Tag Archives: Rep. Ryan Zinke

Tester Draws Opponent

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2017 — Republicans have been working to recruit a top-tier challenger to two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D), and yesterday they identified such an individual. Montana Commissioner of Insurance and State Auditor Matt Rosendale announced that he will join the Republican primary, vying to become the party nominee and oppose Sen. Tester in the next election.

Rosendale was first elected to his statewide position just last November, so he is quickly making the move for federal office. Prior to running for auditor, he served a term in the state House of Representatives and a pair of consecutive two-year stints in the state Senate, representing the Glendive area in Montana’s far eastern sector. In the 2015-16 session, Rosendale was the Senate Majority Leader.

In 2016, he ran to succeed Democratic Auditor Monica Lindeen who was ineligible to seek a third term. Rosendale defeated former state Rep. Jesse Laslovich (D), 54-46 percent, from an electorate of more than 486,000 voters.

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Setting the Record Straight

By Jim Ellis

May 30, 2017 — More incorrect post-election analysis is coming to the forefront after last week’s Montana special congressional election.

After a similar Kansas special electoral contest in April yielded stories saying that a 7,600-vote Republican victory was an under-performance and reflected poorly upon a besieged President Donald Trump, similar analyses came immediately after Greg Gianforte’s 23,000-vote (22,990) win last Thursday over Democratic nominee Rob Quist.

In response to the media stories in April, we pointed out that the 52-46 percent Ron Estes victory in Kansas’ Wichita anchored district was only slightly behind previous open seat or challenger GOP victories – Todd Tiahrt first converting the seat in 1994 with 53 percent and Mike Pompeo winning the open district seven years ago with 59 percent – rather than a precursor to a coming Democratic wave election. In both the Kansas and Montana post-election analysis, the past Republican-Democrat performance was generally only defined as how the candidates performed in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections, while failing to account for the particular region’s more complete voting history.

The New York Times ran a story last Friday, the day after the Montana election, that portrayed liberal Democratic base activists as being upset with the party chieftains who didn’t prioritize converting the at-large Big Sky Country campaign. Again, the 50-44 percent Republican victory was couched as Quist being in range for an upset if more outside support would have come from national Democratic party organizations and affiliated outside organizations. Citing President Trump’s 20-point victory in the state as basically the sole determining factor as Montana being a “solid Republican state”, the Gianforte victory pales in comparison.

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Gianforte KO’s Quist in Montana

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2017 — Bozeman, Montana businessman and former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte (R) shrugged off a 24-hour media pounding last evening. The congressional candidate, besieged with attacks over his election eve physical altercation with a Guardian-US publication reporter, rebounded to defeat country folk singer Rob Quist, 50-44 percent, in the state’s at-large special congressional election.

The victory margin translates into a 24,027-vote edge, from a voting universe of just under 375,000 people with one county still to report, who either came to the polls or mailed a pre-election day absentee ballot. The turnout is a special election record, and actually exceeds the number who voted in the state’s most recent mid-term (2014). The numbers are unusually high because the Montana at-large seat is the largest congressional district in the country, housing over one million residents.

The special congressional vote was made necessary when former at-large Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) was appointed US Interior Secretary. The major political parties nominated their candidates in convention, a process that produced Gianforte for the Republicans, which had been expected since he had run a close gubernatorial bid in November, and Quist for the Democrats.

In the end, the final result was not as close as several final pre-election media stories predicted. There were several pieces, even in conservative publications, that left the door wide open for a Quist upset finish, and the writers were already beginning to spin how this Montana election result would reflect poorly on President Trump.

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Montana Special:
The Healthcare Referendum

By Jim Ellis

May 24, 2017 — We’re going to see either a quick validation or clear rejection of the Democrats’ healthcare strategy later this week.

Montanans head to the polls on Thursday, an unusual day for an election, to replace former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish), who left the House to become US Interior Secretary. Toward the end of this expensive campaign, Democratic candidate Rob Quist has been zeroing in on Republican nominee Greg Gianforte’s support of the recently House-passed healthcare legislation, most specifically its sections relating to pre-existing conditions.

Whether the race turns on this specific issue remains to be seen, but Quist and the Democratic strategists are crafting the end of their campaign to make this congressional special election a referendum on the GOP’s proposed changes to the nation’s healthcare law. (See ad below)

Because the provisions will allow the states to change the pre-existing condition coverage requirement, Quist is using his own “botched surgery” as an example of the risks people with some type of health problem could face. Quist doesn’t explain how his own surgical problem directly related to insurance -– he doesn’t indicate that he was, or would be, denied future coverage because of this procedure, for example -– but his point is to show how many people could easily fall into the category of having some pre-existing health problem that could preclude them from receiving future coverage.

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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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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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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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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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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.

One More Special

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 22, 2016 — President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of four-term South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) as Office of Management and Budget Director adds one more special congressional election to the growing number of second season political campaigns.

The SC-5 special election means that five House seats are headed for a replacement vote in addition to maybe a pair of Senate contests. Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS-4), Tom Price (R-GA-6), and Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) will leave their House seats pending confirmation to posts in the Trump Administration. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) has resigned his position to become California Attorney General, replacing Sen.-Elect Kamala Harris (D).

The Palmetto State’s 5th District is now a safe Republican seat, made so in the 2011 redistricting plan. Before Mulvaney, Rep. John Spratt (D-Rock Hill) held the district bordering North Carolina just south of the Charlotte metropolitan area for 14 terms, first winning in 1982. After Rep. Mulvaney converted CD-5 to the Republican column in 2010 upon Spratt announcing his retirement, the GOP legislature strengthened the seat for the new incumbent. This was accomplished by moving several Democratic communities into Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D-Florence) 6th District. The latter seat is now the only Democratic district among the state’s seven seats.

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Another Special Looms

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 16, 2015 — Already, calling potentially five special elections may be necessary even before the new 115th Congress convenes. Now, a sixth is on the political horizon now that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) has been nominated as US Interior Secretary.

As we have detailed in previous Updates, Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Alabama seat could go to a special election after an interim appointment is made, and the North Dakota Senate seat will definitely go before the voters if president-elect Donald Trump chooses Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) as Agriculture Secretary.

In the House, three seats will be vacated either before or just after the new Congress begins. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) has already resigned his seat to accept Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment as attorney general, replacing Sen.-Elect Kamala Harris (D). The KS-4 and GA-6 districts will be opened when Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) and Tom Price (R-Roswell) are confirmed as CIA Director and Secretary of Health & Human Services, respectively.

So far, all of the seats, including the North Dakota Democratic Senate seat, should easily go Republican in special elections. The Montana at-large seat, however, may well become competitive.

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Special Elections Mounting — House

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 15, 2016 — Just as the 2016 election cycle ended with the Louisiana run-off elections last Saturday, a new round of voting is about to begin.

President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) as Interior Secretary adds yet another future special election to the growing number of House and Senate odd-numbered year electoral contests.

In addition to Zinke, President-Elect Trump has selected House colleagues Tom Price (R-GA-6; Health and Human Services) and Mike Pompeo (R-KS-4; CIA Director) for Administration appointments. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has appointed Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) to replace Sen.-Elect Kamala Harris (D-CA) as the state’s Attorney General. All of these members will be resigning their current seats immediately before taking their new offices.

Here’s how things are beginning to formulate in the House (we looked at the Senate yesterday):

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Special Elections Mounting – Senate

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2016 — Just as the 2016 election cycle ended with the Louisiana run-off elections last Saturday, a new round of voting is about to begin.

President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) as Interior Secretary adds yet another future special election to the growing number of House and Senate odd-numbered year electoral contests.

In addition to what could well become a competitive Montana statewide election in approximately 100 days or so, as many as five other campaigns will be calendared within approximately the same time frame depending upon individual state election laws.

With Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) appointed as Trump’s Attorney General-designate, and with speculation being rampant that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) will become Agriculture Secretary, two new senators and a trio of US House members will be chosen.

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