hold if seeking another elected position. This explains all of the office holders running in this special contest having recently resigned their positions.

For the Democrats, physician Hiral Tipirneni scored an easy 60-40 percent victory over auto sales manager and LGBT activist Brianna Westbrook in a contest that never appeared to be in doubt. Though turnout was up substantially in the Democratic column when compared to past similar elections, their participation number still paled in comparison to majority Republicans. The unofficial count shows 36,404 total Democratic votes, while the aggregate GOP vote recorded 71,320 spread among a dozen candidates.

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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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An Open Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 7, 2018 — Continuing our look at the 53 open seats, today we look at those in the Lean R & D categories. It is here where Democrats will have to score big if they are to claim the House majority.

2018-elections-open-seatsThe US Supreme Court declined to hear the Pennsylvania Republicans’ arguments earlier this week to move the live redistricting case to the federal level. To review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the current congressional map a political gerrymander, but without citing any election law statute violations. State Senate Republicans are refusing to provide the court with their requested data until the legislative bodies are informed about what is legally wrong with the current map.

In the meantime, the court has already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw a new plan, and moved the congressional candidate filing deadline from March 6 to March 20. Additionally, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is already saying he will veto the legislature’s map, so all of these developments suggest that a new, Democrat-friendly map will likely be in place before the 2018 elections.

In our overview of the current House open seat configuration, two of the Pennsylvania seats are either in the Lean D category (PA-7; Rep. Pat Meehan-R) or Lean R (PA-15; Rep. Charlie Dent). With a new map likely to collapse most, if not all, of the four open Republican seats, it is likely that both of the aforementioned districts will find themselves in the Democratic column after the next election.

Currently, the Lean Democrat column consists only of Republican seats. In addition to PA-7, and probably adding at least PA-15 post-redistricting, retiring GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) are leaving seats that are also trending toward the Democratic side of the political ledger.

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An Open Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2018 — With so many House retirements coming into focus within the past several weeks, it is a good time to review the list of 53 districts heading into their next election without an incumbent on the ballot.

Of the 53, Republicans currently hold 37 seats versus just 16 for the Democrats. Here’s the breakdown of how things look regarding all 53 seats right now:

2018-elections-open-seats

  • Safe Republican (19)
  • Likely Republican (6)
  • Likely Democrat (6)
  • Safe Democrat (6)
  • Lean Republican (5)
  • Lean Democrat (3)
  • Toss-up (8)

This configuration could change drastically if the Pennsylvania map is re-drawn in a court-ordered redistricting. The state Supreme Court has declared the Keystone State map a political gerrymander and has ordered a new plan drawn by Feb. 15.

The state Senate President Pro Tempore is responding, however, that the legislature will not comply with the court order to turn over statistical data need to draw a new map because the state court did not cite the legal provisions violated in making the current plan a gerrymander. Additionally, the US Supreme Court is sending signals that it may try to involve itself even though this case is filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution and not its federal counterpart. We can count on major action coming here within the next several days.

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court is in the process of deciding the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, which will also affect active lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; in Pennsylvania, the political gerrymandering lawsuit realm is not directly part of this group because its case is filed within the state court system. But the Republicans have petitioned the federal high court to look at this case for other legal reasons.

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No. 51

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2018 — The number of House open seats continues to grow. Veteran New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that he will not seek a 13th term later this year.

2018-open-house-seats-toss-upDespite averaging 65.3 percent of the vote during his 12 successful elections and even winning with a healthy 58-39 percent victory margin in 2016, Rep. Frelinghuysen was considered vulnerable for 2018. Democrats have recruited at least two candidates who are pulling in strong financial resources in order to stock a large campaign war chest for a presumed political battle in what is always a very expensive state.

The Dems say this district is changing because Hillary Clinton came within one percentage point of carrying it (49-38 percent) in the 2016 presidential campaign. Still, her performance here pales in comparison to a 55-41 percent Garden State win, and even though the district became close in the presidential contest, it has yet to fall to a Democratic candidate.

Yesterday, we covered the Ohio political situation as being potentially favorable to Republicans. Conversely, the northeastern tri-state region comprised of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey perhaps has even a better chance of adding a strong number of seats to the Democratic conference.

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