Tag Archives: Sen. Al Franken

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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Minnesota Becoming a Battleground

minnesota-congressional-districtsBy Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2018 — A new political poll is providing more evidence that Minnesota is very much in play for the coming election. Analysts were surprised in 2016 when President Trump came within one percentage point of topping Hillary Clinton in the state, but that pattern seems to be holding, at least according to this latest data.

The last time Minnesota voted Republican in a presidential race was to re-elect President Richard Nixon in 1972, thus making this state the most consistently Democratic domain in terms of presidential election victories. Since the days when Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy represented Minnesota in the Senate, Republicans have only elected four senators during that stretch of 70 years. Their record of electing governors is a bit better, with seven individuals becoming the state chief executive during the same seven-decade time span.

Building upon President Trump’s strong showing and two Democratic House members, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) and Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), winning re-election with 50.3 and 50.2 percent, respectively, the new Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll (released Jan. 17; 800 registered Minnesota voters) suggests that we could again see similarly close results later this year.

While five different pollsters have released national generic vote congressional data since the first of the year giving Democrats an advantage from five to 17 points, the Star Tribune is producing much different numbers for the Minnesota electorate. (Quinnipiac University appears to be the outlier here with polls showing Dem advantages of 11 and 17 points, the only pollster to see a double-digit margin; they were thought to be the outlier in the Virginia governor’s race, too, but ended up being closest to the final result.)

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New Year Senate Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2018 — Continuing our New Year’s preview, today we look at the 2018 Senate races from the Democrats’ perspective.

THE DEMOCRATS

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Because they are now defending 26 of the 34 in-cycle seats, with the addition of the Minnesota special election, the Dems must primarily develop a solid defense before venturing into attack mode. If they are to have any chance of gaining a 51-49 majority, they will realistically have to win all 26 of the incumbent and open seat races they are forced to risk. This includes three contests already considered toss-up campaigns: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill likely facing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Indiana race, and the budding Florida campaign likely between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott.

Regardless of whom Sen. Donnelly ultimately faces in the Hoosier State, he will draw a top-tier opponent. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) battle for the Republican senatorial nomination, and they also face a credible third challenger in former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Braun has the strong ability to finance his own campaign, thus allowing him to adequately compete with the two congressmen. Since he has the promise of becoming his own force, Braun could conceivably strike a chord with the Republican electorate if the two congressmen continue fighting amongst themselves and allow him to slip by both of them.

Republicans will also be competitive in several other Senate races, as they project to have a strong opponent against West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins battle for the GOP nomination to be decided in May), while state Treasurer Josh Mandel looks to provide a stronger challenge to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) than he did in 2012 when he fell 51-45 percent. The Pennsylvania GOP electorate looks to be coalescing behind Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) but upsetting Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is still a highly formidable task, and this developing contest must be considered a long shot as the new year begins.

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Another Falls — What are the Odds?

Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D--Las Vegas) | Facebook

Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen
(D–Las Vegas) | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 19, 2017 — Freshman Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), who previously said he would not resign when sexual impropriety allegations were made against him, became the sixth current House member to either leave Congress or retire unexpectedly due to harassment claims. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Alabama special election candidate Roy Moore (R) also succumbed to accusations that fall within this same category either through resignation or defeat at the polls.

Kihuen was accused of aggressive behavior with a former campaign staffer. When a second woman came forward with a similar story, the freshman Representative decided to end his current congressional tenure when this session adjourns. His 4th CD is a marginal political district.

When Nevada was awarded a fourth seat in 2010 reapportionment, it appeared that the new Las Vegas-anchored seat would favor the Democrats because the Hispanic population tops 29.1 percent in addition to an African American component of 15.6 percent. But, the district hasn’t always been reliable.

Despite their partisan opponents carrying the seat in the two presidential elections since its creation (Clinton: 49-45 percent; Obama: 54-44 percent), Republicans prevailed here in several statewide elections, and GOP congressional candidate Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) defeated one-term Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) in the GOP landslide year before Kihuen turned the tables on the freshman incumbent in 2016. In the district’s short history, the electorate has yet to re-elect an incumbent House member.

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Alabama Stats;
Minnesota’s New Senator

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 15, 2017 — Predictably, Democrats and media commentators are promoting the premise that Doug Jones’ victory in Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election is another sign that a Democratic wave is building to transform the minority party into one that wins control of at least one congressional chamber next year. But the actual numbers do not provide evidence for such an analysis.

In actuality, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) may have succinctly and correctly described what happened in the Alabama election, which caused Republicans to lose one of their safest seats in the nation. During an interview with NBC News, Sen. Johnson simply said, “Alabamians didn’t want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.”

Looking at the actual figures, there is more supporting data for the supposition that Jones’ win is more likely due to Republican defections from former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, rather than a massive increase in Democratic turnout. While the Alabama special did feature a higher turnout than the last midterm election (2014), we also saw this phenomenon occur in two earlier special elections: the Montana at-large and GA-6 congressional contests. Republicans won both of those votes, proving that the GOP base was sufficiently energized in those two places to withstand increased Democratic turnout. But, Alabama doesn’t fit that same model either in the mode of Republican loyalty or an energized Democratic base.

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Jones!

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones' campaign image.

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones’ campaign image.


By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2017 — With the final polling covering all possibilities — from Democrat Doug Jones leading by 10 points, to Republican Roy Moore ahead by nine, to a straight tie — Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election carried a great deal of uncertainty as voters cast their ballots.

Republicans were badly split between those party leaders publicly repulsed by the allegations of sexual impropriety against Moore, to those who felt that holding the seat and preventing the Democrats from having any path to obtaining the Senate majority in 2018 was most important.

The split was enough to allow Democrat Jones, a former Birmingham region US Attorney, to slip past Judge Moore and secure what previously had been a safely Republican seat for the next three years. Jones will replace appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) who fell to Moore in the Republican run-off in late September.

The unofficial final totals give Jones 49.9 percent of the vote as compared to Moore’s 48.4 percent. Election Day’s final turnout figure showed 1,344,406 individuals having cast ballot, a total that will increase when all absentee and provisional ballots are finally added to the mix. In comparison, the last gubernatorial election (2014) drew 1,180,413. The 2016 presidential campaign saw 2,123,372 votes cast. Therefore, this special election, as did others earlier in the cycle (MT-AL; GA-6), actually produced a higher voter turnout than the state’s last regular midterm election.

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Franken & Franks Out; Bredesen In

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 11, 2017 — Continuing the spate of recent congressional resignations for sexual impropriety, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), as news reports predicted, announced late last week that he will resign his seat in several weeks.

The action means Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will now appoint a successor. Speculation suggests that he will name Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), his former chief of staff, to the federal position and it is believed that she will serve as a caretaker. If all of this proves true, we will have another open Senate race in 2018. In any event, voters will choose the individual to serve the remainder of Franken’s term in the upcoming regular vote. This particular Class II seat will again come before voters for a full six-year term in 2020.

Some in the news media believed that Gov. Dayton would have made his appointment announcement by the end of last week, but the Minnesota chief executive did not do so, saying he would make a decision in the next few days. This could be because Franken did not resign immediately, or he has not fully committed to naming Lt. Gov. Smith.

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Franken to Resign Today?

UPDATE: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) today on the floor of the US Senate announced that he would resign: “I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” he said.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 7, 2017 — A day after US House Dean John Conyers (D-MI) resigned from Congress over sexual misconduct allegations, the resignation drumbeat for Minnesota Sen. Al Franken to follow suit may have risen to a successful crescendo. The embattled Democratic politician has now scheduled time this morning on the Senate floor to make an announcement.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Speculation is rampant that he will make public his decision to resign because of growing sexual harassment accusations, but his spokespeople have stopped short of confirming that such will be the subject matter of his floor address.

The crushing blow to Franken’s political career may be seeing 30 Democratic senators, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), go on record calling for him to resign. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez has also called upon Franken to leave office.

Should he depart, the 2018 Senate election cycle will significantly change. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will choose a replacement to serve until the next regular election, with voters then choosing an officeholder to complete the term. The Class II seat would then come in-cycle for a full term in the 2020 election.

Published Minnesota sources suggest that Gov. Dayton’s first choice would be to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), his former chief of staff. Most believe she would serve in a caretaker role, thus opening the race in 2018. Smith chose not to run for governor even though the seat is open saying in March when she made public her retirement decision, “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something.”

Should the involved players choose the caretaker course, we would see this open Senate race accompany an open governor’s position and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) seeking re-election all on the same ballot. The scenario of yielding a competitive governor and Senate race would add to the Minnesota political intrigue, since the state is likely to host as many as five contested US House campaigns among its eight congressional districts.

The Franken situation could also have reverberations for the Alabama special Senate race to be decided on Tuesday. Should Republican Roy Moore win, and he is once again leading according to most polls, the problem of having Franken in the chamber accused of similar actions would be eliminated. This means a bid to expel Moore after he is sworn in could gain steam.

Democrats wanted to get themselves on record as being strongly supportive of sexual harassment victims by vociferously calling upon Sen. Franken to resign, but they also free themselves to call for a new Sen. Moore to resign or be expelled. Since the Republican leadership is not happy with the prospect of Moore serving, the Franken situation could place the twice-removed Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice in an untenable position should he win on Tuesday.

Taking the Alabama scenario further, should Moore be expelled – it is unlikely he would resign since he did not remove himself from the ballot after the sexual allegation charges broke, and the voters would have just elected him even with the knowledge of such accusations – the vacancy situation would repeat itself. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) would then appoint an interim senator and the seat would immediately again be placed into special election mode.

This time the new special election would likely be scheduled concurrently with the regular election cycle. As with Franken in Minnesota, the Alabama seat in question is a Class II, meaning it would come in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2020, so filling it with a 2018 election would give the winner only a two-year term.

Whether or not Sen. Franken follows through and resigns this morning, today promises to be an interesting one in the halls of the nation’s capitol.

Confirming Data in Alabama

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2017 — As we reported last week, two polls, one from WT&S Consulting (Nov. 18-20; 11,641 registered Alabama voters; Moore, 46-40 percent advantage) and one from Strategy Research for the Raycom News Network (Nov. 20; 3,000 likely Alabama special election voters; Moore, 47-45 percent advantage) first detected a swing back toward embattled Republican US Senate nominee Roy Moore in his special election contest with former US Attorney Doug Jones (D). Now another new survey, and one that is perhaps more significant, confirms the Moore advantage.

The Change Research firm, a San Francisco company that claims it brings a “Silicon Valley approach to polling,” has just reported new survey numbers, and for the third time in the Moore-Jones race. In mid-November (Nov. 9-11), CR found Judge Moore holding a 44-40 percent advantage just as the sexual impropriety scandal was beginning to become public knowledge. Later, from their November 15-16 poll, they saw the electorate sway to a 46-43 percent edge for Democrat Jones.

Yesterday, the firm released its Nov. 26-27 polling result (1,868 self-identified Alabama registered voters) and, confirming what WT&S and Strategy Research found, sees Judge Moore rebounding into the lead, 49-44 percent.

The swing to Moore is significant for several reasons. First, as the Politico publication reported, Jones and the Democrats are outspending Moore by a 7:1 margin in advertising, already running or reserving $5.6 million in media and digital advertising time versus only $800,000 for the Republican. But, assuming the consistent results from the three recent aforementioned polls are accurate, it appears either the Jones ad barrage is having no effect at best for the Democratic campaign, or worst, the piling on Moore is backfiring and leading to the opposite result.

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Turbulent Senate Politics

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Nov. 20, 2017 — Currently, the near-term and long-range Senate outlook seems to fluctuate by the hour. Last week we repeatedly detailed the Republicans’ problem with Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore and the effect the Dec. 12 special election will have upon the 2018 Senate cycle. But, yesterday became a day for the Democrats’ to receive similar bad news, albeit along with some good news.

While the Republicans languish in Alabama, Democrats were becoming increasingly concerned about Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial when a verdict appeared imminent, and what might happen should he be convicted. Last week, seeing the trial judge declare a mistrial, may mean that the senator’s legal hurdles have been cleared since it seems unlikely that the government would again pursue the case when prosecutors obviously had too little evidence to completely convince a jury that any crime had been committed.

But the positive Menendez result for the Dems was negated by the unfolding sexual harassment debacle involving Sen. Al Franken. Interestingly, though seemingly unrelated to the Alabama situation, both of these Democratic developments could influence the campaign’s course and help determine whether Judge Moore will be allowed to serve in the Senate if he rebounds to win the special election.

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Races Take Shape in Three States After No-Surprises Primaries

Connecticut

Not much competitive action in the Connecticut primary occurred last night, as none of the five House incumbents even faced a challenger. In the governor’s race former US Ambassador Tom Foley (R), who held Gov. Dan Malloy (D) to a 6,404 vote victory four years ago – which proved to be the closest governor’s election in the entire country during that year – scored a 56-44 percent Republican primary victory over state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. The latter is the son of the late former US Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-CT-4).

The Foley victory sets up a re-match between he and Gov. Malloy, in a race that could become exciting. Malloy’s job approval numbers have been down, revealing discernible weakness, and some early polling actually puts the challenger slightly ahead. The state’s strong Democratic nature is Malloy’s strongest asset as the general election officially begins.

Minnesota

In the Senate race, as expected, finance executive Mike McFadden cruised to a landslide victory in the Republican primary, Continue reading >

Another Primary Today

Connecticut

The only race of interest on the Nutmeg State board today is the Republican gubernatorial primary. With Gov. Dan Malloy (D) registering poor job approval numbers and even trailing in some polls, the Republican nomination may be worth having even in this Democratic state. In 2010, former US Ambassador Tom Foley (R) came within 6,404 votes of defeating Malloy in the closest gubernatorial contest of the 2010 election cycle.

Amb. Foley returns for a re-match and is favored over state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R), the son of the late former Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-CT-4). McKinney is running a spirited campaign but will likely fall short. Should Foley win the nomination, the general election will be competitive.

All five incumbent House members are seeking re-election, and all are favorites to win re-election. The only moderately competitive race features a 2010 re-match of a 53-47 percent contest between Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT-4) and former state legislator Dan Debicella (R).

Minnesota

Sen. Al Franken’s (D) numbers have been relatively good as he works toward his first  Continue reading >

Franken Tops 50 Percent – With an Asterisk

In a great many election years, a surprising Senate candidate often comes from nowhere at the beginning of the cycle to score an upset win. The 2010 Republican landslide, for example, produced Wisconsin businessman Ron Johnson (R), a virtual unknown at the campaign’s outset, who would eventually unseat then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). Former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D), viewed as a heavy underdog to then-at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) when their two-way contest began, overcame an early polling deficit to claim her Senate seat in the presidential election year of 2012.

In looking at the 2014 field of candidates, many people were speculating that the under-the-radar candidate best possibly positioned to score an upset is Minnesota businessman Mike McFadden (R) who is challenging first-term Sen. Al Franken (D). Though Franken has not yet appeared in a politically endangered position, we must remember that his 2008 campaign was so close that it took nine months to finally determine that the former actor-comedian scored a 312-vote victory (from more than 2.88 million ballots cast) over then-Sen. Norm Coleman (R). Additionally, the  Continue reading >

An Array of Surprises Lining up for Incumbents

On the heels of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning Republican primary loss last week in Virginia, a series of new polls and developments suggest further surprises could be on the political horizon …

LA-5

First, in Louisiana, scandal-tainted Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA-5), who announced that he would not seek a second term after being caught in an extra-marital affair, stated in a local radio interview this week that he is having second thoughts about retiring and is now leaning “55-45” in favor of running again. This development certainly merits further attention.

State Sen. Neil Riser (R), whom McAllister defeated in the 2013 special election after then-Rep. Rodney Alexander (R) resigned, has not yet committed to the race but is certainly leaning toward running based upon his public comments. The Louisiana filing deadline, because the jungle primary runs concurrently with the November general election, isn’t until Aug. 22, so much time remains for both men, and others, to finally decide upon their 2014 electoral  Continue reading >

Senate $$$ Snap Shot

Since Senate candidates still file their financial disclosure reports on paper, the numbers always take a longer time to publish. Thanks to the Roll Call newspaper staff who tracked down the key, but unofficial, monetary figures, we have an early picture of the third quarter fundraising.

Alaska

As we know, Republicans need to convert six Democratic seats to wrest the majority away from the controlling party. One of their key targets is Alaska, where first-term Sen. Mark Begich (D) is on the ballot next year. With Sarah Palin continuing to lurk in the background as a long-shot potential candidate, Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell needs to show campaign strength. Though he is polling within low single digits of Sen. Begich, his financial take is underwhelming. According to the Roll Call report, Treadwell raised only $196,000 for the quarter and has just $155,000 cash-on-hand. This compares unfavorably with Sen. Begich, who banked $813,000 and commands more than $2.433 million in his campaign account.

Arkansas

One Republican challenger who had a strong dollar-producing quarter after officially announcing his senatorial campaign, is Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) who is challenging two-term Sen. Mark Pryor (D). Cotton attracted $1.073 million for the quarter, just ahead of Sen. Pryor’s $1.068 million. But, the senator has a huge cash-on-hand advantage, $4.419 million to $1.806 million.

Iowa

An open seat race where Republicans are very slow to initiate their campaigns is in Iowa. The consensus Democrat candidate, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) topped $900,000 in receipts for the quarter and holds $2.323 million in his campaign account. State Sen. Joni Ernst led the Republicans, bringing in $252,000, and has $224,000 in the bank. David Young, the former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) and is expected to be one of the stronger candidates, only attracted $112,000 for the  Continue reading >