Tag Archives: Sen. Al Franken

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 >

Senate Questions

capitol

Within the last week, no fewer than four major potential senatorial candidates have decided not to run. Three sitting members of the House, representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Steve King (R-IA-4), and Tom Price (R-GA-6), and one former congresswoman, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin from South Dakota, each announced that they will be doing something other than running for the United States Senate in 2014. With so many potential candidates content to allow their current opportunity to evaporate, what now is the status of the various Senate races?

Both the Republicans and Democrats have, so far, experienced recruitment failures. Democrats see two seats that they currently hold, Jay Rockefeller’s post in West Virginia and Tim Johnson’s position in South Dakota, going by the wayside. Currently, they have no candidate willing to challenge GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) in the Mountaineer State, and their two strongest South Dakota potential contenders have taken a pass. While they do have a former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle (Rick Weiland) now in the race, it is apparent that he is no match for Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds.

Republicans have yet to field a candidate in Iowa where Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is retiring.  Continue reading >

Netanyahu’s Hold Tenuous; New Franken Polling

Looking at an important election beyond our borders, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu Party seemed to be holding steady in first place with 31 seats, but fewer than the 32-35 range that was projected. In the 2009 election, Likud scored 27 seats, but after officially joining forces with Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman the combined total expanded to 42 of the 120 seats in Israel’s Knesset. Netanyahu was then able to add other center-right parties to form the current government.

This time the eventual coalition will look much different. Some even believe disgruntled Likud supporters may look for a leadership alternative to Netanyahu. The key to forming the next coalition will be surprise second-place finisher Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which earned 19 seats. The Labor Party, predicted to finish second, placed third, winning 17 seats. Netanyahu has already asked Lapid to join his government, and preliminary indications are that he will. With the center-left parties scoring either 58 or 59 seats, however, the Prime Minister has a very thin margin from which to form a government. As the leader whose party finished first in the balloting, Netanyahu has 42 days to form a governing coalition.

Voter turnout was high, estimated at 66.6 percent of the eligible electorate, meaning almost 3.77 million participants. This Continue reading >